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Seneca the Younger

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Seneca: philosopher, playwright, tutor to Nero, one of the first great writers born in the new Roman empire after the fall of the Republic.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Seneca the Younger, who was one of the first great writers to live his entire life in the world of the new Roman empire, after the fall of the Republic. He was a Stoic philosopher, he wrote blood-soaked tragedies, he was an orator, and he navigated his way through the reigns of Caligula, Claudius and Nero, sometimes exercising power at the highest level and at others spending years in exile. Agrippina the Younger was the one who called for him to tutor Nero, and it is thought Seneca helped curb some of Nero's excesses. He was later revered within the Christian church, partly for what he did and partly for what he was said to have done in forged letters to St Paul. His tragedies, with their ghosts and high body count, influenced Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Hamlet, and Kyd's Spanish Tragedy. The image above is the so-called bust of Seneca, a detail from Four Philosophers by Peter Paul Rubens.


Mary Beard
Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge

Catharine Edwards
Professor of Classics and Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London


Alessandro Schiesaro
Professor of Classics at the University of Manchester

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

51 minutes

Last on

Thu 23 Feb 2017 21:30


Catharine Edwards at Birkbeck, University of London

Mary Beard at the University of Cambridge

Alessandro Schiesaro at the University of Manchester

Seneca the Younger - Wikipedia



Shadi Bartsch and Alessandro Schiesaro (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Seneca (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

John G. Fitch (ed.), Oxford Readings in Classical Studies: Seneca (Oxford University Press, 2008)

Miriam T. Griffin, Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics (Clarendon, 1976)

Miriam T. Griffin, Seneca on Society: A Guide to De Beneficiis (Oxford University Press, 2013)

John Henderson, Morals and Villas in Seneca’s Letters: Places to Dwell (Cambridge University Press, 2004)

Roland Mayer, Seneca: Phaedra (Bristol Classical Press, 2002)

James Romm, Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero (Random House, 2014)

Alessandro Schiesaro, The Passions in Play: Thyestes and the Dynamics of Senecan Drama (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

Seneca (eds. Elizabeth Asmis, Shadi Bartsch, and Martha C. Nussbaum), The Complete Works of Lucius Annaeus Seneca including Natural Questions; Letters on Ethics; On Benefits; Anger, Mercy, Revenge; Hardship and Happiness; The Complete Tragedies, Volumes 1 and 2 (University of Chicago Press, 2010-17)

Seneca (trans. Richard M. Gummere), Epistles 1-65 (Loeb Classical Library, 1989)

Seneca (trans. Emily Wilson), Six Tragedies (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Peter Stothard, The Senecans: Four Men and Margaret Thatcher (Overlook Press, 2016)

Gareth D. Williams, The Cosmic Viewpoint: A Study of Seneca’s Natural Questions (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Emily Wilson, Seneca: A Life (Allen Lane, 2015)



Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Catharine Edwards
Interviewed Guest Mary Beard
Interviewed Guest Alessandro Schiesaro
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 23 Feb 2017 09:00
  • Thu 23 Feb 2017 21:30

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