Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Julian the Apostate, Letters - apocryphal (1923) Works Vol. 3, pp.236-293

[Translated by W. C. Wright]


74. To Iamblichus

I ought indeed to have obeyed the Delphic inscription "Know Thyself," and not have ventured to affront the ears of so great a man as yourself; for only to look you in the face, when one meets your eye, is no easy matter, and it is much less easy to try to rival you when you wake the harmony of your unfailing wisdom, seeing that if Pan roused the echoes with his shrill song everyone would yield him place, yes, even though it were Aristaeus2 himself, and when Apollo played the lyre everyone would keep silence, even though he knew the music of Orpheus. For it is right that the inferior, in so far as it is inferior, should yield to the superior, that is if it is to know what is appropriate to itself and what is not. But he who has conceived the hope of matching his mortal song with inspired music has surely never heard of the sad fate of Marsyas the Phrygian, or of the river which is named after him and bears witness to the punishment of that insane flute-player, nor has he heard of the end of Thamyris, the Thracian who, in an evil hour, strove in song against the Muses. Need I mention the Sirens, whose feathers the victorious Muses still wear on their brows?1 But each one of those that I have named is still even now paying in the tradition the fitting penalty for his boorishness and temerity, and I, as I said, ought to have stayed within my own boundaries and held my peace while I enjoyed my fill of the music uttered by you, like those who receive in silence the oracle of Apollo when it issues from the sacred shrine. But since you yourself furnish me with the keynote of my song, and by your words, as though with the wand of Hermes, arouse and wake me from sleep, lo now, even as when Dionysus strikes his thyrsus his followers rush riotous to the dance, so let me too in response to your plectron make answering music, like those who accompany the choirmaster, keeping time to the call of the rhythm. And in the first place let me make a first-offering to you, since this is your pleasure, of the speeches which I recently composed at the Emperor's command in honour of the glorious bridging of the strait,2 though what I offer you is returning small for great and in very truth bronze for gold 3; yet I am entertaining our Hermes with such fare as I have. Surely Theseus did not disdain the plain meal that Hecale 4 provided, but knew how to content himself with humble fare when the need arose. Nor was Pan, the god of shepherds, too proud to set to his lips the pipe of the boy neat-herd.5 Then do you also in your turn accept my discourse in a gracious spirit and do not refuse to lend your mighty ear to my humble strain. But if it has any cleverness at all, then not only is my discourse itself fortunate but so too is its author, in that he has obtained the testimony of Athene's vote.1 And if it still needs a finishing touch to complete it as a whole, do not refuse to add to it yourself what it needs. Before now the god in answer to prayer has stood by the side of a bowman and set his hand to the arrow, and again, when a bard was playing the cithara and singing a high and stirring strain, the Pythian god, when the string failed, assumed the guise of a cicada and uttered a note of the same tone.

1 Letters 74-83, with the possible exception of 81, are certainly not by Julian.
2 For Aristaeus see Vergil, Georgics 4; he is a vegetation deity not usually associated with music.
1 The Muses, having defeated the Sirens in a singing competition, tore out their feathers and wore them as a symbol of victory.
2 Geffcken tries to connect this passage with the order of Constantius to Julian to send his troops across the Bosporus en route to Persia. Cumont's reading " of the river" supposes that Constantine's bridge over the Danube in 328 is meant; cf. Aurelius Victor 41. 18, pons per Danubium ductus. In my opinion the sophist who wrote this letter had composed speeches on the stock theme of Xerxes and the Hellespont. 
See p. 218.
4 The tale is told in the brief epic of Callimachus, the Hecale, of which we have fragments; also in Plutarch, Theseus.
5 Theocritus 1. 128.
1 The suffragium Minervae; the proverb is derived from Aeschylus, Eumenides, where Athene, by breaking a tie vote, saved Orestes.

75. To the Same

Ο Zeus, how can it be right that I should spend my time in the middle of Thrace and winter in the grain-pits 2 here, while from charming Iamblichus, as though from a sort of spring in the East, letters come to me like swallows and I cannot yet go to him nor can he come to me? Who would be willing to put up with this unless he were some Thracian and as bad as Tereus? 3

"Lord Zeus do thou rescue the Achaeans from Thrace and make clear weather an grant us to see with our eyes"1 our own Hermes some day, and salute his shrine and embrace his statue as they tell us Odysseus did when after his wandering he beheld Ithaca.2 Nay, but he was still asleep when the Phaeacians unloaded him from their ship like a piece of freight and went their way; but as for me sleep can never lay hold on me till it be my lot to see you that are the benefactor of the whole world. And yet you say in jest that I and my friend Sopater have transported the whole East into Thrace. Yet, if I must speak the truth, Cimmerian gloom abides with me so long as Iamblichus is not here. And you demand one of two things, that I should go to you or that you yourself should come to me. To my mind one of these alternatives is both desirable and expedient, I mean that I should go to you and benefit by the blessings that you bestow, while the other surpasses all my prayers. But since this is impossible for you and inexpedient, do you remain at home and prosper and preserve the tranquillity that you enjoy, while I will endure with a brave spirit whatever God may send.3 For we are told that it is the proof of a good man to keep hoping for the best, to do his duty and follow his fate and the will of God.

