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Discourse 65

This webpage reproduces one of the

Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1951

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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Discourse 67

(Vol. V) Dio Chrysostom

 p86  The Sixty-sixth Discourse: On Reputation

The theme of this Discourse is the fickleness of the crowd and the folly of those who seek to win and hold its favour. Dio regards those who yield to that ambition as victims of delusion. The public honours for which they strive have no real utility and are purchased at too high a price sometimes reducing to beggary those who aim to reach them. What is more, the aspirant for popular acclaim sacrifices his independence. He is followed to order his life to suit the whims of those whose favour he is courting — in itself an impossible task — and he cringes before the hostile criticism of citizen and alien alike. No matter what scheme of life a man adopts, he is sure to be maligned. The sane policy is, therefore, to steel oneself against criticism, in other words, to adopt the attitude of the philosopher.

Arnim argues that the Discourse originally ended in the midst of § 26, and that what follows has been appended by Dio's editor, who, coming upon three passages of similar purport, chose to preserve them through inclusion in the Discourse. He is led to this belief by the presence in the section referred to of the sentence beginning τί δεῖ δόξης ἐπιθυμεῖν, which is thought to form a logical close. He might have found additional support for his belief in the fact that the beginning of each of the succeeding passages is marked by asyndeton. All three resemble introductory paragraphs of exordia. The extant work of Dio reveals other instances of the existence of variant versions of a common theme, apparently testifying to his practice of delivering a given speech on more than one occasion.

Peculiar interest attaches to the present Discourse because of an allusion in § 6: ἔτι δὲ ἰδεῖν ἔστιν οἰκίαν συντριβεῖσαν πλουσιωτέραν ἐκείνης διὰ γλῶτταν καὶ νὴ Δία ἑτέραν κινδυνεύουσαν.  p87 The two "houses" there referred to are thought by Arnim to have been respectively that of Nero, whose pretensions as a singer (διὰ γλῶτταν) are being credited with his downfall, and that of Domitian, whose assassination is here predicted. Arnim observes that toward the close of Domitian's career such predictions were current, even being known by the emperor himself, and he points out that Apollonius of Tyana was able to announce in Ephesus the murder of Domitian at the very moment when it was taking place in Rome! If Arnim's reasoning is correct, our Discourse can with confidence be dated shortly before Domitian's death, while Dio was still in exile.

 p89  The Sixty-sixth Discourse:
On Reputation

There are some who brand as dissolute and ill-starred such men as have a craving for money or for dainties or for wine or who are inflamed with lust for women or boys, and they regard each of these vices as the greatest disgrace, yet those who crave distinction and reputation, on the contrary, they applaud, thinking them illustrious; and therefore, while each one of his own accord, if a gourmet or a tippler or a lover of somebody, feels ashamed and tries to cloak his incontinence, yet when seeking reputation and distinction he does not want to escape the eye of any man on earth, but rather he carries on his quest in the open.

2 And no wonder, for among men in general each speaks well of this type of malady, deeming it advantageous for himself. Furthermore, by official act virtually all the states have devised lures of every kind for the simpletons — crowns and front seats and public proclamations. Accordingly, in some instances men who craved these things have actually been made wretched and reduced to beggary, although the states held before them nothing great or wonder­ful at all, but in some cases led their victims about with a sprig of green, as men lead cattle,​1 or clapped upon their heads a crown or a ribbon.​2 Therefore, while  p91 a fool like that, if he so desired, might have for the asking any number of crowns, not merely of olive or of oak, but even of ivy or of myrtle,​3 often he sells his house and his lands and thereafter goes about hungry and clad in a shabby little cloak. Ah but, says he, his name is publicly proclaimed by his fellow citizens — just as is that of a runaway slave! 3 With good reason, therefore, men use in connexion with the votes passed in Assembly the branch of the olive,​4 because of its native bitterness! For the notoriety-seekers are driven out of their fields by the democracies with shouting and clamour,​5 just as, methinks, the starlings are driven out by the farmers. Moreover, though the starlings withdraw for a little while, the notoriety-seekers can never again return to anything that once was theirs, nay, a short while later they go about as beggars and no longer would any one of all who formerly were fain to burst their lungs with shouting greet them if he saw them.

4 However, such is the spell of this infatuation that, though you will buy from the dyers for two or three minas a handsome purple mantle, should you wish one by public award it would cost you very many talents.​6 Again, though you will buy the ribbons of the market-place for a few drachmas, those of the Assembly will often cost you all your fortune. Furthermore, while persons who are cried for sale in the market-place7 all deem wretched, those cried  p93 in the theatre​8 they deem fortunate; besides, they claim that the latter are cried, the former decried, a single syllable evidently constituting the sole difference!

