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Seneca's Moral Epistles

Author: Anna Lydia Motto
Product Code: 4878
ISBN: 978-0-86516-487-1
Pages: 224
Availability: In stock.
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Seneca's Moral Epistles offers an intriguing selection in unadapted Latin of 40 letters of Seneca on philosophical and practical topics ranging from the lofty ("On Integrating Knowledge" and "God Within You") to the nitty-gritty: debauchery at resort baths ("Baiae and Vice") and the woes of over-training ("Against Strenuous Physical Exercise").


These letters provide a fascinating glimpse into the daily life of Rome in the Empire and one man's contemplation of it. Seneca's is a Roman voice not often heard: he condemns slavery, and denounces the gladiatorial combats and the excesses for which the Roman Empire became notorious. Living in an era of corruption and tyranny, Seneca came forth as a "physician of souls," eager to impart ethical and moral precepts that would enable his fellow men to overcome their weaknesses and attain true happiness, and offer significant ethical concepts to St. Paul.


Seneca's Moral Epistles is an excellent introduction to Seneca's stoic moral and practical philosophy for intermediate and advanced students of Latin. This redesigned reprint of the 1985 Scholar's Press edition is an attractive, affordable, and user-friendly edition.


Special Features

  • Introduction on Seneca's life and work, philosophy, style
  • Chronologies: historical and of Seneca's extant works
  • Selected bibliography
  • Unadapted Latin text of 40 Senecan letters with facing-page notes
  • Vocabulary

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Review by: Jeanne Neumann, The Classical Outlook-Winter 2004 - May 13, 2004
Motto offers us much in her new selections from Seneca's Epistolae Morales. Written for college students, Motto's Seneca offers enough material-fortyletters-for a full term. Each letter is formatted on the right hand side of the page, with the left side devoted to notes and a running vocabulary to facilitate reading. So that the letters may be read in any order, the vocabulary list presumes no knowledge of earlier letters. Motto selected the letters she sees as most emblematic of broad human concerns at all times (ix), and, indeed, there is much in these letters to challenge our students' thoughts as well as their Latin. Motto's appreciation for Seneca comes through in her thorough, readable, and sensitive introduction, which covers Seneca's life, his approach to philosophy and religion, and his style. Seneca is often identified with Stoic philosophy; Motto is careful to bring out his more eclectic views, especially his fondness for the thought of Epicurus. The claim of a "new and forceful note in Seneca;s writing extolling women" (xvii) might be a bit strained, especially since Motto's exemplum comes from the Ad Marciam (16.1), not the letters themselves. The introduction is followed by a historical chronology (31 BC-AD 68), a tentative chronology of Seneca's extant works, and a selected bibliography of Latin Texts, English translations, bibliography in the front of the books, where students are sure to see it and perhaps be inspired to do a bit of digging around for themselves. Typoes are few in this attractive edition. In the running vocabularies, there are, of course, words i would have omitted and others i might have provided-but all words are available in the full vocabulary at the back of the book, and choosing which words to honor with an apperance in a running vocabulary is a difficult task. While the streamlined notes advance Motto's goal of students reading with "greater rapidity and ease" (ix), they may also leave readers frustrated. Not all college students will be familiar with Roman cultural practices or Hellenistic philosophy. So, for example, my students would be confused about sultural matters in Letter 47 (de servis), where Motto supplies some cultural background but not enough. In Letter 51, Motto glosses a paradox on fortuna, (Quo die illiam intellexero plus posse, nil poterit) with a translation and merely "an example of Seneca's use of a paradox" Motto gives the source for quotations from Virgil, but not those from Greek writers (Epicurus, Socrates), and a few pointed allusions to Horace go unmentioned (28.4-5 cf.) Should Motto's book run to a second edition, I would strongly suggest she add to the notes. That said, this is a fine book, and one i will order for my Roman letters course next time around.
Review by: Jeanne Neumann, The Classical Outlook - February 1, 2004
Motto offers us much in her new selections from Seneca's Epostolae Morales. Written for college students, Motto's Sececa offers
Fascinating studies of Roman daily life from one of its harshest and most insightful critics.
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