No Comment, Quotation — March 8, 2008, 12:00 am

Seneca’s Measure of the Human Life

la_mort_de_seneque

De nostris ætatibus loquor, quas incredibili celeritate [con]uoluit. Computa urbium sæcula: uidebis quam non diu steterint etiam quæ uetustate gloriantur. Omnia humana breuia et caduca sunt et infiniti temporis nullam partem occupantia. Terram hanc cum urbibus populisque et fluminibus et ambitu maris puncti loco ponimus ad uniuersa referentes: minorem portionem ætas nostra quam puncti habet, si omni tempori comparetur, cuius maior est mensura quam mundi, utpote cum ille se intra huius spatium totiens remetiatur.

I speak of “our life” when it is propelled forward with such incredible speed. Count the cities of the centuries, and you will see that even those which boast of a long existence in truth have not existed long. And still by comparison how short and fragile are the affairs of humans, and how they fill not the tiniest fragment of infinite time. This world of ours with its abundance of cities and peoples, with rivers and with the sea which forms its belt, if taken to the scale of the universe, our world is but a speck; and our life, when counted in this panorama, is still less than that; for the measure of eternity is still more than the measure of our world when we remember that the world must renew itself over and again within the bounds of time.

Lucius Annæus Seneca, De Consolatione ad Marciam cap xxi (40 CE) in the Loeb Library edition of the Works of Seneca, vol. 2, pp. 72-74 (S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2015

The Great Republican Land Heist

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Captive Market

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Day of the Sea

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The War of the World

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Sharp Edge of Life

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Great Republican Land Heist·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The wholesale transfer of public lands to state control may never be achieved. But the goal might be more subtle: to attack the value of public lands.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Sharp Edge of Life·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The struggle of the novelist has been to establish a measure, a view of human nature, and usually, though not always, as large a view as belief and imagination can wring from observable facts.”
Photo by Eddie Adams/Associated Press
Article
Captive Market·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Fear of random violence lives on, but the reality is that violent-crime rates have dropped to levels not seen since the early Seventies."
Photograph by Richard Ross
Article
The Day of the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Fifteen judges will then sit together in a wood-paneled room, in a city thousands of miles from the Andes, and decide whether the ocean Bolivia claims as its right will at last be returned to it.”
Photo by Fabio Cuttica/Contrasto/Redux
Post
Introducing the February Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Ruin of the West
Christopher Ketcham investigates Cliven Bundy’s years-long battle with the BLM, Annie Murphy reflects on Bolivia’s lost coast, and more
Painting by Richard Prince, whose work was on view in October at Gagosian Gallery in New York City © The artist. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

Estimated total calories members of Congress burned giving Bush’s 2002 State of the Union standing ovations:

22,000

A fertility scientist named Panayiotis Zavos announced that he had created human-cow embryos that were theoretically viable, but denied that he planned to allow such a hybrid to be implanted in a woman’s womb. “We are not trying to create monsters,” he said.

A statistician determined that the five most common first names among New York City taxi drivers are Md, Mohammad, Mohammed, Muhammad, and Mohamed.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today