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Discourse 44

This webpage reproduces one of the

Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1946

The text is in the public domain.

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Discourse 46

(Vol. IV) Dio Chrysostom

 p204  The Forty-fifth Discourse:
In Defence of his Relations with his Native City

This Discourse seems to have been delivered in A.D. 101 orº 102 in a meeting of the popular assembly at Prusa (§§ 1 and 8). We do not know for certain the reason for the meeting, but, since Dio concludes his address with a vigorous defence of his programme to enhance the beauty and dignity of his city, that programme may have been the main item of business on the agenda.

As suggested by its title, the speech covers Dio's relations with the city of Prusa. It is unusually rich in details, but unfortunately the language employed is sometimes so allusive and vague as to leave the modern reader in doubt as to the actual facts involved.

Dio begins by referring briefly to the period of his exile, speaking with bitterness of Domitian, who had sent him into exile, and recalling with pride the courage he had displayed in opposing the Emperor. After a brief reference to the friendship which had existed between the speaker and Nerva and to the loss which he and his city had sustained through Nerva's untimely death, Dio passes to a discussion of a recent visit which he had made at the court of Trajan, from which he had brought back certain concessions which had long been sought after by Prusa. It appears that Dio's enemies had been critical of what he had accomplished, and he takes pains to point out, not only that he had sacrificed his own personal advantage to further the welfare of Prusa, but that the concessions he had won were such as had been granted to only one other city, "the most illustrious city in all Asia."

Although Dio does not specify what those concessions were, we may infer that they included a revision of finances (§§ 6  p205 and 10) and either the establishment or the enlargement of the Council at Prusa (§ 7). It would appear that Dio's enemies had accused him of wire-pulling in connexion with the election of the hundred members of this new Council, and he is at some pains to establish his innocence in the matter.

The last topic to be discussed is his programme for municipal improvements. He devotes much space to explaining that, although he was ambitious to make far-reaching improvements and had possibly allowed his enthusiasm to lead him into indiscreet remarks upon that theme, what he was then undertaking was relatively conservative in its scope. His concluding sentences contain a most interesting recital of the manner in which his project had been ratified — the proconsul had called a meeting of the Assembly without the previous knowledge of Dio and had himself read to the members in attendance either a motion to approve the plan or some statement in support of it; Dio had made an extempore speech advocating its adoption and explaining what it involved; and, if we may believe his words, not only was the vote in favour of the measure unanimous, but all promised to lend it their financial support.

 p207  The Forty-fifth Discourse:
In Defence of his Relations with his Native City

Fellow citizens, I want to render you an account of this sojourn of mine, since I believe that the time remaining to me is going to be very brief.1 Well, how I bore my exile, not succumbing to loss of friends or lack of means or physical infirmity; and, besides all this, bearing up under the hatred, not of this or that one among my equals, or peers as they are sometimes called, but rather of the most powerful, stern man, who was called by all Greeks and barbarians both master and god,2 but who was in reality an evil demon; and this too without fawning upon him or trying to avert his hatred by entreaty but challenging him openly, and not putting off until now, God knows, to speak or write about the evils which afflicted us, but having done both already, and that too in speeches and writings broadcast to the world, not being goaded by madness or desperation to do these things, but trusting in a greater power and source of aid, that which  p209 proceeds from the gods, though most men scorn it and deem it useless32 but to speak of these things in detail I think is superfluous, for these matters are better known among other men4 and enjoy a renown and honour which is their due, whereas if I narrate in Prusa the course of my exile, men will say, not that I am lamenting, but far rather that I am boasting.

