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will present a summary of the Stoic doctrine on suicide before Seneca, followed by an analysis of Seneca’s own views. Our sources on Stoic views of suicide before Seneca are meager. But they allow us to construct a coherent Stoic theory of suicide, and in Seneca we see the theory fleshed out. Rist is right to point out that we find a connection between suicide and libertas for the first time in Seneca, but wrong to suppose that it is inconsistent with earlier Stoic teaching, pathological, or based on a hatred of life.8 Seneca’s views are consistent with earlier, orthodox Stoic views on suicide. Seneca adapts and builds on the Stoic theory of suicide in a way that is well thought out and perhaps original. He makes the possibility of suicide and the freedom it provides play an important role in the attainment of tranquillity, virtue, and happiness.


Walter Englert presented “Seneca and the Stoic View of Suicide” at the meeting of the Society with the American Philological Association in San Francisco in 1990. A later version of the paper was published as “Stoics and Epicureans on the Nature of Suicide,” Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 10 (1994) 67-96.

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