Noah Dovre

The Threatening Pardon

1¶ Mercy and cruelty are opposing forces within one’s character, one a virtue the other a vice. Their Roman counterparts clementia and crudelitas are held in a similar view albeit a different context. Seneca writes at length on both specifically in his De Clementia and De Ira. He argues that through clemency one holds himself in moderation leading to careful and effective judgment while anger threatens these leading to cruelty. Niccolo Machiavelli counters this idea of a leader devoted to clementia arguing that a leader must be cruel in order to rule effectively. By examining the similarities of the arguments of Seneca and Machiavelli on the ideal leader, this paper will demonstrate that both authors approach the same ideal of moderatio in an effective ruler with a balanced use of both crudelitas and clementia.

2¶ In De Clementia Seneca offers himself up as a mirror to educate the young emperor Nero. The goal is to reveal, through the discourse, Nero’s clemency to him and show its proper use in ruling. Both Braund and Kaster note that despite clementia being discussed already in Latin literature as a virtue there had been no work that dealt with it in such length as Seneca’s.[1] Despite this Seneca focuses on this virtue as the cornerstone of Nero’s rule. Yet, the Roman clementia is not simply mercy or forgiveness in the modern sense. Again Braund and Kaster place it as a kind of “self-restraint,” one that is uniquely Roman with no Greek equivalents.[2] Kaster outlines this restraint as shown in De Clementia: “moderation (moderatio) that diminishes a due and deserved punishment to some degree.”[3] Schofield notes that Seneca gives multiple definitions of this idea of clementia throughout the De Clementia in his attempt to formulate a new clemency for a new ruler.[4] Seneca believes that clementia is key to a good ruler and through its practice, Nero’s reign will be prosperous.

3¶ In a way, clementia, was a familial habit of Nero and his deified ancestors. Seneca brings up an example with Augustus:

4¶ Ignovit abavus tuus victis ; nam si non ignovisset, quibus imperasset? Sallustium et Cocceios et Deillios et totam cohortem primae admissionis ex adversariorum castris conscripsit; iam Domitios, Messalas, Asinios, Cicerones, quidquid floris erat in civitate, clementiae suae debebat.

5¶ Your great-great-grandfather forgave those he conquered; if he hadn’t whom would he have ruled? From his opponents’ camp he drafted Sallust and men like Cocceius and Dellius and the whole cadre of his closest associates; soon he chalked up to his clemency’s account men like Domitius, Messala, Asinius, Cicero – in fact, all the first flower of the community (De Clementia I.10).[5]

6¶ Through his clemency Augustus was able to convert foes to productive members of society. However positive it is seen from this perspective it takes on another from the perspective of those spared. Such is the case with Julius Caesar and his famous clemency that was dreaded by his opponents. Julius Caesar’s clemency was a powerful tool for political propaganda to the masses but to the elites, like Cicero, it was an insult as Caesar, through pardons, made subordinates of his political equals.[6] As Augustus does after him, Caesar spared those he defeated leaving diehards like Cato only the option of suicide to avoid Caesar’s pardon to join his new world under his yoke.[7] In this way, depending on the perspective, clemency is a gift better to give than receive.

7¶ It is this union of absolute power and clementia that Braund explores in The Anger of Tyrants and the Forgiveness of Kings. She argues that Seneca struggles to apply the classical virtue and Stoic idea of clementia to the new rule under the princeps as the new emperors are above the law and not beholden to it.[8] “Imperial forgiveness – the self-restraint of a ruler who might exercise his anger, the ‘forgiveness of kings’ in my title – turns out to be terrifyingly arbitrary and a long way from modern conceptions of ‘forgiveness’ molded by Christian thought.”[9] It is the sparing from a worse sentence or the ruler’s rage that clementia entails in the imperial setting. This is a part of Seneca’s reasoning for why clemency is best found in a ruler.

8¶ Nullum tamen clementia ex omnibus magis quam regem aut principem decet. Ita enim magnae vires decori gloriaeque sunt, si illis salutaris potentia est ; nam pestifera vis est valere ad nocendum.

