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On the Shortness of Life

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  21,324 ratings  ·  1,722 reviews
The Stoic writings of the philosopher Seneca offer powerful insights into the art of living, the importance of reason and morality, and continue to provide profound guidance to many through their eloquence, lucidity and timeless wisdom.

Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves—and each other. They have inspired de
Paperback, Great Ideas, 106 pages
Published September 6th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 49)
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Zahra نه واقعا، من ترجمه دكتر مير جلال الدين كزازي رو خوندم و اصلا راضي نبودم. مترجم سعي كرده صرفا از كلمات فارسي اصيل استفاده كنه ( شايد براي اينكه حس قديم…moreنه واقعا، من ترجمه دكتر مير جلال الدين كزازي رو خوندم و اصلا راضي نبودم. مترجم سعي كرده صرفا از كلمات فارسي اصيل استفاده كنه ( شايد براي اينكه حس قديمي بودن متن رو برسونه) ولي واقعا يه جاهايي زيادي گنگ بود و وقت زيادي ازم گرفت. (less)

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Glenn Russell
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

The great Roman philosopher, statesman, dramatist Seneca ( BC 4 – AD 64) wrote many letters encouraging friends to apply themselves to the task of living a free, wise, tranquil and joyful life. On the Shortness of Life is one of my personal favorites since Seneca, ever the true eclectic, brilliantly draws from the various streams of ancient wisdom: Stoic, Epicurean, Platonic, Skeptic, and Cynic, as he addresses some of the most important questions we face as humans. Below are several quotes alon
Bill Kerwin

Now that I've read a few philosophical essays by Seneca the Younger, I am inclined to believe every bad thing I have ever heard about him.

Before this, I've cut him some slack. Sure, he—along with his cronies, one of whom was Burrus, prefect of the Praetorian Guard—ruled Rome during his pupil Nero's young manhood, but the edicts and laws of this period are much more humane than the bloody despotic measures which followed. True, his The Pumpkinification of Claudius—a vicious satire attacking the n
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The problem, Paulinus, is not that we have a short life, but that we waste time.
Life is long and there is enough of it for satisfying personal accomplishments if we use our hours well.
But when time is squandered in the pursuit of pleasure or vain idleness, when it is spent with no real purpose, the finality of death fast approaches...

That notion is the book. You surely used different ways to rephrase the essence of your thoughts, Seneca, which are mainly intended to point out that despite our wh
Samra Yusuf
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: translated
"Can anything be more idiotic than certain people who boast of their foresight? They keep themselves officiously preoccupied in order to improve their lives; they spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. ...more
Abubakar Mehdi
Nov 01, 2015 rated it liked it
This is an excellent philosophical essay written by Seneca, one of the most significant Roman philosophers and one whom we might call the father of Stoicism.
The problem is simple, we are never content and happy with our lives and at the end we think it was too short. The solution is even simpler; we must start living today. We must find pleasure in today rather then burn the midnight’s oil for a better tomorrow. Seneca is very pissed off on those who waste their present, for the sake of past or
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: when wanting to make the best of your life
This Stoic's three writings in this book came at a perfect time for me. I feel that I'm at a point when you want to look at your life, and make sure the rest of it goes more in the way you want. It's true that the life is more likely to be longer now than how it was then (even for the richest and luckiest), but the advice here is timeless.

The book has three writings: "On Shortness Of Life", "Consolation To Helvia" (his mother), and "On Tranquility Of Mind". The writings have a certain connection
Sep 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
It is amazing how something written so long ago can have such relevance today. I found this essay really inspiring.

here is a good quote:

"Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it
¸¸.•*¨*•♫ Mrs. Buttercup •*¨*•♫♪
It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and--what will perhaps make you wonder more--it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC – AD 65), fully Lucius Annaeus Seneca, is undoubtedly one of the greatest thinkers of all times. In this book he forces us to ask ourselves the question: if this was your last day on earth, how would you live it? And, more importantly, how would a life lived as if any day was the last one look like, and why don't all our lives l
Ryan Holiday
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
As a general rule, avoid any translation of a classic work that comes up with its own new title. It normally means that the author is trying to appeal to contemporary readers more than the spirit of the original work. They'd rather have some catchy name than describe it as the anthology it actually is. This was the reason I was skeptical of reading On the Shortness of Life since Seneca wrote no such collection (it's the title of one of his essays) but I was thankfully proven wrong. Although ther ...more
Tom Quinn
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seneca does it again: big life lessons delivered simply, sternly, and sagely. I heartily recommend the translation by Gareth Williams, whose introductory remarks distill Seneca and Stoicism into their absolute essentials and provide valuable historical context.

4 stars. Quite strong when used as a "daily devotional" but by the nature of its form very brief. Letters like these serve as a good jumping-off point into deeper reflection.
BuenoBomb aka Andre Bueno
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
I really like this read. I compiled some of my favorite quotes and organized them by order of importance, in my opinion of course. My favorite ones follow:

“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire”

“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which y
Jon Nakapalau
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, philosophy
Beautiful meditation on life and the choices we make on how to live - highest recommendation.
Mark Porton
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I am writing this review as a layperson, Philosophy isn’t my area of expertise and my level of knowledge is limited at best. I ended up here, as I’ve been researching Rome for an upcoming holiday. I’ve taken an interest in that crazy gang of early Roman Emperors from Augustus to Nero (i.e. the Julio-Claudian dynasty).

