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De beneficiis




De Beneficiis

Name of the Portuguese translation

 Livro da Virtuosa Bemfeitoria (pt.002)


Lúcio Aneu Séneca (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)

(Córdova, 4-1 B.C. – Roma, 65 A.D.)




Moral philosophical treatise in seven books written by Seneca where the philosopher addresses the issue of benefits that are given and received, talking about gratitude and generosity and the power relations that exist between people. This moral treatise is dedicated to a certain Aebutius Liberalis, whose generosity is praised by the philosopher. The work has a stoic background and it is based on previous treaties, from other philosophers, such as Cleanthes, Chrysippus or Hécaton.

There are several possible dates for its creation. Given the inclusion, in the last chapter of the first book, of a derogatory reference to Emperor Claudius, at least the first four books appeared only after his death in the year 54 A.D. Another unsympathetic reference to Caninus Rebilus suggests that the work may have been written after 56 A.D. Besides this, a compliment to Crispus Passienus, second husband of Agrippina, Nero's mother, raises the possibility that the book appeared after 59 A.D., the year of death of Agrippina, since was probably involved in her husband's murder.

It is possible that the fifth and sixth books have been written before A.D. 62 or that the work was finished that year, because in his Epistles (81.3), Seneca mentions it. This date, however, is only hypothetical, since Seneca could have written just a few of the seven books when he mentions the work in the Epistles. In fact, there is also the possibility that the latest book was written closer to AD 65, the year of death of the philosopher (see Préchac 1972: i-xvi, xxvii-xxxiv, xl; Cooper / Procopé, 1995: 183-188; Zeyl 1974: vi; Basore 1989: vii-viii).


This work was written at the end of Seneca's life, probably after A.D. 54 and before 62 A.D.



Extant testimonies

There are several manuscripts with the treaty, one in which he appears alone, others in that it is accompanied by the De Clementia.

It appears along with the De Clementia in the following manuscripts:

- Codex Nazarianus, VIII/IX century A.D., Coleção Palatina of the Vaticano (nº 1547);

- Reginensis (Vaticano, nº 1529), IX/X century A.D.;

- Parisinus (nº 6382), XIII century A.D;

- Parisinus (nº 16592) or Sorbonicus (nº 1586), XII/XIII century A.D;

- Laurentianus (plut. LXXVI, 36), XII century A.D;

- Pinciani (used by Fernando Nuñez, in Valladolid).


The text appears isolated in the following testimony:

- Guelferbytanus (nº 4579), XIII century A.D;

- Monacensis (lat. 2544), XII/XIII century A.D (includes texts by other authors);

- Vratislaviensis (IV, fol. 89-117), XIV century A.D. (includes other works of Seneca);

- Basileensis, mentioned by Erasmus (VI.11.2).


Préchac (1967: xvii-xlii and 1972: xlii-lv) provides a detailed description of some of these manuscripts. See also, 1989: viii.



Perseus - Latin Texts & Translations:


The Stoic Legacy to the Renaissance: http://www.stoics.com/seneca_essays_book_3.html



BASORE, John W. (trad.) (1989). Seneca III. Moral Essays. London: Harvard University Press

COOPER, John M. e PROCOPÉ, J. F. (1995), Seneca: Moral and Political Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

PRÉCHAC, François (trad.) (1967). Sénèque De La Clémence. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

PRÉCHAC, François (trad.) (1972). Sénèque – Des Bienfaits. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

STEWART, Aubrey (trad.) (1887), L. Annaeus Seneca – On Benefits. Londres: G. Bell and Sons.

ZEYL, Jakob S. T. O. (1974). Seneca’s De Beneficiis Book one: a commentary on chapters one to ten. PhD Thesis. Hamilton/Ontario: McMaster University.