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A SKETCH of the LIFE and WRITINGS of LUCIUS ANNEUS SENECA; fo far as they concern the English Reader.


L. ANNEUS SENECA, the author and publisher of the following Epiftles (in Latin), was born at Corduba, an old flourishing colony in Bætic Spain, ftill retaining the name of Cordova veia. It was inhabited originally by a felect body of Romans and Spaniards (a). It may be difficult therefore to determine, whether the Annaan (b) race were originally Spanish, or belonging to a colony from Italy: but this we may be certain of, from the teftimony of Seneca himself, that they were of the equeftrian order: Am I, faith he, (Tac. 1. 14) one, by rank no higher than a knight; by birth no other than a foreigner; am I numbered with the grandees of the Imperial city? Is it fo indeed, that my new name, my modern quality has thus blazed forth amongst the illuftrious Lords of Rome? His father therefore, and perhaps his grandfather, were of the equeftrian order, but no higher; for fcarce would he have mentioned his new name, if his ancestors had attained to honours.

(a) And was in high repute by means of Marcus Marcellus, the prætor, who governed Spain, (according to Livy, 1. 43) in the year U. C. DLXXXV. at that time it feems in peace and quietnefs; which inclines me, fays Lipfius, to believe this to be the time when the colony was introduced, and the city greatly enlarged and beautified; for that it was not built anew we may learn from Silius, who in Hannibal's time called it Corduba.

Nec decus auriferæ ceffavit Corduba terræ. 3. 406.

It obtained the privilege of being called Colonia Patricia. So Pliny (l. 3. c. 1.) expressly and on the coin of Auguftus, with his head, Permiflu Cæfaris Augufti; and on the reverfe, Colonia Patricia, as it was both a fplendid and a rich city, and fapplied the Roman commonwealth with fathers and fenators. For in the age of Auguftus, men were felected out of every province to make up the fenate. L.

(b) Lipfius obferves that this firname was used likewife in another family, the Accian; as, M. Accio. Seneca (Gruter. p. 490.)




His father, L. Annæus Seneca, who is generally distinguished from the fon by the title of the orator, or declaimer (c), married a Spanish lady, named Helvia, a woman of great understanding and other accomplishments. He came from Corduba to Rome in the time of Auguftus, and was foon after followed by his wife and children. Here he continued fome time managing his affairs with the favour and good report of all men, and I think, fays Lipfius, he lived till about the latter time of Tiberius. Be that as it will, Seneca was brought to Rome as yet in his infancy, and of a weakly and fickly conftitution, under the care of his aunt (d).

§ II. He had two brothers, one older, called Marcus Annæus Novatus, and the other younger, called L. Annæus Mela. The former foon after changed his name to that of Junius Gallio, by adoption (e); and accordingly in the Eufebian Chronicle is ftiled Junius Annæus Gallio, Seneca's brother; an excellent orator. He it is to whom our Seneca addreffed his books (de Irâ), concerning anger, under the name of Novatus; and whom in his title to the treatife on a happy life, he calls his Brother Gallio, and in his epiftles his Lord Gallio; properly enough, as he was his elder brother, says Lipfius; who likewife obferves that Annæus Mela (f) the youngest brother, was only a Roman knight, (i. e. not a fenator) but the father of Lucan, from whence (fays Tacitus) accrued a vast acceffion to his fame and fplendor. These then were the three brothers, of whom fays Martial,

Et docti Senecæ tres numeranda domus.

The triple houfe of learned Seneca:

i. e. the three fons or families of the learned orator.

(c) Declamation being his peculiar talent: though there are many declamations under his name, which were really not his own, but having been digested by him and diftinguished with titles and annotations, they fufficiently speak his pleafing manner and ingenuity.

(d) As he testifies himself, when praifing his aunt, he fays, By her tender care was I brought unto the city, and by her pious and motherly nurfing was I there recovered of a fit of fickness. Confol.. ad Helv. c. 16.

(e) Of one of this name, who is often mentioned by Seneca, the father, (in his Declamations) and is called our Gallio, either by reason of their common country Spain, or of the friendship that fubfifted between them.

(f) Mela or Mella (as Tacitus writes it) forbore fuing for the great offices of state, from a wayward ambition, that a Roman knight might be feen to vie with fenators of confular dignity: he likewife judged, that acting as comptroller to the prince in the ministration of his private revenues was a quicker road to wealth. He was accufed however to Nero by Fabius Romanus, (a friend of Lucan, who had fuffered before) and anticipated his fate by broaching his veins, as the quickest and moft frequent paffage to death in thofe days. Ib.

§ III.

§ III. Seneca therefore, as before obferved, came very young to Rome, and there, as he grew up, ripened his talents in the best and most proper ftudies. At the time when foreign facrifices were removed from Rome, and abolished, (which happened in the fifth year of Tiberius, and U. C. DCCLXXII.) Seneca was about 22 years old; inftructed in eloquence, and thoroughly accomplished, under the tuition of his father (g); as was also his brother Gallio (b): as for Mela, we know not that he left any thing in writing.

