LUCIUS ANNAEUS SENECA was born at Cordoba, in Roman Spain, at about the same time as Christ.

Seneca suffered severely from ill health, particularly asthma, throughout his life; he tells us that at one time the only thing which held him back from committing suicide was the thought of his father’s inability to bear the loss.

After studying to be a lawyer, he became a governmental official. After becoming a leading speaker in the Senate, he did something to enrage the Emperor, Caligula, enough for him to order Seneca’s execution. Caligula relented after being told Seneca had tuberculosis and would not live much longer.

After Caligula was assassinated and Claudius became Emperor in41 AD, Seneca once again did something the Emperor did not approve of and he was banished to the island of Corsica. In 49 he was recalled to Rome to be Nero’s tutor. Nero was 12 at this time and Seneca remained his tutor even after Nero became Emperor in 54. The first 5 years of Nero’s reign were known for good governance. It is believed during this time Nero took little interest in ruling and Seneca and an army officer named Burrus.


Later as Nero began to listen to other advisors while starting to be the Emperor in fact and not just name, the government was building huge vanity projects and living extravagantly.


Looking on Wikipedia, this line made me laugh:

Modern historians, though, note that the period was riddled with deflation and that it is likely that Nero’s spending came in the form of public-works projects and charity intended to ease economic troubles.

Nothing outside the narrative, even from 2,000 some years ago.

Anyway, back to Seneca, after Burrus’s death in 62, Seneca was forced to retire. During this time on his estate, he put together the collection of letters he wrote to Lucilius Junior, an official in Sicily. These letters explain some of the thought process that goes into being a Stoic.

In 65 there was a conspiracy to assassinate Nero, After it was found out the men were captured. While being interrogated one of the men named Seneca as being involved. Nero ordered Seneca to take his own life.

Seneca cut multiple veins, supposedly telling his distraught friends:

“Where,” he asked again and again, “are your maxims of philosophy, or the preparation of so many years’ study against evils to come? Who knew not Nero’s cruelty? After a mother’s and a brother’s murder, nothing remains but to add the destruction of a guardian and a tutor.”

When he didn’t bleed as quickly as he thought he would, he went into a warm bath to speed the flow.

Was Seneca a perfect Stoic in his life? Many of his political opponents called him out for his hypocrisy of teaching an austere lifestyle while being one of the richest men in Rome. He was also accused of infidelity with a few women and that is a probable reason for his multiple banishments.

Regardless of whether or not he was a perfect practitioner, there is a lot to learn from his letters.


In Discursiveness in Reading: In this he talks about not randomly jumping from topic to topic without focusing enough to actually learn or improve yourself by concentrating on a specific subject or author. At the end he reminds Lucilius that if you have enough, you do not live in poverty, even if you have very little.


On True and False Friendship: This one starts with him asking Lucilius about a man Lucilius referred to as a “friend” in a letter, but in the next sentence he was warning Seneca not to discuss important private matters with this “friend”. Seneca is confused by this, because if the man is a true friend you should not have to worry about what you say in front of him. He advises Lucilius to judge a man before making him a friend, and once you have sufficiently discerned the true character, you won’t have to worry about them knowing your secrets. I agree with this and it is part of the reason I don’t have many friends. I will willingly help anyone I know, but very few am I comfortable really talking to.


On the Philosopher’s Mean: Seneca starts by being pleased Lucilius is studying philosophy and encourages him to keep at it. He warns Lucilius that studying to be conspicuous and not to improve is something to be avoided. It is more important to be a strong person on the inside than it is to make sure everyone knows you are not the same as a common man. He finishes by reminding Lucilius not to get too hung up on hope, nor too stressed by fear, and he says they are related because they are both things caused by people looking too far ahead and trying to influence things they have no control over. I try to follow this to a point, but I am a bit of a weirdo. Sometimes I say things and people look at me funny, but I do not try to make sure everyone knows I have an internal philosophy I follow that they do not agree with.


On Sharing Knowledge: Here Seneca is please with his own progress even as he admits that this progress helps him to see his faults clearer. He then tells Lucilius that because he is very happy with his own progress, he will derive great joy from helping Lucilius improve himself. To do this, he is sending Lucilius books with pertinent parts notated. He also says it is a great help in self improvement to be among others that are working towards the same goals. I try to give advice where I can and my wife has asked a few times on how to deal with some family drama back in Okinawa. She told me that what I said was probably correct, but the rest of her family would not want to hear it.


On Crowds: Although Seneca did say that it was not important to be conspicuous about being a Stoic, here he warns Lucilius not to spend too much time with the crowd at the gladiatorial games, because doing so is a bad influence on your character. He says instead to find people that improve you and look for those that you can help improve. Preaching to the crowd would be a waste of time, since most people do not desire to improve themselves. He ends by reminding Lucilius that the learning process is good, even if only you benefit from it. I don’t let outside people influence me in the wrong way. I am glad I found this website and hope that my efforts here hel some of you improve yourselves along with me. Like Seneca I am pleased with my progress, even though it really has shown me I still have a long way to go.


I think that’s long enough for one article, I will revisit these letters and complete the book at a later date.

Music this week is Volbeat

The first line describes every Glibs meetup I have been to:


This is the first song I heard of theirs:

Probably my favorite from them: