Damon and Pythias
Here is an account of a true happening that took place a long time ago. This is a story of two friends who are still remembered and will remain in the memory of people for ages to come.
These two friends were Damon and Pythias. They lived near a town called Syracuse. The chief man of this town was more like a king in his behaviour and temper. He was very short tempered. Those were the days when a king could do anything; but the chief man of the town, whose name was Dion, despite not being a king, executed and exercised all the powers of a king. He could even kill someone out of anger.
One day the chief servant of Dion cam e and reported to him that he heard Damon applying all sorts of abusive epithets to him. Hearing this Dion became very angry and ordered his servant to bring Damon to his presence. Damon was brought before him.
Dion said angrily, “ I have been informed that you have used bad words for me. Is that true?
Damon said calmly, “I never used bad words for you; I just called you a bad man.”
“even someone calling me a bad man cannot go unpunished,” said Dion gnashing his teeth. “You must die. That’s the only punishment you can be given”
Damon was a courageous man. He was not frightened. He said, “I don’t mind being killed. I am not afraid of death. But I would request you to allow me to go home and see my wife and children for the last time. I shall go , see them and come back.”
“I am not that big a fool. I know if a allow you to go home, you will never come back and escape punishment,” said Dion Scornfully.
By then Pythias had also come there. He too was a brave man. He came forward and said, “Sir, Damon’s house is hardly a few miles from here. It will take him about six hours to go and return to your place. Please allow him to go”
“No, no I don’t believe any one of you. I know you have come to rescue him, “Dion said. Pythias said , “Sir, I am ready to be taken hostage; and if my friend doesn’t return in six hours , you can put me to death. Will this do, sir?”
Dion looked at them in disbelief, thought for a while and then said, “All right! He can go; but remember if he does not come back in six hours, it will be you who will be put to death. Either of the two has to die.”
Damon looked at his friend with tears in eyes. He embraced him with deep sense of gratitude. He said, “Phthias, you are not only my friend, you are more than a brother to me. I shall remain ever indebted to you for this kind act of yours.”
Then he thanked Dion and left his home.
Four hours went by and Damon was not yet back. The fifth hour came and went; there was no trace of Damon. But pythias had unshaking confidence in Damon. He knew he will come back. But when the sixth hour also passed and Damon was not to be seen, Dion said-
“Look Pythias, your friend has ditched you. He has risked your life in order to save his won. What big words-‘you are more than a brother to me.’ ‘said Dion and laughed sarcastically.
Pythias, who was still confident, said, “ Sir, I am sure you know nothing about him. But we have been together since our childhood. I know him only too well. He must be in some difficulty. But anyway, a promise is a promise. I had promised to die in his place and I am ready to die. Go on and execute me.”
Dion said, “If what you say is true, I shall allow you another two hoarse. But if after another two hours, which will be altogether eight hours, he does not turn up, I am sorry to say it will be you who will take the death punishment.”
“Agree sir, but I am sure he will come back,” said Pythias.
“Let us see,” Dion said.
Another two hours passed. Damon didn’t turn up.
Dion said , “Phthais, I cannot wait any longer. Your time is over. Now say your last prayers and get ready to die.”
“ I am the happiest man on earth to die for the beast friend of mine. There is no one who will weep for me; but my friend Damon has a wife and two sweet little kids. But sir, this would not mean that my friend is dishonest and has ditched me. He may definitely come,” said Pythias with confidence.
Dion called the executioner and ordered him to behead Pythias.
Pythias said his last prayers and bowed his head before the executioner. The executioner raised his sword and was about to behead Pythais when Damon came running and panting and shouted- “Hold on! Don’t execute him; I have come back.”
The executioner stopped his hand and turned towards Damon. Dion too was looking at him with wide eyes in utter disbelief.
Damon came and hugged Pythias. He said, everything. I am extremely sorry that I am late, but I am just as happy that I am not too late. In fact I became late because my horse died on the way, and it took me too long to get another horse. I met my wife and children and said goodbye to them; I am ready to die now.”
“Friend, I am happy that you have come back. Now I can say with pride that my friend is honest. Feeling of fraternity is above the fear of death; but now I am not prepared to change places. Let me die. You have a loving wife and two sweet little kids, whereas I have none. Go and take care of them,” said Pythias with tearful eyes.
“No, no,” cried Damon,. “ I cannot allow you to die in my place. After all it was I who had called Dion a bad man. Why should you take the brunt of his anger?”
Suddenly Dion Jumped up and shouted, “Stop! I have been listening to both of you. And now I have already begun to feel that I am really a bad man. The feeling of sacrifice of both of you for each other has opened my eyes. I saw both of you undeterred even in the face of death; I saw your love for each other; I am a witness to a feeling of sacrifice for a friend; even the heart of the god of death would have melted. I am simply a human being. Now, none of you will be executed. Be happy and go home.”
Saying this Dion gave gifts to both the friends and said with a smile-
“Damon, I hope you wouldn’t call be me a bad man now.”
Damon and Pythias returned happily with gifts in their hands.