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by [?]

Marcus Seneca made haste to move to Rome when Augustus let down the bars. Rome was the center of the art-world, the home of letters, and all that made for beauty and excellence. There were three boys and a girl in the Seneca family.

The elder boy, Annaeus, was to become Gallio, the Roman governor, and have his name mentioned in the most widely circulated book the world has ever known; the second boy was Lucius, the subject of this sketch; the younger boy, Mela, was to become the father of Lucan, the poet.

The sister of Seneca became the wife of the Roman Governor of Egypt. It was at a time when the scheming rapacity of women was so much in evidence that the Senate debated whether it should not forbid its representatives abroad to be accompanied by their wives. France has seen such times–England and America have glanced that way. Women, like men, often do not know that the big prizes gravitate where they belong; instead, they set traps for them, lie in wait and consider prevarication and duplicity better than truth. When women use their beauty, their wit and their pink persons in politics, trouble lies low around the corner. But this sister of Seneca was never seen in public unless it was at her husband’s side; she asked no favors, and presents sent to her personally by provincials were politely returned. The province praised her, and perhaps what was better, didn’t know her, and begged the Emperor to send them more of such excellent and virtuous women–from which we infer that virtue consists in minding one’s own business.

In making up a list of great mothers, do not leave out Helvia, mother of three sons and a daughter who made their mark upon the times. It is no small thing to be a great mother!

Women of intellect were not much appreciated then, but Seneca dedicated his “Consolations,” his best book, to his mother. The very mintage of his mind was for her, and again and again he tells of her insight, her gentle wit, and her appreciation of all that was beautiful and best in the world of thought. In a letter addressed to her when he was past forty, he says, “You never stained your face with walnut-juice nor rouge; you never wore gowns cut conspicuously low; your ornaments were a loveliness of mind and person that time could not tarnish.”

But the father had the knighthood, and he called his family to witness it at odd times and sundry.

In Rome, Marcus Seneca made head as he never did in Cordova. There he was only Marcus Micawber: but here his memory feats won him the distinction that genius deserves. There is a grave question whether a verbal memory does not go with a very mediocre intellect, but Marcus said this argument was put out by a man with no memory worth mentioning.

Rome was at her ripest flower–the petals were soon to loosen and flutter to the ground, but nobody thought so–they never do. Everywhere the Roman legions were victorious, and commerce sailed the seas in prosperous ships. Power manifests itself in conspicuous waste, and the habit grows until conspicuous waste imagines itself power. Conditions in Rome had evolved our old friend, the Sophist, the man who lived but to turn an epigram, to soulfully contemplate a lily, to sigh mysteriously, and cultivate the far-away look. These men were elocutionists who gesticulated in curves, and let the thought follow the attitude. They were not content to be themselves, but chased the airy, fairy fabric of a fancy and called it life.

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The pretense and folly of Roman society made the Sophists possible–like all sects they ministered to a certain cast of mind. Over against the Sophists there were the Stoics, the purest, noblest and sanest of all ancient cults, corresponding very closely to our Quakers, before Worth and Wanamaker threw them a hawse and took them in tow. It is a tide of feeling produces a sect, not a belief: primitive Christianity was a revulsion from Phariseeism, and a William Penn and a wan Ann Lee form the antithesis of an o’ervaulting, fantastic and soulless ritual.