Summary of “The Richest Man in Babylon”: Ten tales, in the form of inspiring parables for the modern man, set in the ancient civilisation of Babylon, the historical cradle of finance. They reveal to us the success secrets of the men of ancient times, including simple ways to gain wealth, become debt-free, to follow the path of prosperity for yourself and your family, and to prepare a safety net for your old age.
By George S. Clason, 1926, 188 pages
This article was written by Jean, from the blog La Vie Positive, whose purpose is: “To live a fulfilled life, to succeed in life and to attain happiness”.
Book chronicle and summary of “The Richest Man in Babylon”
The prosperity of a nation depends on the financial prosperity of each and every one among us.
This book is about personal success, which comes from the achievements produced by our efforts and our knowledge.
The Richest Man in Babylon is a therapeutic book which is also a financial guide to help “flat purses” to:
- Acquire money,
- Keep it,
- Make it grow.
The author hopes that these tales, that take place in Babylon, the cradle of the basic principles of finance, will be an inspiration to readers.
Babylon became the richest city in the world in ancient times.
Money is the measure of success in our society. Money allows you to enjoy the best things on earth. And, money abounds once you understand how to acquire it.
Money is governed by the same laws as 6,000 years ago in Babylon.
The Man Who Desired Gold
Bansir, the chariot maker of Babylon, was feeling discouraged. Sitting on the wall surrounding his property, he looked sadly at an unfinished chariot.
His wife who was watching him reminded him that there was almost no more food and that he should finish the chariot and deliver it to get paid.
With that, his best friend Kobbi the musician came to ask him for two shekels.
“If I had two shekels,” replied Bansir, I would keep them because they would be my entire fortune. ”
“What? You do not have one shekel and yet you sit on your wall doing nothing? ”
“I dreamt,” said Bansir “that I was rich, with a full purse and that I was carelessly throwing shekels to beggars. That I had gold, that I was confident in the future, could buy finery for my wife, and everything that I wanted for myself.
And when I awoke, I was overcome by a feeling of revulsion, because I was reminded that my purse was empty.
Are we stupid sheep? We live in the richest city in the world Riches are spread out before us, but we have none of these riches.
Your purse is empty, my best friend, and you want to borrow two shekels from me, but my purse is as empty as yours.
What is wrong?
Why can we not acquire more silver and more gold?
I have always worked, producing the most beautiful chariots in Babylon, hoping that the gods would bring me prosperity. I realise that they never will, and I am sad. ”
And, “I am no more satisfied than you,” said Kobbi, “the money earned with my lyre is quickly spent. I would like to own a lyre big enough to contain the grandiose music that comes to my mind. ”
“You should have such a lyre. No man in Babylon could make it sing better. But how can we get you one? We are as poor as the king’s slaves. ”
“Should we not seek to find out how others acquire gold, and do as they do?” wondered Kobbi.
“There may be a secret that we could learn, if we find those who know,” Bansir answered.
“I saw our friend Arkad on his golden chariot. He is the richest man in Babylon”, said Kobbi. The king has reason to call upon his gold in matters of the treasury. Arkad has an income which keeps his purse full at all times. ”
“Come, Kobbi,” said Bansir, “Let us go and see Arkad to question him and share his wisdom. ”
The Richest Man in Babylon
In ancient Babylon lived a very rich man named Arkad. His immense fortune was cause for admiration. He gave to the poor, and to his family, and spent much money on himself.
And his fortune grew more quickly than he could spend it each year.
One day, some friends came to see him and asked him:
“Arkad, you wear the most beautiful clothing, you enjoy the most delicious meals, while we must settle for feeding and clothing our families.
Why has fate chosen you to enjoy the good things in life and ignores us, we who are just as deserving? ”
“It is because you have not acquired more than you need to live. It is because you have not learned the rules that grant access to wealth, or because you have not applied them,” Arkad answered.
In my youth, I became aware that riches are power.
They allow you:
- To acquire the most beautiful objects
- To navigate on distant seas
- And to taste the most delicious meals
- To buy trimmings of gold and precious stones
- To build temples to the gods
All the things that provide pleasure for the senses and satisfaction for the soul.
I therefore promised myself that I would have all these good things in life, that I would not settle for ordinary, less expensive objects, and that I would not stand on the sidelines, jealously watching the rich.
As the son of humble parents, and being no more gifted than the next boy, I decided that in order to get everything I wanted, I would have to take my time and devote myself to study.
As far as time goes, everyone has an abundance of it, and thou hast also.
