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The Richest Man
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The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason
TABLE OF CONTENTS
First Published in 1926.
Table of Contents
About the author 3
An Historical Sketch of Babylon 6
The Man Who Desired Gold 9
The Richest Man in Babylon 12
Seven Cures For a Lean Purse 17
THE FIRST CURE 18
Start thy purse to fattening 18
THE SECOND CURE 19
Control thy expenditures 19
THE THIRD CURE 20
Make thy gold multiply 20
THE FOURTH CURE 21
Guard thy treasures from loss 21
THE FIFTH CURE 22
Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment 22
THE SIXTH CURE 23
Insure a future income 23
THE SEVENTH CURE 24
Increase thy ability to earn 24
Meet the Goddess of Good Luck 26
The Five Laws of Gold 32
THE FIVE LAWS OF GOLD 34
The First Law of Gold 36
The Second Law of Gold 36
The Third Law of Gold 36
The Fourth Law of Gold 37
The Fifth Law of Gold 37
The Gold Lender of Babylon 38
The Walls of Babylon 44
The Camel Trader of Babylon 46
The Clay Tablets From Babylon 51
Tablet No. I 52
Tablet No. II 52
Tablet No. Ill 53
Tablet No. IV 53
Tablet No. V 54
The Luckiest Man in Babylon 58
Ahead of you stretches your future like a road leading into the distance. Along that road are ambitions
you wish to accomplish . . . desires you wish to gratify
To bring your ambitions and desires to fulfillment, you must be successful with money Use the
financial principles made clear in the pages which follow. L et them guide you away from the
stringencies of a lean purse to that fuller, happier life a full purse makes possible.
Like the law of gravity, they are universal and unchanging. M ay they prove for you, as they have
proven to so many others, a sure key to a fat purse, larger bank balances and gratifying financial
FOR THOSE WHO UNDERSTAND
THE SIMPLE RULES OF ITS ACQUISITION
1 . Start thy purse to fattening
2. Control thy expenditures
3. Make thy gold multiply
4. G uard thy treasures from loss
5. M ake of thy dwelling a profitable investment
6. Insure a future income
7. Increase thy ability to earn
About the author
GEORGE SAMUEL CLASON was born in Louisiana, Missouri, on November 7, 1874. He
attended the University of Nebraska and served in the United States Army during the Spanish-
American War. Beginning a long career in publishing, he founded the Clason Map Company of Denver,
Colorado, and published the first road atlas of the United States and Canada. In 1926, he issued the
first of a famous series of pamphlets on thrift and financial success, using parables set in ancient
Babylon to make each of his points. These were distributed in large quantities by banks and
insurance companies and became familiar to millions, the most famous being "The Richest Man
in Babylon," the parable from which the present volume takes its title. These "Babylonian parables"
have become a modern inspirational classic.
Our prosperity as a nation depends upon the personal financial prosperity of each of us as
This book deals with the personal successes of each of us. Success means accomplishments as the
result of our own efforts and abilities. Proper preparation is the key to our success. Our acts
can be no wiser than our thoughts. Our thinking can be no wiser than our understanding.
This book of cures for lean purses has been termed a guide to financial understanding. That, indeed, is
its purpose: to offer those who are ambitious for financial success an insight which will aid
them to acquire money, to keep money and to make their surpluses earn more money.
In the pages which follow, we are taken back to Babylon, the cradle in which was nurtured the
basic principles of finance now recognized and used the world over.
To new readers the author is happy to extend the wish that its pages may contain for them the same
inspiration for growing bank accounts, greater financial successes and the solution of difficult
personal financial problems so enthusiastically reported by readers from coast to coast.
To the business executives who have distributed these tales in such generous quantities to friends,
relatives, employees and associates, the author takes this opportunity to express his gratitude. No
endorsement could be higher than that of practical men who appreciate its teachings because they,
themselves, have worked up to important successes by applying the very principles it advocates.
Babylon became the wealthiest city of the ancient world because its citizens were the richest
people of their time. They appreciated the value of money. They practiced sound financial principles
in acquiring money, keeping money and making their money earn more money. They provided for
themselves what we all desire . . . incomes for the future.
G. S. C.
An Historical Sketch of Babylon
In the pages of history there lives no city more glamorous than Babylon. Its very name conjures
visions of wealth and splendor. Its treasures of gold and jewels were fabulous. One naturally pictures
such a wealthy city as located in a suitable setting of tropical luxury, surrounded by rich natural
resources of forests, and mines. Such was not the case. It was located beside the Euphrates River, in a
flat, arid valley. It had no forests, no mines — not even stone for building. It was not even located upon
a natural trade-route. The rainfall was insufficient to raise crops.
Babylon is an outstanding example of man's ability to achieve great objectives, using whatever
means are at his disposal. All of the resources supporting this large city were man-developed. All of its
riches were man-made.
Babylon possessed just two natural resources — a fertile soil and water in the river. With one of
the greatest engineering accomplishments of this or any other day, Babylonian engineers diverted the
waters from the river by means of dams and immense irrigation canals. Far out across that arid valley
went these canals to pour the life giving waters over the fertile soil. This ranks among the first
engineering feats known to history. Such abundant crops as were the reward of this irrigation system
the world had never seen before.
