The Info List - Seneca The Younger

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SENECA THE YOUNGER (c. 4 BC – AD 65), fully LUCIUS ANNAEUS SENECA and also known simply as SENECA (/ˈsɛnɪkə/ ), was a Roman Stoic philosopher , statesman, dramatist , and—in one work—humorist of the Silver Age of Latin literature . As a tragedian, he is best-known for his _ Medea _ and _ Thyestes _.

He was a tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero . He was forced to take his own life for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero. However, some sources state that he may have been innocent. His father was Seneca the Elder , his elder brother was Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus , and his nephew was the poet Lucan .


* 1 Biography

* 1.1 Imperial advisor * 1.2 Retirement * 1.3 Death

* 2 Legacy

* 2.1 As a humanist saint * 2.2 An improving reputation * 2.3 "Pseudo-Seneca" * 2.4 Works * 2.5 Seneca\'s tragedies

* 2.6 Essays and letters

* 2.6.1 Dialogues * 2.6.2 Other Essays * 2.6.3 Letters

* 2.7 Other * 2.8 Spurious

* 3 See also * 4 References * 5 Further reading * 6 External links


Seneca was born in Cordoba in Hispania , and raised in Rome, where he was trained in rhetoric and philosophy.

Miriam Griffin says in her biography of Seneca that "the evidence for Seneca's life before his exile in 41 is so slight, and the potential interest of these years, for social history as well as for biography, is so great that few writers on Seneca have resisted the temptation to eke out knowledge with imagination." Griffin also infers from the ancient sources that Seneca was born in either 8, 4, or 1 BC. She thinks he was born between 4 and 1 BC and was a resident in Rome by AD 5. Seneca says that he was carried to Rome in the arms of his mother's stepsister. Griffin says that, allowing for rhetorical exaggeration, means "it is fair to conclude that Seneca was in Rome as a very small boy." Be that as it may, it is clear that he was in Rome at a relatively early stage in his life.

Caligula and Fabius were critics of his works, and Columella , Pliny , Tacitus and Dio proponents. Baroque marble imaginary portrait bust of Seneca, by an anonymous sculptor of the 17th century (Museo del Prado ).


From AD 54 to 62, Seneca acted as Nero's advisor, together with the praetorian prefect Sextus Afranius Burrus . One byproduct of his influence was that Seneca was appointed suffect consul in 56. Seneca's influence was said to have been especially strong in the first year. Tacitus and Dio suggest that Nero's early rule, during which time he listened to Seneca and Burrus, was quite competent. However, the ancient sources suggest, over time, Seneca and Burrus lost their influence over the emperor. In 59 they had reluctantly agreed to Agrippina's murder, and afterward, Tacitus reports that Seneca wrote a dishonest exculpation of Nero to the Senate .

Dio reports the common uncomplimentary rumors circulating about Seneca's hypocrisy and venality:

"Nor was this the only instance in which his conduct was seen to be diametrically opposed to the teachings of his philosophy. For while denouncing tyranny, he was making himself the teacher of a tyrant; while inveighing against the associates of the powerful, he did not hold aloof from the palace itself; and though he had nothing good to say of flatterers, he himself had constantly fawned upon Messalina and the freedmen of Claudius, to such an extent, in fact, as actually to send them from the island of his exile a book containing their praises—a book that he afterwards suppressed out of shame. Though finding fault with the rich, he himself acquired a fortune of 300,000,000 _sesterces_; and though he censured the extravagances of others, he had five hundred tables of citrus wood with legs of ivory, all identically alike, and he served banquets on them."

Dio also reports that Seneca had been involved in forcing large loans on the indigenous British aristocracy in the aftermath of Claudius 's Roman conquest of Britain , and then calling them in suddenly and aggressively, which he includes as one of the factors that contributed to Boudica 's rebellion. This may have contributed as well to his own downfall.


