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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



10328
Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters, 4.22


nanXXII To his friend Leo [477 CE] THE magnificent Hesperius, pearl of friends and glory of letters, informed me on his return from Tolosa not long ago that you wished me to begin writing history as soon as my volume of Letters is completed. I need not tell you with what respect and gratitude I receive an opinion of such weight, and moreover so flattering to myself; for if you hold that I ought to abandon the work of smaller compass for the greater, it must be because you think me competent. But frankly, I find it easier to respect your judgement than to follow your advice. [2] The task indeed is one which is worthy of your recommendation, but it is no less worthy of your own practice. Tacitus long ago gave similar advice to Pliny and then anticipated his friend by following his own counsel. The precedent bears perfectly on your suggestion; for I am a mere disciple of Pliny, whereas in the old historical style you excel Tacitus. Could he return to earth, could he witness your literary eminence and reputation, he would soon follow the hint conveyed by his own name. [3] You, therefore, are the man to shoulder the burden of your own proposal; you have an excellent gift of eloquence and to vast erudition you join unrivalled opportunities. For as adviser of a most potent sovereign, whose policy is concerned with all the world, you are admitted to the secrets of his business and his laws, his wars and treaties, you understand their local significance, their extent and their importance. Who, then, more fit to gird him for the task than he who is behind the great scene of public affairs, who knows the movements of the peoples, the embassies that pass between them, the generals' feats of arms, the treaties of the princes, who stands himself at such an altitude that he need neither suppress the truth nor broider the fabric of a lie?


Intertexts (texts cited often on the same page as the searched text):

5 results
1. Hesiod, Theogony, 536-537, 535 (8th cent. BCE - 7th cent. BCE)

535. Upon her. So they sent her to rich Crete
2. Pliny The Younger, Letters, 6.16, 9.26 (2nd cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

