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Discourse 12

This webpage reproduces one of the

Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1939

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 14

(Vol. II) Dio Chrysostom

 p89  The Thirteenth Discourse:
In Athens, about his Banishment

In the year A.D. 82, probably, Dio was banished by the Emperor Domitian, not only from Rome and Italy but also from his native Bithynia, on the charge of being in some way implicated in the conspiracy of one of the Emperor's relatives, Junius Rusticus, as some including Mommsen maintain, Flavius Sabinus as von Arnim with better reason believes. Each of these men was related to the Emperor, Flavius Sabinus being the husband of Julia, the daughter of Domitian's elder brother Titus, who had been Emperor before him; and each of them was executed on the charge of having conspired against him. If it is Flavius Sabinus to whom Dio refers, then since this man was executed in the year A.D. 82, we may infer that Dio's banishment began in this year, and it was intended to last his lifetime. However, with the accession of Nerva in A.D. 96 he was permitted to return.

In the Thirteenth Discourse Dio gives us an interesting glimpse into his thoughts and feelings at that time. Adopting the attitude of a Stoic, he resolved to endure his banishment manfully and found that it was quite endurable. Then he tells how at the urgent request of others he began to deliver moral addresses to groups of people gathered to hear him. In these addresses Dio did not attempt to give his own ideas, but repeated as carefully as possible those of a certain Socrates.

The resumé of a part of Socrates' teaching given in sections 14‑28 Johann Wegehaupt (De Dione Xenophontis Sectatore, p56 ff.) tries to show is taken from the Cleitophon, falsely ascribed to Plato, Ferdinand Dümmler (Academica, p1‑17) that the Archelaus of Antisthenes is the common source of both, and Von Arnim (Leben und Werke des Dio von Prusa) claims that one of the four hortatory addresses (προτρεπτικοὶ) of Antisthenes is the common source.

The Thirteenth Discourse in the form in which we have it breaks off suddenly, giving the impression that the end of it has been lost.

 p91  The Thirteenth Discourse:
In Athens, about his Banishment

When it fell to my lot to be exiled on account of my reputed friendship with a man​1 of good character and very closely connected with those who at that time were Fortune's favourites and indeed high officials, a man who lost his life on account of the very things which made him seem fortunate to many men, and indeed to practically everyone, I mean his connection by marriage and blood with these officials; the charge brought against me being that I was that man's friend and adviser — for just as among the Scythians it is the practice to bury cupbearers and cooks and concubines with their kings, so it is the custom of despots to throw in several others for no reason whatever with those who are being executed by them — 2 so I began to consider whether this matter of banishment was really a grievous thing and a misfortune, as it is in the view of the majority, or whether such experiences merely furnish another instance of what we are told happens in connection with the divinations of the women in the sacred places. For they pick up a chance clod of earth or a stone, and try to see in it the answer to their enquiry. And, so the story goes, some find their clod light, while  p93 others find theirs so heavy that they are not able even to move it easily.

3 "May not exile after all," I thought, "and poverty, yes, and old age too and sickness, and all such things, appear heavy to some and grievous, but to others light and easy? For in the first case perhaps God lightens the weight according to the importance of the matter in question, and in the second case, I imagine, to suit the strength and will-power of the afflicted one."

4 And then I recalled Homer's Odysseus, who is always bewailing his lot, although he was a hero and quite able to endure. Yet he for all that says many unworthy things, and forever sits lamenting on the shore of the sea because he yearns for his native land; and finally, so the poet says, the longing came upon him to see smoke ascending from his own country, even if he should have to die straightway, and neither his former exploits could solace him nor a goddess very beautiful and good who cherished him, going so far as to promise to make him immortal; but all these things were outweighed by his yearning and love for his native land.​2 5 And then again I recalled how in one of the later poets​3 Electra, when enquiring about her brother in mournful fashion and pitying him for his exile, asks in somewhat the following fashion,

Where does the wretched man his wretched exile spend?

