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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Alexander and 10 Questions

While in India, Alexander took ten of the Brahmins prisoner. These men had a great reputation for intelligence, so Alexander decided to give them a test. He announced that the one who gave the worst answer would be the first to die, and he made the oldest Brahmin the judge of the competition.

Which are more numerous, Alexander asked the first one, the living or the dead? "The living," said the Brahmin, "because the dead no longer count."

Which produces more creatures, the sea or the land? Alexander asked the second. "The land," was his answer, "because the sea is only a part of it."

The third was asked which animal was the smartest of all, and the Brahmin replied: "The one we have not found yet."

Alexander asked the fourth what argument he had used to stir up the Indians to fight, and he answered: "Only that one should either live nobly or die nobly."

Which is older: day or night? was Alexander's question to the fifth, and the answer he got was: "Day is older, by one day at least." When he saw that Alexander was not satisfied with this answer, the Brahmin added: "Strange questions get strange answers."

What should a man do to make himself loved? asked Alexander, and the sixth Brahmin replied: "Be powerful without being frightening."

What does a man have to do to become a god? he asked the seventh, who responded: "Do what is impossible for a man."

The question to the eighth was whether death or life was stronger, and his answer: "Life is stronger than death, because it bears so many miseries."

The ninth Brahmin was asked how long it was proper for a man to live, and he said: "Until it seems better to die."

Then Alexander turned to the judge, who decided that each one had answered worse than another. "You will die first, then, for giving such a decision," said Alexander. "Not so, mighty king," said the Brahmin, "if you want to remain a man of your word. You said that you would kill first the one who made the worst answer." Alexander gave all of the Brahmins presents and set them free, even though they had persuaded the Indians to fight him.
What are the chances that this story has anything to do with Alexander? I would bet dollars to donoughts that what we have here is a folktale, perhaps of Indian origin, that is just too precious not to tell. I suppose it is possible that a leader who saw himself as a God who hold meetings like this, but I find my first guess much more likely.

By the way this is taken from a different website called e-classics. Internet Classics does not contain the full work, even in the download text only form, which contains more of it than the html form.

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