Sonntag, 24.06.2018 11:09 Uhr

Lucius Anneus Seneca the Elder's Histories

Verantwortlicher Autor: Carlo Marino Rome, 21.05.2018, 16:34 Uhr
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Rome [ENA] The 'Historiae ab initio bellorum civilium' (Histories from the start of the civil wars) by Lucius Anneus Seneca the Elder,father of the Roman Philosopher Seneca the Younger, have been found by Valeria Piano, a papyrologist and researcher at the University of Florence, who recognized it in the text of Papyrus Herculanensis, or P. Herc. 1067, one of the most famous scrolls of Herculaneum preserved in the Workshop

of the Papyri (Officina dei Papiri) by the National Library of Naples.The scrolls had been recovered in Herculaneum in 1752-54 and were preserved in the National Library of Naples. This is the precious find n. 1067 and it is the only known historical work of the Roman writer and historian, called 'il Retore'. It’s an important discovery that shows how the 'Historiae ab initio bellorum civilium' by Lucio Anneo Seneca have not been lost. So far there has been no direct mention of the manuscript tradition of the Historiae ab initio bellorum civum by Seneca the Elder. Seneca the Elder, though born in Corduba, lived much of his life in Rome. He was a prosperous businessperson as well as an author of textbooks concerning rhetoric and oratory.

Two of his books have survived, though in incomplete or abridged form. One, Controversiae (first century BC. English translation, 1900), is a collection of exercises for use in classroom debates about legal issues. The other one, Suasoriae (first century b.c.e. or first century c.e.; Declamations, 1974), provides topics for students who are practicing speeches envisioned to convince listeners to support a proposed action. The researcher took one year to reassemble the fragments, all classified with the same inventory number and therefore coming from the same scroll.

The studies carried out on the 16 pieces, on their content and on the chronological calculations, led to the reliable attribution of the work by Seneca the Elder, who relates the first decades of the principality of Augustus and Tiberius (27a.C.-37d.C .). The recognition was welcomed also by other scholars and palaeographers. Papyrus Herculanensis 1067 is branded as Oratio in Senatu habita ante principem and so far it was believed to be composed and said by Lucio Manlio Torquato in the Senate at the presence of the emperor. The ascription to Seneca the Elder of a work so far considered lost, confirms how much the Villa dei Pisoni with its library, in Herculaneum, was a vital center of studies until shortly before the eruption of Vesuvius.

Seneca the Elder had three sons, all of whom held positions in government.The eldest, L. J. Gallio Annaeanus, was proconsul of Achaea (Greece) in 52 AD., where he heard the charges against Saint Paul mentioned in Acts 18:12. The middle son was Lucius Annaeus Seneca (known as Seneca the Younger),the statesman, philosopher, and playwright. The youngest, Mela, was an imperial procurator and the father of the epic poet Lucan. All three sons committed suicide in 65-66 AD.Though Seneca the Elder (c. 50 BCE–c. 40 AD) as a person is almost unknown to us, his existing work, the Oratorum et rhetorum sententiae divisiones colores (excerpts of the two kinds of declamation, controversiae and suasoriae), is exceptionally rich in information on imperial

declamation and about the literary culture of that period in general. While his historiographical work, the Historiae, has survived in Herculaneum and need further study, his declamation extracts record not only the declamation as such; they also offer an insight into the whole method of declamation and the declamation schools. This insight is enormously significant for the history of declamation because it is the first one we got, notwithstanding the fact that declamation itself is a phenomenon that initiated in Greece and has a centuries-long tradition. It is important also for the history of rhetoric and for Roman education and culture in general because declamation formed an integral part of the curriculum of higher education.

What it’s possible to read today is the sum of both of the traditions: the controversiae books 1, 2, 7, 9, and 10 and one book of suasoriae in the form that Seneca the Elder gave to them (the books of controversiae moreover exist in the form of the excerpts made in Late Antiquity). The controversiae books 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 have survived only in the shortened form that they received in Late Antiquity. Lastly, it’s possible to read the prefaces to books 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, and 10 of the controversiae.

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