5 Yes, so completely did the men of old despise mankind, and so clearly did they see their fatuity, that as a reward for the greatest hardships and buffetings they offered leaves!​9 Yet there are some who to gain those leaves elect to die. But no nanny-goat would hurl herself over a cliff for the sake of a sprig of wild olive, especially when other pasturage is handy. And yet, though goats do not find the wild olive distasteful, a human being could not eat it. Again, take the Isthmian pine;​10 while it is no greener than the other varieties, with much toil and hardship men strive to gain it, often paying much money for it — and that too, although the tree has no utility at all, for it can neither provide shade nor bear fruit, and, besides, the leaf is acrid and smoky; on the other hand, no one turns his head to look at the pine from Megara.​11 Moreover, if any one else has his head bound — unless he has suffered a fracture — he is the object of ridicule; yet for kings the headband is thought becoming and untold thousands have given their lives for the sake of this scrap of cloth.

6 Why, because of a golden lamb it came to pass that a mighty house like that of Pelops was overturned,  p95 as we learn from the tragic poets.​12 And not only were the children of Thyestes cut in pieces, but Pelopia's father​13 lay with her and begot Aegistheus; and Aegistheus with Clytemnestra's aid slew Agamemnon, "the shepherd of the Achaeans";​14 and then Clytemnestra's son Orestes slew her, and, having done so, he straightway went mad. One should not disbelieve these things, for they have been recorded by no ordinary men — Euripides and Sophocles — and also are recited in the midst of the theatres. Furthermore, one may behold another house, more affluent than that of Pelops, which has been ruined because of a tongue, and, in sooth, another house which is now in jeopardy.15

7 But such being the accompaniments of notoriety, yes, and countless others even more absurd, why is not he who gapes hungrily in that direction altogether more disgusting than the person who is distraught with passion for anything else at all? The gourmet is satisfied with a single fish and none of his enemies would interfere with his enjoyment of it; similarly he who is a pitiable victim of lust for boys, if he comes upon a handsome lad, devotes himself to this one only and often prevails upon him at a small cost. A single jar of Thasian wine is all the drunkard can hold, and when he has swallowed it he sleeps more sweetly than Endymion; yet your notoriety-seeker would not  p97 be satisfied with the praise of just one person, nay, not even with that of a thousand on many instances.

8 Who would not agree that it is easier to handle the most difficult youth than the most moderate community? And yet the farther the craze for notoriety progresses, so much the more impossible it is to get any sleep; instead, like the victims of delirium, your seeker after fame is always up in the air both night and day. "Right, by Heaven," somebody may say, "but you can see those other chaps busy with their wine and their mistresses and their kitchens." Yes, but does not the seeker after fame find it necessary to buy a lot of food and wine? And he must collect flute-players and mimes​16 and harpists and jugglers and, more than that, pugilists and pancratiasts​17 and wrestlers and runners and all that tribe — at least unless he intends to entertain the mob in a cheap and beggarly manner.

9 For though there has never been a gourmet so voracious as to crave a savage lion or a hundred bulls, those who wish to please the masses crave not merely the things just listed but things too numerous to mention. For "not with a few nets," as the saying goes, or with two or three harlots, or even with ten Lesbian girls, is popularity hunted and a whole community rendered obedient and friendly, since thousands are competing for it; nay, he who courts popular favour must have a whole city's licentiousness and be a devotee of singing, of dancing, of drinking, of eating, and, indeed, of all such things, not as one single individual, but rather as ten thousand or twenty thousand or a hundred thousand, in keeping  p99 with the size of the city whose favour he is courting. 10 At such a person's house you will always find

The shrill of flute and pipes, the din of men.​18

And at his house tables are laden with bread and meat, and from boy-lovers cupbearers bear drink.19

By day the hall with fatty savour reeks

And makes the court to echo with its din,

While in the night, beside their wives revered​20 —

they never sleep, not though they spread beneath them very many rugs.

11 Thus the boy-lovers, I fancy, count themselves extremely fortunate as they compare themselves with the popularity-seekers, seeing that they themselves seek only quails or a cock or a tiny nightingale,​21 while those others, they observe, must needs seek some Amoebeus​22 or Polus​23 or hire some Olympic victor for a fee of five talents. Moreover, while they themselves have filled the belly of one man, the tutor or the attendant of the lad, the others, unless they provide a sumptuous banquet for at least a hundred daily, derive no advantage at all.

