7 Cures For a Lean Purse
The glory of Babylon endures. Down through the ages its reputation comes
to us as the richest of cities, its treasures as fabulous.
Yet it was not always so. The riches of Babylon were the results of the
wisdom of its people.
They first had to learn how to become wealthy.
When the Good King, Sargon, returned to Babylon after defeating his
enemies, the Elamites, he was confronted with a serious situation. The
Royal Chancellor explained it to the King thus: “After many years of great
prosperity brought to our people because your majesty built the great
irrigation canals and the mighty temples of the Gods, now that these works
are completed the people seem unable to support themselves.
“The laborers are without employment. The merchants have few customers.
The farmers are unable to sell their produce. The people have not enough
gold to buy food.”
“But where has all the gold gone that we spent for these great
improvements?” demanded the King.
“It has found its way, I fear,” responded the Chancellor, “into the possession
of a few very rich men of our city. It filtered through the fingers of most our
people as quickly as the goat’s milk goes through the strainer. Now that the
stream of gold has ceased to flow, most of our people have nothing to for
The King was thoughtful for some time. Then he asked, “Why should so
few men be able to acquire all the gold?”
“Because they know how,” replied the Chancellor. “One may not condemn
a man for succeeding because he knows how. Neither may one with justice
take away from a man what he has fairly earned, to give to men of less
“But why,” demanded the King, “should not all the people learn how to
accumulate gold and therefore become themselves rich and prosperous?”
Quite possible, your excellency. But who can teach them? Certainly not the
priests, because they know naught of money making.”
“Who knows best in all our city how to become wealthy, Chancellor?”
asked the King.
“Thy question answers itself, your majesty. Who has amassed the greatest
wealth, in Babylon?”
“Well said, my able Chancellor. It is Arkad. He is richest man in Babylon.
Bring him before me on the morrow.”
Upon the following day, as the King had decreed, Arkad appeared before
him, straight and sprightly despite his three score years and ten.
“Arkad,” spoke the King, “is it true thou art the richest man in Babylon?”
“So it is reported, your majesty, and no man disputes it”
“How becamest thou so wealthy?”
“By taking advantage of opportunities available to all citizens of our good
“Thou hadst nothing to start with?”
“Only a great desire for wealth. Besides this, nothing.”
“Arkad,” continued the King, “our city is in a very unhappy state because a
few men know how to acquire wealth and therefore monopolize it, while
the mass of our citizens lack the knowledge of how to keep any part of the
gold they receive. ”
It is my desire that Babylon be the wealthiest city in the world. Therefore, it
must be a city of many wealthy men. Therefore, we must teach all the
people how to acquire riches. Tell me, Arkad, is there any secret to
acquiring wealth? Can it be taught?”
“It is practical, your majesty. That which one man knows can be taught to
The king’s eyes glowed. “Arkad, thou speaketh the words I wish to hear.
Wilt thou lend thyself to this great cause? Wilt thou teach thy knowledge to
a school for teachers, each of whom shall teach others until there are
enough trained to teach these truths to every worthy subject in my domain?”
Arkad bowed and said, “I am thy humble servant to command. Whatever
knowledge I possess will I gladly give for the betterment of my fellowmen
and the glory of my King. Let your good chancellor arrange for me a class
of one hundred men and I will teach to them those seven cures which did
fatten my purse, than which there was none leaner in all Babylon.”
A fortnight later, in compliance with the King’s command, the chosen
hundred assembled in the great hall of the Temple of Learning, seated upon
colorful rings in a semicircle. Arkad sat beside a small taboret upon which
smoked a sacred lamp sending forth a strange and pleasing odor.
“Behold the richest man in Babylon,” whispered a student, nudging his
neighbor as Arkad arose. “He is but a man even as the rest of us.”
“As a dutiful subject of our great King,” Arkad began, “I stand before you
in his service.
Because once I was a poor youth who did greatly desire gold, and because I
found knowledge that enabled me to acquire it, he asks that I impart unto
you my knowledge. “I started my fortune in the humblest way. I had no
advantage not enjoyed as fully by you and every citizen in Babylon. ”
The first storehouse of my treasure was a well-purse. I loathed its useless
emptiness. I desired it be round and full, clinking with the sound of gold.
Therefore, I sought every remedy for a lean purse. I found seven.
