Lucius Annaeus Seneca was born in Corduba, Spain, about 4 b.c.e. He came from a learned and wealthy family: His father, Seneca the Elder, was a well-known rhetorician, and his mother, Helvia, was an attractive, erudite woman with a deep interest in philosophy and the liberal arts. They had three sons: Annaeus Novatus, the oldest, an accomplished orator, writer, and politician; Anneaus Mela, the youngest, remembered as the father of the Roman poet Lucan; and Lucius Annaeus, renowned philosopher, statesman, orator, and playwright.
During infancy, Seneca left Spain for Rome, where his family established permanent residence. When he came of age, he received instruction in grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy. He was bored by the teachings of dull grammarians, spurred on by the training of outstanding rhetors, and fascinated by the discussion of leading philosophers. By combining philosophy with rhetoric, the young Seneca aimed to pursue a philosophical, contemplative life along with an oratorical, political career.
Seneca’s active political career was interrupted by the poor health that he had endured since childhood. Because of his illness and in order to have a change of scene, he went to Egypt, where his maternal aunt, the wife of the governor, aided him, through her devotion and care, in regaining his strength. On his return to Rome, through the influence of this devoted aunt, he obtained the quaestorship about 33 c.e., perhaps becoming aedile or tribune of the plebeians about 36 or 37.
While advancing politically, Seneca also distinguished himself as a lawyer, a philosopher, and an author, winning not only glory and riches but also the jealousy of the mad...
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