Quotations by Seneca the Younger


As the soil, however rich it may be, cannot be productive without cultivation, so the mind without culture can never produce good fruit.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
(Attributed)
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Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
(Attributed)

Often either unattributed or sometimes attributed to Seneca the Elder.
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Let us train our minds to desire what the situation demands.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
(Attributed)
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What difference does it make how much you have? What you do not have amounts to much more.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
(Attributed)

Attr. by Aulus Gellius in Noctes Atticae, bk. 12, ch. 2, sct. 13 (2nd cent. A.D.).
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There is as much greatness of mind in acknowledging a good turn, as in doing it.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
(Attributed)
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Fire is the test of gold; adversity, of strong men
[Ignis aurum probat, miseria fortes viros.]

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
De Providentia, 5, v. 9
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He who boasts of his descent, praises the deeds of another.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Hercules Furens
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Once again prosperous and successful crime goes by the name of virtue; good men obey the bad, might is right and fear oppresses law.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Hercules Furens, Part 1, l.255 [Amphitryon] [tr. Miller (1917)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "Successful and fortunate crime is called virtue."
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Who makes a timid request invites denial.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Hippolytus, l. 590 [tr. Miller (1917)]
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The worst evil of all is to leave the ranks of the living before one dies.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Minor Dialogues, “Of Peace of Mind” [tr. A. Steart (1889)]
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Do not be hasty to praise or blame; speak always as though you were giving testimony before the judgment seat of the gods.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “De moribus,” 76
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The greatest remedy for anger is delay.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “Of Anger [De ira]”
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A Physician is not angry at the Intemperance of a mad Patient; nor does he take it ill to be railed at by a Man in a Fever: Just so should a wise Man treat all Mankind, as a Physician does his Patient; and looking upon them only as sick, and extravagant.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “Of Anger [De ira]
    (Source)
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Those whom they have injured they also hate.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Anger [De ira],” 2.33.1 [tr. Basore (1928)]
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He who has injured thee was either stronger or weaker than thee. If weaker, spare him; if stronger, spare thyself.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Anger [De ira],” 3
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There are none more abusive to others than they that lie most open to it themselves; but the humor goes round, and he that laughs at me today will have somebody to laugh at him tomorrow.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Anger [De ira]
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No man is crushed by hostile Fortune who is not first deceived by her smiles.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Consolation to Helvia,” 5.5 [tr. Basore (1932)]
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Good men should not shrink from hardships and difficulties, nor complain against fate; they should take in good part whatever happens and should turn it to good. Not what you endure, but how you endure, is important.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Providence,” 2.4 [tr. J. Basore (1928)]
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No tree becomes rooted and sturdy unless many a wind assails it. For by its very tossing it tightens its grip and plants its roots more securely; the fragile trees are those that have grown in a sunny valley.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Providence,” 4.16 [tr. J. Basore (1928)]
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You learn to know a pilot in a storm.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Providence” (4.5) [tr. Basore (1928)]
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No one becomes a laughingstock who laughs at himself.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On the Firmness of the Wise Man,” 17.3 [tr. Basore (1928)]
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It is dangerous for a man too suddenly, or too easily, to believe himself. Wherefore let us examine, watch, observe, and inspect our own hearts; for we are ourselves our own greatest flatterers: we should every night call ourselves to account, “What infirmity have I mastered to-day? what passion opposed? what temptation resisted? what virtue acquired?” Our vices will abate of themselves, if they be brought every day to the shrift.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On the Happy Life” [De Vita Beata]” [tr. L’Estrange (1834)]
    (Source)

