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Discourse 49

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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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Discourse 51

(Vol. IV) Dio Chrysostom

 p310  The Fiftieth Discourse:
Regarding his Past Record,
spoken before the Council

This Discourse is really earlier in date than Or. 49, though the interval between the two is presumably very brief. In the one Dio disclaims the ambition to become archon, announcing his intention to leave Prusa (50.7), in the other he declines that office in an election already in progress, referring to his departure as to an event of the immediate future (49.15). The projected journey is referred to briefly also in the opening sentence of Or. 45. A possible explanation of the reason for the journey and for the repeated postponement of it is suggested in the Introduction to Or. 49.

Our Discourse affords no sure clue as to the reason for the meeting of the Council. It may have been a regular session of that body, though we learn (§ 10) that Dio had been charged with having interfered with its convening. At all events the setting for this defence of his past record was highly dramatic. The presiding officer must have been his own son (τὸν υἰὸν τοῦτον§ 5), to whose recent election as archon Dio seems to refer at the close of Or. 48. Dio himself was a member of the Council, for in § 10 he is at some pains to explain why he has not been in attendance upon earlier sessions.

Arnim argues with some plausibility that, when on a previous occasion Dio had declined election as archon, he had engineered the substitution of his son for that position. We do not know the precise age of the son at the time of his election, but the reference to his inexperience (Or. 48.17) leads us to suppose that he was young for the highest office in the state, and that supposition is confirmed by the concluding  p311 sentence of the present Discourse as emended by Capps. What more natural, then, than that Dio's enemies should have spread the report that the son was merely a cat's paw for the father, and that, while evading the responsibilities of office, Dio was exercising all its prerogatives — πάντα ἁπλῶς νομίζουσι τὰ τῆς ἀρχῆς γίγνεσθαι κατὰ τὴν ἐμὴν γνώμην, § 10? Against that rumour Dio offers the favourite Greek argument of probability, pointing to his previous record and claiming that it would be inconsistent, especially for one of his age, to refrain from exercising the prerogatives of a member of the Council, while at the same time trying to usurp the functions of its presiding officer. The fact that shortly thereafter he was put up as a candidate for that office suggests either that his arguments or his flattery or both had silenced the opposition or else that his foes were really a very small minority. There is in these Bithynian addresses abundant testimony to his popularity and influence at Prusa.

 p313  The Fiftieth Discourse:
Regarding his Past Record,
spoken before the Council

My friends, I admired you even ere this, as indeed it was to be expected that a man of fairness and no fool would cherish that element in his native city which is most sensible and trustworthy; on the other hand, to rank others ahead of you is as if a man who professed to be patriotic were to delight in the private houses and workshops in his city, but to regard with more indifference the market-place, the town-hall, the council-chamber, and the other sacrosanct places;​1 or as if, by Heaven, a Spartan were to be fond of the common people, but were to hold in low esteem the kings and ephors and elders, men by far superior to all others in prudence, men by whose efforts the city as a whole was being preserved.​2 2 Again, take the Athenians, who had the most democratic government in the world and gave the most numerous privileges to the masses and the people's party; they never had any demagogue, not even the notorious Hyperbolus​3 or Cleon, so audacious as to regard the Areopagus or  p315 the Council of the Six Hundred​4 with less reverence than the common people. But if I am continually referring to the Spartans and Athenians, let the carping critics pardon me, because I am judging you worthy of such comparisons and because in addressing Greeks, as I take to be the case, I deem it appropriate not to refer to any others than Greeks of the first rank.

3 However that may be, let this be your evidence of my goodwill toward you, as well as of my trust in you, that I come before you with assurance neither because I rely upon some political club nor because I have among you some familiar friends; moreover, I believe I should stand as high with you as any man, obviously because I have based my confidence upon my friendship toward all and my goodwill toward all, and not upon my being elected to be an influential or formidable person or seeking to be favoured for such a reason. On the other hand, if I did pity the commons at the time when they were subjects for pity, and if I tried my best to ease their burdens,​5 this is no sign that I am on more friendly terms with them than with you. We know that, in the case of the body, it is always the ailing part which we treat, and that we devote more attention to the feet than to the eyes, if the feet are in pain and have been injured while the eyes are in sound condition. 4 Again, if I have said that the commons were subjects for pity, let no one assume that I mean they have been treated unfairly and illegally,​6 for we also pity persons who are subjected by physicians to surgery or cautery, although such treatment is for their recovery, and  p317 since their mothers and fathers alike weep over them, although they know that they are being benefited.

However, as I was saying,​7 though I admired you even ere this, before ever I had had sufficient experience of your disposition, now certainly, I swear to you by all the gods, I for my part not only judge the Council worthy of respect and affection, but am even amazed at your power and truthfulness and independence. 5 Moreover, I have conducted myself in such a way that, while I have, as I think, repaid the people in full to the best of my ability as a citizen, yet to you I am still indebted, and I could never outdo your benevolence toward me.​8 And in fact that expression which was used by one of the orators of old which was considered to contain a certain excess of flattery, namely, "I might with good reason carry the commons around with me in my eyes," I could justly use with reference to you. And what is more, this son of mine, if he is sensible and prudent, I believe will dedicate his whole life to your service and consult your welfare no less than I do.

