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Synesius, A Eulogy of Baldness 18


Mosaic depicting an angel. Museum of Ptolemais. Photo Marco Prins.
Mosaic depicting an angel. Museum of Ptolemais
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, about the christianization of the Roman world, and the military crisis at the beginning of the fifth century.

The Eulogy of Baldness shows a lighter side of Synesius, who had a reputation as a sophist. In this text, he defends his baldness against the speech In Praise of Hair by the sophist-philosopher 
Dio Chrysostom. The text is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. The green four-digit numbers are page numbers of the Migne edition.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

[1197] Why then as if you had picked up a windfall, do you hold fast these words:

She [Athena] seized the son of Peleus by his fair hair.[1]

Again, why do you call attention to a morsel of salt fish for yourself, instead of dragging the whole line into view? Well then, since you will not do so, you make it necessary for us to produce it, as thus:

She stood behind, and seized the son of Peleus by his fair hair.

Well done, Dio, for it is not redundant syllables that you have repressed, but those which contain the direct opposite of your argument. From this I divine that even at that moment of his age Achilles was somewhat bald. The goddess, the poet says, came behind him and caught him by the hair. Why anyone could catch hold of me, or of Socrates himself, nay even of the oldest man of the Greeks behind! For there the symbols of our perishable nature are left us. It is a possession belonging to neither man nor demon but clearly to a divine destiny and nature, to be altogether removed from participation in the mortal element.

She stood behind, and seized the son of Peleus by his fair hair.

To catch him by his hair, she stood behind him: therefore, there was nothing front wherewith to catch him.

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Note 1:
Homer, Iliad, 1.197.
Online 2006 
Revision: 3 December 2006
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