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Biographies (5)


Seneca, M. Annaeus

Seneca, M. Annaeus, was a native of Corduba (Cordova) in Spain. The time of his birth is uncertain; but it may be approximated to. He says (Contr. Praef. i. p. 67) that he considered that he had heard all the great orators, except Cicero; and that he might have heard Cicero, if the Civil Wars, by which he means the wars between Pompeius and Caesar, had not kept him at home (intra coloniam meam). Seneca appears to allude in this passage to some of Cicero's letters (ad Fam. vii. 33, ix. 16), in which Cicero speaks of Hirtius and Dolabella being his "dicendi discipuli" (B. C. 46). It is conjectured that as Seneca might be fifteen in B. C. 46, he may have been born on or about B. C. 61 (Clinton, Fasti), the year before C. Julius Caesar was praetor in Spain. Seneca was at Rome in the early period of the power of Augustus, for he says that he had seen Ovid declaiming before Arellius Fuscus (Contr. x. p. 172). Ovid was born B. C. 43. Seneca was an intimate friend of the rhetorician M. Porcius Latro, who was one of Ovid's masters. He also mentions the rhetorician Marillius, as the master of himself and of Latro. He afterwards returned to Spain, and married Helvia, by whom he had three sons, L. Annaeus Seneca, L. Annaeus Mela or Mella, the father of the poet Lucan, and Marcus Novatus. Novatus was the eldest son, and took the name of Junius Gallio, upon being adopted by Junius Gallio. Seneca was rich, and he belonged to the equestrian class. The time of his death is uncertain; but he probably lived till near the end of the reign of Tiberius, and died at Rome or in Italy. It appears that he was at Rome early in life, from what has been stated as to Ovid; and he must have returned to Spain, because his son Lucius was brought to Rome from Spain when lie was an infant. (L. Seneca, Consol. ad Helviam. )
  Seneca was gifted with a prodigious memory. He was a man of letters, after the fashion of his time, when rhetoric or false eloquence was most in vogue. His Controversiarum Libri decem, which he addressed to his three sons, were written when he was an old man. The first, second, seventh, eighth, and tenth books only, are extant, and these are somewhat mutilated : of the other books only fragments remain. These Controversiae are rhetorical exercises on imaginary cases, filled with common-places, such as a man of large verbal memory and great reading carries about with him as his ready money. Another work of the same class, attributed to Seneca, and written after the Controversiae, is the Suasoriarum Liber, which is probably not complete. We may collect, from its contents, what the subjects were on which the rhetoricians of that age exercised their wits : one of them is, "Shall Cicero apologise to Marcus Antonius ? Shall he agree to burn his Philippics, if Antonius requires it?" Another is, "Shall Alexander embark on the ocean?" If there are some good ideas and apt expressions in these puerile declamations, they have no value where they stand ; and probably most of them are borrowed. No merit of form can compensate for worthlessness of matter. The eloquence of the Roman orators, which was derived from their political institutions, was silenced after the Civil Wars; and the puerilities of the rhetoricians were the signs of declining taste.
  The Controversiae and Suasoriarum Liber have often been published with the works of Seneca the son. The edition of A. Schottus appeared at Heidelberg, 1603 and 1604, Paris, 1607 and 1613. The Elzivir print of 1672, contains the notes of N. Faber, A. Schottus, J. F. Gronovius, and others.
The confusion between Seneca, the father, and Seneca, the philosopher, is fully cleared up by Lipsius, Electorum Lib. I. cap. 1, Opera, vol. i., ed. 1675.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Jan 2006 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Helvia, wife of Seneca

Helvia, wife of M. Annaeus Seneca, of Corduba, the rhetorician, and mother of his three sons, M. Annaeus Novatus, L. Annaeus Seneca, the philosopher, and L. Annaeus Mela (Sen. Consol. ad Helv. 2). Helvia was probably a native of Spain, and followed her husband to Rome, about A. D. 3-5, while her second son was an infant (Ibid. 17). The life of Helvia is contained in Seneca's address of condolence to his mother (Consolatio ad Helviam) on his exile to Corsica, in the reign of Claudius, A. D. 47-9. Through the rhetorical amplifications of this address we discover that Helvia had borne her full share of the sorrows of life. Her mother died in giving birth to her. She was brought up by a stepmother. She had lost her husband and a most indulgent uncle within a month of each other; and her grief for the untimely decease of one of her grandsons was embittered by the exile of her son. Helvia had at least one sister (Cons. ad Helv. 17), but her name is unknown.


Seneca, L. Annaeus

Seneca, L. Annaeus, the son of M. Annaeus Seneca, was born at Corduba, probably about a few years B. C., and brought to Rome by his parents when he was a child. Though he was naturally of a weak body, he was a hard student from his youth, and he devoted himself with great ardour to rhetoric and philosophy. He also soon gained distinction as a pleader of causes, and he excited the jealousy and hatred of Caligula by the ability with which he conducted a case in the senate before the emperor. He was spared, it is said, because Caligula was assured by one of his mistresses that Seneca would soon die of disease. The emperor also affected to despise the eloquence of Seneca : he said that it was sand without lime (Sueton. Calig. 53). Seneca obtained the quaestorship, but the time is uncertain. In the first year of the reign of Claudius (A. D. 41). the successor of Caligula, Seneca was banished to Corsica. Claudius had recalled to Rome his nieces Agrippina and Julia whom their brother Caligula had exiled to the island of Pontia (Ponza). It seems probable that Messalina, the wife of Claudius, was jealous of the influence of Julia with Claudius, and hated her for her haughty behaviour. Julia was again exiled, and Seneca's intimacy with her was a pretext for making him share her disgrace. What the facts really were is unknown; and the innocence of Seneca and Julia is at least as probable as their guilt, when Messalina was the accuser.
