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Selected Letters (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 11 Mar 2010

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About the Author

Elaine Fantham is the author of Women in the Classical World: image and text (OUP, 1994) and The Roman World of Cicero De Oratore (OUP, 2004). For OWC she has introduced Virgil's Georgics and Ahl's translation of the Aeneid.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
I prefer this Oxford World's Classics edition 14 July 2011
By Greg Peace - Published on
Format: Paperback
Before buying this book, I read all of the reviews for the Penguin Classics version translated by Robin Campbell and I was convinced that I would enjoy reading Seneca. I was not disappointed. His moral letters are great, but I will not go into all of the reasons here since so many others have praised them for other versions already.

I would rather discuss why I chose to buy the Oxford World Classics edition instead of the Penguin. The biggest reason is the number of letters: Penguin includes 40 and Oxford includes 80. I believe that the Loeb Classical Library edition (3 vols.) includes all 124 letters, but those were translated in 1928 (almost word for word from Latin).

I also found the Oxford edition a little more readable, but I base this opinion on a comparison of only the first few letters that I could see from sample pages of the Penguin edition since I did not buy it. I may prefer the Oxford translation because it is more recent (2010 vs. 1969 for Penguin).

I preferred the notes in the Oxford edition too. Penguin has five or six pages of notes (mostly bibliographic references) for only the translator's introduction. Oxford includes 33 pages of explanatory notes on Seneca's letters themselves. Students of the classics may already be familiar with Roman traditions, famous men and other historical references, but I certainly appreciated these clarifications.

The Oxford edition also includes a brief summary (1-3 sentences) at the beginning of each letter. For example, the summary for letter 5 says, "On avoiding conspicuous austerity and the meaning of 'living according to Nature.' Adopting a severe lifestyle is one aspect of the wider issue of shunning the crowd, and actually withdrawing or retiring from public life raised in letters 7 and 8." Penguin does not have these summaries.

Whether you choose to read the Oxford, Penguin or any other edition of Seneca's letters, just be sure to read them. There's a reason why they continue to be read 2000 years later!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A worthy copy of Seneca 9 April 2012
By MANGO - Published on
Format: Paperback
Elaine Fantham is a very knowledgeable scholar in this field, and the book's very insightful introduction and notes reflects her knowledge. The introduction provides a rich contextual background for the letters, and the notes make valuable contributes which sometimes instantly clarify points of confusion. Each letter is also preceded by a short summary of the central doctrines. As a student, I found the summaries a very helpful and accurate guide to my readings.

I do not personally read Latin, but my professor, D.S Hutchinson, who has worked with Latin texts for many years spoke highly of the translation, stating that it is revealing, artistic and accurate.

My only complain for the text is that it is not a complete collection of Seneca's letters. This is an unfortunate lack for such a worthwhile book, but even so, the 80 letters that form this collection are all quality pieces.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The translator has issues 15 Feb 2014
By E. Brown - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love Seneca but the author of this volume impresses her personality on the text too much, and her commentary on the letters is appalling. I can say for sure that I'm not interested in her opinions of Seneca very much and I'm not sure why Oxford included them. She scarcely seems to understand him or what the letters are about. You're better off reading the translations available on wiki source.
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