However that may be, when that man had died and the change of administration had been effected,5 I was on the point of going to visit the most noble Nerva; but, having been prevented by a serious illness, I lost that opportunity completely, being robbed of an emperor who was humane and fond of me and an old-time friend.6 And I swear to you by all the gods, it is not because of what I might have obtained for myself or for some member of my family that I am distressed at having missed it, no, because of what I might have achieved for you and for the state at large; for this I count a great injury and loss. 3 For what we have now obtained7 we might have had then, and we might have employed the present opportunity toward obtaining further grants. However that may be, when I had experienced at the hands of the present Emperor a benevolence and an interest in me whose magnitude those who were there8 know full well, though if I speak of it now I shall greatly annoy certain persons9 — and possibly the statement will not even seem credible,  p211 that one who met with such esteem and intimacy and friendship should have neglected all these things and have given them scant attention, having formed a longing for the confusion and bustle here at home,10 to put it mildly — for all that, I did not employ that opportunity or the goodwill of the Emperor for any selfish purpose, not even to a limited degree, for example toward restoring my ruined fortunes or securing some office or emolument, but anything that it was possible to obtain I turned in your direction and I had eyes only for the welfare of the city.

4 But the question whether these concessions are useful and important, or whether they have been granted, not to many other cities, but to one only, and that too, I venture to state, one of the most illustrious in all Asia, a city possessing so great a claim upon the Emperor, inasmuch as the god they worship had prophesied and foretold his leadership to him and had been the first of all openly to proclaim him master of the world11 — I am not speaking of anything like that. But that you desired these concessions12 most of all, and that there had been a long period during which you were in a state of expectancy, victims of deception, constantly bestowing extravagant honours upon those private persons who merely gave you promises — for of course none of the proconsuls ever either expected or promised these concessions13 — inasmuch as you went in a body  p213 far from Prusa to meet the men of whom I speak, and waited for them in other cities — this perhaps is a matter worth bearing in mind. 5 And yet, seeing that only trifling, yes worthless, concessions were effected by them, the high-minded man, the man who was not the slave of envy and malice, should have said at the time, "You are crazy and deluded in clinging so tenaciously to men like that and in cultivating such low fellows in order to gain favours that are neither essential nor important, to say nothing of their being vague and of your having no assurance." But, I suspect, any of these things, no matter how it was brought to pass, was to them difficult. Yet surely the people were not equally distressed that it was this or that proconsul who had effected the concession and presented it to them instead of one of our own citizens. Besides, they had a lurking hope which cheered them regarding concessions that never came to pass.14

6 And yet this too I have heard from many sources, that when one of the proconsuls on a previous occasion had sent a rescript regarding the administration of our finances15 and the project came to naught, many ridiculed the city — I don't mean many of our neighbours, for the outrage would have been less in that  p215 case, but many of our own fellow citizens — alleging that the city was aiming at things beyond its reach and in point of folly proving in no wise superior to the sons of kings. And in saying these things they were not ashamed to be disparaging their own country and discrediting it so thoughtlessly by their words. For if they are among the foremost in it or among those held in honour, they are discrediting themselves, having been the outstanding men of a weak and ignoble city; while if they are among the outcast and lowest group,16 they are making their own disgrace still greater and more grievous, if they happen to occupy the lowest station in a city of the lowest grade.

7 But, not to be diverted from my theme by these incidental reflections, now that these favours have been obtained in whatever way they were, and brought to Prusa,17 consider whether I have made myself obnoxious to any of our citizens, either privately by speaking to my own interest, or publicly by parading and casting in your teeth favours conferred, or by having given preferment to certain men of my choice; or whether, on the contrary, though no fewer than a hundred councillors were enrolled, while others had put in friends of their own and had schemed to have in the Council persons to aid them and to give their support to whatever they might wish to accomplish, I neither did anything of the kind nor discussed such a thing, in the belief that they18 would have sided with me rather than with somebody else had I so desired. 8 No, I held that, if possible, no other man should introduce such a  p217 practice or conduct state affairs by means of political clubs19 or split the city into factions, but if they did, that I at any rate should abstain from such misdeeds, even if it meant that I should have much less influence than any of the others and be considered of no importance at all.

