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Discourse 47

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 49

(Vol. IV) Dio Chrysostom

 p272  The Forty-eighth Discourse:
A Political Address in Assembly

This address, like the one preceding, is closely related to Dio's project for embellishing Prusa, of which we are to hear no more. The immediate occasion is the presence in Prusa of Varenus Rufus, newly appointed proconsul of Bithynia. He has just arrived in the province and plans on the morrow to leave Prusa on a tour of inspection. The populace of Prusa, exercising its newly regained right of public assembly, has gathered for the purpose of greeting the new governor. Dio pleads with them not to treat the occasion as an opportunity to air their local grievances against certain fellow townsmen, but to present a united front and postpone to a later date such charges as may require attention. These charges appear to involve members of the upper class at Prusa, some of whom have been tardy in paying their pledges to the building project (§ 11), while others are accused of having state money in their possession (§§ 3 and 9), presumably obtained in connexion with that same enterprise. Dio urges patience and a sympathetic treatment of the points at issue, defending the character of the persons involved and extolling the blessings of concord.

If the date of the proconsulship of Varenus were known, the dating of this Discourse would present no problem. By close reasoning from internal evidence Arnim arrives at the summer of A.D. 102 as the date of this address. Of importance for his argument is the turmoil in Bithynia, so prominent in this speech, a turmoil which Arnim connects with the maladministration of the province by Julius Bassus, the  p273 immediate predecessor of Varenus. Although Dio is at great pains to minimize the manifestations of unrest at Prusa and to attribute them to injection from without, the space devoted to that effort is in itself fair proof that conditions at Prusa must have been bad.

 p275  The Forty-eighth Discourse:
A Political Address in Assembly

In the first place, my friends, we ought to feel grateful to the most noble Varenus, not only for the general goodwill he has displayed toward our city, but also because, when we wished to hold an assembly once more, he gave his permission, not only readily but even gladly.1 For this was the act of one who trusts you and knows you will not use the privilege for any disagreeable purpose. For just as no one, I assume, collects green logs to build a fire, knowing in advance that there is bound to be much disagreeable smoke, so no proconsul of good judgement convenes a meeting of a community which is in a state of turmoil, unless some major emergency overtakes him. 2 On the present occasion, therefore, it is your duty not to prove false to his conception of you, but rather to show yourselves temperate and well-behaved in assembly, and first and foremost, I believe, to adorn yourselves with mutual friendship and concord, and if he comes in answer to our invitation,2 to defer the other matters about which you were so vociferous; for he will inquire into the public problems himself, even if you wish to prevent him. But for the present express your appreciation of his goodness, greet him with applause, and welcome him with auspicious  p277 words and honour, to the end that he may visit you, not as a physician visits the sick, with apprehension and worry over their treatment, but rather as one visits the well, with joy and eagerness. 3 For though now, indeed, he will possibly leave here to‑morrow, he will return a little later; and then, unless in the meantime we ourselves3 can win you to our view, in case some one really has something belonging to the commonwealth,4 by using one another as both judges and arbitrators, then, I say, you will have the opportunity not only to speak but also to shout others down. At all events I suspect it is very senseless to start a riot prematurely. For where have you put the matter to the test, or when have you made any demand upon them,5 or who has refused to listen to you?

Furthermore, I do entreat you, address to all the praise you are offering me.6 For just as at a banquet it is very disgraceful for only one of the guests to be drinking, and for this reason we take umbrage, not merely at the cupbearer, but also at the man who is drinking, this same principle obtains in regard to the official resolutions of commendation. 4 Besides, if you do this, you will be bringing honour upon yourselves, since the greatest honour a city has is the praise its citizens receive. On what else do you base your pride? Do not other cities excel you in point of size, and also, God knows, in wealth and plenty and their public edifices? However, this is the one particular in which we rival practically all the world, namely, our having men competent both to act and to speak, and, what is the most important of all, men who love their country. But if any one takes this from you, to  p279 what city, even the humblest, will you be deemed superior? For now, in case you have a quarrel with any city — which may none of the gods bring to pass! — and the people of that city consequently revile our citizens, saying they are rapacious, untrustworthy, in what temper will you take it? Will you not be angry? Will you not straightway shout, be abusive, possibly come to blows, as has often happened in the past? 5 Then what you do not tolerate from the lips of others will you yourselves say against yourselves? If ever a quarrel arises and your adversaries taunt you with having wicked citizens, with dissension, are you not put to shame? As for myself, I swear to you by all the gods, I was indeed violently angry when a certain person7 said to me, "Bring reconciliation to the city," and I was vexed with him. For may I never see the day when you need reconciliation, but, as the saying goes, may such things be diverted to the heads of our enemies, that is, to the accursed Getae, but not to any others, members of our own race.

