Consolation upon the departure of Sallust

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Introduction to Oration VIII

The Eighth Oration is a "speech of consolation" (παραμυθητικὸς λόγος), a familiar type of Sophistic composition. In consequence of the attacks on Sallust by sycophants at court, and moreover jealous of his friendship with Julian, Constantius ordered him to leave Gaul. In this discourse, which was written before the open rupture with Constantius, Julian alludes only once and respectfully to his cousin. But Asmus thinks he can detect in it a general resemblance to the Thirteenth Oration of Dio Chrysostom, where Dio tries to comfort himself for his banishment by the tyrant Domitian, and that Sallust was expected to appreciate this and the veiled attack on Constantius. Julian addresses the discourse to himself, but it was no doubt sent to Sallust.

After Julian's accession Sallust was made prefect in 362 and consul in 363. He was the author of a manifesto of Neo Platonism, the treatise On the Gods and the World, and to him was dedicated Julian's Fourth Oration.

A consolation to himself upon the departure of the excellent Sallust[edit]

[240] Ah, my beloved comrade, unless I tell you all that I said to myself when I learned that you were compelled to journey far from my side, I shall think I am deprived of some comfort; or rather, I shall consider that I have not even begun to procure some assuagement for my grief unless I have first shared it with you. For we two have shared in many sorrows and also in many pleasant deeds and words, in affairs private and public, at home and in the field, and therefore for the present troubles, be they what they may, we must needs discover some cure, some remedy that both can share.

But who will imitate for us the lyre of Orpheus, who will echo for us the songs of the Sirens or discover the drug nepenthe?[1] Though that was perhaps some tale full of Egyptian lore or such a tale as the poet himself invented, when in what follows he wove in the story of the sorrows of the Trojans, and Helen had learned it from the Egyptians; I do not mean a tale of all the woes that the Greeks and Trojans inflicted on one another, but rather tales such as they must be that will dispel the griefs of men's souls and have power to restore cheerfulness and calm. For pleasure and pain, methinks, are connected at their source[2] [241] and succeed each other in turn. And philosophers assert that in all that befalls the wise man the very greatest trials afford him as much felicity as vexation; and thus, as they say, does the bee extract sweet dew from the bitterest herb that grows on Hymettus and works it into honey.[3] Even so bodies that are naturally healthy and robust are nourished by any kind of food, and food that often seems unwholesome for others, far from injuring them, makes them strong. On the other hand, the slightest causes usually inflict very serious injuries on persons who by nature or nurture, or owing to their habits, have an unsound constitution and are lifelong invalids. Just so with regard to the mind: those who have so trained it that it is not altogether unhealthy but moderately sound, though it do not indeed exhibit the vigour of Antisthenes or Socrates, or the courage of Callisthenes, or the imperturbability of Polemon, but so that it can under the same conditions as theirs adopt the golden mean, they, I say, will probably be able to remain cheerful in more trying conditions.

For my part, when I put myself to the proof to find out how I am and shall be affected by your departure, I felt the same anguish as when at home I first left my preceptor.[4] For everything flashed across my mind at once; the labours that we shared and endured together; our unfeigned and candid conversation; our innocent and upright intercourse; our co-operation in all that was good; our equally-matched and never-repented zeal and eagerness in opposing evildoers. How often we supported each other with one equal temper![5] How alike were our ways! How precious our friendship! Then too there came into my mind the words, "Then was Odysseus left alone."[6] For now I am indeed like him, since the god has removed you, like Hector,[7] beyond the range of the shafts which have so often been aimed at you by sycophants, [242] or rather at me, since they desired to wound me through you; for they thought that only thus should I be vulnerable if they should deprive me of the society of a faithful friend and devoted brother-in-arms one who never on any pretext failed to share the dangers that threatened me. Moreover the fact that you now have a smaller share than I in such labours and dangers does not, I think, make your grief less than mine; but you feel all the more anxiety for me and any harm that may befall my person.[8] For even as I never set your interests second to mine, so have I ever found you equally well disposed towards me. I am therefore naturally much chagrined that to you who with regard to all others can say, "I heed them not, for my affairs are prosperous,"[9] I alone occasion sorrow and anxiety. However this sorrow it seems we share equally, though you grieve only on my account, while I constantly feel the lack of your society and call to mind the friendship that we pledged to one another that friendship which we ever cemented afresh, based as it was, first and foremost, on virtue, and secondly on the obligations which you continually conferred on me and I on you. Not by oaths or by any such ties did we ratify it, like Theseus and Peirithous, but by being of the same mind and purpose, in that so far from forbearing to inflict injury on any citizen, we never even debated any such thing with one another. But whether anything useful was done or planned by .us in common, I will leave to others to say.

