Biography of Lucio Anneo Séneca (4 a.C-65 d.C)

Writer and Spanish philosopher of the 1st century of our era. Son of a famous rhetor (known as Seneca "the old"), Seneca was like his family from Córdoba Corduba (today), where there was born between the year 4 b.c. and the 1 year of our era. Says his father in his curious collection of Controversiae, their children and Suasoriae (Seneca, L. rookie Anneo and L. Anneo Mela, father of the famous poet Lucan) they had felt since very early attracted by the art of the Declamation practiced by the rhetoricians of the previous generation, the sententiae or general thoughts formulated with great concision passionate lovers. It was this passion that led his father to prepare this collection, that allows us to find out how could form style and literary taste of our writer, who in addition to love these speakers learned to appreciate the poetry of Ovid.

Lucio Anneo Seneca.

This provincial young went to Rome to accompany his father and his aunt and decided to stay there with the latter. What little is known about this period of time; in fact, we don't have safe news until the year 41, that Seneca had to leave exiled to Corsica by order of the Emperor Claudio, as he/she was accused of having adulterous relations with a member of the imperial family, Julia Livilla. By then he/she was already married and had a son. As for her life in the city before this date, is known that very soon he/she was attracted by the philosophy and was disciple of Sotion and Papyrus Fabiano, followers turn Sextio, representative of a new philosophical movement purely Roman and influenced by stoicism and the neopythagoreanism. It is also known that for five years he/she lived with his aunt and uncle in Egypt, where he/she had gone because of his poor health. On his return to Rome, he/she began his political career (as his father had been brought to publish their work, in the year 37, that their children were being prepared for policy): first he/she was appointed Quaestor, and under the reign of Caligula, achieved great fame as a speaker, what came to counteract to the emperor himself, envious of those who flourished in the Arts (in fact(, if we are to believe to Suetonius, the Emperor came to Seneca that his writings were sand shoe sine). Thus we arrive at the time of Claudio and his exile, during which overturned in the study and writing.

Finally, Agrippina, the mother of Nero, sent him to call in the year 49 so he/she ordered the education of the young Prince Nero, that was then 12 years. When Nero ascended to power, Seneca enjoyed enormous influence and came to be regarded amicus of Prince, a kind of counselor and Minister but without official category. In these circumstances he/she met donkey, the prefect of the praetorium, one of the most influential newsmakers of the moment. During the following eight years, the Empire ruled under the influence of Seneca and donkey had a time of splendour and of good governance. During this period, just until the death of donkey in the year 62, Seneca developed a business policy that allowed him to combine the relations with the members of the Court and the army; In addition, it reached fame as a speaker and as a writer at the time who also became famous as a politician. However, since then his star began to decline Nero in seeking other types of companies most given to action and violence and Seneca losing its fame as a counselor in the eyes of those who execraban the crimes committed by the Emperor (including that of his mother Agrippina).


From this moment until the year 65, Seneca away from the Court led a life of retirement, entirely devoted to philosophy. Despite this, in the year 65, when occurred the conjuration of Rammer, Seneca was accused of supporting the conspirators and was offered the possibility of a dignified death due to suicide, death that agreed to the philosopher.


The characteristics of his own life, marked by its exercise of power, and his careful education did create a new type of literature, personal and unique, that provoked the admiration among his contemporaries, eager to imitate him according to Quintilian, Seneca.

Written in prose.

As for his works in prose, all of them assigned is to the field of philosophy, and in particular to ethics and Physics (with what is set aside the logic, the third of the parties that the philosophy was subdivided for the Stoics). These works are usually presented before the public in the form of dialogues or Epistles, although this aspect is also original treatment of the dialogistico genus by Seneca. In fact, many of its treaties assume the existence of a fictitious partner, with which we do not have real dialogues that attempt to reproduce literally the course of a conversation between previously defined characters (in this sense, it should be remembered that the philosophical tradition distinguished between two fundamental types of speeches: the Platonic, with real and well-defined characters expose their conflicting views and that progress towards the solution of a problem)(, and the Aristotelian, where there is a lead singer and a choir of secondary voices that only serve to set the pace of that speech empowered with their occasional interventions). In the dialogi of Seneca, his voice moves to a second fictitious person who, on numerous occasions, is only a procedure to move the issue forward in a way more enjoyable and pleasant to the reader.

