Seneca: Dialogues and Essays (Oxford) 

The Mind Map

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The Mind Map

Life

Vii - Lucius Annaeus Seneca was born around 1 BC as the second of three sons into a wealthy family of the equestrian class (...) His father, likewise born in Spain, but of Italian descent, is known as Seneca the rhetoric; he had a keen interest in rhetorical education and wrote (...) In his son’s writings he is presented as an educated, old fashioned, and down-to-earth Roman, whose attitude to philosophy was a reserved one, although it appears that practical moral philosophy of Spanish descent; she is the address of none of the consolations included in this volume. Seneca’s older brother, annaeus Novatus, later changed his name due to adoption to Juniors Gallio, had a distinguished political career, and become a proconsul of Achaia, where he met the apostle Paul. His younger brother, Annaeus Mela, on whom apparently the elder Senecas hopes had restored more than on his brothers, withdrew from public life as a young man; Mela’s son was the poet Lucan, whose epic on the civil war is extant. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. vII)

What for Seneca might have been an unequivocally happy period of his life was interrupted by frequent and at times dangerous bouts of ill health, notably various respiratory diseases. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. Viii)

In AD 65 the so-called Pionian conspiracy against Nero, in which Seneca had no involvement, gave the emperor a pretext to order him to kill himself. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. X)

Unlike Marcus, Seneca was professed Stoic who unhesitatingly identified with the school. (Stoicism a very short introduction p. 22)

Despite all that, Seneca’s works remain some of our best sources of insight into ancient stoic thought. (Stoicism a very short introduction p.25)

Seneca makes it clear that philosophical theorizing and debate, along with engaged problem solving, are essential to the ultimate goal of making human life better. (Stoicism a very short introduction p. 26)

Human

You were born, to experience loss and to perish, to feel hope and fear, to disturb others and yourself, to dread and yet to long for death, and, worst of all, never to know under what terms you exist. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.70)

Time for philosophy: By the effort of the other men we are led to contemplate things most lovely that have been unearthed from darkness and brought into light: no age has been denied to us, we are granted admission to all, and if we wish by the greatness of mind to pass beyond the narrow continues of human weakness, there is a great tract of time for us to wander through. We may hold an argument with Socrates, feel doubt with Carneades, find tranquillity with Epicurus, conquer human nature with the Stoics, exceed it with the Cynics. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.155)

Care of self

Anticipation method 

We occupy a stage decorated with various properties that are on loan and must be restored to their owner; some of these will be returned on the first day, others on the second, a few only will remain until the final curtain. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.62)

The man who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.61)

No one lives as poor as he was born. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 16)

Despise pain: it will either be relieved or will give you relief. Despise death: it either ends you or takes you elsewhere. Despise Fortune: I have given her no weapon for striking your soul. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.18)

No condition is so distressing that a balanced mind cannot find some comfort in it. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.128)

The happy man is the one who permits reason to evaluate every condition of his existence. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.90)

The condition under which we are born would be favorable if only we did not abandon them. Nature’s interaction was that we should need no great equipment for living in happiness: every one of us is capable of making himself happy. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.166)

Train your senses for strength 

In the consolation to Helvia Seneca attempts to console his mother, who is lamenting his exile. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.xxiii)

It is by enduring ills that the mind can acquire contempt for enduring them. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.12)

All our senses should be trained to acquire strength. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.47)

Democritus is our model rather than Heraclitus. For the latter, whenever he went out in public, used to weep, regarding all man’s actions as misery, but the former would laugh, regarding them as folly. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.135)

It is more human to laugh at life than to weep tears over it. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.135)

Calmness of mind 

You ask what help in my opinion should be adopted to combat this feeling of boredom. The best course, as Athenodorus says, would be to engage in a particular matter, the administration of the public business and the duties of a citizen. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.118)

On the tranquillity of the mind: Seneca suggests that as a cure for his state of anxiety and relentlessness he needs to achieve calmness of mind which he will bring about by combining the fulfillment of his professional duties with philosophical reflection. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.xxii)

Given the importance accorded to care for the self, the stoics treated most of the things that ordinary people either desire or dread in life as “indifference” (adiaphora) but made a distinction between “preferred indifference”, which are “in accordance with nature”, and others. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. xi)

What you long for is a thing that is great supreme, and very close to the state of being a god: to be unshaken. This constant state of mental composure the Greeks call euthymia, on which Democritus has written an outstanding treatise; I call it tranquillity. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.115)

