What is Seneca the Younger referring to about Pompey's death?

What is Seneca the Younger referring to about Pompey's death?


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In Seneca the Younger's "On Tranquility of the Mind", he writes:

"You are rich: but are you richer than Pompey? Yet even he lacked bread and water when Gaius, his old relation and new host, had opened the house of Caesar to him so that he could close his own. Though he possessed so many rivers flowing from source to mouth in his own lands, he had to beg for drops of water. He died of hunger and thirst in a kinsman's palace, and while he starved his heir was organizing a state funeral for him."

What is he talking about? Wasn't Pompey stabbed to death?


Pompey did die as essentially a refugee, with little means at hand. So, Seneca may be using a bit of poetic license to drive a point home. Whether Pompey was bankrupt due to having to finance the armies that were then wiped out by Caesar or he simply had no access to what fortunes he left behind - it's not like he could do a Western Union wire transfer!

He couldn't bribe his way into the Egyptian king's favour either:

Pompey's death itself was a sorry affair. After the catastrophic defeat to Caesar at the Battle of Pharsalus in 48 BC, he made for Egypt. The then king of Egypt, Ptolemy XIII, was persuaded by his advisor Pothinus that Pompey should be executed in order to curry favour with Caesar. In Plutarch's vivid account of the event, Pompey sailed to shore in a tiny skiff. Just as he reached the shore, and in full view of his men and his wife Cornelia, he was murdered by those in the boat with him:

Source: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2014/09/the-life-and-death-of-pompey-the-great.html

Also, an interesting read is Jacob Abbott's Julius Caesar, chapter The Flight of Pompey. It's too long to quote here, but snippets are:

He reached, at length, the Vale of Tempe, and there, exhausted with hunger, thirst, and fatigue, he sat down upon the bank of the stream to recover by a little rest strength enough for the remainder of his weary way. He wished for a drink, but he had nothing to drink from. And so the mighty potentate, whose tent was full of delicious beverages, and cups and goblets of silver and gold, extended himself down upon the sand at the margin of the river, and drank the warm water directly from the stream. [… ]

At length he reached the sea-shore, and found refuge for the night in a fisherman's cabin. A small number of attendants remained with him, some of whom were slaves. These he now dismissed, directing them to return and surrender themselves to Cæsar, saying that he was a generous foe, and that they had nothing to fear from him. His other attendants he retained, and he made arrangements for a boat to take him the next day [177] along the coast. It was a river boat, and unsuited to the open sea, but it was all that he could obtain.


Seneca

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Seneca, in full Lucius Annaeus Seneca, byname Seneca the Younger, (born c. 4 bce , Corduba (now Córdoba), Spain—died 65 ce , Rome [Italy]), Roman philosopher, statesman, orator, and tragedian. He was Rome’s leading intellectual figure in the mid-1st century ce and was virtual ruler with his friends of the Roman world between 54 and 62, during the first phase of the emperor Nero’s reign.

Why is Seneca important?

Seneca was a Roman philosopher, statesman, orator, and tragedian. He was Rome’s leading intellectual figure in the mid-1st century CE and was virtual ruler with his friends of the Roman world between 54 and 62, during the first phase of the emperor Nero’s reign. Seneca’s tragedies influenced William Shakespeare and John Webster.

What was Seneca’s family like?

Seneca was the second son of a wealthy family. His father, Seneca the Elder, had been a famous teacher of rhetoric in Rome. His mother’s name was Helvia. His elder brother was Gallio, who met St. Paul the Apostle in Achaea in 52 CE, and his younger brother was the father of the poet Lucan.

What did Seneca write?

Seneca wrote Stoic philosophical treatises, such as the Moral Letters to Lucilius, a series of essays which discuss a range of moral problems. He also wrote tragedies based on particularly bloody and vengeful episodes of Greek myth, such as Thyestes, in which a familial conflict leads to sons being served to their unwitting father as stew.

What were Seneca’s political accomplishments?

As Nero’s tutor, Seneca had considerable political influence in the early years of that emperor’s reign. With his friend Burrus, Seneca introduced fiscal and judicial reforms and fostered a more humane attitude toward slaves. But, as the favourite of a tyrant, he also had to condone—or to contrive—the murder of Nero’s mother, Agrippina.

How did Seneca die?

Seneca fell out of favour with Nero in 62. He withdrew from public life, and in his remaining years he wrote some of his best philosophical works. In 65 Seneca’s enemies denounced him as having been a party to a conspiracy to murder Nero, and he was ordered to commit suicide.


The Death of Pompey

The death of Pompey, a tragedy by French playwright Pierre Corneille on the death of Pompey the Great. It was first performed in 1642, "Julius Caesar" plays Moliere. Like many of Corneilles plays it is noted for the high tones of her character, Cornelia, who admits that her enemy is noble and generous, but warns him when he releases her, she will continue to seek his death.

Triumvirate, which Pompey s marriage to Caesar s daughter Julia helped secure. After Crassus and Julia s deaths Pompey sided with the Optimates, the conservative
Pompeius was the elder son of Pompey the Great Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus by his third wife, Mucia Tertia. Both he and his younger brother Sextus Pompey grew up
and his only child from his marriages. Julia became the fourth wife of Pompey the Great and was renowned for her beauty and virtue. Julia was probably
middle of the 1st century BC. He was a friend of Pompey and wrote an adulatory history of the latter s expedition to Asia. According to Plutarch Pompey granted
English Sextus Pompey 67 BC 35 BC was a Roman general from the late Republic 1st century BC He was the last focus of opposition to the Second Triumvirate
languages of the Western Desert. Pompey s parents were Yankunytjatjara people from lands further south, around Kalka and Kaṉpi in South Australia. Pompey grew
Pompey 1923 1944 was an American Champion Thoroughbred racehorse. Pompey was bred by William Coe and raced under the colors of his Shoshone Stable. Pompey
betrayal and death of Pompey the Great at the hands of one of his own officers, the false one of the title. Scholars date the play to the 1619 20 period
originators of the Town Hall Chimes later, The Pompey Chimes and the team were nicknamed Pompey before the professional Portsmouth F.C. were formed
was the triumvir Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus or Pompey the Great. She is the paternal aunt to Gnaeus Pompeius, Sextus Pompeius and Pompeia Magna, the children
The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781 is a 1783 large oil painting by John Singleton Copley. It depicts the death of Major Francis Peirson at the

remembered as one of the assassins of the triumvir Pompey the Great. At the time of the assassination 48 BC Septimius was serving the Ptolemies of Egypt as a
publicly allies himself with Crassus and Pompey who publicly denounces Cato as responsible for his daughters death Tension also flares briefly between Julius
Yolande Pompey April 22, 1929 - 1979 was a boxer from Trinidad Tobago. He beat his fellow countryman Gentle Daniel in 1950 and 1951. He lost to Bobby
Sextus Pompey Pompeia was born and raised in Rome. In 59 BC, her father Pompey married for a fourth time, to Julia Caesaris, the daughter of Julius Caesar
Pompeius, the paternal uncle of triumvir Pompey and the descendants from Pompey s uncle. For Pompey s son of the same name, see Sextus Pompey Sextus Pompeius
ending in his defeat and death at the Battle of Carrhae. Crassus death permanently unravelled the alliance between Caesar and Pompey His political influence
persuaded Pompey to divorce Antistia and marry Aemilia. The marriage was tragic, the young woman died in childbirth at the house of Pompey Plutarch
Pompey Factor 1849 March 29, 1928 was a Black Seminole who served as a United States Army Indian Scout and received America s highest military decoration - the
pleased to know of Pompey s death Then Cleopatra VII meets and seduces Caesar, and before he leaves he installs her as rightful Queen of Egypt over her
At the Luca Conference, in 56 BC, named for the town of Luca - modern Lucca - in Cisalpine Gaul Caesar met with his political partners, Pompey and Crassus
The First Triumvirate 60 53 BC was an informal alliance among three prominent politicians in the late Roman Republic: Julius Caesar, Pompey and Marcus

referred to in English as Pompey Strabo, to distinguish him from his son, the famous Pompey the Great, or from Strabo the geographer. Strabo s cognomen
that he came from the town of Cingulum in Picenum. His family was of equestrian status. He most likely had early ties with Pompey during his time as
to the match, Cato agreed to divorce Marcia, who then married Hortensius. Between Hortensius death in 50 BC and Cato s leaving Italy with Pompey in 49
The Siege of Jerusalem 63 BC occurred during Pompey the Great s campaigns in the East, shortly after his successful conclusion of the Third Mithridatic
Antistia was the daughter of Publius Antistius of the gens Antistia. She became the first wife of Pompey the Great after he was arraigned on charges of peculation
where he defended the stronghold against Pompey the Great, who had been sent by the Senate to dislodge him. He withstood Pompey s attacks for a while
Libo sided with Pompey He carried out a variety of military, diplomatic and naval roles, with mixed success. After Pompey s death in 48 BC, Libo attached
he had to continue his pursuit so the best course was to put Pompey to death Thus Caesar would be satisfied and the murdered Roman general would no longer

  • Triumvirate, which Pompey s marriage to Caesar s daughter Julia helped secure. After Crassus and Julia s deaths Pompey sided with the Optimates, the conservative
  • Pompeius was the elder son of Pompey the Great Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus by his third wife, Mucia Tertia. Both he and his younger brother Sextus Pompey grew up
  • and his only child from his marriages. Julia became the fourth wife of Pompey the Great and was renowned for her beauty and virtue. Julia was probably
  • middle of the 1st century BC. He was a friend of Pompey and wrote an adulatory history of the latter s expedition to Asia. According to Plutarch Pompey granted
  • English Sextus Pompey 67 BC 35 BC was a Roman general from the late Republic 1st century BC He was the last focus of opposition to the Second Triumvirate
  • languages of the Western Desert. Pompey s parents were Yankunytjatjara people from lands further south, around Kalka and Kaṉpi in South Australia. Pompey grew
  • Pompey 1923 1944 was an American Champion Thoroughbred racehorse. Pompey was bred by William Coe and raced under the colors of his Shoshone Stable. Pompey
  • betrayal and death of Pompey the Great at the hands of one of his own officers, the false one of the title. Scholars date the play to the 1619 20 period
  • originators of the Town Hall Chimes later, The Pompey Chimes and the team were nicknamed Pompey before the professional Portsmouth F.C. were formed
  • was the triumvir Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus or Pompey the Great. She is the paternal aunt to Gnaeus Pompeius, Sextus Pompeius and Pompeia Magna, the children
  • The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781 is a 1783 large oil painting by John Singleton Copley. It depicts the death of Major Francis Peirson at the
  • remembered as one of the assassins of the triumvir Pompey the Great. At the time of the assassination 48 BC Septimius was serving the Ptolemies of Egypt as a
  • publicly allies himself with Crassus and Pompey who publicly denounces Cato as responsible for his daughters death Tension also flares briefly between Julius
  • Yolande Pompey April 22, 1929 - 1979 was a boxer from Trinidad Tobago. He beat his fellow countryman Gentle Daniel in 1950 and 1951. He lost to Bobby
  • Sextus Pompey Pompeia was born and raised in Rome. In 59 BC, her father Pompey married for a fourth time, to Julia Caesaris, the daughter of Julius Caesar
  • Pompeius, the paternal uncle of triumvir Pompey and the descendants from Pompey s uncle. For Pompey s son of the same name, see Sextus Pompey Sextus Pompeius
  • ending in his defeat and death at the Battle of Carrhae. Crassus death permanently unravelled the alliance between Caesar and Pompey His political influence
  • persuaded Pompey to divorce Antistia and marry Aemilia. The marriage was tragic, the young woman died in childbirth at the house of Pompey Plutarch
  • Pompey Factor 1849 March 29, 1928 was a Black Seminole who served as a United States Army Indian Scout and received America s highest military decoration - the
  • pleased to know of Pompey s death Then Cleopatra VII meets and seduces Caesar, and before he leaves he installs her as rightful Queen of Egypt over her
  • At the Luca Conference, in 56 BC, named for the town of Luca - modern Lucca - in Cisalpine Gaul Caesar met with his political partners, Pompey and Crassus
  • The First Triumvirate 60 53 BC was an informal alliance among three prominent politicians in the late Roman Republic: Julius Caesar, Pompey and Marcus
  • referred to in English as Pompey Strabo, to distinguish him from his son, the famous Pompey the Great, or from Strabo the geographer. Strabo s cognomen
  • that he came from the town of Cingulum in Picenum. His family was of equestrian status. He most likely had early ties with Pompey during his time as
  • to the match, Cato agreed to divorce Marcia, who then married Hortensius. Between Hortensius death in 50 BC and Cato s leaving Italy with Pompey in 49
  • The Siege of Jerusalem 63 BC occurred during Pompey the Great s campaigns in the East, shortly after his successful conclusion of the Third Mithridatic
  • Antistia was the daughter of Publius Antistius of the gens Antistia. She became the first wife of Pompey the Great after he was arraigned on charges of peculation
  • where he defended the stronghold against Pompey the Great, who had been sent by the Senate to dislodge him. He withstood Pompey s attacks for a while
  • Libo sided with Pompey He carried out a variety of military, diplomatic and naval roles, with mixed success. After Pompey s death in 48 BC, Libo attached
  • he had to continue his pursuit so the best course was to put Pompey to death Thus Caesar would be satisfied and the murdered Roman general would no longer

The Death of Pompey: портрет помпея, помпей и пираты

Pompey the Great assassinated HISTORY.

The Death of Pompey La Mort de Pompee is a tragedy by the French Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, usually rendered in English as Pompey the Great or simply. Moliere in the Role of Caesar in The Death of Pompey Painting by. Julius Caesar left By Mithrandire CC BY SA 3.0 Pompey right By but the happy marriage had ended with her death in childbirth, and now. The Death of Pompey pedia. However the fall of Pompey was as a result of the political troubles for instance the triumvirate After the death of Mithradates in 63, Pompey was free to plan the.

The Death of Pompey the Great by Alaric Alexander Watts Famous.

Pompey definition, Roman general and statesman: a member of the first triumvirate. Few incidents in ancient history are more tragic than the death of Pompey. Pompey The Great 106 48 B.C. The Latin Library. Julias death gave Caesar the green light to treat Pompey as dastardly as he wanted to with no fear of hurting his daughter. Since Crassus had. File:Apollonio di Giovanni The Battle of Pharsalus and the Death of. By now, everything in Rome was achieved through bribery, and the relationship between Caesar and Pompey became irrevocably strained after the death of.

Pompey Ancient History Encyclopedia.

How about if, on arriving in Egypt, Pompey is not killed. In OTL, Ceasar was, or at least pretended to be pissed off. Would Ceasar welcome a. The Rise and Fall of Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey: 4 Critical. After the death of his first wife Aemilia, Pompey married Sullas step daughter Mucia Tertia, which like most marriages of the time, was probably. Pompey in The Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra Shmoop. People also search for. Plutarchs Lives in Paint: 16 Agesilaus and Pompey – The Eclectic. With the death of his wife Julia, the proud Pompey is motivated to stand with the exiled Roman Senate in the ensuing civil war. His inability to co operate with the​. Decline and Fall of Pompey the Great jstor. We always knew that Julius Caesar was killed in the Curia of Pompey on March 15th 44 B.C. because the classical texts pass on so, but so far.

What was the contribution of Pompey the Great to Roman History.

Signed, titled, inscribed and dated Cy Twombly Rome 1962 The Death of POMPEY lower centre oil and graphite on canvas 57 ¼ x 69 ½ in. Did Julius Caesar kill Pompey? Quora. Опубликовано: 13 дек. 2011 г. Death of Pompey Textkit Greek and Latin Forums. Date of assassination. The Death of the Republic: Julius Caesar & Pompey Video. Plutarchs Lives in Paint: 16 Agesilaus and Pompey. Louis Jean François Lagrenee 1725–1805, Caesars Remorse at the Death of Pompey.

