150 Seneca Quotes (that May Help You Reevaluate Life)
Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – AD 65), fully Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and — in one work — humorist of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was born in Cordoba in Hispania, and raised in Rome, where he was trained in rhetoric and philosophy. He was a tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. He was forced to take his own life for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, in which he was likely to have been innocent. As a writer Seneca is known for his philosophical works, and for his plays which are all tragedies. His philosophical writings include a dozen philosophical essays, and one hundred and twenty-four letters dealing with moral issues. As a tragedian, he is best-known for his Medea and Thyestes.
Seneca’s texts have many aims: he writes to exhort readers to philosophy, to encourage them to continue study, to articulate his philosophical position, to defend Stoicism against opponents, to portray a philosophical life, and much more. Seneca also writes to criticize the social practices and values of his fellow Romans. He rejects and criticizes, among other things, the idea that death is an evil, that wealth is a good, that political power is valuable, that anger is justified. In Seneca’s philosophical texts, one finds a Stoic who attempts to live in accordance with the conclusions he reaches through philosophy. Though Seneca admits to falling short of this goal personally, his efforts have long been one of the attractions (though some have found these to be distractions) of his philosophical works.
Short Seneca Quotes
- Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.
- All cruelty springs from weakness.
- We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.
- Ignorance is the cause of fear.
- Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.
- He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.
- Associate with people who are likely to improve you.
- Life is long, if you know how to use it.
- Hurry up and live.
- Cease to hope and you will cease to fear.
- Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.
- We learn not in the school, but in life.
- If you wish to be loved; Love!
- Brave men rejoice in adversity, just as brave soldiers triumph in war.
- There is no genius without a touch of madness.
- Wealth is the slave of a wise man and the master of a fool.
- He who spares the wicked injures the good.
- It is quality rather than quantity that matters.
- Only time can heal what reason cannot.
- What fortune has made yours is not your own.
- No man was ever wise by chance.
- While we are postponing, life speeds by.
- A happy life is one which is in accordance with its own nature.
- Life, if well lived, is long enough.
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Inspiring Seneca Quotes
- Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
- Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.
- It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.
- Let us say what we feel, and feel what we say; let speech harmonize with life.
- Hang on to your youthful enthusiasms ― you’ll be able to use them better when you’re older.
- If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.
- If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.
- Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.
- He who is brave is free.
- Let us train our minds to desire what the situation demands.
- One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
- It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness.
- Remember that pain has this most excellent quality. If prolonged it cannot be severe, and if severe it cannot be prolonged.
- To wish to be well is a part of becoming well.
- I am not born for one corner; the whole world is my native land.
- Regard a friend as loyal, and you will make him loyal.
- It is more civilized to make fun of life than to bewail it.
- Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.
- In the meantime, cling tooth and nail to the following rule: not to give in to adversity, not to trust prosperity, and always take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases.
- Whatever can happen at any time can happen today.
- Of this one thing make sure against your dying day – that your faults die before you do.
- You should live in such a way that there is nothing which you could not as easily tell your enemy as keep to yourself.
- It is of course better to know useless things than to know nothing.
- Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.
- He who has injured thee was either stronger or weaker than thee. If weaker, spare him; if stronger, spare thyself.
- Philosophy calls for simple living, not for doing penance, and the simple way of life need not be a crude one.
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- Withdraw into yourself, as far as you can. Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve. The process is mutual; for men learn while they teach.
- It is a great thing to know the season for speech and the season for silence.
- Each day acquire something that will fortify you against poverty, against death, indeed against other misfortunes as well; and after you have run over many thoughts, select one to be thoroughly digested that day.
- The difficulty comes from our lack of confidence.
- Nothing deters a good man from doing what is honorable.
- We must go for walks out of doors, so that the mind can be strengthened and invigorated by a clear sky and plenty of fresh air. At times it will acquire fresh energy from a journey by carriage and a change of scene, or from socializing and drinking freely. Occasionally we should even come to the point of intoxication, sinking into drink but not being totally flooded by it; for it does wash away cares, and stirs the mind to its depths, and heals sorrow just as it heals certain diseases.
Cynical quotes by Seneca
- While we wait for life, life passes.
- Death is the wish of some, the relief of many, and the end of all.
- The mind that is anxious about future events is miserable.
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- What need is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears.
- To be always fortunate, and to pass through life with a soul that has never known sorrow, is to be ignorant of one half of nature.
- Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.
- We are mad, not only individually but nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders, but what of war and the much-vaunted crime of slaughtering whole peoples?
- Everyone prefers belief to the exercise of judgement.
- The sun also shines on the wicked.
- Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.
- The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.
- Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness.
- What really ruins our character is the fact that none of us looks back over his life.
- Fidelity purchased with money, money can destroy.
- Men do not care how nobly they live, but only for how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man’s power to live long.
