I'm currently reading "Précis de Littérature Latine" ("Handbook of Latin Literature") by Magalie Diguet and I am surprised by the following quotation:

Le De ira, écrit en 41, est le premier traité moral de Sénèque dont le style est un peu maladroit et permet de rendre compte de son évolution.

The De ira, written in 41, is Seneca's first moral treatise, whose style is a little clumsy and allows us to see his development.

Do you have a specific example of a passage in this treatise where the style is maladroit?

  • 2
    I don't think that the style is clumsy. However this line is very awkward(book 1,15 line 3.)"caederem te, nisi irascerer" I'd beat you, if I wasn't angry" If I'm angry at someone, I'd beat him. I don't know if you ever read him, even in French, In the Site Latin Libary you can find it all in latin.
    – user11898
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 0:45

1 Answer 1


Probably, your quote from Diguet's Précis de Littérature Latine can be related to the abundant repetitions found in Seneca's De Ira.

The doctoral dissertation by R. Pfennig (1887). De librorum quos scripsit Seneca de ira compositione et origine (Greifswald) has been considered to be a "comprehensive survey of Seneca's stylistic flaws" (e.g. see Wycislo (1996: 221; fn. 386)).

For example, Pfennig pointed out that the III book is peculiar due to the abundant repetitions with respect to books II and I. The following images are drawn from Pfennig’s (1887: 32-34) tables:

enter image description here ;

enter image description here ;

enter image description here

enter image description here

In the chapter by J.R.G. Wright (1974: page 39) entitled “Form and Content in the Moral Essays” (included in C.D.N. Costa (ed.). Seneca. Routledge), this author also reviews the following traditional critique by commenting on some inconsistencies and repetitions found in De Ira:

Another aspect of this weakness is the absence of consistency between one part of a work and another. Seneca is quite happy to contradict what he has said earlier,(note 6) or to repeat the same arguments over and over again with little or no variation.(note 7) The conclusion to which even a sympathetic critic is liable to be driven is well expressed by Justus Lipsius in the final words of his Argumentum to Book I of De Ira: Libri in partibus pulchri et eminentes sunt, in toto parum distincti, & repetitionibus aut digestione confusi. [bold mine: Mitomino]

Note 6, page 65: E.g. Ira 1.1.5-6: the effects of anger are clearly visible in wild beasts; ibid. 3.3ff.: wild beasts, having no faculty of reason, cannot have emotions (e.g. anger) but merely impulses

Note 7, page 65: For an extreme example of such criticism cf. R. Pfennig, De librorum quos scripsit Seneca de ira compositione et origine (Diss. Greifswald, 1887).

  • Great I will take a look at Pfennig!
    – user12055
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 21:32
  • @John It seems that some stylistic problems have to do with the composition and structure of this work. However, there are some scholars (e.g. Coccia, Michele (1958). I problemi del De ira di Seneca alla luce dell'analisi stilistica". Rome: Edizioni dell'Ateneo), who have argued against this view.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 23:40
  • For example, in a review of Coccia's (1958) work published in The Classical Journal, Berthe M. Marti (1961: 128 ) says the following: "His <Coccia's> searching examination of its style enables him to demonstrate that the three books are stylistically consistent and to argue convincingly against the scholars who believe either that the De ira consists of two treatises unsuccessfully fused or that a long interval separated the composition of the third book from that of the first two".
    – Mitomino
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 23:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.