The Thirty-Fourth, or Second Tarsic, Discourse
This Discourse, like the one preceding, was evidently delivered before a public gathering of the citizens of Tarsus. Which of the two was the earlier we have no means of knowing. Both seem to belong to Dio’s later years. Yet the tone of each is so distinct as to proclaim two separate visits. In the one the speaker has much to say regarding the decadence of the times, but he still feels at liberty to treat that theme in lighter vein, laughing both at and with his audience and interlarding his remarks with quotations from the ancient poets and with literary criticism, and in general showing himself quite at ease, as indeed would befit one who spoke on invitation. In the other there seems to be no question of an invitation: Dio comes as a messenger from God in time of need. He gives not a single line of verse, and his only reference to classic times consists in the citation of Sparta and Athens as horrible examples of the fate reserved for arrogance and selfishness. The few touches of humour only serve to emphasize the speaker’s earnestness.
Thus the two speeches serve to complement each other and to reveal a proud city of ancient origin, thoroughly alive, though suffering from the natural results of too great prosperity. Despite the oriental element in the population, Tarsus could be relied upon to understand allusions to Greek poetry and myth and history, and the gymnasium and the sports connected with it might well explain Paul’s fondness for athletic phrase and imagery.