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About the book
  • Published: 1 July 1974
  • ISBN: 9780140442106
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $16.99

Letters From A Stoic

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Seeing self-possession as the key to an existence lived 'in accordance with nature', the Stoic philosophy called for the restraint of animal instincts and the importance of upright ethical ideals and virtuous living.

Selected from the Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium, Seneca's Letters from a Stoic are a set of 'essays in disguise' from one of the most insightful philosophers of the Silver Age of Roman literature. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Latin with an introduction by Robin Campbell.
A philosophy that saw self-possession as the key to an existence lived 'in accordance with nature', Stoicism called for the restraint of animal instincts and the severing of emotional ties. These beliefs were formulated by the Athenian followers of Zeno in the fourth century BC, but it was in Seneca that the Stoics found their most eloquent advocate. Stoicism, as expressed in the Letters, helped ease pagan Rome's transition to Christianity, for it upholds upright ethical ideals and extols virtuous living, as well as expressing disgust for the harsh treatment of slaves and the inhumane slaughters witnessed in the Roman arenas. Seneca's major contribution to a seemingly unsympathetic creed was to transform it into a powerfully moving and inspiring declaration of the dignity of the individual mind.
Robin Campbell's lucid translation captures Seneca's humour and tautly aphoristic style. In his introduction, he discusses the tensions between Seneca's philosophy and his turbulent career as adviser to the tyrannical emperor Nero.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c.4BC - AD65) was born in Spain but was raised according to the traditional values of the republic of Rome. In AD48 he became tutor to the future emperor Nero and became his principal civil advisor when he took power. His death was eventually ordered by Nero in AD65, but Seneca anticipated the emperor's decree and committed suicide.
If you enjoyed Letters from a Stoic, you might like Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, also available in Penguin Classics.

  • Pub date: 1 July 1974
  • ISBN: 9780140442106
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256
  • RRP: $16.99

About the Author

Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, statesman, philosopher, advocate and man of letters, was born at Cordoba in Spain around 4 BC. He rose to prominence in Rome, pursuing a career in the courts and political life, for which he had been trained, while also acquiring celebrity as an author of tragedies and essays. Falling foul of successive emperors (Caligula in AD 39 and Claudius in AD 41), he spent eight years in exile, allegedly for an affair with Caligula's sister. Recalled in AD 49, he was made praetor and was appointed tutor to the boy who was to become, in AD 54, the emperor Nero. On Nero's succession, Seneca acted for some eight years as an unofficial chief minister.

The early part of this reign was remembered as a period of sound government, for which the main credit seems due to Seneca. His control over Nero declined as enemies turned the emperor against him with representations that his popularity made him a danger, or with accusations of immorality or excessive wealth. Retiring from public life he devoted his last three years to philosophy and writing, particularly the Letters to Lucilius. In AD 65 following the discovery of a plot against the emperor, in which he was thought to be implicated, he and many others were compelled by Nero to commit suicide. His fame as an essayist and dramatist lasted until two or three centuries ago, when he passed into literary oblivion, from which the twentieth century has seen a considerable recovery.

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