Synesius, Letter 094

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 94, written in 411, is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald. It is the second of seven letters to Anysius, a Roman general, active in the Cyrenaica in 411-412, for whom Synesius felt great admiration, especially after the soldier had defeated the Libyan nomads. The bishop praised Anysius in the Constitutio and sent him several letters to him: 37, 94 (this one), 77, 78, 6, 14, and 59.

Letter 94: War

[1] To Anysius

As soon as I learned the bad news from Cyrene the other day (that the enemy were approaching), I thought of sending to you at once at Taucheira to acquaint you with the fact, but a messenger came to inform us that the general had already occupied the high ground. You then knew it first. May God reward you for your alertness, both now and hereafter!

[2] But I send my congratulations to you at the same moment as my inquiry into the state of your affairs. They are, I hope, in a satisfactory condition. I have very much at heart - how could it be otherwise? - the happiness of Pentapolis, my mother-country, as the Cretans might say: and at the same time I have great interest in you and your glory, and at each step of your good fortune the whole world wants to congratulate us.

[3] Since then, my own reputation is dependent on you, O best of men and of generals, I have a right to know what you are doing. I exhorted Joannes to do his best to distinguish himself as a valiant soldier with the help of God. Give him your protection on account of his brother, who will render you as many services as all the others put together. I know these two young men intimately, and I know in what great esteem they hold each other. I give you the advice which seems to me the best. If you agree with me, support it with your authority.

[4] Salute on my behalf the comrades who are serving under your orders. I wish to see my friend return soon, and he will bring me, I am sure, good news of the war. Although he is very timid, he has set out upon his way boldly, under the protection of your arms. Send back the two brothers to Cyrene - they will fight for their country - that country which has brought them up and nourished them.