“To you, who are assembled before me, shall I explain the seven cures for a
lean purse which I do recommend to all men who desire much gold. Each
day for seven days will I explain to you one of the seven remedies.
“Listen attentively to the knowledge that I will impart. Debate it with me.
Discuss it among yourselves. Learn these lessons thoroughly, that ye may
also plant in your own purse the seed of wealth. First must each of you start
wisely to build a fortune of his own. Then wilt thou be competent, and only
then, to teach these truths to others.
“I shall teach to you in simple ways how to fatten your purses. This is the
first step leading to the temple of wealth, and no man may climb who
cannot plant his feet firmly upon the first step.
“We shall now consider the first cure.”
#1 CURE. Start thy purse to fattening
Arkad addressed a thoughtful man in the second row. “My good friend, at
what craft workest thou?”
“I,” replied the man, “am a scribe and carve records upon the clay tablets.”
“Even at such labor did I myself earn my first coppers. Therefore, thou hast
the same opportunity to build a fortune.”
He spoke to a florid-faced man, farther back. “Pray tell also what dost thou
to earn thy bread?”
“I,” responded this man, “am a meat butcher. I do buy the goats the farmers
raise and kill them and sell the meat to the housewives and the hides to the
“Because thou dost also labor and earn, thou hast every advantage to
succeed that I did possess.”
In this way did Arkad proceed to find out how each man labored to earn his
living. When he had done questioning them, he said: “Now, my students, ye
can see that there are many trades and labors at which men may earn coins.
Each of the ways of earning is a stream of gold from which the worker doth
divert by his labors a portion to his own purse. Therefore into the purse of
each of you flows a stream of coins large or small according to his ability. Is
it not so?”
Thereupon they agreed that it was so. “Then,” continued Arkad, “if each of
you desireth to build for himself a fortune, is it not wise to start by utilizing
that source of wealth which he already has established?”
To this they agreed.
Then Arkad turned to a humble man who had declared himself an egg
merchant. “If thou select one of thy baskets and put into it each morning ten
eggs and take out from it each evening nine eggs, what will eventually
“It will become in time overflowing.”
“Because each day I put in one more egg than I take out.”
Arkad turned to the class with a smile. “Does any man here have a lean
First they looked amused. Then they laughed. Lastly they waved their
purses in jest.
“All right,” he continued, “Now I shall tell thee the first remedy I learned to
cure a lean purse.
Do exactly as I have suggested to the egg merchant. For every ten coins
thou placest within thy purse take out for use but nine. Thy purse will start
to fatten at once and its increasing weight will feel good in thy hand and
bring satisfaction to thy soul.
“Deride not what I say because of its simplicity. Truth is always simple. I
told thee I would tell how built my fortune. This was my beginning. I, too,
carried a lean purse and cursed it because there was naught within to satisfy
my desires. But when I began to take out from my purse but nine parts of
ten I put in, it began to fatten. So will thine.
“Now I will tell a strange truth, the reason for which I know not. When I
ceased to pay out more than nine-tenths of my earnings, I managed to get
along just as well. I was not shorter than before. Also, ere long, did coins
come to me more easily than before. Surely it is a law of the Gods that unto
him who keepeth and spendeth not a certain part of all his earnings, shall
gold come more easily.
Likewise, him whose purse is empty does gold avoid.
“Which desirest thou the most? Is it the gratification of thy desires of each
day, a jewel, a bit of finery, better raiment, more food; things quickly gone
and forgotten? Or is it substantial belongings, gold, lands, herds,
merchandise, income-bringing investments? The coins thou takest from thy
purse bring the first. The coins thou leavest within it will bring the latter.
“This, my students, was the first cure I did discover for my lean purse: ‘For
each ten coins I put in, to spend but nine.’ Debate this amongst yourselves.
If any man proves it untrue, tell me upon the morrow when we shall meet
#2 CURE. Control thy expenditures
“Some of your members, my students, have asked me this: How can a man
keep one-tenth of all he earns in his purse when all the coins he earns are
not enough for his necessary expenses?” So did Arkad address his students
upon the second day.
“Yesterday how many of thee carried lean purses?”
“All of us,” answered the class.
“Yet, thou do not all earn the same. Some earn much more than others.
