Basil, On Greek Literature

LCL 270: 364-365

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364

Prefatory Note

Prefatory Note

St. Basil’s Address to Young Men, on How They Might Derive Benefit from Greek Literature, is a short work, but one that has attracted great interest in all times. While listed among his sermons, it appears never to have been delivered as such, but to be rather a finely polished essay. H. Büttner, in his dissertation published in Munich in 1908, tried to show that a Cyno-Stoic treatise served as a model and source for Basil, but his arguments are not convincing.

Basil wrote this essay when he was advanced in years, for he himself speaks of “my advanced age” as one of the reasons which urged him to accomplish the task. Some time had thus elapsed since he had resigned his chair of rhetoric, and it cannot, accordingly, be said that he was addressing the pupils studying at the municipal foundation. It is possible, as has been suggested, that he was giving a sort of moral lecture to the young men who made up a kind of seminary of his, either those who had just entered upon their studies for the priesthood or who had already received minor orders and were living in close contact with him. In any case the work sums up Basil’s ideas, towards the end of a life of wide experience, on a question much-mooted in his day:—Should the study of the pagan classics of Greek literature form an important part of a system

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.basil-greek_literature.1934