Study Question 3

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    Stoicism (Reading in Latin for all, De clementia 1.8-10; additional primary reading in translation: Persius 1, 3, and 5):

    Focusing primarily on De clementia 8 (continuing into the exemplum of Augustus: “Voluntas oportet ante saeviendi quam causa deficiat”), consider the problem of anger as an emotive force: “Can you see ways in which “Seneca of the Apocolocyntosis“, i.e. Seneca the writer of satire, differs from the “Seneca of the De clementia“, i.e. Seneca the philosopher, in how anger is justified or criticized? When you have an idea of this contrast, does Persius use (or perhaps abuse) anger in the same ways as Seneca the philosopher and Seneca the satirist.

    As a subsequent question, think about the nature of Roman satire. If the idea of satire is something that is uniquely Roman (satura tota nostra est), can (or should) Rome ever rid itself of this impulse? or is Rome uniquely equipped to handle it? Does the complicated Roman need for anger change our appreciation of the need for satire and the need for philosophy?


    It is apparent that Seneca’s motive in writing Apocolocyntosis differed greatly from his motive by which he wrote De Clementia. One is a satire, the other is a lesson. The use/justification of anger obviously contrasts greatly between the two. Comparing the use of anger in the satires of Seneca and Persius however, is a little more difficult. Both satires comment on large scale topics; Seneca comments on the deification of emperors and Persius comments on (then)modern poetic practices. In terms of tone, Persius’s anger seems to be portrayed more as sarcasm, as he says things such as, “Well then, as far as I’m concerned, from now on, everything’s fine. I shan’t stop you. Bravo, all of you! Well done all, you’re marvelous…”. There is a more formal tone in Apocolocyntosis, seeing as it can be read as a narrative while it’s possible to read Persius’ Satires as more of a conversation. Apocolocyntosis appears to disguise the anger when compared to the somewhat more blunt nature of the Satires. Both writers channeled their anger with humor, but one decided to tell a story while the other decided to tell jokes.



    I think the prompt assumes that Seneca addresses anger explicitly in either the Apocolocyntosis or the De Clementia. He doesn’t use the word “ira” once throughout the Apocolocyntosis. He uses “irasci” in this week’s selection once, though his mention is not so much to comment on the goodness or badness of anger, but rather to illustrate the power Nero has (1.8.5). Perhaps elsewhere in De Clementia he condemns anger; it only makes sense considering that anger clouds the very rational judgment to extend mercy to certain folks, much like Octavian with Lucius Cinna (Ibid., 1.9). But there is no direct commentary on anger in what we’ve been expected to read. Since any philosophical stance toward anger would be a “reading into” this philosophical text, and since I feel that propositions philosophical texts like De Clementia are expressed in a more thorough manner than in most other kinds of literature, I would strongly hesitate to comment one way or the other on this part of the prompt.

    That’s not to say Seneca has no position on the value (or lack thereof) of anger; he devotes the entirely of De Ira to that very notion. He mentions in the very first section of De Ira that anger is a “short madness, for it is…deaf to reason” (De Ira, 1.1), because “Reason…is only strong while she remains apart from the passions” (Ibid., 1.7). Clearly, Seneca makes the case that mercy is rational in De Clementia, so, combining this claim with the one made in De Ira, we can assume that De Clementia condemns anger as preventing the full exercise of Clementia. The Apocolocyntosis, on the other hand, doesn’t address the dichotomy between reason and anger; the only example we have of what could be considered anger is Augustus’ speech, where the emotion felt is described as “shame,” not “anger” (Apocolocyntosis, 10-11). Nor do any of the philosophical works employ anger as a rhetorical strategy, because anger in philosophy detracts rather than enhances the legitimacy of the work (though somehow intelligent readers still find merit in the incoherent ramblings of Nietzsche).

    Even the Apocolocyntosis appears joke-driven, without the kind of deep-seated malice Persius uses. Perseus’ dialogues use scathing ad hominems toward the opposing interlocutor; words like “idiot” (75), “pale and decrepit” (51), and “soft, wet mud” (77). He uses anger as a fuel for mean-spirited jokes aimed at real and fictional characters alike. His was written not from a calm, rational reflection on the nature of things, but from bitterness against personal opponents. It restricts the rhetorical power of his claims, against what I presume to be Persius’ intent. Had Persius read his Chrysippus, he wouldn’t have tried to use anger in the way he ultimately did for his satires.

