sed invictus. Quidni hoc optabile putem1—non quod urit me ignis, sed quod non vincit? Nihil est virtute praestantius, nihil pulchrius. Et bonum est et optabile, quicquid ex huius geritur imperio. Vale.
LXVIII. Seneca Lvcilio svo salvtem
1Consilio tuo accedo; absconde te in otio. Sed et ipsum otium absconde. Hoc te facturum Stoicorum etiam si non praecepto, at exemplo licet scias. Sed ex praecepto quoque facies2; et tibi et cui3 voles 2adprobabis. Nec ad omnem rem publicam mittimus nec semper nec sine ullo fine. Praeterea, cum sapienti rem publicam ipso dignam dedimus, id est mundum, non est extra rem publicam, etiam si recesserit, immo fortasse relicto uno angulo in maiora atque ampliora transit et caelo inpositus intellegit, cum sellam aut tribunal ascenderet, quam humili loco sederit. Depone hoc apud te, numquam plus agere sapientem, quam quom4 in conspectum5 eius divina atque humana venerunt.
3 Nunc ad illud revertor, quod suadere tibi coeperam,
to the stake, I shall go unbeaten. Why should I not regard this as desirable—not because the fire burns me, but because it does not overcome me? Nothing is more excellent or more beautiful than virtue; whatever we do in obedience to her orders is both good and desirable. Farewell.
LXVIII. On Wisdom and Retirement
I fall in with your plan; retire and conceal yourself in repose. But at the same time conceal your retirement also. In doing this, you may be sure that you will be following the example of the Stoics, if not their precept. But you will be acting according to their precept also; you will thus satisfy both yourself and any Stoic you please. We Stoicsa do not urge men to take up public life in every case, or at all times, or without any qualification. Besides, when we have assigned to our wise man that field of public life which is worthy of him,—in other words, the universe,—he is then not apart from public life, even if he withdraws; nay, perhaps he has abandoned only one little corner thereof and has passed over into greater and wider regions; and when he has been set in the heavens, he understands how lowly was the place in which he sat when he mounted the curule chair or the judgment-seat. Lay this to heart,—that the wise man is never more active in affairs than when things divine as well as things human have come within his ken.
I now return to the advice which I set out to give
- aStoicism preached “world-citizenship,” and this was interpreted in various ways at different periods. The Greek teachers saw in it an opportunity for wider culture; the Romans, a more practical mission. For further discussion of this topic in Seneca see Ep. lxxiii. 1 ff. Seneca’s arguments are coloured by the facts of his life at this time.