By Seneca, C. D. N. Costa
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Extra info for Dialogues and Letters
A collection of epigrams has also come down under his name, most or all of which are clearly spurious. Seneca’s surviving prose works consists of: (1) ten treatises, conventionally called ‘dialogues’ (dialogi), preserved in an important manuscript, the Codex Ambrosianus (De Providentia, De Constantia Sapientis, De Ira, Consolatio ad Marciam, De Vita Beata, De Otio, De Tranquillitate Animi, De Brevitate Vitae, Consolatio ad Polybium, Consolatio ad Helviam Matrem); (2) two other treatises, De Clementia and De Beneficiis;(3) Naturales Quaestiones (‘Natural Questions’ – a long work which investigates a range of natural phenomena, both celestial and terrestrial); (4) Epistulae Morales (‘Letters on ethical topics’ – 124 of them, addressed to his friend Lucilius).
A good example of this is Letter 56, in which he complains about noisy lodgings he has taken; he goes on to suggest that this is not a problem for one who has acquired inner calm and philosophical detachment; and then he sabotages this high moral lesson by admitting that he himself will take the easier option of moving house. We cannot be certain to what extent these letters were a genuine correspondence. Seneca is clearly talking through Lucilius to a wider audience, and Lucilius’ presence is less evident in some of the later letters.
One other landmark worth mentioning from this earlier period is St Martin of Braga, who in the sixth century wrote a treatise that was quarried without acknowledgement almost entirely from Seneca’s works. The cultural renaissance of the twelfth century, referred to in connection with the tragedies, saw the prose works also really coming into their own, and henceforward as a prose writer Seneca’s popularity was exceeded only by Cicero’s. The favourite works were the Letters, De Beneficiis and De Clementia; but, as happens frequently to famous authors, spurious works also appeared, apart from the correspondence with St Paul, and circulated under his name.
Dialogues and Letters by Seneca, C. D. N. Costa