Moliere in the Role of Caesar in The Death of Pompey Nicolas.

Продолжительность: 5:11. The Downfall of The First Triumvirate First Triumvirate. Full title: POMPEY THE GREAT, HIS FAIRE CORNELIAS TRAGEDY. Cornelia blames herself for Pompeys death because even though she was a widow, she. Why did the Egyptians kill Pompey before he was to have an. They were for many years close friends Pompey was even married to Caesars daughter Julia. But the death of Julia took the last restraint off,. Pompey pedia. The alliance of Caesar and Pompey had always been rocky, but the death of Julia Caesar in childbirth the year before in 54 B.C. had already.

Plutarch Life of Pompey.

80% off a Hand Made Oil Painting Reproduction of Moliere in the Role of Caesar in The Death of Pompey, one of the most famous paintings by Nicolas Mignard. HBO Rome OST The death of Pompey YouTube. The Death of Pompey La Mort de Pompee is a tragedy by the French playwright Pierre Corneille on the death of Pompey the Great. It was first performed in. Site Where Julius Caesar Was Stabbed Will Finally Open to the Public. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus usually rendered in English as Pompey the Great or simply that Marcus Scaurus was Sextus half brother on his mothers side. He was condemned to death, but later released for the sake of his mother Mucia. Pompey the Great Roman statesman Britannica. Hi all, This is the end of the story of The Death of Pompey, a story in Second Year Latin: His tunc cognitis rebus, amici regis, qui propter aetatem.

Julia 2 Livius.

Upon landing in Egypt, Roman general and politician Pompey is murdered on the orders of King Ptolemy of Egypt. During his long career, Pompey the Great. The Assassination of Julius Caesar, 44 BC EyeWitness to History. The First Triumvirate saw its end with the deaths of both Crassus and Julia. Julia was the only bond holding Pompey and Caesar together, with her death there. The Internet Classics Archive Pompey by Plutarch. Pompey was a prodigy and achieved much by an early age. However, his career ended in failure and death. Pompey, he tried to preserve the old order, but his.

Cy Twombly 1928 2011 Death of Pompey Rome 1960s.

Pompey the Great. Roman Military and Political Leader Pompey the Great 48 BC aged 57 Cause of Death: Assassinated on the command of Ptolemy XIII. This Day in History: September 28th The End of Pompey the Great. Book 8 of Lucans De Bello Civili vividly describes the death of Pompey Magnus, whose head is chopped off, impaled on a pike, paraded through the city, and. Pompey Facts for Kids Kiddle encyclopedia. Death. Pompey and Caesar first faced each other as enemy commanders after Caesar, defying orders from Rome, crossed the Rubicon.

Pierre Corneille.

Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, usually rendered in English as Pompey the Great or simply Pompey, was a leading Roman general and statesman, whose career was significant in Romes transformation from a republic to empire. He was for a time a political. Pompeys Head and the Body Politic in Lucans De Bello Civili. Upon his death his generals divide up Alexanders empire. Ptolemy Although Pompey had been defeated and was killed in Egypt the civil war did not end.

DOC The rise and fall of Pompey Farai MUshangwe Academia.

File:Apollonio di Giovanni The Battle of Pharsalus and the Death of Pompey. Size of this preview: 800 × 244 pixels. Other resolutions: 320. The Death of the Republic Julius Caesar and Pompey by Dericka. The site of Caesars death is not where casual readers of Roman history might assume. In many ways, dying on the doorstep of Pompeys great. Spot Where Julius Caesar Was Stabbed Discovered Live Science. DECLINE AND FALL OF POMPEY. THE GREAT. By H. P. COLLINS. 29 September 1953 was the bimillenary of Pompeys death. ALTHOUGH the last phase of.

Location of Julius Caesars Assassination to be Open to the Public.

Julia c.80 54 daughter of Julius Caesar, married to Pompey the Great. Lucan​, Florus have written that her death, and the death of Crassus. Biography of Pompey the Great, Roman Statesman ThoughtCo. 16 The Death Of Pompey Jeff Beal HBO Series Rome OST. Rome Score Soundtrack 16The Death of Pompey. Rome Soundtrack Death of Pompey. The Death of Pompey La Mort de Pompee Facebook. Class warfare between Populares and Optimates Death of the Roman Republic Exploits of the betraying Pompey and successful Julius.

Pompey: Murder in Egypt Part 1 Battles of the Ancients.

After his fathers death, however, Pompey detached himself from the Marians. A report that he was missing in Cinnas army, when it was embarking for the. Pompey Heritage History. Eye witness account of the death of Julius Caesar. Caesar controlled the entire Italian peninsula and in Spain had defeated the legions loyal to Pompey. What is Seneca the Younger referring to about Pompeys death. Caesar was brutally stabbed to death 23 times by 60 members of the You see, the Roman senate did not usually meet at Pompeys Theater.


Moral letters to Lucilius/Letter 104

1. I have run off to my villa at Nomentum, for what purpose, do you suppose? To escape the city? No to shake off a fever which was surely working its way into my system. It had already got a grip upon me. My physician kept insisting that when the circulation was upset and irregular, disturbing the natural poise, the disease was under way. I therefore ordered my carriage to be made ready at once, and insisted on departing, in spite of my wife Paulina's [1] efforts to stop me for I remembered my master Gallio's [2] words, when he began to develop a fever in Achaia and took ship at once, insisting that the disease was not of the body but of the place. 2. That is what I remarked to my dear Paulina, who always urges me to take care of my health. I know that her very life-breath comes and goes with my own, and I am beginning, in my solicitude for her, to be solicitous for myself. And although old age has made me braver to bear many things, I am gradually losing this boon that old age bestows. For it comes into my mind that in this old man there is a youth also, and youth needs tenderness. Therefore, since I cannot prevail upon her to love me any more heroically, she prevails upon me to cherish myself more carefully. 3. For one must indulge genuine emotions sometimes, even in spite of weighty reasons, the breath of life must be called back and kept at our very lips even at the price of great suffering, for the sake of those whom we hold dear because the good man should not live as long as it pleases him, but as long as he ought. He who does not value his wife, or his friend, highly enough to linger longer in life – he who obstinately persists in dying – is a voluptuary.

The soul should also enforce this command upon itself whenever the needs of one's relatives require it should pause and humour those near and dear, not only when it desires, but even when it has begun, to die. 4. It gives proof of a great heart to return to life for the sake of others and noble men have often done this. But this procedure also, I believe, indicates the highest type of kindness: that although the greatest advantage of old age is the opportunity to be more negligent regarding self-preservation and to use life more adventurously, one should watch over one's old age with still greater care if one knows that such action is pleasing, useful, or desirable in the eyes of a person whom one holds dear. 5. This is also a source of no mean joy and profit for what is sweeter than to be so valued by one's wife that one becomes more valuable to oneself for this reason? Hence my dear Paulina is able to make me responsible, not only for her fears, but also for my own.

6. So you are curious to know the outcome of this prescription of travel? As soon as I escaped from the oppressive atmosphere of the city, and from that awful odour of reeking kitchens which, when in use, pour forth a ruinous mess of steam and soot, I perceived at once that my health was mending. And how much stronger do you think I felt when I reached my vineyards! Being, so to speak, let out to pasture, I regularly walked into my meals! So I am my old self again, feeling now no wavering languor in my system, and no sluggishness in my brain. I am beginning to work with all my energy.

7. But the mere place avails little for this purpose, unless the mind is fully master of itself, and can, at its pleasure, find seclusion even in the midst of business the man, however, who is always selecting resorts and hunting for leisure, will find something to distract his mind in every place. Socrates is reported to have replied, when a certain person complained of having received no benefit from his travels: "It serves you right! You travelled in your own company!" [3] 8. O what a blessing it would be for some men to wander away from themselves! As it is, they cause themselves vexation, worry, demoralization, and fear! What profit is there in crossing the sea and in going from one city to another? If you would escape your troubles, you need not another place but another personality. Perhaps you have reached Athens, or perhaps Rhodes choose any state you fancy, how does it matter what its character may be? You will be bringing to it your own.

9. 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. 10. 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. What benefit will it be to

Have threaded all the towns of Argolis,

A fugitive through midmost press of foes? [4]

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.

11. You may judge it the most grievous of ills to lose any of those you love while all the same this would be no less foolish than weeping because the trees which charm your eye and adorn your home lose their foliage. Regard everything that pleases you as if it were a flourishing plant make the most of it while it is in leaf, for different plants at different seasons must fall and die. But just as the loss of leaves is a light thing, because they are born afresh, so it is with the loss of those whom you love and regard as the delight of your life for they can be replaced even though they cannot be born afresh. 12. "New friends, however, will not be the same." No, nor will you yourself remain the same you change with every day and every hour. But in other men you more readily see what time plunders in your own case the change is hidden, because it will not take place visibly. Others are snatched from sight we ourselves are being stealthily filched away from ourselves. You will not think about any of these problems, nor will you apply remedies to these wounds. You will of your own volition be sowing a crop of trouble by alternate hoping and despairing. If you are wise, mingle these two elements: do not hope without despair, or despair without hope.

13. What benefit has travel of itself ever been able to give anyone? No restraint upon pleasure, no bridling of desire, no checking of bad temper, no crushing of the wild assaults of passion, no opportunity to rid the soul of evil. Travelling cannot give us judgment, or shake off our errors it merely holds our attention for a moment by a certain novelty, as children pause to wonder at something unfamiliar. 14. Besides, it irritates us, through the wavering of a mind which is suffering from an acute attack of sickness the very motion makes it more fitful and nervous. Hence the spots we had sought most eagerly we quit still more eagerly, like birds that flit and are off as soon as they have alighted. 15. What travel will give is familiarity with other nations: it will reveal to you mountains of strange shape, or unfamiliar tracts of plain, or valleys that are watered by ever-flowing springs, or the characteristics of some river that comes to our attention. We observe how the Nile rises and swells in summer, or how the Tigris disappears, runs underground through hidden spaces, and then appears with unabated sweep or how the Maeander, [5] that oft-rehearsed theme and plaything of the poets, turns in frequent bendings, and often in winding comes close to its own channel before resuming its course. But this sort of information will not make better or sounder men of us. [6]

16. We ought rather to spend our time in study, and to cultivate those who are masters of wisdom, learning something which has been investigated, but not settled by this means the mind can be relieved of a most wretched serfdom, and won over to freedom. Indeed, as long as you are ignorant of what you should avoid or seek, or of what is necessary or superfluous, or of what is right or wrong, you will not be travelling, but merely wandering. 17. There will be no benefit to you in this hurrying to and fro for you are travelling with your emotions and are followed by your afflictions. Would that they were indeed following you! In that case, they would be farther away as it is, you are carrying and not leading them. Hence they press about you on all sides, continually chafing and annoying you. It is medicine, not scenery, for which the sick man must go a-searching. 18. Suppose that someone has broken a leg or dislocated a joint: he does not take carriage or ship for other regions, but he calls in the physician to set the fractured limb, or to move it back to its proper place in the socket. What then? When the spirit is broken or wrenched in so many places, do you think that change of place can heal it? The complaint is too deep-seated to be cured by a journey. 19. Travel does not make a physician or an orator no art is acquired by merely living in a certain place.

Where lies the truth, then? Can wisdom, the greatest of all the arts, be picked up on a journey? I assure you, travel as far as you like, you can never establish yourself beyond the reach of desire, beyond the reach of bad temper, or beyond the reach of fear had it been so, the human race would long ago have banded together and made a pilgrimage to the spot. Such ills, as long as you carry with you their causes, will load you down and worry you to skin and bone in your wanderings over land and sea. 20. Do you wonder that it is of no use to run away from them? That from which you are running, is within you. Accordingly, reform your own self, get the burden off your own shoulders, and keep within safe limits the cravings which ought to be removed. Wipe out from your soul all trace of sin. If you would enjoy your travels, make healthy the companion of your travels. As long as this companion is avaricious and mean, greed will stick to you and while you consort with an overbearing man, your puffed-up ways will also stick close. Live with a hangman, and you will never be rid of your cruelty. If an adulterer be your club-mate, he will kindle the baser passions. 21. If you would be stripped of your faults leave far behind you the patterns of the faults. The miser, the swindler, the bully, the cheat, who will do you much harm merely by being near you, are within you.

Change therefore to better associations: live with the Catos, with Laelius, with Tubero. Or, if you enjoy living with Greeks also, spend your time with Socrates and with Zeno: the former will show you how to die if it be necessary the latter how to die before it is necessary. 22. Live with Chrysippus, with Posidonius: [7] they will make you acquainted with things earthly and things heavenly they will bid you work hard over something more than neat turns of language and phrases mouthed forth for the entertainment of listeners they will bid you be stout of heart and rise superior to threats. The only harbour safe from the seething storms of this life is scorn of the future, a firm stand, a readiness to receive Fortune's missiles full in the breast, neither skulking nor turning the back. 23. Nature has brought us forth brave of spirit, and, as she has implanted in certain animals a spirit of ferocity, in others craft, in others terror, so she has gifted us with an aspiring and lofty spirit, which prompts us to seek a life of the greatest honour, and not of the greatest security, that most resembles the soul of the universe, which it follows and imitates as far as our mortal steps permit. This spirit thrusts itself forward, confident of commendation and esteem. 24. It is superior to all, monarch of all it surveys hence it should be subservient to nothing, finding no task too heavy, and nothing strong enough to weigh down the shoulders of a man.

Shapes dread to look upon, of toil or death [8]

are not in the least dreadful, if one is able to look upon them with unflinching gaze, and is able to pierce the shadows. Many a sight that is held a terror in the night-time, is turned to ridicule by day. "Shapes dread to look upon, of toil or death": our Vergil has excellently said that these shapes are dread, not in reality, but only "to look upon" – in other words, they seem terrible, but are not. 25. And in these visions what is there, I say, as fear-inspiring as rumour has proclaimed? Why, pray, my dear Lucilius, should a man fear toil, or a mortal death? Countless cases occur to my mind of men who think that what they themselves are unable to do is impossible, who maintain that we utter words which are too big for man's nature to carry out. 26. But how much more highly do I think of these men! They can do these things, but decline to do them. To whom that ever tried have these tasks proved false? To what man did they not seem easier in the doing? Our lack of confidence is not the result of difficulty the difficulty comes from our lack of confidence.

27. If, however, you desire a pattern, take Socrates, a long-suffering old man, who was sea-tossed amid every hardship and yet was unconquered both by poverty (which his troubles at home made more burdensome) and by toil, including the drudgery of military service. He was much tried at home, whether we think of his wife, a woman of rough manners and shrewish tongue, or of the children whose intractability showed them to be more like their mother than their father. [9] And if you consider the facts, he lived either in time of war, or under tyrants, or under a democracy, which is more cruel than wars and tyrants. 28. The war lasted for twenty-seven years [10] then the state became the victim of the Thirty Tyrants, of whom many were his personal enemies. At the last came that climax of condemnation under the gravest of charges: they accused him of disturbing the state religion and corrupting the youth, [11] for they declared that he had influenced the youth to defy the gods, to defy the council, and to defy the state in general. Next came the prison, and the cup of poison. [12] But all these measures changed the soul of Socrates so little that they did not even change his features. What wonderful and rare distinction! He maintained this attitude up to the very end, and no man ever saw Socrates too much elated or too much depressed. Amid all the disturbance of Fortune, he was undisturbed.

