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Discourse 31

This webpage reproduces one of the
Discourses

by
Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1940

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!


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Discourse 33

(Vol. III) Dio Chrysostom
Discourses

p171 The Thirty-second Discourse:
To the People of Alexandria

This Discourse was delivered before the people of Alexandria in their great theatre. Public meetings were not infrequently held in Greek theatres. The purpose of this particular meeting is not known, but the great length of Dio's address and the seeming patience with which his audience listened to him lend colour to the supposition that Dio was known to be the bearer of an important message, and the people had assembled especially to hear it. Arnim, who argues with plausibility that the speech was delivered in the reign of Trajan, regards Dio as being, in fact if not in name, the emissary of that emperor. Several passages recall thoughts and phrases found in the four Discourses on Kingship, which are thought to have been addressed to Trajan, and Dio speaks as one who enjoys the friendship of the emperor.

Our Discourse is notable for the frankness with which the speaker attacks the foibles and vices of the populace for which the Alexandria of that day was so notorious. Not all the allusions can be explained with certainty, for the history of the period is none too well documented. The very scarcity of contemporary documents, however, lends especial value to the testimony of Dio. Modern writers have drawn heavily upon his statements.

p173 The Thirty-second Discourse:
To the People of Alexandria

My friends, would you kindly be serious for a brief while and give heed to my words? For you are forever being frivolous and heedless, and you are practically never at a loss for fun-making and enjoyment and laughter — indeed you have many who minister to such tendencies — but I find in you a complete lack of seriousness. 2 And yet there are those who praise you for your wisdom and cleverness, asserting that, although you assemble here in thousands, you not only can conceive what is fitting but at the same time are quick to put your conceptions into words. But I for my part should prefer to praise you as being slow to speak, indeed, and self-restrained enough to keep silent, and yet correct of judgement. Pray display these qualities now, in order that you may acquire, in addition to that other praise, new praise of a different nature, both greater and more honourable — for having all become silent in this great throng when useful counsel was being given and, furthermore, for having shown that you can not merely think before you speak but also listen before you formulate your thought. For while it is praising a chorus to say that they all speak the words together in unison — or rather not even a chorus, for what if all in common miss the tune? — the highest praise you can accord a mass-meeting is to say that it listens well.

3 For nowadays, you know, you make the mistake p175which the Athenians once made. I mean, when Apollo said that, if they wished to have good men as citizens, they should put that which was best into the ears of their boys, they pierced one of the ears of each and inserted a bit of gold,1 not understanding what the god intended. In fact such an ornament was suitable rather for girls and for sons of Lydians and Phrygians, whereas for sons of Greeks, especially since a god had given the command, nothing else was suitable but education and reason, for it is natural that those who get these blessings should prove to be good men and saviours of the state.

4 The Athenians, as we see, made a bad use of the ears of their sons, but you are making a worse use of your own. For the organ of hearing of a people is the theatre, and into your theatre there enters nothing beautiful or honourable, or very rarely; but it is always full of the strumming of the lyre and of uproar, buffoonery, and scurrility, things that bear no resemblance to gold. For that reason, therefore, I was right in saying that you lack seriousness; for neither are you yourselves serious, nor are they serious with whom you are familiar, and who often come before you in the guise of

Both mimes and dancers plying nimble feet,

And men astride swift steeds, most apt to stir

Dire strife amid spectators crude — the fools! —

And bring a general ruin to multitudes.2

p177 5 That indeed is the nature of what you regularly see, and you are devoted to interests from which it is impossible to gain intelligence or prudence or a proper disposition or reverence toward the gods, but only stupid contention, unbridled ambition, vain grief, senseless joy, and raillery and extravagance.

In saying these things I am not trying to divert you from such entertainments and pastimes of your people or bidding you put an end to them — I should be mad to attempt that — but I am asking, that just as you devote yourselves readily and constantly to that sort of thing, so you should at length listen to an honest speech and welcome a frankness whose aim is your own welfare. 6 Why even the Athenians, to whom I referred a moment ago, we shall find to have been not always in error. On the contrary, at least this custom of theirs was very much to their credit — that they gave their poets licence to take to task, not merely persons individually, but even the state at large, in case the people were doing something unseemly.3 Accordingly, among many other illustrations that might be cited, we find in their comedies utterances such as these:

Old Demos of Pnyxtown, testy little old man,

A bit inclined to deafness,4

and

What deed is there that Athens would abjure?5

And, moreover, they listened to these sayings while holding high festival, even during the democratic regime, at a time when they were not only in complete p179control of their own citizens, in case they desired in a fit of anger to destroy anyone who used such language, but also when they exercised authority over the other Greeks as well, so that they might have avoided listening to anything disagreeable, had they so desired.6

7 But you have no such critic, neither chorus7 nor poet nor anyone else, to reprove you in all friendliness and to reveal the weaknesses of your city. Therefore, whenever the thing does at last appear, you should receive it gladly and make a festival of the occasion instead of being vexed; and even if vexed, you should be ashamed to call out, "When will the fellow stop?" or "When is a juggler coming on?" or "Rubbish!" or some such thing. For, as I have said, that sort of entertainment you always have in stock and there is no fear that it will ever fail you; but discourses like this of mine, which make men happier and better and more sober and better able to administer effectively the cities in which they dwell, you have not often heard — for I do not care to say that you would not listen to them.

8 And perhaps this situation is not of your making, but you will show whether it is or not if you bear with me today; the fault may lie rather at the door of those who wear the name of philosopher. For some among that company do not appear in public at all and prefer not to make the venture, possibly because they despair of being able to improve the masses; others exercise their voices in what we call lecture-halls, p181having secured as hearers men who are in league with them and tractable. 9 And as for the Cynics, as they are called, it is true that the city contains no small number of that sect, and that, like any other thing, this too has had its crop — persons whose tenets, to be sure, comprise practically nothing spurious or ignoble, yet who must make a living — still these Cynics, posting themselves at street-corners, in alley-ways, and at temple-gates, pass round the hata and play upon the credulity of lads and sailors and crowds of that sort, stringing together rough jokes and much tittle-tattle and that low badinage that smacks of the market-place. Accordingly they achieve no good at all, but rather the worst possible harm, for they accustom thoughtless people to deride philosophers in general, just as one might accustom lads to scorn their teachers, and, when they ought to knock the insolence out of their hearers, these Cynics merely increase it.

10 Those, however, who do come before you as men of culture either declaim speeches intended for display, and stupid ones to boot, or else chant verses of their own composition, as if they had detected in you a weakness for poetry. To be sure, if they themselves are really poets or orators, perhaps there is nothing so shocking in that, but if in the guise of philosophers they do these things with a view to their own profit and reputation, and not to improve you, that indeed is shocking. For it is as if a physician when visiting patients should disregard their treatment and their restoration to health, and should bring them flowers and courtesans and perfume.

p183 11 But there are only a few who have displayed frankness in your presence, and that but sparingly, not in the same way as to fill your ears therewith nor for any length of time; nay, they merely utter a phrase or two, and then, after berating rather than enlightening you, they make a hurried exit, anxious lest before they have finished you may raise an outcry and send them packing, behaving in very truth quite like men who in winter muster up courage for a brief and hurried voyage out to sea.8 But to find a man who in plain terms and without guile speaks his mind with frankness, and neither for the sake of reputation nor for gain makes false pretensions, but out of good will and concern for his fellow-men stands ready, if need be, to submit to ridicule and to the disorder and the uproar of the mob — to find such a man as that is not easy, but rather the good fortune of a very lucky city, so great is the dearth of noble, independent souls and such the abundance of toadies, mountebanks, and sophists.

12 In my own case, for instance, I feel that I have chosen that rôle, not of my own volition, but by the will of some deity.9 For when divine providence is at work for men, the gods provide, not only good counsellors who need no urging, but also words that are appropriate and profitable to the listener. And this statement of mine should be questioned least of all by you, since here in Alexandria the deity10 is most in honour, and to you especially does he display his power through almost daily oracles and dreams. p185Think not, therefore, that the god exercises his watchful care only over sleeping men, disclosing to each in private what is for his good, but that he is indifferent toward them when they are awake and would not disclose to them, in public and collectively, anything beneficial; for often in the past he has given aid to men in their waking moments, and also in broad daylight he has clearly foretold the future. 13 You are acquainted no doubt with the prophetic utterances of Apis here, in neighbouring Memphis,11 and you know that lads at play announce the purpose of the god, and that this form of divination has proved to be free from falsehood. But your deity, methinks, being more potent, wishes to confer his benefits upon you through the agency of men rather than boys, and in serious fashion, not by means of few words, but with strong, full utterance and in clear terms, instructing you regarding most vital matters — if you are patient — with purpose and persuasiveness.

