Lucius Annaeus Seneca

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Seneca, Lucius Annaeus


Born circa 4 B.C. in Corduba (Córdoba); died A.D. 65 in Rome. Roman political figure, philosopher, and writer.

An ideologist of the Senate opposition to the despotism of the first Roman emperors, Seneca spent the years 41 to 49 in exile. From 49 to 54 he was tutor to the future emperor Nero and subsequently became one of the shapers of Roman policy. In the 60’s he lost his influence and was banished from court, and, after the abortive conspiracy of Piso in 65, he committed suicide on Nero’s orders.

As a philosopher, Seneca was an eclectic, combining stoicism with elements of other doctrines that affirmed the ideal of the sage: a man who overcomes human passions, is spiritually independent, and, by his example, teaches others to perfect themselves. Similarities between his philosophy and Christianity gave rise to the legend that Seneca knew the apostle Paul and even corresponded with him.

As a writer, Seneca was a master of the clipped “Asiatic” rhetorical style, characterized by short phrases, flamboyant imagery, ideological paradoxes, emotional fervor, and staccato composition. His prose works include 12 brief treatises, known as dialogues, but more accurately described as diatribes, such as On Providence, On Anger, On Tranquillity of Mind, and On the Constancy of the Sage. Seneca also wrote three longer treatises—On Clemency, On Benefits, and Natural Questions—and the collection Letters to Lucilius, which deals with themes similar to those in the dialogues and the longer treatises. His poetic works include nine tragedies on mythological subjects, such as Oedipus, Medea, Phaedra, and Agamemnon, which again deal with the power of fate, the folly of passion, withdrawal from the world, and other philosophical ideas. Intended for declamation, with an intense, fervent rhetorical style, these tragedies exerted a major influence on the style of European Renaissance and classical tragedy of the 16th through 18th centuries. Also attributed to Seneca are a number of epigrams, as well as a political lampoon on the death of Emeror Claudius in A.D. 54, Apocolocyntosis (“Pumpkinification”), which is written in the form of a Menippean satire.


In Russian translation:
Izbr. pis’ma k Lutsiliiu. Translated by P. Krasnov. St. Petersburg, 1893.
Tragedii. Translated by S. Solov’ev. Moscow-Leningrad, 1932.


Marta, B. K. Filosofy ipoety-moralisty vo vremena rimskoi imperii. Moscow, 1879.
Pernice, G. Seneca morale. Tortona, 1964.
Bourgery, A. Sénéque-prosateur. Paris, 1922.
Hermann, L. Le Théâtre de Sénèque. Paris, 1924.
Lana, I. L. Anneo Seneca. Turin, 1963.
Seneca. Edited by C. D. N. Costa. London-Boston [1974].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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We talked about how Lucius Annaeus Seneca found time to write one of the most important classical treatises on comets ever composed when he was facing execution at the hands of the Roman emperor Nero.
The authority of Jerome and Pseudo-Linus is also invoked to prove to any skeptical reader that the Seneca of the correspondence is Lucius Annaeus Seneca and not some obscure figure who happened to bear the same name.(22)
Quintilian excelled in literary criticism, Lucan in the epic form, Statius in poetry, Lucius Annaeus Seneca in rhetoric, and his son of the same name in tragedy.
(full name Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 4 bc - ad 65) Roman philosopher and playwright.
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