Letters of Pliny the YoungerPublic domain English translation
Letters of the Younger Pliny with an introductory essay by John B. Firth.
I. -- To Fabatus.
II. -- To Attius Clemens.
III. -- To Antonius.
IV. -- To Sosius Senecio.
V. -- To Sparsus.
VI. -- To Julius Naso.
VII. -- To Catius Lepidus.
VIII. -- To Maturus Arrianus.
IX. -- To Cornelius Ursus.
X. -- To Statius Sabinus.
XI. -- To Cornelius Minicianus.
XII. -- To Maturus Arrianus.
XIII. -- To Tacitus.
XIV. -- To Paternus.
XV. -- To Fundanus.
XVI. -- To Valerius Paulinus.
XVII. -- To Asinius Gallus.
XVIII. -- To Arrius Antoninus.
XIX. -- To Calpurnia Hispulla.
XX. -- To Maximus.
XXI. -- To Velius Cerealis.
XXII. -- To Sempronius Rufus.
XXIII. -- To Pomponius Bassus.
XXIV. -- To Fabius Valens.
XXV. -- To Messius Maximus.
XXVI. -- To Nepos.
XXVII. -- To Pompeius Falco.
XXVIII. -- To Vibius Severus.
XXIX. -- To Romatius Firmus.
XXX. -- To Licinius Sura.
4.I. -- To Fabatus.
You say you wish to see your granddaughter again, and me with her, after not having seen us for so long. Both of us are charmed to hear you say so, and, believe me, we are equally anxious to see you. For I cannot tell you how we long to see you, and we shall no longer delay our visit. To that end we are even now getting our luggage together, and we shall push on as fast as the state of the roads will permit. There will be one delay, but it will not detain us long. We shall branch off to see my Tuscan estate -- not to inspect the farms and go into accounts, as that can be postponed -- but merely to perform a necessary duty. There is a village near my property called Tifernum Tiberinum, which selected me as its patron when I was still almost a boy, and showed, by so doing, more affection than judgment. The people there flock to meet me when I approach, are distressed when I leave them, and rejoice at my preferment. In this village, as a return for their kindness -- for it would never do to be outdone in affection -- I have, at my own expense, built a temple, and now that it is completed it would be hardly respectful to the gods to put off its dedication any longer. So we shall be present on the dedication day, which I have arranged to celebrate with a banquet. We may possibly stay there for the following day as well, but, if we do, we shall get over the ground with increased speed to make up for lost time. I only hope that we shall find you and your daughter in good health, for I know we shall find you in good spirits if we arrive in safety. Farewell.
4.II. -- To Attius Clemens.
Regulus has lost his son -- the only misfortune he did not deserve, because I doubt whether he considers it as such. He was a sharp-witted youth, whatever use he might have made of his talents, though he might have followed honourable courses if he did not take after his father. Regulus freed him from his parental control in order that he might succeed to his mother's property, but after freeing him -- and those who knew the character of the man spoke of it as a release from slavery -- he endeavoured to win his affections by treating him with a pretended indulgence which was as disgraceful as it was unusual in a father. It seems incredible, but remember that it was Regulus. Yet now that his son is dead, he is mad with grief at his loss. The boy had a number of ponies, some in harness and others not broken in, dogs both great and small, nightingales, parrots and blackbirds -- all these Regulus slaughtered at his pyre. Yet an act like that was no token of grief; it was but a mere parade of it. It is strange how people are flocking to call upon him. Every one detests and hates him, yet they run to visit him in shoals as though they both admired and loved him. To put in a nutshell what I mean, people in paying court to Regulus are copying the example he set. He does not move from his gardens across the Tiber, where he has covered an immense quantity of ground with colossal porticos and littered the river bank with his statues, for, though he is the meanest of misers, he flings his money broadcast, and though his name is a byword, he is for ever vaunting his glories. Consequently, in this the most sickly season of the year, he is upsetting every one's arrangements, and thinks it soothes his grief to inconvenience everybody. He says he is desirous of taking a wife, and here again, as in other matters, he shows the perversity of his nature. You will hear soon that the mourner is married, that the old man has taken a wife, displaying unseemly haste as the former and undue delay as the latter. If you ask what makes me think he will take this step, I reply that it is not because he says he will -- for there is no greater liar than he -- but because it is quite certain that Regulus will do what he ought not to do. Farewell.