14 And first of all — to begin, as I ought, with matters close at hand — rest assured of this, that all things which happen to men for their good are without exception of divine origin; not only is this true if a voyager has the luck to find a pilot with experience, or a nation or a city to secure good leaders, but also if a physician arrives in time to save his patient, we must believe that he is a helper come from god, and if one hears words of wisdom, we must believe that they too were sent by god. 15 For, in general, there is no good fortune, no benefit, that does not reach us in accordance with the will and the p187power of the gods; on the contrary the gods themselves control all blessings everywhere and apportion lavishly to all who are ready to receive; but evils come from quite a different source, as it were from some other fount close beside us. Take for example the water of Alexandria — that which keeps us alive and nourishes us and is truly the author of our being: it descends from some region up above, from some divine fount; whereas the filthy, evil-smelling canals are our own creation, and it is our fault that such things exist. For it is through man's folly and love of luxury and ambition, that life comes to be vexatious and full of deceit, wickedness, pain, and countless other ills.

16 However, for these maladies one remedy and cure has been provided by the gods, to wit, education and reason, and the man who throughout life employs that remedy with consistency comes at last to a healthy, happy end; but those who encounter it rarely and only after long intervals,

Alternate live one day, are dead the next.12

But, nevertheless, there have been occasions when even such persons have been turned aside when portentous disasters were impending. But those who are wholly unacquainted with the remedy of which I speak, and never give ear to chastening reason, are utterly wretched, having no refuge or defence against their sufferings,

But storm-tossed on the sea of life they drift,

Devoid of shelter and in misery,13

p189 as if embarked upon a rotten and wholly shattered hulk, amidst a sea of senseless opinion and misery.

17 And it so happens that it is the most depraved and unfortunate men who flee the farthest from the voice of reason and will not listen to it, not even if you try to force them — just as, I fancy, those sores which are especially disgusting shrink from the touch, and that in itself is a sign of their extremely bad condition. But such sufferers will have to visit a different kind of physician, however unwillingly, whose treatment will be more drastic. For there are two systems for the treatment of vice and its prevention, just as there are for maladies in general: the one may be likened to dieting and drugs, and the other resembles cautery and the knife, this being more suitable for the use of magistrates and laws and jurymen, that is, for those whose business it is to remove growths that are abnormal and incurable. But much to be preferred are those who do not lightly resort to removal. 18 The other treatment is, I claim, the proper function of men who have the power through persuasion and reason to calm and soften the soul. These indeed are the saviours and guardians of all who can be saved, confining and controlling vice before it reaches its final stage.

It is true, no doubt, that both types of practitioners are required by the state, but the type to be found in public office should be much the milder of the two. For in administering punishment one should be sparing, but not so in imparting instruction; and a good prince is marked by compassion, a bad philosopher by lack of severity. For while the harshness of the one in punishing destroys, the other's severity of speech is by nature salutary. 19 It is likely, p191however, that you have a great dearth of men who are expert in the latter branch of healing; for its practitioners gain neither wealth nor power thereby, but rather hatred, abuse, and reviling, though perhaps one should pay no more attention to such things. Accordingly, when the philosophers quit the field and are silent, there springs up among you a multitude of quarrels and lawsuits, harsh cries, tongues that are mischievous and unrestrained, accusers, calumnies, writs, a horde of professional pleaders — just as, I suspect, the lack of physicians, or else their incompetence, accounts for the increase in number of the undertakers!

20 In my opening remarks14 also I laid the blame for this upon the philosophers who will not appear before the people or even deign to converse with you, but, while wishing to maintain their dignity, are seen to be of no utility, and like those degenerate athletes who are a nuisance to wrestling-schools and gymnasia with their make-believe sparring and wrestling, but refuse to enter the stadium, viewing with suspicion the sun's heat and the blows. However, the trouble becomes truly difficult because of you. For it is not easy to endure the uproar of such a crowd as this, or to face countless thousands of human beings without the support of song and lyre. For music is an antidote in dealing with the populace of your city, just as, we are told, the fat of certain creatures is beneficial in dealing with one of the serious disorders.15

21 I, for instance, had I the gift of song, should not have come here before you without some p193tune or lay. But the truth is, I lack that magic spell; yet a god, as I said,16 has given me courage, the god

Who routs with ease the hero brave

And robs him of his conquest, then again

Himself doth urge and cheer to victory.17

If, then, in addressing you I were to use the words of Hermes as he is portrayed in the Odyssey, excusing himself to Calypso for the unpleasant message that he bore for her, no doubt you would declare that I was talking nonsense, and yet speak them I must:

Zeus bade me hither come, though I was loath;

For who of his own choosing would traverse

The salty sea so vast, unspeakable?

Nor is there near a town of mortal men.18

22 If Hermes, a god and a winged god besides, complains of the waves and the sea and the lack of cities and men on the way, was I, a mere mortal, a nobody from nowhere, clad in a mean cloak, with no sweetness of song and a voice no louder than common, not afraid of your noise, your laughter, your anger, your hissing, your rough jokes — the means by which you terrify all men and always dominate men everywhere, both private citizens and princes — and that too, though I hear Homer and the other poets constantly singing of the mob as being cruel and p195unruly and prone to violence? This is what Homer has to say:

23 Then stirred was the assembly, as the sea

Sends forth long billows on the Icarian deep,

Billows the Southeast wind doth raise, with force

Rushing from out the clouds of Father Zeus;19

and here are the words of another:

Unstable and evil is the populace,

And wholly like the sea: beneath the gale

'Tis fanned to fury; should a calm ensue,

A little puff doth ruffle it. So let

Some change be made, the victim is engulfed.20

24 So you too might perhaps engulf me with your uproar and your turmoil, in spite of my desire to serve you. But if you wait and hear me through, all men will think you wonderful, and will give you credit for acquaintance, not alone with twanging lyres and dancing feet, but with words of wisdom too, that I also may thus have a just defence to offer those who blame and condemn me for coming here; for they will blame me, you may be sure, and will say that I am a notoriety-hunter and a madman to have thus exposed myself to the mob and its hubbub. Let me, then, be able to assert that not every populace is insolent and unwilling to listen, and that not every gathering of the people must be avoided by men of cultivation.

25 But I will explain to you more clearly, if you wish, p197the nature of the demos, in other words, the nature of yourselves.21 In fact such an explanation is a useful thing, and it will do you more good than if I were to speak about heaven and earth. Well then, I claim that the demos most closely resembles a potentate, and a very strong one too, one that has great authority and power, and a more powerful potentate and holding sway over a greater number in proportion as the people itself is more numerous and belongs to a prouder city. 26 Among these over-lords, then, are included kings, who have been deified for the general safety of their realm, real guardians and good and righteous leaders of the people,22 gladly dispensing the benefits, but dealing out hardship among their subjects rarely and only as necessity demands,23 rejoicing when their cities observe order and decorum. But others, on the contrary, are harsh and savage tyrants, unpleasant to listen to and unpleasant to meet; their rage is prompt to rise at anything, like the rage of savage beasts, and their ears are stopped, affording no entrance to words of fairness, but with them flattery and deception prevail.

27 In like manner democracy is of two kinds: the one is reasonable and gentle and truly mild, disposed to accept frankness of speech and not to care to be pampered in everything, fair, magnanimous, showing respect for good men and good advice, grateful to those who admonish and instruct; this is the democracy which I regard as partaking of the divine and royal nature, and I deem it fitting that one should p199approach and address it, just as one directs with gentleness a noble steed by means of simple reins, since it does not need the curb. 28 But the more prevalent kind of democracy is both bold and arrogant, difficult to please in anything, fastidious, resembling tyrants or much worse than they, seeing that its vice is not that of one individual or of one kind but a jumble of the vices of thousands; and so it is a multifarious and dreadful beast,24 like those which poets and artists invent, Centaurs and Sphinxes and Chimaeras, combining in a single shape of unreal existence attributes borrowed from manifold natures. And to engage at close quarters with that sort of monster is the act of a man who is truly mad or else exceedingly brave and equipped with wings, a Perseus or a Bellerophon.

29 So, applying our analysis to the populace of Alexandria, the 'unnumbered multitude,' to use the current phrase, in which class shall we put it? I for my part offered you my services on the assumption that you were of the better sort; and perhaps someone else, one of my superiors,25 will decide to do likewise. And assuredly you Alexandrians could present no more beautiful and surprising spectacle than by being yourselves sober and attentive. For indeed it is a supernatural and truly solemn and impressive sight when the countenance of the assembly26 is gentle and composed, and neither convulsed with violent and unrestrained laughter nor distorted by continuous and disorderly clamour, but, on the p201contrary, listening as with a single pair of ears, though so vast a multitude.

30 But consider yourselves at this moment and then what you are like when you are watching the performances to which you are accustomed. For, to my mind, you now appear to be a sight worth seeing, for kings as well as for plain citizens, and there is nobody who would not admire and honour you as soon as he came into your presence; and so if this address of mine has accomplished nothing else, it has at any rate rendered you this service, and no small one — one hour of sobriety! As, for instance, it is of critical importance toward the recovery of the sick to have had a brief interval of calm.27 However, amid the varied activities which occupy your attention, whenever there falls upon you the blast of turbulence, as when a harsh gale stirs up a muddy, slimy sea, as Homer says, we see froth and scum and a mass of seaweed being cast up on the beach,28 so exactly with you, I fancy, we find jibes and fisticuffs and laughter.

