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Discourse 34

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 36

(Vol. III) Dio Chrysostom
Discourses

p389 The Thirty-fifth Discourse,
delivered in Celaenae in Phrygia

Celaenae, as Dio himself tells us, was situated at the headwaters of the Maeander in the heart of Phrygia, on the main highway between East and West and was the focus of five other well-marked natural routes (Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia). From Herodotus (7.26) we learn that Xerxes paused there on his way to Greece; and there too the younger Cyrus tarried thirty days in 401 B.C. while assembling forces (Xenophon, Anabasis 1.2.5‑8). Despite its manifest importance, Celaenae does not appear again in literature until Roman times. In fact Strabo, who devotes considerable space to the site (12.8.15‑18), uses the name Apamea rather than Celaenae. He explains that Antiochus Soter (280‑261 B.C.), on moving inhabitants a short distance away, renamed the settlement in honour of his mother. According to Ramsay, the old name was revived in the second century of our era, presumably in consequence of a 'reinvigorated national sentiment.'

Arnim locates this Discourse in the same general period of Dio's career as the three that precede it. We are in the dark regarding the occasion of its delivery. Dio seems to be quite at his ease and enjoys the opportunity to introduce himself and to flatter and amuse his audience. Much of what he says was doubtless uttered with a twinkle of the eye.

p391 The Thirty-fifth Discourse
delivered in Celaenae in Phrygia

Gentlemen, I have come before you not to display my talents as a speaker nor because I want money from you, or expect your praise. For I know not only that I myself am not sufficiently well equipped to satisfy you by my eloquence, but also that your circumstances are not such as to need my message. Furthermore, the disparity between what you demand of a speaker and my own powers is very great. For it is my nature to talk quite simply and unaffectedly and in a manner in no wise better than that of any ordinary person; whereas you are devoted to oratory to a degree that is remarkable, I may even say excessive, and you tolerate as speakers only those who are very clever.

2 Nay, my purpose in coming forward is not to gain your admiration — for I could not gain that from you even were I to utter words more truthful than those of the Sibyl or of Bacis1 — but rather that no one may look askance at me or ask others who I am and whence I came. For at present quite possibly people suspect that I am one of your wiseacres, one of your know-it‑alls, basing their suspicion upon a ludicrous and absurd bit of evidence, namely, that I wear my hair long.2 For if long hair were accountable for virtue and sobriety, mankind would need no great power nor one difficult of attainment.

p393 3 However, I fear that fools get no good from their long hair, not even if they get shaggy to the very heart — as in the case of Aristomenes,3 the Messenian, who caused a deal of trouble for the Spartans, and who, though taken captive many times, always managed to escape from them — he, we are told, when at last he met his death, was found to be in that condition. I claim, therefore, that these nude philosophers4 get no good from their shagginess — not even if they should join the light infantry — at least with regard to justice and true sobriety and wisdom, nay, not even if they should strip off still more clothing and run about stark naked in winter time, or else adopt the garb of Medes and Arabs;5 just as they will not acquire proficiency with the flute by merely donning the costume of flautists.6 Neither can asses7 become horses even if they have their nostrils slit still more, or even if they have their jaws bored and a curb-chain placed between their teeth, or even if their pack-saddles are taken from them; nay, they will still bray before the walls right lustily and perform the other acts that befit their nature.

4 Therefore, let no one suppose that my guise p395makes me different from any other man, or that it is this that gives me confidence to speak. On the contrary, let it be understood by all that I can see that, if I keep absolutely silent and do not talk with anyone at all, people are much more likely to distrust me, I fancy, as giving myself airs, as concealing something of importance — for, in fact, in many instances men have won admiration merely by reason of their silence;8 whereas, if I take my stand in your midst and show myself to be no better as a speaker than any huckster or muleteer, I see that none will be vexed with me, once they have seen for themselves what sort of man I am.

