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Himerius Greek
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 sophist and rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

ian. 24 of his orations have reached us complete, and fragments of 12 others.

Life and works

Himerius was born at Prusa in Bithynia
Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine .-Description:...

. He completed his education at Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, whence he was summoned to Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

 in 362 by the emperor Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 to act as his private secretary. After the death of Julian in the following year Himerius returned to Athens, where he established a school of rhetoric, which he compared with that of Isocrates
Isocrates , an ancient Greek rhetorician, was one of the ten Attic orators. In his time, he was probably the most influential rhetorician in Greece and made many contributions to rhetoric and education through his teaching and written works....

 and the Delphic oracle, owing to the number of those who flocked from all parts of the world to hear him. Amongst his pupils were Gregory of Nazianzus
Gregory of Nazianzus
Gregory of Nazianzus was a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople. He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age...

 and Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea.

In recognition of his merits, civic rights and the membership of the Areopagus were conferred upon him. The death of his son Rufinus (his lament for whom, called the Μονῳδία, is extant) and that of a favourite daughter greatly affected his health; in his later years he became blind and he died of epilepsy. Although a pagan, who had been initiated into the mysteries of Mithras by Julian, his works show no prejudice against the Christians.

Himerius is a typical representative of the later rhetorical schools. Photius (cod. 165, 243 Bekker
August Immanuel Bekker
August Immanuel Bekker was a German philologist and critic.-Biography:Born in Berlin, Bekker completed his classical education at the University of Halle under Friedrich August Wolf, who considered him as his most promising pupil. In 1810 he was appointed professor of philosophy in the University...

) had read 71 speeches by him, of 36 of which he has given an epitome; 24 have come down to us complete and fragments of 12 others. They consist of epideictic or "display" speeches after the style of Aristides
Aristides , 530 BC – 468 BC was an Athenian statesman, nicknamed "the Just".- Biography :Aristides was the son of Lysimachus, and a member of a family of moderate fortune. Of his early life, it is only told that he became a follower of the statesman Cleisthenes and sided with the aristocratic party...

, the majority of them having been delivered on special occasions, such as the arrival of a new governor, visits to different cities (Thessalonica, Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

), or the death of friends or well-known personages.

The Polemarchicus, like the Menexenus of Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and the Epitaphios Logos of Hypereides
Hypereides or Hyperides was a logographer in Ancient Greece...

, is a panegyric of those who had given their lives for their country; it is so called because it was originally the duty of the polemarch to arrange the funeral games in honour of those who had fallen in battle. Other declamations, only known from the excerpts in Photius, were imaginary orations put into the mouth of famous persons--Demosthenes
Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by...

 advocating the recall of Aeschines
Aeschines was a Greek statesman and one of the ten Attic orators.-Life:Although it is known he was born in Athens, the records regarding his parentage and early life are conflicting; but it seems probable that his parents, though poor, were respectable. Aeschines' father was Atrometus, an...

 from banishment, Hypereides
Hypereides or Hyperides was a logographer in Ancient Greece...

 supporting the policy of Demosthenes, Themistocles
Themistocles ; c. 524–459 BC, was an Athenian politician and a general. He was one of a new breed of politicians who rose to prominence in the early years of the Athenian democracy, along with his great rival Aristides...

 inveighing against the king of Persia, an orator unnamed attacking Epicurus
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism.Only a few fragments and letters remain of Epicurus's 300 written works...

 for atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 before Julian at Constantinople.

Himerius is more of a poet than a rhetorician, and his declamations are valuable as giving prose versions or even the actual words of lost poems by Greek lyric writers. The prose poem on the marriage of Severus
Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

 and his greeting to Basil at the beginning of spring are quite in the spirit of the old lyric. Himerius possesses vigour of language and descriptive powers, though his productions are spoilt by too frequent use of imagery, allegorical and metaphorical obscurities, mannerism and ostentatious learning. But they are valuable for the history and social conditions of the time, although lacking the sincerity characteristic of Libanius
Libanius was a Greek-speaking teacher of rhetoric of the Sophist school. During the rise of Christian hegemony in the later Roman Empire, he remained unconverted and regarded himself as a Hellene in religious matters.-Life:...



  • G Wernsdorf (1790), Online at Google books with valuable introduction and commentaries.
  • JF Dübner
    Johann Friedrich Dübner
    Johann Friedrich Dübner , German classical scholar , was born in Horselgau, near Gotha....

     (1849) in the Didot
    Didot is the name of a family of French printers, punch-cutters and publishers. Through its achievements and advancements in printing, publishing and typography, the family has lent its name to typographic measurements developed by François-Ambroise Didot and the Didot typeface developed by Firmin...

  • Colonna, A. Himerii Declamationes et orationes cum deperditarum fragmentis. Rome, 1951. The standard critical edition.

Studies and translations

  • C Teuber, Quaestiones Himerianae (Breslau, 1882);
  • E Norden, Die antike Kunstprosa (1898) discusses the style.
  • Robert J. Penella, Man and the word: the orations of Himerius, 2007. The English translation. Google books preview