Synesius, Eulogy of Baldness (15)

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.

The Eulogy of Baldness shows Synesius' lighter side: he defends his baldness against the speech In Praise of Hair by the sophist-philosopher Dio Chrysostom ("tongue of gold").

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

None of the hairy Spartans survived the battle of Thermopylae

[1] [1193] Is it worth while calling to mind at this point how the Lacedaemonians dressed their hair before the battle of Thermopylae, that battle which Dio calls a great one for the very reason that the Lacedaemonians combed their hair before it, though not a man survived in the face of this evil omen.

[2] Now I say this not with any wish to repeat what has already been said, namely that hair even in the living is a dead body; but because it grows from the dead. For this fact has been universally reported by the Therapeutae in Egypt; how a certain man whose hair had been close shaven died, and yet the year after displayed thick hair and beard.

[3] Those then of the Greeks who perished most gloriously he has drawn into his story, but he deliberately omits those who won the noblest and greatest victories and who inflicted punishment upon the barbarian king both on behalf of these very men and for the rest of Greece. I allude to the Macedonians and to the Greeks who went inland with Alexander, and whom the Lacedaemonians did not join. These before the battle of Arbela,note which we may justly describe as a great battle, having learned by experience that hair is a disadvantage to soldiers, made the whole host of them shave, and with God, fortune, and valor to help them combined in the struggle of all the Greeks.

[4] Now the reason for the prejudice against hair was the following, as Ptolemy son of Lagus related in his history, one who knew, for he was present at these events, and, because he was king at the time when he wrote his history, did not lie.