Ariste'ides, P. Aelius or Aelius Theodorus
), surnamed THEODORUS, one of the most celebrated Greek rhetoricians of the second century after Christ, was the son of Eudaemon, a priest of Zeus, and born at Adriani in Mysia, according to some in A. D. 129, and according to others in A. D. 117.
He shewed extraordinary talents even in his early youth, and devoted himself with an almost unparalleled zeal to the study of rhetoric, which appeared to him the worthiest occupation of a man, and along with it he cultivated poetry as an amusement. Besides the rhetorician Herodes Atticus, whom he heard at Athens, he also received instructions from Aristocles at Pergamus, from Polemon at Smyrna, and from the grammarian Alexander of Cottyaeum. (Philostr. Vit. Sopsh.
2.9; Suidas, s. v. Ἀριστείδης
Aristeid. Orat. fun. in Alex.
p. 80, ed. Jebb.)
After being sufficiently prepared for his profession, he travelled for some time, and visited various places in Asia, Africa, especially Egypt, Greece, and Italy.
The fame of his talents and acquirements, which preceded him everywhere, was so great, that monuments were erected to his honour in several towns which he had honoured with his presence. (Aristeid. Orat. Aegypt.
ii. p. 331, &c.; Philostr. Vit. Soph.
2.9.1.) Shortly before his return, and while yet in Italy, he was attacked by an illness which lasted for thirteen years.
He had from his childhood been of a very weakly constitution, but neither this nor his protracted illness prevented his prosecuting his studies, for he was well at intervals; and in his "Sermones Sacri" (ἱεροὶ λόγοι
, a sort of diary of his illness and his recovery), he relates that he was frequently encouraged by visions in his dreams to cultivate rhetoric to the exclusion of all other studies. During this period and afterwards, he resided at Smyrna, whither he had gone on account of its baths, but he made occasional excursions into the country, to Pergamus, Phocaea, and other towns. (Serm. Sacr.
ii. p. 304, iv. p. 324, &c.)
He had great influence with the emperor M. Aurelius, whose acquaintance he had formed in Ionia, and when in A. D. 178, Smyrna was to a great extent destroyed by an earthquake, Aristeides represented the deplorable condition of the city and its inhabitants in such vivid colours to the emperor that he was moved to tears, and generously assisted the Smyrnaeans in rebuilding their town. The Smyrnaeans shewed their gratitude to Aristeides by erecting to him a brazen statue in their agora, and by calling him the founder of their town. (Philostr. Vit. Solp.
2.9.2; Aristeid. Epist. ad M. Aurel. et Commod.
i. p. 512.) Various other honours and distinctions were offered to him at Smyrna, but he refused them, and accepted only the office of priest of Asclepius, which he held until his death, about A. D. 180, according to some, at the age of 60, and according to others of 70.
The circumstance of his living for so many years at Smyrna, and enjoying such great honours there, is probably the reason that in an epigram still extant (Anthol. Planud.
p. 376) he is regarded as a native of Smyrna.
The memory of Aristeides was honoured in several ancient towns by statues. (Liban. Epist.
1551.) One of these representing the rhetorician in a sitting attitude, was discovered in the 16th century, and is at present in the Vatican museum.
The museum of Verona contains an inscription to his honour. (Visconti, Iconograph. Grecq.
i. plate xxxi. p. 373, &c.; Bartoli, Dissert. Sul. Museo Veronese,
Verona, 1745, 4to.)
The works of Aristeides extant are, fifty-five orations and declamations (including those which were discovered by Morelli and Mai), and two treatises on rhetorical subjects of little value, viz. περί πολιτικοῦ λόγου καὶ περὶ ἀφελοῦς λόγου
. Some of his orations are eulogies on the power of certain divinities, others are panegyrics on towns, such as Smyrna, Cizycus, Rome; one among them is a Panathenaicus, and an imitation of that of Isocrates. Others again treat on subjects connected with rhetoric and eloquence.
