Roman Calendar

Friday, February 8, 2013

Seneca on the fear of death (part III)

     In his 4th letter to Lucilius, Seneca discusses the fact that the Stoic sage would suffer from no fer of death. The sage has perfect happiness and enjoyment of his life, and as Seneca says, "Nullum bonum adiuvat habentem, nisi ad cuius amissionem praeparatus est animus" (No good thing makes happy its posessor, unless his mind/soul are prepared for its loss). He suggests meditating on the mishaps that have befallen even the mighty - no one is exempt from the fickleness of fate, save perhaps the gods, but the sage is indifferent to fate's fickleness. His examples are drawn from the famous Romans from the end of the Republic (e.g., think how Pompey's fate was decided by a boy (Ptolemy XIV of Egypt) and a eunuch, Crassus' fate by a "cruel and insolent Parthian." For some reason, he leaves out that the third member of that triumvirate, Julius Caesar, was struck down by trusted friends, at the pinnacle of his power. And the bringers of your death may wear any face - as many have been struck down by slaves as ordered dead by kings. And, Seneca says, we are all dying anyway - a fact of life is that no one gets out of it alive - so what does it matter when? As he writes, you might protest that if you fell into the hands of the enemy, the conqueror will command that you be taken to your death, to which he would reply, "which is where you were already going!"

     Remember where you are already going, Seneca seems to say, and you cannot be upset at the prospect of arriving at your destination.

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