Letter XXXIII. On the Futility of Learning Maxims

In letter 33 Seneca addresses our responsibility regarding the legacy we shall leave. It prescribes a thorough study of the wisdom of our distinguished ancestors:

For this reason, give over hoping that you can skim, by means of epitomes, the wisdom of distinguished men. Look into their wisdom as a whole; study it as a whole. They are working out a plan and weaving together, line upon line, a masterpiece, from which nothing can be taken away without injury to the whole. Examine the separate parts, if you like, provided you examine them as parts of the man himself. She is not a beautiful woman whose ankle or arm is praised, but she whose general appearance makes you forget to admire her single attributes.” (XXXIII,5)

However, after a certain point, we must ourselves create new knowledge, using as a foundation the knowledge acquired from renowned masters:

But what is your own opinion? How long shall you march under another man’s orders? Take command, and utter some word which posterity will remember. Put forth something from your own stock“. (XXXIII,7)

I very much like the last section, which represents the synthesis of the conservative thought, that is, we must broaden and improve society by always preserving the fundamental traditions:

What then? Shall I not follow in the footsteps of my predecessors? I shall indeed use the old road, but if I find one that makes a shorter cut and is smoother to travel, I shall open the new road. Men who have made these discoveries before us are not our masters, but our guides. Truth lies open for all; it has not yet been monopolized. And there is plenty of it left even for posterity to discover.” (XXXIII,11)

(image: La Tache noire by Albert Bettannier)


XXXIII. On the Futility of Learning Maxims

1. You wish me to close these letters also, as I closed my former letters, with certain utterances taken from the chiefs of our school. But they did not interest themselves in choice extracts; the whole texture of their work is full of strength. There is unevenness, you know, when some objects rise conspicuous above others. A single tree is not remarkable if the whole forest rises to the same height.

2. Poetry is crammed with utterances of this sort, and so is history. For this reason I would not have you think that these utterances belong to Epicurus: they are common property and are emphatically our own.[1]They are, however, more noteworthy in Epicurus, because they appear at infrequent intervals and when you do not expect them, and because it is surprising that brave words should be spoken at any time by a man who made a practice of being effeminate. For that is what most persons maintain. In my own opinion, however, Epicurus is really a brave man, even though he did wear long sleeves.[2] Fortitude, energy, and readiness for battle are to be found among the Persians,[3] just as much as among men who have girded themselves up high.

3. Therefore, you need not call upon me for extracts and quotations; such thoughts as one may extract here and there in the works of other philosophers run through the whole body of our writings. Hence we have no “show-window goods,” nor do we deceive the purchaser in such a way that, if he enters our shop, he will find nothing except that which is displayed in the window. We allow the purchasers themselves to get their samples from anywhere they please.

4. Suppose we should desire to sort out each separate motto from the general stock; to whom shall we credit them? To Zeno, Cleanthes, Chrysippus, Panaetius, or Posidonius? We Stoics are not subjects of a despot: each of us lays claim to his own freedom. With them,[4] on the other hand, whatever Hermarchus says, or Metrodorus, is ascribed to one source. In that brotherhood, everything that any man utters is spoken under the leadership and commanding authority [5] of one alone. We cannot, I maintain, no matter how we try, pick out anything from so great a multitude of things equally good.

Only the poor man counts his flock.[6]

Wherever you direct your gaze, you will meet with something that might stand out from the rest, if the context in which you read it were not equally notable.

5. For this reason, give over hoping that you can skim, by means of epitomes, the wisdom of distinguished men. Look into their wisdom as a whole; study it as a whole. They are working out a plan and weaving together, line upon line, a masterpiece, from which nothing can be taken away without injury to the whole. Examine the separate parts, if you like, provided you examine them as parts of the man himself. She is not a beautiful woman whose ankle or arm is praised, but she whose general appearance makes you forget to admire her single attributes.

6. If you insist, however, I shall not be niggardly with you, but lavish; for there is a huge multitude of these passages; they are scattered about in profusion, – they do not need to be gathered together, but merely to be picked up. They do not drip forth occasionally; they flow continuously. They are unbroken and are closely connected. Doubtless they would be of much benefit to those who are still novices and worshipping outside the shrine; for single maxims sink in more easily when they are marked off and bounded like a line of verse.

7. That is why we give to children a proverb, or that which the Greeks call Chria,[7] to be learned by heart; that sort of thing can be comprehended by the young mind, which cannot as yet hold more. For a man, however, whose progress is definite, to chase after choice extracts and to prop his weakness by the best known and the briefest sayings and to depend upon his memory, is disgraceful; it is time for him to lean on himself. He should make such maxims and not memorize them. For it is disgraceful even for an old man, or one who has sighted old age, to have a note-book knowledge. “This is what Zeno said.” But what have you yourself said? “This is the opinion of Cleanthes.” But what is your own opinion? How long shall you march under another man’s orders? Take command, and utter some word which posterity will remember. Put forth something from your own stock.

8. For this reason I hold that there is nothing of eminence in all such men as these, who never create anything themselves, but always lurk in the shadow of others, playing the rôle of interpreters, never daring to put once into practice what they have been so long in learning. They have exercised their memories on other men’s material. But it is one thing to remember, another to know. Remembering is merely safeguarding something entrusted to the memory; knowing, however, means making everything your own; it means not depending upon the copy and not all the time glancing back at the master.

9. “Thus said Zeno, thus said Cleanthes, indeed!” Let there be a difference between yourself and your book! How long shall you be a learner? From now on be a teacher as well! “But why,” one asks,[8] “should I have to continue hearing lectures on what I can read?” “The living voice,” one replies, “is a great help.” Perhaps, but not the voice which merely makes itself the mouthpiece of another’s words, and only performs the duty of a reporter.

10. Consider this fact also. Those who have never attained their mental independence begin, in the first place, by following the leader in cases where everyone has deserted the leader; then, in the second place, they follow him in matters where the truth is still being investigated. However, the truth will never be discovered if we rest contented with discoveries already made. Besides, he who follows another not only discovers nothing but is not even investigating.

11. What then? Shall I not follow in the footsteps of my predecessors? I shall indeed use the old road, but if I find one that makes a shorter cut and is smoother to travel, I shall open the new road. Men who have made these discoveries before us are not our masters, but our guides. Truth lies open for all; it has not yet been monopolized. And there is plenty of it left even for posterity to discover.