And as for study, I needed to find the way to accumulate wealth, and once I found it, I had to apply it and apply it well.
I was at first a simple scribe for the master of the city, and one day, Algamish, the very rich money lender, came to order a copy of the ninth law. He wanted the work to be completed in two days.
But when he came back, I had not finished and he became very angry. I dared to ask him:
“Tell me how I can become rich, and I will work all night to inscribe the rest of the text.
Algamish smiled and accepted my bargain.
At sunrise, the work was completed and he said to me:
“You have kept your side of the bargain and I am ready to keep mine. I found the path of wealth when I decided that a share of everything I earned should belong to me. It will be the same for you. ”
“That’s it? I asked. But I can keep everything I earn. ”
“Far from it,” he said “Do you not pay the tailor, the sandal-maker, your food, your housing? Simpleton! You pay everybody, except yourself.
If you keep one tenth of everything you earn, in ten years, you will have the equivalent of what you earn in a year. Plus everything that your savings will have made for you.
Today, I am paying you for your night’s work one thousand times more than you think. Be intelligent enough to seize the truth that I present to you. ”
I therefore decided to apply this principle. Every time that I got paid, I hid one copper coin out of every ten. And strangely, I did not lack any more money than before.
After a few mistakes in the management of the sums accumulated, Algamish came back to see me to check that I had properly followed his advice.
“Arkad, you have learned your lesson well. You first learned to live with less than you could earn. Then, you learned to ask the opinion of those who have experience and who are willing to share it.
Finally, you learned to make gold work for you.
- Acquire money,
- keep it,
- use it.
You are therefore competent, and I will offer you a position of responsibility. I am getting old. My sons think about spending and never think about earning. You shall go to Nippur to take care of my land, you shall be my partner, and you shall share my property. ”
“As I had learned the three rules of wealth management, I was able to greatly increase the value of his assets.”
Thus spoke Arkad.
One of his friends said to him: “You were lucky to inherit from Algamish.”
“The only luck was that I desired to prosper before I met him,” said Arkad.
“You had the will to go on after you lost all your savings in the first year.”
“Will! What nonsense!” Arkad said, “It was nothing more than unfailing determination to carry out the work that was placed upon me.”
Another friend said: “If what you say is true and reasonable, then any man could do it, and there would not be enough wealth for the whole world.”
“Riches increase every time that men spend their energy, in a magical way. No man can predict his limit,” replied Arkad.
Apply the principles of wisdom of Algamish and tell yourself: a part of what I earn comes back to me, and I must keep it.
Take the portion that seems wise to you, no less than one-tenth. This portion will grow and you will have the pleasant sensation of possessing a treasure after a certain amount of time.
The benefits increase, the percentages too, your profits increase. Learn to make your treasure work for you. Make it your slave.
Consult the opinions of wise men who manage money every day and you will avoid mistakes.”
PART OF EVERYTHING YOU EARN COMES BACK TO YOU – KEEP IT
Seven Cures for a Lean Purse
When King Sargon returned to Babylon after defeating the Etamites, he discovered a serious situation. The royal chancellor explained the reasons for it to him.
“After several years of prosperity, the people seem unable to meet their needs. The workers are without jobs, merchants have but few customers, the people have not enough gold to buy food. Only a small number of men enjoy wealth. ”
“Why?” asked the king.
“Because they understand how to become rich, and we cannot condemn those who are successful.”
“Why cannot all the people learn how to amass gold and become prosperous?” Sargon said. “And who know the best way to become rich?”
“Bring him to me tomorrow.”
The next day, Arkad stood before the king.
“Arkad,” said the king, “our town is in a very bad position, because few men know how to acquire wealth. I want Babylon to be the richest city in the world.
We need to teach the entire population how to acquire these riches.
Will you teach your science to a group of teachers who could teach it to other until we have a sufficient number of masters to pass on this knowledge to all the valiant subjects of my kingdom? ”
In the great room of the temple of knowledge of the King, 100 chosen people prepared to listen to Arkad.
“To you here before me, I will explain, each day for seven days, the seven ways to fill an empty purse.”
The First Cure
Arkad asked each one what his profession was.
“Because all of you have a job and a salary, you have same advantages as I had to succeed. You see that there are several forms of employment through which men can earn money. Each of the ways to earn is a seam of gold from which the worker must divert a portion for his own purse.
If each one of you wants to acquire a fortune, would it not be wise to begin to use this source of wealth that is already established? ”
Arkad spoke to the egg seller:
“If you choose one of your baskets and every morning you put ten eggs into it, and take nine of them out every evening, what will happen?”