  In his exile in Corsica Seneca had the opportunity of practising the philosophy of the Stoics, to which he had attached himself. His Consolatio ad Helviam, or consolatory letter to his mother, was written during his residence in the island. If the Consolatio ad Polybium, which was also written during his exile, is the work of Seneca, it does him no credit. Polybius was the powerful freedman of Claudius, and the Consolatio is intended to comfort him on the occasion of the loss of his brother. But it also contains adulation of the emperor, and many expressions unworthy of a true Stoic, or of an honest man. The object of the address to Polybius was to have his sentence of exile recalled, even at the cost of his character.
  After eight years' residence in Corsica Seneca was recalled A. D. 49, by the influence of Agrippina (Tac. Ann. xii. 8), who had just married her uncle the emperor Claudius. From this time the life of Seneca is closely connected with that of Nero, and Tacitus is the chief authority for both. On his return he obtained a praetorship, and was made the tutor of the young Domitius, afterwards the emperor Nero, who was the son of Agrippina by a former husband. Agrippina relied on the reputation of Seneca and his advice as a means of securing the succession to her son; and she trusted to his gratitude to herself as a guarantee for his fidelity to her interests, and to his hatred of Claudius for the wrongs that he had suffered from him.
  It was unfortunate that the philosopher had so bad a pupil, but we cannot blame him for all that Nero learned and all that he did not learn. The youth had a taste for what was showy and superficial : he had no capacity for the studies which befit a man who has to govern a state. If Seneca had made a rhetorician of him after his own taste, that would have been something, but Domitius had not even the low ability to distinguish himself as a talker. There is no evidence to justify the imputation that Seneca encouraged his vicious propensities ; and if Nero had followed the advice contained in Seneca's treatise, De Clementia ad Neronem Caesarem, written in the second year of Nero's reign, the young emperor might have been happy, and his administration beneficent. That Seneca would look upon his connection with Nero as a means of improving his fortunes and enjoying power, is just what most other men would have done, and would do now in the same circumstances; and that a man with such views would not be very rigid towards an unruly pupil is a reasonable inference. We know that he did not make Nero a wise man or a good man; we do not know that he helped to make him worse than he would have been; and in the absence of positive evidence of his corrupting the youth and with the positive evidence of his own writings in his favour, it is a fair and just conclusion that he did as much with Nero as a man could who had accepted. and chose to retain a post in which his character could not possibly escape some imputation. [p. 779] He who consents to be the tutor of a vicious youth of high station, whom he cannot control, must be content to take the advantages of his post, with the risk of being blamed for his pupil's vices.
  Claudius was poisoned by his niece and wife Agrippina A. D. 54, and Nero succeeded to the Imperial power. Tacitus (Ann. xiii. 2, &c.) states that both Burrus and Seneca attempted to check the young emperor's vicious propensities; and both combined to resist his mother's arrogant pretensions. A woman assuming the direct exercise of political power was a thing that the Romans had not yet seen, and it was inconsistent with all their notions. The opposition of Burrus and Seneca to the emperor's mother was the duty of good citizens.
  Nero pronounced the funeral oration in memory of Claudius. The panegyric on the deceased emperor was listened to with decency and patience till Nero came to that part of his discourse in which he spoke of the foresight and wisdom of Claudius, when there was a general laugh. The speech, which Nero delivered, was written by Seneca in a florid style, suited to the taste of the age, with little regard to truth, and none for his own character, for he afterwards wrote a satire (Apocolocyntosis) to ridicule the Apotheosis of the man whom he had despised and praised.
In the first year of his reign Nero affected mildness and clemency, and such was the tone of his orationes to the senate; but these professions were the words of Seneca, uttered by the mouth of Nero; the object of Seneca was, as Tacitus says, either to give public evidence of the integrity of his counsels to the emperor, or to display his abilities. There might be something of both in his motives; but it is consistent with a fair judgment and the character of Seneca's writings to believe that he did attempt to keep Nero within the limits of decency and humanity. A somewhat ambiguous passage of Tacitus (Ann. xiii. 13), seems to affirm that he endeavoured to veil Nero's amour with Acte under a decent covering; and Cluvius (Tacit. Ann. xiv. 2) states that the amour with Acte was encouraged to prevent a detestable crime. "What a part for a Stoic to play," says one of Seneca's biographers, " whose duty it was to recall his disciple to the arms of his wife, the virtuous Octavia". The Stoic probably did the best that he could under the circumstances.
  The murder of Britannicus A. D. 55 was followed by large gifts from Nero to his friends; and "there were not wanting persons to affirm, that men who claimed a character for sober seriousness, divided among themselves houses and villae at that time, as if it were so much booty" (Tacit. Ann. xiii. 18). The allusion is supposed to be to Seneca and Burrus; but the passage of Tacitus contains no distinct charge against either of them. It was unlucky for Seneca's reputation that he was rich; for a man in power cannot grow rich, even by honest means, without having dishonesty imputed to him.
  The struggle for dominion between Nero and his mother could only be decided by the ruin of one of them; and if Seneca wished to enjoy credit with Nero, it was necessary that he should get rid of this imperious woman. Fabius Rusticus says that Seneca maintained Burrus in his post of Praefectus Praetorio, when Nero intended to remove him on the ground of his supposed adherence to the cause of Agrippina (Tacit. Ann. xiii. 20). But Plinius and Cluvius Rufus said that Nero never doubted the fidelity of Burrus, and that in his alarm and his impatience to get rid of his mother, he could not be pacified till Burrus promised that she should be put to death, if she should be con victed of the designs which were imputed to her. Burrus and Seneca paid Agrippina a visit, with some freedmen, to be witnesses of what took place. Burrus charged her with treasonable designs, to which Agrippina replied with indignant eloquence. A reconciliation with Nero followed, her accusers were punished, and her friends rewarded; neither Burrus nor Seneca was under any imputation of having prejudiced Nero against her.