29. Do you desire another case? Take that of the younger Marcus Cato, with whom Fortune dealt in a more hostile and more persistent fashion. But he withstood her, on all occasions, and in his last moments, at the point of death, showed that a brave man can live in spite of Fortune, can die in spite of her. His whole life was passed either in civil warfare, or under a political regime which was soon to breed civil war. And you may say that he, just as much as Socrates, declared allegiance to liberty in the midst of slavery – unless perchance you think that Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus [13] were the allies of liberty! 30. No one ever saw Cato change, no matter how often the state changed: he kept himself the same in all circumstances – in the praetorship, [14] in defeat, under accusation, [15] in his province, on the platform, in the army, in death. Furthermore, when the republic was in a crisis of terror, when Caesar was on one side with ten embattled legions at his call, aided by so many foreign nations, and when Pompey was on the other, satisfied to stand alone against all comers, and when the citizens were leaning towards either Caesar or Pompey, Cato alone established a definite party for the Republic. 31. If you would obtain a mental picture of that period, you may imagine on one side the people and the whole proletariat eager for revolution – on the other the senators and knights, the chosen and honoured men of the commonwealth and there were left between them but these two – the Republic and Cato.

I tell you, you will marvel when you see

Atreus' son, and Priam, and Achilles, wroth at both. [16]

Like Achilles, he scorns and disarms each faction. 32. And this is the vote which he casts concerning them both: "If Caesar wins, I slay myself if Pompey, I go into exile." What was there for a man to fear who, whether in defeat or in victory, had assigned to himself a doom which might have been assigned to him by his enemies in their utmost rage? So he died by his own decision.

33. You see that man can endure toil: Cato, on foot, led an army through African deserts. You see that thirst can be endured: he marched over sun-baked hills, dragging the remains of a beaten army and with no train of supplies, undergoing lack of water and wearing a heavy suit of armour always the last to drink of the few springs which they chanced to find. You see that honour, and dishonour too, can be despised: for they report that on the very day when Cato was defeated at the elections, he played a game of ball. You see also that man can be free from fear of those above him in rank: for Cato attacked Caesar and Pompey simultaneously, at a time when none dared fall foul of the one without endeavouring to oblige the other. You see that death can be scorned as well as exile: Cato inflicted exile upon himself and finally death, [17] and war all the while.

34. And so, if only we are willing to withdraw our necks from the yoke, we can keep as stout a heart against such terrors as these. But first and foremost, we must reject pleasures they render us weak and womanish they make great demands upon us, and, moreover, cause us to make great demands upon Fortune. Second, we must spurn wealth: wealth is the diploma of slavery. Abandon gold and silver, and whatever else is a burden upon our richly-furnished homes liberty cannot be gained for nothing. If you set a high value on liberty, you must set a low value on everything else. Farewell.


What is Seneca the Younger referring to about Pompey's death? - History

This article provides a short overview of the main leaders of Stoic philosophy. If you are new to Stoicism, we invite you to sign up for our free 7-day course, which offers an introduction, Stoic exercises, interviews, a free book chapter from the cult Stoic bestseller The Obstacle is the Way and much more!

The ancient Stoic philosophers came from almost every imaginable background. One was a slave, another was emperor. One was a water carrier, another a famous playwright. Some were merchants, others were independently wealthy. Some were Senators and others were soldiers. What they all had in common was the philosophy that they practiced. Whether they were chafing under the shackles of slavery or leading the Roman army, they focused not on the external world but on what was solely in their own control: Their own thoughts, their own actions, their beliefs. Below are some short biographies of some of the most influential stoics, including Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus, Cato, Zeno, Cleanthes, Hecato, Musonius Rufus. It’s important to remember that these are only the Stoics whose names survive to us—for every one of them there are dozens or hundreds of other brilliant, brave minds whose legacy is lost to us.

MARCUS AURELIUS

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, born nearly two millennia ago is perhaps the best known Stoic leader in history. He was born in a prominent family but nobody at the time would have predicted that he would one day be Emperor of the Empire. Little is known of his childhood but he was a serious young man who enjoyed wrestling, boxing and hunting. Around his teenage years, the reigning emperor, Hadrian, childless and nearing death, picked his successor of choice, Antoninus. He was a senator who was also childless and was required to adopt Marcus, as per Hadrian’s condition. Antoninus eventually died in 161 and it is when Marcus’s reign began.

Marcus ruled for nearly two decades until 180, and his reign was far from easy: wars with the Parthian Empire, the barbarian tribes menacing the Empire on the northern border, the rise of Christianity as well as the plague that left numerous dead.

It is important to realize the gravity of that position and the magnitude of power that Marcus possessed. He held the most powerful position in the world at the time. If he chose to, nothing would be off limits. He could indulge and succumb to temptations, there was nobody that could restrain him from any of his wishes. There is a reason the adage that power in absolute absolutely corrupts has been a cliche throughout history. And yet, as the essayist Matthew Arnold remarked, Marcus proved himself worthy of the position he was in. As the famous historian Edward Gibbon wrote, under Marcus, the last of the ‘Five Good Emperors,’ “the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of wisdom and virtue”.

The guidance of wisdom and virtue. That’s what separates Marcus from the majority of past and present world leaders. Just think of the diary that he left behind, which is now known as his Meditations: It is essentially the private thoughts of the most powerful man in the world, admonishing himself on how to be more virtuous, more just, more immune to temptation, wiser. It is the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength. If you read only one book this year, make it Meditations.

To read more on Marcus Aurelius, read our full profile on him, which also contains Stoic exercises from him, suggested readings and much more! To keep Marcus Aurelius’s wisdom front and center in your life, consider our limited edition print which features his timeless maxim which he wrote to himself: “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” Also, our popular memento mori medallion features a quote from Marcus Aurelius on the back: “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”

SENECA THE YOUNGER

The second most prominent Stoic in history is Seneca who was born in southern Spain over 2,000 years ago and educated in Rome. He was the son of Seneca the Elder, a well regarded Roman writer as well as later in his life uncle to the poet Lucan. Seneca pursued a career in politics and became a high-ranking financial clerk.

His life took a sharp turn in 41 A.D. once Claudius became the emperor as he exiled Seneca to the island of Corsica on the premises of supposed adultery with the emperor’s niece. During his exile, he wrote a letter to his mother consoling her during his exile. Eight years later, in another twist, Agrippina, mother of future emperor Nero and wife of Claudius secured permission for Seneca to return and for him to become her son’s tutor and adviser. Nero later became one of the most notorious and tyrannical emperors in the history of the Roman Empire raising even more questions about Seneca’s character. Yet Seneca’s death, in 65 A.D., came by the orders of Nero himself (who thought Seneca was part of a plot against him).

Throughout all those turbulent periods Stoicism remained a constant in his life. Seneca’s exposure to the philosophy came from Attalus, a Stoic philosopher who was Seneca’s early teacher. Seneca was also an admirer of Cato, whose name appears regularly in his writing.

After his death Seneca was an influence on notable figures such as Erasmus, Francis Bacon, Pascal, Montaigne down to modern days. Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic are a required reading for men and women of action offering timeless philosophical advice on grief, on wealth, on power, on religion, and on life are always there when you need them. They include timeless advice like: “Believe me it is better to understand the balance-sheet of one’s own life than of the corn trade.” “We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.” “Think your way through difficulties: harsh conditions can be softened, restricted ones can be widened, and heavy ones can weigh less on those who know how to bear them.”

To read more on Seneca, read our full profile on him, which also contains Stoic exercises from him, suggested readings and much more!

What makes Stoicism fascinating to study is that three of its most well-known practitioners ranged widely in terms of where they stood in society. Think of the two Stoics we just studied. Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of the Roman Empire holding one of the most powerful positions in the world. Seneca was an adviser to an emperor, renowned playwright and one of the richest people in the Roman Empire. And then there is Epictetus, on the complete opposite, who was born as a slave. That’s what makes Stoicism so powerful: it can provide timeless principles to help us in both good and bad fortune, no matter our station our life.

Epictetus was born nearly 2,000 years ago in Hierapolis (present-day Pamukkale in Turkey) as a slave in a wealthy household. Epaphroditus, his owner, gave him the permission to pursue liberal studies and it is how Epictetus discovered philosophy through the Stoic Musonius Rufus who became his teacher and mentor. Later, Epictetus obtained his freedom shortly after emperor Nero’s death and started teaching philosophy in Rome for nearly 25 years. This lasted until emperor Domitian famously banished all philosophers in Rome. Epictetus fled to Nicopolis in Greece where he founded a philosophy school and taught there until his death.

Epictetus has coined some of the most memorable Stoic quotes: “To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it occurs.” “Let death and exile, and all other things which appear terrible, be daily before your eyes, but death chiefly and you will never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything.”

He was a key influence to Marcus Aurelius and to many other powerful men and women over the last two millennia. What is fascinating is that this influence came by pure luck. Epictetus never actually wrote anything down. It is through his student Arrian that we have a written account of his lessons. And if everyone from Emperors to war heros have been grateful as they found guidance, solace and strength in Epictetus’ lessons, then there must be something for us. But only if we choose to.

To read more on Epictetus, read our full profile on him, which also contains Stoic exercises from him, suggested readings and much more!

CATO THE YOUNGER

Cato is the fourth Stoic we look at, and one who has always been considered as one of the people who truly lived the Stoic values, each and every day. Although he never wrote anything, his actions speak loudly about what it means to live the philosophical life. In his own day, he was a soldier and an aristocrat, a senator and a Stoic. The last in a family line of prominent statesmen, Cato spent a lifetime in the public eye as the standard-bearer of Rome’s optimates, traditionalists who saw themselves as the defenders of Rome’s ancient constitution, the preservers of the centuries-old system of government that propelled Rome’s growth from muddy city to mighty empire.

History remembers Cato as Julius Caesar’s most formidable, infuriating enemy—at times the leader of the opposition, at times an opposition party unto himself, but always Caesar’s equal in eloquence, in conviction, and in force of character, a man equally capable of a full-volume dawn-to-dusk speech before Rome’s Senate and of a 30-day trek through North Africa’s sands, on foot.

For George Washington and the entire revolutionary generation, Cato was Liberty—the last man standing when Rome’s Republic fell. For centuries of philosophers and theologians, Cato was the Good Suicide—the most principled, most persuasive exception to the rule against self-slaughter.

George Washington and his peers studied Cato’s life in the form of the most popular play of that era: Cato: A Tragedy in Five Acts, by Joseph Addison. The great men of the day quoted this play about Cato in public statements and in private correspondence. When Benjamin Franklin opened his private diary, he was greeted with lines from the play that he had chosen as a motto. John and Abigail Adams quoted Cato to one another in their love letters. When Patrick Henry dared King George to give him liberty or death, he was cribbing from Cato. When Nathan Hale regretted that he had only one life to give for his country—seconds before the British army hanged him for high treason—he was poaching words straight from Cato.

We leave you with one lesson from Cato. Criticized for his silence, he would say, “I begin to speak only when I’m certain what I’ll say isn’t better left unsaid.” Think of this lesson today as you impulsively seek to add your opinion or thoughts to every and any matter in your life.

To read more on Cato, read our full profile on him, which also contains Stoic exercises from him, suggested readings and much more!

ZENO OF CITIUM

Of all the Stoics, Zeno has one of the most fascinating stories of discovering philosophy. On a voyage between Phoenicia and Peiraeus, his ship sank along with its cargo. He ended up in Athens, and while visiting a bookstore he was introduced to the philosophy of Socrates and, later, an Athenian philosopher named Crates. These influences drastically changed the course of his life, leading him to develop the thinking and principles that we now know as Stoicism. According to the ancient biographer Diogenes Laertius, Zeno joked, “Now that I’ve suffered shipwreck, I’m on a good journey,” or according to another account, “You’ve done well, Fortune, driving me thus to philosophy,” he reportedly said.

Zeno began his teaching at the Stoa Poikile which was located at the Ancient Agora of Athens. This is the famous porch that Stoicism was named after that you probably remember briefly mentioned in your high school or college philosophy class. But the name wasn’t always that—in fact, initially his disciples were called Zenonians but only later they came to be known as Stoics.

Of course, Stoicism has developed since Zeno first outlined the philosophy but at the core of it, the message is the same. As he put it, “Happiness is a good flow of life.” How is it to be achieved? Peace of mind that comes from living a life of virtue in accordance with reason and nature.

To read more on Zeno, read our full profile on him, which also contains Stoic exercises from him, suggested readings and much more!

Cleanthes was the successor to Zeno and second head of the Stoic school. Born in Assos, he arrived in Athens and began attending lectures by Zeno. To support his philosophical studies and his pursuit of wisdom during the day, he would work as a water-carrier (his nickname was the Well-Water-Collector, Φρεάντλης in Greek) which prompted a court summoning. How could a man spend his entire day studying philosophy, the court wondered. Proving his hard work and industry during the night, he was let go (the court was so impressed that they even offered him money but Zeno made him refuse).

But we need to step back. Who was this industrious philosopher? Cleanthes of Assos (c. 330 BC – c. 230 BC) was originally a boxer who arrived in Athens. According to Diogenes Laërtius, Cleanthes arrived with only four drachma in his pockets and began attending Crates the Cynic’s lectures and only later he started showing up at Zeno’s. He later became his successor as the head of the Stoic school—a post he held for an impressive period of 32 years—and Cleanthes’s pupil, Chrysippus, later became one of the most important Stoic thinkers.

Reading about Cleanthes one finds a curious lesson relayed by Diogenes Laërtius: “When someone inquired of him what lesson he ought to give his son, Cleanthes in reply quoted words from the Electra: Silence, silence, light be thy step.” And as a Stoic he also held that living according to nature is living virtuously.

To read more on Cleanthes, read our full profile on him, which also contains Stoic exercises from him, suggested readings and much more!

HECATO OF RHODES

One philosopher consistently keeps coming up again and again in Seneca’s writings. Although Cato, Epicurus and many other prominent philosophers are mentioned, it is probably Hecato who has earned himself the most quotations in Seneca’s work. A few examples that Seneca has used: “Cease to hope, and you will cease to fear. ” “What progress, you ask, have I made? I have begun to be a friend to myself.” “I can show you a philtre, compounded without drugs, herbs, or any witch’s incantation: ‘If you want to be loved, love.’”

While Hecato was a prolific writer in his time—we know of several treatises of his name, including “On Goods,” “On Virtues,” “On Passions,” “On Ends,” “On Paradoxes,” “Maxims.”—none of these have survived.

GAIUS MUSONIUS RUFUS

You can see above how Epictetus was a key influence to Marcus Aurelius, but who was the mentor behind Epictetus’s philosophy? It was Gaius Musonius Rufus, who was born around 30 AD in Volsinii, Etruria. He became a prominent Stoicism teacher in Rome until the reigning Emperor at the time, Nero, discovered a conspiracy plotting against him and banished Musonius to the desolate island of Gyaros in the Aegean Sea—similar to the exile of Seneca, and the difficulties of Epictetus’s life. Musonius eventually returned to Rome under Galba in 68 but only to be exiled again, this time by Vespasian. While Vespasian initially banished all philosophers in 71, Musonius himself was exiled in 75, which speaks to how highly esteemed his reputation was in Rome at the time. He would return to Rome only after Vespasian’s death and live there until his own end.

For Musonius, philosophy was concerned with practical matters how to live one’s life. It was about virtue and goodness—nothing else mattered. We can rise above pain and pleasure, death and evil. Without a doubt, Musonius was one of the most practical philosophers. As professor William O. Stephens, one of the Stoic professors we have interviewed, described Musonius’ philosophy and approach in this way: “…the philosopher does not study virtue just as theoretical knowledge. Rather, Musonius insists that practice is more important than theory, as practice more effectively leads us to action than theory. He held that though everyone is naturally disposed to live without error and has the capacity to be virtuous, someone who has not actually learned the skill of virtuous living cannot be expected to live without error any more than someone who is not a trained doctor, musician, scholar, helmsman, or athlete could be expected to practice those skills without error.”