6 Why, what would be the good of my presence here, if I should fail to lead you to such a policy by persuasion, having constantly engaged with you in discussions conducive to concord and amity, so far as I am able, and trying in every way to eradicate unreasonable and foolish enmity and strife and contention? For truly it is a fine thing and profitable for one and all alike to have a city show itself of one mind, on terms of friendship with itself and one  p281 in feeling, united in conferring both censure and praise, bearing for both classes, the good and the bad, a testimony in which each can have confidence. 7 Yes, it is a fine thing, just as it is with a well-trained chorus, for men to sing together one and the same tune, and not, like a bad musical instrument, to be discordant, emitting two kinds of notes and sounds as a result of twofold and varied natures,8 for in such discord, I venture to say, there is found not only contempt and misfortune but also utter impotence both among themselves and in their dealings with the proconsuls. For no one can readily hear what is being said either when choruses are discordant or when cities are at variance.9 Again, just as it is not possible, I fancy, for persons sailing in one ship each to obtain safety separately, but rather all together, so it is also with men who are members of one state. 8 And it becomes you, since you excel in cultivation and in natural gifts and are in fact pure Hellenes, to display your nobility in this very thing.10

I might go on to say a great deal on these topics, I believe, and things commensurate with the importance of the subject before us, were it not that I am in quite poor health,11 and also, as I was saying,12 if I did not observe that your condition is not permanent. For no incident has yet happened, nor does this malady13 thrive among you, but it is possibly a slight attack of distrust, which, like sore eyes, we have  p283 caught from our neighbours. But this is a thing which often befalls the sea too — when the depths have been violently disturbed and there has been a storm at sea, often there are faint signs of the disturbance in the harbours also.14

9 Do you imagine there is any advantage in market or theatre or gymnasia or colonnade or wealth for men who are at variance? These are not the things which make a city beautiful, but rather self-control, friendship, mutual trust. But when you find fault with the Council, with the leaders of the government, with the duly elected officials, are you not finding fault with yourselves? For if the better men among you are base, what should one assume regarding the others? "Shall we, then, lose what belongs to us?" some one retorts. No one is suggesting that; on the contrary, you may rest assured that in all our cities there are public funds, and a few persons have these funds in their possession, some through ignorance and some otherwise; and it is necessary to take precautions and try to recover these funds, yet not with hatred or wrangling.

10 These men15 are generous; they have often made contributions to you out of their own resources. Use persuasion on them, appeal to them; if they are stubborn, urge the justice of your claims before them privately, with no outsider present.16 Is it not you who often praise us all day long, calling some of us nobles, some Olympians, some saviours, some foster-parents? Then, by all that's holy, are you going to be convicted of false witness in your own household,  p285 and is it anger which now prompts your words, or was it flattery then; and is it that you are the victims of deception now, or were you guilty of deception then? Will you not cease your turbulence and recognize that you have fellow citizens of refinement and a city that can be prosperous? I can accomplish many things, if Heaven wills, with these men as my helpers; however, I cite the proverb, one man is no man.17

11 But possibly you were displeased that the work has not been completed. It is going forward, and it will be completed very speedily, especially with the enthusiastic and earnest interest of these men, provided they give willingly; for you know they were not unwilling when they gave their promise. But why do you demand payment from these men and not from me? Because I am supposed to have made payment to you already? Then do you regard it as my doing, if I have made my own fatherland more highly esteemed by providing some working capital, as it were, from the Council fees,18 and, and by Zeus, from increase in income brought about through the revision of our finances?19 Why, these matters are as if I had prayed in your behalf, while the gods did the work.

12 Aye, and if I am able to do it again I will do it again.20 And I shall be able to do so with confidence, provided I have the friendship of the people of Prusa, and I shall not charge you anything for such efforts. For neither do parents charge to the account of their children the prayers offered in their behalf. Do you  p287 imagine I should be speaking of a colonnade or anything else, if I saw you wrangling? Why, that would be just as if, when a man is ill and suffering from brain fever, though the proper treatment, no doubt, would be to put him to bed and apply a poultice, one were to rub him with perfume and administer a garland! These things are a luxury for the well, for those who have no affliction. Do not you suppose that at the time when the Athenians were in the grip of civil war and had brought upon themselves the enemy and were betraying one another — poor devils! — they had both the Propylaea and the Parthenon and the colonnades and Peiraeus? Aye, but the Propylaea and the dockyards and the Peiraeus itself only echoed the more loudly to their cries.

