We Fled the Plague. Remember Good Handwriting?

Libanius, Letters 25

“I can reproach you for writing to me like that and complain not about getting letters too infrequently but that they aren’t long enough. So that a great war will not be set ablaze from a minor spark and cause us attack one another with words rather than enjoying letters, let it be given that you revere the Spartan model of speech and that I would rebuke you incorrectly. Enjoy this victory since I was happily defeated.

It is my duty to remind you of the books you promised me and yours to confess you did not give them. As I was fleeing from the plague in the great city, I was reading a speech to you, a work of praise on Strategios’ daughter. We were both amazed in looking on an ancient book written in a beautiful hand. And we remarked that once handwriting was beautiful, but it is not now.”


Εἶχον μέν σε ἐλέγχειν ἐκείνως ἐπεσταλκότα καὶ οὐ τὸ μὴ πολλάκις λαβεῖν, ἀλλὰ τὸ μὴ μακρὰς αἰτιώμενον· ἵνα δὲ μὴ πόλεμος ἐκ μικροῦ σπινθῆρος ἁφθῇ καὶ βάλλωμεν ἀλλήλους γράμμασιν ἀντὶ τοῦ τέρπειν ἐπιστολαῖς, δεδόσθω σὲ μὲν τιμᾶν τὰ τῆς Λακεδαίμονος, ἐμὲ δὲ οὐκ ὀρθῶς ἐγκαλεῖν. καὶ νίκα τὴν νίκην ταύτην ἡττημένων ἡμῶν ἑκόντων.

βιβλία δὲ ὅτι μὲν ὑπέσχου μοι, ἐμὸν ἀναμνῆσαι, ὅτι δὲ οὐκ ἔδωκας, σὸν εἰπεῖν. ὅτε γὰρ ἐν τῇ Μεγάλῃ πόλει τὴν νόσον τὴν μεγάλην διαφυγὼν ἀνεγίνωσκόν σοι λόγον, ἔπαινον τῆς Στρατηγίου θυγατρός, βιβλίον τι παλαιὸν εἰς κάλλος γεγραμμένον ἐθαυμάσαμεν ἰδόντες καὶ διελέχθημεν ὡς ἦν ποτε κάλλος γραμμάτων, νῦν δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν.

Artemisia Papyrus
From the Handbook of Greek & Latin Palaeography

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