Category Archives: Seneca to Lucilius

Seneca to Lucilius: how to live like a philosopher

The Philosopher, Delphi Museum, photo by Massimo

The Philosopher, Delphi Museum, photo by Massimo

[see here for a brief introduction to this ongoing series]

The fifth letter that Seneca writes to his friend Lucilius concerns the proper way to conduct oneself as a philosopher, and it is an interesting example of PR on behalf of the profession, which apparently needed it even then!

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Seneca to Lucilius: on the terrors of death

Anonymous. 'Pendant with a Monk and Death,' 1575-1675

Anonymous. ‘Pendant with a Monk and Death,’ 1575-1675

[see here for a brief introduction to this ongoing series]

The fourth letter to Lucilius by Seneca concerns the recurring Stoic theme of death and how to think about it. It begins with a charming reminder of a Roman rite of passage, which Seneca uses to reassure his friend that things are only going to get better with age, from the point of view of wisdom:

“You remember, of course, what joy you felt when you laid aside the garments of boyhood and donned the man’s toga, and were escorted to the forum; nevertheless, you may look for a still greater joy when you have laid aside the mind of boyhood and when wisdom has enrolled you among men.” (IV.2)

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Seneca to Lucilius: on true and false friendship

Friendship[see here for a brief introduction to this ongoing series]

The third letter to Lucilius is on the topic of friendship, and here Seneca advises his pal to tread carefully and make important distinctions. To begin with, he says that one cannot decouple friendship from trust: if one doesn’t trust another person, then one cannot reasonably say that that person is a friend. However, the relationship between friendship and trust is cast by Seneca in the following manner:

“When friendship is settled, you must trust; before friendship is formed, you must pass judgment.” (III.2)

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Seneca to Lucilius: on saving time

Seneca the YoungerI have been going through Seneca’s famous Moral Epistles, written to his friend Lucius, so it’s time to begin covering them on this blog. This is the first of a good number of occasional entries which will cover the full range of topics in the Letters, though not every single entry. Most of these posts will be short commentaries with excerpts, since many of the letters are brief. The translation I am using is the classic 1916 one by Richard Gummere. A very recent, excellent, new translation has just been published, by Margaret Graver and Anthony Long. The reason I’m using Gummere’s is because of my purely aesthetic preference for a slightly more old fashioned language.

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