Seneca on Excess

April 30, 2009

Building on yesterday’s post about Stoicism and the virtues of limitation, here’s a wonderful little bit from Seneca’s Medea that tickled me thinkin’ bone this morning. 

Now anyone who lives
high in excessive affluence, wallows
in constant streams of luxury, always
hungers and hunts for the unusual.
Then lust, ever the bad companion
of great success, slips in. Banquets become
routine and boring; so does ordinary
wine, buildings of reasonable size.

Why does this menace slip less frequently
into the poor man’s house, choosing instead
discriminating homes? And why is sex
held so scrupulously sacrosanct
in small houses, why do the middle ranks
among us keep emotions within healthy
bounds? Do modest means make moderate lives?
The rich, in contrast, levered up by power
seem to be hunting more than is decent
and right. Give someone too much power, and he
wants to control what lies beyond his power.
You see and know what is decent conduct
for a woman who occupies a throne.
Fear your husbands authority, for he
is king. Respect it.

He is coming home.

(disclaimer: no endorsement of roman patriarchy, implicit or otherwise, intended)
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2 Responses to “Seneca on Excess”

  1. […] has a great article about friendship, happiness and other people that starts with this nugget about my current favorite: In A.D. 64 the Stoic philosopher Seneca pondered friendship. The Stoics’ intellectual […]

  2. […] only for myself, my commitment to Christianity is somewhat limited, and I’m actually rather fond of Roman thinking, so the charge carries a bit less weight than it might for Christians arguing […]

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