Seneca & ‘The Crowd’

The Flavian Amphitheater (Colosseum) – Rome 2004

In a letter to his young friend Lucilius, Seneca gave some sage advice:

“What do I think you should avoid in particular? The crowd! You are not yet capable of entrusting yourself to it with any confidence. At least, I must confess my own weakness: I never return home the same person. Something I’d managed to pacify is disturbed, something I’d driven out comes back.”[1]

He was relating his feelings after attending gladiatorial games in Rome, something that disquieted him greatly. But Seneca might well have been talking about any activity that encourages us to surrender our identity to that of the crowd. Today, we tend to redefine it as peer pressure, but it really is the same package with different wrapping paper.

Somewhere within most of us is a desire to entrust our will to that of ‘the crowd’, only to be carried wherever it takes us. Usually that is not a good place, and certainly not a place that brings lasting happiness.

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:16-18).

“Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days (D & C 64:34).” 

Surrendering our will to God is the polar opposite of entrusting ourselves to ‘the crowd’.  On the one hand we are loved “with an everlasting love” and on the other we are just another nameless face. The great challenge for us is finding the confidence within to entrust our will to Him.

[1] Meijer, Fik. The Gladiators: History’s Most Deadly Sport.  Translated from the Dutch by Liz Waters. Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press: New York, 2004


I discreetly snapped a picture of this dude.
He’s a dead ringer for Vespasian.
Vespasian (69-79 AD)
Judaea Capta Sestertius
Rome, 71 AD

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