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Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education Author(s): John Schafer Source: Classical Philology, Vol. 106, No.

1 (January 2011), pp. 32-52 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 21/01/2014 03:38
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longum iter est per praecepta, breve et efficax per exempla —Epistulae morales 6.5 idem facit ratio: non late patet; si aspicias, in opere crescit —Epistulae morales 38.2


Introduction: The Letters as Dramatization

hat are Seneca’s Letters? Many things, evidently: they are letters, discussions of Stoic ethics, exercises in self-reflection, sermons, protreptic to philosophy, spiritual aids against death and misfortune, and much else besides. Some letters are set-piece discussions of particular philosophical topics in which the epistolary form all but vanishes, with merely the opening and closing formulae (Seneca Lucilio Suo Salutem and Vale) to mark them as such. Others are overtly epistolary, remarking on Seneca’s receipt of a previous letter, providing details of his own goings-on, and inquiring into those of his correspondent Lucilius. Themes and issues emerge, fade, and return. What are the Letters as a whole? What unity do they form over and above the sum of their 124 extant parts? This article is an attempt to answer these questions by posing and answering a related question: how should they be read? I will first describe and defend an approach, which I will call a dramatic reading of the Letters; then I will apply this reading to individual letters and themes. Much attention has been devoted to the theme of spiritual guidance in the Letters; it is indisputable that one of their chief concerns is to examine how we can help each other emerge from vice and move toward a good moral state. To a large extent, the Letters are about moral guidance, reform, and education. 1 But they are not merely a discussion of these matters; they are also a representation, a dramatization, of an individual moral education. At the same time that it expounds in detail upon the tactics and strategies of moral suasion, the work itself dramatically instantiates this suasion. 2 Within the drama, Seneca’s purpose is the moral improvement of his friend Lucilius. I will argue that the purpose of
I thank John Henderson, Brad Inwood, Timothy Joseph, Gisela Striker, Richard Tarrant, Richard Thomas, Ben Tipping, Raphael Woolf, and my anonymous readers for their invaluable comments and suggestions. This paper is dedicated to the memory of Isaac J. Meyers. 1. Especially important is the groundbreaking study Hadot 1969, esp. 99–141; see also Bellincioni 1978, 73–159 and Pire 1958, 71–127. 2.  By “dramatization” and “dramatic reading” I do not mean to overemphasize a comparison between the Letters and actual drama, nor to raise the vexing issue of possible connections between Seneca’s dramatic output and the Letters. I mean “drama” only in the broader sense, in order to pick out the collection’s use of plotting, characterization, mise en scène, and the like.

Classical Philology 106 (2011): 32–52 [© by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved] 0009-837X/11/10601-0003$10.00


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When we read them. quomodo autem admoveantur aut quando nostri operis est quaerere. writes what he does. since one of the things Lucilius reads is the Letters themselves. the following will always be new. the Letters. governed by particular circumstances and exigencies. 64. . For instance. except by intimate familiarity with particular facts. 7. as an adherent of a centuries-old corpus of doctrine) is to investigate the when and how of deliverance. are frequently self-referential. as I will be arguing. Approaching the Letters in this way offers a set of interpretive tools. the dramatic reading ought to be correct. On her reading. carefully drawn exemplum of Stoic and Senecan pedagogy.73 on Tue. 4. self-applicable. 4 This reading is suggested. by contrast. quoted at top of paper. 5 Closely aligned with this point is his repeated emphasis on the importance of situational variability: it is impossible to know what to do. 42. that is. guru/disciple. 8. .180.5. one long rich exemplum. and exempla are more effective than purely general accounts anyway. 5. To borrow an established mode of expression from the Letters.” which I take to be a safe characterization of what their relationship is for. by this I do not mean to privilege those aspects that are didactic in a narrow sense.  8 Moral education. hoc semper novum erit. usus et inventorum ab aliis scientia ac dispositio. an open-ended and highly complex story of two concrete lives. 21. 7 Finally. Friends. as Lucilius’ teacher and friend. animi remedia inventa sunt ab antiquis. 6.  6 A third theme is the effectiveness of exempla: lessons take much better when they are shown rather than said. will treat Seneca’s role as teacher/friend of Lucilius as the basic issue around which the dramatization is constructed. I will usually use the term “education” to describe what Seneca’s Letters do. teacher/student. Seneca’s didaxis on these matters emerges from reflection on the particular instructions. my reading. see below. We are to infer Lucilius’ words from 3.17. Effective spiritual therapy was discovered by the ancients.”) All translations are my own. or. Seneca instructs Lucilius on what and how to read. p. then. . For one. let alone to give another person advice or counsel. confessor and confessant.  Letter 2. an articulated. but it is our task to inquire how and when to apply it. they ought to be conducted by example. in the first instance. 340: “What we are given in the Letters is in fact. the what of moral education is.  6. 3 The Letters teach teaching by example. .  The Seneca-Lucilius relationship is not a simple one. understand. . Rather.” My reading. If the Letters as a whole are Seneca’s teachings about moral education then. the Letters depict the philosophical life and the central role of reason in organizing it.  That the Letters as a whole function as an exemplum is claimed in Nussbaum 1994. differs from Nussbaum’s (at least in terms of emphasis) on the question of what the exemplum is of. and arrange the things discovered by others. they are a literary case-study. This content downloaded from 109. namely how to use. Seneca stresses that his contribution to moral education lies more in its modalities than in its matter. (“But even if everything was discovered by the ancients. however. is subject to such great situational variability that a purely general account of it is impossible. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . for us. it seems overwhelmingly likely that Seneca is signaling to us to apply his advice about reading to the text in which it is contained. we should continually ask why Seneca. .Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education 33 devising and depicting this particular course of moral education is to explore moral education in general.  71. by application of their own stated doctrine. largely fixed: (Stoic) philosophy is our deliverance from vice.8: sed etiam si omnia a veteribus inventa sunt. His endeavor (and his opportunity. which he depicts himself issuing to Lucilius. by drawing together certain strands of thought in the Letters.1. by “education” and related terms I mean something like “training in virtue. for him. better put.1.

 9 The narrative hints. 3. Mazzoli 1989. have made the various journeys he describes. and so on. 13 Qua deliberate. On a separate but related point. would imply a negative verdict on the much-debated issue of the Letters’ genuineness. 57 alludes to 53 and 75 to 71. The Letters are to be read through these features. they are both subject to interpretation in the light of Seneca’s project and evidence for what that project is. my reading of some passages of the Letters will rely on facts about Seneca’s historical life and career.. 1–7) sees.34 John Schafer Seneca’s responses. in addition to the scholars mentioned above at n. Hachmann (1995. 10) has by now thoroughly vindicated its basic assumption by the valuable results derived from it. but perhaps the only suitable medium for dramatizing a multi-year friendship 9. Wilson (2001. is itself an invitation to read authorial purpose into the ones that are included. There is quite strong evidence for this position from the many coherent references to earlier letters (e. that the correspondence of Seneca with Lucilius is to a great extent fictitious. and is largely consonant with these (and see also Scala 2001. Going further. chaps. although Wilson. It seems clear that Seneca here and there invites such readings.180. My response to him would be that Senecan didaxis. will have been deliberate. 13. of the various third-parties mentioned. in fact. his mental state.73 on Tue. that they are to be read as a work of literature. is an excellent status quaestionis). I submit. 1846–55. and I do not think there is any particular awkwardness in assuming a fictional or literary correspondence with a relevant historical and biographical background. 179–86). as Henderson (2004. Inwood (2005.  11 Nonetheless. however. It would be remarkable if a private correspondence unintended for publication could plausibly sustain such close literary readings. it is worth emphasizing that literary interpretations of the Letters are also compatible with some degree of genuineness: the Letters may. Henderson 2004. and this. the details of Seneca’s life. is as broad as the Letters are. 12. resists privileging the didactic mode. .  This approach necessarily assumes that the order of the Letters as we have them is the order in which (within the drama) they are sent. We are to think ourselves into Seneca’s constant reappraisal of his student/friend’s achievements and needs. we are to infer his life.  The relative paucity of these details. 1–3) shows how much is gained from reading the Letters in terms of their depicted temporal sequentiality. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . My reading builds on. We are to infer from how (the character) Seneca teaches Lucilius that Seneca (the author) wishes us to see the point of his methods and techniques. are to be squeezed. Seneca may. 14 One of the virtues of the dramatic reading is that it offers a literary explanation for Seneca’s use of the epistolary form: letters are not only well suited to. Indeed. I follow the clear majority of scholars since Griffin in believing that the correspondence is essentially fictional.g. 10 That is to say. his attitudes. 12 One simply cannot tell. Letter 8 references 7. properly understood. 95 completes a discussion started in 94. 11. 346: “It is now widely accepted . 278–82). in fact. 10. 416–19. 14. it seems. of course. Inwood 2005.  Cf.  Wilson 1987. the fictional or literary camp (especially Maurach 1970. but the story as a whole and all of its inferable details serve Seneca’s ambitions in writing them. as well as the choice of Lucilius as addressee itself. pointing to the thematic multifacetedness of the collection. . Many of these details. 33 comments on all the previous letters). wrung dry. and Schönegg 1999. of Lucilius’ life.. 119 n. The crucial methodological assumption for my reading is not that the correspondence is entirely fictional but that it is entirely governed by Seneca’s authorial control: not only are the individual letters intended for publication. 346–47) attributes the extroversion of the Senecan self in the Letters to the author’s need to present the Seneca-character vividly and realistically. have been sent to Lucilius. but the choice of which ones to include. is the classic statement of the case. argues convincingly for reading closely into the developing relationship between Lucilius and Seneca.17. may well be historically veridical (as the fire at Lugdunum referenced in Letter 91 is). including those about Lucilius. This content downloaded from 109. that beyond the arguments adduced by Griffin et al.” It is not possible to rehearse the many grounds for this judgment here (Griffin 1976. his strengths and weaknesses.