9¶ That said, clemency suits no one better than a king or prince. For great resources bring honor and glory if and only if their power is beneficial: having the strength to do harm is a baneful sort of power (De Clementia I.3.3).[10]

10¶ As emperor, Nero possesses vast wealth and power as well as the ability to act outside the law. If his reign is beneficial he will be seen as a savior to the state, but if it is cruel he will be seen as a tyrannical despot. In this situation clementia decides this appearance. In this way clemency suits the ruler best as he has the most to gain in sparing an offender from their due punishment, it being well within their rights and power.

11¶ It is important to note that despite his calls for clemency Seneca does not call for clementia to take the place of rightful punishment. Instead he calls for careful and thoughtful considerations of not what punishment is just but what is appropriate. The ruler is to have clemency on hand at all times and through its use avoid cruel, inappropriate, or drastic punishment. Seneca addresses this early in De Clementia outlining how a good ruler approaches the judgment of punishment.

12¶ In hac tanta facultate rerum non ira me ad iniqua supplicia compulit, non iuvenilis impetus, non temeritas hominum et contumacia, quae saepe tranquillissimis quoque pectoribus patientiam extersit, non ipsa ostentandae per terrores potentiae dira, sed frequens magnis imperiis gloria. Conditum, immo constratum apud me ferrum est, summa parsimonia etiam vilissimi sanguinis; nemo non, cui alia desunt, hominis nomine apud me gratiosus est.

13¶ When I have such vast capacities at my disposal, anger does not drive me to impose unjust punishments, – no, nor does youth’s impulsiveness nor people’s rash defiance, which often wrests forbearance from even the most placid hearts, nor the sort of glory – dreadful, but common in high commands, – that depends on using terror to display one’s power. My sword is sheathed, or rather bound fast. I am utterly sparing of even the meanest blood; no one fails to win my favor just by virtue of being human, if he has nothing else to commend him (De Clementia I.1.3).[11]

14¶ The option of clemency is always to be on hand and considered to ward off the influences of anger in the decisions of a ruler. Later he outlines this idea in comparing a ruler to a father.

15¶ Quod ergo officium eius est? Quod bonorum parentium, qui obiurgare liberos non numquam blande, non numquam minaciter solent, aliquando admonere etiam verberibus. Numquid aliquis sanus filium a prima offensa exheredat? … multa ante temptat, quibus dubiam indolem et peiore iam loco positam revocet ; simul deploratum est, ultima experitur. Nemo ad supplicia exigenda pervenit, nisi qui remedia consumpsit. Hoc, quod parenti, etiam principi faciendum est, quem appellavimus Patrem Patriae non adulatione vana adducti.

16¶ What then, is his duty? The same as that of good father’s, who are accustomed to reprove their children sometimes gently, sometimes menacingly, and now and again to admonish them even with blows. No sane man disinherits a son at his first offence, does he? … Before it comes to that, he tries to recall a wavering character from its present, regrettable condition; the final steps are taken when hope is lost. No one reaches the point of exacting punishment unless he has tried all possible cures. The same things a father should do should also be done by a prince, whom all call ‘Father of the Fatherland’ for reasons having nothing to do with empty flattery (De Clementia I.14.1-2).[12]

17¶ A ruler who holds clemency exhausts all other possible options in reconciling or rehabilitating the offender even it means lessening what punishment would be seen as just for the discretion. In this way clemency is a way of keeping the rulers in check, constraining their power, as well as warding them away from anger or other impulses.

18¶ While clemency is always to be considered Seneca clarifies that a ruler should avoid a policy of always applying this gradual form of increasing punishments. He clarifies early in De Clementia that rulers must recognize when they ought to practice clemency.

19¶ itaque adhibenda moderatio est, quae sanabilia ingenia distinguere a deploratis sciat. Nec promiscuam habere ac volgarem clementiam oportet nec abscisam; nam tam omnibus ignoscere crudelitas quam nulli.