5 This is virtually what you may see occurring with other men also. For example, when certain people suspect a man of having the very thing for which they happen to be searching, they go up to him and put him through a close questioning. If, then, he draws his cloak about him and declines to answer, they are all the more suspicious, but if he immediately unwraps and it becomes evident that he is concealing nothing, they go away convinced that they have been in error. You see, it is far better for those who are not seeking notoriety to disclose themselves to the people, and for a person by speaking to reveal himself for the benefit of those who can understand what sort of man he is. For I fancy that they will clearly show contempt for me, to judge by the treatment I have been receiving,9 and that we shall not understand one another, neither I my audience nor they p397their speaker. And the blame for this misunderstanding I would set down to my account rather than to yours.

6 This, then, is one reason for my coming forward. But there is another reason — my fear that I myself may become spoiled through your suspicions of me and come to believe that there is actually something of importance in my make-up. For when many people display admiration for one man and consider him superior to the rest, great wisdom and strength of character are seemingly needed if he is to preserve his common sense and not be made a fool or be uplifted, as by wings, by the words of the crowd — as Homer has portrayed Achilles,10a through vainglory because of his new armour, being uplifted and in full career:

To him they were as wings and raised aloft

The shepherd of the host.10b

7 And how great the power of the populace is to make men believe anything they please may perhaps best be learned from children: when a sane man is followed by urchins who keep calling him crazy. For at first the man goes away inwardly annoyed, and then, from constantly falling foul of them and reviling and chasing them one by one, he gets into that very state and ends by going mad, and the spoken word he took to be a manifestation of deity,11 not merely the utterance of men, but even that of boys.

8 And, methinks, the tribe of sophists also owes its development to some such cause as this. When a lot p399of young men with nothing to do go leaping about a man with cries of admiration, as the Bacchants leap about Dionysus, inevitably that man after no great lapse of time will gain a reputation with many others for talking sensibly. Why, that is very much the way in which parents teach their children how to talk, expressing keen delight over anything the children may utter. Accordingly, in consequence of that applause, the children take courage and make further progress and keep speaking more and more distinctly, until finally they have mastered the language of their associates, be they Greeks or barbarians. The sophists also can't help adopting the thought of their listeners, saying and thinking such things as fit the nature of those listeners, whatever it happens to be; but the majority of these are pretty much simpletons, victims of an unkind fate.

9 Well then, conceivably there is no great risk involved if a man appears to himself and others to be clever, and draws in his train a crowd of fools — just as it is said of Orpheus, that he drew to himself trees and rocks and stones — but that, while himself a fool, a coward, intemperate, in no wise superior to dumb cattle, a man should believe that he has any claim to virtue and gentility — that indeed is utterly preposterous and a mark of the most grievous folly and madness. Nay, whenever fame lays hold upon a man and that sort of talk starts to smoulder, he should tear off his garments and leap forth naked upon the public highways, proving to all the world that he is no better than any other man. 10 And if someone follows at his heels claiming to be his p401pupil, he must try to drive him away, striking him with his fists and pelting him with clods of earth and stones,12 knowing that the fellow is either fool or knave.

However, my remarks are not levelled at all sophists, for there are some who follow that calling honourably and for the good of others, men to whom we should pour libation and offer incense; nay, I mean rather those whom they appoint to serve you as experts in wisdom, three or four long-haired persons like the high-priests of your local rites. I refer to the 'blessed ones,' who exercise authority over all your priests, whose title represents one of the two continents in its entirety.13 For these men too owe their 'blessedness' to crowns and purple14 and a throng of long-haired lads bearing frankincense.

