Vol 45 No 1 (2019): XLV - 2019

L’ep. 81 di Seneca e la postilla al De beneficiis

Published July 17, 2019


In his letter 81 to Lucilius, obviously written after the De beneficiis had been completed, Seneca intends to treat more thoroughly a problem which, as he says, had not been sufficiently clarified in the treatise: namely, whether the debt of gratitude is nullified if a former benefactor offends us. In the treatise Seneca maintains that it is impossible for common people to assess the relative import of benefit received and offence endured; only the sage is able to do so.  In the letter it is assessed by three distinct figures: a rigidus iudex, the closest to the ideal sage, in that he is able to judge correctly; a vir bonus, who assumes he can do so, but cheats himself in favor of the offender to avoid mistakes in the opposite direction; and Seneca’s model, a remissior iudex, who from the beginning ascribes more weight to the benefit than to the offence. Though there is no basic doctrinal difference between the treatise and the letter, in this the uncompromising severity of Stoicism is mitigated.


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