Fortunately, during its long existence, Babylon was ruled by successive lines of kings to whom
conquest and plunder were but incidental. While it engaged in many wars, most of these were local or
defensive against ambitious conquerors from other countries who coveted the fabulous treasures of
Babylon. The outstanding rulers of Babylon live in history because of their wisdom, enterprise and
justice. Babylon produced no strutting monarchs who sought to conquer the known world that all
nations might pay homage to their egotism.
As a city, Babylon exists no more. When those energizing human forces that built and
maintained the city for thousands of years were withdrawn, it soon became a deserted ruin. The site of
the city is in Asia about six hundred miles east of the Suez Canal, just north of the Persian Gulf. The
latitude is about thirty degrees above the Equator, practically the same as that of Yuma, Arizona. It
possessed a climate similar to that of this American city, hot and dry.
Today, this valley of the Euphrates, once a populous irrigated farming district, is again a wind-
swept arid waste. Scant grass and desert shrubs strive for existence against the windblown sands. Gone
are the fertile fields, the mammoth cities and the long caravans of rich merchandise. Nomadic bands of
Arabs, securing a scant living by tending small herds, are the only inhabitants. Such it has been since
about the beginning of the Christian era.
Dotting this valley are earthen hills. For centuries, they were considered by travelers to be
nothing else. The attention of archaeologists were finally attracted to them because of broken pieces of
pottery and brick washed down by the occasional rain storms. Expeditions, financed by European and
American museums, were sent here to excavate and see what could be found. Picks and shovels soon
proved these hills to be ancient cities. City graves, they might well be called.
Babylon was one of these. Over it for something like twenty centuries, the winds had scattered
the desert dust. Built originally of brick, all exposed walls had disintegrated and gone back to earth
once more. Such is Babylon, the wealthy city, today. A heap of dirt, so long abandoned that no living
person even knew its name until it was discovered by carefully removing the refuse of centuries from
the streets and the fallen wreckage of its noble temples and palaces.
Many scientists consider the civilization of Babylon and other cities in this valley to be the
oldest of which there is a definite record. Positive dates have been proved reaching back 8000 years.
An interesting fact in this connection is the means used to determine these dates. Uncovered in the
ruins of Babylon were descriptions of an eclipse of the sun. Modern astronomers readily computed the
time when such an eclipse, visible in Babylon, occurred and thus established a known relationship
between their calendar and our own.
In this way, we have proved that 8000 years ago, the Sumerites, who inhabited Babylonia, were
living in walled cities. One can only conjecture for how many centuries previous such cities had
existed. Their inhabitants were not mere barbarians living within protecting walls. They were an
educated and enlightened people. So far as written history goes, they were the first engineers, the first
astronomers, the first mathematicians, the first financiers and the first people to have a written
Mention has already been made of the irrigation systems which transformed the arid valley into
an agricultural paradise. The remains of these canals can still be traced, although they are mostly filled
with accumulated sand. Some of them were of such size that, when empty of water, a dozen horses
could be ridden abreast along their bottoms. In size they compare favorably with the largest canals in
Colorado and Utah.
In addition to irrigating the valley lands, Babylonian engineers completed another project of
similar magnitude. By means of an elaborate drainage system they reclaimed an immense area of
swamp land at the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and put this also under cultivation.
Herodotus, the Greek traveler and historian, visited Babylon while it was in its prime and has
given us the only known description by an outsider. His writings give a graphic description of the city
and some of the unusual customs of its people. He mentions the remarkable fertility of the soil and the
bountiful harvest of wheat and barley which they produced.
The glory of Babylon has faded but its wisdom has been preserved for us. For this we are
indebted to their form of records. In that distant day, the use of paper had not been invented. Instead,
they laboriously engraved their writing upon tablets of moist clay. When completed, these were baked
and became hard tile. In size, they were about six by eight inches, and an inch in thickness.
These clay tablets, as they are commonly called, were used much as we use modern forms of
writing. Upon them were engraved legends, poetry, history, transcriptions of royal decrees, the laws of
the land, titles to property, promissory notes and even letters which were dispatched by messengers to
distant cities. From these clay tablets we are permitted an insight into the intimate, personal affairs of
the people. For example, one tablet, evidently from the records of a country storekeeper, relates that
upon the given date a certain named customer brought in a cow and exchanged it for seven sacks of
wheat, three being delivered at the time and the other four to await the customer's pleasure.
Safely buried in the wrecked cities, archaeologists have recovered entire libraries of these
tablets, hundreds of thousands of them.
One of the outstanding wonders of Babylon was the immense walls surrounding the city. The
ancients ranked them with the great pyramid of Egypt as belonging to the "seven wonders of the
world." Queen Semiramis is credited with having erected the first walls during the early history of the
city. Modern excavators have been unable to find any trace of the original walls. Nor is their exact
height known. From mention made by early writers, it is estimated they were about fifty to sixty feet
high, faced on the outer side with burnt brick and further protected by a deep moat of water.
The later and more famous walls were started about six hundred years before the time of Christ
by King Nabopolassar. Upon such a gigantic scale did he plan the rebuilding, he did not live to see the
work finished. This was left to his son, Nebuchadnezzar, whose name is familiar in Biblical history.