- Leisure without books is death, and burial of a man alive.
- The abundance of books is distraction.
- Courage leads to heaven; fear leads to death.
- Economy is too late when you are at the bottom of your purse.
- The final hour when we cease to exist does not itself bring death; it merely of itself completes the death-process. We reach death at that moment, but we have been a long time on the way.
- For greed all nature is too little.
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Insightful quotes by Seneca
- Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.
- You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire
- He that does good to another does good also to himself.
- Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.
- It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.
- There are more things to alarm us than to harm us, and we suffer more often in apprehension than reality.
- Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant.
- If you live in harmony with nature you will never be poor; if you live according what others think, you will never be rich.
- A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer.
- It is difficult to bring people to goodness with lessons, but it is easy to do so by example.
- Often a very old man has no other proof of his long life than his age.
- We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality
- It does not matter how many books you have, but how good are the books which you have.
- When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends.
- Light griefs are loquacious, but the great are dumb.
- If we could be satisfied with anything, we should have been satisfied long ago.
- For many men, the acquisition of wealth does not end their troubles, it only changes them.
- There is no enjoying the possession of anything valuable unless one has someone to share it with.
- Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today.
- You ask what is the proper limit to a person’s wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.
- Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.
- No man can be sane who searches for what will injure him in place of what is best.
- Everybody agrees that no one pursuit can be successfully followed by a man who is preoccupied with many things, since the mind, when distracted, takes in nothing very deeply, but rejects everything that is, as it were, crammed into it. There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living: there is nothing that is harder to learn.
Unexpected quotes by Seneca
- To be everywhere is to be nowhere.
- No man is crushed by misfortune unless he has first been deceived by prosperity.
- We cease to be so angry once we cease to be so hopeful.
- It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.
Photo by Joshua Earle
- A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.
- No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.
- It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and ― what will perhaps make you wonder more ― it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.
- The less we deserve good fortune, the more we hope for it.
- To expect punishment is to suffer it; and to earn it is to expect it.
- I shall never be ashamed of citing a bad author if the line is good.
- To err is human, but to persist in the mistake is diabolical.
- A punishment to some, to some a gift, and to many a favor.
- Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember.
- The greatest remedy for anger is delay.
- As long as you live, keep learning how to live.
- The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.
- There is no person so severely punished, as those who subject themselves to the whip of their own remorse.
Intellectual Seneca Quotes
- People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.
- The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what is in Fortune’s control and abandoning what lies in yours.
- Nothing is burdensome if taken lightly, and nothing need arouse one’s irritation so long as one doesn’t make it bigger than it is by getting irritated.
- The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. A single lifetime, even though entirely devoted to the sky, would not be enough for the investigation of so vast a subject. This knowledge will be unfolded only through long successive ages. There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them… Many discoveries are reserved for ages still to come, when memory of us will have been effaced.
- It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not Ill-supplied but wasteful of it.
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- The body’s needs are few: it wants to be free from cold, to banish hunger and thirst with nourishment; if we long for anything more we are exerting ourselves to serve our vices, not our needs.
- Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only those are really alive. For they not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs.
- You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.
- A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.
- Men whose spirit has grown arrogant from the great favor of fortune have this most serious fault — those whom they have injured they also hate.
Poetic quotes by Seneca
- One hand washes the other.
- There is no easy way from the earth to the stars.
- As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.
- Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
- Those whom true love has held, it will go on holding.
- What is harder than rock? What is softer than water? Yet hard rocks are hollowed out by soft water.
- The willing, Destiny guides them. The unwilling, Destiny drags them.
- Fire tests gold, suffering tests brave men.
- They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.
- An age builds up cities: an hour destroys them. In a moment the ashes are made, but a forest is a long time growing.
- We should every night call ourselves to an account; What infirmity have I mastered today? What passions opposed? What temptation resisted? What virtue acquired? Our vices will abort of themselves if they be brought every day to the shrift.
- Gold tests with fire, woman with gold, man with woman.
- We are members of one great body, planted by nature. We must consider that we were born for the good of the whole.
- The great blessing of mankind are within us and within our reach; but we shut our eyes, and like people in the dark, we fall foul upon the very thing we search for, without finding it.
- I will storm the gods, and shake the universe.
- To win true freedom you must be a slave to philosophy.
- Conversation has a kind of charm about it, an insinuating and insidious something that elicits secrets just like love or liquor.
- A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.
- So you must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.
- Wild animals run from the dangers they actually see, and once they have escaped them worry no more. We however are tormented alike by what is past and what is to come. A number of our blessings do us harm, for memory brings back the agony of fear while foresight brings it on prematurely. No one confines his unhappiness to the present.
- How many are quite unworthy to see the light, and yet the day dawns.
- Love in its essence is spiritual fire.
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