Sunday, November 27, 2022

Christianizing the Myth of Achilles & Patroclus: Synesius to His Friend Troilus, Ep. 123

 Roman men often had deep, loving and affectionate friendships with their peers. There was no shame or stigma in expressing love and support to one another.


Quod si Erebo vita functorum oblivia tangant, 

illic vel chari potero meminisse sodalis.

Sunt illi quidem ab Homero versus scripti; sed eorum sensus nescio an ab Achille potius de Patroclo quam a me de te amicissimo, ac benefico capite, usurpari merito possit. quam eloquidem, ut testis est mihi Deus, quem philosophia colit, sacri tui ac suavisissimi animi infixam imaginem medio in corde circumfero, et auribus etiamnum illa sapientissimorum tuorum sermonum vox insonat. Cum autem ex Aegypto in patriam rediissem, ac duorum annorum simul epistolas legissem, magnam equidem in litteras vim lacrimarum profudi. Non tam enim, quod te per litteras quodammodo fruerer, mihi voluptatem afferebat, quam illud dolore afficiebat, cum ex scriptis tuis litteris praesentem ac vivam in animam consuetudinem revocarem; cuiusmodi scilicet et amico simul, et vere parente vivo essem orbatus. Libenter igitur graviora pro patria certamina subeam, mihi ut iterum profectionis occasio praebeatur. Num quando conspectu tuo perfruar, Pater vere germanissime? num quando sacrum tuum caput amplectar? num concilii propter te beati particeps ero?  Si enim ea mihi obtinere contigerit, efficiam profecto, ut iam fabula non sit, quod de Aesone Thessalo dicitur praedicant, cum ex sene repente esset iuvenis factus.

--Synesius, Epistula 123, (Greek forthcoming); Translated by J. P. Migne (1864)

Dear Troilus,

Even if death erases the memory of our souls,

I will still be able to remember you there, dear friend!

This is a quote of Homer, but I don’t know if they were written more for Achilles and Patroclus than for us, dear friend! May God above, Whom wisdom cherishes, bear witness that the image of your sacred and most precious spirit is fixed deep within my heart, and even now, the words of your wisdom-instilled voice still resonate in my ears. When I returned home from Egypt, I read the letters you’d written me for the past two years and I wept profusely. Your letters didn’t cause me happiness, but rather grief, for as I read them, I recalled from spending time with you in real life, and now it seems I’m mourning the loss of a friend, even a parent, with your absence—even through you are still alive! I’ll proudly do my duty and undertake serious challenges for my country, if only I can find an opportunity to leave it. When will I enjoy seeing your face again, dearest Father? When will I wrap my arms around your sacred neck? When will I spend time with you again? If this ever should happen, I would be like what they say about Aeson from Thessaly, and become young again.



Name:  Synesius

Date:  4th c. CE

Works:  Letters



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Synesius was a Greek writer and statesman from Cyrene (modern Libya). He is known as one of Hypatia’s most famous students. His education took him to both Alexandria, Egypt and Athens, Greece; he spent many years in Constantinople advocating on behalf of his community. His letters are still extant, and provide us with unique insights into this time period.


ARCHAIC: (through 6th c. BCE); GOLDEN AGE: (5th - 4th c. BCE); HELLENISTIC: (4th c. BCE - 1st c. BCE); ROMAN: (1st c. BCE - 4th c. CE); POST CONSTANTINOPLE: (4th c. CE - 8th c. CE); BYZANTINE: (post 8th c CE)

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