    Satire isn’t uniquely Roman; any reader of the Clouds would see that it at least fits with the American notion. Rome isn’t uniquely equipped to handle it any more than any other culture of rich literary tradition. Roman satire could only rid itself of satire by ridding itself of the literary bug itself, for satire is a literary parasite; it survives only by criticizing existing literature or widely consumed thought. As such, ridding Rome of satire is clearly destructive to the entire literary corpus. Romans finally weren’t in “need” of anger; with Stoicism as popular as it was, there were many Romans who tried to keep their anger in check (albeit with varying degrees of success). Sure, Romans were self-important power mongers who conquered the entire known world, but whether they were any angrier than folks nowadays is difficult to say. I guess inasmuch as any healthy person must experience anger and the aggregate of people in an empire the size of Rome must produce a lot of anger, anger is a Roman need, but unless we have a standard of measuring the anger of our times compared to the anger of Roman times, appreciating satire and philosophy in a new way is difficult, if not impossible, to do.


    The philosopher Seneca in De Clementia is careful to turn Nero’s possible petulance at being restricted in word and deed into a lesson on the virtue of temperance. He builds his argument by first showing how, because of the Emperor’s good rule, the common people are able to live comfortably. They are afforded the luxury of free speech and free passage. “Think of all the things which are not allowed to you but which are allowed to us thanks to you. I can walk on my own in any part of Rome without fear…” (Seneca, De Clementia 1.8.2) In a clever ploy, Seneca then likens Nero’s experience as Emperor to that of the gods. “But that constraint you share with the gods. The fact is that they too are fettered by heaven. It is no more possible for them to come down than it is safe for you to do so: you are nailed to your pinnacle. (De Clementia 1.8.3)

    From here, building a case against anger in parlance of the gods is easy. Seneca admonishes against outbursts of anger because one never knows just how far the repercussions will go. While only a few may be targeted for the brunt, others surrounding the victims will experience at least the fear that occurs because of the proximate manifestations. The philosopher couches this in the same type of problem that Jupiter himself faces. “Just as the fall of thunderbolts is dangerous to a few but terrifying to everyone, so the punishments imposed by mighty powers cause more widespread fear than damage, and not without reason.” (De Clementia 1.8.5)

    The main problem with anger, and the reverberations it causes, is the anger and resentment it causes in those affected by the emperor’s wrath. Here Seneca might be making an oblique reference yet again to the theme of the mirror brought up in the beginning of the treatise. The people are a reflection of the disposition of the Emperor. If he is kind and benevolent, the people will remain peaceful; if he is angry and vengeful, they will grow weary of living in fear. They in turn will become angry and rouse the rabble. “…Whereas in the case of kings, their security is more assured by their mildness, because frequent punishment, though it crushes the hatred of a few, rouses the hatred of everyone.” (De Clementia 1.8.6) The language Seneca uses to describe what happens is reminiscent of a hydra– cut off one head and three more appear in its place.

    In the Apocolocyntosis, the satirist Seneca illustrates how ineffectual, and embarrassing, anger and its outbursts can be. This lesson is showed in the person of Claudius, a mortal. “At this point Claudius flared up, and expressed his wrath with as big a growl as he could manage…for all the notice the others took of him, they might have been his own freedmen.” (Seneca, Apocolocyntosis 6) Claudius caannot even articulate his anger, he can only do an animalistic growl; even then, no one pays attention. Seneca seems to be making the point that anger is a mortal vice, not becoming of the gods. The gods realize the impact of their power, and act with benevolence, rather than base anger. The gods are unconcerned with mortal wrath; it is an ugly sentiment lacking in virtue. Claudius is the other side of this idea.

    Finally, in examining Persius’ Satires, the author uses anger in the narrator for satirical purposes. The emotion, however, is over-the-top; phrases like “Idiot! Idiot!” (Persius, Satires 3) are used several times. This sort of extreme is perhaps used to draw attention to the real messages Persius wishes to express, in much the same way the fool/clown is used religiously in some cultures to draw attention to “the other.” It is only by these seeming extremes that people are able to pierce the normal societal veil and see the terrible things (according to the messenger) occurring.


