Lucius, or Marcus, Annaeus Seneca, known as
Seneca the Elder and
Seneca the Rhetorician (/ˈsɛnɪkə/; 54 BC – c. 39 AD), was a
Roman rhetorician and writer, born of a wealthy equestrian family of
Cordoba, Hispania. Seneca lived through the reigns of three
Augustus (ruled 27 BC – 14 AD), Tiberius
(ruled 14 AD – 37 AD) and
Caligula (ruled 37 AD – 41 AD). He was
the father of
Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus
Lucius Junius Gallio Annaeanus and the stoic philosopher
Seneca the Younger
Seneca the Younger (Lucius) who was tutor of Nero.
6 Further reading
7 External links
Seneca the Elder is the first of the gens Annaea of whom there is
definite knowledge. His praenomen is uncertain. In the renaissance
his name and his works became confused with his son Lucius Annaeus
Seneca. In the early 16th century
Raphael of Volterra
Raphael of Volterra saw that
there must be two different men. He noted that two of the elder
Seneca's grandsons were called Marcus and since there was a Roman
custom for boys to be given the name of their grandfather, Raphael
adopted the name of Marcus for the elder Seneca. Until the 20th
century this was used as the standard praenomen. However it is now
accepted that this naming custom was not rigid, and since in the
manuscripts he is referred to as Lucius, many scholars now prefer this
praenomen since it would also help explain why their works became so
During a lengthy stay on two occasions at Rome, Seneca attended the
lectures of famous orators and rhetoricians, to prepare for an
official career as an advocate. His 'ideal' orator was Cicero, and
Seneca disapproved of the florid tendencies of the oratory of his
time. A passage in Controversiae expresses a critique of the Asiatic
style of Arellius Fuscus, calling "his ornament too contrived, his
word arrangement more effeminate than could be tolerated by a mind in
training for such chaste and rigorous precepts" (2 pr. 1). Yet
Seneca's own writing for fictitious speakers and situations aims above
all at a striking effect on the audience and is characterized by
"mannerism", "exaggerated use of the colores" and "use of a brilliant,
precious style, one that has recourse to all the artifices of
Asianism, from the accumulation of the rhetorical figures to densely
epigrammatic expression to care over the rhythm of the period."
During the civil wars, his sympathies, like those of his native place,
were probably with Pompey. By his wife Helvia of Corduba, he had three
sons: the eldest was Lucius Annaeus Novatus - later known as Lucius
Junius Gallio Annaeanus - who was a Roman politician and rhetorician;
the middle was Seneca the Younger, the tutor of the Emperor
Nero and a
Stoic philosopher; and the youngest was Marcus Annaeus Mela, a
philosopher and a procurator, who was the father of the poet Lucan.
As he died before his son
Seneca the Younger
Seneca the Younger was banished by Claudius
(41; Seneca, ad Helviam, ii. 4), and the latest references in his
writings are to the period immediately after the death of Tiberius, he
probably died about 38 AD.
At an advanced age, at the request of his sons, he prepared, it is
said from memory, a collection of various school themes and their
treatment by Greek and Roman orators. This collection, frequently
called Declamations, he arranged in ten books of Controversiae
(imaginary legal cases) in which seventy-four themes were discussed,
the opinions of the rhetoricians upon each case being given from
different points of view, then their division of the case into
different single questions (divisio), and, finally, the devices for
making black appear white and extenuating injustice (colores).
Each book was introduced by a preface, in which the characteristics of
individual rhetoricians were discussed in a 'lively' manner. The work
is incomplete, but the gaps can be to a certain extent 'filled up',
with the aid of an epitome made in the 4th or 5th century for the use
of schools. The romantic elements were utilized in the collection of
anecdotes and tales called Gesta Romanorum. For Books I, II, VII, IX,
and X we possess both the original and the epitome; for the remainder,
we have to rely upon the epitome alone. Even with the aid of the
latter, only seven of the prefaces are available.
The Controversiae were supplemented by the Suasoriae (exercises in
hortatory or deliberative oratory), in which the question is discussed
whether certain things 'should, or should not be done'. The whole
forms the most important authority for the history of contemporary
Seneca was also the author of a lost historical work, containing the
Rome from the beginning of the civil wars almost down to
his own death, after which it was published by his son. Of this we
learn something from the younger Seneca's De vita patris (H. Peter,
Historicorum Romanorum fragmenta, 1883, pp. 292, 301), of which
the beginning was discovered by Barthold Georg Niebuhr. The father's
claim to the authorship of the rhetorical work, generally ascribed to
the son during the Middle Ages, was vindicated by the Renaissance
Raffaello Maffei and Justus Lipsius.
Nicolas Lefèvre (Nicholas Faber) (Paris, 1587)
JF Gronovius (Leiden, 1649, Amsterdam, 1672)
Conrad Bursian (critical edition) (Leipzig, 1857)
Adolf Kiessling (Leipzig, 1872)
Hermann Johannes Müller (Prague, 1887)
Michael Winterbottom, (1974) Declamations, (Controversiae, Suasoriae.
Fragments). 2 vols. Loeb Classical Library
^ Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William
^ a b c Sussman, Lewis A. (1978). The Elder Seneca. Brill. p. 19.
^ Elaine Fantham, in Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 1,
1989, p. 279
^ Gian Biagio Conte, Latin Literature: A History, trans. Sodolow, JHU
Press, 1994, p. 405
^ Emily Wilson, The Greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca. Oxford
University Press, 2014. p.117
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Seneca".
Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Library resources about
Seneca the Elder
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Bodel, John. (2010). Kangaroo Courts: Displaced Justice in the Roman
Novel. In Spaces of Justice in the Roman World. Edited by Francesco de
Angelis, 311-329. Boston: Brill.
Fairweather, Janet. (1981). Seneca the Elder. Cambridge: Cambridge
Fantham, Elaine (1978). Imitation and Decline: Rhetorical Theory and
Practice in the First Century after Christ. Classical Philology,
Griffin, Miriam. (1972). The Elder Seneca and Spain. Journal of Roman
Gunderson, Erik. (2003). Declamation, Paternity, and Roman Identity:
Authority and the Rhetorical Self. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Huelsenbeck, B. (2011). The Rhetorical Collection of the Elder Seneca:
Textual Tradition and Traditional Text. Harvard Studies in Classical
Philology, 106, 229-299.
Imber, Margaret. (2008). Life Without Father: Declamation and the
Construction of Paternity in the Roman Empire. In Role Models in the
Roman World: Identity and Assimilation. Edited by Sinclair Bell and
Inge Lyse Hansen, 161-169. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
McGill, Scott. (2012). A Spectrum of Innocence: Denying Plagiarism in
Seneca the Elder. In Plagiarism in Latin Literature. By Scott McGill,
146–177. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Richlin, Amy. (1997). Gender and Rhetoric: Producing Manhood in the
Schools. In Roman Eloquence:
Rhetoric in Society and Literature.
Edited by William J. Dominik, 90-110. London: Routledge.
Roller, Matthew (1997). Color-Blindness: Cicero's Death, Declamation,
and the Production of History. Classical Philology, 92(2), 109-130.
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