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Libanius, A monody on the temple of Apollo at Daphne, destroyed by fire (1784).  Select works of Julian, vol. 2, pp. 243-251.

A monody on the Daphnean temple of Apollo, destroyed by Fire, or, as it is said, by Lightning.1 

[Translated by John Duncombe]

Fellow-citizens, whose eyes like mine are now involved in darkness, this city we shall no longer style beautiful or great. 2.    .    .   [A king of Persia, one of the ancestors of him who is now at war with us, having by treachery taken and burnt the city, as he was preparing the same fate for Daphne, was so thoroughly diverted from his purpose by the deity that, throwing away the torch which he brandished, he prostrated himself and adored Apollo: so appeased was his resentment, so checked was his fury 3].  He, though he led an army against us, thought proper to preserve this temple, and the beauty of the image restrained his barbaric fury.  But now, O heaven and earth, who and whence is that traitor, who wanting neither light- nor heavy-armed foot, nor horse, has consumed the whole with a small spark?  Nor was our temple destroyed by a violent storm, but in a serene and cloudless sky.  Hitherto, Apollo, your altars thirsting for blood, you have remained the constant and careful guardian of Daphne; and though neglected and so far despised as to be stripped of your outward ornaments, you aquiesced.  But now, when many sheep, many oxen, have been offered to you; when the sacred lips of an Emperor have impressed your feet; seen by him whom you have exalted, seeing him whom you have proclaimed, and delivered from the hateful neighbourhood of a certain dead body which disturbed you, you have withdrawn from the midst of your worship.

How can we now expect to be honoured, in future, by those who have a veneration for temples and images!  When fatigued in our mind, of what a relief, O Jupiter, are we deprived!  How pure, how free from all tumults, was the region of Daphne!  how much still purer was the shrine!  like a haven formed by nature within a haven; both being tranquil, but the inner affording the most tranquility.  Who did not there lose his diseases, his fears, his sorrows?  Who there wished for the island of the blessed?  Ere long will be the Olympic games 4; that annual festival will convene the cities; these cities too will come, bringing oxen as victims to Apollo.  What then shall we do?  Where shall we hide ourselves?  Which of the gods will open the earth for us?  What herald, what trumpet, will excite anything but tears?  Who now will style the Olympic games a festival, as this late misfortune suggests so dire a lamentation?

Bring me my bow of horn, 5

says the tragedy.  I add, a little in the spirit of the prophecy, 

That thus I may attack, and thus destroy,
The vile incendiary.

O impious deed!  O sacrilegious soul!  O daring hand!  Surely this was another Tityus or Idas, 6 the brother of Lynceus, not an archer, indeed, like the one or a giant like the other, but one proficient in nothing except frenzy against the gods.  The sons of Aloeus 7, while they meditated mischief against the gods, you, Apollo, quieted by death; but him, bringing far from afar, your arrow did not arrest, transfixing his heart.  O wicked hand of Telchin! 8 O injurious fire!  What did it first catch?  Where did the evil begin?  Seizing the roof, did it descend to the interior parts, to the head, the face, the cup, the tiara, or the flowing robe? 9  Vulcan, the dispenser of fire, though indebted to the god for his former obliging discovery, did not rebuke this wasting flame.  Nor did Jupiter, who has the command of rain, pour water on it, though for the unfortunate king of Lydia he extinguished the funeral pile. 10

What was the first suggestion of him who undertook this enterprise?  whence this rashness?  how could he restrain his fury?  how could he avoid abandoning his purpose through reverence for the beauty of the god?  My fancy, O my countrymen, presents me with the form of the god, and sets before my eyes his image, the complacency of his aspect, the tenderness of the skin expressed in the marble, the sash over his breast confining the golden robe, so that some parts of it subsided and others rose.  What mind had such fervour that the whole appearance of the statue could not calm?  For the god seemed in the act of singing; or as when he was once heard playing on his harp at noon.  The sing was in praise of the Earth, on whom, gaping to receive the virgin, and then contracting to conceal her, he seemed to pour a libation from the golden cup.

At the eruption of the flames the traveller exclaimed, the guardian of Daphne, the domestic priestess of the god, was alarmed; the beating of bosoms and shrill shrieks, echoing through the spacious groves, soon reached the city, diffusing universal grief and horror.  The prince, whose eye had scarce yielded to sleep, at the dreadful news sprung from his bed.  Transported with fury, and wishing for the wings of Mercury, he rushed forth to investigate the cause.  Inwardly he burnt no less than the temple.  The rafters now fell, scattering the fire below, which destroyed all that was within its reach:  [the statue of] Apollo immediately, being near to the roof; then other ornaments of the temple, the muses, the statues of the founders, the splendid marbles, the beautiful pillars.  Crowds of spectators stood by lamenting, but unable to assist, like those who from land beholding a shipwreck can afford no relief but their tears.  The nymphs, leaving their fountains, loudly exclaimed; so did Jupiter who sat not far distant, lamenting, as became him, the tarnished honours of his son; so did also an innumerable throng of daemons who inhabit the forest.  Nor less was the lamentations of Calliope, in the middle of the city 11, when the high-priest of the muses was injured by the flames .   .    . 12.