4.III. -- To Antonius.
That you, like your ancestors of old, have been twice consul, that you have been proconsul of Asia with a record such as not more than one or two of your predecessors and successors have enjoyed -- for your modesty is such that I do not like to say that no one has equalled you -- that in purity of life, influence and age, you are the principal man of the State, -- all these things inspire respect and give distinction, and yet I admire you even more in your retirement. For to season, as you do, all your strict uprightness with charm of manner equally striking, and to be such an agreeable companion as well as such a man of weight, that is no less difficult than it is desirable. Yet you succeed in so doing with wonderful sweetness both in your conversation and above all, when you set pen to paper. For when you talk, all the honey of Homer's old man eloquent seems to flow from your tongue, and when you write, the bees seem to be busy pouring into every line their choicest essences and charging them with sweetness. That certainly was my impression when I recently read your Greek epigrams and iambics. What breadth of feeling they contain, what choice expressions, how graceful they are, how musical, how exact! I thought I was holding in my hands Callimachus or Herodes, or even a greater poet than these, if greater there be, yet neither of these two poets attempted or excelled in both these forms of verse. Is it possible for a Roman to write such Greek? I do not believe that even Athens has so pure an Attic touch. But why go on? I am jealous of the Greeks that you should have elected to write in their language, for it is easy to guess what choice work you could turn out in your mother-tongue, when you have produced such splendid results with an exotic language which has been transplanted into our midst. Farewell.
4.IV. -- To Sosius Senecio.
I have the greatest regard for Varisidius Nepos; he is hardworking, upright, and a scholar -- a point which with me outweighs almost any other. He is a near relative and, in fact, a son of the sister of Caius Calvisius, my old companion and a friend too of yours. I beg that you will give him a tribuneship for six months and so advance him in dignity, both for his own and for his uncle's sake. By so doing you will confer a favour on me, on our friend Calvisius, and on Varisidius himself, who is quite as worthy to be under an obligation to you as we are. You have showered kindnesses on numbers of people, and I will venture to say that you have never bestowed one that was better deserved, and have but rarely granted one that was deserved so well. Farewell.
4.V. -- To Sparsus.
There is a story that Aeschines was once asked by the Rhodians to read them one of his speeches, that he afterwards read them one of Demosthenes' as well, and that both were received with great applause. I cannot wonder that the orations of such distinguished men were applauded, when I think that just recently the most learned men in Rome listened for two days together to a speech of mine, with such earnestness, applause, and concentration of attention, though there was nothing to stir their blood, no other speech with which to compare mine, and not a trace of the acharnement of debate. While the Rhodians had not only the beauties of the two speeches to kindle them but also the charm of comparison, my speech was approved though it lacked the advantages of being controversial. Whether it deserved its reception you will be able to judge when you have read it, and its bulk does not allow of my making a longer preface. For I ought certainly to be brief here where brevity is possible, so that I may be the more readily excused for the length of the speech itself, though it is not longer than the subject required. Farewell.
4.VI. -- To Julius Naso.
My Tuscan farms have been lashed by hail; from my property in the Transpadane region I get news that the crops are very heavy but the prices rule equally low, and it is only my Laurentian estate that makes me any return. It is true that all my belongings there consist of but a house and a garden, yet it is the only property which brings me in any revenue. For while I am there I write hard and I till -- not fields, for I have none -- but my own wits, and so I can show you there a full granary of MSS., as elsewhere I can show you full barns of wheat. Hence if you are anxious for sure and fruitful farms, you too should sow your grain on the same kind of shore. Farewell.
4.VII. -- To Catius Lepidus.
