Seneca the Younger, De Clementia

LCL 214: 356-357

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Ad Neronem Caesarem

De Clementia

liber i

1 1. Scribere de clementia, Nero Caesar, institui, ut quodam modo speculi vice fungerer et te tibi ostenderem perventurum ad voluptatem maximam omnium. Quamvis enim recte factorum verus fructus sit fecisse nec ullum virtutum pretium dignum illis extra ipsas sit, iuvat inspicere et circumire bonam conscientiam, tum immittere oculos in hanc immensam multitudinem discordem, seditiosam, impotentem, in perniciem alienam suamque pariter exultaturam si hoc iugum fregerit, et ita loqui 2 secum: “Egone ex omnibus mortalibus placui electusque sum, qui in terris deorum vice fungerer? Ego vitae necisque gentibus arbiter; qualem quisque sortem statumque habeat, in mea manu positum est; quid cuique mortalium fortuna datum velit, meo ore pronuntiat; ex nostro responso laetitiae causas populi urbesque concipiunt; nulla pars usquam nisi volente propitioque me floret; haec tot milia gladiorum, quae pax mea comprimit,


On Mercy

To The Emperor Nero

On Mercy

book i

I have undertaken, Nero Caesar, to write on the subject of mercy, in order to serve in a way the purpose of a mirror, and thus reveal you to yourself as one destined to attain to the greatest of all pleasures. For, though the true profit of virtuous deeds lies in the doing, and there is no fitting reward for the virtues apart from the virtues themselves, still it is a pleasure to subject a good conscience to a round of inspection, then to cast one’s eyes upon this vast throng—discordant, factious, and unruly, ready to run riot alike for the destruction of itself and others if it should break its yoke—and finally to commune with oneself thus: “Have I of all mortals found favour with Heaven and been chosen to serve on earth as vicar of the gods? I am the arbiter of life and death for the nations; it rests in my power what each man’s lot and state shall be; by my lips Fortune proclaims what gift she would bestow on each human being; from my utterance peoples and cities gather reasons for rejoicing; without my favour and grace no part of the wide world can prosper; all those many thousands of swords

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-de_clementia.1928