The Greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca

Hardcover | September 30, 2014

byEmily Wilson

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By any measure, Seneca (?4-65AD) is one of the most important figures in both Roman literature and ancient philosophy. He was the most popular writer of his day, and his writings are voluminous and diverse, ranging from satire to philosophical "consolations" against grief, from metaphysicaltheory to moral and political discussions of virtue and anger. He was also the author of disturbing, violent tragedies, which present monstrous characters in a world gone wrong. But Seneca was also deeply engaged with the turbulent political events of his time. Exiled by the emperor Claudius for supposed involvement in a sex scandal, he was eventually brought back to Rome to become tutor and, later, speech-writer and advisor to Nero. He was an important eyewitness to one of the most interesting periods of Roman history, living under the rule of five of themost famous - and infamous - emperors (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero), through the Great Fire of Rome (64AD), and at a time of expansion and consolidation of Roman imperial power throughout the Mediterranean world, as well as various foreign and internal conflicts. Suspected ofplotting against Nero, Seneca was condemned and ultimately took his own life in what became one of the most iconic suicides in Western history. The life and works of Seneca pose a number of fascinating challenges. How can we reconcile his bloody, passionate tragedies with his prose works advocating a life of Stoic tranquility? Furthermore, how are we to reconcile Seneca the Stoic philosopher, the man of principle, who advocated a life ofcalm and simplicity, with Seneca the man of the moment, who amassed a vast personal fortune in the service of an emperor seen by many, at the time and afterwards, as an insane tyrant? In this vivid biography, Emily Wilson presents Seneca as a man under enormous pressure, struggling for compromise ina world of absolutism. The Greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca thus offers us, in fascinating ways, the portrait of a man with all the fissures and cracks formed by the clash of the ideal and the real: the gulf between political hopes and fears, and philosophical ideals; the gap between what we want to be, and what weare.

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By any measure, Seneca (?4-65AD) is one of the most important figures in both Roman literature and ancient philosophy. He was the most popular writer of his day, and his writings are voluminous and diverse, ranging from satire to philosophical "consolations" against grief, from metaphysicaltheory to moral and political discussions of v...

Emily Wilson is Associate Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:September 30, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199926646

ISBN - 13:9780199926640

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Table of Contents

TimelineMapsIntroduction: A Rough Road to Greatness1. "Parental love is wise"2. Nowhere and Everywhere3. "Vices tempt you by the rewards they offer"4. "There's no easy path from earth to the stars"EpilogueNotesFurther ReadingBibliographyArt CreditsIndex