Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume V/Letters/To Cynegius
Letter IV.—To Cynegius.
We have a law that bids us “rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep”: but of these commandments it often seems that it is in our power to put only one into practice. For there is a great scarcity in the world of “them that rejoice,” so that it is not easy to find with whom we may share our blessings, but there are plenty who are in the opposite case. I write thus much by way of preface, because of the sad tragedy which some spiteful power has been playing among people of long-standing nobility. A young man of good family, Synesius by name, not unconnected with myself, in the full flush of youth, who has scarcely begun to live yet, is in great dangers, from which God alone has power to rescue him, and next to God, you, who are entrusted with the decisions of all questions of life and death. An involuntary mishap has taken place. Indeed, what mishap is voluntary? And now those who have made up this suit against him, carrying with it the penalty of death, have turned his mishap into matter of accusation. However, I will try by private letters to soften their resentment and incline them to pity; but I beseech your kindliness to side with justice and with us, that your benevolence may prevail over the wretched plight of the youth, hunting up any and every device by which the young man may be placed out of the reach of danger, having conquered the spiteful power which assails him by the help of your alliance. I have said all that I want in brief; but to go into details, in order that my endeavour may be successful, would be to say what I have no business to say, nor you to hear from me.
- Cynegius was “prefect of the prætorium,” from 384 to 390. Cod. Medic. has on the title, ῾Ιερί& 251· ῾Ηγέμονι: but this must be wrong. It was this Cynegius, not then Prefect of the East, whom Libanius was to lead however unwilling, to the study of eloquence (see end of Letter xi.). The four Prætorian Prefects remained, after Diocletian’s institution of the four Princes, under whom they served, had been abolished by Constantine. The Prefect of the East stretched his jurisdiction “from the cataracts of the Nile to the banks of the Phasis, and from the mountains of Thrace to the frontiers of Persia.” From all inferior jurisdictions an appeal in every matter of importance, either civil or criminal, might be brought before the tribunal of the Prefect; but his sentence was final: the emperors themselves refused to dispute it. Hence Gregory says, that, “next to God, Cynegius had the power to remove his young relative from danger.” How intimate Gregory was, not only with the highest officers, but at the Court itself, is shown in his orations on Pulcheria and Flacilla. He must have been over sixty when this letter was written.