Synesius' Egyptian Tale, 2.4
Mosaic depicting an angel. Museum of Ptolemais
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, about the
of the Roman world, and the military crisis at the beginning of the
Although The Egyptian Tale looks like a retelling of a part of the myth of Isis and Osiris, it is obvious that the two brothers Osiris and Typho represent good and bad government. The story, however, is not just a myth, because the man called Osiris can be identified as Aurelian, praetorian prefect of the Eastern Empire during the reign of Arcadius, and one of Synesius' benefactors. His counterpart in this ancient roman à clef, however, is less easy to identify. For some speculations, go here.
The text is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. The green four-digit numbers are page numbers of the Migne edition.
Let mention be made here also of his auspicious return, and of the crowds of men crowned with garlands conducting him back amid the company of the gods, and pouring over the whole land to escort him in turn; and then the midnight revels, the torchlight processions, the distributions of prizes, the year named after him, and also his second act of pardon to his hostile brother, mercy for whom he begged from the people boiling with indignation, and how he prayed to the gods for his brother’s salvation, acting in this case with more generosity than justice.
>> to section 2.5>>
Although it is possible the an initiation in the Christian mysteries is meant, Synesius' care to tell not too much, suggests that the Eleusinian Mysteries were intended. However, Aurelian is known to have been a Christian.
The Roman year was called after the consuls.
Revision: 23 June 2007