Synesius, Letter 040

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 text of Letter 40, which accompanied the gift of a horse, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. The addressee is not otherwise known.

Ancient text

Letter 40: A gift of a horse

[1] To Uranius

I have just sent you a present, a horse most perfect in every quality that befits a horse. You will find him useful for racing as well as for hunting, and when you lead a triumphant procession in honor of the Libyan victory. I do not know for which purpose he is most valuable, whether for hunting or for contests in the hippodrome, or again, whether for parade or for actual warfare.

[2] If he is less beautiful than the horses of Nesaea, if he is heavy about the head and too thin about the flanks, perhaps God does not give all points together to horses any more than to men. After all perhaps it is an additional good quality in his┬ácase that the soft parts of the body are less developed by nature than the hard. Bones, I know, are more equal to toil than flesh is. Your horses are heavier in flesh, ours in bone.