The height and length of these later walls staggers belief. They are reported upon reliable
authority to have been about one hundred and sixty feet high, the equivalent of the height of a modern
fifteen story office building. The total length is estimated as between nine and eleven miles. So wide
was the top that a six-horse chariot could be driven around them. Of this tremendous structure, little
now remains except portions of the foundations and the moat. In addition to the ravages of the
elements, the Arabs completed the destruction by quarrying the brick for building purposes elsewhere.
Against the walls of Babylon marched, in turn, the victorious armies of almost every conqueror
of that age of wars of conquest. A host of kings laid siege to Babylon, but always in vain. Invading
armies of that day were not to be considered lightly. Historians speak of such units as 10,000 horsemen,
25,000 chariots, 1200 regiments of foot soldiers with 1000 men to the regiment. Often two or three
years of preparation would be required to assemble war materials and depots of food along the
proposed line of march.
The city of Babylon was organized much like a modern city. There were streets and shops.
Peddlers offered their wares through residential districts. Priests officiated in magnificent temples.
Within the city was an inner enclosure for the royal palaces. The walls about this were said to have
been higher than those about the city.
The Babylonians were skilled in the arts. These included sculpture, painting, weaving, gold
working and the manufacture of metal weapons and agricultural implements. Their Jewelers created
most artistic jewelry. Many samples have been recovered from the graves of its wealthy citizens and
are now on exhibition in the leading museums of the world.
At a very early period when the rest of the world was still hacking at trees with stone-headed
axes, or hunting and fighting with flint-pointed spears and arrows, the Babylonians were using axes,
spears and arrows with metal heads.
The Babylonians were clever financiers and traders. So far as we know, they were the original
inventors of money as a means of exchange, of promissory notes and written titles to property.
Babylon was never entered by hostile armies until about 540 years before the birth of Christ.
Even then the walls were not captured. The story of the fall of Babylon is most unusual. Cyrus, one of
the great conquerors of that period, intended to attack the city and hoped to take its impregnable walls.
Advisors of Nabonidus, the King of Babylon, persuaded him to go forth to meet Cyrus and give him
battle without waiting for the city to be besieged. In the succeeding defeat to the Babylonian army, it
fled away from the city. Cyrus, thereupon, entered the open gates and took possession without
Thereafter the power and prestige of the city gradually waned until, in the course of a few
hundred years, it was eventually abandoned, deserted, left for the winds and storms to level once again
to that desert earth from which its grandeur had originally been built. Babylon had fallen, never to rise
again, but to it civilization owes much.
The eons of time have crumbled to dust the proud walls of its temples, but the wisdom of
M oney is the medium by which earthly success is measured.
M oney makes possible the enjoyment of the best the earth affords.
Money is plentiful for those who understand the simple laws which govern its
Money is governed today by the same laws which controlled it when prosperous men
thronged the streets of Babylon, six thousand years ago.
The Man Who Desired Gold
Bansir, the chariot builder of Babylon, was thoroughly discouraged. From his seat upon the low
wall surrounding his property, he gazed sadly at his simple home and the open workshop in which
stood a partially completed chariot.
His wife frequently appeared at the open door. Her furtive glances in his direction reminded
him that the meal bag was almost empty and he should be at work finishing the chariot, hammering and
hewing, polishing and painting, stretching taut the leather over the wheel rims, preparing it for delivery
so he could collect from his wealthy customer.
Nevertheless, his fat, muscular body sat stolidly upon the wall. His slow mind was struggling
patiently with a problem for which he could find no answer. The hot, tropical sun, so typical of this
valley of the Euphrates, beat down upon him mercilessly. Beads of perspiration formed upon his brow
and trickled down unnoticed to lose themselves in tie hairy jungle on his chest.
Beyond his home towered the high terraced wall surrounding the king's palace. Nearby,
cleaving the blue heavens, was the painted tower of the Temple of Bel. In the shadow of such grandeur
was his simple home and many others far less neat and well cared for. Babylon was like this — a
mixture of grandeur and squalor, of dazzling wealth and direst poverty, crowded together without plan
or system within the protecting walls of the city.
Behind him, had he cared to turn and look, the noisy chariots of the rich jostled and crowded
aside the sandaled tradesmen as well as the barefooted beggars. Even the rich were forced to turn into
the gutters to clear the way for the long lines of slave water carriers, on the "King's Business," 15each
bearing a heavy goatskin of water to be poured upon the hanging gardens.
Bansir was too engrossed in his own problem to hear or heed the confused hubbub of the busy
city. It was the unexpected twanging of the strings from a familiar lyre that aroused him from his
reverie. He turned and looked into the sensitive, smiling face of his best friend — Kobbi, the musician.
"May the Gods bless thee with great liberality, my good friend," began Kobbi with an elaborate
salute. "Yet, it does appear they have already been so generous thou needest not to labor. I rejoice with
thee in thy good fortune. More, I would even share it with thee. Pray, from thy purse which must be
bulging else thou wouldst be busy in your shop, extract but two humble shekels and lend them to me
until after the noblemen's feast this night. Thou wilt not miss them ere they are returned."
"If I did have two shekels," Bansir responded gloomily, "to no one could I lend them — not even
to you, my best of friends; for they would be my fortune — my entire fortune. No one lends his entire
fortune, not even to his best friend."
