R. M. GUMMERE
Complete list of Loeb titles can be
found at the end of each volume
SENECA, Lucius Annaeus, born at
Corduba (Cordova) c.$ or 4 B.C., of a
noble and wealthy family, after an ailing
childhood and youth at Rome in an aunt's
care, was a victim of life-long neurosis but
became famous in rhetoric, philosophy,
money-making, and imperial service.
After some disgrace during Claudius' reign
he became tutor and then, in A. 0.^4,
advising minister to Nero, some of whose
worst misdeeds he did not prevent. In-
volved (innocently?) in a conspiracy, he
killed himself by order in A . D . 6 $ . Wealthy,
he preached indifference to wealth;
evader of pain and death, he preached
scorn of both; and there were other
contrasts between practice and principle.
Wicked himself he was not. Of his works
we have 10 mis-called 'Dialogi', seven
being philosophical on providence,
steadfastness, happy life, anger, leisure,
calmness of mind, shortness of life; 3
other treatises (on money, benefits, and
natural phenomena); 124 'Epistulae
morales' all addressed to one person; a
skit on the official deification of Claudius;
and 9 rhetorical tragedies (not for acting)
on ancient Greek themes. Many 'Epistulae'
and all his speeches are lost. Much of his
thought is clever father than deep, and his
style is pointed rather than ample.
?At LUCIUS ANNAEUS
AD LUCILIUM EPISTULAE
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AD LUCILIUM EPISTULAE MORALES
IN TEN VOLUMES
WITH AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION BY
RICHARD M. GUMMERE, Ph.D.
HEJLDMASTER, WILLIAM PENN CHARTER SCHOOL, PHILADELPHIA
LN THREE VOLUMES
HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
WILLIAM HEINEMANN LTD
ISBN 434 99075 2
First printed 1917
Reprinted 1925, 1934, 1953, 1961, 1967, 1979
Printed in Great Britain
CONTENTS OF VOLUME I
INTRODUCTION . vii
I. ON SAVING TIME .... 2
II. ON DISCURSIVENESS IN READING ... 6
III. ON TRUE AND FALSE FRIENDSHIP . . 8
IV. ON THE TERRORS OF DEATH . . .12
v. ON THE PHILOSOPHER'S MEAN ... 20
VI. ON SHARING KNOWLEDGE .... 24
VII. ON CROWDS ...... 28
vni. ON THE PHILOSOPHER'S SECLUSION . . 36
IX. ON PHILOSOPHY. AND FRIENDSHIP . . 42
X. ON LIVING TO ONESELF .... 56
XI. ON THE BLUSH OF MODESTY 60
XII. ON OLD AGE ...... 64
XIII. ON GROUNDLESS FEARS .... 72
XIV. ON THE REASONS FOR WITHDRAWING FROM
THE WORLD . . .84
XV. ON BRAWN AND BRAINS 9^
XVI. ON PHILOSOPHY, THE GUIDE OF LIFE . .102
XVII. ON PHILOSOPHY AND RICHES . . .108
XVIII. ON FESTIVALS AND FASTING . . . Il6
XIX. ON WORLDLINESS AND RETIREMENT . .124
XX. ON PRACTISING WHAT YOU PREACH . . 132
XXI. ON THK RENOWN WHICH MY WHITINGS
WILL BRING YO'.' . . . 1 4-0
XXII. ON THE FUTILITY OF HALF-WAY MEASURES 148
XXIII. ON THE TRUE JOY WHICH COMES FROM
PHILOSOPHY . . . .158
XXIV. ON DESPISING DEATH .... l()4
XXV. ON REFORMATION . . . . .182
XXVI. ON OLD AGE AND DEATH . . . 1 86
XXVII. ON THE GOOD WHICH ABIDES . . 1 $2
XXVIII. ON TRAVEL AS A CURE FOR DISCONTENT . 1<)8
XXIX. ON THE CRITICAL CONDITION OF MAR-
CELLINUS . . 202
XXX. ON CONQUERING THE CONQUEROR .' . 210
XXXI. ON SIREN SONGS ..... 222
XXXII. ON PROGRESS . . . 228
XXXIII. ON THE FUTILITY OF LEARNING MAXIMS . 232
XXXIV. ON A PROMISING PUPIL .... 240
