Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca, or Seneca the Younger) (c. 3 BC - AD 65) was a Roman philosopher, statesman, and dramatist of the Silver Age of Latin Literature.
Seneca the Younger
Seneca was born in Cordoba, Spain, the second son of Helvia and Marcus (Lucius) Annaeus Seneca, a wealthy rhetorician known as Seneca the Elder. Seneca's older brother, Gallio, was proconsul at Achaia (where he encountered the apostle Paul about AD 52). Seneca was uncle to the poet Lucan, by his younger brother, Annaeus Mela.
Under his father's and aunt's guidance, he established a successful career as an advocate. Around 37 conflict with the emperor Caligula nearly cost him his life, who only spared him because he believed the sickly Seneca would not live long anyhow. In 41, Messalina, wife of the emperor Claudius, persuaded Claudius to have him banished to Corsica on a charge of adultery with Julia Livilla. He spent his exile in philosophical and natural study, and wrote the Consolations.
In 49, Claudius' new wife, Agrippina, had him recalled to Rome to tutor her son, L. Domitius, who was to become the emperor Nero. On Claudius' murder in 54, Agrippina secured the recognition of Nero as emperor over Claudius' son, Britannicus.
For the first five years, the quinquennium Neronis, Nero ruled wisely under the influence of Seneca and the praetorian prefect, Sextus Afranius Burrus. But, before long, Seneca and Burrus had lost their influence over Nero and his reign became tyrannical. With the death of Burrus in 62, Seneca retired and devoted his time to more study and writing.
In 65, Seneca was accused of being involved in a plot to murder Nero, the Pisonian conspiracy. Without a trial, he was ordered by Nero to commit suicide. Tacitus gives an account of the suicide of Seneca and his wife, Pompeia Paulina, who chose to follow her husband in death.
Seneca's works include a satire, a meteorological essay, philosophical essays, 124 letters dealing with moral issues, and ten tragedies. Seneca's brand of Stoic philosophy emphasized ethics. His plays strongly influenced Renaissance tragic drama, especially the literature of Elizabethan England. Some of Seneca's works include:
- Apocolocyntosis divi Claudii (The Pumpkinification of the Divine Claudius)
- Naturales quaestiones [seven books]
- De Providentia
- De Constantia Sapientiis
- De Ira''
- De Consolatione ad Marciam
- De Vita Beata
- De Otio
- De Tranquillitate Animi
- De Brevitate Vitae - Essay expounding that any length of life is sufficient if lived wisely.
- De Consolatione ad Polybium
- Ad Helviam matrem - Letter to his mother consoling her in his absence during exile.
- De Clementia - written to Nero on the need for clemency as a virtue in an emperor.
- De Beneficiis [seven books]
- Epistulae morales - collection of 124 letter dealing with moral issues written to Lucilius.
- 10 Tragedies
- Hercules Furens (The Madness of Hercules)
- Troades (The Trojan Women)
- Phoenissae (The Phoenician Women)
- Hercules Oetaeus (Hercules on Oeta)
- Octavia (attributed to Seneca, unlikely to be authored by him as Seneca appears as one of the characters.)
- A series of letters purported to be between Seneca and St. Paul were revered by early authorities, but are not believed to be authentic.