Seneca on Winds

Gareth Williams

in The Cosmic Viewpoint

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199731589
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933112 | DOI:
Seneca on Winds

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This chapter begins by surveying pre-Stoic and Stoic theories of wind as a prelude to showing what is strikingly different, and apparently original, about Seneca's treatment of wind in Natural Questions 5. Central to this account is the emphasis on Seneca's careful artistic arrangement of the winds he describes to create a movement from lesser and smaller to larger and more violent winds; they culminate in cloudburst and hurricane. This ascending scale then gives way to analysis of Seneca's description of the winds as defined by global/geographical location. Given the familiar trope in Greco-Roman literature of man as wind-like in his fickleness etc., Seneca's portrayal of the winds is shown to have a powerful symbolic significance: whereas the winds follow nature's law, man's use of the winds to sail where he will on adventures of conquest and imperialism suggest an unnatural turning away from natura ipsa. In his own way this human hurricane is as destructive as nature's worst forces; but whereas the hurricane hardly consciously means to do harm, man wills it, too often with relish.

Keywords: winds; changeability; natura ipsa; sail; hurricane; fickleness

Chapter.  19106 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical Literature

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