XXXV. ON THE FRIENDSHIP OF KINDRED MINDS . 242
XXXVI. ON THE VALUE OF RETIREMENT . . 24()
XXXVII. ON ALLEGIANCE TO VIRTUE . . . 252
XXXVIII. ON QUIET CONVERSATION . . . 256
XXXIX. ON NOBLE ASPIRATIONS .... 258
XL. ON THE PROPER STYLE FOR A PHILO-
SOPHER'S DISCOURSE . . . 262
XLI. ON THE GOD WITHIN US. . . . 272
XLII. ON VALUES ...... 278
XLI1I. ON THE RELATIVITY OF FAME . . 284
XLIV. ON PHILOSOPHY AND PEDIGREES . . 286
XLV. ON SOPHISTICAL ARGUMENTATION . . 290
XLVI. ON A NEW BOOK BV LUCILIUS . . . 298
XLVII. ON MASTER AND SLAVE .... 300
XLVIII. ON QUIBBLING AS UNWORTHY' OF THE
PHILOSOPHER ... .312
XLIX. ON THE SHORTNESS OF LIFE . . . 322
L. ON OUR BLINDNESS AND ITS CURE . . 330
LI. ON BAIAE AND MORALS .... 336
HI. ON CHOOSING OUR TEACHERS . . 344
LIU. ON THE FAULTS OF THE SPIRIT . 352
LIV. ON ASTHMA AND DEATH . . 360
LV. ON VATIA'S VILLA . . . 364
LVI. ON QUIET AND STUDY . . . 372
LVII. ON THE TRIALS OF TRAVEL . . 382
LVIII. ON BEING ...... 386
LIX. ON PLEASURE AND JOY .... 408
LX. ON HARMFUL PRAYERS .... 422
LXI. ON MEETING DEATH CHEERFULLY . . 424
LXII. ON GOOD COMPANY .... 426
LXI1I. ON GRIEF FOR LOST FRIENDS . . 428
LXIV. ON THE PHILOSOPHER'S TASK . . . 438
LXV. ON THE FIRST CAUSE . . - 444
AMONG the personalities of the early Roman Empire
there are few who offer to the readers of to-day such
dramatic interest as does Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the
author of the Epistles which are translated in this
volume. Born in a province, educated at Rome,
prominent at the bar, a distinguished exile, a trusted
minister of State, and a doomed victim of a capricious
emperor, Seneca is so linked with the age in which
he lived that in reading his works we read those of
a true representative of the most thrilling period
of Roman history.
Seneca was born in the year 4 B.C., a time of
great opportunity, at Corduba, in Spain, son of the
talented rhetorician, Annaeus Seneca. We gather
that the family moved to Rome during the boyhood
of Lucius, that he was educated for the bar, and
that he was soon attracted by the Stoic philosophy,
the stern nurse of heroes during the first century
of the Empire. That his social connexions were
distinguished we infer from the prominence and
refinement of his brother Gallio, the Gallic of the
New Testament, from the fact that he himself was
noticed and almost condemned to death by the
Emperor Caligula soon after he began to speak in
public, and especially because his aunt, whom he
VOL. i A 2 vii
visited in Egypt, was the wife of the governor of
Up to the year 4-1 he prospered. He makes
mention of his children, of his mother who, like the
mother of Goethe, seems to have imbued him with
idealism and a certain amount of mysticism, and of
many valued friends. But during that year, as a
result of court intrigue, he was banished to the
island of Corsica. The charge against him was a too
great intimacy with lulia Livilla, unfortunate sister
of the late emperor, and the arch-foe of Messalina,
whose husband, Claudius, had recalled the princess
from exile. We may discount any crime on Seneca's
part because even the gossip-laden Suetonius says :
" The charge was vague and the accused was given
no opportunity to defend himself."