20¶ Accordingly, one needs to apply the sort of moderation that knows to distinguish natures that can be healed from those that are lost. ‘One’s clemency should be neither promiscuously indiscriminate nor very restricted: it’s just as cruel to forgive all as to forgive none’ (De Clementia I.2.2)[13]

21¶ Only those who can be helped from clemency can receive it in order to maintain order. It is necessary for some to experience the full extent of punishment, even if it is the sentence of death. This policy of rule through the practice of clemency is to not to prevent what is necessary but to punish carefully and appropriately. “What difference is there between a tyrant and a king … save that tyrants indulge in violence as a matter of pleasure whereas kings do so only for some necessary reason?” (De Clementia I.11.4).[14] A good ruler recognizes when clemency or wholesale punishment is necessary and by the careful consideration of clemency he may avoid unnecessary or cruel decisions.

22¶ For Seneca, cruelty has no place in punishment and he explores its prevalence with a greater focus in De Ira. Anger is to be avoided, according to Seneca, as its influence often leads poor judgments and actions. This is especially true in punishment in which anger often turns punishment from a lesson to injury.

23¶ Quid ergo? non aliquando castigatio necessaria est? Quidni? sed haec sine ira, cum ratione; non enim nocet sed medetur specie nocendi.

24¶ Surely scolding is sometimes needed, no? Of course! But reasoned scolding, without anger; for the point is not to do harm, but to heal in the guise of harming” (De Ira I.6.1).[15]

25¶ Punishment is to be a tool at the disposal of the ruler used to aid his subjects whether they agree or not. Anger however, often pushes the punishment too far leading to cruelty, “Anger, as I said, is hungry for payback” (De Ira I.5.3).[16] Punishment is to be carefully applied devoid of anger to correct a wrongdoer’s character.

26¶ Ita legum praesidem civitatisque rectorem decet, quam diu potest, verbis et his mollioribus ingenia curare, ut facienda suadeat cupiditatemque honesti et aequi conciliet animis faciatque vitiorum odium, pretium virtutium; transeat deinde ad tristiorem orationem, qua moneat adhuc et exprobret; novissime ad poenas et has adhuc leves, revocabiles decurrat; ultima supplicia sceleribus ultimis ponat, ut nemo pereat, nisi quem perire etiam pereuntis intersit.

27¶ In the same way it is appropriate that a person who administers the laws and guides a civil community should seek to heal people’s characters with words at that, to urge the proper course of action and instill a hate of vice and love of virtue. At the next stage he should adopt a more severe way of speaking, but one that still only warns and reproves. Finally, he should have recourse to penalties on the worst crimes, on the principle that no one should die save in the case where death is a favor even to the one who is dying (De Ira I.6.3).[17]

28¶ Just like his earlier example of the father in De Clementia, Seneca’s ruler ought to exhaust all other measures of setting the offender on the correct path through “healing” punishments. Seneca returns to this idea again and again throughout De Ira: “And so the wrongdoer should be corrected both by admonition and by force … not without scolding but without anger;” (De Ira I.15.1)[18] and “Every kind of punishment I apply, I apply by way of a remedy”(De Ira I.16.2).[19] Punishment, as Seneca sees it, is a sour medicine that may hopefully correct wrongdoers with increasing dosages.

29¶ Seneca offers many examples of how he sees punishment should be carried out without anger but also offers examples of the opposite course of action such as with the story of Gnaeus Piso and his soldiers. Seneca tells the story of a soldier who returned without his patrol partner and Piso, angry that a soldier is missing, orders him executed. As the soldier is led outside of camp, his lost patrol partner appears and the centurion in charge of the execution leads them both back to Piso for reconciliation. However, Piso, again due to his frustration and anger, orders all three, the two soldiers and the centurion, killed, “…because you were condemned; you, because you caused him to be condemned; you, because you didn’t obey your commander when ordered to kill” (De Ira I.18.6).[20] This is the anger Seneca warns against so avidly in De Ira. Later, he gives examples of anger in great foreign rulers such as Darius and Philip II but then, to his dismay, he offers numerous Roman examples of men falling to the dangers of anger.[21]

