A new translation of Synesius’ “In praise of baldness” from Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock has translated Synesius of Cyrene’s spoof Encomium of baldness  from Greek.  Synesius was a contemporary of Hypatia, and lived in the late 4th century.

Here it is:


Supposed quotation by Hypatia

An atheist post online used the following as a signature:

“Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fancies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child-mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after-years relieved of them. In fact, men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth – often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you can not get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable.”

No reference was given, but the passage can be found attributed to a letter by Synesius.  Unfortunately it seems clear that this is not part of the standard English translation by Fitzgerald, which is online at Livius.org:



So… does anyone know where Synesius says anything like this?

I am suspicious.  Much of this doesn’t sound right.

UPDATE:  No sign of this anywhere in Fitzgerald’s translation.  Looking in Google books, I find the saying in Elbert Hubbard, Little Journeys to the homes of great teachers, 1908, p.84-5 (without reference, of course).  I can’t find anything earlier than that.