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Choricius of Gaza, Speeches 3.38-3.42


Following his teacher Procopius, Choricius was the leading figure of the rhetorical flowering at Late Antique Gaza. Although we know nothing of his career, his evident professional success, references within his writings, and his reputation for stylistic sophistication among Byzantine scholars all point to the status and influence of Choricius among classicizing intellectuals of the Near East during roughly the second quarter of the 6th century. He apparently had personal experience with Alexandria and Caesarea, but his teaching and lecturing was chiefly based in Gaza. Among his surviving works are declamations, laudatory and apologetic speeches, funeral oratory, and treatises. This passage comes from his encomium to Aratius, dux of Palaestina Prima, and Stephanus, ἄρχων, possibly delivered at Caesarea on the occasion of Stephanus’ accession to the proconsulship in 534/5 C.E. Choricius here praises Stephanus's vigorous response to a dangerous riot and fire that struck Caesarea one night.


(38) Ὃ τοίνυν ἐν μέσῃ τῇ Καίσαρος ἔργον σοι πέπρακται καὶ μάλα σοι πεπρᾶχθαι προσῆκον, οὐδὲ τοῦτο φέρειν σιωπῇ καρτερῶ.(39) Ἑσπέρα μὲν ἦν, ἀγορὰ δὲ πλήθουσα πανταχοῦ μήπω τοῦ καιροῦ καλοῦντος ἐπὶ τὴν ἔμφυτον ἡσυχίαν. θορύβου δέ τινος ἄφνω συμβάντος, οἷον φιλεῖ δῆμος ποιεῖν, ἄλλος ἀλλαχοῦ περιέτρεχον πῦρ ὀνομάζοντες, πάπτηνεν δ’ ἄρ’ ἕκαστος ὅποι φύγοι αἰπὺν ὄλεθρον· παρὰ τοσοῦτον ἡ μητρόπολις ἦλθε κινδύνου. (40) οὕτω δὴ πάντων ὡς ἐν φλογὶ καὶ νυκτομαχίᾳ ταραττομένων τῆς νυκτὸς ἐκείνης οὐδὲν εἰς ἀνάπαυλαν προσλαβὼν οὐδ’ ὅσον τὸ ἔπος Ὁμήρου συστῆσαι κοινὸν ἁπάντων δεσπότην τὸν Ὕπνον ἀποκαλοῦντος περιέθεις λαμπαδίῳ προηγουμένῳ πάντα περισκοπῶν, πᾶσιν ἐφεστηκώς, μή τις ἐξάπτει τὸν δῆμον εἰς ταραχήν, μή που λανθάνουσι κεκρυμμένοι σπινθῆρες· οὐ γὰρ ἡγήσω δεῖν ἀναπαύεσθαι τῆς φλογὸς οὐ δεχομένης ἀνακωχήν· τὸ γὰρ πρῶτον ἀεὶ δαπανώμενον εἰς πυρὸς φύσιν μεταβληθὲν ἐπινέμεται τὸ πλησίον. νὺξ ἐκποδὼν καὶ πάντες εἰρηνικῶς ἐπὶ θέαν συνέρρεον τῶν θορύβων αὐτοῖς λαμπρῶς λελυμένων. (41) συγγραψάτω δή τις, ὅτῳ τέχνη συγγράφειν, τὰ τῶν στάσεων χαλεπά, νόμων ὀλιγωρίαν, ἑταιρείας ἀτόπους. ὅσῳ γὰρ ἄν τις κατηγορήσῃ τῶν στάσεων, μείζων τῷ διαλύσαντι γίνεται κόσμος. δῆμοι γὰρ ἐπ’ ἀλλήλους ἐρίζοντες φιλονεικότεροι πολεμίων καὶ μάλιστα σιδηροφορεῖν ἐγχειροῦντες τῆς ἀπειροκαλίας αὐτοὺς εἰς ἄκριτον συμπλοκὴν ἐμφερούσης, δεινὴ δὲ καὶ ἄλλως καὶ δυσίατος ἔρις ἣ τῶν οἰκείων ἐστὶ πρὸς ἀλλήλους. (42) τοιγαροῦν εἴ ποτέ τις ἔδοξε τὴν προτέραν σύγχυσιν ἀναστεῖλαι, πάλιν αὐτῆς ὁμοίως ἀναφυείσης ἔγνω πεποιηκώς τι τοιοῦτον, ὥσπερ ἂν εἰ φλογὸς ἐκ ῥίζης τινὸς ἀφανοῦς εἰς ὕψος ἠρμένης τὸ περιθέον ἄνωθεν πῦρ ἀποσβέσας τὴν ὕπουλον φλόγα καὶ κάτωθε βρύουσαν εἴασε. τὸ γὰρ πάλιν μὲν ἐκείνους νεωτερίσαι, πάλιν δὲ πυρπολῆσαι τὸ ἄστυ τοῦ μὴ πρόρριζον ἐκκεκόφθαι τὴν στάσιν τεκμήριον ἦν.1

