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By Seneca, C. D. N. Costa

Included during this quantity are the dialogues On the Shortness of Life and On Tranquility of Mind, that are eloquent vintage statements of Stoic beliefs of fortitude and self-reliance. this feature additionally gains extracts from Natural Questions, Seneca's exploration of such phenomena because the cataracts of the Nile and earthquakes, and the Consolation of Helvia, during which he tenderly attempts to appease his mother's soreness at their separation.

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Thus Stoicism was the most important single strand in Seneca’s teaching – Stoicism modified to the mental and moral requirements of thoughtful Romans. It is not usually clear to what extent Seneca himself was responsible for these modifications, but he certainly endorsed them. The changes were mainly in emphasis: ‘Roman’ Stoicism was more interested in the ethical side of Stoic teaching, and less in Stoic logic and the Stoic account of the physical structure and behaviour of the cosmos. Of course, Stoicism had not remained a static and unchanging system of beliefs since its beginnings in the late fourth century BC.

Accordingly, provided my eyes are not withdrawn from that spectacle, of which they never tire; provided I may look upon the sun and the moon and gaze at the other planets; provided I may trace their risings and settings, their periods and the causes of their travelling faster or slower; provided I may behold all the stars that shine at night – some fixed, others not travelling far afield but circling within the same area; some suddenly shooting forth, and others dazzling the eye with scattered fire, as if they are falling, or gliding past with a long trail of blazing light; provided I can commune with these and, so far as humans may, associate with the divine, and provided I can keep my mind always directed upwards, striving for a vision of kindred things – what does it matter what ground I stand on?

One of the interesting aspects of reading Seneca is to observe, where we can, the interaction between the troubled political world in which he moved and the writings in which he reflected on that world, and tried to come to terms with it and to draw lessons for the benefit of those to whom he addressed his works. From Spain Seneca was brought to Rome as a small child by an aunt, probably a stepsister of his mother Helvia. Otherwise we know very little about his early life. His education at Rome opened up to him the worlds of rhetoric and philosophy, which remained dominant interests for the rest of his life.

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