(Lucius Annaeus Seneca)



Seneca is known both as a Stoic philosopher, and as a minister of Nero. He came from a wealthy family and earned a good reputation as an orator and writer. He was a minister in the court of Claudius, but went into exile for seven years due to a scandal involving a daughter of Germanicus. During his exile in Sardinia he wrote letters and plays and tried to mend his relations with the imperial family. After seven years, Agrippina, by now married to Claudius, recalled Seneca to be tutor for her son Nero. Five years later, upon the death of Claudius, Nero assumed the imperial throne and Seneca become one of Nero's chief ministers, along with Burrhus, the praetorian prefect. As Nero was only 17 at the time he ascended to power, Seneca's influence was great, and on the whole, beneficial.

In time however, Nero came under the influence of other, less wholesome characters, most notably Poppaea, who encouraged Nero to murder his wife, and his mother. The influence of Seneca lessened with the rise of some of Nero's other favorites, and when his close associate Burrhus was put to death in 62 A.D., Seneca retired entirely from court. When a conspiracy to assassinate Nero was uncovered three years later, Seneca was forced to commit suicide, although there was no particular evidence against him. Many of Seneca's writings are still extant.

Key events during the life of Seneca:

Exiled by Claudius.
  Wrote plays and letters while in exile.
Recalled by Agrippina to become tutor of Nero.
Death of Claudius, Nero assumes imperial Throne.
  With Burrhus, Praetorian Prefect, administered government under Nero.
Murder of Agrippina; Seneca's position at court becomes precarious.
Retired from Court after Burrhus put to death.
Accused of involvement in conspiracy. Forced to commit suicide.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Nero as Emperor  in  Nero  by  Jacob Abbott
Fate of the Conspirators  in  Nero  by  Jacob Abbott
Death of a Philosopher in  The Burning of Rome  by  Alfred J. Church
Last Hours of a Philosopher  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church

Short Biography
Nero Fifth emperor. Murdered mother, wife, and brother. Fiddled while Rome burned.
Claudius Fourth emperor. Manipulated by wicked wives, Messalina and Agrippina.
Burrhus Praetorian prefect. With Seneca administered government under Nero.
Agrippina the Younger Mother of Nero. Murdered Claudius to make way for his rise to the throne.
Poppaea Wicked mistress of Nero. Urged him to kill his mother and first wife.