The eight years of exile were productive of much
literary work. The tragedies, which have had such
influence on later drama, are the fruit of this period,
besides certain essays on philosophic subjects, and a
rather cringing letter to Polybius, a rich freedman
at the court of Claudius. In 49, however, Fortune,
whom Seneca as a Stoic so often ridicules, came
to his rescue. Agrippina had him recalled and ap-
pointed tutor to her young son, later to become the
Emperor Nero. Holding the usual offices of state,
and growing in prominence, Seneca administered the
affairs of the prince, in partnership with Burrus, the
praetorian. Together they maintained the balance
of power between throne and Senate until the death
of Burrus in the year 6 L 2. After that time, a philo-
sopher without the support of military power was
unable to cope with the vices and whims of the
monster on the throne.
The last two years of Seneca's life were spent in
travelling about southern Italy, composing essays on
natural history and relieving his burdened soul by
correspondence with his friend Lucilius. In the
year 65 came his suicide, anticipating an act of
violence on the Emperor's part ; in this deed of
heroism he was nobly supported by his young wife
Paulina The best account of these dark days is
given in Tacitus.
These letters are all addressed to Lucilius. From
internal evidence we gather that the native country
of this Lucilius was Campania, and his native
city Pompeii or Naples. He was a Roman knight,
having gained that position, as Seneca tells us, by
sheer industry. Prominent in the civil service, he
had rilled many important positions and was, at the
time when the Letters were written, procurator in
Sicily. He seems to have had Epicurean tendencies,
like so many men from this part of Italy ; the
author argues and tries to win him over to Stoicism,
in the kindliest manner. Lucilius wrote books, was
interested in philosophy and geography, knew in-
timately many persons in high places, and is thought
by some to be the author of the extant poem Aetna.
When their friendship began we cannot say.
The Naturales Quaestiones and the Letters are the
work of Seneca's closing years. Both are addressed
to Lucilius. The essay De Providentia, which was
also dedicated to him, is of doubtful date, and may
be fixed at any time between the beginning of the
exile in Corsica and the period when the Letters
In spite of the many problems which confront us,
it may be safely said that the years 63-65 constitute
the period of the Letters. We find possible allusions
to the Campanian earthquake of 63, a reference to
the conflagration at Lyons, which took place either
in 64- or in 65, and various hints that the philosopher
was travelling about Italy in order to forget politics.
The form of this work, as Bacon says, is a col-
lection of essays rather than of letters. The recipient
is often mentioned by name ; but his identity is
secondary to the main purpose. The language at
the beginning of the seventy-fifth letter, for example,
might lead one to suppose that they were dashed off
in close succession : " You complain that you receive
from me letters which are rather carelessly written ; "
but the ingenious juxtaposition of effective w r ords,
the balance in style and thought, and the continual
striving after point, indicate that the language of
the diatribe had affected the informality of the
The structure of each letter is interesting. A
concrete fact, such as the mention of an illness, a
voyage by sea or land, an incident like the adventure
in the Naples tunnel, a picnic party, or an assemblage
of friends who discuss questions from Plato, or
Aristotle, or Epicurus, these are the elements which
serve to justify the reflections which follow. After
such an introduction, the writer takes up his theme ;
he deals with abstract subjects, such as the contempt
of death, the stout-heartedness of the sage, or the
quality of the Supreme Good. We shall not mention
the sources of all these topics in footnotes, but
shall aim only to explain that which is obscure in
meaning or unusual in its import. Plato's Theory
of Ideas, Aristotle's Categories, Theophrastus on
1 How Seneca came by this "pointed" style will be
evident to one who reads the sample speeches given in
the handbook of the Elder Seneca.
Friendship, Epicurus on Pleasure, and all the count-
less doctrinal shades of difference which we find in
the Stoic leaders, are at least sketched in outline.