Again, when men are ill, their attendants provide quiet for them so that they may sleep; but with the popularity-seekers, whenever they do obtain a bit of quiet, that is the time above all when sleep will not come. 12 Now those who have been blessed with  p101 riches or ancestry or the like or with physical or mental excellence or who, at any rate, have acquired a glib tongue, these, as if endowed with wings, are all but carried to the stars, being called leaders of the people and condottieri and sophists, courting communities and satraps and pupils; but of the others, who have no adventitious backing but are victims of the same malady, each goes about living his life with his eye on somebody else and concerned about what people are saying of him, and if people speak well of him, as he imagines, he is a happy man, cheerful of countenance, but otherwise he is depressed and downcast and considers himself but the sort of man they say he is. Again, if he is involved in litigation with any one before an arbitrator or a judge, he does not expect the arbitrator or the judge to heed chance witnesses, and yet he himself in matters which concern himself regards all and sundry as worthy of credence.

13 What, then, is more ill-starred than human beings who are at the mercy of others and in the power of any one who meets them, always compelled to keep their eye on him and to watch his countenance, just as slaves must watch the countenance of their masters? Now any servitude is hard, but those whom fate has doomed to servitude in a house in which there are two or three masters, and masters, too, who differ in both age and disposition — for example, a niggardly old man and that man's youthful sons, bent on drinking and extravagance — who would not agree that slaves so placed are more wretched than the others, seeing that they must serve so many masters, each of whom desires and orders something different?

 p103  But suppose a person were to be slave of a community consisting of old and young, of poor and rich, of wastrels and misers, what would the condition of such a person be? Again, methinks, if a man of wealth were forced to live in the kind of city in which all were free to plunder the possessions of their neighbours and there were no allow to prevent it, he would renounce his wealth forthwith, no matter if he had surpassed all the world in avarice. This, in fact, is the case with popularity to‑day. 14 For in that respect licence has been granted to any one who so desires, whether citizen or alien or foreign resident, to injure any one.

15 To the disfranchised life seems with good reason not worth living, and many choose death rather than life after losing their citizen­ship, for whoever so desires is free to strike them and there exists no private means of punishing him who treats them with contumely. Well then, all are free to give the popularity-seeker blows altogether more grievous than those which are dealt the body. Yet the disfranchised, one would find, are not lightly subjected to this treatment by any one; for most men are on their guard against righteous indignation and ill will, and, finally, the disfranchised have naught to fear from any who are weaker than they. When it comes to vituperation, however, especially vituperation of those who are thought to enjoy esteem, no one forbears, and no one is so powerless as not to be able to utter some telling phrase. 16 For that very reason a certain mild-tempered man of olden days, when somebody kept bringing him reports of that kind of language, was moved to say, "If you do not stop listening to bad words about me, I too shall listen to  p105 bad words about you." But perhaps it would be better, in case some one starts using abusive language, not even to notice whether the man is speaking at all.

The slave who is unrestrained and given to jesting, if his master catches him at it, is often made to smart for it; but the person who is subservient to public opinion is humbled by any one at all with a single word. If one were acquainted with spells learned from Medea or the Thessalians​24 which were so potent that by uttering them he could make any one he pleased weep and suffer pain though confronted by no misfortune, would not his power be regarded as tyranny? While, in dealing with one who has become puffed up by reputation there is none who does not have this power; 17 for by speaking two or three words you have plunged him into misery and anguish. Again, if because of some supernatural influence one's body were to be so constituted that, if any one should curse him, he would immediately have a fever or a headache, that man would be more wretched than the thrice wretched; and if one were to be so feeble-minded that, in case some one should revile him, he would immediately become deranged, why would not life for such a man be a thing to shun?

Or let us put it this way. Suppose one were to be put on trial every day concerning anything whatever, whether his life or his property, would it not be altogether preferable to renounce that thing and to cease being in jeopardy for the future — if it be property, then the property; if it be life, then his life? 18 How then? Is not the trial concerning reputation always in progress wherever there are  p107 men — that is, foolish men — not merely once a day but many times, and not before a definite panel of judges but before all men without distinction, and, moreover, men not bound by oath, men without regard for either witnesses or evidence? For they sit in judgement without either having knowledge of the case or listening to testimony or having been chosen by lot, and it makes no difference to them if they cast their vote at a drinking bout or at the bath and, most outrageous of all, he who to‑day is acquitted to‑morrow is condemned. 19 Accordingly, whoever is the victim of this malady of courting popularity is bound to be subject to criticism as he walks about, to pay heed to everyone, and to fear lest wittingly or unwittingly he give offence to somebody, but particularly to one of those who are bold and of ready wit. For if he should have the misfortune to have offended somebody never so little, as often happens, straightway the offended person lets fly a harsh word; and if with that word he perhaps misses his mark, nevertheless he causes dismay, while if he should hit the vital spot he has destroyed his victim forthwith. For the fact is, many are so constituted that they are overwhelmed and made to waste away by anything.

