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Discourse 43

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 45

(Vol. IV) Dio Chrysostom

 p189  The Forty-fourth Discourse:
An Address of Friendship for his Native Land
on its Proposing Honours for him

Internal evidence makes it fairly certain that this Discourse was delivered in the winter of A.D. 96‑97, shortly after Dio's return from his long exile of fourteen years. The occasion was a town meeting at which it was proposed to accord him certain unnamed honours. These honours he modestly deprecates, pointing out that Prusa has honoured him sufficiently in having honoured various members of his family. Taking advantage of the present temper of his audience, he then urges the advisability of a reform in the conduct of the citizens. Though he is adroit in making his plea, it is abundantly evident from other speeches in this group that such a plea was warranted, for Prusa, in common with other cities of the province, was in a state of social and political upheaval. It is hinted that such reform is a necessary prerequisite to securing the concessions alluded to in § 11.

At the conclusion of his remarks, he announces that he is going to read to his hearers some correspondence between himself and the Emperor. Unfortunately that correspondence has not been preserved, but it becomes reasonably certain from Or. 45.2‑3 that his imperial correspondent was Nerva, with whom he was on very friendly terms, and that their exchange of letters concerned, not only an invitation to visit Rome, but also certain aspirations on the part of Prusa, aspirations thwarted temporarily by Nerva's untimely death.

 p191  The Forty-fourth Discourse:
An Address of Friendship for his Native Land
on its Proposing Honours for him

Fellow citizens, no sight is more delight­ful to me than your faces, no voice dearer than yours, no honours greater than those you bestow, no praise more splendid than praise from you. Even if the whole Greek world, and the Roman people too, were to admire and to praise me, that would not so cheer my heart.​1 For though, in truth, Homer has spoken many wise and divine words, he never spoke a wiser or a truer word than this:

For naught is sweeter than one's native land.​2

2 Indeed, you may rest assured that I find all my honours, both those you now propose and any others there may be, contained in your goodwill and friendship, and I need naught else. For it is quite sufficient for a reasonable human being to be loved by his own fellow citizens, and why should the man who has that love need statues too or proclamations or seats of honour? Nay, not even if it be a portrait statue of beaten gold set up in the most distinguished  p193 shrines.​3 For one word spoken out of goodwill and friendship is worth all the gold and crowns and everything else deemed splendid that men possess; so take my advice and act accordingly.

3 But if really I must have some such honours also, I have here at Prusa many other honours already — in the first place, those belonging to my father, all those honours bestowed upon him for being a good citizen and for administering the city with uprightness as long as he lived; then, too, those belonging to my mother, in whose memory you not only set up a substitute but also established a shrine;​4 furthermore, the honours bestowed upon my grandsires​5 and my other ancestors; and more than that, the honours possessed by my brothers​6 and other kinsmen. 4 For numerous statues and state funerals and funeral games and many other precious marks of distinction have been accorded them by this city — none of which have I forgotten, nay, I know them all as well as any man could — and I feel that I myself owe you the thanks for these honours, and I pray the gods I may be able to discharge the debt. For though I know they proved themselves very worthy and had a right to all they received, still the city was more than generous  p195 in each instance. For their fatherland thanked them even for all they wished, but through some turn of fortune proved unable, to accomplish. 5 For example, if my grandfather had enjoyed the friendship of the emperor of that day for a longer period and if the time left to him had not been altogether brief, he had in mind, as I am told, to obtain independence for Prusa,​7 and indeed he had already drafted his plea to that end. However, there is no need to abandon hope so long as the city continues to bear noble, patriotic men such as those it bears to‑day. For though I have been in many cities, I do not know better men than the men of Prusa.

Now I might go on to speak at some length of individuals, were it not that, since virtually all are my kinsmen, I shrink from the task of praising them, even though I should be making to each and all a contribution, as it were, due in return for the honours paid to me. 6 For, indeed, I have listened to these men too​8 — though greatly awed on account of the speakers themselves, admiring their generosity and their devotion, and, what is more, their gift of eloquence. No wonder, then, if I myself​9 have loved such a fatherland so greatly that I would not have chosen either Athens or Argos or Sparta, the foremost and most distinguished of the Greek cities, as my native land in preference to Prusa; and I have given practical demonstration of this too. For although many people in many lands have invited me both to make my home with them and to take charge of their public affairs, not merely at the present time, but even earlier, at the time when I was an exile — and some went so far as to send the  p197 Emperor resolutions thanking him for the honour he had done me​10 — yet I never accepted such a proposal even by so much as a single word, but I did not even acquire a house or a plot of ground anywhere else, so that I might have nothing to suggest a home-land anywhere but here.

