L. Annaeus Seneca: On Benefits


Book cover

After reading Seneca’s excellent “On the Shortness of Life,” I immediately went looking for other things by Seneca that I could read. This was the only one that came up on Project Gutenberg; a little bit surprising given that I’m sure there must be fairly old English translations of some of his other works.

Anyway, I can’t say that I got as much out of this as I did from the other book. Although it is also nominally a letter to a friend, it doesn’t have the same warm tone as the other essays, but rather comes across as a more standard systematic treatment of a subject. I was hoping, going into it, that I might learn something from Seneca on the topic of giving and receiving gifts, which is an area where I’ve had some challenges with family members who think about things differently from me. However, the social context that Seneca is writing about is so different that I didn’t find a lot that seemed relevant. Seneca is writing about “benefits” in the sense of something more like political favors–the benefits that a “benefactor” might bestow. I suppose gift-giving among friends and family, to the extent that it existed at all in Imperial Rome, would have been very different from today’s context anyway.

At any rate, I am not deterred, and still looking out for other works of Seneca’s to read.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars