Quintus Sextius

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Quintus Sextius the Elder (/ˈsɛxtiəs/; Latin: Quinti Sextii Patris; fl. c. 50 BC) was a Roman philosopher, whose philosophy combined Pythagoreanism with Stoicism. His praises were frequently celebrated by Seneca.[1]


Sextius was born no later than 70 BC.[2] He founded a school of philosophy combining some features of the Pythagoreans with others of the Stoics; and which was consequently classed sometimes with one, and sometimes with the other of those sects. Seneca describes Sextius as a Stoic but mentions that Sextius himself denied it.[3] From the Epistles of Seneca we learn that Sextius, though born of an illustrious family, had declined the office of Senator when offered him by Julius Caesar.[4] He also subjected himself to a scrupulous self-examination at the close of each day;[5] and he abstained from animal food, though for different reasons than those ascribed to Pythagoras:

Sextius believed that man had enough sustenance without resorting to blood, and that a habit of cruelty is formed whenever butchery is practised for pleasure.[6]

Sextius' son succeeded him as head of his school. He may be identical with the writer on pharmacology, Sextius Niger.[7] A Xystus Pythagoricus philosophus is recorded in Jerome's version of the Chronicon of Eusebius. He is also mentioned by Plutarch,[8] and by the elder Pliny.[9] Seneca writes (c. 65 AD) that the school was extinct.[10]


Seneca delighted much in a work of Sextius, the title of which he does not give, but which he praises, as written with great power:

Ye Gods, what strength and spirit one finds in him! This is not the case with all philosophers; there are some men of illustrious name whose writings are sapless. They lay down rules, they argue, and they quibble; they do not infuse spirit simply because they have no spirit. But when you come to read Sextius you will say: "He is alive; he is strong; he is free; he is more than a man; he fills me with a mighty confidence before I close his book." I shall acknowledge to you the state of mind I am in when I read his works: I want to challenge every hazard; I want to cry: "Why keep me waiting, Fortune? Enter the lists! Behold, I am ready for you!"[11]

It has sometimes been suggested that the extant Sentences of Sextus were (in their original form) written by Sextius.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Seneca, Epistles, Wikisource-logo.svg lix. 7-8., Wikisource-logo.svg lxiv, 2-5., Wikisource-logo.svg lxxiii. 12-15., Wikisource-logo.svg xcviii. 13., Wikisource-logo.svg cviii. 17-18.; De Ira, ii. 36, iii. 36.
  2. ^ The Philosophical Thought of the School of the Sextii by Omar Di Paola
  3. ^ Seneca, Epistles, lxiv, 2.
  4. ^ Seneca, Epistles, xcviii. 13.
  5. ^ Seneca, De Ira, iii. 36.
  6. ^ Seneca, Epistles, cviii. 18.
  7. ^ Lana (1953), 8-9.
  8. ^ Plutarch, De Profect. Virtut. Sentent. Opp. vol. vi.
  9. ^ Pliny, Naturalis Historia, xviii. 68, alibi.
  10. ^ Seneca, Naturales Quaestiones, vii. 32
  11. ^ Seneca, Epistles, lxiv, 3.
  12. ^ Richard M. Gummere, Seneca, Epistles 1-65, page 412. Loeb Classical Library.