Quotes about Seneca the Younger
25 Sourced Quotes
In Western Europe since Roman times, private property was considered sacrosanct. The principle enunciated by the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca that kings rule by the will of the people became fundamental to Western civilization, together with private property, which was the main source of productive wealth.
We stand in need of such reflections to comfort us for the loss of some illustrious characters, which in our eyes might have seemed the most worthy of the heavenly present. The names of Seneca, of the elder and the younger Pliny, of Tacitus, of Plutarch, of Galen, of the slave Epictetus, and of the emperor Marcus Antoninus, adorn the age in which they flourished, and exalt the dignity of human natures.
The Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger (tutor to Nero) complained that his peers were wasting time and money accumulating too many books, admonishing that "the abundance of books is a distraction." Instead, Seneca recommended focusing on a limited number of good books, to be read thoroughly and repeatedly.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
It was this savagery and madness which darkened the understanding of the most prominent representatives of the culture of all nations, such as Cicero, Seneca, Tacitus, Mohamed, Martin Luther, Giordano Bruno, Frederick the Great, Voltaire, Josef II, Napoleon I, Goethe, Herder, Immanuel Kant, Fichte, Schopenhauer, Charles Fournier, Ludwig Feuerbach, Richard Wagner, Bismarck, Rudolf Virchow, Theodor Billroth, Eugen Duhring - and countless others in all fields to come out against the Jews. Savagery and madness, finally, explains the anti-Semitism of the most distinguished representatives of our culture, such as Simion Barnutiu, B. P. Hajdau, Vasile Alecsandri, Vasile Conta, Mihail Eminescu.
The great stoic Seneca repeatedly urged his fellow Romans to retire in order to find themselves, as we might put it. In the Renaissance, as in ancient Rome, it was part of the well-managed life. You had your period of civic business, then you withdrew to discover what life was really about and to being the long process of preparing for death. Montaigne developed reservations about the second part of this, but there is no doubt about his interest in contemplating life. He wrote: Let us cut loose from all the ties that bind us to others; let us win from ourselves the power to live really alone and to live that way at our ease.
Why, Sir, when I have anything to invent, I never trouble my head about it, as other men do; but presently turn over this Book, and there I have, at one view, all that Perseus, Montaigne, Seneca's Tragedies, Horace, Juvenal, Claudian, Pliny, Plutarch's lives, and the rest, have ever thought upon this subject: and so, in a trice, by leaving out a few words, or putting in others of my own, the business is done.
Seneca, in advising retirement, had also warned of dangers. In a dialogue called On Tranquility of Mind, he wrote that idleness and isolation could bring to the fore all the consequences of having lived life in the wrong way, consequence that people usually avoided by keeping busy—that is, by continuing to live life in the wrong way.
What we really long for after death is to go on living this life, this same mortal life, but without its ills without its tedium, and without death. Seneca, the Spaniard, gave expression to this in his Consolatio ad Marciam... And what but that is the meaning of that comic conception of the eternal recurrence which issued from the tragic soul of poor Nietzsche, hungering for concrete and temporal immortality?