Towards the end of his life, Seneca the Younger (c4 BCE-65 CE) began a correspondence with a friend in Sicily, later collected under the title The Moral Epistles.
In these 124 letters, Seneca expresses, in a wise, steady and calm manner, the philosophy by which he lived - derived essentially from the Stoics. The letters deal with a variety of specific topics - often eminently practical - such as 'On Saving Time', 'On the Terrors of Death', 'On True and False Friendships', 'On Brawn and Brains' and 'On Old Age and Death'.
His views are as relevant to us today as in his own time. He remarks on how we waste our time through lack of clarity of purpose, how we jump from one attraction to another and how fleeting life is. But these are letters to a friend, so the tone is not grandly didactic but friendly, personal and direct and speak to us across the centuries.
Though not so well known as Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, The Moral Epistles are approachable, memorable and immensely rich in content - and especially so in this sympathetic reading by James Cameron Stewart.
Translation Richard Gummere.
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I love audiobooks because I can listen to them on the go. In this case, I would like to get the print version as well.
The narrator is absolutely outstanding! Seneca has these awesome one-liners, and it is easy to miss the punch line if the text is not read properly. James Cameron Stewart does a masterful job of helping me "get" it, even if I'm not paying 100% attention.
The things Seneca knew 2000 years ago that everyone should know now.
I love Tim Ferris, but this reading of Seneca is soo much better!
- zen cowboy
This is THE reading of Seneca's Moral Epistles.
James Cameron Stewart reads Seneca's Moral Epistles to Lucilius as though he was born to read these letters of the great Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman and dramatist.
I really can't imagine anyone else who could read these letters with such authority and understanding. These letters are of a unique historical value that give us insights into Roman life in the years 64-65 CE. One of the greatest works on the philosophy of Stoicism that has come down through the centuries.
The only other reading that I can even compare with it is Jeremy Irons amazing reading of Nabokov's "Lolita" which is also a masterpiece. The reader as a medium for the author.
Written in the first century CE.
Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca Letter 47. "On Master and Slave"
"I am glad to learn, through those who come from you, that you live on friendly terms with your slaves. This befits a sensible and well-educated man like yourself. "They are slaves," people declare Nay, rather they are men. "Slaves!" No, comrades. "Slaves!" No, they are unpretentious friends. "Slaves!" No, they are our fellow-slaves, if one reflects that Fortune has equal rights over slaves and free men alike."
"I shall pass over other cruel and inhuman conduct towards them; for we maltreat them, not as if they were men, but as if they were beasts of burden.'
"Kindly remember that he whom you call your slave sprang from the same stock, is smiled upon by the same skies, and on equal terms with yourself breathes, lives, and dies."
"Do you mean to say," comes the retort, "that I must seat all my slaves at my own table?" No, not any more than that you should invite all free men to it. You are mistaken if you think that I would bar from my table certain slaves whose duties are more humble, as, for example, yonder muleteer or yonder herdsman; I propose to value them according to their character, and not according to their duties. (echoes of MLK) Each man acquires his character for himself, but accident assigns his duties. Invite some to your table because they deserve the honor, and others that they may come to deserve it.
You need not, my dear Lucilius, hunt for friends only in the forum or in the Senate-house; if you are careful and attentive, you will find them at home also. Good material often stands idle for want of an artist; make the experiment, and you will find it so. As he is a fool who, when purchasing a horse, does not consider the animal's points, but merely his saddle and bridle; so he is doubly a fool who values a man from his clothes or from his rank, which indeed is only a robe that clothes us.
"He is a slave." His soul, however, may be that of a freeman. "He is a slave." But shall that stand in his way? Show me a man who is not a slave; one is a slave to lust, another to greed, another to ambition, and all men are slaves to fear. I will name you an ex-consul who is slave to an old hag, a millionaire who is slave to a serving-maid; I will show you youths of the noblest birth in serfdom to pantomime players! No servitude is more disgraceful than that which is self-imposed.
- Howard Crawford