Weekend Reading: Publius Aelius Aristides Theodorus (155); The Roman Oration

Weekend Reading: Publius Aelius Aristides Theodorus (155): The Roman Oration https://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/11/aelius-aristides-the-roman-oration-it-is-a-time-honored-custom-of-travelers-setting-forth-by-land-or-sea-to-m.html: 'Praise of Rome the City: Praise of your city all men sing and will continue to sing. Yet their words accomplish less than if they had never been spoken. Their silence would not have magnified or diminished her in the least, nor changed your knowledge of her. But their encomiums accomplish quite the opposite of what they intend, for their words do not show precisely what is truly admirable. If an artist should make a botch of it after undertaking to portray in a painting a body of famous beauty, probably everyone would say it would have been better not to paint it at all; to have let them see the body itself, or at least not to show them a caricature. And so I think it is with your city. Their speeches take away from her root of her wonders. It is like some effort to describe the marvelous size of an army such as Xerxes'. The man tells of seeing 10,000 infantry here, and 20,000 there, and so and so many cavalry, without reporting in what excites his wonder even a mere fraction of the whole. For it is she who first proved that oratory cannot reach every goal. About her not only is it impossible to speak properly, but it is impossible even to see her properly. In truth it requires some all-seeing Argos—rather, the all-seeing god who dwells in the city. For beholding so many hills occupied by buildings, or on plains so many meadows completely urbanized, or so much land brought under the name of one city, who could survey her accurately? And from what point of observation?...

...Homer says of snow that as it falls, it covers "the crest of the range and the mountain peaks and the flowering fields and the rich acres of men, and," he says, "it is poured out over the white sea, the harbors and the shores." So also of this city. Like the snow, she covers mountain peaks, she covers the land intervening, and she goes down to the sea, where the commerce of all mankind has its common exchange and all the produce of the earth has its common market. Wherever one may go in Rome, there is no vacancy to keep one from being, there also, in mid-city. And indeed she is poured out, not just over the level ground, but in a manner with which the simile cannot begin to keep pace, she rises great distances into the air, so that her height is not to be compared to a covering of snow but rather to the peaks themselves. And as a man who far surpasses others in size and strength likes to show his strength by carrying others on his back, so this city, which is built over so much land, is not satisfied with her extent. but raising upon her shoulders others of equal size, one over the other, she carries them. It is from this that she gets her name, and strength (rome) is the mark of all that is hers. Therefore, if one chose to unfold, as it were, and lay flat on the ground the cities which now she carries high in air, and place them side by side, all that part of Italy which intervenes would, I think, be filled and become one continuous city stretching to the Strait of Otranto.

Though she is so vast as perhaps even now I have not sufficiently shown, but as the eye test more clearly, it is not possible to say of her as of other cities "There she stands". Again, it has been said of the capital cities of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians—and may no ill omen attend the comparison—that the first would in size appear twice as great as in its intrinsic power, the second far inferior in size to its intrinsic power. But of this city, great in every respect, no one could say that she has not created power in keeping with her magnitude. No, if one looks at the whole empire and reflects how small a fraction rules the whole world, he may be amazed at the city, but when he has beheld the city herself and the boundaries of the city, he can no longer be amazed that the entire civilized world is ruled by one so great.

The Scope of Rome the Empire: Some chronicler, speaking of Asia, asserted that one man ruled as much land as the sun passed, and this statement was not true because he placed all Africa and Europe outside the limits where the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. It has now however turned to be true. Your possession is equal to what the can pass, and the sun passes over your land. Neither the Chelidonean nor the Cyanean promontories limit your empire, nor does the distance from which a horseman can reach the sea in one day, nor do you reign within fixed boundaries, nor does another dictate to what point your control reaches; but the sea like a girdle lies extended, at once in the middle of the civilized of the civilized world and of your hegemony.

Around it lie the great continents greatly sleeping, ever offering to you in full measure something of their own. Whatever the seasons make grow and whatever countries and rivers and lakes and arts of Hellenes and non-Hellenes produce are brought from every land and sea, so that if one would look at all these things, he must needs behold them either by visiting the entire civilized world or by coming to this city. For whatever is grown and made among each people cannot fail to be here at all times and in abundance. And here the the merchant vessels come carrying these many products from all region in every season and even at every equinox, so that the city appears a kind of common emporium of the world. Cargoes from India and, if you will, even from Arabia the Blest one can see in such numbers as to surmise that in those lands the trees will have been stripped bare and that the inhabitants of these lands, if they need anything, must come here and beg for a share of their own. Again one can see Babylonian garments and ornaments from the barbarian country beyond arriving in greater quantity and with more ease than if shippers from Naxos or from Cythnos, bearing something from those islands, had but to enter the port of Athens. Your farms are Egypt, Sicily and the civilized part of Africa. Arrivals and departures by sea never cease, so that the wonder is not that the harbor has insufficient space for merchant vessels, but that even the see has enough, if it really does.

And just as Hesiod said about the ends of the Ocean, that there is a common channel where all waters have one source and destination, so there is a common channel to Rome and all meet here, trade, shipping, agriculture, metallurgy, all the arts and crafts that are or ever have been, all the things that are engendered or or grow from the earth. And whatever one does not see here neither did nor does exist. And so it is not easy to which is greater, the superiority of this city in respect to the cities that now are or the superiority of this city respect to the empires that ever were....

