Dio Chrysostom’s Construction of Olbia


in Classical Olbia and the Scythian World

Published by British Academy

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264041
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734311 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Dio Chrysostom’s Construction of Olbia

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  • Greek and Roman Archaeology


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This chapter discusses Dio Chrysostom, a wealthy Greek who was banished from Prusa and who was exiled to Olbia. It focuses on his construction and illustration of Olbia through his thirty-sixth speech entitled Borystheniticus Or. 36. This speech is assumed to be written during his exile in Olbia and was delivered on his return to Prusa. His Borystheniticus themes are ‘harmony, good order, and regular and predictable change on earth as in heaven’. His speech consists of a large introduction that narrates the location of Olbia. Out of the 61 pages of his Borystheniticus, 13 are devoted to the exterior setting of the city, the city itself, its inhabitants and its surrounding, giving the impression that the introduction was not intended as a mere introductory part. His account of Olbia in his speech was not just an indulging innocent reminiscence, rather it was a description aimed for a larger audience. Behind his illustration of the Obliopolitans as early Greeks lies a traditional and elaborate theory that suggest that the technical and cultural evolution, development and progress of civilization came at the same time as moral degeneration. He painted a gloomy picture of Olbia as a rhetorical strategy that allowed him to illustrate a society on the brink of extinction as a result of the severe threat to its historical and religious identity and yet still holding out because of the sense of unity of the community. This concept was aimed to remind the inhabitants of Prusa of proper and responsible behaviour.

Keywords: Dio Chrysostom; Prusa; Borystheniticus; exile in Olbia; Obliopolitans; unity; responsible behaviour; cultural evolution; civilization

Chapter.  6439 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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