30¶ Perhaps Seneca’s greatest example of the dangers of anger and necessity of restraint through clemency would be the downfall of Atreus in his Thyestes. The early discussion between Atreus and the satellite illustrate many of Seneca’s thoughts of kingship. Atreus is the kind of ruler Seneca hopes to avoid in Nero. One who is driven by their passions and punishes with anger and cruelty as Atreus extravagantly does in sacrificing and cooking his nephews. He says: sanctitas pietas fides privata bona sunt: qua iuvat reges eant. “Righteousness, goodness, loyalty are private values: kings should go where they please” (Thyestes I.219–220).[22] The satellite on the other hand calls the king towards moderation and more restrained punishments, a more Senecan approach. He says to Atreus: ubi non est pudor nec cura iuris sanctitas pietas fides, instabile regnum est. Where there is no shame, no concern for the law, no righteousness, goodness, loyalty, rule is unstable (Thyestes I.216–218).[23] In the end however Atreus is moved by his cruelty despite the satellite’s attempts to move him towards clemency.

31¶ In summary, Seneca believes that a successful ruler should rule with clementia and through it apply careful and appropriate punishments that are intended to spare those who can be corrected or serve the state. It is not devoid of punishment but it is devoid of anger or cruelty which the consideration of clemency protects against as it leads to unnecessary punishment. Through this practice of clementia a good rule follows for both their state and subjects as well as the ruler himself. “Stable and well-founded greatness belongs only to the man who as others know is for them as much as he is above them, whom they daily find to be anxiously on guard for their well-being, individually and collectively” (De Clementia I.2.3)[24] Responsible and effective rule is achieved through clementia and through it the ruler is loved and protected by his subjects as they feel loved and protected by him.

32¶ A seeming counterargument to Seneca’s idea of clementia in kingship is Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince. Much like how Seneca seeks to educate his princeps Machiavelli seeks to educate his contemporary rulers on how to be effective. His approach seems to be much more severe. Instead of Caesar sparing his defeated rivals Machiavelli calls for rulers to not pardon but exterminate the conquered elite.[25] Peter Stacey in Roman Monarchy and the Renaissance Prince notes that, to Machiavelli, such commitments to clementia and other virtues leave a ruler inflexible to sudden and drastic circumstances.[26] This inflexibility leads to inadequate decisions and ultimately to unrest. Like Seneca, Machiavelli uses the idea of a doctor applying treatment to a problem. Unlike Seneca however, Machiavelli proposes swift action to remove the issue as soon as it arises. “That is how it goes in affairs of state: when you recognize evils in advance, as they take shape … you can quickly cure them; but when you have not seen them, and so let them grow till anyone can recognize them, there is no longer a remedy.”[27] Seneca calls for a protracted and gradual response while here Machiavelli seeks to stamp out the problem at its source without delay. Stacey, keeping with author’s shared fondness for medical metaphors, identifies them as medicine forti (strong medicine) for Machiavelli’s approach and mollis medicina (gentle medicine) for Seneca’s.[28]

33¶ Machiavelli however does not reject clementia despite his disagreement with Seneca’s ideas and values it as part of a good ruler. “Let me say that every prince should prefer to be considered merciful rather than cruel, yet he should be careful not to mismanage this clemency of his.”[29] This is similar to Seneca’s warning to apply clemency carefully in order to spare only those worthy of forgiveness. While he warns against the dangers of clemency he also calls for reasoned cruelty in a ruler.

34¶ People thought that Cesare Borgia was cruel, but that cruelty of his reorganized the Romagna, united it, and established it in peace and loyalty. Anyone who views this realistically will see that this prince was much more merciful than the people of Florence, who, to avoid the reputation of cruelty, allowed Pistoia to be destroyed. Thus no prince should mind being called cruel for what he does to keep his subjects united and loyal; he may make examples of a very few, but he will be more merciful in reality than those who, in their tender-heartedness, allow such disorders to occur … Such turbulence brings harm to an entire community, while the executions of a prince affect only one individual at a time.[30]

35¶ In his example of Borgia’s cruelty and Florence’s mercy Machiavelli shows that a ruler should not be afraid to act harshly if it brings about stability in a state as inaction can allow preventable outcomes to grow into greater strife. Machiavelli believes that a prince must do what is necessary to keep the state united and stable even if that action is seen as cruel by the people.