    Helen Davies

    In De Clementia, Seneca as philosopher writes of the power of an emperor’s anger. “ You cannot be angry, without making everything tremble, because you can strike no one without shaking all around him” (1.8). The power of an emperor’s anger lies partly in the power of it, and partly in the potential power of it. Seneca’s description of anger as a lightening strike and through the extended discussion of Augustus, the reader is brought to understand that full power of anger lies not only in its selective use but also the potentiality of anger. As Seneca describes anger like a lightening strike, he goes on to explain that Augustus’s anger was so potent because while he was known to act on anger (allowing Antony’s proscriptions) yet he sometimes chose to withhold his anger as in his dealings with Cinna. The power of the anger lies in that potentiality rather than the overuse of it. The use of clementia creates a space for the anger to appear and to become more powerful.

    Fascinatingly, Seneca as satirist seems to play on this image that he helps perpetuate and then mock it. In the Apolocyntosis, Claudius expresses his anger as he awaits entry into heaven after his death. Instead of a smooth entrance into the realm of the gods, Claudius’s stutter and appearance makes the other gods question his identity. When he angrily responds “Claudius flared up, and expressed his wrath with as big a growl as he could manage. What he said nobody understood… For all the notice the others took of him, they might have been his own freedmen.” (6). In direct contrast to the serious and almost sleek image Seneca creates in De Clementia, Claudius’s anger is weak, ineffectual, and makes him the object of mirth and annoyance. However through this mocking portrayal of Claudius’s anger, the audience sees that it is funny because it is not the expected sequence of events. Imperial anger is a thing of power, except in the topsy turvey world of satire. The connecting thread between these two genres is the portrayal of imperial anger being a form of power whether that lies in the potentiality of the anger in De Clementia or the ineffectual use of it in Apolocyntosis.

    Satire expresses anger in a fascinating way. It almost uses anger as a tool for humor. The strong force of the speaker in Persius’s satires, especially satire 1, leave the reader aware of the multi-fasceted uses of anger. No longer is this the anger of stuttering fool unable to make himself understood, but no anger is the force of the satire not just an object of derision. The end of Satire 3 does still contain anger as an object of derision: “and your eyes flash with anger and you do things which even the lunatic Orestes would swear were signs of lunacy” (85). Anger is so powerful it can make you mad, but if you are too consumed by anger, and not just the potential power of it, you will be driven mad. However, much like the modern comedy of Lewis Black, anger seems to drive the humor of the satires in other places. The anger by the speaker about a hard task master or poets/poetry creates the satire.

    I am intrigued by the development of this Roman genre and Roman ideas into the Middle Ages. We argue here that satire is a uniquely Roman discourse, but during the Middle Ages several cultures outside the realm of the empire develop very strict social roles surrounding satire. The Norse have very harsh laws for anyone accused of satirizing someone else, and the Irish have records of satirist being an official social role. Both of these social constructs have to do with power and to a degree anger as satire was frequently used for revenge. I like the idea that in some ways satire has an element of anger embedded in it by the personal use of satire for revenge (in a manner similar to the Apolocyntosis).


    The Seneca in Apocolocyntosis is using satire to both show the greatness of the new imperator while also defaming Claudius. He is showing his disdain for deification, especially that of Claudius by making fun of the deceased emperor as well as defaming him by calling him a killer and putting him on trial. The anger in Apocolocyntosis isn’t as noticeable as that of De Clementia.

    In De Clementia, Seneca sounds more like a father scolding his bratty child. He tells him that kings and Gods are both slaves to their sovereignty; they do not have the freedoms that normal mortals do. “Quam mutla tibi non licent quae nobis beneficio tuo licent!” [Seneca, De Clementia 1.8.2] Anger, for him, is a tempermant that should not be associated with a king; “regi uociferato quoque uerborumque intemperantia non ex maiestate est.” [Seneca, De Clementia 1.7.4] De Clementia, contains more of a subtle anger from Seneca, that I would equate with a parent trying to teach their child a lesson. He criticizes the use of anger by sovereigns; using the example of Augustus to show that ruling with “clementia” is better than that of ire. Seneca discusses the choices made by Augustus during his reign and even before his Principate. Seneca equates the clemency of Augustus as the reason for his secure reign; “haec eum clementia ad salute securitatemque perduxit.” [Seneca, De Clementia 1.10.2]

