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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 158, written in 412, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. The name of the addressee is not completely rendered. It appears that Synesius tried to visit his friend, but was forced to return.

Letter 158: An Impossible Visit

To Chryso-...

The son of Laertes, Odysseus of many wiles, after receiving from Aeolus the treasure-stores of winds, was approaching rocky Ithaca, and was already listening to the songs of birds, but through the contrivances of his comrades he was driven far away from his native place.

We, alas, hearing the song of birds and the barking of dogs, and being so near our friends themselves that we almost hear their talk, return home, deprived of those longed for, who long for us, and we acquiesce in a fortune that so tramples on us insatiably.

We are slaves to time, and we yield to circumstances whereby the intellect is overcome, and the soul made to suffer exceedingly under the pressure of necessity. And you yourself, sweetest of friends, who know well our love, since you love us, continue then to pray for us. Farewell.
Online 2007
Revision: 20 August 2007
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