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Ryan Holiday (Founder/Brass Check)I'd never read any of Seneca's plays before, which was a big gaping hole in my knowledge. During his lifetime, Seneca was actually more famous for his tragedies than he was for his philosophy (there is a line from one of his plays entombed as graffiti at Pompeii). Anyway, I was enthralled by these dark, disturbing but ultimately stoic plays. My favorite line comes from Hercules: "I do not ask you to show the path; just to give permission, father, I shall find the way." And related to that, my friend Tim Ferriss has released an amazing audiobook edition of Seneca's Letters. You must check them out.
Seneca is a figure of first importance in both Roman politics and literature: a leading adviser to Nero who attempted to restrain the emperor's megalomania; a prolific moral philosopher; and the author of verse tragedies that strongly influenced Shakespeare and other Renaissance dramatists. This volume completes the Loeb Classical Library's new two-volume edition of Seneca's tragedies. John Fitch's annotated translation, which faces Latin text, conveys the force of Seneca's dramatic language and the lyric quality of his choral odes.
Seneca's plots are based on mythical episodes, in keeping with classical tradition. But the political realities of imperial Rome are also reflected here, in an obsessive concern with power and dominion over others. The "Octavia" is our sole surviving example of a Roman historical play; set at Nero's court, it was probably written by an admirer of Seneca as statesman and dramatist.