Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65), also known as Seneca the Younger, was a Hispano-Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and—in one work—satirist from the Silver Age of Latin literature.

Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.

Seneca was born in Cordoba in Hispania, and raised in Rome, where he was trained in rhetoric and philosophy. His father was Seneca the Elder, his elder brother was Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus, and his nephew was the poet Lucan. In AD 41, Seneca was exiled to the island of Corsica under emperor Claudius, but was allowed to return in 49 to become a tutor to Nero. When Nero became emperor in 54, Seneca became his advisor and, together with the praetorian prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus, provided competent government for the first five years of Nero’s reign. Seneca’s influence over Nero declined with time, and in 65 Seneca was forced to take his own life for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, in which he was likely to have been innocent. His stoic and calm suicide has become the subject of numerous paintings.

Philosophy

As “a major philosophical figure of the Roman Imperial Period”, Seneca’s lasting contribution to philosophy has been to the school of Stoicism. His writing is highly accessible and was the subject of attention from the Renaissance onwards by writers such as Michel de Montaigne. He has been described as “a towering and controversial figure of antiquity” and “the world’s most interesting Stoic”.

Seneca wrote a number of books on Stoicism, mostly on ethics, with one work (Naturales Quaestiones) on the physical world. Seneca built on the writings of many of the earlier Stoics: he often mentions Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus; and frequently cites Posidonius, with whom Seneca shared an interest in natural phenomena. He frequently quotes Epicurus, especially in his Letters.

Ten plays are attributed to Seneca, of which most likely eight were written by him. The plays stand in stark contrast to his philosophical works. With their intense emotions, and grim overall tone, the plays seem to represent the antithesis of Seneca’s Stoic beliefs. Up to the 16th century it was normal to distinguish between Seneca the moral philosopher and Seneca the dramatist as two separate people. Scholars have tried to spot certain Stoic themes: it is the uncontrolled passions that generate madness, ruination, and self-destruction. This has a cosmic as well as an ethical aspect, and fate is a powerful, albeit rather oppressive, force.

Projects

Publications

Works attributed to Seneca include a dozen philosophical essays, one hundred and twenty-four letters dealing with moral issues, nine tragedies, and a satire, the attribution of which is disputed. His authorship of Hercules on Oeta has also been questioned.

  1. De Providentia (On providence) - addressed to Lucilius
  2. De Constantia Sapientis (On the Firmness of the Wise Person) - addressed to Serenus
  3. De Ira (On anger) – A study on the consequences and the control of anger - addressed to his brother Novatus
  4. Ad Marciam, De consolatione (To Marcia, On Consolation) – Consoles her on the death of her son
  5. De Vita Beata (On the Happy Life) - addressed to Gallio

R Markdown Demo

2020-11-10 Yihui Xie
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Letter 4: On The Terrors of Death

2019-07-30 Lucius Annaeus Seneca
𝕂eep on as you have begun, and make all possible haste, so that you may have longer enjoyment of an improved mind, one that is at peace with itself. Doubtless you will derive enjoyment during the time … Read more →

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Letter 3: On True and False Friendship

2019-07-29 Lucius Annaeus Seneca
𝕐ou have sent a letter to me through the hand of a “friend” of yours, as you call him. And in your very next sentence you warn me not to discuss with him all the matters that concern you, saying that … Read more →

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Seneca's essays

2017-06-14 Lucius Annaeus Seneca
𝕋raditionally given in the following order: […] … Read more →

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Seneca's tragedies

2017-06-13 Lucius Annaeus Seneca
𝔽abulae crepidatae (tragedies with Greek subjects): […] Fabula praetexta (tragedy in Roman setting): Read more →

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Letter 2: On Discursiveness in Reading

2016-02-14 Lucius Annaeus Seneca
𝕁udging by what you write me, and by what I hear, I am forming a good opinion regarding your future. You do not run hither and thither and distract yourself by changing your abode; for such … Read more →

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