And he replies no less piteously,

In no one settled region doth he so waste away.

 p95  Then she again asks,

Does he perchance live scant of daily bread?

And he replies thus,

Nay, bread he hath, but strengthless, exile's fare.

6 And in addition to all this I recalled countless deeds of valour performed and wars waged by exiles seeking thus to be restored to their homes, wars waged beyond their strength against the popular governments and despotisms by which they had been driven out, for they counted it a great achievement to fight on their own soil even if it meant their death.

All these recollections frightened me and forced me to consider what had happened to me a terrible and onerous thing. But again, I reflected that Croesus, the king of the Lydians, was advised by Apollo, when a certain mischance fell, to leave his kingdom and go voluntarily into exile, and not to feel himself disgraced if he should be looked upon by men as a coward, the oracle running somewhat as follows:

7 Wait till the time shall come when a mule is monarch of Media:

Then, thou delicate Lydian, away to the pebbles of Hermus;

Haste thee and no longer stay, nor have awe of being a coward.​4

It is evident that the poet uses 'awe' instead of 'shame' as is the custom the poets have, and 'being a coward' in place of 'being thought so by the many.' 8 Then next the thought came to me that exile is not altogether injurious or unprofitable, nor  p97 staying at home a good and praiseworthy thing. For Apollo would not have urged and advised the one course, to wit, going into exile, and have expressly forbidden the other course, staying, especially when prophesying to a man who had been most careful about divine observances and had offered the most sacrifices and sent to Delphi the largest votive offerings ever set up there.

9 Bearing in mind all these things I decided to go to the god's temple myself and consult him, as a competent adviser,​5 according to the ancient custom of the Greeks. For surely, thought I, if he gives competent advice about sickness and, if children are not born to a man, about childlessness, and about harvests, he will not show any less ability about such a case as mine. And then when I consulted him, he gave me a strange sort of reply and one not easy to interpret. For he bade me to keep on doing with all zeal the very thing wherein I am engaged, as being a most honourable and useful activity, "until thou comest," said he, "to the uttermost parts of the earth." And yet lying is a harsh thing to impute and not consistent with even a man's standards, to say nothing of a god's. 10 Accordingly I reflected that Odysseus after all his wanderings did not hesitate to roam once more, when he carried an oar as Teiresias, a man dead and gone, had advised him, until he should fall in with people who knew not the sea, even by hearsay;​6 and should not I follow his example if God so bade?

So after exhorting myself in this way neither to fear or be ashamed of my action, and putting on humble attire and otherwise chastening myself, I  p99 proceeded to roam everywhere. 11 And the men whom I met, on catching sight of me, would sometimes call me a tramp and sometimes a beggar, though some did call me a philosopher. From this it came about gradually and without any planning or any self-conceit on my part that I acquired this name. Now the great majority of those styled philosophers proclaim themselves such, just as the Olympian heralds proclaim the victors; but in my case, when the other folk applied this name to me, I was not able always and in all instances to have the matter out with them. 12 And very likely, as it turned out, I did profit somewhat by the general report about me. For many would approach me and ask what was my opinion about good and evil. As a result I was forced to think about these matters that I might be able to answer my questioners. Furthermore, they would invite me to come before the public and speak. 13 Consequently it became necessary for me to speak also about the duties of man and about the things that were likely, in my opinion, to profit him.