    Seneca the philosopher and satirist both differ than that of Persius. Seneca’s anger at Claudius in Apocolocyntosis is not so palpable; his mockery of Claudius is more in jest and not so scathing. Seneca’s anger in De Clementia, as I had said before, feels more like a fatherly scolding of a child he wants to keep on the right path. Persius on the other hand is very sharp and derisive towards the interlocutor; “nugaris, cum tibi, calve, pinguis aqualiculus propenso sesquipede extet.” [Persius, 1.56-57] The use of anger by Persius is abused in his Satire. He is verbally attacking everyone whether myth or not; using the sons of Romulus. (ecce inter pocula quaerunt Romulidae saturi quid dia poemata narrent. [Persius 1.31-32])

    Rome could not rid itself of Satire, it is an excellent tool used by the Ancient writers to push their points across by adding jokes and mockery rather than using long tirades and boring lectures. I think the need of anger can be sated by the use of satire and anger as seen in Persius therefore the use of satire could never be removed.


    In the Apocolocyntosis, Seneca uses anger as a way to bring attention to wrongdoing, effectively expressing a preference for justice over clemency. In this case, anger is used to convey a passion, and a force to move people’s opinion in the speaker’s favor. This is not so in Seneca’s De clementia. Here, Seneca is championing the cause of reigning in your anger for the sake of mercy. Here, not expressing ire is the goal that will lead to improved results. “A cruel reign is disordered and hidden in darkness, and while all shake with terror at the sudden explosions, not even he who caused all this disturbance escapes unharmed.” (de clementia 8)
    Persius is similar to both of the Seneca’s in his expression of anger. He shows anger being used freely, but in small does. He shows ire to mock someone and call attention to some point he is trying to make. He does not show it being used in cold blood, but as a tightly controlled jest. These texts manage to demonstrate the variety of ways anger can be used, and how varied their application is in Rome. Many citizens probably use it in the same way Persius does, to mock or bring down somebody without using violence.


    Lina Nania

    When comparing the two tones set by Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis and De Clementia, anger is used to chastise and intimidate, respectively. In the chastisement of Claudius in the Apocolocyntosis, Augustus claims he is “no longer able to ignore” Claudius’ deeds, simultaneously questioning why Augustus improved the conditions of Rome for them to be unraveled by an inept emperor, “”in terra marique pacem peperi?” (Sec. Apo.) However in examining the De Clementia, Seneca offers that anger is not primarily useful in chastisement, but for instilling fear of chastisement. To be heavy handed as a ruler may encourage disobedience among subordinates, as Seneca states, “so a cruel king increases the number of his enemies by destroying them…” (Sen. Clem.) Therefore, a ruler’s solution is to intimidate those below them to avoid frequent punishment and disdain among the people.
    The anger shown in Persius’ Satire 1 is similar to Seneca’s in Apocolocyntosis in the way that both speakers insult their subject in quick instances, never dwelling for long on one punchline. Seneca in his Apocolocyntosis quickly calls attention to Claudius’s “non passibus aequis” (Sen. Apo.) in the same way that Persius insults in short bursts wedged between serious thoughts about what satire is. “But what need is there to scrape the delicate ears with the biting truth?” (Per.) The response to the speaker of this line is followed by a reference to defecation. Therefore, both Seneca and Persius mix swift but powerful jabs among genuine ideas and criticisms.
    In regards to Rome’s link to satire, if the need for anger is ever present (or at least expected) in Roman society, then I feel it is to be expected that anger should manifest in multiple ways, including literature. In summation, as long as the expectation of anger (seen in examples of intimidation in the De Clementia) is linked to what is “Roman,” the anger that fuels satiric comedy could be as well.


