Lessons regarding Wealth from Gibbon

This article contains two extracts from Gibbon that might serve as a guide to nations and individual persons. I will not presume to suggest what policy changes governments might make but it offers food for thought.

Regarding nations:

Background: The Arabs (post the death of the prophet) had invaded Europe and made great advances. This caused dismay amongst the Franks. Christendom was delivered from calamities by the genius and fortune of one man, Charles, the mayor of the Franks, who deserved to become the father of a line of kings. The following contains his advice to the Franks:

“Alas”, exclaimed the Franks, “what a misfortune; what an indignity. We have long heard the name and conquests of the Arabs … yet their numbers and their arms inferior to our own.”

“If you will follow my advice” replied the prudent mayor of the palace, “you will not interrupt their march or precipitate their attack. They are like a torrent that is dangerous to stem in its career. The thirst for riches and the consciousness of success redouble their valour, and valour is of more avail than arms or numbers. Be patient until they have loaded themselves with the encumbrance of wealth. The possession of wealth will divide their councils and ensure their victory.”

Regarding individuals:

Background: The following authentic memorial was found in the closet of the deceased caliph Abdalrahman:

“I have now reigned above 50 years in victory or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies and respected by my allies. Riches and honour, power and pleasure have waited on my call nor do any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation I have diligently numbered the days of genuine and pure happiness that have fallen to my lot.  They amount to FOURTEEN. Oh Man place not your confidence in this present world.”

In addition to teaching detachment this should serve as a cure for envy and also console people who feel they have missed out on what they wanted and what was important to them. For example I have missed out on a career and family life. Reminding myself of this teaching will help me feel better.

Link to the book I am sourced this content from:

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