Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero

Dying Every Day Seneca at the Court of Nero From acclaimed classical historian author of Ghost on the Throne a high stakes drama full of murder madness tyranny perversion with the sweep of history on the grand scale At the center the tumu

  • Title: Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero
  • Author: James Romm
  • ISBN: 9780307743749
  • Page: 307
  • Format: Paperback
  • From acclaimed classical historian, author of Ghost on the Throne a high stakes drama full of murder, madness, tyranny, perversion, with the sweep of history on the grand scale.At the center, the tumultuous life of Seneca, ancient Rome s preeminent writer and philosopher, beginning with banishment in his fifties and subsequent appointment as tutor to twelve year old Nero,From acclaimed classical historian, author of Ghost on the Throne a high stakes drama full of murder, madness, tyranny, perversion, with the sweep of history on the grand scale.At the center, the tumultuous life of Seneca, ancient Rome s preeminent writer and philosopher, beginning with banishment in his fifties and subsequent appointment as tutor to twelve year old Nero, future emperor of Rome Controlling them both, Nero s mother, Julia Agrippina the Younger, Roman empress, great granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus, sister of the Emperor Caligula, niece and fourth wife of Emperor Claudius James Romm seamlessly weaves together the life and written words, the moral struggles, political intrigue, and bloody vengeance that enmeshed Seneca the Younger in the twisted imperial family and the perverse, paranoid regime of Emperor Nero, despot and madman.Romm writes that Seneca watched over Nero as teacher, moral guide, and surrogate father, and, at seventeen, when Nero abruptly ascended to become emperor of Rome, Seneca, a man never avid for political power became, with Nero, the ruler of the Roman Empire We see how Seneca was able to control his young student, how, under Seneca s influence, Nero ruled with intelligence and moderation, banned capital punishment, reduced taxes, gave slaves the right to file complaints against their owners, pardoned prisoners arrested for sedition But with time, as Nero grew vain and disillusioned, Seneca was unable to hold sway over the emperor, and between Nero s mother, Agrippina thought to have poisoned her second husband, and her third, who was her uncle Claudius , and rud to have entered into an incestuous relationship with her son and Nero s father, described by Suetonius as a murderer and cheat charged with treason, adultery, and incest, how long could the young Nero have been contained Dying Every Day is a portrait of Seneca s moral struggle in the midst of madness and excess In his treatises, Seneca preached a rigorous ethical creed, exalting heroes who defied danger to do what was right or embrace a noble death As Nero s adviser, Seneca was presented with a complex set of choices, as the only man capable of summoning the better aspect of Nero s nature, yet, remaining at Nero s side and colluding in the evil regime he created.Dying Every Day is the first book to tell the compelling and nightmarish story of the philosopher poet who was almost a king, tied to a tyrant as Seneca, the paragon of reason, watched his student spiral into madness and whose descent saw five family murders, the Fire of Rome, and a savage purge that destroyed the supreme minds of the Senate s golden age.

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    1 thought on “Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero”

    1. A caustic reader of this darkly-entertaining biography might call it Lying Every Day. To call Seneca a "man of contradictions" is kind. He is the preeminent example in antiquity of someone who wanted to have his philosophical cake and eat it too – preaching the ascetic virtues of Stoicism and abnegation while living a luxurious life as a Roman multimillionaire. His essays harp on the dignity of death and the heroic freedom of suicide, while his day job as Nero's court philosopher required him [...]

    2. This was good but I was surprised that I did not like it as much as Romm's earlier book, "Ghost on the Throne." The topic here is fascinating and Romm writes with great vividness. It's very easy to become immersed in the Neronian milieu through his writing and the human motives of most of the major players shine through. However, and surprisingly, I found that the personality of Seneca himself was somewhat lost in the telling. It could be due to lacunae in the primary sources, but I often felt l [...]

    3. I will start by agreeing with other reviews that found that they were surprised that they enjoyed this slightly less than Romm's last book "Ghost on the Throne." It's certainly just as well written, and the topic is just as well visualized, but the author's own struggle to come to a conclusion on the nature of Seneca infects the impact of the book as a whole.Which, really, is ultimately everything I can say about it in microcosm.Romm does such an excellent job of introducing the players in this [...]

    4. This kind of history usually isn't my thing as a reader, but I'd met the author and as a courtesy he sent it to me. I was absolutely astonished! If you think we have leaders who are out-of-control spoiled brats floated by a compliant senate, it is nothing--nothing--compared with Rome with Nero at the helm. Murder, matricide, siblicide, infanticide, and more induced suicides than you can count; it's a wonder Rome could both have been great and then could have allowed this havoc spree that lasted [...]

