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Oration 18.11, 147-152

[Translation from Libanius. Selected works, with an English translation, introd. and notes by A.F. Norman. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1969-. Translated amended by me.]

[Julian] went to school, an emperor's grandson, an emperor's nephew, and an emperor's cousin, with no swagger, causing no trouble, and claiming no attention by a host of attendants and the hubbub that they create. An excellent eunuch was the guardian of his moderation, and another teacher not less of his education.


147. ... Everyone knows that a strong council is the life blood of a city. Constantius, while ostensibly on the side of the councils, in actual fact was their enemy, for he transferred to other spheres men who sought to avoid service there and he granted immunities illegally. Thus the councillors, despoiled, were like wrinkled old women dressed in rags, and were full of complainings, and though the governors agreed that they had been and were badly treated and were eager to help them, they were unable to do anything about it.

148. But at last the councils too were to recover their standing. That admirable rescript, that everyone should be summoned to the council and be enrolled unless he had a valid reason for exemption, so improved the position that the council chambers turned out to be too small to contain the numbers of entrants.

149. For there was no secretary or eunuch to get them off for a price: the eunuchs, as eunuchs should, performed menial duties and put on no haughty airs because of their liveries, and the secretaries fulfilled all taks that required hand, pen and ink, but in all else had learned how to behave themselves, being schooled by their master not to demur at honest poverty. Why, even now you can find many of them better than philosophers as a result of their association with him, and my own belief is that all others besides in the various grades of service had at that time the least regard for gain and the greatest desire for glory.

150. Bear in mind too, that, whereas we used to fall on our faces, as though struck by lightning, at their approach, now, as they descend from their carriages in the city square, we shake hands with them and hold conversations with them, and they regard it as a better thing not to put on more airs and graces than other folk than to instil fear into them.

151. What is more, it is easy enough for emperors to make ordinances, for that is their prerogative, but not for them to make beneficial ones, for that requires intelligence. But he did make such ordinances, and by them he ensured that people living before his time had missed a great deal. He also renewed the validity of laws like them, enacted by emperors in days gone by but now discarded by a tyrant's whim, for in his opinion it was a nobler object of ambition to support institutions of merit than to direct frivolous attacks against already established practices.

152. Now let us consider the case of the men who were punished. Of the three people executed, one had traveleed through the whole world spreading his false charges broadcast. Both in Europe and in Asia he deserved to die thousands of times, so that those who knew the fellow were aggrieved that they could not put him to death over and over again. The second, despite the fact that he had Constantius under his thumb, was a slave and, worse still, a eunuch. He had been primarily responsible for the cruel death of Gallus. The third of them, however, had fallen victim to the anger of the soldiery, having allegedly deprived them of donatives from the emperor, but even after his death he had some consolation from the emperor, for the emperor renounced a large portion of her father's property in favor of his daughter.