1. Urbes ac monumenta saxo structa, si vitae1 nostrae compares, firma sunt; si redigas ad condicionem naturae omnia destruentis et unde edidit eodem revocantis, caduca sunt. Quid enim immortale manus mortales fecerunt? Septem illa miracula et si qua his multo mirabiliora sequentium annorum extruxit ambitio aliquando solo aequata visentur. Ita est: nihil perpetuum, pauca diuturna sunt; aliud alio modo fragile est, rerum exitus variantur, ceterum quicquid coepit et desinit.2
Mundo quidam minantur interitum et hoc universum, quod omnia divina humanaque complectitur, si fas putas credere, dies aliquis dissipabit et in confusionem veterem tenebrasque demerget. Eat nunc aliquis et singulas comploret animas, Carthaginis ac Numantiae Corinthique cinerem et si quid aliud altius
Citiesa and monuments made of stone, if you compare them with our life, are enduring; if you submit them to the standard of Nature’s law they are perishable, since Nature brings all things to destruction and recalls them to the state from which they sprang. For what that mortal hands have made is ever immortal? The seven wonders of the world and all the works, far more wonderful than these, that the ambition of later years has reared, will some day be seen levelled to the ground. So it is—nothing is everlasting, few things are even long-lasting; one thing perishes in one way, another in another, though the manner of their passing varies, yet whatever has beginning has also an end.
Some there are who threaten even the world with destruction, and (if you think that piety admits the belief) this universe, which contains all the works of gods and men, will one day be scattered and plunged into the ancient chaos and darkness. What folly, then, for anyone to weep for the lives of individuals, to mourn over the ashes of Carthage and Numantia and Corinth and the fall of any other city, mayhap loftier
- aThe essay begins abruptly after the loss of some part of the text. Polybius, to whom Seneca here proffers consolation upon the death of a brother, was a freedman who had gained wealth and official importance under the emperor Claudius. He at one time was the emperor’s secretary a studiis (Suet. Claudius, 28), and when this essay was written was holding the responsible post a libellis (ch. 6. 5).