31 Who, pray, could praise a people with such a disposition? Is not that the reason why even to your own rulers you seem rather contemptible? Someone already, according to report, has expressed his opinion of you in these words: "But of the people of Alexandria what can one say, a folk to whom you need only throw plenty of bread and a ticket to the hippodrome,29 since they have no interest in anything else?" Why, inasmuch as, in case a leading citizen misbehaves publicly in the sight of all, you will visit him with your contempt and regard him as a worthless fellow, no matter if he has authority a thousand p203times as great as yours, you yourselves cannot succeed in maintaining a reputation for dignity and seriousness so long as you are guilty of like misconduct. 32 Do you not know, that just as a prince or king is most conspicuous when he appears in public at such a time, the populace also is in like case when it too appears in public and forms a throng? One ought, of course, in my opinion, to behave with sobriety at other times as well; still whatever a man does privately does not concern the general public or the state, but in the theatre the people's character is revealed. But with you it is there above all that you are off your guard and will prove traitors to the good name of your city: you act like women of low repute, who, however wanton they may be at home, should behave with decorum when they go abroad, and yet it is especially in the streets that they are most guilty of misconduct.

33 "How now," perhaps someone will say, "is that our only fault, our bad behaviour at the theatre? Is that all you have to say about us and nothing more?" I dread the thought of attacking all your failings in one indictment. And yet perhaps someone will claim that, despite my long harangue, I have given you no advice and have not made clear what it is I criticize you for most; and that such is the function of anyone who offers instruction. But for my own part I believe that I have already made many valuable observations — at least for those of you who have been listening — regarding the god, the nature of the demos, and your duty to listen to counsel even though you are not convinced by what is said.30 For the most urgent need of all, I fancy, was that I should p205first put you into a frame of mind to listen patiently. And so, if my address has accomplished nothing else of much importance to you, I have this at least to my credit, that for this space of time you have kept your seats in self-restraint. For, let me remind you, with the sick it is of critical importance toward recovery to have had a brief interval of calm.31 34 And, on my word, to examine into all your failings, and that too in one day's time, and to force you to condemn utterly all your vice and your shortcomings, is not within my power,

E'en though I had ten tongues, as many mouths,

A voice unyielding, in my breast a heart

Of bronze; unless the heavenly Muses, sprung

From Aegis-bearing Zeus, should call to mind

The varied evils found in all mankind,32

and not in you alone.

35 But to take just that topic which I mentioned in the beginning, see how important it is. For how you dine in private, how you sleep, how you manage your household, these are matters in which as individuals you are not at all conspicuous; on the other hand, how you behave as spectators and what you are like in the theatre are matters of common knowledge among Greeks and barbarians alike. For your city is vastly superior in point of size and situation, and it is admittedly ranked second among all cities beneath the sun.33 36 For not only does the mighty nation, Egypt, constitute the framework of your city — or more accurately its appanage — but the peculiar nature of the river, when compared with p207all others, defies description with regard to both its marvellous habits and its usefulness;34 and furthermore, not only have you a monopoly of the shipping of the entire Mediterranean by reason of the beauty of your harbours, the magnitude of your fleet, and the abundance and the marketing of the products of every land, but also the outer waters that lie beyond are in your grasp, both the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, whose name was rarely heard in former days.35 The result is that the trade, not merely of islands, ports, a few straits and isthmuses, but of practically the whole world is yours. For Alexandria is situated, as it were, at the cross-roads of the whole world, of even the most remote nations thereof, as if it were a market serving a single city, a market which brings together into one place all manner of men, displaying them to one another and, as far as possible, making them a kindred people.36

37 Perhaps these words of mine are pleasing to your ears and you fancy that you are being praised by me, as you are by all the rest who are always flattering you; but I was praising water and soil and harbours and places and everything except yourselves. For where have I said that you are sensible and temperate and just? Was it not quite the opposite? For when we praise human beings, it should be for their good discipline, gentleness, concord, civic order, for heeding those who give good counsel, and for not being always in search of pleasures. But arrivals and departures of vessels, and superiority in size of population, in merchandise, and in ships, p209are fit subjects for praise in the case of a fair, a harbour, or a market-place, but not of a city; 38 nay, if a man speaks in praise of water, he is not praising men but wells; if he talks of good climate, he does not mean that the people are good but the land; if he speaks of fish, he is not praising the city — how absurd! — but a sea, a lake, or a stream. Yet if someone eulogizes the Nile, you Alexandrians are as elated as if you yourselves were rivers flowing from Ethiopia. Indeed, it is safe to say that most other people also are delighted by such things and count themselves blessed if they dwell, as Homer puts it, 'on a tree-clad isle' or one that is 'deep-soiled' or on a mainland 'of abundant pasture, rich in sheep' or hard by 'shadowy mountains' or 'fountains of translucent waters,'37 none of which is a personal attribute of those men themselves; however, touching human virtue, they care not at all, not even in their dreams!

39 But my purpose in mentioning such matters was neither to elate you nor to range myself beside those who habitually sing such strains, whether orators or poets. For they are clever persons, mighty sophists, wonder-workers; but I am quite ordinary and prosaic in my utterance, though not ordinary in my theme. For though the words that I speak are not great in themselves, they treat of topics of the greatest possible moment. And what I said just now about the city was meant to show you that whatever impropriety you commit is committed, not in secrecy or in the presence of just a few, but in the presence of all mankind. 40 For I behold among you, not p211merely Greeks and Italians and people from neighbouring Syria, Libya, Cilicia, nor yet Ethiopians and Arabs from more distant regions, but even Bactrians and Scythians and Persians and a few Indians, and all these help to make up the audience in your theatre and sit beside you on each occasion; therefore, while you, perchance, are listening to a single harpist, and that too a man with whom you are well acquainted, you are being listened to by countless peoples who do not know you; and while you are watching three or four charioteers, you yourselves are being watched by countless Greeks and barbarians as well.

41 What, then, do you suppose those people say when they have returned to their homes at the ends of the earth? Do they not say: "We have seen a city that in most respects is admirable and a spectacle that surpasses all human spectacles, with regard both to beauty and sanctuaries and multitude of inhabitants and abundance of all that man requires," going on to describe to their fellow citizens as accurately as possible all the things that I myself named a short while ago — all about the Nile, the land, and the sea, and in particular the epiphany of the god;38 "and yet," they will add, "it is a city that is mad over music and horse-races and in these matters behaves in a manner entirely unworthy of itself. For the Alexandrians are moderate enough when they offer sacrifice or stroll by themselves or engage in their other pursuits; but when they p213enter the theatre or the stadium, just as if drugs that would madden them lay buried there,39 they lose all consciousness of their former state and are not ashamed to say or do anything that occurs to them. 42 And what is most distressing of all is that, despite their interest in the show, they do not really see, and, though they wish to hear, they do not hear, being evidently out of their senses and deranged — not only men, but even women and children. And when the dreadful exhibition is over and they are dismissed, although the more violent aspect of their disorder has been extinguished, still at street-corners and in alley-ways the malady continues throughout the entire city for several days; just as when a mighty conflagration has died down, you can see for a long time, not only the smoke, but also some portions of the buildings still aflame." 43 Moreover, some Persian or Bactrian is likely to say: "We ourselves know how to ride horses and are held to be just about the best in horsemanship"40 — for they cultivate that art for the defence of their empire and independence — "but for all that we have never behaved that way or anything like it"; whereas you, who have never handled a horse or mounted one yourselves, are unable to restrain yourselves, but are like lame men squabbling over a foot-race. That may explain why, cowards and slackers though you are, you have won so many cavalry battles in the past!41

44 And take heed lest these people prove to have spoken more truthfully about you than Anacharsis p215the Scythian is said to have spoken about the Greeks — for he was held to be one of the sages, and he came to Greece, I suppose, to observe the customs and the people.42 Anacharsis said that in each city of the Greeks there is a place set apart in which they act insanely day after day — meaning the gymnasium — for when they go there and strip off their clothes, they smear themselves with a drug.43 "And this," said he, "arouses the madness in them; for immediately some run, others throw each other down, others put up their hands and fight an imaginary foe, and others submit to blows. And when they have behaved in that fashion," said he, "they scrape off the drug and straightway are sane again and, now on friendly terms with one another, they walk with downcast glance, being ashamed at what has occurred."

45 Anacharsis was jesting and making sport about no trifling matter, it seems to me, when he said these things; but what might a visitor say about yourselves? For as soon as you get together, you set to work to box and shout and hurl and dance — smeared with what drug? Evidently with the drug of folly; as if you could not watch the spectacle sensibly! For I would not have you think I mean that even such performances should not take place in cities; for perhaps they should, and it may be necessary, because of the frailty of the masses and their idle habits; and possibly even among better p217people too there are those who need some diversion and amusement in life, but they should take it with decorum and as befits free men. 46 For it will not cause any of the horses to run more slowly or any of the singers to sing less pleasingly if you preserve a due decorum. But as things are now, if one of the charioteers falls from his chariot, you think it terrible and the greatest of all disasters, whereas when you yourselves fall from the decorum that befits you and from the esteem you should enjoy, you are unconcerned. And if you hear the harpist sing out of tune or off pitch, you are well aware of it, whereas when you yourselves utterly abandon the harmony prescribed by nature and are most discordant, you are quite indifferent.