2 The phrase is borrowed from Demosthenes, On the Chersonese 45. 
Tereus was king of Thrace.
1 Julian paraphrases Iliad 17. 645.
2 Odyssey 13. 354.
3 Cf. Oration 8. 243d for the same phrase, derived from Demosthenes, On the Crown 97.

76. To the Same

I confess that I had paid a full and sufficient penalty for leaving you, not only in the annoyances that I encountered on my journey, but far more in the very fact that I have been away from you for so long, though I have indeed endured so many and various fortunes everywhere, that I have left nothing untried. But though I have undergone the alarms of war, the rigour of a siege, the wandering of exile and all sorts of terrors, and moreover the extreme cold of winter, the dangers of disease and countless mischances of many kinds in my journey from Upper Pannonia till I crossed the Chalcedonian straits,1 I may say that nothing so painful or so distressing has happened to me as the fact that after I left the East I have not, for so long a time, seen you, the universal blessing of the Hellenes. So do not be surprised if I say that a sort of mist and thick cloud overshadows my eyes. For only then will a clear atmosphere and the brilliant light of the sun, and, so to speak, the fairest and truest springtime of my life, encompass me when I can embrace you, the delight and glory of the whole world, and, like the true son of a noble father who when hope is given up is seen returning from war, it may be, or from the stormy billows of the sea,2 can proceed to recount to you all that I have suffered and what dangers I have been through, and as I, so to speak, ride safely on a sacred anchor,3 can find at last a sufficient consolation for my misfortunes. For naturally it is a consolation and lightens the weight of sorrow when one unburdens one's experiences to others and shares with them the knowledge of one's sufferings in the intercourse of speech. Meanwhile, however, with what means I have I will, so far as I can approach you; and indeed I shall not cease, for the whole period of our separation, to conciliate you with letters by way of a token. And if I only receive the like from you, I shall be somewhat more submissive and shall hold converse with your letters, regarding them as a sort of symbol that you are safe and well. Do you, then, graciously accept what arrives from me, and show yourself still more gracious in making requital, since every noble utterance of yours, every written word, is reckoned by me as equivalent to the voice of Hermes the god of eloquence, or to the hand of Asclepius.1

1 The reference is probably to Constantine's march in from Pannonia to Nicomedia by way of the Dardanelles.
2 For a similar idea cf. Julian, To the Athenians, Vol. 2, Wright, 285c, p. 285.
3 Cf. ancoram sacram (or ultimam) solvere, a proverb implying the use of what has been kept in reserve.
1 See Letter 79. 406d.

77. To the Same

"Thou hast come! well hast thou done!" You have indeed come, even though absent, by means of your letter—"And I was yearning for thee, and thou didst set ablaze my heart, already aflame with longing for thee." 2 Nay, I neither refuse the love-philtre nor do I ever leave you at all, but with my soul I behold you as though you were present, and am with you when absent, and nothing is enough to quench my insatiate desire. Moreover, you also never slacken, but without ceasing you benefit those who are present with you and by your letters not only cheer but even heal those who are absent. At any rate, when someone not long ago gave me the news that a friend had come and brought letters from you, it happened that for three days I had been suffering from a disorder of the stomach, and in fact I was in acute physical pain, so that I was not even free from fever. But, as I said, when I was told that the person who had the letters was at my door I jumped up like one possessed, who has lost control of himself, and rushed out before what I wanted could arrive. And the moment that I merely took the letter in my hands, I swear by the very gods and by the love that burns in me for you, that instant my pains forsook me and at once the fever let me go, as though it were abashed by some manifest saving presence. But when I broke the seal and read the letter, can you imagine what feelings took possession of my soul at that moment or with what delight I was filled, or how I praised to the skies that dearest of winds,1 to quote your words, the lover's wind in very truth, the messenger of glad tidings—and loved it with good reason, since it had done me this service of bringing a letter from you, and like a winged thing had guided straight to me, with a fair and hurrying blast, that letter which brought me not only the pleasure of hearing good news of you but also salvation at your hands in my own illness? But how could I describe my other sensations when first I read the letter, or how could I find adequate words to betray my own passion? How often did I hark back from the middle to the beginning? How often did I fear that I should finish it before I was aware? How often, as though I were going round in a circle in the evolutions of a strophe,1 did I try to connect the contents of the last paragraph with the first, just as though in a song set to music I were making the leading note of the beginning the same as the closing bars of the measure? Or how describe what I did next—how often I held the letter to my lips, as mothers embrace their children, how often I kissed it with those lips as though I were embracing my dearest sweetheart, how often I invoked and kissed and held to my eyes even the superscription which had been signed by your own hand as though by a clear cut seal, and how I clung to the imprint of the letters as I should to the fingers of that sacred right hand of yours! I too "wish thee joy in full measure," 2 as fair Sappho says, and not only " for just so long as we have been parted from one another," but may you rejoice evermore, and write to me and remember me with kindly thoughts. For no time shall ever pass by me in which I shall forget you, in any place, at any hour, in any word I speak. "But if ever Zeus permits me to return to my native land," 3 and once more I humbly approach that sacred hearth of yours, do not spare me hereafter as you would a runaway, but fetter me, if you will, to your own beloved dwelling, making me captive like a deserter from the Muses, and then discipline me with such penalties as suffice for my punishment. Assuredly I shall submit to your jurisdiction not unwillingly, but with a good will and gladly, as to a kind father's provident and salutary correction. Moreover, if you would consent to trust me to sentence myself and allow me to suffer the penalty that I prefer, I would gladly fasten myself to your tunic, my noble friend, so that I might never for a moment leave your side but be with you always and closely attached to you wherever you are, like those two-bodied beings invented in the myths. Unless, indeed, in this case also the myths, though they tell us the story in jest, are describing in enigmatical words an extraordinary sort of friendship and by that close tie of a common being express the kinship of soul in both beings.1

