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Damon and Pythias

2006-07-13 21:42

  Many years ago, there lived in Syracuse in Greece, two friends whose names were Damon and Pythias. Damon was the son of an ordinary Greek craftsman, while Pythias was the son of a rich trader but this did not come in the way of their friendship at all. The two never argued or quarreled and were happy when they were together.

  Damon and Pythias grew up but their friendship remained as strong as ever. Both began to work with their fathers but still spent all their free time together.

  In those days trade was very risky because it was very difficult to transport goods from one place to another. Pythias' father suffered a number of losses as his ship sank while crossing the sea and his caravans were looted. He grew more and more worried.

  Then one day he came to know that yet another of his ship has been looted by pirates. The news was too much for him and he died of shock and sorrow.

  As soon as the news of his death spread, many other traders gathered in the town hall shouting angrily. They had all lent Pythias' father money and they now wanted Pythias to pay it back to them.

  “Your father cheated us. He must have hidden away lots of gold and silver!” the crowd shouted.

  Pythias tried in vain to convince them that his father had not cheated them and that he had lost almost all his money.

  “But there are traders in other parts of Greece who owed him money.” He told them. “I will go to them, collect the money and then pay it back to all of you.”

  “No!” shouted the angry men. “We demand that you be arrested till you pay us!”

  “How can I pay you if I am put into prison?” protested Pythias. “You must let me go. I promise that I will return to Syracuse and pay you.”

  “No, you are a cheat like your father! You will not come back!”

  Damon had been standing quietly by the side of his friend and was sad at the plight of Pythias. But when his friend was insulted, he could not remain quiet.

  “How dare you insult an honorable man like Pythias?” he roared. “Let him go and bring the money to pay you. I stay in prison instead of him till he comes back!”

  Pythias looked at his friend with love and gratitude, but the angry creditors were not satisfied.

  “But what if Pythias takes the money and never returns to Syracuse?” they asked.

  “If that happens, punish me in his place,” retorted Damon.

  The traders went to the judge and asked him to decide what they should do.

  “Let Pythias go and collect money the traders owed to him,” said the judge. “He must come back in a month-in exactly 30 days. Till then, Damon must remain in prison. If Pythias does not return in time, Damon will be hanged.”

  Pythias was shocked and told Damon that he would never consent to this decision. But Damon stood firm.

  “This is the only way that you can clear your father's name and get money to start business again,” he said. “Go, I am sure that you will come back in time.”

  So Pythias left Syracuse and Damon was put into prison. The days passed. Damon's parents grew more and more worried as the end of month given to Pythias drew near. Then the 30th day came and passed.

  The traders went to the judge. “It is obvious that Pythias is not coming back and that we will not get our money back,” they said. “So lat Damon be hanged.”

  The judge passed sentence and Damon was taken to the gallows which stood in a field just outside the town.

  “So your friend had deserted you. He saved himself and left you to die alone!” taunted the traders. “Never! My friend would never do that!” said Damon stoutly. “He must have been delayed by difficulties on the journey or perhaps the people who owed him money delayed paying him.”

  The noose was placed around Damon's neck and his father and mother began to shed bitter tears.

  “Stop! Stop!” Everyone turned when they heard a loud shout. A man was running madly along the road towards them, waving his arms and shouting. It was Pythias!

  Panting hard, Pythias reached there. He tore the noose off Damon's neck and put it around his own.

  “Damon shall not die in my place!” he cried. “I am one day late and so I will die. But first I will return all the money that my father owed.”

  Pythias opened the bag he held and everyone saw that it was filled with gold coins.

  “I traveled as fast as I could, Damon,” Pythias went on. “But I was delayed by one misfortune after another. Will you forgive me for all the worry I caused you?”

  “You caused me no worry, my friend,” Said Damon. “I knew that you would not let me die-and I will not let you die, either!”

  Damon turned to the traders and begged them to spare his friend's life.

  “We are not monsters,” said the traders. “No Pythias will not die now that we have got our money back.”

  Pythias had got not just enough money to pay back the traders but also enough to set up as a trader himself again.

  Both he and Damon became famous for their great true friendship.

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