"Seneca, the Roman emperor Nero’s chief adviser, discussed death and how to prepare for it way back in the mid-1st century. . . . This new book, a synthesis of his writings on the subject . . . remains as timely today as ever."--Sarah Murdoch, Toronto Star
How to Die
An Ancient Guide to the End of Life
Edited, translated, and introduced by James S. Romm
"It takes an entire lifetime to learn how to die," wrote the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BC–65 AD). He counseled readers to "study death always," and took his own advice, returning to the subject again and again in all his writings, yet he never treated it in a complete work. How to Die gathers in one volume, for the first time, Seneca's remarkable meditations on death and dying. Edited and translated by James S. Romm, How to Die reveals a provocative thinker and dazzling writer who speaks with a startling frankness about the need to accept death or even, under certain conditions, to seek it out.
Seneca believed that life is only a journey toward death and that one must rehearse for death throughout life. Here, he tells us how to practice for death, how to die well, and how to understand the role of a good death in a good life. He stresses the universality of death, its importance as life's final rite of passage, and its ability to liberate us from pain, slavery, or political oppression.
Featuring beautifully rendered new translations, How to Die also includes an enlightening introduction, notes, the original Latin texts, and an epilogue presenting Tacitus's description of Seneca's grim suicide.James S. Romm is the author of Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero and Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the War for Crown and Empire (both Knopf). He has written essays and reviews for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Review of Books, and the New Yorker website, among other publications. He is the James H. Ottaway Jr. Professor of Classics at Bard College and lives in Barrytown, New York.