Let nature make whatever use she pleases of matter, which is her own: let us be cheerful and brave in the face of all, and consider that nothing of our own parishes. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 14)

According, you may be bold in declaring that the highest good is the harmony of the spirit; for virtues must reside where harmony and unity exist: discord is attendant on the vice. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 92)

So pleasure is not the reward or the cause of virtue but a buy- product, and virtue does not give pleasure because it delights but, if it gives pleasure, it also delights. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.92)

The two most beautiful things will follow us wherever we go, universal Nature and our own virtue. This, believe me, was the will of the great creator of the universe, whoever he was, whether a god with power overall or incorporeal reason. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.171)

I shall never be ashamed of quoting a bad author if the point he makes is good. Pubilius:” Whatever fate one man strikes can come to all of us alike.” (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.130)

“Whatever fate one man can strike can come to all of us alike”  That man lost his children: you too can lose yours (....) examples. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.61)

Changing place can be tolerated if it is only the place you change; poverty can be tolerated if it does not involve a loss of reputation, which even on its own is accustomed to crush men’s spirits. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.178)

Escape boredom

You ask what help in my opinion should be adopted to combat this feeling of boredom. The best course, as Athenodorus says, would be to engage in particular matters, the administration of the public business and the duties of a citizen. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.118)

On the tranquillity of the mind: Seneca suggests that as a cure for his state of anxiety and relentlessness he needs to achieve calmness of mind which he will bring about by combining the fulfillment of his professional duties with philosophical reflection. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.xxii)

For if we dispense with all social intercourse and, turning our backs on the human race, we live turned in on ourselves alone, this solitary state lacking in any interest will be followed by a lack of any projects to be accomplished. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.119)

It is, however, necessary to combine the two things, solitude, and crowd, and to have recourse to them alternately: the former will make us long for people, the latter for our selves, and the one will be a cure for the other: our distaste for the crowd will be cured by solitude, our boredom with solitude by the crowd. 

It is the example of others that destroy us: we will regain our health, if only we distance ourselves from the crowd. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.86)

Make your social surrounding good 

It is also the case that the man who lives with peaceful people not only becomes better through example but does not practice his anger because he finds no reason for his weakness to operate. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 25)

Ascertain bodily diseases spread to others from contact, so the mind passes on its faults to those nearest. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.24)

Nothing, however, delights the mind as much as loving and loyal friendship. How great a blessing it is to have those whose hearts are ready to receive every secret in confidence, whose knowledge of you causes you less fear than your knowledge of yourself, whose conversation relieves your anxiety, whose opinion facilitates your decision, whose cheerfulness swatters your gloomy thoughts, whose very appearance makes you joyful. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.123)

Our choice will naturally fall on those who, as far as possible, are free from personal desires; for vices move stealthily, and swiftly pass to all those nearest, spreading their contagion. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.124)

Choose men who are honest, easygoing, and have self-control, the sort who will not arouse your anger and yet will tolerate it; more useful still will be men who are amenable, kind, and charming, but not to the point of flattery. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 25)

So in selecting friends we shall pay attention to their character so that we may enlist as few as possible who suffer from impurities. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.124)

You should avoid in particular those of a melancholy disposition who find cause for tears in everything and enjoy every opportunity for complaint. He may show you constant loyalty and goodwill, but a companion who is disturbed and laments everything is an enemy to tranquillity. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.124)

Intentions 

In the future have to regard not only for the truth of what you say but for the question of whether the man you are addressing can accept the truth. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.45)

Others

No one considers the intention of the person who performs the action, but just the action itself: and yet it is to this person that we should turn our attention, and to the question whether he acted intentionally or by accident, under compulsion or mistakenly, prompted by nature or by a reward, to please himself or to oblige mother. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.28)

Those who lavish every care on raising puppies and birds and other foolish pets take some pleasure in the sight and touch and fawning caresses of these dumb animals. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.64)

You

even if you have committed no wrong, you are capable of it. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.41)

On how to advise

I am aware that all who wish to give advice to someone stand instructions and end with examples (...) change this custom (...) some are guided by reason, some require to be confronted with famous names and the authority that takes away. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.55)

If the sufferer becomes more violent, it will stamp on him a feeling of shame of fear that he cannot resist; it he grows calmer, it will introduce conversation that is either welcome or novel and will distract him encouraging a thirst for knowledge. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.49)

