Synesius, Eulogy of Baldness

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.

The Eulogy of Baldness shows the lighter side of Synesius, who had a reputation as a sophist. In this text, published in c.402, he defends his baldness against the speech In Praise of Hair by the sophist-philosopher Dio Chrysostom ("tongue of gold"). It was accompanied by Letter 1 and Letter 74.

The text is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. The green four-digit numbers are page numbers of the Migne edition.


1: Introduction: people like long hair
2: Continued
3: Dio's speech
4: Dio is too artful; Synesius will reply without too much art
5: Wild animals are hairy; bald animals are intelligent
6: The most intelligent of all people, the philosophers, are all bald
7: Hair is like lifeless shells or pods
8: A sphere is a perfect, even divine form
9: Portraits of hairy gods are incorrect
10: Hairy stars predict evil
11: The glimmer of a bald head is a source of light
12: Bald people are healthier
13: Bald skulls are stronger
14: Not everybody agrees with Dio that long hair is beautiful
15: None of the hairy Spartans survived the disaster at Thermopylae
16: An anecdote about Alexander the Great
17: Bald helmets are awe-inspiring
18: Dio misquotes Homer
19: Homer's evidence about Hector's long hair is contradicted by his statue
20: Other evidence from Homer
21: Vicious people like adulterers and prostitutes have long hair
22: Evidence from proverbs
23: Conclusion: Dio is not to be taken seriously
24: Envoy: may this text be useful

This page was created in 2007; last modified on 28 February 2015.