Tarrant’s edition of Agamemnon, and in Zwierlein, Prolegomena zu einer kritischen Ausgabe der Tragödien Senecas.


In keeping with the character of the Loeb Classical Library, this translation stays close to the wording of the original. It is not, however, a crib. Seneca is nothing if not stylish, and it would be misleading to translate him unstylishly. In particular, I have attempted, at George Goold’s urging, to preserve Seneca’s characteristic conciseness of phrasing, resisting the temptation to expand or explain rather than translate. For the most part I have translated his verse into prose, though conscious of the great loss involved. Where he uses meters other than the iambic trimeter of dialogue, however, I have translated line for line, chiefly in order to respect the lyric character of the choral odes. The metrical variety of the dramas is enormous, ranging from the lengthy trochaic tetrameters, akin to English fourteeners, down to the brief iambic dimeters, which fell naturally into three-stress lines. Most intermediate measures are represented here by a four-stress line, occasionally modified to three or five stresses by the needs of translation (and with two stresses for the monometers of the anapests); readers might keep in mind that there are stronger differences in metrical character between one ode and another in the Latin.

Stage Directions

The texts of ancient drama do not contain stage directions: stage action must therefore be inferred from the words of



the characters. While some indications of action are overt, for example Phaedra’s faint at Phaedra 585, others are slighter, for example Medea’s “I thank you” (gratum est) at Medea 553, indicating that Jason has silently nodded assent. Senecan drama allows the reader or producer considerable freedom in deciding when entrances and exits occur. Should Jocasta enter at the beginning of Oedipus, or just before she addresses Oedipus at line 81? Should Andromache stay onstage in Trojan Women during the choral ode beginning at 814, or exit at the end of Act Three and return with Hecuba at the beginning of Act Four? Because this freedom is inherent in the text, I prefer to preserve it in my translation, rather than include stage directions that would appear more authoritative than they are. I have therefore inserted stage directions only when they are both certain and necessary to prevent confusion in reading.

Footnotes and Index

The Index (in the second volume of this edition) is intended to serve not only as a regular index but also as a glossary of names. Seneca frequently makes allusions to the people, places, and events of myth, allusions that would have been more transparent to the original audience than today’s. To avoid peppering the translation with footnotes, I have placed explanatory material in the Index. Footnotes are used chiefly when the allusion in the Latin does not include a proper name. Adjectival forms of names are not indexed separately: for instance, the entry “Cadmus” covers the adjective “Cadmean” also.