The Deaths of Seneca

Paperback | October 15, 2012

byJames Ker

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The forced suicide of Seneca, former adviser to Nero, is one of the most tortured - and most revisited - death scenes from classical antiquity. After fruitlessly opening his veins and drinking hemlock, Seneca finally succumbed to death in a stifling steam bath, while his wife Paulina, who hadattempted suicide as well, was bandaged up and revived by Nero's men. From the first century to the present day, writers and artists have retold this scene in order to rehearse and revise Seneca's image and writings, and to scrutinize the event of human death. In The Deaths of Seneca, James Ker offers the first comprehensive cultural history of Seneca's death scene, situating it in the Roman imagination and tracing its many subsequent interpretations. Ker shows first how the earliest accounts of the death scene by Tacitus and others were shaped byconventions of Greco-Roman exitus-description and Julio-Claudian dynastic history. At the book's center is an exploration of Seneca's own prolific writings about death - whether anticipating death in his letters, dramatizing it in the tragedies, or offering therapy for loss in the form ofconsolations - which offered the primary lens through which Seneca's contemporaries would view the author's death. These ancient approaches set the stage for prolific receptions, and Ker traces how the death scene was retold in both literary and visual versions, from St. Jerome to Heiner Muller andfrom medieval illuminations to Peter Paul Rubens and Jacques-Louis David. Dozens of interpreters, engaging with prior versions and with Seneca's writings, forged new and sometimes controversial views on Seneca's legacy and, more broadly, on mortality and suicide. The Deaths of Seneca presents a new,historically inclusive, approach to reading this major Roman author.

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The forced suicide of Seneca, former adviser to Nero, is one of the most tortured - and most revisited - death scenes from classical antiquity. After fruitlessly opening his veins and drinking hemlock, Seneca finally succumbed to death in a stifling steam bath, while his wife Paulina, who hadattempted suicide as well, was bandaged up a...

James Ker is Associate Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 9.21 × 5.91 × 1.18 inPublished:October 15, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199959692

ISBN - 13:9780199959693

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgementsList of figuresAbbreviationsIntroductionPart I: Historical Narratives1. Three Death-Descriptions: Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio2. Neronian Exits: Writing Death into HistoryPart II: Seneca the Author3. The Man of Many Genres in his Death4. Consolations on the Departure of the Consoler5. A Closing Scene in the Theaters of Ethics, Tragedy, and History6. End of a Series: Death in Epistolary TimePart III: Receptions7. Tracing the TraditionPart IV: Themes8. Forced Suicide and the Bodily Paths to Libertas9. Passing into Memory: Seneca's Imago and its Reproduction10. Places Suburban and Serious: The Ruins of Seneca and ScipioEpiloguePrimry sourcesBibliography

Editorial Reviews

"This rich book is an attempt to trace the cultural resonance of a single remarkable scene.... Ker's achievement is to offer a consistently thoughtful guide to what those many deaths might mean." --Victoria Moul, Times Literary Supplement