It would be the Greek scholar Origen who’d point out, more than a century after Musonius’ death, that “as an example of the best life,” we have him and Socrates. It is why Musonius is often referred to as “the Roman Socrates.” And just like with Socrates, we’d all be better off to keep in mind Musonius character as a role model in life. One example: After being exiled several times he’d exclaim, “How could exile be an obstacle to a person’s own cultivation, or to attaining virtue when no one has ever been cut off from learning or practicing what is needed by exile?”

To learn more and follow Musonius Rufus’ example of living a good life, order his Lectures and Sayings translated by Cynthia King.

Want more? We invite you to sign up to our free 7-day course, which offers an introduction, Stoic exercises, interviews, a free book chapter from the cult Stoic bestseller The Obstacle is the Way and much more!


4. Virtue

4.1 Appropriate and Correct Action

The Stoic distinction between valuable and good things is at the center of Seneca&rsquos Letters. So-called preferred indifferents&mdashhealth, wealth, and so on&mdashhave value (their opposites, dispreferred indifferents, have disvalue). But only virtue is good. Again and again, Seneca discusses how health and wealth do not contribute to our happiness. Seneca approaches this issue not as an academic puzzle, as if we needed to be compelled by intricate proof to accept this point. He speaks very directly to his readers, and his examples grip us moderns as much as they gripped his contemporaries. We tend to think that life would be better if only we did not have to travel for the lowest fare, but in a more comfortable fashion we are disheartened when our provisions for dinner are no better than stale bread. By addressing these very concrete situations, Seneca keeps hammering home the core claim of Stoic ethics: that virtue alone is sufficient for happiness, and nothing else even makes a contribution. It is important to note that preferred indifferents have value though they are not good in the terminological sense of the Stoics. Scholars sometimes suggest that, for Seneca, preferred indifferents are worthless and to be frowned upon (for example, Braund 2009). In doing so, they pick up on the metaphors and examples that Seneca employs. Seneca writes with an acute awareness of how difficult it is not to see things like health and wealth as good, and that is, as contributing to one&rsquos happiness. Accordingly, Seneca keeps giving vivid examples, aiming to help his audience become less attached to things of mere value. However, he does not suggest that things like health or wealth should be regarded dismissively, or not taken care of.

A related and equally important aspect of Stoic ethics is the distinction between appropriate and correct action. Appropriate action takes indifferents adequately into account. Both fools and the wise can act appropriately. But only the wise act perfectly appropriately, or correctly: their action is based on their perfect deliberation, and reflects the overall consistency of their soul. Seneca explains matters in precisely this fashion: while we should take indifferents (health, illness, wealth, poverty, etc.) judiciously into account, as things of value or disvalue to us, the good does not reside in getting or avoiding them. What is good is that I choose well (Letter 92.11&ndash12). In response to the question &lsquoWhat is virtue?&rsquo, Seneca says &ldquoa true and immovable judgment&rdquo (Letter 71.32 tr. Inwood). Attributing any real importance to indifferents, Seneca argues, is like preferring, among two good men, the one with the fancy haircut (Letter 66.25). This comparison is typical for Seneca&rsquos tendency to capture the standing of valuable indifferents in forceful, figurative language. A nice haircut, one might think, could be seen as entirely irrelevant. But this is not Seneca&rsquos point. Compared to the good, preferred indifferents pale, and appear as insignificant as a fashionable haircut when compared with genuine virtue. But preferred indifferents are valuable. In deliberation, we do not compare them with the good we consider them next to dispreferred indifferents.

In appropriate action, the agent takes things of value into account. This, however, does not happen in the abstract&mdashshe does not weigh the value of wealth against the value of health in a general fashion. Rather, she thinks about the way in which a specific situation and the courses of action available in it involve indifferents&mdashfor example, putting on the appropriate clothes for a given occasion (Letter 92.11). Since the features of the situation in which one acts thus matter to appropriate action, the Stoics apparently wrote treatises (now lost) in which they discussed at length how this or that feature may bear on what one should be doing (Sedley 2001). Seneca&rsquos Letters 94 and 95 seem to be examples of this kind of treatise. The very fact that such treatises are written testifies to the fact that indifferents are not simply irrelevant: they are the material of deliberation.

Since Kidd (1978), Letters 94 and 95 have been read with a view to the question of whether rules figure in Stoic ethics (for a discussion of the letters that is not framed by this question, see I. Hadot 1969, 8&ndash9). This question, in turn, is relevant to our interpretation of the Stoic conception of law. The Stoics have long been considered the ancestors of the natural law tradition (Striker 1987). If the Stoics formulate rule-like precepts, then perhaps this means that the law, as the Stoics understand it, consists of a set of laws.

In Letters 94 and 95, Seneca discusses two notions, praecepta and decreta, usually translated as &lsquoprecepts&rsquo and &lsquoprinciples&rsquo. The topic of Seneca&rsquos discussion is this. If we seek a good life by studying philosophy, do we need to study only decreta, or also praecepta? According to the first position, the only thing needed to achieve virtue is to immerse oneself in the core tenets of Stoic philosophy. It is these that Seneca calls decreta decreta thus are not practical principles or rules. They are principles of philosophy, in the sense of being the most abstract and fundamental teachings of the Stoics.

According to the second position, which Seneca seems to endorse, studying the first principles of Stoic philosophy is not sufficient we should also think in detail about the demands that specific situations in life might make on us (and so, we should study praecepta relating to them). It may seem that these lower-level considerations involve rules: in such-and-such a situation, one should act in such-and-such a way (Annas 1993, 98-105 Mitsis 2001). However, it is not clear whether Seneca indeed envisages such rules. As students of virtue, we will benefit from thinking our way through a variety of situations that one might encounter in life, contemplating how the different features of these situations matter to appropriate action, and so developing a sharpened sense of the particular value of the various things that do have value or disvalue for a human being. Seneca&rsquos &lsquocase studies&rsquo (e.g., a previously married wife should be treated differently from a previously unmarried wife) perhaps only hone the students&rsquo appreciation for the kinds of issues that matter to appropriate action, where different things of value or disvalue impinge case by case, rather than providing them with rules for specific situations. Further, Seneca envisages an advisor who reminds us of insights such as &lsquomoney does not bring happiness&rsquo. Such almost proverbial sayings, however, do not appear to be rules. Finally, the advisor is someone who can come up with specific advice for a given occasion, such as &lsquowalk in such-and-such a way&rsquo (see On Favors 15.2 Inwood 2005 [4] Schafer 2009, esp. regarding Letters 94 and 95 Vogt 2007, 189&ndash198). As Seneca emphasizes in Letter 71.1, advice is adjusted to situations, and situations are in flux. If one needs advice, one is not asking to be told the correct rule to cover the situation one is asking how to balance various considerations.

4.2 Benefiting Others

Although the Stoics are, with respect to the good, most famous for the claim that only virtue is good, they define the good as benefit. Seneca agrees with the early Stoic view that the good benefits. As we have seen, Seneca thinks that both public life and philosophy are good forms of life, if conducted right, precisely because both are of benefit to others. When discussing the benefit that a philosophical life brings to others, he claims that the virtuous person&rsquos life is beneficial even if she performs no public function whatsoever. Her gait, her silent persistence, and the expression of her eyes, benefit. Just as some medication works merely through its smell, virtue has its good effects even from a distance (On Peace of Mind 4.6&ndash7).

Seneca devotes an entire treatise to the question of how one should benefit others, and how one should receive benefits, On Benefits (or: On Favors, lat. De beneficiis). On Benefits is the longest extant Senecan treatise on one specific ethical topic. Though the treatise is firmly situated in the Roman social context, its detailed analysis and richness of examples make it more than an historical document. Seneca discusses good deeds and badly performed favors, graceful and ungraceful receiving, the joy or burden of returning favors, as well as gratitude and envy. Seneca&rsquos topic is a hybrid of the kind of phenomena anthropologists discuss in terms of gift exchange, the specific configuration of these phenomena studied in ancient Rome, and Stoic views to the effect that only the good person benefits others. This mix makes for a rather difficult text. It is no surprise, then, that there used to be almost no helpful literature. This state, however, is ameliorated by recent translations with philosophical introductions, by John Cooper and J.F. Procopé (1995 Books 1&ndash4) and by Miriam Griffin and Brad Inwood (featuring also an Introduction by the series editors E. Asmis, S. Bartsch and M. Nussbaum, 2011), as well as Griffin&rsquos new &ldquoguide&rdquo to On Benefits (2013)

What, then, are benefits or favors as Seneca uses the term? Roughly speaking, one can think of beneficia as any kind of help a person might offer to another person qua member of a group, such that this strengthens the cohesion of the group and affirms or creates social bonds. Examples include: to give money or other material assistance, to use one&rsquos influence in someone&rsquos favor or in favor of someone&rsquos family member, to advance someone&rsquos health or personal safety, to save someone (her child, etc.) from calamity, to get someone out of prison, to console, to speak on someone&rsquos behalf, to further someone&rsquos career, to teach and educate someone, to instruct or advise someone.

Benefits are given largely between those who do not belong to the same household. They thus differ from the responsibilities that attach to the roles of son or wife and from the services that slaves or employees are expected to perform (3.18.1). What parents do for their children, however, counts as benefit and not as role-specific responsibilities. Sons are returning what they owe, thus fulfilling the obligations that attach to their role. But it is important to Seneca that sons can also genuinely benefit their parents (3.29.1&ndash38.3), for example, if through their outstanding achievements they put the parents into the spotlight, in Seneca&rsquos eyes a priceless benefit (3.32.2). Moreover, Seneca spends much of Book 3 arguing that slaves can benefit their masters, namely when they do more than they are compelled to do. Seneca thinks that, given how hateful compulsion is for anyone, benefits conferred by slaves reflect an admirable ability to overcome resentment for being in the position they are in (3.19.4).

Lending (as opposed to giving) money is not a beneficium. If money or wealth is involved in a favor, it must be freely given. Indeed, if one does not want to stand in the kind of social relationship that the giving and receiving of benefits creates, one can accept money only as a loan. If, say, a person whom you did not want in your life were to free you from captivity through paying the ransom, you might accept this, but you should quickly raise the money to repay her. That way, no bond is established (2.21.1&ndash2). The distinction between lending and giving runs through the treatise as a whole. It connects to two further ideas. First, that the right attitudes of giving, receiving, and returning a benefit involve freedom (1.4.3 on the kind of freedom that, according to Seneca, masters and slaves share, to the effect that slaves too can confer benefits, see Gianella 2019). The addressee of On benefits is called Liberalis, a name that drives home a point that Seneca wants to emphasize. For something to count as a benefit it must not be given slowly, grudgingly, or in some other reluctant way it must be given freely. To be rightly received, the good deed should not be perceived by the recipient as a burden it must be accepted freely. Indeed, the kind of emotion that reflects the appropriate attitudes on both parts is joy. Anything else would be suggestive of hesitations, concerns about undesired ties, and so on. Second, the distinction between lending and giving is reflected in a distinction between justice and beneficence (3.14.3&ndash15.3). Justice appears inferior to Seneca insofar as, in that sphere, we are putting faith in seals rather than souls (3.15.3). If the domain of &lsquogood deeds&rsquo was invaded by attitudes appropriate to lending and contractual obligations, Seneca thinks that something of great value would be lost.

Throughout the treatise, Seneca&rsquos focus is on attitudes, not on de facto performed actions. It is not the transfer of an object, or the return of a favor, that ultimately counts. Strictly speaking, a favor consists in the relevant state of mind of the giver (that he wants to benefit someone) and similarly in the grateful state of mind of the receiver. What we might call the intention to benefit, and the intention to gratefully repay the favor are the relevant actions of giving and receiving correctly. As some scholars put it, it is the act of willing which counts as a correct action (Inwood, 2005 [3] cf. Letter 81.10&ndash13). These arguments reflect core intuitions of Stoic ethics. Scholars traditionally judge Book 4 to be the part of the treatise that addresses more abstract philosophical questions, thus aiming to integrate a discussion about the norms pertaining to a historical practice in Rome with Stoic tenets in ethics. However, this assessment is best seen as making a comparative judgment. There is more explicit Stoic theory in Book 4 than in the other books. Seneca discusses the benefits conveyed by God, drawing on Stoic theology and philosophy of nature (see 5.3 below on Stoic theology).

Otherwise, one might argue that Book 4 is not all that different from the rest of the treatise. In particular, Seneca&rsquos question whether benefits ought to be given for their own sake or for the sake of some advantage to the giver does not employ any quintessentially Stoic assumptions. Indeed, one might even say that it is in considerable tension with central intuitions of earlier Stoic ethics. For the Stoics, the good and the advantageous really are one and the same. Moreover, Book 4 does not, as one might expect, address the subtleties of the Stoic conception of the good, which would be a way of pushing the discussion to a more theoretical level. Seneca&rsquos arguments about good deeds are essentially already laid out in Books 1 to 3. The claim that what matters are intentions and attitudes was already established in ways that are relatively independent of Stoic premises about the good: by distinguishing benefits from obligations by pointing to the dangers of burdening others with expectations they shall not be able to meet by elaborating on the fact that there must be a way of repaying even for those who are without material means and so on. Seneca addresses in rather concrete ways the problems that are likely to arise in a society that is held together by the exchange of favors. As a result of imperfect giving, recipients easily become dependents and feel enslaved by their donors.

Much of On Benefits is normative, aiming to lay down &ldquoa law of life&rdquo (1.4.2.) about giving, receiving, and returning. Seneca&rsquos recommendations, however, are based on what he perceives to be facts about human psychology. For example, he thinks that the negative aspects of how others conduct themselves towards us shall stick more firmly in our minds than the positive aspects (1.1.8), and that we tend to have ever new desires, so that we are inevitably less aware of benefactions received in the past than we are of what we want for the present and future (3.3.1.). To give well involves recognition of such facts. Often, Seneca observes, we are evasive and assist only grudgingly. No wonder that our reticence sticks out more in people&rsquos minds than the fact that we eventually relented no wonder that we are not held in esteem for such ungracious giving (1.1.8).

Assuming that Seneca is right, and that it is difficult to be good at helping, the focus of an ethical discussion about helping should not be in the first instance on how much help should be given (as it often is today). Rather, it should be on how one achieves something rare and difficult, namely to help in such a way that the recipient does not end up being worse off for having been helped. Among works in modern moral philosophy, the treatise that perhaps bears most resemblance with On Benefits is Kant&rsquos Doctrine of Virtue, a book that contains so-called &ldquocasuistical&rdquo sections where Kant discusses such matters as how certain ways of helping might lower the recipient in her own eyes and the eyes of others, thus making the receiver appear more manifestly inferior than she should be (Vogt 2008). Indeed, Kant and Seneca agree on the following point (though of course much of the background reasoning differs): good giving may even require leaving the recipient of help in the dark, because otherwise the negative effects (the social positioning of someone as recipient and ultimately dependent) can outweigh the benefit (2.10.1). Seneca&rsquos tone suggests that he agrees with a popular sentiment when he says that ungratefulness is an extremely grave and widespread vice. And yet, he thinks that bad giving is prior to and often directly responsible for bad receiving or lack of repaying Book 1 and Book 2 both begin with this idea.