Seneca, befides his eloquence, addicted himself to philofophy with great earneftness, and thither virtue incited his elegant turn of mind, against the inclination of his father. He himself declares more than once, that he was withheld from philofophy; and exprefsly that his wife having an averfion thereto, disfuaded him from it; but his ardour got the better of all this; and he diligently attended the most famous and serious philofophers of that age, particularly Attalus and Sotio of the fame fect (i); though he seems more inclined himself to follow Pythagoras, and Papirius Fabius, whom he likewife mentions, and praiseth in a grateful manner. He alfo admired Demetrius the cynic, and greatly honoured him, converfing with him both in public and private, as he advanced in years, and was at court, making him his companion both in his walks, and in his travels. Such was his forwardness in the liberal ftudies, tho' often checked and reftrained by his father, who intended him for the bar; and accordingly for fome time he was engaged in pleading caufes; even in the time of Caius; and was greatly careffed and famed for his eloquence; nor indeed do we find any philofophical works of his extant before that time.

§ IV. His father likewife perfuaded him to turn courtier, and offer himself as a candidate for fome poft of honour. He fucceeded herein, and was appointed quæftor, or treasurer. But in the first year of the reign of the Emperor Claudius, he was banished into Corfica. I would fuppofe him (fays Lipfius) innocent of the crime laid to his charge, as Tacitus feems to be of the fame opinion, who, speaking of this banishment, says, Seneca greatly refented the injury done him by

(g) As we may learn from his books of Controverfies and their Prefaces.
(b) The Gallio whom Statius recommends for the sweetness of his eloquence.

Lucanum potes imputare terris,

Hoc plufquam Senecam dediffe mundo,
Et dulcem generafle Gallionem.

Not only to this line we Lucan owe,

But Seneca, and fweet-tongued Gallio.

() Modo apud Sotionem puer fedi: While yet a lad, I attended the lectures of Sotic.

a 2

Ep. 49. Claudius.

Claudius (k). He lived about eight years in exile, with great courage; nay, (as he fays himself) and happily too; always intent upon the best of ftudies and falutary meditations: for thus he writes to his mother, (c. 4) that he is even happy in those things which are wont to make others miferable; and concludes, learn now what opinion you should entertain of me, that I am light-hearted and chearful, as if all my affairs were in the best ftate in the world; and fo indeed they are: when the mind difcharged of all cares bath leifure to attend thofe notions that are proper for it; and fometimes delights itself with more pleafing ftudies (1); and fometimes thirsting after truth, ftill rifeth in the contemplation of her own nature, and the difpofition of the whole world (m).

(2) The crime laid to his charge was adultery with Julia, (the daughter of Germanicus) who was likewife banished upon the accufation of Meffalina.

Tacitus therefore calls it an enquiry; for who knows not the many other accufations of that most profligate harlot, Meffalina, among the Roman quality; or the condemnations of that loathfome beaft, Claudius? as they feldom practised mischief but upon the good and innocent. To be accused by fuch perfons is praise, as to be praised by them would create a fufpicion of guilt.

(1) Sc, poetry; and particularly the Medea; which, fays Lipfius, I am half aflured was written in his exile, at fuch time as Claudius conquered Britain; and therefore Seneca made choice of that argument of Jafon, on his having fubdued the ocean; for it is impoffible thofe lines in the chorus should have relation to any but Claudius.

Parcite, O Divi, veniam precamur,
Vivat ut tutus, mare qui fubegit,-
Jam fatis, Divi, mare vindicaftis;
Parcite Divo.

Let him be fafe, ye gods, we pray,

Who thro' the feas bath forc'd his way.—

Enough ye have aveng'd the fea,

Spare the advent'rous god.

This under a poetical piece of adulation he applied to Claudius while living.

(m) Thus writes the author of the tragedy of Ottavia, (for I am perfuaded, fays Lipfius, it is not the philofopher himself) under the character of Seneca:

Melius latebam, procul ab invidiæ malis
Remotus, inter Corfici rupes maris;
Ubi liber animus, et fui juris, mihi
Semper vacabat, ftudia recolenti mea,
O quam juvabat (quo nihil majus parens
Natura genuit, operis immenfi artifex)
Cœlum intueri, folis et curfus facros !

Safer I fojourn'd on the Corfic fore,
Remov'd from Envy's ever-bateful pow'r,
With earnest zeal to learned lore inclin'd,
Fix'd on the fudics of the lab'ring mind:
With what content, with what heart-felt delight,
Did Nature's wonders charm the ravish'd fight !
When I beheld the fun, or moon, on high,
And all the beauties of the ftarry Sky! M.

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