Speech of the Scythian Ambassadors to Alexander the Great
If your person were as vast as your desires, the whole world would not contain you. Your right hand would touch the east, and your left the west, at the same time. You grasp at more than you are equal to. From Europe you reach Asia; from Asia you lay hold on Europe. And if you should conquer all mankind, you seem disposed to wage war with woods and snows, with rivers and wild beasts, and to subdue nature.
But, have you considered the usual course of things? Have you reflected that great trees are many years in growing to their height, but are cut down in an hour? It is foolish to think of the fruit only, without considering the height you have to climb, to come at it. Take care lest, while you strive to reach the top, you fall to the ground with the branches you have already laid hold on.
The lion, when dead, is devoured by ravens; and rust consumes the hardness of iron. There is nothing so strong, but it is in danger from what is weak. It will therefore be your wisdom to take care how you venture beyond your reach.
Besides, what have you to do with the Scythians, or the Scythians with you? We have never invaded Macedon; why should you attack Scythia? We inhabit vast deserts, and pathless woods, where we do not want to hear of the name of Alexander. We are not disposed to submit to slavery, and we have no ambition to tyrannize over any nation.
That you may understand the genius of the Scvthians, we present you with a yoke of oxen, an arrow, and a goblet. We use these respectively in our commerce with friends and with foes. We give to our friends the corn, which we raise by the labour of our oxen. With the goblet we join with them in pouring out drink offerings to the gods, and with the arrows we attack our enemies.
You pretend to be the punisher of robbers, and are yourself the greatest robber the world has ever seen. You have taken Lydia: you have seized Syria: you are master of Persia: you have subdued the Bactrians; and attacked India. All this will not satisfy you, unless you lay your greedy and insatiable hands upon our flocks and our herds.
How imprudent is your conduct! You grasp at riches, the possession of which only increases your avarice. You increase your hunger by what should have made you satisfied; so that the more you have, the more you desire.