Periander said laughing: We suffer deservedly, for,
before we have perfected our animadversions and remarks
upon the letter, we are fallen upon disputes so strangely
foreign to the matter under consideration; and therefore I
pray, Niloxenus, read out the remainder of your lord's
letter, and slip not this opportunity to receive what satisfaction all that are present shall be able to give you. The
command of the king of Ethiopia, says Niloxenus, is no
more and no less than (to use Archilochus's phrase) a
broken scytale; that is, the meaning is inscrutable and
cannot be found out. But your friend Amasis was more
gentle and civil in his queries; for he commanded him
only to resolve him what was most ancient, most beautiful, greatest, wisest, most common, and withal, what was
most profitable, most pernicious, most strong, and most
easy. Did he resolve and answer every one of these questions? He did, quoth Niloxenus, and do you judge of his
answers and the soundness thereof: and it is my prince's
purpose not to misrepresent his responses and condemn
unjustly what he saith well, so, where he finds him under
a mistake, not to suffer that to pass without correction.
His answers to the foresaid questions I will read to you.—
What is most ancient? Time. What is greatest? The
World. What is wisest? Truth. What is most beautiful ? The light. What is most common ? Death.
What is most profitable ? God. What is most pernicious ? An evil genius. What is strongest? Fortune.
What is most easy? That which is pleasant.