Synesius, Dio

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.

In his speech Dio, named after Dio of Prusa and dedicated to his unborn son, Synesius presents his cultural ideal. Paideia or general education (which means: study of the arts) is a preliminary or an initiation to philosophy, comparable to the development of Dio, who was (according to Synesius) a sophist first, but later converted to philosophy (which means knowledge of the Divine). General education in itself is insufficient to become happy: the sophist and the grammarian are unhappy people until they find true understanding.

  1. Dio: philosopher or sophist?
  2. Certain of Dio's treatises are philosophic, other sophistic
  3. Dio's stylistic brilliance
  4. Dio as instructor; the relation between Philosophy and the Muses
  5. The usefulness of the arts of the Muses
  6. The usefulness of the arts of the Muses
  7. One needs to exercise one's rational faculties to achieve the highest aims; abstinence and religious meditation are no short-cut...
  8. ... although they are not entirely useless
  9. Purification -for instance by studying the Arts- is a generally accepted first stage
  10. Against philosophers who ignore the preliminary stages
  11. Against those who ignore to progress to philosophy: the sophist's anxieties
  12. Against those who ignore to progress to philosophy: the grammarian's moral degeneration
  13. The example of Socrates
  14. Why Synesius has not corrected Dio's books
  15. Literature summons our forces to activity
  16. Coda

The text is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. The green four-digit numbers are page numbers of the Migne edition.