    5. I'm a big fan of James Romm, professor of classical studies at Bard College. I loved his book "The Ghost on the Throne," which tells the story of the minutes, hours, days and years following Alexander the Great's death. I also really loved his small book on Herodotus. But this one was a struggle. Romm says as much himself in interviews about the book. What does one make of the fact that the philosopher, playwright, ethicist, scholar and stoic Seneca served the emperor Nero? Romm would like there [...]

    6. Absolutely excellent book on Seneca and his writings compared to his actions in the court of Nero. I loved Ghost on the Throne and loved this book. James Romm has become one of my favorite authors. His work is quality.

    7. A terrific dual biography of Seneca and Nero. Seneca, the Stoic and the statesman. Nero: the child-minded monster. Romm’s book is well-researched and well-written. It’s a popular history, but a smart one. Seneca is the main attraction here and the complexities of his personality and his position are skillfully explored. How is philosophy reconciled with political power, or can it be? How do we judge ourselves when we fail our best ideals in stupendous fashion? When must we set hope aside and [...]

    8. Dying Every Day (a wonderful title) by James Romm is a compact, well-researched and well-written study of the Emperor Nero and his relationship to the philosopher Seneca, who served as Nero's tutor and counselor. The book focuses more on Nero than on Seneca for various reasons, chief among them that more is known about Nero, despite the fact that Seneca wrote a half million words of literary philosophy that reflected his personal Stoic values.The crises of this history, then, move from Nero's ac [...]

    9. Romm explores the contradictory nature of Seneca's role during Nero's reign. As an acknowledged and extensively published Stoic philosopher, Seneca played a pre-eminent role in Nero's court; not only did he serve as teacher, to an extent, he also provided various layers of legitimacy for the young ruler. Surely if a wizened philosopher sanctioned Nero's actions, there was nothing to be concerned about? Romm relies heavily on the historian Tacitus to draw her conclusions and provide context for t [...]

    10. What would summer be without a brief visit to the most salacious and sensational years of the Roman Empire? See Nero! Hear Seneca! Reel as your read about an era you are grateful not to live in. Serious scholarship written for anyone to enjoy and ponder.

    11. I found Dying Every Day very readable for a general audience, despite its author being an academic historian. Seneca and Nero are both fascinating figures and Romm draws on a variety of sources to paint vivid pictures of them both. He quotes extensively from Seneca's work, offering a good introduction for those readers like me who have never read any. Romm gives a balanced interpretation of this controversial ethicist and poses questions that remain relevant in today's social and political scene [...]

    12. Bought at City Lights on a trip to San Francisco and read on a week-long trip to visit family in Ohio.My kids called this book "Dad's Suicide Book" for some reason, and I must admit that this quote by Seneca from the New York Times book review charmed me enough to make me want to read it:You ask what is the path to freedom?Any vein in your body.Also Mr. Romm edited the excellent Landmark Edition of Arrian's Campaigns Of Alexander, one of the best and most accessible ancient history books I have [...]

    13. I think that Romm did a good job of examining the complex figure of Seneca, a person who was deeply attached to Stoic philosophy, but was also very much drawn to material wealth (he was, outside of the imperial family, the richest man in Rome -- something tough to reconcile with being a Stoic), and he was equally drawn to the being part of the in-crowd in Rome, as tutor to Nero, who became emperor at 17, and who, early on, depended quite a bit on Seneca himself. Of course, Seneca was maybe too d [...]

    14. Described on the back cover as the "first book to tell theory of Seneca". However it won't be the best if there is ever a second. The history itself is flatly laid out in deathless prose. There are several repetitions throughout the book, of great help to the demented reader. I found the annotations particularly annoying, having no sign in the main body of the work. The author has an unfortunate habit of metaphorically shrugging his shoulders when he is at a loss to theorise. In fact there is a [...]

    15. Do as I write, not as I do. This apparent hypocrisy has tarnished Seneca's legacy throughout the ages. Seneca's treatises on stoicism and the epigrammatic style of his letters have been greatly admired by the likes of Marcus Aurelius and Montaigne. But Seneca's participation in the tyrannical, paranoid court of Nero, his accumulation of massive wealth, and his efforts to defend the petulant boy-emperor's heinous crimes seem to contradict much of his philosophy. Romm does an excellent job culling [...]