47 And yet how many here have met destruction because of these allurements?44 Loss of reputation, at any rate, everyone has suffered. And did the Sirens do anything else according to the story?45 Did they not regularly destroy those who took extravagant delight in them? Yet the Sirens dwelt in a lonely sea and far away, all by themselves, on a lofty cliff, where no one could easily approach; and even there the man of sense escaped in safety and heard them with composure. These entertainers of Alexandria, however, ply their trade in what is practically the centre of the civilized world and in the most populous city of all, not, by Zeus, because of any charm or power of their own, but rather because p219of your fatuity. For why is it that outside Alexandria they produce an impression quite like that produced by the usual run of performers, nay, frequently have been thought to be unpleasant? Can it be that the ears of the people in those places have been stopped?

48 What, then, does their success with you signify? Not, by Zeus, musical power or artistic pre-eminence, but rather the shallowness of your listeners and the weakness of your city. It is said, at any rate, that some who have already met their ruin through such a cause, instead of trying by entreaty to escape their death, with youthful bravado have implored the privilege of listening to their destroyers even more. And here is an amazing thing which bring reproach and ridicule upon the city — that whereas elsewhere nobles and tyrannicides are held in memory because they gave their lives for the salvation of the fatherland, with you it is for a bit of catgut that men meet their fate and because of an enjoyment that is fleeting, or, more properly, a fancy that has no substance. 49 For it is not through real enjoyment so much as through wishful thinking that these men sacrifice their lives.

And so great is misfortune of the poor wretches, that they regard as manly what is most unmanly of all, and as dignified what is most shameful. Why, I would rather be put to death for robbery than for such a cause. For in the one case it is the death of a bad man but a man, in the other of a slave in hard luck. The one possibly came to such a pass because he had been wronged and was striving to get redress over and above the laws, and it may be that he might have achieved something actually noble, had p221he not encountered such an evil genius; but the other came to his inglorious end merely through shouting and a frenzy caused by an ill-starred voice and a wicked nod of the head, by dissonant variations and nonsense and a cynical, pestilential behaviour. But such is the death of a fly! For whatever tastes sweet to the fly is the thing at which it meets destruction. 50 What distinction, then, can your conduct bring you, you luckless creatures? For whereas in the cause of justice and virtue and ancestral rights and laws and for a good king, a noble soul, one that does not cling to life, will, if need be, suffer and even die; yet if a man hangs himself for the sake of his chorus-girl, a low-born outcast, not fit to live, what depths of disgrace does that betoken!

And now let us say no more about these poor unfortunates; but, directing our attention to the spectacle itself, is the conduct of the spectators not disgraceful and replete with every variety of wantonness? — I mean the intensity of their gaze, their souls all but hanging on their lips — as if, one would think, it were through the ear that men receive felicity — and applying the terms 'saviour' and 'god' to a pitiful human being! With what boundless laughter, think you, must the gods laugh you to scorn, when next in your worship of them you conduct yourselves in the same fashion and find yourselves compelled to use those same terms in honouring the deity? However, god is indulgent, I suppose, since he is god, and he treats lightly the folly of the masses. 51 Accordingly to you as his children has he given as guardians and guides those who are more prudent than you Alexandrians, and by their companionship, not only at the theatre but elsewhere too, your p223conduct is improved.46 For otherwise how could you keep your hands off one another?

And yet what kind of human beings do you think they are for whom freedom is not advantageous? "None, by Zeus," someone says, "for freedom is by nature advantageous. For do not other cities also have singing, aye, by Zeus, and flute-playing and foot-racing and all those other entertainments that are found, not only here in Alexandria, but among certain other people too?" Aye, but nowhere is there such a passion for that sort of thing, such a mad desire, as with yourselves. 52 For example, you know that the Rhodians, your near neighbours, enjoy freedom and complete independence of action; however, in Rhodes even running within the city limits is held not to be respectable, but, on the contrary, they even reprove strangers for being careless in their walk.47 So it is with good reason that the Rhodians should enjoy fair renown and universal honour. For since they are the first to show respect to themselves and to refrain from any foolish act, it is with good reason, I believe, that they have the respect of men in general and of their teachers as well.

The fact is, we shall find that in most other matters too the wise engage in the same activities as the foolish, such as eating, walking, playing, attending the theatre and the games. 53 For nature compels them to have many needs in common with the foolish; there are, however, differences of behaviour in all these matters. Take feasting as the first instance: whereas the wise behave neither boorishly nor regardless of decorum, but with elegance combined with courtesy, as men p225beginning a joyous feast and not a drunken debauch, being gracious toward their companions, not subjecting them to effrontery; the foolish, on the other hand, behave disgustingly and without restraint, giving vent to anger or to laughter with shouts and disorder, trying to get more than their companions, not inviting them to partake, and finally, before leaving for home, either they have done some damage to their fellow banqueters or received damage themselves, as we are told was the case at the party once held by the Centaurs.48

54 And yet why run through all the other differences one by one? But just take walking, for example, an activity common to all men and surely a simple one. One man's gait reveals the composure of his nature and the attention he gives to his conduct, while that of another reveals his confusion of mind and his shamelessness: he is hurried as he approaches, talks as he walks, or bursts in and jostles someone, comes to blows with someone else.49 Similarly also with reference to the theatre: some persons are insatiate and greedy and all aflutter over everything alike, however commonplace, but others participate in the spectacle decorously and in peace. 55 But not so with you; on the contrary, you sit dumbfounded, you leap up more violently than the hired dancers, you are made tense with excitement by the songs: for while other people are moved to song and dance by drink with you the opposite is true — song is the occasion of drunkenness and frenzy. So while wine's natural effect is as we have seen, producing inability to preserve p227one's self-control, but on the contrary forcing those who use it stupidly and in excess to commit many distasteful acts, yet men intoxicated by song and in far worse condition than those who are crazed by wine — and what is more, at the very start and not by easy stages as at a drinking party — such men, I say, are to be found nowhere but in Alexandria. 56 Among certain barbarians, it is true, we are told that a mild kind of intoxication is produced by the fumes of certain incense when burned.50 After inhaling it they are joyful and get up and laugh, and behave in all respects like men who have been drinking, and yet without doing injury to one another; but of the Greeks you alone reach that state through ears and voice, and you talk more foolishly than do those barbarians, and you stagger worse and are more like men suffering the after-effects of a debauch.

And yet the arts of the Muses and Apollo are kindly and pleasing. For Apollo is addressed as Healer and as Averter-of-Evil, in the belief that he turns men aside from misfortune and implants health in soul and body, not sickness or madness; and the Muses are called maidens, implying their modesty and their chastity. 57 Furthermore, music is believed to have been invented by men for the healing of their emotions, and especially for transforming souls which are in a harsh and savage state. That is why even some philosophers attune themselves p229to the lyre at dawn, thereby striving to quell the confusion caused by their dreams. And it is with song that we sacrifice to the gods, for the purpose of insuring order and stability in ourselves. And there is, moreover, a different type of song, accompanied by the flute, that is employed at time of mourning, as men attempt, no doubt, to heal the harshness and the relentlessness of their grief and to mitigate the pain by means of song, song that operates scarce noticed amid lament, just as physicians, by bathing and softening wounds that are inflamed, remove the pain.

58 And the spell of music has been deemed no less appropriate also in social gatherings, because it brings harmony and order spontaneously into the soul and along with a kindred influence abates the unsteadiness that comes from delight in wine — I mean that very influence blended with which the unsteadiness itself is brought into tune and tempered to moderation.51 All this, of course, in the present instance has been reversed and changed to its opposite. For it is not by the Muses but by a kind of Corybantes that you are possessed, and you lend credibility to the mythologizings of the poets, since they do indeed bring upon the scene creatures called Bacchants,52 who have been maddened by song, and Satyrs too. No doubt in your case the fawn-skin and the thyrsus are lacking, nor do you, like the Bacchants, bear lions in your arms;53 yet in all else you do appear to me to be quite comparable to Nymphs and Satyrs. 59 For you are always in merry mood, fond of laughter, fond of dancing; only in your case when you are thirsty wine does not bubble up of its own p231accord from some chance rock or glen, nor can you so readily get milk and honey by scratching the ground with the tips of your fingers;54 on the contrary, not even water comes to you in Alexandria of its own accord, nor is bread yours to command, I fancy, but that too you receive from the hand of those who are above you; and so perhaps it is high time for you to cease your Bacchic revels and instead to turn your attention to yourselves. But at present, if you merely hear the twang of the harp-string, as if you had heard the call of a bugle, you can no longer keep the peace.

60 Surely it is not the Spartans you are imitating, is it? It is said, you know, that in olden days they made war to the accompaniment of the pipe; but your warfare is to the accompaniment of the harp. Or do you desire — for I myself have compared king with commons55 do you, I ask, desire to be thought afflicted with the same disease as Nero? Why, not even he profited by his intimate acquaintance with music and his devotion to it.56 And how much better it would be to imitate the present ruler in his devotion to culture and reason!57 Will you not discard that disgraceful and immoderate craving for notoriety? Will you not be cautious about poking fun at everybody else, and, what is more, before persons who, if I may say so, have nothing great or wonderful to boast of?58 61 For if an Ismenias were piping in your presence or à Timotheus59 of early times were singing or an Arion, p233at whose song, according to tradition, the dolphins in the deep flocked to his ship and afterwards, when he had plunged overboard, rescued him by lucky chance and brought him safe ashore60 — if those artists were performing for you, what would be your state of mind? For among these performers here there is no Amphion61 and no Orpheus either; for Orpheus was the son of a Muse,62 but these are unmusical offspring of Disharmony herself, having perverted and shattered the majesty of song and in every way outraged the grand old art of the Muses.

