|Do not fly Iberia
Translated by Wilmer Cave Wright
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See, there I [Note 1] am again, busy with my usual phrase-making! I do not even allow myself to speak out at random fearlessly and freely, but with my usual awkwardness I am laying information against myself. It is thus and in words like these that one ought to address men who want to be free not only with respect to those who govern them but to the gods also, in order that one may be considered well-disposed towards them, "like an indulgent father," even though one is by nature an ill-conditioned person like myself: Bear with them then, when they hate and abuse you in secret or even openly, since you thought that those who applauded you with one accord in the temples were only flattering you. For surely you did not suppose that you would be in harmony with the pursuits or the lives or the temperaments of these men. I grant that. But who will bear with this other habit of yours? You always sleep alone at night, and there is no way of softening your savage and uncivilised temper -- since all avenues are closed to anything that might sweeten your disposition, -- and the worst of all these evils is that you delight in living that sort of life and have laid pleasure under a general ban. Then can you feel aggrieved if you hear yourself spoken of in such terms? No, you ought to feel grateful to those who out of kindness of heart admonish you wittily in anapaestic verse to shave your cheeks smooth, and then, beginning with yourself, first to show to this laughter-loving people all sorts of fine spectacles, mimes, dancers, shameless women, boys who in their beauty emulate women, and men who have not only their jaws shaved smooth but their whole bodies too, so that those who meet them may think them smoother than women; yes and feasts too and general festivals, not, by Zeus, the sacred ones at which one is bound to behave with sobriety. No, we have had enough of those, like the oak tree in the proverb; we are completely surfeited with them. The Emperor sacrificed once in the temple of Zeus, then in the temple of Fortune; he visited the temple of Demeter three times in succession." (I have in fact forgotten how many times I entered the shrine of Daphne, which had been first abandoned owing to the carelessness of its guardians, and then destroyed by the audacious acts of godless men.) The Syrian New Year arrived, and again the Emperor went to the temple of Zeus the Friendly One. Then came the general festival, and the Emperor went to the shrine of Fortune. Then, after refraining on the forbidden day, again he goes to the temple of Zeus the Friendly One, and offers up prayers according to the custom of our ancestors. Now who could put up with an Emperor who goes to the temples so often, when it is in his power to disturb the gods only once or twice, and to celebrate the general festivals which are for all the people in common, those in which not only men whose profession it is to have knowledge of the gods can take part, but also the people who have crowded into the city? For pleasure is here in abundance, and delights whose fruits one could only enjoy continuously; for instance the sight of men and pretty boys dancing, and any number of charming women." When I take all this into account, I do indeed congratulate you on your good fortune, though I do not reproach myself. For perhaps it is some god who has made me prefer my own ways. Be assured then that I have no grievance against those who quarrel with my way of life and my choice. But I myself add, as far as I can, to the sarcasms against myself and with a more liberal hand I pour down on my own head these abusive charges. For it was due to my own folly that I did not understand what has been the temper of this city from the beginning; and that too though I am convinced that I have turned over quite as many books as any man of my own age. You know of course the tale that is told about the king who gave his name to this city -- or rather whose name the city received when it was colonised, for it was founded by Seleucus, though it takes its name from the son [Note 2] of Seleucus -- they say then that out of excessive softness and luxury the latter was constantly falling in love and being loved, and finally he conceived a dishonourable passion for his own step-mother [Note 3]. And though he wished to conceal his condition he could not, and little by little his body began to waste away and to become transparent, and his powers to wane, and his breathing was feebler than usual. But what could be the matter with him was, I think, a sort of riddle, since his malady had no visible cause, or rather it did not even appear what was its nature, though the youth's weakness was manifest. Then the physician of Samos was set a difficult problem, namely to discover what was the nature of the malady. Now he, suspecting from the words of Homer what is the nature of "cares that devour the limbs," and that in many cases it is not a bodily weakness but an infirmity of soul that causes a wasting of the body; and seeing moreover that the youth was very susceptible to love because of his time of life and his habits, he took the following way of tracking down the disease. He sat near the youth's couch and watched his face, after ordering handsome youths and women to walk past him, beginning with the queen herself. Now when she entered, apparently to see how he was, the young man at once began to show the symptoms of his malady. He breathed like one who is being choked; for though he was very anxious to control his agitated breathing, he could not, but it became disordered, and a deep blush spread over his face. The physician on seeing this laid his hand to his breast, and found that his heart was beating terribly fast and was trying to burst forth from his breast. Such were his symptoms while she was present; but when she had gone away and others came in he remained calm and was like a man in a normal state of health. Then Erasistratus saw what ailed him and told the king, and he out of love for his son said that he would give up his wife to him. Now the youth for the moment refused; but when his father died not long after, he sought with the greatest vehemence the favour which he had so honourably refused when it was first offered to him.
Event: Antiochus and Stratonice