So, this review is for those of us who stumble across a book with little or no knowledge of the subject matter – easy I know.

The edition I read contained three essays, the one I en
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"No one has to be found who is willing to distribute his money yet among, how many does each one of us distribute his life! In guarding their fortune men are often closefisted, yet, when it comes to the matter of wasting time, in the case of the one thing in which it is right to be miserly, they show themselves most prodigal."

Seneca is trying to tell us we have got to be wiser about how we spend our time. This is the type of book that will make you a better person. My recommendation is necessary
Nov 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is, so to speak, Seneca the Younger's greatest hits album. The first "On the Shortness of Life" is probably his most popular, but I prefer the last "On Tranquillity of Mind". I realize there has been some apprehension for Seneca because of his supposed dissipation and association with Nero. I simply don't believe these details are historically accurate. Not only is history written by the victors, and we all know of what distortions the Roman empire was capable, but being on the staff of a d ...more
Mar 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Haven’t we found ourselves, at some point or the other, wondering how we are not given enough time in which to live. But is this really true? Or are we just gripped by an insatiable greed and a laborious dedication to useless tasks mistakenly calling them productivity and a busyness which is nothing but the surest distraction from living.

“… you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply – though all the while that very day which
Laura Noggle
After letting this one marinate a bit, and with the pandemic still raging, this book has become even more timely and important. Trying to take every word to heart.

*All, save a very few, find life at an end just when they’re getting ready to live.*

“They lose the day in expectation of the night, and the night in fear of the dawn.”

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to livin
Daniel Clausen
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-of-2017
A great book on making the most of your time...enough said?
Jul 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, philosophy
A relatively rare foray into philosophy for me. Apart from the Title essay this edition also contains the letters “Consolation to Helvia”, and “On Tranquillity of Mind.”

Reading this stuff makes you realise that a lot of the maxims of today are derived from things the ancients wrote thousands of years ago. For example, an expression I hear nowadays is “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” In “Consolation to Helvia”, Seneca writes “Everlasting misfortune does have one blessing, that it ends up
Oct 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ancient Greco-Roman Stoic devotees or anyone else who thinks they might not live forever
This is a very short book, really a collection of three letters. The first one is primarily cautioning a friend about getting caught up in "life" - meaning the demands and expectations placed on us, and the forum for empty ambitions that the business of the world provides - to the detriment of our contentment or long-term happiness. A classic analogy from this letter is that one who is old has not really necessarily lived long, any more than one who embarks on a ship and is tossed around on the ...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was super interesting and fascinating how much is still true today. I had many thoughts which I explain in a rather long video for such a short book, so forgive me for just linking that here. (7:34)
Steven-John Tait
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested."

I always felt like I was on the outside, hovering above life as it streamed by underneath me; likewise I've felt like I'm moving too fast, not taking the time to actually live, to enjoy the moment.

I remember being in Hong Kong, walking down Canton Road when I saw a painting on an easel in the middle of the pavement. What did I do? I stopped, noticed it was an
Mario Tomic
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Nearly every sentence of this book could be a quote for an inspirational poster. It's one of the best books I've read on the value of ones time, Stoicism in general is one of my favorite philosophy schools especially Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. Definitely check out this book, it's easy to read and understand while still being so powerful. I've read it 2 times in a row just because there's so much value concentrated in such a short book. ...more
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars (only dinging a half star b/c the middle selection wasn't as good as the first and last essays)
A good read for the early part of the year as a time of goal-setting and re-prioritizing. Stoicism is gaining a new 21st Century following in our highly politicized, social-media driven, anxiety-ridden culture. Reading the work of Seneca is a nice antidote to a poisonous mental and spiritual atmosphere. A great book for everyone to read, re-read and keep handy.
Graham Mumm
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: yearly-reads
This is a book everyone should read at least once a year. Don't let the little time you have slip away...

“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today… The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it


I met a traveller from an antique land, 
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone 
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read 
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 
And on the pedestal, these words appear: 
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 
Farhan Khalid
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, stoicism
It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested

You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life

How stupid to forget our mortality

No activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied

Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man

The man who organ
A book to be read again and again, until it becomes a part of who you are.
Nick Klagge
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. As so often happens on Goodreads with books I really loved, I waited forever to write the review because I felt like I really needed time to do it justice; unsurprisingly, the result is that I now have less access to the specifics of the book than if I had just written the damn thing right away.

I bought this book on a total whim. I was in New York for business, and had brunch with my brothers and sister in law the morning before my flight. I had a little time to kill be
Rebecca Washecheck
Feb 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I was wary of this, as a sexily recovered, retitled thing that looks like something you'd read on a train to look clever--but it really is a wholesome anthology of 3 essays and letters from the justly beloved Seneca.

Deeply satisfying and soothing advice, tremendously timeless (if you set aside issues like forums and slaves, or find a good metaphor to translate these), and as peaceful as watching The Frugal Gourmet was when I was tiny--I feel like Seneca is the sage parent we all wish we had, wh
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Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca, in Portuguese Séneca (PT) or Sêneca (BR); ca. 4 BC – 65 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. While he was later forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, the la ...more

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