Now that it is natural for me to be grieved by the present event, on being parted for ever so short a time and God grant [243] that it may be short! from one who is not only my friend but my loyal fellow-worker, I think even Socrates, that great herald and teacher of virtue, will agree; so far at least as I may judge from the evidence on which we rely for our knowledge of him, I mean the words of Plato. At any rate, what he says is: "Ever more difficult did it seem to me to govern a state rightly. For neither is it possible to achieve anything without good friends and loyal fellow-workers, nor is it very easy to obtain enough of these."[10] And if Plato thought this more difficult than digging a canal through Mount Athos,[11] what must we expect to find it, we who in wisdom and knowledge are more inferior to him than he was to God? But it is not only when I think of the help in the administration that we gave one another in turn, and which enabled us to bear more easily all that fate or our opponents brought to pass contrary to our purpose; but also because I am destined soon to be bereft also of what has ever been my only solace and delight, it is natural that I am and have been cut to the very heart.[12] For in the future to what friend can I turn as loyal as yourself? With whose guileless and pure frankness shall I now brace myself? Who now will give me prudent counsel, reprove me with affection, give me strength for good deeds without arrogance and conceit, and use frankness after extracting the bitterness from the words, like those who from medicines extract what is nauseating but leave in what is really beneficial?[13] These are the advantages that I reaped from your friendship! And now that I have been deprived of all these all at once, with what arguments shall I supply myself, so that when I am in danger of flinging away my life out of regret for you and your counsels and loving kindness,[14] they may persuade me to be calm and to bear nobly whatever God has sent?[15] [244] For in accordance with the will of God our mighty Emperor has surely planned this as all else. Then what now must be my thoughts, what spells must I find to persuade my soul to bear tranquilly the trouble with which it is now dismayed? Shall I imitate the discourses of Zamolxis[16] I mean those Thracian spells which Socrates brought to Athens and declared that he must utter them over the fair Charmides before he could cure him of his headache?[17] Or must we leave these alone as being, like large machinery in a small theatre, too lofty for our purpose and suited to greater troubles; and rather from the deeds of old whose fame we have heard told, as the poet says,[18] shall we gather the fairest flowers as though from a variegated and many-coloured meadow, and thus console ourselves with such narratives and add thereto some of the teachings of philosophy? For just as, for instance, certain drugs are infused into things that have too sweet a taste, and thus their cloying sweetness is tempered, so when tales like these are seasoned by the maxims of philosophy, we avoid seeming to drag in a tedious profusion of ancient history and a superfluous and uncalled-for flow of words.

"What first, what next, what last shall I relate?"[19] Shall I tell how the famous Scipio, who loved Laelius and was loved by him in return with equal yoke of friendship,[20] as the saying is, not only took pleasure in his society, but undertook no task without first consulting with him and obtaining his advice as to how he should proceed? It was this, I understand, that furnished those who from envy slandered Scipio with the saying that Laelius was the real author of his enterprises, and Africanus merely the actor. The same remark is made about ourselves, and, far from resenting this, I rather rejoice at it. For to accept another's good advice Zeno held to be a sign of greater virtue [245] than independently to decide oneself what one ought to do; and so he altered the saying of Hesiod; for Zeno says: "That man is best who follows good advice" instead of "decides all things for himself."[21] Not that the alteration is to my liking. For I am convinced that what Hesiod says is truer, and that Pythagoras was wiser than either of them when he originated the proverb and gave to mankind the maxim, "Friends have all things in common."[22] And by this he certainly did not mean money only, but also a partnership in intelligence and wisdom. So all that you suggested belongs just as much to me who adopted it, and whenever I was the actor who carried out your plans you naturally have an equal share in the performance. In fact, to whichever of us the credit may seem to belong, it belongs equally to the other, and malicious persons will gain nothing from their gossip.

Let me go back now to Africanus and Laelius. When Carthage had been destroyed[23] and all Libya made subject to Rome, Africanus sent Laelius home and he embarked to carry the good news to their fatherland. And Scipio was grieved at the separation from his friend, but he did not think his sorrow inconsolable. Laelius too was probably afflicted at having to embark alone, but he did not regard it as an insupportable calamity. Cato also made a voyage and left his intimate friends at home, and so did Pythagoras and Plato and Democritus, and they took with them no companion on their travels, though they left behind them at home many whom they dearly loved. Pericles also set out on his campaign against Samos without taking Anaxagoras, and he conquered Euboea by following the latter's advice, for he had been trained by his teaching: but the philosopher himself he did not drag in his train [246] as though he were part of the equipment needed for battle. And yet in his case too we are told that much against his will the Athenians separated him from the society of his teacher. But wise man that he was, he bore the folly of his fellow-citizens with fortitude and mildness. Indeed he thought that he must of necessity bow to his country's will when, as a mother might, however unjustly, she still resented their close friendship; and he probably reasoned as follows. (You must take what I say next as the very words of Pericles.[24])