20 Not only so, but also sometimes one set of things is more potent with one kind of person and another with another; just as, I believe, each youngster fears some bogey peculiar to himself and is wont to be terrified by this — of course lads who are naturally timid cry out no matter what you produce to scare them — however, at least with these more important fellows, certain things are a source of shame with reference to certain persons. The beggar who is a  p109 braggart and seeks to appear a Croesus is confounded by Irus; and he does not even read the Odyssey because of the lines which say

In came a public beggar, who through the town

Of Ithaca was wont to beg his way.​25

21 Just so Cecrops confounds the man of servile parentage, and likewise Thersites confounds the man of shabby appearance but with ambition to be a beauty.​26 The fact is, if by calling him a glutton or a miser or a catamite or a general blackguard you jeer at the man who plumes himself on his temperance and who has enrolled under the banner of virtue, you have ruined him completely. By carrying around the Gorgon's head and displaying it to his foes Perseus turned them to stone; but most men have been turned to stone by just one word, if it is applied to them; besides, there is no need to carry this around, guarding it in a wallet.

22 And yet let me add this: if we understood also the cries of birds — for example, of the ravens or the jackdaws — and of the other creatures such as frogs or cicadae, of course we should pay heed to the cries of these as well, eager to learn what the jackdaw flying by is saying about us, or what the jay is saying and what he thinks about us. It is a lucky thing, then, that we do not understand. But how many human beings are more empty-headed than the frogs and the jackdaw! Yet for all that, the words they speak excite us and make us utterly wretched.

 p111  23 However, he who has asserted his independence pays no heed to the foolish talk of the crowd; rather he mocks at their loquacity, having indeed long since said in answer to them all,

I care not; 'tis as if a woman threw

At me, or else some witless lad; for blunt

The missile of a feeble good-for‑naught.​27

Take Heracles, son of Zeus; how many, think you, were wont to disparage him, some dubbing him thief, some ruffian, some even adulterer or slayer of children?​28 Yet he was not at all disturbed by these taunts, though perhaps there was none who spoke them openly, since he would promptly have suffered for it.​a

24 Unless you bring yourself to look with scorn upon all others, you will never end your state of wretchedness; instead, you will always lead a pitiable, yes, a painful existence, being at the mercy of all who wish to hurt you and, as the saying goes, living a hare's life. Nay, hares fear the dogs and the nets and the eagles, but you will go about cowering and quaking before what people say, being utterly unable to provide yourself with any defence, no matter what you may be doing or if you spend your time in any way you please. 25 If you are always rushing into the market-place you will hear yourself called a market idler and a shyster, whereas if, on the contrary, you are wary of that sort of thing and keep more at home and attend to your own affairs you will be called timid and an ignoramus and a nonentity; if you give thought to learning you will be called simple-minded  p113 and effeminate; if you are in some business, vulgar; if you stroll about at your leisure, lazy; if you don rather soft apparel, ostentatious and dandified; if you go barefoot and wear a ragged little coat they will say you are crazy. 26 Socrates, they said, corrupted the young men, was irreverent toward religion; moreover, they did not merely say these things — for that would have been less shocking — no, they even killed him, exacting a penalty for his lack of shoes! Aristeides was ostracized by the Athenians, although they were clearly persuaded that he was just.​29 Why should one crave popularity, a thing from which, even if attained, one often derives no profit?

Bion​30 believes it impossible for one to please the crowd except by turning into a cake or a jar of Thasian wine — foolishly so believing, in my opinion. For often even at a dinner of only ten guests the cake does not please everybody, but, on the contrary, one calls it stale, another hot, and another too sweet — unless, by Heaven, Bion means that one must turn into a cake which is both hot and stale and cold! Nay, on the whole the case is not so simple as that; of course not. 27 On the contrary, one must also turn into perfume and a flute-girl and a lovely lad and a Philip the jester.​31 However, one thing possibly still remains which he who wants to please the mob will have to turn into — silver. Nay, even if one turns into silver one does not immediately satisfy; instead, one must also be struck and bitten.​32 Why, then, you  p115 luckless creature, do you persist in pursuing a thing unattainable?​33 For you could never become either perfume or a crown or wine or yet silver. 28 Besides, even if one should become silver, gold is more precious; and if gold, it will have to be refined. Indeed, each rich man resembles money, as far as any excellence is concerned. For while no one praises money, each one who gets it uses it then it is worn out by those who use it and at last is found among the coins which do not pass current. So the rich man too comes to be reckoned among the poor and those who do not pass current and no one any longer receives a man like that of all who once were filled with admiration for him; instead, they do not even turn him over before casting him aside.

