Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
412. SIMONIDES AND THE SHIPWRECK
Perry 519 (Phaedrus
A learned man always has rich inner resources.
Simonides, that extraordinary author of lyric poems, found an excellent
remedy for his straitened circumstances by travelling around the most
famous cities of the Asia, singing the praises of victorious athletes
in exchange for a fee. When he had grown wealthy in this venture, he was
ready to take a sea voyage and go back to his native land (he was born,
so they say, on the island of Ceos). He boarded a ship, but a terrible
storm (plus the sheer age of the ship) caused it to sink in the middle
of the sea. Some of the passengers grabbed their money belts, while others
held onto their valuables and any possible means of subsistence. A passenger
who was more curious than the rest asked the poet, 'Simonides, why aren't
you taking along any of your own stuff?' He replied, 'All that is mine
is right here with me.' It turned out that only a few were able to swim
ashore, while the majority drowned, weighed down by what they were carrying.
Then bandits arrived and took from the survivors whatever they had brought
ashore, stripping them naked. As it happened, the ancient city of Clazomenae
was not far off, which is where the shipwrecked people then turned. In
this city there lived a man inclined to literary pursuits who had often
read Simonides's compositions and who was his great admirer from afar.
He recognized Simonides simply from his manner of speaking and eagerly
invited him to his house, regaling him with clothes and money and servants.
Meanwhile, the rest of the survivors carried around placards, begging
for food. When Simonides happened to run into them, he took one look and
exclaimed, 'Just as I said: all that is mine is right here with me, but
everything that you took with you has now vanished.'
Note: The shipwreck survivors of ancient Greece would carry around
placards that described (or depicted) the cause of their misfortune.
Clazomenae was an Ionian Greek city, located near Smyrna (modern Izmir,
in Turkey). The Latin proverb omnia mea mecum porto (literally,
'everything that is mine I carry with me') is also associated with the
philosopher Stilpo (see Seneca,
Letters to Lucilius 9.13) and with Bias, one of the legendary seven
sages of ancient Greece (Valerius
Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura
Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.