36¶ For Machiavelli cruelty comes with the title of kingship and is necessary to maintain an effective rule but should be held in moderation. Rulers, according to Machiavelli, cannot avoid being described as cruel as they must make decisions that make them appear as such. This is especially true for those new to their power as their kingship and state are in constant danger.[31] Rulers however, need to care for not to be hated or to be truly cruel in their actions. To prevent this Machiavelli details a kind of moderatio that bears a resemblance to that of Seneca’s at the beginning of De Clementia.

37¶ Yet a prince should be slow to believe rumors and to commit himself to action on the basis of them. He should not be afraid of his own thoughts; he ought to proceed cautiously, moderating his conduct with prudence and humanity, allowing neither overconfidence to make him careless, nor overtimidity to make him intolerable.[32]

38¶ Machiavelli’s ideal ruler is not afraid to do what is necessary but does so without influencing emotions, or allowing haste to impact his judgment. He must take care not to let outside influencers cause his actions to be too severe or cruel but instead apply the needed remedy to the situation. As a result the state is held in stability and the ruler is both feared and respected. Machiavelli feels that a ruler ought to try to be loved by their people but that it cannot impede their actions as a ruler. “Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that, even if he gets no love, he gets no hate either.”[33] In this way an effective ruler is respected by his subjects out of fear if he effectively rules the state and he needs only hold himself in moderation to not be hated. In this way Machiavelli uses moderation to avoid of the outcomes of an excess in cruelty or clemency, with the first leading to hatred among the people and the other leading to an inability to address issues effectively.[34]

39¶ In review, Machiavelli recognizes that a good ruler uses both cruelty and clemency, whichever is necessary for the situation but also in moderation, to create an effective state. Seneca on the other hand recognizes a good ruler as one who holds clementia at all times and through moderation exacts appropriate punishments without cruelty. Both men approach the same issue of how to effectively rule, yet seemingly have two opposing points of view. However both perspectives come to the same conclusion of moderatio. Seneca describes clementia as a way to keep a ruler in moderation away from what he believes to be most harmful in cruelty. Machiavelli believes rulers must act quickly and sometimes harshly to address issues and that cruelty comes with such actions. Such actions should be carefully moderated but should not drift too far into clemency which is most harmful as it leads to an apprehension to act quickly. Both authors are seeking the same solution in moderatio, but by different paths and perspectives, one coming from the perspective of forgiveness and the other coming from the perspective of cruelty. Both recognize the dangers of extremes and call for their rulers to be flexible in their judgement, not addressing every issue with the same solution.

40¶ In this way it is difficult for either ideal, whether it be Machiavelli’s or Seneca’s, to describe a realistic kingship. For example, to support his view Seneca upholds Caesar Augustus as his model of a ruler who uses clementia expertly, but Caesar Augustus could as easily be an example for Machiavelli’s ideal. As Dowling writes, the young Octavian took on a policy of severitas over clementia as an avenger for his adoptive father, with this severitas often appearing as crudelitas during the civil war.[35] Octavian was willing to do what was needed to avenge the assassination. Octavian, then, only practiced clementia when it suited him such as for purposes of propaganda or gaining military support from defeated or captured enemy ranks.[36] Clementia was also certainly set aside by Octavian during his participation in the proscriptions with Lepidus and Antony with his severitas drifting into crudelitas.

