Event Title

“Nihil est tam uiolentum, tam incontinens sui”: The Flood Narrative in Seneca’s Naturales Quaestiones 3.27-30

Presenter Information

Michael Swantek, Oberlin College

Location

Science Center A155

Start Date

10-2-2015 4:30 PM

End Date

10-2-2015 5:50 PM

Abstract

This presentation aims to offer a reading of the end of Book 3 of Seneca’s Natural Questions. My project situates Seneca within the context of Stoic thought and strives to make sense of the text as a notable achievement for reasons both literary and philosophical. Composed at the end of Seneca’s life, the Natural Questions is a text distinct among Latin literature for a number of reasons. First, it is a philosophical work that presents the Stoics’ view of the world. Second, in combining both the exposition and critical evaluation of early scientific theories, it may be rightfully called one of the earliest studies of science in general and of meteorology and physics in particular. Finally, its idiosyncratic format, in which scientific discussions are interspersed with moralizing prefaces, epilogues, and excursus, leaves open the question of what precisely Seneca’s intentions were in writing the Natural Questions. Book 3 commences with a highly allusive justification for the author’s undertaking before moving on to a lengthy discourse concerning all aspects of the water contained on earth. Ultimately Seneca ends Book 3 by describing the fated deluge that will someday wipe humanity and all other animals alike from the earth. In the book’s final chapter, Seneca includes a highly literary depiction of the flood itself, one rich in personification and metaphor. Relying on intertextual connections between Seneca and other authors, I argue that we ought to understand the Senecan flood narrative as an adaptation of earlier poetical and mythological representations of water.

Notes

Session III, Panel 6 - ART: Sacred & Secular

Major

Classics; Philosophy

Award

Oberlin College Research Fellowship (OCRF)

Project Mentor(s)

Christopher Trinacty, Classics

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Oct 2nd, 4:30 PM Oct 2nd, 5:50 PM

“Nihil est tam uiolentum, tam incontinens sui”: The Flood Narrative in Seneca’s Naturales Quaestiones 3.27-30

Science Center A155

This presentation aims to offer a reading of the end of Book 3 of Seneca’s Natural Questions. My project situates Seneca within the context of Stoic thought and strives to make sense of the text as a notable achievement for reasons both literary and philosophical. Composed at the end of Seneca’s life, the Natural Questions is a text distinct among Latin literature for a number of reasons. First, it is a philosophical work that presents the Stoics’ view of the world. Second, in combining both the exposition and critical evaluation of early scientific theories, it may be rightfully called one of the earliest studies of science in general and of meteorology and physics in particular. Finally, its idiosyncratic format, in which scientific discussions are interspersed with moralizing prefaces, epilogues, and excursus, leaves open the question of what precisely Seneca’s intentions were in writing the Natural Questions. Book 3 commences with a highly allusive justification for the author’s undertaking before moving on to a lengthy discourse concerning all aspects of the water contained on earth. Ultimately Seneca ends Book 3 by describing the fated deluge that will someday wipe humanity and all other animals alike from the earth. In the book’s final chapter, Seneca includes a highly literary depiction of the flood itself, one rich in personification and metaphor. Relying on intertextual connections between Seneca and other authors, I argue that we ought to understand the Senecan flood narrative as an adaptation of earlier poetical and mythological representations of water.