“The day will come when it will overflow, because every day I put it one egg more than I take out,” replied the egg seller.
“And there you have it, dear students, the first cure that I discovered for a lean purse was to do what I have suggested for the eggs – for every ten coins you collect, only spend nine of them.”
The Second Cure
Control your expenditure
“Dear students, some of you have asked me how to save one tenth of your earnings if they are not sufficient to cover your mandatory expenditure.
You all have purses that are not very fat. And yet, you do not all earn the same amount. Some of you earn much more than others, some of you have more mouths to feed. I will tell you the truth: expenditure that we call mandatory always increases in proportion to our income.
Do not confuse compulsory expenditure with your desires. Along with your family, you will always have more desires than your earnings can meet. All men have desires that they cannot meet. Carefully review your life habits and you will discover that most of the expenditure that you accept as mandatory could be reduced or eliminated.
Choose expenditure which is genuinely mandatory and which is possible within nine tenths of your income. Allow the 10th share that is fattening your purse to be your grand desire that is being fulfilled. The purpose of a budget is to help your purse to grow.
Therefore, dear students, here is the second means to garnish your purse. Budget your expenditure in order to pay your unavoidable expenses and your leisure, without spending more than nine-tenths of your earnings. ”
The Third Cure
Make thy gold multiply
Now your fortune is growing. You have checked your expenditure to put aside one tenth of what you earn. The gold stored in a purse makes its owner content, but it does not bring him anything.
Let us see how to make your gold work.
My first profitable investment was a loan that I gave to Aggar, a shield maker. Each year, he purchased large quantities of metal to manufacture weapons, and as he had not enough capital to pay the merchants, he borrowed from those who did. Dear students, the richness of a man is not the gold that is in his purse, it is located in the income which continues to bring in money, whether you are at work or travelling.
In this way, my humble earnings fathered a lot of golden slaves, all working and earning more gold. This is the third way to fill your purse: put every coin to work so that it will reproduce and make your income a stream of wealth which will continue to feed your fortune.
The Fourth Cure
Guard thy treasures from loss
The first principle of investment is to ensure the safety of your capital. Carefully study the situation before separating yourself from your treasure, and make sure it can be reclaimed in complete safety.
Before lending your gold to anyone, make sure that your debtor is able to reimburse you and that he has a good reputation to this effect.
Here is the fourth way to garnish your purse: protect your treasure against loss by investing only where your capital is in security, where it can be reclaimed at the desired moment, and where you will make a suitable amount of interest. Consult wise men who are experienced in profitable management of gold.
The Fifth Cure
Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
Too many families live in disreputable neighbourhoods, and pay the owners high rent for rooms with no space. A family needs a field where good herbs can be planted for the kitchen, and where the children can play.
What joy it is to eat the figs and grapes from your own garden!
I recommend that every man own a roof under which to shelter his family.
Dear students, you can borrow what you need to build your home, and when it is built, you pay the lender with the same regularity as you paid your rent. After a few years, you will possess a valuable property, and you have nothing more to pay than the taxes of the king. So here is the fifth way to garnish your purse, by owning your own home.
The Sixth Cure
Insure a future income
The life of every man runs from childhood to old age. It is up to every man to provide a suitable income for the day when he will no longer be young, and will no longer be able to look after his family and meet his needs. You can buy houses and land for this purpose. If they are carefully chosen, they have a value which increases and their profits or their sale will bring income in accordance with the objectives set.
You can also pay a small regular payment to a lender, which over time and with interest will produce beneficial results. So here is the sixth way to garnish your purse, plan to have an income later in life, and guarantee the protection of your family.
The Seventh Cure
Increase thy ability to earn
A young man came to see me to borrow money, telling me that he was not making enough money to cover his expenditure. I replied that he was not a good customer for a money lender.
He told me that his employer could not pay him more.
Although it was simple in his mind, he had within him a great desire to earn more, a desire that was fair and desirable.
Desire must precede accomplishment. Your desires must be strong and well defined. Vague desires are but weak wishes. The simple desire to be rich has no value.
The man who wishes to acquire five pieces of gold has a tangible desire that he can achieve. Once the five coins are acquired and placed in security, he can find similar ways to get ten coins, then twenty, and later one thousand gold coins.
And that is how he became rich.
Desires should, from the start, be small and clearly defined. If they are too many, confused or exceed a man’s strength, they are guaranteed to fail.
This is how a man learns and becomes more skilful.
