Lucius Annaeus Seneca

(ca. 4 BC – AD65)

The Dancer on the Edge of the Abyss

We will start with Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a man who has been called a philosopher, a statesman, a dramatist, a Stoic hero. He has also been called a charlatan, a sycophant, a hypocrite, a degenerate, an adulterer, an accessory to murder. His adult years spanned the reigns of the more unstable Julio-Claudian emperors. He managed to sneak under the radars of Tiberius and Caligula (just!) before being exiled by Claudius and then recalled to first tutor and then advise an increasingly erratic Nero. It was Seneca’s one-time pupil, Nero, who finally did him in by forcing him to commit suicide. For vast swathes of his writing career Seneca danced on the edge of the abyss of personal extinction. His was a complex dance, a constant and sometimes fraught balancing act to stay alive in perilous times. He has much he wants to tell you.

Seneca wrote prolifically. He composed consolations for the bereaved, powerful dramas, and ghost-speeches for an emperor. He wrote moral treatises, rafts of moral letters, even a political satire, and what was, essentially, an encyclopedia of natural science. And that’s just what has survived. There was probably just as much that didn’t come down to us, including more moral treatises, books on natural science, and a biography of Seneca’s father.

podcast series

Seneca’s chaotic and mysterious life

This podcast series chronicles the life of Seneca.  Each podcast is between around 15 – 25 minutes long, and is designed to convey what little is known about the man from ancient sources (including his own).

Series 1 | Episode 6

Seneca and the Secret Message in the Ad Marciam

by Geoff Thompson

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Seneca Self-Help E-Book Series

PDF Version

Seneca tells us how to keep it together in the face of hatred, disaster, or simply having too much or too little of what we actually need. 

In De Vita Beata Seneca tells us how to keep it together in the face of hatred, disaster, or simply having too much or too little of what we actually need.

The book was written when Seneca was under political attack (so probably after AD 58). It is a master class in turning around public accusations of gross hypocrisy levelled against him into a personal win by rolling the whole thing back onto his detractors. In De Vita Beata, Seneca shows us how to avoid public humiliation by employing a quite breathtaking tantrum of righteous indignation and bare-faced cheek. Oh, and there are also some absolute gems of practical advice on how to keep a cool head when everything around you is turning to custard. An ideal read for the 21st Century work place.

PDF Version

De Ira is a book with a comprehensive guide to anger management that is as valid today as when it was written nearly 2000 years ago.

De Ira is a book written in 3 parts of which this is the first.  The work is a comprehensive guide to anger management that is as valid today as when it was written nearly 2000 years ago. Although De Ira could have been written at anytime after the death of Caligula in January AD 41 and before AD 52, my money is on a period right at the beginning of that window, just as Claudius had assumed the throne, but before Seneca was exiled. The book is clearly a message to all parties, Emperor and Senate alike, to take a deep breath, stay calm, and not do anything stupid to upset the fragile balance at the fraught time of a change of regime. As such it is full of sound, practical advice on how to watch for the signs that anger is about to rear its head, and how to take steps to stop it ruining your life. Seneca will even tell you how ugly anger can make you look and, if that doesn’t stop you, he’ll tell you how to use one of your other bad habits to help limit the damage. And there’s so much more…

PDF Version

De Ira Part 2 examines and illustrates the destructive power of anger and how that impacts those around you and the wider environment.

Coming Soon!

CAVEAT

This is NOT a site for academics. Impenetrable ‘Acadamese’ is avoided at all costs. You will not be reaching for the dictionary every third word, nor will you be bogged down in ridiculous footnotes. This website brings you lessons from the past in plain, comprehensible language – exactly the way the original authors intended it to be.

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