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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 123, written during the siege of Cyrene in 404, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Letter 123: Missing an Old Friend

To Troilus

Even though there shall be utter forgetfulness of the dead in Hades,
I shall remember there my so dear companion.[1]

These lines were written by Homer, but as to the meaning of them, I know not whether they rightly apply to Achilles and Patroclus more than to me in relation to your beneficent and beloved person. I call God to witness, whom philosophy reveres, that I carry with me the image of your sweet and pious nature in my very heart. The wondrous echo of your words of wisdom resounds in my ears. When I came back from Egypt to my own city, and when I read all your letters of the two last years, I watered them with my tears. For I got no pleasure from the letters, out of the joy I always take in you, but rather sadness, recalling in them your living fellowship, and thinking of what a friend and father alike I am bereaved, although one who is in reality living.

Willingly would I undergo more weighty struggles in behalf of my city, if only I might again have a pretext for leaving it. Shall I ever have the happiness of seeing you, O truest of fathers, and of embracing your sacred head, and of joining with that council that your word captivates? If this joy is given me, I shall prove by my own example that what the poets recount of Aeson the Thessalian is not after all a fable; they aver that he was twice endowed with youth, changing to a young man in his old age.

Note 1:
Homer, Iliad, 22.389.
Online 2007
Revision: 15 August 2007
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