Classically Inclined

March 22, 2013

Classical Timeline entry up!

Filed under: Research,Teaching — lizgloyn @ 6:43 pm
Tags: ,

This entry is a signpost to the fact that I’ve written an entry on Seneca the Younger that’s now up at the Classical Timeline project – when you click through, scroll along to 50 AD or so and you’ll find him.

The Timeline is the brainchild of  Erlend Macgillivray, a Ph.D. student at Aberdeen whose own research interests are mainly within early Christianity – he’s bringing together some interesting people to help build the site. It’s still in its early days, but do pop over and, if you feel so inclined, get involved – it’s potentially a very useful project, and deserves to do well!



  1. Great overview of Seneca Liz – it is important to try and show the unity of Seneca’s motivations and ideas behind the consolations, tragedies and philosophical works and you do this really well.
    One criticism though: towards the end you discuss the Moral Letters in such a way that would lead one to assume that you believe they were actual letters. Is this the case? It is more likely that they are invented letters (maybe rewritten based on actual letters). There is just too much intertextuality and progression to assume that these are real letters. They were clearly written as a guide to becoming a Stoic. This is an important distinction as it marks the Moral Letters as a unique literary and philosophical genre (Plato, Epicurus and Cicero wrote actual letters but they have nothing like the unity of Seneca’s).

    Comment by Max Bini — March 24, 2013 @ 11:22 pm | Reply

    • I could have used up all the word count on the Moral Letters alone, as I’m sure you know! My personal feeling is that they cannot be anything other than letters, because of their form, but they are not letters which were sent – rather, they are letters to the reader, whoever the reader might be, with Lucilius as a stand-in substitute. However, trying to explain why this letter is not like another letter felt like something that would be unnecessarily complicated (and indeed not uncontroversial) in an introductory survey of Seneca – any decent translation or edition should lay out the problem clearly if any reader follows up the text.

      Comment by lizgloyn — March 25, 2013 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

  2. I quite like Jonathan Barnes comments that Seneca’s letters are “”public protreptic in the guise of personal advice.”

    Also, Epicurus’ letters were likely the same; intended for a broad reception, yet designated to single recipients. Diskin Clay, amongsts others has written a lot on this– although it is probably less stable a conclusion than with regards to Seneca’s letters. Further, the consensus (though not one I necessarily share) is that the Pastoral Epistles in the New Testament were public letters that were addressed to Timothy and Titus to help give them credence. So perhaps a different motive for placing teachings in a letter, and it is not based around philosophical explication, but it might show how intellectual movements could utilize this practice.

    Thanks for the comments on the project Liz. Much appreciated.

    Comment by Erlend — March 25, 2013 @ 3:43 pm | Reply

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