Happiness itself is sufficient excuse. Beautiful things are right and true; so beautiful actions are those pleasing to the gods. Wise men have an inward sense of what is beautiful, and the highest wisdom is to trust this intuition and be guided by it. The answer to the last appeal of what is right lies within a man’s own breast. Trust thyself.
—Ethics of Aristotle
The Sublime Porte recently issued a request to the American Bible Society, asking that references to Macedonia be omitted from all Bibles circulated in Turkey or Turkish provinces. The argument of His Sublimity is that the Macedonian cry, “Come over and help us!” puts him and his people in a bad light. He ends his most courteous petition by saying, “The land that produced a Philip, an Alexander the Great and an Aristotle, and that today has citizens who are the equal of these, needs nothing from our dear brothers, the Americans, but to be let alone.”
As to the statement that Macedonia today has citizens who are the equals of Philip, Alexander and Aristotle, the proposition, probably, is based on the confession of the citizens themselves, and therefore may be truth. Great men are only great comparatively. It is the stupidity of the many that allows one man to bestride the narrow world like a Colossus. In the time of Alexander and Aristotle there wasn’t so much competition as now, so perhaps what we take to be lack of humor on the part of the Sublime Porte may have a basis in fact.
Aristotle was born Three Hundred Eighty-four B.C., at the village of Stagira in the mountains of Macedonia. King Amyntas used to live at Stagira several months in the year and hunt the wild hogs that fed on the acorns which grew in the gorges and valleys. Mountain climbing and hunting was dangerous sport, and it was well to have a surgeon attached to the royal party, so the father of Aristotle served in that capacity. No doubt, though, but the whole outfit was decidedly barbaric, even including the doctor’s little son “Aristo,” who refused to be left behind. The child’s mother had died years before, and boys without mothers are apt to manage their fathers. And so Aristo was allowed to trot along by his father’s side, carrying a formidable bow, which he himself had made, with a quiver of arrows at his back.
Those were great times when the King came to Stagira!
When the King went back to the capital everybody received presents, and the good doctor, by some chance, was treated best of all, and little Aristo came in for the finest bow that ever was, all tipped with silver and eagle-feathers. But the bow did not bring good luck, for soon after, the boy’s father was caught in an avalanche of sliding stone and crushed to death.
Aristo was taken in charge by Proxenus, a near kinsman. The lad was so active at climbing, so full of life and energy and good spirits, that when the King came the next year to Stagira, he asked for Aristo. With the King was his son Philip, a lad about the age of Aristo, but not so tall nor so active. The boys became fast friends, and once when a stranger saw them together he complimented the King on his fine, intelligent boys, and the King had to explain, “The other boy is mine–but I wish they both were.”
Aristo knew where the wild boars fed in gulches, and where the stunted oaks grew close and thick. Higher up in the mountains there were bears, which occasionally came down and made the wild pigs scamper. You could always tell when the bears were around, for then the little pigs would run out into the open. The bears had a liking for little pigs, and the bears had a liking for the honey in the bee-trees, too. Aristo could find the bee-trees better than the bears–all you had to do was to watch the flight of the bees as they left the clover.