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"Of Clemency", also translated as "On Mercy", is an essay of originally three volumes of which only the first and part of the second survived. It was written in 55-56 AD, dedicated to Emperor Nero in his first (or second) year of reign.
In "Of Clemency" Seneca he develops his reflections on the power of the state and on the difference between the tyrant and the good king. He traces the image of a ruler who reigns, as representative of the gods. He explains that absolute power can be legitimized and justified by the practice of clemency, thus maintaining order and establishing consensus among men. By being clement, by being virtuous, the emperor becomes useful to the public good, behaves according to Nature, conforms to the Logos, to Fortune.
In the work we see how clemency should be exercised mainly by those who can wield power over others: princes, teachers, military, parents, considering that the damage caused by an error of judgment by them, when affected by any passion, will be deeply harmful to those who receive the punishment and to those who order it. For the prince, the practice of clemency, besides avoiding the creation of oppositions, legitimate his power and guarantee him the right of succession, provides stability and security in power. While the tyrant, the bad emperor is persecuted and lives without tranquility, the philosopher king, the good and clement emperor lives in peace, because he counts on love and not on the fear of his subjects:
There are four definitions of clemency to Seneca:
"Mercy is a restraining of the mind from vengeance when it is in its power to avenge itself";
"Gentleness shown by a powerful man in fixing the punishment of a weaker one;"
"...self-restraint, which remits some part of a fine which it deserves to receive and which is due to it;"
"...a tendency towards mildness in inflicting punishment;"
Seneca considers pity to be a vice, and defines it as the corruption of the clemency.
The work summarizes the concept of authority according to stoic philosophy: the aristocratic authority that dominates the people, retaining their anarchic tendencies, contributing to order and development, is derived from their own greatness and power, which, in turn, belong to the gods whom the ruler represents.