Seneca the Younger, Epistles

LCL 77: 242-243


The Epistles Of Seneca

20aliqui spiritus hospitaretur. Haec cum exposuisset Sotion et inplesset argumentis suis, “Non credis,” inquit, “animas in alia corpora atque alia discribi et migrationem esse quod dicimus mortem? Non credis in his pecudibus ferisve aut aqua mersis illum quondam hominis animum morari? Non credis nihil perire in hoc mundo, sed mutare regionem? Nec tantum caelestia per certos circuitus verti, sed animalia quoque per vices ire et animos per orbem agi? Magni 21ista crediderunt viri. Itaque iudicium quidem tuum sustine, ceterum omnia tibi in integro serva. Si vera sunt ista, abstinuisse animalibus innocentia est; si falsa, frugalitas est. Quod istic credulitatis1 tuae damnum est? Alimenta tibi leonum et vulturum eripio.”

22His ego instinctus abstinere animalibus coepi, et anno peracto non tantum facilis erat mihi consuetudo, sed dulcis. Agitatiorem mihi animum esse credebam, nec tibi hodie adfirmaverim, an fuerit. Quaeris, quomodo desierim? In primum Tiberii Caesaris principatum iuventae tempus inciderat. Alienigena tum sacra movebantur, sed inter argumenta superstitionis ponebatur quorundam animalium abstinentia. Patre itaque meo rogante, qui non calumniam timebat, sed philosophiam oderat, ad pristinam


Epistles CVIII.

spirit be dwelling temporarily in this bit of flesh! When Sotion had set forth this doctrine, supplementing it with his own proofs, he would say: “You do not believe that souls are assigned, first to one body and then to another, and that our so-called death is merely a change of abode? You do not believe that in cattle, or in wild beasts, or in creatures of the deep, the soul of him who was once a man may linger? You do not believe that nothing on this earth is annihilated, but only changes its haunts? And that animals also have cycles of progress and, so to speak, an orbit for their souls, no less than the heavenly bodies, which revolve in fixed circuits? Great men have put faith in this idea; therefore, while holding to your own view, keep the whole question in abeyance in your mind. If the theory is true, it is a mark of purity to refrain from eating flesh; if it be false, it is economy. And what harm does it do to you to give such credence? I am merely depriving you of food which sustains lions and vultures.”

I was imbued with this teaching, and began to abstain from animal food; at the end of a year the habit was as pleasant as it was easy. I was beginning to feel that my mind was more active; though I would not to-day positively state whether it really was or not. Do you ask how I came to abandon the practice? It was this way: The days of my youth coincided with the early part of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Some foreign rites were at that timea being inaugurated, and abstinence from certain kinds of animal food was set down as a proof of interest in the strange cult. So at the request of my father, who did not fear prosecution, but who detested philosophy, I returned to my previous habits; and

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-epistles.1917