The Debate of the Bodyguards before the Emperor
1 The Emperor Darius gave a great banquet for all those under him, all the members of his family and staff, all the leading officials of Persia and Media, 2 all his chief officers, administrators, and the governors of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. 3 When everyone had enough to eat and drink, they left, and Darius went to bed. He fell asleep but soon awoke.
A Contest Is Proposed
4 Then the three young men who served Emperor Darius as his personal bodyguard said to one another, 5 “Let each one of us name the one thing that he considers the strongest thing in the world. The emperor will decide who has given the wisest answer to this question and will give magnificent gifts and prizes to the winner. 6 He will wear royal robes, drink from a gold cup, and sleep in a gold bed. He will have a chariot with gold-studded bridles, wear a fine linen turban, and have a gold necklace. 7 Because of his wisdom he will be an adviser to the emperor and will be given the title ‘Relative of the Emperor.’”
8 Then each of them wrote down the best answer he could think of, sealed it, and put it under the emperor's pillow. They said to one another, 9 “When the emperor wakes up, the statements will be given to him. He and the three leading officials of Persia will decide who gave the wisest answer. The winner will be given the prize on the basis of what he has written.” 10 The first wrote, “There is nothing stronger than wine.” 11 The second wrote, “There is nothing stronger than the emperor.” 12 And the third wrote, “There is nothing stronger than a woman, but truth can conquer anything.”
13 When the emperor woke up, the written statements were given to him, and he read them. 14 Then he sent messengers and called together all the leading officials of Persia and Media, including the chief officers, administrators, governors, and commissioners. 15 He took his seat in the council chamber and had the three statements read aloud. 16 “Bring in the three young men,” he said, “and let them explain their answers.” So when they were brought in, 17 they were asked to explain what they had written.
The Speech about Wine
The bodyguard who had written about the strength of wine spoke first: 18 “Gentlemen,” he began, “wine is clearly the strongest thing in the world. It confuses the mind of everyone who drinks it. 19 It has exactly the same effect on everyone: king or orphan, slave or free, rich or poor. 20 It makes every thought happy and carefree, and makes one forget every sorrow and responsibility. 21 It makes everyone feel rich, ignore the power of kings and officials, and talk as if he owned the whole world. 22 When men drink wine, they forget who their friends and neighbors are, and then they are soon drawing their swords to fight them. 23 Then, when they sober up, they don't remember what they have done. 24 Gentlemen,” he concluded, “if wine makes men act in this way, it certainly must be the strongest thing in the world.”