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Quotations from Lucius Annaeus Seneca

c.4BC-c.65AD

Believe me, that was a happy age, before the days of architects, before the days of builders.

Epistulae ad Lucilium, epistle 90

Can you wish for the victim of your wrath a greater ill than death? Even though you do not move a finger, he will die. You waste your pains if you wish to do what needs must be.

On Anger

For man is a reasoning animal. Therefore, man's highest good is attained if he has fulfilled the good for which nature designed him at birth. And what is it which this reason demands of him? The easiest thing in the world: to live in accordance with his own nature.

Letters to Lucilius

I can lay down for mankind a rule in concise form for our duties in human relationships: all that you behold, that which comprises both god and man, is one - we are the parts of one great body.

Letters to Lucilius

If ever you have come upon a grove that is full of ancient trees which have grown to an unusual height, shutting out a view of the sky by a veil of pleached and intertwining branches, then the loftiness of the forest, the seclusion of the spot, and your marvel at the thick, unbroken shade in the midst of the open spaces, will prove to you the presence of deity.

Letters to Lucilius

If there is any good in philosophy, it is this: that it never looks into pedigrees.

Letters to Lucilius

It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.

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It is the superfluous things for which men sweat.

Epistulae ad Lucilium, epistle 4

Just as I shall select my ship when I am about to go on a voyage, or my house when I propose to take a residence, so I shall choose my death when I am about to depart from life.

Epistulae ad Lucilium, epistle 70

Many have gone through life merely accumulating the instruments of life. Consider individuals, survey men in general: there is none whose life does not look forward to the morrow. 'What harm is there in this?' you ask. Infinite harm; for such persons do not live, but are preparing to live. They postpone everything.

Letters to Lucilius

Men do not care how nobly they live, but only how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man's power to live long.

Letters to Lucilius

Most men ebb and flow in wretchedness between the fear of death and the hardship of life; they are unwilling to live, and yet they do not know how to die.

Epistulae ad Lucilium, epistle 4

No good thing is pleasant to possess without friends to share it.

Letters to Lucilius

No man ought to glory except in that which is his own.

Letters to Lucilius

No one can live happily who looks to himself alone and transforms everything into a question of his own utility; you must live for your neighbor, if you wish to live for yourself.

Letters to Lucilius

Nothing will ever please me, no matter how excellent or beneficial, if I must retain the knowledge of it to myself.

Letters to Lucilius

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.

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Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by Rulers as useful.

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So long as we draw breath, so long as we live among men, let us cherish humanity. Let us not cause fear to any man, nor danger; let us scorn losses, wrongs, abuse and taunts, and let us endure with heroic mind our short-lived ills.

On Anger

Suppose a man has a retinue of comely slaves and a beautiful house, that his farm is large and large his income; none of these things is in the man himself; they are all on the outside. Praise the quality in him which cannot be given or snatched away, that which is the peculiar property of the man.

Letters to Lucilius

The end, all too soon, threatens the victor and the vanquished. Rather let us spend the little time that is left in repose and peace!

On Anger

The evil which assails us is not in the localities we inhabit but in ourselves.

Moral Essays, "De Tranquillitate Animi" (On Tranquility of Mind)

The senate chamber is not open to all; the army, too, is scrupulous in choosing those whom it admits to toil and danger. But a noble mind is free to all men.

Letters to Lucilius

There are two rules: avoid anger if you can, and if you cannot, in your anger do no wrong.

On Anger

We often want one thing and pray for another, not telling the truth even to the gods.

Epistulae ad Lucilium, epistle 95

Why are you angry with your slave, you with your master? … Wait a little. Behold, death comes, who will make you equals.

On Anger



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