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Letter XXI. 1912

To Leontius the Sophist.

The excellent Julianus 1913 seems to get some good for his private affairs out of the general condition of things.  Everything nowadays is full of taxes demanded and called in, and he too is vehemently dunned and indicted.  Only it is a question not of arrears of rates and taxes, but of letters.  But how he comes to be a defaulter I do not know.  He has always paid a letter, and received a letter—as he has this.  But possibly you have a preference for the famous “four-times-as-much.” 1914  For even the Pythagoreans were not so fond of their Tetractys, 1915 as these modern tax-collectors of their “four-times-as-much.”  Yet perhaps the fairer thing would have been just the opposite, that a Sophist like you, so very well furnished with words, should be bound in pledge to me for “four-times-as-much.”  But do not suppose for a moment that I am writing all this out of ill-humour.  I am only too pleased to get even a scolding from you.  The good and beautiful do everything, it is said, with the addition of goodness and beauty. 1916   Even grief and anger in them are becoming.  At all events any one would rather see his friend angry with him than any one else flattering him.  Do not then cease preferring charges like the last!  The very charge will mean a letter; and nothing can be more precious or delightful to me.



Of about the same date as the preceding.


cf. Ep. ccxciii.


The Ben. note quotes Ammianus Marcellinus xxvi. 6, where it is said of Petronius, father-in-law of Valens:  “ad nudandos sine discretione cunctos immaniter flagrans nocentes pariter et insontes post exquisita tormenta quadrupli nexibus vinciebat, debita jam inde a temporibus principio Aureliani perscrutans, et impendio mærens si quemquam absolvisset indemnem;” and adds:  “Est ergo quadruplum hoc loco non quadrimenstrua pensio, non superexactio, sed debitorum, quæ soluta non fuerant, crudelis inquisitio et quadrupli pœna his qui non solverant imposita.”


τετρακτύς was the Pythagorean name for the sum of the first four numbers (1+2+3+4=10), held by them to be the root of all creation.  cf. the Pythagorean oath:

Ναὶ μὰ τὸν ἁμετέρᾳ ψύχᾳ παραδόντα τετρακτύν,

Παγὰν ἀενάου φύσεως ῥιζώματ᾽ ἔχουσαν

cf. my note on Theodoret, Ep. cxxx. for the use of τετρακτύς for the Four Gospels.


Τοῖς καλοῖς πάντα μετὰ τῆς τοῦ καλοῦ προσθήκης γίνεσθαι.  The pregnant sense of καλός makes translation difficult.

Next: Without address.  On the Perfection of the Life of Solitaries.