Who is the happiest person in the world?
I wrote to Michael Gilleland of Laudator Temporis Acti and asked him if my remembered/imagined quote rang a bell. He wrote me back:
It does ring a bell. It comes from the first book of Herodotus.
King Croesus of Lydia asked Solon who the happiest person in the world was. Solon first said Tellus, who died defending his fellow Athenians.
Asked by Croesus who was the second happiest, Solon said Cleobis and Biton from Argos. Their mother was late for a festival, and the oxen couldn't be found for her chariot. Her sons pulled the chariot behind them to the festival, and died afterwards from the effort. (Perhaps she was what folks call a well-nourished woman!)
By now the rich King Croesus was angry, because Solon had not named him as happiest.
Solon made a long reply, in the course of which he stated, "He who unites the greatest number of advantages, and retaining them to the day of his death, then dies peaceably, that man alone, sire, is, in my judgment, entitled to bear the name of 'happy.' But in every matter it behoves us to mark well the end: for oftentimes God gives men a gleam of happiness, and then plunges them into ruin."
Croesus thought Solon was a fool, but he later recalled Solon's words when he was defeated and put to death by the Persian King Cyrus.
Michael's post today contains this quote from Sir Thomas Browne:
He who must needs have Company, must needs have sometimes bad Company. Be able to be alone.
Loose not the advantage of Solitude, and the Society of thy self, nor be only content, but delight to be alone and single with Omnipresency. He who is thus prepared, the Day is not uneasy nor the Night black unto him.