The Letter of Aristeas
170 He seemed to me to have made a good defense on all the points; for in reference also to the calves and rams and goats which are offered, he said that it was necessary to take them from the herds and flocks, and sacrifice tame animals and offer nothing wild, that the offerers of the sacrifices might understand the symbolic meaning of the lawgiver and not be under the influence of an arrogant self-consciousness. For he, who offers a sacrifice makes an offering also of his own soul in all its moods.
172 And Eleazar, after offering the sacrifice, and selecting the envoys, and preparing many gifts for the
187 Taking an opportunity afforded by a pause in the banquet the king asked the envoy who sat in the seat of honour (for they were arranged according to seniority), How he could keep his kingdom
190 The king complimented this man, too, upon his answer and asked another, How he could have friends like-minded with himself? He replied, ' If they see you studying the interests of the multitudes over whom you rule; you will do well to observe how God bestows his benefits on the
193 The king praised the man warmly for his answer and asked the next in order, How he could be invincible in military affairs ? And he replied, ' If he did not trust entirely to his multitudes or his warlike forces, but called upon God continually to bring his enterprises to a successful issue, while
195 This man the king praised and then said to the next, What is the highest good in life? And he answered ' To know that God is Lord of the Universe, and that in our finest achievements it is not we who attain success but God who by his power brings all things to fulfilment and leads us to the goal.'
196 The king exclaimed that the man had answered well and then asked the next How he could keep all his possessions intact and finally hand them down to his successors in the same condition? And he answered ' By praying constantly to God that you may be inspired with high motives in all your undertakings and by warning your descendants not to be dazzled by fame or wealth, for it is God who bestows all these gifts and men never by themselves win the supremacy'.
197 The king expressed his agreement with the answer and enquired of the next guest, How he could bear with equanimity whatever befell him? And he said, ' If you have a firm grasp of the thought that all men are appointed by God to share the greatest evil as well as the greatest good, since it is impossible for one who is a man to be exempt from these. But God, to whom we ought always to pray, inspires us with courage to endure.'
198 Delighted with the man's reply, the king said that all their answers had been good. ' I will put a question to one other', he added, ' and then I will stop for the present: that we may turn our attention
200 When all had signified by their applause their agreement with the answer, the king said to the philosophers (for not a few of them were present), ' It is my opinion that these men excel in virtue and possess extraordinary knowledge, since on the spur of the moment they have given fitting answers to these questions which I have put to them, and have all made God the starting-point of their words.'
201 And Menedemus, the philosopher of Eretria, said, 'True, O King -for since the universe is managed by providence and since we rightly perceive that man is the creation of God, it follows
203 On the following day they sat down to table again and continued the banquet according to the same arrangements. When the king thought that a fitting opportunity had arrived to put inquiries to his guests, he proceeded to ask further questions of the men who sat next in order to those who
207 The king received the answer with great delight and looking at another said, 'What is the teaching of wisdom? ' And the other replied, ' As you wish that no evil should befall you, but to be a partaker of all good things, so you should act on the same principle towards your subjects and offenders, and you should mildly admonish the noble and good. For God draws all men to himself by his benignity.'
208 The king praised him and asked the next in order How he could be the friend of men ? And he replied, ' By observing that the human race increases and is born with much trouble and great suffering: wherefore you must not lightly punish or inflict torments upon them, since you know that the life of men is made up of pains and penalties. For if you understood everything you would be filled with pity, for God also is pitiful.'
209 The king received the answer with approbation and inquired of the next 'What is the most essential qualification for ruling ? ' ' To keep oneself ', he answered, ' free from bribery and to practice sobriety during the greater part of one's life, to honour righteousness above all things, and to make friends of men of this type. For God, too, is a lover of justice.'
210 Having signified his approval, the king said to another 'What is the true mark of piety?' And he replied, 'To perceive that God constantly works in the Universe and knows all things, and no man who acts unjustly and works wickedness can escape His notice. AS God is the benefactor of the whole world, so you, too, must imitate Him and be void of offence.'
