Wednesday, August 3, 2022

M/M: Winged Words: Julian's Letter to Eugenius, Ep. 60

Iulianus Eugenio Philosopho.

Daedalum narrant pennas Icario e cera finxisse, arteque naturam vincere tentasse: at ego illius quidem artem laudo, prudentiam tamen requiro: quippe cum solus ex omni memoria fit ausus cerae fluxae ac fragili salutem filii committere: ego tamen, si mihi esset integrum iuxta Teii illius lyrici votum, in avem mutari, non mehercule ad Olympum, neque ob amatorias aliquas querimonias, sed in ipsa montium vestrorum cacumina volarem, quo te meam (ut ait Sappho) curam amplecterer. Quoniam igitur natura me in hoc ergastulum corporis inclusit, neque in sublime verba mea explicare concedit, quibus possum alis te sequor, et scribo, et quo licet modo, tecum sum. Homerus certe non alia ex causa dixit verba alata, nisi quia omnem in partem ire possunt, ut velocissimae aves quocunque volunt, prosiliunt. Verumtamen tu quoque, amice, vicissim scribe. Name et tibi par est, vel maior in dicendo alarum copia, qua et amicos potes commovere, et varie, tamquam praesens esses, delectare.

Εὐγενίῳ φιλοσόφῳ

Δαίδαλον μὲν Ἰκάρῳ φασὶν ἐκ κηροῦ πτερὰ συμπλάσαντα τολμῆσαι τὴν φύσιν βιάσασθαι τῇ τέχνῃ. ἐγὼ δὲ ἐκεῖνον μὲν εἰ καὶ τῆς τέχνης ἐπαινῶ, τῆς γνώμης οὐκ ἄγαμαι: μόνος γὰρ κηρῷ λυσίμῳ τοῦ παιδὸς ὑπέμεινε τὴν σωτηρίαν πιστεῦσαι. εἰ δέ μοι θέμις ἦν κατὰ τὸν Τήιον ἐκεῖνον μελοποιὸν τὴν τῶν ὀρνίθων ἀλλάξασθαι φύσιν, οὐκ ἂν δήπου πρὸς Ὄλυμπον οὐδὲ ὑπὲρ μέμψεως ἐρωτικῆς, ἀλλ̓ εἰς αὐτοὺς ἂν τῶν ὑμετέρων ὀρῶν τοὺς πρόποδας ἔπτην, ἵνα σὲ τὸ μέλημα τοὐμόν, ὥς φησιν ἡ Σαπφώ, περιπτύξωμαι. ἐπεὶ δέ με ἀνθρωπίνου σώματος δεσμῷ κατακλείσασα ἡ φύσις οὐκ ἐθέλει πρὸς τὸ μετέωρον ἁπλῶσαι, τῶν λόγων οἷς ἔχω σε πτεροῖς μετέρχομαι, καὶ γράφω, καὶ σύνειμι τὸν δυνατὸν τρόπον. πάντως που καὶ Ὅμηρος αὐτοὺς οὐκ ἄλλου του χάριν ἢ τούτου πτερόεντας ὀνομάζει, διότι δύνανται πανταχοῦ φοιτᾶν, ὥσπερ οἱ ταχύτατοι τῶν ὀρνίθων ᾗ ἂν ἐθέλωσιν ᾄττοντες. γράφε δὲ καὶ αὐτός, ὦ φίλος: ἴση γὰρ δήπου σοι τῶν λόγων, εἰ μὴ καὶ μείζων, ὑπάρχει πτέρωσις, ᾗ τοὺς ἑταίρους μεταβῆναι δύνασαι καὶ πανταχόθεν ὡς παρὼν εὐφραίνειν.

--Julian, Ep. 60;Translated into Latin by Petrus Martinius Morentinus Navarrus (1583) [citing Sappho fragment 163]

To: Eugenius the Philosopher

From: Julian, Emperor of Rome

They say that Daedalos built wax wings for Icarus, daring to conquer Mother Nature with his talents. I praise his skill, but I question his wisdom, for he is the only person in human history who dared to entrust the safety of his son to soft wax. But if I could transform into a bird (as the poet Anacreon says), I wouldn’t fly to Olympus, not even to complain about Love. Instead, I would fly to the foot of your mountain, and embrace you, “my beloved” (as Sappho says). However, since Mother Nature has enclosed me in this human body, and it won’t let me lift off the ground, I can only fly to you and be with you the only way I can—in winged words. Homer knew what he was talking about when he called them “winged words,” for they flit about here and there like swift birds that swoop down wherever they want. Dear friend, write me back too! For your words are winged, too—even more so than mine—and can travel to your companions and cheer them up almost as if you’re here in person.




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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