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Synesius, A Eulogy of Baldness 22


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

[1204] Now if the proverb is a wise thing (and how can it fail to be wise, when Aristotle says of it that proverbs have been saved, owing to their conciseness and clearness, as remnants by which to recall the old philosophy that perished in the great destructive revolutions of humanity?)[1] - this, too, is a proverb, and it is also an aphorism which embodies a self-evident principle in the antiquity of that philosophy from which it is derived, and so we look at it intently. In every way the ancients were more skilled in unravelling truth than we of today. What, for instance, is the following aphorism, and what does it mean?

There is no man graced with hair who is not...

The fag end you may yourself fit in to the rhythm of the trimeter; I will not utter that fearsome word, nor the thing signified by it.

Well done, you fitted it carefully - well what think you now?

Bless me! This is the truth!

The oracular utterance is before you. It is self-evident; but how many witnesses does it drag into court, both those who are now using it and as many as have used it before! For what makes proverbs immortal is the very fact that people are continually using them, because the matters themselves with which they deal are always calling them to memory. For things we observe in what is continually happening call them to witness, and give evidence (for them) by examples themselves.

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Note 1:
Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1074B.
Online 2006 
Revision: 3 December 2006
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