1. The distinguished philosopher and rhetorician, surnamed Euphrades on account of his eloquence, was a Paphlagonian, the son of Eugenius, who was also a distinguished philosopher, and who is more than once mentioned in the orations of Themistius.
He flourished, first at Constantinople and afterwards at Rome, in the reigns of Constantius, Julian, Jovian, Valens, Gratian, and Theodosius; and he enjoyed the favour of all those emperors, notwithstanding their diversities of character and opinion, and notwithstanding the fact that he himself was not a Christian. Themistius was instructed by his father in philosophy, and devoted himself chiefly to Aristotle, though he also studied the systems of Pythagoras and Plato. While still a youth he wrote commentaries on Aristotle, which were made public without his consent, and obtained for him a high reputation.
He passed his youth in Asia Minor and Syria.
He first met with Constantius when the emperor visited Aneyra in Galatia in the eleventh year of his reign, B. C. 347, on which occasion Themistius delivered the first of his extant orations, περὶ φιλανθρωπίας
It was not long after that he fixed his residence at Constantinople, where he taught philosophy for twenty years. In A. D. 355 he was made a senator; amid the letter is still extant, in which Constantius recommends him to the senate, and speaks in the highest terms both of Themistius himself and of his father. We also possess the oration of thanks which Themistius addressed to the senate of Constantinople early in A.D. 356, in reply to the emperor's letter (Orat.
ii.). In A. D. 357 he recited in the senate of Constantinople two orations in honour of Constantius, which were intended to have been delivered before the emperor himself, who was then at Rome (Orat.
As the reward of his panegyrics, Constantius conferred upon him the honour of a bronze statue ; and, in A. D. 361, he was appointed to the praetorian dignity by a decree still extant, in which he is mentioned in the following terms, Themistius, cujus auget scientia dignitatem
(Cod. Theodos. vi. tit. 4. s. 12; comp. Orat. xxxi., in which Themistius says, ἀρκεῖ μοι Κωνστάντιος
, ὁ κόσμον τῆς ἑαυτοῦ βασιλείας τὴν ἐμὴν φιλοσοφίαν εἰπὼν πολλάκις
, and in which he also recites the compliments paid to him by Julian, Valens, Gratian, and Theodosius). Constantius died in A. D. 361 ; but Themistius, as a philosopher and a heathen, naturally retained the favour of Julian, who spoke of him as the worthy senator of the whole world, and as the first philosopher of his age. (Themist. Orat.
xxxi.) Suidas (s. v.
) states that Julian made Themistius prefect of Constantinople; but this is disproved by the speech delivered by Themistius, when he was really appointed to that office under Theodosius. (See below ) The error of Suidas simply arises from his placing together, with his usual carelessness, two distinct facts in the life of Themistius. Shortly before the death of Julian, A.D. 363, Themistius delivered an oration in honour of him, which is no longer extant, but which is referred to at some length by Libanius, in a letter to Themistius (Ep. 1061
). In A.D. 364 he went, as one of the deputies from the senate, to meet Jovian at Dadastana, on the confines of Galatia and Bithynia, and to confer the consulate upon him; and on this occasion he delivered an oration, which he afterwards repeated at Constantinople, in which he claims full liberty of conscience both for the Christians and the heathen. (Orat.
v.; Socrat. H. E.
In the same year he delivered an oration at Constantinople, in honour of the accession of Valentinian and Valens, in the presence of the latter. His next oration is addressed to Valens, congratulating him on his victory over Procopius in June 366, and interceding for some of the rebels ; it was delivered in A. D. 367. (Orat.
vii.) Ill the next year he accompanied Valens to the Danube in the second campaign of the Gothic war, and delivered before the emperor, at Marcianopolis, a congratulatory oration upon his Quinquennalia,
A. D. 368. (Oral.
viii.) His next orations are to the young Valentinian upon his consulship, A. D. 369 (Orat.
ix.), and to the senate of Constantinople, in the presence of Valens, in honour of the peace granted to the Goths, B. C. 370 (Orat.
x.). On March 28, A. D. 373, he addressed to Valens, who was then in Syria, a congratulatory address upon the emperor's entrance on the tenth year of his reign (Orat.
It was also while Valens was in Syria, that Themistius addressed to him an oration by which he persuaded him to cease from his persecution of the Catholic party. (Socrat. H. E.
4.32; Sozom. H. E.
It is thought by the best critics that this oration is lost, and that the extant oration to Valens on behalf of religious liberty (Orat.
xii.) was delivered at some other time, probably soon after the emperor's accession. (Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. vi. p. 797.)
In addition to these numerous orations, which prove that the orator was in high favour with the emperor, we have the testimony of Themistius himself to his influence with Valens. (Orat.
xxxi. where the words, ἡττηθεὶς ὑπὸ τῶν ἐμῶν λόγων πολλάκις
, seem to refer to such examples of the orator's power as that mentioned just above.)
In A. D. 377 we find him at Rome, whither he appears to have gone on an embassy to Gratian, to whom he there delivered his oration entitled Ἐρωτικός
xiii.). On the association of Theodosius in the empire by Gratian, at Sirmium, in A. D. 379, Themistius delivered an elegant oration, congratulating the new emperor on his elevation (Orat.
xiv.). Of his remaining orations some are public and some private; but few of them demand special notice as connected with the events of his life. In A. D. 384, about the first of September, he was made prefect of Constantinople (Orat.
xvii.), an office which had been offered to him, but declined, several times before (Orat.