Praise of Rome the Empire: Now, however, the present empire has been extended to boundaries of no mean distance, to such, in fact, that one cannot even measure the area within them. On the contrary, for one who begins a journey westward from the point where at that period the empire of the Persians found its limit, the rest is far more than the entirety of his domain, and there are no sections which you have omitted, neither city nor tribe nor harbor nor district, except possibly some that you condemned as worthless. The Red Sea and the Cataracts of the Nile and Lake Maeotis, which formerly were said to lie on the boundaries of the earth, are like the the courtyard to the house which is this city of yours. On the other hand, you have explored Ocean. Some writers did not believe that Ocean existed at all, or did not believe that it flowed around the earth; they thought that the poets had invented the name and had introduced it into literature for the sake of entertainment. But you have explored it so thoroughly that not even the island therein has escaped

Vast and comprehensive as is the size of it, your empire is much greater for its perfection than for the area which its boundaries encircle. There are no pockets of the empire held by Mysians, Sacae, Pisidians, or others, land which some have occupied by force, others have detached by revolt, who cannot be captured. Nor is it merely called the land of the King, while really the land of all who are able to hold it. Nor do satraps fight one another as if they had no king: nor are cities at variance, some fighting against these and some against those, with garrisons being dispatched to some cities and being expelled from others. But for the eternal duration of this empire the whole civilized world prays all together, emitting, like an aulos after a thorough cleaning, one note with more perfect precision than a chorus; so beautifully is it harmonized by the leader in command.

The keynote is taken by all, everywhere, in the same way. And those who have settled in the mountains are, in their avoidance of discord, lower in pride than those who dwell in the least elevated plains. while those in the rich plains, both men who have cleruchic holdings and men who have your colonial land, are engaged in agriculture. Conditions no longer differ from island to mainland, but all, as one continuous country and one people, heed quietly. All directions are carried out by the chorus of the civilized world at a word or gesture of guidance more easily than at some plucking of a chord; and if anything need be done, it suffices to decide and it is already done. The governors sent out to the city-states and ethnic groups are each of them rulers of those under them, but in what concerns themselves and their relations to each other they are all equally among the ruled, and in particular they differ from those under their rule in in that it is they—one might assert-who first show how to be the right kind of subject. So much respect ha been instilled in all men for him who is the great governor, who obtains for them their all.

They think that he knows what they are doing better than they do themselves. Accordingly they fear his displeasure and stand in greater awe of him than one would of a despot, a master who was present and watching and uttering commands. No one is so proud that he can fail to be moved upon hearing even the mere mention of the Ruler's name, but, rising, he praises and worships him and breathes two prayers in a single breath, one to the gods on the Ruler's behalf, one for his own affairs to the Ruler himself. And if the governors should have even some slight doubt whether certain claims are valid in connection with either public or private lawsuits and petitions from the governed, they straightway send to him with a request for instructions what to do, and they wait until he renders a a reply, like a chorus waiting for its trainer. Therefore, he has no need to wear himself out traveling around the whole empire nor, by appearing personally, now among some, then among others, to make sure of each point when he has the time to tread their soil. It is very easy for him to stay where he is, and manage the entire civilized world by letters, which arrive almost as soon as they are written, as if they were carried by winged messengers.

But that which deserves as much wonder and admiration as all the rest together, and constant expression of gratitude both in word and action, shall now be mentioned. You who hold so vast an empire and rule it with such a firm hand and with so much unlimited power have very decidedly won a great success, which is completely your own. For of all who have ever gained empire you alone rule over men who are free. Caria has not to Tissaphernes. nor Phrygia to Pharnabazus, nor Egypt to someone else; nor is the country said to enslaved, as household of so-and-so, to whomsoever it has been turned over, a man himself not free. But just as those in states of one city appoint the magistrates to protect and care for the governed, so you, who conduct public business in the whole civilized world exactly as if it were one city state. appoint the governors, as is natural after elections, to protect and care for the governed, not to he slave masters over them. Therefore governor makes way for governor unobtrusively, when his time is up, and far from staying too long and disputing the land with his successor. he might easily not enough even to meet him.

Appeals to a higher court are made with the ease of an appeal from deme to dicastery, with no greater menace for those who make them than for those who have accepted the local verdict. Therefore one might say that the men of today are ruled by the governors who are sent out, only in so far as they are content to be ruled. Are not these advantages beyond the old "Free Republic" of every people? For under Government by the People it is not possible to go outside after the verdict has been given in the city's court nor even to other jurors, but, except in a city so small that it has to have jurors from out of town, one must ever be content with the local verdict, deprived undeservedly as plaintiff, not getting possession even after a favorable verdict. But now in the last instance there is another judge, a mighty one, whose comprehension no just claim ever escapes.

There is an abundant and beautiful equality of the humble with the great and of the obscure with the illustrious, and, above all, of the poor man with the rich and of the commoner with the noble, and the word of Hesiod comes to pass, "For he easily exalts, and the exalted he easily checks," namely this judge and princeps as the justice of the claim may lead, like a breeze in the sails of a ship, favoring an accompanying, not the rich man more, the poor man less, but benefiting equally whomsoever it meets...


#weekendreading #2019-12-27

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