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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters (St. Basil of Caesarea) > Letter 336

Letter 336

ST. BASIL OF CAESAREA

Libanius to Basilius.

1. After some little time a young Cappadocian has reached me. One gain to me is that he is a Cappadocian. But this Cappadocian is one of the first rank. This is another gain. Further, he brings me a letter from the admirable Basil. This is the greatest gain of all. You think that I have forgotten you. I had great respect for you in your youth. I saw you vying with old men in self-restraint, and this in a city teeming with pleasures. I saw you already in possession of considerable learning. Then you thought that you ought also to see Athens, and you persuaded Celsus to accompany you. Happy Celsus, to be dear to you! Then you returned, and lived at home, and I said to myself, What, I wonder, is Basil about now? To what occupation has he betaken himself? Is he following the ancient orators, and practising in the courts? Or is he turning the sons of fortunate fathers into orators? Then there came those who reported to me that you were adopting a course of life better than any of these, and were, rather, bethinking you how you might win the friendship of God than heaps of gold, I blessed both you and the Cappadocians; you, for making this your aim; them, for being able to point to so noble a fellow-countryman.

2. I am aware that the Firmus, whom you mention, has continually won everywhere; hence his great power as a speaker. But with all the eulogies that have been bestowed on him, I am not aware that he has ever received such praise as I have heard of in your letter. For what a credit it is to him, that it should be you who declare that his reputation is inferior to none!

Apparently, you have dispatched this young man to me before seeing Firminus; had you done so, your letters would not have failed to mention him. What is Firminus now doing or intending to do? Is he still anxious to be married? Or is all that over now? Are the claims of the senate heavy on him? Is he obliged to stay where he is? Is there any hope of his taking to study again? Let him send me an answer, and I trust it may be satisfactory. If it be a distressing one, at least it will relieve him from seeing me at his door. And if Firminus had been now at Athens, what would your senators have done? Would they have sent the Salaminia after him? You see that it is only by your fellow-countrymen that I am wronged. Yet I shall never cease to love and praise the Cappadocians. I should like them to be better disposed to me, but, if they continue to act as they do, I shall bear it. Firminus was four months with me, and was not a day idle. You will know how much he has acquired, and perhaps will not complain. As to his being able to come here again, what ally can I call in? If your senators are right-minded, as men of education ought to be, they will honour me in the second case, since they grieved me in the first.

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Source. Translated by Blomfield Jackson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 8. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1895.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3202336.htm>.

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