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Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics) by…
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Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics) (edition 1969)

by Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Author), Robin Campbell (Translator)

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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.… (more)
Member:memocan
Title:Letters from a Stoic (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Author)
Other authors:Robin Campbell (Translator)
Info:Penguin Books (1969), Edition: Reprint, 254 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:to-read

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Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

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» See also 30 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
The letters don't draw me in and just seem antiquated. For example, I don't think being an expert in a subject matter and being a traveller are mutually exclusive. The world view of Seneca just doesn't fit with me.. ( )
  bsmashers | Aug 1, 2020 |
A massive, necessary stone in the road to understanding and internalizing Stoicism.

A fascinating work given the author's history and life as one of the wealthiest people in Rome. It really is a kind of paean to what he wanted to be like, and you could tell in the subtext of the entire thing that he knew he wasn't living up to his ideals, that which he knew to be the best way to live, but he was trying.

It is interesting, though, how he could recognize privilege, but not think of charity when talking about spending money. ( )
  jtth | May 4, 2020 |
So much to learn from this book. I'll re-read it someday. Definitely has made me a better person. ( )
  StevenJohnTait | Jul 29, 2019 |
At times Seneca just sounds silly - there are passages where he waxes nostalgic about the era before daily bathing, or rails against people who don’t get up early enough. At other times he promises too much from philosophy, writing as if the wise person can reach a point where they are not susceptible to serious suffering. But he also gives thoughtful and eloquent advice towards the goals of continual self-improvement and steeling oneself against misfortune. ( )
  brokensandals | Feb 7, 2019 |


These letters of Roman philosopher Seneca are a treasure chest for anybody wishing to incorporate philosophic wisdom into their day-to-day living. By way of example, below are a few Seneca gems along with my brief comments:

“Each day acquire something which will help you to face poverty, or death, and other ills as well. After running over a lot of different thoughts, pick out one to be digested throughout the day.” -------- I’m completely with Seneca on this point. I approach the study of philosophy primarily for self-transformation. There is no let-up in the various challenges life throws at us – what we can change is the level of wisdom we bring to facing our challenges.

“It is not the man who has too little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.” ---------- This is the perennial philosophy from Aristotle to Epicurus to Epictetus to Buddha: we have to face up to our predicament as humans; we are in the realm of desire. The goal of living as a philosopher is to deal with our desires in such a way that we can maintain our tranquility and joy.

“But if you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him (or her) as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship.” --------- Friendship was one key idea in the ancient world that modern philosophy seems to have forgotten. Seneca outlines how we must first test and judge people we consider as possible friends, but once we become friends with someone, then an abiding and complete trust is required.

“The very name of philosophy however modest the manner in which it is pursued, is unpopular enough as it is: imagine what the reaction would be if we started dissociating ourselves from the conventions of society. Inwardly everything should be different but our outward face should conform with the crowd. Our clothes should not be gaudy, yet they should now be dowdy either. . . . Let our aim be a way of life not diametrically opposed to, but better than that of the mob.”. ---------- The call of true philosophy isn’t an outward display but an internal attitude. There is a long, noble tradition of living the life of a philosopher going back to ancient Greece and Rome, that has, unfortunately, been mostly lost to us in the West. It is time to reclaim our true heritage.

“You may be banished to the end of the earth, and yet in whatever outlandish corner of the world you may find yourself stationed, you will find that place, whatever it may be like, a hospitable home. Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there." -------- This is the ultimate Stoic worldview: our strength of character is more important that the particular life situation we find ourselves in. Very applicable in our modern world; although, chances are we will not be banished to another country, many of us will one day be banished to a nursing home.

“This rapidity of utterance recalls a person running down a slope and unable to stop where he meant to, being carried on instead a lot farther than he intended, at the mercy of his body’s momentum; it is out of control, and unbecoming to philosophy, which should be placing her words, not throwing them around.” --------- The ancient world had many people who talked a mile a minute, an unending gush of chatter. The Greco-Roman philosophers such as Seneca and Plutarch warn against garrulousness. Rather, we should mark our words well. From my own experience, when I hear long-winded pontifications, I feel like running away.

“The next thing I knew the book itself had charmed me into a deeper reading of it there and then. . . . It was so enjoyable that I found myself held and drawn on until I ended up having read it right through to the end without a break. All the time the sunshine was inviting me out, hunger prompting me to eat, the weather threatening to break, but I gulped it all down in one sitting.” --------- Ah, the experience of being pulled into a good book! When we come upon such a book, go with it! ( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Seneca, Lucius Annaeusprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Campbell, RobinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feldhūns, ĀbramsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zariņš, VilnisForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Dedication
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Judging from what you tell me and from what I hear, I feel that you show great promise.
Quotations
Are you really surprised, as if it were something unprecedented, that so long a tour and such diversity of scene have not enabled you to throw off this melancholy and this feeling of depression? A change of character, not a change of air, is what you need.
Letter XXVIII
I have been speaking about liberal studies. Yet look at the amount of useless and superfluous matter to be found in the philosophers. Even they have descended to the level of drawing distinctions between the uses of different syllables and discussing the proper meanings of prepositions and conjunctions. They have come to envy the philologist and the mathematician, and they have taken over all the inessential elements in those studies -- with the result that they know more about devoting care and attention to their speech than about devoting such attention to their lives. Letter LXXXVIII
A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man without trials.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Selected letters from Seneca's epistles to Lucilius. Please do not combine with complete editions of the letters, with different selections, or with classical language versions.
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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.

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