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Headword: Σεβηριανός
Adler number: sigma,180
Translated headword: Severianus
Vetting Status: high
Damascius says [this]. [Severianus came] from Damascus, of one of the foremost families, son of Auxentios the son of Kallinikos, descended from Roman ancestors who settled in the Alexandrian country. He obtained an education befitting his natural acuity, in poetry and rhetoric; but also spending time on the laws of the Romans, he seemed to surpass his contemporaries. He was stubborn in his character and rushed to accomplish whatever came to his mind; he outstripped his deliberation with action. And because of this his life was a failure in many ways. For at first he was eager to turn to philosophy and, presenting himself to Proklos, to entrust himself to him.[1] At that time Proklos was in his prime and was flourishing at Athens. But his father became a hindrance to him; for he wanted him to give judgments and to make money from this profitable profession. His father soon died, but he himself setting out for Athens beheld a dream of this kind: he seemed to be sitting on the ridge of some mountain as if on a chariot and to be (as it were) driving the mountain. But fate led him according to necessity and also his own choice (which was bad), into another way of life, one which seemed to be lofty and magnificent, but [was actually] harsh and pointless. He himself chose this, and the experience of the outcome proved it -– for instead of philosophy and fortunate leisure he drove himself into politics and public administration. Being fond of controversy by nature and unwilling to be defeated in whatever he undertook, and ambitious, more than any other I know, yet through honorable deeds and words and bringing virtue out of his soul, he spent no time on money-making, nor was he spontaneously prone to injustice or greed, but he was always offensive and contentious towards his superiors, and did not think it right for any of the greater magistrates to go beyond what the accepted bounds of justice. In judging he was very harsh. And sometimes indeed, being led astray by anger and by the desire not to be regarded lightly, he brought about some deaths which brought pollution and misfortune; to these he attributed the cause of the misfortune in life which came upon him later. He even gave offense to Ardabur (the son of Aspar, a barbarian man who had great influence with the emperor) who was general of the eastern forces, he gave great difficulties to this man and to his father.[2] Having endured more and worse sufferings and violence he gained no benefit from this interference, but being excessively pious and Greek, the wretched man did not yield in spite of many threats and fears. To me he explained the greater and more political speeches of Isokrates,[3] not in the technical and sophistic manner, but in the wise and philosophical. Then I saw a man of good sense and able in intelligence for political explanations, but also an excellent judge of what was said. He sharpened my younger brother Julian so much for literature that he was prepared to memorize both poetry and the approved passages of the orators. As the wages of his eagerness he offered the prize which befits a companion: dinner. The works of the other poets he accepted in moderation, but when he took Callimachus[4] into his hands, there was no way he did not ridicule the Libyan poet; being very much irritated, often he even spat into the book. Zeno the emperor promised him the greatest authority after the emperor if he became an adherent of the prevailing [religion].[5] But not even thus did he persuade him, nor was he likely to persuade. To us he read the letter which conveyed the promise and failed to persuade. And he censured Arkadios of Larissa by a letter. For Severianus was a masterful and wise letter-writer, as it is possible for anyone to learn who happens on the man's letters.
