Synesius, Letter 120

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 the letter that is offered here was Synesius' brother Euoptius, who lived in Ptolemais. About a quarter of the entire correspondence was directed to him: letters 51 (394), 55, 56, 54, 136, 135, 110 (all 396), the long letter 4 about a shipwreck in 397, this letter 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).

Letter 120 is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. It was written in 401; the news to which Synesius refers, appears to be from Europe; he asks his brother if he knows more. The story Synesius promises to tell is lost, but must have something to do with the events narrated in The Egyptian Tale.

Ancient text

Letter 120: Asking for Information

[1] To his Brother

When a sick man vomits with difficulty, the doctors prescribe tepid water for him to swallow, so as to make it easy for him to give up whatever is already in his stomach.

[2] For my part I desire to give you news which has recently been brought me from the other continent, in order that you may give it up to me in turn, but swollen in volume by everything else that you have learned yourself.