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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.

In Letter 51, written in 394 and offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald, a young Synesius describes how he crosses the Aegean Sea.

Letter 51: The Aegean Sea

To his Brother

Starting from Physcus [in Caria] at early dawn, late in the evening we stood in the Gulf of Erythra. There we stopped only a sufficient time to drink water and to take in a supply. Springs of pure, sweet water gush forth upon the very shore. As our Carpathians [1] were in a hurry, we took to sea again. The wind was light, but it blew continually on our stern, so that where we expected to make nothing of a run each day, we made all we needed before we were aware of it.

On the fifth day we perceived the beacon fire lit upon a tower to warn ships running too close. We accordingly disembarked more quickly than it takes to relate, on the island of Paros, a poor island where there are neither trees nor fruit, but only salt marshes.

Note 1:
Inhabitants of the isle of Carpathos.
Online 2007
Revision: 31 July 2007
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