On board S/Y Bushido
According to C.M. Bowra, gold had a divine association with the Ancient Greeks, being more than just a symbolic value, as when Pindar wished to stress the splendour of something he called it golden, whether it was a victor’s crown of wild olives or the opening of a song. Gold stood for wealth in its most magical and least prosaic form, for the radiance it invested in the art of living and for the graces it made possible. I wonder what Pindar would say about gold if he were around nowadays!
Bowra also writes that according to Xenophanes, a social critic of the time, Lydian gold had a harmful effect on Greeks living in Asia Minor, turning the Hellenes into ‘preys of useless luxuries’, and therefore preys to conquest and tyranny. Again, if Xenophanes were around, I wonder what he’d say about rich Arabs covered in it, not to mention rich Eurotrash, but then those who will one day make us their prey — the Chinese — are also covered in gold, just as the Lydians were.
Serious Greeks were wary of wealth in general and gold in particular because it might sap the sense of public duty and obligations. Tell that to the Saudi ruling family and listen to them guffaw for the first time in their grotesque lives. (My, they are a ghastly-looking bunch: fat, ugly, miserable and cruel.) Modern Saudi, Kuwaiti and Gulf state Sybarites will eventually bite the dust because of their cruelty and greed but, alas, not in my lifetime. They are too self-indulgent (and much too fat) to sit up straight and read history, otherwise they’d know that Sybaris was a city on the eastern side of the toe of Italy, whose inhabitants had become a byword for luxury.