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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 100 has been written in 402; the text is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Letter 100: An Introduction

To Pylaemenes

Here at last is that Anastasius about whom I have so often spoken. If I had been introducing you to him, I should have praised you as I am praising him at this moment. You are both of you neighbors in my heart, and have been so for a long time past. Let your meeting, therefore, be an act of recognition. Embrace each other, and see in this, both of you, a means of doing me a little good.

Now leisure is the greatest good, a good of which one might say that, like a country bearing in abundance, it brings all noble things to the soul of the philosopher. This leisure I shall enjoy when I succeed in freeing myself from entanglement in the political life of the Romans; and that will be when I am released from these accursed curial functions.

So far as the Emperor is concerned, I am free of them, but I should justly blame myself and feel ashamed, if I were to take any profit from my personal activity. I shall accordingly make my defense to myself. For I shall appear to be fulfilling the duty of ambassador again, since my tongue is again an ambassador; nor will any one who praises Pythagoras contradict me, since he defined a friend as a second self.[1]

Note 1:
In fact, Aristotle: Nicomachaean Ethics, 9.4.
Online 2007
Revision: 14 August 2007
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