involve randomness. The usefulness of friendship for moral development is an established 15. from chatty. The philosophical letter was already an established genre (of which Epicurus is the most important practitioner. both in form and in content. and other figures also circulated in antiquity). breezy letters to dense and serious ones. This content downloaded from 109. Letters. people get sick. include personal and nontechnical touches: Seneca and Lucilius are still friends. Over and above these fortuitous elements. but it also cannot be reduced to a syllabus. the former for the content. temporally static. exhortation. after all. sternness and rebuke are sometimes more appropriate. And while certain large themes (contempt for fortune. moreover. movements visible from a bird’s-eye view. sometimes in response to the goings-on in Lucilius’ life. A temporal series of letters between friends is like a flip-book of their friendship. prepared for the heavier. 196–97). is noticed by all students of the Letters. Analyzing Letter 46. But they do so gradually: even the people in them only sporadically notice and only imperfectly recall these changes. Even the later letters. Seneca strongly hints that Epicurus and Cicero are the relevant models (roughly speaking. Depicting a face-to-face relationship of this kind would impose grave difficulties concerning choice of detail. the correspondence is slowed by tardy couriers. liberation through suicide. like photographs. 107. and in general the full battery of (respectable) persuasive technique. by contrast. Events intervene: friends die. friends share their thoughts. Each letter is. more technical material that fills the later books. they do so haphazardly. though. Lucilius progresses in Stoic wisdom throughout and is. What method to use at a given moment. cannot be scripted in advance. the necessary economy imposed by absence is already an essential feature of epistolary communication. 104–7) brilliantly establishes the importance of temporal dynamism within the imagined composition of individual letters. can reveal the interior life of the sender and hint strongly at the words and personality of their recipient. published by their author. 15 Letters both capture precise details of a given instant and collapse long expanses of time into a small and manageable corpus.Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education 35 and course of philosophical instruction. Cicero’s correspondence Ad Atticum will have shown to Seneca how a series of letters. Letters. Cicero’s correspondence with Atticus had apparently recently been published (Seneca’s references to it at 21. however. also have a memorializing quality: human relationships change and develop. and 118. whether faceto-face or epistolary. also fill in a lacuna in the philosophical tradition. hence. are kept and reread. Horace’s Epistles have also been seen as a possible influence (Maurach 1970. but it also includes protreptic.3. Consolation is occasionally called for. This movement. 16 The dramatic reading also explains both the order and the disorder of the Letters. the dynamics of the relationship emerge from backward and forward comparisons. natural disasters strike. is a matter of expertise and is subject to great situational variability. Learning philosophy involves wrestling with the intricacies of theory. By his frequent engagement with either author. Moral education has its trends.180. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .4. the corrupting beliefs of ordinary people) appear and reappear. though. understood in this way. There are multiple modes of spiritual guidance.17.1 are the earliest extant notice of these letters). letters purporting to be by Plato. Aristotle. There is sure to be no small amount of repetition.  Seneca is undoubtedly also responding to multiple literary influences in choosing the epistolary form. 16. at other times generated by chance reflections on Seneca’s part. roughly speaking. Wilson (1987. Actual human relationships. however. for pupils at different stages in their training.73 on Tue. The Letters. Thought proceeds by association. the latter for the form).

in great imaginative detail. but with a letter by Lucilius to Seneca. . Stop wasting time. since wisdom or sagehood is conceded to be almost unattainable. 20.5–6. lazy reading. The letter moves from brash and second-personal to reflective and confessional.” the producer of the extended speech act that the Letters are. to question authority. Seneca. 18 We may be confident that these lessons are meant to apply to our consumption of the Letters as well. 45. 17. 39. shows us. confessing his own weaknesses. Finally. realize that you die a little every moment.180.  Cf. This content downloaded from 109.” it is all but necessary that the initial letter asked. Seneca is keenly aware of the danger of passive. to learn philosophy rather than merely memorize it. That Lucilius wrote Seneca is clear from 1.2. I take these passages as clear indications of the Letters’ selfconscious literarity. the deep conviction that this sort of experiential success ­ can instill is precisely what makes teaching by example so efficacious. and “Seneca the author. the former asked the latter for spiritual advice. what a philosophical friendship might look like and how it might work. Then. At 21. Trying It Out: Letter 1 The story begins not with Letter 1.  The distinction I am positing. illis aliqua quae possint prodesse conscribo. apparently. to consider how Lucilius is reacting to the treatment. In several passages. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . by contrast. a break in tone: the first two-thirds of the letter build a frantic urgency.73 on Tue. “what should I do?” Seneca’s answer: vindica te tibi: take control of your life.36 John Schafer theme in classical philosophy. the dramatic reading makes the reader work. What does it look like. in the final third of the letter Seneca turns inward. 38–41). between “Seneca the character.1. So for moral reform in general: προκοπή. or moral progress (profectus in Seneca’s Latin translation). For the sake of simplicity. To read the Letters dramatically is to work through and test Seneca’s pedagogical notions for oneself.17. he promises Lucilius the sort of immortality that Cicero’s letters give to Atticus. in what follows references to Seneca pick out the character unless otherwise specified. 33.” who. how does it happen. 8–9 is the locus classicus. 19 The dramatic reading offers a way for us to read Seneca as he tells us to read him: interactively. for his own reasons. that it won’t be long before your life is over. 19.1–2. Arist. Within the drama.7.  20 1. The promise of it is realistically all the Stoics have to offer a prospective adherent. he defends his own retirement by stressing the edification future generations will receive from his work: posterorum negotium ago. Seneca signals that the Letters have a third-person audience in view by adverting to his expectation that “posterity” will read them. we can be convinced that this sort of guidance is valuable. Seneca urges Lucilius to read and reread. Nic. Eth. is a crucial concept in Stoicism. the Letters allow us to engage deeply with these questions. 18. Letter 1 begins with the words ita fac. creatively. litteris mando. for a letter of reply to begin with the command “do this. conceives the dramatization and c ­ arries it out. There are nine first-person singular verbs in this part. featuring no fewer than seven verbs in the imperative mood. is of course fundamental to the dramatic reading (pace opponents of inferring authorial intent). . To the extent that the representation rings true. though they leave open how that literarity is meant to work. assessing how well he himself accords with his own teaching. 17 It is commonplace in antiquity to assert that the right sort of friendship is productive of virtue. Seneca also wrote a treatise on friendship. salutares admonitiones . why should we care about it? On the dramatic reading.2 (quod facere te scribis). That Lucilius wrote with a request for spiritual guidance is also safely to be inferred. the lost work Quo modo amicitia continenda sit (Vottero 1998. In 8.

