The quote is a fairly well know lyric in the 1998 song Closing Time by Semisonic. In the Wikipedia entry for the song, it claims "The song ends with a quote attributed to Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca." However, in the talk page for the entry at least one person claims the quote is not attributable to Seneca. A host of quote sites do attribute it to Seneca, but I didn't see any that provided a citation.

A google search for the quote for pages dated before 2001 gets one hit, but again no citation. I did a search of a couple of works of Seneca on gutenberg.org, but the closest I could find was this: "All things greatly outgrow their beginnings."

I'd greatly appreciate a citation for this quote if Seneca actually said something similar, or confirmation that it is indeed misattributed, which I feel is almost certainly the case.

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    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 7:42
  • Wikiquotes has a long list of quotes for Seneca the younger with better attribution than most online sources. The closest fit I found quickly is: "Nothing lasts forever, few things even last for long: all are susceptible of decay in one way or another; moreover all that begins also ends."
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 8:00
  • Thanks @JoonasIlmavirta! I should have mentioned that I saw that quote. None of the claims in that quote match the attributed quote. The one that comes closest is "all that begins also ends". But the attributed quote has a profound insight regarding the relationship between beginnings and endings that the Wikiquote lacks: a new beginning entails the end of some other beginning. At best, one might claim that the Seneca quote in Wikiquotes "inspired" the quote in question.
    – Nick Gall
    Commented Dec 11, 2020 at 23:55

1 Answer 1


Seneca the Younger frequently contemplated the beginnings and ends of things and the larger meaning of this in multiple letters and essays.

The given sentence is closest in thought to some of the ideas from Naturales Questiones (Natural Questions):

Ergo, quandoque erit terminus rebus humanis, cum partes eius interire debuerint abolerive funditus totae ut de integro totae rudes innoxiaeque generentur ....[].... peracto exitio generis humani extinctisque pariter feris, in quarum homines ingenia transierant, iterum aquas terra sorbebit, terra pelagus stare aut intra terminos suos furere coget, et reiectus e nostris sedibus in sua secreta pelletur oceanus, et antiquus ordo revocabitur. Omne ex integro animal generabitur1 dabiturque terris homo inscius scelerum et melioribus auspiciis natus.

(Therefore, whenever the end comes for human affairs, when parts of the world must pass away and be abolished utterly so that all may be generated from the beginning again, new and innocent, .... when the destruction of the human race is completed and the wild animals, into whose savagery men will have passed, are equally extinct, again the earth will absorb the waters. The earth will force the sea to stay in its place or to rage within its own boundaries, and the ocean will be ejected from our abode and driven back to its own secret dwelling-place, and the ancient order of things will be re-established. Every living creature will be created anew and the earth will be given men ignorant of sin, and born under better auspices.)
Trans: Thomas H. Corcoran

There is no statement in Seneca's known works where he writes "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." The sentence originated with the song by Semisonic and then was used in various pop inspirational posters that falsely attributed the lyric to Seneca.

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