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Stoicism: A Practical Guide to the Select Works of Seneca

M. James Ziccardi

Copyright 2013 by M. James Ziccardi

Smashwords Edition

Cover Image: "The Death of Seneca" painted by Dominguez Sanchez, 1871.

Section 1 - Notes on the Text

With regard to quotations, content found within square brackets [] is mine; content found within parentheses () belongs to Seneca.

Sections in bold type or that are underlined are intended by me to highlight critical points.

Portions of this book have been extracted from Roman Stoicism: Words to Live (and Die) By by M. James Ziccardi.

Section 2 - Introduction

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger)

(c. 4 BC – 65 AD)

Although Stoicism can be traced back to the third century BC with the teachings of Zeno of Citium (who preached his philosophy from the Stoa Poikile, or “Painted Porch”, at the Agora in Athens), its lasting achievements came in the Hellenistic Period through the works of three of its most celebrated writers: Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. By all accounts Stoicism, with its doctrines in physics, epistemology, and logic, is a self-contained philosophy. Yet without a doubt it is in ethics where we find Stoicism to be most recognized and revered. Its central theme is that for man to achieve his highest good he must live his life in accordance with nature.

The Stoics held that to live according to nature one must accept nature as it is, and that to struggle against nature is the source of all human sorrow. Accordingly, the first thing we need to understand is that nature is beyond our control; therefore, we must learn to accept it without complaint. Indeed, to complain of nature is not only useless, but contemptible. The next thing we need to consider is that in life there are some things which are within our power to control, and others which are not. As such, we need only trouble ourselves with those things that are within our power; we must leave the rest to God.

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