Farewell

Footnotes

  1.  Stoic as well as Epicurean.
  2.  Contrasted with alte cinctos. The sleeveless and “girt-up” tunic is the sign of energy; cf. Horace, Sat. i. 5. 5, and Suetonius, Caligula, 52: the effeminate Caligula would “appear in public with a long-sleeved tunic and bracelets.”
  3.  Who wore sleeves.
  4.  i.e., the Epicureans.
  5.  For the phrase ductu et auspiciis see Plautus, Amph. i. 1. 41 ut gesserit rem publicam ductu imperio auspicio suo; and Horace, Od. i. 7. 27 Teucro duce et auspice Teucro. The original significance of the phrase refers to the right of the commander-in-chief to take the auspices.
  6.  Ovid, Metamorphosis, xiii. 824. 
  7.  Either “maxims” or “outlines,” “themes.” For a discussion of them see Quintilian, Inst. Orat. i. 9. 3 ff.
  8.  The objector is the assumed auditor. The answer to the objection gives the usual view as to the power of the living voice; to this Seneca assents, provided that the voice has a message of its own.

Review: Seneca, On the shortness of life

Seneca wrote On the shortness of life in 49, the year he returned to Rome from his exile in Corsica. The twenty sections were written as a moral essay addressed to his friend Paulinus. It begins: “The majority of mortals, Paulinus, complain bitterly of the spitefulness of Nature, because we are born for a brief span of life, because even this space that has been granted to us rushes by so speedily and so swiftly that all save a very few find life at an end just when they are getting ready to live.” (I, 1)

Seneca immediately argues that it is not really the case that human life is short, but that the majority of people waste much of it.  “The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.” (II, 3)

In section III he observes that we tend to carefully safeguard goods that can be exchanged for money, and yet we are incredibly wasteful of the one thing that people cannot give us back: time: “Look back in memory and consider when you ever had a fixed plan, how few days have passed as you had intended, when you were ever at your own disposal, when your face ever wore its natural expression, when your mind was ever unperturbed, … how much was taken up in useless sorrow, in foolish joy, in greedy desire; you will perceive that you are dying before your season! (III, 3)

After this passage, Seneca reproaches Paulinus for leaving only scraps of his life to the pursuit of wisdom after he had taken care of ordinary business:  “Are you not ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business? How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live!” (III, 5)

Seneca says that putting things off is a great waste of life’s resources and also that “yet postponement is the greatest waste of life; it deprives them of each day as it comes, it snatches from them the present by promising something hereafter”. In section X, he says that life can be divided into three main parts: “Life is divided into three periods—that which has been, that which is, that which will be. Of these the present time is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.

What, then, is a good way to spend your life? Not surprisingly, Seneca suggests engaging in conversations with philosophers of all times, as we can do by reading this book: “we have access to all ages, and if it is our wish, by greatness of mind, to pass beyond the narrow limits of human weakness, there is a great stretch of time through which we may roam. We may argue with Socrates, we may doubt with Carneades, find peace with Epicurus, overcome human nature with the Stoics, exceed it with the Cynics.” and then “We are wont to say that it was not in our power to choose the parents who fell to our lot, that they have been given to men by chance; yet we may be the sons of whomsoever we will. Households there are of noblest intellects; choose the one into which you wish to be adopted; you will inherit not merely their name, but even their property, which there will be no need to guard in a mean or niggardly spirit; the more persons you share it with, the greater it will become.” (XV, 3)


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Letter XXXII. On Progress

Letter 32 is short but its teaching is deep and simple. Seneca asks us to continue in the course of progress and not to divert to fads, new beginnings or less important activities. He reminds us that for the really important things we don’t have a deadline set by others and we make a mistake thinking that we have a lot of time left, we waste it and end up not accomplishing what matters.

We break up life into little bits, and fritter it away. Hasten ahead, then, dearest Lucilius, and reflect how greatly you would quicken your speed if an enemy were at your back, or if you suspected the cavalry were approaching and pressing hard upon your steps as you fled. It is true; the enemy is indeed pressing upon you;” (XXXII, 2-3)

So let’s think of the famous phrase of composer Duke Ellington: “I don’t need time, I need a deadline“.

(Image: Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David)


XXXII. On Progress

1. I have been asking about you, and inquiring of everyone who comes from your part of the country, what you are doing, and where you are spending your time, and with whom. You cannot deceive me; for I am with you. Live just as if I were sure to get news of your doings, nay, as if I were sure to behold them. And if you wonder what particularly pleases me that I hear concerning you, it is that I hear nothing, that most of those whom I ask do not know what you are doing.

2. This is sound practice, – to refrain from associating with men of different stamp and different aims. And I am indeed confident that you cannot be warped, that you will stick to your purpose, even though the crowd may surround and seek to distract you. What, then, is on my mind? I am not afraid lest they work a change in you; but I am afraid lest they may hinder your progress. And much harm is done even by one who holds you back, especially since life is so short; and we make it still shorter by our unsteadiness, by making ever fresh beginnings at life, now one and immediately another. We break up life into little bits, and fritter it away.

3. Hasten ahead, then, dearest Lucilius, and reflect how greatly you would quicken your speed if an enemy were at your back, or if you suspected the cavalry were approaching and pressing hard upon your steps as you fled. It is true; the enemy is indeed pressing upon you; you should therefore increase your speed and escape away and reach a safe position, remembering continually what a noble thing it is to round out your life before death comes, and then await in peace the remaining portion of your time, claiming[1] nothing for yourself, since you are in possession of the happy life; for such a life is not made happier for being longer.

4. O when shall you see the time when you shall know that time means nothing to you, when you shall be peaceful and calm, careless of the morrow, because you are enjoying your life to the full? Would you know what makes men greedy for the future? It is because no one has yet found himself. Your parents, to be sure, asked other blessings for you; but I myself pray rather that you may despise all those things which your parents wished for you in abundance. Their prayers plunder many another person, simply that you may be enriched. Whatever they make over to you must be removed from someone else.

5. I pray that you may get such control over yourself that your mind, now shaken by wandering thoughts, may at last come to rest and be steadfast, that it may be content with itself and, having attained an understanding of what things are truly good, – and they are in our possession as soon as we have this knowledge, – that it may have no need of added years. He has at length passed beyond all necessities, – he has won his honourable discharge and is free, – who still lives after his life has been completed.