4.3 The Good

In Letter 120, Seneca explains how we arrive at the notion of the good. This question is a much-discussed topic in Stoic ethics. The Stoics hold that, in the process of growing up, human beings acquire rationality, which importantly consists in acquiring preconceptions (prolêpseis). Once a human being has reason in this minimal sense, she can improve and eventually perfect her rationality. As part of this process she comes to acquire the concept of the good. The transitional moment in which a human being finally and fully recognizes that only virtue (consistency) is good is momentous: this is the moment in which a fool becomes a wise person (Cicero, De fin. 3.20&ndash22). At that point, a human being acquires what we might call the scientific concept of the good. She now masters a concept of the good that gets things right&mdashonce one has this concept, one is not going to fall back on misguided ideas such as &lsquomoney brings happiness&rsquo. But does it not seem that we have a notion of the good before, eventually, turning into wise people, if we do? We here must distinguish two notions. First, human beings have a preconception of the good&mdashwe call things good before understanding any of the truths of Stoic philosophy. But second, we might, as progressors, also come to see the point of the Stoic claim that only virtue is good, without yet being fully able to consistently appreciate its truth in our lives. As we have seen, it is this condition of the progressor that Seneca has in mind as the objective he hopes to achieve in many of his writings.

Letter 120 seems to contribute to Stoic thought about the acquisition of the concept of the good in precisely this fashion. Unlike Cicero, Seneca does not discuss the transitional moment in which an agent becomes wise. Rather, he discusses how we come to understand what the Stoics are talking about when they say that only virtue is good (supposing that neither we nor those we live with are virtuous). When reading about great deeds, we magnify the virtuous features of the agents, and minimize their negative features (Inwood, 2005 [10] Hadot 2014 replies to Inwood). By these and similar cognitive operations, we arrive at an understanding of what virtue would actually be. This realization enables us to see virtue&rsquos goodness without having encountered a real-life instance of virtue (for the Stoics, the fully wise are rarely or never encountered).


5. Physics and Theology

5.1 The Practical Side of Natural Philosophy

Seneca’s Natural Questions consist of eight books on meteorology. Two recent publications argue forcefully for a revised order to the books: 3, 4a, 4b, 5, 6, 7, 1 and 2. Harry Hide’s translation is the first edition to print the books in this order (2010), and Gareth Williams argues that this is the most likely sequence (2012).

Today’s readers tend to show little enthusiasm when they turn to the Natural Questions. What are we to think of long discussions about clouds, rain, lights in the sky, lightning and thunder, wind, comets, and earthquakes, combined with detailed treatments of terrestrial waters and, specifically, the Nile? Why does Seneca devote so much time to these phenomena? Scholars read theNatural Questions against the background of the meteorological tradition, a long-standing genre. Seneca, it is argued, engages in a project that is rather well established (Graver 2000, 45 and 51). Different contributions to this genre share a common goal. The rational explanation of natural phenomena will change the way we live in the world. To take a simple example: a person who understands the workings of thunder and lightning is not going to think that Zeus is sending her the message that he is angry. As Graver points out, at the time when Seneca writes the Natural Questions, this kind of concern is most prominently associated with Epicurean philosophy (2000, 51). Epicurean physics is in the business of fighting superstition and fear. The person who thinks that Zeus is speaking to her through the weather is in turmoil the person who understands how the elements interact can live a more rational and better life. Now, a Stoic philosopher writing on these matters faces a challenge. Epicureans argue that God does not concern himself with the particulars of human life to the extent of signaling to us that a certain action of ours did not meet his approval. The Stoic God, however, is caring, benevolent, and concerned with the details of human life. Thus, the fear that easily attaches to meteorological phenomena must be fought with nothing but the detail of physical analysis. The argument that God would not care to send us signs is unavailable: the Stoic God, and Seneca agrees on this, is in principle such as to send us signs, which is why divination counts as a science (cf. 2.32–51 on lightning and divination Williams 2012, chapter 8).

Ultimately, the project of the Natural Questions is to“take measure of God” (1.17), to “walk through the universe” (mundum circuire 3.1), to celebrate the works of the gods (3.5), and to free us from fear induced by natural events (6.4). The study of clouds or thunderstorms is interesting because we want to understand how clouds or thunderstorms arise—but more than that, it must be salutary (2.59.2), and it helps us achieve human excellence (3.10–18) (Inwood, 2005 [8] on the relationship of ethics and physics, cf. I. Hadot, 1969, 111–117). Seneca pursues a long-standing concern with making nature less scary, thus approaching meteorology partly from an ethical perspective. Moreover, the Natural Questions contain a number of discussions of human beings who act in what Seneca sees as particularly sordid and depraved ways. These passages are often described as digressions. Another reading, put forward by Williams (2012, Chapter 2), characterizes the Natural Questions as going beyond the meteorological tradition precisely because the text is in this particular way colorful, imaginative, and dramatic. Williams argues that Seneca’s treatise is importantly an artistic engagement with nature. Seneca aims to make some of his points by contrasting the beauty of nature’s workings with the ugliness of vicious action.

Seneca’s study of nature is importantly about a human being’s place and standing within the world. How could a person not investigate nature, knowing that ‘all this’—the world—pertains to her (ad se pertinere Natural Questions 1.13)? Seneca’s cosmopolitanism is integral to the way he leads his readers into the study of nature. Only when we view our local lives from the perspective of the stars do we come to see the insignificance of riches, borders, and so on (NQ 1.9–13). In an influential phrase, Pierre Hadot calls this perspective the‘view from above’ (1995)—a view that liberates us insofar as we come to see many seemingly important issues as mere trifles. We need the study of nature in order to reach the kind of distance from our everyday concerns that eventually frees us from unreasonable concern for them. And we investigate nature as something that we are a part of. In agreement with early Stoic thought about the universe as a large living being with parts, Seneca thinks that we are rightly motivated to study nature—nature is the large entity of which we are parts. Natural philosophy thus is necessary for fully engaging with one’s life. We might note that Seneca contrasts the study of nature with the study of history for him, it is the seemingly more theoretical field of physics that has greater practical value. It is better to praise the gods than to praise the conquests of Philipp or Alexander (NQ 3.5). Further, the study of nature is particularly valuable because it is the study of what should happen (quid faciendum sit), as opposed to the study of what in fact did happen (quid factum) (NQ 3.7).

5.2 The Natural Law

The Stoics are considered ancestors of the natural law tradition. The standard epithet of the law, in early Stoicism, is‘common’ (koinos), not ‘natural’.Seneca, however, characterizes laws or the law as natural and talks of the lex naturae (“law of nature”). Early Stoic thought about the law is partly rooted in the theory of appropriate action, and partly in a physical account of how reason—Zeus—pervades the world.

It is this physical notion of the law that is most prominent in Seneca. In his discussion of earthquakes and human fear, Seneca points out that we err by assuming that in some places, there is no danger of earthquakes all places are subject to the same law (lex) (6.1.12). In another context, Seneca points out that the natural laws (iura) govern events under the earth as much as above (3.16.4). The world is constituted so that everything that is going to happen, including the conflagration of the world when it comes to an end, is from the very beginning part of it. Natural events like earthquakes, and in fact all events, help nature go through with the natural statutes (naturae constituta) (3.29.4). Since nature (or Zeus) decided in the beginning what was going to happen, everything is easy for nature (3.30.1). The study of nature aims at accepting facts of nature, first and foremost the fact that human beings are mortal. Seneca refers to the necessity of death as a natural law (NQ 6.32.12: mors naturae lex est). Death is a“done deal” already at conception (On Peace of Mind 11.6 cf. NQ 2.59.6). It is the task of science to understand why death need not be feared, that the philosophical life is particularly indispensable because it prepares us for death, and that the kinds of death that we are prone to fear particularly, such as death through an earthquake, are really not much different from more usual kinds of death. To be free according to the law of nature is to be prepared to die any minute (3.16). That we are all equals in death reflects the justice of nature (6.1.8).

A theme that is equally present in Seneca’s natural philosophy and in his therapeutic practice is time. Book 3 of theNatural Questions is entitled On the waters of the earth and begins with reflections on the enormous time which the task of natural philosophy may consume on time that has been wasted with worldly concerns and the claim that it can be regained if we make diligent use of the present. The fact that human life is finite is thus present from the very first lines of the book. Seneca then turns to the way in which the world’s life-cycle is as finite as that of a human being. Just as a human foetus already contains the seed of its death, the beginnings of the world contain its end (3.28.2–3). It is precisely for this reason that things are easy for nature. Its death does not, as it were, come as a surprise—nature is well-prepared. Nature does what it initially determined nothing in nature’s doings is ad hoc (3.30.1). Seneca points to examples: Look at the way the waves roll onto the beaches the oceans are trained in how to flood the earth (3.30.2). The world’s preparedness for its death seems to be the perfect analogue of how, for Seneca, we ought to spend our lives. In Letter 12.6–8, Seneca says that everything, light and darkness, is contained in a single day. To use the present well is to be aware of this completeness. More days, and months, and years, will (or at least may) make up our lives. But we should not think of them as stretching out into the future rather, they are concentric circles surrounding the day which, right now, is present. And since even this very day stretches out, from its beginning to its end, we can appreciate it as containing everything—there can be more such days, but they will be more of the same. Thus, every such day, if it is lived well, we can be fully prepared to die.

5.3 God

The study of nature—of the heavens—eventually leads to knowledge of God (or at least, to the beginnings of such an understanding NQ 1.13). Seneca characterizes God in a number of ways: (i) God is everything one sees and everything one does not see. Nothing greater than his magnitude is conceivable (magnitudo […] qua nihil maius cogitari potest) he alone is everything—he keeps together his work from the inside and the outside (NQ 1.13). (ii) God is completely soul (animus) and reason (ratio) (1.14), or, as Seneca puts it in Letter 65.12, “reason in action” (ratio faciens). (iii) Like earlier Stoics, Seneca emphasizes that God (‘Jupiter’) can be referred to by many names: fate, the cause of causes (causa causarum), providence, nature, universe (NQ 2.45.2). (iv) Seneca agrees with the orthodox Stoic view that God is corporeal. God is a part of the world (pars mundi NQ 7.30.4). At the same time, he emphasizes that it is in thought that we have to see God—he flees human eyes. The study of God is thus not the study of a visible entity (7.30.3–5). (v) God, or nature, isbeneficial (5.18.13–15). Two of these ideas are particularly important to Seneca’s ethics. Much of Book 4 of On Benefitsis devoted to the fact that God is beneficial (4.3.3–4.9.1). It is through the example of God’s goodness that Seneca aims to explain why giving should really not be done with a view to one’s own advantage: there is no advantage that God could possibly gain from us, and yet God benefits all of us (4.3.3). Indeed, God is the ultimate source of benefits as cause of all causes, God is also the cause of everything that is good for us, and that includes the sun, the seasons, and so on. This connects to the point that God is referred to by many names. Seneca envisages the objection that these gifts do not come from God, but from nature but whoever makes this objection fails to understand that nature is but another name for God (4.7.1).

Earlier Stoic theology is partly developed in conversation and contradistinction from Epicurean theology. The central point of contention in this debate is whether God concerns himself with us, whether he is caring in the sense of attending to the details of how our lives are going. Seneca clearly shares the orthodox Stoic view that God is supremely caring. For example, Seneca describes the way in which God made the world as if he had built a wonderfully stable and beautiful house to present to us as a gift (4.6.2). In response to the question of how we know that there are gods, the earlier Stoics argued that every human being has a preconception of God. Seneca offers a version of this. The common practice of praying would be“insane” if there were no caring God. People would be addressing deities who are deaf (4.4.2). The fact that people everywhere seem to turn to God in prayer indicates for Seneca that there must be a caring God.

Seneca further agrees with earlier Stoic physics in taking divination seriously. In his discussions of thunder and lighting in the Natural Questions, Seneca explains that, while every natural event is a sign, we should not think of God busying himself with sending us, as it were, a sign at every particular occasion. Rather, we should explain natural events by seeking out their natural causes, and at the same time understand that the order of things as a whole is established by God. Since there is this order, divination is possible (NQ 2.32.1–4). Fate is the necessity of all events and actions, which no power can disrupt (2.36). Prayer cannot change fate but since the gods have left some things unresolved, prayer can be effective (2.37.2).

Like other ancient philosophers, Seneca discusses virtue as the ideal of “becoming like God.” This is, however, not an otherworldly ideal—rather, it is the ideal of perfecting our rationality, as agents living in this world (Russell 2004). We are a part of God to perfect our reason is to achieve the perfect rationality of divinity. In agreement with earlier Stoics, Seneca thinks that the virtuous man is an equal to the gods (Letter92.30–31 87.19). Seneca’s natural philosophy and his theology are thus closely related to his ethics and philosophical psychology. Ultimately, he is concerned with how we can perfect our soul, and he pursues this question in a variety of ways—by discussing virtue, the soul, nature, and theology.


A Political History of Parthia/Chapter 4

P HRAATES III THEOS [1] succeeded his father Sinatruces on the Parthian throne at a time when the fortunes of Mithradates of Pontus were at a low ebb. Tigranes of Armenia, the Pontian ally, though stripped of much of his territory, remained one of the great figures in the Orient. That the Parthian king should be drawn into the maelstrom of international politics was inevitable.

Shortly before the Battle of Tigranocerta in 69 b.c. , Mithradates and Tigranes sent pleas for aid against Rome to Phraates, offering the "seventy valleys," Adiabene, and northern Mesopotamia as an inducement. [2] Mithradates proposed that the Parthian should attack Mesopotamia while he and his ally advanced on Armenia, thus cutting Lucullus off from supplies. [3] After his victory Lucullus, learning of ​ these negotiations, sent some of his allies to threaten the Parthian king, should he join forces with Mithradates and Tigranes, and to promise rewards for his friendship. Phraates replied in a conciliatory manner to the overtures of both parties, and both felt that he had promised them support. The Parthian response reached Lucullus in Gorduene, and the legate Sextilius [4] was sent to continue negotiations. Phraates suspected, perhaps rightly, that the officer was sent to report Parthian movements the net result was that he did not give aid to either side, but attempted the dangerous procedure of straddling the diplomatic fence. Lucullus, who felt that Mithradates and Tigranes were both so exhausted from the prolonged struggle that they were not dangerous, determined to attack Parthia. [5] Sornatius [6] was ordered to bring the army from Pontus to Gorduene, but the troops refused to move and even threatened to leave Pontus undefended. When this news reached the legions with Lucullus they also mutinied, and the Parthian ​ expedition had to be abandoned for one against Tigranes. [7]

In 66 b.c. , under the Lex Manilia, Pompey was appointed to replace Lucullus and at once secured an agreement with Phraates to insure Parthian neutrality in the same manner as under the previous treaty. But Tigranes the Younger, after an unsuccessful revolt against his father, sought refuge with Phraates and urged him to invade that part of Armenia held by the elder Tigranes. [8] Phraates acquiesced, though with some hesitation because of his agreement with Pompey. News of the Parthian treaty with the Romans alarmed Mithradates, and he began to negotiate for a truce.

