The Sword of Damocles
HERE was once a king whose name was
But he was very rich, and he lived in a fine palace where
there were many beautiful and costly things, and he was
waited upon by a host of servants who were always ready to
do his bidding. One day a friend of his, whose name was
"How happy you must be! You have here everything that any man could wish."
"Perhaps you would like to change places with me," said the tyrant.
"No, not that, O king!" said
"Very well," said the tyrant. "You shall have them."
And so, the next day, Damocles was led into the palace, and
all the servants were bidden to treat him as their master. He
sat down at a table in the banquet hall, and rich foods were
placed before him. Nothing was wanting that could give him
pleasure. There were costly wines, and beautiful flowers,
and rare perfumes, and
Then he chanced to raise his eyes toward the ceiling. What was it that was dangling above him, with its point almost touching his head? It was a sharp sword, and it was hung by only a single horse-hair. What if the hair should break? There was danger every moment that it would do so.
The smile faded from the lips of Damocles. His face became ashy pale. His hands trembled. He wanted no more food; he could drink no more wine; he took no more delight in the music. He longed to be out of the palace, and away, he cared not where.
"What is the matter?" said the tyrant.
"That sword! that sword!" cried Damocles. He was so badly frightened that he dared not move.
"Let me go," said Damocles. "I now see that I was
And so long as he lived, he never again wanted to be rich, or to change places, even for a moment, with the king.