PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE:
SCENE: The portico of a temple of Zeus.
It happened by chance that Eryxias the Steirian was walking with me in the Portico of Zeus the Deliverer, when there came up to us Critias and Erasistratus, the latter the son of Phaeax, who was the nephew of Erasistratus. Now Erasistratus had just arrived from Sicily and that part of the world. As they approached, he said, Hail, Socrates!
SOCRATES: The same to you, I said; have you any good news from Sicily to tell us?
ERASISTRATUS: Most excellent. But, if you please, let us first sit down; for I am tired with my yesterday’s journey from Megara.
SOCRATES: Gladly, if that is your desire.
ERASISTRATUS: What would you wish to hear first? he said. What the Sicilians are doing, or how they are disposed towards our city? To my mind, they are very like wasps: so long as you only cause them a little annoyance they are quite unmanageable; you must destroy their nests if you wish to get the better of them. And in a similar way, the Syracusans, unless we set to work in earnest, and go against them with a great expedition, will never submit to our rule. The petty injuries which we at present inflict merely irritate them enough to make them utterly intractable. And now they have sent ambassadors to Athens, and intend, I suspect, to play us some trick. — While we were talking, the Syracusan envoys chanced to go by, and Erasistratus, pointing to one of them, said to me, That, Socrates, is the richest man in all Italy and Sicily. For who has larger estates or more land at his disposal to cultivate if he please? And they are of a quality, too, finer than any other land in Hellas. Moreover, he has all the things which go to make up wealth, slaves and horses innumerable, gold and silver without end.
I saw that he was inclined to expatiate on the riches of the man; so I asked him, Well, Erasistratus, and what sort of character does he bear in Sicily?
ERASISTRATUS: He is esteemed to be, and really is, the wickedest of all the Sicilians and Italians, and even more wicked than he is rich; indeed, if you were to ask any Sicilian whom he thought to be the worst and the richest of mankind, you would never hear any one else named.
I reflected that we were speaking, not of trivial matters, but about wealth and virtue, which are deemed to be of the greatest moment, and I asked Erasistratus whom he considered the wealthier, — he who was the possessor of a talent of silver or he who had a field worth two talents?
ERASISTRATUS: The owner of the field.
SOCRATES: And on the same principle he who had robes and bedding and such things which are of greater value to him than to a stranger would be richer than the stranger?
SOCRATES: And if any one gave you a choice, which of these would you prefer?
ERASISTRATUS: That which was most valuable.
SOCRATES: In which way do you think you would be the richer?