    Apocolocyntosis and the Satires of Persius—rollicking, scatological works of well-aimed, artfully-channeled anger written, like so many other enduring works of Roman literature, in the shadow of the “mighty old man” (praegrandis senex) Aristophanes (Persius, Satire 1, 124)—give us the opportunity to marvel at the paradox presented to us by the everyday phenomenon of anger. In a famous passage from the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle says: “Any one can get angry—that is easy—or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time [i.e. in the right relation to the “causa saeviendi”] with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy; therefore goodness [i.e. “good” anger!] is both rare and laudable and noble,” Book II, chap. 9. (Aristotle is of course dealing here with the ordinary phenomenon of anger, not the inflamed, morbid variety condemned by the Christians as a “cardinal sin,” and even by Seneca in De Ira.) How can such a thing as a “passion,” a “being-moved” (emotion) be at the same time wise and well-aimed (since passion is after all the moving force behind all human action)? How can anger be “good” anger? “Aiming” (at what Aristotle calls the “mean”*) implies volition and deliberation. This seems incompatible with the passivity of emotions. How do we succeed in not being a slave (in the Stoic sense) to anger? Training and habituation are one obvious answer. Getting angry at the “right time” and in the “right way” requires imitation and good examples. But what is the origin of these “good examples”? A typical Aristotelian response would be to appeal to the miracle of language, beginning with language at its most playful: poetry, comedy, satire. A satirist who “vents” his or her anger is at the same time subjected to it and master of it. This paradox of simultaneous mastery and subjection characterizes all language. Existence mastered through language in all its various forms lays down a foundation for every philosophical or “rational” attitude we take toward our lives. (Aristotle’s so-called “rational animal” is the one who has λόγος, language.) Seneca knew this too (though his Stoic philosophy did not always reflect its Aristotelian roots) and was able to present in De Clementia a rational reflection on the emotions given solid existence in the Apocolocyntosis. Aristotle calls a person who knows how to be angry in the right way (successfully navigating a mean between two extremes) πρᾶος, gentle, mild or clement (Nicomachean Ethics, Book II chap. 7). Seneca appeals to Nero’s emotions (and even to his self-interest) to arouse the passion of clemency. Numerous examples of this appeal occur throughout Book One, chapters 8, 9 and 10 of De Clementia. Seneca knows that virtue is all a matter of being moved “in the right way.”

    *“Righteous indignation is a mean between envy and spite, and these states are concerned with the pain and pleasure that are felt at the fortunes of our neighbours; the man who is characterized by righteous indignation is pained at undeserved good fortune, the envious man, going beyond him, is pained at all good fortune, and the spiteful man falls so far short of being pained that he even rejoices,” Nicomachean Ethics, Book II chap. 7.


    Part of the fundamental difference between the Apocolocyntosis and De Clementia lies in Seneca’s comparisons of Nero to the gods. In the Apocolocyntosis it is a means of praise which Seneca employs to contrast the young Nero to the late Claudius, but in De Clementia the comparison is employed as a teaching lesson instead. This lesson involves anger, while the laudes Neronis is pointedly absent of any such negative emotions. Seneca points out in De Clementia that we would not want “deities that are implacable towards out wrongs and mistakes,” and neither would we want an emperor who followed suit (De Clementia 1.7.1). Seneca’s emphasis is meant to suggest to Nero that he act as a benign ruler, one who “exercise[s] his power in a gentle spirit,” rather than one as “implacable” as the negative example offered previously (De Clementia 1.7.1)
    As Seneca also points out, it is easier for individuals not in a position of power to exercise anger and especially revenge, but for Nero it is a different situation entirely. “Private individuals are more exposed to further injuries by putting up with the injuries already received,” he writes, “whereas in the case of kings, their security is more assured by their mildness” (De Clementia 1.8.6). He further uses the case of Augustus and his dealings with Cinna to emphasize the idea of clemency as beneficial to the emperor (De Clementia 1.9).
    Persius also expresses a desire for leaders to act with clemency, as he implores Jupiter to “punish savage tyrants, when terrible desire dipped in fiery poison has affected their minds” by “let[ting] them see moral excellence and let[ting] them pine at abandoning it” (Satire 3). While Seneca emphasizes clemency as a virtue to be employed by men in leadership positions, especially the emperor, Persius looks at the after effect rather than the warning, but still underlines the lack of moral substance in a leader who lacks clemency in his anger.