62 For who of the lot can produce a finished song or a noble rhythm? Nay, it is a potpourri of effeminate ditties and music-hall strummings of the lyre and the drunken excesses of monsters which, like villainous cooks with an itch for novelty, they mash together to form their arias and thus excite an ignorant and avid audience. Accordingly not from swans or nightingales has their passion got its name with you, but rather, as it seems, you liken it to the whining and howling of dogs; and yet, while I knew that there are philosophers called Cynics, harpists of that canine breed have been produced in Alexandria alone. So while Amphion to the accompaniment of his melody, according to the tale, built the walls and towers of his city, these creatures are engaged in the work of overturning and destroying. And as for Orpheus, by his song he tamed the savage beasts and made them sensitive to harmony; yet these performers here have turned you human beings into savages and made you insensible to culture.

p235 63 And I have, furthermore, a story to tell that I heard from a Phrygian, a kinsman of Aesop's, who paid a visit here, a story that he told about Orpheus and yourselves. However, that story is more weird and lengthier than your jokes. Consider, therefore, if you wish to hear it, and don't be vexed if I tell it. Well then, the man from Phrygia said that Orpheus sang his songs throughout Thrace and Macedonia, as we have been told,63 and that the creatures there came up to him — a great company, I imagine, of all the animals. "And," he continued, "most numerous among them were the birds and the sheep. 64 For the lions and other animals of that sort were more distrustful because of their strength and savage nature, and so would not even come near him, while others immediately withdrew, not being pleased with the music; but the feathered creatures and the sheep not only came to him more readily but also did not leave him afterwards — the sheep, no doubt, because of their guilelessness and fondness for human society, while the birds, of course, are a musical tribe themselves and fond of song. So then, as long as Orpheus was alive they followed him from every quarter, listening as they fed — for indeed he spent his time for the most part on the mountains and about the glens; but when he died, in their desolation they wailed and were distressed; and so it came about that the mother of Orpheus, Calliopê, because of her goodwill and affection toward her son, begged Zeus to change their bodies into human form; yet their souls remained as they had been before."

65 Well, the remainder of the tale from this point on is p237painful and I am reluctant to tell it to you in plain language. For the Phrygian went on to say that from those wild creatures whom Zeus transformed a tribe of Macedonians was born, and that it was this tribe which at a later time crossed over with Alexander and settled here. He added that this is the reason why the people of Alexandria are carried away by song as no other people are, and that if they hear music of the lyre, however bad, they lose their senses and are all aquiver in memory of Orpheus. And he said that they are giddy and foolish in behaviour, coming as they do from such a stock, since the other Macedonians certainly have shown themselves to be manly and martial and steadfast of character.

66 The Phrygian also spoke regarding the harpists of your city about as follows: He said that in their association with Orpheus the other animals merely experienced pleasure and wonder but made no attempt at imitation; but that some of the dogs, being of course a shameless and inquisitive bred, applied themselves to music and then and there began to practice it, going off by themselves, and that after they had been changed to human form they maintained their addiction to the art. And he declared that this very breed is the stock from which the harpists sprang; therefore they have been unable wholly to slough off their own nature, but, while retaining some small part of the instruction derived from Orpheus, for the most part their music has remained canine in character.b

67 All this the Phrygian spoke in jest. But I want to tell you something that happened at Sparta, how the people of that land behaved toward a harpist who was p239much in vogue among the Greeks in those days. Just because this harpist had the reputation of being very charming and unusual, they did not, by Zeus, honour him, but instead they took his harp from him, cut away the strings, and ordered him to leave their city.64 Such, you see, were the misgivings the Spartans entertained regarding his calling and such the care they took of their ears, lest their hearing be corrupted or become more fastidious than was fitting; but you have been thus ignominiously enslaved by that kind of pleasure.

68 And through your influence, it would seem, the disease is already affecting, not only public speakers, but some philosophers as well — though it would be more correct to say that public speakers are no longer easy to recognize. For since they observe your interest in singing and your passion for it, they all sing now, public speakers as well as sophists,65 and everything is done to music; if you were to pass a courtroom, you could not easily decide whether a drinking-party was in progress or a trial; and if there is in your neighbourhood a sophist's lecture-room, you will be unable to distinguish the lecture. And in my opinion people will presently go so far as to use song to accompany their exercise in the gymnasium, yes, even to heal the sick. For even now, when physicians discourse to you on their art, they chant.

69 But in all likelihood life with you has become, one may almost say, just one continuous revel, not a sweet or gentle revel either, but savage and harsh, a revel p241of dancers, whistlers, and murderers all combined. But the Spartans were vastly different from you Alexandrians, for they were cautious in these matters, as I have said. For while they showed capacity to rule, having held the leadership in Greece for many years and being always victorious over the barbarians without exception,66 you do not understand even how to be good subjects. Therefore, if you had not been fortunate in your present leaders,67 hardly, I fancy, would your existence be secure. 70 As evidence I cite the most recent chapters in your history. For instance, when you were still independent, did not your king busy himself with piping and concentrate on that alone; and were you not on hostile terms with him and torn with faction among yourselves, each faction separately and independently working the ruin of the state — Simaristoi and other parties of like names — in consequence of which you forced your king to flee, and later on to obtain his return by means of war, and with the aid of Romans, too?68 And finally he with his piping and you with your dancing destroyed the state.69 71 And though you now have such reasonable men as governors, you have brought them to a feeling of suspicion toward themselves, and so they have come to believe that there is need of more careful watchfulness than formerly; and this you have brought about through arrogance and not through plotting. For would you revolt from anybody? Would you wage war a single day? Is it not true that in the disturbance which took place the majority went only as far as jeering in their show of p243courage, while only a few, after one or two shots with anything at hand, like people drenching passers-by with slops,70 quickly lay down and began to sing, and some went to fetch garlands, as if on their way to a drinking party at some festival?71

72 And surely you recall that comical incident — how the excellent Conon72 treated you when, advancing to the place where your forces were most concentrated and pointing out a little stretch of ground, he declared: "If I can get there myself, I am the victor, and you must depart by yourselves and leave the field; but if you," said he, "can win your way as much as four or five steps, I will take a walk myself." This he said out of a desire to spare you, laughing at you and playing with you as if you were children; since the army had halted and he would not permit a single soldier to lay hands on you, seeing, as he did, that you all were unarmed and faced with destruction. What then? Force was next employed by the headstrong and unruly spirits, who purposely aimed at a complete overthrow and utter chaos, and they did not let you go until you had had a taste of warfare, and what you formerly had dreaded had become a matter of bitter experience.

73 Why, then, have I mentioned these events also? Because I wanted you to understand the natural outcome of this disorderliness that rules your lives. For it is not possible that those who get so excited over trifles and things of no importance, those who behave so thoughtlessly and with such lack of self-control in these matters of daily life, should be temperate in other matters and competent to plan p245wisely regarding things of greater moment. For the frivolity of your conduct and your lack of reason do not permit you to call a halt at things of minor importance, and the folly of your misconduct knows no bounds, but instead goes right on to any length without discrimination, and touches everything with equal recklessness. 74 So do not think that a man is dealing with trifles when he speaks to your about your disorders in the theatre. For poverty follows quickly enough from gradual losses, but not as quickly as wickedness progresses from these successive errors, until finally, having attained its growth, it brings men to the very end — destruction.

So much, then, on the subject of the theatre. However, when you enter the stadium, who could describe the shouts you utter there, and your hubbub and anguish and bodily contortions and change of colour, and the many awful curses that you emit? For if you were not merely watching the horses race — and horses, too, that are used to racing — but were yourselves being driven by the whips of tragedy,73 you would not exhibit the agony you do. 75 Why even Ixion himself, methinks, you show to have been a second-rater, the Ixion who is represented by the poets as bound on the wheel and punished for some such impiety as yours.74 Well then, if in the midst of it all some god should take his stand beside you and in a loud voice should say:

"Fools, you are mad; no more your spirit hides

Your food and drink.75

p247 Why are you so violently disturbed? What is the excitement? What the contest? For it is not Pelops who is driving, or Oenomaüs, or Myrtilus,76 nor is it a question of a kingship or a wife or a death that hangs in the balance, nay, it is only a contest of slaves for a paltry bit of silver, slaves who sometimes are defeated and sometimes victorious, but slaves in any case." 76 If the god should speak thus, what would your reply be? Or is it clear that you would not even listen at such a moment as that, not even if the grandsire77 of Pelops were himself the speaker?

