#LRTC-THE RICHEST MAN IN BABYLON: Chapter One (INTRODUCTION) | African Youth Institute

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The Richest Man
in Babylon in Babylon

George S. Clason


Ahead of you stretches your future like a road leading into the distance. Along that road are ambitions
you wish to accomplish . . . desires you wish to gratify.
To bring your ambitions and desires to fulfillment, you must be successful with money. Use the
financial principles made clear in the pages which follow. Let them guide you away from the
stringencies of a lean purse to that fuller, happier life a full purse makes possible.
Like the law of gravity, they are universal and unchanging. May they prove for you, as they have
proven to so many others, a sure key to a fat purse, larger bank balances and gratifying financial
1. Start thy purse to fattening
2. Control thy expenditures
3. Make thy gold multiply
4. Guard thy treasures from loss
5. Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment
6. Insure a future income
7. Increase thy ability to earn
About the author
GEORGE SAMUEL CLASON was born in Louisiana, Missouri, on November 7, 1874. He
attended the University of Nebraska and served in the United States Army during the SpanishAmerican War. Beginning a long career in publishing, he founded the Clason Map Company of Denver,
Colorado, and published the first road atlas of the United States and Canada. In 1926, he issued the
first of a famous series of pamphlets on thrift and financial success, using parables set in ancient
Babylon to make each of his points. These were distributed in large quantities by banks and
insurance companies and became familiar to millions, the most famous being “The Richest Man
in Babylon,” the parable from which the present volume takes its title. These “Babylonian parables”
have become a modern inspirational classic.

