While in India, Alexander the Great took 10 Indian Brahmins (learned
men) prisoner. These men had a great reputation for intelligence, and so Alexander decided to give them a test. He announced
that the one who gave the worst answer would be the first to die, and he made the oldest Brahmin the judge of the competition.
Which are more numerous, Alexander asked the first one, the
living or the dead? "The living," said the Brahmin, "because the dead no longer count."
produces more creatures, the sea or the land? Alexander asked the second. "The land" was his answer, "because
the sea is only a part of it."
The third was asked which animal was the smartest of all, and the Brahmin
replied: "The one we have not found yet."
Alexander asked the fourth what argument he had used to stir
up the Indians to fight, and he answered: "Only that one should either live nobly or die nobly."
is older: day or night? Alexander questioned to the fifth, and the answer he got was: "Day is older, by one day at least."
When he saw that Alexander was not satisfied with this answer, the Brahmin added: "Strange questions get strange answers."
What should a man do to make himself loved? asked Alexander, and the sixth Brahmin replied: "Be powerful
without being frightening."
What does a man have to do to become a god? He asked the seventh, who responded:
"Do what is impossible for a man."
The question to the eighth was whether death or life was stronger,
and his answer was: "Life is stronger than death, because it bears so many miseries."
The ninth Brahmin
was asked how long it was proper for a man to live, and he said: "Until it seems better to die."
Alexander turned to the judge, who decided that each one had answered worse than another. "You will die first, then,
for giving such a decision," said Alexander. "Not so, mighty king," said the Brahmin, "if you want to
remain a man of your word. You said that you would kill first the one who made the worst answer. I have given the decision."
Alexander was impressed and gave all the Brahmins presents and set them free, even
though they had persuaded Indians to fight the invading armies of the Greek great