Synesius, Letter 038

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 38, dated to c.401, was dedicated to Aurelian, the powerful praetorian prefect in Constantinople. He had been consul in 400, is identical to the "Osiris" of The Egyptian Tale, and was also the recipient of letters 34 and 31. Synesius seeks a tax cut for one of his relatives.

The text of Letter 38, dated to c.401, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Ancient text

Letter 38: A Recommendation

[1] To Aurelian

I think your divine soul must have been sent down for this very thing, the common good of mankind; and also to be grateful to those who introduce you to such men as are seeking their rights, because they supply you with material well suited to your taste.

[2] It is not because the young Herodesnote is my relative that I recommend him to your notice, but because he is seeking his rights. A man most distinguished by his ancestry and one who has inherited a family estate subject to taxation by the Senate, he maintains that since he has become an officer he is contributing taxes on the same scale as the newly appointed senators, and that he is now taxed twice, in the first instance because of his fortune, in the second because of the post he has occupied.