B. at Antioch (ad 314), died there (c.393), was a Greek rhetor and man of letters who embodied in his work many of the ideals and aspirations of the pagan Greek urban upper classes of late antiquity. He belonged to a rich Antiochene family (see decuriones), and after a careful education at home was sent to study in Athens. Thereafter he taught rhetoric in Constantinople and then in Nicomedia. Recalled to Constantinople by Constantius II, he was offered but declined a chair of rhetoric in Athens; in 354 he accepted a chair of rhetoric in Antioch, where he passed the rest of his life. His pupils numbered many distinguished men, pagan and Christian alike.
In his later years Libanius became a literary figure of renown throughout the Greek world, and was in correspondence with many of its leading figures, e.g. Julian, for whom he had an unbounded admiration, and whose death was a bitter blow. In spite of his adherence to paganism, he enjoyed great influence under Theodosius I, who granted him the honorary title of praetorian prefect. Mostly, however, he avoided involvement in the politics of the empire.
His 64 surviving speeches deal with public or municipal affairs, educational and cultural questions. Many are addressed to emperors or high government officials, with whom he intervenes on behalf of the citizens or the curials of Antioch. Some of them were never actually delivered, but were sent to their addressees and published. Other speeches include his funeral oration on Julian, his encomium of Antioch, and the autobiography which he composed in 374. There also survive some 1,600 letters. The speeches and letters are a mine of information on social, political, and cultural life in the eastern half of the empire in the 4th cent.
Subjects: Classical Studies.