Textual Note

Ed. Foerster and Richsteig 1929


(38) I cannot continue to keep silent about the deed which you (Stephanos) accomplished right in Caesarea, and appropriately so. (39) It was evening and the marketplace was completely full, because it was not yet time for natural rest. There arose a sudden commotion of the sort people like to make: some were running in one direction, some in another crying “fire,” while “every one was looking around for a way to escape sheer devastation.” The capital city faced very great danger. (40) Thus, while everything was confused as in a conflagration or a night battle, during that night you had no rest, nor did you follow the saying of Homer, who calls Sleep the common master of all. Instead, with a torch before you, you went around inspecting everything and attending to all, lest any one excite the people to confusion and lest any hidden sparks somehow escape notice. You considered that you should not rest, because fire does not admit cessation; for right when something is expended and is given over to fire, it always spreads on to the thing next to it. Night ended, and, when the disturbances had been brilliantly put to an end, all gathered peacefully for a look. (41) Let someone with the skill to do it write an account of hardships caused by riots, the negligence of laws, the wicked associations of men. The more one criticizes the riots, the greater is the glory for the one who has dispersed them. For factions striving against each other are more contentious than enemies, especially when they attempt to carry weapons, since their vulgarity leads them into indiscriminate conflict; after all, conflict of members of the same house against each other is in any case terrible and difficult to cure. (42) If someone, therefore, thought he had suppressed a previous agitation, if it grew up again in similar way, he knew (what to do), because he had done something similar before. It is just as if a flame appears stretching high from a hidden root, and someone extinguishes the enveloping fire from above, but leaves the flame trapped within and swelling up from below. For another outbreak of revolution and another attempt to set the city on fire would be a sign that the riot had not been cut off at the roots.2

Translation Note

Rev. Litsas 1980

Discussion Note

Choricius quotes “every one was looking around for a way to escape sheer devastation” (πάπτηνεν δ’ ἄρ’ ἕκαστος ὅποι φύγοι αἰπὺν ὄλεθρον, 39) from Homer, Iliad 14.507, 16.283. For his reference to Homer on Sleep (40), see Iliad 13.233.

Works Cited

  • 1 Choricius of Gaza, Choricii Gazaei opera, ed. Eberhard Richtsteig and Richard Foerster, Bibliotheca scriptorum graecorum et latinorum Teubneriana (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1929), section: 3.38-3.42, p: 59.6-60.13.Link to Zotero Bibliographic RecordLink to HathiTrust Bibliographic record
  • 2 Choricius of Gaza and Fotios K. Litsas, Choricius of Gaza: An Approach to His Work. Introduction, Translation, Commentary (Ph.D., Chicago, University of Chicago, 1980), p: 165-166.Link to Zotero Bibliographic Record

Additional Bibliography

  • Robert J. Penella, Introduction, in Rhetorical Exercises from Late Antiquity: A Translation of Choricius of Gaza’s Preliminary Talks and Declamations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Pres, 2009), xii + 323 ppLink to Zotero Bibliographic RecordLink to Worldcat Bibliographic record


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How to Cite This Entry

Joseph L. Rife, “Choricius of Gaza, Speeches 3.38-3.42,” in Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia, entry published January 20, 2023,


Joseph L. Rife, “Choricius of Gaza, Speeches 3.38-3.42.” In Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia, edited by Joseph L. Rife., edited by Joseph L. Rife. Caesarea City and Port Exploration Project, 2023. Entry published January 20, 2023.

About this Entry

Entry Title: Choricius of Gaza, Speeches 3.38-3.42

Authorial and Editorial Responsibility:

  • Joseph L. Rife, general editor, Vanderbilt University
  • Joseph L. Rife, editor, Caesarea Maritima: A Collection of Testimonia
  • David A. Michelson, Daniel L. Schwartz, and William L. Potter, technical editor, “Choricius of Gaza, Speeches 3.38-3.42
  • Joseph L. Rife, entry contributor, “Choricius of Gaza, Speeches 3.38-3.42

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