11 Well then, whatever be the truth in these matters, let this suffice. However, I still maintain that long hair must not by any means be taken as a mark of virtue. For many human beings wear it long because of some deity; and farmers wear long hair, without ever having even heard the word philosophy; and, by Zeus, most barbarians also wear long hair, some for a covering and some because they believe it to be becoming. In none of these cases is a man subjected to odium or ridicule. 12 The reason may well be because their practice is correct. For instance, you observe that rabbits,15 weak creatures that they are, are protected by their shaggy coats, p403and that among the birds even the weakest find their feathers a sufficient protection against wind and rain. But as for us human beings, while we shear off our locks (just as horse-breeders shear the manes of mares16 that they plan to mate with asses) and also shave our beards,17 we make coverings for our heads. Yet we observes that cocks require nothing extra as human beings do, goat-skin coats and caps of felt and other similar coverings which we stitch together. And yet what cap of Arcadian or Laconian make could be more suitable than a man's own hair? "Besides," someone will ask, "what need is there for so many coverings for the body?" No need, at least for men of wealth; indeed they do not need hands or feet either.18

13 But [speaking of protection],19 I perceive that this city of yours is inferior to none of the first rank, and I rejoice with you and am content that it is so. For example, you occupy the strongest site and the richest on the continent; you are settled in the midst of plains and mountains of rare beauty; you have most abundant springs and a soil of greatest fertility, bearing, all told, unnumbered products,

Both wheat and spelt and broad-eared barley white;20

p405 and many are the droves of cattle and many the flocks of sheep you tend and pasture. And as for rivers, the largest and most serviceable have their source here — the Marsyas yonder, bearing its waters through the midst of your city, and the Orgas, and the Maeander, by far the most godlike21 and the wisest of all rivers, a river which with its countless windings visits, one may almost say, all that is best in Asia.22 14 Furthermore, you stand as a bulwark in front of Phrygia and Lydia and Caria besides;23 and there are other tribes around you whose members are most numerous, Cappadocians and Pamphylians and Pisidians, and for them all your city constitutes a market and a place of meeting.24 And also many cities unknown to fame and many prosperous villages are subject to your sway. And a very great index of your power is found in the magnitude of the contributions with which you are assessed. For, in my opinion, just as those beasts of burden are judged to be most powerful which carry the greatest loads, so also it is reasonable to suppose that those cities are the most considerable which pay the largest assessments.

15 And what is more, the courts are in session every other year in Celaenae, and they bring together an unnumbered throng of people — litigants, jurymen, orators, princes, attendants, slaves, pimps, muleteers, hucksters, harlots, and artisans. Consequently not only can those who have goods to sell obtain the highest prices, but also nothing in the city is out of p407work, neither the teams nor the houses nor the women. 16 And this contributes not a little to prosperity; for wherever the greatest throng of people comes together, there necessarily we find money in greatest abundance, and it stands to reason that the place should thrive. For example, it is said, I believe, that the district in which the most flocks are quartered proves to be the best for the farmer because of the dung, and indeed many farmers entreat the shepherds to quarter their sheep on their land. 17 So it is, you see, that the business of the courts is deemed of highest importance toward a city's strength and all men are interested in that as in nothing else. And the foremost cities share this business each in its turn in alternate years.25 However, it is said that now the interval is going to be longer, for they claim that the people resent being constantly driven here and there. Yes, you share also in the sanctuaries of Asia and in the expenditures they entail, quite as much as do these cities in which with the sanctuaries are.26

Accordingly I know of no city that is more favoured by fortune than Celaenae and no people that leads a better existence — save only the people of India. 18 For in India,27 according to the report, there are rivers, not of water as in your land, but one of milk, one of translucent wine, another of honey, and another of olive oil. And these streams spring from hills near by, as if from the breasts of Mother Earth. And also these products are immeasurably superior to those we have both in flavour and in potency. p409For what we have in our country we gather in scanty measure and with difficulty from certain animals and plants, crushing the fruits of trees and plants28 and extracting the food of living creatures by milking and by robbing the hive; while the products of India are altogether purer, untainted, methinks, by violence and ruthlessness. Moreover, the rivers flow during one month for the king, and that constitutes his tribute, while for the rest of the year they flow for the people.

