Letters of Julian/Letter 60

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

60. To Eugenius[1] the Philosopher[edit]

We are told that Daedalus dared to do violence to nature by his art, and moulded wings of wax for Icarus. But for my part, though I applaud him for his art, I cannot admire his judgement. For he is the only man who ever had the courage to entrust the safety of his son to soluble wax. But if it were granted me, in the words of the famous lyric poet of Teos,[2] to change my nature to a bird's, I should certainly not "fly to Olympus for Love," — no, not even to lodge a complaint against him — but I should fly to the very foothills of your mountains to embrace "thee, my darling," as Sappho[3] says. But since nature has confined me in the prison of a human body[4] and refuses to lighten and raise me aloft, I approach you with such wings as I possess, the wings of words, and I write to you, and am with you in such fashion as I can. Surely for this reason and this only Homer calls words "winged," that they are able to go to and fro in every direction, darting where they will, like the swiftest of birds. But do you for your part write to me too, my friend! For you possess an equal if not a larger share of the plumage of words, with which you are able to travel to your friends and from wherever you may be, just as though you were present, to cheer them.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. A philosopher named Eugenius was the father of the sophist and philosopher Themistius, an older contemporary of Julian, but this letter with its familiar tone cannot have been addressed to a man of advanced age. Schwarz, Cumont and Geffcken reject it on the ground of its sophistic mannerisms, but see Introduction.
  2. Anacreon frag. 22, Bergk Ἀναπέτομαι δὴ πρὸς Ὄλυμπον πτερύγεσσι κούφαῖς διὰ τὸν Ἔρωτ᾽.
  3. Frag. 126, Bergk.
  4. A Platonic commonplace; cf. Julian, Oration 6. 198b; 7. 206b.