  The affair of P. Suilius (A. D. 58) brought some discredit on Seneca. Suilius had been a formidable instrument of tyranny under Claudius, and was justly hated. He was charged under a Senatusconsultum, which had amended the Lex Cincia, with receiving money for pleading causes; a feeble pretext for crushing an odious man. The defence of Suilius was an attack on Seneca : he charged him with debauching Julia, the daughter of Germanicus, and hinted at his commerce with women of the imperial family, probably meaning Agrippina; and he asked by what wisdom, by what precepts of philosophy he had, during a four-years' intimacy with an emperor, amassed a fortune of three hundred million sestertii : at Rome he was a hunter after testamentary gifts, an ensnarer of those who were childless; Italy and the provinces were drained by his exorbitant usury. His own profits, Suilius said, were moderate, and earned with toil and lie would endure any thing rather than humble himself before an upstart favourite. We must assume that Suilius supposed that Seneca had moved against him in this matter : his words were reported to Seneca, and perhaps aggravated. A charge was got up against him, it is not said by whom, as to his infamous delations under Claudius, and he was banished to the Balearic Islands. The words of such a man are no proof of Seneca's guilt; but the enormous wealth of Seneca gave a colour of truth to any thing that was said against him (Tacit. Ann. xiii. 42).
  Nero's passion for Poppaea brought the contest between him and his mother to a crisis (Tacit. Ann. xiv. 1. A. D. 59). Poppaea burned to become the wife of Nero, but she saw that it was impossible while Agrippina lived. She plied Nero with her blandishments, her tears, and even her sarcasms; and at last he resolved to kill his mother, and the only question was as to the way of doing it. After an unsuccessful attempt to drown her, Nero, terrified at the failure of his plan, sent for Burrus and Seneca. Whether they were previously acquainted with the design against Agrippina's life is uncertain (Tacit. Ann. xiv. 7). Dion Cassius (lxi. 12), with his usual malignity, accuses Seneca of instigating Nero to the crime. Burrus and Seneca were long silent in the presence of Nero; either they thought that it would be useless to dissuade the emperor from his purpose, or, what is more probable, they saw that either the mother or the son must perish. Seneca broke the silence by asking Burrus if orders should be given to the soldiers to out Agrippina to death. Burrus replied that the soldiers were devoted to the family of Germanicus, and would not shed the blood of his children; but Anicetus, he added, would finish what he had begun. Anicetus performed his promise, and Agrippina died by the hand of assassins, A. D. 60.
  The imperial murderer fled as if he could leave his conscience behind him, to the city of Naples, whence he addressed a letter to the senate upon the death of his mother : he charged her with a conspiracy against himself, on the failure of which she had committed suicide. The author of the letter was Seneca (Tacit. Ann. xiv. 11) : it is not extant, but a few words from it are quoted by Quintilian (Inst. Orat. viii. 5). This letter is Seneca's great condemnation : he had consented to Agrippina being assassinated, and he added to this crime the despicable subterfuge of a lie which nobody could believe. From this time Nero felt more free, and Seneca in due time had his reward.
  In A. D. 63 Burrus died, and he may have been poisoned. Nero appointed two commanders of the Praetorians in place of Burrus, Fennius Rufus and Sofonius Tigellinus, whose infamy has been perpetuated with that of his master. The death of Burrus broke the power of Seneca : it diminished his influence towards good, and Nero was now in the hands of persons who were exactly suited to his taste. Tigellinus and Rufus began an attack on Seneca. His enormous wealth, a never-failing matter of charge against Seneca, his gardens and villae, more magnificent than those of the emperor, his exclusive claims to eloquence, and his disparagement of Nero's skill in driving and singing, were all urged against him; and it was time, they said, for Nero to get rid of a teacher. Seneca heard of the charges against him : he was rich, and he knew that Nero wanted money. He obtained an interview in which he addressed the emperor in a studied speech (Tacit. Ann. xiv. 53). He asked for permission to retire, and offered to surrender all that he had. Nero affected to be grateful for his past services, refused the proffered gift, and sent him away with perfidious assurances of his respect and affection. Seneca now altered his mode of life, saw little company, and seldom visited the city, on the ground of feeble health, or being occupied with his philosophical studies.
  When Nero, after plundering Italy and the provinces, began, like the Eighth Henry of England, the pillage of the temples and of things dedicated to religion, in order to meet his extravagant expenditure, Seneca, who feared that he might be involved in the odium of the sacrilege, though it is not said why he feared (Tacit. Ann. xv. 45), prayed for leave to retire into the country; and when it was refused, he kept his chamber on the pretence of sickness. A story was current that Nero tried to poison him, but the attempt failed. The conspiracy of Piso gave the emperor a pretext for a more direct attack on his teacher's life though there was not complete evidence of Seneca being a party to the conspiracy (Tacit. Ann. xv. 60). Certain words of Seneca to Antonius Natalis, which were of a suspicious character, were repeated to Nero; and Granius Sylvanus, a tribune of a Praetorian cohort, was sent by the emperor to Seneca to demand the meaning of them. It happened that Seneca was returning from Campania, and had rested at a villa four miles from the city. In the evening the tribune with a band of soldiers surrounded the house where Seneca was supping with his wife Pompeia Paullina and two friends. Seneca explained their words that he had used to Natalis, and the tribune carried them to the emperor. Nero was in close council with the two great ministers of his cruelty, his wife Poppaea and Tigellinus. Nero asked if Seneca was preparing to die voluntarily; and on the tribune replying that he saw no signs of fear, no gloomy indication in his words or countenance, he was ordered to go back and give him notice to die. The tribune, himself a party to the conspiracy of Piso, did not show himself again to Seneca, but he sent in a centurion with the order of death. Without showing any sign of alarm, Seneca asked for his testament, apparently with the intention of adding some legacies. but the centurion refused to allow this, on which Seneca told his friends that since he was forbidden to reward their services, his last testamentary bequest must be tile portraiture