    William Chan

    In both his Apocolocyntosis and his de Clementia, Seneca addresses the anger of Augustus and of Nero. Augustus’ tone is not definitively angry, but is rather understood by the aposiopesis of “ut,” (Apoc. 10). This aposiopesis seems to be a pause due to anger, like that of Neptune’s “Quos ego,” (Aen. 1.135) rather than the deceptive aposiopesis of Sinon (Aen. 2.100). After understanding the aposiopesis, it is easy to see that Augustus following rant about Claudius’ mistreatment of his (Augustus’) family is of angry bewilderment. Contrarily, Nero does not depict Nero’s anger, but advises against it; claiming that angry actions do not only affect their recipient, but the people around them, “quia neminem adfligere, nisi ut, quidquid circa fuerit, quatiatur,” (Clem 1.8.5). Seneca warns Nero that the desire for rage should stop before its induction, “Voluntas oportet ante saeviendi quam causa deficiat,” (Clem1.8.7). This counsel hearkens back to Augustus’ aposiopesis discussed before.



    This week’s writing prompt is an interesting one, especially since, like William Brown, I didn’t at first see a connection between this week’s readings, except for Clem., and anger. When I think of anger in a classical sense, my mind immediately goes to the “rage of Achilles” or the “mindful wrath of cruel Juno.” In contrast, the subject of anger does not necessarily leap out me when I read Apocol. and Persius, and even Clem., though advising Nero that he is unable to get angry without everything trembling (8.5), has such a gentle tone that I almost forgot its concern with Nero’s temper. But all three of these works serve a protreptic function and urge on their readers self-control, and it is in this message of self-control that the connection with anger can be made.

    Clem., of course, stands out among the three as being most relevant to the topic of anger. In urging Nero to practice clemency, Seneca cites the benevolent—at least in its later years—rule of the princeps’ great-great-grandfather Augustus, who pardoned and even made counsul the would-be parricide Lucius Cinna (Clem. 9.11-2), all after Augustus had earlier spared Cinna’s life after he had been found in an enemy camp (Clem. 9.8). Augustus here serves as a bold contrast to Claudius in Apocol. Claudius, according to Augustus who appears in Apocol. appropriately enough as the voice of reason among the gods, “used to chop off heads as easily as a dog sits down” (Apocol. 10). As a ruler, he did not check his anger and in this respect oversteps even Jupiter who, when angry at his wife, hung her up but did no killing (Apocol. 11). The voice of Seneca the satirist thus harmonizes with Seneca the philosopher: the good ruler restrains his anger and in so doing makes his enemies into his friends; the bad ruler slaughters people in anger and winds up becoming a slave to a freedman (Apocol. 15).

    We see in Persius the same protreptic motive as in Seneca’s Clem. Here, though the focus is not so much on the dangers of anger as it is on the necessity of controlling one’s passions. Persius writes of a foolish person being “torn apart by a double hook. Do you pursue this or that?” (Pers. 5.154-5). Like Seneca Persius places great importance on self-control, and like Seneca he employs a metaphor involving slavery but he inverts Seneca’s metaphor: while in Seneca the necessity for a king to control his emotions is a form of slavery (Clem. 8.3), in Persius it is the inability to control one’s emotions that is a form of slavery (Pers. 5.73-131, 5.155-60). Persius’ audience are slaves because anger controls them, Seneca’s because they must control anger. As for us peasants, we should accept Persius’ formulation since Seneca was writing for the princeps.


    Seneca takes on multiple tones across both the Apocolocyntosis and De Clementia, but each piece has an overall air quite distinct from the other. The Apocolocyntosis is, first and foremost, a humorous work, though it seems to express Seneca’s genuine anger with Claudius’ rule in the voice of the deified Augustus, with lines such as “Come tell me, blessed Claudius, why of all those you killed, both men and women, without a hearing, why you did not hear their side of the case first, before putting them to death?” (Apoc. 10) Using the voice of Augustus gives a weightiness to Seneca’s critique, showing that in this passage he is being quite serious, unlike in other parts of the work. De Clementia takes quite a different tone; it is primarily a work of political advice on the nature of clemency – hence the title. In De Clementia, Seneca speaks in a far more philosophical tone, avoiding the vulgarities of the Apocolocyntosis in favor of giving the young emperor honest advice. In fact, Seneca specifically advises against a leader allowing anger to control his decisions; in the anecdote of Augustus choosing how to handle Lucius Cinna’s conspiracy, Augustus initially reacts with anger at Cinna. “Why do you live, if it be to so many men’s advantage that you should die?” (De Clementia 1.9) the emperor wonders, before his wife enters and calms him, convincing him to offer Cinna clemency – a decision which Seneca explains was quite successful.

