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Seneca's Letters from a Stoic (Dover Thrift Editions)

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    • 4.7 stars
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As chief advisor to the emperor Nero, Lucius Annaeus Seneca was most influential in ancient Rome as a power behind the throne. His lasting fame derives from his writings on Stoic ideology, in which philosophy is a practical form of self-improvement rather than a matter of argument or wordplay. Seneca's letters to a young friend advise action rather than reflection, addressing the issues that confront every generation: how to achieve a good life; how to avoid corruption and self-indulgence; and how to live without fear of death.
Written in an intimate, conversational style, the letters reflect the traditional Stoic focus on living in accordance with nature and accepting the world on its own terms. The philosopher emphasizes the Roman values of courage, self-control, and rationality, yet he remains remarkably modern in his tolerant and cosmopolitan attitude. Rich in epigrammatic wit, Seneca's interpretation of Stoicism constitutes a timeless and inspiring declaration of the dignity of the individual mind.


Customer Review


The best version available!

Just in case reviews get merged with other versions of the same book this is a review for Seneca's Letters from a Stoic (Dover Thrift Editions) ISBN: 978-0486811246If you're looking to buy a copy of "Letters from a Stoic" then this is the book you should get. It contains all 124 letters from Seneca to Lucilius in one volume. I really like that each letter has a title along with the roman numeral of the letter.After buying the book I noticed in the bibliographical note that it's a republication of the Loeb Classical Library edition translated by Richard Mott Gummere. Originally titled "Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales" or "Moral Letters/Epsitles to Lucilius", The Loeb Classical Library edition was first published by Putnam in three volumes in 1917 and reprinted in 1925. So I decided to borrow volume one from the library to compare it to this Dover Thrift Editions version. To my surprise they're actually the same! Even the introduction is the same. I compared the first two letters of both books and they're word for word the same text (except for one single word is different). I skimmed a few more letters and found the text is the same with those as well. It's nice to essentially have the Loeb Classical Library edition in one volume with this Dover edition, and at a fraction of the price too. For being 100 years old the translation is actually fresh. You wouldn't think it to be that old while reading it.

by Benjamin, September 1, 2017


Outstanding! Something of great value here for everyone.

It almost makes me feel embarrassed to receive so much sound wisdom, such clear and useful advice, for so little as the as the meager price of this book. This truly has something for everybody. I can not think of anyone in any station or adult stage of life, who won't get something profoundly helpful, happily enlightening, even wittily humorous from this edition.I'm not going to try to go on about content details here, this is done much more forcefully in other reviews or by just reading the book, and at more than 450 pages this is not light fare. I have never taken nearly so long (and thoroughly enjoyed doing so) to read a book of this length before. You should too...don't rush this, instead savor and revisit the lucidity and truths within. It is remarkable how present this volume feels and fascinating how little some things change over the passage of 2,000 years!I can't say I agree with each and every entry here, all of Seneca's assertions, but so what? We all read to increase our knowledge and in reading any work, if one gains from certain parts and rejects others we are that much richer for the experience."Our stupidity may be clearly proved that we hold costly only those things for which we pay cash. Yet, we regard as free gifts the things on which we spend our very selves. We are eager to attain these at the cost of anxiety, of danger, and of lost honor, personal freedom and time." Seneca.At just $10, this purchase is the most obvious of values.

by stonehenge7, January 1, 2021


All 124 letters, but strange format and print issues

This is referring to the paperback BN Publishing Edition copyright 2018.The content of the book is great, it contains all 124 letters, so I'm happy with that. 5 stars.However, the print of the pages is a very light grey (except the title page, and the last 2 "ad" pages for BN, which are crisp black letters). The letters are very tiny, and there is about an inch margin all the way around.For me, it's ok.. I can read the book as long as I have a bright light and strong reading glasses, so I'll keep the book. But for some it might be an issue. Taking off a couple of stars for that reason.

by chipsmith, July 31, 2020


this bad boy has all of 'em

Finally found a COMPLETE book of Seneca's letters. Yep, this bad boy has all of 'em.This is the one you need folks. Great translation. Nice paperback size [For a book with 124 letters].Excited to dive into the letters I haven't read yet from other versions.Glad to see [and surprised] that Dover Thrift made this.