13 And yet a great and populous city suffering from civil war and folly can for a time endure its misfortune; still you can see how terrible even such things are. Do not the Athenians accuse one another, do they not drive men into exile, do they not put one party into the Council and drive out the other? Is not everything subject to upheaval as in an earthquake, everything unsettled, nothing stable? They have reached the point of not being satisfied with their own leaders, but, just as in the case of incurable diseases, require physicians from abroad. Then comes what happens with intractable horses — when the bit fails to hold them in check, a curb is put upon them from without.21

 p289  14 My concern is partly indeed for you, but partly also for myself. For if, when a philosopher has taken a government in hand, he proves unable to produce a united city, this is indeed a shocking state of affairs, one admitting no escape, just as if a shipwright while sailing in a ship should fail to render the ship seaworthy, or as if a man who claimed to be a pilot should swerve toward the wave itself, or as if a builder should obtain a house and, seeing that it was falling to decay, should disregard this fact but, giving it a coat of stucco and a wash of colour, should imagine that he is achieving something.

If my purpose on this occasion were to speak in behalf of concord, I should have had a good deal to say about not only human experiences but celestial also, to the effect that these divine and grand creations, as it happens, require concord and friendship; otherwise there is danger of ruin and destruction for this beautiful work of the creator, the universe.22 15 But perhaps I am talking too long, when I should instead go and call the proconsul to our meeting. Accordingly I shall say only this much more — is it not disgraceful that bees are of one mind and no one has ever seen a swarm that is factious and fights against itself, but, on the contrary, they both work and live together, providing food for one another and using it as well? "What!" some one objects, "do we not find there too bees that are called drones, annoying creatures which devour the honey?" Yes, by Heaven, we do indeed; but still the farmers often tolerate even them, not wishing to disturb the hive, and believe it better to waste some of the honey rather than to  p291 throw all the bees into confusion. 16 But at Prusa, it may be, there are no lazy drones, buzzing in impotence, sipping the honey. Again, it is a great delight to observe the ants, how they go forth from the nest, how they aid one another with their loads, and how they yield the trails to one another. Is it not disgraceful, then, as I was saying, that human beings should be more unintelligent than wild creatures which are so tiny and unintelligent?23

Now this which I have been saying is in a way just idle talk. And civil strife does not deserve even to be named among us, and let no man mention it. 17 However, I propose that after purifying the city — not with squill nor yet with water, but with what is far more pure, namely, reason — we negotiate in public meeting what yet remains, not only concerning ourselves with our clerks of the market24 and so forth, but also calling the attention of the Council to these matters, so that it may make provision for the city, as is its practice; for these things will be quite easy for you to do. Besides, this deserves your serious attention also on account of the archon whom you have created, in order that, having taken a man of inexperience, you may not later abandon him in wave and tempest.25

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The right of assembly had been abrogated, probably because of riots.

2 I.e., to visit the Assembly. Cf. § 15.

3 Dio and his associates. Cf. § 10.

4 Cf. § 9.

5 Dio is referring to those charged with possessing state funds.

6 Praise for the achievements referred to in § 11.

7 Does he mean Trajan? If so, we can the better understand the reference to the Getae in the next sentence, for they were at this time making trouble for Trajan, and we know of no reason why Prusa should have been especially hostile toward the Getae. The "reconciliation" presumably concerned Prusa's dealings with her neighbours.

8 Cf. Or. 32.2.

9 Cf. Or. 39.4.

10 I.e., concord.

11 Cf. Or.39.7 and 40.2.

12 In § 5.

13 I.e., discord.

14 See Introduction.

15 Dio is probably referring to the groups mentioned in the preceding section, wealthier persons likely to be found in office.

16 Doubtless he has Varenus particularly in mind; it would be unfortunate to lay bare domestic difficulties unnecessarily.

17 A familiar proverb.

18 The Councillor paid a fee when admitted to office.

19 This was another result of Dio's mission to Rome, A.D. 100. Cf. Or. 45.10. It would seem that because of the success of that mission his fellow citizens were not pressing him for the payment of his subscription, but were honouring him with a vote of thanks. Cf. § 3.

20 I.e., he will "pray" again to the Emperor.

21 This whole passage relates to the unhappy situation of Athens at the close of the Peloponnesian War. The "physician from abroad" was the Spartan Lysander and the "curb" was his troops of occupation. Dio's choice of such an illustration and his earnestness in depicting Athenian sufferings suggest that conditions at Prusa were pretty bad.

22 A favourite theme with Dio. Cf. Or. 36.22, 30, and the "myth of the Magi" with which he concludes.

23 Dio often uses bees and ants as illustrations; e.g.Or. 40.40.

24 Athens employed such officials as early as 425 B.C. Cf. Aristophanes, Acharnians 723‑724. Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 511, says there were five for Athens proper and five for the Peiraeus, and that it was their duty to inspect all goods for sale in order to insure cleanliness and freedom from adulteration.

25 Arnim suggests with much plausibility that Dio is here referring to his son, now grown to manhood. That the son followed family tradition by holding public office is apparent from Or. 50.5‑6, 10, and 51.6.

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