In this way, the manuscript tradition has transmitted US 10 treated under the heading of dialogi (translations of the middle ages and the early Renaissance appear catalogued as treaties, as well as the following group): De providentia, De constantia sapientis, IRA, Consolatio ad Marciam, of vita beata, otio, De tranquillitate animi, De brevitate vitae, Consolatio ad Polybium and Consolatio ad Helviam. While all of these works are grouped under the label of "dialogues", it is necessary to make some observations, as the consolationes could be ascribed to a different genre, well known to antiquity. In these cases, there is a fictitious partner, but that as the title indicates it applies to certain people and the theme, of course, developed in a more individualized manner the different topics of consolation; Thus, it is not here General Affairs but, on the contrary, a very particular issues; Thus, for example, the Consolatio ad Marciam was written to console the daughter of Cremucio Cordo before the death of a son and the Consolatio ad Helviam is directed at his own mother to comfort her by the exile of his son (Seneca) to Corsica. In all these cases, what happens in the other dialogi, moves from the particular to the general.

Apart from these works, keep also the treaties of clementia, natural Quaestiones beneficiis and the Epistulae morales ad Lucilium. In this case, it should be noted that the Epistulae ad Lucilium represent a literary genre other than the dialogue although it is closely related to it: the epistolary genre. Already the ancient distinguished between the familiar Epistles (public or private) and the philosophical Epistles, who came to represent the dialogue between people including half a distance. This epistolary genre (that of the philosophical letter) was practiced by members of the different schools, because thereby the master could maintain a regular contact and doctrinal with their discipuli once they had left his company. Seneca continues that tradition in his 124 letters addressed to his disciple Lucilio; possibly, the edition of the correspondence of Cicero to attic influenced significantly in these Epistles of Seneca, who while he/she says to follow the tradition of Epicurus, cannot fail to refer to some of the epistolary genre topics as they appeared in the epistolary awoke.

Yet his Epistles (compared to the freshness of the letters of Cicero) have a clear introductory intention which led him to eliminate the everyday (a fundamental element of the letter between friends); When this ingredient is introduced, it is with the sole intention of conferring a certain halo of true letter to his Epistles. Thus, the greatest innovation of Seneca consists serve formal mould of the Charter to offer its readers a philosophical treatise, which deviates from the Treaty-shaped Dialogic of Cicero. The advantage of the Charter is that, although references to the experience do not serve as framework, it does not prevent that the reader will form a certain image of the author of the letters; Therefore, we believe that when Seneca adopted the letter was meant to leave an autobiographical portrait (more complete which could offer a dialogue), but not so much of her daily life as his inner life or experience wise.

In addition to these works, we know the title of other works that are not extant: Moralis philosophiae libri, De officiis, fortunae fortuitorum ad Gallionem De paupertate, superstione, marriage, of immature morte, Monachos, motu terrarum, lapidum natura, natura piscium, form mundi, situ Indiae, situ et sacris Aegyptiorum, De vita patris. In these works, Seneca returned to address the same topics as the preserved works (ethics, applied to the life of men, is thus presented as one of their basic concerns); Anyway, his interest in Ethnography and geography it is curious (which could relate to his dedication to the philosophy of Physics). All these works are marked by stoicism, although this is a somewhat eclectic stoicism, as Seneca attends the simple common sense seasoned with a marked concern for morality and desire to rise up as a voice capable of denouncing the vices and defects to teach. Anyway, his vision of the world, when he/she describes it, is completely imbued by the principles of stoicism:, you love the vision of the periodic destruction of the universe by fire and water. The world can thus present images of terrible terrors that may not only be caused natural like lightning or earthquakes, but also by human rage and fury. When this insanity is installed in the mind of a man can lead you to your own destruction and of all that surrounds it (this issue will be also very present in his tragedies). Before this sad scenario, the only possible salvation for man is also inside, inhabited by a small particle of the divine: the reason (ratio); Therefore, man should try to increasingly more resemble a divinity, for what has to clean that ratio of contact with all the passions that reach a perfect imitation of God.


Next to these works in prose, Seneca also wrote nine tragedies which, moreover, are the unique Roman tragedies that we retain complete: Hercules Furens, Troades, Phoenissae, Medea, Phaedra, Oedipus, Agamemnon, Thyestes and Hercules Oetaeus. Alongside these works of Greek theme, the tradition has aired under the name of Seneca a Toga praetexta, entitled Octavia, whose authorship is rejected by critics today. All these tragedies, Seneca shows the characteristics of the poetry of the age of silver, with his taste for the pathetic, exaggerated, the very rhetoric, which led him to adopt to Euripides as his favourite model. Anyway, Seneca not fold completely to the original model but that produced his tragedy in a personal way; in fact, the myth is almost a mere pretext for its original treatment of the issues. And its originality is so great that even alters the dramatic works spirit, as there are data suggesting that these works not be conceived for the stage but for reading (although this last idea, accepted by critics almost with unanimity, is today put into question when considering that, despite the problems, these works are perfectly representable) in them.