But we must give full credit to the philosopher's
own originality. In these letters, it is impossible
to ignore the advance from a somewhat stiff and
Ciceronian point of view into the attractive and
debatable land of what one may fairly call modern
ideas. The style of the Epistles is bold, and so is
Considered en masse, the letters form a fruitful
and helpful handbook, of the very widest scope
and interest. The value of intelligent reading and
the studies which make for culture is presented to
Lucilius with frequency, notably in Nos. II. and
LXXXVIII. Seneca agrees with the definition of
higher studies as " those which have no reference to
mere utility." The dignity of the orator's profession
(XL. and CXIV.) is brought to the attention of
a young self-made merchant who seems inclined
towards platform display. The modern note is
struck when the author protests against the swinish
and debasing effects of slavery or gladiatorial com-
bats (XLVII. and LXX.) ; preaches against the
degeneracy of drunkenness (LXXXIII.); portrays
the charms of plain living and love of nature
(LVIL, LXVIL, LXXIX., LXXXVI., LXXXVIL,
XC, XCIV.) ; recommends retirement (XVIII., LI.,
LVI., LXXX., CXXII.); or manifests a Baconian
interest in scientific inventions (LVIL, LXXIX.).
Most striking of all is the plea (XCIV.) for the
equality of the sexes and for conjugal fidelity in the
husband, to be interpreted no less strictly than honour
on the part of the wife. The craze for athletics is
also analyzed and rebuked (XV.).
The Epistles contain also, of course, the usual
literary types which every Roman epistolographei
would feel bound to introduce. There is the con-
solatio ; there is the theme of friendship ; there are
second-hand lectures on philosophy taken from Plate
and Aristotle and Theophrastus, as we have indi-
cated above ; and several characteristically Roman
laudations of certain old men (including the author
himself) who wrestle with physical infirmities. But
the Stoic doctrine is interpreted better, from the
Roman point of view, by no other Latin writer. The
facts of Seneca's life prove the sincerity of his utter-
ances, and blunt the edge of many of the sneers
which we find in Dio Cassius, regarding the fabulous
sums which he had out at interest and the costly
tables purchased for the palace of a millionaire.
Finally, in no pagan author, save perhaps Vergil,
is the beauty of holiness (XLI.)so sincerely presented
from a Roman standpoint. Although his connexion
with the early Church has been disproved, Seneca
shows the modern, the Christian, spirit. Three of
the ideals mentioned above, the hatred of combats
in the arena, the humane treatment of slaves, and
the sanctity of marriage, draw us towards Seneca as
towards a teacher like .Jeremy Taylor.
There is no pretence of originality in the Latin
text ; the translator has adopted, with very few
deviations, that of O. Hense's second edition. This
text he has found to be excellent, and he has also
derived assistance from the notes accompanying the
Selected Letters of W. C. Summers.
RICHARD M. GUMMERE.
HAVERFOHD COLLEGE, May, 1916.
The manuscripts of the Letters fall into two clearly
defined parts ; from I. to LXXXVIII. inclusive, and from
LXXXIX. to CXXIV. They are divided into books ; but
in this translation we shall number them only by letters.
For a more detailed description the reader is referred to
Hense's preface to the 1914 Teubner edition.
MSS. available for the first part of the Letters are
(1) Two Paris MSS. of the 10th century, p and P.
(2) Another Paris MS. of the llth century, b.
(3) The codex Laurentianus, of the 9th or 10th century,
containing letters I.-LXV. This is designated as L.
(4) The codex Venetit*, of the same date, containing Nos.
LIII. -LXXXVIII. V.
(5) The codex Metensis, of the llth century, known as M.
(6) The codex Giid'tanus, of the 10th century, which con-
tains scraps of the earliest letters. Designated as g.
For the second part of the Letters, LXXXIX. -CXXIV.,
there is a more limited choice. The best MS. is
Codex Bambergensis, of the 9th century, known as B.
Codex ArgentoratensiSi A, which was destroyed in the siege
of Strassburg, of the 9th or 10th century.
Other MSS., either of less importance or of later date,
may be found in Hense's preface. 1
1 Where the testimony of these later MSS. seems sound, the translator
has omitted Hense's brackets ; the headings of the books into which the
Letters were originally divided are also omitted.
