When Niloxenus had read out these answers, there
was a short silence among them; by and by Thales desires
Niloxenus to inform him if Amasis approved of these answers. Niloxenus said, he liked some and disliked others.
There is not one of them right and sound, quoth Thales,
but all are full of wretched folly and ignorance. As for instance, how can that be most ancient whereof part is past,
part is now present, and part is yet to come; every man
knows it is younger than ourselves and our actions. As
to his answer that truth is the most wise thing, it is as incongruous as if he had affirmed the light to be an eye; if
he judged the light to be the most beautiful, how could he
overlook the sun; as to his solutions concerning the Gods
and evil geniuses, they are full of presumption and peril.
What he saith of Fortune is void of sense, for her inconstancy and fickleness proceeds from want of strength and
power. Nor is death the most common thing; the living
are still at liberty, it hath not arrested them. But lest we
be censured as having a faculty to find fault only, we will
lay down our opinions of these things, and compare them
with those of the Ethiopian; and I offer myself first, if
Niloxenus pleases, to deliver my opinion on every one
singly, and I will relate both questions and answers in that
method and order in which they were sent to Ethiopia and
read to us. What is most ancient? Thales answered,
God, for he had no beginning. What is greatest? Place;
the world contains all other things, this surrounds and contains the world. What is most beautiful? The world;
for whatever is framed artificially and methodically is a
part of it. What is most wise ? Time; for it has found out
some things already, it will find out the rest in due time.
What is most common? Hope; for they that want other
things are masters of this. What is most profitable? Virtue; for by a right managery of other things she makes
them all beneficial and advantageous. What is most pernicious? Vice; for it depraves the best things we enjoy.
What is the most strong ? Necessity; for this alone is insuperable. What is most easy? That which is most agreeable to nature; for pleasures themselves are sometimes
tedious and nauseating.