SIMONIDES AND THE TWIN GODS
Elsewhere I have described the great value people place on
learning, and now I will record for future reference how greatly
learning is honoured by the gods; this is another story about
Simonides, whom I have spoken of before.
In exchange for an agreed upon fee, the poet Simonides was to write a victory
ode for a certain boxer. Simonides accordingly sought out a place of peace and
quiet, but the unpromising subject matter hampered his artistic impulse. As a
result, Simonides relied on the usual poetic license, which allowed him to include
the gods Castor and Pollux as part of his poem, alluding to the renown that the
sons of Leda, those celestial twins, had also enjoyed in boxing. Simonides' client
praised the work but he paid the poet only one third of the agreed upon fee.
When Simonides demanded the rest, his patron told him, 'Let the twins pay the
rest, since their praise occupies two thirds of the poem! Of course,' the man
added, 'I don't want people to think that you have been sent away in anger, so
please agree to come to my house for dinner this evening. I have invited all
my relatives, and I want you to be in their number as well.' Although Simonides
had been cheated and was still upset about the loss he had suffered, he agreed
to come, not wanting to harm his reputation by parting with his patron on bad
terms. The dinner hour arrived and Simonides took his place at the table. The
party sparkled with wine and good cheer, and the house resounded with the delightful
sounds of the extravagant banquet, when all of a sudden two young men appeared.
They were completely covered with dust and sweat, and they had the bodies of
supermen. They ordered one of the servant boys to summon Simonides, urging him
to be quick about it, as it was a matter of great importance. The awestruck servant
roused Simonides, and the poet had barely moved one foot away from the dining
room when the structure suddenly collapsed, crushing everyone beneath it. Meanwhile,
there were no young men to be found at the door. When the sequence of events
became generally known, everyone realized that with their presence, the gods
had repaid the poet by saving his life in lieu of a fee.