"The whole world is my city and fatherland, and my friends are the gods and lesser divinities and all good men whoever and wherever they may be. Yet it is right to respect also the country where I was born, since this is the divine law, and to obey all her commands and not oppose them, or as the proverb says kick against the pricks. For inexorable, as the saying goes, is the yoke of necessity. But we must not even complain or lament when her commands are harsher than usual, but rather consider the matter as it actually is. She now orders Anaxagoras to leave me and I shall see no more my best friend, on whose account the night was hateful to me because it did not allow me to see my friend, but I was grateful to daylight and the sun because they allowed me to see him whom I loved best.[25] But, Pericles, if nature had given you eyes only as she has to wild beasts, it would be natural enough for you to feel excessive grief. But since she has breathed into you a soul, and implanted in you intelligence by means of which you now behold in memory many past events, though they are no longer before you: and further since your reasoning power discovers many future events and reveals them as it were to the eyes of your mind; and again your imagination sketches for you not only those present events which are going on under your eyes and allows you to judge and survey them, but also reveals to you things at a distance and many thousand stades[26] removed more clearly than what is going on [247] at your feet and before your eyes, what need is there for such grief and resentment? And to show that I have authority for what I say, 'The mind sees and the mind hears,' says the Sicilian;[27] and mind is a thing so acute and endowed with such amazing speed that when Homer wishes to show us one of the gods employing incredible speed in travelling he says: 'As when the mind of a man darts swiftly.'[28] So if you employ your mind you will easily from Athens see one who is in Ionia; and from the country of the Celts one who is in Illyria or Thrace; and from Thrace or Illyria one who is in the country of the Celts. And moreover, though plants if removed from their native soil when the weather and the season are unfavourable cannot be kept alive, it is not so with men, who can remove from one place to another without completely deteriorating or changing their character and deviating from the right principles that they had before adopted. It is therefore unlikely that our affection will become blunted, if indeed we do not love and cherish each other the more for the separation. For 'wantonness attends on satiety,'[29] but love and longing on want. So in this respect we shall be better off if our affection tends to increase, and we shall keep one another firmly set in our minds like holy images. And one moment I shall see Anaxagoras, and the next he will see me. Though nothing prevents our seeing one another at the same instant; I do not mean our flesh and sinews and "bodily outline and breasts in the likeness"[30] of the bodily original though perhaps there is no reason why these too should not become visible to our minds but I mean our virtue, our deeds and words, our intercourse, and those conversations which we so often held with one another, when in perfect harmony we sang the praises of education and justice and mind that governs all things mortal and human: [248] when too we discussed the art of government, and law, and the different ways of being virtuous and the noblest pursuits, everything in short that occurred to us when, as occasion served, we mentioned these subjects. If we reflect on these things and nourish ourselves with these images, we shall probably pay no heed to the 'visions of dreams in the night,'[31] nor will the senses corrupted by the alloy of the body exhibit to our minds empty and vain phantoms. For we shall not employ the senses at all to assist and minister to us, but our minds will have escaped from them and so will be exercised on the themes I have mentioned and aroused to comprehend and associate with things incorporeal. For by the mind we commune even with God, and by its aid we are enabled to see and to grasp things that escape the senses and are far apart in space,, or rather have no need of space: that is to say, all of us who have lived so as to deserve such a vision, conceiving it in the mind and laying hold thereof."

