Nausea and Shipwrecks

Seneca, Moral Epistles 53.5-6

“What do you imagine I was feeling as I was clinging to the exposed rocks, seeking a path or making one? I then understood that sailors aren’t wrong to fear the land. The things I endured when I could not endure myself were unbelievable. Understand this: Odysseus didn’t face shipwreck all the time because the sea was angry at him from birth–no, he just got sea sick. So, when I too have to go sailing in the future, I’ll take twenty years to get anywhere.

When I settled my stomach–since, as you know, you don’t escape nausea by leaving the sea–and I calmed my body with a massage, I began to think about how we totally ignore our own faults, even those of the body, as they tell us they still exist, not even to think about those which are even greater because they are hidden.”

Quae putas me passum, dum per aspera erepo, dum viam quaero, dum facio? Intellexi non inmerito nautis terram timeri. Incredibilia sunt, quae tulerim, cum me ferre non possem; illud scito, Vlixem non fuisse tam irato mari natum, ut ubique naufragia faceret; nausiator erat. Et ego quocumque navigare debuero, vicensimo anno perveniam.

Ut primum stomachum, quem scis non cum mari nausiam effugere, collegi, ut corpus unctione recreavi, hoc coepi mecum cogitare, quanta nos vitiorum nostrorum sequeretur oblivio, etiam corporalium, quae subinde admonent sui, nedum illorum, quae eo magis latent, quo maiora sunt.

Photograph of an oil painting showing a ship wreck. A masted sailing vessel is titling to the left on the shore and survivors are on land

Shipwreck, Adrien Manglard, 1715, Musée d’Art et d’Archéologie de Guéret

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