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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
The Greeks Us / Greece in West  

Pliny, Purity and refinement

From the "Epistles"


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

Epistle 2.III, to Nepos.

   ISAEUS gave us the Promise of a bright Reputation, but has far exceeded it: He has the utmost command, plenty, and luxuriancy of Speaking. He always delivers himself in the readiest, and yet in the most exact Manner. His Style does not only carry the Purity of the Greek, but the Refinement of the Attic. His Openings are terse, easy, engaging; sometimes weighty and rais'd. He demands a number of his Questions from his Audience; and permits the Choice of others, and often the Sides, to them. He rises, dresses, begins; suddenly all is at hand, and in a manner all alike. His Sense more remote, his Words familiar; but of what kind? chosen and labour'd. Even in his sallies of Oratory, a vast Compass of Reading and Writing shines forth. His Preface is just; his Narration clear; his Reasoning forcible; his Consequences strong; his Ornament high: he informs, delights, and affects at once, (a Thing almost incredible:) His Turns of Logic are frequent; his Syllogisms bounded and determinate; which it must be a great Mastery to execute also in a proper Style. (...)

Epistle 4.III. To Antonius.

   WHEN you talk, the celebrated Honey of old Homer seems to show, and when you write, the Bees collect their Flowers, and interweave them. So highly was I entertain'd when last I read your Greek Epigrams and your Jambicks. What Genteelness, Grace, what Mixture of the Pleasant and Tender, the Antique, the Witty, the Just, was in them? I imagin'd my self to be reading Callimachus, Herodes, or something better, if that be possible. Yet neither of them has touch'd or compleated both Characters. A Roman to be so finish'd a Græcian! By Heavens, I could not say that Athens itself is so perfectly Attic. What can I add? I envy the Greeks your Choice of Writing in their Language. (...)

Epistle 4.XVIII. To Antoninus.

   HOW can I better shew you my Approbation of your Greek Epigrams, than by my own Essays to imitate and represent some of them in Latin. Yet this has fallen to a Disadvantage; first by the Weakness of my own Genius; and then by the Barrenness, or rather, as Lucretius Stiles it, the Poverty of our Native Tongue. If these, which are Latin, and my own, seem to you to have any Grace at all, what Beauty do you think they have, which are perform'd by you in the Greek Language?

       Cf.  Hugh of St. Victor, Learn gladly from everyone  Dryden, Perfection is conciseness  Heidegger, Through a foundational poetic and noetic experience of Being  Cicero, I have spared no pains to make myself master of the Greek language and learning

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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