Letters of Julian/Letter 63

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

63. To Hecebolius[1][edit]

Pindar[2] thinks that the Muses are "silvery," and it is as though he likened the clearness and splendour of their art to the substance that shines most brilliantly. And the wise Homer[3] calls silver "shining," and gives to water the epithet "silvery" because it gleams with the very brightness of the reflected image of the sun, as though under its direct rays. And Sappho[4] the fair says that the moon is "silvery," and that because of this it dims the radiance of the other stars. Similarly one might imagine silver to be more appropriate to the gods than gold; but that to man, at any rate, silver is more precious than gold and more familiar to them because it is not, like gold, hidden under the earth and does not avoid their eyes, but is both beautiful to the eye and more serviceable in daily life, — this, I say, is not my own theory[5] but was held by men of old. If, therefore, in return for the gold coin sent by you I give you a piece of silver of equal value, think not that the favour is less and do not imagine that, as with Glaucus,[6] the exchange is to your disadvantage; for perhaps not even Diomede would have exchanged silver armour for golden, seeing that the former is far more serviceable than the latter, and like lead well fitted to turn the points of spears.[7] All this I am saying in jest, and I take the cue[8] for my freedom of speech to you from what you write yourself. But if you really wish to send me gifts more precious than gold, write, and keep on writing regularly. For even a short letter from you I hold to be more precious than any other blessing that one could name.


  1. See Introduction, under Hecebolius.
  2. Frag. 212, Bergk.; cf. Pythian 9. 65, Isthmian 2. 13.
  3. These epithets for silver and water are not in our Homer.
  4. Frag. 3, Bergk.; cf, Julian, Oration 3. 109c, note, Wright.
  5. For this Julianic commonplace cf. Oration 6. 197b, note.
  6. A sophistic commonplace; cf. Vol. 2, Letter to Themistius 260a, note. He exchanged bronze armour for golden; Iliad 6. 236.
  7. Iliad 11. 237 ἀργύρῳ ἀντομένη, μόλιβος ὥς, ἐτράπετ᾽ αἰχμή.
  8. Literally "keynote"; cf. To Iamblichus Letter 74.