Some have much larger families to support. Yet, all purses were equally
lean. Now I will tell thee an unusual truth about men and sons of men. It is
this; That what each of us calls our ‘necessary expenses’ will always grow
to equal our incomes unless we protest to the contrary.
“Confuse not the necessary expenses with thy desires. Each of you, together
with your good families, have more desires than your earnings can gratify.
Therefore are thy earnings spent to gratify these desires insofar as they will
go. Still thou retainest many ungratified desires.
“All men are burdened with more desires than they can gratify. Because of
my wealth thinkest thou I may gratify every desire? ‘Tis a false idea. There
are limits to my time. There are limits to my strength. There are limits to the
distance I may travel. There are limits to what I may eat. There are limits to
the zest with which I may enjoy.
“I say to you that just as weeds grow in a field wherever the farmer leaves
space for their roots, even so freely do desires grow in men whenever there
is a possibility of their being gratified. Thy desires are a multitude and those
that thou mayest gratify are but few.
“Study thoughtfully thy accustomed habits of living. Herein may be most
often found certain accepted expenses that may wisely be reduced or
eliminated. Let thy motto be one hundred percent of appreciated value
demanded for each coin spent.
“Therefore, engrave upon the clay each thing for which thou desireth to
spend. Select those that are necessary and others that are possible through
the expenditure of nine- tenths of thy income. Cross out the rest and
consider them but a part of that great multitude of desires that must go
unsatisfied and regret them not.
“Budget then thy necessary expenses. Touch not the one- tenth that is
fattening thy purse. Let this be thy great desire that is being fulfilled. Keep
working with thy budget, keep adjusting it to help thee. Make it thy first
assistant in defending thy fattening purse.”
Hereupon one of the students, wearing a robe of red and gold, arose and
said, “I am a free man.
I believe that it is my right to enjoy the good things of life. Therefore do I
rebel against the slavery of a budget which determines just how much I may
spend and for what. I feel it would take much pleasure from my life and
make me little more than a pack-ass to carry a burden.”
To him Arkad replied, “Who, my friend, would determine thy budget?”
“I would make it for myself,” responded the protesting one.
“In that case were a pack-ass to budget his burden would he include therein
jewels and rugs and heavy bars of gold? Not so. He would include hay and
grain and a bag of water for the desert trail.
“The purpose of a budget is to help thy purse to fatten. It is to assist thee to
have thy necessities and, insofar as attainable, thy other desires. It is to
enable thee to realize thy most cherished desires by defending them from
thy casual wishes. Like a bright light in a dark cave thy budget shows up the
leaks from thy purse and enables thee to stop them and control thy
expenditures for definite and gratifyingpurposes.
“This, then, is the second cure for a lean purse. Budget thy expenses that
thou mayest have coins to pay for thy necessities, to pay for thy enjoyments
and to gratify thy worthwhile desires without spending more than ninetenths of thy earnings.
#3 CURE. Make thy gold multiply
“Behold thy lean purse is fattening. Thou hast disciplined thyself to leave
therein one-tenth of all thou earneth. Thou hast controlled thy expenditures
to protect thy growing treasure. Next, we will consider means to put thy
treasure to labor and to increase. Gold in a purse is gratifying to own and
satisfieth a miserly soul but earns nothing. The gold we may retain from our
earnings is but the start.
The earnings it will make shall build our fortunes.” So spoke Arkad upon
the third day to his class.
“How therefore may we put our gold to work? My first investment was
unfortunate, for I lost
all. Its tale I will relate later. My first profitable investment was a loan I
made to a man named Aggar, a shield maker. Once each year did he buy
large shipments of bronze brought from across the sea to use in his trade.
Lacking sufficient capital to pay the merchants, he would borrow from
those who had extra coins. He was an honorable man. His borrowing he
would repay, together with a liberal rental, as he sold his shields.
“Each time I loaned to him I loaned back also the rental he had paid to me.
Therefore not only did my capital increase, but its earnings likewise
increased. Most gratifying was it to have these sums return to my purse.
“I tell you, my students, a man’s wealth is not in the coins he carries in his
purse; it is the income he buildeth, the golden stream that continually
floweth into his purse and keepeth it always bulging. That is what every
man desireth. That is what thou, each one of thee desireth; an income that
continueth to come whether thou work or travel.
