My friend came over early in the morning while the sun started to brighten the world ray by ray. My horse and I had been ready for a while now, waiting in anticipation. The reigns in my hands transferred some of my nerves to my trusty companion, who started pacing about a little.
Lucilius greeted me as warm as the orange glow did to the day. Not sure if it was my enthusiasm or that of my horse, but before the formal greeting was even halfway, we stood next to Lucilius’s horse. No further time was wasted and we took off for our short trip to meet a dear friend. It seemed as if the landscape around us took that as a sign to wake up. I always loved this part of the day, when everything smelled and felt fresh. Like their riders, our horses seemed to connect instantly. I would have sworn they had a livelier conversation than the men on their backs.
He had been eagerly awaint this visit.
The pavement underneath echoed the hooves, who now moved in sync as if there was only one horse. I had only met Lucilius a few times before his request to have me join him. But there was an instant connection between us. Not necessarily as best friends, but at least as cheerful companions whose conversations could flock out as wide as the birds above us.
After a while, during which time had continued its way, we reached an imposing mansion. By Lucilius’s reaction, I could tell that our destination had presented itself. He sat up straight and seemed to unconsciously speed up. It was clear that he had been more eagerly awaiting this visit. “Exchanging letters is wonderful, but nothing can compare to meeting a dear friend in person,” is what he told me as we approached the big house.
Two men who knew each other so intensely
It was far larger than I had expected from someone so renowned for his modest presence. Although his modesty and calm character was how most knew him to be, his wisdom reached the furthest fields. One of which was the realm of business and investments, for he had very wisely used his funds and thus increased his estate to noble levels.
Yet, as we got off our horses and walked around the corner, led by my good friend, I noticed the unassuming surroundings in which we encountered the Younger Seneca. Noticeably entering the autumn of his life, he did veer up at the sight of his dear Lucilius. From a distance, one could feel the energy of their meeting. Two men who knew each other so intensely, yet they lived at such great distances.
The most humble nobleman I had ever come across
They turned around and Lucilius introduced me. With eloquent and calm words, he took me into the estate and family. “For both you young men,” he started, “When friendship is settled, you must trust; before friendship is formed, you must pass judgment. Here I can sense we have long passed evaluation and it is friendship that was the natural result.”
With these words, reading the moment to settle the new guest, we moved to the seating area. Some deliciously common refreshments were waiting for us here. From that moment on, the conversation never seemed to stop and went deep into the night. I could tell his mansion was big, yet it was small in his mind. The most humble nobleman I had ever come across allowed me to share in his profoundly deep well of thoughts.
A lot of his work survived
Born in Cordoba, Spain, he made it all the way to become the infamous Emperor Nero’s advisor, who eventually forced him to commit suicide.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger was a statesman, philosopher, writer, and investor. He was quite wealthy in his prime. Which also led some of his critics to question his standing as a Stoic philosopher. He did know his fair share of hardship, as Rome was a volatile place in his lifetime. He was exiled to what he called a miserable rock, which was in fact Corsica. We have also read about how his life came to an end, which showed some resemblances to Socrates’ death.
The main reason why we still speak of Seneca and know many of his famous quotes is because a lot of his work survived. Other historical figures during the Middle Ages referred to his work. The sixteenth-century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne referenced Seneca’s work throughout his essays.
Stocism prepared him from these eventualities
Another reason we can find out much about Seneca’s life is because of his family and his personal standings in Roman society. Which also give him a lot of possibilities to test his Stoic beliefs, as the times he lived in were turbulent, to say the least. Critics wondered how he could remain beside a cruel Emporer like Nero and still claim to be a Stoic. For him, it would have been his duty towards his country to try to limit the damage this notorious figure would have otherwise done.
Others questioned how he could be so wealthy and still practice Stoicism. To this, he replied that it is not bad to use the opportunities you have, as long as you are prepared to part with your possessions if fortune requires it so. And not have them own you. From his letters to his mother, written from exile, we can tell that life put him to the test. Stoicism helped him prepare for these eventualities.
The best way to get to know Seneca is to read his work
Seneca held lengthy correspondence with Lucilius, a friend of his, about Stoicism and how to be a better stoic. Furthermore, he wrote many essays and letters to help people with their problems. All of which I recommend you to read. Not only because they deal with Stoicism, but because he was an elegant writer.
The best way to learn about him, his life, and his philosophy is to read his books. But here you can find a more in-depth introduction into his life. If you are interested in other philosophers, you can read my introductions about Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, or Michel de Montaigne.