8: cum his versare qui te meliorem facturi sunt. and repeatedly so. first of all to demonstrate that enough happens to the characters to justify speaking This content downloaded from 109.8: recede in te ipse quantum potes exemplifies the former. to vindicate this procedure in the face of doubters. and also this sentence from the same passage. .1. Letter 1 instantiates its own theme of conserving time. where Seneca discusses a friend whose moral problems are particularly acute: utar tota libertate: non amo illum nisi offendo. A fourth: Although the teacher should not be afraid to preach. On the asymmetry of teacher and student. and doing so with a friend as an audience. First you have to recognize that you have a problem. 2. they are both travelers on the same road). we infer that that is how Senecan Adult Education begins. will be disregarded. starts with an exhortation to take his life seriously. Finally. to consider the overall movement of the action. to carry out an exhaustive study of the Letters-as-drama. see Letter 27. . 3.180.73 on Tue. and his precepts. however correct in themselves. quae admonit­ ione excitantur. .9): aliquis fortasse unus aut alter incidet. I think all of these things are true. Another: The student should seek the teacher. one will be attracted to this approach to the extent that one thinks the lessons gained from it are interesting. neither should he present himself as radically superior to the student (although one is ahead of the other. Finally. amico] loquere quam tecum. et hic formandus tibi erit. on examining one’s conscience. A third thing: The teacher begins by nourishing the learner’s pre-existing feeling of urgency. see Letter 7. or that they provoke fruitful contemplation and so make the Letters more thoughtful and engaging a production. That the teacher should also be wary of appearing self-righteous. illos admitte quos tu potes facere meliores.1. however. the correspondence. or that Seneca probably thought them to be true. here. here is Letter 94. It will be useful. just after Seneca warns Lucilius against street preaching (Letter 7. first you have to want to change. the lessons that it yields. Otherwise he will be written off as a big-mouth. Finally. One result: The educative relationship is asymmetrical. the latter. nothing works so well as to point out that Seneca just asserts. Among innumerable examples. addressed to a late-middle-aged man. He should conduct his examinations of his own conscience in his student’s hearing: the relationship involves the radical extroversion of one’s self. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . An Overview: The Education of Lucilius It is not possible. Relatedly. not vice versa. . or true. .17. 7. That a teacher must be willing to engage in the livelier sort of instruction.2: tam audaciter cum illo [sc. But to clinch the point. reflect on that admitte. On encouraging the student’s pre-existing tendencies to goodness.29: omnium honestarum rerum semina animi gerunt. where Seneca anticipates this objection.Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education 37 Letter 1 is fertile ground for the dramatic reading. Seneca does not waste time describing the dangers of wasting time. I trust that any reader of the Letters will recognize those themes. see Letter 25. At this point. There is the student. claiming to be not a doctor but a ­ fellow patient who has found effective treatment for a shared illness: de communi tecum malo conloquor et remedia communicabo. and then there is the teacher. the teacher should share himself with his student. . On letting the student come to you.

See Russell 1974. to leave aside safely. and how Seneca the author teaches us to teach. I think it both necessary and safe to restrict our study to the Letters alone. 24. 60.180. a poet. since Lucilius should now study complete works rather than mere summaries of doctrine.. And safe. but immediately warns Lucilius to read them critically rather than reverently. The first twenty-nine Letters each end with a sententia for Lucilius to ponder. in 33 Seneca rejects Lucilius’ request to reinstate it.2). for an older discussion of the Lucilius story line. some of them amounting to explicit progress reports. Nonetheless. calling on him to progress to a higher philosophical level. Necessary. it is clear that Seneca’s other (philosophical) works are relevant for understanding the Letters. Seneca is hopeful about Lucilius in Letters 2 and 16. Lucilius is told that he is not yet morally competent truly to be Seneca’s friend. Seneca agrees. when Lucilius asks for copies of Seneca’s writings (45. the last such explicit notice. Someone who has reached this level (an achievement that Seneca regards as significant) iam non concupiscit. 75–79. not to exaggerate the ‘plot. 4A. 179–86. 25. see Wilson 2001. it seems that he has ­ carried this resolution out. Similarly. because little would be added to the picture presented in the Letters even if we could integrate the other two works. dolorem reformidat. It is important to point out that treating the Letters as the self-contained story of Lucilius is potentially dangerous. 24 Lucilius’ greatest inferrable weakness is his lingering concern for material goods and his anxieties about losing them. he writes that Lucilius is starting to live up to his potential. does not go far enough. 21. the story begins with Lucilius requesting spiritual guidance and Seneca responding with a mixture of exhortation and self-scrutiny. quibusdam cedit: mortem contemnit. and De providentia relative to the Letters. I hope to undermine his warning (75) “it is important. in 39 he only reluctantly agrees to send certain commentarii. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Lucilius is depicted as already having made significant moral progress (1.  The chastisement is almost always less prominently placed than the praise. 96). 23. sed adhuc timet. and in the case of the De providentia firm evidence is entirely wanting. and currently procurator of Sicily. Moreover. 21 As already noted. details about his daily life. More common are remarks about his ongoing moral progress. Yet even there the detail is scant enough. This content downloaded from 109. as the addressee of Seneca’s Quaestiones naturales and De providentia. since he also appears. In particular.38 John Schafer of the “drama” of the letters. as we shall see below. which. if relatively few.6. 25 While in Letter 6 Seneca offers to mark the most important passages in unnamed philosophical books he sends along (6. from Seneca’s subsequent silence. with Seneca’s persistent exhortation. to put aside his duties and devote his retirement to philosophy. in 31. I think. and then to isolate a few particular elements to which the reading may be applied. we read that Seneca is no longer concerned (sollicitus) about ­ Lucilius.  This suggests that Lucilius has at this point reached the lowest step of moral progress discussed in Letter 75. I propose. and Griffin 1976. this is how Seneca teaches. 22 We learn that Lucilius is somewhat younger than Seneca. 28. 395–411). a native of Pompeii. As the correspondence progresses. He is trying. For this Letter and its importance for establishing the shifting nature of the Seneca-Lucilius relationship. because we have no way to fix the dramatic chronology of the QNat. imponam notas).  This ground is covered in more detail in Schafer 2009. In Letter 82.’” 22. see Grimal 1979. however. 23 These positive reports are balanced by occasional rebuke (Letters 17. After stopping this practice in Letter 30. (The dates of composition are also controversial.1–3). 71–74. Lucilius’ role in the De providentia is limited: essentially. we infer that he has finally resolved to do so. There are suggestive.5. At Letter 68. for instance. 93. he asks the question that the treatise answers.73 on Tue. with some biographical detail. 219–33 and 299–303. There is more in the QNat.17. Lucilius’ philosophical sophistication increases. et in ipso metu ad quaedam satis firmus est. Stronger praise in Letter 34 is corrected in 35: there.

