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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 49 was written in 407 and it is offered on this page in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Letter 49: A Congratulation

To Theotimus

[The tyrant of Syracuse] Hiero enjoyed greater good from his intercouse with [the poet] Simonides than did Simonides from his with Hiero,[1] but -by the divinity who presides over our friendship- I do not congratulate you on your intimacy with the great Anthemius more than I congratulate the great Anthemius himself on his friendship with you. Even for a man who has power, what possession is fairer than a friend who brings him the gift of a sincere character? Such a man I know Theotimus to be, a most amiable man and most beloved of God.

However, here is a point in which you are superior to Simonides: Simonides admitted that he gave his discourses for money. But you resemble him in this, that it was Simonides who handed down the fame of Hiero to all posterity, and that, through the poems of Theotimus, Anthemius will be famous in letters as long as Greeks shall exist.

May the prosperity of the Romans ever increase, thanks to him; and thanks to you, the renown of Anthemius, for God has granted to the art of poetry to be a dispenser of renown, and the honor of this has come round to you.

Note 1:
Simonides composed poems for Hiero, who became famous but these compositions; however, Simonides suffered from life at court, as he became greedy.
Online 2007
Revision: 17 August 2007
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