“Great income I have acquired. So great that I am called a very rich man.
My loans to Aggar were my first training in profitable investment. Gaining
wisdom from this experience, I extended my loans and investments as my
capital increased. From a few sources at first, from many sources later,
flowed into my purse a golden stream of wealth available for such wise uses
as I should decide.
“Behold, from my humble earnings I had begotten a hoard of golden slaves,
each laboring and earning more gold. As they labored for me, so their
children also labored and their children’s children until great was the
income from their combined efforts.
“Gold increaseth rapidly when making reasonable earnings as thou wilt see
from the following:
A farmer, when his first son was born, took ten pieces of silver to a money
lender and asked him to keep it on rental for his son until he became twenty
years of age. This the money lender did, and agreed the rental should be
one-fourth of its value each four years. The farmer asked, because this sum
he had set aside as belonging to his son, that the rental be add to the
“When the boy had reached the age of twenty years, the farmer again went
to the money lender to inquire about the silver. The money lender explained
that because this sum had been increased by compound interest, the original
ten pieces of silver had now grown to thirty and one-half pieces.
“The farmer was well pleased and because the son did not need the coins,
he left them with the money lender. When the son became fifty years of age,
the father meantime having passed to the other world, the money lender
paid the son in settlement one hundred and sixty-seven pieces of silver.
“Thus in fifty years had the investment multiplied itself at rental almost
“This, then, is the third cure for a lean purse: to put each coin to laboring
that it may reproduce its kind even as the flocks of the field and help bring
to thee income, a stream of wealth that shall flow constantly into thy purse.”
#4 CURE. Guard thy treasures from loss
“Misfortune loves a shining mark. Gold in a man’s purse must be guarded
with firmness, else it be lost. Thus it is wise that we must first secure small
amounts and learn to protect them before the Gods entrust us with larger.”
So spoke Arkad upon the fourth day to his class.
“Every owner of gold is tempted by opportunities whereby it would seem
that he could make large sums by its investment in most plausible projects.
Often friends and relatives are eagerly entering such investment and urge
him to follow.
“The first sound principle of investment is security for thy principal. Is it
wise to be intrigued by larger earnings when thy principal may be lost? I
say not. The penalty of risk is probable loss. Study carefully, before parting
with thy treasure, each assurance that it may be safely reclaimed. Be not
misled by thine own romantic desires to make wealth rapidly.
“Before thou loan it to any man assure thyself of his ability to repay and his
reputation for doing so, that thou mayest not unwittingly be making him a
present of thy hard-earned treasure.
“Before thou entrust it as an investment in any field acquaint thyself with
the dangers which may beset it.
“My own first investment was a tragedy to me at the time. The guarded
savings of a year I did entrust to a brickmaker, named Azmur, who was
traveling over the far seas and in Tyre agreed to buy for me the rare jewels
of the Phoenicians. These we would sell upon his return and divide the
The Phoenicians were scoundrels and sold him bits of glass. My treasure
was lost. Today, my training would show to me at once the folly of
entrusting a brickmaker to buy jewels.
“Therefore, do I advise thee from the wisdom of my experiences: be not too
confident of thine own wisdom in entrusting thy treasures to the possible
pitfalls of investments. Better by far to consult the wisdom of those
experienced in handling money for profit. Such advice is freely given for
the asking and may readily possess a value equal in gold to the sum thou
considerest investing. In truth, such is its actual value if it save thee from
“This, then, is the fourth cure for a lean purse, and of great importance if it
prevent thy purse from being emptied once it has become well filled. Guard
thy treasure from loss by investing only where thy principal is safe, where it
may be reclaimed if desirable, and where thou will not fail to collect a fair
rental. Consult with wise men. Secure the advice of those experienced in the
profitable handling of gold. Let their wisdom protect thy treasure from
#5 CURE. Make of thy dwelling a profitable
“If a man setteth aside nine parts of his earnings upon which to live and
enjoy life, and if any part of this nine parts he can turn into a profitable
investment without detriment to his wellbeing, then so much faster will his
treasures grow.” So spake Arkad to his class at their fifth lesson.
