How to Give


“Romans in the Age of Nero were preoccupied with transactional obligations, namely, what one could expect in return for something given. Emperors firmed up their power by offering donations to troops, or handouts to the public; rich men received hosts of clientelae every morning, godfather-style, promising favors or granting petitions in exchange for gifts or loyalty. Even the gods could be bought: A Roman often intoned the formula do ut des, “I give so that you may give,” while making sacrifice. The Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca explored the complexities of giving and receiving in his longest ethical treatise, which goes under the title De Beneficiis. Sometimes rendered “benefit,” the word beneficium denotes any gift, favor, or good turn, that is, anything that incurs (or seeks to incur) an obligation from the receiver. In this book, James Romm (translator of How to Die and How to Keep Your Cool), proposes to abridge and trans

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Timeless wisdom on generosity and gratitude from the great Stoic philosopher Seneca

To give and receive well may be the most human thing you can do-but it is also the closest you can come to divinity. So argues the great Roman Stoic thinker Seneca (c. 4 BCE-65 CE) in his longest and most searching moral treatise, “On Benefits” (De Beneficiis). James Romm’s splendid new translation of essential selections from this work conveys the heart of Seneca’s argument that generosity and gratitude are among the most important of all virtues.

For Seneca, the impulse to give to others lies at the very foundation of society; without it, we are helpless creatures, worse than wild beasts. But generosity did not arise randomly or by chance. Seneca sees it as part of our desire to emulate the gods, whose creation of the earth and heavens stands as the greatest gift of all. Seneca’s soaring prose captures his wonder at that gift, and expresses a profound sense of gratitude that will inspire today’s readers.

Complete with an enlightening introduction and the original Latin on facing pages, How to Give is a timeless guide to the profound significance of true generosity.

Additional information

Weight0.308 kg
Dimensions17.145 × 11.43 × 2.4 cm










177.7 (edition:23)


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