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Bill Thayer

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Discourse 45

This webpage reproduces one of the

Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1946

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Discourse 47

(Vol. IV) Dio Chrysostom

 p226  The Forty-sixth Discourse:
Delivered in his Native City prior to his Philosophical Career

The title of this Discourse, though doubtless truthful, affords no information as to either the contents or the occasion. Such a title must have been given by a person who was interested in the chronology of the speeches. It is the only title of the sort preserved in our MSS., though Synesiusa found several of that type in his copy of Dio.

Relying on internal evidence, Arnim dates the speech shortly prior to Dio's exile. Although the clues when taken separately may not be conclusive on that point, their combined witness supports that dating. The speaker is conscious of his powers as an orator (§ 7) and has appeared as an advocate in court (§ 8); he has been in possession of his inheritance for some time, though he has not yet collected all the debts due the estate; he has excited the envy of the masses by his reputed wealth (§§ 5‑6); he appears to have only one infant child (§ 13); he has recently built a pretentious villa and some workshops (§ 9). Furthermore, he rests his claim to respect upon the reputation of his forebears rather than upon any merits of his own (§§ 2‑4), and his failure to appeal for sympathy on the score of having been an exile is in marked contrast with his behaviour in the speeches which are demonstrably subsequent to that exile.

The occasion for the address is briefly as follows. As a result of the rising price of grain at Prusa a bread riot has taken place. The excited mob rushed to attack the properties of Dio and an unnamed neighbour, either because they were suspected of having manipulated the grain market  p227 or because it was felt that they should be doing something toward the relief of the masses or because of pure hatred of the poor for the rich. Having reached a narrow lane near Dio's estate, the mob suddenly was seized with panic and withdrew. The following morning the local authorities call a town meeting to discuss ways and means of easing the situation. In this meeting of citizens Dio rises to protest against his maltreatment by the mob. The gathering is hostile, and he appeals for a fair hearing both in the beginning of his remarks and later when he speaks of the price of grain; but he shows himself a man of fearless courage both in defending himself and in upbraiding his fellow townsmen. The address is interesting, not only as presumably the spontaneous eloquence of a distinguished speaker, but also as portraying in vivid colours the social and economic unrest that must have characterized more than one community in Bithynia.

 p229  The Forty-sixth Discourse:
Delivered in his Native City prior to his Philosophical Career

I am not so astounded at your conduct, gentlemen, shocking as it is, but since I cannot see any justification for your anger against me, I am in a quandary. For while justifiable anger can be assuaged by entreaty, hatred that is unjust who could heal? However, I ask you to give me a hearing,1 since I speak as much on your account as on my own. For if I am guilty of no wrong, neither do you, I presume, wish to hate without a cause one of your own citizens; while if I am guilty, my words will be harmful instead of helpful to me; and thus I shall undergo at your hands a punishment greater than you yourselves are seeking. For it is in every way more dreadful to be proved a scoundrel than to be stoned to death or consumed by fire.2 2 And you must recognize first of all that the things which seem terrible to you — stones and fire — are not terrible to anybody, and that you are not really strong because of these things, but weakest of all — unless one were to take into account the strength of brigands and madmen. But as for a city and a government by the people, strength lies in other things, and first and foremost in wisdom and fair dealing.

 p231  Now with reference to my father, there is no need for me to tell whether he was a good citizen, for you are always singing his praises, both collectively and individually, whenever you refer to him, as being no ordinary citizen.3 3 You should know, however, that these words of praise of yours are of no use to him; on the other hand, when you give your approval to me, his son, then you have been mindful of him too. Again, no one could say of my grandfather4 either that he disgraced the city or that he spent nothing on it out of his own means. For he spent on public benefactions all that he had from his father and his grandfather, so that he had nothing left at all, and then he acquired a second fortune by his learning5 and from imperial favour. 4 Moreover, it is plain that he asked for no favour for himself, though held in such great friendship and esteem, but rather that he guarded and husbanded for you the goodwill of the Emperor.6 But if anyone thinks it foolishness to remind you of goodwill and nobility on the part of your own citizens, I do not know how such a man can wish to be treated well himself. Being descended, then, from such forebears, even if I were an utter knave myself, yet surely on their account I should merit some consideration instead of being stoned or burned to death by you.

5 But consider my own claims too, gentlemen, not unsympathetically. For my father left us an estate which, while reputed to be large, was small in value, yes, much less than that of others; for no less than four hundred thousand drachmas were in bills receivable, besides foreign business ventures of such nature  p233 that they were far more troublesome than the bills. For we had no security, I might say, for any part of our assets, but my father had acquired all his wealth through trusting to his own influence, believing that no one would contest his claims. 6 Yet, left as I was in such a situation, while I have not even now succeeded in securing a settlement of that part of the loans which fell to me,7 I have performed for you the greatest liturgies,b in fact no one in the city has more of them to his credit than I have. Yet you yourselves know that many are wealthier than I am. What is it, then, that makes you angry with me, and why of all the citizens have you singled out for dishonour me and what's-his‑name, and why do you threaten us with stoning and burning? And let no one say that I am speaking in behalf of that man. For though perhaps you should not be so exasperated at any one, even among the wrongdoers, still my own troubles are enough for me.8

7 And pray consider what sort of citizen I am in other respects also, comparing me with whom you please — of all whom you do not consign to the flames. For example, though I have real estate, all in your territory too, yet none of my neighbours, whether rich or poor — and many of the latter class are my neighbours too — has ever lodged complaint against me, either justly or unjustly, alleging that he was being deprived of something or being evicted. Nor am I either over-clever as a speaker or, if I may say so, poorest of all in that art. 8 Well then, is there any one whom I have injured by my words, by causing trouble for any one  p235 who loves peace and quiet or by contriving some outrage against him? Or have I placed anyone in jeopardy touching his estate, pretending that it belongs to Caesar, or have I as advocate played false to any one?