    16. A wonderful biography and survey of Seneca and his works and philosophy. Reading Romm's work after having just completed Marcus Aurelius' Meditations gave me some perspective on Stoic thought and the intersection between public governance and the moral high-ground. Romm has no bias, no opinion on how Seneca should be viewed, only saying that there was both bad and good. Was Seneca implicit in Nero's matricide or fratricide? Did Seneca achieve his life goals of a Stoic end and a simple life? Did [...]

    17. Although the focus is on the moral dilemmas of an early ethicist, the real strength of the book lies in its depiction of life within a totalitarian regime. It is clear why Romm framed the puzzle of Seneca's life as he did -- one of the foremost exponents of Stoicism, yet at the same time a profiteer during one of the ugliest periods in Roman history. Certainly such a frame allows for some fascinating back-and-forth between Seneca's works, and what is known (or reasonably inferred) about his life [...]

    18. Romm writes with a confident, intelligent, and accessible style, taking the story of Seneca and his relationship with Nero out of the rarefied air of classicists and allowing even those readers with only glancing familiarity of ancient Rome to keep turning the pages with anticipation and dread. A real treat, packed so full of tragedy and intrigue that it is hard to find a dull passage on any of the 208 pages.

    19. Romm’s biography of Seneca is an excellent complement to Zealot by Reza Aslan: both books are more about the first century than any specific individual, and Seneca’s Rome is the same that occupied Jerusalem. It was an extraordinary era for politics and moral philosophy, and continues to impact us to this day. Read this book and see. --Antonio

    20. Damn. This is so good. Also, it seems that almost every historical biography I’ve read is one I’ve loved, so maybe I ought to just stick to biographies from now on. Dying Every Day is about Seneca. As a famous Roman Stoic (one of the “big three” in the modern movement), I’ve read his ‘Letters to a Stoic’ (too much ramble) and ‘On the shortness of life’ (so good) and they’ve provided various pieces of wisdom for me. But considering them in their historical context, where many [...]

    21. Seneca is one of the exemplars of Roman Stoic thought, indeed, one of the great figures of the ancient world. But how Stoic was he? Seneca, an Iberian by birth, was a central figure post-Republic Roman politics, riven as it was by the power quests of its deeply inbred lineages - and one tires of the machinations and intrigue that necessarily weigh down this otherwise wonderful book. He was also tutor and longstanding adviser to the infamous Nero, a man who killed both his mother and wife in sust [...]

    22. Old man philosopher sacrifices every principle he purports to hold dear as the madman ruler he helped raise to power ignores the responsibilities of rule, and descends into a cycle of paranoia and madness. Old man philosopher holds on, believing his brilliance can save the state from madman ruler who would rather be a celebrity entertainer than govern. Old man philosopher, doubting, asks for and is denied ability to leave court with his reputation intact. Old man philosopher watches in dismay as [...]

    23. A readable summary of Seneca's life, with particular focus on his relationship with Nero. This is a good, readable history, but ultimately it just seemed to fall flat for me.Perhaps it equivocates too much, or there's too much speculation. Either way - I enjoyed the read but would only recommend it to someone who has a particular interest in Seneca himself (or Nero), and not to the more casual reader.

    24. Seneca is a complex literary & historical figure who can only be superficially assessed if one does not account for Nero's influence. James Romm does a good job on telling what we can of the history and drawing reasonable links between the existing material. He is frank about where there are gaps and what we cannot know.A must read for anyone interested in Seneca. If you quote Seneca, you're stepping into a philosophical and literary rabbit hole, and this book will help you.

    25. Great readReally interesting presentation of the complex personality of Seneca. The book dwells into his life through historical accounts and is careful not to present final judgement in any which way thereby preserving and bringing Seneca's character more vividly into focus.

    26. A well written history of the Nero reign based on the life of Seneca. Explores the inherent contradictions between Seneca's Stoic philosophy and his part in the Neroa reign.

    27. Well, Seneca has been knocked down a few pegs in my Pantheon of Philosophers. However, Seneca also comes off a bit more complex and human.

    28. This was an exceptionally well written book. I've always been interested in the stoic school of philosophy, but there was a particular passage that really stuck with me, while talking about Thrasea leaving the Senate: "But was his departure from the Senate an act of courage or cowardice? By his absence, did he advance the cause of autonomy or deprive it of a leading voice? The dilemma must have troubled him, as it has troubled many others - righteous people whose political participation has help [...]

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