Then what error have I committed in the matters under consideration, or in what have I been found remiss? I have the right to admit to you that I was neither doing anything unjust or illegal myself nor trying to prevent the others from so doing, although by a single word I could have prevented and, by presenting myself, have disclosed to you and the proconsuls what was going on, though you knew it already. And, in case you paid no heed and the matter did not impress the proconsuls either, it would not have been difficult to send word to the Emperor. 9 It was this, therefore, that made me keep quiet, that I might not be suspected of accusing certain persons or of maligning the city and, in general, that I might not be too irritating to anyone at Prusa. Now then, the matter of the Council was managed as follows, correctly for the most part, for you elected men who were neither mediocre nor undeserving; however, since they all received the same rank — even though they obtained it justly and through their own merits — they nevertheless, like those who are being initiated into the mysteries, required mystagogoi.20 Yet I did not see fit even to vote on a single candidate, yes, I alone, lest such action on my part might seem to lend some weight and testimony, and lest some of the others  p219 might be reluctant to write and declare themselves in opposition to me.21 10 What then? When the voting had been in progress for two or three days I left Prusa and did not intend by being present at the proceedings to have any one as my debtor or confederate or owing me thanks because of the affair. For it was for you, not for myself, that I had asked for the councillors.

And again, when now for the first time the question of financial administration22 had been brought up, though I had been wronged by many men in many matters — as indeed it was to be expected that a man should be who had come home after so many years of exile — and although with regard to some I did not even need to go to law, but rather to speak to them and remind them of what was being held in their possession, nevertheless I did not mention these matters to any one or make any statement, although so many slaves had run away and obtained freedom, so many persons had defrauded me of money, so many were occupying lands of mine, since there was no one to prevent such doings. 11 For if Odysseus, who had left at home a father, a faithful wife, and friends, had the misfortune to be so despised because of his absence from home that some took possession of his house and feasted and drank there every day, draining his wine casks and killing off his cattle, and finally did not even keep their hands off his wife, but tried to make her marry again against her will and to abandon her husband and her home, was it not to be expected that I should have suffered  p221 many such wrongs at the hands of many men, since all had come to despair of me and no one any longer expected me to return in safety?23

12 However, though possibly I have not been like others in regard to such matters — I mean that, as compared not only with laymen but even with many who are known as philosophers, I may have acted with more self-restraint — still I have offended the city in the matter of the public improvements.24 Concerning these, how they came about, you have often heard me speak;25 yet perhaps I should take this occasion also to refresh your memory. For, gentlemen, that I wished in the first place to beautify the city and equip it with, not merely colonnades and fountains, but also, if that were possible, fortifications and harbours and shipyards, I freely admit. 13 And also that I have had another passionate desire — call it either so childish or so foolish as you will — I do not deny. I mean my desire to make our city the head of a federation of cities and to bring together in it as great a multitude of inhabitants as I can, and not merely dwellers in this distinct either, but even, if possible, compelling other cities too to join together with us, just as Epaminondas once brought Boeotia into union with Thebes, and as Theseus brought Attica into union with Athens, and as the people of Mytilenê once, according to report, having become masters of Aeolis and of the regions about the Hellespont and the Troad, gathered all Lesbos into their own state as a unit.26

14 However, being acquainted with the views of some  p223 of the people here, as well as with my own limitations and responsibilities and the duration of my sojourn in Prusa — for the time at my disposal is altogether brief27 — I neither undertook anything too ambitious nor entertained any such expectations, only I could not control my own thoughts, but, just as lovers when alone together expatiate on such things as they most desire, so I too would often mention those things which I did believe it would profit the city to have for its equipment and its establishment of a federation and its revenues and countless other things. 15 And if the opportunity should ever arise for the fulfilment of these projects and some god should bring them to pass, then you will see the extravagance of the hostility of certain persons and of their hatred of me — to say nothing of their hatred of you — since they will no longer be ambiguous and mild in their speech and their abuse, but open and outspoken, and if they prove unable to block proceedings, they will hang themselves sooner than see the city become such a city as, God willing, it is not impossible for it to come to be.28 At that time, at any rate, when the proconsul accepted the proposal29 — possibly through your efforts, but perhaps through mine as well — and convened an assembly, though I had had no previous warning, and began to read a statement about these matters, I could not keep quiet, but took the floor and gave the measure my support and explained the project for those who lacked information on the subject. 16 And as to what happened after that, it is not that you the Assembly desired the improvements but a certain one of the officials opposed them, nor yet that, while no one opposed them, none was found enthusiastically in favour of  p225 them and ready to co‑operate; on the contrary, one and all, believing that the undertaking was fine and for the city's good, were ready not only to vote for it but also to contribute to it; and thus the proposal was carried, as being fine and magnificent and beneficial to the city.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Twice in this address Dio refers to the shortness of the time remaining to him at Prusa (§§ 1 and 14). He may be about to go to Rome for the approaching trial of Bassus (Or. 44.8), hoping to use that opportunity to gain further favours for Prusa (infra § 3).

