Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other

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 157, written in 412, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. The name of the addressee is not completely rendered.

Letter 157: Spring

To Chryso-...

To all others spring is delightful, because it beautifies the face of the earth with flowers and makes the whole country a meadow. To me its great charm is that it allows me by writing to be with my own dear flowers.[1] Would that I could behold you face to face! As this joy, however, is denied me, I very eagerly do what I may, and consort with you by letter. Sailors and seamen do not feel as great pleasure in cutting through the expanse of the sea when this time of year has come, as I feel in taking up my pen, paper, and ink to write to your charming self.

In winter time, when everything was in the grip of frost and when the roads were blocked by unspeakable snow, no one dared to come to visit us from the outer world, and no one dared to go away from here. Shut up here in our houses, then, as in a prison, we were to our regret condemned to keep this long silence, the lack of letter-carriers acting as a sort of muzzle; but today, now that the mild season has opened the public roads and has loosened our tongue-strings, we hasten to send away to your excellency the presbyter who is living with us, that he may obtain some news of your health.

Give him, most admirable chief, the sort of reception that he deserves. Turn a sympathetic eye upon him, and when he comes back, let us know, I beg of you, the state of your health, for you know how anxious we are to hear about it.

Note 1:
Navigation was impossible during the winter, so sending letters was only possible after the beginning of spring.
Online 2007
Revision: 20 August 2007
Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other