Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Slavery in Seneca: Institution and metaphor
by Fleming, Alan, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2016, 167; 10119706
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation, I explore the complex use of the language of slavery in the writings of the Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger. Seneca’s employment of the terminology of slavery can be divided into two categories: literal and metaphorical. While Seneca himself frequently bridges these categories, scholars have largely studied them separately. I argue that Seneca’s representation of slavery can best be analyzed by investigating this language across both literal and metaphorical boundaries.

Throughout his writings, Seneca differentiates between those who were slaves according to social institution and those deemed slaves by his Stoic philosophy. Seneca’s representation of institutional slavery focuses on the intense mistreatment experienced by slaves. Seneca, however, argues that slaves belong to a more important category: humanity. By prioritizing the humanity of slaves, Seneca emphasizes the true equality of all persons, slave and free alike. In contrast, Seneca emphasizes the importance of an alternate notion of slavery. Seneca uses the language of slavery as a metaphor to encompass those needs, desires, and preoccupations which were contrary to Stoicism. Metaphorical slaves are exemplified by the wealthy Roman elite who dedicated themselves to the pleasures at the dinner table.

These two modes of slavery are presented as competing categories. Just as the legally free person might be understood to serve metaphorically, the slave could be metaphorically free. Furthermore, Seneca prioritizes philosophical status over social status, and it is only by casting aside metaphorical slavery that one can be truly free. Throughout this investigation, I argue that Seneca undermines the significance of slavery as a social category while prioritizing philosophical and metaphorical notions of free and slave.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Leach, Eleanor W.
Commitee: Bannon, Cynthia J., Christ, Matthew R., Harrill, J. Albert, Hasper, Pieter S.
School: Indiana University
Department: Classical Studies
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 77/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Classical studies, Classical Studies
Keywords: Metaphorical slaves, Rome, Seneca the younger, Stoicism
Publication Number: 10119706
ISBN: 978-1-339-80909-0
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