2 The quotations are from an ode of Sappho and perhaps run through the whole letter; see critical note.
1 An echo of Sophocles, Philoctetes 237.
1 e.g. in the chorus of the drama.
2 Frag. 85, Bergk. 
Odyssey 4. 475.
1 For Julian's allegorising interpretation of myths see Oration, 5. 170; 7. 216c, 222c; and for the illustration here Lucian, Toxaris 62.

78. To the Same.

I am sensible of the sweet-tempered manner in which you reproach me, and that you achieve two things with equal success, for you do me honour by what you write and instruct me by your criticisms. And for my part, if I were conscious of even the least failure in the attention due to you, I should certainly try by making reasonable excuses to parry your criticism, or if I were in fault I should not hesitate to ask your forgiveness, especially as I know that you are not implacable towards your friends when they have involuntarily failed in some friendly office to you. But as it is—since it was not right either for you to be neglected or for me to be careless if we were to attain that which we ever seek after and desire—come, I will plead my case before you as though by the rules of a lawsuit, and I will prove that far from having neglected any of my duties towards you I have never even ventured to postpone them.

It is now three years since I arrived from Pannonia,1 with difficulty escaping safely from the dangers and troubles that you know of. When I had crossed the Chalcedonian strait and approached the city of Nicomedia, to you first as though to the god of my fathers I paid vows as the first thank-offering for my deliverance, by sending you as a token of my arrival my salutation in place of a sacred offering. The man who took charge of my letter was one of the imperial guard named Julian, the son of Bacchylus, a native of Apamea, and to him I all the more readily entrusted the letter because he asserted that he was going in your direction and that he knew you very well. Afterwards, as though from Apollo, a sacred letter came to me from you, in which you declared that you had been pleased to hear of my arrival. This was to my mind an auspicious omen and a fount of fairest hopes,— Iamblichus the wise and the letter of Iamblichus to me. Need I say how I rejoiced or assure you how deeply I was moved by your letter? For if you had received what I wrote to you with no other purpose—and it was sent to you by one of the couriers who came from where you are,—you would certainly know from what I then said how great was the pleasure that I felt on receiving it. Again, when the custodian of my children 2 was returning home, I began another letter to you in which I at the same time spoke to you of my gratitude for your previous favours and begged for a like return from you for the immediate future. After this the excellent Sopater1 came on an embassy to our city. When I recognised him I at once started up and flew to him and when I had embraced him I wept for joy, dreaming of nothing else but you and a letter from you to me. And when I received it I kissed it and held it to my eyes and kept tight hold of it as though I were afraid that while I was in the act of reading your letter the phantom of your image might elude me and fly away. And, moreover, I at once wrote an answer, not to you only but also to the revered Sopater, that great man's son, telling him, as though giving myself airs, that I accepted our mutual friend from Apamea as a sort of hostage for your absence. This is the third letter that I have written to you since that time, but I have myself received no other letter from you save that in which you seem to reproach me.