7 For indeed it would be shocking if human beings are to prove more unjust than bees. For no bee ever abandons its own hive and shifts to another which is larger or more thriving, but it rounds out and strengthens its own swarm, no matter if the district be colder, the pasturage be poorer, the nectar scantier, the work connected with the honeycomb more difficult, and the farmer more neglect­ful. But, according to report, so great is their love for one another and of each for its own hive, that when they are caught outside the hive in winter and a great wind springs up, they each seize with their feet a pebble as if for ballast before beginning to fly, so that they may not be borne astray by the gale or miss their hive.11

8 But when a man has a country which is both so devoted and so fine, why should he not regard all else as of minor importance? Taking all this into account, I rejoice to see my own son, my nephew, and the other young men too — and by God's grace I see many who one and all are both of goodly lineage and, at least in personal appearance, resemble goodly men — I rejoice, I say, to see them aiming  p199 without envy and jealousy to vie with one another, and with all other men as well, concerning character and good repute both their own and that of their country too, and also striving that each may gain first rank in his fatherland for being just and patriotic and not incapable of promoting his country's welfare. 9 For you may rest assured that, although Prusa is not the largest of our cities and has not been settled for the longest time, it is more illustrious than many, even in the estimation of the outside world, and that it has long caused its citizens to rank, not last, or even third or second, in competition with virtually all Greeks everywhere.​12 And I say this, not for my own sake, but rather for the sake of the others, some of whom through foreign travel and through becoming notable men in a number of countries have gained a notable renown, while others through performing their civic duties here and remaining at home are not inferior to those just mentioned in either speech or action.

10 But I observe that it is not from the pursuit of eloquence alone​13 but also from the pursuit of wisdom that men of character and distinction are being produced here in Prusa; and I shall not hesitate to exhort our young men in behalf of these things both in private and in public whenever there is opportunity. And I ask of you the people that, as to privileges which must come from our rulers,​14 you cherish the hope of their realization and pray that some measure of honour or fame or affluence may accrue;​15 but that, on the other hand, as regards the blessings which must come from yourselves, you possess them by being superior to the other self-governed communities in orderly behaviour, in respect  p201 for others, in obedience to your men of character, in industry, in temperance in your daily lives, in neglecting neither your bodies nor your souls, insofar as each man's private circumstances grant him leisure, in devotion to the task of rearing and educating your children, in making your city truly Hellenic, free from turmoil, and stable, and in devoting your native shrewdness and courage and intelligence to greater and finer things, while refraining from discord and confusion and conflict with one another so far as possible.16

11 For, my friends, education can be predicated of a people also and morality of a state, a morality based upon love of learning and fair-dealing. Moreover, not only did the Spartans and the Athenians in ancient days — and certain other peoples too — through orderly behaviour in civic matters have the good fortune to make their cities great and illustrious even out of very small and weak beginnings, but such an achievement as that is possible also for those to‑day who wish it. For if you follow the practices I have mentioned, they will benefit you more than either the size of your Council, or the right to settle your disputes at home, or the gaining of some revenue from without, or even than independence itself, should you be so fortunate as to obtain that too some day.​17 12 For rest assured that what is called independence, that nominal possession which comes into being at the pleasure of those who have control and authority, is sometimes impossible  p203 to acquire, but the true independence, the kind which men actually achieve, both the individual and the state obtain, each from its own self, if they administer their own affairs in a high-minded and not in a servile and easy-going manner. But that you may know my opinion from another source as well, I will read you a letter which I myself sent to the Emperor in answer to his invitation to visit him, because in that letter I begged to be excused in favour of you, and also the letter which he wrote in reply.18

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 He had been honoured at Rome and in many other cities. Cf. Or. 41.2 and 44.6.

2 Odyssey 9.34.

3 The phrase "of beaten gold" shows that Dio is thinking of the famous golden statue said to have been dedicated by Cypselus, tyrant of Corinth, at Olympia. That statue was referred to by Plato, Phaedrus 236B, and by many later writers. According to one account, Cypselus vowed that if he became tyrant of Corinth he would consecrate the wealth of his subjects for ten years; and out of the tithes he secured he made a statue of Zeus and set it up in the temple of Hera. The dedicatory inscription ran as follows:

εἰμὶ ἐγὼ χρυσοῦς σφυρήλατος, εἰμὶ κολοσσός,

ἐξώλης εἴη Κυψελιδῶν γενεά.

4 A surprising honour of which nothing further is known.

5 Dio seems to include both grandfathers; but we get explicit information about the maternal grandfather alone, of whom he says that he was a man of cultivation, public-spirited, generous, and a friend of an earlier emperor (Or. 41.6, 44.5, 46.3‑4, and 50.7).

6 Nothing further is known of these brothers.

7 Cf. § 12.

8 Apparently speakers who have supported the proposal to honour him.

9 I.e., as well as his ancestors and relatives.

10 If this Discourse has been dated correctly, the Emperor would be Nerva. The honour referred to would no doubt be Dio's recall from exile, although Nerva also asked him to visit him at Rome.

11 For the ancient belief that cranes carried stones for ballast, see Aristophanes, Birds 1136‑1137. Aristotle, Hist. Anim. 8.14.5, calls the belief false.

12 Pliny, Letters 10.23, speaks of the dignitas of Prusa.

13 He has paid his respects to the orators in § 6.

14 The imperial government.

15 In § 11 he is more explicit as to Prusan ambitions.

16 Dio had had experience of the turbulence of the people of Prusa. Note especially Or. 46.

17 Dio did later obtain for Prusa an enlarged Council and the right to hold court at home (Or. 45.7 and 41.33). Revenue "from without" may refer to that which came from court proceedings (Or. 35.15). Independence of the kind enjoyed by Apameia, its rival and neighbour, Prusa seems not to have obtained.

18 See Introduction.

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