The wise man, then, will see what method of treatment to use on what type of character, how the crooked may be straightened. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.217)

Fear the creation 

Reflect that no evils afflict one who has died, that the accounts which make underworld a place of terror to us are mere tales, that no darkness threatens the dead, no prison, or rivers blazing with fire, no river of Forgetfulness, or seats of judgment, no sinners answering for their crimes, or tyrants a second time in that freedom which so lacks fetters: these are imaginings of poets, who have tormented us with groundless fear. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.73)

However, fear brings some quickly back to their senses, while others it drives more violently astray and turns them into madmen. This is why during wartime people wander about with their minds distracted, and never will you find more examples of prophesying than when fear compounded with religious feeling strikes the mind. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.244)

Fear the habit 

How angry they become if the barber has been a little careless, as though it were a real man he was shearing! How they flare up in rage if anything is lopped off their mane (...) whose fingers are constantly snapping as they beat out time to some song in their head. (...) As for their banquets heaven help us! (...) How skilfully the birds are sliced into portions of just the right amount, how meticulously wretched little slaves wipe away the mess of drunken guests. These are the means by which they seek to win a name for elegance and stylishness, and to such an extent do their bad habits accompany them into all the backwaters of life that ostentation marks even their drinking and eating. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.152)

But my particular fear is that habit, which brings stability to most things, will make this fault I have more deeply fixed in me: lengthy dealings with things evil, no less than good, cause us to love them. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.112)

If you wish to fear nothing, consider that all things are to be feared. Observe how we are crushed by trivial reasons. Without a certain proportion neither food, nor drink, or wakefulness, or sleep is a benefit to our health. You will soon understand that we are trifling, weak little bodies, lacking stability, and liable to be destroyed by no great effort. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.222)

Fear of death 

Accordingly, Lucilius, as far as you can, muster your courage against the fear of death: it is this fear that makes us abject; this is what disturbs and destroys the very life it spares. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.247)

Know your own illness/weakness 

Moreover, since the human soul only has a rational part, which receives different types of impressions to which we can then assent or not, there is strictly speaking only one sin namely, asserting in cases where it is wrong to give assent. This helps to explain one of the Stoic paradoxes: that one is either a sage or a madman. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.xiv)

The wise man is neither raised up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity; for always he has striven to rely predominantly on himself and to derive all joy to himself. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.166)

Philosophical studies: they will heal your wound, they will pluck from your memory every rooted sorrow. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.183)

Many things worth knowing to wait for you in this manner of life - the love and exercise of the virtues, the ability to forget the passions, the knowledge of living and dying, a state of deep repose. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.161)

Let a man not be corrupted by externals, let him be invincible and an admirer of himself alone, “confident in spirit and for either end prepared” one who shapes his own life; let his assurance not lack knowledge, and his knowledge does not lack resolution; let his decisions, once made, stand firm, and let there be no alteration in his decrees. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.91)

It is an advantage to know one’s own illness and to destroy its strength before it has the scope to grow. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.27)

Not all men are wounded in the same place, and so you ought to know what part of you is weak, so you can give it the most protection. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.27)

Responsibility can be used to defend anyone’s conduct. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.40)

Normally disturbed by:

Idle

Foolish things

we are disturbed by idle, foolish things. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.43)

Early-stage of illness:

Treat with rest 

The early stages of illness are best treated by rest. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.49)

Mind not always tense

Direct it to amusement sometimes 

And the mind should not be kept constantly at the same tension but should be turned aside to amusement. Socrates was not ashamed to play with small children, and Cato used to relax his mind with wine when cares of state had made it weary, and Soipio, great soldier and winner of triumphs as he was, would dance to the sound of music, not gyrating voluptuously as is the custom nowadays. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.138)

We must allow our minds some relaxation. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.138)

Those who founded our laws established days of the festival so that men would be compelled by the state to indulge in merriment, as they thought it was necessary to moderate their effort by some interruption of their toils; and a certain great man. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.138)

Asinus Pollio, the great orator, who never engaged in any business beyond the hour; after that hour he would not even read letters, in case some fresh matter needing his attention should arise, but rather in those two hours he would grant himself release from all day’s weariness. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.138)

Rest 

Walk 

Drinking 

Occasionally we should reach the stage even of intoxication, allowing it, not to drown us, but to take over our senses; for if washes away our cares, and rouses the mind from its depths, acting as a cure for its melancholy as it does for certain maladies. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.139)