Following Burrus' death in 62, Seneca became the subject of criticism by what Tacitus describes as Nero's "more disreputable advisers." Charges included allegations of excessive wealth, the grandeur of his property, and calculated bids for popularity. Seneca requested an audience with Nero in which he sought permission to retire from public duties, pleading age and infirmity. The two then parted on apparently warm terms. Seneca subsequently adopted a quiet lifestyle on his country estates, concentrating on his studies and seldom visiting Rome.


_ Manuel Domínguez Sánchez, The suicide of Seneca_ (1871), Museo del Prado

In AD 65, Seneca was caught up in the aftermath of the Pisonian conspiracy , a plot to kill Nero. Although it is unlikely that Seneca conspired, Nero ordered him to kill himself. Seneca followed tradition by severing several veins in order to bleed to death , and his wife Pompeia Paulina attempted to share his fate. A generation after the Julio-Claudian emperors, Tacitus wrote an account of the suicide, which in view of his Republican sympathies is perhaps somewhat romanticized. According to this account, Nero ordered Seneca's wife to be saved. Her wounds were bound up and she made no further attempt to kill herself. As for Seneca himself, his age and diet were blamed for slow loss of blood and extended pain rather than a quick death; he also took poison, which was also not fatal. After dictating his last words to a scribe, and with a circle of friends attending him in his home, he immersed himself in a warm bath, which was expected to speed blood flow and ease his pain. Tacitus wrote, "He was then carried into a bath, with the steam of which he was suffocated, and he was burnt without any of the usual funeral rites. So he had directed in a codicil of his will, even when in the height of his wealth and power he was thinking of life’s close."



Plato , Seneca, and Aristotle in a medieval manuscript illustration (c. 1325–35)

The early Christian Church was very favorably disposed towards Seneca and his writings, and the church leader Tertullian possessively referred to him as "our Seneca."

Medieval writers and works (such as the _ Golden Legend ,_ which erroneously presents Nero as a witness to Seneca's suicide) believed Seneca had been converted to the Christian faith by Saint Paul , and early humanists regarded his fatal bath as a kind of disguised baptism.

Dante placed Seneca in the First Circle of Hell , or Limbo . Seneca makes an appearance as a character in Monteverdi 's opera _L\'incoronazione di Poppea _.

Girolamo Cardano in his _apologia_ of Nero, _Neronis Encomium Basel_, 1562, printed in English as _Nero: An exemplary life_ (Inkstone, 2012), claims Seneca was a fraud, a fake philosopher, a corrupter of Nero, and that he deserved death. _ The " Pseudo-Seneca " a Roman bust found at Herculaneum , one of a series of similar sculptures known since the Renaissance, was hoped to be a portrait of Seneca illustrating his Stoic qualities, until the inscribed Roman portrait (illustration above_) was identified.


Seneca remains one of the few popular Roman philosophers from the period. He appears not only in Dante, but also in Chaucer and to a large degree in Petrarch , who adopted his style in his own essays and who quotes him more than any other authority except Virgil . In the Renaissance, printed editions and translations of his works became common, including an edition by Erasmus and a commentary by John Calvin . John of Salisbury , Erasmus and others celebrated his works. French essayist Montaigne , who gave a spirited defense of Seneca and Plutarch in his _Essays_, was himself considered by Pasquier a "French Seneca." Similarly, Thomas Fuller praised Joseph Hall as "our English Seneca." Many who have considered his ideas not to be particularly original, still argued he was important in making the Greek philosophers presentable and intelligible. His suicide has also been a popular subject in art, from Jacques-Louis David 's 1773 painting _The Death of Seneca _ to the 1951 film _Quo Vadis _. _ "Seneca," ancient hero of the modern Cordoba; this architectural roundel in Seville is based on the " Pseudo-Seneca " (illustration above_)

Even with the admiration of an earlier group of intellectual stalwarts, Seneca is not without his detractors. In his own time, he was widely considered to be a hypocrite or, at least, less than "stoic" in his lifestyle. His tendency to engage in illicit affairs with married women and close ties to Nero's excess test the limits of his teachings on restraint and self-discipline. While banished to Corsica, he wrote pleas for restoration rather incompatible with his advocacy of a simple life and the acceptance of fate. In his _Pumpkinification _ (54) he ridiculed several behaviors and policies of Claudius that every Stoic should have applauded; a reading of the text shows it was also an attempt to gain Nero's favor by flattery —such as proclaiming that Nero would live longer and be wiser than the legendary Nestor . Suillius claims that Seneca acquired some "three hundred million _sesterces _ within the space of four years" through Nero's favor. Robin Campbell, a translator of Seneca's letters, writes that the "stock criticism of Seneca right down the centuries ...the apparent contrast between his philosophical teachings and his practice."

