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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



10243
Seneca The Younger, Letters, 59.14-59.17


nanI shall now show you how you may know that you are not wise. The wise man is joyful, happy and calm, unshaken, he lives on a plane with the gods. Now go, question yourself; if you are never downcast, if your mind is not harassed by my apprehension, through anticipation of what is to come, if day and night your soul keeps on its even and unswerving course, upright and content with itself, then you have attained to the greatest good that mortals can possess. If, however, you seek pleasures of all kinds in all directions, you must know that you are as far short of wisdom as you are short of joy. Joy is the goal which you desire to reach, but you are wandering from the path, if you expect to reach your goal while you are in the midst of riches and official titles, – in other words, if you seek joy in the midst of cares, these objects for which you strive so eagerly, as if they would give you happiness and pleasure, are merely causes of grief.


nanI shall now show you how you may know that you are not wise. The wise man is joyful, happy and calm, unshaken; he lives on a plane with the gods. Now go, question yourself; if you are never downcast, if your mind is not harassed by any apprehension, through anticipation of what is to come, if day and night your soul keeps on its even and unswerving course, upright and content with itself, then you have attained to the greatest good that mortals can possess. If, however, you seek pleasures of all kinds in all directions, you must know that you are as far short of wisdom as you are short of joy. Joy is the goal which you desire to reach, but you are wandering from the path, if you expect to reach your goal while you are in the midst of riches and official titles, – in other words, if you seek joy in the midst of cares. These objects for which you strive so eagerly, as if they would give you happiness and pleasure, are merely causes of grief.


nanAll men of this stamp, I maintain, are pressing on in pursuit of joy, but they do not know where they may obtain a joy that is both great and enduring. One person seeks it in feasting and self-indulgence; another, in canvassing for honours and in being surrounded by a throng of clients; another, in his mistress; another, in idle display of culture and in literature that has no power to heal; all these men are led astray by delights which are deceptive and short-lived – like drunkenness for example, which pays for a single hour of hilarious madness by a sickness of many days, or like applause and the popularity of enthusiastic approval which are gained, and atoned for, at the cost of great mental disquietude.


nanReflect, therefore, on this, that the effect of wisdom is a joy that is unbroken and continuous. The mind of the wise man is like the ultra-lunar firmament; eternal calm pervades that region. You have, then, a reason for wishing to be wise, if the wise man is never deprived of joy. This joy springs only from the knowledge that you possess the virtues. None but the brave, the just, the self-restrained, can rejoice.


nanReflect, therefore, on this, that the effect of wisdom is a joy that is unbroken and continuous.[11] The mind of the wise man is like the ultra-lunar firmament;[12] eternal calm pervades that region. You have, then, a reason for wishing to be wise, if the wise man is never deprived of joy. This joy springs only from the knowledge that you possess the virtues. None but the brave, the just, the self-restrained, can rejoice.


nanAnd when you query: "What do you mean? Do not the foolish and the wicked also rejoice?" I reply, no more than lions who have caught their prey. When men have wearied themselves with wine and lust, when night fails them before their debauch is done, when the pleasures which they have heaped upon a body that is too small to hold them begin to fester, at such times they utter in their wretchedness those lines of Vergil: Thou knowest how, amid false-glittering joys. We spent that last of nights.


nanAnd when you query: "What do you mean? Do not the foolish and the wicked also rejoice?" I reply, no more than lions who have caught their prey. When men have wearied themselves with wine and lust, when night fails them before their debauch is done, when the pleasures which they have heaped upon a body that is too small to hold them begin to fester, at such times they utter in their wretchedness those lines of Vergil:[13] Thou knowest how, amid false-glittering joys. We spent that last of nights.


