SENECA, Lucius Annaeus Quotes
(4 B. C.-65 A. D.), Roman stoic philosopher
A dwarf is small, even if he stands on a mountain; a colossus keeps his height, even if he stands in a well.
The stomach begs and clamors, and listens to no precepts. And yet it is not an obdurate creditor; for it is dismissed with small payment if you give it only what you owe, and not as much as you can.
There are none more abusive to others than they that lie most open to it themselves; but the humor goes round, and he that laughs at me today will have somebody to laugh at him tomorrow.
The good things of prosperity are to be wished; but the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired.
Nothing is more disgraceful than that an old man should have nothing to show to prove that he has lived long, except his years.
It is the constant fault and inseparable evil quality of ambition, that it never looks behind it.
The origin of all mankind was the same: it is only a clear and a good conscience that makes a man noble, for that is derived from heaven itself.
The greatest remedy for anger is delay.
Nothing is so wretched or foolish as to anticipate misfortunes.—What madness is it to be expecting evil before it comes.
There are no greater wretches in the world than many of those whom people in general take to be happy.
A well-governed appetite is a great part of liberty.
We are but stewards of what we falsely call our own; yet avarice is so insatiable that it is not in the power of abundance to content it.
Levity of behavior is the bane of all that is good and virtuous.
We should give as we would receive; cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers.
It is another's fault if he be ungrateful; but it is mine if I do not give. To find one thankful man, I will oblige a great many that are not so.—I had rather never receive a kindness than never bestow one.—Not to return a benefit is a great sin; but not to confer one is a greater.
I truly enjoy no more of the world's good things than what I willingly distribute to the needy.
The best way to do good to ourselves, is to do it to others; the right way to gather, is to scatter.
No book can be so good as to be profitable when negligently read.
However degraded or wretched a fellow mortal may be, he is still a member of our common species.
We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation, for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers.
No evil is without its compensation.—The less money, the less trouble.—The less favor, the less envy.—Even in those cases which put us out of wits, it is not the loss itself, but the estimate of the loss that troubles us.
I will govern my life and my thoughts as if the whole world were to see the one and read the other.—For what does it signify to make anything a secret to my neighbor, when to God, who is the searcher of our hearts, all our privacies are open.
Why does no man confess his vices?— because he is yet in them.—It is for a waking man to tell his dream.
A good conscience fears no witness, but a guilty conscience is solicitous even in solitude.—If we do nothing but what is honest, let all the world know it.— But if otherwise, what does it signify to have nobody else know it, so long as I know it myself?—Miserable is he who slights that witness.
Consult your friend on all things, especially on those which respect yourself.—His counsel may then be useful where your own self-love might impair your judgment.
All cruelty springs from hard-heartedness and weakness.
As the soil, however rich it may be, cannot be productive without culture, so the mind, without cultivation, can never produce good fruit.
As the world leads, we follow.
There is none so great but he may both need the help and service, and stand in fear of the power and unkindness, even of the meanest of mortals.
We are all sinful; and whatever one of us blames in another each one will find in his own heart.
Nothing comes to pass but what God appoints.—Our fate is decreed, and things do not happen by chance, but every man's portion of joy or sorrow is predetermined.
Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.
Drunkenness is nothing else but a voluntary madness.
Economy is in itself a source of great revenue.
There is nothing in the world so much admired as a man who knows how to bear unhappiness with courage.
It is safer to affront some people than to oblige them: for the better a man deserves the worse they will speak of him; as if the possessing of open hatred to their benefactors were an argument that they lie under no obligation.
Not to return one good office for another is inhuman; but to return evil for good is diabolical. There are too many even of this sort, who, the more they owe, the more they hate.
Men trust rather to their eyes than to their ears.—The effect of precepts is, therefore, slow and tedious, while that of examples is summary and effectual.
Noble examples stir us up to noble actions, and the very history of large and public souls inspires a man with generous thoughts.
A world of mischief may be done by a single example of avarice or luxury.—One voluptuous palate makes many more.
Eyes will not see when the heart wishes them to be blind.—Desire conceals truth, as darkness does the earth.
Let us satisfy our own consciences, and trouble not ourselves by looking for fame. If we deserve it, we shall attain it: if we deserve it not we cannot force it. The praise bad actions obtain dies soon away; if good deeds are at first unworthily received, they are afterward more properly appreciated.
What must be shall be; and that which is a necessity to him that struggles, is little more than choice to him that is willing.
It goes far toward making a man faithful to let him understand that you think him so; and he that does but suspect I will deceive him, gives me a sort of right to do it.
