SLRP: XLVII. On Master And Slave (Part 1: 1 – 10)



Kindly remember that he whom you call your slave sprang from the same stock, is smiled upon by the same skies, and on equal terms with yourself breathes, lives, and dies. It is just as possible for you to see in him a free-born man as for him to see in you a slave.

The concept of slavery is pretty far removed from the minds of most westerners.  Even the poor among us, in terms of energy availability, live more wealthily than kings.  Running water, electric lights, hot food.


I read somewhere that an elite athlete on a bicycle produces something like 420 watts.  That’s enough (only enough) to power 7 light bulbs.  That’s Tour de France level athlete.

Considering the amount of human energy it would take for us to use all the electronics (not even considering oil for vehicle!), each of us has or uses the energy output of a whole retinue of slaves.  So, maybe we have more to learn from Seneca’s position on slaves than we might at first think.

On a separate note, I’ve always thought poorly of folks who are rude to people in the service industry.  Whether it’s gas station attendants, landscapers, servers in restaurants, whatever.  It was simply part of my upbringing to look past the “work” and see the person behind it.  No shame in honest labor.

I suspect Seneca would also write to those, speaking of the brotherhood of man, our service under Fate, and reaping the wages of vice.

Yes, I think there are lessons in this piece for us, just as there were for Lucillius.


Part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Seneca’s Letters.

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