We should also take out of doors, so that our minds may be energized and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing; sometimes stimulus will be provided by carriage journey and a change of place and good company and generous drinking. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.139)

Action 

Whenever you attempt something, measure yourself and at the same time what you are attempting, both the thing you intend and that for which you are intended; for if you fail in the task, the regret this cause will make you bitter. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 24)

Wrongdoing is an everlasting human thing ³⁶

Not only have we done wrong but we shall continue to do so, right to the end of our days. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.193)

Hide nothing from yourself 

I examine the whole of my day and retrace my actions and words: I hide nothing from myself, pass over nothing. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.47)

Should not be equal to the best, but better than the wicked 

It, therefore, one of those who bark against philosophy like dogs should put their usual question: “Why, then do you speak more bravely than you live? Why do you resort to the submissive language before a superior and consider money a necessary accouterment, why are you moved by a loss, shedding tears at the death of your wife or a friend, and why do you have regard for your reputation and let yourself be troubled by spiteful tongues? Why do you farm more extensively than your natural need requires? Why do you flout your own prescriptions when you have dinner? Why do you own fortune of some refinement? Why do you and your guests drink the wine of greater years than yourself? Why is your tableware of gold? Why do you plant trees that will yield only shade? Why does your wife wear in her ears the income of a wealthy house? Why are you young servants dressed in expensive garments? Why is it a matter of art to wait at table in your house, why is the silverware not set out carelessly, just as you please, but served in expert fashion, and why is there a professional to carve your dishes?” Make, if you wish, the further point:” Why do you own property overseas? Why more than you have set eyes on? Why, to your shame, are you so careless that you do not know your handful of slaves by sight, or extravagant that you have a greater number than memory can recall to your knowledge?” I shall respond (...) not that I should be equal to the best, but that I should be better than the wicked. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.99)

Direct your effort to a particular aim 

Accordingly, let all your effort be directed towards a particular aim and keep a particular aim insight. Men are not made restless by activity but driven to madness by false impressions of reality. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.132)

Anger 

On anger, of which book 3 is included here, is dedicated to Seneca’s brother Novatus. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. xxi)

Yours 

Greed procures and amasses wrath for the use of someone who is better: anger spends, few succumb to it without cost. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 22)

As we do not know how to endure injury, let us take pains not to receive any. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.24)

The anger I feel is more likely to do me harm than any wrong you may do me. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.40)

Let anger be set in the midst of these implements, uttering a terrible and horrible shriek, more loathsome than all instruments that let it vent its fury. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.20)

Wild beasts, believe me, present a less ghastly sight than a man on fire with anger, whether they are tormented by hunger or by a weapon that has pierced their innards, even when, half-dead, they attack their huntsman to deliver a final bite. Come, were you fierce to hear the crisis and threats he utters, what manner of language would come from that tortured soul. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.21)

Others 

We will not dare to pacify the first burst of anger with speech: it is deaf and without reason: we will give it room. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.48)

Control 

We shall prevent ourselves from becoming angry if we repeatedly place before our eyes all anger’s faults and form a proper judgment of it. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 22)

Strife feeds itself and makes prisoners of those who dive too deep into in; it is easier to avoid a dispute than to beat a restraint from it. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.25)

Do battle with yourself: If you have the will to conquer anger, it cannot conquer you. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.29)

I do not say that a father should retrain from condemning an act of his king, I do not say he should not seek to punish so abominable a monster as he deserves, but the conclusion I draw for the moment if that even anger arising from an appalling crime can be concealed and compelled to the use of words that contradict it. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.31)

How much better it is that you defend anger than that it defeats itself! (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.41)

Let us be free of this evil (anger) (...) and nothing will help us more in this task than reflecting on our morality. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.50)

The best course is to look out for obstacles to our known weaknesses, and above all to order the mind in such a way that, even when struck by the most serious and sudden events, either it does not feel anger, or buries deep any anger arising from the gravity of so unforeseen on affront, or does not acknowledge that it has been hurt. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.29)

Anger will abate and become more controlled when it knows it must come before a judge each day. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.47)

Origin

Anger is the result of weakness. It cannot exist without our assent to an impulsive impression, and is a misguided expression of the reason (so animal) cannot experience it). (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. xxi)