"What," exclaimed Kobbi with genuine surprise, "Thou hast not one shekel in thy purse, yet sit
like a statue upon a wall! Why not complete that chariot? How else canst thou provide for thy noble
appetite? Tis not like thee, my friend. Where is thy endless energy? Doth something distress thee? Have
the Gods brought to thee troubles?"
"A torment from the Gods it must be," Bansir agreed. "It began with a dream, a senseless
dream, in which I thought I was a man of means. From my belt hung a handsome purse, heavy with
coins. There were shekels which I cast with careless freedom to the beggars; there were pieces of silver
with which I did buy finery for my wife and whatever I did desire for myself; there were pieces of gold
which made me feel assured of the future and unafraid to spend the silver. A glorious feeling of
contentment was within me! You would not have known me for thy hardworking friend. Nor wouldst
have known my wife, so free from wrinkles was her face and shining with happiness. She was again the
smiling maiden of our early married days."
"A pleasant dream, indeed," commented Kobbi, "but why should such pleasant feelings as it
aroused turn thee into a glum statue upon the wall?"
"Why, indeed! Because when I awoke and remembered how empty was my purse, a feeling of
rebellion swept over me. Let us talk it over together, for, as the sailors do say, we ride in the same boat,
we two. As youngsters, we went together to the priests to learn wisdom. As young men, we shared each
other's pleasures. As grown men, we have always been close friends. We have been contented subjects
of our kind. We have been satisfied to work long hours and spend our earnings freely. We have earned
much coin in the years that have passed, yet to know the joys that come from wealth, we must dream
about them. Bah! Are we more than dumb sheep? We live in the richest city in all the world. The
travelers do say none equals it in wealth. About us is much display of wealth, but of it we ourselves
have naught. After half a lifetime of hard labor, thou, my best of friends, hast an empty purse and sayest
to me, "May I borrow such a trifle as two shekels until after the noblemen's feast this night?" Then,
what do I reply? Do I say, "Here is my purse; its contents will I gladly share?' No, I admit that my purse
is as empty as thine. What is the matter? Why cannot we acquire silver and gold — more than enough
for food and robes?
"Consider, also, our sons," Bansir continued, "are they not 17following in the footsteps of their
fathers? Need they and their families and their sons and their sons' families live all their lives in the
midst of such treasurers of gold, and yet, like us, be content to banquet upon sour goat's milk and
"Never, in all the years of our friendship, didst thou talk like this before, Bansir." Kobbi was
"Never in all those years did I think like this before. From early dawn until darkness stopped
me, I have labored to build the finest chariots any man could make, soft- heartedly hoping some day the
Gods would recognize my worthy deeds and bestow upon me great prosperity. This they have never
done. At last, I realize this they will never do. Therefore, my heart is sad. I wish to be a man of means. I
wish to own lands and cattle, to have fine robes and coins in my purse. I am willing to work for these
things with all the strength in my back, with all the skill in my hands, with all the cunning in my mind,
but I wish my labors to be fairly rewarded. What is the matter with us? Again I ask you ! Why cannot
we have our just share of the good things so plentiful for those who have the gold with which to buy
"Would I knew an answer!" Kobbi replied. "No better than thou am I satisfied. My earnings
from my lyre are quickly gone. Often must I plan and scheme that my family be not hungry. Also,
within my breast is a deep longing for a lyre large enough that it may truly sing the strains of music that
do surge through my mind. With such an instrument could I make music finer than even the king has
heard before. "
"Such a lyre thou shouldst have. No man in all Babylon could make it sing more sweetly; could
make it sing so sweetly, not only the king but the Gods themselves would be delighted. But how mayest
thou secure it while we both of us are as poor as the king's slaves? Listen to the bell! Here they come."
He pointed to the long column of half naked, sweating water bearers plodding laboriously up the
narrow street from the river. Five abreast they marched, each bent under a heavy goatskin of water.
"A fine figure of a man, he who doth lead them." Kobbi indicated the wearer of the bell who
marched in front without a load. "A prominent man in his own country, 'tis easy to see."
"There are many good figures in the line," Bansir agreed, "as good men as we. Tall, blond men
from the north, laughing black men from the south, little brown men from the nearer countries. All
marching together from the river to the gardens, back and forth, day after day, year after year. Naught
of happiness to look forward to. Beds of straw upon which to sleep — hard grain porridge to eat. Pity the
poor brutes, Kobbi!"
"Pity them I do. Yet, thou dost make me see how little better off are we, free men though we
That is truth, Kobbi, unpleasant thought though it be. We do not wish to go on year after year
living slavish lives. Working, working, working! Getting nowhere."
"Might we not find out how others acquire gold and do as they do?" Kobbi inquired.
"Perhaps there is some secret we might learn if we but sought from those who knew," replied
"This very day," suggested Kobbi, "I did pass our old friend, Arkad, riding in his golden
chariot. This I will say, he did not look over my humble head as many in his station might consider his
right. Instead, he did wave his hand that all onlookers might see him pay greetings and bestow his smile
of friendship upon Kobbi, the musician."
"He is claimed to be the richest man in all Babylon," Bansir mused.
