Basil, Letters

LCL 190: 2-3

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Collected Letters of Saint Basil


Letter I Εὐσταθίῳ φιλοσόφῳ1

Ἀπειρηκότα με ἤδη πρὸς τὰς παρὰ τῆς λεγομένης2 τύχης ἐπηρείας, παρ᾿ ἧς ἀεί τι πρὸς τὸ μὴ συγγενέσθαι σοι ἐμπόδιον γέγονε, θαυμαστῶς πως ἀνεκαλέσω καὶ παρεμυθήσω τοῖς γράμμασι. καὶ γάρ πως ἤδη καὶ κατ᾿ ἐμαυτὸν ἔστρεφον, μή ποτε ἀληθές ἐστι τὸ παρὰ τῶν πολλῶν θρυλλούμενον, ὅτι ἀνάγκη τίς ἐστι καὶ εἱμαρμένη ἡ καὶ τὰ μικρὰ καὶ τὰ μείζω τῶν ἡμετέρων ἄγουσα, αὐτοὶ δὲ οὐδενός ἐσμεν οἱ ἄνθρωποι κύριοι· ἤ, εἰ μὴ τοῦτο, τύχη τις πάντως τὸν ἀνθρώπινον ἐλαύνει βίον. καὶ τούτων πολλὴν συγγνώμην ἕξεις τῶν λογισμῶν, ἐπειδὰν τὰς αἰτίας, ὑφ᾿ ὧν εἰς αὐτοὺς προήχθην, μάθῃς.

Ἐγὼ κατέλιπον τὰς Ἀθήνας κατὰ φήμην τῆς σῆς φιλοσοφίας, ὑπεριδὼν τῶν ἐκεῖ. παρέδραμον δὲ τὴν ἐφ᾿ Ἑλλησπόντῳ πόλιν, ὡς οὐδεὶς Ὀδυσσεὺς

  • 1πρὸς Εὐστάθιον πρεσβύτερον Ἀντιοχείας A, B; πρὸς Εὐστάθιον φιλόσοφον ἀπὸ Ἀντιοχείας πρὸ τοῦ πρεσβύτερον κατασταθῆναι C, D, G; Εὐσταθίῳ φιλοσόφῳ Ἀντιοχείας περὶ τοῦ πρεσβυτερίου F. According to the Benedictines none of these titles is possible because Eustathius was not a presbyter, but a heathen, as is indicated by Basil’s words: “Is not all this the hand of Fate, as you yourself would say, and the work of Necessity?”
  • 2λεγομένης om. A, B, C, D.

Letter I

Collected Letters of Saint Basil

Letter I To Eustathius, the philosopher1

At a time when I was at last disheartened by the spite of what men call Fortune, which has always put some obstacle in the way of my seeing you, you revived my spirit and consoled me wonderfully by your letter. For I was just turning over in my mind the popular saying, and wondering if it were not perhaps true, that the power which directs our affairs both great and small is a certain Necessity or Fate, while we human beings have in ourselves authority over nothing; or if not this, that it is a kind of chance at all events that drives on the lives of men. You will be very indulgent with me for harbouring these thoughts when you learn the reasons why I was drawn to them.

Owing to the repute of your philosophy, I left Athens, scorning everything there. And I hastened past the city on the Hellespont2 as no Odysseus

  • 1Written in 357. This Eustathius was apparently an itinerant philosopher of the age, whose teachings Basil, on his return from the University at Athens, tried in vain to hear. Cf. Intro, p. xvii. From the general tone of this letter, he seems to have been a pagan.
  • 2Constantinople.
DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.basil-letters.1926