I shall now try to expel anger from the mind (...) Other vices revolt from good dense, this one from sanity; the other come upon is gently and grow without our noticing: the mind plunges into anger. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 18)

When a man busies himself with many duties, the day never passes so happily for him that he fails to encounter some problem, arising from a person or a situation, which makes his mind ripe for anger. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.23)

In short, the other vices seize individuals, this is the one passion that sometimes takes hold of an entire state. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 19)

Defeat will drive a man of spirit to anger, but induce sadness in one whose nature is sluggish and passive. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.24)

No one who looks at another man’s possessions takes pleasure in his own: for this reason, we grow angry even with the gods, because someone is in front of us, forgetting how many men are behind us and what a massive load of envy follows at the back of those who envy a few. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.44)

Motives

The greatest outcry surrounds money. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.45)

Result 

Surely every man will want to retrain any impulse towards anger when he realizes that it begins by inflicting harm, firstly, on himself. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 21)

Anger has brought grief to a father, divorce to a husband, hatred to a magistrate, defeat to a candidate. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 22)

 

Understand yourself

Understand your need 

I gaze from on high, see the storms that threaten and in a short while from now will burst in torrents upon you, or, already hear at hand, have advanced closer still, to sweep both you and yours away. Need I say more? Though you little realize it, are your minds even now whirled round and spun about by some hurricane, as they flee and seek the same objects, at one moment raised up to highest heaven, at another dashed to the lowest abyss...” (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.111)

It is the wish of all men, Gallio my brother, to live happily (...) And so we must first establish what it is that we seek to gain; then we must search for the road to take us there most speedily. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.85)

That day a man triumphs over pleasure, he will triumph also over pain. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.89)

Understand the real need from your body 

The body’s wants are of little significance: it desires the removal of cold, and the satisfying of hunger and thirst by food and drink; if there is anything we crave beyond these, the effort we expend is for our vices, not our needs. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.173)

Moderate your joys 

I would rather moderate my joys than suppress my sorrows. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.107)

Wealth does not equal to good 

I say that wealth is not good; for if it was, it would make men good; as it is, since something that is. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.106)

Where money is concerned, the ideal amount is one that does not fall into poverty and yet is not far removed from poverty. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.126)

Sickness 

The sickness has countless characteristics but only one effect, dissatisfaction with oneself. This arises from a lack of mental balance and desires that are nervous or unfulfilled when men’s daring or attainment falls short of their desires and they depend entirely on hope; such is always lacking in stability and changeable, the inevitable consequence of living in a state of suspense. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.116)

Death 

Death is neither a good nor evil; for only that which is something can be a good or evil. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.74)

Finally, he has come to rest in a place where nothing can drive him away, where nothing can make him afraid. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.74)

Death frees a man from slavery through his masks are unwilling; it makes light the chains of prisoners; it leads out of prison those forbidden to leave by a tyrant’s power; it shows to exiles, whose eyes and minds turn always to their homeland, that it does not matter beneath whose soil a man may lie. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.74)

Death makes all things equal; after its coming, no man ever does anything again at another bidding. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.74)

It is no hardship to be a slave, if, when a man can no longer bear his master’s yoke, he may with a single step pass to freedom. Life, it thanks to death that you are precious in my eyes. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.75) 

It was no minor point that was in dispute, whether a man (Cordus) on trial should forfeit his right to die; white the debate continued, while his accusers made a second appeal, that a man bad gained his own acquittal. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.79)

Among the other indications of her fairness Nature has this as a cardinal point; when we arrive at death, we are all on an equal footing. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.220)

Death is a relief from all pains

Death is a relief from all pains and a boundary beyond which our suffering cannot go: it returns us to that state of peacefulness in which we lay before we were born. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.74)

Cause 

For often fear of dying is what causes a man to die. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.130)

Death is what you were born for ⁹⁴

Death is what you were born for, and a funeral without words is less irksome. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.114)

Life length 

The condition of all men who are busy with other things is wretched (...) If these men want to know how brief their life is, let them consider how small a part of it belongs to them. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.161)

‘Life is short, but art long’ this that prompted Aristotle, when taking Nature to the task, to file a complaint not at all becoming to a wise man, saying that ‘ in a number of yours she has shown such bias towards animals that they live out five or ten lifetimes, while a far shorter limit has been set for man, though he is born for so many great achievements.’ It is not that we have a brief length of time to live, but that we squander a greater deal of that time. Life is sufficiently long. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 140)

