1. A celebrated Greek sophist of Prusa in Bithynia, where his father Ameinias distinguished himself as a rhetorician. (Suid. s. n. Ἱμέριος
According to the most correct calculation, the life of Himerius belongs to the period from A. D. 315 to 386.
He appears to have received his first education and instruction in rhetoric in his father's house, and he then went to Athens, which was still the principal seat of intellectual culture, to complete his studies.
It is not improbable that he there was a pupil of Proaeresius, whose rival he afterwards became. (Eunap. Proaeres.
Afterwards he travelled, according to the custom of the sophists of the time, in various parts of the East: he thus visited Constantinople, Nicomedeia, Lacedaemon, Thessalonica, Philippi, and other places, and in some of them he stayed for some time, and delivered his show speeches.
At length, however, he returned to Athens, and settled there.
He now began his career as a teacher of rhetoric, and at first gave only private instruction, but soon after he was appointed professor of rhetoric, and received a salary. (Phot. Bibl. Cod.
165. p. 109, ed. Bekk.)
In this position he acquired a very extensive reputation, and some of the most distinguished men of the time, such as Basilius and Gregorius Nazianzenus, were among his pupils.
The emperor Julian, who likewise heard him, probably during his visit at Athens in A. D. 355 and 356 (Eunap. Himer.
; Liban. Orat.
x. p. 267, ed. Morel.; Zosimus, Hist. Eccles.
3.2), conceived so great an admiration for Himerius, that soon after he invited him to his court at Antioch, A. D. 362, and made him his secretary. (Tzetz. Chil.
6.128.) Himerius did not return to Athens till after the death of his rival, Proaeresius (A. D. 368), although the emperor Julian had fallen five years before, A. D. 363.
He there took his former position again, and distinguished himself both by his instruction and his oratory.
He lived to an advanced age, but the latter years were not free from calamities, for he lost his only promising son, Rufinus, and was blind during the last period of his life.
According to Suidas, he died in a fit of epilepsy (ἱερὰ νόσος
Himerius was a Pagan, and, like Libanius and other eminent men, remained a Pagan, though we do not perceive in his writings any hatred or animosity against the Christians; he speaks of them with mildness and moderation, and seems, on the whole, to have been a man of an amiable disposition.
Himerus was the author of a considerable number of works, a part of which only has come down to us. Photius (Bibl. Cod.
165, comp. 243) knew seventy-one orations and discourses on different subjects: but we now possess only twenty-four orations complete; of thirty-six others we have only extracts in Photius, and of the remaining eleven we have only fragments.
In his oratory Himerius took Aristeides for his model.
The extant orations are declamations and show speeches, such as were customary at the time, and were delivered either on certain occasions, as those on the marriage of Severus, and on the death of his son Rufinus, or they were spoken merely by way of oratorical exhibitions. Some of them relate to events of the time, and so far are of historical interest. Their style is not above that of the ordinary rhetoricians of his period; it is obscure and overladen with figurative and allegorical expressions; and although it is clear that Himerius was not without talent as an orator, yet he is so much under the influence of his age, that with a great want of taste he indulges in bombastic phraseology, mixes up poetical and obsolete expressions with his prose, and seldom neglects an opportunity of displaying his learning.
After the revival of letters, the productions of Himerius were very much neglected, for a complete edition of all that is still extant of them was never made till towards the end of last century.
Five orations had been published before; one by Fabricius (Bibl. Graec. ix. p. 426, &c. old edition)
, another by J. H. Majus (Giessen, 1719, 8vo.)
, and again three by the same Majus (Halle, 1720, fol.)
, when G. Ch. Harles edited one oration (the seventh in the present order), as a specimen and precursor of all the others, with a commentary by G. Wernsdorf, Erlangen, 1784, 8vo. Wernsdorf now prepared a complete collection of all the extant productions of Himerius, with commentary and introduction, which appeared at length at Göttingen, 1790, 8vo., and is still the only complete edition of Himerius. One fragment of some length, which has since been discovered, is contained in Boissonade's Anecdot. Graec. vol. i. p. 172, &c.
Comp. Wernsdorf's edition, p. xxxv., &c.; Westermann, Gesch. der Griech. Beredtsamk.
§ 101, and Beilage,
xiii., where a complete list of Himerius's orations is given.