Letters of Julian/Letter 53
53. To Libanius
[362, Winter at Antioch]
You have requited Aristophanes for his piety towards the gods and his devotion to yourself by changing and transforming what was formerly a reproach against him so that it redounds to his honour, and not for to-day only but for the future also, since the malicious charges of Paul and the verdict of So-and-so have no force compared with words written by you. For their calumnies were detested even while they flourished, and perished along with their perpetrators, whereas your speeches are not only prized by genuine Hellenes to-day but will still be prized in future times, unless I am mistaken in my verdict. For the rest, you shall judge whether you have convinced, or rather converted, me on behalf of Aristophanes. I now agree not to believe that he is too weak to resist pleasure and money. What point would I not yield to the most philosophic and truth-loving of orators? Naturally you will proceed to ask me why, in that case, I do not alter his unhappy lot for the better and blot out the disgrace that attaches to him on account of his ill fortune. "Two walking together," as the proverb says, namely, you and I, must take counsel. And you have the right, not only to advise that we ought to assist a man who has honoured the gods so straightforwardly, but also as to how it ought to be done. Indeed, you did hint at this in an obscure way. But it is perhaps better not to write about such matters, but to talk it over together. Farewell, brother, most dear and most beloved!
I read yesterday almost all your speech before breakfast, and after breakfast, before resting, I gave myself up to reading the remainder. Happy man to be able to speak so well, or rather to have such ideas! O what a discourse! what wit! what wisdom! what analysis! what logic! what method! what openings! what diction! what symmetry! what structure!
- For Aristophanes of Corinth and for the answer of Libanius, Letter 758, Foerster, see Introduction, Aristophanes.
- Paul, the notary nicknamed Catena, "the chain," a tool of Constantius, was burned alive on Julian's accession, by order of the Chalcedon Commission; Ammianus 14. 5. 6; 22. 3. 11. He was a Spaniard, malevolent and inquisitorial.
- The real name is suppressed, probably by a cautious editor when the letter was first published.
- Iliad 10. 224 σύν τε δύ᾽ ἐρχομένω, καί τε πρὸ ὁ τοῦ ἐνόησεν, cf. Plato, Symposium 174d.
- Julian may have read Marcus Aurelius, To Fronto: Ο ἐπιχειρήματα! Ο τάξις! O argutiae! Ο ἄσκησις! O Omnia!