Synesius, Letter 107

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 addressee of the letter that is offered here in the translation by A. Fitzgerald, was Synesius' brother Euoptius, who lived in Ptolemais. About a quarter of the entire correspondence was directed to him: letters 51 (394), 55, 56, 54, 136, 135, 110 (all 396), the long letter 4 about a shipwreck in 397, 120, 104, 113 (401), 3, 35, 39, 32, 52, 65, 92, 106, 114, 109, 36 (all in 402), 127, 50, 18 (404), 125, 132 (405), 108, 107, 122, 95 (407), 53, 82, 84, 85, 86, 105 (409), 8, 87, 89 (411).

Letter 107: On the Right of Self-defense

[1] To his Brother

Really you are joking when you say that you want to prevent us from manufacturing arms while the enemy is holding the country, plundering everything, and slaughtering whole populations every day, and when we have no soldiers to be seen. Are you going to maintain then that private individuals are not authorized to bear arms, but allowed to die? Evidently the government is full of wrath against those who attempt to save themselves.

[2] Very well, then, if I gain nothing else, at all events the laws shall be our masters instead of these destroyers. How high a value, think you, do I set on seeing peace flowering again, the tribunal in position, and the herald ordering silence! Yes, I desire only to die when my city has regained her former position.