The morals of Seneca: a selection of his prose
|The Morals of Seneca|
Seneca was the second of three sons born to Marcus Annaeus Seneca, a native of Spain, rich, and of equestrian rank, by his wife Helvia, a Spanish lady. The date of his birth is assigned to the year B.C. 3, when Corduba, the modem Cordova, where he was born, and where his father then lived as a professor of rhetoric, was one of the principal towns of the Roman province of Bsetica.
While Lucius was still an infant he was sent to Rome and placed under the care of his mother's sister; subsequently, his father followed with the rest of his family, and so prospered that at his death, about A.D. 37, he left his family in possession of ample means. Lucius, though of a feeble constitution, early applied himself, under his father, to the study of rhetoric, and under Papirius Fabianus, Attalus, and Sotion the Stoic to philosophy.
His own strong inclination was towards philosophy, which he embraced with great ardour, and practised the regimen of Stoicism with the greatest austerity, even to abandon the use of animal food from a belief in the doctrine of transmigration of souls; but in deference to his father's wishes, he renounced this mode of life, and turned to the bar, where he rapidly gained a reputation as an advocate by his independence and brilliant eloquence, insomuch that Caligula the emperor, jealous of his own reputation as an orator, and displeased with the freedom with which he handled a cause before him, formed designs upon Seneca's life, but was persuaded to forego them on being assured by one of his mistresses that disease would soon carry off" so sickly a subject.
However the situation was such that Seneca was forced to retire from the bar, but he found solace in the renewal of his philosophic studies, to which he devoted himself afresh with his characteristic ardour and energy. He had previously been elected quaestor, but in A.D. 41, the first year of the reign of the next emperor, Claudius, Seneca's career was again thwarted.
It is difficult to follow the intricacies of the social and political machinations which led to this result, but the main facts appear to be as follows: — Messalina, the notorious wife of Claudius, a woman whose character even in a dissolute age was regarded as infamous, jealous of the influence which the emperor's niece Julia, whom he had but recently recalled from banishment, exercised over him, persuaded Claudius to banish her a second time. Seneca was a friend of Julia; whether the friendship had degenerated into an intrigue, or whether Seneca had made himself too zealous on Julia's behalf, it is certain that the graver charge was preferred against him by Messalina.
She succeeded in obtaining a decree of banishment against him also, and he remained eight years an exile in the island of Corsica. Two works can be traced to this period, both entitled " On Consolation," one addressed to his mother Helvia; the other to Polybius, the reigning palace favourite, containing a good deal of unworthy adulation of Claudius, composed, no doubt, for the royal ear, in the hope of obtaining a reversal of his sentence.
These two works have, besides, a certain biographical interest, since we learn from them that Seneca, who .was married, though to whom is unknown, at the date of his treatise " On Anger," was now a widower with a family of one son, Marcus, and one daughter, Novatilla, having lost a second son a few days before setting out for Corsica. In A.D. 49 Messalina was executed for her treasonable marriage with Caius Silius, and the emperor married Julia's sister, Agrippina, by whose influence Seneca was recalled. He became praetor, and afterwards consul, besides occupying the post of confidential adviser to the empress, whose son Lucius Domitius, afterwards the emperor Nero of infamous celebrity, became his pupil. In a.d. 54 Claudius was poisoned by Agrippina, and Nero, who was then about eighteen years old, succeeded him as emperor.
I. God in Nature ...... 161
II. The Divinity of Man . . .108
III. A Virtuous Life the only Happy One . . 171
IV. True Riches 184
V. Counsels against Anger. , . . 1S9
VI. Consolations against Death . . . 199
VII. Loss of Friends ..... 203
VIII. Consolations against old Age ... 207
IX. On the Education of Children. .211
X. How to behave towards Servants .214
XL True Nobility .219
XII. Of Travel . . ... 221
XIII. Liberal Education. . . 233
XIV. The Employment of a Quiet Life. .246
XV. Against Affectation ..... 251
XV. Against Affectation ..... 251
XVI. On Going into Society ... 254
XVII. The Choice of Books 258
XVIII. Athletics. 261
XIX. Against Lying in Bed . . 263
XX. Reflections upon Christmas Day .... 269
XXI. Modern Luxury — Scipio's Country House . . 273
XXII. A Complaint against Complainers .... 277
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