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

11 results
1. Cicero, On Laws, 1.25 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

2. Cicero, On The Nature of The Gods, 2.153 (2nd cent. BCE - 1st cent. BCE)

2.153. Then moreover hasn't man's reason penetrated even to the sky? We alone of living creatures know the risings and settings and the courses of the stars, the human race has set limits to the day, the month and the year, and has learnt the eclipses of the sun and moon and foretold for all future time their occurrence, their extent and their dates. And contemplating the heavenly bodies the mind arrives at a knowledge of the gods, from which arises piety, with its comrades justice and the rest of the virtues, the sources of a life of happiness that vies with and resembles the divine existence and leaves us inferior to the celestial beings in nothing else save immortality, which is immaterial for happiness. I think that my exposition of these matters has been sufficient to prove how widely man's nature surpasses all other living creatures; and this should make it clear that neither such a conformation and arrangement of the members nor such power of mind and intellect can possibly have been created by chance.
3. Epictetus, Discourses, 4.1 (1st cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

4. New Testament, 1 Peter, 2.3 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

2.3. if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious:
5. Plutarch, On Common Conceptions Against The Stoics, None (1st cent. CE - 2nd cent. CE)

6. Seneca The Younger, De Constantia Sapientis, 8.2 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

7. Seneca The Younger, Letters, 4.1-4.2, 5.1, 5.7-5.9, 6.1, 9.8-9.9, 9.12-9.14, 9.16-9.17, 23.2-23.3, 59.15-59.17, 70.4-70.6, 71.26-71.28, 72.9, 73.13-73.15, 83.27, 101.9-101.10 (1st cent. CE - 1st cent. CE)

8. Origen, Against Celsus, 4.29, 6.48 (3rd cent. CE - 3rd cent. CE)

4.29. But Celsus perhaps has misunderstood certain of those whom he has termed worms, when they affirm that God exists, and that we are next to Him. And he acts like those who would find fault with an entire sect of philosophers, on account of certain words uttered by some rash youth who, after a three days' attendance upon the lectures of a philosopher, should exalt himself above other people as inferior to himself, and devoid of philosophy. For we know that there are many creatures more honourable than man; and we have read that God stands in the congregation of gods, but of gods who are not worshipped by the nations, for all the gods of the nations are idols. We have read also, that God, standing in the congregation of the gods, judges among the gods. We know, moreover, that though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many and lords many), but to us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him. And we know that in this way the angels are superior to men; so that men, when made perfect, become like the angels. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but the righteous are as the angels in heaven, and also become equal to the angels. We know, too, that in the arrangement of the universe there are certain beings termed thrones, and others dominions, and others powers, and others principalities; and we see that we men, who are far inferior to these, may entertain the hope that by a virtuous life, and by acting in all things agreeably to reason, we may rise to a likeness with all these. And, lastly, because it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like God, and shall see Him as He is. And if any one were to maintain what is asserted by some (either by those who possess intelligence or who do not, but have misconceived sound reason), that God exists, and we are next to Him, I would interpret the word we, by using in its stead, We who act according to reason, or rather, We virtuous, who act according to reason. For, in our opinion, the same virtue belongs to all the blessed, so that the virtue of man and of God is identical. And therefore we are taught to become perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. No good and virtuous man, then, is a worm rolling in filth, nor is a pious man an ant, nor a righteous man a frog; nor could one whose soul is enlightened with the bright light of truth be reasonably likened to a bird of the night. 6.48. In the next place, when the philosophers of the Porch, who assert that the virtue of God and man is the same, maintain that the God who is over all things is not happier than their wise man, but that the happiness of both is equal, Celsus neither ridicules nor scoffs at their opinion. If, however, holy Scripture says that the perfect man is joined to and made one with the Very Word by means of virtue, so that we infer that the soul of Jesus is not separated from the first-born of all creation, he laughs at Jesus being called Son of God, not observing what is said of Him with a secret and mystical signification in the holy Scriptures. But that we may win over to the reception of our views those who are willing to accept the inferences which flow from our doctrines, and to be benefited thereby, we say that the holy Scriptures declare the body of Christ, animated by the Son of God, to be the whole Church of God, and the members of this body - considered as a whole - to consist of those who are believers; since, as a soul vivifies and moves the body, which of itself has not the natural power of motion like a living being, so the Word, arousing and moving the whole body, the Church, to befitting action, awakens, moreover, each individual member belonging to the Church, so that they do nothing apart from the Word. Since all this, then, follows by a train of reasoning not to be depreciated, where is the difficulty in maintaining that, as the soul of Jesus is joined in a perfect and inconceivable manner with the very Word, so the person of Jesus, generally speaking, is not separated from the only-begotten and first-born of all creation, and is not a different being from Him? But enough here on this subject.
9. Augustine, The City of God, 9.4 (4th cent. CE - 5th cent. CE)

