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Synesius of Cyrene


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, and about the christianization of the Roman world.

Letter 29 (and 30), written in 403 during Synesius' stay in Alexandria, is addressed to Pentadius, the prefect of Egypt. It shows Synesius as the patron and helper of many people - something he owed to his social rank. The letter is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Letter 29: The Burdens of Patronage

To Pentadius the Augustalis

As to the crowd of people who come to see you and me, as to their affairs, you have only yourself to blame for their coming. The fact of the matter is that you are too zealous to make it evident to all that you hold me in great honor, and thus you have laid me open to a perfect influx of people in trouble. Do you know how to take action to put a stop to my being tormented by innumerable applicants, and to your being troubled by me in turn with so many?

Why, in this way, of course. Even admitting that the individual in whose behalf I may be writing, is a man who needs just and kind treatment, and is most worthy of these in the eyes of all, none the less send him empty away, as if he were a thoroughly dishonest man, and one making utterly dishonorable requests to you. Nay even if I come myself, of course to make a complaint to you, give orders to your servants to slam the door in my face. When people begin to see what has happened, and hear from those who have seen, then at last you and I will enjoy peace and quiet. No one henceforth will rush to me with grievances.

If, however, you are too timid for this, and if you do not wish men to witness such conduct on your part, be prepared to extend your favors many times a day to such as have become your suppliants in my name and in the name of God. After all, I know only too well that you will not renounce doing good - not for a moment, nor shall I tire of giving you suitable opportunities for doing so.

Online 2007
Revision: 31 July 2007
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