29 Again, reputation is like the Furies of the tragic poets — its seeming splendour is like their torch, while one might, I fancy, liken their whip to the clapping and the shouting of the crowd, and those who sometimes hiss might be likened to the Furies' snakes. Therefore, often when one is enjoying peace and quiet and is confronted by no evil, reputation lays violent hands on him, and, cracking her whip, drives him forth to some festal gathering or to the theatre.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf. Plato, Phaedrus 230D.

2 On the subject of crowns cf. Athenaeus 15.669C‑686C. Crowns were festival prizes in the athletic games. Best known is the crown of wild olive, awarded at Olympia. The Diadumenos of Polycleitus portrays an athlete binding his brow with a ribbon. Crowns were awarded also for public service, as in the famous case of Demosthenes. In either sports or politics the crown might prove costly.

3 Crowns of ivy or myrtle were sometimes worn to ward off drunkenness; cf. Athenaeus 15.675D‑E.

4 Perhaps an allusion to the wreaths carved on certain stones containing official records.

5 To gain the shouts of the mob they are driven to sacrifice their property.

6 The intrinsic value of the mina was one sixtieth part of the talent, but one hundred times that of the drachma.

7 The slaves; cf. § 2.

8 Honours voted in Assembly often were conferred in the theatre.

9 An allusion to the wreaths awarded the athletic victor.

10 The "Isthmian pine" was awarded the victor in the Isthmian Games held at the Isthmus of Corinth in honour of Poseidon.

11 There seems to have been no great botanical difference, but Megara had no national games of its own.

12 The fortunes of the house of Pelops were a favourite theme with the tragic poets. One of Sophocles' extant dramas (Electra) and at least three now lost testify to his interest in the story. Four of the extant plays of Euripides (Electra, Iphigenia at Aulis, Iphigenia among the Taurians, and Orestes) deal with the same theme. Dio should have known the famous trilogy of Aeschylus, the Oresteia, but for some reason he overlooks it.

13 Thyestes was father of Pelopia; cf. Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, epitome 2.14.

14 A familiar Homeric tag.

15 The houses of Nero and Domitian respectively; cf. Introduction.

16 The term mime, frequently used to designate a low form of comedy popular in Sicily and southern Italy, is here used of the performers in such productions.

17 The pancratiast used a combination of wrestling and boxing.

Thayer's Note: For fuller details and sources, see the article Pancratium in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

18 Iliad 10.13.

19 A paraphrase of Odyssey 9.8‑10, descriptive of palace life at the court of Alcinoüs in Phaeacia.

20 Odyssey 10.10‑11, spoken by Odysseus about the palace of Aeolus.

21 As gifts for their beloved.

22 Famous singer of the third century; cf. Athenaeus 14.623D.

23 Famous tragic actor; cf. Lucian, Necyomanteia 16, and J. B. O'Connor, Chapters in History of Actors and Acting in Ancient Greece, pp128 ff.

24 The Thessalians were famed for their occult powers.

25 Odyssey 18.1‑2. Irus' humiliation at the hands of Odysseus is a warning to braggarts.

26 Cecrops and Thersites create confusion in different ways, the one because, as founder of Athens, his social position was secure, the other as a notorious example of an ill-favoured upstart humbled by his betters.

27 Iliad 11.389‑390, spoken by Diomedes in scorn of the wound just received from the arrow shot at him by Paris.

28 Heracles might have been called ruffian on many an occasion; "thief" may allude to his theft of the dog Cerberus; as for "slayer of children," in a fit of madness caused by Hera, his inveterate enemy, Heracles slew his own children, as we read in Euripides' Heracles.

29 Aristeides' sobriquet was "the Just."

30 Cynic philosopher of the third century B.C.

31 For Philip see Xenophon, Symposium 1.1.11‑16.

32 As a test of genuineness.

33 Possibly a reminiscence of Iliad 17.75: Ἕκτορ, νῦν σὺ μὲν ὧδε θέεις ἀκίχητα διώκων.

Thayer's Note:

a Either Heracles cared or he didn't; the contradictory and illogical added comment suggests to me either that Dio didn't fully revise his text, or that we have a gloss.

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