Seneca the Younger, Apocolocyntosis

LCL 15: 454-455

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The short satirical pamphlet of about fifteen pages of Latin on the death, apotheosis, and attempt to enter heaven by the Roman emperor Claudius (10 BC–AD 54; r. 41–54) is almost certainly entitled Apocolocyntosis (hereafter, Apoc.), and very likely the work of the amateur philosopher and super-rich landowner Lucius Annaeus Seneca, also known as Seneca the Younger, or just Seneca (4 BC–AD 65).

The opening words of the Apoc. run: quid actum sit in caelo ante diem III idus (“the proceedings in heaven on the thirteenth of October in the new year”). The official sounding language of government and business hits a snag right at the outset: “in heaven.” The work before us is going to be pseudo-history, satirical, and humorous. October 13 is notable, if the date refers to the year 54, when the Roman emperor Claudius was murdered (less likely, died of natural causes).

Since the work is short, Seneca could have composed it in a brief period, perhaps in time for the Saturnalia in Rome, which began on December 17, a festival lasting a few days during which the Roman world was turned upside down. (Seneca’s assessment of Claudius’ entire

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-apocolocyntosis.2020