The six orations called ἱεροὶ λόγοι
, which were mentioned above, have attracted considerable attention in modern times, on account of the various stories they contain respecting the cures of the sick in temples, and on account of the apparent resemblance between these cures and those said to be effected by Mesmerism. (Thorlacius, Opuscul.
ii. p. 129, &c.)
A list of the orations extant as well as of the lost works of Aristeides, is given in Fabricius (Bibl. Gr.
vi. p. 15, &c.), and more completely by Westermann. (Gesch. der Griech. Beredtsasmk.
p. 321, &c.)
Aristeides as an orator is much superior to the majority of rhetoricians in his time, whose great and only ambition was to shine and make a momentary impression by extempore speeches, and a brilliant and dazzling style. Aristeides, with whom thought was of far greater importance than the form in which it appeared, expressed the difference between himself and the other rhetoricians, at his first interview with the emperor, M. Aurelius, by saying, οὐκ ἐσμὲν τῶν ἐμούντων
, ἀλλὰ τῶν ἀκριβούντων
. (Philostr. Vit. Soph.
2.9.2; Sopat. Proleg. in Aristid.
p. 738, ed. Dind.)
He despised the silly puns, the shallow witticisms and insignificant ornaments of his contemporaries, and sought nourishment for his mind in the study of the ancients.
In his panegyric orations, however, he often endeavours to display as much brilliancy of style as he can. On the whole his style is brief and concise, but too frequently deficient in ease and clearness. His sentiments are often trivial and spun out to an intolerable length, which leaves the reader nothing to think upon for himself. His orations remind us of a man who is fond of hearing himself talk.
Notwithstanding these defects, however, Aristeides is still unsurpassed by any of his contemporaries. His admirers compared him to Demosthenes, and even Aristeides did not think himself much inferior.
This vanity and self-sufficiency made him enemies and opponents, among whom are mentioned Palladius (Liban. Epist.
546), Sergius, and Porphyrius. (Suid. s. vv.
But the number of his admirers was far greater, and several learned grammarians wrote commentaries on his orations. Besides Athanasius, Menander, and others, whose works are lost, we must mention especially Sopater of Apamea, who is probably the author of the Greek Prolegomena to the orations of Aristeides, and also of some among the Scholia on Aristeides,which have been published by Trommel (Scholia in Aristidis Orationes,
Frankf. 1826, 8vo.), and by Dindorf (vol. iii. of his edition of Aristeides), and which contain a great many things of importance for mythology, history, and antiquities. They also contain numerous fragments of works now lost.
The greater part of these Scholia are probably compilations from the commentaries of Arethas, Metrophanes, and other grammarians. Respecting the life of Aristeides, compare J. Masson, Collectanea Historica Aristidis
aevumn et vitam spectantia, ordine chronologico digesta,
in the edition of Jebb, and reprinted in that of Dindorf.
The first edition of the orations of Aristeides (53 in number) is that of Florence, 1517, fol. In 1566 W. Canter published at Basel a Latin translation, in which many passages were skilfully corrected. This translation, together with the Greek text, was re-edited by P. Stephens, 1604, in 3 vols. 8vo. A better edition, with some of the Greek Scholia, is that of Samuel Jebb, Oxford, 1722, 2 vols. 4to.
Many corrections of the text of this edition are contained in Reiske's Animadversiones in Auct. Graec.
vol. iii. Morelli published in 1761 the oration πρὸς Λεπτίνην ὑπὲρ ἀτελείας, which he had discovered in a Venetian MS. It was afterwards edited again by F. A. Wolf, in his edition of Demosthenes' oration against Leptines (Halle, 1789)
, and by Grauert in his Declamationes Leptineae. (Bonn, 1827, 8vo.)
This edition of Grauert contains also an oration πρὸς Δημοσθένη περὶ ἀτελείας
, which had been discovered by A. Mai, and published in his Nova Collect. Script. Vet.
vol. i. p. 3. A complete edition of all the works of Aristeides, which gives a correct text and all the Scholia, was published by W. Dindorf, Leipzig, 1829, 3 vols. 8vo.