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Philosophy and Power in the Graeco-Roman WorldEssays in Honour of Miriam Griffin$
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Gillian Clark and Tessa Rajak

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780198299905

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299905.001.0001

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Beyond Comparison: M. Sergius, Fortunae Victor

Beyond Comparison: M. Sergius, Fortunae Victor

(p.111) Beyond Comparison: M. Sergius, Fortunae Victor
Philosophy and Power in the Graeco-Roman World

Mary Beagon

Oxford University Press

The only extant written account of the remarkable exploits of M. Sergius Silus, is to be found halfway through book 7 of Pliny's Natural History. If we think of book 7 as falling into three main sections, Sergius appears in the middle one, among the statistics and achievements of human maturity. This chapter argues that the elevation of Sergius to the status of pre-eminent exemplum virtutis in the Natural History owes a great deal to the cultural and philosophical atmosphere in which Pliny was writing; more, perhaps, than it does to the actual historical significance of the hero himself. The key lies in Pliny's final words: ‘Others certainly have conquered men but Sergius conquered fortune also’; a statement that reflects a popular philosophical paradox by which virtue in effect turns failure into success. Its significance is, however, enhanced by consideration of the final chapter of Sergius' story in Pliny.

Keywords:   M. Sergius Silus, Pliny, Natural History, exemplum virtutis

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