cyrene alexandria literary
SYNESIUS, bishop of Ptolemais in the Libyan Pentapolis from 410 to c. 414, was born of wealthy parents, who claimed descent from Spartan kings, at Cyrene about 375. While still a youth (393) he went with his brother Euoptius to Alexandria, where he became an enthusiastic Neoplatonist and disciple of HYPATIA (q.v.). Returning to his native place some time before 397, he was in that year chosen to head an embassy from the cities of the Pentapolis to the imperial court to ask for remission of taxation and other relief. His stay in Constantinople, which lasted three years, was wearisome and otherwise disagreeable ; the leisure it forced upon him he devoted in part to literary composition (see his De Providentia). The oration he delivered when at last admitted to the presence of Arcadius is also extant (De Regno). Returning abruptly to Cyrene in 400, he spent the next ten years partly in that city, when unavoidable business called him there, but chiefly on an estate in the interior of the province, where he was able to enjoy the literary leisure that was most congenial to him, varying his studies with gardening and hunting and the quiet pleasures of domestic life. His marriage took place at Alexandria in 403 ; in the previous year he had visited Athens. In 409 or 410 Synesius, whose Christianity had until then been by no means very pronounced, was popularly chosen to be bishop of Ptolemais, and, after lone, hesitation on personal and doctrinal grounds, he ultimately accepted the office thus thrust upon him, being consecrated by Theophilus at Alexandria. One personal difficulty at least was obviated by his being allowed to retain his wife, to whom he was much attached; but as regarded orthodoxy he expressly stipulated for personal freedom to dissent on the questions of the soul's creation, a literal resurrection, and the final destruction of the world, while at the same time he agreed to make some concession to popular views in his public teaching (Ta sEv alcot, 4aco-o(1363 v, 're 8' JEw 0.A.0,Lcuth8v). His tenure of the bishopric, which was comparatively brief, was troubled not only by domestic bereavements but also by barbaric invasions of the country, and by conflicts with the prefect Andronicus, whom he excommunicated for interfering with the church's right of asylum. The date of his death is unknown, but he died probably not later than 414.
His extant works are - (1) a speech before Arcadius, Dc Repo ; (2) Dio, sive de suo ipsius Instituto, in which he signifies his purpose to devote himself to true philosophy ; (3) Encomium Calvitii, a literary jel6 d'esprit, suggested by Dio Chrysostom's Praise of Hair ; (4) Dc Pravidentia, in two books ; (5) De Insoenniis ; (6) 157 Epistalcs ; (7) 12 Hymni ; and several homilies and occasional speeches. The editio princeps is that of Tnrnebns (Paris, 1553) ; it was followed by that of Morell, with Latin translation by Petavius (1612, greatly enlarged and improved 1633 ; reprinted by iNligne, 1859). The Epistorw, which for the modern reader greatly exceed his other works in interest, have been edited by Demetriades (Vienna, 1792) and by Glukus (Venice, 1812), the Calvitii Encomium by Krabinger (Stuttgart, 1834), the De Providentia by Krabinger (Sulzbach, 1835), the De Beano by Krabinger (Munich, 1825), and the Hymns by Flach (Tubingen, 1875).
See Clausen, De Synesio Philosopho (Copenhagen, 1531) ; Wolkmann, Synesius VOA Cyrene (Berlin, 1569); and Miss Alice Gardner's monograph in "The Fathers for English Readers" (London, 1S56).