He knew all about the mint, the exact weight of a stater, how a touchstone functioned, what proportion of precious metal was included in every gold coin. In short, his information on the whole business of finance was extremely accurate, with the result that the experts on any particular subject found themselves at a disadvantage when he talked with them. Men who devoted their lives to a study of these things were unable to rival him in their own sphere.
3. Even when he was a youth, with the down of his first beard still fresh on his cheeks, he was in no way the inferior of his elders in wisdom. He was addicted to no pleasures, was no slave to gluttony, did not encourage sumptuous banqueting. From the delights of love he abstained so rigorously that of most of them he had no knowledge at all and was quite ignorant of sexual practices condemned by law. So excessive was his modesty, in fact, that indecent jest, or even a mere mention of the word ‘love’ would bring to his cheeks a deep blush in a moment.
4. The reader will probably like to know what were the emperor’s favourite occupations, on what he prided himself most. Nothing pleased him more than reading books on all kinds of learned subjects, studying literary essays, pithy sayings, proverbs: he delighted in elegant compositions, subtle combinations of words, changes of style, coining of new words, poetic diction: but, above all else, he cultivated a love of philosophy, of books that enrich the spiritual life, of allegory and its interpretation.**285 None of his predecessors on the throne, I should imagine, was more thoughtful, none quicker in getting to the central point of any given problem.
Geometricians in demonstrating
But I will be more explicit. It is agreed that certain standards of behavior, certain manners of speaking are appropriate to an emperor, others to a philosopher, others to an orator, others to a musician. Similarly, each class specializes in its own subject: astrologers spend their time in studying the heavens: geometricians in demonstrating with geometrical figures: the syllogism is reserved for philosophers, the secrets of nature for the scientists — everyone has his own particular métier, his own particular subject.
With Michael, however, it was different for he specialized in them all. He took his place with the philosophers, conversed with the orators on emphasis or zeugma, talked w ith the opticians about the refraction or diffraction of rays: and often, when we spoke on allegory, he surpassed his present historian, whom, in preference to all others, he chose as his tutor, and whose name he mentioned with extraordinary honour. Although he does not apply himself to iambics, he dashes them off extempore, and if the rhythm is generally defective, at least the sentiments are sound. In brief, Michael is a prodigy of our generation, and a most beloved character.
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