And the opinion I had was that pretty well all men are fools, and that no one does any of the things he should do, or considers how to rid himself of the evils that beset him and of his great ignorance and confusion of mind, so as to live a more virtuous and a better life; but that they all are being thrown into confusion and are swept round and round in the same place and about practically the same objects, to wit, money and reputation and certain pleasures of the body, while no one is able to rid himself of these and set his own soul free; just as, I fancy, things that get into a whirlpool are tossed and rolled without being able to free themselves from the  p101 whirling. 14 While I was uttering these and similar upbraidings of all others, but first and foremost of myself, at times, when at a loss, I would have recourse to an ancient appeal made by a certain Socrates,​7 one that he never ceased making, everywhere and to everyone, crying out and declaiming earnestly, in the wrestling schools and in the Lyceum and at the workshops and up and down the market-place,​8 like a god swung into view by the machine,​9 as someone has said.​10 By no means, however, did I pretend that the appeal was mine, 15 but gave the credit where it was due, and requested them, in case I were unable to recall accurately all the phrases, or even not all the thought, but should add or subtract anything, to grant me their indulgence and not to pay any the less attention to me just because I was repeating what happened to have been said many years before. "For perhaps," said I, "you will in this way derive the greatest benefit. For in truth," I added, "it is not at all probable that the words of old have evaporated like drugs and lost their power."

16 Now Socrates, whenever he saw several persons assembled, would cry out most bravely and frankly with indignant rebuke and censure, "Whither are you  p103 drifting, men? Are you quite unaware that you are doing none of the things that you should do, in concerning yourselves with money and trying to get it in any way and every way, in order that you may not only have it in abundance yourselves, but may bequeath still more of it to your children? Yet the children themselves — aye, and earlier, yourselves, their fathers — you have all alike neglected, since you have found no education and no mode of life that is satisfactory, or even profitable, for man, which, if acquired, will enable you to use your money rightly and justly, instead of harmfully and unjustly, and to treat without hurt, not only yourselves, whom you should have considered of more value than wealth, but also your sons and daughters and wives and brothers and friends, even as they should treat you.

17 "But, pray, is it by learning from your parents to play the lyre and to wrestle, to read and write, and by teaching your sons these things that you think that your city will be inhabited by more disciplined and better citizens? And yet if one were to bring together all the cithara players and gymnastic masters and schoolmasters who have the best knowledge of their respective subjects, and, if you should found a city with them or even a nation, just as you at one time colonized Ionia, what sort of a city do you think it would be, and what the character of its citizens? Would not life be much worse and viler than it is in that city of shopkeepers in Egypt, where all shopkeepers settle, both men and women alike?​11 Will not a much more ridiculous society be made by these  p105 teachers of your children of whom I speak — I mean the gymnastic masters, the cithara players, and the schoolmasters, including the rhapsodists and the actors?

18 "For mark you, everything that people learn, they learn simply in order that when the need arises for the things which each man has learned, he may do the work of his profession, the pilot, for instance, guiding the ship with the rudder as soon as he steps on board — for this is why he studied piloting — and the physician healing with his drugs and dietary regulations when he takes charge of his patient — the purpose for which he acquired his skill. 19 And so, to take your own case," he continued, "when there is need of any deliberation concerning the welfare of your city and you have come together in the Assembly, do some of you get up and play the cithara, and certain other individuals wrestle, and yet others of you take something of Homer's or Hesiod's and proceed to read it? For these are the things that you know better than the others, and these are the things which you think will make you good men and enable you to conduct your public affairs properly and your private concerns likewise. And now, these are the hopes which inspire you when you direct your city and prepare your sons, working to qualify them to handle both their own and the public's interests if only they can play satisfactorily

