De Beneficiis

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De Beneficiis (Latin: 'On Benefits') is a first-century work by Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – 65 AD), comprising seven books. It forms part of a series of moral essays (or "Dialogues") composed by Seneca, whose other philosophical explorations included providence, steadfastness, the happy life, anger, leisure, tranquility, the brevity of life, gift-giving, forgiveness, and treatises on natural phenomena.[1]


Book I[edit]

The first sentence of Book I of the dialogue reads:

Among the many and diverse errors of those who live reckless and thoughtless lives, almost nothing that I can mention, excellent Liberalis, is more disgraceful than the fact that we do not know how either to give or to receive benefits.[2]

Seneca begins with arguments concerning the nature of the soul with respect to gratitude when in receipt of a gift or benefit. The dialogue is in favour of generosity over scrupulousness: "I made the gift for the sake of giving". Seneca then considers the causes of lack of gratitude by those he perceives to be thoughtless and reckless (referred to as the ingrate). This he attributes to a lack of expediency (discernment) on the part of the giver when deferring benefits (monetary), i.e. that the fault is initially with the giver. This first part is written in the form of rhetoric, and proffers some insight into the lives of the rich and powerful: "not even the mortal gods are deterred from showing lavish and unceasing kindness to those who are sacrilegious and indifferent to them".

The dialogue is directed at the improvement of the souls (ergo the morals) of Seneca's peers through arguments to prove that generosity is a valid response when considering the realities of the society and nature around them. Perhaps also to refrain from lowering the minds of the great souls to the more base concerns, or to advise on the wise way to live in society, such as when the rich are required to both manage wealth, requiring certain social relations, whilst maintaining the coherence of society amongst the poor.

Book II[edit]

The dialogue of the first book continues into the second book with similar considerations of "the way in which a benefit should be given".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [Retrieved 2011-12-05]
  2. ^ Translated by John W. Basore courtesy of website. From the Loeb Classical Library edition London: W. Heinemann, 1928-1935 [Retrieved 2011-12-05].
  3. ^ Professor J.H.Dent (University of Birmingham) from within // [Retrieved 2011-12-(07-08)]

External links[edit]



  • Fear, Trevor (2007). Of Aristocrats and Courtesans: Seneca, De Beneficiis 1.14. Hermes: Zeitschrift für klassische philologie, 135(4), pp. 460–468. Retrieved 2011-12-05
  • M Griffin - The Journal of Roman Studies Retrieved 2011-12-05
  • GB Lavery JSTOR Mnemosyne, 1987
  • André Laks, Malcolm Schofield page 242 Justice and generosity: studies in Hellenistic social and political philosophy : proceedings of the Sixth Symposium Hellenisticum (1995) Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521452937