The seven books On Benefits, addressed to Aebutius Liberalis of Lyons, are a discursive and repetitious treatment of the morality of giving and receiving—the casuistry of benefaction and gratitude. The gist of the matter is given more briefly in one of the Epistles,a written in a.d. 64 after the publication of a part or the whole of the De Beneficiis. The theme was not new, but the lengthy elaboration of it is surprising. Some apology for this may be found in the necessities of the ancient social order, in which, by reason of many of its relations, benefaction and gratitude were counted, not private graces, but social virtues.
Seneca’s chief source was Hecaton, a Stoic philosopher of Rhodes, who had studied under Panaetius and written numerous treatises now lost.
The date of the work is variously conjectured on the basis of internal evidence, but there can be no doubt that it belongs to the closing years of Seneca’s life.b Books I.-IV., from their essentially technical character, form a unit, and probably appeared several years after the death of Claudius (a.d. 54). That he