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Dialogues and Letters (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 1, 1997
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Latin
About the Author
Lucius Annaeus Seneca, statesman, philosopher, advocate and man of letters, was born at Cordoba in Spain around 4 BC. He rose to prominence in Rome, pursuing a career in the courts and political life, for which he had been trained, while also acquiring celebrity as an author of tragedies and essays. Falling foul of successive emperors (Caligula in AD 39 and Claudius in AD 41), he spent eight years in exile, allegedly for an affair with Caligula’s sister. Recalled in AD 49, he was made praetor and was appointed tutor to the boy who was to become, in AD 54, the emperor Nero. On Nero’s succession, Seneca acted for some eight years as an unofficial chief minister. The early part of this reign was remembered as a period of sound government, for which the main credit seems due to Seneca. His control over Nero declined as enemies turned the emperor against him with representations that his popularity made him a danger, or with accusations of immorality or excessive wealth. Retiring from public life he devoted his last three years to philosophy and writing, particularly the Letters to Lucilius. In AD 65 following the discovery of a plot against the emperor, in which he was thought to be implicated, he and many others were compelled by Nero to commit suicide. His fame as an essayist and dramatist lasted until two or three centuries ago, when he passed into literary oblivion, from which the twentieth century has seen a considerable recovery.
Top customer reviews
The essays and letters read in the classic proscriptive style of stoic philosophy (see especially the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius). It was filled with succinct proverbial exhortations that are memorable and penetrating. Seneca and the stoics provide more psychological self-help than most contemporary books in that genre. There is a reason some authors are still read after 2000 years. A quick read and for a worthwhile investment in time--at least for those who are new to Seneca.
Some of my favorites:
It is better to be despised for simplicity than to suffer agonies from everlasting pretense. Still let us use moderation here: there is a big difference between living simply and living carelessly.
We should also make ourselves flexible, so that we do not pin our hopes too much on our set plans and can move over to those things to which chance has brought us without dreading a change in either our purpose or our condition, provided that fickleness, that fault most inimical to tranquility, does not get a hold of us.
The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and losses today.