More on Choricius of Gaza

We’re interested in Choricius because one of his works contains a description of the magnificent celebration of the winter festival, the brumalia, by the emperor Justinian.  We’re interested in the facts about the brumalia because there are rumours online that Christmas is ‘really’ the brumalia.

This evening I find the following in the latest Patrology volume (tr. Adrian Walford), p. 269-70:

Chroricius of Gaza was the disciple and successor of Procopius of Gaza, whose close friend he was and whose funeral oration he delivered.  He spent the whole of his life in Gaza, which was then, in the 6th century A.D., at the height of its fame.  He composed encomia for Marcianus bishop of Gaza and other notables, a funeral oration for Marcianus’ mother Mary, and epithalamia for several of his pupils.  In addition there survive declamations on various mythological and historical subjects, and popular discourses on various philosophical subjects.  Although undoubtedly a Christian, his writings display no interest in theology.  As a rhetor, he was regarded as a model for later Byzantines.

Editions: CPG 7518; R. Foerster, E. Richsteig, Orationes, declamationes, dialexes, Leipzig 1929.
Studies: Photius, Bibliotheca, cod. 160 (ed. Henry, vol. 2, 121-123); H. Gärtner: Der Kleine Pauly Lexicon der Antike 1 (1964) 1159-1160; D. Stiernon, EEC 1 (1992) 201.

The mention of dialexes must be significant; one of these contains the Justinian material.  The content of his work means that he does not appear in Migne.

CPG 7518 is found in volume 3 of the Clavis Patrum Graecorum, p. 403; but just gives the 1929 edition.  However it does add that the edition also contains the funerary oration on Procopius of Gaza (p.109-128) and the oration on Mary the bishop’s mother on p. 99-109.

Few people know that Google books search gives different results if you are outside the US to inside.  It’s not just that some books are not viewable; the list of results differs.  This evening I have found more on Choricius, in Reinhard Pummer, Early Christian authors on Samaritans and Samaritanism, here.  Chunks on the Samaritans are given from Foerster, with Litsas’ translation, preceded by the following introduction:

Choricius of Gaza
c. 490 – c. 543

Almost nothing is known of the life of Choricius.[1] He mentions that he was born in Gaza but gives no further details about his life. Nor do any of his contemporaries, including Procopius, who was his teacher, speak about or refer to him. Later sources, such as Photius and Suda. speak only of his literary works. The approximate date of his birth is inferred from his first oration, held shortly after 518, at the occasion of the death of the mother of Bishop Marcian, Maria;[2] Marcian must then have been thirty or thirty-five years old. Moreover, at the time of the oration, Choricius already had established himself as an excellent rhetorician. For these reasons, he must have been born in the early 490s.[3]

There are a number of similarities between Choricius and Procopius. Like Procopius, Choricius lived all his life in Gaza, except for his studies in Alexandria and Caesarea; he seems to have declined offers to teach in other cities; and he was never married. His life was dedicated to scholarship, teaching, charitable work, and the administration of the school.

The extant works of Choricius can be grouped thus:[4] 10 Orations (lo/goi),[5] 12 Declamations (mele/tai),[6] and 25 Dialexeis (diale/ceij). The latter are either independent compositions about philosophical subjects or proems to longer orations. Choricius’ excellent education in classics comes to the fore in quotations from Greek writers, including Homer, Thucydides, and Demosthenes.

Choricius’ primary concern was rhetoric. Any historical data contained in his works are therefore incidental to his main goal and, in fact, are sunk “into a profusion of allusions, rhetorical nuances or stylistic ornamentation.”[7] The Samaritans are never mentioned by name. It is only through affinities with other sources, such as Cyril of Scythopolis’ Vit. Sab. 70, that we are able to tell that certain passages in some of Choricius’ orations make reference to Samaritan unrests in 529-30.

1 For a short summary see PLRE 3, 302.
2 On Marcian cf. PLRE 3, 819-820 (Marcianus 1); on Maria. PLRE 3, 827 (Maria 1).
3 See Litsas. Choricius 13.
4 Cf. the edition of Choricius’ works by Foerster and Richtsteig p. XXXV.
5 Encomia in honour of important personalities; epithalamia: and epitaphs.
6 On mythical, historical, and invented subjects.
7 Litsas, Choricius 64.

This is very helpful for those of us trying to get a handle on what Choricius wrote.  Some of the orations were published by Foerster for the first time in the late 19th century, prior to including them in his edition, such as this one, on Miltiades.  Online is also his orations on Achilleus and Polyxena here.

Choricius has a great deal to say on how speeches should be made.  In his funeral oration on Procopius, he says that “no non-Attic word ever passed his lips” (from here).  A couple of extracts from one of his orations are to be found here.

UPDATE (22 Dec. 2016): A translation of Choricius’ oration about the Brumalia, and a wonderful summary of information on Bruma and Brumalia, has been made by Roberta Mazza, and is online here.[1]

  1. [1]Roberta Mazza, “Choricius of Gaza Oration XIII: Religion and State in the Age of Justinian”, in: E. Digeser, R.M. Frakes, J. Stephens (eds.), The Rhetoric of Power in Late Antiquity: Religion and Politics in Byzantium, Europe and the early Islamic World, Tauris Academic Studies: London-New York 2010, 172-93.

2 thoughts on “More on Choricius of Gaza

  1. So how exactly do you do a google book search for a different country, Do you just go to for italian e.t.c, e.t.c or do yo have to have an IP address for a different country?

  2. Google detects which country you are in. You don’t get a choice. So if you want to get it to show you US results, you have to be in the US. You can sometimes get it to do interesting things if you use an “anonymizing proxy”.

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