The Greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca by Emily Wilson

By Emily Wilson

By means of any degree, Seneca (?4-65AD) is without doubt one of the most important figures in either Roman literature and historical philosophy. His writings are voluminous and numerous, starting from satire to nerve-racking, violent tragedies, from metaphysical idea to ethical and political discussions of advantage and anger. Seneca discovered himself on the turbulent middle of Roman imperial energy, making him hence an incredible witness to the Empire's first dynasty, the Julio-Claudians. Exiled by way of the emperor Claudius within the wake of a intercourse scandal, he used to be finally introduced again to Rome to turn into show and, later, speech-writer and consultant to Nero. Seneca was once suspected of plotting opposed to Nero, condemned to die, and finally took his personal life-an act that's probably the most iconic suicides in Western history.

The existence and works of Seneca pose a few interesting demanding situations. How will we reconcile the bloody tragedies with the prose works advocating a lifetime of Stoic tranquility? How are we to stability Seneca the fellow of precept, who suggested a lifetime of calm and ease, with Seneca the fellow of the instant, who gathered an unlimited own fortune within the provider of an emperor obvious via many, on the time and afterwards, as an insane tyrant? during this definitive and relocating biography, Emily Wilson provides Seneca as a guy lower than huge, immense strain, suffering for compromise in an international of absolutism. The Greatest Empire offers us the portrait of a existence lived perilously within the hole among political realities and philosophical beliefs, among what we aspire to be and what we are.

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Extra resources for The Greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca

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His relationships with his mother and aunt prepared him to see women, if not as equals, at least as worthy of deep respect. Probably Helvia was the first to introduce him to history and poetry, sowing a lifelong love for the works of Virgil and Ovid (whom Seneca quotes constantly). ”). Helvia probably married very young: it was common for girls in the highest classes of Roman society to marry soon after puberty. At the time of marriage, she would have already been able to read and write, and had 34 T H E G R E AT E S T E MPIRE basic knowledge of literature and history.

The experience of being sickly was one of many factors that made Seneca later so readily attracted to philosophy, and especially to ascetic forms of philosophy. He would have grown up accustomed to the regimens associated with chronic sickness: the constant vigilance and the close attention to diet, exercise, and daily routine that were, in antiquity even more than today, a crucial element in the practice of medicine. The habit of paying close attention to himself, and of attempting daily to make progress toward an unattainable ideal of perfect health, is one that Seneca continued his whole life long.

The father’s name was Lucius Annaeus Seneca, like his middle son (or perhaps Marcus Annaeus Seneca: the first name is doubtful). He was born around 54 bce and died around 38 or 39 ce, in extreme old age—over ninety. He thus lived through the civil wars, as well as the early years of the principate. The Annaeus family probably supported Pompey, although they presumably 36 T H E G R E AT E S T E MPIRE switched over quickly and kept their old allegiances carefully under wraps in later years; they clearly did not suffer financially from the wars.

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