On the shortness of life: In it, Seneca argues that the alleged shortness of human life depends on a mistaken analysis of what is important in life. Indulging one’s pleasure leads to a view in which the success of life becomes a matter of accumulating pleasant experiences. Rather, one has to learn to find the right attitude to time and to value and allocate time in the right way. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.xxii)

Life is long, if only you knew how to use it 

Life is long if only you knew how to use it. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.140)

But if each of them could have placed before him the number of his future years, as could happen with his past years, how dismayed they would be who saw only a few remaining, how sparing in the way they use them! And yet it is an easy matter to dole out an amount that is fixed, however small it may be; you should guard a thing more carefully when you do not know when it will give out. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.148)

Life divides into three periods: that which has been, that which is, and that which is to be. Of these the time we spend is short, that we will spend doubtful, that we have to spend fixed; for the last is the one over which Fortune has lost control, which cannot be brought back into any man’s power. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.149)

Grief 

Do not, I beg you, set your heart on achieving that most perverted form of renown, that of being regarded as the unhappiest of womenkind. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.58)

If no amount of wailing recalls the dead if all distress is powerless to alter a fate that is unchangeable and fixed forever, if death holds fast whatever it has carried away, let sorrow, which runs the course, cease. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.59)

No creature spends a long time in mourning for its offspring except man, who nourishes his grief and has as the measure of affliction not what he feels but what he has decided to feel. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.60)

Nature has been ungenerous to women’s natures and has tightly restricted their virtues? They have just as much energy, believe me, just as much aptitude for noble actions, should they wish: they endure pain and toil as well as we do if they have grown accustomed to them. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.68)

How to stop 

For this reason, it is better to conquer our sadness than to deceive it; for once it has departed, seduced by pleasures or engrossing pursuits, it rises up again and getters fresh momentum for its fury from its very rest; but any grief that has yielded to reason is laid to rest forever. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.183)

Revenge 

Revenge is an admission of pain; a mind that is bowed by injury is not a great mind. The man who has done the injury is either stronger than you or weaker: if he is weaker, spare him, if stronger, spare yourself. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.23)

For the greatest punishment of wrongdoing is having done it, and no one is punished more severely than the man who submits to the torture of contrition. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.40)

Vengeance normally achieves one of two ends: it either brings compensation to the injured party or peace of mind for the future. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.208)

Mercy not piety

Accordingly, just as religion does honor to the gods, while superstition profanes them, so all good men will show mercy and gentleness, but will avoid pity; for it is the defect of a small mind that succumbs to the sight of other’s suffering. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.215)

Pity looks, not to the cause of these men’s condition, but to the condition itself; mercy operates together with reason. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.215)

All these things come about through mercy, not through pardon. Mercy has the freedom to decide; not the letter of the law, but what is fair and good determines the sentence it passes; it has the power to acquit and to assess the damages at whatever value it pleases. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.217)

But to pardon is to waive the punishment of one you judge worthy of punishment; pardon is the cancellation of punishment that is due. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.217)

We can escape the charge of sophistry by defining cruelty as an inclination of the mind to harsher thoughts. Mercy rejects this quality, bidding it stand far away from her; sickness is her natural counterpart. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.215)

The superiority of mercy lies primarily in this, that it declares that those who escape punishment should not have been treated in any way differently; it is more rounded than pardon and more honorable. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.217)

It is, therefore, as I was saying, in accordance with nature for all men to show mercy, but it lends a particular grace to rulers since in their case it has a greater scope and has more generous opportunities for revealing itself. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.193)

On mercy: It reflects the hopes Seneca had for the principal of Nero (...) Seneca argues that mercy is not just opposed to cruelty but also different from the pit, which is a vice, according to the Stoic view. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. xxiii)

I will proceed to persuade you never to feel pity for a good man; for men can call him wretched, but he can never be so. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 7)

Pain 

As weapons bounce off a hand surface and the man who strikes a solid object feels the pain of the impact, so no injury causes a great mind to feel its force, since it is more fragile than the object of its attacker. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.22)

Forgiveness 

When you know there will be may to express anger you behalf to gratify you by spilling another man’s blood, then not only grant safety but to guarantee it - this is true forgiveness. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.199)