1475 Editio Princeps, Naples. In this were included
most of the philosopher's works, together with
several by the elder Seneca. The Epistles were
published separately, in the same year, at Paris,
Rome, and Strassburg.
1515 Erasmus, Basel.
1605 Lipsius, Antwerp.
1649-1658 J. F. Gronovius (with the elder Seneca),
1797-1811 F. E. Ruhkopf, Leipzig.
1842 C. R. Fickert, Leipzig.
1852 F. Haase, Leipzig.
1898, 1914 2 O. Hense (Teubner), Leipzig.
1910 W. C. Summers, Select Letters (with extensive
introduction and annotations), Macmillan.
1921 O. Hense, Supplementum Quinirianum (Teubner),
1931 A. Beltrami, 2 vols, Rome.
1945- F. Prechac (Fr. trans, by H. Noblot), Bude,
1965 L. D. Reynolds, 0.C.T., 2 vols, Oxford 1965.
There are two separate traditions, one for Letters 1-88,
another for 89-124. A full and excellent account is
given in L. D. Reynolds, The Medieval Tradition of
Seneca's Letters, Oxford 1965.
Textual Studies :
W. H. Alexander, " Seneca's Epistulae Morales, The
Text Emended and Explained," Univ. Calif. Publ.
Vol. 12, pp. 57-88 ; 135-164.
Bertil Axelson, Der Codex Argentoratensis C. VI. 5, Lund
Bertil Axelson, " Neue Senecastudien, Textkrit. Beitrage
zu Senecas Epistulae Morales," Lunds Univ. Ars-
skr. 36, 1 (1939).
Otto Foerster, Handschriftliche Untersuchungen zu Se-
nekas Epistulae Morales . . ., Stuttgart 1936.
Einar Lofstedt, " Zu Senecas Briefen," Eranos 14 (1915),
G. Maurach, Der Bau von Senecas Epistulae Morales,
A. Bourgery, Seneque prosateur, Paris 1922.
Miriam T. Griffin, Seneca : A Philosopher in Politics,
P. Grimal, Seneque, sa vie, son ceuvre, sa philosophic,
Paris 1948, 1957 2 .
Anna Lydia Motto, Seneca Sourcebook: Guide to the
Thought of . . . (arranged by subject in alphabetical
order), Amsterdam 1970. See also her biblio-
graphical surveys in Classical World 54 (1960) and
Rene Waltz, Vie de Seneque, Paris 1909.
(G. P. G., 1979)
THE EPISTLES OF SENECA
L. ANNAEI SENECAE AD
SENECA LVCILIO svo SALVTEM
1 Ita fac, mi Lucili ; vindica te tibi, et tempus, quod
adhuc aut auferebatur aut subripiebatur aut excide-
bat, collige et serva. Persuade tibi hoc sic esse, ut
scribo : quaedarn tempora eripiuntur nobis, quaedam
subducuntur, quaedam effluunt. Turpissima tamen
est iactura, quae per neglegentiam fit. Et si volueris
attendere, maxima pars vitae elabitur male agentibus,
magna nihil agentibus, tota vita aliud agentibus.
2 Quern mihi dabis, qui aliquod pretium tempori ponat,
qui diem aestimet, qui intellegat se cotidie mori ?
In hoc enim fallimur, quod mortem prospicimus ;
magna pars eius iam praeterit. Quicquid aetatis
retro est, mors tenet.
Fac ergo, mi Lucili, quod facere te scribis, omnes
horas conplectere. Sic fiet, ut minus ex crastino
pendeas, si hodierno manum inieceris. Dum dif-
THE EPISTLES OF SENECA
I. ON SAVING TIME
Greetings from Seneca to his friend Lucilius.
CONTINUE to act thus, my dear Lucilius set your-
self free for your own sake ; gather and save your
time, which till lately has been forced from you, or
filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands.