According to Tacitus, however, Suillius's accusations did not hold up under scrutiny. It would make sense that Seneca's position of power would make him vulnerable to trumped-up charges, as many public figures were at the time.

In 1966 scholar Anna Lydia Motto also challenged this view of Seneca, arguing that his image has been based almost entirely on Suillius's account, while many others who might have lauded him have been lost.

"We are therefore left with no contemporary record of Seneca's life, save for the desperate opinion of Publius Suillius. Think of the barren image we should have of Socrates , had the works of Plato and Xenophon not come down to us and were we wholly dependent upon Aristophanes ' description of this Athenian philosopher. To be sure, we should have a highly distorted, misconstrued view. Such is the view left to us of Seneca, if we were to rely upon Suillius alone."

More recent work is changing the dominant perception of Seneca as a mere conduit for pre-existing ideas showing originality in Seneca's contribution to the history of ideas. Examination of Seneca's life and thought in relation to contemporary education and to the psychology of emotions is revealing the relevance of his thought. For example, Martha Nussbaum in her discussion of desire and emotion includes Seneca among the Stoics who offered important insights and perspectives on emotions and their role in our lives. Specifically devoting a chapter to his treatment of anger and its management, she shows Seneca's appreciation of the damaging role of uncontrolled anger, and its pathological connections. Nussbaum later extended her examination to Seneca's contribution to political philosophy showing considerable subtlety and richness in his thoughts about politics, education and notions of global citizenship and finding a basis for reform-minded education in Seneca's ideas that allows her to propose a mode of modern education which steers clear of both narrow traditionalism and total rejection of tradition.

Some writers regard Seneca as the first great Western thinker on the complex nature and role of gratitude in human relationships.

Girolamo Cardano printed a savage attack on Seneca in 1562, in Basel. The title of the book is _Encomium Neronis_ and it is available in English as Girolamo Cardano, _Nero: an Exemplary Life_ Inkstone, 2012. Cardano says that he was a crook of the worst kind, an empty rhetorician who was only thinking to grab money and power, after having poisoned the mind of the young emperor. Cardano says that Seneca well deserved death.

Similarly, a more modern and scathing portrayal of Seneca comes in Robert Graves' Claudius the God the sequel novel to I, Claudius . Here, Seneca is portrayed as an unbearable sycophant and half-wit, with Graves quoting several of Seneca's works at points. He is shown to be a pathetic flatterer whose conversion to a Stoic is solely for appeasing Claudius' own ideology. The inclusion of the "Pumpkinification" in Graves' light reads as an unbearable work of flattery to the loathsome Nero and mocking a man that Seneca had groveled to for years.


"Pseudo-Seneca" the name used for the uncertain authors of various antique and medieval texts such as _De remediis fortuitorum_, which purport to be by the Roman author. At least some of these seem to preserve and adapt genuine Senecan content, for example Saint Martin of Braga 's (d. c. 580) _Formula vitae honestae_, or _De differentiis quatuor virtutumvitae honestae_ ("Rules for an Honest Life", or "On the Four Cardinal Virtues"). Early Mss. preserve Martin's preface, where he makes it clear that this was his adaption, but in later copies this was omitted, and the work became thought fully Seneca's work.


Errare humanum est

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.