9.4. Among the philosophers there are two opinions about these mental emotions, which the Greeks call παθη, while some of our own writers, as Cicero, call them perturbations, some affections, and some, to render the Greek word more accurately, passions. Some say that even the wise man is subject to these perturbations, though moderated and controlled by reason, which imposes laws upon them, and so restrains them within necessary bounds. This is the opinion of the Platonists and Aristotelians; for Aristotle was Plato's disciple, and the founder of the Peripatetic school. But others, as the Stoics, are of opinion that the wise man is not subject to these perturbations. But Cicero, in his book De Finibus, shows that the Stoics are here at variance with the Platonists and Peripatetics rather in words than in reality; for the Stoics decline to apply the term goods to external and bodily advantages, because they reckon that the only good is virtue, the art of living well, and this exists only in the mind. The other philosophers, again, use the simple and customary phraseology, and do not scruple to call these things goods, though in comparison of virtue, which guides our life, they are little and of small esteem. And thus it is obvious that, whether these outward things are called goods or advantages, they are held in the same estimation by both parties, and that in this matter the Stoics are pleasing themselves merely with a novel phraseology. It seems, then, to me that in this question, whether the wise man is subject to mental passions, or wholly free from them, the controversy is one of words rather than of things; for I think that, if the reality and not the mere sound of the words is considered, the Stoics hold precisely the same opinion as the Platonists and Peripatetics. For, omitting for brevity's sake other proofs which I might adduce in support of this opinion, I will state but one which I consider conclusive. Aulus Gellius, a man of extensive erudition, and gifted with an eloquent and graceful style, relates, in his work entitled Noctes Attic that he once made a voyage with an eminent Stoic philosopher; and he goes on to relate fully and with gusto what I shall barely state, that when the ship was tossed and in danger from a violent storm, the philosopher grew pale with terror. This was noticed by those on board, who, though themselves threatened with death, were curious to see whether a philosopher would be agitated like other men. When the tempest had passed over, and as soon as their security gave them freedom to resume their talk, one of the passengers, a rich and luxurious Asiatic, begins to banter the philosopher, and rally him because he had even become pale with fear, while he himself had been unmoved by the impending destruction. But the philosopher availed himself of the reply of Aristippus the Socratic, who, on finding himself similarly bantered by a man of the same character, answered, You had no cause for anxiety for the soul of a profligate debauchee, but I had reason to be alarmed for the soul of Aristippus. The rich man being thus disposed of, Aulus Gellius asked the philosopher, in the interests of science and not to annoy him, what was the reason of his fear? And he willing to instruct a man so zealous in the pursuit of knowledge, at once took from his wallet a book of Epictetus the Stoic, in which doctrines were advanced which precisely harmonized with those of Zeno and Chrysippus, the founders of the Stoical school. Aulus Gellius says that he read in this book that the Stoics maintain that there are certain impressions made on the soul by external objects which they call phantasi, and that it is not in the power of the soul to determine whether or when it shall be invaded by these. When these impressions are made by alarming and formidable objects, it must needs be that they move the soul even of the wise man, so that for a little he trembles with fear, or is depressed by sadness, these impressions anticipating the work of reason and self-control; but this does not imply that the mind accepts these evil impressions, or approves or consents to them. For this consent is, they think, in a man's power; there being this difference between the mind of the wise man and that of the fool, that the fool's mind yields to these passions and consents to them, while that of the wise man, though it cannot help being invaded by them, yet retains with unshaken firmness a true and steady persuasion of those things which it ought rationally to desire or avoid. This account of what Aulus Gellius relates that he read in the book of Epictetus about the sentiments and doctrines of the Stoics I have given as well as I could, not, perhaps, with his choice language, but with greater brevity, and, I think, with greater clearness. And if this be true, then there is no difference, or next to none, between the opinion of the Stoics and that of the other philosophers regarding mental passions and perturbations, for both parties agree in maintaining that the mind and reason of the wise man are not subject to these. And perhaps what the Stoics mean by asserting this, is that the wisdom which characterizes the wise man is clouded by no error and sullied by no taint, but, with this reservation that his wisdom remains undisturbed, he is exposed to the impressions which the goods and ills of this life (or, as they prefer to call them, the advantages or disadvantages) make upon them. For we need not say that if that philosopher had thought nothing of those things which he thought he was immediately to lose, life and bodily safety, he would not have been so terrified by his danger as to betray his fear by the pallor of his cheek. Nevertheless, he might suffer this mental disturbance, and yet maintain the fixed persuasion that life and bodily safety, which the violence of the tempest threatened to destroy, are not those good things which make their possessors good, as the possession of righteousness does. But in so far as they persist that we must call them not goods but advantages, they quarrel about words and neglect things. For what difference does it make whether goods or advantages be the better name, while the Stoic no less than the Peripatetic is alarmed at the prospect of losing them, and while, though they name them differently, they hold them in like esteem? Both parties assure us that, if urged to the commission of some immorality or crime by the threatened loss of these goods or advantages, they would prefer to lose such things as preserve bodily comfort and security rather than commit such things as violate righteousness. And thus the mind in which this resolution is well grounded suffers no perturbations to prevail with it in opposition to reason, even though they assail the weaker parts of the soul; and not only so, but it rules over them, and, while it refuses its consent and resists them, administers a reign of virtue. Such a character is ascribed to Æneas by Virgil when he says, He stands immovable by tears, Nor tenderest words with pity hears.
10. Themistius, Orations, None (4th cent. CE - 4th cent. CE)