Now if you are accusing me merely for the purpose of providing me with further motives for writing to you, and only pretend to reproach me, then I am very glad to receive your criticism, and in this very letter that has now come I take to myself the whole of the kindness implied. But if you really accuse me of being in any way remiss in my duty to you, " who could be more wretched than I " 2 through the wrongdoing or negligence of letter-carriers, when I, least of all men, deserve the reproach? And yet even if I do not write oftener I may well claim indulgence from you—I do not mean because of the many affairs which I have on my hands—for may I never sink so low as not to count you more important than any business whatever, as Pindar1 says!—but because there is more wisdom in hesitating to write more than is fitting to so great a man as yourself, whom one cannot so much as think of without awe, than in being too presumptuous. For even as those who venture to gaze steadily at the bright beams of Helios, unless indeed they be in some sort divine and like the genuine offspring of eagles 2 can brave his rays, are unable to behold what is not lawful for their eyes to see, and the more they strive for this the more do they show that they have not the power to attain it, even so, I say, he who ventures to write to you shows clearly that the more he allows himself to presume the more he ought to be afraid. For you, however, my noble friend, who have been appointed as the saviour, so to speak, of the whole Hellenic world, it would have been becoming not only to write to me without stint, but also to allay as far as you could the scruples felt by me. For as Helios—if my argument may again employ in reference to you a simile from the god,— even as Helios, I say, when he shines in full splendour with his brilliant rays rejects naught of what encounters his beams, but ever performs his function, so ought you also not to shrink from bountifully pouring forth the flood of your blessings like light over the Hellenic world even when, whether from modesty, or fear of you, one is too bashful to make any return. Asclepius, again, does not heal mankind in the hope of repayment, but everywhere fulfils his own function of beneficence to mankind. This, then, you ought to do also, as though you were the physician of souls endowed with eloquence, and you ought to keep up on all occasions the preaching of virtue, like a skilled archer who, even though he have no opponent, keeps training his hand by every means in view of future need. For in truth we two have not the same ambition, since mine is to secure the wise teachings that flow from you and yours is to read letters sent by me. But as for me, though I should write ten thousand times, mine is still mere child's play, and I am like the boys in Homer who on the sea-shores model something in wet sand and then abandon it all for the sea to wash away; whereas even a short letter from you is more potent than any fertilising flood, and for my part I would rather receive one letter from Iamblichus than possess all the gold of Lydia. If, then, you care at all for your fond admirers—and you do care if I am not mistaken—do not neglect me who am like a fledgling constantly in need of sustenance from you, but write regularly, and moreover do not be reluctant to feast me on the good things that come from you. And if I prove to be remiss, do you take on yourself to provide both things, not only what you yourself give but equally what you furnish in my place. For it befits you as a pupil of Hermes, the god of eloquence, or, if you prefer, his nursling, to desire to imitate his use of the wand, not by putting men to sleep, but by rousing and awakening them.

1 Constantine marched from Pannonia to Nicomedia in 323, so perhaps this letter can be dated 326. In Julian's authentic writings we always find Paeonia for Pannonia; see Letter 76, p. 244, for a reference to this journey.
2 This phrase is perhaps metaphorical; see p. 214, note 1.
1 This may be the Sopater whom Julian mentions in letter 58 To Libanius, p. 207. But he is more probably the elder Sopater who was executed by Constantine.
2 An iambic trimeter whose source is not known; see critical note.
1 Isthmian Odes 1. 1.
2 For this allusion to the eagle's test of its offspring see Letter 59, To Maximus; Themistius 240c; Lucian, Icaromenippus 14; Claudian, On the Third Consulship of Honorius, Preface 1-14.

79. To the Same

When Odysseus was trying to remove his son's illusion about him, it was enough for him to say: "No God am I. Why then do you liken me to the immortals?"1 But I might say that I do not exist at all among men so long as I am not with Iamblichus. Nay, I admit that I am your lover, even as Odysseus that he was the father of Telemachus. For even though someone should say that I am unworthy, not even so shall he deprive me of my longing. For I have heard that many men have fallen in love with beautiful statues2 and far from injuring the art of the craftsman they have by their passion for them imparted to the workmanship the added delight in what lives and breathes. But as for the wise men of old among whom you are pleased to reckon me in jest, I should say that I fall as far short of them as I believe that you are to be ranked among them. And indeed you have succeeded in combining with yourself not only Pindar or Democritus or most ancient Orpheus, but also that whole genius of the Hellenes which is on record as having attained to the summit of philosophy, even as in a lyre by the harmonious combination of various notes the perfection of music is achieved. And just as the myths give Argus, Io's guardian, an encircling ring of ever-wakeful eyes as he keeps watch over the darling of Zeus, so too does true report endow you, the trusted guardian of virtue, with the light of the countless eyes of culture. They say that Proteus the Egyptian used to change himself into various shapes 1 as though he feared being taken unawares and showing those who needed his aid that he was wise. But for my part, if Proteus was really wise and the sort of man to know the truth about many things, as Homer says, I applaud him for his talent, but I cannot admire his attitude of mind, since he played the part, not of one who loves mankind, but of an impostor by concealing himself in order to avoid being of service to mankind. But who, my noble friend, would not genuinely admire you, since though you are inferior in no way to wise Proteus if not even more fully initiated than he in consummate virtues, you do not begrudge mankind the blessings that you possess, but, like the bright sun, you cause the rays of your pure wisdom to shine on all men, not only by associating, as is natural, with those near you, but also as far as possible by making the absent proud through your writings. And in this way by your achievements you surpass even charming Orpheus; for he squandered on the ears of wild beasts his own peculiar musical gift, but you, as though you had been born to save the whole human race, emulate everywhere the hand of Asclepius and pervade all things with the saving power of your eloquence. Wherefore I think that Homer, too, if he were to return to life, would with far more justice allude to you in the verse:

