Seneca to Lucilius: 47, on slaves and human beings

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A Roman trireme carrying slaves, Are Pacis Museum, Rome, photo by the Author

“They are slaves.”

No, they are human beings.

“They are slaves.”

No, they are housemates.

“They are slaves.”

No, they are lowborn friends.

“They are slaves.”

Fellow slaves, rather, if you keep in mind that fortune has its way with you just as much as with them.

(Letters, XLVII.1)

“Reflect, if you will: that man whom you call your slave was born of the same seeds as you — enjoys the same sky — breathes, lives, dies, just as you do. It is possible that you will see him a free man, and equally possible that he will see you enslaved. … The fortunes of those you despise may come upon you at any time.” (Letters XLVII.10)

“I will evaluate them not by their jobs but by their character.” (Letters, LXVII.15)

“Just as one would be foolish to consider buying a horse when one hasn’t inspected the animal itself but only its saddle and bridle, so it is extremely foolish to judge a human being by his clothing and his position in life. For position is only one more garment that surrounds us.” (Letters, LXVII.16)

“‘He is a slave.’ … Show me who isn’t! One person is a slave to lust, another to greed, a third to ambition — and all are slaves to hope; all are slaves to fear. … No servitude is more shameful than the kind we take on willingly.” (Letters, LXVII.17)

Stoicism, ethics, and philosophy of science. Complete index, by subject, at

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