Seneca on Saturday… on Sunday!

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Statue of Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger,
Statue of Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger in Cordoba, Spain, by Amadeo Ruiz Olmos

On Peace of Mind, X:

Knowing to what sorrows we were born, there is nothing for which Nature more deserves our thanks than for having invented habit as an alleviation of misfortune, which soon accustoms us to the severest evils. No one could hold out against misfortune if it permanently exercised the same force as at its first onset. 

From: The Ninth Book of the Dialogues of L. Annaeus Seneca, Addressed to Serenus. Minor Dialogs Together with the Dialog “On Clemency”; Translated by Aubrey Stewart. Bohn’s Classical Library Edition; London, George Bell and Sons, 1900; Scanned and digitized by Google from a copy maintained by the University of Virginia.

Seneca on Saturday — Relative Poverty and Other Imagined Dangers

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Statue of Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger,

Statue of Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger in Cordoba, Spain, by Amadeo Ruiz Olmos

CIV. ON CARE OF HEALTH AND PEACE OF MIND

Suppose that you hold wealth to be a good: poverty will then distress you, and,  —which is most pitiable,— it will be an imaginary poverty. For you may be rich, and nevertheless, because your neighbour is richer, you suppose yourself to be poor exactly by the same amount in which you fall short of your neighbour. You may deem official position a good; you will be vexed at another’s appointment or re-appointment to the consulship; you will be jealous whenever you see a name several times in the state records. Your ambition will be so frenzied that you will regard yourself last in the race if there is anyone in front of you. Or you may rate death as the worst of evils, although there is really no evil therein except that which precedes death’s coming —fear. You will be frightened out of your wits, not only by real, but by fancied dangers, and will be tossed for ever on the sea of illusion…

For peace itself will furnish further apprehension. Even in the midst of safety you will have no confidence if your mind has once been given a shock; once it has acquired the habit of blind panic, it is incapable of providing even for its own safety. For it does not avoid danger, but runs away. Yet we are more exposed to danger when we turn our backs.

Seneca Epistles 93-124, Translation by Richard Gummere. Loeb Classical Library.

Photo credit: Gunnar Bach Pedersen, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Seneca on Saturday: fair-weather friends

Statue of Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger,

Statue of Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger in Cordoba, Spain, by Amadeo Ruiz Olmos

IX: On Philosophy and Friendship

These are the so-called “fair-weather” friendships; one who is chosen for the sake of utility will be satisfactory only so long as he is useful. Hence prosperous men are blockaded by troops of friends; but those who have failed stand amid vast loneliness, their friends fleeing from the very crisis which is to test their worth. Hence, also, we notice those many shameful cases of persons who, through fear, desert or betray. The beginning and the end cannot but harmonize. He who begins to be your friend because it pays will also cease because it pays.

Seneca Epistles 1-65, by Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger. Translation by Richard Gummere. Loeb Classical Library.

 

 

Seneca on Saturday: On the provocations of vice

Dionysius (the Roman god Bacchus) riding on the back of a lion, accompanied by satyrs. Ancient Roman mosaic, 2nd-3rd century CE. El Djem Museum, Tunisia. Image from Theoi Greek Mythology. 

XLI: On Baiae and morals

“Just as I do not care to live in a place of torture, neither do I care to live in a café. To witness persons wandering drunk along the beach, the riotous revelling of sailing parties, the lakes a-din with choral song, and all the other ways in which luxury, when it is, so to speak, released from the restraints of law not merely sins, but blazons its sins abroad, — why must I witness this? We ought to see to it that we flee to the greatest possible distance from provocations to vice. We should toughen our minds, and remove them far from the allurements of pleasure. A single winter relaxed Hannibal’s fibre; his pampering in Campania took the vigour out of that hero who had triumphed over Alpine snows. He conquered with his weapons, but was conquered with his vices.” 

Seneca Epistles 1-65, by Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger. Translation by Richard Gummere. Loeb Classical Library.

 

 

Seneca on Saturday (on Tuesday)

A cast of the tombstone of the centurion M Favonius Facilis from Colchester, United Kingdom, 43-50 CE.

XLIX: On the shortness of life

“Why do you torment yourself and lose weight over some problem which it is more clever t o have scorned than to solve? When a soldier is undisturbed and traveling at his ease, he can hunt for trifles along his way; but when the enemy is closing in on the rear, and a command is given to quicken the pace, necessity makes him throw away everything which he picked up in moments of peace and leisure. I have no time to investigate disputed inflections of words, or to try my cunning upon them.” 

Seneca Epistles 1-65, by Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger. Translation by Richard Gummere. Loeb Classical Library.

 

Photo by Brownie Bear on flickr·

Seneca on Sunday: Everything depends on opinion

Mosaic from the Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina, Sicily. Third century CE.

LXXVIII — On the healing power of the mind

But do not of your own accord make your troubles heavier to bear and burden yourself with complaining. Pain is slight if opinion has added nothing to it; but if, on the other hand, you begin to encourage yourself and say, “It is nothing, – a trifling matter at most; keep a stout heart and it will soon cease”; then in thinking it slight, you will make it slight. Everything depends on opinion; ambition, luxury, greed, hark back to opinion. It is according to opinion that we suffer. A man is as wretched as he has convinced himself that he is. 

Seneca Epistles 66-92, by Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger. Translation by Richard Gummere. Loeb Classical Library.