Synesius, Letter 080

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, 68, 76, and 69.

Letter 80 was written in 412 and is offered here in the translation of A. Fitzgerald.

Letter 80: Nicaeus

[1] To Theophilus

I was ready to place my hand and my judgement at the service of your paternal command. However, I do not think that Andronicusnote would have provided better for his own profit than did Nicaeus for his own loss; nor do I clearly understand why he first went away, nor why he came back again, nor why he is once again away from home.

[2] How could I? for I did not see him, nor was anything reliable reported about him. Quite another person brought me the letter written by your sacred hand, and asked me for this answer; but Nicaeus had already weighed anchor, and I missed seeing him.

[3] No doubt the commander saw or heard something of him. As to that man, he neither saw nor heard anything. Now, how can Nicaeus win his case, if he lives abroad in the country? It is true, he has plenty of good things in compensation, as many as the seasons bring to husbandmen, but there would have been still more of them if he had won the maternal inheritance also.