“All too many of our men of Babylon do raise their families in unseemly
quarters. They do pay to exacting landlords liberal rentals for rooms where
their wives have not a spot to raise the blooms that gladden a woman’s heart
and their children have no place to play their games except in the unclean
“No man’s family can fully enjoy life unless they do have a plot of ground
wherein children can play in the clean earth and where the wife may raise
not only blossoms but good rich herbs to feed her family.
“To a man’s heart it brings gladness to eat the figs from his own trees and
the grapes of his own vines. To own his own domicile and to have it a place
he is proud to care for, putteth confidence in his heart and greater effort
behind all his endeavors. Therefore, do I recommend that every man own
the roof that sheltereth him and his.
“Nor is it beyond the ability of any well intentioned man to own his home.
Hath not our great king so widely extended the walls of Babylon that within
them much land is now unused and may be purchased at sums most
“Also I say to you, my students, that the money lenders gladly consider the
desires of men who seek homes and land for their families. Readily may
thou borrow to pay the brickmaker and the builder for such commendable
purposes, if thou can show a reasonable portion of the necessary sum which
thou thyself hath provided for the purpose.
“Then when the house be built, thou canst pay the money lender with the
same regularity as thou didst pay the landlord. Because each payment will
reduce thy indebtedness to the money lender, a few years will satisfy his
“Then will thy heart be glad because thou wilt own in thy own right a
valuable property and thy only cost will be the king’s taxes.
“Also wilt thy good wife go more often to the river to wash thy robes, that
each time returning she may bring a goatskin of water to pour upon the
“Thus come many blessings to the man who owneth his own house. And
greatly will it reduce his cost of living, making available more of his
earnings for pleasures and the gratification of his desires. This, then, is the
fifth cure for a lean purse: Own thy own home”
#6 CURE. Insure a future income
“The life of every man proceedeth from his childhood to his old age. This is
the path of life and no man may deviate from it unless the Gods call him
prematurely to the world beyond. Therefore do I say that it behooves a man
to make preparation for a suitable income in the days to come, when he is
no longer young, and to make preparations for his family should he be no
longer with them to comfort and support them. This lesson shall instruct
thee in providing a full purse when time has made thee less able to learn.”
So Arkad addressed his class upon the sixth day.
“The man who, because of his understanding of the laws of wealth,
acquireth a growing surplus, should give thought to those future days. He
should plan certain investments or provision that may endure safely for
many years, yet will be available when the time arrives which he has so
“There are diverse ways by which a man may provide with safety for his
future. He may provide a hiding place and there bury a secret treasure. Yet,
no matter with what skill it be hidden, it may nevertheless become the loot
of thieves. For this reason I recommend not this plan.
“A man may buy houses or lands for this purpose. If wisely chosen as to
their usefulness and value in the future, they are permanent in their value
and their earnings or their sale will provide well for his purpose.
“A man may loan a small sum to the money lender and increase it at regular
periods. The rental which the money lender adds to this will largely add to
its increase. I do know a sandal maker, named Ansan, who explained to me
not long ago that each week for eight years he had deposited with his
money lender two pieces of silver. The money lender had but recently given
him an accounting over which he greatly rejoiced. The total of his small
deposits with their rental at the customary rate of onefourth their value for
each four years, had now become a thousand and forty pieces of silver.
“I did gladly encourage him further by demonstrating to him with my
knowledge of the numbers that in twelve years more, if he would keep his
regular deposits of but two pieces of silver each week, the money lender
would then owe him four thousand pieces of silver, a worthy competence
for the rest of his life.
“Surely, when such a small payment made with regularity doth produce
such profitable results, no man can afford not to insure a treasure for his old
age and the protection of his family, no matter how prosperous his business
and his investments may be.
“I would that I might say more about this. In my mind rests a belief that
some day wisethinking men will devise a plan to insure against death
whereby many men pay in but a trifling sum regularly, the aggregate
making a handsome sum for the family of each member who passeth to the
beyond. This do I see as something desirable and which I could highly
But today it is not possible because it must reach beyond the life of any man
or any partnership to operate. It must be as stable as the King’s throne.
Some day do I feel that such a plan shall come to pass and be a great
blessing to many men, because even the first small payment will make
available a snug fortune for the family of a member should he pass on.
“But because we live in our own day and not in the days which are to come,
must we take advantage of those means and ways of accomplishing our
purposes. Therefore do I recommend to all men, that they, by wise and well
thought out methods, do provide against a lean purse in their mature years.