What succour, then, can one find, or what divine power must one propitiate? There is at Olympia, at the centre of the race-course, an altar to Poseidon Taraxippos, or Terror of Horses, on the spot where it happened that the horses most frequently became frightened and where many chariots were smashed.78 So the Eleans decided to erect an altar on the spot, believing that some deity was there. And from that time forward, they say, the place has been safe. 77 Well then, much more earnestly do I advise you to propitiate this god and raise an altar of the same kind, not, by Zeus, for the sake of the horses, but rather for the sake of yourselves, so that you may not be terrorized yourselves or be pitched headlong from your proper station. For perhaps all such disasters are the work of a deity, requiring unusual efforts to avert. It is said that an ancient Cretan queen, one of the daughters of Helius, became enamoured of a bull, and that after union with him she brought forth a savage, mighty monster.79 So I myself am apprehensive p249lest this passion for horses that infects the city may in time bring forth some strange and distressing offspring for you. 78 They say also that at Athens this very species that you so much admire became the object of infatuation, and today there is in that city a site that bears the name, Sanctuary of Horse and Maiden.80 For the maiden's father confined his daughter along with the horse, and thus, they say, she was ruined. 79 And do you beware lest you also through a passion like that be destroyed.

For what Homer or what mortal man at all can describe the things that happen here? For example, in Homer's narrative the chariots do not sink so low at times and then rise so high on the course as your spirits may be seen to rise and fall. And this is the way he puts it, if I may favour you with a short passage:

At times the cars clung close to bounteous earth,

At times they bounded high; the drivers still

Stood firm, though hearts did pound as each man strove

To win the goal, and each called to his team.81

80 In this passage it is the charioteers who are represented as contestants and rivals, while the spectators look on in silence,82 as indeed was fitting. And only p251at the end does the poet say that Ajax the Locrian behaved in rather unseemly fashion as a spectator by abusing Idomeneus with reference to the horses of Eumelus.83 It was Ajax, moreover, who also was guilty of impiety toward Athena at the capture of Troy84 and on that account was himself smitten with a thunderbolt and thereby caused the storm and shipwreck that befell them all.85 For the man who in such matters as those is brazen and forward cannot act sanely in other matters, as I have said before.86

81 Here, then, you have an instance of wickedness and folly alike, and from men also such as are at Alexandria, except that in fighting, in deeds of valour, and in capturing cities no man here is the equal of Ajax. But among you not a man keeps his seat at the games; on the contrary you fly faster than the horses and their drivers, and it is comical to see the way you drive and play the charioteer, urging the horses on and taking the lead and — getting spilled.87 And so it is no bad parody that has been composed by one of your feeble versifiers:

82 At times the cars clung close to bounteous earth,

At times they bounded high; but in their seats

The gaping crowd did neither stand nor sit,

Pallid with fear and fright, and in their zeal

p253 To win they shouted each to each, and, hands

Upraised, they vowed great offerings to all the gods.

Just as the scream of cranes or cry of daws

Doth rise, when they have drunk of beer and wine

O'ermuch, and clamourous they fly to reach

The course; as daws or starlings in a cloud

83 With baleful screaming swoop, when they behold

A horse onrushing, bearing death to fools;

So these with yells upon each other fell.

Just as the wind o'er sacred floor doth bear

The chaff, as flaming fire doth sweep deep glens,

Whirled by the wind now here now there, and 'neath

Its onslaught thickets shrivel, root and branch;

So these did strive like fire; nor couldst thou say

That either sun or moon was safe from them.

84 Just like the growth of leaves, so that of men,

Shallow of mind, devoted to song, and proud,

And from both sides the noise pierced heaven's vault,

The courts of Zeus. And thus one turned and spake

Unto his neighbour: "Heavy with wine art thou;

Thou hast the eyes of a dog, the heart of a hind.

Why dost thou quake and stare at a car in the race?

Just try me, then, if thou wouldst mangled lie."

Hippocoön to him made this reply:

"Kind sir, in silence sit and heed my word:

A weak thing is thy driver, slow thy team."

p255 85 To him then spake the charger fleet from 'neath

The yoke: "See'st not how fine a steed am I,

How handsome and stalwart? Still for even me

Doth wait grim death and stubborn-hearted fate.

I would that you yourselves had all received

From white-armed Hera just such hooves as mine;

No more would you sit and murmur each to each."

He spake. But they made vows to Zeus the King.88

86 There you have just a few out of many sorry verses, to prove that you are not the only ones to seem ridiculous. And certainly it is disgraceful, men of Alexandria, that those who inquire about your city are told how wonderful everything else is here, but that with respect to yourselves nothing is mentioned of which to be proud or fit to emulate, but that, on the contrary, you are given a bad name as being worthless fellows, mere mimes and buffoons instead of men of real valour, as one of the comic poets said of people like yourselves,

An unbridled mob, a disorderly gang of tars.89

87 In fact it is just as if you should see a house that is very beautiful, but should discover that the master himself is a slave and not fit to be even the porter. On the whole it is better to face empty benches90 than to behold no more than fifteen substantial citizens in the midst of an innumerable horde of wretched, raving creatures, a sort of concentrated p257dunghill piled high with the sweepings of every kind. Why, the word 'city' could not justly be applied to a community composed of men like that,91 any more than 'chorus' befits a chance company of nondescripts or 'army' just any mob!

88 For example, even the host of Xerxes was not brilliant, except at breaching a wall or digging a canal or some other manual labour;92 nor was the city of the Trojans fortunate, since it consisted of depraved, licentious citizens. And yet it was both large and famous; but still the man from Ithaca93 sacked it, yes, the man from that tiny, inglorious island sacked a city of exceedingly wide domain. Therefore I fear that you also may perish like those Trojans — if I may be permitted the trite observation that Troy also is said to have been destroyed by a certain horse; however, while the Trojans perhaps were taken captive by a single horse, your capture is the work of many horses. 89 For you must not think that the taking of a city consists alone in levelling its ramparts, slaughtering its men, leading its women into captivity, and burning its dwellings; nay, those happenings may mark the final stage, a stage of short duration and one that makes the victims more deserving of pity than of ridicule; but in the case of people who disregard all that is noble and are passionately enamoured of one thing that is ignoble, who centre their attention upon that alone and spend their time on that, constantly leaping and raving and beating one another and using abominable language and often reviling even the p259gods themselves and flinging away their own belongings94 and sometimes departing naked from the show — that is a disgraceful, an ignominious capture for a city.

90 For I assert that men have been taken captive, not by pirates only or other persons, but also by a courtesan or gluttony or by any other low desire. The term 'captive,' then, may well be used, not only of a person, but of a city too, provided that city, abandoning the nobler pursuits and having neither eyes nor ears for anything conducive to salvation, but yielding instead to the clutches of drink or singing girls or racing chariots, is made the prize of conquest and thrown into utter confusion thereby and bereft of its senses. Yes, by Zeus, the man who experienced such a capture might well be said to have been taken by storm and manacled to boot. For if when a man's body has been overpowered and confined by chains or guards, we consider that these disagreeable happenings constitute captivity and slavery and violent seizure, when the soul has been taken captive and ruined, we should not dissimulate or underrate it.95

91 And yet, while such experiences are doubtless terrible even in the case of individuals, they are altogether more disgraceful when they happen to a people. For indeed all other afflictions, as long as they affect a single person, receive no great or awful label; but when the visitation becomes p261general, it is called a plague. For, on the whole, all varieties of human weakness might be discovered anywhere at all, and drunkards, perverts, and woman-crazed wretches are present in every city; and yet not even that condition is disturbing or beyond endurance; but when malady becomes prevalent and a common spectacle, then it becomes noteworthy and serious and a civic issue.

92 For example, what city is there, unless it be one very sparsely populated and small, in which day by day there is not at least one person ill with fever? However, fever has all but taken possession of the Caunians, and in their case it is a reproach to the community, because they all suffer from it;96 just as also certain peoples have won admiration and esteem for traits that are better. For instance, how many Athenians or Megarians or Corinthians, do you suppose, used to cultivate their bodies and live laborious lives? Many, obviously, and especially in the days when they had to be valiant in defence of their countries. 93 Why is it, then, that the Spartans alone among them got a name for that and have enjoyed the reputation ever since? It is because as a people they acquired the love of honour. And as to the Athenians, because they were more devoted to the cultivation of the arts of speech and poetry and choral song and dance, that devotion, for the same reason, caused them in their turn to be admired in these fields. But take care lest the reputation that you gain resemble, not that of the Athenians and the Spartans, but rather that of certain others — for I do p263not care to name them. For, as I have often said,97 shameful conduct is more shameful and ridiculous when it involves whole cities. 94 Just as in the case of comedies and revues98 when the poets bring upon the scene a drunken Carion or a Davus,99 they do not arouse much laughter, yet the sight of a Heracles in that condition does seem comical,100 a Heracles who staggers and, as usually portrayed, is clad in womanish saffron; in much the same way also, if a populace of such size as yours warbles all through life or, it may be, plays charioteer without the horses,101 it becomes a disgrace and a laughing stock. Indeed this is precisely what Euripides says befell Heracles in his madness:

Then striding to a car he thought was there,

He stepped within its rails and dealt a blow,

As if he held the goad within his hand.102

95 Maybe, then, like so many others, you are only following the example set by Alexander, for he, like Heracles, claimed to be a son of Zeus.103 Nay rather, it may be that it is not Heracles whom your populace resembles, but some Centaur or Cyclops in his cups and amorous, in body strong and huge but mentally a fool.

p265 In heaven's name, do you not see how great is the consideration that your emperor has displayed toward your city?104 Well then, you also must match the zeal he shows and make your country better, not, by Zeus, through constructing fountains or stately portals — for you have not the wealth to squander on things like that, nor could you ever, methinks, surpass the emperor's magnificence105 — but rather by means of good behaviour, by decorum, by showing yourselves to be sane and steady. For in that case not only would he not regret his generosity because of what has happened,106 but he might even confer on you still further benefactions. And perhaps you might even make him long to visit you. 96 For it is not so much the beauty of your buildings that might attract him, for he has buildings of every kind finer and more costly than anywhere; but he may be attracted when he hears that the people to receive him are worthy of his favour and his trust, and when each of his emissaries and ministers speaks highly of you. For you must not imagine, that, although you yourselves inquire about those who enter your harbour, what kind of people they chance to be, and your judgement concerning them at once corresponds to their reputation, yet the emperor's agents are not curious to learn what kind of people the Alexandrians are. Therefore, if they hear that you are sensible, and not, as is now the common report, flighty, easy-going, inclined to admire petty things, p267with a weakness for trivialities, passionately devoted to jockeys and harpists, there is no doubt how they will feel.