Farewell

Footnotes

  1.  The text seems to be corrupt. Hense thinks that expectareis to be supplied with nihil sibi – “To expect nothing for oneself”; but the use of the verb in two meanings would be harsh. The thought seems to be “asking for no added years”; and one suspects that the loss of a word like adrogantembefore nihil.

Review: Of Peace of Mind

The essay Of Peace of Mind was written as a means of guidance for all those who wish to dedicate themselves to moral improvement. Seneca presents the stoic doctrine’s response to help us overcome the torments caused by human fears and desires and achieve tranquility, the ideal state of serenity experienced fully and permanently by the ideal stoic sage.

Seneca’s philosophical lecture is used not as a strictly intellectual activity, but as a means to stimulate in the readers an inner disposition that can result in the practice of positive conducts in line with the stoic doctrine, of which Seneca was an important proponent.

Of Peace of Mind begins with a letter from Annaeus Serenus to his friend Seneca, asking for advice and saying that he feels he has a good command over some of his vices but not over others, and as a result his soul has no tranquility. He says “I am neither ill nor well and realizes that his judgment on his own affairs is distorted by personal prejudices. “I am well aware that these oscillations of mind are not perilous and that they threaten me with no serious disorder: to express what I complain of by an exact simile, I am not suffering from a storm, but from sea-sickness. Take from me, then, this evil, whatever it may be, and help one who is in distress within sight of land (I, 17).

Serenus lists his problems: doubt in the face of the desire for goods and physical pleasures (§5-9); alternation between the desire for social action and recollection into studies (§10-12) and an ethical and aesthetic dilemma concerning the search for fame (§13-14). After presenting the symptoms, making use of the patient’s image before the doctor, Serenus asks for the diagnosis and remedy: “I beg you, therefore, if you have any remedy by which you could stop this vacillation of mine, to deem me worthy to owe my peace of mind to you“.

Seneca’s response takes the remaining chapters and begins with a full description of the characteristics of the disease. He informs Serenus that he seeks the most important thing in life, a state that he calls Peace of Mind (tranquillitas) and that the Greeks called euthymia (II,3). He then explains that there are several kinds of men who do not achieve peace of mind, for different reasons. Some suffer from inconstancy, continually changing their goals and yet always lamenting of what they have just given up. Others are not erratic, but are in an unhappy position because of their torpidity. They “go on living not in the way they wish, but in the way they have begun to live, that is, by inertia (II,6). Still others believe that the way to overcome their inconstancy is to journey far away, but of course they carry only their own problems with them: “Thus every mortal from himself doth flee (II,14). Seneca concludes his preamble by suggesting that our problems do not reside in the place where we live, but in ourselves, and rhetorically asks: “How long are we to go on doing the same thing? (II, 15)

From Chapter III, Seneca presents a series of specific advice for Serenus on how to achieve peace of mind. The first comes from Athenodorus: “is to occupy oneself with business, with the management of affairs of state and the duties of a citizen. This is because to be at the service of others and one’s own country is, at the same time, to exercise oneself in an activity and to do good. But one can also do good and keep oneself occupied by engaging in philosophy. This kind of occupation will provide satisfaction and therefore peace of mind and will make our lives different from those of others who will have nothing to show for their own at the end of their lives: “Often a man who is very old in years has nothing beyond his age by which he can prove that he has lived a long time. It then follows with precepts about activities and idleness (negotia × otium).

In chapters VI and VII Seneca elucidates how to evaluate oneself and thus to choose a path where success is possible. It begins by warning his friend that it is common for people to think they can achieve more than they really can. The wise person, instead, is aware of his or her limitations. We must also remember that some pursuits are simply not worth the effort and we must move away from them because our time in life is short and precious. And so, says Seneca, “apply yourself to something which you can finish, or at any rate can hope to finish” (VI, 4). We must also be careful in choosing our associates, dedicating portions of our lives to people worth the effort. In addition, our quests should be of the kind we really like, if possible: “for no good is done by forcing one’s mind to engage in uncongenial work: it is vain to struggle against Nature. (VII,2)

Chapters VIII and IX deal with precepts about wealth, “the most fertile source of human sorrow (VIII, 1). Seneca warns Annaeus Serenus that, in his experience, the rich cannot bear losses better than the poor, for “that it hurts bald men as much as hairy men to have their hairs pulled out (VIII, 3). That is why Diogenes was not the owner of anything, to make it impossible for any one to take from him: “Fortune, mind your own business: Diogenes has nothing left that belongs to you (VIII:7). Of course, Seneca himself was no Diogenes, and in fact he was a very rich man. He was often accusated and charged with being hypocritical because of this, but his point is that one should not be attached to material goods. It is possible to have possessions, as long as you are not possessed by your wealth. Yet in the same section he advises to reduce the quantity of our possessions in order to reduce the probability of clinging to them in an exaggerated manner: “We never can so thoroughly defeat the vast diversity and malignity of misfortune with which we are threatened as not to feel the weight of many gusts if we offer a large spread of canvas to the wind (IX,3).

In the sequence, chapters X and XI, the vicissitudes of fortune are addressed, beginning with the good and traditional stoic suggestion on how to adjust to new situations. If you have lost something, even something precious, because of the changes of the winds of Fortune, just remember that “In every station of life you will find amusements, relaxations, and enjoyments; that is, provided you be willing to make light of evils rather than to hate them. (X,1). To this, classical quotes follow that are jewels of wisdom that require no addition: “When [the wise man] is bidden to give [property] up, he will not complain of Fortune, but will say, ‘I thank you for what I have had possession of: I have managed your property so as largely to increase it, but since you order me, I give it back to you and return it willingly and thankfully.’ (XI, 2). “What hardship can there be in returning to the place from whence one came? A man cannot live well if he knows not how to die well. (XI, 4). And: “Disease, captivity, disaster, conflagration, are none of them unexpected: I always knew with what disorderly company Nature had associated me.” (XI,7).

In chapters XII and XIII the sources of restlessness arising from personal circumstances are addressed, bearing in mind the hardships of Fortune: false desires concerning goods and honors, public and private activities. Seneca warns his friend of the danger of occupying himself just to do something, instead of making good choices about how to use his time. He envisions a brief dialogue with those who do not know what they are doing or why: “By Hercules, I do not know: but I shall see some people and do something. We probably know people like that: things haven’t changed that much in two thousand years. It follows that we accept fate for what it is, and we actually try to do the best with the new circumstances. Seneca recalls the example of Zeno – the founder of the Stoic School – who lost everything in a shipwreck and began to study philosophy – saying: “Fortune bids me follow philosophy in lighter marching order (XIV, 3).