It is only the surprise and newness of the thing which makes terrible that misfortune, which by premeditation might be made easy to us; for what some people make light by sufferance, others do by foresight.
We are sure to get the better of fortune if we do but grapple with her.
With parsimony a little is sufficient; without it nothing is sufficient; but frugality makes a poor man rich.
That which is given with pride and ostentation is rather an ambition than a bounty.
We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers.
The pleasures of the palate deal with us like the Egyptian thieves, who strangle those whom they embrace.
Let a man be never so ungrateful or inhuman, he shall never destroy the satisfaction of my having done a good office.
He that does good to another, does also good to himself; not only in the consequence, but in the very act of doing it; for the consciousness of welldoing is an ample reward.
A good man is influenced by God himself, and has a kind of divinity within him; so it may be a question whether he goes to heaven, or heaven comes to him.
Power exercised with violence has seldom been of long duration, but temper and moderation generally produce permanence in all things.
If I only have the will to be grateful, I am so.
He that urges gratitude pleads the cause both of God and men, for without it we can neither be sociable nor religious.
There is as much greatness of mind in acknowledging a good turn, as in doing it.
We can be thankful to a friend for a few acres or a little money; and yet for the freedom and command of the whole earth, and for the great benefits of our being, our life, health, and reason, we look upon ourselves as under no obligation.
Epicurus says, "gratitude is a virtue that has commonly profit annexed to it." And where is the virtue that has not? But still the virtue is to be valued for itself, and not for the profit that attends it.
It is another's fault if he be ungrateful, but it is mine if I do not give.—To find one thankful man, I will oblige a great many that are not so.
A great, a good, and a right mind is a kind of divinity lodged in flesh, and may be the blessing of a slave as well as of a prince: it came from heaven, and to heaven it must return; and it is a kind of heavenly felicity, which a pure and virtuous mind enjoys, in some degree, even upon earth.
He who is great when he fails is great in his prostration, and is no more an object of contempt than when men tread on the ruins of sacred buildings, which lien of piety venerate no less than if they stood.
Great is he who enjoys his earthenware as if it were plate, and not less great is the man to whom all his plate is no more than earthenware.
Light griefs are plaintive, but great ones are dumb.
Let wickedness escape, as it may at the bar, it never fails of doing justice upon itself; for every guilty person is his own hangman.
The true felicity of life is to be free from anxieties and perturbations; to understand and do our duties to God and man, and to enjoy the present without any serious dependence on the future.
Haste trips its own heels, and fetters and stops itself.
Take away ambition and vanity, and where will be your heroes and patriots?
The mind unlearns with difficulty what has long been impressed on it.
We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end of them.
We can be thankful to a friend for a few acres, or a little money; and yet for the freedom and command of the whole earth, and for the great benefits of our being, our life, health, and reason, we look upon ourselves as under no obligation.
Not to return one good office for another is inhuman; but to return evil for good is diabolical.
There never was any man so wicked as not to approve of gratitude and to detest ingratitude, as the two things in the whole world, the one to be the most esteemed, and the other the most abominated.
What madness is it for a man to starve himself to enrich his heir, and so turn a friend into an enemy!—For his joy at your death will be proportioned to what you leave him.
He who has injured thee was either stronger or weaker than thee.—If breaker, spare him; if stronger, spare thyself.
It is a shameful and unseemly thing to think one thing and speak another, but how odious to write one thing and think another.
I had rather never receive a kindness, than never bestow one.—Not to return a benefit is the greater sin, but not to confer it, is the earlier.
Shun no toil to make yourself remarkable by some talent or other. Yet do not devote yourself to one branch exclusively. Strive to get clear notions about all. Give up to no science entirely, for science is but one.
It is by the benefit of letters that absent friends are, in a manner, brought together.
Levity of behavior is the bane of all that is good and virtuous.
It is foolish to strive with what we cannot avoid; we are born subjects, and to obey God is perfect liberty; he that does this, shall be free, safe, and quiet; all his actions shall succeed to his wishes.
A large library is apt to distract rather than to instruct the learner; it is much better to be confined to a few authors than to wander at random over many.
I would so live as if I knew that I received my being only for the benefit of others.
It is the bounty of nature that we live, but of philosophy that we live well; which is, in truth, a greater benefit than life itself.
No man enjoys the true taste of life, but he who is ready and willing to quit it.
I will govern my life and thoughts as if the whole world were to see the one and to read the other, for what does it signify to make anything a secret to my neighbor, when to God, who is the searcher of our hearts, all our privacies are open?
