Nothing remains of Sybaris, not a stone, and all that’s left of Crotona is just one column. That settled the matter for me.
This is said by Wilson, the hero of Somerset Maugham’s short story, The Lotus Eater. The words are said to the author, during their visit to Ananacapri, in course of communicating to him how he had resolved to settle permanently at Capri.
Wilson, originally the manager of the branch of a bank, was allured by the call of the natural beauty of Capri. He was tempted to leave his life of regular work and wages for it. The financial uncertainty of his proposed mode of living at Capri also troubled him. He was rather in a dilemma. But finally, his choice was made after reading a book of history,
written by Marion Crawford. He read in it an account of Sybaris and Crotona, two old cities. People in Sybairs enjoyed a leisurely, easy-going life, and were all happy. But people in Crotona spent their lives in industry and hardship and had nothing of the happiness of an easy-going life. Sometime after, the people of Crotona invaded Sybaris and destroyed it. But they also could not survive. Crotona was also vanquished sometime later by some other force. In fact, nothing of the two cities remained ultimately. Neither industry nor leisure was spared. So Wilson had his lesson and preferred a life of leisure to one of industry.
The sentence signifies that the same fate awaits industry and ease, and as such a life of ease is definitely preferable. The illustration is a quite meaningful analogy.