A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

that is, Dion the golden-mouthed, a surname which he owed to his great talents as an orator. He bore also the surname Cocceianu (Plin. Epist 10.85, 86), which he derived from the emperor Cocceius Nerva, with whom he was connected by intimate friendship. (Orat. xlv. p. 513.) Dion Chrysostomus was born at Prusa in Bithynia, about the middle of the first century of our era, and belonged to a distinguished equestrian family. Reimarus has rendered it very probable that a daughter of his was the mother of Dio Cassius, the historian. His father,Pasicrates, seems to have bestowed great care on his son Dion's education and the early training of his mind; but he appears to have acquired part of his knowledge in travels, for we know that he visited Egypt at an early period of his life. At first he occupied himself in his native place, where he held important offices, with the composition of speeches and other rhetorico-sophistical essays, but on perceiving the futility of such pursuits he abandoned them, and devoted himself with great zeal to the study of philosophy : he did not, however, confine give himself up to any profound speculations, his object being rather to apply the doctrines of philosophy to the purposes of practical life, and more especially to the administration of public affairs, and thus to bring about a better state of things. The Stoic and Platonic philosophies, however, appear to have had the greatest charms for hilm. Notwithstanding these useful and peaceful pursuits, he was looked upon in his native place with suspicion and hostility (Orat. xlvi. p. 212, &c.), which induced him to go to Rome Here he drew upon himself the hatred of Domitian, who had so great an aversion to philosophers, that by a senatus-consultum all were expelled from Rome and Italy, and Dion found himself obliged to quit Rome in secret. (Orat. xlvi. p. 215, xiii. p. 418.) On the advice of the Delphic oracle, it is said, he put on the attire of a beggar, and with nothing in his pocket but a copy of Plato's Phaedon and Demosthenes's oration on the Embassy, he undertook a journey to the countries in the north and east of the Roman empire. He thus visited Thrace, Mysia, Scythia, and the country of the Getae, and owing to the power and wisdom of his orations, he met everywhere with a kindly reception, and did much good. (Orat. xxxvi. p. 74; comp. xiii. p. 418.) In A. D. 96, when Domitian was murdered, Dion used his influence with the army stationed on the frontier in favour of his friend Nerva, and seems to have returned to Rome immediately after his accession. (Orat. xlv. p. 202.) Nerva's successor, Trajan, entertained the highest esteem for Dion, and shewed hint the most marked favour, for he is said to have often visited hill, and even to have allowed him to ride by his side in his golden triumphal car. Having thus received the most ample satisfaction for the unjust treatment he had experienced before, he returned to Prusa about A. D. 100. But the petty spirit he found prevailing there, which was jealous of his merits and distinctions, and attributed his good actions to impure motives (Orat. l. p. 254, &c.), soon disgusted him with his fellow-citizens, and he again went to Rome. Trajan continued to treat him with the greatest distinction: his kindly disposition gained him many eminent friends, such as Apollonius of Tyana and Euphrates of Tyre, and his oratory the admiration of all. In this manner he spent his last years, and died at Rome about A. D. 117.