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Home > Fathers of the Church > Letters (St. Basil of Caesarea) > Letter 345

Letter 345

ST. BASIL OF CAESAREA

Libanius to Basil.

It is, I think, more needful for me to defend myself for not having begun to write to you long ago, than to offer any excuse for beginning now. I am that same man who always used to run up whenever you put in an appearance, and who listened with the greatest delight to the stream of your eloquence; rejoicing to hear you; with difficulty tearing myself away; saying to my friends, This man is thus far superior to the daughters of Achelous, in that, like them, he soothes, but he does not hurt as they do. Truly it is no great thing not to hurt; but this man's songs are a positive gain to the hearer. That I should be in this state of mind, should think that I am regarded with affection, and should seem able to speak, and yet should not venture to write, is the mark of a man guilty of extreme idleness, and, at the same time, inflicting punishment on himself. For it is clear that you will requite my poor little letter with a fine large one, and will take care not to wrong me again. At this word, I fancy, many will cry out, and will crowd round with the shout, What! Has Basil done any wrong— even a small wrong? Then so have Œacus, and Minos and his brother. In other points I admit that you have won. Who ever saw you that does not envy you? But in one thing you have sinned against me; and, if I remind you of it, induce those who are indignant thereat not to make a public outcry. No one has ever come to you and asked a favour which it was easy to give, and gone away unsuccessful. But I am one of those who have craved a boon without receiving it. What then did I ask? Often when I was with you in camp, I was desirous of entering, with the aid of your wisdom, into the depth of Homer's frenzy. If the whole is impossible, I said, do you bring me to a portion of what I want. I was anxious for a part, wherein, when things have gone ill with the Greeks, Agamemnon courts with gifts the man whom he has insulted. When I so spoke, you laughed, because you could not deny that you could if you liked, but were unwilling to give. Do I really seem to be wronged to you and to your friends, who were indignant at my saying that you were doing a wrong?

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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/3202345.htm>.

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