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Synesius

Συνέσιος). A native of Cyrené. He was one of the most remarkable of the literary men of the fifth century. He was born A.D. 378, of a distinguished family, and studied at Alexandria under Hypatia and other celebrated instructors. So rapid was the progress he made, that, at the age of nineteen years, he was chosen by the inhabitants of Cyrené to present to the Emperor Arcadius a golden crown which had been voted him. The oration which he delivered on this occasion, and which is still preserved, has been much admired. At this period he was still a pagan; subsequently, however, he was persuaded by Theophilus, Bishop of Alexandria, to embrace Christianity. He was for a long time, however, very unsettled in his theological notions, and it was this very uncertainty which induced him for a considerable time to withstand the solicitations of Theophilus and not accept a bishopric. He yielded, however, in A.D. 410, and, separating from a wife for whom he cherished a deep affection, he was consecrated bishop of Ptolemaïs in Cyrenaïca. He died about 430. The works of Synesius are rather philosophical and literary than theological. They are written with elegance. When the subject admits, his diction is elevated, and sometimes even sublime. He possesses the art of rendering abstract subjects agreeable, by intermingling with them mythological and historical or else poetical passages. His letters, which are 154 in number, afford varied, amusing, and instructive reading. His hymns, in iambics of four or five feet, present a singular mixture of poetic images, Christian truths, and Platonic reveries, for it was to the school of Plato that he always continued to be more or less attached. The most complete edition of his works is that of Petau or Petavius (Paris, 1612; reprinted 1631-40), with additions by Morel. See Volkmann, Synesius von Cyrene (Berlin, 1869).

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