    While it would be easy to claim that Seneca only wants leaders to feel righteous anger, such as anger directed at those who have done wrong, it clearly isn’t so simple; killing Augustus would have been inconceivably evil in the eyes of many Roman citizens, yet Seneca relates the pardoning of the would-be murderer with a note of pride for Augustus’ choice. It seems that Seneca’s advice for justified anger is centered around power dynamics. Anger towards a a poor ruler is justified – it is the ruler’s responsibility to serve his citizenry well, and if he fails to do so, Seneca sees anger as a reasonable response. In contrast, for Augustus to have Cinna killed would be far more petty than just – as the most powerful man in the world, Augustus must set an example, and making decisions based on anger is not a trait to be admired.

    Persius’ use of anger is neither so carefully considered or philosophically motivated. In the fifth Satire, Persius seems to primarily use anger as a technique of humor; his insults hurled at other members of Roman society (“Dama, a worthless lackey[…]” 103, ) are funnier because Persius seems genuinely angry. However, he makes no attempt to distinguish just and unjust uses of anger like Seneca does, simply because it is not within the scope of his work.

    Satire is certainly not a uniquely Roman occurrence, but the Roman philosophical tendencies towards feelings of righteous anger make satire that focuses on the unjust individuals of the world – like Claudius in the Apocolocyntosis – especially pointed and effective.


    Albert Han

    The satirical side of Seneca differs greatly from his didactic side when one considers the treatment of anger for a princeps in the Apocolocyntosis and the De Clementia. In the Apocolocyntosis, Claudius’ anger is subjected to ridicule chiefly by two speakers: first, the narrator, who recounts that “Claudius [was] fired up and angrily grumbled as loudly as he could”, and that “with the familiar gesture of his limp hand, that was steady enough for the one purpose of decapitating people as he was accustomed” (Sen. Apoc. 1.6). Claudius’ anger is apparent, and his habit of executing people on a whim also illustrates his hotheadedness, an inability to control his temper. Moreover, Augustus, while urging in his speech to punish Claudius, inquires as to “why you [Claudius] condemned any one of the men and women whom you put to death before you understood their cases, or even listened to them. Where is this kind of thing customary?” (Sen. Apoc. 1.10). Though the word “ira” is never mentioned, we clearly see one of the side-effects of unfettered anger from these two speakers: that anger lets the one in power to make ill-conceived choices that affect countless people, and ultimately affects himself too. Seneca notes this belief in the De Clementia: “you cannot get angry without everything trembling, because you cannot strike anyone without everything around him shaking” (Sen. Cl. 1.5.1). In contrast to the playful jabs at Claudius in the Apocolocyntosis¸ Seneca’ takes on a more serious tone in the De Clementia, advising the young emperor that “the inclination to rage should stop before its provocation” (Sen. Cl. 1.7.1), because the victims of an emperor’s anger will only come back stronger to hurt him. Seneca uses Augustus as a good example of clementia, and not as a critic of another emperor, in order to instruct Nero and shape his behavior.

    Persius in his Satires is particularly reproachful of the superfluous poetry and esoteric studying that was prevalent his era. In the beginning of the third Satire, Persius expresses his anger by clearly parodying the purple prose of epic: in place of Helios’ chariots or rose-fingered dawn is instead “the snoring enough to make the untamed Falernian stop fizzing, while the shadow reaches the fifth line”, the beauty of dawn and heroism replaced by the ugliness of a late-morning hangover (Sat. 3.3 – 5). This parody is in many ways very similar to the parody that Seneca writes of Claudius’ alleged apotheosis in the form of a gourdification. However, Persius is also comfortable with straightforward criticism: at one point in the same satire, he exhorts Jupiter to “punish savage tyrants, when terrible desire dipped in fiery poison has affected their minds” (Sat. 3.35 – 37). Accompanying these outbursts of anger are also fine pieces of Stoic advice: consider, that “learn, you idiotic creatures, discover the rationale of existence” (Sat. 3.67 – 69), or “are your desires moderate, your household frugal, are you kind to your friends?” (Sat. 5.108 – 110). It seems that the narrator himself takes on an angry persona in order to teach, in great contrast to Seneca’s more subtle advisement in De Clementia, and the anger-masked-with-merriment that is the Apocolocyntosis. One may conclude that satire as a uniquely Roman genre was employed in different circumstances with different authorial voices in order achieve various ends; some for education, others for entertainment, and it is clear that while Stoic philosophy (such as the De Clementia) seeks to quell the human tendency to express anger and discontent, satire channels these same emotions into poetry and the subject of ridicule and entertainment.