But of course Seneca understands that sometimes life is a tragedy, as when good people (he mentions Socrates, Rutilius, Pompey, Cicero and Cato) are treated with injustice. Even so, valuable lessons can be learned: “See how each of them endured his fate, and if they endured it bravely, long in your heart for courage as great as theirs … All these men discovered how at the cost of a small portion of time they might obtain immortality, and by their deaths gained eternal life. (XVI, 2-4).

In the the epilogue, Seneca affirms that the soul of men must have a rest, we must mix loneliness with social contact, work with leisure and enjoy games, amusements and drinks, but all with moderation: “We must not force crops from rich fields, for an unbroken course of heavy crops will soon exhaust their fertility, and so also the liveliness of our minds will be destroyed by unceasing labour, but they will recover their strength after a short period of rest and relief: for continuous toil produces a sort of numbness and sluggishness.

This last section overturns the unjustified accusation that the stoics would be spoil-joys, by recommending that we play with children like Socrates, dance like Scipio, walk outdoors and drink like Cato and Solon. “sometimes we gain strength by driving in a carriage, by travel, by change of air, or by social meals and a more generous allowance of wine: at times we ought to drink even to intoxication, not so as to drown, but merely to dip ourselves in wine: for wine washes away troubles and dislodges them from the depths of the mind, and acts as a remedy to sorrow as it does to some diseases. (XVII, 8).

It is not known when the dialogue Of Peace of Mind was written. It may have been composed and published in the period from the early 1950s until around 62 or 63.

Annaeus Serenus is the recipient not only of the book Of Peace of Mind, but also of On the Firmness of the Wise Person and of On the Leisure. He was a great friend of Seneca, a member of the equestrian order, formed by the wealthiest citizens. Serenus was also in charge of public administration, having obtained, under the influence of Seneca, the function of praefectus, responsible for fighting fires, an important activity in the city of Rome. He was quite young and died prematurely, according to Seneca in one of his letters to Lucillius. (Letters from a Stoic)

Review: Seneca, On the Happy Life

The essay On the Happy Life was written around the year 58 AD destined to his older brother, Gallio, to whom Seneca also dedicated his dialogue De Ira (“On Anger”). Seneca explains that the search for happiness is the search for reason. The main point to understand about the text is the title itself: ‘Happy’ here does not have the modern connotation of feeling good, but it is the equivalent of the Greek word eudaimonia, which is better understood as a life worthy of being lived, a state of plenitude of self. For Seneca and the stoics, the only life worth living is that of moral righteousness, the kind of existence we look at in the end and can honestly say that we are not ashamed.

Right in the first paragraph Seneca provides the stoic line of argument: We should not have happiness as our goal: “so far is it from being easy to attain to happiness that the more eagerly a man struggles to reach it the further he departs from it, if he takes the wrong road; for, since this leads in the opposite direction, his very swiftness carries him all the further away”. The solution is to aim for virtue. Happiness will be a consequence.

In the essay Seneca makes great opposition to the epicureans, a philosophical school that gives value to pleasure as a source of happiness, as we see in section ten: “You devote yourself to pleasures, I check them; you indulge in pleasure, I use it; you think that it is the highest good, I do not even think it to be good: for the sake of pleasure I do nothing, you do everything.”. In section XV, Seneca explains why one cannot simply associate virtue with pleasure. The problem is that sooner or later pleasure will lead you into non-virtuous territories: “You do not afford virtue a solid immoveable base if you bid it stand on what is unsteady.

In book VII he further elaborates on the distinction between pleasure and reason: “if they were entirely inseparable, we should not see some things to be pleasant, but not honourable, and others most honourable indeed, but hard and only to be attained by suffering.” Now, one could reasonably reject the distinction Seneca is trying to make, but then would be hard pressed to explain a large range of human behaviors where people do seem to genuinely prefer something despite its unpleasantness, for principled reasons, because they think it is good and honorable.

Section X ends with perhaps the sharpest contrast between Epicureanism and Stocism: “You devote yourself to pleasures, I check them; you indulge in pleasure, I use it; you think that it is the highest good, I do not even think it to be good: for the sake of pleasure I do nothing, you do everything.” Further, Seneca construct a finely balanced defense of Epicureanism from the apparently common abuse that many made of the school: “So, men are not encouraged by Epicurus to run riot, but the vicious hide their excesses in the lap of philosophy, and flock to the schools in which they hear the praises of pleasure. They do not consider how sober and temperate—for so, by Hercules, I believe it to be that “pleasure” of Epicurus is, but they rush at his mere name, seeking to obtain some protection and cloak for their vices. They lose, therefore, the one virtue which their evil life possessed, that of being ashamed of doing wrong: for they praise what they used to blush at, and boast of their vices… The reason why that praise which your school lavishes upon pleasure is so hurtful, is because the honourable part of its teaching passes unnoticed, but the degrading part is seen by all. This is a good example of Seneca’s justice, as well as of his compelling style of argumentation, whereby he is able to both strike a point in favor of his opponents and one against them in a single sentence. After this Seneca goes back to a critique of the pleasure principle: “those who have permitted pleasure to lead the van, have neither one nor the other: for they lose virtue altogether, and yet they do not possess pleasure, but are possessed by it, and are either tortured by its absence or choked by its excess, being wretched if deserted by it, and yet more wretched if overwhelmed by it”.

In section XX provides a list of rules that Seneca believe will lead to happiness. These are worth fully consideration:

  • I will look upon death or upon a comedy with the same expression of countenance.
  • I will despise riches when I have them as much as when I have them not.
  • I will view all lands as though they belong to me, and my own as though they belonged to all mankind.
  • Whatever I may possess, I will neither hoard it greedily nor squander it recklessly.
  • I will do nothing because of public opinion, but everything because of conscience.
  • I will be agreeable with my friends, gentle and mild to my foes: I will grant pardon before I am asked for it, and will meet the wishes of honourable men half way.
  • Whenever either Nature demands my breath again, or reason bids me dismiss it, I will quit this life, calling all to witness that I have loved a good conscience, and good pursuits.

What should you focus on?

