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Seneca’s Letters

LATIN 557 (Not currently offered)

Seneca’s Letters
(Not currently offered)

  • Course ID:LATIN 557
  • Semesters:1
  • Department:Classics
  • Course Rank:Honors
  • Teachers:Tom Cox

Description and Objectives

This class explores the advice, themes, and philosophy of Seneca’s Letters to Lucilius. While we will examine them in their historical context, we will also appreciate their timeless moral truths and apply them to our lives. Another benefit of this class will be a workout in prose style, one significantly different but no less respected than Cicero’s prose style.


The textbook will be provided by the teacher. If you’d like to purchase a copy to keep at home, the information will be listed below.


Course Requirements

Learning a language, particularly to a literary level of fluency which an author like Seneca requires, requires building a habit of reading, writing, thinking, and speaking in Latin as often and as clearly as possible. To that end, my assignments are structured around three elements:

  • Memory Work – We will memorize prayers, psalms, and pithy quotes from Seneca in this class. Anything we memorize will be reviewed orally nearly daily, quizzed every few weeks, and show up on the exam at the end of the semester.
  • Composition – As stated above, it will be pointless to explore Seneca in his own words and not attempt to imitate and learn from his control of Latin prose. As such, students can expect not only to prepare translations or understand a given letter, but also to imitate a sentence or paragraph to to improve their diction, word order, and idiom in Latin.
  • Translation – A helpful skill in improving your English while also helping your Latin, we will ask for translations anytime we are not directly engaging with Seneca in Latin. Most quizzes will involve either translation or linguistic interaction.

Successful Students

Successful students will return to Seneca’s words often and ask questions of the text in order to understand deeper. These questions can be grammatical: Why does he say it this way? How could I say it differently? but they can and should also be philosophical: What are his premises? Do I agree with this conclusion? Could I provide a better example or illustration for this concept?

Being in constant conversation with the author for the entire semester, for at least 15 minutes every evening, will increase your facility with Latin, but also pay the dividends of wisdom and discipline in your own life.