Later, after walking a twisting path that saw him exiled to Corsica and then recalled, he was appointed as tutor to the young Nero, heir apparent to Claudius the emperor whom Robert Graves channeled in his famous historical novels. In 54 A.
For more than a decade, Seneca maintained a double life that has puzzled historians and troubled readers of the Letters. But he continued writing all during this time, producing a vast body of moral treatises urging his readers toward virtue, the suppression of the passions, and the cultivation of the mind.
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Proximity to Nero brought Seneca wealth as well as power. He became one of the richest men of his time, with estates, gardens and vineyards in many Roman provinces.
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As Seneca reached his sixties and Nero his twenties, the costs of maintaining this double identity — multi-billionaire and chief minister to a willful autocrat, but author of essays that cast a cold eye on wealth and power — became inescapably clear. Political enemies spoke out loudly, decrying what they saw as arrogant hypocrisy.
By the time Seneca began the Letters , in 62 A.
Seneca might well have judged that the Letters , his longest and most far-reaching work, would be his last, best chance to address the Roman people. If so, he would have been right. In the Spring of 65 CE, only a few months after the latest datable letter, Seneca was implicated in an assassination plot and forced by Nero to commit suicide.
As he opened his veins and waited for death to arrive, Seneca lamented to his friends that, because Nero had forbidden him to alter his will, he could only leave them his imago vitae , the template of his complex and bifurcated life. This month the Letters appear in the first complete English translation in many decades — since that of R.
Gummere in the Loeb Classical Library, published between and — and the only one, to my knowledge, that includes annotations. The superb volume, by Margaret Graver and Tony Long, takes its place as the fifth installment of the Complete Works of Seneca series, an important project that debuted in The editorial team that designed the series — Chicagoans Elizabeth Asmis, Martha Nussbaum, and Shadi Bartsch — has thus far shown great judiciousness in assigning translators and editors the task of capturing the many voices in the broad Senecan corpus, and the whole series has been attractively packaged by the University of Chicago Press, with a wonderful introductory essay by the series editors at the front of each volume.
Meditations : Marcus Aurelius :
For the next two centuries, he largely drops out of general circulation and citation. The sheer length of the Letters , as compared with the slender treatises of other Roman Stoics, has posed another problem for potential readers.
In the epistolary format he invented, Seneca found a way to indulge his own prolixity without limit; he kept on adding to the collection right up until the time of his death, and the letters we still possess, filling out three Loeb volumes, do not comprise the entire collection at least two additional books have been lost in transmission.
Walker in , with an unguarded candor of the kind that is all too rare in scholarly writing.
The great river of verbiage he produced in the last years of his life, to paraphrase what Callimachus once said of Homer, carried with it a fair amount of mud. For this reason, it must be said that, though the new Chicago translation of the Letters will find a place of honor on many bookshelves, most of those reading, or teaching, the work will be better served by an excerpted version, like those published in the Penguin Classics or Oxford World Classics series.
The latter volume presents a sensible selection comprising about two-thirds of the work, with notes by Elaine Fantham addressing a wide variety of historical, cultural and philosophic questions. But no commentary can address all the manifold questions raised by the Letters , and perhaps it is better — especially in a work that seeks to put the entire work between a single set of covers — not to try.
Graver and Long have at least dealt expertly with one aspect of the work, and have produced a sturdy, lively translation as well. I am beginning with De Rerum Natura, since it is a work I have long been interested in. Here's my first question - after lots of searching, I having been able to determine how to parse "natura" in "de rerum natura".
Does it take the ablative, parallel to "rerum", or is it nominative? Ex ante, I would have expected "naturae".
That seems to be pretty common in Latin - 'splitting' two syntactically related words with a word of a different case in a way that would sound completely unnatural in English. So if I understand correctly, "rerum" is used in the same sense of "RE: " in email messages, and we would say something like "Rerum de natura" if we were projecting our own word order onto Latin.
Am I on the right track?
Related Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Study Guide - Parallel Texts in Greek and English
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