The Parthian forces advanced to Artaxata (Artashat). When the siege promised to be of considerable duration, Phraates left a detachment of his troops with the younger Tigranes and returned to his own country. Tigranes the Elder then took the field and ​ defeated his son. The young man thought of seeking refuge with Mithradates of Pontus, but felt that Mithradates was now little stronger than he so, perhaps at the suggestion of Phraates, he threw himself on the mercy of Pompey. The Roman commander was already marching on Artaxata, and Tigranes acted as guide. Tigranes the Elder despaired of further resistance and submitted to Pompey. In the partition which followed, Sophene and Gorduene were to be given to Tigranes the Younger. [9] His father retained Armenia proper, but was forced to relinquish his conquests in Syria. Almost immediately after this decision there were fresh disputes, and Pompey seized the younger Tigranes. Cappadocia was then restored to its king Ariobarzanes I, and along with it went the districts of Sophene and Gorduene [10] but the latter at least was never effectively occupied. [11]

In 65 b.c. Pompey made an extended campaign against the Iberians and Albanians, leaving L. Afranius to maintain control of Armenia. Pompey was within three days' march of the Caspian Sea and was even inquiring the distance to India when he was forced to abandon his advance. [12] In the meantime A. Gabinius, then a legate under Pompey, made a ​ raid across the Euphrates as far as the Tigris, [13] and Phraates, who had learned of the seizure of Tigranes the Younger, again invaded Gorduene, which he rapidly won from Tigranes the Elder. [14] While Pompey was returning through Lesser Armenia he received ambassadors of the Medes and the Elymaeans, [15] who came perhaps because of the Roman attack on Darius of Media Atropatene, who had befriended Antiochus I of Commagene or Tigranes. [16] Phraates too sent an embassy, perhaps inspired by Gabinius' raid, requesting that Tigranes the Younger, his son-in-law, be delivered over to him, and at the same time demanding formal recognition of the Euphrates as the boundary between Rome and Parthia.

Pompey asked the return of the newly captured district of Gorduene and refused to surrender Tigranes. As for the boundary the only satisfaction Phraates could obtain was the lofty sentiment that the Romans set justice as their boundary toward the Parthians. [17] Since the ambassadors were not instructed with regard to Gorduene, Pompey wrote briefly to Phraates, addressing him merely as "king," not "king of kings," a title which he wished to reserve for Tigranes, and without waiting for a reply sent Afranius to occupy the disputed territory. Whether this was ​ accomplished without fighting we cannot be sure [18] but Gorduene was given again to Tigranes of Armenia. Contrary to a treaty with the Parthians, Afranius returned through Mesopotamia to Syria, encountering many hardships and nearly losing his army.

The quarrel between Tigranes and Phraates was not yet ended. In 64 b.c. , while Pompey was in Syria, ambassadors from both parties arrived to consult him. As an excuse for not supporting his Armenian appointee, Pompey replied that he could take no action without orders from the Senate but he did send three commissioners to settle the boundary dispute. [19] Apparently Phraates retained Adiabene, and Tigranes Gorduene and Nisibis. No doubt the ambassadors found the matter somewhat simplified by the fact that both kings now realized they must conserve their strength for attacks on their common enemy, Rome, rather than waste it in petty quarrels. [20] About 58/57 b.c. [21] Phraates III was murdered by his sons ​ Orodes and Mithradates, [22] who immediately began a lengthy and bitter quarrel over the kingdom.

Numismatic evidence appears to support the claims of earlier historians that the elder brother, Mithradates III, succeeded to the throne upon the murder of his father. [23] Mithradates, whose chief center of power was in Iran, [24] made himself so objectionable that he was expelled by the nobles, [25] who installed Orodes as ruler. Compelled to flee, Mithradates took ​ refuge with the Roman commander, A. Gabinius, [26] whom he persuaded to lend him assistance in recovering the lost territory. In this case Gabinius might grasp some straw of legality, since the decree of the Senate had included in his command the Syrians, Arabs, Persians, and Babylon. [27] The proconsul crossed the Euphrates with a detachment but Ptolemy XI Auletes (80–51 b.c. ), who likewise had been expelled from his country, backed a request for aid with more money than the Parthian could offer. Mithradates, with Orsames, one of his aides, remained with Gabinius and did not give up hope until after the Roman victory over the Nabateans won en route to Egypt in the spring of 55 b.c. [28]

Undaunted by this failure, Mithradates started a civil war, in the course of which he won over the city of Babylon [29] and also the royal city of Seleucia, where he struck coins depicting the Tyche, palm of victory in hand, welcoming the new ruler. [30] Not long afterward ​ the troops of Orodes retook Seleucia under the leadership of his very able commander in chief, [31] who was the first to mount the walls. Babylon capitulated as the result of a famine caused by the long siege. Mithradates then voluntarily surrendered to Orodes, who considered him more enemy than brother and ordered him killed before his eyes. [32] Orodes apparently seized the entire issue of coins struck at Seleucia by Mithradates and restruck them with a design which shows Seleucia kneeling in submission while Orodes stretches out his right hand to assist her to rise. [33] By the execution of Mithradates late in 55 b.c. [34] Orodes was left sole ruler of the Parthians.

While this struggle between the two brothers was in progress, M. Licinius Crassus, then over sixty years of age, [35] was appointed to the Syrian command. [36] ​ the senatorial decree proposed by Pompey, Crassus was made governor of Syria everyone knew a Parthi ​ an war was intended. [37] Opposition to the war arose at once, but Crassus was urged on by Caesar, who was then in Gaul, and his position was defended by Cicero. [38] Italy was scoured for troops, and in spite of the legitimate cry of an unjust war Crassus left Rome on the ides of November, 55 b.c. The curses of the tribune Ateius, leader of the antiwar party, followed him as he departed for Brundisium, where he set sail for Dyrrachium. Thence he marched overland, arriving in Syria during April or May, 54 b.c. , and took over the command and troops of Gabinius. With the Syrian garrisons he now had an army of seven legions. His quaestor was C. Cassius Longinus his legates were his son Publius Crassus, Varguntius, and Octavius. He might expect Abgarus of Osroene, Alchaudonius, an Arab prince, and Artavasdes, then king of Armenia, as allies, to furnish light cavalry, though their help was always a doubtful quantity but Abgarus was definitely playing both sides, and Alchaudonius soon openly declared himself pro-Parthian.

​ The first year was spent in minor operations, the purpose of which is not clear perhaps it was to train the troops, or possibly Crassus wished to establish a base of supplies in Mesopotamia. [39] Roman troops crossed the Euphrates and advanced into the Land of the Two Rivers. The small force of Silaces, the Parthian satrap, was easily scattered and its leader wounded. The Greek cities, including Nicephorium, were easily won over but after the inhabitants of Zenodotium had massacred some legionaries that town was stormed—an exploit for which Crassus was hailed as " imperator " by his troops. [40] Silaces retired to report to Orodes the news of the Roman invasion, for sufficient Parthian troops were not available to attempt further resistance.

Crassus failed to follow up his advantage, but left two cohorts from each legion, a total of seven thousand men, and one thousand cavalry to garrison the captured towns he then returned to Syria for the winter. Orodes sent two generals to harry the garrisons of the newly taken villages, and spent the winter thus allowed him in preparation for the coming struggle.

During the winter Crassus stripped the temple at Jerusalem of such money and gold as Pompey had left, [41] plundered the temple of Atargatis at ​ Hierapolis-Bambyce (Membidj), [42] and enrolled a few additional soldiers. About the same time, or perhaps in the spring, Orodes sent ambassadors to Crassus to demand the reason for this unprovoked invasion. If the war was being waged without the consent of the Roman people, as the Parthians had been informed, then they would show mercy and take pity on the old age of Crassus but if the attack were official, then it was to be a war without truce or treaty. If the message is correctly reported, this is one of the numerous examples proving the superiority of the Parthian intelligence service over the Roman, which seems to have been notoriously bad in the East. [43] Such a reply was not calculated to pacify the Roman on the contrary it provoked him to fury, as perhaps Orodes intended. Crassus replied that he would answer their demands in Seleucia. The eldest of the Parthians then stretched out the palm of his hand and responded: "Hair will grow here before you see Seleucia." [44] The gesture and retort are still in use among present-day Arabs.

Because he had garrisoned the captured towns Crassus had no choice but to follow the same road on his next campaign, for, as he said, he had left many good men there. This decision cost him the support of a large body of foot and horse tendered by Arta ​ vasdes the Armenian, [45] who advised Crassus to advance by way of Armenia and thus keep in the hills, where the Parthian cavalry would be least useful. His advice and support were refused, and he rode away.

Crassus crossed the Euphrates at Zeugma [46] with a force which numbered about forty-two thousand, including four thousand cavalry and a like number of light-armed men. [47] Opposed to these troops were ten thousand cavalrymen (ten dragons [48] ), munitioned by a thousand camels which carried additional supplies of arrows. These forces were in command of Suren, [49] the Parthian commander in chief, assisted by the satrap Silaces for Orodes, taking with him the bulk of the infantry, had gone to Armenia to hold in check Artavasdes the king and to await the Roman attack, which he had every reason to expect would fall in that direction. But even Orodes was unable to ​ foresee the foolhardiness of Crassus hence the brunt of the campaign was borne by the cavalry left to defend Mesopotamia, where they were eminently suited to the level country.

Cassius, the quaestor, suggested a halt to rest the men in one of the garrisoned villages and the dispatch of scouts to gather information on the enemy forces. He argued that, if the advance had to be made at once, the best route lay along the Euphrates to Seleucia, which was the objective. But when Abgarus of Osroene rode into camp with news that the Parthians were retreating and taking their goods with them, and that they had left only two subordinates to cover their flight, Crassus permitted his enthusiasm to win the upper hand, and immediate advance across Mesopotamia was decided upon. Abgarus was later accused of acting as agent of the Parthians, but it is difficult to substantiate the charge. [50]

Suren was undoubtedly a man of great ability and courage, although not yet thirty years of age. He traveled with a large number of personal attendants, a bodyguard of a thousand mail-clad horsemen, and a sufficient number of concubines to require two hundred wagons. Apparently his force was composed entirely of cavalry, [51] the logical arm for the open country and for the distances to be traversed.

​ Crassus hastened across Mesopotamia through territory which the Roman authorities who seek an excuse for the subsequent defeat claim was trackless desert waste. Actually the country was rolling, and there were some villages and water holes throughout the region. Since the legions, among the most rapid marchers in the world, set out in the spring, they probably arrived before the lush grass of the last rains had burned away. On May 6 the troops reached the river Balicha (Balīkh) at a point below the city of Carrhae (Harran).

At Carrhae the Roman commander was informed by his scouts that Suren was near by. The officers urged a rest and a reconnoitering expedition but Crassus, carried away by the ardor of his son, advanced almost immediately, allowing his men barely sufficient time to eat and drink while standing in ranks. As Cassius had advised, Crassus moved forward with a wide front and little depth to his line, the wings supported by cavalry. To his son Publius he gave the command of one wing, to Cassius that of the other, while he himself took the center. The hurried advance tired still more the already weary Romans. On the approach of the Parthians, the bulk of the troops were formed into a square. The strength of the enemy remained an unknown quantity, for their numbers were masked by an advance guard and the heavy armor of the cataphracts was concealed under skins. At a given signal the Parthians ​ discarded the coverings and with the roar of a multitude of kettledrums charged the Roman line. This move resulted in a general withdrawal of the scouts and light-armed to positions within the square and before the astonished Crassus was aware of the maneuver, he was surrounded.

To understand the disaster which followed, some discussion of the character of the forces involved is demanded. The chief strength of the Parthian army was in its cavalry, which was divided into two branches, the light- and the heavy-armed. The light-armed wore no armor at all, though each man probably bore a small oval shield and carried a powerful bow and a quiver of arrows. This compound bow outranged the Roman weapons and had sufficient force to penetrate the armor of the legionaries. Camels stationed behind the fighting lines carried an extra supply of arrows from which the light-armed replenished their quivers.

The heavy cavalry, the cataphracts, wore scale armor which covered horse and rider [52] from head to foot. Their weapon was a long, heavy lance, with which they charged the enemy, relying on weight to carry them through the opposing forces. Scale armor ​ was first developed in Iran and spread rapidly eastward into China and more slowly westward through Parthia to the later Roman army. [53] In direct contrast to the Parthians were the Romans, armored foot soldiers, equipped for close fighting, each man protected by a shield and by a javelin (pilum) which he hurled before closing in with his short sword. In cavalry the army was weak, for the Romans as yet depended on their allies to supply this branch of the service the lesson taught at Carrhae eventually caused the expansion of the Roman mounted forces.

The Roman infantry were surrounded by the Parthian bowmen, who poured into them a deadly hail of arrows from every side. A charge by the Roman light-armed proved ineffectual. When the legions attempted the hand-to-hand fighting by which they hitherto had always conquered, the Parthians retired before them and continued to wield their bows with telling effect until they drove the legionaries back to the main body. Crassus realized the necessity of decisive action at once the order was given for his son to charge the Parthians. With thirteen hundred horsemen, five hundred archers, and eight cohorts (about four thousand men), the young Publius drove the enemy before him with ease until, caught far from all support, the Parthians turned upon him. Many of ​ those engaged in the attack on Crassus left and joined the assault on Publius. The bowmen rode Indian fashion around the bewildered Romans, shooting as they passed. Only the light-armed Gauls were effective against the Parthians, for they slipped from their mounts and stabbed the unprotected bellies of the Parthian horses or seized the lances and dragged the heavily armored riders to earth. But they were too few. Publius was wounded and attempted to fall back on the legions. His soldiers retired to a little hill, perhaps a tell, locked their shields, and fought on until they were killed or forced to surrender not more than five hundred were taken alive. Publius [54] and the majority of his officers ordered their shield-bearers to kill them or committed suicide. The Parthians cut off the head of Publius, fixed it on a lance, and returned to the main attack.

In the meantime Crassus, relieved somewhat by the departure of those who had joined the assault on Publius, took courage and drew up his troops on sloping ground. Warned by a messenger of the danger to which his son was exposed, Crassus prepared to move to his aid but scarcely had he set his forces in motion when the returning Parthians appeared with the head of Publius. Attacked by bowmen on the flanks and crowded by the heavy cavalry in front, the situation of the Romans was extremely serious until nightfall, when the Parthians withdrew.

​ Crassus had sunk so far into the depths of despair that his officers were unable to rouse him, and on their own authority they ordered a general retreat to Carrhae. The cries of the wounded who were left behind informed the Parthians that the Romans were retreating but they did not attack, as their bowmen and horses would have been at a great disadvantage in the darkness. About midnight a band of three hundred horsemen arrived at Carrhae and sent a message to tell Coponius, the commandant, of the disaster. He ordered his men to arms at once, and when positive news of the defeat was received he marched out to meet Crassus.

The following day the Parthians tarried to dispatch some four thousand Roman wounded and the numerous stragglers who were fleeing in all directions four cohorts under Varguntius were also destroyed. Since the slaughter did not begin until dawn, it doubtless occupied most of the day. Their task finished, the Parthians took up the pursuit and surrounded the town of Carrhae where Crassus and the remnant of his army had taken refuge. There was no prospect of relief, since the whole Near East had been denuded of troops for the expedition hence Crassus determined to abandon the shelter of the friendly but dangerous walls and to seek protection in the hills of Armenia. For obvious reasons the time of departure was kept secret but the Parthians managed to place a citizen of Carrhae, one Andromachus, ​ who was in their service, in the position of guide to the Roman forces. Crassus set out at night toward the hill town of Sinnaca, [55] but Andromachus wasted time until day broke. For this service he was rewarded with the tyranny of Carrhae, which he held until his cruelty led the citizens to kill him and his family. [56] Octavius, more successful in his choice of guides, reached the hill country safely with about five thousand men. Meanwhile Cassius, disgusted with the meanderings of Andromachus, had returned to Carrhae, whence he fled with five hundred horsemen to Syria. Unnerved by this bitter experience, he ever after kept a man ready to kill him should he so direct. [57]

At dawn Crassus was still a mile and a half from Octavius and the safety of the rough country when the appearance of the Parthians forced him to take refuge on a knoll. Surrounded by an enemy numerically far superior, his situation was extremely dangerous Octavius perceived his peril and courageously left a safe position on high ground to relieve Crassus.