He only held the prefecture a few months, as we learn from an oration delivered after he had laid down the office (Oral.
xxxiv.), in which he mentions, as he had done even six years earlier (Orat.
xiv.), and more than once in the interval (Or.
xv. xvi.), his old age and ill-health. From the 34th oration we also learn that he had previously held the offices of princeps senatus and pracfectus annonae,
besides his embassy to Rome; in another oration he mentions ten embassies on which he had been sent before his prefecture (Orat.
xvii.); and in another, composed probably about A. D. 387, he says that he has been engaged for nearly forty years in public business and in embassies (Orat.
xxi.). So great was the confidence reposed in him by Theodosius, that, though Themistius was a heathen, the emperor, when departing for the West to oppose Maximus, entrusted his son Arcadius to the tutorship of the philosopher, A. D. 387-388. (Socrat. H. E.
4.32; Sozom. H. E.
6.36; Niceph. H. E.
11.46.) We have no particulars of the history of Themistius after this time; and it may therefore be inferred that his life did not extend much, if at all, beyond A. D. 390. Besides the emperors, to whom so many references have been made, he numbered among his friends the chief orators and philosophers of the age, Christian as well as heathen. Not only Libanius, but Gregory of Nazianzus also was his friend and correspondent, and the latter, in an epistle still extant, calls him the " king of arguments" (βασιλέα λόγων
, Greg. Naz. Epist. 140
The orations (πολιτικοὶ λόγοι
) of Themistius, extant in the time of Photius, were thirty-six in number (Phot. Bibl.
Cod. 74), of which thirty-three have come down to us in the original Greek, and one in a Latin version.
The other two were supposed to be lost, until one of them was discovered by Cardinal Maio, in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, in 1816.
His philosophical works must have been very voluminous; for Photius (l.c.
) tells us that he wrote commentaries (ὑπομνήματα
) on all the books of Aristotle, besides useful abstracts (μεταφράσεις
) of the Analytics, the books on the Soul, and the Physics, and that there were exegetical labours of his on Plato; " and, in a word, he is a lover and eager student of philosophy" (ἐραστής ἐστι καὶ σπουδαστὴς φιλοσοφίας
). Suidas mentions his Paraphrase of the Physics of Aristotle, in eight books; of the Analyties, in two books; of the Apodeicties, in two books; of the treatise on the Soul, in seven books; and of the Categories in one book. Of these, we have the Paraphrases of the Second Analyties, of the Physics, of the treatise on the Soul, and of the works on Memory and Recollection, on Sleeping and Waking, on Dreams, and on Divination in Sleep. Besides these, which are in the original Greek, we have two other commentaries in Latin, translated from Hebrew versions of the originals, namely, that on the work on Heaven, translated by Moses Alatinus, and that on the twelve books of the Metaphysics, translated by Moses Finzius.
Epigram ascribed to Themistius
The Greek Anthology contains one epigram ascribed to Themistius, on the subject, according to the superscription in the Aldine edition, of his own appointment to the prefecture of the city by Julian.
It would seem, however, that there is a mistake respecting both the author and the subject of this epigram.
In the Palatine MS. it is ascribed to Palladius, and it is quite in his style.
The subject is explained by Maio.
vol. ii. p. 404; Jacobs, Anth. Graec.
vol. iii. p. 112, vol. x. p. 191, vol, xiii. p. 957; Maio, ad Orat.
xxxiv. p. 458, p. 471, ed. Dindorf.
The earliest editions of Themistius contained only the philosophical works, in the Latin version of Hermolaus Barbarus, which was first published at Venice, 1481, fol., and reprinted, Venet. 1502, fol., 1520, fol., 1527, fol., Paris, 1528-1529, fol., Basil. 1530. fol., 1533, 4to., Venet. 1554, fol., 1559, fol., 1570, fol. : the last is the most complete of the old editions.
The two commentaries which only exist in Latin were published at Venice in 1574 and 1576 respectively, both in folio
Of the Greek text the Editio Princeps is that of Aldus, 1534, fol., containing the Paraphrases and eight Orations, together with the treatises of Alexander Aphrodisiensis on the Soul and on Fate.
Editions of the
There has been no subsequent edition of the whole works, or of the Paraphrases; but the Orations have been since published, by H. Stephanus, whose edition contains thirteen of them, Paris, 1562, 8vo.
; by G. Remus, who reprinted, with a Lation version, only the six orations which Stephanus had published for the first time
, and a seventh in Latin only, Amberg, 1605, 4to.
; by Petavius, who printed sixteen, in Greek and Latin, fifteen of which had been hitherto ascribed to Synesius, besides a seventeenth, which is only extant in Latin, but of which Petavius gives also a Greek version by himself, Paris, 1613, 8vo.
; by P. Pantinus, who printed a few orations not before edited, 1614, 8vo.
; by Petavius again, who inserted in this second edition all the orations which had as yet appeared, to the number of nineteen, in Greek and Latin, several of the Latin versions being new, with fuller notes than in his first edition, Paris, 1618, 4to.
; and by Harduin, who first published the whole thirty-three orations, with the versions and notes of Petavius and his own, Paris, 1684, fol.
Besides these thirty-three orations, another, hitherto unknown, against certain persons who had attacked Themistius for accepting the prefecture of the city, was discovered at Milan by Cardinal Mai, as mentioned above, and published by him, in Greek and Latin, in 1816, 8vo., together with a newly-discovered fragment of the second oration, and two supplements to the nineteenth and twenty-third. Dindorf also founded upon the Milan MS. a new edition, first of two of the orations, Lips. 1830, 8vo.
, and afterwards of them all, Lips. 1832, 8vo.
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. vi. pp. 790, foll. ; Clinton, Fasti Romani,
under the several dates given in this article; Hoffmann, Lexicon Biliograph. Script. Graec. s. v.