19 So every day the Indians assemble with their children and their wives at the springs and river-banks, sporting and laughing as if in expectation of a feast. And by the banks there grows the lotus — a sturdy plant and, one might say, the sweetest of all foods, not, as the lotus in our land, mere fodder for quadrupeds — and also much sesame and parsley, at least as one might judge from the outward similarity of those plants, although for quality they are not to be compared. And that country produces also another seed, a better food than wheat and barley and more wholesome. And it grows in huge calyxes, like those of roses but more fragrant and larger. This plant they eat, both root and fruit, at no expense of labour.29

20 And there are many canals which issue from the rivers, some large and some small, mingling with one another and made by man to suit his fancy. And by their aid the Indians convey with ease the fluids I have named, just as we convey the water of our gardens. And there are baths also close by at their p411disposal, the water of which in the one case is warm and whiter than silver and in the other it is blue from its depth and coldness. In these they swim, women and children together, all of them beautiful. And after the bath, I dare say, reclining in the meadows they sing and hum.

21 And there are in that land meadows of utter beauty and a variety of flowering trees that provide shade from high above, though they bring their fruit within reach of all who wish to pluck it as the branches nod. And the birds charm them by their song, some seated in the meadows, a great flock of them, and some high up among the topmost branches, their notes more tuneful than those of our musical instruments. And a gentle breeze is ever blowing, and the climate is nearly constant throughout the year, and it resembles most closely that of early summer. And what is more, not only is their sky clearer, but also the stars are more numerous and more brilliant. And these people live more than four hundred years, and during all that time they are beautiful and youthful and neither old age nor disease nor poverty is found among them.

22 So wonderful and so numerous are these blessings, and yet there are people called Brachmanes30 who, abandoning those rivers and the people scattered along their banks, turn aside and devote themselves to private speculation and meditation, undertaking amazing physical labours without compulsion and enduring fearful tests of endurance. And it is said that they have one special fountain, the Fountain p413of Truth, by far the best and most godlike of all, and that those who drink their fill thereof have never been known to lie. Regarding conditions in that land, then, it is a true story that you have heard. For some of those who have been there have vouched for it; though only a few do go there, in pursuit of trade, and they mingle only with the people of the coast.31 23 And that branch of the Indian race is in low repute, and all the others say harsh things of them.32

It must be admitted that the people of India are more fortunate than you are, but that you are more fortunate than all the others — with the exception of just one more race of mortals, namely, those most rich in gold. And their gold is obtained from ants. These ants are larger than foxes, though in other respects similar to the ants we have. And they burrow in the earth, just as do all other ants. And that which is thrown out by their burrowing is gold, the purest of all gold and the most resplendent. Now there are close to one another a series of what might be called hills of gold dust, and the whole plain is agleam. Therefore it is difficult to look thereon in the sunlight, and many of those who have made the attempt have lost their sight. 24 But the people who live near that land, having traversed the intervening territory (desert land of no great extent) in chariots drawn by horses of greatest speed, arrive at midday, at which time the ants have gone underground; and then these men seize the gold that has been cast forth and flee. And the ants, becoming p415aware of what has happened, give chase, and, having overtaken their quarry, fight until they either meet their death or kill the foe — for they are the most valiant of all creatures.33 And so these at any rate know what their gold is worth, and they even die sooner than give it up.

25 Well then, what other people among the nations of our time are said to be fortunate? The people of Byzantium, who enjoy a most fertile land and a sea abounding in fruits. But they have neglected the land because of the excellence of the sea. For whereas the land produces its fruits for them only after a long interval of time and toil is required to secure them, the sea yields up its treasures at once without any labour on their part.34


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The Sibyl and Bacis occur together also in Or. 13.36.

2 Regarding his long hair, cf. also 12.15 and 72.2.

3 A romantic hero commonly associated with the second Messenian war. Pausanias tells his exploits at much length (4.14.7 to 4.24.3). For the portent of the shaggy heart, see Pliny, Nat. Hist. 11.184‑5.