211 The king signified his agreement and said to another ' What is the essence of kingship ? ' And he replied, ' To rule oneself well and not to be led astray by wealth or fame to immoderate or unseemly desires, this is the true way of ruling if you reason the matter well out. For all that you really need is yours, and God is free from need and benignant withal. Let your thoughts be such as become a man, and desire not many things but only such as are necessary for ruling.'
212 The king praised him and asked another man How his deliberations might be for the best ? and he replied, 'If he constantly set justice before him in everything and thought that injustice was equivalent to deprivation of life. For God always promises the highest blessings to the just.'
213 Having praised him, the king asked the next How he could be free from disturbing thoughts ill his sleep ? And he replied, ' You have asked me a question which is very difficult to answer, for we cannot bring our true selves into play during the hours of sleep, but are held fast in these
217 The king bestowed praise on the man and said to another-' since you are the tenth to answer, when you have spoken, we will devote ourselves to the banquet.' And then he put the question,
220 When the king had applauded loud and long in the most gracious way, the guests were urged to seek repose. So when the conversation ceased, they devoted themselves to the next course of the feast.
221 On the following day, the same arrangement was observed, and when the king found an opportunity of putting questions to the men, he questioned the first of those who had been left over
224 Pleased with these words, the king asked the next How he could be free from envy ? And he after a brief pause replied, ' If you consider first of all that it is God who bestows on all kings glory and great wealth and no one is king by his own power. All men wish to share this glory but cannot, since it is the gift of God.'
225 The king praised the man in a long speech and then asked another How he could despise his enemies? And he replied, ' If you show kindness to all men and win their friendship, you need fear no one. To be popular with all men is the best of good gifts to receive from God.'
226 Having praised this answer the king ordered the next man to reply to the question, How he could maintain his great renown ? and he replied that ' If you are generous and large-hearted in bestowing kindness and acts of grace upon others, you will never lose your renown, but if you wish the aforesaid graces to continue yours, you must call upon God continually.'
227 The king expressed his approval and asked the next, To whom ought a man to show liberality? And he replied, ' All men acknowledge that we ought to show liberality to those who are well disposed towards us, but I think that we ought to show the same keen spirit of generosity to those who are opposed to us that by this means we may win them over to the right and to what is advantageous to ourselves. But we must pray to God that this may be accomplished, for he rules the minds of all men.'
228 Having expressed his agreement with the answer, the king asked the sixth to reply to the question, To whom ought we to exhibit gratitude ? And he replied, 'To our parents continually, for God has given us a most important commandment with regard to the honour due to parents. In the next place He reckons the attitude of friend towards friend for He speaks of " a friend which is as thine own soul". You do well in trying to bring all men into friendship with yourself.'
229 The king spoke kindly to him and then asked the next, What is it that resembles beauty in value? And he said, 'Piety, for it is the pre-eminent form of beauty, and its power lies in love, which is the gift of God. This you have already acquired and with it all the blessings of life.'
230 The king in the most gracious way applauded the answer and asked another How, if he were to fail, he could regain his reputation again in the same degree ? And he said, ' It is not possible for you to fail, for you have sown in all men the seeds of gratitude which produce a harvest of goodwill,
232 Delighted with these words, the king asked another How he could be free from grief? And he replied, ' If he never injured any one, but did good to everybody and followed the pathway of
234 The king bestowed great praise upon him and asked the tenth, What is the highest form of glory ? And he said, ' To honour God, and this is done not with gifts and sacrifices but with purity of soul and holy conviction, since all things are fashioned and governed by God in accordance with His will. Of this purpose you are in constant possession as all men can see from your achievements in the past and in the present.'
235 With loud voice the king greeted them all and spoke kindly to them, and all those who were present expressed their approval, especially the philosophers. For they were far superior to them [i.e. the philosophers] both in conduct and in argument, since they always made God their starting point. After this the king to show his good feeling proceeded to drink the health of his guests.