So, the seventh and last way to make a fortune is to cultivate your intellectual capacities, to study and to become wiser and better-educated, to act with self-respect.
These are the seven ways to make a fortune, drawn from a long and prosperous experience of life.
Go forth and put these truths into practice, prosper and become rich.
Go forth and teach these truths to all the honest subjects of His Majesty, who will share in the great riches of Babylon.
Meet the goddess of good luck
If a man is lucky, it is impossible to predict the magnitude of his wealth. Throw him into the Euphrates, and he will emerge with a pearl in his hand. Babylonian proverb
The desire to be lucky was just as present in the hearts of men who lived four thousand years ago as it is in the hearts of men today.
In ancient Babylon, there were no schools or colleges, but there was a centre of learning, which was the temple of knowledge.
Volunteer teachers would explain the wisdom of past times, and topics of popular interest were discussed.
“What are we discussing this evening?” asked Arkad
A weaver stood up and took the floor:
“Today, I was lucky enough to find a purse filled with gold coins. I would very much like to continue to have such luck. I suggest that we discuss ways to attract luck. ”
“An interesting topic,” said Arkad. “For some, luck only happens by chance. Others believe in the good goddess Ishtar. What do you think my friends? ”
A young man stood up:
“When we talk of luck, I think of gaming rooms. I admit that I have not obtained the favours of the goddess. ”
“The goddess likes to help people in need and those who work hard. I do not seek her in the gaming rooms or at horse races, but where men are working and deserve to be rewarded.
I see luck as a good opportunity that presents itself to the honest worker, to make a profit or a good transaction.
In gambling, the situation is reversed, because luck turns against the man and always goes towards the owner of the gaming room.
Moreover, we do not know of anyone who has made a sustainable fortune through this activity that is far too risky. ”
An elderly merchant stood up now:
“Luck can approach a man and he may let it escape without wanting to, to his great regret. That is what happened to me. A friend thought to buy some arid land, to build a wheel that worked with oxen to bring the water, and then to sell plots to town dwellers who wanted to have a garden.
My father told me to invest one tenth of my earnings in this profitable business. I thought the idea was excellent, but I was young and I preferred to buy beautiful clothes for my wife and for myself. The business proved to be very profitable as time went by, and I had not seized the opportunity that was presented to me. ”
“Opportunity waits for and comes to the man who seizes the opportunity,” commented a man of the desert. Arkad turned to the weaver:
“You see, luck is not something desirable, which can happen to any man without an effort on his part. You have understood the truths made clear by our discussion.Luck often takes the form of an opportunity that you need to seize at the right time.Men of action, who are quick to seize opportunities and make the best of them, are those whom the goddess of luck prefers. ”
MEN OF ACTION ARE FAVOURED BY THE GODDESS OF LUCK
The Five Laws of Gold
Old Kalabab told his servants the story of Nomasir, the son of Arkad.
Arkad was the richest man in Babylon. His son Nomasir lived with his parents while waiting to inherit. When he became entitled to his share, Arkad said to him:
“My son, I want you to inherit my goods, but first you must prove that you are able to manage them wisely. Go out into the world, shows your ability to acquire gold and make men respect you.
I give you two things that I did not have when I started to make my fortune: this bag of gold, and this clay tablet on which the five laws of gold are listed.
In ten years, you will come back and you shall give me an account of your deeds. If you have proven yourself worthy, I will make you my heir. Otherwise, I will give my property to the priests so that they will pray to the gods for my soul. ”
Ten years passed and Nomasir, accompanied by his wife and his two young sons returned to the house of his father and made an account of his deeds to his parents.
“My father, I bow to your wisdom,” Nomasir began. “I must admit that I very poorly managed the gold you entrusted to me. In my inexperience I lost everything in uncertain ventures. I sold my horses, my slave and my fine clothes to buy something to eat.
And I remembered the tablet on which I read today to the audience gathered in front of me, these words of wisdom:
THE FIVE LAWS OF GOLD
- “Gold comes willingly, in ever larger amounts, to the man who puts aside no less than one tenth of his earnings to create a well in anticipation of his future and that of his family. “
- “Gold works diligently and in a profitable manner for the wise owner who finds a beneficial use for it, and multiplies it like the beasts in the fields.”
III. “Gold remains under the protection of the cautious owner, who invests it according to the advice of wise men.”
- “Gold escapes the man who invests without purpose in enterprises with which he is not familiar or which have not been approved by those who know how to use the gold.”
