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

Letter 107: On the Right of Self-defense

To his Brother

Really you are joking when you say that you want to prevent us from manufacturing arms while the enemy is holding the country, plundering everything, and slaughtering whole populations every day, and when we have no soldiers to be seen. Are you going to maintain then that private individuals are not authorized to bear arms, but allowed to die? Evidently the government is full of wrath against those who attempt to save themselves.

Very well, then, if I gain nothing else, at all events the laws shall be our masters instead of these destroyers. How high a value, think you, do I set on seeing peace flowering again, the tribunal in position, and the herald ordering silence! Yes, I desire only to die when my city has regained her former position.
Online 2007
Revision: 16 August 2007
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