Seneca generally employed a pointed rhetorical style. His writings expose traditional themes of Stoic philosophy : the universe is governed for the best by a rational providence; contentment is achieved through a simple, unperturbed life in accordance with nature and duty to the state; human suffering should be accepted and has a beneficial effect on the soul; study and learning are important. He emphasized practical steps by which the reader might confront life's problems. In particular, he considered it important to confront one's own mortality. The discussion of how to approach death dominates many of his letters.


See also: Senecan tragedy and Theatre of ancient Rome Woodcut illustration of the suicide of Seneca and the attempted suicide of his wife Pompeia Paulina

Many scholars have thought, following the ideas of the 19th century German scholar Friedrich Leo , that Seneca's tragedies were written for recitation only. Other scholars think that they were written for performance and that it is possible that actual performance had taken place in Seneca's lifetime. Ultimately, this issue cannot be resolved on the basis of our existing knowledge.

The tragedies of Seneca have been successfully staged in modern times. The dating of the tragedies is highly problematic in the absence of any ancient references. A relative chronology has been suggested on metrical grounds but scholars remain divided. It is inconceivable that they were written in the same year. They are not all based on Greek tragedies; they have a five-act form and differ in many respects from extant Attic drama , and while the influence of Euripides on some of these works is considerable, so is the influence of Virgil and Ovid .

Seneca's plays were widely read in medieval and Renaissance European universities and strongly influenced tragic drama in that time, such as Elizabethan England ( William Shakespeare and other playwrights), France (Corneille and Racine ), and the Netherlands (Joost van den Vondel ). He is regarded as the source and inspiration for what is known as "Revenge Tragedy," starting with Thomas Kyd 's _The Spanish Tragedy _ and continuing well into the Jacobean era . _Thyestes_ is considered to be Seneca's masterpiece, and has been described by scholar Dana Gioia as "one of the most influential plays ever written." _Medea_ is also highly regarded, and was praised along with _Phaedra_ by T. S. Eliot .

_ Fabulae crepidatae _ (tragedies with Greek subjects):

* _Hercules _ or _Hercules furens_ (_The Madness of Hercules_) * _Troades _ (_The Trojan Women_) * _Phoenissae _ (_The Phoenician Women_) * _ Medea _ * _Phaedra _ * _Oedipus _ * _Agamemnon _ * _ Thyestes _ * _ Hercules Oetaeus _ (_Hercules on Oeta_): generally considered not to be written by Seneca. First rejected by Heinsius .

_ Fabula praetexta _ (tragedy in Roman setting):

* _Octavia _: certainly not written by Seneca; this play closely resembles Seneca's plays in style, but was written a short time after Seneca's death (perhaps between 70-80 A.D.), by someone with a keen knowledge of Seneca's plays and philosophical works. First rejected by Lipsius .



_Traditionally given in the following order:_

* (64) _ De Providentia _ (_On providence_) - addressed to Lucilius * (55) _De Constantia Sapientis _ (_On the Firmness of the Wise Person_) - addressed to Serenus * (41) _ De Ira _ (_On anger_) – A study on the consequences and the control of anger - addressed to his brother Novatus * (book 2 of the _De Ira_) * (book 3 of the _De Ira_) * (40) _ Ad Marciam, De consolatione _ (_To Marcia, On Consolation_) – Consoles her on the death of her son * (58) _ De Vita Beata _ (_On the Happy Life_) - addressed to Gallio * (62) _ De Otio _ (_On Leisure_) - addressed to Serenus * (63) _ De Tranquillitate Animi _ (_On tranquillity of mind_) - addressed to Serenus * (49) _De Brevitate Vitæ _ (_On the shortness of life_) – Essay expounding that any length of life is sufficient if lived wisely. - addressed to Paulinus * (44) _De Consolatione ad Polybium _ (_To Polybius, On consolation_) – Consoling him on his missing son * (42) _Ad Helviam matrem, De consolatione _ (_To Helvia, On consolation_) – Letter to his mother consoling her on his absence during exile.

Other Essays

* (56) _ De Clementia _ (_On Clemency_) – written to Nero on the need for clemency as a virtue in an emperor. * (63) _ De Beneficiis _ (_On Benefits_)


* (64) _ Epistulae morales ad Lucilium _ – collection of 124 letters dealing with moral issues written to Lucilius Junior .


