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Art and Images in Psychiatry
July 2014

The Dying Seneca: Peter Paul Rubens

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Developmental Neuropsychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland

Copyright 2014 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(7):742-743. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.2741

I saw not my own courage in dying, but [my father’s] courage broken by the loss of me. So I said to myself, “You must live.” Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.


The destinies of the Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, and dramatist Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 bce–65 ce) and the Roman emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (37-68 ce) are forever intertwined. In 65 ce, Nero wrongfully accused the aging Seneca, his childhood tutor, longtime political advisor, and minister, of complicity in the Pisonian plot to murder him.2 Nero ordered Seneca to commit suicide as punishment for his alleged crime.