- And “Gold slips away from the man who would force it to provide impossible gains or who would follow the seductive advice of fraudsters and misleading information or who would rely on his own inexperience and his romantic investment desires.”
I therefore followed the first law and set aside one coin from my first earnings, as head of a team of slaves, to build the new wall of the city of Nineveh.
Then, the slave master suggested that we buy metal together as a group, with a view to manufacturing the gates of the city.
I agreed, as a member of the same group of investors, to participate in other very profitable enterprises.
These men were wise about managing gold. They discussed each plan and did not run the risk of losing their capital.
I applied time and again the wisdom of the five laws of gold, which have proven themselves right each and every time.
My father, here is a bag of gold to replace the one that you gave me, and two others in exchange for the clay tablet which I consider to be worth far more than gold.
Thanks to your wisdom, I have been able to become rich, and respected by my fellow men. “
Having completed his story, Kalabab concluded:
“The strength of your own desires contains a magical power. Guide this power using the knowledge of the five laws of gold, and you will have your share of the wealth of Babylon. ”
The Gold Lender of Babylon
Rodan had just received fifty gold coins. The king made him a gift of them, because he was so happy with the design of the spearheads of the Royal Guard submitted to him by Rodan.
Rodan went to visit Mathon, the gold lender of Babylon, to ask his advice. He did not know what to do. His sister wanted to borrow the gold for her husband, so that he could become a prosperous merchant.
“My friend,” said Mathon to him, “gold brings responsibility to its owner and changes his status in relation to his companions. It awakens the fear of losing it, or of being deceived. It creates power and the capacity to do good. And, it also offers opportunities to cause difficulties.
If you wish to help a friend, do it in a way that prevents his tasks and problems from becoming yours.
Furthermore, must not the lender always be wise, and carefully judge whether his gold can fulfil a useful purpose for the borrower, and then come back to him?
Must he not estimate whether this gold will not be lost by the borrower, debt-ridden and incapable of using it wisely and paying him back?
The safest borrowers are those whose possessions have more value than their loan. The loan is based on property.
There are also those, such as you, who work and who get paid. In this case, the loan is based on human effort.
If your sister’s husband came to see me to borrow fifty pieces of gold, I would ask him for what purpose. If he replied: “to become a merchant, I would question him about his knowledge of this profession. Do you know where to buy at the best price, where to sell to make a profit?
Could he answer these questions?
“No,” said Rodan.
“In that case, I would say to him that his purpose is not wise. Merchants must be competent to succeed. His ambition, while worthy, is not logical. I would not lend him the money.
Go and tell your sister that if her husband submits a wise and feasible plan that you show to me, you will loan him no more than your savings over one year, so that he can prove that he is capable of succeeding.
You, Rodan, have much gold today. Become a wise lender such as I am, conserve your treasure. It will bring you interest and will be an abundant source of pleasure. But if you let it slip into clumsy hands, it will be a source of pain and regret.
Before you leave, read what I have engraved on my safe of pledges. It is a truth that applies as much to the lender as the borrower.
A LITTLE CAUTION IS WORTH MORE THAN A LOT OF REGRET.
The Walls of Babylon
Old Banzir, a fierce warrior back in his day, was guarding the walkway at the summit of the walls of Babylon.
Valiant soldiers were defending the access to the walls. The existence of the great city and its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants depended on it.
While the king was leading a large expedition to the east against the Alamytes, the Assyrian armies had been attacking Babylon for three days, and now concentrated their forces against this part of the wall and this door.
An elderly merchant implored Banzir to ensure that the enemy would not enter the city.
“Be calm, the walls of Babylon are solid and protect us,” replied Banzir.
A woman holding a baby asked Banzir to tell her the truth about the outcome of the battle.
“Go home. The doors will resist the battering rams. Those who climb the walls will be met with a spear,” said Banzir.
A frightened little girl pulled Banzir by the belt to ask what would become of her mother, her little brother, the baby.
“Do not be afraid, little girl,” he said. “The walls of Babylon will protect you. It was for the safety of people like you that the good Queen Semiramis had them built, one hundred years ago. ”
On the fifth night of the fourth week, a huge clamour arose among the defenders. The feelings of fear that had been suppressed over the course of the previous weeks were transformed into cries of joy.
The walls of Babylon had, once more, repelled terrible enemies.
The walls of Babylon are a good illustration of human need and the desire to feel protected. That desire is as strong today as it was in the past.
Today, insurance, savings accounts and reliable investments protect us.