6.16. To Tacitus. You ask me to send you an account of my uncle's death, so that you may be able to give posterity an accurate description of it. I am much obliged to you, for I can see that the immortality of his fame is well assured, if you take in hand to write of it. For although he perished in a disaster which devastated some of the fairest regions of the land, and though he is sure of eternal remembrance like the peoples and cities that fell with him in that memorable calamity, though too he had written a large number of works of lasting value, yet the undying fame of which your writings are assured will secure for his a still further lease of life. For my own part, I think that those people are highly favoured by Providence who are capable either of performing deeds worthy of the historian's pen or of writing histories worthy of being read, but that they are peculiarly favoured who can do both. Among the latter I may class my uncle, thanks to his own writings and to yours. So I am all the more ready to fulfil your injunctions, nay, I am even prepared to beg to be allowed to undertake them. My uncle was stationed at Misenum, where he was in active command of the fleet, with full powers. On the 24th of August *, about the seventh hour, my mother drew his attention to the fact that a cloud of unusual size and shape had made its appearance. He had been out in the sun, followed by a cold bath, and after a light meal he was lying down and reading. Yet he called for his sandals, and climbed up to a spot from which he could command a good view of the curious phenomenon. Those who were looking at the cloud from some distance could not make out from which mountain it was rising - it was afterwards discovered to have been Mount Vesuvius - but in likeness and form it more closely resembled a pine-tree than anything else, for what corresponded to the trunk was of great length and height, and then spread out into a number of branches, the reason being, I imagine, that while the vapour was fresh, the cloud was borne upwards, but when the vapour became wasted, it lost its motion, or even became dissipated by its own weight, and spread out laterally. At times it looked white, and at other times dirty and spotted, according to the quantity of earth and cinders that were shot up. To a man of my uncle's learning, the phenomenon appeared one of great importance, which deserved a closer study. He ordered a Liburnian galley to be got ready, and offered to take me with him, if I desired to accompany him, but I replied that I preferred to go on with my studies, and it so happened that he had assigned me some writing to do. He was just leaving the house when he received a written message from Rectina, the wife of Tascus, who was terrified at the peril threatening her - for her villa lay just beneath the mountain, and there were no means of escape save by shipboard - begging him to save her from her perilous position. So he changed his plans, and carried out with the greatest fortitude the task, which he had started as a scholarly inquiry. He had the galleys launched and went on board himself, in the hope of succouring, not only Rectina, but many others, for there were a number of people living along the shore owing to its delightful situation. He hastened, therefore, towards the place whence others were fleeing, and steering a direct course, kept the helm straight for the point of danger, so utterly devoid of fear that every movement of the looming portent and every change in its appearance he described and had noted down by his secretary, as soon as his eyes detected it. Already ashes were beginning to fall upon the ships, hotter and in thicker showers as they approached more nearly, with pumice-stones and black flints, charred and cracked by the heat of the flames, while their way was barred by the sudden shoaling of the sea bottom and the litter of the mountain on the shore. He hesitated for a moment whether to turn back, and then, when the helmsman warned him to do so, he exclaimed, "Fortune favours the bold ; try to reach Pomponianus." The latter was at Stabiae, separated by the whole width of the bay, for the sea there pours in upon a gently rounded and curving shore. Although the danger was not yet close upon him, it was none the less clearly seen, and it travelled quickly as it came nearer, so Pomponianus had got his baggage together on shipboard, and had determined upon flight, and was waiting for the wind which was blowing on shore to fall. My uncle sailed in with the wind fair behind him, and embraced Pomponianus, who was in a state of fright, comforting and cheering him at the same time. Then in order to calm his friend's fears by showing how composed he was himself, he ordered the servants to carry him to the bath, and, after his ablutions, he sat down and had dinner in the best of spirits, or with that assumption of good spirits which is quite as remarkable as the reality. In the meantime broad sheets of flame, which rose high in the air, were breaking out in a number of places on Mount Vesuvius and lighting up the sky, and the glare and brightness seemed all the more striking owing to the darkness of the night. My uncle, in order to allay the fear of his companions, kept declaring that the country people in their terror had left their fires burning, and that the conflagration they saw arose from the blazing and empty villas. Then he betook himself to rest and enjoyed a very deep sleep, for his breathing, which, owing to his bulk, was rather heavy and loud, was heard by those who were waiting at the door of his chamber. But by this time the courtyard leading to the room he occupied was so full of ashes and pumice-stones mingled together, and covered to such a depth, that if he had delayed any longer in the bedchamber there would have been no means of escape. So my uncle was aroused, and came out and joined Pomponianus and the rest who had been keeping watch. They held a consultation whether they should remain indoors or wander forth in the open; for the buildings were beginning to shake with the repeated and intensely severe shocks of earthquake, and seemed to be rocking to and fro as though they had been torn from their foundations. Outside again there was danger to be apprehended from the pumice-stones, though these were light and nearly burnt through, and thus, after weighing the two perils, the