Greek Original:
Σεβηριανός: φησὶ Δαμάσκιος. ἀπὸ Δαμασκοῦ, τῶν εἰς τὰ πρῶτα γένους ἀνηκόντων, Αὐξεντίου τοῦ Καλλινίκου υἱός, εἰς Ῥωμαίους ἀναγό- μενος προγόνους, ἐπῳκηκότας πατρίδα τὴν Ἀλεξάνδρειαν, παιδείας τε τυχὼν πρὸς τῇ ὀξύτητι τῆς φύσεως, ποιητικῆς τε καὶ ῥητορικῆς, ἔτι δὲ καὶ τῆς περὶ νόμους τοὺς Ῥωμαίων διατριβούσης, διαφέρων ἔδοξεν εἶναι τῶν ἡλικιωτῶν. στερρὸς δὲ τὸ ἦθος ὤν, καὶ ἅπερ ἂν διανοηθείη, ταῦτα πράττειν ἐσπουδακὼς ἔφθανε τῷ πρακτικῷ τὸ βουλευτικόν. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ὁ βίος αὐτῷ πολλαχῇ διεσφάλη. προὐθυμήθη μὲν γὰρ ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν τραπῆναι καὶ τῷ Πρόκλῳ φέρων ἑαυτὸν ἐπιδοῦναι: ἤκμαζε δὲ τότε καὶ ἤνθει ὁ Πρόκλος Ἀθήνησιν. ἐγένετο δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ πατὴρ ἐμποδών: ἠβούλετο γὰρ αὐτὸν δίκας λέγειν καὶ χρηματίζεσθαι τὸν ἐπιμίσθιον τοῦτον χρηματισμόν. ὁ μὲν δὴ πατὴρ αὐτῷ ὡς τάχιστα τελευτᾷ τὸν βίον, αὐτὸς δὲ ἐπὶ τὰς Ἀθήνας ὁρμήσας ὄνειρον ἐθεάσατο τοιόνδε: ἐδόκει ἐπὶ ῥάχει τινὸς ὄρους ἐπικαθῆσθαι ὥσπερ ὀχήματι καὶ οἷον ἐλαύνειν τὸ ὄρος. ἐξῆγε δὲ αὐτὸν ἄρα ἡ εἱμαρμένη καὶ τὸ χρεών, ἔτι δὲ τὸ αὐθαίρετον, ὅτι ἐστὶ κακόν, εἰς βίον ἄλλον, ὑψηλὸν μὲν εἶναι δοκοῦντα καὶ μεγαλοφυῆ, τραχὺν δέ τινα καὶ ἀνήνυτον: ὃ καὶ αὐτὸς ἐπέκρινε, καὶ ἡ πεῖρα τῆς ἐκβάσεως ἀποδέδειχεν: ἀντὶ γὰρ φιλοσοφίας καὶ ἀπραγμοσύνης εὐδαίμονος εἰς τὴν πολιτείαν ἑαυτὸν καὶ εἰς ἀρχὰς ἐξέωσε φέρων. φύσει δὲ ὢν φιλόνεικος καὶ ἀήττητος ἐφ' ὅτι ἂν ὁρμήσειε, καὶ φιλόδοξος, ὡς οὐκ οἶδ' εἴ τις ἕτερος, ἀλλ' ἐπὶ τιμίοις ἔργοις τε καὶ λόγοις καὶ τὴν ἀρετὴν εἰς τὸ ἔξω προάγουσι τῆς ψυχῆς, περὶ μὲν χρηματισμὸν οὐ διέτριβεν οὐδὲ ὁπωστιοῦν, οὐδὲ πρὸς ἀδικίαν αὐτόθεν καὶ πλεονεξίαν ἐπίφορος ἦν, προσκρουστικὸς δὲ καὶ ἁμιλλητικὸς ἀεὶ πρὸς τοὺς ὑπερέχοντας, καὶ οὐδενὶ τῶν μειζόνων ἀρχόντων ἀξιῶν παρὰ τὰ νομιζόμενα δίκαια εἶναι ἐξίστασθαι. δικάζων δὲ πικρότατος ἦν. καὶ εἰ δή ποτε ἐξαγόμενος ὑπὸ θυμοῦ καὶ τὸ ἀκαταφρόνητος εἶναι σπουδάζων, φόνους τε εἰργάσατό τινας οὐκ εὐαγεῖς οὐδὲ εὐτυχεῖς καὶ ἐς τούτους ἀνέφερε τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς ὕστερον ἐπιγενομένης αὐτῷ τοῦ βίου κακοπραγίας. ἐπεὶ καὶ Ἀρδαβουρίῳ προσκρούσας, ὄντι μὲν υἱεῖ τοῦ πάνυ Ἄσπερος, βαρβάρου μὲν ἀνθρώπου, τὰ μέγιστα δὲ παρὰ βασιλεῖ δυναμένου, στρατηγοῦντι δὲ τῶν ἑῴων ταγμάτων, πολλὰ μὲν ἐκείνῳ παρέσχετο πράγματα καὶ πατρὶ τῷ ἐκείνου: πλείω δὲ καὶ ἀτοπώτερα πεπονθὼς καὶ ὑβρισθεὶς οὐθὲν ἀπώνατο τῆς πολλῆς ταύτης ἐνστάσεως. ἱερώτατος δὲ εἰς ὑπερβολὴν καὶ Ἕλλην, καὶ πολλῶν μὲν ἀπειλῶν καὶ φόβων οὐκ ἐνέδωκεν ὁ ἀλιτήριος. ἐμοὶ δὲ καὶ ἐξηγεῖτο λόγους Ἰσο- κρατείους, τοὺς μείζους καὶ πολιτικωτέρους, οὐ τὸν τεχνικόν τε καὶ σοφιστικόν, ἀλλὰ τὸν ἔμφρονα καὶ φιλόσοφον τρόπον: ὅτε καὶ εἶδον ἄνθρωπον εὔρρουν τε ἅμα καὶ ἀμφιλαφῆ τὴν διάνοιαν πρὸς τὰς πολιτικὰς ἐξηγήσεις, ἔτι δὲ κριτὴν ἄριστον ὄντα τῶν λεγομένων. τὸν δὲ ἐμοῦ νεώτερον ἀδελφὸν Ἰουλιανὸν οὕτω παρώξυνεν εἰς φιλολογίαν, ὥστε καὶ ἐκμαθόντος ἠνείχετο τά τε ποιητικὰ τῶν τε ῥητόρων τοὺς εὐδοκιμοῦντας: μισθόν τε ἐδίδου τῆς προθυμίας φιλοτιμίαν, προσήκουσαν ἑταίρῳ ἑστίασιν. τὰ μὲν οὖν τῶν ἄλλων ποιητῶν ἀπεδέχετο μετρίως, τὸν δὲ Καλλίμαχον εἰς χεῖρας λαβών, οὐκ ἔστιν ὅτι οὐ κατέσκωπτε τὸν Λίβυν ποιητήν: ἀνιώμενος δὲ ἐπὶ μᾶλλον, ἤδη πολλαχοῦ καὶ τῷ βιβλίῳ προσέπτυε. τούτῳ κατεπηγγείλατο Ζήνων βασιλεύς, εἰ γένοιτο τῶν κρατούντων, τὴν μετὰ βασιλέα μεγίστην ἀρχήν. ἀλλ' οὐδὲ ὣς ἔπειθεν, οὐδὲ ἐμέλλησε πείσειν. καὶ ἡμῖν δὲ ὑπανέγνω τὴν ἐπαγγελλομένην ἐπιστολὴν καὶ μὴ πείθουσαν. καὶ Ἀρκαδίῳ δὲ τῷ ἀπὸ Λαρίσσης δι' ἐπιστολῆς ἐπετίμησε. καὶ γὰρ ἐπιστέλλειν δεινὸς ἦν ὁ Σεβηριανὸς καὶ ἔμφρων, ὡς ἔστι μαθεῖν ἐντυχόντα ταῖς τοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἐπιστολαῖς.
Damascius, Life of Isidore fr. 285 and 290 Asmus, 277-280 Zintzen, 108 Athanassiadi; quoted in part already at alpha 1740 and epsilon 2752. Cf. Photius, Bibliotheca 346b 16-19.
[1] Proklos (Proclus): pi 2473.
[2] Ardabur and Aspar: alpha 3803.
[3] iota 652.
[4] kappa 227.
[5] The emperor Zeno: zeta 83, zeta 84.
Keywords: biography; Christianity; dreams; economics; ethics; food; geography; history; imagery; law; medicine; military affairs; philosophy; poetry; politics; religion; rhetoric
Translated by: Catharine Roth on 26 November 2005@01:17:38.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (typo and other cosmetics; modified keywords) on 27 November 2005@05:00:45.
David Whitehead (another x-ref) on 13 February 2008@07:17:25.
Catharine Roth (added reference and cross-references) on 24 April 2008@15:43:21.
David Whitehead (more notes and keywords) on 22 December 2013@08:59:46.


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