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

Letter 152: The Definition of Love

To Pylaemenes

Believe me that I embrace Pylaemenes, very soul and very soul. Words fail me wherewith I may pour out the fullness of my heart's desire, or rather I cannot explain, even to myself, the nature of the sentiments that I feel for you.

But there was one man at least who was extraordinary in all knowledge of Love. That was Plato the Athenian, the son of Ariston, so happy in discovering, and pleasant in describing the nature of the lover and also his desires in regard to the beloved. It is he, therefore, who shall discover and describe me. The man who loves, he said, would fain be melted by the art of Hephaestus, and so completely united with the beloved object, that two would become one.[1]

Note 1:
Plato, Symposium, 192D.
Online 2007
Revision: 13 August 2007
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