of his life, which, if they kept in their memory. they would have the reputation of an honest lite and of a constant friendship. He cheered his weeping friends by reminding them of the lessons of philosophy, and that he who had murdered a brother and a mother could not be expected to spare his teacher. Embracing his wife, he prayed her to moderate her grief, and to console herself for the loss of her husband by the reflection that lie had lived an honourable life. But as Paullina protested that she would die with him, Seneca consented, and the same blow opened the veins in the arms of both. Seneca's body was attenuated by age and meagre diet; the blood would not flow easily, and he opened the veins in his legs. His torture was excessive ; and to save himself and his wife the pain of seeing one another suffer, he bade her retire to her chamber. His last words were taken down in writing by persons who were called in for the purpose, and were afterwards published. Tacitus for some reason has not given the words, and he did not think proper to give the substance of them. The soldiers, at the entreaty of the slaves and freedmen of Seneca, stopped the wounds of Paullina, and she lived a few years longer; but her pallid face showed that the stream of life was largely drawn from her. Scandal, as usual, said that when she found that Nero did not wish her death, she was easily prevailed upon to submit to live. Seneca's torments being still prolonged, he took hemlock from his friend and physician, Statius Annaeus, but it had no effect. At last he entered a warm bath, and as he sprinkled some of the water on the slaves nearest to him, he said, that he made a libation to Jupiter the Liberator. He was then taken into a vapour stove, where he was quickly suffocated, A. D. 65. The body was burnt without ceremony, according to the instructions in a codicil to his will, which was made when he was in the full enjoyment of power and wealth. Seneca died, as was the fashion among the Romans, with the courage of a stoic; but with somewhat of a theatrical affectation which detracts from the dignity of the scene. Tacitus has not strongly censured Seneca in any passage; but Dion Cassius collected from among the contradictory memoirs of the time every thing that was most unfavourable to his character. Seneca's great misfortune was to have known Nero; and though we cannot say that he was a truly great or a truly good man, his character will not lose by comparison with that of many others who have been placed in equally difficult eircumstances. Whether he was privy to Piso's conspiracy or not, is a matter which has been warmly discussed, but cannot be determined ; nor if we suppose that he was in the conspiracy, would that circumstance be an additional blot on the life of a mall who had aided the tyrant in killing his mother. Seneca's fame rests on his numerous writings, which, with many faults, have also great merits.

The following are Seneca's works:
1. De Ira, in three books, addressed to Novatus. Opinions vary as to the time when it was written. Lipsius concludes from book iii. c. 18, that it was written in the time of Caligula, in which case it would be the earliest of Seneca's works. But this conclusion is by no means certain; and it is unlikely that he wrote so freely of Caligula while the "beast" was alive. The author has exhausted the subject. In the first book he combats what Aristotle says of Anger in his Ethic.
2. De Consolatione ad Helviam Matrem Liber, which has been already mentioned. It is one of Seneca's best treatises. The conclusion from c. 17, that Seneca had been in Egypt, is by no means sure.
3. De Consolatione ad Polybium Liber, which has also been already mentioned: it was written in the third year of Seneca's Corsican exile. It is sometimes placed after the treatise De Brevitate Vitae. Diderot and others maintain that it is not the composition of Seneca, because it is not worthy of him, and contains sentiments inconsistent with the Consolatio ad Helviam and ad Marciam. But this internal evidence is not supported by any external evidence; and an unprejudiced criticism will vindicate the work as Seneca's, though it disgraces him. It contains (c. 26) a humiliating picture of the Roman world crouching before an enfranchised slave and a stupid master.
4. Liber de Consolatione ad Marciam, written after his return from exile, was designed to console Marcia for the loss of her son. Marcia was the daughter of A. Cremutius Cordus (Tacit. Ann. iv. 34; and the Consol. ad Marciam, c. 22).
5. De Providentia Liber, or Quare bonis viris mala accidant cum sit Providentia, is addressed to the younger Lucilius, procurator of Sicily. The question that is here discussed often engaged the ancient philosophers : the stoical solution of the difficulty is that suicide is the remedy when misfortune has become intolerable. Lipsius calls this a Golden Book. In this discourse Seneca says that he intends to prove " that Providence hath a power over all things, and that God is always present with us" (c.1).
6. De Animi Tranquillitate, addressed to Serenus, probably written soon after Seneca's return from exile. It is in the form of a letter rather than a treatise : the object is to discover the means by which tranquillity of mind can be obtained. This work may be compared with the treatise of Plutarch peri euthumias. This treatise was written soon after Seneca's return from exile (c. 1), when he was elevated to the praetorship, and had become Nero's tutor. He speaks as one who felt himself ill at ease in the splendour of the palace after living a solitary and frugal life.
7. De Constantia Sapientis seu quod in sapientem non cadit injuria, also addressed to Serenus, is founded on the stoical doctrine of the impassiveness of the wise man. "This book", saith Lipsius, "betokeneth a great mind, as great a wit, and much eloquence; in one word, it is one of his best".
8. De Clementia ad Neronem Caesarem Libriduo, which has been already mentioned. There is too much of the flatterer in this; but the advice is good. The second book is incomplete. It is in the first chapter of this second book that the anecdote is told of Nero's unwillingness to sign a sentence of execution, and his exclamation, "I would I could neither read nor write." The work was written at the beginning of Nero's reign.
9. De Brevitate Vitae ad Paulinum Liber, recommends the proper employment of time and the getting of wisdom as the chief purpose of life. Life is not really short, but we make it so.
10. De Vita Beata ad Gallionem, addressed to his brother, L. Junius Gallio, is probably one of the later works of Seneca, in which he maintains the stoical doctrine that there is no happiness without virtue; but he does not deny that other things, as health and riches, have their value. "No man hath condemned wisdom to perpetual poverty". The conclusion of the treatise is lost.
