Seneca and his contemporaries
DOI link for Seneca and his contemporaries
Seneca and his contemporaries book
With the accession of Tiberius in 14 CE the continuation of the monarchy was assured. Tiberius himself soon found that the senate, although it kept the title and forms of the Republican institution, was de facto powerless, and for the most part unwilling, to oppose his will in any significant matter. The schools of philosophy continued to exist in Rome, Athens and Alexandria, but the decline of free speech inevitably led to restrictions on freedom of thought. The process accelerated after 23 CE, with the ascendancy of the Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus, and especially after his fall seven years later. The fate of the historian, Cremutius Cordus, prosecuted and driven to suicide in 25, was exemplary, as Tacitus showed in his account of the trial and the burning of Cremutius’ books.1 Under Tiberius’ successors, Gaius (37-41), Claudius (41-54) and Nero (54-68), free thought and free speech were increasingly dangerous. All three were constantly suspicious of claimants to the throne, and the crisis of the Pisonian conspiracy in 65 was devastating to Roman intellectuals. Both Seneca and his nephew, Lucan, were executed in its aftermath, and the Stoics Thrasea and Barea Soranus followed in the next year. The philosopher Musonius Rufus had joined the Stoic senator, Rubellius Plautus, in exile in 60 in Asia: he returned to Rome after the execution of Rubellius in 62 and was exiled to the prison island of Gyaros in 65.