Basil, Letters

LCL 190: 4-5

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Collected Letters of Saint Basil

Σειρήνων μέλη. καὶ τὴν Ἀσίαν ἐθαύμασα μέν, πρὸς δὲ τὴν μητρόπολιν τῶν ἐν αὐτῇ καλῶν ἠπειγόμην. ἐπεὶ δὲ κατέλαβον τὴν πατρίδα, καὶ σὲ ἐν αὐτῇ, τὸ μέγα ὄφελος, ζητήσας οὐχ εὗρον, ἐντεῦθέν μοι λοιπὸν αἱ πολλαὶ καὶ ποικίλαι ἀφορμαὶ τῶν ἀδοκήτων ἐπιγεγόνασι κωλυμάτων. ἢ γὰρ ἀσθενεῖν πάντως ἔδει, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἀπολείπεσθαι, ἢ ἐπὶ τὴν ἑῴαν βαδίζοντι συναπαίρειν μὴ δύνασθαι· ὀψὲ δέ ποτε μυρίοις πόνοις τὴν Συρίαν καταλαβόντα, οὐκ ἔχειν συνεῖναι τῷ φιλοσόφῳ πρὸς Αἰγυπτίους ἀπάραντι. πάλιν οὖν ἔδει Αἴγυπτόνδ᾿ ἰέναι, δολιχὴν ὁδὸν ἀργαλέην τε, καὶ οὐδ᾿ ἐνταῦθα τὸ σπουδαζόμενον ἔχειν. ἀλλ᾿ οὕτω δυσέρως ἦν ὥστε ἢ τὴν ἐπὶ Πέρσας βαδίζειν ἔδει καὶ συμπροϊέναι εἰς ὅτι μήκιστον τῆς βαρβάρων (ἦλθες γὰρ δὴ κἀκεῖσε· τοσαύτη τις ἦν φιλονεικία τοῦ δαίμονος) ἢ αὐτοῦ καθῆσθαι ἐπὶ τῆς Ἀλεξάνδρου, ὅπερ οὖν καὶ συνέβη. δοκῶ γάρ μοι, εἰ μὴ ὥσπερ τι θρέμμα θαλλῷ προδεικνυμένῳ ἑπόμενος ἀπηγόρευσα, ἐπέκεινα ἄν σε καὶ Νύσσης τῆς Ἰνδικῆς ἐλθεῖν ἀγόμενον καί, εἴ τι ἔσχατον τῆς καθ᾿ ἡμᾶς οἰκουμένης χωρίον, καὶ τούτῳ ἐπιπλανηθῆναι.

Καὶ τί δεῖ τὰ πολλὰ λέγειν; ἀλλὰ τὸ τελευταῖον νῦν ἐπὶ τῆς πατρίδος διάγοντι συγγενέσθαι οὐκ ἐξεγένετο, μακραῖς ἀῤῥωστίαις ἐξειργομένῳ· αἳ εἰ μὴ τοῦ γε λοιποῦ μετριώτεραι γένοιντο, οὐδὲ κατὰ τὸν χειμῶνα τῇ λογιότητί σου συνεσόμεθα. ταῦτα


Letter I

ever avoided Sirens’ songs.1 And though I marvelled at Asia’s wonders, I hurried on toward the mother-city2 of her glories. Yet when I reached the fatherland, and searching there for you, my great help, found you not, from that time on and ever since I have encountered many varied experiences which have put unexpected obstacles in my way. For either I had to be sick and consequently to miss seeing you, or I found myself unable to join you as you set out for the Orient; and when at last by innumerable toils I arrived in Syria, I could not be with my philosopher, who had set out for Egypt. So, once more, I was obliged to go to Egypt, “a long and weary way,”3 and not even there could I have my desire. Nay, so love-sick was I that I was compelled either to take the road to Persia and go with you as you advanced to the uttermost limits of the land of the barbarians—for indeed you went even thither, so obstinate was the demon who kept us apart—or else take up my abode here at Alexandria. This last is what I actually did. For if I had not grown weary of following you as a lamb follows the shepherd’s staff held out before it, I really think that you would have been driven on and on even beyond Indian Nyssa,4 or, if there is an uttermost spot of our world, that you would have wandered even there.

But why need I tell the whole long story? Coming last of all to the end of it, though you are now staying in your fatherland, it has not been granted me to be with you, since I have been kept away by long periods of sickness; and if these do not soon become more moderate, we shall not be able to be with Your Eloquence5 this winter, either.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.basil-letters.1926