11. De Otio aut Secessu Sapientis, is sometimes joined to No. 10.
12. De Beneficiis Libri septem, addressed to Aebucius Liberalis, is an excellent discussion of the way of conferring a favour, and of the duties of the giver and of the receiver. The handling is not very methodical, but it is very complete. It is a treatise which all persons might read with profit. The seventh chapter of the fourth book contains the striking passage on Nature and God: "What else is Nature but God, and a divine being and reason which by his searching assistance resideth in the world and all the parts thereof?" &c.
13. Epistolae ad Lucilium, one hundred and twenty-four in number, are not the correspondence of daily life, like that of Cicero, but a collection of moral maxims and remarks without any systematic order. They contain much good matter, and have been favourite reading with many distinguished men. Montaigne was a great admirer of them, and thought them the best of Seneca's writings (Essay of Books). It is possible that these letters, and indeed many of Seneca's moral treatises, were written in the latter part of his life, and probably after he had lost the favour of Nero. That Seneca sought consolation and tranquillity of mind in literary occupation, is manifest. The thoughts which engaged him and the maxims which he inculcated on others were consolatory to himself at least, while he was busied with putting them into form; and that is as much as most philosophers get from their speculations in the way of comfort. Seneca was old when he wrote these epistles (Ep. 12).
14. Apocolocyntosis, is a satire against the emperor Claudius. The word is a play on the term Apotheosis or deification, and is equivalent in meaning to Pumpkinification, or the reception of Claudius among the pumpkins. The subject was well enough, but the treatment has no great merit; and Seneca probably had no other object than to gratify his spite against the emperor. If such a work was published in the lifetime of Seneca, he must have well known that it would not displease either Agrippina or Nero; and it leads to the probable inference, that the poisoning of Claudius was not a matter which he would complain of. In fact, the manner of the death of Claudius was a subject for the wits of that day to sport with, (Dion Cass. Ix. 35, and the notes of Reimarus).
15. Quaestionum Naturalium Libri septem, addressed to Lucilius Junior, is one of the few Roman works in which physical matters are treated of. It is not a systematic work, but a collection of natural facts from various writers, G reek and Roman, many of which are curious. The first book treats of meteors, the second of thunder and lightning, the third of water, the fourth of hail, snow, and ice, the fifth of winds, the sixth of earthquakes and the sources of the Nile, and the seventh of comets. Moral remarks are scattered through the work ; and indeed the design of the whole appears to be to find a foundation for ethic, the chief part of philosophy, in the knowledge of nature (Physic). He says (book vii. c. 30):"How many things are there besides comets that pass in secret, and never discover themselves to men's eyes? For God hath not made all things subject to human sight. How little see we of that which is enclosed in so great an orb? Even he who manage these things, who have created them, who have founded the world, and have inclosed it about himself, and is the greater and better part of this his work, is not subject to our eves, but is to be visited by our thoughts". This is the man whom some have called an Atheist.

The judgments on Seneca's writings have been as various as the opinions about his character; and both in extremes. It has been said of him that he looks best in quotations; but this is an admission that there is something worth quoting, which cannot be said of all writers. That Seneca possessed great mental powers cannot be doubted. He had seen much of human life, and he knew well what man was. His philosophy, so far as he adopted a system, was the stoical, but it was rather an eclecticism of stoicism than pure stoicism. His style is antithetical, and apparently laboured ; and when there is much labour, there is generally affectation. Yet his language is clear and forcible ; it is not mere words : there is thought always. It would not be easy to name any modern writer who has treated on morality, and has said so much that is practically good and true, or has treated the matter in so attractive a way.
  People will judge of Seneca, as they do of most moral writers, by the measure of their own opinions. The less a man cares for the practical, the real, the less will he value Seneca. The more a man envelops himself in words and ideas without exact meaning, the less will he comprehend a writer who does not merely deal in words, but has ideas with something to correspond to them. Montaigne (Defence of Seneca and Plutarch) says : " the familiarity I have had with these two authors, and the assistance they have lent to my age and to my book, which is wholly compiled of what I have borrowed from them, obliges me to stand up for their honour." In another place (Essay of Books) he compares Seneca and Plutarch in his usual lively way : his opinion of the philosophical works of Cicero is not so favourable as of Seneca's; and herein many people will agree with him. The judgment of Ritter (Geschichte der Philosophie) is a curious specimen of criticism. If Diderot is extravagant in his praise of Seneca, Ritter and others are equally extravagant in their censure. Ritter finds contradictions in Seneca; and such we may expect in a man who lived the life that he did. We cannot suppose that his conscience always approved of his acts. A practical philosopher, who has lived in the world, must often have done that which he would wish undone; and the contradiction which appears between a man's acts and his principles will appear in his writings. Ritter remarks that he has treated of the doctrines of Seneca at some length, because they show how little talent the Romans had for philosophy. Perhaps the historian of Philosophy may provoke a like remark by his criticisms. Seneca applied himself chiefly to Ethic, which in its wide sense is the art of living happily, without which philosophy has no value. To Physic he paid some attention, and he does not undervalue it as an instrument towards an end. Of the other division of philosophy, Logic, he knew little and cared nothing; and it is of no value except so far as it may be an aid to Physic and Ethic. Ritter says: "his zeal to establish a science which shall be simple and merely adapted for the practical purpose of purity of morals, carries him so far, that he declares even the liberal sciences and philosophical Physic to be useless, so far as they are not capable of application to Ethic. This zeal leads him to expressions which are scarcely reconcileable with a philosophical style of thinking. To wish to know no more than is necessary is a kind of intemperance; such a knowledge makes us only proud : he considers it as a sample of the prevailing luxury". The passages to which Ritter refers are in the Epistolae (Ep. 88, 106). The latter contains the striking passage: "sed nos ut caetera in supervacuum diffundimus, ita philosophiam ipsam. Quemadmodum omnium rerum, sic litterarum quoque intemperantia laboramus; non vitae, sed scholae discimus". Which is the wiser, Seneca or his critic, let every man judge for himself. There is enough in Ethic, or the practical application of knowledge to life, to employ us all. Those who have no taste for Ethic, as thus understood, may indulge, if they have money and leisure, in the "intemperantia litterarum", of which kind of intemperance a large part of all literature is an example.
