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Favorinus of Arelate

(c. 80 - 160 CE)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


Favorinus of Arelate (today Arles in the south of France) lived in the years around 80-160 CE and was a famous sophist and philosopher. Although he was Gaul, he mastered Greek to perfection, which made him an acknowledged and admired orator. Probably in Marseilles, he received a thorough grammar and rhetorical education, then he went to Rome, where he had the opportunity to listen to lectures by Dion of Prussia, and perhaps even Epictetus. He also travelled to Greece and made friends with Plutarch. While in Athens, he was probably the head of a philosophical school, and his informal student and great friend was Herodes Atticus. It was to him that he bequeathed his library and a fairly original slave named Autolekytos, who was an Indian who entertained both gentlemen at parties by inserting barbarisms into the Greek language

Favorinus was remembered primarily because of the peculiarities he had. Well, he was a two-way friend. Philostratus says it was noticeable because even as an old man he had no stubble on his face and his voice was squeaky and sounding like that of eunuchs. For this reason, he was ridiculed by his contemporaries, such as Lucian or Cassius Dio. However, this did not prevent him from enjoying his life and even being accused of adultery by the proconsul. The credibility of this accusation, however, raises doubts, as it is suspected that the inspiration here could have been the great opponent of Faworinos, Polemon of Smyrna. At that time, Faworinos also refused to hold a priestly position and was banished by Emperor Hadrian for several years. He described himself as a man of three paradoxes: as a Gaul, he mastered Greek, as a eunuch he was accused of debauchery and lives despite a conflict with the emperor.

Favorinus was highly regarded as a speaker. He made declamations popular at the time on not very important matters, e.g. In defense of the baths, About fate, On trivial matters, In praise of the fever. He was listened to with great attention, so much so that even those who did not know the Greek language listened to him. He delighted with the timbre of his voice, the expression of his eyes and the rhythm of the words. The ending of his speeches evoked particular enthusiasm, when his voice modulated so much that he almost sang. Only three of Favorinus’ rhetorical compositions have survived to ours: Speech Corinthian, About exile and About fate.

Author: Aneta Liwerska (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
  • Flavius Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists
  • P. Janiszewski, K. Stebnicka, E. Szabat, Sofiści i retorzy greccy w Cesarstwie Rzymskim (I-VII w.), Warszawa 2011

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