An Awkward Letter about Not Getting Letters

In our day and age, this might instead be a text message or a tweet to someone in a position of authority. But this letter is from Libanius to Julian the Apostate, Roman Emperor and our personal (anti-?)hero:

Ep. 86

“Even if you don’t send me letters, I still dine on your words. For whenever someone else gets one, we hear about it and immediately read it, either by persuading or overpowering the unwilling recipient. So, my profit is no less than theirs even though it is only their right to be honored. I would also ask for honor, for some love-token from you. For, clearly, if you would honor me in any way, you wouldn’t do it without love.”

Ἀλλ᾿ εἰ καὶ μὴ πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἐπιστέλλεις, ἡμεῖς γε τοῖς σοῖς ἑστιώμεθα γράμμασιν. ὅταν γὰρ ὅτι τις ἔλαβε μάθωμεν, εὐθὺς ἡμεῖς πλησίον καὶ ἢ πείσαντες ἢ κρατήσαντες ἀκόντων ἀνέγνωμεν.τὸ μὲν οὖν κέρδος οὐχ ἧττον ἡμῶν ἢ ᾿κείνων, τὸ τετιμῆσθαι δὲ παρ᾿ ἐκείνοις μόνοις. ἐρῶμεν δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ τιμῆς, ἐπειδὴ καὶ φίλτρου τοῦ παρὰ σοί. δῆλον γὰρ ὡς, εἴ τι τιμήσεις, οὐκ ἄνευ γε τοῦ φιλεῖν τοῦτο ποιήσεις.

Image result for Julian the Apostate

“The Things I Would do For Socrates…”

Another Letter from Libanius

Ep. 80: To Maximus

“The things I would do for Socrates, if I had lived at his time when those beasts were upon him—those three sycophants—I think it is right that I do thse very things for one who is a follower of Socrates now.

And I would have done those things and these which I am doing now not because I was afraid that they would suffer anything terrible because of those charges—for it is not terrible for a philosopher to be freed from his body, but instead the greatest good—but because I know that a man dedicated to philosophy is the greatest advantage to humanity no less than if the goods were to return to spend time with men in counseling and helping us—the kinds of things we have heard poets speak of.

For these reasons, I hate Anytos* and his kind. I was beseeching the gods for you—this is my kind of alliance—I was not seeking a favor with this, but instead returning one.”

  1. Ἃ ἐποίουν ἂν περὶ Σωκράτην, εἰ κατὰ Σωκράτην ἐγεγόνειν, ὅτε αὐτῷ τὰ θηρία ἐπέκειτο, συκοφάνται τρεῖς, ταῦτ᾿ ᾤμην δεῖν καὶ νῦν ποιεῖν περὶ τὸν τὰ Σωκράτους ἐζηλωκότα.
  2. ἔπραττον δ᾿ ἂν ταῦτά τε κἀκεῖνα ἂν ἐποίουν οὐχ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐν ταῖς αἰτίαις δεδοικὼς μὴ δεινόν τι πάθωσιν—οὐδὲν γὰρ δεινὸν φιλοσόφοις ἐκλυθῆναι σώματος, μέγιστον μὲν οὖν ἀγαθόν—ἀλλ᾿ εἰδὼς ὅτι πάμμεγα κέρδος ἀνθρώποις ἀνὴρ φιλοσοφῶν καὶ οὐ πολὺ τοῦτ᾿ ἔλαττον τοῦ τοὺς θεοὺς ἀναμεμίχθαι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις καὶ συμβουλεύειν καὶ συμπράττειν, οἷα τῶν ποιητῶν λεγόντων ἀκούομεν.
  3. διὰ δὴ ταῦτα μισῶ μὲν τοὺς περὶ Ἄνυτον· ὑπὲρ δὲ σοῦ τοὺς θεοὺς ἐκάλουν, τουτὶ γὰρ ἡ παρ᾿ ἐμοῦ συμμαχία, καὶ οὐκ ἦρχόν γε χάριτος ἐκείναις ταῖς φροντίσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἠμειβόμην.

 

*Anytos is one of Socrates’ recorded accusers in his trial of 399 BCE

Image result for Socrates and libanius

An Awkward Letter about Not Getting Letters

In this day and age, this might instead be a text message or a tweet to someone in a position of authority. But this letter is from Libanius to Julian the Apostate, Roman Emperor and our personal (anti-?)hero:

Ep. 86

“Even if you don’t send me letters, I still dine on your words. For whenever someone else gets one, we hear about it and immediately read it, either by persuading or overpowering the unwilling recipient. So, my profit is no less than theirs even though it is only their right to be honored. I would also ask for honor, for some love-token from you. For, clearly, if you would honor me in any way, you wouldn’t do it without love.”