Again, no man is more blameless than I am in connexion with the present shortage. Have I produced the most grain of all and then put it under lock and key, raising the price? Why, you yourselves know the productive capacity of my farms — that I rarely, if ever, have sold grain, even when the harvest is unusually productive, and that in all these years I have not had even enough for my own needs, but that the income from my land is derived exclusively from wine and cattle. Nay but, some one may claim, though I lend money, I am unwilling to supply it for the purchase of grain. There is no need for me to say anything on that score either, for you know both those who lend money in our city and those who borrow.9

9 What is it, then, which I might do to relieve you from your distress but which I refuse to do, or what is it that makes you feel toward me as you do? It is because, by Heaven, I have built the colonnades near the hot springs, and workshops too; for this is the injury some claim the city is suffering at my hands! Yet whom have either you or any other person ever taken to task for building a house on his own farm? Or is it that which makes grain dearer? Why, I bought the land at fifty thousand drachmas, a price altogether higher than its worth!10 Nay, I am  p237 ashamed, by all that's holy, if any of the citizens — for of course it is not the city itself — is so depraved as to feel hurt and jealous if he sees that somebody has built a colonnade or a workshop!

10 Besides, though the matter over which you have become incensed truly does require some attention, still it is not beyond repair or such as to make you act as you are acting. For while the cost of grain has risen higher than what is customary here, it is not so high as to make you desperate. Why, there are cities in which it always is at that price, when conditions are best! There you go, making a tumult once more,11 as if I were saying it ought to be that price at Prusa too, and never lower. But the point I am making is that, while it is necessary to take steps to make it cheaper, still it is not necessary to feel so bitter over what had happened or to lose your senses; for the way you have acted just now is not the conduct befitting such a matter, nay, if I had murdered your children and your wives you could not have behaved with greater savagery. 11 For to be enraged at one's own fellow citizens — I care not whether justly or unjustly, but at all events at fellow citizens, citizens in good standing, yes, as good as anybody — and not to let them explain or to make an explanation to them, but without more ado to try to stone them and burn their houses, with a view to consuming in one conflagration, if possible, them and their children and their wives — what kind of human beings act that way? In my opinion, I swear by all that's holy, no matter if you will be angry to hear it, such conduct is not that of men in needy circumstances  p239 or lacking the necessaries of life. For need develops self-control.

And if you do not suppose these remarks of mine are being offered for your good, you are very much mistaken. 12 For if you are going to be like this and, in case you become angry with any one — and many things are likely to happen in a city, both right and wrong — you are going to see fit to exact so extreme a punishment as forthwith to try to consume with fire the victim of your rage along with his children and to force some of the women, free citizens as they are, to appear before you with garments rent, supplicating you as if in time of war, what mortal is so foolish, so unfortunate, that he will choose to live in such a city a single day? The fact is, it is far better to be an exile and a sojourner on foreign soil than to be subjected to such outrage. Why, even now the alleged reason which, they say, made you turn back from my house — having become suspicious, forsooth, at the depth of the lane12 — see how flimsy it is! 13 For if that is what saved me, it is high time from now on, as if the city were an armed camp, to occupy the difficult terrain and the lofty or precipitous positions! And yet, God knows, not even in armed camps does one soldier seek a safer spot than his neighbour in which to pitch his tent; no, their precautions are aimed at the men with whom they are at war.

So, although my thanks are due to the lucky chance which made you turn back, whether this was your motive or anything else at all; still you had no real reason to be suspicious. For I should not have warded you off, no, so far as that is concerned, you  p241 are absolutely safe in burning down my house any time you please, and I was content to take my wife and baby and leave.

14 And let no one imagine that it is in anger over my own position that I have said these things rather than in fear for yours, lest possibly you may some day be accused of being violent and lawless. For nothing which takes place in the cities escapes the attention of the proconsuls — I mean the more important ones in these parts; on the contrary, just as relatives denounce to the teachers the children who are too disorderly at home, so also the misdeeds of the communities are reported to the proconsuls.13 Now while such conduct as yours would not be honourable or advantageous for yourselves, to demand that there should be supervision of your market and that those men should be elected who are financially able and have not performed liturgies, but if that cannot be, that then the choice of supervisors should rest with you, this, I say, is the course of sensible human beings and in this no one will oppose you.14

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. § 10.

2 Cf. §§ 4 and 12‑13.

3 We know next to nothing of Dio's father; even his name Pasicrates, is recorded only by Photius.

4 His maternal grandfather. Cf. Or. 41.6 and 44.5.

5 We do not know what branch of learning.

6 Possibly the Emperor Claudius.

7 Dio had at least two brothers. Cf. Or. 44.4.

8 One may infer from Dio's language and from his failure to name his neighbour that they were not on good terms, possibly political rivals.

9 Dio seems to disclaim the charge of money-lending. In those times the money-lender was not in good repute.

10 He offers this to show that he is not of a grasping disposition.

11 Dio seems to have been greeted with an uproar when he first rose to speak. Cf. § 1.

12 The lane seems to have become so eroded because of traffic and rain that they could not see over its sides.

13 Cf. § 8, where Dio seems to refer to the activity of informers.

14 It is not clear whether this proposal for the election of supervisors of the market is Dio's own contribution to the discussion or whether he is merely seconding the proposal of another.

Thayer's Notes:

a Synesius of Cyrene was a Late Antique writer who made something of a cult of Dio; a comprehensive account of Synesius, and the text of his extant works, may be found at Livius.

b Liturgy takes on a specialized meaning here; nothing to do with prayers. See the editor's note to Discourse 20.

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