WE CANNOT ALLOW OURSELVES TO LIVE WITHOUT AN ADEQUATE FORM OF PROTECTION.
The Camel Trader of Babylon
Tarkad, the son of Azure had eaten nothing more than two figs in two days. He was pacing up and down outside the inn, hoping to borrow a coin from someone to pay for a good meal.
Suddenly, he saw Dabasir, the camel merchant, to whom he owed money.
“Ah, Tarkad. Perhaps you are going to return my two copper coins and one silver coin that I lent to you. ”
“I am sorry,” faltered Tarkad, reddening, “I cannot, I do not have them. ”
“Well then, find those coins and repay your father’s old friend who helped you in your time of need! Misfortune pursues the man who thinks more about borrowing than repaying. Come with me, boy, I am hungry; I am going to tell you a story while I eat. ”
Tarkad’s heart sank. He had to sit and watch as this man devoured a leg of goat.
Guests, attracted by Dabasir’s story, came to sit around him in a semi-circle. They ate noisily, and Tarkad was the only one with no food.
The story that I am going to tell you is of my youth and how I came to be a camel trader.
With no experience, I did not know that he who spends more than he earns turns the winds of unnecessary indulgence against himself, which quickly become whirlwinds of problems and humiliation.
I spent unthinkingly, and the number of my creditors increased quickly. I could not repay all my debts.
Things went from bad to worse, and I fled Babylon.
I no longer realised the depth of my degradation, and I associated with a group of thieves who stole from caravans of merchants. My spoils were soon wasted. Then, attacked by the protectors of the merchants, and stripped of everything, I was sold as a slave.
My master, a Syrian desert chief, brought me before his four wives, for whom I was to be a eunuch.
I was standing there, frightened by these four women who were watching me. The oldest, Sira, spoke to me in a cold voice and made me understand that she was looking for someone to guard camels. I was therefore given to Sira to lead her everywhere she wanted to go, seated on a camel.
I told her that I was not a slave by birth, but she pointed out that I could not be a free man since my weakness had led me to my present situation.
And, I told her that this situation arose from the fact that I had not repaid my debts.
One day, she asked me whether I had the soul of a free man or the soul of a slave. I answered that I had the soul of a free man.
“Then I shall give you the opportunity to take two camels and leave, and the chance to prove yourself by doing everything to repay your debts.”
I had to cross the desert, I almost died with my camels, but the idea that my debts were my enemy and that the men to whom I owed money were my friends, because they had trusted me, helped me to find the road to Babylon.
Because the soul of a free man looks at life as a series of problems to be solved, and solves them. I was going to conquer my enemies and reward my friends.
And you, Tarkad, have you already taken the path that leads to respect for yourself?
Have you the desire to settle your debts and become a respected man in Babylon? ”
“You have shown me the path,” said Tarkad, moved. “I already feel the soul of the free man rising within me.”
Dabasir finished his story with these words:
“I was determined to pay all my debts. I asked Mathon the lender to draw up a repayment plan that I followed through until the end. And my creditors became my friends. ”
In this way Dabasir the camel trader understood a great truth, a truth applied by the wise men of his time, and which has helped many men to overcome difficulties and to become acquainted with success. It will be so for he who reads these lines.
WHERE THERE IS DETERMINATION, THERE IS A WAY.
The Clay Tablets from Babylon
Alfred Shrewsbury, from the Department of Archaeology of St Swithin’s College at the University of Nottingham, wrote a letter on October 21, 1934, to Professor Franklin Caldwell, of the British scientific expedition to Hillah in Mesopotamia.
During excavations of Babylon, the professor had discovered five clay tablets and had sent them to Alfred Shrewsbury to have them translated.
In the letter accompanying the translation, Shrewsbury told him that he had received the parcel in good condition, that he had been fascinated by the tablets, and that he had thoroughly enjoyed translating them.
The content of the text however surprised him, because it revealed the difficulty encountered by a certain Dabasir when it came to paying off his debts. Furthermore, dear old Dabasir explained the way, unknown to Alfred Shrewsbury, to pay one’s debts and even to acquire gold and fill one’s purse.
Alfred Shrewsbury ended his letter by saying that he and his wife were going to apply this method to their own finances.
Translation of the tablets
Tablet No. 1
I, Dabasir, just returned from slavery in Syria, am determined to repay my debts and to become a rich man worthy of respect in my home town of Babylon, and inscribe in clay a permanent record of my business.
I am determined to follow a specific plan that includes three goals.
First, one tenth of everything that I earn will be set aside and will be a well that I will tend to.