"One is still alive and is detained in the wide world." 1

For, in very truth, for those of us who are of the antique mould, a sacred spark, so to speak, of true and life-giving culture is kindled by your aid alone. And grant, Ο Zeus the saviour, and Hermes, god of eloquence, that this blessing which is the common property of the whole world, even the charming Iamblichus, may be preserved for the longest possible period of time! Indeed, there is no doubt that in the case of Homer and Plato and Socrates 2 and others who were worthy to be of that company, the prayers of the just were successful and did avail men of old, and thus increased and prolonged the natural term of those great men's lives. So there is no reason why in our day, also, a man who in his eloquence and virtuous life is the peer of those famous men, should not by means of similar prayers be conducted to the extreme limit of old age for the happiness of mankind.

1 Odyssey 16. 187.
2 For such cases cf. Aelian, Varia Historici 9. 39.
1 Odyssey 4. 363 foll.; Vergil, Georgics 4. 388 foll.
1 Odyssey 4. 498.  The original verse ends with "on the sea"; the verse was a rhetorical commonplace and the ending is often altered to suit the context.
 There would be more point in the reading "Isocrates" (Cumont) since he lived to be nearly one hundred.

80. To the most illustrious Sarapion 3

People observe the public festivals in various ways. But I am sending you a hundred long-stalked, dried, homegrown figs as a sweet token of this pleasant festal season. If you measure the gift by its size, the pleasure I offer you is trifling, but if measured by its beauty it will perhaps suffice. It is the opinion of Aristophanes1 that figs are sweeter than anything else except honey, and on second thoughts he does not allow that even honey is sweeter than figs. Herodotus2 the historian also, in order to describe a really barren desert thought it enough to say: "They have no figs or anything else that is good"; as though to say that among the fruits of the earth there is none to be ranked above figs, and that where men had figs they did not wholly lack something good. Again, the wise Homer praises other fruits for their size or colour or beauty, but to the fig alone he allows the epithet "sweet." 3 And he calls honey "yellow,"4 for fear he should inadvertently call "sweet" what is in fact often bitter; accordingly, to the fig alone 5 he assigns this epithet for its own, just as he does to nectar, because alone of all things it is sweet. Indeed Hippocrates6 says that honey, though it is sweet to the taste, is quite bitter to the digestion, and I can believe his statement; for all agree that it produces bile and turns the juices to the very opposite of its original flavour, which fact even more surely convicts it of being in its origin naturally bitter.7 For it would not change to this bitterness if in the beginning this quality had not belonged to it, from which it changed to the reverse. But the fig is not only sweet to taste but it is still better for digestion. And it is so beneficial to mankind that Aristotle1 even says that it is an antidote for every deadly poison, and that for no other reason than this is it served before other food as a first course at meals and then at the end for dessert, as though we embraced it in preference to any other sacred means of averting the injury caused by the things we eat. Moreover, that the fig is offered to the gods also, and is set on the altar in every sacrifice, and that it is better than any frankincense for making fragrant fumes, this is a statement not made by me alone,2 but whoever is acquainted with its use knows that it is the statement of a wise man, a hierophant. Again, the admirable Theophrastus3 in his precepts of agriculture, when he is describing the kinds of grafted trees and what sorts admit of being grafted on one another, commends the fig tree above all other plants, if I am not mistaken, as being able to receive various and different kinds, and as the only one of them all that easily bears a growth of any other sort, if you cut out every one of its boughs and then break off and insert a different engrafted stock into each of the cleft stumps; hence to look at it is often equivalent to a complete garden, since it returns you the variegated and manifold splendours of other fruits, as happens in the loveliest orchard. And whereas the fruits of other fruit-bearing trees are short-lived and cannot last for any time, the fig alone can survive beyond the year, and is present at the birth of the fruit that is to follow it. Hence Homer 1 also says that in the garden of Alcinous the fruits "wax old on" one another. Now in the case of other fruits this might perhaps seem to be a poetic fiction, but for the fig alone it would be consistent with the plain fact, because alone of all fruits it lasts for some time. Such, I think, is the nature of the fig in general, but the kind that grows with us is much better than others; so that in proportion as the fig is more valuable than other plants, our fig is more admirable than the fig in general; and while the latter in its kind surpasses all other fruits, it is in its turn excelled by ours, and again holds its own by comparison in both respects, first in being plainly superior, and secondly, in points where it seems to be inferior it wins on the general count. And it is quite natural that this should be so in our country alone. For it was fitting, I think, that the city which in very truth belongs to Zeus and is the eye of the whole East,—I mean sacred and most mighty Damascus,—2 which in all other respects bears the palm, for instance, for the beauty of its shrines and the size of its temples and for its exquisitely tempered climate and the splendour of its fountains, the number of its rivers and the fertility of its soil— I say it is fitting that she alone should keep up her reputation by the possession of a plant of this excellence and thus excite an excess of admiration. Accordingly our tree does not brook transplanting, nor does it overstep the natural boundaries of its growth, but as though by a law that governs the indigenous plant refuses to grow in colonies abroad. The same sorts of gold and silver are, I believe, produced in many places, but our country alone gives birth to a plant that cannot be grown anywhere else. And just like the wares of India, or Persian silks, or all that is produced and collected in the country of the Ethiopians but travels everywhere by the law of commerce, so, too, our native fig does not grow anywhere else on earth, but is exported by us to all parts, and there is no city or island to which it does not travel, because it is so much admired for its sweet flavour. Moreover it even adorns the imperial table and is the boast and ornament of every feast; and there is no cake or roll or pastry 1 or any kind of confectionery to match it as a sweetmeat wherever it comes; so far does it surpass in admirable qualities all other dainties, and moreover all figs from any other place. Again, other figs are either eaten in autumn, or are dried and go to the store-room, but the fig of our country alone can be used in both ways, and though it is good while on the tree it is far better when it has been dried. And should you see with your own eyes their beauty while they are still on the trees, and how from each one of the bi'anches they hang by long stalks like flower-buds, so to speak, or again, how with their fruit they completely encircle the tree, then you would say that by this circular series one above another they compose a splendid and varied picture even as a neck in its necklace. Then again, the manner in which they are taken from the tree and the means employed for preserving them for a long time involve quite as much outlay as the pleasure derived from their use. For they are not, like other kinds of figs, thrown together in one place, nor are they dried in the sun in heaps or promiscuously; but first they are gathered carefully by hand from the trees, then they are hung-on walls by means of sticks or thorny twigs, so that they may be bleached by exposure to the direct rays of the sun while they are also safe from the attacks of animals and small birds, since the protection of the prickles furnishes them with a sort of bodyguard. So far my letter to you deals with their origin, sweetness, beauty, confection, and use, and is in lighter vein.