  Seneca, like other educated Romans, rejected the superstition of his country: he looked upon the ceremonials of religion as a matter of custom and fashion, and nothing more. His religion is simple Deism: the Deity acts-in man and in all things; which is the same thing that Paul said when he addressed the Athenians, "for in him (God) we live and move and have our being" (Acts, xvii. 28). Indeed there have been persons who, with the help of an active imagination, have made Seneca a Christian, and to have been acquainted with Paul, which is a possible thing, but cannot be proved. The resemblance between many passages in Seneca and passages in the New Testament is merely an accidental circumstance. Similar resemblances occur in the Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Antoninus. The fourteen letters of Seneca to Paul, which are printed in the old editions of Seneca, are apocryphal.
  Seneca wrote other works which are no longer extant, though the titles of some of them are known. Quintilian (Inst. Or. x. 1.128) says, he treated also on almost every subject of study; for both orations of his, and poems. and epistles, and dialogues, are extant". The fragments of the lost works are contained in the complete editions of Seneca. Niebuhr discovered the fragment of a work on Friendship in the Vatican, and the beginning of another "De Vita Patris".
  Besides the works which have been enumerated there are extant ten tragedies, which are attributed to Seneca: Quintilian (Inst. Or. ix. 2.9) and other Latin writers quote these plays as the works of Seneca. The plays are entitled Hercules Furens, Thyestes, Thebais or Phoenissae, Hippolytus or Phaedra, Oedipus, Troades or Hecuba, Medea, Agamemnon, Hercules Oetaeus, and Octavia. After all the discussion that there has been about the authorship of these tragedies, there seems no other person to whom we can assign then than Seneca, the teacher of Nero. The titles themselves, with the exception of the Octavia, indicate sufficiently what the tragedies are. Greek mythological subjects treated in a peculiar fashion. They are written in Iambic senarii, interspersed with choral parts, in anapaestic and other metres. The subject of the Octavia is Nero's ill-treatment of his wife, his passion for Poppaea, and the exile of Octavia. Seneca himself is one of the personages of the drama, and he is introduced in the second act, deploring the vices of the age and his own unhappiness in his elevated station. There seems no reason why this tragedy should not be attributed to the same author as tile other nine, except the fact that it is not contained in the oldest Florentine MS. of the tragedies; nor is there such difference between this and the other tragedies, in character and expression, as to make it a probable conclusion that it is not by the same hand. If it is a work of Seneca, it must have been written after the exile of Octavia. A. D. 62.
  These tragedies are not adapted, and certainly were never intended for the stage. They were designed for reading or for recitation after the Roman fashion, and they bear the stamp of a rhetorical age. The Greek tragedies themselves, of which these Latin tragedies are an imitation in form only, are overloaded with declamation, especially those of Euripides. The tragedies of Seneca contain many striking passages, and have some merit as poems. Moral sentiments and maxims abound, and the style and character of Seneca are as conspicuous here as in his prose works. But there is a wonderful difference between the Latin tragic writer and the Greek dramatists. A comparison of the Medea of Euripides and of Seneca is instructive : the dullest understanding will feel that the Greek play is intended and is suited for acting, and that the Roman play was not intended for the stage, and could not be acted. These Roman tragedies are, in fact, little more than dramas in name land in form : the form, indeed, is precisely Greek, but there is no substance under the form. The Octavia, which some critics violently condemn, is perhaps the best of them, viewed as a drama. There is something to move the affections: there is a tragical situation of an unhappy woman suffering from a brutal husband and a rival favourite, and a catastrophe in the wretched fate of Octavia. The study of the tragedies of Seneca has had some influence on the French drama.
  The editio princeps of Seneca is that of Naples, 1475. The subsequent editions of the whole works of Seneca and of particular treatises are numerous. The edition of J. F. Gronovius, Leiden, 1649-1658, is in 4 vols. 12mo.: that of Ruhkopf, Leipzig, 1797-1811, 5 vols. 8vo.; Bipont edition, Strassburg, 1809, 5 vols. 8vo. There are three complete French translations of the works of Seneca, of which that of Lagrange is the last, and is said to be the best. The last edition of Lagrange's version is that of Paris, 1819, 13 vols. 12mo.: the life of Seneca makes the fourteenth volume. The French translations of particular treatises are very numerous.
  A list of the English translations of Seneca, or of separate treatises, is contained in Bruggemann's work. The first edition of "The Workes of L. Annaeus Seneca, both Morall and Naturall, translated by Thos. Lodge, D. in Physicke", was published in London in 1614, with a Latin dedication to Chancellor Ellesmere; and "The Life of L. Annaeus Seneca described by Justus Lipsius". This translation contains all the works of Seneca except the Apocolocyntosis, and the Epistles to Paul. The translation has considerable merit, and was a great thing for a man to do who also translated Josephus, and in other respects contributed to the literature of England.
  One of the best editions of the tragedies of Seneca is that by Schroder, Delft, 1728. There is an edition by F. H. Bothe, Leipzig, 1819. There are two French translations of the tragedies, the latter of which is by M. Levee in his Theatre des Latins, Paris, 1822. An English translation of the tragedies by several hands appealed in 1581
Bahr, Geschichte der Romischen Literatur, vol. i. contains very copious references to all the literature that belongs to the works of Seneca.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Jan 2006 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Lucanus, M. Annaeus

Lucanus, M. Annaeus. The short notices of this poet in common circulation, such as that prefixed to the edition of Weise, although particularly meagre, contain a series of statements many of which rest upon very uncertain evidence, while the longer biographies, such as that of Nisard, are almost purely works of imagination. In order that we may be enabled to separate those portions of the narrative which admit of satisfactory proof from those which are doubtful or fictitious, we must examine our materials and class them according to their quality.