"So rich the king is said to seek his golden aid in affairs of the treasury," Kobbi replied. "So
rich," Bansir interrupted, "I fear if I should meet him in the darkness of the night, I should lay my
hands upon his fat wallet"
"Nonsense," reproved Kobbi, "a man's wealth is not in the purse he carries. A fat purse quickly
empties if there be no golden stream to refill it. Arkad has an income that constantly keeps his purse
full, no matter how liberally he spends."
"Income, that is the thing," ejaculated Bansir. "I wish an income that will keep flowing into my
purse whether I sit upon the wall or travel to far lands. Arkad must know how a man can make an
income for himself. Dost suppose it is something he could make clear to a mind as slow as mine?"
"Methinks he did teach his knowledge to his son, Nomasir," Kobbi responded. "Did he not go
to Nineveh and, so it is told at the inn, become, without aid from his father, one of the richest men in
"Kobbi, thou bringest to me a rare thought." A new light gleamed in Bansir's eyes. "It costs
nothing to ask wise advice from a good friend and Arkad was always that. Never mind though our
purses be as empty as the falcon's nest of a year ago. Let that not detain us. We are weary of being
without gold in the midst of plenty. We wish to become men of means. Come, let us go to Arkad and
ask how we, also, may acquire incomes for ourselves."
Thou speakest with true inspiration, Bansir. Thou bringeth to my mind a new understanding.
Thou makest me to realize the reason why we have never found any measure of wealth. We never
sought it. Thou hast labored patiently to build the staunchest chariots in Babylon. To that purpose was
devoted your best endeavors. Therefore, at it thou didst succeed. I strove to become a skillful lyre
player. And, at it I did succeed.
"In those things toward which we exerted our best endeavors we succeeded. The Gods were
content to let us continue thus. Now, at last, we see a light, bright like that from the rising sun. It
biddeth us to learn more that we may prosper more. With a new understanding we shall find honorable
ways to accomplish our desires."
"Let us go to Arkad this very day," Bansir urged, "Also, let us ask other friends of our boyhood
days, who have fared no better than ourselves, to join us that they, too, may share in his wisdom."
"Thou wert ever thus thoughtful of thy friends, Bansir. Therefore hast thou many friends. It
shall be as thou sayest. We go this day and take them with us."
The Richest Man in Babylon
In old Babylon there once lived a certain very rich man named Arkad. Far and wide he was
famed for his great wealth. Also was be famed for his liberality. He was generous in his charities. He
was generous with his family. He was liberal in his own expenses. But nevertheless each year his
wealth increased more rapidly than he spent it.
And there were certain friends of younger days who came to him and said: "You, Arkad, are
more fortunate than we. You have become the richest man in all Babylon while we struggle for
existence. You can wear the finest garments and you can enjoy the rarest foods, while we must be
content if we can clothe our families in raiment that is presentable and feed them as best we can.
'Yet, once we were equal. We studied under the same master. We played in the same games.
And in neither the studies nor the games did you outshine us. And in the years since, you have been no
more an honorable citizen than we.
"Nor have you worked harder or more faithfully, insofar as we can judge. Why, then, should a
fickle fate single you out to enjoy all the good things of life and ignore us who are equally deserving?"
Thereupon Arkad remonstrated with them, saying, "If you have not acquired more than a bare
existence in the years since we were youths, it is because you either have failed to learn the laws that
govern the building of wealth, or else you do not observe them.
" 'Fickle Fate' is a vicious goddess who brings no permanent good to anyone. On the contrary,
she brings ruin to almost every man upon whom she showers unearned gold. She makes wanton
spenders, who soon dissipate all 22they receive and are left beset by overwhelming appetites and
desires they have not the ability to gratify. Yet others whom she favors become misers and hoard their
wealth, fearing to spend what they have, knowing they do not possess the ability to replace it. They
further are beset by fear of robbers and doom themselves to lives of emptiness and secret misery.
"Others there probably are, who can take unearned gold and add to it and continue to be happy
and contented citizens. But so few are they, I know of them but by hearsay. Think you of the men who
have inherited sudden wealth, and see if these things are not so.
" His friends admitted that of the men they knew who had inherited wealth these words were
true, and they besought him to explain to them how he had become possessed of so much prosperity, so
he continued: "In my youth I looked about me and saw all the good things there were to bring
happiness and contentment. And I realized that wealth increased the potency of all these. "Wealth is a
power. With wealth many things are possible.
"One may ornament the home with the richest of furnishings. "One may sail the distant seas.
"One may feast on the delicacies of far lands.
"One may buy the ornaments of the gold worker and the stone polisher.
"One may even build mighty temples for the Gods.
"One may do all these things and many others in which there is delight for the senses and
gratification for the soul.
"And, when I realized all this, I decided to myself that I would claim my share of the good
things of life. I would not be one of those who stand afar off, enviously watching others enjoy. I would
not be content to clothe myself in the cheapest raiment that looked respectable. I would not be satisfied
with the lot of a poor man. On the contrary, I would make myself a guest at this banquet of good things.
"Being, as you know, the son of a humble merchant, one of a large family with no hope of an
inheritance, and not being endowed, as you have so frankly said, with superior powers or wisdom, I
decided that if I was to achieve what I desired, time and study would be required.