Make yourself believe the truth of my words, that
certain moments are torn from us, that some are
gently removed, and that others glide beyond our
reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however,
is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you
will pay close heed to the problem, you will find
that the largest portion of our life passes while we
are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing
nothing, and the whole while we are doing that
which is not to the purpose. What man can you
show me who places any value on his time, who
reckons the worth of each day, who understands
that he is dying daily ? For we are mistaken when
we look forward to death ; the major portion of death
has already passed. Whatever years lie behind us
are in death's hands.
Therefore, Lucilius, do as you write me that you
are doing : hold every hour in your grasp. Lay hold
of to-day's task, and you will not need to depend so
much upon to-morrow's. While we are postponing,
THE EPJSTLKS OF SENECA
3 iertur, vita transcurrit. Omnia, Lucili, aliena sunt,
tempus tantum nostrum est. In huius rei unius
fugacis ac lubricae possessionem natura nos misit, ex
qua expellit quicumque vult. Et tanta stultitia
mortalium est, ut quae minima et viiissima sunt,
certe reparabilia, imputari sibi, cum impetravere,
patiantur ; nemo se iudicet quicquam debere, qui
tempus accepit, cum interim hoc unum est, quod no
gratus quidem potest reddere.
4 Interrogabis fortasse, quid ego faciam, qui tibi
ista praecipio. Fatebor ingenue : quod apud luxu-
riosum sed diligentem evenit, ratio mihi constat in-
pensae. Non possum me dicere l nihil perdere, sed
quid perdam et quare et quemadmodum, dicam ;
causas paupertatis meae reddam, sed evenit mihi,
quod plerisque non suo vitio ad inopiam redactis :
omnes ignoscunt, nemo succurrit.
5 Quid ergo est ? Non puto pauperem,, cui quantu-
lumcumque superest, sat est. Tu tamen malo serves
tua, et bono tern pore incipies. Nam ut visum est
maioribus nostris, sera parsimonia in fun do est.
Non enim tantum minimum in imo, sed pessimum
1 me dicere Hense ; dic.ere me or rficere nihil me MSS.
a Hesiod, Works and Lays, 3G9.
life speeds by. Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except
time. We were entrusted by nature with the owner-
ship of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery
that anyone who will can oust us from possession.
What fools these mortals be! They allow the cheapest
and most useless things, which can easily be replaced,
to be charged in the reckoning, after they have
acquired them ; but they never regard themselves as
in debt when they have received some of that precious
commodity, time ! And yet time is the one loan
which even a grateful recipient cannot repay.
You may desire to know how I, who preach to you
so freely, am practising. I confess frankly : my
expense account balances, as you would expect from
one who is free-handed but careful. I cannot boast
that I waste nothing, but I can at least tell you what
I am wasting, and the cause and manner of the loss ;
I can give you the reasons why I am a poor man.
My situation, however, is the same as that of many
who are reduced to slender means through no fault
of their own : every one forgives them, but no one
comes to their rescue.
What is the state of things, then ? It is this : I do
not regard a man as poor, if the little which remains
is enough for him. I advise you, however, to keep
what is really yours ; and you cannot begin too early.
For, as our ancestors believed, it is too late to spare
when you reach the dregs of the cask. Of that
which remains at the bottom, the amount is slight,
and the quality is vile. FarewelL
THE EPISTLES OF SENECA
SENECA LVCILIO svo SALVTEM
1 Ex iis quae mihi scribis, et ex iis quae audio,
bonam spem de te concipio ; non discurris nee
locorum mutationibus inquietaris. Aegri aninii ista
iactatio est. Primum argumeiitum conpositae mentis
2 existimo posse consistere et secum morari. Illud
autem vide, ne is La lectio auctorum multorum et
omnis generis voluminum habeat aliquid vagum et
instabile. Certis ingeniis inmorari et innutriri oportet,
si velis aliquid trahere, quod in animo fideliter sedeat.
Nusquam est, qui ubique est. Vitam in peregrina-
tione exigentibus hoc evenit, ut multa hospitia
habeant, nullas amicitias. Idem accidat necesse est
iis, qui nullius se ingenio familiariter applicant, sed
3 omnia cursim et properantes transmittunt. Non