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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



10243
Seneca The Younger, Letters, 17


adiere superos: ne qua pars probro vacetCast away everything of that sort, if you are wise; nay, rather that you may be wise; strive toward a sound mind at top speed and with your whole strength. If any bond holds you back, untie it, or sever it. "But," you say, "my estate delays me; I wish to make such disposition of it that it may suffice for me when I have nothing to do, lest either poverty be a burden to me, or I myself a burden to others." ,You do not seem, when you say this, to know the strength and power of that good which you are considering. You do indeed grasp the all-important thing, the great benefit which philosophy confers, but you do not yet discern accurately its various functions, nor do you yet know how great is the help we receive from philosophy in everything, everywhere, – how, (to use Cicero's language,[1]) it not only succours us in the greatest matters but also descends to the smallest. Take my advice; call wisdom into consultation; she will advise you not to sit for ever at your ledger. ,Doubtless, your object, what you wish to attain by such postponement of your studies, is that poverty may not have to be feared by you. But what if it is something to be desired? Riches have shut off many a man from the attainment of wisdom; poverty is unburdened and free from care. When the trumpet sounds, the poor man knows that he is not being attacked; when there is a cry of "Fire,"[2] he only seeks a way of escape, and does not ask what he can save; if the poor man must go to sea, the harbour does not resound, nor do the wharves bustle with the retinue of one individual. No throng of slaves surrounds the poor man, – slaves for whose mouths the master must covet the fertile crops of regions beyond the sea. ,It is easy to fill a few stomachs, when they are well trained and crave nothing else but to be filled. Hunger costs but little; squeamishness costs much. Poverty is contented with fulfilling pressing needs. Why, then, should you reject Philosophy as a comrade? ,Even the rich man copies her ways when he is in his senses. If you wish to have leisure for your mind, either be a poor man, or resemble a poor man. Study cannot be helpful unless you take pains to live simply; and living simply is voluntary poverty. Away, then, with all excuses like: "I have not yet enough; when I have gained the desired amount, then I shall devote myself wholly to philosophy." And yet this ideal, which you are putting off and placing second to other interests, should be secured first of all; you should begin with it. You retort: "I wish to acquire something to live on." Yes, but learn while you are acquiring it; for if anything forbids you to live nobly, nothing forbids you to die nobly. ,There is no reason why poverty should call us away from philosophy, – no, nor even actual want. For when hastening after wisdom, we must endure even hunger. Men have endured hunger when their towns were besieged, and what other reward for their endurance did they obtain than that they did not fall under the conqueror's power? How much greater is the promise of the prize of everlasting liberty, and the assurance that we need fear neither God nor man! Even though we starve, we must reach that goal. ,Armies have endured all manner of want, have lived on roots, and have resisted hunger by means of food too revolting to mention. All this they have suffered to gain a kingdom, and, – what is more marvellous, – to gain a kingdom that will be another's. Will any man hesitate to endure poverty, in order that he may free his mind from madness? Therefore one should not seek to lay up riches first; one may attain to philosophy, however, even without money for the journey. ,It is indeed so. After you have come to possess all other things, shall you then wish to possess wisdom also? Is philosophy to be the last requisite in life, – a sort of supplement? Nay, your plan should be this: be a philosopher now, whether you have anything or not, – for if you have anything, how do you know that you have not too much already? – but if you have nothing, seek understanding first, before anything else. ,But, you say, "I shall lack the necessities of life." In the first place, you cannot lack them; because nature demands but little, and the wise man suits his needs to nature. But if the utmost pinch of need arrives, he will quickly take leave of life and cease being a trouble to himself. If, however, his means of existence are meagre and scanty, he will make the best of them, without being anxious or worried about anything more than the bare necessities; he will do justice to his belly and his shoulders; with free and happy spirit he will laugh at the bustling of rich men, and the flurried ways of those who are hastening after wealth, ,and say: "Why of your own accord postpone your real life to the distant future? Shall you wait for some interest to fall due, or for some income on your merchandise, or for a place in the will of some wealthy old man, when you can be rich here and now. Wisdom offers wealth in ready money, and pays it over to those in whose eyes she has made wealth superfluous." These remarks refer to other men; you are nearer the rich class. Change the age in which you live, and you have too much. But in every age, what is enough remains the same. ,I might close my letter at this point, if I had not got you into bad habits. One cannot greet Parthian royalty without bringing a gift; and in your case I cannot say farewell without paying a price. But what of it? I shall borrow from Epicurus:[3] "The acquisition of riches has been for many men, not an end, but a change, of troubles." ,I do not wonder. For the fault is not in the wealth, but in the mind itself. That which had made poverty a burden to us, has made riches also a burden. Just as it matters little whether you lay a sick man on a wooden or on a golden bed, for whithersoever he be moved he will carry his malady with him; so one need not care whether the diseased mind is bestowed upon riches or upon poverty. His malady goes with the man. Farewell.