97º Theophilus,107 they say, who proved himself a man of wisdom here in Alexandria, preserved silence toward you and would hold no converse with you. And yet what do you think was his purpose? Was it because he thought you to be wise yourselves and in need of treatment: or rather had he despaired of you as being incurable? For it is very much as if a trader with many precious wares should land at a city, and then, constrained by certain winds or by some mischance, should spend a long time there without either setting out any of his wares or displaying them at all; for evidently it would be because he was convinced either that the inhabitants were in extreme poverty, or else that they were ignorant, and so he would be unwilling to go to useless trouble, feeling certain that no one of the inhabitants would either make a purchase or, perhaps, come to see him. 98 Theophilus too, we conclude, though he had many notable wares inside of him, kept them to himself, being aware that you were extremely poor, not in money, but in judgement and understanding. Well, then, he is dead, having by his silence passed adverse judgement on your city, and, though you have often heard so-and-so speak and can well recall his jokes, and also the songs of what's-his-name, I am not sure that you have ever heard Theophilus; just as someone has said of the beetles in Attica, that, though Attica has the purest honey, the beetles never taste of it, not even if it is poured out for them, but only of the other kind of food.108

p269 99 But, someone will say, you are a jolly folk and the best jesters in the world. That is no calling for a people — how could it be? — nor for a city, but rather for a Thersites. At least Homer says that Thersites himself came among all the Greeks as a jester, not speaking with decorum,

But what he thought would make the Argives laugh.109

Yet not what makes men laugh is good or honourable, but rather what makes them joyful; and for lack of joy and for ignorance thereof men seek laughter. You must have heard of the plant called Sardonian, which produces laughter, but sure, but a laughter which is distressing and disastrous.110 100 Therefore be not so devoted to that laughter, nor cause the Graces to be unmusical and vulgar and boorish, but rather imitate Euripides in these lines of his:

May I ne'er cease to join in one

The Muses and the Graces;

Such union is surpassing sweet,111

and thus will your Mouseion112 be regarded, not just as a place in the city, as indeed, I fancy, there are other places with labels devoid of meaning, not possessing a character to match the name.

101 But enough of this, for I fear that I too have had the experience that they say befell a certain Egyptian, a musician of the very early school. For p271the story goes that the deity once told that musician in a dream that he was destined to sing into an ass's ears. And for a while he paid no heed and gave no thought to the dream, as being a matter of no consequence. But when the tyrant of Syria came to Memphis, since the Egyptians admired the artist, he summoned him. So the musician gave a performance with all zest and displayed the more intricate phases of his art; but the tyrant — for he had no appreciation of music — bade his cease and treated him with disdain. And the musician, recalling that forgotten dream, exclaimed, "So that was the meaning of the saying, 'to sing into an ass's ears' ". And the tyrant, having heard from his interpreters what the musician had said, bound and flogged the man, and this incident, they say, was the occasion of a war.113


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Nowhere else recorded. Men and boys of eastern nations wore earrings, but for a Greek it was a mark of effeminacy (Athenaeus 12.46). Herwerden suspected τὸ ἕτερον, but Isidorus Hispalensis, Etymologiarum 19.31.10, s.v. inaures, says: Harum usus in Graecia: puellae utraque aure, pueri tantum dextera gerebant. A like tradition may be dimly mirrored in Aristotle's remark (Problemata 32.7) that 'women call the one ear male, the other female.' Possibly some significance may be found also in the observation made by Xenophon (Anabasis 3.1.31), that the man who had been posing as a Greek was found to have both ears pierced.

2 A cento composed of Iliad 24.261, Odyssey 18.263‑4, and Iliad 16.262.

3 Horace, Satires 1.4.1‑5, calls attention to this license enjoyed by Old Comedy.

4 Aristophanes, Knights 42‑3. The Athenian assembly met on the Pnyx.

5 Kock, Com. Att. Frag., Eupolis, frag. 217.

6 Aristophanes, Acharnians 377‑82, 502‑3, 659‑60, Wasps 1284‑91, implies that Cleon tried to curtail the licence of the poet, but without success.

7 In the parabasis of comedy the chorus was especially outspoken in its criticism of men and affairs.

8 Greek sailors dreaded the winter season. Cf. Hesiod, Works and Days, 618‑30.

9 Dio may have Socrates in mind, but the daimonion of Socrates served to check, not to impel.

10 Serapis. He had much in common with Asclepius, with whom he was frequently identified (Tacitus, Historiae 4.84). The cult was widespread, but its most famous centre was at Alexandria (Pausanias 1.18.4).

11 Pausanias 7.22.2‑4 tells briefly of this oracle. Apparently the chance utterances of lads playing near the shrine were thought to reveal the god's response.

12 Odyssey 11.303‑4. Homer is speaking of Castor and Polydeuces.

13 Kock, Com. Att. Frag., Menander, frag. 404.6‑7.

14 § 8.

15 Pliny has much to say on the use of animal fat in the treatment of disease. Cf. N.H. 28.135‑144.

Thayer's Note: and for an author closer to the medical profession or who may even have been a doctor himself, animal fat (more specifically sometimes suet or marrow) is prescribed by Celsus, II.33.5; III.22.11, 27.2; IV.16.3, 22.3, 27.1; V.3, 5, 15, 18.5, 18.6, 18.12, 18.23, 18.27, 18.29, 18.33, 18.34, 19.9‑10, 19.11 (several preparations), 19.13, 19.15, 19.23, 19.28, 21.3, 21.4, 21.7, 24.1, 24.3; VI.18.7, 18.8; VII.26.5; VIII.4.19.

16 § 12.

17 Iliad 17.177‑8, slightly modified. Hector is justifying his conduct to Glaucus.

18 Odyssey 5.99‑101. The message borne by Hermes is a command to release Odysseus.

19 Iliad 2.144‑6.

20 Kock, Com. Att. Frag., Adespota 1324. This bold simile was paraphrased by Demosthenes, De Falsa Legatione 136: ὁ μὲν δῆμός ἐστιν ἀσταθμητότατον πρᾶγμα τῶν πάντων καὶ ἀσυνθετώτατον, ὥσπερ θάλαττ᾽ ἀκατάστατον, ὡς ἂν τύχῃ κινούμενον. The verses have been attributed either to Solon or Archilochus or to some dramatist.

21 We need not suppose that Dio is addressing an official assembly of the people. The crowd in the theatre is so large and representative that, like Aristophanes, he identifies it with the government.

22 The προστάτης was one whose influence determined policy in a democracy. Aristotle, Constitution of Athens 28, calls the roll of such leaders from Solon to Cleophon.

23 Closely resembles Or. 1.23‑24.

24 Plutarch, Lives 858B, says that Demosthenes thus apostrophized Athena: Ὦ δέσποινα Πολιάς, τί δὴ τρισὶ τοῖς χαλεπωτάτοις χαίρεις θηρίοις, γλαυκί, καὶ δράκοντι, καὶ δήμῳ;

25 Trajan? Cf. §§ 95 and 96, in which Dio hints at a coming visit of the emperor.

26 Possibly a reminiscence of Aristophanes, Knights 396: καὶ τὸ τοῦ δήμου πρόσωπον μακκοᾷ καθήμενον.

27 A medical maxim repeated in § 33.

28 See Iliad 9.4‑7, of which it seems to be a reminiscence.

29 Cf. Juvenal 10.81: panem et circenses.

30 See especially §§ 12, 13, and 25‑29.

31 Cf. § 30.

32 Iliad 2.489‑92, slightly modified by Dio.

33 Rome of course stood first.

34 Herodotus had paid high tribute to the Nile. See especially 2.14 and 19.

35 In earlier times it was usual to include both the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean under the term Ἐρυθρά.

36 Cf. Cambridge Ancient History, X, pp397‑400 and 412, on Alexandrian commerce.

37 One infers that all these phrases are to be found in Homer: actually only νῆσον δενδρήεσσαν is so found (Odyssey 1.51). εὔβοτον εὔμηλον is applied to an island (Odyssey 15.406) and ὄρεα σκιόεντα, not σκιερά, occurs three times in all.

