Synesius, Letter 076

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, Theophilus,was patriarch of Alexandria from 384/385 to 412. He is generally considered a Christian "hardliner" and was responsible for the destruction of the Serapeum in 392. In 409, he appointed Synesius bishop. Other letters to Theophilus are 9, 66, 67, 90, 6869, and 80.

Letter 76 was written in 411 and is offered here in the translation of A. Fitzgerald.

Ancient text

Letter 76: Appointing a Bishop

[1] To Theophilus

The Olbiates, who are a village community, were obliged to elect a bishop to replace the blessed father Athamas, who died after passing his long life in the priesthood. They called me in to take part in their deliberations. I complimented the people on having to choose between many candidates who were so entirely deserving, but I particularly complimented Antonius on account of his goodness, for he was thought nobler even than the noble, and it is upon him that everybody's choice is fixed.

[2] The choice of the multitude has had the full assent of two venerable bishops, with whom Antonius had been brought up, and by one of whom he had been ordained presbyter. I was not entirely without knowledge of Antonius myself, and as much as I knew of his deeds and words, so much I praised him, and, adding what I had heard to the good things I knew, I gave my vote to the man.

[3] It would accord with my own wish to receive him into the honorable priesthood as a colleague. One thing only is needed, but the most important thing of all, namely your sacred hand. The Olbiates have need of this, and I of have your prayers.