Intertexts (texts cited often on the same page as the searched text):

6 results
1. Josephus Flavius, Jewish Antiquities, 10.277, 13.171-13.173, 15.371 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

10.277. All these things did this man leave in writing, as God had showed them to him, insomuch that such as read his prophecies, and see how they have been fulfilled, would wonder at the honor wherewith God honored Daniel; and may thence discover how the Epicureans are in an error 13.171. 9. At this time there were three sects among the Jews, who had different opinions concerning human actions; the one was called the sect of the Pharisees, another the sect of the Sadducees, and the other the sect of the Essenes. 13.172. Now for the Pharisees, they say that some actions, but not all, are the work of fate, and some of them are in our own power, and that they are liable to fate, but are not caused by fate. But the sect of the Essenes affirm, that fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination. 13.173. And for the Sadducees, they take away fate, and say there is no such thing, and that the events of human affairs are not at its disposal; but they suppose that all our actions are in our own power, so that we are ourselves the causes of what is good, and receive what is evil from our own folly. However, I have given a more exact account of these opinions in the second book of the Jewish War. 15.371. The Essenes also, as we call a sect of ours, were excused from this imposition. These men live the same kind of life as do those whom the Greeks call Pythagoreans, concerning whom I shall discourse more fully elsewhere.
2. Josephus Flavius, Jewish War, 2.119 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

2.119. 2. For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of which are the Pharisees; of the second, the Sadducees; and the third sect, which pretends to a severer discipline, are called Essenes. These last are Jews by birth, and seem to have a greater affection for one another than the other sects have.
3. Josephus Flavius, Life, 12 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

4. Plutarch, On Isis And Osiris, None (1st cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

369b. or anything good where God is the Author of nothing; for the concord of the universe, like that of a lyre or bow, according to Heracleitus, is resilient if disturbed; and according to Euripides, The good and bad cannot be kept apart, But there is some commingling, which is well. Wherefore this very ancient opinion comes down from writers on religion and from lawgivers to poets and philosophers; it can be traced to no source, but it carried a strong and almost indelible conviction, and is in circulation in many places among barbarians and Greeks alike, not only in story and tradition but also in rites and sacrifices, to the effect that the Universe is not of itself suspended aloft
5. Seneca The Younger, Letters, 11-15, 18-22, 24, 29-33, 35, 39, 4, 40-42, 5-9, 90, 10 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

6. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of The Philosophers, 8.19 (3rd cent. CE - 3rd cent. CE)

8.19. Above all, he forbade as food red mullet and blacktail, and he enjoined abstinence from the hearts of animals and from beans, and sometimes, according to Aristotle, even from paunch and gurnard. Some say that he contented himself with just some honey or a honeycomb or bread, never touching wine in the daytime, and with greens boiled or raw for dainties, and fish but rarely. His robe was white and spotless, his quilts of white wool, for linen had not yet reached those parts.


Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
avarice Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
banquet Bricault and Bonnet, Panthée: Religious Transformations in the Graeco-Roman Empire (2013) 267
christianism Bricault and Bonnet, Panthée: Religious Transformations in the Graeco-Roman Empire (2013) 267
emperor Bricault and Bonnet, Panthée: Religious Transformations in the Graeco-Roman Empire (2013) 267
essenes Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
free will Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
heaven Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
hellenism/hellenistic culture, philosophy and philosophical schools Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
hellenism/hellenistic culture, stoicism Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
intertextuality, intra-bavli, repertoire, social/cultural Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
isis Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
jews Bricault and Bonnet, Panthée: Religious Transformations in the Graeco-Roman Empire (2013) 267
josephus Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
luxury Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
mystery cults Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
norm Bricault and Bonnet, Panthée: Religious Transformations in the Graeco-Roman Empire (2013) 267
osiris Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
parallels (inner-rabbinic), as a phenomenon Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
parallels (to other cultural traditions), genealogical vs. analogical Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
pharisees, as similar to stoics Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
pharisees, on free will/predeterminism Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
philosophical schools Bricault and Bonnet, Panthée: Religious Transformations in the Graeco-Roman Empire (2013) 267
philosophy Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
providence Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
qumran texts, halakhic letter (4qmmt) Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
repertoire (network of shared cultural knowledge), greco-roman culture Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
rites Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
rome Bricault and Bonnet, Panthée: Religious Transformations in the Graeco-Roman Empire (2013) 267
sadducees and debates with pharisees, josephus description Hayes, The Literature of the Sages: A Re-Visioning (2022) 330
seneca Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
sexuality' Bricault and Bonnet, Panthée: Religious Transformations in the Graeco-Roman Empire (2013) 267
superstition Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
truth Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
vice Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
virtue Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155
wisdom Brenk and Lanzillotta, Plutarch on Literature, Graeco-Roman Religion, Jews and Christians (2023) 155