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§ III. Seneca therefore, as before observed, caine very young to Rome, and there, as he grew up, ripened his talents in the best and most proper studies. At the time when foreign sacrifices were removed from Rome, and abolished, (which happened in the fifth year of Tiberius, and U. C. DCCLXXII.) Seneca was about 22 years old; instructed in eloquence, and thoroughly accomplished, under the tuition of his father (8); as was also his brother Gallio (b): as for Mela, we know not that he left any thing in writing.
Seneca, besides his eloquence, addicted himself to philosophy with great earneftness, and thither virtue incited his elegant turn of mind, against the inclination of his father. He himself declares more than once, that he was withheld from philosophy; and expressly that his wife having an aversion thereto, dissuaded him from it; but his ardour got the better of all this; and he diligently attended the most famous and serious philosophers of that age, particularly Attalus and Sotio of the same feet (i); though he seems more inclined himself to follow Pythagoras, and Papirius Fabius, whom he likewise mentions, and praiseth in a grateful manner. He also admired Demetrius the cynic, and greatly honoured him, conversing with him both in public and private, as he advanced in years, and was at court, making him his companion both in his walks, and in his travels. Such was his forwardness in the liberal studies, tho' often checked and restrained by his father, who intended him for the bar; and accordingly for some time he was engaged in pleading causes; even in the time of Caius; and was greatly caressed and famed for his eloquence; nor indeed do we find any philofophical works of his extant before that time.
§ IV. His father likewise persuaded him to turn courtier, and offer himself as a candidate for some post of honour. He succeeded herein, and was appointed quæstor, or treasurer. But in the first year of the reign of the Emperor Claudius, he was banished into Corsica. I would suppose him (says Lipfius) innocent of the crime laid to his charge, as Tacitus seems to be of the same opinion, who, speaking of this banishment, says, Seneca greatly resented the injury done him by
(8) As we may learn from his books of Controverfies and their Prefaces.
Lucanum potes imputare terris,
Et dulcem generasse Gallionem.
But Seneca, and sweet-tongued Gallio.
Ep. 49. Claudius.
Claudius (k). He lived about eight years in exile, with great courage; nay, (as he says hiinself) and happily too; always intent upon the best of studies and salutary meditations : for thus he writes to his mother, (c. 4) ibat he is even happy in those things which are wont to make others miserable; and concludes, learn now what opinion you should entertain of me, that I am light-bearted and chearful, as if all my affairs were in the best state in the world; and so indeed they are: when the mind discharged of all cares hath leisure to attend tbose notions that are proper for it; and sometimes delights itself with more pleasing studies (I); and sometimes thirsting after truth, still riseth in the contemplation of her own nature, and the disposition of the whole world (m).
(A) The crime laid to his charge was adultery with Julia, (the daughter of Germanicus) who was likewise banished upon the accusation of Mefalina.
Tacirus therefore calls it an enquiry ; for who knows not the many other accusations of that most profligate harlot, Mefalina, among the Roman quality; or the condemnations of that loathsome beaft, Claudius? as they feldom practised mischief but upon the good and innocent. To be accused by such persons is praile, as to be praised by them would create a suspicion of guilt.
(1) Sc, poetry; and particularly the Medea ; which, fays Lipfius, I am half aftured was written in his exile, at such time as Claudius conquered Britain ; and therefore Seneca made choice of that argument of Jajon, on his having fubdued the ocean; for it is impossible those lines in the chorus Thould have relation to any but Claudius.
Parcite, O Divi, veniam precamur,
Spare the advent'rous god.
(m) Thus writes the author of the tragedy of O&avia, (for I am persuaded, says Lipsius, it is not the philofopher himself) under the character of Seneca :
Melius latebam, procul ab invidiæ malis
Safer I sojourn’d on the Corsicpore,
§ V. We further learn from Tacitus, “ That Agrippina obtained for Seneca
a revocation from exile, and with it the pretorship: favours which she sup“ posed would be well pleasing to the public, on account of his signal eloquence " and accomplishments; besides her own private views, viz. the education of "c. her son Domitius (Nero) under such a master, and the use they should make “ of his counsels, both to obtain the empire and to govern it.” Seneca was therefore prætor, Ann. U. C. DCCLII. But it is not so certain that he attained to consular dignity: though some contend for it (n), and mark the year
U.C. DCCCXV: for in the beginning of that year, as we learn from the indisputable authority of Tacitus, Nero's affection began to cool: he had withdrawn his wonted affability from Seneca, and the various efforts of his calumniators daily encreased; whereupon Seneca himself addressed the Emperor in a spirited oration, imploring a retreat, and offering to refund his treasures. Nero neither permitted the one, nor accepted the other. Seneca however changed the methods, and Symptoms of his former power, stopped the usual conflux of a leveé; avoided any train of attendance abroad, and his appearance there was exceeding rare; as if by ill health or the study of philosophy he was confined at home. This indeed is not acting like a new consul, or even a candidate, and his death followed soon after. We shall therefore rest this matter here, and only observe further, that he was undoubtedly the governor and tutor of the young prince, who behaved himself exceeding well so long as he was attentive to the good counsels and admonitions of Seneca, and his coadjutor, Burrus. “ A torrent of faughter, says “ Tacitus, had now ensued, had not Afranius Burrus and Annæus Seneca pre« vented it. These were the governors of the Emperor's youth; two men, " though engaged in partnership of power, yet by a rare instance well united : “ different in their accomplishments, but of equal weight and authority. Bure “ rus, his instructor in armis, and the gravity of manners; Seneca in the pre
cepts of eloquence and polite address. In this office they helped and sup
ported each other, the easier to manage between them the dangerous age of “ the prince; or if he rejected the pursuits of virtue, to restrain him at least « within the bounds of guiltless pleasures.”