6 "What had happened," some one will say, "and what experience of the gentlemen have you had, that you are so extravagant in your language?"​9 Possibly it is an inspiration which has come to me spontaneously, a spiritual impulse of that sort in your direction; but one thing at any rate I would have you know clearly — that I cannot cherish or favour with my eloquence either commons or Council or  p319 man, be he satrap or prince or tyrant, without first praising them to myself and approving the character of their spirit. But in your case, practically every time there has been a test of your disposition, I see you have never displayed any injustice or double-dealing or baseness or fickleness or insensibility or yielding to clamour or annoyance. 7 And so I might say with assurance, that, while you have had excellent leaders, you have had none as excellent as you deserve, no, not even my father or my grandfather of days gone by, nor the forebears of the rest of you, all good men and deserving of honour as they were.10

And let no one imagine that I am trying through oratory to force my way into the presidency of the Council; for I am leaving Prusa for a variety of reasons — and you must believe that this time at least I speak the truth​11 and perhaps not for the sake of special profit or any self-indulgence; indeed I have not been able to hide my purpose.​12 8 Besides, there is no fear that I may ever be thought guilty of flattering you, since I did not flatter the hateful tyrant​13 or utter a single ignoble or servile word, at a time when many were glad to save their lives by any deed or word at all. On the contrary, your way of doing things seems to me to be grand, yes, superhuman. For, while I do not know with absolute precision what you are like in private life — though I believe you to be superior to most people — I do know  p321 that as a corporate body, whenever you gather here, or, it may be, in the Assembly, you have never said or thought anything base or servile, and that entreaty has no weight with you, nor promises, nor threats — supposing of course there is any one so low as to try to prevail by threats. But why should I not speak my mind — as if the philosopher had to confine himself to exposing what is bad and concealing what is better, or as if the truth were beneficial only in connexion with evils, instead of no less so in connexion with good things because it is laudatory!

9 "But did you, then," some one will ask, "rise to your feet merely to deliver a eulogy of the Council?" And what is there shocking in that, provided the eulogy be true? However, this eulogy of mine, in case you are clearly unlike what is said of you, is not a eulogy of you, but rather an accusation of the speaker. Still, for all that, I should not have delivered any such speech at all if I had not been very much hurt, as I was once before,​14 on hearing that I am compromising your position. And this explains why I have defended myself, not disdaining to make a defence — why should I? — nor judging it to be beneath me. For while it is humiliating to make a defence before a dozing judge, as the saying goes, and also, by Heaven, before a malicious and rascally tyrant, to do so before fellow citizens and kinsmen and friends whom one regards as fair-minded is not humiliating, but reasonable and just. So not only was my conduct correct on that former occasion,​15 but it is much more so now that I know you better. 10 For I learn — and  p323 there has been a flood of talk of that kind — that some have believed the charge that I blocked the assembling of the Council; indeed I have heard also that they believe that absolutely every act of the government takes place to suit my wishes. But as for me, while I do not rob my son of one thing, I mean his unwillingness to do anything within his own control against my wishes or in any other way than guessing at my opinion too, nevertheless I swear I never gave him any orders at all — I mean orders on public matters — though for one who is a father to advise what seems to him to be preferable does have the status of an order. Moreover, because of this suspicion of which I have spoken, for some time past I have not attended the sessions of the Council. For to have deemed him worthy of municipal activities as being competent by now to be a Councillor and to administer the commonwealth, but meanwhile actually to try to make him a private citizen and to rob him of the authority which is legally his — this, I say, is from any point of view neither reasonable nor yet fair for men of my age.16

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 That all these places should be called ἱερά should not surprise us. The market-place was dotted with altars and memorials and shrines, and town-hall and council-chamber each had its religious rites and associations.

2 The ephors and elders had even more prestige than the kings.

3 Hyperbolus shared with the more famous Cleon, whom he succeeded as leader of the democratic party, the special ridicule of the comic poets.

4 The old Council of Five Hundred was enlarged to six hundred in honour of Demetrius Poliorcetes, the tribes having been increased to twelve.

5 Cf. Or. 43.7.

6 He speaks more sympathetically regarding the commons in Or. 43, but it must be remembered that he was on that occasion addressing the popular assembly.

7 § 1.

8 Like many other passages in this speech, the allusion, though doubtless clear to the audience, is less clear to the reader. Possibly Dio is alluding to the Council's indulgence in the matter of his son, to whom he presently refers. See Introduction.

9 The gentlemen in question were of course the members of the Council, before whom he was then speaking. He is well aware how extravagant is his praise, and he is quick to anticipate likely criticisms and to make capital out of them.

10 Such fulsome flattery suggests that there had been friction between the Council and its presiding officer, and that Dio is willing to go to any length to heal the trouble.

11 Dio has not yet taken his departure when he delivers Or. 49. See the Introduction to that Discourse for a possible explanation.

12 Apparently Dio had divulged his purpose to some of his acquaintances privately. He may have hoped to secure further grants for Prusa. See his veiled allusion in Or. 49.15.

13 Domitian. Cf. Or. 45.1.

14 The allusion is perhaps purposely vague. Dio may be alluding to his defence of the commons (cf. §§ 3‑4).

15 See preceding note.

16 For an interpretation of these concluding sentences, see the Introduction.

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