From Feces to Flowers And Back Again

Seneca, Moral Epistles 44.3

“Each of us has the same number of ancestors–everyone’s origin sits beyond human memory. Plato says that “every king has come from slaves and every slave descends from kings.” The long course of time mixed everything up and fortune turned them over again.

Who is noble? Someone who is naturally well-suited to virtue. This is the only thing that needs to be examined. If you look back to the ancients, every search comes to a place where there’s nothing. From the first foundations of the universe to this day, we have passed through origins that were sometimes lofty and other times base. A gallery full of smoke-stained ancestors doesn’t make someone noble.

No one has lived from past glory to today and nothing from before belongs to us. Only the soul makes us noble and it can rise up beyond fortune from whatever condition it was in before.”

Omnibus nobis totidem ante nos sunt; nullius non origo ultra memoriam iacet. Platon ait neminem regem non ex servis esse oriundum, neminem servum non ex regibus. Omnia ista longa varietas miscuit et sursum deorsum fortuna versavit. Quis est generosus? Ad virtutem bene a natura conpositus. Hoc unum intuendum est; alioquin si ad vetera revocas, nemo non inde est, ante quod nihil est. A primo mundi ortu usque in hoc tempus perduxit nos ex splendidis sordidisque alternata series. Non facit nobilem atrium plenum fumosis imaginibus. Nemo in nostram gloriam vixit nec quod ante nos fuit, nostrum est; animus facit nobilem, cui ex quacumque condicione supra fortunam licet surgere.

color photograph of line of busts in vatican museum
Hall of Busts, Vatican Museum

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