Secondly, seven tenths of everything that I earn will allow me to meet the needs of my home, food and clothing, and I must never spend more.
Tablet No. II
Thirdly, the plan provides that my debts are paid from my earnings.
The two tenths of my earnings will be shared honourably and fairly, between those who have put their trust in me and who loaned to me.
I inscribe here the names of the men to whom I am in debt.
Tablet No. III
I owe to all my creditors the total sum of one hundred and nineteen pieces of silver and one hundred and forty one copper coins.
Some accept this plan, other insult me and call for the entire loan.
I deal impartially with all.
Tablet No. IV
I have worked hard at camel trading and I earned nineteen pieces of silver.
I divided the sum following my plan, and by the end of one moon, I had reduced my debt by four pieces of silver. And I now own two pieces of silver that I have put aside.
My creditors look upon me more favourably.
This plan has immense value. Has it not made an honourable man of a former slave?
Tablet No. V
My creditors speak to me with deference. Some are no longer unkind to me.
This plan has brought me success; it has enabled me to pay all my debts and to hear the chink of gold and silver in my bag.
I recommend it to those who want to go forth.
The Luckiest Man in Babylon
Sharru Nada, the prince merchant of Babylon, advanced proudly at the head of his caravan.
He brought a young man from Damascus, Hadan Gula, the grandson of his former partner, Arad Gula, to whom he had pledged infinite gratitude.
“Why do you work so hard,” asked Hadan Gula, “always making long journeys with your caravan?
If I had your fortune, I would spend my shekels on enjoying life. Work is for slaves.
I have always wanted to live in Babylon, the city where my grandfather made his fortune. Alas, my father and I do not know the secret to attracting shekels of gold. ”
Sharru Nada did not answer. Three old men were tilling a field, and he recognised them.
“Forty years ago, they laboured in the same field. Good old Meggido, chained to me, laughed at them. ”
“Did you say that Meggido was chained to you?” asked Hadan Gula, surprised.
“Yes, we wore a bronze collar around the neck, and a heavy chain joined us one to the other.
I was a slave, my brother had killed his friend, and I was assigned to his widow to avoid legal proceedings. When my father was unable to pay to free me, the widow sold me at the slave market.
Meggido told me that he liked to work because the work brought him good things.
We should remember that we were doing a good job for a good master. So, we would be lucky to be bought under good conditions, and to not get beaten.
Some men hate work, and make it their enemy.
As for Meggido, he made it his friend and he made me promise that if I had a Master, I would work as hard as possible.
A farmer approached us, and watched us, interested. Meggido questioned him about his farm and his crops, and convinced him that he would be of great use to him. He soon followed his new master and disappeared.
A big man came toward us, and asked if there was a pastry maker among us. I submitted the idea that with his skills, he could train me, and that, as I was young and I liked to work, I would do my best to fill his purse with gold and silver.
To my great joy, the bargain was made with the slave merchant, and I left with Nana-naid, my new master.
He taught me how to grind barley, how to start a fire in the oven, how to knead bread, and bake honey cakes.
Then, I suggested selling cakes to the hungry men of the city, and Nana-Naid accepted to return a small share of the profits to me.
Walking around each day with my tray, I soon found regular customers. And Nana-naid, well pleased with my success, gladly gave me my share of the earnings, that I kept in a bag.
Meggido was right when he said that a master appreciates the good work of his slaves.
One of my customers was none other than your grandfather, Arad Gula, who liked my energy, my taste for a job well done and my desire to save money.
He became my friend and much later, after many adventures, I met him again. He was waiting for me in the courtyard of my master’s house.And, he kissed me like a brother, and told me that he needed a partner for his business in Damascus, all the while brandishing a clay tablet bearing my freedom.
My eyes filled with tears of gratitude towards Arud Gula. Thanks to him, I am a free man.
You see, work, at the time of my greatest distress, proved to my best friend. ”
Now Hadan Gula asked the question:
“Was work the secret key to shekels of gold for my grand-father?”
“It was the only key that he had when I knew him,” answered Sharru Nada. The gods appreciated his efforts and rewarded him. ”
“I have always hoped to be a man like my grand-father,” confided Hadan Gula. “I never understood what kind of man he was. You have shown me. I admire him all the more and feel determined to become like him. ”
An Historical Sketch of Babylon
In the history books, the very name of Babylon conjures up visions of wealth and splendour. You might believe that it was located in a place rich in resources, forests and mines, or on a natural trade path. This was not the case. It was located along the Euphrates, in very arid land, with no mines or building stones.
