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When the inhabitants of Mitylene offered to Pittacus the half of the land for which he had fought in single combat,1 he would not accept it, but arranged to assign to every man by lot an equal part, uttering the maxim, "The equal share is more than the greater."2 For in measuring "the greater" in terms of fair dealing, not of profit, he judged wisely; since he reasoned that equality would be followed by fame and security, but greediness by opprobrium and fear, which would speedily have taken away from him the people's gift. [2]

Pittacus acted consistently with these principles toward Croesus also, when the latter offered him as much money from his treasury as Pittacus might desire to take. For on that occasion, we are told, in refusing the gift he said that he already had twice as much as he wished. And when Croesus expressed his surprise at the man's freedom from avarice and inquired of him the meaning of his reply, Pittacus said, "My brother died childless and I inherited his estate, which was the equal of my own, and I have experienced no pleasure in having received the extra amount." [3]

The poet Alcaeus, who had been a most confirmed enemy of Pittacus and had reviled him most bitterly in his poems,3 once fell into his hands, but Pittacus let him go free, uttering the maxim: "Forgiveness is preferable to punishment."Const. Exc. 4, p. 285.

1 He slew Phrynon, the Athenian general, when the Mitylenaeans and Athenians were fighting for possession of Sigeum on the Hellespont.

2 Diogenes Laertius 1.75 gives it, "The half is more than the whole" (τὸ ἥμισυ τοῦ παντὸς πλεῖον); cp. Hes. WD 1.40, νήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντός..

3 For references see Edmonds, Lyra Graeca, I, pp. 309 ff. (in the L.C.L.), and the Index to the volume.

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