Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a statesman, writer of many letters, tutor to the emperor Nero and roman stoic philosopher. A very wise man however there is argument that he may not have followed his own teachings. He would say that your amount of possessions should not determine your happiness but he, at one point, owned 300 million sesterces, this amount of money would have put him in the top 0.1% of richest people 2000 years ago. Seneca is most widely remembered due to his position as tutor to the boy Nero who eventually became emperor in 54 AD. Nero, during his adolescent years would seek council from Seneca who would offer advice and help the young emperor rule. The first years of Nero’s rule were seen as times of stability; Seneca is often given credit for this. As Nero matured his relationship with Seneca disintegrated due to externals such as new friends whispering in the emperor’s ear. Nero eventually wanted Seneca dead; this resulted in his forced suicide in 65 AD due to an apparent plot to take the emperors life.
Seneca’s writings touch on subjects that are still very relevant in modern life. He left us with valuable written material including letters that he had scribed to a young man named Lucius. The theme of these letters practise stoic philosophy and one in particular we will be focusing on here. The following extract is from ‘Letters from a stoic’ published by penguin classics and translated by Robin Campbell, Letter 2.
“It is not the man who has too little that is poor, but the one who hankers after more. What difference does it make how much there is laid away in a mans safe or in his barns, how many head of stock he grazes or how much capital he puts out as interest, if he is always after what is another’s and only counts what he is yet to get, never what he has already.”
Although some of the material possessions stated here are out dated the underlying message is still very clear. Today, we spend our money that we have earned doing jobs that we don’t enjoy, on material objects that we do not even need. Otherwise said by Will Smith “We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.” This is unsurprising when you take in to consideration the amount of effort and currency that is put in to get you to spend your money, this year, in 2015, it is estimated that $600 billion will be spent on advertising (Figures provided by eMarketer). A few simple questions can save you from this trap, when thinking of a new purchase be honest with yourself, am I getting this because I want it or I need it? Will this in any way improve my current situation, if so, how? If not, can I justify this purchase? As Seneca said, if you do not take the time to appreciate what you already have, how can you be truly rich?
Click here to purchase Seneca – Letters from a stoic (penguin classics) – This book is full of timeless wisdom and important teachings that everyone can benefit from.
If you enjoyed this blog post click here to continue reading… Seneca – What makes us rich? (Part 2)