by Lisa S, February 24, 2017


The Good Life

Seneca’s letters are illustrations of a phrase that is dying out in English, “the well-lived life.” So hankering are we for the pleasures and freedoms that modern Western society offers that we can still understand the term, “the good life” but not, unfortunately, a well lived one.For Seneca, the well lived life was one that strove for a disdain of luxury and honors, the importance of upright character and virtue, being surrounded by family and friends who love you and a resignation to all that fortune has to offer.Along with Marcus Aurelius, he is probably the best exponent of the practically minded part of the philosophy of Stoicism. It helped sustain the Roman Empire for centuries and its decay was assuredly one of the reasons for its decline.Although dissonant to modern ears it has much to recommend it; as validated by the contemporary science of psychology. If we could simply put aside the pleasure principle for the length it takes to read this book, we might find the wisdom so that our descendants can say of us, “his was a life well lived.” Such is the power and perennial relevance of Seneca.

by Aran Joseph Canes, May 15, 2021


It’s all about life

Love this book. Not a book read straight... his philosophy gives you a lot to think about so it forces you to take time to think, ponder and relate to. Good to know nothing has changed in the world... we just progressivey take different actions.Excellent read!!!

by Carla Herrmann, February 19, 2019


The best version of the best of Seneca, for ten bucks. Buy two.

Seriously-- one for home (great daily reader), one for the office or vehicle. It sure beats someone else's random magazines. This is Gummere's incomparable Loeb Classical Library translation, complete, with notes and intro; after over a century, the language is not the least dated. All other versions are redundant. Thank you, Dover Thrift!

by Sean Perkins, October 6, 2018


As an introduction I recommend meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Everything arrived on time and as advertised. The stoic philosophy is one that bears looking into further. As an introduction I recommend meditations by Marcus Aurelius.

by Eric F., February 24, 2017


To be slowly savoured

The letters are a series of letters from Seneca to a friend Lucillus. In modern language we might say Seneca was his mentor. He was a demanding mentor - full of tough love, criticising Lucillus from time to time in no uncertain terms. They are a fascinating insight into Roman life, as well as being full of good advice that is still very relevant.This has been along slow read by me - but then I think Seneca is the sort of writer who is best savoured rather than rushed through. Mostly very enjoyable, with some brilliant insights and quotes to re-use, but occasionally a little less interesting for me, as for example when Seneca explains Stoic metaphysics - hence 4 stars rather than 5. Perhaps I would have preferred edited highlights, but the advantage of reading them all is that you get to choose the ones you like. I will come back to this book again.

by Richard J. Newton, February 4, 2020


Wonderful book. A window to the thoughts of one of the best philosophers ever existed.

There is nothing you can dislike from Seneca's literature. The only thing I could complain is about the translation in english, as the original was in Latin, translating to english makes it sometimes harder to read because the way Seneca's uses the linguistic resources. After reading you'll realise that nothing has change in humanity in the last 2000 years (roughly the time passed from when it was writen). Seneca's stoic philosophy is the only philosophy that can be applied to real life individually and collectively. Not many times you have the change to read the original thoughts of a very important person in the history, as the letters he wrote to this friend Lucilius.A book that everybody should read at least once in their life. Then, go for Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius...I miss more footnotes to explain diverse aspects of the roman culture that makes the explanations be understood better, as other editions have, but well you can search on a library or Internet.

by Exerion, April 25, 2020


Great ancient wisdom

I do not know for sure if Seneca wrote all of this by himself but honestly it doesn't matter. I recommend it for someone interested in stoicism and in the recipe of living a good life no matter the circumstances.

by Kindle Customer, August 31, 2019


Great set of short, easily manageable pieces

Great edition. I found it really accessible. It is set out as a series of letters about 3-4 pages each. Perfect for reading on a regular basis or dipping into.

by RR, July 19, 2020


Not for me....

Maybe because I tried to read this late at night - bedtime - but just could not get into it. Stopped after the first 20 pages. Sorry

by Andrew Bedford, February 24, 2020

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