Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Andrew

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero

Recommended Posts

I just finished this book yesterday and would highly recommend it, for multiple reasons:

 

- It's fascinating history, giving us a view of the lives of Caligula (briefly), Claudius, and especially Nero.  For anyone who enjoyed the excellent miniseries Rome, it'll feel good to revisit this world.  The chapter titles of Suicide, Fratricide, Matricide, etc., tell you that it won't be a peaceful ride, but it's a frequently suspenseful one.

- The book makes the basics of Stoic philosophy comprehensible, particularly through the life and writings of Seneca, who attempted to be young Nero's tutor, even if the lessons didn't take.  I could see this being of particular interest for Christians, since as I understand it, Seneca was/is considered by many to be a proto-Christian (given the overlap of some of his teachings with Christian virtues, and his rumored - though likely falsely - interactions with Paul).  Also, as I understand it, isn't the whole Johannine notion of Logos thought to have been borrowed from the Stoic notion of all-governing, all-cohering, all-inhering Reason?

- The interaction of Seneca and Nero raises all sorts of nifty questions that should be of interest to the crew here (and made all the more timely by Charlie Hebdo and Raif Badawi):  the place of art and philosophy in speaking truth to power; self-expression under autocratic rule; when is compromise acceptable in hoping to influence society for the better; the spiritual damage inherent in such compromise; the flow between real life and artistic expression.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the recommendation, Andrew.  I just ordered a copy of it.  Having been recently reading Robert Graves, I think this sounds enjoyable.  James Romm has been on my to-read list for a while now, so it looks like I'll start out with this one.

 

If you haven't yet, you might try reading some Seneca as a companion to the novel.  It's refreshing and I enjoy reading him as much as I do Marcus Aurelius.

 

And yes, Seneca (along with with ancient philosophy) has always been of great interest to the Christian church.  While I think there is a Medieval legend about his being converted by the Apostle Paul, the more traditional view is that Seneca was likely a believer (like Plato or Aristotle) regarding the general revelation that he was given.

 

Also yes, John's "Logos" in John 1:1-18, is intentionally taken from Greek philosophy (from Zeno to Philo).  It is not a coincidence that John identifies Christ with this very particular Greek word and its historical associations.  Other early theologians (Justin Martyr, Origen, Clement of Alexandria) took the time to explain why John used it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the context, Jeremy.  I should've been clearer in my initial post, though - Romm's book is a work of history, not a historical novel.  I'm now keen to learn more about their Stoics - I found much to appreciate in the bits on offer in Dying Every Day.  The "Rationally Speaking" podcast duo also did a recent show on stoicism, which whet my interest still further.

 

Apropos of nothing except what I know of your reading interests, Jeremy, have you picked up Why Homer Matters, by Adam Nicolson?  The review in the NY Times was very enticing, so I have a copy on its way to me courtesy of Amazon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Apropos of nothing except what I know of your reading interests, Jeremy, have you picked up Why Homer Matters, by Adam Nicolson?  The review in the NY Times was very enticing, so I have a copy on its way to me courtesy of Amazon.

Thank you. I had not seen that yet, but now I have just ordered it.

I'll comment more on Romm's book as soon as I start reading it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Apropos of nothing except what I know of your reading interests, Jeremy, have you picked up Why Homer Matters, by Adam Nicolson?  The review in the NY Times was very enticing, so I have a copy on its way to me courtesy of Amazon.

Thank you. I had not seen that yet, but now I have just ordered it.

Hey, I've also just got a copy - book club, anyone?

 

Mind, I know I'm fussy about cover design, title, etc. but I can't understand why the American version looks so unappealing compared with the British. That's definitely William Collins 1 - 0 Henry Holt...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...