latter course was determined upon. With my uncle it was a choice of reasons which prevailed, with the rest a choice of fears. They placed pillows on their heads and secured them with cloths, as a precaution against the falling bodies. Elsewhere the day had dawned by this time, but there it was still night, and the darkness was blacker and thicker than any ordinary night. This, however, they relieved as best they could by a number of torches and other kinds of lights. They decided to make their way to the shore, and to see from the nearest point whether the sea would enable them to put out, but it was still running high and contrary. A sheet was spread on the ground, and on this my uncle lay, and twice he called for a draught of cold water, which he drank. Then the flames, and the smell of sulphur which gave warning of them, scattered the others in flight and roused him. Leaning on two slaves, he rose to his feet and immediately fell down again, owing, as I think, to his breathing being obstructed by the thickness of the fumes and congestion of the stomach, that organ being naturally weak and narrow, and subject to inflammation. When daylight returned - two days after the last day he had seen - his body was found untouched, uninjured, and covered, dressed just as he had been in life. The corpse suggested a person asleep rather than a dead man. Meanwhile my mother and I were at Misenum. But that is of no consequence for the purposes of history, nor indeed did you express a wish to be told of anything except of my uncle's death. So I will say no more, except to add that I have given you a full account both of the incidents which I myself witnessed and of those narrated to me immediately afterwards, when, as a rule, one gets the truest account of what has happened. You will pick out what you think will answer your purpose best, for to write a letter is a different thing from writing a history, and to write to a friend is not like writing to all and sundry. Farewell. 9.26. To Lupercus. When referring to a certain orator of our own times, who was a straightforward and level-headed speaker, but lacked the grand manner and ornateness, I said, rather neatly in my opinion, "He has no faults, except it be a fault that he has none." For an orator ought to soar to great heights and be carried away by his feelings, and, on some occasions, he ought to rage and storm, and frequently get near the brink of a precipice, for precipices usually lie near high and exalted places. One travels more safely along level ground, but the road is low and undistinguished, and those who run are more likely to stumble than those who creep, yet the latter get no credit for not falling, while the former, despite their fall, often do. It is exactly the same with oratory as with other arts; it is the difficulty of the task which makes the credit of the achievement. You may notice how the tight-rope walkers, who are struggling along at a great height, evoke the loudest applause just when they seem to be on the point of falling, for those events create most wonder which are least expected, most hazardous, and, as the Greeks still better express it, are most recklessly daring. The skill of a helmsman is by no means so great when he is sailing on a smooth sea as when a tempest is raging; in the former case, there is no one to wonder at his skill as he enters the harbour unheeded and without applause; it is only when the ropes are creaking, and the mast is bent, and the helm is groaning, that the pilot appears in all his glory, and seems most like one of the deities of the sea. I am writing in this strain, because I think you have marked some passages in my works as turgid which I consider lofty, and others, as indiscreet and overdone, which seem to me to be boldly and adequately dealt with. But it makes all the difference whether the marks you have made signify your disapproval of a passage, or merely that it is a striking one. For anything which stands out conspicuously catches the eye, but it requires careful attention to decide whether it is out of proportion or cast on a grand scale, whether it is lofty or disproportionately high. But let me refer to Homer for examples, for who can fail to notice the extreme differences of style between "The great heaven trumpeted around,""His lance rested on the clouds," and all the passage beginning, "Not so loud thunders the wave of the sea" ? * One needs the most delicate pair of scales to decide whether these are empty marvels, which no one should credit, or magnificent and divinely inspired passages. I do not, of course, say that I have ever uttered parallel passages to these, or that I ever could utter them. I am not so mad as all that, but the point I do wish to make is that sometimes eloquence must be given a free rein, and that the rush of genius must not be restrained within too narrow a circuit. But, you will say, there is one rule for orators, and another for poets. Still, Marcus Tullius showed just the same daring as Homer - and yet I will say no more about Tullius, for, with respect to him, there is no possibility of dispute. However, take the case of Demosthenes, who is the pattern and model of all orators. Does he rein and curb himself in that well-known passage, "these scoundrels, flatterers, and polluted wretches," or again, "Not with walls of stone or brick did I fortify the city," or again, "Did I not set Euboea to be a bulwark to Attica on the side of the sea" ? or again, "For my own part, men of Athens, I swear I think he is intoxicated by the vastness of his own achievements"? ** What could be more daring than the fine digression beginning, "For a disease ..." or than this passage, shorter than those I have quoted above, but equally bold, "Then indeed I resisted the audacity of Python's eloquence, which was rushing like a tide upon you"? † In the same style he writes I am arguing against my argument, and you will say that Demosthenes is censured for these extravagances of his. But just notice how much finer Demosthenes is than his critic, and finer just because of his extravagances. Elsewhere, he shows his force, in these passages he shows how much he towers above others. Besides, did Aeschines abstain from the faults which he carped at in Demosthenes? What about this sentence
3. Pliny The Younger, Letters, 6.16, 9.26 (2nd cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

6.16. To Tacitus. You ask me to send you an account of my uncle's death, so that you may be able to give posterity an accurate description of it. I am much obliged to you, for I can see that the immortality of his fame is well assured, if you take in hand to write of it. For although he perished in a disaster which devastated some of the fairest regions of the land, and though he is sure of eternal remembrance like the peoples and cities that fell with him in that memorable calamity, though too he had written a large number of works of lasting value, yet the undying fame of which your writings are assured will secure for his a still further lease of life. For my own part, I think that those people are highly favoured by Providence who are capable either of performing deeds worthy of the historian's pen or of writing histories worthy of being read, but that they are peculiarly favoured who can do both. Among the latter I may class my uncle, thanks to his own writings and to yours. So I am all the more ready to fulfil your injunctions, nay, I am even prepared to beg to be allowed to undertake them. My uncle was stationed at Misenum, where he was in active command of the fleet, with full powers. On the 24th of August *, about the seventh hour, my mother drew his attention to the fact that a cloud of unusual size and shape had made its appearance. He had been out in the sun, followed by a cold bath, and after a light meal he was lying down and reading. Yet he called for his sandals, and climbed up to a spot from which he could command a good view of the curious phenomenon. Those who were looking at the cloud from some distance could not make out from which mountain it was rising - it was afterwards discovered to have been Mount Vesuvius - but in likeness and form it more closely resembled a pine-tree than anything else, for what corresponded to the trunk was of great length and height, and then spread out into a number of branches, the reason being, I imagine, that while the vapour was fresh, the cloud was borne upwards, but when the vapour became wasted, it lost its motion, or even became dissipated by its own weight, and spread out laterally. At times it looked white, and at other times dirty and spotted, according to the quantity of earth and cinders that were shot up. To a man of my uncle's learning, the phenomenon appeared one of great importance, which deserved a closer study. He ordered a Liburnian galley to be got ready, and offered to take me with him, if I desired to accompany him, but I replied that I preferred to go on with my studies, and it so happened that he had assigned me some writing to do. He was just leaving the house when he received a written message from Rectina, the wife of Tascus, who was terrified at the peril threatening her - for her villa lay just beneath the mountain, and there were no means of escape save by shipboard - begging him to save her from her perilous position. So he changed his plans, and carried out with the greatest fortitude the task, which he had started as a scholarly inquiry. He had the galleys launched and went on board himself, in the hope of succouring, not only Rectina, but many others, for there were a number of people living along the shore owing to its delightful situation. He hastened, therefore, towards the place whence others were fleeing, and steering a direct course, kept the helm straight for the point of danger, so utterly devoid of fear that every movement of the looming portent and every change in its appearance he described and had noted down by his secretary, as soon as his eyes detected it. Already ashes were beginning to fall upon the ships, hotter and in thicker showers as they approached more nearly, with pumice-stones and black flints, charred and cracked by the heat of the flames, while their way was barred by the sudden shoaling of the sea bottom and the litter of the mountain on the shore. He hesitated for a moment whether to turn back, and then, when the helmsman warned him to do so, he exclaimed, "Fortune favours the bold ; try to reach Pomponianus." The latter was at Stabiae, separated by the whole width of the bay, for the sea there pours in upon a gently rounded and curving shore. Although the danger was not yet close upon him, it was none the less clearly seen, and it travelled quickly as it came nearer, so Pomponianus had got his baggage together on shipboard, and had determined upon flight, and was waiting for the wind which was blowing on shore to fall. My uncle sailed in with the wind fair behind him, and embraced Pomponianus, who was in a state of fright, comforting and cheering him at the same time. Then in order to calm his friend's fears by showing how composed he was himself, he ordered the servants to carry him to the bath, and, after his ablutions, he sat down and had dinner in the best of spirits, or with that assumption of good spirits which is quite as remarkable as the reality. In the meantime broad sheets of flame, which rose high in the air, were breaking out in a number of places on Mount Vesuvius and lighting up the sky, and the glare and brightness seemed all the more striking owing to the darkness of the night. My uncle, in order to allay the fear of his companions, kept declaring that the country people in their terror had left their fires burning, and that the conflagration they saw arose from the blazing and empty villas. Then he betook himself to rest and enjoyed a very deep sleep, for his breathing, which, owing to his bulk, was rather heavy and loud, was heard by those who were waiting at the door of his chamber. But by this time the courtyard leading to the room he occupied was so full of ashes and pumice-stones mingled together, and covered to such a depth, that if he had delayed any longer in the bedchamber there would have been no means of escape. So my uncle was aroused, and came out and joined Pomponianus and the rest who had been keeping watch. They held a consultation whether they should remain indoors or wander forth in the open; for the buildings were beginning to shake with the repeated and intensely severe shocks of earthquake, and seemed to be rocking to and fro as though they had been torn from their foundations. Outside again there was danger to be apprehended from the pumice-stones, though these were light and nearly burnt through, and thus, after weighing the two perils, the latter course was determined upon. With my uncle it was a choice of reasons which prevailed, with the rest a choice of fears. They placed pillows on their heads and secured them with cloths, as a precaution against the falling bodies. Elsewhere the day had dawned by this time, but there it was still night, and the darkness was blacker and thicker than any ordinary night. This, however, they relieved as best they could by a number of torches and other kinds of lights. They decided to make their way to the shore, and to see from the nearest point whether the sea would enable them to put out, but it was still running high and contrary. A sheet was spread on the ground, and on this my uncle lay, and twice he called for a draught of cold water, which he drank. Then the flames, and the smell of sulphur which gave warning of them, scattered the others in flight and roused him. Leaning on two slaves, he rose to his feet and immediately fell down again, owing, as I think, to his breathing being obstructed by the thickness of the fumes and congestion of the stomach, that organ being naturally weak and narrow, and subject to inflammation. When daylight returned - two days after the last day he had seen - his body was found untouched, uninjured, and covered, dressed just as he had been in life. The corpse suggested a person asleep rather than a dead man. Meanwhile my mother and I were at Misenum. But that is of no consequence for the purposes of history, nor indeed did you express a wish to be told of anything except of my uncle's death. So I will say no more, except to add that I have given you a full account both of the incidents which I myself witnessed and of those narrated to me immediately afterwards, when, as a rule, one gets the truest account of what has happened. You will pick out what you think will answer your purpose best, for to write a letter is a different thing from writing a history, and to write to a friend is not like writing to all and sundry. Farewell. 