Dio Chrysostom, Discourses 33. Tarsic Discourse 1

LCL 358: 273

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The Thirty-Third, or First Tarsic, Discourse

In this Discourse Dio appears to be addressing a public gathering of the people of Tarsus upon invitation. Like the comic poets to whom he refers, he treats his audience to λοιδορία, inveighing against their wantonness and moral decay. Fully half of what he has to say is concerned with what he calls ῥέγκειν Though his treatment of that topic is manifestly humorous, it is designed to make palatable the serious charges that he desires to make.

The word ῥέγκειν is said to mean now ‘snort,’ now ‘snore.’ For lack of an English word of like flexibility, the translator has elected to use consistently that one of the two conventional meanings that seemed the better adapted to the majority of occurrences. ‘Snort,’ however, is doubtless inadequate as an interpretation of Dio’s meaning. He himself appears to be perplexed as to the proper label for the sound to which he has applied the term (55). He does give some clues. It is a sound made by some persons when asleep (33), by small boys, and by some mature men of good standing (33-34). It might be taken to denote the presence of a brothel (36). It is made by persons of uncertain sex (36). It is more suitable for the elderly (45). It is produced by the nose (50). It is a symptom of bad morals (50-51). It is not clucking or smacking of the lips or whistling, nor is it employed by shepherds, plowmen, huntsmen, or sailors (55). It is a sound peculiar to neither man nor woman, not even to a harlot, but rather to a male of the most debased sort (60). If, then, Dio himself, in spite of elaborate efforts to define the sound, has found no better term to symbolize his meaning, perhaps indulgence may be shown the translator.

To the modern reader Tarsus inevitably suggests the name of Paul. The picture of that ancient city, half Greek and half oriental, to be found in this Discourse and in the one to follow, awakens the keener interest for that reason. Sir William Ramsay holds that the Athenodorus of whom we hear exerted an influence upon the thought of Paul. Arnim assigns the present Discourse to Dio’s latest period.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.dio_chrysostom-discourses_33_first_tarsic_discourse.1940