Our prosperity as a nation depends upon the personal financial prosperity of each of us as
This book deals with the personal successes of each of us. Success means accomplishments as the
result of our own efforts and abilities. Proper preparation is the key to our success. Our acts
can be no wiser than our thoughts. Our thinking can be no wiser than our understanding.
This book of cures for lean purses has been termed a guide to financial understanding. That, indeed, is
its purpose: to offer those who are ambitious for financial success an insight which will aid
them to acquire money, to keep money and to make their surpluses earn more money.
In the pages which follow, we are taken back to Babylon, the cradle in which was nurtured the
basic principles of finance now recognized and used the world over.
To new readers the author is happy to extend the wish that its pages may contain for them the same
inspiration for growing bank accounts, greater financial successes and the solution of difficult
personal financial problems so enthusiastically reported by readers from coast to coast.
To the business executives who have distributed these tales in such generous quantities to friends,
relatives, employees and associates, the author takes this opportunity to express his gratitude. No
endorsement could be higher than that of practical men who appreciate its teachings because they,
themselves, have worked up to important successes by applying the very principles it advocates.
Babylon became the wealthiest city of the ancient world because its citizens were the richest
people of their time. They appreciated the value of money. They practiced sound financial principles
in acquiring money, keeping money and making their money earn more money. They provided for
themselves what we all desire . . . incomes for the future.
An Historical Sketch of Babylon
In the pages of history there lives no city more glamorous than Babylon. Its very name conjures
visions of wealth and splendor. Its treasures of gold and jewels were fabulous. One naturally pictures
such a wealthy city as located in a suitable setting of tropical luxury, surrounded by rich natural
resources of forests, and mines. Such was not the case. It was located beside the Euphrates River, in a
flat, arid valley. It had no forests, no mines—not even stone for building. It was not even located upon
a natural trade-route. The rainfall was insufficient to raise crops.
Babylon is an outstanding example of man’s ability to achieve great objectives, using whatever
means are at his disposal. All of the resources supporting this large city were man-developed. All of its
riches were man-made.
Babylon possessed just two natural resources—a fertile soil and water in the river. With one of
the greatest engineering accomplishments of this or any other day, Babylonian engineers diverted the
waters from the river by means of dams and immense irrigation canals. Far out across that arid valley
went these canals to pour the life giving waters over the fertile soil. This ranks among the first
engineering feats known to history. Such abundant crops as were the reward of this irrigation system
the world had never seen before.
Fortunately, during its long existence, Babylon was ruled by successive lines of kings to whom
conquest and plunder were but incidental. While it engaged in many wars, most of these were local or
defensive against ambitious conquerors from other countries who coveted the fabulous treasures of
Babylon. The outstanding rulers of Babylon live in history because of their wisdom, enterprise and
justice. Babylon produced no strutting monarchs who sought to conquer the known world that all
nations might pay homage to their egotism.
As a city, Babylon exists no more. When those energizing human forces that built and
maintained the city for thousands of years were withdrawn, it soon became a deserted ruin. The site of
the city is in Asia about six hundred miles east of the Suez Canal, just north of the Persian Gulf. The
latitude is about thirty degrees above the Equator, practically the same as that of Yuma, Arizona. It
possessed a climate similar to that of this American city, hot and dry.
Today, this valley of the Euphrates, once a populous irrigated farming district, is again a windswept arid waste. Scant grass and desert shrubs strive for existence against the windblown sands. Gone
are the fertile fields, the mammoth cities and the long caravans of rich merchandise. Nomadic bands of
Arabs, securing a scant living by tending small herds, are the only inhabitants. Such it has been since
about the beginning of the Christian era.
Dotting this valley are earthen hills. For centuries, they were considered by travelers to be
nothing else. The attention of archaeologists were finally attracted to them because of broken pieces of
pottery and brick washed down by the occasional rain storms. Expeditions, financed by European and
American museums, were sent here to excavate and see what could be found. Picks and shovels soon
proved these hills to be ancient cities. City graves, they might well be called.
Babylon was one of these. Over it for something like twenty centuries, the winds had scattered
the desert dust. Built originally of brick, all exposed walls had disintegrated and gone back to earth
once more. Such is Babylon, the wealthy city, today. A heap of dirt, so long abandoned that no living
person even knew its name until it was discovered by carefully removing the refuse of centuries from
the streets and the fallen wreckage of its noble temples and palaces.
Many scientists consider the civilization of Babylon and other cities in this valley to be the
oldest of which there is a definite record. Positive dates have been proved reaching back 8000 years.
An interesting fact in this connection is the means used to determine these dates. Uncovered in the
ruins of Babylon were descriptions of an eclipse of the sun. Modern astronomers readily computed the
time when such an eclipse, visible in Babylon, occurred and thus established a known relationship
between their calendar and our own.
In this way, we have proved that 8000 years ago, the Sumerites, who inhabited Babylonia, were
living in walled cities. One can only conjecture for how many centuries previous such cities had
existed. Their inhabitants were not mere barbarians living within protecting walls. They were an
educated and enlightened people. So far as written history goes, they were the first engineers, the first
astronomers, the first mathematicians, the first financiers and the first people to have a written
Mention has already been made of the irrigation systems which transformed the arid valley into