    De Clementia simultaneously praises the young Nero in what his new role is to be and eloquently professes the realms of the new princeps’ power: “I am the arbiter of life and death to mankind: it rests with me to decide what lot and position in life each man possesses: fortune makes use of my mouth to announce what she bestows on each man: ” (De Clementia 1). From the very beginning of the work Seneca is quick to lay out Nero’s grandiose power. Yet, coupled with this prologue of power is the near constant weight of responsibility and the burden of rule. “You cannot stray away from your position; it besets you, and follows you with mighty pomp wherever you go. This slavery of not being able to sink one’s rank belongs to the highest position of all; yet it is a burden which you share with the gods” (De Clementia 8). Despite all his power Nero must recognize his position and know that he must check himself to guide this power responsibly. For Seneca power comes at the cost of equal responsibility and if left unchecked sows seeds of destruction. To better illustrate his argument he sets Nero’s paternal and maternal ancestor, Augustus, as an example. “We declare that Augustus was a good emperor, and that he was well worthy to bear his parent’s name, for no other reason than because he did not even show cruelty in avenging personal insults, … because he smiled at scandalous jests against himself, because it was evident that he himself suffered when he punished others” (De Clementia 10). To Seneca, Augustus is the paradigm of his lesson. He held absolute power yet showed mercy and responsibility willing to do what was required of him keeping his emotion outside of his work even going so far as causing himself suffering in his duties.

    In his Apocolocyntosis, Seneca seems to have thrown the lessons of removing emotion and staying the sword. Seneca, certainly a man of power even in exile, pummels the image of Rome’s most recent emperor with a seemingly unending list of insults and jokes at Claudius’ expense. “Nobody ever believed he was really quite born. Do what has to be done: ‘Kill him, and let a better man rule in his empty court'” (Apoc. 3). Seneca does not spare seemingly anything in his onslaught even going so far as distasteful jokes such as: “When he had made a great noise with that part of him which talked easiest, he cried out, “Oh dear, oh dear! I think I have made a mess of myself.” Whether he did or no, I cannot say, but certain it is he always did make a mess of everything” (Apoc. 4). Nothing appears to be off limits to insult the man that ordered the author’s exile. Judging by the sheer quantity and severity of his jabs it seems that Seneca was having his revenge, his anger a poison laced in every insult. Again he features Augustus in his work but instead of being a lofty example of clemency he too joins in making a mockery of Claudius. “This man, my lords, who looks as though he could not worry a fly, used to chop off heads as easily as a dog sits down” (Apoc. 10). Seneca seems to take a complete departure of the lessons he writes to Nero.

    It is this emotive Seneca that Persius is comparative to. Their jabs, criticisms, and jokes flow together in a seemingly unending strain upon whoever their unlucky subject may be. “At this point, someone with a hyacinth wrap around his shoulders, snorting and lisping some nauseating stuff, filters his Phyllises and Hypsipyles, the typical tear-jerking stuff of bards, tripping up the words on his delicate mouth” (Satire 1). Perseus, like Seneca, plasters his targets with humorous quips.

    If anger and emotion are as prevalent in Roman literature as a whole like Seneca’s and Perseus’ works satire itself is a necessary outlet for these emotions to be let out. Satire reveals hidden issues and problems within society through a humorous but potent lens and emotion makes it even more potent as can be seen in Perseus’ case. He makes the case for satire in opposition to the lofty prose and poetry of the elite, “You seek the language of the toga, skilled at the pointed combination, rounded with moderate utterance, clever at scraping sick morals and nailing fault with well-bred wit” (Satire 5). What is needed in Rome is not more purposeless prose but the sharp, revealing wit and comedy of satire.

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