Seneca the Younger, Epistles

LCL 76: 212-213

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The Epistles Of Seneca

LXXX. Seneca Lvcilio svo salvtem

1Hodierno die non tantum meo beneficio mihi vaco, sed spectaculi, quod omnes molestos ad sphaeromachian avocavit. Nemo inrumpet, nemo cogitationem meam impediet, quae hac ipsa fiducia procedit audacius. Non crepuit subinde ostium, non adlevabitur velum; licebit tuto vadere,1 quod magis necessarium est per se eunti et suam sequenti viam. Non ergo sequor priores? Facio, sed permitto mihi et invenire aliquid et mutare et relinquere. Non servio illis, sed adsentior.

2Magnum tamen verbum dixi, qui mihi silentium promittebam et sine interpellatore secretum. Ecce ingens clamor ex stadio perfertur et me non excutit mihi, sed in huius ipsius rei contentionem transfert. Cogito mecum, quam multi corpora exerceant, ingenia quam pauci; quantus ad spectaculum non fidele et lusorium fiat concursus, quanta sit circa artes bonas solitudo; quam inbecilli animo sint, quorum lacertos 3umerosque miramur. Illud maxime revolvo mecum: si corpus perduci exercitatione ad hanc patientiam potest, qua et pugnos pariter et calces non unius hominis ferat, qua solem ardentissimum in ferventissimo pulvere sustinens aliquis et sanguine suo madens

  • 1tuto vadere Hense; uno vadere MSS.
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Epistle LXXX.

LXXX. On Worldly Deceptions

To-day I have some free time, thanks not so much to myself as to the games, which have attracted all the bores to the boxing-match.a No one will interrupt me or disturb the train of my thoughts, which go ahead more boldly as the result of my very confidence. My door has not been continually creaking on its hinges nor will my curtain be pulled aside;b my thoughts may march safely on,—and that is all the more necessary for one who goes independently and follows out his own path. Do I then follow no predecessors? Yes, but I allow myself to discover something new, to alter, to reject. I am not a slave to them, although I give them my approval.

And yet that was a very bold word which I spoke when I assured myself that I should have some quiet, and some uninterrupted retirement. For lo, a great cheer comes from the stadium, and while it does not drive me distracted, yet it shifts my thought to a contrast suggested by this very noise. How many men, I say to myself, train their bodies, and how few train their minds!c What crowds flock to the games,—spurious as they are and arranged merely for pastime,—and what a solitude reigns where the good arts are taught! How feather-brained are the athletes whose muscles and shoulders we admire! The question which I ponder most of all is this: if the body can be trained to such a degree of endurance that it will stand the blows and kicks of several opponents at once, and to such a degree that a man can last out the day and resist the scorching sun in the midst of the burning dust, drenched all the while

  • aProbably a contest in which the participants attached leaden weights to their hands in order to increase the force of the blows.
  • bCompare’ Pliny’s “den” (Ep. ii. 17. 21): quae specularibus et velis obductis reductisve modo adicitur cubiculo modo aufertur.
  • cCompare the ideas expressed in Ep. xv. 2 f.
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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-epistles.1917