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To the contrary, he would say, such a picture paints for Lucilius exactly the response that we should expect when Fortune campaigns among men. Indeed, Seneca goes even further. The “gifts” of Fortune are not gifts in any sense at all. “I point other men to the right path,” Seneca tells Lucilius. “I cry out to them, ‘Avoid whatever pleases the mob: avoid the gifts of chance! Halt in a spirit of doubt and fear before every good that chance brings to you; for it is the dumb animals and fish that are deceived by tempting hopes.

6). His point against the doctors, rather, is that pain and disease can serve as the occasion for clear-sighted vision of the human lot and, therefore, as the occasion to reckon with our natural end. ” He continues: “Even when you have been restored to health, the same end awaits you; when you have convalesced, it will not be death that you have escaped— only ill-health” (Ep. 6). The fear and worry brought on by pain and disease are thus not, in Seneca’s view, finally about these phenomena themselves but about our natural end in the grave.

5–8). But contemplation and practice such as this, thinks Seneca, should be clearly distinguished from fearing the future. Indeed, the purpose of learning the texture of poverty and of calling to mind “the very greatest injustice that can possibly happen” is to eliminate fear of coming hardships precisely as a way to live in the present (Ep. 8). Focusing on the present also naturally requires a specific stance toward the past: we are to let the past be past. The reason is obvious: remembering Fortuna’s past work can inspire dread and fear.

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The Roman Legionary by Peter Connolly

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