De Tranquillitate Animi1
1. Serenus1: Inquirenti mihi in me quaedam vitia apparebant, Seneca,2 retecta, in aperto posita, quae manu prenderem, quaedam obscuriora et in recessu, quaedam non continua sed ex intervallis redeuntia, quae vel molestissima dixerim, ut hostis vagos et ex occasionibus adsilientis, per quos neutrum licet, nec tamquam in bello paratum esse nec tamquam in pace securum.2
Illum tamen habitum in me maxime deprendo (quare enim non verum ut medico fatear?) nec bona fide liberatum me iis, quae timebam et oderam, nec rursus obnoxium; in statu ut non pessimo, ita maxime querulo et moroso positus sum: nec aegroto 3 nec valeo. Non est, quod dicas omnium virtutium tenera esse principia, tempore illis duramentum et robur accedere. Non ignoro etiam quae in speciem
On Tranquillity of Mind
Serenusa: When I made examination of myself, it became evident, Seneca, that some of my vices are uncovered and displayed so openly that I can put my hand upon them, some are more hidden and lurk in a corner, some are not always present but recur at intervals; and I should say that the last are by far the most troublesome, being like roving enemies that spring upon one when the opportunity offers, and allow one neither to be ready as in war, nor to be off guard as in peace.
Nevertheless the state in which I find myself most of all—for why should I not admit the truth to you as to a physician?—is that I have neither been honestly set free from the things that I hated and feared, nor, on the other hand, am I in bondage to them; while the condition in which I am placed is not the worst, yet I am complaining and fretful—I am neither sick nor well. There is no need for you to say that all the virtues are weakly at the beginning, that firmness and strength are added by time. I am well aware also
- aAnnaeus Serenus, to whom this and the preceding dialogue and the De Constantia Sapientis are addressed, was a young prefect of Nero’s nightwatch, for whom Seneca had the deepest affection. His premature death in a.d. 63 is the subject of a touching tribute in Epistles, lxiii. 14-16. Cf. Vol. I. Introd. p. xii.