As propitious may you now be to me, Apollo, as Chryses rendered you when he imprecated vengeance on the Greeks, full of indignation, and "dark as night." 13  Since while we were offering sacrifices to you, and were restoring whatever had been purloined from your temple, the object of our worship has been snatched away from us; like a bridegroom who, while the garlands are weaving for his nuptials, dies.

[Abbreviated notes moved to the end and numbered.  I have slightly modernised the text to improve readability, and pruned or rewritten the footnotes, since a PDF of the whole thing is available online.]

1. Written in A.D. 362. The Greek title of this Monody is more perfect in the Royal Ms., which I have followed, than in the Bavarian;  in which it is only styled, "A monody on the Daphnaean temple of Apollo." The temple of Apollo at Daphne, just outside Antioch, was destroyed in 362 AD after the body of St. Babylas was brought to Antioch and interred there. 

Chrysostom writes in his 1st discourse on the martyr St. Babylas (p.735 in the edition used by Duncombe), "As soon as the bier was brought to the city, lightning fell from heaven on the head of the image and consumed everything."  The emperor Julian knew this also; "he knew that the blow came from heaven;" though he asserts in the Misopogon that "the temple was destroyed by the negligence of the keepers and the presumption of the impious." -- Morell. 

After the interment of St. Babylas, the oracle of Apollo continued to give oracles, and Julian caused a superb colonnade to be built around the temple.  But on the night of 22nd of October, 362, a fire consumed the wood work of the ancient edifice, and the statue itself; nor could Julian, who hastened to the scene supply any remedy.  The fire was ascribed by the Christians to the divine vengeance; by Julian to the resentment and jealousy of the Christians.  He suspected that the sacrist and the ministers who kept the temple of being in a plot with them.  But these idolaters, put to the torture, accused no-one.  On the contrary they constantly affirmed that the fire came from above; and some peasants, who were on the road that night on their way to the city said that they saw fire fall from heaven on the temple, though the weather was very calm and there was no appearance of a storm.  Julian however, either by way of reprisal or to prevent the Christians from triumphing, ordered the great church of Antioch to be shut and its riches to be carried to the imperial treasury.  -- La Bleterie

2. On the beauty and extent of Antioch, see Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, book 1, ch. 12: "Apollonius came to Antioch the great" and makes Apollonius visit the temple at Daphne.

3. This I have not published in the Greek, because it was not in our Royal or Bavarian Ms.  And John Chrysostom himself, although he did not insert it in its proper place, hurried away by the eddy of his discourse, yet afterwards quotes the passage with the introduction, "You read this in the beginning of the Monody, 'A king of Persia...(etc as above)'" -- Morell.

4. Of Antioch.  In the adjacent fields a stadium was built by a special privilege which had been purchased from Elis. -- Gibbon.

5. Euripedes, Orestes 268.

6. Tityus was struck with a thunderbolt by Jupiter for attempting to ravish Latona.  See Odyssey 11, 575 and Aeneid 6,595.  Idas in the Iliad 9,672 bent his bow against Apollo.

7. The giants Othus and Ephialtes.  Aen. vi. 582.

8. The Telchines, who lived in Rhodes, are listed as inventors and men of ingenuity but bad reputation by Diodorus Siculus

9. The colossal figure of the deity almost filled the capacious sanctuary.  He was represented in a bending attitude, with a golden cup in his hand, pouring out a libation on the earth; as if he supplicated the venerable mother to give to his arms the cold and beautiful Daphne. -- Gibbon.

10. Herodotus I, 87, where Croesus is praying to Apollo; Julian ascribes the miracle to Jupiter.

11. This seems to refer to a statue of Calliope, the chief of the muses, in the middle of Antioch, to which Libanius also alludes in one of his letters, the 737th, where it seems that it was erected by the great-great-grandfather of Rufinus, to whom the letter was addressed.

12. Something is missing here.

13. Iliad 1, 47.

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2007. From John Duncombe, Select Works of the Emperor Julian and Some Pieces of the Sophist Libanius (1784), in 2 vols.  This work is from vol.2.  Both volumes are available for download complete at Google Books.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Greek text is rendered using unicode.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts