Selected advice from Seneca

The last two days I’ve been reading through a book called Seneca voor Managers. It’s based on Seneca’s letters to Lucilius. The short texts, some a sentence others a paragraph, are lessons/advise about life and seem to bear some political/economic context.


The author of the book put the original Latin text next to the flexible Dutch translation of it. For the purpose of this post, I will add the Latin text and translate the Dutch to English. The quotes which I picked, I picked because I like them.

  • “Cui ergo ista didici?” Non est quod timeas, ne operam perdideris, si tibi didicisti

“For whom have a learnt all this?” You needn’t be scared to have wasted your energy if you learnt something solely for youself

  • Hoc ante omnia fac, mi Lucili: disce gaudere

Before anything else, my dear Lucilius, you must do this: learn to enjoy yourself

  • Cotidie morimur: cotidie enim demitur aliqua pars vitae, et tunc quoque, cum crescimus, vita decrescit

Everyday we die, because everyday a part of our life is taken away from us, and even when we grow, our life is ‘slipping through our fingers’

  • Magna pars est profectus velle proticere

A large part of accomplishment, is the will to accomplish

  • Pudet dicere: honesta columus, quantum vacat

I’m ashamed to admit it: we tried our best to be good people – as a leisure

  • Nemo non, si quis beneficium accipit libentius quam reddit

Nobody who helps people, doesn’t benefit from it himself/herself

  • Incredibile est, mi Lucili, quam facile etiam magnos viros dulcedo orationis abducat a vero

It is unbelievable, my dear Lucilius, how easily even the most prominent are ‘taken away’ from the truth through eloquent rhetoric

  • Quamdiu sim, alienum est: quamdiu ero vere ut sim, meum est

How long I will live doesn’t depend on me, but as long as I live, it will depend on me whether I will actually [dare to] live


  • Quod, si pauci facerent, nollemus imitari, cum plures facere coeperunt, quasi honestius sit, quia frequentius, sequimur; et recti apud nos locum tenet error ubi publicus factus est

What is done by the few won’t be considered worthy following; but if the many started doing it, it will become more worthy of following, because it comes to be done by more. Even that which is erroneous will the right, because it is in vogue

  • Ille ex futuro suspenditur ciu irritum est praesens

Who screws up the present is a slave to the future

The death of Seneca

Luca Giurdano – The death of The death of Seneca

May these quotes bare some meaning to you as well.

By the way, if you are interesting in Seneca’s philosophy, Alain de Botton has also written and talked about Seneca, in his book Consolations of Philosophy (definitely worth a read), and in the documentary based on that book A Guide to Happiness. The episode where Alain de Botton delves into Seneca’s world and philosophy.

For my posts on Socrates and Nietzsche



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