Relation with time 

Accordingly, the life of the philosopher has a wide scope, and he is not contained by the same boundaries as the rest of men: he alone is not shackled by the conditions of the human race, and all ages are his servants as if he were good. Should a period of time have passed, he embraces it in his memory; if it is present, he makes use of it; if it is to come, he anticipates it. By combining all times into one he makes his life a long one. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.157)

Bad 

The great part of mankind, Paulinus, complains bitterly about the malice of Nature, in that we are born for a brief span of life, and even this allotted time bushes by so swiftly, so speedily, that with very few exceptions all find themselves abandoned by life just when they are preparing themselves to live. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.140)

The greatest obstacle to living is an expectation, which depends on tomorrow and wastes today. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.148)

So it is with this unbroken and rapid journey of life, that we make at the same pace, whether awake or asleep: those who are busy with other things do not notice it until the end comes. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.149)

They shout repeatedly that they have been fools, as they have not really lived, and, if only they escape from that illness, there will be devoted to leisure: that is when they reflect on how pointlessly they have toiled to gain what they did not enjoy, how all their effort has been utterly wasted. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.151)

And you have no cause to think it any proof that they find time to time they call for death to come: in their lack of judgment, they fall prey to shifting emotions that sweep them into the very things they fear. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.157)

Instead of seeking an end to their miseries, they change the reason for them. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.158)

But those who forget the past, ignore the present, and fear the future have a life that is very brief and filled with anxiety. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.157)

Some lack any belief by which to steer their course, and are caught by fate listless and half-asleep, so much so that I cannot doubt the truth of what we find in the greats of poets, delivered like an oracle: small is the part of life we really live”. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.141)

How late it is to begin living only when one must stop! What foolish forgetfulness of morality to put off well-considered plans to one’s fifteenth and sixtieth year, and to want to begin life at a point that few have reached. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.143)

They lose the day in waiting for the night, and the night in dreading the day. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.158)

Anything that postpones what they hope for seems long to them. Yet that time they love is short-lived and swift, and it is their own fault that makes it much shorter: for they rush from one pleasure to another and cannot remain absorbed in a single passion. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.157)

With great effort, they acquire what they want, with anxiety they hold on to what they have acquired; all this while they take no account of the time that will never more come again; old pursuits give way to new ones, one hope gives rise to another, and so, too, with ambition. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.158)

Wrongs of Self

And yet there is nothing that brings greater trouble on us than the fact that we conform to rumor, thinking that what has won widespread approves is best, and that, as we have so many to follow as good, we live by the principle, not of reason, but of imitation. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.85)

Sometimes we resort to the games of gladiatorial displays to occupy the mind; but even during the diversion of the very spectacles we watch, it is undermined by some trivial detail that awakes our sense of longing. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.183)

One journey after another they embark on, one spectacle they exchange for another. As Lucretius says “ Thus each man ever flees himself”. But what good does it do him if he does not escape from himself? He constantly follows himself and oppresses himself as his own most irksome companion. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.118)

These men will measure out whatever they have drunk in vomit, tasting anew with twisted lips their own bile, but he will drink down poison cheerfully and with a happy heart. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 9)

Pompey was the first to stage a fight in the circus involving eighteen elephants, seeing criminals against them in a shameful battle. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.154)

Accordingly, Lucilius, as far as you can, muster your courage against the fear of death: it is this fear that makes us abject; this is what disturbs and destroys the very life it spares. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.247)

How angry they become if the barber has been a little careless, as though it were a real man he was shearing! How they flare up in rage if anything is lopped off their mane (...) whose fingers are constantly snapping as they beat out time to some song in their head. (...) As for their banquets heaven help us! (...) How skilfully the birds are sliced into portions of just the right amount, how meticulously wretched little slaves wipe away the mess of drunken guests. These are the means by which they seek to win a name for elegance and stylishness, and to such an extent do their bad habits accompany them into all the backwaters of life that ostentation marks even their drinking and eating. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.152)

⁷⁰ I hear that one of these pampered creatures - if “pampering” is a sufficient term for forgetting all one has learned about the habits of human life when he had been lifted by hands from the bath and placed in his sedan-chair, asked the question, “ Am I seated now?” (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.152)

Just as many who lack even a child’s knowledge of literature use books not to further their studies but to decorate their dining-rooms. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.127)

This is the fate of those who measure riches not by reason, whose boundaries are fixed, but by the viciousness we have made habitual in our lives, through its power are beyond measurement and scope. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.175)