Suren realized that he must act immediately, for if the Romans reached the near-by hills it would be impossible to use the Parthian cavalry. His next move, though possibly motivated by a desire to secure the person of Crassus, who was believed to be the in ​ stigator of the war, may also have been caused by a genuine desire to make peace, perhaps for purposes of self-aggrandizement. He released some Roman prisoners who had been allowed to overhear a conversation in the course of which assurances of kind treatment for Crassus and a desire for peace were expressed. The Parthians were ordered to cease fighting, and Suren with his staff advanced to the base of the rise on which the Romans had made their stand and offered safe passage and a treaty of peace. Crassus, fearing treachery, was disinclined to accept but his men threatened him, and he was forced to comply. [58] The meeting took place in the open space between the two armies, and each commander was accompanied by an equal number of men, presumably unarmed. The Parthians were on horseback, the Romans on foot. After a short conversation Crassus was offered a horse and the party started in the direction of the Euphrates, the boundary where most of the preceding treaties had been signed. But the Romans, weary with fighting and expecting treachery, perhaps failed to understand the purpose of this act, seeing in it an abduction of their commander. Octavius seized the bridle of Crassus' horse, and a general scuffle ensued, during which Octavius drew a sword and slew one of the Parthian grooms. This precipitated a mêlée in which Crassus, Octavius, and ​ other Romans were slain. Whether or not the Parthians intended treachery we cannot be sure, but one of the supposedly unarmed Romans struck the first blow, and the whole affair may have been a tragic misunderstanding. [59] Later the headless bodies of the Romans were dragged around the walls of Sinnaca. [60]

The Roman troops either surrendered or scattered during the night, only to be hunted down when daylight broke. Of the forty-two thousand who had set out with Crassus, scarcely one-fourth escaped, for twenty thousand were slain and ten thousand were made prisoners. The captives were settled at Margiana [61] (Merv), where they intermarried with native women. [62] Some were pressed into the Parthian armies and later betrayed their captors. [63] Suren proceeded to Seleucia, where he held a mock triumph to impress the citizens. Not long afterward, realizing the danger from so able a man, Orodes put Suren to death.

While the campaign against Crassus was in progress, Orodes had come to terms with Artavasdes, who was no longer under Roman influence. The Parthian had arranged a marriage between his son Pacorus and ​ the sister of the Armenian monarch. While the festivities were in progress and the entire company was watching a performance of the Bacchae of Euripides , messengers arrived with the head and hand of Crassus, gruesome trophies of Carrhae. In announcing the victory the head was thrown upon the stage, an action scarcely in keeping with Greek tradition, though both of the kings and their attendants were familiar with the Greek language and literature, and Artavasdes had written orations and histories and composed tragedies in that language. [64]

The result of Crassus' fiasco was to place Parthia on an equal if not superior plane with Rome in the minds of men from the Mediterranean to the Indus. [65] The lands east of the Euphrates became definitely Parthian, and the Euphrates remained the boundary between Rome and Parthia until a.d. 63, when the defeat of Paetus took place. The Parthians failed to follow up their victory, although Cassius, now in command of the Roman troops in Syria, was short of men and unlikely to receive reinforcements while civil war was threatening in Rome.

Among the groups most strongly affected by this increase in Parthian prestige were the Jews. For ​ years they had looked to this newly risen power in the East as a possible source of support, and the strong Jewish colonies in Babylonia must have kept their more westerly brethren informed of the Parthian successes. As the Greeks of Mesopotamia directed their appeals for aid to the rulers of Seleucid Syria, so the Palestinian Jews turned their eyes toward Parthia for deliverance from oppression.

Perhaps in the time of Antiochus Sidetes (139/38–129 b.c. ) an agreement for co-ordinated action had been reached between the Jews and the Parthians. [66] Certainly either during the ill-fated Parthian expedition or immediately afterward John Hyrcanus had made attacks on Syrian cities. [67] A passage of about that date in the Talmud seems to mention an attack by the Jews on Antioch. [68] In the time of Alexander Jannaeus (103–78 b.c. ) a Parthian embassy of good will is mentioned as having been feasted at Jerusalem. During the celebration they inquired for the old man Simeon, then in exile, who had entertained them previously. [69] It is noteworthy that during the reign of Alexander no mention is made of Jewish embassies to Rome such as had commonly been sent by his ​ predecessors. [70] The disaster which the Roman arms had suffered at Carrhae made certain the supremacy, at least for the time being, of pro-Parthian over pro-Roman sentiment among the Jews.

In 52 b.c. raids were made on Syria but the Parthians were driven out by Cassius, who then hastily marched southward into Judea, where he assaulted and captured the city of Taricheae. Large numbers of Jews who had revolted, perhaps inspired by the Parthian success, were sold into slavery. [71] The Jews discovered in plots against members of the pro-Roman party naturally turned toward Parthia as a certain refuge. [72]

The next, more determined, attempt by Parthia opened the way for expansion to its farthest western limits. This advance forms the subject of the following chapter.


Roman Gladiators and Christian Martyrs

Read the following passages from various Roman and Greek authors. Each author's name is linked to the Encyclopaedia Britannica article on him, to provide you some context for your reading. The texts for some passages are provided directly on this page. For others, you will have to click on the link to obtain the text (located elsewhere on the web).

THE SHORTNESS OF LIFE , xiii. 6-8 [Translation from Stoics.com]

Does it serve any useful purpose to know that Pompey was the first to exhibit the slaughter of eighteen elephants in the Circus, pitting criminals against them in a mimic battle? He, a leader of the state and one who, according to report, was conspicuous among the leaders of old for the kindness of his heart, thought it a notable kind of spectacle to kill human beings after a new fashion. Do they fight to the death? That is not enough! Are they torn to pieces? That is not enough! Let them be crushed by animals of monstrous bulk! Better would it be that these things pass into oblivion lest hereafter some all-powerful man should learn them and be jealous of an act that was nowise human. O, what blindness does great prosperity cast upon our minds! When he was casting so many troops of wretched human beings to wild beasts born under a different sky, when he was proclaiming war between creatures so ill matched, when he was shedding so much blood before the eyes of the Roman people, who itself was soon to be forced to shed more. he then believed that he was beyond the power of Nature. But later this same man, betrayed by Alexandrine treachery, offered himself to the dagger of the vilest slave, and then at last discovered what an empty boast his surname was.

To Atticus (Returning from Epirus) Antium, April, 56 B.C.

It will be delightful if you come to see us here. You will find that Tyrannio has made a wonderfully good arrangement of my books, the remains of which are better than I had expected. Still, I wish you would send me a couple of your library slaves for Tyrannio to employ as gluers, and in other subordinate work, and tell them to get some fine parchment to make title pieces, which you Greeks, I think, call "sillybi." But all this is only if not inconvenient to you. In any case, be sure you come yourself, if you can halt for a while in such a place, and can persuade Pilia to accompany you. For that is only fair, and Tulia is anxious that she should come. My word! You have purchased a fine troop! Your gladiators, I am told, fight superbly. If you had chosen to let them out you would have cleared your expenses by the last two spectacles. But we will talk about this later on. Be sure to come, and, as you love me, see about the library slaves.

Just look at the gladiators, either debased men or foreigners, and consider the blows they endure! Consider how they who have been well-disciplined prefer to accept a blow than ignominiously avoid it! How often it is made clear that they consider nothing other than the satisfaction of their master or the people! Even when they are covered with wounds they send a messenger to their master to inquire his will. If they have given satisfaction to their masters, they are pleased to fall. What even mediocre gladiator ever groans, ever alters the expression on his face? Which one of them acts shamefully, either standing or falling? And which of them, even when he does succumb, ever contracts his neck when ordered to receive the blow?

And yet I realize that in our country, even in the good old times, it had become a settled custom to expect magnificent entertainments from the very best men in their year of aedileship. So both Publius Crassus , who was not merely surnamed "The Rich" but was rich in fact, gave splendid games in his aedileship and a little later Lucius Crassus (with Quintus Mucius, the most unpretentious man in the world, as his colleague) gave most magnificent entertainments in his aedileship. Then came Gaius Claudius, the son of Appius, and, after him, many others-the Luculli, Hortensius, and Silanus. Publius Lentulus, however, in the year of my consulship, eclipsed all that had gone before him, and Scaurus emulated him. And my friend Pompey's exhibitions in his second consulship were the most magnificent of all. And so you see what I think about all this sort of thing. 58 XVII. Still we should avoid any suspicion of penuriousness. Mamercus was a very wealthy man, and his refusal of the aedileship was the cause of his defeat for the consulship. If, therefore, such entertainment is demanded by the people, men of right judgment must at least consent to furnish it, even if they do not like the idea. But in so doing they should keep within their means, as I myself did. They should likewise afford such entertainment, if gifts of money to the people are to be the means of securing on some occasion some more important or more useful object.

And indeed there are characteristic and specific vices in this city, which seem to me to be practically born in the womb: the obsession with actors and the passion for gladiatorial shows and horse racing. How much room does a mind preoccupied with such things have for the noble arts?

During these same days Pompey dedicated the theatre in which we take pride even at the present time. In it he provided an entertainment consisting of music and gymnastic contests, and in the Circus a horse-race and the slaughter of many wild beasts of all kinds. Indeed, five hundred lions were used up in five days, and eighteen elephants fought against men in heavy armour. Some of these beasts were killed at the time and others a little later. For some of them, contrary to Pompey's wish, were pitied by the people when, after being wounded and ceasing to fight, they walked about with their trunks raised toward heaven, lamenting so bitterly as to give rise to the report that they did so not by mere chance, but were crying out against the oaths in which they had trusted when they crossed over from Africa, and were calling on Heaven to avenge them. For it is said that they would not set foot upon the ships before they received a pledge under oath from their drivers that they should suffer no harm. Whether this is really so or not I do not know.

⎢] So after completing the new forum and the temple to Venus, as the founder of his family, he [ Julius Caesar ] dedicated them at this very time and in their honour instituted many contests of all kinds. He built a kind of hunting-theatre of wood, which was called an amphitheatre from the fact that it had seats all around without any stage. In honour of this and of his daughter he exhibited combats of wild beats and gladiators but anyone who cared to record their number would find his task a burden without being able, in all probability, to present the truth for all such matters are regularly exaggerated in a spirit of boastfulness. I shall accordingly pass over this and other like events.

⎣]. As for the men, he not only pitted them one against another singly in the Forum, as was customary, but he also made them fight together in companies in the Circus, horsemen against horsemen, men on foot against others on foot, and sometimes both kinds together in equal numbers. There was even a fight between men seated on elephants, forty in number. Finally he produced a naval battle not on the sea nor on a lake, but on land for he hollowed out a certain tract on the Campus Martius and after flooding it introduced ships into it. In all the contests the captives and those condemned to die took part yet some even of the knights, and, not to mention others, the son of one who had been praetor fought in single combat. Indeed a senator named Fulvius Sepinus desired to contend in full armour, but he was prevented for Caesar deprecated that spectacle at any time, though he did permit the knights to contend. The patrician boys went through the equestrian exercise called "Troy" according to ancient custom, and the young men of the same rank, contended in chariots.

⎤]He was blamed, indeed, for the great number of those slain, on the ground that he himself had not become sated with bloodshed and was further exhibiting to the populace symbols of their own miseries but much more faith was found because he had expended countless sums on all that array. In order that the sun might not annoy any of the spectators, he had curtains stretched over them made of silk, according to some accounts.

1. Most that he did was not characterized by anything noteworthy, but in dedicating the hunting theatre [The Amphiteatrum Flavium, later known as the Colosseum] and the baths that that bear his name he produced many remarkable spectacles. There was a battle between cranes and also between four elephants animals both tame and wild were slain to the number of nine thousand and women (not those of any prominence, however) took part in despatching them.

2. As for the men, several fought in single combat and several groups contended together both in infantry and naval battles. For Titus suddenly filled this same theatre with water and brought in horses and bulls and some other domesticated animals that had been taught to behave in the liquid element just as on land.

3. He also brought in people on ships, who engaged in a sea-fight there, impersonating the Corcyreans and Corinthians and others gave a similar exhibition from outside the city in the grove of Gaius and Lucius, a place which Augustus had once excavated for this very purpose. There, too, on the first day, there was a gladiatorial exhibition and wild-beast hunt, the lake in front of the images having first been covered over with a platform of planks and wooden stands erected around it.

4. On the second day there was a horse-race, and on the third day a naval battle between three thousand men, followed by an infantry battle. The "Athenians" conquered the "Syracusans" (these were the names the combatants used), made a landing on the islet [i.e., Ortygia] and assaulted and captured a wall that had been constructed around the monument. These were the spectacles that were offered, and they continued for a hundred days but Titus also furnished some things that were of practical use to the people.

5. He would throw down into the theatre from aloft little wooden balls variously inscribed, one designating some article of food, another clothing, another a silver vessel or perhaps a gold one, or again horses, pack-animals, cattle or slaves. Those who seized them were to carry them to the dispensers of the bounty, from whom they would receive the article named.

Upon Trajan's return to Rome ever so many embassies came to him from various barbarians, including the Indi. And he gave spectacles on one hundred and twenty-three days, in the course of which some eleven thousand animals, both wild and tame, were slain, and ten thousand gladiators fought.

  • Pliny HN 7.19-22 [Translation from H. Rackham, Pliny, Natural History (Loeb, v. 3, 1940) [from an passage describing elephants]

19. Fenestella states that the first elephant fought in the circus at Rome in the curule aedileship of Claudius Pulcher and the consulship of Marcus Antonius and Aulus Postumius, 99 B.C., and also that the first fight of an elephant against bulls was twenty years later in the curule aedileship of the Luculli.

20. Also in Pompey's second consulship at the dedication of the Temple of Venus Victrix, twenty, or, as some record, seventeen, fought in the Circus, their opponents being Gaetulians armed with javelins, one of the animals putting up a marvelous fight - its feet being disabled by wounds it crawled against the hordes of the enemy on its knees, snatching their shields from them and throwing them into the air, and these as they fell delighted the spectators by the curves they described, as if they were being thrown by a skilled juggler and not by an infuriated wild animal. There was also a marvelous occurrence in the case of another, which was killed by a single blow, as the javelin striking it under the eye had reached the vital parts of the head.

21. The whole band attempted to burst through the iron palisading by which they were enclosed and caused considerable trouble among the public. Owing to this, when subsequently Caesar in his dictatorship ⎽ b.c.] was going to exhibit a similar show he surrounded the arena with channels of water these the emperor Nero removed when adding special places for the Knighthood. But Pompey's elephants when they had lost all hope of escape tried to gain the compassion of the crowd by indescribable gestures of entreaty, deploring their fate with a sort of wailing, so much to the distress of the public that they forgot the general and his munificence carefully devised for their honour, and bursting into tears rose in a body and invoked curses on the head of Pompey for which he soon afterwards paid the penalty. Elephants also fought for the dictator Caesar in his third consulship ⎺ b.c.], twenty being matched against 500 foot soldiers, and on a second occasion an equal number carrying castles each with a garrison of 60 men, who fought a pitched battle against the same number of infantry as on the former occasion and an equal number of cavalry and subsequently for the emperors Claudius and Nero elephants versus men single-handed, as the crowning exploit of the gladiators' careers.

    Pliny. HN 33.53 Latin text from Bill Thayer's Lacus Curtius' Pliny the Elder Page

We did the kinds of things which later generations believe are the stuff of legend. Caesar who was later dictator, first, when he was aedile, used in the funeral games for his ancestors, every ostentation, beginning with the silvered sand then for the first time the condemned in silver array attacked the beasts, which even now they emulate in the provinces. C. Antonius produced a play on a silver stage, L. Murena did the same. The Emperor Gaius brought a stage into the Circus in which the weights were silver.

