Seneca Notes

Lessons from Seneca, from ‘Thyestes

Some notes I’ve learned from Seneca’s play: ‘Thyestes‘:


We are like tantalus— forever thirsty for water. Enough food, but not enough water.


The slippery stone of Sisyphus to be borne upon my shoulders — keep having to push the slippery stone uphill.

We drink but dust

‘drink but dust’

What makes a king?

‘a king is he who has laid fear aside and the base longings of an evil heart; whom ambition unrestrained and the fickle favor of the reckless mob move not.’

A king: no more ambition, or care about what the ‘reckless mob’ thinks.

‘neither all the mined treasures of the west nor the golden sands which tagus sweeps along in his shining bed, nor all the grain trod out on burning libya’s threshing-floors; whom no hurtling path of the slanting thunderbolt will shake.

Not all the treasures, gold, or money in the world, or all the food in the world will make one rich, or a king.

live safely without fear; don’t fear:

‘a king is he who has no fear; a king is he who shall naught desire. such kingdom on himself each man bestows’

anyone with power stands on a slippery slope or height. better to live with ‘sweet repose’ in a humble station, fixed, and living with untroubled ease.

let myself be unknown to my fellow citizens. let my life stream flow in silence.

let him stand who will; in pride of power; on empires slippery height; let me be filled with sweet repose; in humble station fixed; let me enjoy untroubled ease; and to my fellow citizens unknown; let my life stream flow in silence .

let my life proceed noiselessly, and die in a low position:

‘so when my days have passed noiselessly away; lowly may i die and full of years.’

hidden power

when i stood high in power; never did i fear the very sword upon my thigh

the sword is always on our thigh.

carefree living

how good it is to stand in no mans road; care free to eat ones bread

if we have expensive things, we will fear being robbed. better to live with plain things. think of all the rappers who are afraid of being robbed:

‘crime enters not in lowly homes; and in safety is food taken on a slender board; poison is drunk from cups of gold.’

poison is drunk from cups of gold

‘Poison is drunk from cups of gold.’

don’t need to live with weapons in home. small estate allows great peace.

i am not feared; safe without weapons in my house and to my small estate great peace is granted. tis a boundless kingdom; the power without kingsdoms to content

share my kingdom with others

with glad heart, share my kingdom with others

bestow power unto others, act of virtue:

mine its he greater glory; to restore . having power is the work of chance; bestowing power, the work of virtue.

share my throne with others:

‘our throne has room for two’

everything i own also belongs to others:

‘i count, my brother, all of thine as mine.’

wealth is anxiety

‘he with anxious hand holds the scepter’

all mortal things and possessions are mortal:

‘god keeps all mortal things in swift whirl turning.’

how to live life with peace:

put away anxiety

O heart; dulled with long miseries; now put aside anxious cars

no more bitter want in life:

away with grief; away with terror; away with bitter want

only desire plain:

it is a great thing to set foot firmly on the plain // on the plain things.

it is a great thing to set your foot upon plain living.


blessings are poured into my bosom; but i can’t receive it— like a jar with holes.

you can’t appreciate blessings if you don’t count them.