Letter regarding Emily Wilson's review regarding Seneca

From William A. Percy
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16 June 2004


In her April 16 review, Emily Wilson claimed that Seneca might be regarded as the greatest Latin writer. However questionable that judgment of hers, she surely erred in claiming that Seneca liked “young boys” and taught his tutee, Nero, to do the same. She mistranslated Dio Cassius, whose epitome in fact stated “he took delight in boys past their prime, a practice which he also taught Nero to follow.” Thus she calumniates these two Romans as pedophiles, that is, those attracted to prepubescents. Actually Dio has them delighting not in adolescents, as Greeks pederasts preferred, but in meirakiois exōrois, best translated as “boys [or ‘youths’] past their prime,” that is in their early twenties or perhaps even older, and thus by today’s higher standards licit, if, according to those Greeks, in bad taste.


William A. Percy
University of Massachusetts
Boston, MA 02125


Beert Verstraete
Acadia University
Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada, B4P 2R6

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