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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 93, written in 411, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. The point of the letter is that Synesius' brother Euoptius has been invited to occupy a new magistracy, which means that he has to pay a lot of money; Synesius demands that a fine on Euoptius' mother-in-law is canceled.

Letter 93: Canceling a Fine

To Hesychius

The Athenians praised Themistocles, the son of Neocles, because although as much a lover of political power as any man of his time, he decline every office in which his friends should possess nothing more than strangers. The times have recognized your merits. Through you an office, new both in name and in reality, has come into the administration of the State. I am very glad of this, as it quite natural when one considers our old friendship, and that sacred geometry has linked us one to the other.

But when I see that you deem my brother's name worthy to be ranked in the list of senators, and yet do not strike out his family from the black list, although under a cloud of ancient misfortune something happened before, I can only say that in this you are not behaving as an imitator of Themistocles, nor in accordance with the principles of divine geometry. You ought to treat Euoptius as among the number of your brothers, if it is true that two things equal the same thing are equal also to each other.

If through your too numerous occupations you have hitherto neglected your duty, do at once honor my claim upon you, my dearest friend, and after receiving my letter, exempt his mother-in-law both in the future and in the past from the absurd fine. Also give me back my brother. God knows whether he has left the country on this very account. But that is the only excuse Euoptius gives for not being here to console me. I have great need of consolation for many misfortunes of which you have certainly heard.  
Online 2007
Revision: 20 August 2007
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