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Evasion of office by certain rhetorician

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Not everyone in ancient Rome dreamed of holding high and prestigious offices. Retor and sophist from the 2nd century CE Aelius Aristides, a Greek from Asia Minor, one of Asclepius’ most ardent followers, is an example of persistent avoidance of service to the state, and he did it extremely effectively.

As a well-known and wealthy man, he was elected by the administrator of the province of Asia, a certain Severus, a “peace keeper” (ejrenarch). Aristides appealed against this decision, sent lawyers to Severus, but they only received from him assurances of tax exemption; the office nomination remained in force. While writing letters, convincing and consulting lawyers and friends, Aristides was in the meantime appointed to the second office! This time he was supposed to be a quote. Now he had to refer to the same governor in both cases. He made a fiery speech before him and delighted him so much that Severus did not mention any office. A year ago, Aristides had a similar problem: he was elected a tax collector.

The speaker sent a letter, this time to Rome, explaining the impossibility of taking office for health reasons. It worked, and again the sophist avoided an unpleasant duty for him. As if that was not enough, shortly afterwards, Aristide was elected the high priest of Asclepius. He said, however, that he would not take it because he did not receive any instructions from God (Asclepius of course). This was not the end of Aristydes’ problems: his candidacy for the Provincial Assembly was put forward. Again, the rhetor had to write an appeal, and again effectively. He was released from all duties while he was in the sanctuary of Asclepius, that is, during treatment, which Aristides did for 17 years of his life.

Author: Aneta Liwerska
  • Aelius Aristides, Sacred Tales, translation. Marian Szarmach, Studio Graeco - Latina II, Toruń 1991

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