so it doesn’t get in its own way. consolation. On Seneca’s own theory. asking Seneca for clarifications on p ­ articular issues that trouble him. but they also show that Seneca’s curriculum includes the former. the longest in the collection) on method in philosophical instruction. digerenda sit. and in Letter 120 about the epistemology of ethics. quia pertinet. pertinet. that his opinion deviates from the official Stoic one. What you ask about is one of those things which has no further relevance beyond the bare fact of knowing it. ne ipsa se inpediat.73 on Tue. for instance. properas nec vis expectare libros quos cum maxime ordino continentis totam moralem philosophiae partem.180. He reads full-time. because it does have that limited relevance. which are much more prominent in the first fifty or so letters. 26. ut scias. I will untangle that right away. This content downloaded from 109. again. The scattered references to Lucilius’ reading works of technical philosophy are crucially important on this reading.Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education 39 Lucilius’ philosophical questions increase in frequency and technicality. This. and need only trouble Seneca on certain difficulties. the filmmaker need only show us one or two such exercises to allow us to infer the centrality of the training without lingering unduly on its unavoidable repetitiveness. You should neither pick at questions from all fields nor greedily attack them all at once: one arrives at the whole by covering each part in turn. Thus in Letter 113. inculcating virtue requires the teaching both of philosophical doctrines (decreta) and individual commands or instructions (praecepta). as his requests for advice on practial matters. under which are subsumed exhortation. see Schafer 2009 and Bellincioni’s translation with commentary (1979). knotty (nodosum) stuff. Nec passim carpenda sunt nec avide invadenda universa: per partes pervenietur ad totum. The opening of Letter 108 contains important evidence both for this late stage in Lucilius’ progress and for the didactic methods Seneca considers appropriate to it: ­ Id de quo quaeris ex iis est quae scire tantum eo. for instance. recede. expounded at great length in two programmatic letters (94 and 95. Lucilius appears to have retired in order to devote himself fully to philosophy. These questions are often challenging: in Letter 72. and unwilling to wait for the books I am just now putting together encompassing the entirety of moral philosophy. with perhaps exaggerated discomfort. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Statim expediam. qua flagrare te video. I take it. and in Letter 117 ­Lucilius’ question forces Seneca to admit. you are in a hurry. quemad­ modum tibi ista cupiditas discendi. explains why the last thirty or so letters are both idiosyncratic in their interests and technical in their exposition: Lucilius has reached the stage where he is competently absorbing a wide range of philosophical texts on his own. But nonetheless. which I see that you are burning with.17. his question is about the ontological status of the virtues. Seneca writes that he needs more time to reflect on an ­ issue that he had not considered carefully for a long time. Sed nihilominus. illud tamen prius scribam. but first I will write about how to manage your eagerness to learn. and related techniques of spiritual guidance. 26 The Letters themselves reflect the latter to a far greater extent than the former. In cinematic terms. On these Letters. the references to Lucilius’ reading these books act like a montage in a kung fu movie: the hero in training may spend many years throwing knives and punching wooden boards under his master’s tuition. After ­ Letter 68.

et passim): first you warn. Lucilius is “burning” (flagrare) with philosophical enthusiasm. 3. ending with the inevitable warning about gratuitous displays of intellectual acumen. He has by Letter 108 succeeded in reorienting Lucilius’ life around philosophy. Seneca is keen not to present himself as radically superior to Lucilius. Taken together. the instruction of Lucilius instantiates this doctrine. 27 Several points emerge. but agrees to answer it. which Seneca fanned: the treatment took. Leeman (1953. I will focus on three 27. Seneca writes that he intended to discuss Lucilius’ question (bonum an corpus sit) in a work covering all ethical questions (scis enim me moralem philosophiam conplecti velle et omnes ad eam pertinentis quaestiones explicare). This content downloaded from 109. of course. virtue. as in Letter 108. The letter is a beautiful. of which Lucilius is sure to receive an advance copy.73 on Tue. Seen globally. Moreover. known to us as the Moralis philosophiae libri. moving from a meditation on the motivational power of noble words. The Dramatic Reading Applied Now that we have seen an overview of the Lucilius drama. After long and persistent exhortation. Lucili. see Vottero 1998.  29 But it is at least as important to vindicate the dramatic reading for individual letters. instead of studying for the sake of the Supreme Good. the summit of Seneca’s didaxis. 29. Lucilius had sparks of interest.1: intellego. passages. polythematic piece. admonish. except to point out that the act of teaching Lucilius is itself part of Seneca’s journey toward goodness. for a judicious consideration of the scant evidence available.  Letter 106. also important for my purposes.180. 28 The remainder of Letter 108 fulfills the promise illud tamen prius scribam. the two letters can be seen to apply Seneca’s doctrine on method (Letters 94 and 95 again. 28. culminating (though offstage). 307–13) attributes the more technical nature of the later Letters to Seneca’s contemporaneous work on such issues in the Libri. finally focusing on the dangers of studying as mere dilettante. of course. Seneca prevailed upon Lucilius to retire. Space prevents me from tracing it here. and then you give the technical explanations. 64–75. On my reading. But first he warns Lucilius not to let his eagerness trip him up: one thing at a time. Seneca is composing a master work. The work is just now coming together in 108 (cum maxime ordino). Seneca judges the issue mildly otiose. to spend all his time in study.17.2 also mentions this work. I think comments like Letter 6. In this section. and themes as it is for the collection as a whole. So is Lucilius. his Summa. as philologus. motivate. the content of the later Letters is rather to be explained by Seneca’s assessment of Lucilius’ philosophical progress.  There is.40 John Schafer Lucilius asks an unspecified technical question. Seneca also repeats that this issue is to be treated in his upcoming Summa. There. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . I take no position on the historical questions concerning the Libri. through a reminiscence of Seneca’s own enthusiastic embrace of philosophy as a youth (including his temporary adoption of a vegetarian diet). it should be clear that it contains enough action to justify our attention. also a Seneca-drama. The advice he gives here is one that only a highly advanced student would need: the ordinary run of people scarcely needs to be warned against philosophical overenthusiasm. in the promised Summa. Nonetheless. though somewhat less so. The next letter fulfills Seneca’s promise to answer Lucilius’ question.  Letter 109 reveals that the question is whether a sapiens would benefit another sapiens. non emendari me tantum sed transfigurari are best understood not as evidence for Seneca’s ongoing progress but as ­ a calculated part of his didaxis: as discussed in connection with Letter 1.

21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Mutuo ista fiunt. arguing that the point of Seneca’s critique in 60 only emerges fully when read together with the two following Letters. are of fundamental importance for establishing the dynamics of Senecan philosophical friendship. morals are to be drawn. Don’t let the desire to show off your talent bring you out in public to recite to people or argue with them. the command is operative throughout the work. 30. Avoid the general run of men. is both a slogan for Senecan selfhelp and a prefiguration of Lucilius’ retirement. quod facere te vellem. early point in the course of training. This content downloaded from 109. after we are moved to pity and disgust. si haberes isti populo idoneam mercem: nemo est qui intellegere te possit.Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education 41 different texts. unus aut alter incidet. in the former sense. however. cum his versare qui te meliorem facturi sunt. which first comes up in its own right in Letter 17. but also sensible. arguing that they can be seen as a case study of a pedagogical mistake conscientiously corrected. Finally. These things happen mutually. the imperatives in this passage are also specific instructions from Seneca to Lucilius.17. showing how this approach can enhance our understanding of them. associate with those who will improve you.  Maurach (1970. could Lucilius be meant to think about here? There is a lesson in the subtlety. of this recommendation. Dramatically. among the best known of the Letters.180.73 on Tue. the training is just beginning. Yet perhaps someone or other will happen along who will be fit for you to shape and train to an understanding of you. after all. I will consider Letters 60–62 as a connected series. et hic ipse formandus tibi erit instituendusque ad intellectum tui. Cum his versare is also heeded. and people learn while teaching. whose thematic resonances. comes in first as exemplum and then as autobiographical ekphrasis. who but Seneca. ut recitare istis velis aut disputare. Then I will consider Letter 56. After the mirror to our collective cruelty is held up. especially within the first book (Letters 1–12) of the collection. deservedly. question: what should I avoid? The answer comes immediately: turbam. First. I will consider Letter 7. issued at this particular. Lucilius has asked a quite general. 30 Friends. 11–17) also sees Letters 60–62 as forming a series. then. Recede in te. The danger of moral contagion correlates directly with the number of one’s acquaintances. which Lucilius will be expected to obey. in the latter it is implemented by around Letter 68. accept the company of those whom you can improve. for which the Letter is best remembered. Be careful whom you are around (Letter 7. in the artistry. with a glance at the other “travel letters” from Seneca’s trip to Campania (49–57). Alone Together: Letter 7 Letter 7 is. Within the drama. showing how they contribute to Seneca-the-author’s ideas about teaching method. Aliquis fortasse. illos admitte quos tu potes facere meliores. et homines dum docent discunt.8–9): Recede in te quantum potes. Non est quod te gloria publicandi ingenii producat in medium. It would be quite natural to read this passage merely as Seneca’s recommendations for spiritual reform in general. Withdraw into yourself as much as you can. though I would have you do that if you had the right wares for that crowd: but in fact none of them can understand you. Seneca’s denunciation of gladiatorial games.

best to do it implicitly. embed the point in a larger one. and thereby undergo the necessary transformation (formari). 33.  Seneca shows similar tact with the quote-for-the-day from Letter 25: ‘sic fac’ inquit [Epicurus] ‘omnia tamquam spectet Epicurus’ (Epicurus frag. 211 Usener). as Henderson 2004.17. both in terms of where you go and what you read. If it is read as a specific instruction. “read trusted authors all the time. That teaching and learning are thoroughly imbricated is perhaps most clearly shown at Letter 76. If possible. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Seneca can be expected to learn from teaching Lucilius. Make the point on the general level: the plural his is well considered. Lucilius will read this command. but unus aut alter can submit to their tuition. But self-promotion is a delicate enterprise.3. Read “tried and true” authors. it is no great leap to suppose that these remarks apply also to us. 31 Seneca’s lesson plan involves constant reading. Epicurus’ self-recommendation is explicit. let us consider again illos admitte . of course. Hence. 32. stressing quality over quantity: Probatos itaque semper lege. then. Seneca is telling his student and patient to find his own student/ patients as well. then. Once again.e. you have to make the inference yourself. In other words. reaffirming that Lucilius should strive to make his friend as good as he can. as here. where Seneca writes that he is attending philosophy lectures.5. 8.73 on Tue. it will not work unless Lucilius comes to feel the same way. and indeed the Letters themselves. less artful predecessor in philosophical epistolarity. Self-applying Seneca’s teachings has similar implications in the passage from Letter 7. And. then that characterization should also govern the friendship dramatized in the Letters. homines dum docent discunt can also be inverted: Lucilius is teaching while he learns. Seneca seems to respond to a request for advice on how Lucilius should advise a friend. Most people.” He also knows not to be heavy-handed with the point. If this move is allowed.42 John Schafer Seneca judges that he can help Lucilius. If a philosophical friendship is a process of training the student to understand the teacher. after we have read Seneca already. cannot understand Seneca or his Letters. here. 32 It is also interesting to see what happens when one applies the coda of this instruction to the text that contains it: ad priores redi . ad priores redi. Seneca recalls Lucilius saying a certain person 31. and by understanding to be aided by him. If it must be done. otherwise. Semper lege: i. namely that old men should learn too. . Lucilius carries out this instruction. we have in this passage further authorial encouragement for the sort of closely read interpretation proposed here. Lucilius’ reading (and rereading) of the Letters. Imagine a spiritual authority is watching you and you will be less tempted by vice. observes. is a process by which he is shaped to do what others cannot do. study them assiduously. The theme of that letter is stability. Letter 2 achieves something similar. He thinks he should be.  Letter 2 relies heavily on the pun between loca (physical places) and loci (passages in literature). oriented entirely toward the goal of moral edification. 33 In Letter 36.180. stay in one place.. If people learn while they teach.” but also “only read trusted authors. in fact. To continue. et si quando ad alios deverti libuerit. his instruction is the logical equivalent of “disobey this instruction. remarking that his attendance as a learner itself teaches the other learners.” Seneca wants to be(come) probatus by Lucilius. namely to understand Seneca. That Seneca should all but explicitly suggest rereading him is no small support to a reading of him that requires us constantly to revise our understanding of individual letters in the light of what follows them. At Letter 42. . This content downloaded from 109. This artistry is both a lesson in cautious self-promotion and a one-upping of Seneca’s less cautious.

Dramatically.6): Zenonem Cleanthes non expressisset si tantummodo audisset: vitae eius interfuit. to speak to a 34. to determine whether he is a fit student/friend.  This thought also explains Letter 99. it will turn out that Lucilius is a suitable friend. ante iudicandum. Letter 2 begins ex iis quae mihi scribis et ex iis quae audio bonam spem de te concipio. By Letter 7. Seneca suggests that Lucilius should aspire even to be Plato’s equal.  Schönegg 1999. . and the students it is appropriate for him to take even less so. then. and philosophical therapists (Letter 6. and chastises his correspondent mercilessly. . . philosophy teachers. This content downloaded from 109. who had failed to endure the death of his son courageously. and turned out to be right: Lucilius’ patient fell into complete moral corruption. and then it turns out that the way he is not well is not physical but moral: Lucilius’ question had been about his moral state. Seneca has already practiced what he preaches. when and how to use these drastic techniques of spiritual guidance.2 post amicitiam credendum est. 37 Seneca can also be seen applying his own lessons. Lucilius has been warned (in Letter 3) to reflect carefully before establishing a friendship with someone.Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education 43 was “in his power. within the dramatic conceit. for Seneca. At least. In Letter 44. in which Seneca transcribes a letter he wrote to one Marullus. the teacher-student relationship is. which demonstrates Seneca once again following his own advice at 3. the deep sharing of himself reflected in the Letters. Seneca judges that this particular case calls for obiurgatio rather than consolatio.7). and accordingly more ensnared by vice.2 (quoted above in connection with Letter 1). since Lucilius has achieved sufficient progress that this sort of reaction is not appropriate for him. 61–64.73 on Tue. which we need in order to realize how central they are to the concerns of Seneca qua author: Lucilius is studying to be a spiritual guide himself.180. for Seneca to mention to Lucilius those programmatic points about method in spiritual guidance. Of course. 37. No surprise if Lucilius’ efforts should have failed: he is less experienced in instruction than Seneca is. Seneca so judges. 36 It turns out he is not well. he beheld his secrets. Moreover. This passage. not a different sort of relationship from friendship. .  “Cleanthes would not have been stamped in Zeno’s image if he had only attended his lectures: he was part of Zeno’s life. Plato and Aristotle and the whole crowd of wise men with divergent views took more from Socrates’ character than from his words. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The justification for showing the letter to him (and thus to us) is to teach him/us. for instance. 34 There is therefore ample justification. . 36. if we may judge from the intense interiority. Seneca also remarks in several passages that Lucilius both wants to and should become a full-fledged philosopher himself (Letter 33. When he says in 3. there is no distinction between research philosophers.  35 Moreover.” 35. Letter 25.17. and must therefore himself be versed in pedagogical theory.” Seneca disagreed. represents Lucilius as having asked about the condition of one Marcellinus. provides a criterion for this judgment: receive someone as friend if either you can improve him or he you. Platon et Aristoteles et omnis in diversum itura sapientium turba plus ex moribus quam ex verbis Socratis traxit. by example again. Letter 29. secreta perspexit. on Seneca’s reading of the history of philosophy. Seneca is not yet on intimate terms with Lucilius: so he checks his references (ex iis quae audio). Lucilius frequently asks Seneca about mutual friends. . Cf. this letter must be addressed to a third party.

