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Seneca on Cato's Politics: Epistle 14. 12–131

  • Miriam T. Griffin (a1)

In the fourteenth letter to Lucilius, Seneca explains how to avoid physical danger and discomfort: the worst threats to the body come not from nature but from men in power; therefore safety lies in not giving offence. Ad philosophiam confugiendum est (11): the study of philosophy incurs neither envy nor contempt, provided that the philosopher pursues it peacefully and without ostentation.

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page 373 note 2 Beltrami A., ‘Emendamenti a Seneca Ep. II 2 (14)’, Riv. di fil. xlvi (1918), 86;Wirszubski Ch., Libertas as a Political Idea at Rome (Cambridge, 1950), 128;Syme R., Tacitus, 557, n. 5;Pecchiura P., La figura di Catone Uticense nella letteratura latina (Turin, 1965), 69; 71.

page 373 note 3 Ep. 104. 33.

page 373 note 4 Cons . Marc. 20. 6.

page 373 note 5 Ben. 2. 20, 2; Ep. 104. 30–1.

page 373 note 6 Ep. 95. 70: aliis Caesareanas opes, aliis Pompeianas foventibus utrumque provocavit ostenditque aliquas esse et rei publicae partes. Cf. Prov. 3. 14.

page 373 note 7 Const. Sap. 2. 3;Tranq. An. 16. 1; Ep. 24. 6.

page 373 note 8 In his exhaustive study of Seneca's references to Cato, Pecchiura , op. cit. 5971, finds only one other critical one, in Ep. 11. 10: Elige itaque Catonem; si hic tibi videtur nimis rigidus. Even if this is the younger Cato (doubted by L. Reynolds in his index to the Oxford text), the criticism is only a hypothetical one by Lucilius.

page 374 note 1 With sine ulla potentioris offensa we have returned to the main theme: abstineamus offensis. (7).

page 374 note 2 De Otio 3. 23.

page 374 note 3 The manuscript tradition is corrupt. See the discussion by Beltrami, op. cit. Madvig's suggestion is still the best and is generally accepted. In any case, it is clear that a general question about the sapiens, following from the previous discussion, belongs here.

page 374 note 4 Seneca is thinking of the founders of the Stoic school, Zeno, Cleanthes and Chrysippus who had neither the fortune nor the rank quae admitti ad publicarum rerum tractationem solet (De Otio 6. 5), and of others like them. He goes on to insist, as in Ep. 5. 16, that even in private life the philosopher should avoid giving offence through ostentation.

page 374 note 5 ‘Nevertheless, one may well question whether, in those days, a wise man ought to have taken any part in public affairs and ask …’. The translation by F. Préchac in the Budé edition is much better: ‘Quelqu'un pourrait demander, dans une dispute en forme, si la présence du sage au gouvernement était, en ce temps-là, bien désirable: Que prétends–tu …’

page 374 note 6 Probably both the philosophical and the rhetorical schools. Seneca gives examples of Stoic disputationes in Epp. 16. 6 and 113. 1. Students of oratory were encouraged to follow Cicero in writing versions of the philosophical theses (Quint. 10. 5, 11) which included sitne sapientis ad rem publicam accedere (Cic . Top. 82; cf. De Or. 3. 113; Quint. 3. 5,6). The application of these to particular persons and circumstances supplied many suasoriae of which Seneca gives us one example in this letter and another in Beneficiis 2. 20, 1: disputari de M. Brulo solet, an debuerit accipere ab divo Julio vitam, cum occidendum eum iudicaret. For others about Cato, see Quint. 3. 8, 37; 3. 5, 13. If the interpretation I advance here is correct, the entry of Ep. 14. 13 in the TLL (D col. 1443) under actio reputandi should be changed to one under actio dicendi where Benef. 2. 20, 1 is classified—presumably under B. 1. e (col. 1446).

page 375 note 1 Cic . De Or. 3. 113.

page 375 note 2 Ep. 104. 2934.

page 375 note 3 Ep. 71. 8ff.;Prou. 3. 14.

page 375 note 4 Const. Sap. 1. 3 ff.; 7. 1.

page 375 note 5 In the refutation of the view of Athenodorus, and particularly at 4. 8–5.

page 375 note 6 De Otio 8.

1 I must record my debt to Professor Eduard Fraenkel for valuable discussion of the letter and for help in drafting this note. Mr. Leighton Reynolds commented on an earlier version.

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The Classical Quarterly
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