Naturales quaestiones

Naturales quaestiones is an encyclopedia of the natural world written by Seneca around 65 AD. It is much shorter than the Naturalis Historia produced by Pliny the Elder some ten years later, however.

Ancient bust of Seneca, part of a double herm (Antikensammlung Berlin)

Contents

Content

The work was written by Seneca the Younger around 65 AD, and is addressed to Lucilius Junior. It is one of the few Roman works which deals with scientific matters. It is not a systematic work, but a collection of facts of nature from various writers, Greek and Roman, many of which are curiosities. The first book deals with meteors, halos, rainbows, mock suns, etc.; the second of thunder and lightning; the third of water; this book contains, by the way, the description of the roman heat exchangers, which were called "dracones", or "miliaria"; almost at the end, a hair-raising description of the deluge. A very interesting note in this book, is that ancient rivers were not as pristine as we tend to think: for instance, the Alpheus became incredibly filthy when thousands of people congregated on its banks for the olympic games. The fourth book speaks of hail, snow, and ice; the fifth of winds; the sixth of earthquakes and the sources of the Nile; and the seventh of comets. Moral remarks are scattered through the work; and indeed the design of the whole appears to be to find a foundation for ethics in the knowledge of nature.

There are many incidental and interesting comments, such as the reference to water heating apparatus using coiled tubes in a furnace. The same section on water (Chapter III) refers directly to the use of hypocausts at the baths.

Selected quotes

Man is really something worthless, if he doesn't rise above human concerns; in latin: "Quam despecta res est homo, nisi supra humana surrexerit".

What is God? Everything you see, and everything you don't see too; in latin: "Quid est deus? Quod vides, totum, et quod non vides, totum".

The earth is but a point, yet how many nations divide it violently among themselves. How ridiculous are boundaries among humans! In latin: "Hoc est illud punctum, quod inter tot gentes ferro et igne dividitur? O, quam ridiculi sunt mortalium termina!"

In the third book, the description of the deluge ends with a bitter note: "... all animals will be created from scratch and the earth will be given a new man, who knows nothing of crime and is born under better auspices. But their innocence will last as long as they are inexpert; soon, evil will sneak in. Virtue is difficult to to find, needs a governance and a guide; to learn vice, no teacher is needed." In latin: "... omne ex integro animal orietur, dabiturque terris homo inscius sceleris et melioribus auspiciis natus. Sed illis quoque innocentia non durabit, nisi dun novi sint; cito nequitia subrepit. Virtus difficilis inventu est, rectorem ducemque desiderat; etiam sine magistro vitia discuntur."

In the book on earthquakes, Seneca imagines that Lucilius questions the value of science: "What is - you are asking - the reward for this toil? It is the gratest reward of all, to know nature." In Latin: "Quod, inquis, erit pretium operae? Quo nullum maius est, nosse naturam."

References

See also

Further reading

  • Seneca, Naturales Quaestiones: Bks. I-III, v. 1. Loeb Classical Library
  • Seneca, Naturales Quaestiones: Bks. IV-VII, v. 2. Loeb Classical Library
  • Seneca, "Ricerche sulla Natura", a cura di Piergiorgio Parroni, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, a recent (2010) edition with a fine comment.

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Apuleius — Phantasieporträt des Apuleius auf einem Kontorniaten (Medaillon) des späten 4. Jahrhunderts Apuleius (auch Apuleius von Madauros oder Apuleius von Madaura; * um 123 in Madauros, der heutigen Ortschaft M’Daourouch im Nordosten Algeriens; †… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca — Seneca (Büste in der Antikensammlung Berlin) Lucius Annaeus Seneca, genannt Seneca der Jüngere (* etwa im Jahre 1 in Corduba; † 65 n. Chr. in der Nähe Roms), war ein römischer Philosoph, Dramatiker, Naturforscher …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Seneca — (Büste in der Antikensammlung Berlin) Lucius Annaeus Seneca, genannt Seneca der Jüngere (* etwa im Jahre 1 in Corduba; † 65 n. Chr. in der Nähe Roms), war ein römischer Philosoph, Dramatiker, Naturforscher, Staatsmann …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Seneca der Jüngere — Seneca (Büste in der Antikensammlung Berlin) Lucius Annaeus Seneca, genannt Seneca der Jüngere (* etwa im Jahre 1 in Corduba; † 65 n. Chr. in der Nähe Roms), war ein römischer Philosoph, Dramatiker, Naturforscher …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Séneca — Para otros usos de este término, véase Seneca (desambiguación). Séneca …   Wikipedia Español

  • Classical compass winds — The Tower of the Winds in Athens Classical compass winds refers to the naming and association of winds in Mediterranean classical antiquity (Ancient Greece and Rome) with the points of geographic direction and orientation. Ancient wind roses… …   Wikipedia

  • Prodigio — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Para otros usos de este término, véase Prodigio (desambiguación). Lluvia de peces en Singapur. Se llama prodigio a todo suceso extraño que excede los límites regulares de la naturaleza. La may …   Wikipedia Español

  • Loeb Classical Library — The Loeb Classical Library is a series of books, today published by the Harvard University Press, which presents important works of ancient Greek and Latin Literature in a way designed to make the text accessible to the broadest possible audience …   Wikipedia

  • Attalus (Stoic) — Attalus was a Stoic philosopher in the reign of Tiberius (c. 25 AD), who was defrauded of his property by Sejanus, and reduced to cultivating the ground.Seneca, Suasoriae , 2.] He taught the philosopher Seneca, [Seneca, Epistles. 108.] who… …   Wikipedia

  • Aulus Caecina (Schriftsteller) — Aulus Caecina war ein römischer Schriftsteller und Redner der späten Republik. Sein gleichnamiger Vater, der aus Volaterrae stammte, wurde 69 v. Chr. von Marcus Tullius Cicero in einer noch existierenden Rede (pro A. Caecina) verteidigt. Der Sohn …   Deutsch Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.