Seneca’s Letters

Seneca’s letters (a.k.a Epistulae Morales) are for the most part an untapped resource for using with intermediate students (year 3-4 high school, and college). In addition, teachers who want to improve their Latin through reading input, as well as read some interesting and practical self-help advice will really enjoy working their way through the letters.

Seneca is a complicated figure in Roman history, literature, and moral philosophy. In the past hundred years, our understanding of his personal story has often prevented many from appreciating his writings, viewing him as a hypocrite, or mere translator of watered down versions of Greek classics, or philosophy with pith and style (“silver” Latin style at that), but no depth. Recent scholarship, however, has begun a re-examination and reevaluation of the merits of his works.

Other teachers and Latinists already have or are realizing the immense value and accessibility of the Letters, and are creating a variety of resources for reading and reflecting on the advice and topics addressed in them. I will include links that I have found helpful or interesting (please let me know about any others you encounter.)

Loeb Classical Library edition, (3 volumes)translated by Gummere. My nightly reading ritual is to read from these volumes. Having the English handy allows me to read the Latin with few interruptions to the flow, in a relaxed way as I get ready to go to sleep. Here is a pdf. of volume 1.

Youtube video and audio commentaries on the Letters:

Recent articles about Seneca in popular publications:

Bob Patrick’s unit on Roman life and games, based on Seneca’s famous letter 61 (?) about the noises of the baths:

Bibliography of editions and commentaries: