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Sotion persuaded Seneca when he was a young man (in his early twenties) to become a vegetarian, which he practised for around a year before his father urged him to desist because the practice was associated with "some foreign rites".Seneca's other work, his Consolation to Polybius, was written to console Polybius, one of Claudius' freedmen, on the death of his brother.Even with the admiration of an earlier group of intellectual stalwarts, Seneca has never been without his detractors.In his own time, he was accused of hypocrisy or, at least, a less than "Stoic" lifestyle.As a tragedian, he is best-known for his Medea and Thyestes.Miriam Griffin says in her biography of Seneca that "the evidence for Seneca's life before his exile in 41 is so slight, and the potential interest of these years, for social history as well as for biography, is so great that few writers on Seneca have resisted the temptation to eke out knowledge with imagination." While still young he received philosophical training from Attalus the Stoic, and from Sotion and Papirius Fabianus, both of whom belonged to the short-lived School of the Sextii which combined Stoicism with Pythagoreanism.While banished to Corsica, he wrote a plea for restoration rather incompatible with his advocacy of a simple life and the acceptance of fate.In his Apocolocyntosis he ridiculed the behaviors and policies of Claudius, and flattered Nero—such as proclaiming that Nero would live longer and be wiser than the legendary Nestor.
Seneca was born in Cordoba in Hispania, and raised in Rome, where he was trained in rhetoric and philosophy. He was forced to take his own life for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, in which he was likely to have been innocent.As for Seneca himself, his age and diet were blamed for slow loss of blood and extended pain rather than a quick death; he also took poison, which was also not fatal.After dictating his last words to a scribe, and with a circle of friends attending him in his home, he immersed himself in a warm bath, which was expected to speed blood flow and ease his pain.He adopted a quiet lifestyle on his country estates, concentrating on his studies and seldom visiting Rome.It was during these final few years that he composed two of his greatest works: Naturales quaestiones—an encyclopedia of the natural world; and his Letters to Lucilius—which document his philosophical thoughts.