Seneca on Life’s Ups and Downs

Seneca, Thyestes, 607-621.

You whom the ruler of land and sea
Gave great power over life and death,
Put away your haughty, pompous airs.
What an inferior man fears from you
You in turn fear from a higher master.
All power is under more grave power.

The rising day sees a man at peak pride,
And the departing day sees him ruined.
No one should be too sure of good fortune,
And no one should despair better won’t come.
Clotho mixes the two, stops Fortune
Standing still, and turns every destiny.

No one has had such propitious gods
That he can promise himself tomorrow.
A god turns and turns our lives, wheeling
Them about in a whirring whirlwind.

Vos quibus rector maris atque terrae
ius dedit magnum necis atque vitae,
ponite inflatos tumidosque vultus.
quicquid a vobis minor expavescit,
maior hoc vobis dominus minatur;
omne sub regno graviore regnum est.
quem dies vidit veniens superbum,
hunc dies vidit fugiens iacentem.
Nemo confidat nimium secundis,
nemo desperet meliora lassis:
miscet haec illis prohibetque Clotho
stare Fortunam, rotat omne fatum,
nemo tam divos habuit faventes,
crastinum ut posset sibi polliceri.
res deus nostras celeri citatas
turbine versat.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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