Seneca the Younger on Education and Slavery in the Ancient Roman Empire: Equal Access to Philosophy Regardless of Genealogical Background Open Access

Reed-Guevara, Camila (Spring 2019)

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Seneca the Younger (4 BCE-CE 65) was a Roman statesman and a stoic philosopher. He worked in multiple genres that ranged from treatise to tragedy, and he wrote on themes as diverse as political duties and preparation for one’s death. This thesis will focus on his philosophical beliefs about education and slavery. Seneca conceived of education as a pursuit that is, by divine right, accessible to all people. Seneca not only condemned and mocked the system of slavery, but he argued that slaves should have access to philosophical training. In his mind, education is something that should be accessible to all people: “If there is any good in philosophy, it is this, that it has no regard for genealogies.” This project investigates the intersection between education and slavery as it pertains to Seneca’s stoic philosophy. My project asks what does it mean, philosophically speaking, that all people should be educated, including slaves, who by definition did not own themselves? I believe that Seneca was envisioning some state of universal humanity: that all people from all places on earth possess their own consciousness and are thus equal under the gods. This thesis will explicate specific key passages from Seneca’s Letters on Ethics to Lucilius, De Beneficiis, and De Ira which demonstrate this universal humanity, and it will prove how Seneca’s work continues to be relevant today in our quest for equality.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction: The Stoic Philosopher 1-13

II. Chapter 1: Seneca’s Virtue Based Education 14-42

III. Chapter 2: Slavery as an Unnatural Institution 43-72

IV. Conclusion and Further Work 73-75

V. Bibliography 76-79

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