Letters of Julian/Letter 25

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From The Works of the Emperor Julian, volume III (1913) Loeb Classical Library.

25. To Evagrius[1][edit]

[362, Constantinople]

A small estate of four fields, in Bithynia, was given to me by my grandmother,[2] and this I give as an offering to your affection for me. It is too small to bring a man any great benefit on the score of wealth or to make him appear opulent, but even so it is a gift that cannot wholly fail to please you, as you will see if I describe its features to you one by one. And there is no reason why I should not write in a light vein to you who are so full of the graces and amenities of culture. It is situated not more than twenty stades from the sea, so that no trader or sailor with his chatter and insolence disturbs the place. Yet it is not wholly deprived of the favours of Nereus, for it has a constant supply of fish, fresh and still gasping; and if you walk up on to a sort of hill away from the house, you will see the sea, the Propontis and the islands, and the city that bears the name of the noble Emperor;[3] nor will you have to stand meanwhile on seaweed and brambles, or be annoyed by the filth that is always thrown out on to seabeaches and sands, which is so very unpleasant and even unmentionable; but you will stand on smilax and thyme and fragrant herbage. Very peaceful it is to lie down there and glance into some book, and then, while resting one's eyes, it is very agreeable to gaze at the ships and the sea. When I was still hardly more than a boy I thought that this was the most delightful summer place, for it has, moreover, excellent springs and a charming bath and garden and trees. When I had grown to manhood I used to long for my old manner of life there and visited it often, and our meetings there did not lack talks about literature. Moreover there is there, as a humble monument of my husbandry, a small vineyard that produces a fragrant, sweet wine, which does not have to wait for time to improve its flavour. You will have a vision of Dionysus and the Graces. The grapes on the vine, and when they are being crushed in the press, smell of roses, and the new-made wine in the jars is a "rill of nectar," if one may trust Homer.[4] Then why is not such a vine as this abundant and growing over very many acres?

Perhaps I was not a very industrious gardener. But since my mixing bowl of Dionysus is inclined to soberness and calls for a large proportion of the nymphs,[5] I only provided enough for myself and my friends — and they are very few. Well then, I now give this to you as a present, dear heart, and though it be small, as indeed it is, yet it is precious as coming from a friend to a friend, "from home, homeward bound," in the words of the wise poet Pindar.[6] I have written this letter in haste, by lamplight, so that, if I have made any mistakes, do not criticise them severely or as one rhetorician would another.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. For Evagrius see Introduction.
  2. Cf. Vol. 2. 290d; and 251d for his childhood's associations with this coast.
  3. Constantinople, named after Constantine.
  4. Odyssey 9. 359 νέκταρός ἐστιν ἀπορρώξ.
  5. i.e. of water.
  6. Olympian Ode 6. 99; 7. 5.