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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.

The text of Letter 114, written in c.402, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Letter 114: An Invitation

To his Brother

Are you astonished that while you are dwelling in a parched place like the country of the Phycuntes,[1] you should shiver and poison should enter your blood? There would have been more cause for wonder had your body proved stronger than the heat there.

Come to us, then, here. You could recover your health with God's help, once away from the infected air of the marshes, away from that salt, warm, and absolutely stagnate water, which one might call really dead. What charm can there be in lying down on the sand of the shore? That is the only pastime you have, for where could you wend your way?

Here you can go under the shadow of a tree. If you are tired of one, you can go to another, even from one grove to another. You can step across a rivulet. How delightful is the zephyr which stirs the branches gently; there are the varied notes of birds, the colors of the flowers, the shrubs of the meadow; here the works of the husbandman, there nature's gifts. All things are fragrant with perfume, the aromas of a healthy soil. I will not praise the nymphs' grotto. It would need a Theocritus.[2] And there is something beyond all this.


Note 1:
"Seeweed country".

Note 2:
The author of several famous idyllic poems.
Online 2007
Revision: 13 August 2007
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