Alexander the Great and the pirate

There was once a pirate who was notorious to the extreme. He used to sail here and there, plundering small boats and raiding villages along the coastline. He would torture people and then make off with their valuables. It was very difficult for people to resist him because he had all kinds of guns and knives. Everybody was afraid of him.

Nevertheless, there came a time when the people were able to trap this scoundrel and make him their prisoner. They brought him before the mighty Emperor, Alexander the Great. It was almost certain that he would be hanged for his misdeeds.

Alexander the Great said to him, “Now that we have caught you, are you not ashamed of the life you have led? You must know that you will receive a most severe punishment. Before you are condemned, I would like to give you the chance to ask for forgiveness from all those whom you have injured. I cannot restore their valuables, because you have already disposed of them. But if you beg these people to forgive you, I feel it will give them some consolation.”

The pirate said, “I do not want to be punished. I do not want to be forgiven. But there is something that I would like to say.”

“What do you want to say?” asked the Emperor.

The pirate looked directly at the Emperor and said, “If you feel that I should be ashamed of the life I have led, then I want to tell you that you should be infinitely more ashamed of what you are doing.”

No one had ever spoken to the Emperor in this manner before. He was profoundly shocked and disturbed. “Go on,” he said to the prisoner.

The pirate continued, “You and I are doing the same thing. We are leading exactly the same kind of life, only I am doing it in a very small measure. I may rob a few individuals and trading boats here and there, but you are doing it on a wide scale. How many countries you have conquered! How many lives you have needlessly destroyed! How many valuable treasures you and your soldiers have plundered! I tell you, it is you who should be ashamed, not I!”

The Emperor remained quiet for some time, lost in thought. Then he said, “You have spoken the truth. But for me it will be extremely difficult to change my way of life. In your case, since you are an individual, it will be infinitely easier for you to change. I have decided to give you enough material wealth so that you can give up this life of piracy. You can make a fresh start. I know that I also need the transformation of my nature, but I am starting with you because it will be easier for you to do it. In my case, gradually, gradually, I will try, but I fear it will prove too difficult.”

This is how Alexander the Great came to free the notorious pirate.