De Otio

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De Otio (On Leisure) is a Latin work by Seneca (4 BC–65 AD[1]). It survives in a fragmentary state.


No degree of absolute certainty about the date of writing is possible, but it is thought by a majority of critics to have been written 62 AD or shortly after. A possible alternative dating would be that the earliest possible time of a beginning of its writing would be during the years 63–64 (cf. R Scot Smith for this).[2][3]

Title and contents[edit]

Otio is from otium, this literally translates as leisure, vacant time, freedom from business.[4]

De Otio is part of Seneca's series of Dialogi (dialogues). It is generally agreed that the work is addressed to Seneca's friend Annaeus Serenus. De Otio survives only in fragmentary form. The manuscript text begins mid-sentence, and ends rather abruptly.[5][6][7]


In respect to otio, Seneca understood the word to represent something more than absolute free-time, instead he understood the word to mean leisure used in service to the state, by intellectual activity (according to TE Beck):[8][9]

... hoc nempe ab homine exigitur, ut prosit hominibus

The superior position ho sophos (the sage) inhabits, of detachment from earthly (terena) concerns, and an according freedom from the possibility of future events of detrimental nature, is the unifying theme of the dialogue.[10][11][12][13]


  1. ^ M. Griffin & Brad Inwood translation of de beneficiis by Lucius Annaeus Seneca (dates taken from copyright notification,etc page) - University of Chicago Press, 1 Apr 2011 ISBN 0226748405 [Retrieved 2015-3-14]
  2. ^ G. D. Williams - Lucius Annaeus Seneca - De Otio - Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics (p.2) (Cambridge University Press, 30 Jan 2003) ISBN 0521588065 [Retrieved 2015-3-16]
  3. ^ R Scott Smith - Brill's Companion to Seneca: Philosopher and Dramatist (edited by Andreas Heil, Gregor Damschen) BRILL, 13 Dec 2013 ISBN 9004217088 [Retrieved 2015-3-16]
  4. ^ Perseus Digital Library - Latin Word Study Tool otium - otio [Retrieved 2015-3-16]
  5. ^ J Sellars - Stoicism (Routledge, 5 Dec 2014) ISBN 1317493915 [Retrieved 2015-3-16]
  6. ^ Howatson, M. (2013). The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. p. 519. ISBN 0199548552. 
  7. ^ Bartsch, Shadi; Schiesaro, Alessandro (eds.). The Cambridge Companion to Seneca. p. 79. ISBN 1316239896. 
  8. ^ Perseus - Latin Word Study Tool : otium & otio [Retrieved 2015-3-16]
  9. ^ TE Beck (editor) writing about B Taegio - La Villa (first published 1559) Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture (University of Pennsylvania Press, 21 Sep 2011) ISBN 0812203801 [Retrieved 2015-3-16]
  10. ^ R Bett - A Companion to Ancient Philosophy - p.531 (edited by Mary Louise Gill, Pierre Pellegrin)[Retrieved 2015-3-19] (ed. Bett was source of term ho sophos)
  11. ^ GD Williams - Naturales Quaestiones (in) Brill's Companion to Seneca: Philosopher and Dramatist (p.184) Brill's Companions in Classical Studies (edited by A Heil, G Damschen) BRILL, 13 Dec 2013 ISBN 9004217088 [Retrieved 2015-3-19]
  12. ^ Cambridge University dictionary - contingencies [Retrieved 2015-3-19]
  13. ^ Gian Biagio Conte - professor of Latin literature in the Department of Classical Philology at the University of Pisa, Italy. (Translated by J Solodow). Latin Literature: A History. JHU Press, 4 Nov 1999 ISBN 0801862531. Retrieved 2015-03-19. 

External links[edit]