Stoic “indifferent” by Zeno (founder of the school)

“Indifferent” has two meanings. In one sense [used by the Stoics] it signifies the things that contribute neither to happiness [eudaimonia] nor unhappiness, like wealth, fame, health, strength, and the like; for it is possible to be happy even without these things, though depending on how they are used they contribute to happiness or unhappiness. But in another [non-Stoic] sense “indifferent” signifies things that excite neither attraction nor aversion, as is the case with having an odd or even number of hairs on one’s head, or with extending or bending one’s finger. But it was not in this sense that the things mentioned above [such as health] are called “indifferent” [by the Stoics], since they are able to excite attraction and aversion. This is why some of the indifferent things are selected and others rejected, whereas indifference in the other sense provides no grounds for choosing or avoiding.

Diogenes Laertius, Life of Zeno

Review: Seneca On Anger

The essay On Anger is addressed to Seneca’s older brother, Gallio. Although it is divided into three books, the text is effectively divided into two parts. The work defines and explains anger within the context of Stoic philosophy, and offers therapeutic advice on how to prevent and control anger.

The first part (I-II, xvii) deals with theoretical issues, while the second part (II,xviii – final) offers therapeutic advice. It begins with a preamble on the horrors of anger, followed by its definitions. It continues with questions such as whether anger is natural, whether it can be tempered, whether it is involuntary, and whether it can be completely erased.

No man becomes braver through anger, except one who without anger would not have been brave at all: anger does not therefore come to assist courage, but to take its place… Every weakling is naturally prone to complaint.” (I,xiii)

Nothing becomes one who inflicts punishment less than anger, because the punishment has all the more power to work reformation if the sentence be pronounced with deliberate judgment. This is why Socrates said to the slave, “I would strike you, were I not angry.” He put off the correction of the slave to a calmer season; at the moment, he corrected himself. Who can boast that he has his passions under control, when Socrates did not dare to trust himself to his anger?” (I,xv)

The second part (Book II, xviii onwards) begins with advice on how to avoid anger and how this can be taught to children and adults. Then followed by several pieces of advice on how anger can be postponed or extinguished, and many real cases are given of cases to be imitated or avoided. The work draws to a close with some tips on how to calm others, followed by a summary of the work

Other vices affect our judgment, anger affects our sanity: others come in mild attacks and grow unnoticed, but men’s minds plunge abruptly into anger. There is no passion that is more frantic, more destructive to its own self; it is arrogant if successful, and frantic if it fails. Even when defeated it does not grow weary, but if chance places its foe beyond its reach, it turns its teeth against itself. Its intensity is in no way regulated by its origin: for it rises to the greatest heights from the most trivial beginnings.” (III, i)

While you are angry, you ought not to be allowed to do anything. “Why?” do you ask? Because when you are angry there is nothing that you do not wish to be allowed to do. (III, xii)

In On Anger Seneca defends the thesis – contrary to that of other ancient philosophers, such as Aristotle – that anger is always harmful. According to the Roman, a great man should never be angry, and when it is not possible to repress anger, he should try to calm down as soon as possible.

The depth of thought, the liveliness of style, and the rich examples provided by Seneca to confirm his theses make the reading of On Anger extremely satisfying. 

Letter XXXI. On Siren Songs

In letter 31 Seneca challenges us to reject, even actively challenge, other people’s good intentions, because they tend to wish us the wrong kinds of things (success, beauty, money, etc.). Instead, what we should wish for is to become the kind of person who does honourable and lasting things while others tend not to pray for it on our behalf:

“Be deaf to those who love you most of all; they pray for bad things with good intentions. And, if you would be happy, entreat the gods that none of their fond desires for you may be brought to pass… What they wish to have heaped upon you are not really good things; there is only one good, the cause and the support of a happy life, – trust in oneself”. (XXXI, 2-3)

This letter is more complex and dense than most of those already published, so it is best to read it calmly and draw your own conclusions, without being influenced by this interpreter.

I would like to point out however that this is the first letter in which Seneca conveys his idea of God:

“Your money, however, will not place you on a level with God; for God has no property. Your bordered robe will not do this; for God is not clad in raiment; nor will your reputation, nor a display of self, nor a knowledge of your name wide-spread throughout the world; for no one has knowledge of God; many even hold him in low esteem, and do not suffer for so doing. The throng of slaves which carries your litter along the city streets and in foreign places will not help you; for this God of whom I speak, though the highest and most powerful of beings, carries all things on his own shoulders. Neither can beauty or strength make you blessed, for none of these qualities can withstand old age. … What we have to seek for, then, is that which does not each day pass more and more under the control of some power which cannot be withstood. And what is this? It is the soul, – but the soul that is upright, good, and great. What else could you call such a soul than a god dwelling as a guest in a human body? (XXXI, 10-11)

(image Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel)


XXXI. On Siren Songs

1. Now I recognize my Lucilius! He is beginning to reveal the character of which he gave promise. Follow up the impulse which prompted you to make for all that is best, treading under your feet that which is approved by the crowd. I would not have you greater or better than you planned; for in your case the mere foundations have covered a large extent of ground; only finish all that you have laid out, and take in hand the plans which you have had in mind.

2. In short, you will be a wise man, if you stop up your ears; nor is it enough to close them with wax; you need a denser stopple than that which they say Ulysses used for his comrades. The song which he feared was alluring, but came not from every side; the song, however, which you have to fear, echoes round you not from a single headland, but from every quarter of the world. Sail, therefore, not past one region which you mistrust because of its treacherous delights, but past every city. Be deaf to those who love you most of all; they pray for bad things with good intentions. And, if you would be happy, entreat the gods that none of their fond desires for you may be brought to pass.

3. What they wish to have heaped upon you are not really good things; there is only one good, the cause and the support of a happy life, – trust in oneself. But this cannot be attained, unless one has learned to despise toil and to reckon it among the things which are neither good nor bad. For it is not possible that a single thing should be bad at one time and good at another, at times light and to be endured, and at times a cause of dread.

4. Work is not a good.[1] Then what is a good? I say, the scorning of work. That is why I should rebuke men who toil to no purpose. But when, on the other hand, a man is struggling towards honourable things, in proportion as he applies himself more and more, and allows himself less and less to be beaten or to halt,[2] I shall recommend his conduct and shout my encouragement, saying: “By so much you are better! Rise, draw a fresh breath, and surmount that hill, if possible, at a single spurt!”