I am constantly writing to tell you what energy Regulus possesses. It is wonderful the way he carries through anything which he has set his mind upon. It pleased him to mourn for his son -- and never man mourned like him; it pleased him to erect a number of statues and busts to his memory, and the result is that he is keeping all the workshops busy; he is having his boy represented in colours, in wax, in bronze, in silver, in gold, ivory, and marble -- always his boy. He himself just lately got together a large audience and read a memoir of his life -- of the boy's life; he read it aloud, and yet had a thousand copies written out which he has scattered broadcast over Italy and the provinces. He wrote at large to the decurions and asked them to choose one of their number with the best voice to read the memoir to the people, and it was done. What good he might have effected with this energy of his -- or whatever name we should give to such dauntless determination on his part to get his own way -- if he had only turned it into a better channel! But then, as you know, good men rarely have this faculty so well developed as bad men; the Greeks say, "Ignorance makes a man bold; calculation gives him pause," and just in the same way modesty cripples the force of an upright mind, while unblushing confidence is a source of strength to a man without conscience. Regulus is a case in point. He has weak lungs, he never looks you straight in the face, he stammers, he has no imaginative power, absolutely no memory, no quality at all, in short, except a wild, frantic genius, and yet, thanks to his effrontery, and even just to this frenzy of his, he has got people to regard him as an orator. Herennius Senecio very neatly turned against him Cato's well-known definition of an orator by saying, "An orator is a bad man who knows nothing of the art of speaking," and I really think that he thereby gave a better definition of Regulus than Cato did of the really true orator.
Have you any equivalent to send me for a letter like this? Yes, indeed, you have, if you will write and say whether any one of my friends in your township, or whether you yourself have read this pitiful production of Regulus in the Forum, like a Cheap Jack, pitching your voice high, as Demosthenes says, shouting with delight, and straining every muscle in your throat. For it is so absurd that it will make you laugh rather than sigh, and you would think it was written not about a boy but by a boy. Farewell.
4.VIII. -- To Maturus Arrianus.
You congratulate me on accepting the office of augur. You are right in so doing, first, because it is a proper thing to obey the wishes of an emperor with a character like ours, and, secondly, because the priestly office is in itself an ancient and sacred one, and inspires respect and dignity from the very fact that it is held for life. For other offices, though almost equal in point of dignity to this, may be bestowed one day and taken away the next, while with the augurship the element of chance only enters into the bestowal of it. I think too that I have special reasons for congratulating myself in that I have succeeded Julius Frontinus, one of the leading men of his day, who for many years running used to bring forward my name, whenever the nomination day for the priesthoods came round, as though he wished to coopt me to fill his place. Now events have turned out in such a way that my election does not seem to have been the work of chance. I can only hope that as I have attained to the priesthood and the consulship at a much earlier age than he did, I may, when I am old, at least in some degree acquire his serenity of mind. But all that man can give has fallen to my lot and to many another; the other thing, which can only be bestowed by the gods, is as difficult to attain to as it is presumptuous to hope for it. Farewell.
4.IX. -- To Cornelius Ursus.
For some days past Julius Bassus has been on his defence. He is a much harassed man whose misfortunes have made him famous. An accusation was lodged against him in Vespasian's reign by two private individuals; the case was referred to the Senate, and for a long time he has been on the tenter-hooks, but at last he has been acquitted and his character cleared. He was afraid of Titus because he had been a friend of Domitian, yet he had been banished by the latter, was recalled by Nerva, and, after being appointed by lot to the governorship of Bithynia, returned from the province to stand his trial. The case against him was keenly pressed, but he was no less loyally defended.
Pomponius Rufus, a ready and impetuous speaker, opened against him and was followed by Theophanes, one of the deputation from the province, who was the very life and soul of the prosecution, and indeed the originator of it. I replied on Bassus' behalf, for he had instructed me to lay the foundations of his whole defence, to give an account of his distinctions, which were very considerable -- as he was a man of good family, and had been in many tight places -- to dilate upon the conspiracy of the informers and the gains they counted upon, and to explain how it was that Bassus had roused the resentment of all the restless spirits of the province, and notably of Theophanes himself. He had expressed a wish that I too should controvert the charge which was damaging him most. For as to the others, though they sounded to be even more serious, he deserved not only acquittal but approbation, and the only thing that troubled him was that, in an unguarded moment and in perfect innocence, he had received certain presents from the provincials as a token of friendship, for he had served in the same province previously as quaestor. His accusers stigmatised these gifts as thefts and plunder: he called them presents, but the law forbids even presents to be accepted by a governor.
