Saturday, May 21, 2022

Using Sappho's Words to Express His Love...for Books, Julian, Ep. 23

In this letter, the Roman Emperor Julian mimics Sappho's famous priamel ["Οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον, οἰ δὲ πέσδων, /  οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ’ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν / ἔμμεναι κάλλιστον, ἐγὼ δὲ κῆν’ ὄτ- / τω τις ἔραται, / Some say that the prettiest thing in all the world is cavalry; other say it is infantry; others say it is ships. But I say that is whatever you love." fr. 16] to proclaim his love [πόθος] of books.

Εκδικία υπάρχω Αιγύπτου

Αλλοι μεν ίππων, Αλλοι δέ ορνέων, Αλλοι  θηριων έρωσιν, εμοί δέ βιβλίων κλήσεως εκ παιδεαις δενός εντέτηκε πόθος.


Ecdicio Praefecto Aegyptii

Quidam equis, alii avibus, nonnulli feris delectantur: ego vero inde usque a pueritia librorum cupiditate arsi.

--Julian, Epistolae XXIII.1; Translated into Latin by Petrus Martinius Morentinus Navarrus (1583)


Some people love horses;

Others love birds;

Still others love animals.

But, from the time I was a child,

I have always burned for books.




Name:  Flavius Claudius Julianus

Date:  331 – 363 CE

Works:  The Caesars (satire)



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Also known as “the Apostate,” Emperor Julian ruled the Roman empire from 361 to 363 CE. During that time, he advocated for the return of Rome’s polytheistic state religion. Numerous works of his are extant, including letters, speeches, and satires; these provide unique insight into the perspectives of Roman nobility during that time period.


ARCHAIC: (through 6th c. BCE); GOLDEN AGE: (5th - 4th c. BCE); HELLENISTIC: (4th c. BCE - 1st c. BCE); ROMAN: (1st c. BCE - 4th c. CE); POST CONSTANTINOPLE: (4th c. CE - 8th c. CE); BYZANTINE: (post 8th c CE)

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