For almost a hundred years, the ancient Greek city of Syracuse had been at war with Carthage, and riven by internal strife as successive rulers fought each other for the throne. Till, in 275 BC, the Syracusan troops, tired of the inefficiencies of their leaders, elected commanders from amongst themselves. One of these was a young general called Hiero.
Now, Hiero had a natural flair and talent for leadership and politics. He managed, through his connections, to enter the city and take over its government, but so smoothly and efficiently, that the citizens of Syracuse, who usually did not approve of soldiers choosing their own commanders, did so in this case. Then, after a great battle in 265 BC, in which Hiero led the Syracusans to victory against their enemies, the people of Syracuse chose Hiero to be their king.
Hiero was grateful to the gods for his success and good fortune, and to show his gratitude, he decided to place in a certain temple, a golden crown in their honour. The crown was to be shaped like a laurel wreath. Hiero weighed out a precise amount of gold, and appointing a goldsmith, commanded him to fashion out of the gold a wreath worthy of the gods.
The goldsmith did as he had been ordered, and on he appointed day, he delivered to the king an exquisitely wrought crown, shaped, as the king had ordered, like a laurel wreath. The wreath seemed to weight exactly as much as the gold that the king had given the goldsmith. Hiero was pleased, and paid the goldsmith handsomely. The goldsmith, receiving his payment, went away.
Hiero made preparations for the ceremony to place the wreath in the temple that he had chosen. But a few days before the ceremony, he heard rumours that the goldsmith had cheated him, and given him a crown not of pure gold, but of gold that had silver mixed in it. The goldsmith, said the rumours, had replaced some of the gold that Hiero had given him, with an equal weight of silver.
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