Synesius, Letter 002

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.

Joannes, the addressee of this letter and letters 63 and 64 (all written in 407) was apparently an enemy of Synesius. The insult below is offered in the translation of A. Fitzgerald.

Ancient text

Letter 2: An Insult

[1] To Joannes

To be free from fear one must fear the law, but you have always been ashamed even to seem to fear them.

[2] At all events fear your enemies, and with them fear the judges if they are incorruptible.

[3] Nay, they are still to be feared even if they are open to bribery; for such ones, if your purse is not of the longest, are full of zeal to defend the laws once they have found a paymaster into the bargain.