De Vita Beata1
1. Vivere, Gallio frater, omnes beate volunt, sed ad pervidendum, quid sit quod beatam vitam efficiat, caligant; adeoque non est facile consequi beatam vitam, ut eo quisque ab ea longius recedat, quo ad illam concitatius fertur, si via lapsus est; quae ubi in contrarium ducit, ipsa velocitas maioris intervalli causa fit.
Proponendum est itaque primum, quid sit quod adpetamus; tunc circumspiciendum, qua contendere illo celerrime possimus, intellecturi in ipso itinere, si modo rectum erit, quantum cotidie profligetur quantoque propius ab eo simus, ad quod nos cupiditas 2 naturalis impellit. Quam diu quidem passim vagamur non ducem secuti sed fremitum et clamorem dissonum in diversa vocantium, conteretur vita inter errores brevis, etiam si dies noctesque bonae menti laboremus. Decernatur itaque, et quo tendamus et
On The Happy Life
To live happily, my brother Gallio,a is the desire of all men, but their minds are blinded to a clear vision of just what it is that makes life happy; and so far from its being easy to attain the happy life, the more eagerly a man strives to reach it, the farther he recedes from it if he has made a mistake in the road; for when it leads in the opposite direction, his very speed will increase the distance that separates him.
First, therefore, we must seek what it is that we are aiming at; then we must look about for the road by which we can reach it most quickly, and on the journey itself, if only we are on the right path, we shall discover how much of the distance we overcome each day, and how much nearer we are to the goal toward which we are urged by a natural desire. But so long as we wander aimlessly, having no guide, and following only the noise and discordant cries of those who call us in different directions, life will be consumed in making mistakes—life that is brief even if we should strive day and night for sound wisdom. Let us, therefore, decide both upon the goal and upon the
- aAnnaeus Novatus, known after his adoption as L. Iunius Gallio, was the elder brother of Seneca. He had a senatorial career, was governor of the province of Achaia (a.d. 52), and has the fame of being the Roman official before whom the Jews accused the apostle Paul (Acts, xviii. 12-17). He died by his own hand in a.d. 66. To him, apparently before his adoption, are addressed the three books of the De Ira, Cf. Vol. I, Introd. pp. vii, xiii.