Sometimes incorrectly quoted as "Our vices will abort of themselves ...."
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True happiness is founded upon virtue.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On the Happy Life” [De Vita Beata]“, 16.1 [tr. Basore (1932)]
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Whether we believe the Greek poet, “it is sometimes even pleasant to be mad”, or Plato, “he who is master of himself has knocked in vain at the doors of poetry”; or Aristotle, “no great genius was without a mixture of insanity”; the mind cannot express anything lofty and above the ordinary unless inspired. When it despises the common and the customary, and with sacred inspiration rises higher, then at length it sings something grander than that which can come from mortal lips. It cannot attain anything sublime and lofty so long as it is sane: it must depart from the customary, swing itself aloft, take the bit in its teeth, carry away its rider and bear him to a height whither he would have feared to ascend alone.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Tranquility of Mind [De Tranquillitate Animi],” 17.10 [tr. W. Langsdorf (1900)]
    (Source)

See Aristotle.
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I shall never be ashamed of citing a bad author if the line is good.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Tranquility of Mind [De Tranquillitate Animi]

Alt trans. by W.B. Langsdorf (1900): "Should I be surprised that dangers which have always surrounded me should at last attack me? A great part of mankind, when about to sail, do not think of a storm. I shall never be ashamed of a reporter of bad news in a good cause."
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The wise man does not deem himself undeserving of any of the gifts of Fortune. He does not love riches, but he would rather have them; he does not admit them to his heart, but to his house, and he does not reject the riches he has, but he keeps them and wishes them to supply ampler material for exercising his virtue.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On the Happy Life” [De Vita Beata]“, 21.4 [tr. Basore (1932)]
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In my eyes riches have a certain place, in yours they have the highest; in fine, I own my riches, yours own you.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On the Happy Life” [De Vita Beata]“, 22.5 [tr. Basore (1932)]
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Conversation has a kind of charm about it, an insinuating and insidious something that elicits secrets from us just like love or liquor.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium]
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If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium]

Sometimes attributed to Seneca the Elder (Marcus Annaeus Seneca), his father.
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The willing, Destiny guides them; the unwilling, Destiny drags them.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], “On Obedience to the Universal Will”

Actually translating Cleanthes. Alt. trans: "Fate leads, but the unwilling drags along." "Fate leads the willing and drags along the unwilling." R. Gummere: "Aye, the willing soul / Fate leads, but the unwilling drags along." Source. Sometimes attributed to Seneca the Elder.
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No good thing is pleasant to possess without friends to share it.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 6 “On Sharing Knowledge,” sec. 4 [tr. Gummere (1918)]
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The poor one is not the man who has little, but the man who craves more.

[Non qui parum habet, sed qui plus cupit, pauper est.]

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 2 “On Discursiveness in Reading,” sec. 6

Alt trans. (Gummere (1918)): "It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor."
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You can tell the character of every man when you see how he gives and receives praise.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], Letter 52 “On choosing our teachers,” Sec. 12
    (Source)
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Let us say what we feel, and feel what we say; let speech harmonize with life.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 74 “On the Diseases of the Soul,” sec. 4 [tr. Gummere (1918)]
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Therefore, two bad habits must be forbidden, both the fear of the future and the memory of by-gone trouble; the latter no longer belongs to me, the former, not yet.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 78, sec. 14
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The more a mind receives, the more does it expand.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 101 “On the Approaches to Philosophy”, sec.10 [tr. Gummere (1918)]
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Just as the mother’s womb holds us for ten months not in preparation for itself but for the region to which we seem to be discharged when we are capable of drawing breath and surviving in the open, so in the span extending from infancy to old age we are ripening for another birth. Another beginning awaits us, another status. We cannot yet bear heaven’s light except at intervals; look unfalteringly, then, to that decisive hour which is the body’s last but not the soul’s.

All that lies about you look upon as the luggage in a posting station; you must push on. At your departure Nature strips you as bare as at your entry. You cannot carry out more than you brought in; indeed, you must lay down a good part of what you brought into life. The envelope of skin, which is your last covering, will be stripped off; the flesh and the blood which is diffused and courses through the whole of it will be stripped off; the bones and sinews which are the structural support of the shapeless and precarious mass will be stripped off.

