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Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger)

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger)

Circa 4 b.c.e. -65 c.e.

Author, philosopher, and imperial tutor

Sources

Exile and Redemption. Seneca was born circa 4 B.C.E. at Corduba in Spain, and educated at Rome. Seneca became a well-known author and orator, and was long associated with the Julio-Claudian family. Accused of adultery with Caligula’s sister Julia Livilla, Seneca was exiled to Corsica in 41 C.E. until Agrippina (also sister of Caligula, and wife of the emperor Claudius) instigated his recall in 49 and made him tutor to the future emperor Nero. Seneca served as adviser to Nero during the first five years of his reign, and after falling into disfavor with Nero he retired in 62. A charge of complicity in the Pisonian Conspiracy of 65 led to Seneca’s suicide on Nero’s order. Seneca’s great literary contributions span several genres and much of his adult life. He is a fascinating study in human compliance during an era when many members of the educated upper class were no longer participating actively in Roman government. The Neronian age was both a renaissance of cultural activity and a turbulent pool of intrigue and corruption. For a while, Seneca successfully managed to work within the imperial system as a close associate of the imperial family. His untimely death, however, was symptomatic of the vicissitudes of Nero’s reign. His philosophical writings display an affinity for Stoicism, yet his lifestyle and great wealth betrayed qualities inconsistent with his philosophical persuasion. Perhaps a hypocrite, Seneca succeeded where most Romans of his generation and background would not have dared to attempt.

Sources

C. D. N. Costa, ed., Seneca (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974).

Miriam T. Griffin, Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976).

Villy Sørensen, Seneca: The Humanist at the Court of Nero, translated by W. Glyn Jones (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1984).

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