I. The facts collected from the writings of Statius, Martial, Juvenal, Tacitus, the Eusebian Chronicle as translated by Jerome and Sidonius Apollinaris, may be received with confidence. According to these authorities Lucan was a native of Cordova; his father was L. Annaeus Mella, a man of equestrian rank and high consideration, who, satisfied with amassing a large fortune by acting as agent for the imperial revenues (procurator), did not seek the same distinction in literature or politics, which was achieved by his brothers M. Seneca and Junius Gallio. The talents of the son developed themselves at a very early age and excited such warm and general admiration as to awaken the jealousy of Nero, who, unable to brook competition, forbade him to recite in public. Stung to the quick by this prohibition the fiery young Spaniard embarked in the famous conspiracy of Piso, was betrayed, and, by a promise of pardon, was with some difficulty induced to turn informer. In order to excuse the hesitation he had at first displayed, and to prove the absolute sincerity of his repentance, he began by denouncing his own mother Acilia (or Atilia), and then revealed the rest of his accomplices without reserve. But he received a traitor's reward. After the more important victims had been despatched, the emperor issued the mandate for the death of his poetical rival who, finding escape hopeless, caused his veins to be opened. When, from the rapid effusion of blood, he felt his extremities becoming chill, but while still retaining full consciousness, he recalled to recollection and began to repeat aloud some verses which he had once composed descriptive of a wounded soldier perishing by a like death, and with these lines upon his lips expired (A. D. 65). The following inscription which, if genuine, seems to have been a tribute to his memory proceeding from the prince himself, was preserved at no distant period in one of the Roman churches: --
From the birthday ode in honour of the deceased, addressed to his widow Polla Argentaria, by Statius, we gather that his earliest poem was on the death of Hector and the recovery of his body by Priam; the second, on the descent of Orpheus to the infernal regions; the third on the burning of Rome; the fourth, an address to his wife; the last, the Pharsalia; there is also an allusion to the success which attended his essays in prose composition, and we infer from an expression of Martial that his muse did not confine herself exclusively to grave and dignified themes. (Stat. Silv. ii. praef. and Carm. 7; Martial, Ep. i. 61, vii. 21, 22, 23, x. 64, xiv. 194; Juv. vii. 79; Tac. Ann. xv. 49, 56, 70, xvi. 17; comp. Dialog. de Orat. 20; Hieron. in Chron. Euseb. n. 2080; Sidon. Apollin. x. 239, xxiii. 165; Wernsdorff, Poet. Lat. Min. vol. iv. pp. 41, 587.)
II. In a short trumpery fragment entitled " Vita Lucani," ascribed to Suetonius, and which may be an extract from the treatise of that grammarian, " De claris Poetis," we are told that Lucan made his first public appearance by reciting at the quinquennial games the praises of Nero, who ranked him among his chosen friends, and raised him to the quaestorship. This good understanding, however, was short-lived, and the courtly bard having been, as he conceived, insulted by his patron, from that time forward seized every opportunity of attacking him in the most bitter lampoons, and eventually took a lead in the plot which proved the destruction of himself and his associates.
III. Another "Vita Lucani," said to be " Ex Commentario Antiquissimo," but which can scarcely be regarded as possessing much weight, furnishes sundry additional purticulars. It sets forth that he was born on the 3d of Nov. A. D. 39, that he was conveyed from his native country to Rome when only eight years old, that his education was superintended by the most eminent preceptors of the day, that he gave proofs of extraordinary precocity, attracted the attention of Nero, and while yet almost a boy was admitted into the senate, raised to the dignity of the quaestorship, that he exhibited in that capacity gladiatorial shows, and was soon after invested with a priesthood, that he incurred the hatred of Nero by defeating him and carrying off the prize with his Orpheus, in a poetical contest at the quinquennial games, in consequence of which he was prohibited from writing poetry or pleading at the bar; that, seeking revenge, he found death, and perished on the last day of April, A. D. 65, in the 26th year of his age. Then follows a catalogue of his works, many of the names being evidently corrupt: Iliacun. Suturnulia. Catascomon (probably Catacausmos, i. e. katakausmos). Sylvarum X. Tragoedia Medea imperfecta. Salticae Fabulac XIV, Hippamata prosa [p. 808] oration in Octavium Sagitlam, et pro eo De incendio urbis (words which it has been proposed to reduce to sense by reading Hypomnnemtnta prosa oratione in Octavium Sagittam, et pro eo Declamationes-De incendio urbis). Epistolarum ex Campania.
  As to the accuracy of the above list it is impossible to offer even an opinion; but it is confirmed to a certain extent, at least, by an old scholiast upon Statius, generally known as Lutatius, who quotes some lines from the Iliacon (ad Stat. Theb. iii. 641, and vi. 322), besides which he gives two hexameters from a piece which he terns Catagonium (ad Stat. Theb. ix. 424). With regard to the story of the public defeat sustained by Nero, which has been repeated again and again without any expression of distrust, and has afforded the subject of a glowing picture to a French critic, we may observe that it is passed over in silence by all our classical authorities, that it is at variance with the account given by the compiler of the life attributed to Suetonius, that, Γ priori, it is highly improbable that any literary man at that period, however vain and headstrong, much less a court favourite, whose nearest kinsmen were courtiers, would ever have formed the project of engaging seriously in a combat where success was ruin. That no such event took place under the circumstances represented above, can be proved from history, for the quinquennial competition (quinquennale certamen -- triplex, musicum, gymnicum, equestre) instituted by Nero, and called from him Neronia, was held for the first time A. D. 60, when, as we are expressly informed by Suetonius, " carminis Latini corona, de qua honestissimnus quisque contenderat ipsorum consensu concessam sibi recepit," words which indicate most clearly the amount of opposition offered by these mock antagonists; the second celebration did not take place until after the death of Piso and his confederates (Tac. Ann. xiv. 20, xvi. 4; Sueton. Ner. 12, comp. 21; Dion Cass. lxi. 21). In all probability the fable arose from an obscure expression in the Genethliacon of Statius (v. 58), which, although hard to explain, certainly affords no sufficient foundation for the structure which has been reared upon it.
