Lucius Annaeus Seneca



  • (4 BC - 65 AD) Roman tragedian, philosopher,and statesman. Seneca's nine surviving tragedies on legendary Greeksubjects are the only plays from the Imperial era to have survived.The plays (dates unknown) are Phaedra, Thyestes, Troades,Medea, Agamemnon, Hercules Furens, HerculesOetaeus, Oedipus, and Phoenissae. They were allwritten for recitation, rather than stage production.

    Seneca's plays are flawed by their artificial language, stereotypedcharacters, and melodramatic plots. Nevertheless, they had a greatinfluence on the drama of Renaissance Europe, especially the revengetragedies of the Elizabethans. Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus(1592) borrowed the device of a pie made of human flesh from Seneca'sThyestes.

    Seneca himself led a dangerous and eventful life: the emperorCaligula, jealous of his success, refrained from executing him onlybecause he thought Seneca was already dying; the wife of ClaudiusI subsequently exiled him to Corsica on charges of adultery with theemperor's niece. He later became Nero's tutor, and committed suicideat Nero's command after being accused of conspiracy.