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Stoic Philosophy of Seneca: Essays and Letters Paperback – September 17, 1968

4.7 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Representative selections from Seneca's writings offer the reader an excellent introduction to the range of his work. Translated and with and introduction by Moses Hadas.

About the Author

AESCHYLUS: A complete fifth-century Athenian, he was the creator of her proudest artistic achievement, tragedy. By using more than one actor he changed the form of plays from recited poetry to true dramatic dialogue, thereby making possible the sweeping grandeur of his great trilogy, THE ORESTEIA.<br><br>SOPHOCLES: The most popular tragedian of the Golden Age, he expanded the scope of classic drama by his technical innovations and lyric intensity, leaving the world such masterpieces as ANTIGONE and OEDIPUS THE KING, the play Aristotle called the perfect model of Greek tragedy.<br><br>EURIPIDES: A prolific author, Euripides wrote some one hundred plays. In contrast to his contemporaries, he brought an exciting-and, to the Greeks, a stunning-realism to the &quot;pure and noble&quot; form of tragedy. His influence altered drama forever, and he is regarded today as the originator of modern dramatic sensibility.<br><br>ARISTOPHANES: The most famous comic playwright of ancient Greece, he wrote what are now the only extant representative of Greek Old Comedy. His three outstanding characteristics-gross obscenity, exquisite lyricism, and a serious concern for decency and morality-may seem a strange combination to the modern reader. Aristophanes is still regarded by modern audiences as a master of risqu&#233; wit and brilliant comic invention.

AESCHYLUS: A complete fifth-century Athenian, he was the creator of her proudest artistic achievement, tragedy. By using more than one actor he changed the form of plays from recited poetry to true dramatic dialogue, thereby making possible the sweeping grandeur of his great trilogy, THE ORESTEIA.<br><br>SOPHOCLES: The most popular tragedian of the Golden Age, he expanded the scope of classic drama by his technical innovations and lyric intensity, leaving the world such masterpieces as ANTIGONE and OEDIPUS THE KING, the play Aristotle called the perfect model of Greek tragedy.<br><br>EURIPIDES: A prolific author, Euripides wrote some one hundred plays. In contrast to his contemporaries, he brought an exciting-and, to the Greeks, a stunning-realism to the &quot;pure and noble&quot; form of tragedy. His influence altered drama forever, and he is regarded today as the originator of modern dramatic sensibility.<br><br>ARISTOPHANES: The most famous comic playwright of ancient Greece, he wrote what are now the only extant representative of Greek Old Comedy. His three outstanding characteristics-gross obscenity, exquisite lyricism, and a serious concern for decency and morality-may seem a strange combination to the modern reader. Aristophanes is still regarded by modern audiences as a master of risqu&#233; wit and brilliant comic invention.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 261 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 1968)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393004597
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393004595
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

I read this book while in graduate school (when I was suppose to be reading something else of course), and it had a profound effect on me. There are many legends in Stoicism but there are few tangible works, ones that one can imbibe and feel atleast a little filled--other than Marcus Aurelius. This book gives not so much a systematic look at the philosophy but it does have that density and practicality and intimacy, which is so rare. It is interesting and more illuminating than any other book on the topic that I have come across, including the other greats: Epictetus, Aurelius.
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Seneca's one hundred and twenty four letters to Lucilius constitute a secular bible, an ethical catechism written in a gnomic and epigrammatic style that sparkles as it enlightens. So impressed were the early church fathers with Seneca's moral insights that they advanced (fabricated?) the speculation that he must have come within the influence of Christian teachings. T.S. Eliot sneers at Seneca's boyish, commonplace wisdom and points out that the resemblances between Seneca's 'stoic philosophy' and Christianity are superficial. For those seeking a practical, modern manual on how to do good and how to do well, written in the 'silver point' style that values brevity, concision and memorable expression, Seneca's letters are indeed the Good Book.
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Even though this book was written over two thousand years ago, there is so much wisdom that is appropriate today.

I must be honest and tell you that it is not an easy read. Writers of that age did not believe in simple sentence structure. And unless you are a student of ancient history, there are lots of references whom you will not know. However the value is so great that I recommend you spend the time and effort and learn from a great thinker.

Thankfully we have moved to a democratic form of government. The rulers of that day generally ruled by brute force, eliminating those who opposed them. A large part of his writings were to teach people how to deal with the problems of the day.

While our problems are different in name, the underlying principles for dealing with them have not changed. We have learned more about the mind and how it works, so his discourse on the mind is a little dated.

Some examples of his insight:

"It is not that we have so little time but that we lose (waste) so much."

"Many people, I imagine could attain wisdom if they were not convinced they already had it, ..."

"...we are tormented alike by the future and the past. Our superiority brings us much distress; memory recalls the torment of fear, foresight anticipates it. No one confines his misery to the present."

His lessons are still very valuable today.
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I first encountered Seneca in a book by Og Mandino
He was in search of some answers on life

"True happiness is to enjoy the present,
to understand our duties toward God and Man,
not to be amused with either hopes or fears, but to rest content.
For he that is so wants nothing, for what he has is abundantly sufficient,
the great blessings of mankind are in us, and within our reach,
yet we rush around like people in the dark, and fall foul of the very thing we are looking for without finding it.
There must be a sound mind to make a happy man,
there must be a constancy in all conditions
Tranquility is a state of mind which no condition of fortune can elevate or depress
and there is no cheerfulness, like the resolution of a great mind not to be elevated or depressed with good or ill-fortune
True Joy is serene, the seat of it is within,
a wise man is content with his lot whatever it may be,
without anxiously wishing for what he has not"

Seneca

Great Book---Wisdom for our times and ancient times.
Seneca is one of my favorites
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I absolutely loved this book! It is remarkable (and refreshing) to find how similar life now is to Seneca's time. As some sage somewhere has said, "man is always the same, mankind is always changing."

I have thought for some time (since first reading Antifragile) that I probably had a lot in common with the Stoics. Because of that I decided to buy this book about Seneca's Stoic philosophy and find out for myself. While it left the idea of stoicism less sharply defined than I was hoping for, I found every part of this book a total joy to read.

There is a lot of wisdom here and each section is put forth in such a way that it is very easy to understand and the context of Roman life is very illuminating. I honestly do not know if Moses Hadas (the translator) is any good at translating Latin or not. All I know is I think he did a wonderful job with this material. This is an easy book to read and enjoy and I highly recommend it!
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A convenient, scholarly, and entertaining collection of material that illustrates the depth and human interest value of Roman and Stoic philosophy - the topical arrangement makes for fast reference, and the translation is of the first order.
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I bought this book as an introduction to explore Stoicism in the words of one of its major practicing thinkers. I found it full of very wise insights and made me want to read more of this philosopher's writings. I have since moved on to read Seneca's complete works on Stoic ethics from the Loeb Classical Library collection after the good impression that the selections from this book left in me. However, even if you don't intend to pursue the topic in such detail this is a book that can be fully appreciated on its own and is fairly representative of his overall philosophical concerns (pursue virtue through reason, use time wisely, do not let your emotions dictate your actions, abolish your fear of death, philosophy leads to a serene mind under any situation, etc). Seneca is truly one of the great thinkers from ancient times whose well developed opinions we could all benefit greatly from, today and forever.
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