Synesius, Letter 109

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 109: A Visit Postponed

[1] To his Brother

Just at present I have neither asses, nor mules, nor horses at hand, for all have gone to pasture. If I could have used them, I might have come to your beloved presence. I wanted very much to make the journey on foot, and I might perhaps have done it, but my relations are opposed to the project. They say that I should make those I met laugh at me.

[2] Evidently the people on the road, whoever they may be, are wisdom itself. They have so much sense that each one of them knows what becomes me better than I do myself. How many judges are opposed upon us by those who wish to make us live for appearances!

[3] In the end I gave in, not to warnings, but to force. At the very moment when I was on the point of leaving, they would not let me, but seized me by the cloak.

[4] There is only one thing left for me to do, to dispatch this letter in my place. I send you by it all my messages of affection. I ask you what are the exports from Ptolemais, I mean what news you are probably bringing from government headquarters. Above all, tell me what I ought to think of the mysterious rumor that has come from the west, for you know that it makes a great difference to me whether it is true or not. If, then, you will write to me, and will give me all the details clearly stated, I will remain here. If not, you too will be reproaching me for having rushed to you.