Ah, but Pericles, inasmuch as he was a man of lofty soul and was bred as became a free man in a free city, could solace himself with such sublime arguments, whereas I, born of such men as now are,[32] must beguile and console myself with arguments more human; and thus I assuage the excessive bitterness of my sorrow, since I constantly endeavour to devise some comfort for the anxious and uneasy ideas which keep assailing me as they arise from this event, like a charm against some wild beast that is gnawing into my very vitals[33] and my soul, And first and foremost of the hardships that I shall have to face is this, that now I shall be bereft of our guileless intercourse and unreserved conversation. For I have no one now to whom I can talk with anything like the same confidence. What, you say, cannot I easily converse with myself? Nay, will not some one rob me even of my thoughts, and besides compel me to think differently, and to admire what I prefer not to admire? Or does this robbery amount to a prodigy unimaginable, like writing on water or boiling a stone,[34] or tracing the track of the flight of birds on the wing? Well then since no one can deprive us of our thoughts, we shall surely commune with ourselves in some fashion, [249] and perhaps God will suggest some alleviation. For it is not likely that he who entrusts himself to God will be utterly neglected and left wholly desolate. But over him God stretches his hand,[35] endues him with strength, inspires him with courage, and puts into his mind what he must do. We know too how a divine voice accompanied Socrates and prevented him from doing what he ought not. And Homer also says of Achilles, "She put the thought in his mind,"[36] implying that it is God who suggests our thoughts when the mind turns inwards and first communes with itself, and then with God alone by itself, hindered by nothing external. For the mind needs no ears to learn with, still less does God need a voice to teach us our duty: but apart from all sense-perception, communion with God is vouchsafed to the mind. How and in what manner I have not now leisure to inquire, but that this does happen is evident, and there are sure witnesses thereof men not obscure or only fit to be classed with the Megarians,[37] but such as have borne the palm for wisdom.

It follows therefore that since we may expect that God will be present with us in all our doings, and that we shall again renew our intercourse, our grief must lose its sharpest sting. For indeed in the case of Odysseus[38] too, who was imprisoned on the island for all those seven years and then bewailed his lot, I applaud him for his fortitude on other occasions, but I do not approve those lamentations. [250] For of what avail was it for him to gaze on the fishy sea and shed tears?[39] Never to abandon hope and despair of one's fate, but to play the hero in the extremes of toil and danger, does indeed seem to me more than can be expected of any human being. But it is not right to praise and not to imitate the Homeric heroes, or to think that whereas God was ever ready to assist them he will disregard the men of our day, if he sees that they are striving to attain that very virtue for which he favoured those others. For it was not physical beauty that he favoured, since in that case Nireus[40] would have been more approved; nor strength, for the Laëstrygons[41] and the Cyclops were infinitely stronger than Odysseus; nor riches, for had that been so Troy would never have been sacked. But why should I myself labour to discover the reason why the poet says that Odysseus was beloved by the gods, when we can hear it from himself? It was "Because thou art so wary, so ready of wit, so prudent."[42] It is therefore evident that if we have these qualities in addition, God on His side will not fail us, but in the words of the oracle once given of old to the Lacedaemonians, "Invoked or not invoked, God will be present with us."[43]

Now that I have consoled myself with these arguments I will go back to that other consideration which, though it seems trivial, nevertheless is generally esteemed to be not ignoble. Even Alexander, we are told, felt a need for Homer, not, of course, to be his companion, but to be his herald, as he was for Achilles and Patroclus and the two Ajaxes and Antilochus. But Alexander, ever despising what he had and longing for what he had not, could never be content with his contemporaries or be satisfied with the gifts that had been granted to him. [251] And even if Homer had fallen to his lot he would probably have coveted the lyre of Apollo on which the god played at the nuptials of Peleus;[44] and he would not have regarded it as an invention of Homer's genius but an actual fact that had been woven into the epic, as when for instance Homer says, "Now Dawn with her saffron robe was spread over the whole earth";[45] and "Then uprose the Sun";[46] and "There is a land called Crete";[47] or other similar statements of poets about plain and palpable things partly existing to this very day, partly still happening.

But in Alexander's case, whether a superabundance of virtue and an intelligence that matched the advantages with which he was endowed exalted his soul to such heights of ambition that he aimed at greater achievements than are within the scope of other men; or whether the cause was an excess of courage and valour that led him into ostentation and bordered on sinful pride, must be left as a general topic for consideration by those who desire to write either a panegyric of him or a criticism; if indeed anyone thinks that criticism also can properly be applied to him. I on the contrary can always be content with what I have and am the last to covet what I have not, and so am well content when my praises are uttered by a herald who has been an eyewitness and comrade-in-arms in all that I have done; and who has never admitted any statements invented at random out of partiality or prejudice. And it is enough for me if he only admit his love for me, though on all else he were more silent than those initiated by Pythagoras.

Here however I am reminded of the report current that you are going not only to Illyria but to Thrace also, and among the Greeks who dwell on the shores of that sea.[48] Among them I was born and brought up, and hence I have a deeply rooted affection for them and for those parts and the cities there. And it may be that in their hearts also there still remains no slight affection for me: I am therefore well assured that you will, as the saying is, [252] gladden their hearts by your coming, and there will be a fair exchange, since they will gain in proportion as I lose by your leaving me here. And I say this not because I wish you to go for it were far better if you should return to me by the same road without delay but the thought in my mind is that even for this loss I shall not be without comfort or consolation, since I can rejoice with them on seeing you just come from us. I say "us," since on your account I now rank myself among the Celts,[49] seeing that you are worthy to be counted among the most distinguished Greeks for your upright administration and your other virtues; and also for your consummate skill in oratory; in philosophy too you are thoroughly versed, a field wherein the Greeks alone have attained the highest rank; for they sought after truth, as its nature requires, by the aid of reason and did not suffer us to pay heed to incredible fables or impossible miracles like most of the barbarians.

