Letters from a Stoic

by Seneca | Penguin Classics © 1969 · 256 pages

Seneca. He was born around the same time as Jesus and was one of the leading figures in his Roman Empire. He was also one of history's leading Stoic philosophers (along with Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus who we also profile) and has some powerful wisdom to share. In this Note, we'll explore the purpose of philosophy, the importance of focusing our attention and the mojo that comes from facing our fears.

“A good character is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness.”

~ Seneca from Letters from a Stoic

Stoicism is one of my favorite philosophies. What we know of this classic Hellenistic philosophy is based on the texts created by its three primary sages: Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca.

In this Note, we’re gonna take a quick look at Seneca: a statesman, Stoic philosopher, contemporary of Jesus, and tutor to the Roman Emperor Nero (who must not have liked Seneca’s Stoic principles too much because he eventually had him killed… either that or there may have been some political issues going on, eh? :).

Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic is packed full of Big Ideas I think you’ll enjoy! First, let’s take a quick look at his life and philosophy then we’ll jump in.


The reliability of the details of Seneca’s early life are shaky at best, but he was believed to be born in Cordoba, then the most prominent city in Spain (Hispania), at about the same time as Jesus (between 4 and 1 BCE). Seneca was a statesman and a philosopher and is widely known for his skilled essays and, in fact, is recognized by many as the founder of the Essay. In 49 CE, Seneca became the tutor to the 12-year old boy who would become the emperor Nero. For eight years, he acted as Nero’s unofficial chief minister before Nero compelled him to commit suicide after the discovery of a plot that may have elevated him to the throne as emperor.

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One of the Great Roman Stoic Philosophers