* (54) _ Apocolocyntosis divi Claudii _ (_The Gourdification of the Divine Claudius_), a satirical work. * (63) _ Naturales quaestiones _ an insight into ancient theories of cosmology , meteorology , and similar subjects.


* (58–62/370?) _Cujus etiam ad Paulum apostolum leguntur epistolae :_ These letters, allegedly between Seneca and St Paul, were revered by early authorities, but most scholars now doubt their authenticity.


* Audio theater * School of the Sextii * Otium


* ^ Bunson, Matthew (1991). _A Dictionary of the Roman Empire_. Oxford University Press . p. 382. * ^ Fitch, John (2008). _Seneca_. City: Oxford University Press, USA. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-19-928208-1 . * ^ _The epistles of Lucius Annæus Seneca Vol. I_, Pater-noster-row, 1786, p. i. * ^ Michelle Ballif, Michael G. Moran (eds.), _Classical Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources_ (p. 343), Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005, ISBN 0313321787 . * ^ Fortenbaugh, W, ed. (10 December 2010). _Theophrastus of Eresus Commentary Volume 6.1: Sources on Ethics_. Brill . ISBN 9004194223 . Retrieved 2015-04-05. * ^ Miriam T. Griffin. _Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics_, Oxford 1976. 34. * ^ Cons Helv. 19.2 * ^ Sir Roger L\'Estrange , _Seneca's Morals by Way of Abstract_ (second page of part _of Seneca\'s writings_), S. Ballard, 1746. * ^ The _Senatus Consultum Trebellianum_ was dated to 25 August in his consulate, which he shared with Trebellius Maximus. _Digest_ 36.1.1 * ^ Cassius Dio claims Seneca and Burrus "took the rule entirely into their own hands," but "after the death of Britannicus, Seneca and Burrus no longer gave any careful attention to the public business" in 55 (Cassius Dio, _Roman History_, LXI.3–7) * ^ Hadas, Moses (1958). _The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca_. p. 7. * ^ Cassius Dio, Book LXI.33.9. * ^ Dio, 62.2.1 * ^ Tacitus (1964). _The Annuals of Imperial Rome_. Penguin Books. p. 326. * ^ Tacitus (1964). _The Annuals of Imperial Rome_. Penguin Books. p. 328. * ^ Tacitus (1964). _The Annuals of Imperial Rome_. Penguin Books. p. 329. * ^ Tacitus (2007). _ The Annals of Imperial Rome_ Book XV . Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb. New York: Barnes & Noble . p. Chapters 60 through 64. * ^ Tacitus (2007). _ The Annals of Imperial Rome_ Book XV . Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb. New York: Barnes & Noble . p. 341. * ^ Moses Hadas. _The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca_, 1958. 1. * ^ Richard Mott Gummere, _Seneca the philosopher, and his modern message_, p.97. * ^ Gummere, _Seneca the philosopher, and his modern message_, p.106. * ^ Moses Hadas. _The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca_, 1958. 3. * ^ _A_ _B_ Campbell, Robin _Letters from a Stoic_ (London 1998) 11. * ^ Tacitus _ The Annals _ (New York 2003) 267. * ^ Tacitus _ The Annals _ (New York 2003) All. * ^ Lydia Motto, Anna Seneca on Trial: The Case of the Opulent Stoic _The Classic Journal_, Vol. 61, No. 6 (1966) pp. 254–258 * ^ Lydia Motto, Anna Seneca on Trial: The Case of the Opulent Stoic _The Classic Journal_, Vol. 61, No. 6 (1966) pp. 257 * ^ Nussbaum, M. (1996), The Therapy of Desire. Princeton University Press * ^ Nussbaum, M. (1999) Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education. Harvard University Press * ^ Harpham, E. (2004) Gratitude in the History of Ideas,19–37 in M. A. Emmons and M. E. McCulloch, editors, The Psychology of Gratitude, Oxford