Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics

Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics

Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics

Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics

Synopsis

For this Clarendon Paperback, Dr Griffin has written a new Postscript to bring the original book fully up to date. She discusses further important and controversial questions of fact or interpretation in the light of the scholarship of the intervening years and provides additional argumentwhere necessary. The connection between Seneca's prose works and his career as a first-century Roman statesman is problematic. Although he writes in the first person, he tells us little of his external life or of the people and events that formed its setting. Miriam Griffin addresses the problem by firstreconstructing Seneca's career using only outside sources and his de Clementia and Apocolocyntosis, whose political purposes are undisputed. In the second part of the book she studies Seneca's treatment of subjects of political significance, including his views on slavery, provincial policy, wealth,and suicide. On the whole, the word of the philosopher is found to illuminate the work of the statesman, but notable exceptions emerge, and the links that are revealed vary from theme to theme and rarely accord with traditional autobiographical interpretations of Seneca's works.

Excerpt

Recent Senecan scholarship concentrates on his methods of literary composition and moral instruction. That is as it should be, for Seneca's works were higher in quality and proved more potent in influence than his life. But the historian of the Early Empire and the literary biographer have an interest in Seneca as well. Their task is more difficult in one respect, for they cannot proceed without relating what Seneca wrote to what he did, and Seneca is a most uncooperative author for such a venture. This book, a revised version of an Oxford doctoral thesis submitted in the summer of 1968, is neither a biography of Seneca nor a history of the period of his political influence, but an example of the kind of study that is a necessary preliminary to both. It represents an attempt to confront directly the problem of how to relate Seneca's works to his life.

My first debt of gratitude is to Sir Ronald Syme. Homines amplius oculis quam auribus credunt: I am only one of many research students to profit as much from his personal inspiration and practical help from draft to proof as from his Tacitus. I also owe an incalculable debt to Miss Margaret Hubbard of St. Anne's College who supervised my work and well-being as undergraduate and Fulford Research Fellow at that generous institution, and who gave up time she could not spare to read the greater part of the thesis in draft, making many suggestions that were then incorporated. The late Mrs. M. I. Henderson of Somerville College, who, as my tutor, first awakened my interest in Roman History and in Seneca, discussed the central problems with me and read an earlier version of Chapter 4. Professor P. A. Brunt, whose lectures on Stoicism and Politics in Michaelmas Term 1963 suggested many fruitful subjects for investigation, read the completed thesis. The extremely detailed and helpful comments supplied by him and by Professor Z. Stewart of Harvard University have been invaluable to me in improving the structure and balance of . . .

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