Malice drinks one half of its own poison.
The manner of saying or of doing anything goes a great way in the value of the thing itself. It was well said of him that called a good office, if done harshly and with an ill will, a stony piece of bread: "It is necessary for him that is hungry to receive it, but it almost chokes a man in the going down."
There is not any benefit so glorious in itself, but it may yet be exceedingly sweetened and improved by the manner of conferring it. The virtue rests in the intent; the profit in the judicious application of the matter; but the beauty and ornament of an obligation lies in the manner of it.
Men are but children, too, though they have gray hairs; they are only of a larger size.
God divided man into men, that they might help each other.
As the soil, however rich it may be, cannot be productive without culture, so the mind without cultivation can never produce good fruit.
To see a man fearless in dangers, untainted with lusts, happy in adversity, composed in a tumult, and laughing at all those things which are generally either coveted or feared, all men must acknowledge that this can be from nothing else but a beam of divinity that influences a mortal body.
A great, a good, and a right mind is a kind of divinity lodged in flesh, and may be the blessing of a slave, as well as of a prince.—It came from heaven, and to heaven it must return; and it is a kind of heavenly felicity which a pure and virtuous mind enjoys, in some degree, even on earth.
Human affairs are not so happily arranged that the best things please the most men.—It is the proof of a bad cause when it is applauded by the mob.
I will not be a slave to myself, for it is a perpetual, a shameful, and the most heavy of all servitudes; and this end I may gain by moderate desires.
Everything that exceeds the bounds of moderation, has an unstable foundation.
Modesty once extinguished knows not how to return.
Money does all things for reward.—Some are pious and honest as long as they thrive upon it, but if the devil himself gives better wages, they soon change their party.
It is not the incense, or the offering which is acceptable to God, but the purity and devotion of the worshiper.
The original of all men is the same, and virtue is the only nobility.
We are born subjects, and to obey God is perfect liberty. He that does this shall be free, safe, and happy.
It is safer to affront some people than to oblige them; for the better a man deserves, the worse they will speak of him; as if the professing of open hatred to their benefactors were an argument that they lie under no obligation to him.
In some there is a kind of graceless modesty that makes a man ashamed of requiting an obligation, because it is a confession that he has received one.
Provided we look to and satisfy our consciences, no matter for opinion; let me deserve well though I hear ill.
If we do not watch, we lose our opportunities; if we do not make haste, we are left behind; our best hours escape us, the worst are come. The purest part of our life tuns first, and leaves only the dregs at the bottom; and that time which is good for nothing else we dedicate to virtue, and only propose to begin to live at an age that very few people arrive at.
Power exercised with violence has seldom been of long duration, but temper and moderation generally produce permanence in all things.
Accustom yourself to that which you bear ill, and you will bear it well.
It is the bounty of nature that we live, but of philosophy, that we live well; which is, in truth, a greater benefit than life itself.
Philosophy alone makes the mind invincible, and places us out of the reach of fortune, so that all her arrows fall short of us.
Philosophy is the art and law of life, and it teaches us what to do in all cases, and, like good marksmen, to hit the white at any distance.
What if a body might have all the pleasures in the world for asking? Who would so unman himself as, by accepting them, to desert his soul, and become a perpetual slave to his senses?
Enjoy present pleasures in such a way as not to injure future ones.
Of this our ancestors complained, we ourselves do so and our posterity will equally lament because goodness has vanished and evil habits prevail while human affairs grow worse and worse sinking into an abyss of wickedness.
It is only luxury and avarice that make poverty grievous to us; for it is a very small matter that does our business ; and when we have provided against cold, hunger, and thirst, all the rest is but vanity and excess.
The first petition that we are to make to Almighty God is for a good conscience, the next for health of mind, and then of body.
He that lays down precepts for the government of our lives and moderating our passions, obliges human nature not only in the present but in all succeeding generations.
Precepts are the rules by which we ought to square our lives. When they are contracted into sentences, they strike the affections; whereas admonition is only blowing of the coal.
The good things which belong to prosperity may be wished; but the good things which belong to adversity are to be admired.
Greatness stands upon a precipice, and if prosperity carries a man ever so little beyond his poise, it overbears and dashes him to pieces.
We will not punish a man because he hath offended, but that he may offend no more; nor does punishment ever look to the past, but to the future; for it is not the result of passion, but that the same thing may be guarded against in time to come.
A thing is never too often repeated which is never sufficiently learned.
Wouldst thou subject all things to thyself?—Subject thyself to thy reason.
