Once, when the people of Smyrna were suffering from a famine, the Spartans agreed to send them grain. All the people of Sparta fasted for an entire day, and the grain thereby saved was sent to Smyrna for the benefit of the people there.
Polycrates was tyrant of Samos, and probably the first Greek leader to have control of a large navy. He used this navy against both friends and enemies as privateers, seizing the property of merchants. From his foes, he kept the goods, but to his friends, he returned it. He enjoyed being able to give gifts to his friends, which is why he seized the goods in the first place, for if he didn’t, he would have nothing to give to his friends. And through this largesse, he bound the recipients more closely to his own cause.
Ogedei Khan, despite being ruler of the largest empire that had yet ever existed in human history, was indifferent to wealth and money. He enjoyed listening to stories of rulers past, but whenever he heard of their greed and passion for gold, he scoffed, saying that their greed was quite unreasonable, for no amount of gold can save us from death, and it cannot be taken with us into the next life. Therefore, he felt, wealth should be stored in the hearts of his subjects, and he missed no opportunity to give gifts.
Some of his advisors complained about his extravagance, saying that he gave gifts without any thought to the recipients’ merit. Angry, Ogedei called them his enemies. “You curs wish to stop me from gaining the only wealth that is lasting in this world: a good standing in the memory of men. Of what use is money to me, when my subjects themselves are wealthy? It brings only worry and trouble, for it must be guarded against thieves and bandits.”
His lavishness even extended to trade, and merchants who came to his capital at Karakorum received a full ten percent more than their asking price for their goods, which Ogedei distributed to his followers as gifts. In this way, Ogedei greatly facilitated the traffic and commerce of goods, for it was greatly profitable for merchants to find their way to his capital, traveling throughout his empire as they did so.