Greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca


Product Details

Publish Date
6.46 X 9.45 X 0.94 inches | 1.12 pounds

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About the Author

Emily Wilson is Associate Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.


"Wilson offers a carefully balanced narrative of Seneca's life that is derived, as it must be, from partial and often contradictory sources" --Christian Century

"This is a riveting and complete picture of Seneca's complex and compromised life. It is impeccably researched, carefully structured, and written with admirable brio. For good or ill, ours is a Senecan age." --Simon Critchley, The New School for Social Research

"A fresh, perceptive, and in-depth look at the enigmatic Seneca, giving us a nuanced perspective into the conflicted mind and motives of the philosopher who embraced lofty Stoic ideals while serving Nero and amassing great wealth in the process. I honestly could not put it down, it is so insightful and well written and yes-suspenseful, even though we know the ending." --Margaret George, author of Elizabeth I: The Novel and Helen of Troy: A Novel

"Unique as a scholarly book-length treatment of Seneca, this biography should appeal to anyone intrigued by the paradox of struggling to achieve wealth and power-and peace of mind." - Library Journal

"One way to sort out the contradictions of Seneca's life is not even to try. The art critic Robert Hughes labelled Seneca 'a hypocrite almost without equal in the ancient world', and left it at that. Romm and Wilson--and the new wave of Seneca scholars more generally--resist such reductive judgments. It is possible, in their view, to see Seneca as a hypocrite and as a force of moral restraint." --The New Yorker

"Seneca lived in a world where dissimulation was a way of life, and the confusion between reality and failure woven into the very fabric of the state. It is the mirror he holds up to it which makes him such a great and unsettling writer, and which Wilson's fine biography does so much to explicate." --The Telegraph

"Since Miriam Griffin's Seneca: A Philosopher in Politics (1976), historians have wondered how Seneca could reconcile being a millionaire courtier and Nero's's adviser with his Stoic principles. For Wilson, the more interesting question is why he preached what he did, when he knew his integrity was so compromised. " --The Guardian

"Wilson finds Seneca's life and work relevant to modern-day western culture, troubled by the psychological pressures that go with material wealth and by the problems attendant on consumerism and globalisation. By quoting in translation and explaining Roman practices she helps the general reader enjoy her well-written and imaginative book." --History Today

"Morally our author is tough on Seneca, contrasting, for example, his lickspittle approach to Nero with Boudicca's resistance. But she is a persuasive extoller of his writing and the final chapter about his diverse legacy is breathtaking." --The Spectator

"...the most famous and poignant example of a philosopher trying and spectacularly failing to improve a ruler, is that of the Roman Stoic Seneca, whose life is wonderfully retold here by the classicist Emily Wilson." --The Sunday Times