That day which you dread as the end is your birth into eternity.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 102
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What once were vices, are now the manners of the day.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], Letter 109
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I give this advice to you, do not be miserable before the time, since those troubles which you have feared as if already overhanging, perhaps will never come, certainly have not yet come.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 13, sec. 4
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Whatever is well said by another, is mine.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 16 “On Philosophy, the Guide of Life,” sec. 7

Alt. trans.: "Whatever is well said by anyone is mine." [tr. Gummere (1918)]
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Nothing shall seem to me so truly my possessions as the gifts I have wisely bestowed.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 20 “On the Happy Life,” sec. 4 [tr. Basore (1932)]
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No man can swim ashore and take his baggage with him.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 22 “On the Futility of Halfway Measures,” sec.12 [tr. Gummere (1918)]
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It is equally faulty to trust everyone and to trust no one.

[Utrumque enim vitium est et omnibus credere et nulli.]

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 3 “On True and False Friendship” [tr. Gummere]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "For it is both a vice to believe everyone and no-one."
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You cannot escape necessities, but you can overcome them.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 37, sec. 3 “On Allegiance to Virtue” [tr. Gummere (1918)]
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Most men ebb and flow in wretchedness between the fear of death and the hardship of life; they are unwilling to live, and yet they do not know how to die.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 4, sec. 6
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We do not need to uplift our hands towards heaven, or to beg the keeper of a temple to let us approach his idol’s ear, as if in this way our prayers were more likely to be heard. God is near you, he is with you, he is within you.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 41, sec. 1 “On the God Within Us” [tr. Gummere (1918)]
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Whatever the quality of my works may be, read them as if I were still seeking, and were not aware of, the truth, and were seeking it obstinately, too.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 45, sec. 4, “On Sophistical Argumentation” (tr. R. Gummere (1918))
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Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 71, sec. 3 “On the Supreme Good” [tr. Grummere (1918)]
    (Source)

Alt trans.: "If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable."
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Life’s like a play; it’s not the length but the excellence of the acting that matters.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 77

Alt trans. by R. Gummere: "It is with life as it is with a play, - it matters not how long the action is spun out, but how good the acting is." Full text.
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Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 83, sec. 18
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He is most powerful who has power over himself.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 90, sec. 34 “On the Part Played by Philosophy in the Progress of Man” [tr. Gummere (1918)]
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No one is free who is a slave to the body.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 92, sec. 33, “On the Happy Life” (tr. R. Gummere (1918)]
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Style is the garb of thought.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 95 “On the Superficial Blessings,” sec. 2 [tr. Gummere (1918)]
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We often want one thing and pray for another, not telling the truth even to the gods.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 95, sec. 2
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There is nothing so wretched or foolish as to anticipate misfortunes. What madness it is in your expecting evil before it arrives!

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 98
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He grieves more than necessary who grieves before it is necessary.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], letter 98, sec. 8
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What reason is there to admire ourselves because we are not as bad as the worst?

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Natural Questions, Preface (1.5) [tr. Corcoran (1921)]
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To make another person hold his tongue, be you first silent.

[Alium silere quod voles, primus sile.]

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Phaedra [Hippolytus], l. 867 (c. AD 50)
    (Source)

Sometimes given as "Alium silere quod valeas, primus sile." Alt. trans.: "Where thou wouldst have another silence keep, keep silence first thyself." [tr. F Miller (1907)]
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Ashes are the work of a moment, a forest the work of centuries.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Physical Investigations, 3.27.2
Added on 13-Sep-10 | Last updated 13-Sep-10
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It is a sad fate for a man to die
Too well known to everybody else,
And still unknown to himself.

[Illi mors gravis incubate
Qui notus nimis omnibus
Ignotus moritur sibi.]

Seneca - still unknown to himself - wist_info quote

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Thyestes, ll. 401-403 [tr. Bacon]

Lines from the Chorus translated by Francis Bacon, in "Of Great Place," Essays, Part 11. Sometimes incorrectly attributed to Bacon.
Added on 20-May-16 | Last updated 20-May-16
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Who, when he may, forbids not sin, commands it.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Troades, l. 290 [tr. Miller (1917)]
Added on 20-Jun-14 | Last updated 20-Jun-14
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