180. just as a second invocation of the Muse in an epic poem does. . He would be too distant. as a hint that Lucilius is essentially fictional (meum opus es. marks what follows as bearing special thematic importance. 94. are my literary creation). clearly recalls the first letter’s theme of conserving time. these themes are simply too important and too ubiquitous to be merely instrumental to Seneca’s soliloquizing.  ita fac oro atque obsecro . but Lucilius is also in a position to understand Seneca’s particular vitia as well: rapida felicitas befell them both.17. formandus instituendusque for Seneca? The answer can be inferred by reading the Letters dramatically. particularly as the next sentence. This content downloaded from 109. .73 on Tue. In Letter 19. 44. an alter ego. I hope to have shown how high this cost is. What Seneca is (or was) at Rome.44 John Schafer friend as if to himself. 40 Lucilius is Seneca writ small: made famous by his talent. the unus aut alter who will understand are contrasted with the turba whose souls are too disordered to do so. reading Letter 7 together with 19 and ­ applying the former to the latter suggests a stronger point: perhaps he could not be a sapiens and still help Lucilius. tulit te longe a conspectu vitae salubris rapida felicitas. but to a slightly lesser extent. by your position as provincial procurator and all that one typically expects from that. refined writings.9. connected to Roman power circles. but obviously not as well as Seneca. versed in philosophy. . That element is present here. . eripe. one might see Seneca’s comment at Letter 34. si minus. also 1.2–3.  “Your lively talent. Cf.8–9. you.3–5).2. 43. 43 It must be said that this passage can easily be made to support the thesis that Lucilius is not a “real” character but only a mirror for Seneca’s interiority. meum opus es. You have been taken far from the sight of healthy living by rapid prosperity. 39. are historically true or merely invented by the author. provincia et procuratio et quidquid ab istis promittitur (Letter 19.” 41. enriched by political office. In any case. The cost paid by this claim is that it reduces the themes of friendship and of didactic method to a mere plot device for establishing the central conceit. for instance. For instance. 42 Seneca regularly insists he is not a sapiens. i. 91–95. cf. 44 It is a separate question. subduc te istis occupationibus. whether the details about Lucilius. adsero te mihi. .  This intimacy also extends to the grossly physical. so he is in an asymmetrical Senecan philosophical friendship. Seneca begs Lucilius to retire. 42.24) are tunc habebis tuum cum intelleges infelicissimos esse felices. satis multum temporibus sparsimus. Lucilius. These similarities allow Lucilius to become Seneca’s friend and to understand him as such. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . . a device allowing him to talk to himself.  The last words of the Epistulae as we have them (124. fame has seized you . Letter 35. . I think. Letter 83. Lucilius is in Sicily. as the cliché goes. 87. For current purposes one may suspend judgment on 38.1–5). 38 What is it about Lucilius that makes him an unus aut alter . This ita fac recalls the ita fac that begins Letter 1. clarae ac nobiles amicitiae.e. including exercise and bathing. 41 A friend is. 39 Neither make a show of your retirement nor try to hide it. it is too late for Lucilius to deliberate whether a life of anonymity is better for him: in medium te protulit ingenii vigor. There are good uses even of vice.62–67). and so on. even his existence. From other letters we can add: old. iam notitia te invasit . At Letter 7. .  Pace Schönegg 1999.. This recollection of the opening. si potes. scriptorum elegantia. relays the details of Seneca’s day-to-day life. I suggest. and your friendships with distinguished and famous men have brought you into public view. 40.  This point can also be seen in Seneca’s use of negative exempla (12.4: causas paupertatis meae reddam—a subtle but important theme. and especially those in which the exemplum is Seneca himself (12. a writer.2. but not as old as Seneca.

5).180. with its dramatic indications in mind. Lucilius is such a person. but for a good (dramatic) reason: it shows Seneca practicing what he preaches. The letter goes on to specify that the exercise ought to be restrictive enough to be a genuine test of Lucilius’ fortitude and not a mere game (ut non lusus sit sed experimentum). though clear in any case. Edification Everywhere: Letter 56 and Environs But lest we reproach Seneca for exempting himself from the hardships he imposes on others. Seneca’s reflections provide Lucilius with a criterion to measure his own tranquility (56. where Seneca assigns spiritual homework to Lucilius. and that he is to sustain the exercise for at least three or four days at a time.73 on Tue. The din of the turba is vividly described. your spiritual development.17. Lucilius. Seneca makes himself less aloof—but also more conscientious—by showing that he assigns spiritual exercises to himself as well. Letter 56 reminds us that he gives himself homework too.5. is revealed to be pervasive and fundamental under a dramatic reading. . In fact. and that his function as such is not incidental or instrumental. and internal chaos is worse than the external kind (Letter 56. or an infuriating one. gently plants in his friend’s mind the notion that he can devise his own This content downloaded from 109. Letter 34. as I see them. . The teacher wants his student on occasion to practice self-imposed poverty. Seneca’s interest in practical and theoretical consistency. whether he actually took this trip to Campania. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Seneca flatly refuses a request from Lucilius to help an unnamed acquaintance: he is too far gone and not sincere enough to be helped. But when we read this Letter in the context of the series. we find that its elements are better motivated and integrated into the whole than they would otherwise appear. actually happened upon a gladiatorial spectacle. Letter 56. Read in isolation. He also.14): tunc ergo te scito esse compositum cum ad te nullus clamor pertinebit. We infer that the letter is being written in Seneca’s apartment. that he is describing noises at the very moment he hears them. is deservedly one of the best known Letters. Seneca is staying above a bathhouse (supra ipsum balneum habito). The letter is harsh. are that within the Letters Lucilius is a literary character. Finally. the Seneca-character.Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education 45 this issue. am writing these words. And a charming text. and so on. just as one need not say whether Seneca actually sent these letters. if one finds Seneca’s condescension to the lower classes distasteful. Then the inevitable shift to moralizing: without reason our souls are disordered. A clever set-piece of homiletics. i. like 7. highly specific details of urban noise-making conveyed. and several letters (25.. Another example comes at Letter 18. by telling Lucilius that he has done this. In Letter 112. For instance. however.e. though. and our dubiousness is scarcely allayed by Seneca’s eventual explanation that he wanted to test himself. the conceit of this Letter seems threadbare and unconvincing: we wonder why the richest man in the Empire would stay in such a flat at the beginning. Experiri et exercere me volui . 29) discuss mutual friends whose suitability for treatment is questionable. is the reason I. The crucial points. the letter ends with Seneca remarking that he is planning to leave: itaque ex hoc loco migrabo.2 may be pressed into service for this point: meum opus es. Seneca thinks that only unus aut alter can become suitable student/ friends.

Mazzoli (1991. but when that is impossible it is still helpful to preach on a general level. travels by sedan-chair near Cumae at Letter 55.46 John Schafer exercises as well. Seneca’s reason for making this journey is never stated. Adding these months to the time that it must have taken Seneca to do all the traveling mentioned in these letters reveals that a significant amount of time passes by.73 on Tue. though. Letter 54 features physical illness again. of course. a meditatio mortis. enough time that the characters’ friendship might reasonably be thought to be in danger of growing cool. and from then until Letter 57 at least. ransack your own for material. has Seneca remarking on how the places he is seeing (Campania et Pompeiorum tuorum conspectus) are evoking his friend (totus mihi in oculis es). From then until Letter 59 Seneca seems not to hear from his friend at all. he has come and gone from Baiae. Privileging the dramatic context suggests that these letters are like this because they have to be so: Seneca has not heard from Lucilius. He has already given Lucilius the instruction to simulate poverty: why may he not assign it to himself as well? On the homiletic tone. Letter 56 is of a piece with most of these travel letters. someone who reads the Letters out of sequence or without considering the dramatic context will notice that these letters are homiletic. The dramatic context explains these features. reaching into the details of his travels for edifying material. Seneca’s intimate exploration of Lucilius’ soul is not only aided by his physical presence in his friend’s place of origin. at Letter 52 he takes a (disagreeable) sea-voyage. 81–85) fruitfully explores the symbolism of the travel letters. Letter 55 takes Seneca past the former villa of the dissolute playboy V ­ atia: do not be a dissolute playboy.17. the day after arriving: be careful. In Letter 51. that Lucilius is himself a Pompeian.180. In Letter 50. These letters also teach by example how to do that: when the details of your friend’s life and soul are unavailable. for that reason. Much of these letters consists in first-person narratives culminating in advice. Again. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . he needs lodging. Letter 53 is the infamous seavoyage: physical illness provides the entrée to a discussion of spiritual illness. Henderson 2004 (especially 67–92 on Letter 55) for Seneca’s complex exploitation of place in the Letters. 45 45. Seneca. This content downloaded from 109. he tells how he left Baiae. More importantly. Then. reflecting on why Seneca qua author plots the drama in this way suggests the following pedagogical lesson: responding to a student/friend’s personal situation and needs is prefer­ able. see. Seneca tells us that he received Lucilius’ letter “many months” after it had been sent. Seneca’s taste in lodgings is less strange than it seems: in Letter 49 he tells of going to Naples and Pompeii. the journey is itself a symbol of this exploration. Wherever precisely he is in Letter 56 (Baiae?). takes his responsibility as spiritual guide seriously. the first of the travel letters. however. the notorious den of iniquity. he did not bother to ask the courier how Lucilius was doing.  Tracing how this works is beyond the scope of this paper. and in Letter 57 he has gone back to Naples. Seneca has been traveling in Campania. Seneca’s asthma is acting up. The opening of Letter 49. going by land this time. that in some cases the personal details seem to be present merely to provide an introduction to the moral lesson. Letter 57 memorably derives moral uplift from Seneca’s passing through the Naples tunnel. It seems important. At Letter 51.

