Libanus and the Death of Julian

Orations XVII and XVIII – Few Remarks on the True Emotions Behind Convention

  • Joanna Janik Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Keywords: Libanius, rhetoric, monody, funeral speech


Two speeches composed by Libanius after the unexpected death of his emperor and friend, the Monody (XVII) and the Funeral Speech (XVIII), fulfill the requirements of the genre so perfectly that it is easy to classify them as purely conventional. Both the structure and content, not to mention the language, demonstrate the author’s literary fluency rather than originality. Yet I would like to argue that even if the concept and form of the speeches reproduce the well established pattern, my personal impression that there is something unique in these works is not completely groundless. Libanius’ friendship and respect for the late emperor, as well as the political situation after Julian’s death, make the orator’s commitment exceptional and I cannot resist the feeling that his grief and confusion are genuine. I would like to focus on the passages referring directly to the circumstances of the emperor’s death, since Libanius’ approach to the explanation of this tragic event seems crucial for my argument.


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