"As for time, all men have it in abundance. You, each of you, have let slip by sufficient time to
have made yourselves wealthy. Yet, you admit; you have nothing to show except your good families, of
which you can be justly proud.
"As for study, did not our wise teacher teach us that learning was of two kinds: the one kind
being the things we learned and knew, and the other being the training that taught us how to find out
what we did not know?
"Therefore did I decide to find out how one might accumulate wealth, and when I had found
out, to make this my task and do it well. For, is it not wise that we should enjoy while we dwell in the
brightness of the sunshine, for sorrows enough shall descend upon us when we depart for the darkness
of the world of spirit?
"I found employment as a scribe in the hall of records, and long hours each day I labored upon
the clay tablets. Week after week, and month after month, I labored, yet for my 24earnings I had naught
to show. Food and clothing and penance to the gods, and other things of which I could remember not
what, absorbed all my earnings. But my determination did not leave me.
"And one day Algamish, the money lender, came to the house of the city master and ordered a
copy of the Ninth Law, and he said to me, I must have this in two days, and if the task is done by that
time, two coppers will I give to thee."
"So I labored hard, but the law was long, and when Algamish returned the task was unfinished.
He was angry, and had I been his slave, he would have beaten me. But knowing the city master would
not permit him to injure me, I was unafraid, so I said to him, Algamish, you are a very rich man. Tell
me how I may also become rich, and all night I will carve upon the clay, and when the sun rises it shall
"He smiled at me and replied, 'You are a forward knave, but we will call it a bargain.'
"All that night I carved, though my back pained and the smell of the wick made my head ache
until my eyes could hardly see. But when he returned at sunup, the tablets were complete.
" 'Now,' I said, 'tell me what you promised.'
" You have fulfilled your part of our bargain, my son,' he said to me kindly, 'and I am ready to
fulfill mine. I will tell you these things you wish to know because I am becoming an old man, and an
old tongue loves to wag. And when youth comes to age for advice he receives the wisdom of years. But
too often does youth think that age knows only the wisdom of days that are gone, and therefore profits
not. But remember this, the sun that shines today is the sun that shone when thy father was born, and
will still be shining when thy last grandchild shall pass into the darkness.
" 'The thoughts of youth,' he continued, 'are bright lights that shine forth like the meteors that
oft make brilliant the sky, but the wisdom of age is like the fixed stars that shine so unchanged that the
sailor may depend upon them to steer his course.
" 'Mark you well my words, for if you do not you will fail to grasp the truth that I will tell you,
and you will think that your night's work has been in vain.'
"Then he looked at me shrewdly from under his shaggy brows and said in a low, forceful tone,
I found the road to wealth when I decided that a part of all I earned was mine to keep. And so will you.'
"Then he continued to look at me with a glance that I could feel pierce me but said no more.
" 'Is that all?' I asked.
" 'That was sufficient to change the heart of a sheep herder into the heart of a money lender,' he
" 'But all I earn is mine to keep, is it not?' I demanded.
" 'Far from it,' he replied. 'Do you not pay the garment- maker? Do you not pay the sandal-
maker? Do you not pay for the things you eat? Can you live in Babylon without spending? What have
you to show for your earnings of the past mouth? What for the past year? Fool! You pay to everyone
but yourself. Dullard, you labor for others. As well be a slave and work for what your master gives you
to eat and wear. If you did keep for yourself one-tenth of all 26you earn, how much would you have in
"My knowledge of the numbers did not forsake me, and I answered, 'As much as I earn in one
" 'You speak but half the truth,' he retorted. 'Every gold piece you save is a slave to work for
you. Every copper it earns is its child that also can earn for you. If you would become wealthy, then
what you save must earn, and its children must earn, that all may help to give to you the abundance you
" 'You think I cheat you for your long night's work,' he continued, 'but I am paying you a
thousand times over if you have the intelligence to grasp the truth I offer you.
" 'A part of all you earn is yours to keep. It should be not less than a tenth no matter how little
you earn. It can be as much more as you can afford. Pay yourself first. Do not buy from the clothes-
maker and the sandal-maker more than you can pay out of the rest and still have enough for food and
charity and penance to the gods.
" 'Wealth, like a tree, grows from a tiny seed. The first copper you save is the seed from which
your tree of wealth shall grow. The sooner you plant that seed the sooner shall the tree grow. And the
more faithfully you nourish and water that tree with consistent savings, the sooner may you bask in
contentment beneath its shade.'
"So saying, he took his tablets and went away.
"I thought much about what he had said to me, and it seemed reasonable. So I decided that I
would try it. Each time I was paid I took one from each ten pieces of copper and hid it away. And
strange as it may seem, I was no shorter of funds, than before. I noticed little difference as I managed to
get along without it. But often I was tempted, as my hoard began to grow, to spend it for some of the
good things the merchants displayed, brought by camels and ships from the land of the Phoenicians.
But I wisely refrained.
"A twelfth month after Algamish had gone he again returned and said to me, 'Son, have you
paid to yourself not less than one-tenth of all you have earned for the past year?'
"I answered proudly, Yes, master, I have.' " 'That is good,' he answered beaming upon me, 'and
what have you done with it?'
" 'I have given it to Azmur, the brickmaker, who told me he was traveling over the far seas and
in Tyre he would buy for me the rare jewels of the Phoenicians. When he returns we shall sell these at
high prices and divide the earnings.'
