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Synesius, Letter 006

Synesius of Cyrene (c.370-c.413) was a Neo-Platonic philosopher who became bishop of Ptolemais in the Cyrenaica. He left behind a small corpus of texts that offer much information about daily life in Late Antiquity, and about the christianization of the Roman world.

Letter 6, written in 412, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. It is the fifth of seven letters to Anysius, a Roman general, active in the Cyrenaica in 411-412, for whom Synesius felt great admiration, especially after the soldier had defeated the Libyan nomads. The bishop praised Anysius in the Constitutio and sent him several letters to him: 37, 94, 77, 78, 6 (this one) and its sequel 14, and 59.

Letter 6: A Horse Thief

[1] To Anysius

This Carnas is taking his time about it. Neither of his own free will, nor forced by necessity will he ever become an honest man. However that may be, he must come before us soon, that we may hear what he has to say, and see how he will look us in the face, from whom even against our will he wanted to buy a horse which he had stolen, on the ground that a soldier cannot be horseless.

[2] Furthermore, he offers me a purely nominal price for it, and refuses to hand it over to us although we had never handed it over to him. The worst of it is that he seems to be under the impression that the horse belongs to him by right and equity; and all this although he is neither an Agathocles nor a Dionysius,note men of whom tyrannical powers have made chartered libertines, but merely a Carnas of Cappharodis, whom it would not be difficult to bring to account for his conduct before the law. If anyone, therefore, brings him before you, let me know, that I may bring from Cyrene witnesses who will confound him.