2 Domitian. Cf. Suetonius, Domitian 13: cum procuratorum suorum nomine formalem dictaret epistulam, sic coepit: dominus et deus noster hoc fieri iubet.

3 For that principal clause, which is missing in this sufficiently long sentence, Dio doubtless substituted an eloquent gesture.

4 I.e., better known among his friends at Rome and in the places which he had visited in his wanderings.

5 Nerva succeeded Domitian in A.D. 96.

6 Nerva died in January of A.D. 98.

7 I.e., the Council of One Hundred, revision of finances, and the right to hold court at Prusa.

8 I.e., in Rome in connexion with the mission of A.D. 100 (Or. 40.15).

9 Perhaps those who had expected of him greater accomplishments, though no doubt there were some who envied him his influence at Rome.

10 In Or. 40.15 he complains of lack of leisure.

11 The allusion is obscure. Possibly Dio is referring to Smyrna, for in Or. 40.14 he speaks of a report that Trajan had been astonishingly generous to Smyrna — though Dio himself refutes the report.

12 I.e., the concessions won by Dio (§ 3).

13 The petty agents referred to seem to have been negotiating with one or more proconsuls instead of directly with Trajan, as Dio had done, cf. § 5.

14 The personal pronoun contained in the last three sentences, though plural, seems to refer to the "high-minded" citizen, who had failed to protest against relying upon the worthless agents who for some time had fed Prusa on false hopes, but who was critical of Dio's own achievements. He contrasts ironically favours due to the intervention of a proconsul with those secured by a citizen of Prusa (himself). It is not easy to see why either type of favour should have been "distressing"; but cf. Or. 40.10, where Dio suggests that his enemies were reluctant to witness the development of their city.

15 The word διοίκησις recurs frequently in the Bithynian speeches. Pliny's correspondence with Trajan shows how keen an interest Rome felt in the financial well-being of the province.

16 A minority of the Prusans seem to have had full citizenship.

17 I.e., by Dio. Cf. § 3 and note.

18 I.e., the electors.

19 Political clubs were influential at Athens as early as the fifth century B.C. Trajan warns Pliny against the danger of their formation in Bithynia (Pliny, Letters 10.34).

20 At the Eleusinian Mysteries these officials instructed candidates for initiation regarding the proper procedure and acted as their sponsors.

21 Candidates for the Council seem to have been subject to a "scrutiny," in the course of which written testimony might be presented. Dio's reluctance to take part testifies to his influence at Prusa. He may well have wished to avoid incurring enmity and thus endangering his success in greater matters.

22 Cf. § 6 and note.

23 Cf. Or. 40.2.

24 Cf. Or. 40.8‑12.

25 These operations form the central theme of Or. 47 and are referred to incidentally in Or. 40 and 48. No doubt he had spoken on the same topic on many occasions.

26 Mytilenê controlled much of Aeolis in the time of Pittacus, whose rule lasted from 589 to 579 B.C., but we have no other record of this undertaking. Synoecism did not entail change of residence but merely change of political allegiance.

27 Cf. § 1.

28 Cf. Or. 40.8‑11.

29 Cf. Or. 40.6.

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