In such a case what was I to do, what line of defence was I to take up? If I denied them in toto, I was afraid that people would immediately regard as a theft the presents which I was afraid to confess had been received. Moreover, to deny the obvious truth would have been to aggravate and not lessen the gravity of the charge, especially as the accused himself had cut the ground away from under the feet of his counsel. For he had told many people, and even the Emperor, that he had accepted, but only on his birthday or at the feast of the Saturnalia, some few trifling presents, and had also sent similar gifts to some of his friends. Was I then to acknowledge this and plead for clemency? Had I done so, I should have put a knife to my client's throat by confessing that he had committed offences and could only be acquitted by an act of clemency. Was I to defend his conduct and justify it? That would have done him no good, and would have stamped me as an unblushing advocate.
In this difficult position I resolved to take a middle course, and I think I succeeded in so doing. Night interrupted my pleading, as it so often interrupts battles. I had been speaking for three hours and a half, and I had another hour and a half still left me. The law allowed the accuser six hours and the defendant nine, and Bassus had arranged the time at his disposal by giving me five hours, and the remainder to the advocate who was to speak after me. The success of my pleading persuaded me to say no more and make an end, for it is rash not to rest content when things are going well. Besides, I was afraid I might break down physically if I went over the ground again, as it is more difficult to pick up the threads of a speech than to go straight on. There was also the risk of the remainer of my speech meeting with a chilly reception, owing to the threads being dropped, or of it boring the judges if I gathered them up anew. For, just as the flame of a torch is kept alight if you wave it continually up and down, but is difficult to resuscitate when it has been allowed to go out, so the warmth of a speaker and the attention of his audience are kept alive if he goes on speaking, but cool off at any interruption which causes interest to flag. But Bassus begged and prayed of me, almost with tears in his eyes, to take my full time. I gave way, and preferred his interests to my own. It turned out well, for I found that the senators were so attentive and so fresh that, instead of having had quite enough of my speech of the day before, it seemed to have only whetted their appetites for more.
Lucceius Albinus followed me and spoke so much to the point that our speeches were considered to have all the diversity of two addresses but the cohesion of one. Herennius Pollio replied with force and dignity, and then Theophanes again rose. He showed his usual effrontery in demanding a more liberal allowance of time than is usually granted -- even after two advocates of ability and consular rank had concluded -- and he went on speaking until nightfall, an actually continued after that, when lights had been brought into court.
On the following day Titius Homullus and Fronto made a splendid effort on behalf of Bassus, and the hearing of the evidence took up the fourth day. Baebius Macer, the consul-designate, proposed that Bassus should be dealt with under the law relating to extortion, while Caepio Hispo was in favour of appointing judges to hear the case, but urged that Bassus should retain his place in the Senate. Both were in the right. How can that be? you may ask. For this reason, because Macer, looking at the letter of the law, was justified in condemning a man who had broken the law by receiving presents; while Caepio, acting on the assumption that the Senate has the right -- which it certainly has -- both to mitigate the severity of the laws and to rigorously put them in force, was not unreasonably desirous of excusing an offence which, though illegal, is very often committed. Caepio's proposal carried the day; indeed, when he rose to speak he was greeted with the applause which is usually reserved for speakers upon resuming their seats. This will enable you to judge how unanimously the motion was received while he was speaking, when it met with such a reception on his rising to put it.
