Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger

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Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger

Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Youngerca. 3 BC - 63 AD

BiographyThe second son of three in a wealthy family in Corduba, Spain, Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger went to Rome with his aunt to be educated in philosophy in the school of Sextii. He was taught in Stoicism and neo-Pythagoreanism, and while in school gained a reputation for his outstanding skills in oratory. He was in mostly ill health and went to Egyt with his aunt to recover, returning to Rome in 31AD to begin a career in law and politics.He gained some prestige in the Roman courts, but wasn't in the favor of the emperor Caligula, and the emperor Claudius exiled Seneca to Corsica in 41AD on the charge of committing adultery with Claudius's neice, Julia Livilla. There, Seneca pursued philosophy and natural sciences, authoring the Consolationes during his exile. In 49AD he was invited back into Rome on the recommendation of the emperor's wife, Agrippina. A year later Seneca married Pompeia Paulina, an influential figure, and became praetor; he was also appointed as tutor to the future emperor Nero, who assigned him as chief minister upon succession after the murder of Claudius. Seneca was able to introduce reforms to taxes and courts, and promoted more humane attitudes towards slaves.However, Nero became harder for Seneca to control, and after many requests, Seneca was allowed to retire in 62AD. In 65AD, however, he was accused of a plot to assassinate Nero, and an officer was sent to demand his suicide. Seneca is said to have gone calmly due to his Stoic philosophies.

StoicismAs a Stoic philosopher in Rome, Seneca had a monopoly on literature on Stoicism at the time, and shaped the understanding of Stoic thought of later generations. He, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus are the few ancient Stoics whose writings have lasted throughout history.

HumanismSeneca considered himself a humanist, and introduced many reforms in slavery during Nero's reign. In one of his letters, he writes, "You have as many enemies as you have slaves ... in truth, we make them our enemies. We abuse them as if they were beasts."

"'They are slaves,' people declare. Nay, rather they are men. ... That is why I smile at those who think it degrading for a man to dine with his slave. But why should they think it degrading? It is only because purse-proud etiquette surrounds a householder at his dinner with a mob of standing slaves. The master eats more than he can hold, and with monstrous greed loads his belly until it is stretched and at length ceases to do the work of a belly ... All this time the poor slaves may not move their lips, even to speak. The slightest murmur is repressed by a rod; even a chance sound, -- a cough, a sneeze, or a hiccup, -- is visited with the lash. ... All night they must stand about, hungry and dumb.Moral Letters to Lucilius, 47:1-3

"Everything is estimated by the standard of its own good. The vine is valued for its productiveness and the flavor of its wine, the stag for his speed. We ask, with regard to beasts of burden, how sturdy of back they are; for their only use is to bear burdens. ... And what quality is best in man? It is reason; by virtue of reason he surpasses the animals, and is surpassed only by the gods. Perfect reason is therefore the good peculiar to man; all other qualities he shares in some degree with animals and plants. Man is strong; so is the lion. Man is comely; so is the peacock. Man is swift; so is the horse. ... What then is peculiar to man? Reason. When this is right and has reached perfection, man's felicity is complete. ... This perfect reason is called virtue, and likewise that which is honorable. Hence that in man is alone a good which alone belongs to man. For we are not now seeking to discover what is a good, but what good is man's. And if there is no other attribute which belongs peculiarly to man except reason, then reson will be his one peculiar good, but a good that is worth all the rest put together."Letters to Lucilius 76:8-11

Seneca in senectus

Citations"Biography of Lucius Annaeus Seneca." The European Graduate School Library. The European Graduate School, 1997. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. .Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. "Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium." Moral Letters to Lucilius. Trans. Richard M. Gummere. Leob Classical Library, May 1916. 21 Feb. 2015. Note: Public domain works.Vogt, Katja. "Seneca." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 17 Oct. 2007. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. .

"We are born to a comfortable position enough, if we do not afterwards lose it; the aim of Nature has been to enable us to live well without needing a vast apparatus to enable us to do so; every man is able to make himself happy. ... The wise man is neither elated by prosperity nor depressed by adversity; for he has always endeavored to depend chiefly upon himself and to derive all his joys from himself. ... I never have trusted in Fortune, even when she seemed most peaceful. I have accepted all the gifts of wealth, high office, and influence, which she has so bountifully bestowed upon me, in such a manner that she can take them back again without disturbing me ... and therefore she has taken them, not painfully torn them away from me. No man loses anything by the frowns of Fortune unless he has been deceived by her smiles; those who have enjoyed her bounty as though it were their own heritage forever, and who have chosen to take precedence of others because of it, lie in abject sorrow when her unreal and fleeting delights forsake their empty childish minds ... I have always believed there was no real good in any of those things which all men desire. I then found that they were empty, and merely painted over with artificial and deceitful dyes, without containing anything within which corresponds to their outside ..."Of Consolation: To Helvia, Part V


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