Now to consider the number one hundred,1 which is more honourable than any other and contains in itself the perfection of all numbers, as one may learn from the following considerations. I am indeed well aware that there is a saying of wise men of old that an odd number is to be preferred to an even, and they declare that the source of increase is that which does not couple. For in a pair the one term being equal to the other remains of the same quality, but when there are two numbers the third produces oddness. But for my part, even though the statement is somewhat bold, I would nevertheless say this: Numbers surely depend on a generative principle, and can carry on consecutive increase through the whole series. But I hold that it is far more just to assign the cause of that increase to the even than to the odd number. For the number one is not odd, when it has no number in respect to which it were odd. But its coupling with two produces twofold oddness,1 and the number three, coming from the two, naturally proceeds as increase. Then again when we add two to two, the result is the higher stage of the number four, and, in a word, their conjunction, while making oddness clear in each of their two elements, is constituted in the number two. This being granted, I should say, of course, that when the first decad is revolving on itself in a circle,2 the whole series progresses to the number one hundred, so that by the number one the increase amounts to ten, and the decad in turn is added each time to itself, and the total is reached in the number one hundred. And starting again from this point, with the hundreds, the whole series of numbers derive their power, by the activity of the number one, except that it is the number two 3 when combined with it that ever produces the odd and again recalls it to itself, until again it concludes with a second hundred the sum of all the numbers, and, making it complete, proceeds again from it to another and under the denomination of hundreds continually carries forward the sum to the conception of infinity. So I think that Homer too in his poems does not lightly or idly assign to Zeus the hundred-tasselled aegis,4 but in a lofty and obscure saying he hinted at this that to the most perfect god he attached the most perfect number, that number by which alone beyond all the others he would most fittingly be adorned, or because the whole universe which he has comprehended in the shape of an aegis, by reason of the roundness of that image, no other number than the hundred describes, and so with the round number one hundred he harmonises the conception of the intelligible world as a whole. Again, on the same principle he makes Briareus with his hundred hands the assessor of Zeus and allows him to rival his father's might, as though he expressed the perfection of his strength by means of the perfect number. Again, Pindar1 the Theban, when he celebrates the destruction of Typhoeus in his odes of victory, and ascribes to the most mighty ruler of the gods power over this most mighty giant, rises to the highest pitch of praise simply because with one blow he was able to lay low the hundred-headed giant, as though no other giant was held worthy to fight hand to hand with Zeus than he whom, alone of all the rest, his mother had armed with a hundred heads; and as though no other of the gods save Zeus only were worthy to win a victory by the destruction of so great a giant. Simonides2 also, the lyric poet, thinks it enough for his praise of Apollo that he should call the god "Hekatos" 3 and adorn him with this title rather than with any other sacred symbol; for this reason, that he overcame the Python, the serpent, with a hundred shafts, as he says, and the god himself took more pleasure in being addressed as "Hekatos" than as "the Pythian," as if he were thus invoked by the symbolic expression of his complete title. Then again, the island Crete which nurtured Zeus, has received as her reward, as though it were her fee for sheltering Zeus, the honour of cities to the number of one hundred. Homer1 too praises Thebes the hundred-gated for no other reason than this that there was a marvellous beauty in her hundred gates. I say nothing of the hecatombs of the gods and temples a hundred feet long, altars with a hundred steps, rooms that hold a hundred men, fields of a hundred acres and other things divine and human which are classed together because they have this number for their epithet. It is a number, moreover, that has the power to adorn official rank both for war and peace, and while it lends brilliance to a company of a hundred soldiers it also confers distinction on the title of judges 2 when their number is one hundred. And I could say more than this, but the etiquette of letter-writing deters me. But do you be indulgent to my discourse, for what I have said already is more than enough. And if my essay has in your judgement even a mediocre elegance it shall surely go forth for others to read, after receiving the testimonial of your vote; but if it need another hand to make it fulfil its aim, who better than you should know how to polish the manuscript to the point of elegance and make it smooth so as to give pleasure to the eye?

