Synesius, Letter 056

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 addressee of this letter, offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald, was Synesius' brother, who lived in Ptolemais. About a quarter of the entire correspondence was directed to Euoptius: letters 51 (394), 55, 56, 54, 136, 135, 110 (all 396), the long letter 4 about a shipwreck in 397, 120, 104, 113 (401), 3, 35, 39, 32, 52, 65, 92, 106, 114, 109, 36 (all in 402), 127, 50, 18 (404), 125, 132 (405), 108, 107, 122, 95 (407), 53, 82, 84, 85, 86, 105 (409), 8, 87, 89 (411).

Ancient text

Letter 56: On his Niece

[1] To his Brother

You wrong me, divine and precious head. After having inspired a simple soul, and one whose affections are easily won by daily intercourse, with a love of yourself and of his niece, you make a breach between him and yourself, as also between him and his niece.

[2] When she was with me, I seemed to have before my eyes a twofold image; in the girl I seemed still to see her uncle. Now all that was dear to me is gone, and I even blame my natural character because of its unmeasured tendency to become subject to unjust treatment.

[3] But if philosophy has really any value at all, I shall steel my heart to more manliness, and henceforth you will see how tough I am, and how unyielding.