Libanius in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

(Λιβάνιος). A Greek rhetorician of Antioch in Syria, born A.D. 314. His education was begun in his native city and completed at Athens, where he became a public teacher at the early age of twenty-five. Called from Athens to Constantinople in 340, he met with extraordinary success; at the same time he excited the envy of his rivals, whose slanders led to his expulsion in 345. After being actively engaged for five years as a public teacher in Nicomedia in Bithynia, he was recalled to Constantinople, where he was again remarkably popular, but found himself compelled by the continued persecutions of his detractors to leave the capital once more in 353. He withdrew to his native city of Antioch, where he was for many years actively employed in the exercise of his profession and in promoting the interests of his fellow-citizens; but even here he was much persecuted by his opponents. Apart from bodily sufferings caused by his being struck by a flash of lightning, his old age was saddened by the decline of learning and the fall of paganism, which he had foreseen would follow the lamented death of his admirer and patron, Julian. He died about A.D. 393, honoured and admired by his pupils, among whom were included Christians such as Basil the Great and Iohannes Chrysostomus. Libanius gives us information about his own life and work in a series of letters and in a speech "on his own fortune," written in his sixtieth year, but completed at a later date. There remains sixtyseven of his speeches, the majority of which refer to the events of his time; also fifty declamations; a considerable series of rhetorical exercises of various kinds, among them narratives, sketches of character and descriptions of works of art (some of them important in connection with the history of ancient art), and also arguments to the speeches of Demosthenes. There are, further, about 2000 letters addressed to friends, pupils, rhetoricians, scholars, statesmen, etc., which give us a vivid picture of his times. A fourth part of them, however, only exist in a Latin translation, and some of them are of doubtful genuineness. His style, which is formed on the best Attic models, is pure and has a certain elegance, although it is not always free from the affected and unnatural mannerism of his age. The most complete edition of the orations and declamations is that of Reiske, 4 vols. (1791-97); of the letters, that of Wolf (1738). The life of Libanius has been written by Petri (Paris, 1866), and in German by Sievers (Berlin, 1868).

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