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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 144, written in 402, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald.

Letter 144: A Recommendation

To Herculian

Phoebammon, who is to give you this letter, is an honest man, one of my friends, and a victim of injustice. For every reason, therefore, you are justified in coming to his assistance, to wit, for our sake, for his character, and the circumstances of his case. So, then, let it be. He himself probably counts very much upon the friendship which unites us. For in the need that he has of you, it is to me that he has come for help, thinking himself assured of gaining support by my intervention. Thus, as I promised him, he can, thanks to Synesius, count upon Herculian, and, thanks to the sacred and honored person of Herculian, he can triumph over his adversaries.

You wrote to me by Ursicinus concerning the count, I mean the one who has been entrusted the command of the troops in our city. You asked that I should cause letters to be written to the count and to the ordinary prefect, by friends of yours who can manage this. It is true that I accepted your plan at the moment, but in point of fact I rather declined it, as superfluous, for I give myself wholeheartedly to philosophy.

Now friends of mine, soldiers and civilians alike, who suffer injustice, are forcing me to pretend to power in the city, a thing for which I know myself to be unqualified by nature. They know this as well as I do, but for their own sakes they are forcing me to take some action, however unwillingly. Now, therefore, if you resolve to act thus, I consent.

Salute your hallowed comrade the deacon for me. Let him train against his equestrian rival. My whole household salutes you, including Ision, who has recently joined us, the very man whom you wanted because of his story-telling powers. He has the cause of that sordid and unphilosophic request for a letter which I made to those in power, induced both by his personal persuasion in behalf of many, and also by letters which he carried with him. He will, then, wait for you up to the day which I indicated to you, that is to say, the twentieth.
Online 2007
Revision: 12 August 2007
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