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 — a good-humoured stomach

Third Century CE mosaic of a baker, from a series of scenes from the agricultural calendar at St. Romain-en-Gal, exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum of France, in Saint German-en-Laye. Photo courtesy of M. Fuller.

CVIII. On the conflict between pleasure and virtue

It is necessary that one grow accustomed to slender fare: because there are many problems of time and place which will cross the path of even of the rich man and one equipped for pleasure, and bring him up with a round turn. To have whatsoever he wishes is in no man’s power; it is in his power not to wish for what he has not, but cheerfully to employ what comes to him. A great step towards independence is a good-humoured stomach, one that is willing to endure rough treatment.

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