Seneca the Younger, De Tranquillitate Animi

LCL 254: 270-271

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He was playing chess when the centurion who was dragging off a whole company of victims to death ordered that he also be summoned. Having been called, he counted the pawns and said to his partner: “See that after my death you do not claim falsely that you won”; then nodding to the centurion, he said: “You will bear witness that I am one pawn ahead.” Do you think that at that board Canus was playing a game? Nay, he was making game! His friends were sad at the thought of losing such a man; but “Why,” said he, “are you sorrowful? You are wondering whether our souls are immortal; but I shall soon know.” Nor up to the very end did he cease to search for truth and to make his own death a subject for debate. His own teacher of philosophy was accompanying him, and, when they were not far from the low hill on which the daily sacrifice to Caesar, our god, was made, said: “What are you thinking of now, Canus, or what state of mind are you in?” And Canus said: “I have determined to watch whether the spirit will be conscious that it is leaving the body when that fleetest of moments comes,” and he promised that, if he discovered anything, he would make the round of his friends, and reveal to them what the state of the soul really is. Here is tranquillity in the very midst of the storm, here is a mind worthy of immortality—a spirit that summons its own fate to the proof of truth, that, in the very act of taking that one last step, questions the departing soul, and learns, not merely up to the point of death, but seeks to learn something even from death itself. No one has ever played the philosopher longer. Not hastily shall so great a man be abandoned, and he must be spoken of with

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-de_tranquillitate_animi.1932