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WE HAVE in The Story of Ahikar one of the most ancient sources of human thought and wisdom. Its influence can be traced through the legends of many people, including the Koran, and the Old and New Testaments. A mosaic found in Treves, Germany, pictured among the wise men of the world the character of Ahikar. Here is his colorful tale. The date of this story has been a subject of lively discussion. Scholars finally put it down about the First Century when they were proved in error by the original story turning up in an Aramaic papyrus of 500 B. C. among the ruins of Elephantine. The story is obviously fiction and not history. In fact the reader can make its acquaintance in the supplementary pages of The Arabian Nights. It is brilliantly written, and the narrative which is full of action, intrigue, and narrow escape holds the attention to the last. The liberty of imagination is the most precious possession of the writer. The writing divides itself into four phases: (1) The Narrative; (2) The Teaching (a remarkable series of Proverbs); (3) The Journey to Egypt; (4) The Similitudes or Parables (with which Ahikar completes the education of his erring nephew).

(William Wake and Solomon Caesar Malan version)

1. 1  
THE story of Haiqar the Wise, Vizier of Sennacherib the King, and of Nadan, sister's son to Haiqar the Sage.
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There was a Vizier in the days of King Sennacherib, son of Sarhadum, King of Assyria and Nineveh, a wise man named Haiqar, and he was Vizier of the king Sennacherib.
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He had a fine, fortune and much goods, and he was skilful, wise, a philosopher, in knowledge, in opinion and in government, and he had married sixty women, and had built a castle for each of them.
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But with it all he had no child by any. of these women, who might be his heir.
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And he was very sad on account of this, and one day he assembled the astrologers and the learned men and the wizards and explained to them his condition and the matter of his barrenness.
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And they said to him, 'Go, sacrifice to the gods and beseech them that perchance they may provide thee with a boy.'
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And he did as they told him and offered sacrifices to the idols, and besought them and implored them with request, and entreaty.
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And they answered him not one word. And he went away sorrowful and dejected, departing with a pain at his heart.
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And he returned, and implored the Most High God, and believed, beseeching Him with a burning in his heart, saying, 'O Most High God, O Creator of the Heavens and of the earth, O Creator of all created things!
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I beseech Thee to give me a boy, that I may be consoled by him that he may be present at my heath, that he may close my eyes, and that he may bury me.'
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Then there came to him a voice saying, 'Inasmuch as thou hast relied first of all on graven images, and hast offered sacrifices to them, for this reason thou shalt remain childless thy life long.
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But take Nadan thy sister's son, and make him thy child and teach him thy learning and thy good breeding, and at thy death he shall bury thee.'
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Thereupon he took Nadan his sister's son, who was a little suckling. And he handed him over to eight wet-nurses, that they might suckle him and bring him up.
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And they brought him up with good food and gentle training and silken clothing, and purple and crimson. And he was seated upon couches of silk.
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And when Nadan grew big and walked, shooting up like a tall cedar, he taught him good manners and writing and science and philosophy.
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And after many days King Sennacherib looked at Haiqar and saw that he had grown very old, and moreover he said to him.
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'O my honoured friend, the skilful, the trusty, the wise, the governor, my secretary, my vizier, my Chancellor and director; verily thou art grown very old and weighted with years; and thy departure from this world must be near.
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Tell me who shall have a place in my service after thee.' And Haiqar said to him, 'O my lord, may thy head live for ever! There is Nadan my sister's son, I have made him my child.
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And I have brought him up and taught him my wisdom and my knowledge.'
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And the king said to him, 'O Haiqar! bring him to my presence, that I may see him, and if I find him suitable, put him in thy place; and thou shalt go thy way, to take a rest and to live the remainder of thy life in sweet repose.'
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Then Haiqar went and presented Nadan his sister's son. And he did homage and wished him power and honour.
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And he looked at him and admired him and rejoiced in him and said to Haiqar: 'Is this thy son, O Haiqar? I pray that God may preserve him. And as thou hast served me and my father Sarhadum so may this boy of thine serve me and fulfil my undertakings, my needs, and my business, so that I may honour him and make him powerful for thy sake.'
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And Haiqar did obeisance to the king and said to him, 'May thy head live, O my lord the king, for ever! I seek from thee that thou mayst be patient with my boy Nadan and forgive his mistakes that he may serve thee as it is fitting.'
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Then the king swore to him that he would make him the greatest of his favourites, and the most powerful of his friends, and that he should be with him in all honour and respect. And he kissed his hands and bade him farewell.
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And he took Nadan. his sister's son with him and seated him in a parlour and set about teaching him night and day till he had crammed him with wisdom and knowledge more than with bread and water.

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Chapter 1
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