11. Stoic School, Stoicor. Veter. Fragm., 3.54, 3.248-3.249



Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
assent, to appearances in stoicism Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (2000) 379
augustine, assent to appearance Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (2000) 379
augustine, attack on stoic apatheia, misrepresents stoic acceptance of first movements as acceptance of emotion Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (2000) 379
change (metabolē) to wisdom, between opposite states Brouwer, The Stoic Sage: The Early Stoics on Wisdom, Sagehood and Socrates (2013) 63
change (metabolē) to wisdom, in physics Brouwer, The Stoic Sage: The Early Stoics on Wisdom, Sagehood and Socrates (2013) 63
change (metabolē) to wisdom Brouwer, The Stoic Sage: The Early Stoics on Wisdom, Sagehood and Socrates (2013) 63
cicero Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
cleanthes, clement of alexandria Brouwer, The Stoic Sage: The Early Stoics on Wisdom, Sagehood and Socrates (2013) 63
confidence Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
death Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
epictetus, stoic, but distinguished from first movements assent and emotion Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (2000) 379
epictetus Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
ethics, of stoicism Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
fear, pavor ambiguous between fear and trembling Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (2000) 379
fear Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
first movements, not escaped by sage Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (2000) 379
gellius, aulus, compiler of philosophical doctrines, report on stoic first movements misunderstood by augustine Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (2000) 379
honourableness Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
hope, and goods Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
hope, as identity marker Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
hope, contextualisation of Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
hope, in god Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
hope, in greco-roman sources Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
hope, in the lxx Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
hope, object of Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
hope, stoic negative view of Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
hope Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
identity Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
nature, living in accordance with Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
normative self or identity Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
object, typical Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
officium, oikeiosis Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
plutarch Brouwer, The Stoic Sage: The Early Stoics on Wisdom, Sagehood and Socrates (2013) 63
progress, moral Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
reason Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
sage, as divine' Brouwer, The Stoic Sage: The Early Stoics on Wisdom, Sagehood and Socrates (2013) 63
self-concern Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
seneca Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
telos, temporality Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
vindication Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
virtue Hockey, The Role of Emotion in 1 Peter (2019) 210
wise man Long, From Epicurus to Epictetus Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy (2006) 372
zeno of citium, stoic, hence different conception of freedom from emotion(apatheia) Sorabji, Emotion and Peace of Mind: From Stoic Agitation to Christian Temptation (2000) 379
zeus Brouwer, The Stoic Sage: The Early Stoics on Wisdom, Sagehood and Socrates (2013) 63