Pallas, dread destroyer of cities,​12

 p107  or 'with eager foot' betake themselves to the lyre. But as to how you are to learn what is to your own advantage and that of your native city, and to live lawfully and justly and harmoniously in your social and political relations without wronging or plotting against one another, this you never learned nor has this problem ever yet given you any concern, nor even at this moment does it trouble you at all. 20 But although you every year see the tragic performances at the Dionysia and pity the misfortunes of the characters in the exhibitions of tragedies, yet in spite of this you have never reflected that it is not the illiterate or the singers who sing out of tune or those who do not know how to wrestle to whom these evils happen, nor has anyone ever brought out a tragedy about a man simply because he is poor. Quite the contrary! It is heroes like Atreus, Agamemnon, and Oedipus who form the subject of all the tragedies, as anyone may see, men who possessed a wealth of gold and silver and land and cattle and indeed, for the most unfortunate of them they say a golden sheep was born.​13 21 And again, even Thamyris,​14 who was very proficient in playing the cithara and strove with the Muses themselves for the prize in music, was blinded because of this and unlearned the art of playing the cithara in the bargain. And his invention of the letters of the alphabet availed Palamedes naught to save him from  p109 suffering injustice at the hands of the very Achaeans who had been instructed by him and from being put to death by stoning. But as long as they were unlettered and unacquainted with this special learning of his, they permitted him to live. When, however, he had taught the others to read and write, and the Atreidae of course first of all, and along with their letters had shown them how to raise bale-fires and how to count the host — for previously they had not known how to count the multitude properly, as shepherds do their sheep​15 — as soon as they had become more clever and proficient, then it was that they slew him.

22 "But if you really think," said he, "that the orators are qualified to deliberate and that their profession is competent to make men good, I am surprised that you have not entrusted the deciding of questions of state to them instead of to your own selves; and why, if you regard them as the best and most just of men, you have not allowed them to manage your finances also. No, for you would be acting just as if you were to appoint the marines or boatswains to be the helmsmen and captains of your triremes!"

23 Then if one of the public men and orators said to him in reply: "Anyhow it was this education that the Athenians had received and were using at the time when the Persians came with so many myriads against their city twice in succession, and against the rest of Greece: on the first occasion when the Persian king  p111 sent an army and generals,​16 and later when Xerxes came in person with all the hosts of Asia; but nevertheless they conquered all these, and everywhere proved superior to them both in planning and in fighting. And yet how would they have been able to prevail over so great an armament and over so mighty a host, if they had not been superior in the qualities of valour? Or how would they have been superior in such excellence, if they had not enjoyed the most excellent education, but a poor and useless one?"

24 In answer to anyone using such arguments he would reply that neither had their enemies received any education before they came, nor did they know how to deliberate about affairs of state, but had simply been trained to shoot and ride and hunt, while they thought exposure of the body the most shameful thing, and spitting in public.​17 "But those things," he said, "were destined to avail them not at all; with the result that there was not even a general over them nor yet a king, but there were simply countless myriads of men, all foolish and doomed to an evil fate. However, there was one among them who had the right to wear his tiara upright and to sit upon a golden throne, by whom all were driven on by compulsion, as if by an evil spirit, some into the sea and some down from the hills; while scourged by the lash, in terror, and jostling one another and trembling, they were forced to die. 25 Hence, just as if two men quite ignorant of wrestling were to wrestle together, one of them would sometimes throw the other, not because of his greater experience but by mere chance, and often the same  p113 man would even throw his opponent twice in succession; so too, when the Persians clashed with the Athenians, at one time the Athenians and at another time the Persians, as at a later time, when they were fighting the Athenians with the aid of the Lacedaemonians, they even tore down the walls of their city.​18 26 Yet would you be able to assert to me that at that time the Athenians had become less cultivated and more illiterate? Afterwards, again, in the time of Conon, when they won the naval engagement off Cnidos,​19 were they more skilful at wrestling and singing odes?"

This is the way, then, in which he would demonstrate that they were not receiving a useful education. And this, he said, had been the experience, not alone of the Athenians, but of practically all mankind, both in the past and in the present age.

27 "Furthermore," he would go on to say, "to be uneducated and to know none of the essential things, and to have no adequate preparation for life, and yet to go on living and to attempt while in that condition to carry on important matters of state — this cannot satisfy even the persons themselves; for they themselves criticize the ignorant and uneducated as not being able to live aright. And by the ignorant I mean, not those who do not know how to weave or how to make shoes, nor the people who cannot dance, but those who are ignorant of the things which one must know if he is to be a good and noble man."

 p115  28 And speaking in this manner he would exhort his hearers to take care to give heed to his words, and to pursue philosophy; for he knew that if they sought that which he recommended, they would be doing nothing else than studying philosophy. For if a man strives earnestly to be good and honourable, that is nothing but being a philosopher. However, he did not often use that word for it, but merely bade them to seek to be good men.

