Lord Macaulay once said that Seneca the Younger was easily quotable, but reading him straight through would be like “dining on nothing but anchovy sauce.”
I agree! Thus I present some of the condensed wit and wisdom of Seneca, every Saturday.
EPISTLE LXVII — On ill health and endurance of suffering
You say: “If it is a good to be brave under torture, to go to the stake with a stout heart, to endure illness with resignation, it follows that these things are desirable. But I do not see that any of them is worth praying for…”
My dear Lucilius, you must distinguish between these case; you will comprehend that there is something within them to be desired. I should prefer to be free from torture; but if the time comes when it must be endured, I shall desire that I may conduct myself therein with bravery, honor, and courage. Of course I prefer that war should not occur; but if war does occur, I shall desire that I may nobly endure the wounds, the starvation, and all that the exigency of war brings. Nor am I so mad as to crave illness; but if I must suffer illness, I shall desire that I may do nothing which shows lack of restraint, and nothing that is unmanly. The conclusion is, not that hardships are desirable, but that virtue is desirable, which enables us patiently to endure hardships.
Seneca Epistles 66-92, Translation by Richard M. Gummere. Loeb Classical Library.
Photo credit: Gunnar Bach Pedersen, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.