  The only extant production of Lucan isanheroic poem, in ten books, entitled Pharsalia, in which the progress of the struggle between Caesar and Pompey is fully detailed, the events, commencing with the passage of the Rubicon, being arranged in regular chronological order. The tenth book is imperfect, and the narrative breaks off abruptly in the middle of the Alexandrian war, but we know not whether the conclusion has been lost, or whether the author never completed his task. The whole of what we now possess was certainly not composed at the same time, for the different parts do not by any means breathe the same spirit. In the earlier portions we find liberal sentiments expressed in very moderate terms, accompanied by open and almost fulsome flattery of Nero; but, as we proceed, the blessings of freedom are more and more loudly proclaimed, and the invectives against tyranny are couched in language the most offensive, evidently aimed directly at the emperor. Whether this remarkable change of tone is to be ascribed to the gradual development of the evil passions of the prince, who excited the brightest hopes at the outset of his reign, or whether it arose from the personal bitterness of a disgraced favourite, must be left to conjecture; butt, whichever explanation we may adopt, it is impossible to believe that the work was published entire during the life-time of the author, and it appears almost certain that it never received his last corrections.
  A remarkable diversity of opinion exists with regard to the merits of Lucan. The earlier critics assuming the attitude of contending advocates, absurdly exaggerate and unreasonably depreciate his powers. And yet great defects and great beauties are obvious to the impartial observer. We find almost every quality requisite to form a great poet, but the action of each is clogged and the effect neutralised by some grievous perversity. We discover vast power, high enthusiasm, burning energy, copious diction, lively imagination, great learning, a bold and masculine tone of thought, deep reflection and political wisdom; but the power being ill governed, communicates a jarring irregularity to the whole mechanism of the piece, the enthusiasm under no control runs wild into extravagant folly, the language flows in a strong and copious but tur-bid stream; the learning is disfigured by pedantic display; the imagination of the poet exhausts itself in far-fetched conceits and unnatural similes; the philosophic maxims obtruded at unseasonable moments are received with impatience and disgust we distinctly perceive throughout vigorous genius struggling, but in vain, against the paralysing influence of a corrupt system of mental culture and a depraved standard of national taste.
  The Editio Princeps of Lucan was printed at Rome, by Sweynheym and Pannartz, under the superintendence of Andrew, Bishop of Aleria, fol. 1469, and two impressions, which have no date and no name of place or printer, are set down by bibliographers next in order. Some improvements were made by Aldus, 8vo. Venet. 1502, 1515, but the first really critical editions are those of Pulmannus, 16mo, Antv. 1564, 1577, 1592. The text was gradually purified by the labours of Bers mannus, 8vo. Lips. 1584, 1589; of Grotius, 8vo. Antv. 1614, and Lug. Bat. 1626; of Cortius, 8vo. Lips. 1726; of Oudendorp, 4to. Lug. Bat. 1728; of Burmann, 4to. Leid. 1740; of Bentley, 4to. Strawberry Hill, 1760; of Renouard, fol. Paris, 1795; of Illycinus, Vindob. 4to. 1811; of C. Fr. Weber, 8vo. Lips. 1821-1831; and of Weise, 8vo. Lips. 1835.
  Of these the editions of Oudendorp and Burmann are the most elaborate and ample, especially the latter, but the most useful for all practical purposes is that of Weber, which contains an ample collection of Scholia and commentaries, a dissertation on the verses commonly considered spurious, and various other adminicula; a fourth volume, however, is required to complete the work, and is intended to contain remarks on the life and writings of Lucan, an account of the editions and fragments, complete indices, and other aids.
  A supplement to the Pharsalia, in seven books, by Thomas May, being a translation into Latin of an English supplement appended to his metrical translation, was published at Leyden in 1630, and will be found at the end of the Amsterdam edd. of 1658, 1669.
  The first book of the Pharsalia was rendered into English, line for line, by Christopher Marlow, 4to. Lond. 1600, the whole poem by Arthur Gorges, 4to. Lond. 1614, and by Thomas May, 12mo. Lond. 1627. The latter was reprinted in 1631, with a continuation of the subject until the death [p. 809] of Julius Caesar, and although pre-eminently dull, seems to have been popular, for it passed through a great number of editions. The best translation is that of Rowe, which first appeared in 1718 (fol. Lond.); it is executed throughout with considerable spirit.
  Of the numerous French translations, that of Guillaume de Brebeuf, 4to. Paris, 1654-1655, long enjoyed great reputation, and, notwithstanding the censures of Boileau, still finds admirers. The prose version of Marmontel, 2 vols. 8vo. Paris, 1766, is in every way detestable.
  The German metrical translations of L. von Seckendorff, 8vo. Leip. 1695, and of C. W. von Borck, 8vo. Halle, 1749, are not highly esteemed, and that in prose by P. L. Haus, 8vo. Mannheim, 1792, is almost as bad as Marmontel's.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Oct 2006 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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Massa, Baebius, governor of Baetica

Massa, Baebius or Bebius, one of the most infamous informers of the latter end of the reign of Domitian, is first mentioned in A. D. 70, as one of the procurators in Africa, when he betrayed Piso, and is described by the great historian as "jam tune optimo cuique exitiosus." (Tac. Hist. iv. 50.) He was afterwards governor of the province of Baetica, which he oppressed so unmercifully, that he was accused by the inhabitants on his return to Rome. The cause of the provincials was pleaded by Pliny the younger and Herennius Senecio, and Massa was condemned in the same year that Agricola died, A. D. 93; but he seems to have escaped punishment by the favour of Domitian; and from this time became one of the informers and great favourites of the tyrant. (Tac. Agric. 45; Plin. Ep. vii. 33, comp. iii. 4, vi. 29 ; Juv. i. 34.)

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