Ancient Rome

Seneca: Stoic philosopher and Nero insider

Notwithstanding the murder of Britannicus, the first five years of Nero’s reign were an era of relative stability. This period—which the Roman emperor Trajan labelled the quinquennium Neronis—matches up almost exactly with the time of Seneca’s greatest influence over Nero.

And what looks even worse is that Seneca grew rich from Nero’s crimes. Following Britannicus’ murder, the boy’s wealth was divvied up, and Seneca, it seems, got a piece. By the end of the decade, the philosopher owned property not just in Rome but also in Egypt, Spain, and southern Italy.

from “Such a Stoic” by Elizabeth Kolbert (The New Yorker)

the Face of the Ancients

Both the ancient Chinese Confucian and ancient Roman cultures had a concept of face that was essential to the existence of an individual in society.

The East Asian conceptions of face are centred around the family unit and are typically understood in the West through three words:

  1. mian or social standing,
  2. lian or self-respect, and
  3. yan (which the sources at hand have done a poor job of explaining).

The Roman conception of face can also be understood through four words:

  1. dignitas or the dignity/prestige that one acquires in the service of Rome,
  2. gravitas or the depth of character,
  3. pietas or piety to one’s family and the ancient Roman religion, and
  4. virtus or virtue/masculine excellence.

Ancient Rome, its Rise and Fall

[I]t should be noted that the main reason for the Romans becoming masters of the world was that, having fought successively against all peoples, they always gave up their own practices as soon as they found better ones.

—Montesquieu, Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and their Decline (1734)

Christianity destroyed ancient Rome and brought Europe a thousand years of darkness.

—a paraphrasing of Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1789)