Read the story and answer the questions that follow.
“The Sword of Damocles”
Retold by James Baldwin
There once was a king whose name was Dionysius. He was so unjust and cruel that he won for himself the name of a tyrant. He knew that almost everybody hated him, and so he was always in dread lest someone should take his life. But he was very rich, and he lived in a fine palace where there were many beautiful and costly things. And he was waited upon by a host of servants who were always ready to do his bidding.
One day, a friend of his, whose name was Damocles, said to him, “How happy you must be! You have here everything that any man could wish”.
“Perhaps you would like to change places with me”, said the tyrant. “No, not that, O king”! said Damocles. “But I think that if I could only have your riches and your pleasures for one day, I should not want any greater happiness”.
“Very well”, said the tyrant. “You shall have them”.
And so, the next day, Damocles was led into the palace, and all the servants were bidden to treat him as their master. He sat down at a table in the banquet hall, and rich foods were placed before him. He lacked nothing that could give him pleasure. There were costly wines, and beautiful flowers, and rare perfumes, and delightful music. He rested among soft cushions and felt that he was the happiest man in the world.
Then he chanced to raise his eyes toward the ceiling. What was it dangling above him, with its point almost touching his head? It was a sharp sword, and it was hung by only a single horsehair. What if the hair should break? There was danger every moment that it would do so.
The smile faded from the lips of Damocles. His face became ashy pale. His hands trembled. He wanted no more food; he could drink no more wine; he took no more delight in the music. He longed to be out of the palace, far away; he cared not where.
“What is the matter?” said the tyrant.
“That sword! That sword!” cried Damocles. He was so badly frightened that he dared not move.
“Yes”, said Dionysius. “I know there is a sword above your head, and it may fall at any moment. But why should that trouble you? I have a sword over my head all the time. I am every moment in dread lest something may cost me to lose my life”.
“Let me go”, said Damocles. “I now see that I am mistaken and that the rich and powerful are not so happy as they seem. Let me go back to my cottage among the mountains”. And as long as he lived, he never wanted to change places with the king.