Libanius Open this page in a new tab

Van Hoof (2014) summarized the life of Libanius, a lifelong Pagan, as follows:
Libanius’ life is well-known. He was born in Antioch, one of the largest and most important cities of the Roman Empire, in 314. Hailing from a curial and influential, yet somewhat impoverished family, he enjoyed a good education and decided to dedicate himself to rhetoric in his mid-teens. After thoroughly familiarizing himself with classical rhetoric and pursuing his studies with Diophantus in Athens from 336 to 340, he embarked upon a sophistic career. Active at first in Constantinople, where he enjoyed great success, he left the new capital after a few years for Nicaea. From there, he soon went on to Nicomedia. Although the future emperor Julian, also in Nicomedia at the time, never attended Libanius’ classes, the two men probably got to know each other at least indirectly. In 349, Libanius returned to Constantinople, where he was honoured by several governors, the senate and the emperor Constantius II, and once more became a celebrated professor of Greek rhetoric. After spending the summer of 353 in Antioch, however, he decided, against the wishes of the emperor, to return to his home city for good. From 354 until his death, he taught rhetoric there, first as a private teacher, but soon as the city’s official sophist. By speaking and writing to emperors (Julian, but also Valens and Theodosius), governors, city councillors and other people, he also took an active part in public life, although he probably never held any official position in the imperial administration. Libanius lived together with a woman of socially inferior standing, by whom he had an illegitimate son called Cimon. The latter’s death preceded his own, which occurred in 393.