41¶ After Philippi, with the assassins defeated, the young emperor-to-be spared the troops of the conquered but not their leaders. It was even reported by Appian that some defeated Senators appealed to Antony rather than Octavian, as he seemed more merciful.[37] Here Octavian achieved his goal of avenging his father by defeating the assassins, but his fight and need for severitas was not over. From Philippi and until Actium he kept his severe image, only practicing clemency for political or militaristic advantage whether it was for propaganda or garnering new troops.[38] After his victory however, Octavian began to practice clementia and severitas hand in hand. “Tempering clemency with a suitable severity allowed Octavian the freedom to seem to emulate his father’s clementia but without the risk of Caesar’s blanket pardons.”[39] Here Octavian models the ideal of moderatio that is sought after by both Machiavelli and Seneca with a balanced and flexible practice of clemency and cruelty. Finally as Augustus, he changes his image to be one of clementia alone while retaining a sense of severitas. “Augustus’s mercy was never a blanket grant; it carried away the expectation of gratitude and reciprocal service; it was dispensed with a careful eye to the status of the pardoned, with the lower classes pardoned freely and members of the elite receiving clemency only according to their ability to aid the princeps and to their commitment to a reformed loyalty.”[40] Augustus’s clementia was carefully administered to better himself or the state and his mercy in a way was a punishment of servitude. “His clemency brought him safety and peace of mind and caused people to regard him with grateful favor, though he had set a master’s hand upon the necks of the Roman people” (De Clementia I.10.2)[41] In this respect Augustus also succeeds in both being loved and feared by his subjects, again uniting the Senecan and Machiavellian ideals through moderatio. Thus, Augustus can be seen as a ruler who has reformed himself from a life of cruelty to that of moderated leadership, and through his use of clementia by producing stern pardons that saves only those deemed worthy he withholds a shade of severitas or in some cases crudelitas in subjugating the pardoned. It is something to simultaneously hoped and feared for.

42¶ At first glance the mirrors that Seneca and Machiavelli offer to their prospective princes give drastically different reflections of what should be the ideal ruler. However both men approach the same goal from two differing viewpoints. Both isolate two opposites to base their ideal around. For Seneca it is clemency while for Machiavelli it is cruelty. Both quickly address the weaknesses of the other. For Machiavelli devotion to clemency leads to the inability to act flexibly to situations. For Seneca cruelty is to be avoided at all costs through by carefully avoiding the influence of anger. Yet Seneca recognizes the error of wholesale pardons in clemency and Machiavelli recognizes the dangers of hatred brought about by too much cruelty. Both men conclude upon a rule of moderation, whether by clemency or cruelty, where the ideal ruler carefully acts clemently or cruelly to best address the concerns of his state. Such an ideal of moderatio is displayed in Caesar Augustus in his journey to become and during his time as princeps. In this way Caesar Augustus was the physician both authors desired applying both medicine forti and mollis medicina to suit the needs of the state and people.

[1] Susanna Braund. “The Anger of Tyrants and the Forgiveness of Kings,” in Ancient Forgiveness: Classical, Judaic, and Christian, ed. by Charles Griswold and David Konstan. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 86; and Robert Kaster. Introduction in Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Anger, Mercy, Revenge. Trans. by Robert Kaster and Martha Nussbaum. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 136.

[2] Braund, “The Anger of Tyrants and the Forgiveness of Kings,” 85, ; and Kaster, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, 136.

[3] Kaster, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, 137.

[4] Schofield, Malcolm. “Seneca on Monarchy and the Political Life: De Clementia, De Tranquillitate Animi, De Otio.” In The Cambridge Companion to Seneca, ed. by Shadi Bartsch and Alessandro Schiesaro. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 75.

[5] Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. Anger, Mercy, Revenge. Trans. by Robert Kaster and Martha Nussbaum. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 156.

[6] Dowling, Melissa. Clemency and Cruelty in the Roman World. (Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2006), 22.

[7] Braund, “The Anger of Tyrants and the Forgiveness of Kings,” 92.

[8] Ibid, 94-95.

[9] Ibid, 95.

[10] Seneca, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, 149.

[11] Seneca, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, 146.

[12] Seneca, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, 160.

[13] Ibid, 148.

[14] Seneca, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, 158.