For a lean purse to a man no longer able to earn or to a family without its
head is a sore tragedy.
“This, then, is the sixth cure for a lean purse. Provide in advance for the
needs of thy growing age and the protection of thy family.”
#7 CURE. Increase thy ability to earn
“This day do I speak to thee, my students, of one of the most vital remedies
for a lean purse.
Yet, I will talk not of gold but of yourselves, of the men beneath the robes
of many colors who do sit before me. I will talk to you of those things
within the minds and lives of men which do work for or against their
success.” So did Arkad address his class upon the seventh day.
“Not long ago came to me a young man seeking to borrow. When I
questioned him the cause of his necessity, he complained that his earnings
were insufficient to pay his expenses. Thereupon I explained to him, this
being the case, he was a poor customer for the money lender, as he
possessed no surplus earning capacity to repay the loan.
” ‘What you need, young man,’ I told him, ‘is to earn more coins. What
dost thou to increase thy capacity to earn?’
” ‘All that I can do’ he replied. ‘Six times within two moons have I
approached my master to request my pay be increased, but without success.
No man can go oftener than that.’
“We may smile at his simplicity, yet he did possess one of the vital
requirements to increase his earnings. Within him was a strong desire to
earn more, a proper and commendable desire.
“Preceding accomplishment must be desire. Thy desires must be strong and
definite. General desires are but weak longings. For a man to wish to be rich
is of little purpose. For a man to desire five pieces of gold is a tangible
desire which he can press to fulfillment. After he has backed his desire for
five pieces of gold with strength of purpose to secure it, next he can find
similar ways to obtain ten pieces and then twenty pieces and later a
thousand pieces and, behold, he has become wealthy. In learning to secure
his one definite small desire, he hath trained himself to secure a larger one.
This is the process by which wealth is accumulated: first in small sums,
then in larger ones as a man learns and becomes more capable.
“Desires must be simple and definite. They defeat their own purpose should
they be too many, too confusing, or beyond a man’s training to accomplish.
“As a man perfecteth himself in his calling even so doth his ability to earn
increase. In those days when I was a humble scribe carving upon the clay
for a few coppers each day, I observed that other workers did more than I
and were paid more. Therefore, did I determine that I would be exceeded by
none. Nor did it take long for me to discover the reason for their greater
success. More interest in my work, more concentration upon my task, more
persistence in my effort, and, behold, few men could carve more tablets in a
day than I. With reasonable promptness my increased skill was rewarded,
nor was it necessary for me to go six times to my master to request
“The more of wisdom we know, the more we may earn. That man who
seeks to learn more of his craft shall be richly rewarded. If he is an artisan,
he may seek to learn the methods and the tools of those most skillful in the
same line. If he laboreth at the law or at healing, he may consult and
exchange knowledge with others of his calling. If he be a merchant, he may
continually seek better goods that can be purchased at lower prices.
“Always do the affairs of man change and improve because keen-minded
men seek greater skill that they may better serve those upon whose
patronage they depend. Therefore, I urge all men to be in the front rank of
progress and not to stand still, lest they be left behind. “Many things come
to make a man’s life rich with gainful experiences. Such things as the
following, a man must do if he respect himself:
“He must pay his debts with all the promptness within his power, not
purchasing that for which he is unable to pay.
“He must take care of his family that they may think and speak well of him.
“He must make a will of record that, in case the Gods call him, proper and
honorable division of his property be accomplished.
“He must have compassion upon those who are injured and smitten by
misfortune and aid them within reasonable limits. He must do deeds of
thoughtfulness to those dear to him.
“Thus the seventh and last remedy for a lean purse is to cultivate thy own
powers, to study andbecome wiser, to become more skillful, to so act as to
respect thyself. Thereby shalt thou acquire confidence in thy self to achieve
thy carefully considered desires.
“These then are the seven cures for a lean purse, which, out of the
experience of a long and successful life, I do urge for all men who desire
wealth. “There is more gold in Babylon, my students, than thou dreamest
of. There is abundance for all.
“Go thou forth and practice these truths that thou mayest prosper and grow
wealthy, as is thy right.
“Go thou forth and teach these truths that every honorable subject of his
majesty may also share liberally in the ample wealth of our beloved city