9.26. To Lupercus. When referring to a certain orator of our own times, who was a straightforward and level-headed speaker, but lacked the grand manner and ornateness, I said, rather neatly in my opinion, "He has no faults, except it be a fault that he has none." For an orator ought to soar to great heights and be carried away by his feelings, and, on some occasions, he ought to rage and storm, and frequently get near the brink of a precipice, for precipices usually lie near high and exalted places. One travels more safely along level ground, but the road is low and undistinguished, and those who run are more likely to stumble than those who creep, yet the latter get no credit for not falling, while the former, despite their fall, often do. It is exactly the same with oratory as with other arts; it is the difficulty of the task which makes the credit of the achievement. You may notice how the tight-rope walkers, who are struggling along at a great height, evoke the loudest applause just when they seem to be on the point of falling, for those events create most wonder which are least expected, most hazardous, and, as the Greeks still better express it, are most recklessly daring. The skill of a helmsman is by no means so great when he is sailing on a smooth sea as when a tempest is raging; in the former case, there is no one to wonder at his skill as he enters the harbour unheeded and without applause; it is only when the ropes are creaking, and the mast is bent, and the helm is groaning, that the pilot appears in all his glory, and seems most like one of the deities of the sea. I am writing in this strain, because I think you have marked some passages in my works as turgid which I consider lofty, and others, as indiscreet and overdone, which seem to me to be boldly and adequately dealt with. But it makes all the difference whether the marks you have made signify your disapproval of a passage, or merely that it is a striking one. For anything which stands out conspicuously catches the eye, but it requires careful attention to decide whether it is out of proportion or cast on a grand scale, whether it is lofty or disproportionately high. But let me refer to Homer for examples, for who can fail to notice the extreme differences of style between "The great heaven trumpeted around,""His lance rested on the clouds," and all the passage beginning, "Not so loud thunders the wave of the sea" ? * One needs the most delicate pair of scales to decide whether these are empty marvels, which no one should credit, or magnificent and divinely inspired passages. I do not, of course, say that I have ever uttered parallel passages to these, or that I ever could utter them. I am not so mad as all that, but the point I do wish to make is that sometimes eloquence must be given a free rein, and that the rush of genius must not be restrained within too narrow a circuit. But, you will say, there is one rule for orators, and another for poets. Still, Marcus Tullius showed just the same daring as Homer - and yet I will say no more about Tullius, for, with respect to him, there is no possibility of dispute. However, take the case of Demosthenes, who is the pattern and model of all orators. Does he rein and curb himself in that well-known passage, "these scoundrels, flatterers, and polluted wretches," or again, "Not with walls of stone or brick did I fortify the city," or again, "Did I not set Euboea to be a bulwark to Attica on the side of the sea" ? or again, "For my own part, men of Athens, I swear I think he is intoxicated by the vastness of his own achievements"? ** What could be more daring than the fine digression beginning, "For a disease ..." or than this passage, shorter than those I have quoted above, but equally bold, "Then indeed I resisted the audacity of Python's eloquence, which was rushing like a tide upon you"? † In the same style he writes I am arguing against my argument, and you will say that Demosthenes is censured for these extravagances of his. But just notice how much finer Demosthenes is than his critic, and finer just because of his extravagances. Elsewhere, he shows his force, in these passages he shows how much he towers above others. Besides, did Aeschines abstain from the faults which he carped at in Demosthenes? What about this sentence
4. Sidonius Apollinaris, Letters, 1.1-1.4, 1.6-1.7, 1.10-1.11, 5.5, 8.3, 9.13 (5th cent. CE - 5th cent. CE)

5. Gregory of Tours, Historia Francorum, 2.22 (6th cent. CE - 6th cent. CE)



Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
altman, j. Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 15; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 15
avitus, death Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 1; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 1
burgundians Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 21; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 21
cicero Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 15; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 15
dating' Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 21
dating Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 21
gregory of tours Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 1; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 1
leo (visigothic adviser) Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 21; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 21
majorian Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 21; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 21
pliny, as a model Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 21; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 21
seneca Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 15; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 15
sidonius, death Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 1; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 1
sidonius, literary style Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 15; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 15
sidonius, praefectus urbis Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 21; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 21
syagrius Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 21; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 21
visigoths Hanghan, Lettered Christians: Christians, Letters, and Late Antique Oxyrhynchus (2019) 1, 21; Hitch, Animal sacrifice in the ancient Greek world (2017) 1, 21