But to go on with Seneca.
(w) According to Ulpian—" In the time of Nero, in the octaves of the kalends of September, when Annæus Seneca and Trebellius Maximus were consuls, it was ordained."- -And in the common Fasti, U. C. DCCCXIV. CO P. Murius Celsus, et L. Afinius Gallus, quos excep. ex Kal. Jul. L. Annæus Seneca, et Trebellius Maximus. But they who compiled the Fasti, suppose these consuls only substitutes, (for ordinary they were not.) So in Ausonius,-Dives Seneca, nec tamen consul; the ricb Seneca, yet not conful.
§ VI. With regard to his private life; I find, or rather collect, says Lipfius, that Seneca was some time in Ægypt; on account that his uncle was there in the office of præfect: for he writes to his mother, setting forth the example of his aunt, of which he was an eye-witness. Hence it is that he intermingleth many things so curiously concerning Ægypt, and the Nile, especially in his books of Natural Questions. Perhaps too he went to the coasts of India by the Red Sea, which qualified him to comment on the writings of Pliny, relating thereto. . But being at Rome, we learn that he there took to him a wife, though her name is not mentioned; by whom he had a son called Marcus, whom, writing to his mother Helvia, with great praise and affection he styles his dearest boy; and, among other good wishes, prays,
Sic dulci Marcus qui nunc sermone fritinnit
Challenge bis uncles in a fluent tongue.
Ś VII. As so much has been said with regard to his immense wealth, it will be requisite to communicate a few things relating thereto; and we will take them on his own confeffion, according to Tacitus: Thou haft enconpajed me about (Jays Seneca to Nero) with an accumulation of imperial benignity and grace, beyond all expression and limits, and with wealth without measure or end; infornuch that I often reason thus with myself: “ where is that philofophic spirit, which professes -« to be satisfied with a scanty lot, and humble necessaries? Is Seneca that man? “ he who thus encloses and adorns such spacious gardens; he who travels in pomp “ through a variety of seats in Rome, all contrived for magnificence and luxury?” All this is very great without having recourse to the exaggeration of either friends or enemies. There is no doubt, but that with regard to fine gardens and plea
fure-houses, he had divers, well stocked and ornamented, as taken notice of by
Juvenal — Senecæ prædivitis horti; the gardens of the very rich Seneca. He mentions some of his feats himself, as the Nomentanum, Albanum, and Baianum. He had likewise a house within the city, which many years retained the name of Seneca's house, in the tenth region. His rich furniture also may be suppofed to have created great envy (o). But it must be remembered, that Seneca, before he came to court, had a great patrimonial revenue. And no wonder he encreased it in to plentiful a court, and amidst so great felicity of the Roman state. Yet it cannot be denied, but that, when at court, and in his old age, he bitterly inveighs against this fort of madness, and severely reprehends all manner of luxury and extravagance, as you may read in his books concerning benefits : and in the beginning of his treatise on tranquillity, he professedly denies that lie took any pleasure in his fine variegated tables, or that he was wont to use them: but the reader is particularly recommended to his book Of a happy Life, wherein his chief point is, to defend himself against the aspersions of his enemies. An admirable treatise, says Lipsius, and more valuable in this behalf was the calumny itself, being productive of fo excellent a defence.
S VIII. His Morals then sufficiently refute this objection concerning his riches, and proclaim his use, not abuse of them. He stands quite clear from any charge of pride, excess and pomp. And with regard to his diet and manner of living, the reader needs only to be referred to that part of Ep. 108, where Seneca speaks of the falutary lectures he received from Attalus, and the happy impression they made upon him, with regard to temperance and frugality. As to the rest of his life, it was both serious and severe. The court corrupted him not, nor was he inclined to flattery, (a vice almost familiar and allied to such places). No; so far from it, that he said to Nero, Suffer me to stay, a little longer with thee, not to flatter thine ears, (for this is not my custoim) I had rather offend thee by truth, than please thee by flattery. And even at the point of death. he desired it might be told the prince, he never had a genius addicted to flattery, as no man better knew than Nero; who from Seneca had felt more frequent proofs of freedom than servility. We cannot pass by the commendable custom he speaks of in his third book of Anger, viz. his nightly self-examination, with regard both to his words and actions: I conceal nothing from myself, says he; I let nothing slip; for wby should I fear my own errors? It will be easy for me to say,
(0) Dio objects to him, as having 500 tables of cedar with ivory feet to them, all alike and of equal fize. It may be fo; for in great banquets it was customary to set a table before every several guer. But as Dio was no friend to Seneca, he must be read with caution.