3 Sarapion is otherwise unknown.
1 Quoted in Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 652f; Fragg. Incert. Fab. 7.
2 1. 71. 
Odyssey 7. 116. 
Odyssey 10. 234.
5 Homer does however call honey " sweet" in Odyssey 20. 69.
6 De internis affectionibus 84A; Hippocrates is speaking of honey that has been cooked.
7 Oration 8. 241a, Julian says that honey is made from the bitterest herbs.
1 Aristotle, Frag. 105, Rose.
2 A Julianic commonplace, cf. note on Vol. 2 Fragment of a Letter 299c, and above, p. 222.
3 Enquiry into Plants 2. 5. 6.
1 Odyssey 7. 120.
2 Julian, as far as we know, never visited Damascus.
1 An echo of Demosthenes, On the Crown 260.
1 He was sending one hundred figs.
1 i.e. 1 is now odd in relation to 2, and their combination results in 3, an odd number.
2 i.e. when ten is multiplied by ten.
 The writer, who probably could not have explained his cryptic language, insists on the superiority of the dyad, even and feminine, to the odd number 1, regarded as the male principle.
4 The epithet is not used in our Homer of the aegis of Zeus, but of the aegis of Athene and the girdle of Hera.
1 Pindar, Olympian Ode 4. 1; Pythian 1. 16.
2 Simonides, frag. 26, Bergk.
3 This epithet means "Far-Darter" and is misinterpreted by the writer of this letter to mean "Hundredth."
1 Iliad 9. 383; Aeneid 3. 106.
2 The centumviri.

81. To Basil 1

Up to the present I have displayed the innately mild and humane temper that I have shown since childhood, and have brought under my sway all who dwell on the earth beneath the sun. For lo, every tribe of barbarians as far as the boundaries of the river of Ocean has come bringing gifts to lay at my feet! And likewise the Sagadares 2 who are bred on the banks of the Danube, and the Cotti with headdresses of many shapes and colours, who are not like the rest of mankind to look at, but have a fierce and wild appearance. These at the present time are grovelling in my footprints and promise to do whatever suits my majesty's pleasure. And not only am I distracted by this, but I must with all speed occupy the country of the Persians and put to flight the great Sapor, who is the descendant of Darius, until he consents to pay me tribute and taxes. Afterwards I must also sack the settlements of the Indians and Saracens, until they too shall all take second place in my Empire and consent to pay tribute and taxes. But you have in your own person displayed a pride far exceeding the power of all these, when you say that you are clothed in pious reserve, but in fact flaunt your impudence, and spread a rumour on all sides that I am not worthy to be Emperor of the Romans. What! Do you not yourself know that I am a descendant of the most mighty Constans? And although this your conduct has come to my knowledge I have not, as concerns you, departed from my former attitude—I mean that mutual regard which you and I had when we were young men of the same age. But with no harshness of temper I decree that you shall despatch to me one thousand pounds weight of gold, as I march by Caesarea, to be paid without my leaving the high-road, since I purpose to march with all speed to carry on the war with Persia, and I am prepared, if you do not do this, to lay waste the whole district of Caesarea,1 to tear down on the spot those fine buildings erected long ago, and to set up instead temples and images, that so I may persuade all men to submit to the Emperor of Rome and not be inflated with conceit. Accordingly, weigh the above-mentioned gold to that amount on Campanian scales, oversee it yourself and measure it carefully and despatch it safely to me by someone of your household in whom you have confidence, and first seal it with your own seal-ring, so that, if you have recognised, late though it be, that the occasion admits of no evasion, I may deal mildly with your errors of the past. For what I read, I understood and condemned.2