“be careful with praise. This point is clearly seen in Too 1994.” which reflects and confirms Seneca’s explicit warnings about evaluating oneself too leniently. as crafted by the flawed character Seneca. To the extent that it is true of Seneca that he is flawed. Seneca has fallen prey to the very human temptation to tell a friend what he wants to hear. at some point. unintended for publication. This content downloaded from 109. for related worries about authorial consistency. There is much more to the issue of self-consistency and self-contradiction in the Letters than can be considered here.Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education Only Human: Letters 60–62 47 As we have seen. This thought allows us to see in a different light the Letters’ apparent inconsistencies. it would surely have been easy enough for Seneca qua author to impose more internal consistency on his work. namely that the Letters are a self-conscious literary whole.  Letters 6. significantly corrected in Letter 35.  Again. 47. I think. If they were merely genuine letters. satis est unus. Much work. inconsistency becomes not only tolerable but. his exploration of his flaws is commanded by his own didaxis on friendship. then. In the first passage. as discussed above. the dialectic is a central problem for the work. that the Letters include references to Seneca’s vices is not only appropriate but required by his own teaching. with genuine letters from Lucilius being sent and received between the composition of each. he relates instances where he displays vicious emotional reactions. which argues that Seneca’s failure in the Letters to enact his own teaching is part of a strategy of disempowering the Neronian state. Taking his fulsome praise back in Letter 35 is going to hurt both parties: amas me amicus non es can have been a joy neither to write nor read. but that they are an attempt realistically to portray one. this point/counterpoint renders a meta-didactic moral. Taken together. Or. the imputation of self-contradiction involves a rather implausible degree of uncharitability: even if we accept a historical Seneca as viciously hypocritical as you like. as the author of the Letters he displays a keen interest in self-consistency. While I cannot agree with her solution. Now it is my contention that the Letters are not a genuine multi-year correspondence. In part this practice accords with the conversational tone he consciously adopts in the Letters: self-revision and qualification are of course ubiquitous in real 46. should exhibit imperfections. this is true if and only if the Letters are a literary creation. For them to succeed in this all but requires some internal inconsistency. expected: anyone who regularly deals in pontificating will at some point self-contradict (or else be a terrible bore). and so on.11 are a particularly bald example of Senecan teachings in (creative) tension.180. see Edwards 1997. 46 On the assumption that has governed this reading. Seneca lays considerable stress on the limitations of his own moral progress. because nullius boni sine socio iucunda possessio est. He insists he is not a sage: he must plead for extra time to consider technical matters.73 on Tue. 214–22. As one’s corpus of writings increases. he approvingly quotes an artist saying of his audience: satis sunt mihi pauci. Seneca says he would reject wisdom if he had no one to share it with. The fact. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Seneca frequently revisits and revises his teachings on various themes. For him not to have seen the passages where his teachings are in tension or in downright contradiction with themselves requires us to suppose our author not only hypocritical but rather careless as well.4 and 7. An interesting result: self-consistency within the dramatic conceit would be self-contradictory. But it is scarcely less mandatory that the course of education as a whole. at some point the risk of this becomes a near certainty.17. 34–36. remains to be done here. if not taken back. What is clear is that this dialectic is important and self-conscious. satis est nullus. We have already seen how Seneca’s progress report to Lucilius in Letter 34 is.  47 Looking at particular instances of flawed or inconsistent instruction in this way is revealing. In the second. Too is quite right to stress the centrality of the problem. seen in another light.

48. This content downloaded from 109. while caught up in the pomp. Etiamnunc optas quod tibi optavit nutrix tua aut paedagogus aut mater? Lucilius must have revealed his lingering preoccupation with material goods. again. . . Recall from Letters 50–58 that Seneca has been traveling. relaying how Seneca is trying. ibi meus sum. “I want my letters to be like my speech would be. as explicit warrant for meta-dramatic readings of the Letters in general. Even when I am forced to work I am free to mull over the Great Men of history (here Seneca adverts. 61 reaches for the carrot.1: Qualis sermo meus esset si una desideremus aut ambularemus. . They are above ground. a corpse. a cow. even when a forceful reaction is appropriate. with all the effort he can muster. spontaneous and natural. this letter says. however.” ­ That last we may take. My deliverance. if we were sitting or walking together. In Letter 59. and in particularly bad cases not even animals but dead people (ne animalium quidem sed mortuorum). The letter closes thus: vixi. Ego certe id ago ne senex eadem velim quae puer volui. but not really alive: mortem suam antecesserunt. Lucilius is usually mi Lucili. The letter offers an enticement to be good instead of a rant for being bad: resigning oneself to fate provides serenity. Lucili carissime. as he very rarely does. the carissime suggests that Seneca is worried he has alienated his friend. all but proves (in Stoic terms) that Seneca’s reaction is mistaken: it is never right to be angered. Letter 60 had been all stick.17. Seneca is disappointed and lets his friend know. 75. I would rather show what I mean than say it. that: the hortatory subjunctive is much less off-putting than the sarcastic second-personal question etiamnunc optas . litigo.180. and in response he is called a child. The opening implicitly likens Lucilius to a child. The author of three books De ira knows something about this. Lucili. Seneca responds to a letter from his friend. Vaco. There is. The man who wrote maximum remedium irae est mora knows better. that negotia make us too busy for proper studies. allows one to contemplate death without fear. si fieri posset. quantum satis erat. irascor. Is this perhaps a little harsh? Lucilius mentions that he hopes for a good return on an investment. 61 shorter: 62 is the shortest letter in the collection. vaco. as Senecan upbraiding generally is. ? The rest of the letter is almost entirely first-personal. in particular that it is characteristic of an angry person to go too far. remarking that he seems to be in a good mood (animi hilarem adfectum). Vale.48 John Schafer conversation. mortem plenus expecto. Letter 60. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . I think. non hominum). and as Seneca works himself into a lather the images get worse: those who let ambitio get the better of them are not even human beings but animals (animalium loco numeremus. no dramatic indication that Lucilius has written. tales esse epistulas meas volo . After a short mora. If it were possible. . to put an end to his vices. the third word of the letter. Letter 60 was short. 48 But they also bear meta-didactic fruit.3). et ubicumque sum. inlaboratus et facilis. to his career in politics: causa ex officio nata civili): Demetrium. The letter is short. Better judged. Letters 60–62 may be read together in this regard. in the mendacities of the imperial court.73 on Tue. It is not true. irascor. illum admiror (Letter 62. then. mecum circumfero et relictis conchyliatis cum illo seminudo loquor. virorum optimum.1): desinamus quod voluimus velle. Seneca serves up a calmer and more soothing discussion (Letter 61. we infer ex silentio that he has not heard from Lucilius. is to think about my friend Demetrius. begins thus: queror. Indeed. that is. quid sentiam ostendere quam loqui mallem.