29 Now to my hearers I used to say practically the same things as Socrates did, things old-fashioned and trite though they were, and when they refused to leave me in peace even on reaching Rome itself, I did not venture to speak any word of my own, fearing lest I be laughed at and regarded as a fool, since I was well aware how completely old-fashioned and ignorant I was; and I said to myself:

"Come now, if I, copying the words of another, use such derogatory words about things which are highly regarded at Rome here, and tell them that not one of these things is a good, if I speak of luxury and intemperance, and tell them that what they need is a thorough and sound education, perhaps they will not laugh at me for uttering such sentiments nor declare that I am a fool. 30 But if they do, I shall be able to say that those words were spoken by a man whom the Greeks one and all admired for his wisdom, and what is more, whom Apollo actually considered the wisest man in the world,​20 while Archelaus, the king of Macedonia, who knew a great deal and had consorted with many wise men, tried to get him to come to Macedonia, offering  p117 him gifts and fees that he might have the privilege of hearing him say such things."

31 And thus it came about that I too endeavoured to talk to the Romans when they had summoned me and invited me to speak, but I did not take them by twos and threes in wrestling-schools and cloistered walks; for it was not possible to meet them thus in that city; but when a great number had gathered in one place, I would tell them that they needed a better and more carefully planned education, if they were ever to be happy in truth and reality and not merely in the opinion of the majority, as was now the case; that if anyone should win them to this view and take them in charge and teach them that not a single one of those things is a good to which they devoted themselves and which they strove with all their zeal to acquire, in the belief that, the more they acquired, the better and happier their life would be; 32 but that if they wholeheartedly practised temperance, manliness, and justice, and took them into their souls, securing from somewhere teachers who taught these things and all the other things too, not caring whether the men were Greeks or Romans, or, for that matter, if there is among the Scythians or the Indians a man who teaches the things of which I have spoken, — not, as I think, archery and horseman­ship, but far better, if there were a physician who, knowing how to treat the infirmities of the body, is in that way competent to heal the maladies of the soul — a teacher, I mean, who would be able to rid of licentiousness and covetousness and all such infirmities those who were dominated by them — 33 of that man, I say, they should take possession and lead him to their  p119 homes, inducing him to come either by argument or by friendship — for by money such a man cannot be induced nor by any other gifts — and after establishing him on their acropolis they ought to issue an edict bidding all the young men to resort to him regularly and associate with him, and equally the older men too, until all of them, having become enamoured of righteousness, and having learned to despise gold and silver and ivory, yea, and rich food too and perfume and the lust of the flesh, should thereafter live happy lives, and be masters first and foremost of themselves and afterwards 34 of all other men as well.

"For only then," I continued, "will your city be great and strong and truly imperial, since at present its greatness arouses distrust and is not very secure. For," said I, "in proportion as courage, justice, and temperance increase among you, in that degree there will be less silver and gold and furniture of ivory and of amber, less of crystal and citron-wood and ebony and women's adornments and embroideries and dyes of many hues; in short, all the things which are now considered in your city precious and worth fighting for, you will need in smaller quantities, 35 and when you have reached the summit of virtue, not at all. And the houses in which you live will be smaller and better, and you will not support so great a throng of idle and utterly useless slaves and — the most paradoxical thing of all — the more god-fearing and pious you become, the less frankincense and fragrant offerings and garlands there will be among you, and you will offer fewer sacrifices and at less expense, and the whole multitude that is now being supported in your city  p121 will be much smaller; while the entire city, like a ship that has been lightened, will ride higher and be much more buoyant and safer. 36 These same pronouncements you will find were made both by Sibylla and by Bacis,​21 it if be true that the two of them proved to be good soothsayers and seers. But as your possessions are now, on account of the great amount of wealth, all of which has been collected from all the world into this one place, luxury and covetousness being prevalent, the situation is similar to that in which Achilles, after heaping high the pyre of Patroclus with many logs of wood, with many coverlets and garments, and also with fat and olive oil in addition, summons the winds, with libations and promise of sacrifices, to come and set it afire and burn it.​22 37 For such possessions as yours are no less likely to kindle the wanton spirit and licentiousness of human beings."

