A Sainted Stoic: Finding Seneca in his Medieval and Renaissance Afterlife

Sponsored by the Society for the Study and Appreciation of Seneca the Younger



Despite having mixed appraisal in his own day and by later authors, Seneca the Younger achieved a status as a sort of pagan saint in the Middle Ages. A peculiar set of historical circumstances led to this: his mode of death was reminiscent of the deaths of Socrates (drinking hemlock) and Christ (pierced at the wrist), and baptism (allowed to bleed out in a steamy bath). His supposed conversion by Saint Paul (a result of some forged letters depicting their correspondence) led to the writing of Senecan hagiographies such as the one which appears in the Golden Legend, and the church father Tertullian refers to him as "our Seneca." Boethius, gateway to things classical for many medieval Christian thinkers, treats Seneca as an exemplary figure in The Consolation of Philosophy. Placed in Limbo by Dante, Seneca was guaranteed a relatively positive response from a medieval audience. In the Renaissance, on the other hand, Seneca became an influential figure on the stage, especially in terms of the genre of tragedy.

This call for papers seeks studies on the place of Seneca in Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance especially in terms of the following points of interest:

  • The life and works of Seneca within his own age and context.
  • Seneca's influence on the "consolation" genre.
  • Seneca's role in the confluence of paganism and Christianity, whether literary, philosophical, or theological.
  • Seneca's potential impact as a moral essayist, letter writer, and dramatist in medieval literature.
  • Studies which illuminate the early reception of Seneca and how these may have contributed to his medieval or Renaissance afterlife.
  • The influence of Seneca on Renaissance authors, especially on the stage.

Abstracts for this session should be 250-300 words.

Please direct all proposals and inquiries to Anthony G. Cirilla at acirilla@niagara.edu by 20 December 2017.