Thales and the Olive Presses

In ancient times there dwelt in the Greek city of Miletus a man called Thales. He was not wealthy, but his wisdom had won him the respect of his fellow citizens. People would often gather to hear him speak, and were struck by the truth of his words. There were some, however, who could not see beyond his worn clothes, and humble circumstances.

  “ Why do you heed him?” they would say, “ he  only questions the good of riches and worldly pleasures because he cannot get them. He is like the fox in the fable – he only calls the grapes sour because they hang way out of his reach.”

 One year the weather was exceptionally favourable and the olive trees were laden with olives. The people of Miletus thronged to the owners of the olive presses, but to their amazement, they all met with the same reply.
  “You must go to Thales if you want to press your olives; he arranged to hire my press last Winter, and carried it off at the beginning of Harvest time.”
  It was soon discovered that every press in the region had been hired by Thales of Miletus. Either by chance, or through his knowledge of the stars, he had foreseen that there would be a great olive crop that year, and with the little money he possessed, had given deposits for the use of all the olive presses in Miletus and the neighbouring island of  Chios. Everyone, whether they liked it or not, had to hire their press from Thales, and he let them out at whatever rate he chose.

  “What a fortune Thales of Miletus must have gained!” people said to each other.
  “A man could work his life long and not earn so much.”

   Thales received their congratulations with a smile, and returned to his simple way of life. He had silenced his critics, and never again did anyone suggest that he cultivated virtue because he was too foolish to succeed in worldly affairs.

         ~Bethan Lewis~

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