38 It would seem that Serapis, like Asclepius, with whom he was sometimes identified, showed himself in dreams to those who consulted his shrine (§ 12). Such epiphanies were not infrequent in other cults.

39 As we might say, 'the atmosphere was charged with a malign influence.' Rouse suggests that Dio may have had in mind the practice of burying charms.

40 Cf. Herodotus 1.136: "Their sons are carefully instructed from their fifth to their twentieth year in three things alone — to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth."

41 Is Dio hinting that Alexandria depended upon mercenaries, or is he alluding to some recent military reverse?

42 Herodotus (4.76) tells of this visit. Lucian tells of it at much greater length and in idealized form in his Scytha. Dio's version seems to have been drawn from the source represented by Diogenes Laertius 1.104.

43 Olive oil.

44 The underlying meaning of §§ 47‑50 is by no means clear. At first one takes 'down' to mean moral ruin, but later it seems to mean loss of life, either by decree of the court or as the result of a duel between rival admirers or the suicide of a disgraced and desperate man, or possibly an incident of the rioting of which we hear.

45 The Sirens appear first in Odyssey 12, Odysseus of course being 'the man of sense.' However, Homer places them, not on a lofty cliff, but in a flowery meadow.

46 A grim joke referring to the presence of Roman troops in Alexandria. See § 71 and Arnim, Dio von Prusa, p438. The point of the joke — which must have been plain enough to the audience — is made plainer for the modern reader by the emphasis on freedom in what follows.

47 See Or. 31.162.

48 The famous wedding party of Peirithoüs and Hippodameia. The fight that ensued between Lapiths and Centaurs was a favourite subject with the Greek artist.

49 See Demosthenes 37.52, 55; 45.77 for the conventional Greek attitude regarding men's gait and general comportment.

50 Dio is here recording the practice in such vague terms that one cannot tell whether he had more exact knowledge or not. The effects which he mentions might have been produced by hasheesh. Pliny, Hist. Nat. 24.164, speaks of an herb called gelotophyllis which, when mingled with wine and myrrh, produced great mental excitement and immoderate laughter.

51 The Greeks took their music seriously. Its effect upon morals is a familiar topic in Plato.

52 More than one Greek dramatist dealt with the Bacchants, but Dio seems to have in mind the Bacchae of Euripides.

53 Euripides, Bacchae 699‑700, says 'wolf-cubs,' not 'lions;' Dio may be thinking of Agavê (1278‑9).

54 Bacchae 708‑10.

55 Cf. §§ 25‑8.

56 Nero's infatuation for music and poetry and the stage is well known. Tacitus refers to it briefly in his Annals; but see especially Suetonius, Nero, 20‑23, 38.2, 41.1, 49.3. Suetonius reports, among other things, that Nero recited the Sack of Ilium while Rome burned, and that just before including himself to escape his pursuers he repeated a line from Homer.

57 Trajan; though the scholiast says Vespasian.

58 The musicians of Alexandria.

59 Famous poet and musician, about 450‑360 B.C. Dio seems to allude to him in § 67, with which compare Or. 33.57.

60 See Herodotus 1.24.

61 At the music of Amphion the stones of their own accord moved into place to form the walls of Thebes.

62 Calliopê.

63 The phrase seems to refer to the preceding section, which, however, does not name Thrace and Macedonia.

64 Cf. Or. 33.57.

65 'Public speakers' (ῥήτορες) would include teachers of rhetoric, politicians, and lawyers; the sophists lectured on a variety of topics, including philosophy.

66 Thermopylae was at least a 'moral victory.'

67 The Romans.

68 Ptolemy XI (80‑51 B.C.), nicknamed 'The Piper,' was driven into exile in 58 B.C. and restored by Aulus Gabinius, proconsul of Syria, three years later.

Thayer's Note: For the career of Ptolemy Auletes, see E. R. Bevan, The House of Ptolemy, pp344 ff.

69 By having invoked the aid of Rome? Dio seems to say that independence was lost under 'The Piper,' which is manifestly false.

70 Cf. Aristophanes, Acharnians 616‑17: ὥσπερ ἀπονίπτρον ἐκχέοντες ἑσπέρας, ἅπαντες 'ἐξίστω' παρῄνουν οἱ φίλοι.

71 Dio is our only authority for this disturbance.

72 Unknown. Apparently the commander of the Roman troops in Alexandria.

73 Apparently the whips wielded by the Furies.

74 Arnim views this clause as an interpolation, but the reference may be to the degree of impiety rather than the kind.

75 Odyssey 18.406‑7. Telemachus upbraids the suitors at their final banquet before the slaughter.

76 Myrtilus is famed as the charioteer of Oenomaüs, whom he betrayed in his well-known race with Pelops.

77 Zeus.

78 See Pausanias 6.20.15‑19.

79 The familiar tale of Pasiphaê and the Minotaur.

80 Pausanias does not mention this sanctuary. He does, however, record that Poseidon and Athena share with Demeter and her daughter a shrine on the road to Eleusis (1.37.2); he also reports that Poseidon and Demeter once held intercourse as horse and mare (8.25.5). Dio's allusion may be the outgrowth of some such traditions.

81 Iliad 23.368‑72. Taken from the account of the chariot race at the funeral games held in honour of Patroclus.

82 Iliad 23.448.

83 Iliad 23.473‑98.

84 The allusion may be either to the seizure of Athena's image or — the later version — to the violation of Cassandra at Athena's altar.

85 Odyssey 4.499‑510; Aeneid I.39‑45.

86 § 73.

87 Manifestly the sort of conduct on the part of the spectators that may be paralleled at football matches when the crowd unconsciously pushes in the effort to advance the ball.

88 This 'parody' is a cento in the making of which the author — doubtless Dio himself — has levied upon virtually the whole of the Iliad. It contains scarcely a phrase that may not be traced to that poem, but the combination is intentionally ludicrous.

89 Euripides, Hecuba 607. Spoken by Hecuba with reference to the Greek forces. Either Dio's memory failed him or some comic poet did use the line, wilfully substituting ἀταξία for ἀναρχία. Arnim would save Dio's reputation by deleting the quotation.

90 Perhaps ἐρημίαν means wilderness.

91 Dio gives a definition of 'city' in Or. 36.20.

92 Cf. Herodotus 7.22‑24.

93 Odysseus.

94 Dio seems to be referring to such exuberance of conduct as the tossing away of hats and caps at a modern football match.

95 The contrast between soul and body bears general resemblance to that which pervades the attitude of Socrates at his trial. See, for example, Plato, Apology 28B.

96 Caunus was a Carian city near the coast and in the neighbourhood of swampy land. Strabo (14.2.3) bears eloquent testimony to the truth of Dio's words.

97 See especially § 91.

98 'Revues' is an attempt to harmonize διασκευαῖς with the context. The word commonly means 'revisions' of scholarly nature. Suidas, s.v. Timotheus, lists eight diaskeuai among the works of that well known poet, but we do not know their nature. The term is not recognized as a label for a particular dramatic genre.

99 Slave names familiar in comedy, symbolizing slaves as a class.

100 Hercules plays a comic rôle in comedy (e.g., Aristophanes, Wasps 60, Peace 741) and also in satyr-drama and tragedy (e.g., Euripides, Alcestis 747‑66) as glutton and heavy drinker. His womanish masquerade at the court of Omphalê, to which Dio alludes, also lent itself to travesty.

101 Cf. § 81.

102 Euripides, Heracles 947‑9. Dio's reading differs slightly from the text of Euripides.

103 Cf. Or. 1.7 and 4.19.

104 Arnim, Dio von Prusa, p426, refers this to some recent gift from Trajan to be employed on public works. The next sentence lends plausibility to this interpretation.

105 For Trajan's activity in public works at Rome, see Cambridge Ancient History 11.205‑7.

106 Doubtless the riot referred to in §§ 71 and 72.

107 Unknown.

108 I.e., dung; cf. Aristophanes, Pax, 1‑18.

109 Iliad 2.214‑6.

110 The 'sardonic grin' of pain. Cf. Odyssey 20.302 and Virgil, Eclogues 7.41. Pausanias 10.17.13 gives a typical explanation in harmony with Dio. Popular etymology seems to have transformed Homer's σαρδάνιον into σαρδόνιον, thus placing the plant in Sardinia.

111 Euripides, Heracles 673‑5. Dio's reading differs slightly from the text of the poet.

112 The famous Alexandrian centre for intellectual interests of all sorts. Dio, of course, like a good Greek, is toying with etymology.

113 This story may have been of Dio's own manufacture, since it occurs nowhere else and resembles other tales of his that are thought to be apocryphal. Both the period and the people alike are unknown.


Thayer's Notes:

a Without the benefit of the facing Greek, you might get the idea that there's a real hat in here, and that the Greeks commonly wore hats, and, as we do, passed them around when collecting money. You shouldn't. The Greek just has ἀγείρουσι: "they collect", i.e., by begging. The hat was tossed in by the translator.

b In what this caninity of the Alexandrian harpists consists, who knows; but dogs do of course appreciate harp music, and, according to this page, even seem, like Saul, to benefit from it.


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