S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [Lucius Annæus Seneca, a Roman philosopher and moralist; born at Corduba, Spain, about 5 B.C.; educated at Rome; appointed tutor to Nero, to whom he dedicated his treatise on Clemency; accused of conspiracy with Piso; was ordered to put himself to death, which he did by opening his veins in the bath, A.D. 65.]
  • All I require of myself is, not to be equal to the best, but only to be better than the bad.

  • “Beneath the good how far—but far above the great.”
  • GRAY: Progress of Poesy, III. 3, 16.
  • How great would be the peril if our slaves began to number us! (Quantum periculum immineret, si servi nostri nos numerare cœpissent!)

  • If the slaves discovered how many they were in comparison with their masters.
  • It is for young men to gather knowledge, and for old men to use it.

  • To Seneca is attributed the warning to Nero, “How many men soever you slay, you will never kill your successor.” Caligula said of Seneca’s style, “His language is nothing but sand without lime.”
  • An absence of desires is the greatest wealth (summæ opes inopia cupididatum).

  • Seneca, in his 29th Epistle, anticipates Regnard, a French dramatist (1655–1709), who says in the “Joueur,” IV. 13, “To know how to do without is to possess” (C’est posséder les biens que savoir s’en passer). Vigée, a less-known poet, brother of the painter Mme. Le Brun, follows Regnard closely: “I am rich in wealth I know how to do without” (Je suis riche des biens dont je sais me passer).
  • Another thought of this heathen-Christian runs through the centuries. He wrote in the 107th Epistle, “Fate leads the willing, and drags the unwilling” (Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt). He drew it, however, from the fatalist Plutarch (“Life of Camillus”): “Destiny leads him who follows it, and drags him who resists it.” Montaigne is the first to give a French version: Il [le destin] meine ceulx qui suyvent, ceulx qui ne le suyvent pas, il les entraisne (“Essays,” II. 38). Fénelon found the same thought in the maxim of “The Imitation of Christ,” “Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit” (Man proposes, but God disposes); and said in his Epiphany Sermon, 1685, “God gives to human passions, even when they seem to decide every thing, only what they need in order to be the instruments of his designs: so, while man moves himself, God leads him” (ainsi, l’homme s’agite, mais Dieu le mène). Balzac (1594–1654) says in his “Christian Socrates,” “God is the poet, men are but the actors. The great dramas of earth were written in heaven.”