Every man has his chain and clog, only it is looser and lighter to one than to another; and he is more at ease who takes it up and carries it than he who drags it.
We are so vain as to set the highest value upon those things to which nature has assigned the lowest place. What can be more coarse and rude in the mine than the precious metals, or more slavish and dirty than the people that dig and work them? And yet they defile our minds more than our bodies, and make the possessor fouler than the artificer of them. Rich men, in fine, are only the greater slaves.
I will govern my life and my thoughts as if all the world were to see the one and to read the other; for what does it signify to make anything a secret to my neighbor, when to God all our privacies are open?
Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.
He that lays down precepts for governing our lives and moderating our passions, obliges humanity not only in the present, but for all future generations.
I will have a care of being a slave to myself, for it is a perpetual, a shameful, and the heaviest of all servitudes; and this may be done by uncontrolled desires.
We should every night call ourselves to an account: What infirmity have I mastered today? what passions opposed? what temptation resisted? what virtue acquired? Our vices will abate of themselves if they be brought every day to the shrift.
Other men's sins are before our eyes; our own are behind our back.
When thou hast profited so much that thou respectest thyself, thou mayest let go thy tutor.
If sensuality were happiness, beasts were happier than men; but human felicity is lodged in the soul, not in the flesh.
What if one might have all the pleasures of the world for the asking?—Who would so unman himself as by accepting them to desert his soul and become a perpetual slave to his senses?
Blush not now, said a distinguished Italian to his young relative whom he met coming out of a haunt of vice; the time to have blushed was when you went in.
Solitude and company may be allowed to take their turns: the one creates in us the love of mankind, the other that of ourselves; solitude relieves us when we are sick of company, and conversation when we are weary of being alone, so that the one cures the other. There is no man so miserable as he that is at a loss how to use his time.
The man who has learned to triumph over sorrow wears his miseries as though they were sacred fillets upon his brow, and nothing is so admirable as a man bravely wretched.
An excess of sorrow is as foolish as profuse laughter; while, on the other hand, not to mourn at all is insensibility.
Light griefs do speak, while sorrow's tongue is bound.
The mind is never right but when it is at peace within itself; the soul is in heaven even while it is in the flesh, if it be purged of its natural corruptions, and taken up with divine thoughts and contemplations.
If you devote your time to study, you will avoid all the irksomeness of this life, nor will you long for the approach of night, being tired of the day; nor will you be a burden to yourself, nor your society insupportable to others.
Shun no toil to make yourself remarkable by some one talent.—Yet do rot devote yourself to one branch exclusively.—Strive to get clear notions about all.—Give up no science entirely, for all science is one.
Religion worships God, while superstition profanes that worship.
The greatest loss of time is delay and expectation, which depend upon the future. We let go the present, which we have in our power, and look forward to that which depends upon chance,—and so relinguish a certainty for an uncertainty.
It is worthy of observation that the most imperious masters over their own servants are at the same time the most abject slaves to the servants of other masters.
All that lies between the cradle and the grave is uncertain.
That tumor of a man, the vain-glorious Alexander, used to make his boast that never any man went beyond him in benefits; and yet he lived to see a poor fellow in a tub, to whom there was nothing that he could give, and from whom there was nothing that he could take away.
Take away from mankind their vanity and their ambition, and there would be but few claiming to be heroes or patriots.
Why is there no man who confesses his vices? It is because he has not yet laid them aside. It is a waking man only who can tell his dreams.
Vices are contagious, and there is no trusting the well and sick together.
Happy the man who can endure the highest and the lowest fortune.—He who has endured such vicissitudes with equanimity has deprived misfortune of its power.
It is the edge and temper of the blade that make a good sword, not the richness of the scabbard; and so it is not money or possessions that make man considerable, but his virtue.
Virtue is that perfect good which is the complement of a happy life; the only immortal thing that belongs to mortality.
A great fortune is a great servitude.
The sure way to wickedness is always through wickedness.
No action will be considered blameless, unless the will was so, for by the will the act was dictated.
Wisdom allows nothing to be good that will not be so forever; no man to be happy but he that needs no other happiness than what he has within himself; no man to be great or powerful that is not master of himself.
Wisdom does not show itself so much in precept as in life—in firmness of mind and a mastery of appetite. It teaches us to do as well as to talk; and to make our words and actions all of a color.
Wisdom teaches us to do, as well as talk, and to make our words and actions all of a color.
If wisdom were conferred with this proviso, that I must keep it to myself and not communicate it to others, I would have none of it.