1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dio Chrysostom

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DIO CHRYSOSTOM (c. A.D. 40–115), Greek sophist and rhetorician, was born at Piusa (mod. Brusa), a town at the foot of Mount Olympus in Bithynia. He was called Chrysostom (“golden-mouthed”) from his eloquence, and also to distinguish him from his grandson, the historian Dio Cassius; his surname Cocceianus was derived from his patron, the emperor Cocceius Nerva. Although he did much to promote the welfare of his native place, he became so unpopular there that he migrated to Rome, but, having incurred the suspicion of Domitian, he was banished from Italy. With nothing in his pocket but Plato’s Phaedo and Demosthenes’ De falsa legatione, he wandered about in Thrace, Mysia, Scythia and the land of the Getae. He returned to Rome on the accession of Nerva, with whom and his successor Trajan he was on intimate terms. During this period he paid a visit to Prusa, but, disgusted at his reception, he went back to Rome. The place and date of his death are unknown; it is certain, however, that he was alive in 112, when the younger Pliny was governor of Bithynia.

Eighty orations, or rather essays on political, moral and philosophical subjects, have come down to us under his name; the Corinthiaca, however, is generally regarded as spurious, and is probably the work of Favorinus of Arelate. Of the extant orations the following are the most important:—Borysthenitica (xxxvi.), on the advantages of monarchy, addressed to the inhabitants of Olbia, and containing interesting information on the history of the Greek colonies on the shores of the Black Sea; Olympica (xii.), in which Pheidias is represented as setting forth the principles which he had followed in his statue of Zeus, one passage being supposed by some to have suggested Lessing’s Laocoon; Rhodiaca (xxxi.), an attack on the Rhodians for altering the names on their statues, and thus converting them into memorials of famous men of the day (an imitation of Demosthenes’ Leptines); De regno (i.-iv.), addressed to Trajan, a eulogy of the monarchical form of government, under which the emperor is the representative of Zeus upon earth; De Aeschylo et Sophocle et Euripide (lii.), a comparison of the treatment of the story of Philoctetes by the three great Greek tragedians; and Philoctetes (lix.), a summary of the prologue to the lost play by Euripides. In his later life, Dio, who had originally attacked the philosophers, himself became a convert to Stoicism. To this period belong the essays on moral subjects, such as the denunciation of various cities (Tarsus, Alexandria) for their immorality. Most pleasing of all is the Euboica (vii.), a description of the simple life of the herdsmen and huntsmen of Euboea as contrasted with that of the inhabitants of the towns. Troica (xi.), an attempt to prove to the inhabitants of Ilium that Homer was a liar and that Troy was never taken, is a good example of a sophistical rhetorical exercise. Amongst his lost works were attacks on philosophers and Domitian, and Getica (wrongly attributed to Dio Cassius by Suïdas), an account of the manners and customs of the Getae, for which he had collected material on the spot during his banishment. The style of Dio, who took Plato and Xenophon especially as his models, is pure and refined, and on the whole free from rhetorical exaggeration. With Plutarch he played an important part in the revival of Greek literature at the end of the 1st century of the Christian era.

Editions: J. J. Reiske (Leipzig, 1784); A. Emperius (Brunswick, 1844); L. Dindorf (Leipzig, 1857), H. von Arnim (Berlin, 1893-1896). The ancient authorities for his life are Philostratus, Vit. Soph. i. 7; Photius, Bibliotheca, cod. 209; Suidas, s.v.; Synesius, Δίων. On Dio generally see H. von Arnim, Leben und Werke des Dion von Prusa (Berlin, 1898); C. Martha, Les Moralistes sous l’empire romain (1865); W. Christ, Geschichte der griechischen Litteratur (1898), § 520; J. E. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship (2nd ed., 1906); W. Schmid in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie, v. pt. 1 (1905). The Euboica has been abridged by J. P. Mahaffy in The Greek World under Roman Sway (1890), and there is a translation of Select Essays by Gilbert Wakefield (1800).