5. Work is the sustenance of noble minds. There is, then, no reason why, in accordance with that old vow of your parents, you should pick and choose what fortune you wish should fall to your lot, or what you should pray for; besides, it is base for a man who has already travelled the whole round of highest honours to be still importuning the gods. What need is there of vows? Make yourself happy through your own efforts; you can do this, if once you comprehend that whatever is blended with virtue is good, and that whatever is joined to vice is bad. Just as nothing gleams if it has no light blended with it, and nothing is black unless it contains darkness or draws to itself something of dimness, and as nothing is hot without the aid of fire, and nothing cold without air; so it is the association of virtue and vice that makes things honourable or base.

6. What then is good? The knowledge of things. What is evil? The lack of knowledge of things. Your wise man, who is also a craftsman, will reject or choose in each case as it suits the occasion; but he does not fear that which he rejects, nor does he admire that which he chooses, if only he has a stout and unconquerable soul. I forbid you to be cast down or depressed. It is not enough if you do not shrink from work; ask for it.

7. “But,” you say, “is not trifling and superfluous work, and work that has been inspired by ignoble causes, a bad sort of work?” No; no more than that which is expended upon noble endeavours, since the very quality that endures toil and rouses itself to hard and uphill effort, is of the spirit, which says: “Why do you grow slack? It is not the part of a man to fear sweat.”

8. And besides this, in order that virtue may be perfect, there should be an even temperament and a scheme of life that is consistent with itself throughout; and this result cannot be attained without knowledge of things, and without the art[3] which enables us to understand things human and things divine. That is the greatest good. If you seize this good, you begin to be the associate of the gods, and not their suppliant.

9. “But how,” you ask, “does one attain that goal?” You do not need to cross the Pennine or Graian[4] hills, or traverse the Candavian[5] waste, or face the Syrtes,[6] or Scylla, or Charybdis, although you have travelled through all these places for the bribe of a petty governorship; the journey for which nature has equipped you is safe and pleasant. She has given you such gifts that you may, if you do not prove false to them, rise level with God.

10. Your money, however, will not place you on a level with God; for God has no property. Your bordered robe[7]will not do this; for God is not clad in raiment; nor will your reputation, nor a display of self, nor a knowledge of your name wide-spread throughout the world; for no one has knowledge of God; many even hold him in low esteem, and do not suffer for so doing. The throng of slaves which carries your litter along the city streets and in foreign places will not help you; for this God of whom I speak, though the highest and most powerful of beings, carries all things on his own shoulders. Neither can beauty or strength make you blessed, for none of these qualities can withstand old age.

11. What we have to seek for, then, is that which does not each day pass more and more under the control of some power which cannot be withstood.[8] And what is this? It is the soul, – but the soul that is upright, good, and great. What else could you call such a soul than a god dwelling as a guest in a human body? A soul like this may descend into a Roman knight just as well as into a freedman’s son or a slave. For what is a Roman knight, or a freedman’s son, or a slave? They are mere titles, born of ambition or of wrong. One may leap to heaven from the very slums. Only rise

And mould thyself to kinship with thy God.[9]

This moulding will not be done in gold or silver; an image that is to be in the likeness of God cannot be fashioned of such materials; remember that the gods, when they were kind unto men,[10] were moulded in clay.

Farewell

Footnotes

  1.  The argument is that work is not, in itself, a good; if it were, it would not be praiseworthy at one time and to be deprecated at another. It belongs, therefore, to the class of things which the Stoics call ἀδιάφορα, indifferentiares mediae; cf. Cicero, de Fin.iii. 16.
  2.  Literally, “come to the end of his furrow.”
  3.  i.e., philosophy.
  4.  The Great St. Bernard and Little St. Bernard routes over the Alps.
  5.  A mountain in Illyria, over which the Via Egnatia ran.
  6.  Dangerous quick-sands along the north coast of Africa.
  7.  The toga praetexta, badge of the official position of Lucilius.
  8.  For example, Time or Chance.
  9.  Vergil, Aeneid, viii. 364 f.
  10.  In the Golden Age, described in Ep. xc., when men were nearest to nature and “fresh from the gods.”

Letter XXX. On Conquering the Conqueror

Once again, Seneca approaches death and how should we deal with it, this time illustrating his teachings with the real case of Aufidius Bassus, the Roman historian contemporaneous with his father, Seneca the Elder. Bassus is very old and weak, but he is lucid and courageous in the face of death:

“Philosophy bestows this boon upon us; it makes us joyful in the very sight of death, strong and brave no matter in what state the body may be, cheerful and never failing though the body fail us. A great pilot can sail even when his canvas is rent; if his ship be dismantled, he can yet put in trim what remains of her hull and hold her to her course. ” (XXX, 3)

Seneca then defends the natural order:

“it is as foolish to fear death as to fear old age; for death follows old age precisely as old age follows youth. He who does not wish to die cannot have wished to live. For life is granted to us with the reservation that we shall die; to this end our path leads. Therefore, how foolish it is to fear it, since men simply await that which is sure, but fear only that which is uncertain!” (XXX, 10)

He ends the letter with his frequent good humor and remarkable ending:

“But what I really ought to fear is that you will hate this long letter worse than death itself; so I shall stop. Do you, however, always think on death in order that you may never fear it.” (XXX, 18)

(image, Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, St Peter’s Treasure Museum, Vatican)


XXX. On Conquering the Conqueror

1. I have beheld Aufidius Bassus, that noble man, shattered in health and wrestling with his years. But they already bear upon him so heavily that he cannot be raised up; old age has settled down upon him with great, – yes, with its entire, weight. You know that his body was always delicate and sapless. For a long time he has kept it in hand, or, to speak more correctly, has kept it together; of a sudden it has collapsed.

2. Just as in a ship that springs a leak, you can always stop the first or the second fissure, but when many holes begin to open and let in water, the gaping hull cannot be saved; similarly, in an old man’s body, there is a certain limit up to which you can sustain and prop its weakness. But when it comes to resemble a decrepit building, – when every joint begins to spread and while one is being repaired another falls apart, – then it is time for a man to look about him and consider how he may get out.[1]

3. But the mind of our friend Bassus is active. Philosophy bestows this boon upon us; it makes us joyful in the very sight of death, strong and brave no matter in what state the body may be, cheerful and never failing though the body fail us. A great pilot can sail even when his canvas is rent; if his ship be dismantled, he can yet put in trim what remains of her hull and hold her to her course. This is what our friend Bassus is doing; and he contemplates his own end with the courage and countenance which you would regard as undue indifference in a man who so contemplated another’s.