As for the artistic appreciation of these works, not long ago he/she condemned of overly rhetorical, with abuse of hyperboles, judgments, the taste for exaggerated realism and a continuous display of learned knowledge. All these elements are nothing more than a manifestation of the literary tastes of the era in which these tragedies were written, a period in which the rhetoric permeates both prose and poetry. Another criticism that has been made to these works is, in reality, are not more than a new way employed by Seneca to expose his philosophical doctrine of stoicism. Anyway, this somewhat negative assessment also has changed, because although the Stoic philosophy permeates these tragedies is not more than a reflection of the ideology of its author, you can not put aside those convictions; Anyway, Seneca sought to address in his dramatic works the inner man conflict, who (as opposed to what happened in the Greek tragedy) already is not to fight against the gods or his divine destiny, but against itself; in fact, the anger and the fury become fundamental elements of these dramas, showing continuous opposition between the mental confusion and mood razon-tranquilidad. In this way, you don't need to be considered that Seneca wrote these dramas as a mere clothing to decorate their philosophical ideas; rather, are real literary pieces which emerge stronger if it fits inside men's tensions and that were written at a time when tyranny was more evident the extreme difficulty of the individual to find inner peace.

Other works.

To complete this vision of poetic activity of Seneca, there is 67 epigrams attributed to him, although his authorship is not entirely safe. Also, as a moralist who was, Seneca wrote a menippean satire (i.e. mixture of prose and verse), the Apocolocyntosis, a fun and original ridicule of the deification of the Emperor Claudio. Thus, we attended the judicial process that undergoes the Emperor Claudio arrival in Hades, where is condemned unless it can not even defend (what comes to be a criticism of their own judicial processes established in life of the Emperor). Finally receives a punishment: will have to play dice forever but with a goblet without background (allusion certainly to the passion that Claudio showed for the game in life); just start your punishment appears Caligula, who claims it as a slave, which after passing through several masters life that corresponds to Claudio in the world of the dead is the slave of a freed (with what comes to satirize the subjugation of the Emperor throughout his life to the will of his Freedmen(, true architects of power in his reign).

In this way, Seneca contributes to ridicule and satirize all aspects of the life of the Emperor in a composition in which there is no site to expose any of their potential strengths in the midst of so many defects. In terms of the style of this menippean, mix is not only limited to the alternation of verse and prose, but that, to emphasize its character as parody, Seneca mix also different linguistic registers; Thus, the very cultish and scholar hand is given with the colloquialisms and even the vulgarisms; the vision and the greatness of the epic are dotted with elements from the language of the street, which can also lead to anything the robes of the tragedy. With all this, Seneca Gets a variegated work, complex structure, with ongoing skits that give it liveliness and suvizan appearance of hard and cruel insults against who had been responsible for his banishment.


The style of Seneca was a great originality, to the point that the Romans themselves were conscious of how hard that was to imitate it; This idea not only puts in the mouth of Quintilian, but it was also common among the great pedagogues and rhetoricians of the Renaissance, who admired philosopher and writer despite consider it harmful to youth as a model for the school. Seneca shows a strong influence of rhetoric, discipline which, as discussed, had formed part of his education and his life from a young age; However, we cannot say that his work is therefore a simple empty artifice. The rhetorical technique lent him their weapons, which put to the service of extremely original thoughts and ideas. Seneca seems to speak to us from their pages with a style that we might consider oral and improvised. Your ideas and thoughts (which reveals a perfect knowledge of human nature and an incredible capacity of observation) are bright, as well as pages that shows it. However, perhaps could throw you in face its excessive tidiness and, occasionally, his lack of proportion. All his works are full of brush strokes of female teachers of brilliant sentences scattered here and there, but are lacking in an overall view and a concern by the structure of their writings.

Seneca was a master in the art of synthesizing a complex thinking in a few words, combined with such grace and skill that they become perfect candidates to achieve immortality. His thought thus flakes in a multitude of ingenious and categorical phrases that occur without lock, for what was always repudiated by all those who had to Cicero as the master of Latin prose.


At the end of the middle ages, Seneca triumphed everywhere with all of his works and, above all, its treaties, which were poured to the vernacular by Alfonso de Cartagena; to the set, also adhered some attributed to the cordoban wise proverbs which, of course, had not left his hand. Separately, in that century, throughout Europe were easily his Epistulae ad Lucilium, in latin or romance, and their tragedies, which were romanceadas first in the Crown of Aragon and language Catalan and immediately afterwards in the Kingdom of Castile. Seneca and Cicero triumphed as moralists, which even earned them consideration of Christian avant the lettre. Entered the sixteenth century, attending the triumph of the tragedies in European and Spanish scene, inside and outside of the classroom. For all these phenomena, which reveal the spread of Seneca in Spain during the 15th and 16th centuries, is obliged to review the book of Karl Blüher, which has a Spanish translation: Seneca in Spain, Madrid, 1983.


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