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Latin set book (A)


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Latin set book: Seneca De otio, De brevitate vitae

These two treatises by the Younger Seneca explore some ideas central to Roman Stoic philosophy and indeed to Roman imperial culture. The De otio offers Seneca’s perspective on the long-standing debate as to the relative merits of the life of political participation on the one hand and the life of philosophical contemplation on the other. Seneca grapples with the tensions between being a citizen of a particular state and aspiring to membership of the Stoic cosmopolis, a community which transcends political particularity. Seneca’s De brevitate vitae offers strategies for coming to terms with the finite nature of human existence. Time is a key preoccupation, as Seneca criticises (with satirical verve) the multiplicity of ways in which people waste their lives.

Using Gareth Williams’ Cambridge University Press edition of these two texts (2003), we shall savour the vivid and distinctive texture of Seneca’s prose and the range of literary techniques he deploys to win over his readers.