XLVII. While emperor he constructed no magnificent public works, for the only ones which he undertook, the temple of Augustus and the restoration of Pompey's theatre, he left unfinished after so many years. He gave no public shows at all, and very seldom attended those given by others, for fear that some request would be made of him, especially after he was forced to buy the freedom of a comic actor named Actius. Having relieved the neediness of a few senators, he avoided the necessity of further aid by declaring that he would help no others unless they proved to the Senate that there were legitimate causes for their condition. Therefore diffidence and a sense of shame kept many from applying, among them Hortalus, grandson of Quintus Hortensius the orator, who though of very limited means had begotten four children with the encouragement of Augustus.

    Suet. Iul . 39 [translation from the Ancient History Source Book's Suetonius Life of Julius Caesar page]

XXXIX. He gave entertainments of divers kinds: a combat of gladiators and also stage-plays in every ward all over the city, performed too by actors of all languages, as well as races in the circus, athletic contests, and a sham sea-fight. In the gladiatorial contest in the Forum Furius Leptinus, a man of praetorian stock, and Quintus Calpenus, a former senator and pleader at the bar, fought to a finish. A Pyrrhic dance was performed by the sons of the princes of Asia and Bithynia. During the plays Decimus Laberius, a Roman eques, acted a farce of his own composition, and having been presented with five hundred thousand sesterces and a gold ring [in token of his restoration to the rank of eques, which he forfeited by appearing on the stage], passed from the stage through the orchestra and took his place in the fourteen rows [the first fourteen rows above the orchestra, reserved for the equites by the law of L. Roscius Otho, tribune of the plebeians, in 67 B.C.]. For the races the circus was lengthened at either end and a broad canal was dug all about it then young men of the highest rank drove four-horse and two-horse chariots and rode pairs of horses, vaulting from one to the other. The game called Troy was performed by two troops, of younger and of older boys. Combats with wild beasts were presented on five successive days, and last of all there was a battle between two opposing armies, in which five hundred foot-soldiers, twenty elephants, and thirty horsemen engaged on each side. To make room for this, the goals were taken down and in their place two camps were pitched over against each other. The athletic competitions lasted for three days in a temporary stadium built for the purpose in the region of the Campus Martius. For the naval battle a pool was dug in the lesser Codeta and there was a contest of ships of two, three, and four banks of oars, belonging to the Tyrian and Egyptian fleets, manned by a large force of fighting men. Such a throng flocked to all these shows from every quarter, that many strangers had to lodge in tents pitched in the streets or along the roads, and the press was often such that many were crushed to death, including two senators.

    Suet. Tit.7.3 [Titus] [click on link for text] [link begins with excerpt from Tit.2-3. It's short, read the whole thing]

    Suet. Iul. 10.2, 26.2 [translation from The Ancient History Source Book: Suetonius, div. Iul. Page ]

X. When aedile ⏍ B.C.], Caesar decorated not only the Comitium and the Forum with its adjacent basilicas, but the Capitol as well, building temporary colonnades for the display of a part of his material. He exhibited combats with wild beasts and stageplays too, both with his colleague and independently. The result was that Caesar alone took all the credit even for what they spent in common, and his colleague Marcus Bibulus openly said that his was the fate of Pollux: "For," said he, "just as the temple erected in the Forum to the twin brethren, bears only the name of Castor, so the joint liberality of Caesar and myself is credited to Caesar alone." Caesar gave a gladiatorial show besides, but with somewhat fewer pairs of combatants than he had purposed for the huge band which he assembled from all quarters so terrified his opponents, that a bill was passed limiting the number of gladiators which anyone was to be allowed to keep in the city.

  1. 22. Three times I gave shows of gladiators under my name and five times under the name of my sons and grandsons in these shows about 10,000 men fought. Twice I furnished under my name spectacles of athletes gathered from everywhere, and three times under my grandson's name. I celebrated games under my name four times, and furthermore in the place of other magistrates twenty-three times. As master of the college I celebrated the secular games for the college of the Fifteen, with my colleague Marcus Agrippa, when Gaius Furnius and Gaius Silanus were consuls (17 B.C.E.). Consul for the thirteenth time (2 B.C.E.), I celebrated the first games of Mas, which after that time thereafter in following years, by a senate decree and a law, the consuls were to celebrate. Twenty-six times, under my name or that of my sons and grandsons, I gave the people hunts of African beasts invthe circus, in the open, or in the amphitheater in them about 3,500 beasts were killed.

23. I gave the people a spectacle of a naval battle, in the place across the Tiber where the grove of the Caesars is now, with the ground excavated in length 1,800 feet, in width 1,200, in which thirty beaked ships, biremes or triremes, but many smaller, fought among themselves in these ships about 3,000 men fought in addition to the rowers.

I have spent these several days past, in reading and writing, with the most pleasing tranquillity imaginable. You will ask, "How that can possibly be in the midst of Rome?" It was the time of celebrating the Circensian games: an entertainment for which I have not the least taste. They have no novelty, no variety to recommend them, nothing, in short, one would wish to see twice. It does the more surprise me therefore that so many thousand people should be possessed with the childish passion of desiring so often to see a parcel of horses gallop, and men standing upright in their chariots. If, indeed, it were the swiftness of the horses, or the skill of the men that attracted them, there might be some pretence of reason for it. But it is the dress they like it is the dress that takes their fancy. And if, in the midst of the course and contest, the different parties were to change colours, their different partisans would change sides, and instantly desert the very same men and horses whom just before they were eagerly following with their eyes, as far as they could see, and shouting out their names with all their might. Such mighty charms, such wondrous power reside in the colour of a paltry tunic! And this not only with the common crowd (more contemptible than the dress they espouse), but even with serious-thinking people. When I observe such men thus insatiably fond of so silly, so low, so uninteresting, so common an entertainment, I congratulate myself on my indifference to these pleasures: and am glad to employ the leisure of this season upon my books, which others throw away upon the most idle occupations. Farewell.

[Footnote 1: The performers at these games were divided into companies, distinguished by the particular colour of their habits the principal of which were the white, the red, the blue, and the green. Accordingly the spectators favoured one or the other colour, as humour and caprice inclined them. In the reign of Justinian a tumult arose in Constantinople, occasioned merely by a contention among the partisans of these several colours, wherein no less than 30,000 men lost their lives. M.]

  • Juv. 11.193-204: on chariot racing [latin text from: The Latin Library at Ad Fontes Academy: Iuvenalis Saturae ] [trans. from G.G. Ramsey, Loeb 1918]

Meantime the solemn Idaen rite of the Megalesian napkin is being held there sits the Praetor in his triumphal state, the prey of horseflesh and (if I may say so without offense to the vast unnumbered mob) all Rome to-day is in the Circus. A roar strikes upon my ear which tells me that the Green has won for had it lost, Rome would be as sad and dismayed as when the Consuls were vanquished in the dust of Cannae. Such sights are for the young, whom it befits to shout and make bold wagers with a smart damsel by their side but let my shrivelled skin drink in the vernal sun, and escape the toga.

Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since cast off its cares the people that once bestoed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things - Bread and Games!

Aelius Spartianus

NB - The Encyclopaedia Britannica doesn't have much on old Aelius Spartianus. Use the library to find out what you can about the man and bring your notes to class.

The Life of Hadrian (6-7) [translation from The Ancient History Sourcebook]

  • He gave gladiatorial combats for six days in succession, and on his birthday he put into the arena a thousand wild beasts.

VIII. The foremost members of the senate he admitted to close intimacy withthe emperor's majesty. All circus-games decreed in his honour he refused, except those held to celebrate his birthday.

  • The Romans staged spectacles of fighting gladiators not merely at their festivals and in their theatres, borrowing the custom from the Etruscans, but also at their banquets. some would invite their friends to dinner. that they might witness two or three pairs of contestants in gladiatorial combat. when sated with dining and drink, they called in the gladiators. No sooner did one have his throat cut than the masters applauded with delight at this fight.
2.3.2 [Latin text from: The Latin Library at Ad Fontes Academy: Valerius Maximus Page ]

The practice of weapons training was given to soldiers by P. Rutilius, consul with C. Mallis. For he, following the example of no previous general, with teachers summoned from the gladiatorial training school of C. Aurelus Scaurus, implanted in the legions a more sophisticated method of avoiding and dealing a blow and mixed bravery with skill and skill back again with virtue so that skill became stronger by bravery's passion and passion became more wary with the knowledge of this art.

Mil. 1.11 [FLAVI VEGETI RENATI VIRI INLUSTRIS COMITIS EPITOMA REI MILITARIS LIBRI IIII]

The ancients, we read, trained their recruits in this manner: They wove rounded shields from switches in the shape of ribbing, so that the weight of the ribbing would be double the weight an ordinary shield would have. In the same way, they gave wooden practice swords of almost double the ordinary weight as swords to the recruits. In this way, not only in the morning, but even after noon they practiced against stakes. For the use of stakes, not only for soldiers, but even for gladiators is very common. Neither the arena nor the field of battle ever pronounced a man untested by weapons acceptable unless he was taught, having excercised diligently, at the stake. Instead, individual stakes were fixed into the ground by individual recruits so that they could not sway and stood up six feet tall. Against this stake, as if against a foe, the recruit with the weighted shield and sword practiced as if with a real shield and sword - now as though he were attacking the head and face, now as though threatening from the side, and from time to time he would try to attack the thighs and legs from below, he would move back, jump forward, and on it, as if against an actual foe, so that he tested the stake with every blow, with every art of making war. In this excercise, this precaution was observed - that the recruit moved forward to deliver a blow in no way by which he himslef would open himself to one.

    Plutarch, C. Gracch, 12.3-4 [Translation from The Internet Classics Archive, Plutarch - Caius Gracchus Page]

A show of gladiators was to be exhibited before the people in the market-place, and most of the magistrates erected scaffolds round about, with an intention of letting them for advantage. Caius commanded them to take down their scaffolds, that the poor people might see the sport without paying anything. But nobody obeying these orders of his, he gathered together a body of labourers, who worked for him, and overthrew all the scaffolds the very night before the contest was to take place. So that by the next morning the market-place was cleared, and the common people had an opportunity of seeing the pastime. In this, the populace thought he had acted the part of a man but he much disobliged the tribunes his colleagues, who regarded it as a piece of violent and presumptuous interference.

He was so profuse in his expenses that, before he had any public employment, he was in debt thirteen hundred talents, and many thought that by incurring such expense to be popular he changed a solid good for what would prove but a short and uncertain return but in truth he was purchasing what was of the greatest value at an inconsiderable rate. When he was made surveyor of the Appian Way, he disbursed, besides the public money, a great sum out of his private purse and when he was aedile, he provided such a number of gladiators, that he entertained the people with three hundred and twenty single combats, and by his great liberality and magnificence in theatrical shows, in processions, and public feastings, he threw into the shade all the attempts that had been made before him, and gained so much upon the people, that every one was eager to find out new offices and new honours for him in return for his munificence.

Caesar, upon his return to Rome, did not omit to pronounce before the people a magnificent account of his victory, telling them that he had subdued a country which would supply the public every year with two hundred thousand attic bushels of corn and three million pounds' weight of oil. He then led three triumphs for Egypt, Pontus, and Africa, the last for the victory over, not Scipio, but King Juba, as it was professed, whose little son was then carried in the triumph, the happiest captive that ever was, who, of a barbarian Numidian, came by this means to obtain a place among the most learned historians of Greece. After the triumphs, he distributed rewards to his soldiers, and treated the people with feasting and shows. He entertained the whole people together at one feast, where twenty-two thousand dining couches were laid out and he made a display of gladiators, and of battles by sea, in honour, as he said, of his daughter Julia, though she had been long since dead. When these shows were over, an account was taken of the people who, from three hundred and twenty thousand, were now reduced to one hundred and fifty thousand. So great a waste had the civil war made in Rome alone, not to mention what the other parts of Italy and the provinces suffered.


What is Seneca the Younger referring to about Pompey's death? - History

T he spectacle of gladiatorial combat was initiated by wealthy Romans over 250 years before the birth of Christ as a part of the ceremonies held to honor their deceased relatives. Later, these games became separate events sponsored by Rome's leading citizens in order to enhance their prestige. With the decline of the republic and the rise of the empire, gladiator games were appropriated by the emperor. The primary purpose of these life-or-death duels was to entertain the multitude of spectators that jammed the arena.


Although some freemen elected to live the life of a gladiator, the majority were slaves, captured during the numerous wars Rome fought to expand its territory. The prospective gladiator received extensive training and became proficient in a particular mode of combat and the use of specific weapons such as the sword, net or the three-pronged spear known as the trident.

The games began early, lasted all day and were usually divided into three presentations. The morning was devoted to the display and slaughter of animals, many of them exotic beasts gathered from the far reaches of the empire. Lions, elephants, giraffes and other rare animals all played a role in a display of butchery designed to advertise the diversity of the far-flung empire and Rome's mastery of Mother Nature.

The morning session was followed by a lunch break in which patrons could leave the arena to satisfy their hunger. Those who lingered were entertained with the execution of common criminals. An attempt was made to match the method of the condemned person's death with the crime committed. Those who had murdered were thrown unprotected to wild beasts. Those who had committed arson were burned alive. Others were crucified. Criminals also provided the fodder for entertainment in the reenactment of historic naval battles in which the arena was flooded and the condemned forced to play the role of the doomed crews of enemy ships.

The afternoon was devoted to the main event - the combat of the gladiators. Typically, gladiators with different specialties were pitted against one another. Much like a modern boxing match, the duels were governed by strict rules and overseen by a referee to assure these rules were followed. Music provided an accompaniment with the band varying the tempo of its play according to the action in the arena. The crowd would ultimately decide whether the loser would live or die.

The Roman philosopher Seneca took a dim view of gladiatorial contests and the spectacle that accompanied them. Interestingly, his criticism is not based on revulsion at the butchery he witnesses, but because the display is boring and therefore unworthy of the attention of a well-reasoned man. In a letter to a friend, he describes what he saw in the arena during the reign of Emperor Caligula:

"There is nothing so ruinous to good character as to idle away one's time at some spectacle. Vices have a way of creeping in because of the feeling of pleasure that it brings. Why do you think that I say that I personally return from shows greedier, more ambitious and more given to luxury, and I might add, with thoughts of greater cruelty and less humanity, simply because I have been among humans?

The other day, I chanced to drop in at the midday games, expecting sport and wit and some relaxation to rest men's eyes from the sight of human blood. Just the opposite was the case. Any fighting before that was as nothing all trifles were now put aside - it was plain butchery.


The men had nothing with which to protect themselves, for their whole bodies were open to the thrust, and every thrust told. The common people prefer this to matches on level terms or request performances. Of course they do. The blade is not parried by helmet or shield, and what use is skill or defense? All these merely postpone death.

In the morning men are thrown to bears or lions, at midday to those who were previously watching them. The crowd cries for the killers to be paired with those who will kill them, and reserves the victor for yet another death. This is the only release the gladiators have. The whole business needs fire and steel to urge men on to fight. There was no escape for them. The slayer was kept fighting until he could be slain.

'Kill him! Flog him! Burn him alive!' (the spectators roared) 'Why is he such a coward? Why won't he rush on the steel? Why does he fall so meekly? Why won't he die willingly? "

Unhappy as I am, how have I deserved that I must look on such a scene as this? Do not, my Lucilius, attend the games, I pray you. Either you will be corrupted by the multitude, or, if you show disgust, be hated by them. So stay away."

References:
Seneca's account appears in: Davis, William, Sterns, Readings in Ancient History v. 2 (1913) Wiedman, Thomas, Emperors and Gladiators (1995).


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