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Discourse 38

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 40

(Vol. IV) Dio Chrysostom

 p94  The Thirty-ninth Discourse:
On Concord in Nicaea
upon the Cessation of Civil Strife

As noted in the introduction to the preceding Discourse, Bithynia was a turbulent province. The present Discourse, as its title indicates, was delivered following a period of civil strife in Nicaea. Neither the occasion nor the date is known. Arnim would place the speech in the period following Dio's return from exile, but Schmid and Lemarchand would assign it to his sophistic period on stylistic grounds. The speaker's allusion to frail health would lend some support to the later dating.

The opening paragraphs are of special interest as an expression of that pride which the several communities of the province took in their Greek ancestry, but which unfortunately failed to knit them together to form a harmonious entity. Whatever may have been the ancestry of the inhabitants of this region, they were evidently eager to claim Greek blood and the patronage of Greek gods. Their pride of race may have been heightened because of their proximity to the world of the barbarian.

Ancient tradition is not united regarding the founding of Nicaea. On the evidence of its coinage, Dionysus would seem to have been claimed as founder and the name of the city to have been derived from the nymph Nicaea. Strabo (12.565) mentions Antigonus as the original founder, adding that he called his settlement Antigoneia, but Strabo says that it was founded a second time by Lysimachus, who renamed it Nicaea in honour of his wife, the daughter of Antipater.  p95 Stephanus of Byzantium calls it a castle of Bottiaea, which may be interpreted as referring its founding to veterans of Alexander's army. Whatever may have been the truth of the matter, at the time of our Discourse Nicaea could boast of a fair degree of antiquity.

 p97  The Thirty-ninth Discourse:
On Concord in Nicaea
upon the Cessation of Civil Strife

I am delighted at being honoured​1 by you, as indeed it is to be expected that a man of sound judgement would be when honoured by a city which is noble and worthy of renown, as is the case with your city in regard to both power and grandeur, for it is inferior to no city of distinction anywhere, whether in nobility of lineage or in composition of population, comprising, as it does, the most illustrious families, not small groups of sorry specimens who came together from this place and from that, but the leaders among both Greeks and Macedonians, and, what is most significant, having had as founders both heroes​2 and gods.

2 But it is fitting that those whose city was founded by gods should maintain peace and concord and friendship toward one another. For it is disgraceful if they do not prove to be extremely lucky and blessed of heaven and to some extent superior to the others in good fortune, desiring, as they must, to show birth to be something real and not merely a sham and empty term. For founders, kinsmen,  p99 and progenitors who are gods desire their own people to possess nothing — neither beauty of country nor abundance of crops nor multitude of inhabitants — so much as sobriety, virtue, orderly government, honour for the good citizens and dishonour for the base. 3 Even as I myself rejoice at the present moment to find you wearing the same costume, speaking the same language, and desiring the same things. Indeed what spectacle is more enchanting than a city with singleness of purpose, and what sound is more awe-inspiring than its harmonious voice?​3 What city is wiser in council than that which takes council together? What city acts more smooth than that which acts together? What city is less liable to failure than that which favours the same policies? To whom are blessings sweeter than to those who are of one heart and mind? To whom are afflictions lighter than to those who bear them together, like a heavy load? To whom do difficulties occur more rarely than to those who defend each other? 4 What city is dearer to its people, more honoured by the stranger, more useful to its friends, more formidable to its foes? Whose praise is held more trustworthy, whose censure more truthful? Who are more nearly equal in honour to their rulers, and whom do the rulers more respect? Whom do good rulers so admire, and bad rulers less despise? Why, is it not manifest that not merely the rulers, but even the gods, pay heed to men who live in concord, while men who are torn by civil strife do not even hear one another? For no one readily hears the words  p101 either when choruses do not keep together or when cities are at variance.

5 Again, what sort of edifices, what size of territory, what magnitude of population render a community stronger than does its domestic concord? For example, when a city has concord, as many citizens as there are, so many are the eyes with which to see that city's interest, so many the ears with which to hear, so many the tongues to give advice, so many the minds concerned in its behalf; why, it is just as if some god had made a single soul for so great and populous a city.​4 Conversely, neither abundance of riches nor number of men nor any other element of strength is of advantage to those who are divided, but all these things are rather on the side of loss, and the more abundant they are, so much the greater and more grievous the loss. Just so too, methinks, it is with human bodies — that body which is in sound health finds advantage in its height and bulk, while the body which is diseased and in poor condition finds a physical state of that kind to be most perilous and productive of severest risk.​5 6 Similarly too any ship which sails the sea with concord existing between the skipper and his crew not only is safe itself but also maintains in safety those on board; otherwise the more numerous the sails so much the more violent must be the impact of the storm and so much greater the confusion.​6 This same thing is true in the case of a chariot — if the driver knows how to exercise proper control, and if at the same time the horses are not only in agreement with one another but also obedient to the driver, there is hope that in a race such a chariot will win the prize and  p103 in a war emerge in safety; but on the other hand, if strife and confusion are present, the danger increases in proportion to the strength and speed of the horses.​7 7 In much the same way also when a city enjoys concord, all such things are useful — abundance of riches, size of population, honours, fame, and power; but otherwise they are hard to use well and vexatious, just as when, for example, many wild animals or cattle are kept in the same enclosure, penned within a single stockade, they go butting and trampling and leaping upon one another.

Well now, if I were blessed with robust health, I should not have abandoned my theme before discussing it adequately to the best of my ability; but as it is, not only are you perhaps more intent upon other matters, but I myself am far too frail to match the importance of the occasion. 8 Therefore, all that remains for me to do is to make the briefest and most efficacious appeal, I mean the appeal to the gods. For the gods know what men mean to say even when they speak in whispers. After all, possibly this too is typical of one who is especially well-intentioned; for instance, good fathers use admonition with their children where they can, but where persuasion fails they pray the gods on their behalf. Accordingly I pray to Dionysus the progenitor of this city, to Heracles its founder, to Zeus Guardian of Cities, to Athena, to Aphroditê Fosterer of Friendship, to Harmony, and Nemesis,​8 and all  p105 the other gods, that from this day forth they may implant in this city a yearning for itself, a passionate love, a singleness of purpose, a unity of wish and thought; and, on the other hand, that they may cast out strife and contentiousness and jealousy, so that this city may be numbered among the most prosperous and the noblest for all time to come.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The nature of the honour is unknown. Was it citizen­ship, as in the case of Nicomedia (Or. 38.1)?

2 Strictly speaking, only one "hero," Heracles, is named in connection with Nicaea, and that too only by Dio in this speech (§ 8). The plural is used for rhetorical effect.

3 Dio utters similar sentiments in Or. 32.29.

4 There is a strong resemblance between this and Or. 32.2.

5 For a similar illustration, cf. Or. 34.22.

6 This illustration is found also in Or. 34.16 and 38.14.

7 Cf. Or. 38.15 for the chariot illustration. The similarity of the illustrations employed in this speech to those just cited as parallel may be ascribed to similarity of subject.

8 The list of deities worshipped at Nicaea, as attested by coins and inscriptions, is a long one and, as was natural, includes some of non-Greek provenience. Dio fittingly appeals only to the Greek god on this occasion and, among them, only to such as might reasonably be expected to heed his prayer.

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