“Hunger is a good thing,” philosophized the Sybarite once more, “when a man has a good meal in prospect.”
“On that point you may be at ease, Philoinus,” answered Rhodopis. “I told the cook to do his utmost, for the most celebrated epicure from the most luxurious city in the world, no less a person than Philoinus of Sybaris, would pass a stern judgment on his delicate dishes. Go, Knakias, tell them to serve the supper. Are you content now, my impatient guests? As for me, since I heard Phanes’ mournful news, the pleasure of the meal is gone.” The Athenian bowed, and the Sybarite returned to his philosophy. “Contentment is a good thing when every wish can be satisfied. I owe you thanks, Rhodopis, for your appreciation of my incomparable native city. What says Anakreon?
is ours—what do we fear?
To-day is ours—we have it here.
Let’s treat it kindly, that it may
Wish at least with us to stay.
Let’s banish business, banish sorrow;
To the gods belongs to-morrow.”
“Eh! Ibykus, have I quoted your friend the poet correctly, who feasts with you at Polykrates’ banquets? Well, I think I may venture to say of my own poor self that if Anakreon can make better verses, I understand the art of living quite as well as he, though he writes so many poems upon it. Why, in all his songs there is not one word about the pleasures of the table! Surely they are as important as love and play! I confess that the two last are clear to me also; still, I could exist without them, though in a miserable fashion, but without food, where should we be?”
The Sybarite broke into a loud laugh at his own joke; but the Spartan turned away from this conversation, drew Phryxus into a corner, and quite abandoning his usually quiet and deliberate manner, asked eagerly whether he had at last brought him the long wished for answer from the Oracle. The serious features of the Delphian relaxed, and thrusting his hand into the folds of his chiton,—[An undergarment resembling a shirt.]—he drew out a little roll of parchment-like sheepskin, on which a few lines were written.
The hands of the brave, strong Spartan trembled as he seized the roll, and his fixed gaze on its characters was as if it would pierce the skin on which they were inscribed.
Then, recollecting himself, he shook his head sadly and said: “We Spartans have to learn other arts than reading and writing; if thou canst, read the what Pythia says.”
The Delphian glanced over the writing and replied: “Rejoice! Loxias (Apollo) promises thee a happy return home; hearken to the prediction of the priestess.”
“If once the warrior hosts from
the snow-topped mountains descending
Come to the fields of the stream watering richly the plain,
Then shall the lingering boat to the beckoning meadows convey thee
Which to the wandering foot peace and a home will afford.
When those warriors come, from the snow-topped mountains descending,
Then will the powerful Five grant thee what long they refused.”