No one is his own champion, all waste their energies on others. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.141)

But in the forefront, I count also those men who find time only for wine and lust; for none are more shamefully engrossed. The others, even if they are imprisoned by the vain dream of glory, nonetheless err in a manner not unbecoming. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.145)

“In wretched mortals’ life, the fairest day Is first to flee always” (...) The poet is talking to you about the day, about this very day runs away. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.149)

Everyone rushes his life on and suffers from a yearning for the future and boredom with the present. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.147)

You may, therefore, increase your revenues and extend your boundaries, but never will you enlarge the bodies you have been given. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.174)

Days are not long in their eyes, but hateful. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.157)

Their very pleasures are fearful and troubled by alarms of different kinds; at the very moment of rejoicing the anxious thought occurs to them “ How long will this last?” This feeling has caused kings to weep over their own power; they have not experienced delight in the greatness of their fortune but the terror that it will someday come to an end. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.58)

Accordingly, we ought to know that what makes us struggle is the fault, not of our locations, but of ourselves: we are weak when anything has to be endured, and unable to bear toil or pleasure or ourselves or anything for any length of time. This is what has driven certain man to death because by frequently changing their intentions they were constantly brought back to the same thing and had left themselves no scope for novelty: they began to grow sick of life and the world itself, and their self-indulgent ways that sapped their vigor gave rise to the thought “ How long shall I put up with the same thing. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.118)

Care of others

Good 

Philip had any other virtues, they included a capacity to tolerate insults, an enormous benefit in keeping a throne secure. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p. 37)

“Is it not common for kings to kill?” Yes, but only when they are convinced that the public good requires this course; with tyrants cruelty is a source of pleasure. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.200)

The proposal was made once by the senate that slaves should be distinguished by their clothing from free men; it then appeared how great the imminent danger would be if our slaves should begin to count our number. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.210)

The one fortification he has that will defy all attacks is the love of his people. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.207)

For fear in moderation controls men’s passion, but fear that is persistent and intense and causes desperation makes men without spirit bold and prompts them to try anything. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.201)

Integrate is formed in that state where men are seldom punished, and the virtue receives encouragement as if it were a public good. Let as state think of itself as free from criminal tendencies, and it shall be: it will show more anger towards those not subscribing to the general avoidance of excess if it sees they are few. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.210)

Bad

He wants to be feared because he is hated. “ Let them hate, if only they fear. “ (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.200)

When Pythius, the father of five sons, asked that one be exempted from service, he allowed him to choose the one he wanted, and then he had the chosen son torn in two, and placing each half of him on either side of the road, offered him as a sacrifice to win the god’s favor for his army. Therefore it met the end that was its due: conquered, scattered far and wide in defeat, and witnessing its own destruction on all sides, it tramped along between the two lines of corpses formed by its own soldiers. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.32)

This was the savagery shown in anger by a barbarian king (....) A king tortured by Aristotle, Alexander, who during a banquet stabbed with his own hand one of his closest friends, Clitus, with whom he had grown up, for refusing to flatter him and being reluctant to make the transition from free-born Macedonian to Persian slave. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.32)

p. 32 - 36 examples of torture by anger (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford)

In such fashion did the king of the Persians cut off the noses of an entire people in Syria, from which the place gets its name “ Land of the snub- Nosed” (...) was the kind for not killing them? (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.35)

I see their instruments of torture, not indeed of one kind, but fashioned differently by different people: some hang their victims upside down, some drive stakes through their private parts, others stretch their arms out on a fork-shaped yoke; I see cords, I see whips, and contraptions designed to torture every joint and limb: but I see death as well. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.75)

The Genius

For whether we share the Greek poet's belief that ‘sometimes it is a pleasure even to be a madman’ or Plato’s that ‘ the man in control of his senses knocks in vain on poetry’s door,’ or Aristotle’s that ‘no great genius has never existed without a dash of lunacy’ - whatever the truth only the ind that is roused can utter something momentous that surpasses the thoughts of other men. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.139)

When it has despised the vulgar and the ordinary, and, imbued with holy inspiration, has risen far on high, that is the moment when it utters a strain too magnificent for mortal lips. It cannot attain to any sublime and forbidding hight as long as it is left to itself: it must quit the common path, it must be driven wild and bite its bit, whirling its rider away and carrying him off to a height it would have feared to scale by itself. (Seneca - Dialogues and Essays Oxford p.139)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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