SIMONIDES AND THE SHIPWRECK
A learned man always has rich inner resources.
Simonides, that extraordinary author of lyric poems, found an excellent remedy
for his straitened circumstances by travelling around the most famous cities
of the Asia, singing the praises of victorious athletes in exchange for a fee.
When he had grown wealthy in this venture, he was ready to take a sea voyage
and go back to his native land (he was born, so they say, on the island of Ceos).
He boarded a ship, but a terrible storm (plus the sheer age of the ship) caused
it to sink in the middle of the sea. Some of the passengers grabbed their money
belts, while others held onto their valuables and any possible means of subsistence.
A passenger who was more curious than the rest asked the poet, 'Simonides, why
aren't you taking along any of your own stuff?' He replied, 'All that is mine
is right here with me.' It turned out that only a few were able to swim ashore,
while the majority drowned, weighed down by what they were carrying. Then bandits
arrived and took from the survivors whatever they had brought ashore, stripping
them naked. As it happened, the ancient city of Clazomenae was not far off, which
is where the shipwrecked people then turned. In this city there lived a man inclined
to literary pursuits who had often read Simonides's compositions and who was
his great admirer from afar. He recognized Simonides simply from his manner of
speaking and eagerly invited him to his house, regaling him with clothes and
money and servants. Meanwhile, the rest of the survivors carried around placards,
begging for food. When Simonides happened to run into them, he took one look
and exclaimed, 'Just as I said: all that is mine is right here with me, but everything
that you took with you has now vanished.'