236 On the following day the same arrangements were made for the banquet, and the king, as soon as an opportunity occurred, began to put questions to the men who sat next to those who had already responded, and he said to the first ' Is wisdom capable of being taught ? ' And he said, ' The soul is so constituted that it is able by the divine power to receive all the good and reject the contrary.'
237 The king expressed approval and asked the next man, What is it that is most beneficial to health ? And he said, 'Temperance, and it is not possible to acquire this unless God create a disposition towards it.'
238 The king spoke kindly to the man and said to another, ' How can a man worthily pay the debt of gratitude to his parents ? ' And he said, ' By never causing them pain, and this is not possible unless God dispose the mind to the pursuit of the noblest ends.'
239 The king expressed agreement and asked the next How he could become an eager listener? And he said, ' By remembering that all knowledge is useful, because it enables you by the help of God in a time of emergency to select some of the things which you have learned and apply them to the crisis which confronts you. And so the efforts of men are fulfilled by the assistance of God.'
240 The king praised him and asked the next How he could avoid doing anything contrary to law ? And he said, ' If you recognize that it is God who has put the thoughts into the hearts of the lawgivers that the lives of men might be preserved, you will follow them.'
241 The king acknowledged the man's answer and said to another, ' What is the advantage of kinship ? ' And he replied, ' If we consider that we ourselves are afflicted by the misfortunes which fall upon our relatives and if their sufferings become our own -then the strength of kinship is
243 And having accorded to him the same praise as to the rest, the king asked another How he could attain freedom from fear ? And he said, ' When the mind is conscious that it has wrought no evil, and when God directs it to all noble counsels.'
244 The king expressed his approval and asked another How he could always maintain a right judgement ? And he replied, ' If he constantly set before his eyes the misfortunes which befall men and recognized that it is God who takes away prosperity from some and brings others to great honour and glory.'
245 The king gave a kindly reception to the man and asked the next to answer the question How he could avoid a life of ease and pleasure ? And he replied, ' If he continually remembered that he was the ruler of a great empire and the lord of vast multitudes, and that his mind ought not to be occupied with other things, but he ought always to be considering how he could best promote their welfare. He must pray, too, to God that no duty might be neglected.'
246 Having bestowed praise upon him, the king asked the tenth How he could recognize those who were dealing treacherously with him ? And he replied to the question, ' If he observed whether the bearing of those about him was natural and whether they maintained the proper rule of precedence at receptions and councils, and in their general intercourse, never going beyond the bounds of
248 And on the next day, when the opportunity offered, the king asked the next man, What is the grossest form of neglect ? And he replied, ' If a man does not care for his children and devote every effort to their education. For w always pray to God not so much for ourselves as for our children that every blessing may be theirs. Our desire that our children may possess self-control is only realized by the power of God.'
249 The king said that he had spoken well and then asked another How he could be patriotic ? ' By keeping before your mind,' he replied, the thought that it is good to live and die in one's own country. Residence abroad brings contempt upon the poor and shame upon the rich as though they had been banished for a crime. If you bestow benefits upon all, as you continually do, God will give you favour with all and you will be accounted patriotic.'
250 After listening to this man, the king asked the next in order How he could live amicably with his wife ? And he answered, ' By recognizing that womankind are by nature headstrong and energetic in the pursuit of their own desires, and subject to sudden changes of opinion through fallacious reasoning, and their nature is essentially weak. It is necessary to deal wisely with them
252 The king expressed his agreement and asked the next How he could be free from error ? And he replied, ' If you always act with deliberation and never give credence to slanders, but prove for yourself the things that are said to you and decide by your own judgement the requests which are made to you and carry out everything in the light of your judgement, you will be free from error, O King. But the knowledge and practice of these things is the work of the Divine power.'