Ἀλλ᾿ εἰ καὶ μὴ πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἐπιστέλλεις, ἡμεῖς γε τοῖς σοῖς ἑστιώμεθα γράμμασιν. ὅταν γὰρ ὅτι τις ἔλαβε μάθωμεν, εὐθὺς ἡμεῖς πλησίον καὶ ἢ πείσαντες ἢ κρατήσαντες ἀκόντων ἀνέγνωμεν.τὸ μὲν οὖν κέρδος οὐχ ἧττον ἡμῶν ἢ ᾿κείνων, τὸ τετιμῆσθαι δὲ παρ᾿ ἐκείνοις μόνοις. ἐρῶμεν δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ τιμῆς, ἐπειδὴ καὶ φίλτρου τοῦ παρὰ σοί. δῆλον γὰρ ὡς, εἴ τι τιμήσεις, οὐκ ἄνευ γε τοῦ φιλεῖν τοῦτο ποιήσεις.

Image result for Julian the Apostate

A Letter To a Miserly Father on Learning and Books

Libanius, Letter 428

To Heortios

“I am probably intervening by telling a father to care for a son he has decided to ignore, but after I saw Themistius crying I welcomed seeming like this rather than neglecting it. He was saying nothing harsh, but that some amnesia regarding him had overcome you. If you were not well off, I would think it proper for you to gather money from your friends to help your son. But since you do well and are among the wealthiest men, I am advising you to spend some of your wealth on your most worthy possession.  Poverty, perhaps, is also not completely useful to a young man. But now this argument is not about his stomach, but how he will get books: without them, he will be like someone trying to learn archery without a bow.”

Ἑορτίῳ

Περιεργάζομαι μὲν ἴσως πατέρα παρακαλῶν ἐπιμελεῖσθαι παιδὸς ἀμελεῖν ἐγνωκότα, δακρύοντα δὲ ἰδὼν Θεμίστιον μᾶλλον ἐδεξάμην ἐκεῖνο δόξαι ἢ τοῦτο παριδεῖν.

ἔλεγε τοίνυν τραχὺ μὲν οὐδέν, ὡς δὲ λήθη σέ τις αὑτοῦ λάβοι, ἐγὼ δέ, εἰ μὲν ἠπόρεις, ἠξίουν ἄν σε παρὰ τῶν φίλων ἀγείροντα τῷ παιδὶ βοηθεῖν· ἐπεὶ δὲ εὖ ποιῶν ἐν πρώτοις εἶ τῶν εὐπόρων, παραινῶ τι τῶν ὄντων εἰς τὸ τῶν ὄντων σοι τιμιώτατον ἀναλῶσαι.

ἴσως μὲν γὰρ οὐδὲ πεῖνα σφόδρα νέῳ χρήσιμον, ἔστι δὲ νῦν οὐ περὶ τῆς γαστρὸς ὁ λόγος, ἀλλ᾿ ὅπως ᾖ τῷ νεανίσκῳ βιβλία· ὧν ἀπόντων ὅμοιος ἔσται τῷ πειρωμένῳ τοξεύειν ἄνευ τόξου μανθάνειν.

Image result for Ancient Greek books

Away Messages? Ancient Advice On Getting Someone To Respond to Your Email

Here is a model letter from Libanius (1 in the Loeb; 15 in the Foerster Teubner). Yes, Libanius is (allegedly) writing a letter about how he is no longer going to write letters.

1 To Zenobius

“I have decided to fight silence with silence. Indeed, I do still understand that this penalty falls short of the wrongs done to me: It is not the same for me to be bereft of your letters and my letters to fail to go to you. The harm I suffer is as much greater than my vengeance as your letters are better than mine.”

  1. Ζηνοβίῳ

Σιγῇ τὴν σιγὴν ἔγνωμεν ἀμύνασθαι. καίτοι γε ἠπιστάμην λειπομένην τῶν ἀδικημάτων τὴν δίκην. οὐ γὰρ ἴσον ἦν ἐμὲ σῶν ἀποστερεῖσθαι γραμμάτων καὶ σοὶ <τὰ>1 παρ᾿ ἡμῶν μὴ φοιτᾶν. ἀλλ᾿ ὅσῳ καλλίω τὰ σά, τοσούτῳ μείζων ἡ βλάβη τῆς τιμωρίας.