I did not, however, maintain that it was difficult for them to become educated, "for," said I, "although you have hitherto been no whit better thanº other men, you learned easily enough all the other things that you wished." I refer to horseman­ship, archery, fighting in heavy armour . . .

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Probably T. Flavius Sabinus, executed by Domitian. Cf. Suetonius, Life of Domitian 10.22; Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana 7.7. But cf. Introduction, vol. I, p. viii.

2 See Homer, Odyssey 1.48‑59.

3 Euripides, Electra 233‑236.

4 Herodotus 1.55, translated by Rawlinson, modified to suit the present context.

5 Compare Plato, Apology of Socrates, 20.

6 See Homer, Odyssey, 11.119 ff.

7 At this point begins the passage ending in section 28, which is based on either the pseudoplatonic Cleitophon or on a source common to both it and this passage in Dio. See Introduction, p89.

8 The statement that Socrates never ceased making this appeal was made by Socrates himself according to Plato. See Plato, Apology of Socrates 29D.

9 See the Pseudoplatonic Cleitophon 407A for the same phrase. Dio was not thinking of the way the god was brought into view, but of the solemn admonitions which he gave from his elevated position. Plato in the Cratylus 425D says that the writers of tragedy had recourse to a deus ex machina whenever they were in difficulties with the plot.

10 The "someone" is the man who used the preceding expression in the source which Dio used.

11 That is, Naucratis, a Greek city in the Canobic arm of the Nile. See Herodotus 2.179. Before the founding of Alexandria it was the chief port for the trade carried on between Greece and Egypt.

12 Lamprocles, fragment 1 in Bergk, Poetae Lyricae Graecae. Quoted in Aristophanes, Clouds 967, where the poet also is speaking of education.

13 That is, Atreus the son of Pelops. According to the version of the story which Dio seems to have in mind Atreus vowed to sacrifice to Artemis the most beautiful creature born in his flocks; but when the golden lamb was born, he disregarded his vow and hid the lamb in a chest. Then his brother Thyestes seduced his wife Aeropê, stole the lamb, and got Atreus to agree that the one in possession of the lamb should be king.

14 A Thracian singer. See Euripides, Rhesus 915 ff. and Homer, Iliad 2.595, for the same story about him as Dio gives here. A picture of the blinded Thamyris appeared in Polygnotus' painting of the Underworld. See Pausanias 10.30.8.

15 To Palamedes was ascribed the invention of the letters of the alphabet, of the numerals, of astronomy, of written laws.

16 The "Just Argument" makes the same claim in the Clouds of Aristophanes 985‑6: "But still these are the things on which my education reared the men who fought at Marathon" —

ἀλλ’ οὖν ταῦτ’ ἐστὶν ἐκεῖνα,

ἐξ ὧν ἄνδρας Μαραθωνομάχους ἡ μὴ παίδευσις ἔθρεψεν.

17 See Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 1.2.16.

18 At the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 B.C. The Persians are credited with having tipped the scale in favour of Sparta.

19 Since the naval engagement between the Athenians and Spartans off Cnidos was not fought until 394 B.C., and Socrates was put to death in 399 B.C., he could not have spoken this sentence.

20 See Plato, Apology of Socrates 23A and compare Discourse 55.8.º

21 Neither Scylla nor Charybdis was originally the name of an individual, but the first was the designation of a type of prophetess, and the second of a type of prophet.

22 See Homer, Iliad 23.161‑177, 192‑216.

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