4. This is a great accomplishment, Lucilius, and one which needs long practice to learn, – to depart calmly when the inevitable hour arrives. Other kinds of death contain an ingredient of hope: a disease comes to an end; a fire is quenched; falling houses have set down in safety those whom they seemed certain to crush; the sea has cast ashore unharmed those whom it had engulfed, by the same force through which it drew them down; the soldier has drawn back his sword from the very neck of his doomed foe. But those whom old age is leading away to death have nothing to hope for; old age alone grants no reprieve. No ending, to be sure, is more painless; but there is none more lingering.

5. Our friend Bassus seemed to me to be attending his own funeral, and laying out his own body for burial, and living almost as if he had survived his own death, and bearing with wise resignation his grief at his own departure. For he talks freely about death, trying hard to persuade us that if this process contains any element of discomfort or of fear, it is the fault of the dying person, and not of death itself; also, that there is no more inconvenience at the actual moment than there is after it is over.

6. “And it is just as insane,” he adds, “for a man to fear what will not happen to him, as to fear what he will not feel if it does happen.” Or does anyone imagine it to be possible that the agency by which feeling is removed can be itself felt? “Therefore,” says Bassus, “death stands so far beyond all evil that it is beyond all fear of evils.”

7. I know that all this has often been said and should be often repeated; but neither when I read them were such precepts so effective with me, nor when I heard them from the lips of those who were at a safe distance from the fear of the things which they declared were not to be feared. But this old man had the greatest weight with me when he discussed death and death was near.

8. For I must tell you what I myself think: I hold that one is braver at the very moment of death than when one is approaching death. For death, when it stands near us, gives even to inexperienced men the courage not to seek to avoid the inevitable. So the gladiator, who throughout the fight has been no matter how faint-hearted, offers his throat to his opponent and directs the wavering blade to the vital spot.[2] But an end that is near at hand, and is bound to come, calls for tenacious courage of soul; this is a rarer thing, and none but the wise man can manifest it.

9. Accordingly, I listened to Bassus with the deepest pleasure; he was casting his vote concerning death and pointing out what sort of a thing it is when it is observed, so to speak, nearer at hand. I suppose that a man would have your confidence in a larger degree, and would have more weight with you, if he had come back to life and should declare from experience that there is no evil in death; and so, regarding the approach of death, those will tell you best what disquiet it brings who have stood in its path, who have seen it coming and have welcomed it.

10. Bassus may be included among these men; and he had no wish to deceive us. He says that it is as foolish to fear death as to fear old age; for death follows old age precisely as old age follows youth. He who does not wish to die cannot have wished to live. For life is granted to us with the reservation that we shall die; to this end our path leads. Therefore, how foolish it is to fear it, since men simply await that which is sure, but fear only that which is uncertain!

11. Death has its fixed rule, – equitable and unavoidable. Who can complain when he is governed by terms which include everyone? The chief part of equity, however, is equality. But it is superfluous at the present time to plead Nature’s cause; for she wishes our laws to be identical with her own; she but resolves that which she has compounded, and compounds again that which she has resolved.

12. Moreover, if it falls to the lot of any man to be set gently adrift by old age, – not suddenly torn from life, but withdrawn bit by bit, – oh, verily he should thank the gods, one and all, because, after he has had his fill, he is removed to a rest which is ordained for mankind, a rest that is welcome to the weary. You may observe certain men who crave death even more earnestly than others are wont to beg for life. And I do not know which men give us greater courage, – those who call for death, or those who meet it cheerfully and tranquilly, – for the first attitude is sometimes inspired by madness and sudden anger, the second is the calm which results from fixed judgment. Before now men have gone to meet death in a fit of rage; but when death comes to meet him, no one welcomes it cheerfully, except the man who has long since composed himself for death.

13. I admit, therefore, that I have visited this dear friend of mine more frequently on many pretexts, but with the purpose of learning whether I should find him always the same, and whether his mental strength was perhaps waning in company with his bodily powers. But it was on the increase, just as the joy of the charioteer is wont to show itself more clearly when he is on the seventh round[3] of the course, and nears the prize.

14. Indeed, he often said, in accord with the counsels of Epicurus:[4] “I hope, first of all, that there is no pain at the moment when a man breathes his last; but if there is, one will find an element of comfort in its very shortness. For no great pain lasts long. And at all events, a man will find relief at the very time when soul and body are being torn asunder, even though the process be accompanied by excruciating pain, in the thought that after this pain is over he can feel no more pain. I am sure, however, that an old man’s soul is on his very lips, and that only a little force is necessary to disengage it from the body. A fire which has seized upon a substance that sustains it needs water to quench it, or, sometimes, the destruction of the building itself; but the fire which lacks sustaining fuel dies away of its own accord.”

15. I am glad to hear such words, my dear Lucilius, – not as new to me, but as leading me into the presence of an actual fact. And what then? Have I not seen many men break the thread of life? I have indeed seen such men; but those have more weight with me who approach death without any loathing for life, letting death in, so to speak, and not pulling it towards them.

16. Bassus kept saying: “It is due to our own fault that we feel this torture, because we shrink from dying only when we believe that our end is near at hand.” But who is not near death? It is ready for us in all places and at all times. “Let us consider,” he went on to say, “when some agency of death seems imminent, how much nearer are other varieties of dying which are not feared by us.”

17. A man is threatened with death by an enemy, but this form of death is anticipated by an attack of indigestion. And if we are willing to examine critically the various causes of our fear, we shall find that some exist, and others only seem to be. We do not fear death; we fear the thought of death. For death itself is always the same distance from us; wherefore, if it is to be feared at all, it is to be feared always. For what season of our life is exempt from death?

18. But what I really ought to fear is that you will hate this long letter worse than death itself; so I shall stop. Do you, however, always think on death in order that you may never fear it.

Farewell

Footnotes

  1.  i.e., exeas e vita, “depart from life.”
  2.  The defeated gladiator is supposed to be on his back, his opponent standing over him and about to deliver the final blow. As the blade wavers at the throat, searching for the jugular vein, the victim directs the point.
  3.  i.e., when on the home stretch.
  4.  Frag. 503 Usener.

