Politics, Philosophy, and Empire in the Fourth Century: Select Orations of Themistius

Politics, Philosophy, and Empire in the Fourth Century: Select Orations of Themistius

Politics, Philosophy, and Empire in the Fourth Century: Select Orations of Themistius

Politics, Philosophy, and Empire in the Fourth Century: Select Orations of Themistius

Synopsis

Around the year 350, a young orator and philosopher called Themistius delivered a speech to the Emperor Constantius II in Ancyra (modern Ankara). Themistius found great favor with the Emperor, who catapulted him into the Constantinople Senate in 355. He was similarly favored by subsequent emperors – Jovian (363–64), Valens (364–78) and Theodosius (379–95). This volume presents translations of a selection of the speeches of Themistius, grouped into chapters that deal either with a key period in the evolution of his career or with a sequence of events of particular historical significance.

Excerpt

Around the year 350, a young orator and philosopher by the name of Themistius delivered a speech to the Emperor Constantius ii in Ancyra (modern Ankara). Although Constantius was a Christian and Themistius a non-Christian educated in traditional Hellenic paideia, imperial favour quickly followed. Themistius first graduated to an officially funded teaching post in Constantinople, the new capital of the eastern half of the empire. Then, much more dramatically, Constantius catapulted Themistius into the city's senate in 355. Constantius continued to show Themistius great favour until his death in November 361, as did three subsequent Christian emperors. Themistius pronounced keynote speeches for the Emperors Jovian (363–4), Valens (364–78), and Theodosius (379–95), before he eventually disappeared from public life, probably through retirement, in around 384/5.

This project, designed to make accessible a selection of the public speeches Themistius delivered in the course of his lengthy career, has itself been a long time in the making. Mooted as long ago as 1983, it has been through several stages of evolution, even if basic methods have remained constant, with David Moncur being responsible in the first instance for translating and literary comment, and Peter Heather for historical introductions and annotation. the original plan was to translate three of Themistius' best-known speeches - Orations 5, 10, 16 together with Orations 3 and 6 as examples of Themistius' art under the Emperors Constantius and Valens. Oration 10 eventually became part of an earlier volume in the Translated Texts for Historians series, paired there with a large part of Oration 8 to explore the Gothic policy of the Emperor Valens in the late 360s. At the same time, the project steadily expanded to investigate Themistius' career in much more comprehensive fashion. in the end, we have grouped the speeches into chapters, each of

1 On the circumstances of his retirement, see Chapter 5. Libanius, Ep. 18, implies that
Themistius was still alive in 388, but he delivered no speeches after 384/5.

2 We have, however, commented robustly and fully in the intervening years on each
other's efforts and take an entirely cabinet responsibility towards our final text.

3 Heather and Matthews, 1991, ch. 2.

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