an agricultural paradise. The remains of these canals can still be traced, although they are mostly filled
with accumulated sand. Some of them were of such size that, when empty of water, a dozen horses
could be ridden abreast along their bottoms. In size they compare favorably with the largest canals in
Colorado and Utah.
In addition to irrigating the valley lands, Babylonian engineers completed another project of
similar magnitude. By means of an elaborate drainage system they reclaimed an immense area of
swamp land at the mouths of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and put this also under cultivation.
Herodotus, the Greek traveler and historian, visited Babylon while it was in its prime and has
given us the only known description by an outsider. His writings give a graphic description of the city
and some of the unusual customs of its people. He mentions the remarkable fertility of the soil and the
bountiful harvest of wheat and barley which they produced.
The glory of Babylon has faded but its wisdom has been preserved for us. For this we are
indebted to their form of records. In that distant day, the use of paper had not been invented. Instead,
they laboriously engraved their writing upon tablets of moist clay. When completed, these were baked
and became hard tile. In size, they were about six by eight inches, and an inch in thickness.
These clay tablets, as they are commonly called, were used much as we use modern forms of
writing. Upon them were engraved legends, poetry, history, transcriptions of royal decrees, the laws of
the land, titles to property, promissory notes and even letters which were dispatched by messengers to
distant cities. From these clay tablets we are permitted an insight into the intimate, personal affairs of
the people. For example, one tablet, evidently from the records of a country storekeeper, relates that
upon the given date a certain named customer brought in a cow and exchanged it for seven sacks of
wheat, three being delivered at the time and the other four to await the customer’s pleasure.
Safely buried in the wrecked cities, archaeologists have recovered entire libraries of these
tablets, hundreds of thousands of them.
One of the outstanding wonders of Babylon was the immense walls surrounding the city. The
ancients ranked them with the great pyramid of Egypt as belonging to the “seven wonders of the
world.” Queen Semiramis is credited with having erected the first walls during the early history of the
city. Modern excavators have been unable to find any trace of the original walls. Nor is their exact
height known. From mention made by early writers, it is estimated they were about fifty to sixty feet
high, faced on the outer side with burnt brick and further protected by a deep moat of water.
The later and more famous walls were started about six hundred years before the time of Christ
by King Nabopolassar. Upon such a gigantic scale did he plan the rebuilding, he did not live to see the
work finished. This was left to his son, Nebuchadnezzar, whose name is familiar in Biblical history.
The height and length of these later walls staggers belief. They are reported upon reliable
authority to have been about one hundred and sixty feet high, the equivalent of the height of a modern
fifteen story office building. The total length is estimated as between nine and eleven miles. So wide
was the top that a six-horse chariot could be driven around them. Of this tremendous structure, little
now remains except portions of the foundations and the moat. In addition to the ravages of the
elements, the Arabs completed the destruction by quarrying the brick for building purposes elsewhere.
Against the walls of Babylon marched, in turn, the victorious armies of almost every conqueror
of that age of wars of conquest. A host of kings laid siege to Babylon, but always in vain. Invading
armies of that day were not to be considered lightly. Historians speak of such units as 10,000 horsemen,
25,000 chariots, 1200 regiments of foot soldiers with 1000 men to the regiment. Often two or three
years of preparation would be required to assemble war materials and depots of food along the
proposed line of march.
The city of Babylon was organized much like a modern city. There were streets and shops.
Peddlers offered their wares through residential districts. Priests officiated in magnificent temples.
Within the city was an inner enclosure for the royal palaces. The walls about this were said to have
been higher than those about the city.
The Babylonians were skilled in the arts. These included sculpture, painting, weaving, gold
working and the manufacture of metal weapons and agricultural implements. Their Jewelers created
most artistic jewelry. Many samples have been recovered from the graves of its wealthy citizens and
are now on exhibition in the leading museums of the world.
At a very early period when the rest of the world was still hacking at trees with stone-headed
axes, or hunting and fighting with flint-pointed spears and arrows, the Babylonians were using axes,
spears and arrows with metal heads.
The Babylonians were clever financiers and traders. So far as we know, they were the original
inventors of money as a means of exchange, of promissory notes and written titles to property.
Babylon was never entered by hostile armies until about 540 years before the birth of Christ.
Even then the walls were not captured. The story of the fall of Babylon is most unusual. Cyrus, one of
the great conquerors of that period, intended to attack the city and hoped to take its impregnable walls.
Advisors of Nabonidus, the King of Babylon, persuaded him to go forth to meet Cyrus and give him
battle without waiting for the city to be besieged. In the succeeding defeat to the Babylonian army, it
fled away from the city. Cyrus, thereupon, entered the open gates and took possession without
Thereafter the power and prestige of the city gradually waned until, in the course of a few
hundred years, it was eventually abandoned, deserted, left for the winds and storms to level once again
to that desert earth from which its grandeur had originally been built. Babylon had fallen, never to rise
again, but to it civilization owes much.
The eons of time have crumbled to dust the proud walls of its temples, but the wisdom of
Babylon endures.
Money is the medium by which earthly success is measured.
Money makes possible the enjoyment of the best the earth affords.
Money is plentiful for those who understand the simple laws which govern its
Money is governed today by the same laws which controlled it when prosperous men
thronged the streets of Babylon, six thousand years ago.


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