" Every fool must learn,' he growled, 'but why trust the knowledge of a brickmaker about
jewels? Would you go to the breadmaker to inquire about the stars? No, by my tunic, you would go to
the astrologer, if you had power to think. Your savings are gone, youth, you have jerked your wealth-
tree up by the roots. But plant another. Try again. And next time if you would have advice about jewels,
go to the jewel merchant. If you would know the truth about sheep, go to the herdsman. Advice is one
thing that is freely given away, but watch that you take only what is worth having. He who takes advice
about his savings from one who is inexperienced in such matters, shall pay with his savings for proving
the falsity of their opinions.' Saying this, he went away.
"And it was as he said. For the Phoenicians are scoundrels and sold to Azmur worthless bits of
glass that looked like 28gems. But as Algamish had bid me, I again saved each tenth copper, for I now
had formed the habit and it was no longer difficult.
"Again, twelve months later, Algamish came to the room of the scribes and addressed me.
What progress have you made since last I saw you?'
" 'I have paid myself faithfully,' I replied, 'and my savings I have entrusted to Agger the
shieldmaker, to buy bronze, and each fourth month he does pay me the rental.'
" 'That is good. And what do you do with the rental?' " I do have a great feast with honey and
fine wine and spiced cake. Also I have bought me a scarlet tunic. And some day I shall buy me a young
ass upon which to ride.' "To which Algamish laughed, 'You do eat the children of your savings. Then
how do you expect them to work for you? And how can they have children that will also work for you?
First get thee an army of golden slaves and then many a rich banquet may you enjoy without regret.' So
saying he again went away.
"Nor did I again see him for two years, when he once more returned and his face was full of
deep lines and his eyes drooped, for he was becoming a very old man. And he said to me, 'Arkad, hast
thou yet achieved the wealth thou dreamed of?'
"And I answered, 'Not yet all that I desire, but some I have and it earns more, and its earnings
" And do you still take the advice of brickmakers?'
" About brickmaking they give good advice,' I retorted.
" 'Arkad,' he continued, 'you have learned your lessons well. You first learned to live upon less
than you could earn. Next you learned to seek advice from those who were competent through their
own experiences to give it. And, lastly, you have learned to make gold work for you.
" You have taught yourself how to acquire money, how to keep it, and how to use it. Therefore,
you are competent for a responsible position. I am becoming an old man. My sons think only of
spending and give no thought to earning. My interests are great and I fear too much for me to look
after. If you will go to Nippur and look after my lands there, I shall make you my partner and you shall
share in my estate.'
"So I went to Nippur and took charge of his holdings, which were large. And because I was full
of ambition and because I had mastered the three laws of successfully handling wealth, I was enabled
to increase greatly the value of his properties.
So I prospered much, and when the spirit of Algamish departed for the sphere of darkness, I did
share in his estate as he had arranged under the law." So spake Arkad, and when he had finished his
tale, one of his friends said, "You were indeed fortunate that Algamish made of you an heir."
"Fortunate only in that I had the desire to prosper before I first met him. For four years did I not
prove my definiteness of purpose by keeping one-tenth of all earned? Would you call a fisherman lucky
who for years so studied the habits of the fish that with each changing wind he could cast his nets about
them? Opportunity is a haughty goddess who wastes no time with those who are unprepared."
"You had strong will power to keep on after you lost your first year's savings. You are unusual
in that way," spoke up another.
"Will power!" retorted Arkad. "What nonsense. Do you think will power gives a man the
strength to lift a burden the camel cannot carry, or to draw a load the oxen cannot budge? Will power is
but the unflinching purpose to carry a task you set for yourself to fulfillment. If I set for myself a task,
be it ever so trifling, I shall see it through. How else shall I have confidence in myself to do important
things? Should I say to myself, 'For a hundred days as I walk across the bridge into the city, I will pick
from the road a pebble and cast it into the stream,' I would do it. If on the seventh day I passed by
without remembering, I would not say to myself, Tomorrow I will cast two pebbles which will do as
well.' Instead, I would retrace my steps and cast the pebble. Nor on the twentieth day would I say to
myself, 'Arkad, this is useless. What does it avail you to cast a pebble every day? Throw in a handful
and be done with it.' No, I would not say that nor do it. When I set a task for myself, I complete it.
Therefore, I am careful not to start difficult and impractical tasks, because I love leisure."
And then another friend spoke up and said, "If what you tell is true, and it does seem as you
have said, reasonable, then being so simple, if all men did it, there would not be enough wealth to go
"Wealth grows wherever men exert energy," Arkad replied. "If a rich man builds him a new
palace, is the gold he pays out gone? No, the brickmaker has part of it and the laborer has part of it, and
the artist has part of it. And everyone who labors upon the house has part of it Yet when the palace is
completed, is it not worth all it cost? And is the ground upon which it stands not worth more because it
is there? And is the ground that adjoins it not worth more because it is there? Wealth grows in magic
ways. No man can prophesy the limit of it. Have not the Phoenicians built great cities on barren coasts
with the wealth that comes from their ships of commerce on the seas?"
"What then do you advise us to do that we also may become rich?" asked still another of his
friends. "The years have passed and we are no longer young men and we have nothing put by."