Letter XXIX. On the Critical Condition of Marcellinus

In letter 29 Seneca teaches us that we should not try to help those who have not requested help or those who are not interested in our teachings. It it about avoiding helping those not interested: “one must not talk to a man unless he is willing to listen“. (XXIX, 1)

According to Seneca, when we distribute our help indiscriminately it is diluted and weakened:

“The archer ought not to hit the mark only sometimes; he ought to miss it only sometimes. That which takes effect by chance is not an art. Now wisdom is an art; it should have a definite aim, choosing only those who will make progress, but withdrawing from those whom it has come to regard as hopeless, – yet not abandoning them too soon, and just when the case is becoming hopeless trying drastic remedies.”(XXIX, 3)

He concludes the letter with another sentence from Epicurus: “I have never wished to cater to the crowd; for what I know, they do not approve, and what they approve, I do not know.” (XXIX, 10)

(Image Plato and Aristotle in “School of Athens” by Raphael)


XXIX. On the Critical Condition of Marcellinus

1. You have been inquiring about our friend Marcellinus and you desire to know how he is getting along. He seldom comes to see me, for no other reason than that he is afraid to hear the truth, and at present he is removed from any danger of hearing it; for one must not talk to a man unless he is willing to listen. That is why it is often doubted whether Diogenes and the other Cynics, who employed an undiscriminating freedom of speech and offered advice to any who came in their way, ought to have pursued such a plan.

2. For what if one should chide the deaf or those who are speechless from birth or by illness? But you answer: “Why should I spare words? They cost nothing. I cannot know whether I shall help the man to whom I give advice; but I know well that I shall help someone if I advise many. I must scatter this advice by the handful.[1] It is impossible that one who tries often should not sometime succeed.”

3. This very thing, my dear Lucilius, is, I believe, exactly what a great-souled man ought not to do; his influence is weakened; it has too little effect upon those whom it might have set right if it had not grown so stale. The archer ought not to hit the mark only sometimes; he ought to miss it only sometimes. That which takes effect by chance is not an art. Now wisdom is an art; it should have a definite aim, choosing only those who will make progress, but withdrawing from those whom it has come to regard as hopeless, – yet not abandoning them too soon, and just when the case is becoming hopeless trying drastic remedies.

4. As to our friend Marcellinus, I have not yet lost hope. He can still be saved, but the helping hand must be offered soon. There is indeed danger that he may pull his helper down; for there is in him a native character of great vigour, though it is already inclining to wickedness. Nevertheless I shall brave this danger and be bold enough to show him his faults.

5. He will act in his usual way; he will have recourse to his wit, – the wit that can call forth smiles even from mourners. He will turn the jest, first against himself, and then against me. He will forestall every word which I am about to utter. He will quiz our philosophic systems; he will accuse philosophers of accepting doles, keeping mistresses, and indulging their appetites. He will point out to me one philosopher who has been caught in adultery, another who haunts the cafes, and another who appears at court.

6. He will bring to my notice Aristo, the philosopher of Marcus Lepidus, who used to hold discussions in his carriage; for that was the time which he had taken for editing his researches, so that Scaurus said of him when asked to what school he belonged: “At any rate, he isn’t one of the Walking Philosophers.” Julius Graecinus, too, a man of distinction, when asked for an opinion on the same point, replied: “I cannot tell you; for I don’t know what he does when dismounted,” as if the query referred to a chariot-gladiator.[2]

7. It is mountebanks of that sort, for whom it would be more creditable to have left philosophy alone than to traffic in her, whom Marcellinus will throw in my teeth. But I have decided to put up with taunts; he may stir my laughter, but I perchance shall stir him to tears; or, if he persist in his jokes, I shall rejoice, so to speak, in the midst of sorrow, because he is blessed with such a merry sort of lunacy. But that kind of merriment does not last long. Observe such men, and you will note that within a short space of time they laugh to excess and rage to excess.

8. It is my plan to approach him and to show him how much greater was his worth when many thought it less. Even though I shall not root out his faults, I shall put a check upon them; they will not cease, but they will stop for a time; and perhaps they will even cease, if they get the habit of stopping. This is a thing not to be despised, since to men who are seriously stricken the blessing of relief is a substitute for health.

9. So while I prepare myself to deal with Marcellinus, do you in the meantime, who are able, and who understand whence and whither you have made your way, and who for that reason have an inkling of the distance yet to go, regulate your character, rouse your courage, and stand firm in the face of things which have terrified you. Do not count the number of those who inspire fear in you. Would you not regard as foolish one who was afraid of a multitude in a place where only one at a time could pass? Just so, there are not many who have access to you to slay you, though there are many who threaten you with death. Nature has so ordered it that, as only one has given you life, so only one will take it away.

10. If you had any shame, you would have let me off from paying the last instalment. Still, I shall not be niggardly either, but shall discharge my debts to the last penny and force upon you what I still owe: “I have never wished to cater to the crowd; for what I know, they do not approve, and what they approve, I do not know.”[3]

11. “Who said this?” you ask, as if you were ignorant whom I am pressing into service; it is Epicurus. But this same watchword rings in your ears from every sect, – Peripatetic, Academic, Stoic, Cynic. For who that is pleased by virtue can please the crowd? It takes trickery to win popular approval; and you must needs make yourself like unto them; they will withhold their approval if they do not recognize you as one of themselves. However, what you think of yourself is much more to the point than what others think of you. The favour of ignoble men can be won only by ignoble means.

12. What benefit, then, will that vaunted philosophy confer, whose praises we sing, and which, we are told, is to be preferred to every art and every possession? Assuredly, it will make you prefer to please yourself rather than the populace, it will make you weigh, and not merely count, men’s judgments, it will make you live without fear of gods or men, it will make you either overcome evils or end them. Otherwise, if I see you applauded by popular acclamation, if your entrance upon the scene is greeted by a roar of cheering and clapping, – marks of distinction meet only for actors, – if the whole state, even the women and children, sing your praises, how can I help pitying you? For I know what pathway leads to such popularity.

Farewell

Footnotes

  1.  The usual expression is plena manu spargere, “with full hand,” cf. Ep. cxx. 10. In the famous saying of Corinna to Pindar: “Sow with the hand and not with the sack,” the idea is “sparingly,” and not, as here, “bountifully.”
  2.  The essedarius fought from a car. When his adversary forced him out of the car, he was compelled to continue the fight on foot, like an unhorsed knight.
  3.  Epicurus, Frag. 187 Usener.