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Seneca’s Measure of the Human Life



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.)

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