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Fathers of the Church

Letter CCCLI: Basil to Libanius

Description

Among the letters of recommendation that Basil wrote are his communications with Libanius of Antioch. Basil's missives to Libanius introduce young Cappadocian students to the distinguished Greek sophist and rhetorician; Libanius' letters to Basil are notes of thanks. The entire correspondence is interesting for the history of the personalities involved as well as for the fact that such an exchange between a priest and a pronounced pagan was at all possible. (Quasten)

Provenance

St. Basil's correspondence is a copious and invaluable store of information for the history of the Eastern Church in the fourth century, particularly in Cappadocia. Since he never found a real biographer, his letters represent the best source for his life and times, for his many activities and far-reaching influence, especially for his personality and his character. Always ready to help, Basil addressed a great number of letters to high authorities and wealthy persons in order to recommend the poor and oppressed, to intercede for cities and towns, for relatives and friends. (Quasten)

by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A

MANY, who have come to me from where you are, have admired your oratorical power. They were remarking that there has been a very brilliant specimen of this, and a very great contest, as they alleged, with the result that all crowded together, and no one appeared in the whole city but Libanius alone in the lists, and everybody, young and old, listening. For no one was willing to be absent—not a man of rank—not a distinguished soldier—not an artisan. Even women hurried to be present at the struggle. And what was it? What was the speech which brought together this vast assembly? I have been told that it contained a description of a man of peevish temper. Pray lose no time in sending me this much admired speech, in order that I too may join in praising your eloquence. If I am a praiser of Libanius without his works, what am I likely to become after receiving the grounds on which to praise him?

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF II/VIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.