Thayer's Note: see also the article Aristomenes in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

4 Cf. Or. 34.3, where reference is made to the scanty clothing of certain would‑be philosophers. In the present passage he seems to be toying with the double meaning inherent in γυμνῆτες: 'naked' (or lightly clad) and 'light-armed soldiers.' This accounts for the following clause, which contains the term πελτασταί, its synonym. The word-play is aimed to make his victims still more ludicrous. Emperius, however, was suspicious of that second clause.

5 That is, go to the other extreme and muffle up.

6 Phrygia was the home of the flute.

7 Asses would be familiar objects at such a trading centre as Celaenae.

8 Cf. Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 1, where the same idea is ably put by Gratiano.

9 Dio seems to indicate that his audience has been displaying either recklessness or amusement. Or possibly his words refer to some gossip of which he had been the subject upon coming to Celaenae.

10a 10b Iliad 19.386.

11 Cf. Aristophanes, Birds 720, on φήμη as the voice of God. Cf. also Odyssey 20.100‑21.

12 Cf. Or. 32.61‑6.

13 Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, pp436-7, refers this to the Asiarchos, or Highpriest of Asia, as he is called in two inscriptions. The two continents were manifestly Asia and Europe.

14 Cf. Or. 34.29‑30.

15 Dio is familiar with rabbits. Cf. 33.32.

16 Pliny, Nat. Hist., 10.180, in reporting the practice, adds that it was intended to make the mare properly humble. See also Aelian, De Natura Animalium, 2.10 and 12.16.

17 Dio criticizes shaving also in 33.63.

18 Cf. Dio 33.64.

19 Possibly this phrase may represent the transition, which is none too clear on the surface. Arnim regards §§ 11 and 12 as an intrusion from another passage; but that supposition does not provide any better connection, and the extended treatment of the topic of long hair is quite in keeping with Dio's habits.

20 Odyssey, 4.604.

21 Greeks commonly deified rivers.

22 Cf. Strabo 12.8.15‑18 for the geography of the district.

23 This is true, for Celaenae was near the eastern border of Phrygia, astride the main highway between the East and West. Cf. Introduction.

24 Strabo (12.8.15) confirms this.

25 See also § 15. Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, p428, note 5, names Apamea (Celaenae) and Eumenea as the foremost cities thus to share in the court business; but he would interpret παρ᾽ ἔτος in such a way as to include also Acmonia.

26 Ramsay, op. cit., p429, note 2, refers this to the emperor worship, for which the cities were assessed.

27 Dio could have found material for this idyllic story in many writers from Herodotus on. Lucian, Vera Historia, 2.6‑16, outdoes Dio in the marvels listed, though the resemblance to our passage is striking.

28 That is, of the olive tree and the grape-vine.

29 This account of the lotus and of the 'other seed' may be due to Herodotus 2.93.

30 On the Brachmanes, see also Or. 49.7. Strabo (15.1.59‑71) assembles further details drawn from many sources.

31 Strabo (15.2‑4) speaks of the dearth of trustworthy information regarding India. By Dio's time many Greeks were sailing to India, and the mercantile class knew a great deal about the land.

32 Dio seems to mean 'these people of the coast' when he says that they were in ill repute. It looks like a tardy admission that perhaps his tale may not be trustworthy. The tall stories with which he closes his Discourse, while doubtless intended to amuse, may also have been aimed as a sly thrust at his audience.

33 This story of the ants seems to have been taken out of Herodotus 3.102‑5, where the scene is laid in India. Herodotus names the Persians as his informants.

34 Cf. Or. 33.24, where Dio refuses to call the people of Byzantium 'fortunate' because of the abundance of fish and the ease with which they are taken. Our passage is in a lighter vein and contains no question as to the propriety of the adjective. The Discourse stops very abruptly at this point. It seems likely that the original ending has been lost.


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