"I advise that you take the wisdom of Algamish and say to yourselves, A part of all I earn is
mine to keep.' Say it in the morning when you first arise. Say it at noon. Say it at night. Say it each
hour of every day. Say it to yourself until the words stand out like letters of fire across the sky.
"Impress yourself with the idea. Fill yourself with the thought. Then take whatever portion
seems wise. Let it be not less than one-tenth and lay it by. Arrange your other expenditures to do this if
necessary. But lay by that portion first. Soon you will realize what a rich feeling it is to own a treasure
upon which you alone have claim. As it grows it will stimulate you. A new joy of life will thrill you.
Greater efforts will come to you to earn more. For of your increased earnings, will not the same
percentage be also yours to keep?
"Then learn to make your treasure work for you. Make it your slave. Make its children and its
children's children work for you.
"Insure an income for thy future. Look thou at the aged and forget not that in the days to come
thou also will be numbered among them. Therefore invest thy treasure with greatest caution that it be
not lost. Usurious rates of return are deceitful sirens that sing but to lure the unwary upon the rocks of
loss and remorse.
"Provide also that thy family may not want should the Gods call thee to their realms. For such
protection it is always possible to make provision with small payments at regular intervals. Therefore
the provident man delays not in expectation of a large sum becoming available for such a wise purpose.
"Counsel with wise men. Seek the advice of men whose daily work is handling money. Let
them save you from such an error as I myself made in entrusting my money to the judgment of Azmur,
the brickmaker. A small return and a safe one is far more desirable than risk.
"Enjoy life while you are here. Do not overstrain or try to save too much. If one-tenth of all you
earn is as much as you can comfortably keep, be content to keep this portion. Live otherwise according
to your income and let not yourself get niggardly and afraid to spend. Life is good and life is rich with
things worthwhile and things to enjoy."
His friends thanked him and went away. Some were silent because they had no imagination and
could not understand. Some were sarcastic because they thought that one so rich should divide with old
friends not so fortunate. But some had in their eyes a new light. They realized that Algamish had come
back each time to the room of the scribes because he was watching a man work his way out of darkness
into light. When that man had found the light, a place awaited him. No one could fill that place until he
had for himself worked out his own understanding, until he was ready for opportunity.
These latter were the ones, who, in the following years, frequently revisited Arkad, who
received them gladly. He counseled with them and gave them freely of his wisdom as men of broad
experience are always glad to do. And he assisted them in so investing their savings that it would bring
in a good interest with safety and would neither be lost nor entangled in investments that paid no
The turning point in these men's lives came upon that day when they realized the truth that had
come from Algamish to Arkad and from Arkad to them.
A PART OF ALL YOU EARN IS YOURS TO KEEP.
Seven Cures For a Lean Purse
The glory of Babylon endures. Down through the ages its reputation comes to us as the richest
of cities, its treasures as fabulous.
Yet it was not always so. The riches of Babylon were the results of the wisdom of its people.
They first had to learn how to become wealthy.
When the Good King, Sargon, returned to Babylon after defeating his enemies, the Elamites, he
was confronted with a serious situation. The Royal Chancellor explained it to the King thus:
"After many years of great prosperity brought to our people because your majesty built the
great irrigation canals and the mighty temples of the Gods, now that these works are completed the
people seem unable to support themselves.
"The laborers are without employment. The merchants have few customers. The farmers are
unable to sell their produce. The people have not enough gold to buy food."
"But where has all the gold gone that we spent for these great improvements?" demanded the
"It has found its way, I fear," responded the Chancellor, "into the possession of a few very rich
men of our city. It filtered through the fingers of most our people as quickly as the goat's milk goes
through the strainer. Now that the stream of gold has ceased to flow, most of our people have nothing to
for their earnings."
The King was thoughtful for some time. Then he asked, "Why should so few men be able to
acquire all the gold?"
"Because they know how," replied the Chancellor. "One may not condemn a man for
succeeding because he knows how. Neither may one with justice take away from a man what he has
fairly earned, to give to men of less ability."
"But why," demanded the King, "should not all the people learn how to accumulate gold and
therefore become themselves rich and prosperous?"
Quite possible, your excellency. But who can teach them? Certainly not the priests, because
they know naught of money making."
"Who knows best in all our city how to become wealthy, Chancellor?" asked the King.
"Thy question answers itself, your majesty. Who has amassed the greatest wealth, in Babylon?"
"Well said, my able Chancellor. It is Arkad. He is richest man in Babylon. Bring him before me
on the morrow."
Upon the following day, as the King had decreed, Arkad appeared before him, straight and
sprightly despite his three score years and ten.
"Arkad," spoke the King, "is it true thou art the richest man in Babylon?"
"So it is reported, your majesty, and no man disputes it"
"How becamest thou so wealthy?"
"By taking advantage of opportunities available to all citizens of our good city."
"Thou hadst nothing to start with?"
"Only a great desire for wealth. Besides this, nothing."
"Arkad," continued the King, "our city is in a very unhappy state because a few men know how
to acquire wealth and therefore monopolize it, while the mass of our citizens lack the knowledge of
how to keep any part of the gold they receive. "
It is my desire that Babylon be the wealthiest city in the world. Therefore, it must be a city of
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