Thursday, March 31, 2011



Jones Very (1813-1880), Abdolonymus the Sidonian:
The clash of arms, which shook the Persian state,
Did not disturb the peasant at his toil;
In his small garden-plot more truly great,
Than he who stretched his sceptre o'er its soil.
He wanted naught, but what his hands supplied,
Content with fruits, the bounty of his field;
There would he, in old age, in peace have died;
But worth and greatness could not be concealed!
O'erlooked were many, who would Sidon rule,
Ambitious princes, seeking kingly sway;
Who, trained in arms, had learned from War's proud school,
By fire and sword to win to thrones their way.
The crown and purple robe to him were sent,
Who peaceful lived, with poverty content.
Quintus Curtius 4.1.19-26 (tr. John Yardley):
[19] They could see that many viewed the prospect of such great power with a hopeful eye and from inordinate ambition for the throne were now flattering individual friends of Alexander. They decided, however, that none had a better claim than one Abdalonymus who, though distantly related to the royal family, was now reduced by poverty to tending a market garden in the suburbs, from which he derived a meagre income.

[20] As often happens, the cause of his reduced circumstances was his honesty, and now he was so preoccupied with his daily work that he failed to hear the clash of arms that had shaken the whole of Asia.

[21] So these two noblemen came without notice into his garden, which Abdalonymus happened to be clearing of weeds, carrying the robe with its royal insignia.

[22] They saluted him as king. 'These garments which you see in my hands,' said one of them, 'must now replace those dirty rags of yours. Wash from your body its perpetual coating of mud and earth. You must now assume the disposition of a king and carry your characteristic moderation with you into the estate which you merit. And when you take your seat on the throne with power of life and death over all your citizens, see that you do not forget these circumstances in which—no, indeed, because of which—you receive your kingdom.'

[23] The whole thing was like a dream to Abdalonymus. Several times he asked if they were out of their minds, to mock him so shamelessly; but as he hesitated, the dirt was washed from him, the purple and gold embroidered robe was placed upon him, and he was reassured by their sworn protestations, so that it was in all seriousness that he came as king in their company to the palace.

[24] Rumour swiftly made its usual sweep of the whole city. Support began to emerge in some quarters, resentment in others, and the rich protested against Abdalonymus' low status and poverty to Alexander's friends.

[25] The king immediately had him brought before him, looked at him for some time, and then said: 'Your physical characteristics are not at odds with the reports of your ancestry, but I want to know how well you endured poverty.' 'Oh that I may be able to bear royal authority with the same equanimity!' answered Abdalonymus. 'These hands of mine satisfied my needs. I had nothing, but lacked nothing.'

[26] From what Abdalonymus said, Alexander gained an impression of a noble character. Accordingly he not only had Strato's royal appurtenances assigned to him but a large part of the Persian spoils as well, and he also added to his control the area adjoining the city.
Nicolaes Knüpfer (1603-1655),
The Legates of Alexander the Great
Investing the Gardener Abdalonymus with the
Insignia of the Kingship of Sidon

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