Cyrenaica, part 6: Synesius

Byzantine church in Ptolemais, perhaps the one where Synesius served

Byzantine church in Ptolemais, perhaps the one where Synesius served

He is one of the most interesting authors from Antiquity: a philosopher, an aristocrat, a traveler, a sophist, a soldier, a bishop, and a descendant of the royal house of Sparta – or so he said. He was also a genuinely kind man. He left a considerable oeuvre of six essays, ten hymns, three speeches, two sermons, 158 letters. But nobody reads it. I am referring to Synesius of Cyrene.

From his essays and letters, we know a lot about his life. As the son of a very wealthy family, he was able to travel. He must have been some twenty years old when he visited Greece, where he seems to have been inaugurated in the Mysteries of Eleusis, shortly before the Emperor Theodosius put an end to this pagan cult (392). Returning to Africa, Synesius settled in Alexandria, where he was one of the students of the famous philosopher and mathematician Hypatia. Even as an old man, Synesius would refer to her as the philosopher: to him, there was only one who really mattered.

[Read more on the blog of Ancient History Magazine.]

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