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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters (St. Basil of Caesarea) > Letter 340

Letter 340

ST. BASIL OF CAESAREA

Libanius to Basil.

Had you been for a long time considering how best you could reply to my letter about yours, you could not in my judgment have acquitted yourself better than by writing as you have written now. You call me a sophist, and you allege that it is a sophist's business to make small things great and great things small. And you maintain that the object of my letter was to prove yours a good one, when it was not a good one, and that it was no better than the one which you have sent last, and, in a word that you have no power of expression, the books which you have now in hand producing no such effect, and the eloquence which you once possessed having all disappeared. Now, in the endeavour to prove this, you have made this epistle too, which you are reviling, so admirable, that my visitors could not refrain from leaping with admiration as it was being read. I was astonished that after your trying to run down the former one by this, by saying that the former one was like it, you have really complimented the former by it. To carry out your object, you ought to have made this one worse, that you might slander the former. But it is not like you, I think, to do despite to the truth. It would have been done despite to, if you had purposely written badly, and not put out the powers you have. It would be characteristic of you not to find fault with what is worthy of praise, lest in your attempt to make great things insignificant, your proceedings reduce you to the rank of the sophists. Keep to the books which you say are inferior in style, though better in sense. No one hinders you. But of the principles which are ever mine, and once were yours, the roots both remain and will remain, as long as you exist. Though you water them ever so little, no length of time will ever completely destroy them.

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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/3202340.htm>.

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