Seneca the Younger, Epistles

LCL 75: 444-445


The Epistles Of Seneca

LXV. Seneca Lvcilio svo salvtem

1Hesternum diem divisi cum mala valetudine; antemeridianum illa sibi vindicavit, postmeridiano mihi cessit. Itaque lectione primum temptavi animum. Deinde cum hanc recepisset, plus illi imperare ausus sum, immo permittere; aliquid scripsi et quidem intentius quam soleo, dum cum materia difficili contendo et vinci nolo, donec intervenerunt amici, qui mihi vim adferrent et tamquam aegrum 2intemperantem coercerent. In locum stili sermo successit, ex quo eam partem ad te perferam, quae in lite est. Te arbitrum addiximus. Plus negotii habes quam existimas; triplex causa est.

Dicunt, ut scis, Stoici nostri duo esse in rerum natura, ex quibus omnia fiant, causam et materiam. Materia iacet iners, res ad omnia parata, cessatura, si nemo moveat. Causa autem, id est ratio, materiam format et quocumque vult versat, ex illa varia opera producit. Esse ergo debet, unde fiat aliquid, deinde a quo fiat. Hoc causa est, illud materia.

3Omnis ars naturae imitatio est. Itaque quod de universo dicebam, ad haec transfer, quae ab homine


Epistle LXV.

LXV. On the First Cause

I shared my time yesterday with ill healtha; it claimed for itself all the period before noon; in the afternoon, however, it yielded to me. And so I first tested my spirit by reading; then, when reading was found to be possible, I dared to make more demands upon the spirit, or perhaps I should say, to make more concessions to it. I wrote a little, and indeed with more concentration than usual, for I am struggling with a difficult subject and do not wish to be downed. In the midst of this, some friends visited me, with the purpose of employing force and of restraining me, as if I were a sick man indulging in some excess. So conversation was substituted for writing; and from this conversation I shall communicate to you the topic which is still the subject of debate; for we have appointed you referee.b You have more of a task on your hands than you suppose, for the argument is threefold.

Our Stoic philosophers, as you know, declare that there are two things in the universe which are the source of everything,—namely, cause and matter.c Matter lies sluggish, a substance ready for any use, but sure to remain unemployed if no one sets it in motion. Cause, however, by which we mean reason, moulds matter and turns it in whatever direction it will, producing thereby various concrete results. Accordingly, there must be, in the case of each thing, that from which it is made, and, next, an agent by which it is made. The former is its material, the latter its cause.

All art is but imitation of nature; therefore, let me apply these statements of general principles to

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-epistles.1917