feels guilty. The day after that.” Seneca. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Letter 61 switches to the first person. Even though.Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education 49 the Cynic philosopher. to identify the object of your pursuit with the reason for your pursuing it. the vision is monistic. overreacts. reveals it to his friend. Finally. “stop caring about things that don’t matter. Stoics not infrequently saw the Cynics as fellow travelers. Letter 62 is quickly sent. Then he corrects himself. the difference being that the Stoa endorsed pursuing them anyway. in the course of examining his conscience Seneca comes to see the connection between his imperiousness towards Lucilius and his Imperial Connections. This is the movement: first. this middle-ground position implies. particularly as regards their recommended form of life. ibi cogitationes meas tracto. mitigates the damage.” then. Both schools denied any intrinsic value to material goods. its teachers neither are nor should be disembodied dispensaries of it. entrusts it to another courier. and in keeping with his own teachings he rips his soul out. 49 How should we imagine all this within the dramatic conceit? Letter 60 was a nasty production. The precipitate of this reading. in practical terms. once again. tells him to explain to Lucilius that he had one more thing to say. he reveals why he overreacted: Lucilius’ vices are the precise ones that wreaked so much havoc on Seneca’s life.1: quocumque constiti loco. Perhaps the day after dispatching his courier to Sicily he dashes off Letter 61. they constitute an argument for that monism 49. and is not sitting at home waiting for one of Nero’s goons to order his suicide. In a real life it is particularities all the way down. Letter 60 was brash. finally. as Seneca surely held. 50 He discovers something about himself. This content downloaded from 109. It moves to the first person from the second. This problem. the same salvific thing for all. “I’ve profited by doing so”. dismayed by Lucilius’ susceptibility to these things. and he does not want his friend to suffer what he suffered. 50. endlessly subjecting oneself to the temptation to conflate means and ends. accentuates the positive. is inevitably the sovereign criterion for every aspect of education. and the author hopes all three will arrive simultaneously or nearly so. To the extent that the Letters are a brief for Stoicism.180. Of course.73 on Tue. is a coherent and powerful vision of Stoic moral education and of the Stoic life. Epictetus could have written it. Conclusion: Senecan Convergences While far from exhaustive. a self-righteous little screed. the truth is universal.17. Homines dum docent discunt.  Motto and Clark (1993. albeit with complete emotional detachment from them. Demetrius is poor. but he never had to compromise his principles. 62 from the first to the third. however. On the examination of conscience. see Letter 62. second personal. for Seneca. the road not taken: he is wistful. In that respect. “and if only I’d been like Demetrius. the only good. this survey has considered many of the most important texts for the dramatic reading. 109–11) persuasively argue that Letter 62 would have struck a contemporary audience as a calculated affront to Nero. at least. Letter 61 softens the blow. Seminudo is. Seneca quickly realizes his mistake. who didn’t have to learn the hard way. as I hope to have persuasively shown. What are the principal components of this vision? Virtue. the Cynics avoid.

the Letters can be shown to be not only an argument for Stoicism but also an argument within Stoicism. by contrast. but also in history. the means by which it is reached are not exclusively rationalist. Opponents of Stoicism were quick to mock them on this score. with what they take to be the purpose of life. against partisans of purely doctrinal. we come to appreciate it in a way analogous with the recognition of artistic beauty.50 John Schafer and against conventional education. Seneca’s insistence that liberal pursuits. We recognize the goodness of the Cosmic Order that governs the universe. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Rather. Seneca derides one of Zeno’s syllogisms by sarcastically exclaiming liberatus sum metu! post hoc non dubitabo porrigere cervicem! This content downloaded from 109.12: non vitae sed scholae discimus.48. are vain can only persuade when his positive alternative. to provide strong indication that the doctrines are sound. is best understood not as impatience with logic itself but as part of his endeavor to establish a more effective.180. themselves by themselves. That Seneca qua author plots the drama in such a way as to make his characters’ lives line up with their ideals is no mere ornamental detail. and so develop a commitment to the Good that allows us to remain faithful to it in the face of pain. and more psychologically insightful. 52 Seneca’s disdain for these arguments.9. however.  Letter 106. are mutually entailing. 52. but is most persuasive as it is shown by the persuasion of Lucilius. Within the overarching commitment to virtue. for sure. In claiming this. The virtues. That its parts and techniques should be mutually consistent. in the banalities of daily life. Material for edification can be found everywhere: in philosophical study.73 on Tue. of death: Si vis eadem velle.17. Moreover. or education narrowly conceived. of the way all its parts support and are supported by each other. Letters 82 and 85. of fear. How we learn Stoicism is a part of Stoicism. in poetry. especially. Although rationality is the summit of human perfection. The Stoics were always proud of their theory’s systematicity. But it is only by considering the Seneca/Lucilius relationship as a whole that the full strength of this case emerges: the characters’ shared commitment to virtue integrates their studies. which for Seneca fails to be for anything outside itself. Seneca’s portrait of education is remarkably varied and pluralistic. technical. in its entirety. with every other aspect of their lives. has been seen and appreciated. As mentioned earlier. rational instruction. Seneca’s case is stated explicitly here and there. that the teacher 51. oportet velle vera (Letter 95. At 82. 51 Seneca often states this point explicitly (Letter 88 is the most important such text). It is not limited to the Stoic school alone (witness especially the approving quotations of Epicurus). For instance.58). just by itself. the Stoics often employed sweeping (and unconvincing) syllogisms to argue for key points of doctrine.  See. 53. his exploration of how education can be and do more. and of us. 53 Once again. a frequent theme in the Letters. method of inculcating Stoicism. Seneca says of the passions that their mutual inconsistency is proof that they are mistaken. 4. Cicero quite devastatingly describes one such argument as a “leaden dagger” at Fin. the best support for my contention that to read the Letters dramatically is to read them aright lies in the convergence of the lessons one can glean thereby with the lessons that Seneca dispenses to Lucilius. rational consistency and harmony are the distinctive and inerrant marks of the Good. For instance. that they converge—that they can converge—is meant.

the apparent failure. and reminds him why he fell in love with philosophy in the first place.73 on Tue.2): old age is the climax of the story. are moved by this harmony.  Self-consistency. Everything works. are not only appropriate but necessary. Libro XV: Le lettere 94 e 95. the only thing that really matters. in harmony. It is clear enough that in the first instance. of the courageous and therefore good death. by the compelling austerity of this image: the old man. The Letters are a heroic attempt to vindicate. LITERATURE CITED Bellincioni. with the good in mind. Educazione alla sapientia in Seneca. M. if Stoicism is true. not so much by his words as by the act of formulating and issuing his words. and traversing a sooty tunnel. both as author and as the authorial I of the work.180. Seneca. The Letters. had aspired to combine philosophical learning and literary talent with political power: he failed. if Stoicism is true. this means “be master. that the techniques of teaching are both taught and instantiated in teaching them. that setting our souls aright is our one mission. putting all that remains of his life and genius into vindicating his beliefs. Moriantur ante te vitia (Letter 27.17. the intruding third-person readers. But Nature provides for him: a student comes along (incidit). The portrait of the virtuous and therefore happy life. The act of teaching reinforces his faith in his teachings. should become grist for virtue’s mill: by Seneca’s lights Nature is providentially arranged. like the regular changing of the seasons. Brescia. his doctrinal commitments include the belief that only this matters. 26). to make attractive and plausible. saves the senescent guru from loneliness. take charge. for instance. virtue is the only good. see Maurach 1970. Cashiered from politics. demonstrating the techniques of approaching that vision brings the demonstrator closer to it. The aesthetic effect of all this is surely to conjure an overwhelmingly poignant. if not tragic. Old age. majestic. and it is in this sense. To the extent the picture succeeds it succeeds because we. I think. again: the entirety of the Letters depicts Seneca carrying out his very first instruction: vindica te tibi (on this phrase. depict a life lived accordingly and attempt to make that belief plausible by rendering that life interesting. Lettere a Lucilio. Luckily (perhaps) for him. Nature must have provided for this final stage in life for a reason. set of images. . then. Brescia. attracts the painter as much as the viewer. or at least can work. a visit to a villa. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that if such things could not provide edification then Nature would have been remiss. and again. This content downloaded from 109. and so Seneca’s theory wrong.Seneca’s Epistulae Morales as Dramatized Education 51 learns and the student teaches. that vision of the meaning of our lives. that Seneca most interestingly follows his own instruction. the only acceptable reason is to achieve and practice virtue. 21 Jan 2014 03:38:16 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . he has only the care of his soul. If this belief is plausible it is not implausible that details that we might think banal. of your own life. 1979.  54 Northwestern University 54. large.” But vindicare also means “to rescue from danger or harm” and “to free from blame”. is not an incidental topic in the Letters. Seneca’s Stoicism proclaims that all of us are vicious and spiritually disordered. 1978. and ultimately proving himself right to himself. Old age is for the consummation of our natures and of the charge Nature imposes on us. to Lucilius.

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