[15] Ibid, 19.

[16] Seneca, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, 18.

[17]Ibid, 19.

[18] Ibid, 26.

[19] Ibid, 27.

[20] Seneca, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, 30-31.

[21]Ibid , 44-49.

[22] Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. Thyestes. In Seneca IX Tragedies II, ed. and trans. by John Fitch. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004), 246.

[23] Seneca, Thyestes, 246.

[24] Seneca, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, 149.

[25] Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. Trans. by Robert Adams. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc., 1977), 9.

[26] Peter Stacey. Roman Monarchy and the Renaissance Prince. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007) 208.

[27] Machiavelli, The Prince, 6.

[28] Stacey, Roman Monarchy and the Renaissance Prince, 209.

[29] Machiavelli, The Prince, 47.

[30] Ibid, 47.

[31] Machiavelli, The Prince, 47.

[32]Ibid, 47.

[33] Ibid, 48.

[34] Machievelli, The Prince, 47-48.

[35] Dowling, Clemency and Cruelty in the Roman World, 29.

[36] Ibid, 39-40.

[37] Ibid, 46

[38] Ibid, 59.

[39] Ibid, 63.

[40] Dowling, Clemency and Cruelty in the Roman World, 72.

[41] Seneca, Anger, Mercy, Revenge, 156.



Braund, Susanna. 2012. “The Anger of Tyrants and the Forgiveness of Kings.” In Ancient Forgiveness: Classical, Judaic, and Christian, (eds. Charles Griswold and David Konstan) 79-96. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Adams, Robert, trans. 1977. Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince. New York: W. W. Norton & Company Inc.

Schofield, Malcolm. 2015. “Seneca on Monarchy and the Political Life: De Clementia, De Tranquillitate Animi, De Otio.” In The Cambridge Companion to Seneca (eds by Shadi Bartsch and Alessandro Schiesaro) 68-81. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kaster, Robert and Nussbaum, Martha., trans. 2010. Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Anger, Mercy, Revenge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Fitch, John. ed. and trans. 2004. Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Thyestes. In Seneca IX Tragedies II, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Stacey, Peter. 2007. Roman Monarchy and the Renaissance Prince. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Dowling, Melissa. 2006. Clemency and Cruelty in the Roman World. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.


2 thoughts on “Noah Dovre”

  1. Noah – An interesting examination of cruelty and mercy in Seneca and Machiavelli. I would cut out the first sentence, which attempts to identify mercy as a virtue. You paper is not about identifying virtues or vices in a general or universal sense, but rather is about their identification in two particular authors.
    Paragraph one – Part of the paragraph leads the reader to focus on difference – M will favor cruelty – but the last sentence seems to lead in a different direction, equating M and S’s arguments – clarifying more at the beginning of the paper will help the reader. Your excellent material in paragraphs 39 and 42 could be foreshadowed in your opening paragraphs, guiding your reader towards what ultimately will be your argument. It would be good to identify M historically a bit more and also the Florence material you mention, since you are writing for classicists, who do not specialize in his period.
    Your example of S selectively using / reading Augustus’ career re clemency is very important. You might even make more of that. Finally, do you have an argument for why Seneca would avoid cruelty more than M? Does it have anything to do with his philosophical positions in relation to his political advising? That may or may not be something to cover, but your paper made me think about this. Small item: Does “medicinE” need correcting?

    • Thanks for the comment, I do agree that I should avoid discussing virtues as that is not the focus of the paper itself but I at least wanted to mention it as virtue and vice somewhere, however the opening line may not be the best place for it. I agree in giving a more historical context to Machiavelli and my the reference to Florence as well. I felt that it was necessary to mention but I did not want to become too side-tracked in explaining the context. I will take a greater look into it. As for why Seneca avoids cruelty, to me, it is because cruelty is the product of actions made under the influence of anger which he so avidly warns against in De Ira. I allude to this in the paper but it may not be as clear as I thought it was or as clear as it ought to be. As for medicinE, I double checked the authors choice of words and it is the authentic quote from the author.

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