Philostratus of Athens, Discourses 1

LCL 521: 504-505



τῷ μὴ ἐσχηματίσθαι, εἰ γὰρ σχηματιοῦμεν, φιλοτιμεῖσθαι δόξομεν, φιλοτιμία δὲ ἐν ἐπιστολῇ μειρακιῶδες. κύκλον δὲ ἀποτορνεύειν ἐν μὲν ταῖς βραχυτέραις τῶν ἐπιστολῶν ξυγχωρῶ, ἵνα τούτῳ γοῦν ἡ βραχυλογία ὡραίζοιτο ἐς ἄλλην ἠχὼ πᾶσα στενὴ οὖσα, τῶν δὲ ἐς μῆκος προηγμένων ἐπιστολῶν ἐξαιρεῖν χρὴ κύκλους, ἀγωνιστικώτερον γὰρ ἢ κατὰ ἐπιστολὴν τοῦτο, πλὴν εἰ μή που ἐπὶ τελευτῆς τῶν ἐπεσταλμένων ἢ ξυλλαβεῖν δέοι τὰ προειρημένα ἢ ξυγκλεῖσαι τὸ ἐπὶ πᾶσι νόημα. σαφήνεια δὲ ἀγαθὴ μὲν ἡγεμὼν ἅπαντος λόγου, μάλιστα δὲ ἐπιστολῆς· καὶ γὰρ διδόντες καὶ δεόμενοι καὶ ξυγχωροῦντες καὶ μὴ καὶ καθαπτόμενοι καὶ ἀπολογούμενοι καὶ ἐρῶντες ῥᾷον πείσομεν, ἢν σαφῶς ἑρμηνεύσωμεν· σαφῶς δὲ ἑρμηνεύσομεν καὶ ἔξω εὐτελείας, ἢν τῶν νοηθέντων τὰ μὲν κοινὰ καινῶς φράσωμεν, τὰ δὲ καινὰ κοινῶς.



consist in not being encoded, since if we encode we seem vain, and vanity in a letter is juvenile. As for rounding off a period, I concede it in shorter letters, so that at least in this its concision may seem beautiful, whereas in other sound effects it remains entirely narrow; but from letters that reach some length one must remove periods, since that style is too aggressive for a letter, unless of course at the end of one’s missive one has either to summarize the preceding, or set on it all a concluding observation. A good guide to every style is clarity, and especially for a letter; whether we are granting or petitioning, or yielding or not, or finding fault or defending ourselves, or in love, we will persuade more easily if our expression is clear; and our expression will be clear and avoid parsimony if we set forth common thoughts with novelty, and novel ones with a common touch.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.philostratus_athens-discourses_1.2014