However, this subject also, whatever the truth about it may be, I must lay aside for the present. But as for you for I must needs dismiss you with auspicious words may God in His goodness be your guide wherever you may have to journey, and as the God of Strangers and the Friendly One[50] may He receive you graciously and lead you safely by land; and if you must go by sea, may He smooth the waves![51] And may you be loved and honoured by all you meet, welcome when you arrive, regretted when you leave them! Though you retain your affection for me, may you never lack the society of a good comrade and faithful friend! And may God make the Emperor gracious to you, and grant you all else according to your desire, and make ready for you a safe and speedy journey home to us!

In these prayers for you I am echoed by all good and honourable men; and let me add one prayer more: "Health and great joy be with thee, and may the gods give thee all things good, even to come home again to thy dear fatherland!"[52]


  1. Odyssey 4. 227; a sophistic commonplace; cf. 412 D, Themistius 357 a; Julian seems to mean that the nepenthe was not really a drug but a story told by Helen.
  2. Plato, Phaedo 60 b.
  3. Cf. Oration 2. 101 a.
  4. Mardonius.
  5. Iliad 17. 720.
  6. Iliad 11. 401.
  7. Iliad 11. 163.
  8. Iliad 17. 242.
  9. Nauck, Adespota fragmenta 430.
  10. Julian quotes from memory and paraphrases Epistle 7. 325 c.
  11. This feat of Xerxes became a rhetorical commonplace.
  12. Aristophanes, Acharnians 1; cf. 248 d.
  13. A commonplace; Plato, Laws 659 e; Julian, Caesars 314 c; Dio Chrysostom 33. 10; Themistius 63 b, 302 b; Maximus of Tyre 10. 6.
  14. Odyssey 11. 202.
  15. Demosthenes, De Corona 97; cf. Julian, Epistle 53. 439 d.
  16. Cf. Caesars 309 c note.
  17. Plato, Charmides 156 d.
  18. Iliad 9. 524.
  19. Odyssey 9. 14.
  20. Theocritus 12. 15.
  21. Hesiod, Works and Days 293, 295 ὅς αὑτῷ πάντα νοήσῃ; Diogenes Laertius 7. 25.
  22. Diogenes Laertius 8. 10; Pythagoras persuaded his disciples to share their property in common.
  23. Cf. Livy 27. 7.
  24. Cobet rejects this sentence as a gloss; but Julian perhaps echoes Plato, Menexenus 246 c.
  25. This a very inappropriate application to Pericles of the speech of Critoboulos in Xenophon, Symposium 4. 12; cf. Diogenes Laertius 2. 49.
  26. The Attic stade = about 600 feet.
  27. Epicharmus fr. 13.
  28. Iliad 15. 80.
  29. Theognis 153. τίκτει τοι κόρος ὔβριν κακῷ ὅλβος ἔπηται.
  30. Euripides, Phoenissae 165, μορφῆς τύπωμα στίρνα τ᾽ ἐξῃκασμένα.
  31. Nauck, Adespota trag. frag. 108.
  32. Iliad 5. 304.
  33. Cf. 243 c.
  34. Two familiar proverbs.
  35. Iliad 9. 420.
  36. Iliad 1. 55.
  37. The Megarians on inquiring their rank among the Greeks from the Delphic oracle were told that they were not in the reckoning at all, ὑμεῖς δ᾽ Μεγαρεῖς οὐκ ἑν λόγῳ οὐδ᾽ ἑν ἀριθμῷ; cf. Theocritus 14. 47.
  38. Cf. Dio Ohrysostom 13. 4, Arnim.
  39. Odyssey 5. 84.
  40. Iliad 2. 673.
  41. Odyssey 10. 119 foll.
  42. Odyssey 13. 332.
  43. Cf Oration 6. 201 c; Thucydides 1. 118.
  44. Iliad 24. 63.
  45. Iliad 8. 1.
  46. Odyssey 3. 1.
  47. Odyssey 19. 172.
  48. The Propontis.
  49. Sallust was a native of Gaul.
  50. These are regular epithets of Zeus.
  51. Theocritus 7. 57.
  52. Odyssey 24. 402; and 10. 562.