eklogai

polytheist extractions

Emperor Julian, Letter to a Priest

“You must above all exercise philanthropy, for from it result many other blessings, and moreover that choicest and greatest blessing of all, the good will of the gods. What creature of the sea uses corn, what land animal uses things that grow in the sea? And I have not yet mentioned gold and bronze and iron, though in all these the gods have made us very rich; yet not to the end that we may bring reproach on them by disregarding the poor who go about in our midst, especially when they happen to be of good character— men for instance who have inherited no paternal estate, and are poor because in the greatness of their souls they have no desire for money. Now the crowd when they see such men blame the gods. However it is not the gods who are to blame for their poverty, but rather the insatiate greed of us men of property becomes the cause of this false conception of the gods among men, and besides of unjust blame of the gods. Who, I ask, ever became poor by giving to his neighbours? Indeed I myself, who have often given lavishly to those in need, have recovered my gifts again many times over at the hands of the gods, though I am a poor man of business; nor have I ever repented of that lavish giving. And of the present time I will say nothing, for it would be altogether irrational of me to compare the expenditure of private persons with that of an Emperor; but when I was myself still a private person I know that this happened to me many times. My grandmother’s estate for instance was kept for me untouched, though others had taken possession of it by violence, because from the little that I had I spent money on those in need and gave them a share. We ought then to share our money with all men, but more generously with the good, and with the helpless and poor so as to suffice for their need. And I will assert, even though it be paradoxical to say so, that it would be a pious act to share our clothes and food even with the wicked. For it is to the humanity in a man that we give, and not to his moral character. This too, when I consider it, seems to me altogether wrong; I mean that we call Zeus by the title ‘God of Strangers,’ while we show ourselves more inhospitable to strangers than are the very Scythians. How, I ask, can one who wishes to sacrifice to Zeus, the God of Strangers, even approach his temple? With what conscience can he do so, when he has forgotten the saying ‘From Zeus come all beggars and strangers; and a gift is precious though small ? Again, the man who worships Zeus the God of Comrades, and who, though he sees his neighbours in need of money’, does not give them even so much as a drachma, how, I say, can he think that he is worshipping Zeus aright? When I observe this I am wholly amazed, since I see that these titles of the gods are from the beginning of the world their express images, yet in our practice we pay no attention to anything of the sort. The gods are called by us ‘gods of kindred,’ and Zeus the ‘God of Kindred,’ but we treat our kinsmen as though they were strangers. I say ‘kinsmen’ because every man, whether he will or no, is akin to every other man.” – Emperor Julian, Letter to a Priest

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2 responses to “Emperor Julian, Letter to a Priest

  1. Melia Suez 04/08/2011 at 3:21 am

    I love this one…it is a good reminder to give even if it is only a little.

    • eklogai 04/20/2011 at 6:30 pm

      Absolutely. And it shows that the social values were very much a part of ancient Paganism, despite the assertions of some that these derive from Christianity.

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