Babylon is an extraordinary example of a place where humans attained major objectives with the only means at their disposal. The only true resource was the water from the river.
Babylonian engineers diverted the water using dams and huge irrigation canals in the valley, leading to abundant harvests that had never been seen before.
The Chiefs of Babylon were passed on to posterity, thanks to their wisdom, their boldness and their sense of justice.
Today, this valley has once again become a windswept desert plain. Once covered with fertile fields and populated by wealthy merchants trading from city to city, today there are only rare nomadic shepherds tending to meagre flocks.
Scientists consider that the civilisation of this valley is the oldest about which we have information. It goes back 8,000 years.
We can date it thanks to the descriptions of an eclipse of the sun found in the ruins of Babylon.
Herodotus, a Greek traveller and historian, visited Babylon at its peak. He mentioned the remarkable fertility of the soil, the abundant harvests of barley and wheat.
The wisdom of Babylon has been preserved thanks to the clay tablets on which all manner of texts were inscribed, in ancient writing. Poems, stories, royal decrees, laws, property titles, and even letters sent from city to city by messengers. Archaeologists discovered entire libraries of books.
The walls of Babylon, made from baked brick, were given the same importance by the ancients as the Pyramids of Egypt, such was their immensity. Fifty-two metres tall, and between fifteen and seventeen kilometres in length. The most recent walls were erected by King Nabopolassar, in 600 BC, and then completed by Nebuchadnezzar, whose name is mentioned in the Bible.
Babylon was organised almost along the same lines a modern city. Streets, shops, residential neighbourhoods. Craftsmen worked on paintings, sculptures, weaving, gold, the manufacture of metal weapons and agricultural machinery.
The Babylonians were intelligent when it came to finance and trading. They invented money as a medium of exchange and written deeds of ownership.
The winds of time have turned the proud walls of its temples to dust, but the wisdom of Babylon lives on.
Conclusions about “The Richest Man in Babylon”
I loved The Richest Man in Babylon. I love to read novels and short stories, and I particularly enjoy the storytelling format as a way to convey a message. In this way, it becomes enjoyable to read a beautiful story, imagining colourful characters whose tales unfold in exotic places, while retaining the meaning of the parables proposed by the author.
I would be lying if I said that The Richest Man in Babylon changed my life. I came across it quite late, and all the mistakes that could have been avoided by reading it had already been made. And, I made risky investments, I chose my business associates poorly, I was slow to save a part of my income in a systematic manner and to provide an income for my old age.
On the other hand, I know that this book has changed the lives of millions of readers, who, according to the description on the back page, made money with the help of the advice they found in it.
While they may not all have become wealthy, some have, without a doubt, enjoyed excellent results in the management of their budget, chosen profitable investments and built their inheritance.
What is quite fascinating is that this book was published a little less than one century ago, yet the financial bases are explained in a context of antiquity, and the financial planning proposed throughout the book is perfectly valid today, and will always be.
Another notable aspect is the incredible simplicity of this plan.
Each tale illustrates one part, from the way to make savings up to how to repay debts, but it is “The Camel Trader of Babylon” which reveals the full plan: one tenth of one’s income to save, two-tenths to pay debts and seven tenths for expenditure necessary for home life.
Finally, a significant moral reflection emerges from these tales. On the one hand, if we take the time to think about it, we realise that nowadays we have little expenditure that is compulsory. Most of our expenses are superfluous and their need has been created by the consumer society. On the other hand, and in a more general way, we can admire the wisdom of these ancient financial advisers. It is a genuine lesson for the modern citizen who has a tendency to be over-excitable and naively assume that you can get rich quick without working for it. The media and advertising continue to coddle our illusions about this.
Parents do not teach their children how to manage their money properly, and neither do they learn it at school. I would highly recommend this book to young people starting out in life. In fact, I gave copies of it to my nephews.
- The Richest Man in Babylon is a very enjoyable read, a journey through space and time.
- It can be read very quickly.
- The stories are well documented. The stories seem plausible.
- The final chapter taught me a lot of things about ancient Babylon.
- The tales are parables, an original way to get a message across.
- The simplicity of the financial plan means that anyone can apply it.
- The moral of the stories is universal.
- The Richest Man in Babylon has a little bit of weakness that comes from its strengths:
- Some may find the financial plan too simplistic.
- An entire book may be too much to describe a financial plan which could be explained in two lines.
- In several of the stories, the various parts of the plan will be too repetitive for some tastes.
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