253 Delighted with these words, the king asked another How he could be free from wrath ? And he said in reply to the question, ' If he recognized that he had power over all even to inflict death upon them, if he gave way to wrath, and that it would be useless and pitiful if he, just because he was lord,
255 The king said that he had answered well and then inquired of the next man, What is good counsel ? ' To act well at all times and with due reflection,' he explained, ' comparing what is advantageous to our own policy with the injurious effects that would result from the adoption of the opposite view, in order that by weighing every point we may be well advised and our purpose may be accomplished. And most important of all, by the power of God every plan of yours will find fulfilment because you practice piety.'
256 The king said that this man had answered well, and asked another What is philosophy? And he explained, ' To deliberate well in reference to any question that emerges and never to be carried away by impulses, but to ponder over the injuries that result from the passions, and to act rightly as the circumstances demand, practicing moderation. But we must pray to God to instil into our mind a regard for these things.'
257 The king signified his consent and asked another How he could meet with recognition when traveling abroad ? ' By being fair to all men,' he replied, ' and by appearing to be inferior rather than superior to those amongst whom he was traveling. For it is a recognized principle that God by His very nature accepts the humble. And the human race loves those who are willing to be in subjection to them.'
258 Having expressed his approval at this reply, the king asked another How he could build in such a way that his structures would endure after him ? And he replied to the question, ' If his creations were on a great and noble scale, so that the beholders would spare them for their beauty, and if he never dismissed any of those who wrought such works and never compelled others to minister to his
260 The king said that this man, too, had answered well and asked the tenth, What is the fruit of wisdom ? And he replied, ' That a man should be conscious in himself that he has wrought no evil
262 And on the next day the banquet followed the same course as on previous occasions, and when the opportunity presented itself the king proceeded to put questions to the remaining guests, and
264 The king spoke kindly to him and asked the next, Whom ought a man to select as his counselors ? and he replied, ' Those who have been tested in many affairs and maintain unmingled goodwill towards him and partake of his own disposition. And God manifests Himself to those who are worthy that these ends may be attained.'
265 The king praised him and asked another, What is the most necessary possession for a king ? ' The friendship and love of his subjects,' he replied, ' for it is through this that the bond of goodwill is rendered indissoluble. And it is God who ensures that this may come to pass in accordance with your wish.'
266 The king praised him and inquired of another, What is goal of speech? And he replied, 'To convince your opponent by showing him his mistakes in a well-ordered array of arguments. For in this way you will win your hearer, not by opposing him, but by bestowing praise upon him with a view to persuading him. And it is by the power of God that persuasion is accomplished.'
267 The king said that he had given a good answer, and asked another How he could live amicably with the many different races who formed the population of his kingdom ? ' By acting the proper part towards each,' he replied, ' and taking righteousness as your guide, as you are now doing with the help of the insight which God bestows upon you.'
268 The king was delighted by this reply, and asked another ' Under what circumstances ought a man to suffer grief ? ' ' In the misfortunes that befall our friends,' he replied, when we see that they are protracted and irremediable. Reason does not allow us to grieve for those who are dead and set free from evil, but all men do grieve over them because they think only of themselves and their own advantage. It is by the power of God alone that we can escape all evil.'
270 The king gave his confirmation to the answer, and asked the next man, To whom ought men to entrust themselves ? ' To those,' he replied, who serve you from goodwill and not from fear or self-interest, thinking only of their own gain. For the one is the sign of love, the other the mark of ill-will and time-serving. For the man who is always watching, for his own gain is a traitor at heart. But you possess the affection of all your subjects by the help of the good counsel which God bestows upon you.'
271 The king said that he had answered wisely, and asked another, What is it that keeps a kingdom safe? And he replied to the question, ' Care and forethought that no evil may be wrought by those who are placed in a position of authority over the people, and this you always do by the help of God who inspires you with grave judgement '.
272 The king spoke words of encouragement to him, and asked another, What is it that maintains gratitude and honour ? And he replied, ' virtue, for it is the creator of good deeds, and by it evil is destroyed, even as you exhibit nobility of character towards all by the gift which God bestows upon you.'
