Seneca the Younger, Epistles

LCL 76: 72-73

Go To Section
Go To Section
Tools

Epistle LXXI.

Reason, too, advises us to die, if we may, according to our taste; if this cannot be, she advises us to die according to our ability, and to seize upon whatever means shall offer itself for doing violence to ourselves. It is criminal to “live by robbery”a; but, on the other hand, it is most noble to “die by robbery.” Farewell.

LXXI. On the Supreme Good

You are continually referring special questions to me, forgetting that a vast stretch of sea sunders us. Since, however, the value of advice depends mostly on the time when it is given, it must necessarily result that by the time my opinion on certain matters reaches you, the opposite opinion is the better. For advice conforms to circumstances; and our circumstances are carried along, or rather whirled along. Accordingly, advice should be produced at short notice; and even this is too late; it should “grow while we work,” as the saying is. And I propose to show you how you may discover the method.

As often as you wish to know what is to be avoided or what is to be sought, consider its relation to the Supreme Good, to the purpose of your whole life. For whatever we do ought to be in harmony with this; no man can set in order the details unless he has already set before himself the chief purpose of his life. The artist may have his colours all prepared, but he cannot produce a likeness unless he has already made up his mind what he wishes to paint.b The reason we make mistakes is because we all consider the parts of life, but never life as a whole.

73
DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-epistles.1917