Synesius, Letter 151

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.

This letter, written in 407, was sent to a close friend of Synesius, living in Constantinople. Pylaemenes also was the recipient of letters 61, 88, 152, 74, 100, 101, 103, 102, 129, 131, 134, 71, 150, 48, and 153. Pylaemenes appears to have been difficult to reach (cf. Letter 71) and this letter seems to be some sort of general salute to a man who was slipping out of reach.

Letter 151 is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Ancient text

Letter 151: A Salute

[1] To Pylaemenes

To me, do you stand firm in philosophy, that Pylaemenes whom I left behind, the soul newly initiated, the offspring divine? I fear the time which has passed since that birth; I fear still more the intercourse of the market-place, the absorption in many situations and affairs; and that these may soil that most holy temple, your divine intellect, one of the few I deem entirely worthy to receive God.

[2] I know that one of my dearest wishes was to be able to celebrate with you the mysteries of philosophy, but since patriotism is stronger in your heart, I pray that wherever in the world you may be, you will cultivate philosophy as much as possible. So I embrace your dear head. I embrace it again and again, whether I am silent or speaking, whether I write or do not write.