273 The king graciously acknowledged the answer and asked the eleventh (since there were two more than seventy), How he could in time of war maintain tranquillity of soul ? And he replied, ' By remembering that he had done no evil to any of his subjects, and that all would fight for him in return for the benefits which they had received, knowing that even if they lose their lives, you will care for those 274 dependent on them. For you never fail to make reparation to any-such is the kind-heartedness with which God has inspired you.' The king loudly applauded them all and spoke very kindly to them and then drank a long draught to the health of each, giving himself up to enjoyment, and lavishing the most generous and joyous friendship upon his guests.
275 On the seventh day much more extensive preparations were made, and many others were present from the different cities (among them a large number of ambassadors). When an opportunity occurred, the king asked the first of those who had not yet been questioned How he could avoid
277 The king loudly applauded the answer and asked another, Why is it that the majority of men never become virtuous ? ' Because,' he replied, ' all men are by nature intemperate and inclined to
279 The king said that he had answered well, and asked, What ought kings to obey ? And he said, ' The laws, in order that by righteous enactments they may restore the lives of men. Even as you by such conduct in obedience to the Divine command have laid up in store for yourself a perpetual memorial.'
280 The king said that this man, too, had spoken well, and asked the next, Whom ought we to appoint as governors? And he replied, 'All who hate wickedness, and imitating your own conduct act righteously that they may maintain a good reputation constantly. For this is what you do, O mighty King,' he said, ' and it is God who has bestowed upon you the crown of righteousness.'
282 The king said that he had given a good answer and asked another, What man is worthy of admiration ? And he replied, The man who is furnished with reputation and wealth and power and possesses a soul equal to it all. You yourself show by your actions that you are most worthy of admiration through the help of God who makes you care for these things.'
283 The king expressed his approval and said to another 'To what affairs ought kings to devote most time ? ' And he replied, ' To reading and the study of the records of official journeys, which are written in reference to the various kingdoms, with a view to the reformation and preservation of the subjects. And it is by such activity that you have attained to a glory which has never been approached by others, through the help of God who fulfils all your desires.'
284 The king spoke enthusiastically to the man and asked another How ought a man to occupy himself during his hours of relaxation and recreation? And he replied, 'To watch those plays which can be acted with propriety and to set before one's eyes scenes taken from life and enacted
286 The king, pleased with the words which had just been spoken, said to the ninth man, How ought a man to conduct himself at banquets? And he replied, ' You should summon to your side men of learning and those who are able to give you useful hints with regard to the affairs of your kingdom and the lives of your subjects (for you could not find any theme more suitable or more
288 Delighted with the reply, the king inquired of the next man, What is best for the people? That a private citizen should be made king over them or a member of the royal family ? And he
291 The king spent some time in praising this man and then asked the last of all, What is the greatest achievement in ruling an empire ? And he replied, ' That the subjects should continually dwell in a state of peace, and that justice should be speedily administered in cases of dispute.
293 And when he ceased, loud and joyful applause broke out for some considerable time. When it stopped the king took a cup and gave a toast in honour of all his guests and the words which they had uttered. Then in conclusion he said, ' I have derived the greatest benefit from your presence.
295 I have written at length and must crave your pardon, Philocrates. I was astonished beyond measure at the men and the way in which on the spur of the moment they gave answers which
301 Three days later Demetrius took the men and passing along the sea-wall, seven stadia long, to the island, crossed the bridge and made for the northern districts of Pharos. There he assembled them in a house, which had been built upon the sea-shore, of great beauty and in a secluded situation, and invited them to carry out the work of translation, since everything that they needed for the purpose
307 As I have already said, they met together daily in the place which was delightful for its quiet and its brightness and applied themselves to their task. And it so chanced that the work of translation was completed in seventy-two days, just as if this had been arranged of set purpose.
308 When the work was completed, Demetrius collected together the Jewish population in the place where the translation had been made, and read it over to all, in the presence of the translators, who met with a great reception also from the people, because of the great benefits which they had