The Laconic Lacedaemonians
In ancient times there was state a in Greece called Lacedaemon. The capital was a city called Sparta, and for this reason the people came to be called Spartans, or Lacedaemonians.
The state had been founded by a great and wise man called Lycurgus and for many centuries after his death his influence was still to be seen amongst the Lacedaemonians. They lived very simple, frugal lives and they were famed for their prowess in battle. One of their most remarkable characteristics was their pithy style of speech. They liked to express themselves in as few words as possible, and often grew impatient with those who made long, rambling speeches, or who were slow in coming to the point.
Once a group of men from the island of Samos landed on the shores of Lacedaemon. They had been banished by their king, and hoped to receive aid from the Lacedaemonians. They gained admission to the magistrates, or chief judges, and made a long speech, describing how they had been sent away from their home and families and they entreated the Spartans to give them food and shelter and help them win back the island of Samos.
When they had finished, the Spartans replied that they had forgotten the first half of the speech and could not understand the second. Rather dismayed, the banished men retired. The next day they returned, and, learning from their past mistakes, simply held up an empty flour sack.
"The bag wants flour," they said. This time the Spartans understood that the men needed food and aid, and they replied more favourably.
"Very well, we will help you," they said. "Still you need not have said 'bag'; 'wants flour' would have been quite sufficient."
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