1 This letter, generally recognised as spurious, is perhaps a Christian forgery, since it gives an unfavourable impression of Julian. The writer knew nothing of Julian's style and mannerisms. Julian was no boaster and avoided outlandish words. It was probably read by Sozomen, 5. 18. 7, and is of early date. Julian was in frequent correspondence with Basil, and for their friendly relations cf. To Basil, p. 81.
2 This tribe cannot be identified. Julian himself always calls the Danube "Ister."
1 Caesarea had had three fine temples destroyed by the Christians. Julian ordered their restoration, confiscated the estates of the Church, and imposed a fine of 300 lbs. of gold, cf. Sozomen 5. 9. 7. Julian's death may have prevented the enforcement of the penalty.
 See below, frag. 14, p. 303.  This last sentence was probably not in the original letter but was quoted as Julian's by Sozomen 5. 18 and added to this letter in some MSS. It occurs separately in one MS., Ambrosianus Β 4, with the title wpbs έπισχόπουε (Cumont, Recherches, p. 47).

82. Letter from Gallus Caesar to his brother Julian

Gallus Caesar to his brother Julian, Greeting.

My nearness to the country, I mean to Ionia,2 has brought me the greatest possible gain. For it gave me comfort when I was troubled and pained at the first reports that came to me. You will understand what I mean. It came to my ears that you had abandoned your former mode of worship which was handed down by our ancestors, and goaded by some evil kind of madness that incited you to this, had betaken yourself to that vain superstition. What pain should I not have suffered? For just as whenever I learn by public rumour of any noble quality in you I regard it as a personal gain, so too if I hear of anything disturbing, which, however, I do not think I shall, in the same way I consider it even more my personal loss. Therefore when I was troubled about these matters, the presence of our father Aetius3 cheered me, for he reported the very contrary, which was what I prayed to hear. Moreover he said that you were zealous in attendance at the houses of prayer, and that you are not being drawn away from pious remembrance of the martyrs, and he affirmed that you entirely adhere to the religion of our family. So I would say to you in the words of Homer,1 "Shoot on in this wise," and rejoice those who love you by being spoken of in such terms, remembering that nothing is higher than religion. For supreme virtue teaches us to hate a lie as treachery and to cling to the truth, which truth is most clearly made manifest in the worship of the Divine Being. For a crowd2 is wholly contentious and unstable; but the Deity, ministering alone with but one other,3 rules the universe, not by division or lot, like the sons of Cronos,4 but existing from the beginning and having power over all things, not having received it from another by violence, but existing before all. This is verily God, whom we must adore with the reverence that we owe to him. Farewell!

1 Nearly all the critics reject this letter as a Christian forgery, but it is defended by Seeck, Geschichte d. Untergangs d. Antiken Welt, IV. 124, 440, 6. Philostorgius 3. 27. 53, Bidez, says that Gallus, Julian's half-brother, who was a Christian, frequently sent Aetius to instruct Julian in Christian doctrine in order to counteract the influences that inclined him to paganism. If genuine it must be dated between 351, when Gallus was made Caesar, and 354, as Gallus was put to death by Constantius in the latter year.
2 Gallus Caesar resided at Antioch till 354 when he went to Constantinople. Julian, meanwhile, was studying at Pergamon and Ephesus. For his relations with Gallus, see Vol. 2, To the Athenians 273 A.
3 For Aetius see Introduction and Letter 15.
1 Iliad 8. 282; Agamemnon to Teucer the archer.
2 i. e. of the gods.
3 i.e. God the Word; but see critical note.
4 i. e. Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, whose separate realms are defined in Iliad 15. 187 foll.

83. Eustathius 5 the Philosopher to Julian

What an advantage it was for me that the token 6 came late! For instead of riding, in fear and trembling, in the public 7 carriage and, in encounters with drunken mule-drivers and mules made restive, as Homer8 says, from idleness and overfeeding, having to endure clouds of dust and a strange dialect and the cracking of whips, it was my lot to travel at leisure by a road arched over with trees and well-shaded, a road that had numerous springs and resting-places suitable to the summer season for a traveller who seeks relief from his weariness on the way; and where I always found a good place to stop, airy and shaded by plane trees or cypresses, while in my hand I held the Phaedrus or some other of Plato's dialogues. Now all this profit, Ο beloved, I gained from the freedom with which I travelled; therefore I considered that it would be unnatural not to communicate this also to you, and announce it.1

5 See Introduction, under Eustathius.
6 The "tessera," whether ring, coin or document, served as a passport.
7 The epithet δημόσιος is used (1) of the public carriage, (2) of the "state," or reserved, carriage. The first is meant here. 
8 Iliad 6. 506.
1 The journey of Eustathius is probably that for which Julian gave his permission in Letter 44.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2010. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Greek text is rendered using unicode.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts