Synesius of Cyrene online

Synesius of Cyrene (c.370-c.413) was a Neo-Platonic philosopher and a sophist, who converted -without much personal conviction but because as a wealthy landowner he had to take care of a war-stricken country- to Christianity and became bishop of Ptolemais in the Cyrenaica. I discovered his publications about two years ago, and found his more than 150 letters and his treatises extremely interesting. They tell a lot about the problems of his city, which was attacked by native Libyan warriors, relations with the imperial court in Constantinople, philosophy, religion, and daily life. In the past months, I’ve made a translation of his complete works available at Livius.Org.

Today, the last treatise went online: the Dio, in which Synesius discusses the relation between general education (study of the arts) and philosophy – symbolized by the Muses and Apollo. General education, or paideia, is a preliminary to philosophy, comparable to the development of Dio, who was (according to Synesius) a sophist first, but later converted to philosophy. General education in itself is insufficient to become happy: the sophist and the grammarian are unhappy people, and even Socrates was interested in poetry. The best part of the Dio is a diatribe against uneducated people who pretend that they are philosophers and can tell something about the Divine – no doubt an attack on the Christians, which makes Synesius’ conversion even more remarkable.

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