However, just as there was difference of opinion in the Senate, so there is the same with the general public. Those who approved the proposal of Caepio find fault with that of Macer as being vindictive and severe; those who agree with Macer condemn Caepio's motion as lax and even inconsistent, for they say it is incongruous to allow a man to keep his place in the Senate when judges have been allotted to try him. There was also a third proposal. Valerius Paulinus, who agreed in the main with Caepio, proposed that an inquiry should be instituted into the case of Theophanes, as soon as he had concluded his work on the deputation. It was urged that during his conduct of the prosecution he had committed a number of offences which came within the scope of the law under which he had accused Bassus. However, the consuls did not approve this proposal, though it found great favour with a large proportion of the Senate. None the less, Paulinus gained a reputation thereby for justice and consistency. When the Senate rose, Bassus came in for an ovation; crowds gathered round him and greeted him with a remarkable demonstration of their joy. Public sympathy had been aroused in his favour by the old story of the hazards he had gone through being told over again, by the association of his name with grave perils, by his tall physique and the sadness and poverty of his old age. You must consider this letter as the forerunner of another: you will be looking out for my speech in full and with every detail, and you will have to look out for it for some time to come, because, owing to the importance of the subject, it will require more than a mere brief and cursory revision. Farewell.
4.X. -- To Statius Sabinus.
You tell me that Sabina, who left us her heirs, never gave any instructions that her slave Modestus was to be granted his freedom, though she left him a legacy in these words: "I give...to Modestus, whom I have ordered to receive his liberty." You ask me what I think of the matter. I have consulted some eminent lawyers and they all agree that Modestus need not be given his freedom, because it was not expressly granted by Sabina, nor his legacy, because she left it to him as a slave. But the mistake is obvious to me, and so I think that we ought to act as though Sabina had ordered him to be freed in express terms, since she certainly was under the impression that she had ordered it. I am sure that you will be of my way of thinking, for you are most punctilious in carrying out the intentions of a dead person, which are, with honourable heirs, tantamount to legal obligations. For with us honour has as much weight as necessity has with others. So I propose that we should allow Modestus to have his liberty and enjoy his legacy, as if Sabina had taken all proper precautions to ensure that he should. For a lady who has made a good choice of her heirs has surely taken all the precautions necessary. Farewell.
4.XI. -- To Cornelius Minicianus.
Have you heard that Valerius Licinianus is teaching rhetoric in Sicily? I do not think you can have done, for the news is quite fresh. He is of praetorian rank, and he used at one time to be considered one of our most eloquent pleaders at the bar, but now he has fallen so low that he is an exile instead of being a senator, and a mere teacher of rhetoric instead of being a prominent advocate. Consequently in his opening remarks he exclaimed, sorrowfully and solemnly: "O Fortune, what sport you make to amuse yourself! For you turn senators into professors, and professors into senators." There is so much gall and bitterness in that expression that it seems to me that he became a professor merely to have the opportunity of uttering it. Again, when he entered the hall wearing a Greek pallium -- for those who have been banished with the fire-and-water formula are not allowed to wear the toga -- he first pulled himself together and then, glancing at his dress, he said, "I shall speak my declamations in Latin."
You will say that this is all very sad and pitiful, but that a man who defiled his profession of letters by the guilt of incest deserves to suffer. It is true that he confessed his guilt, but it is an open question whether he did so because he was guilty or because he feared an even heavier punishment if he denied it. For Domitian was in a great rage and was boiling over with fury because his witnesses had left him in the lurch. His mind was set upon burying alive Cornelia, the chief of the Vestal Virgins, as he thought to make his age memorable by such an example of severity, and, using his authority as Chief Pontiff, or rather exercising the cruelty of a tyrant and the wanton caprice of a ruler, he summoned the rest of the pontiffs not to the Palace but to his Villa at Alba. There, with a wickedness just as monstrous as the crime which he pretended to be punishing, he declared her guilty of incest, without summoning her before him and giving her a hearing, though he himself had not only committed incest with his brother's daughter but had even caused her death, for she died of abortion during her widowhood. He immediately despatched some of the pontiffs to see that his victim was buried alive and put to death. Cornelia invoked in turns the aid of Vesta and of the rest of the deities, and amid her many cries this was repeated most frequently: "How can Caesar think me guilty of incest, when he has conquered and triumphed after my hands have performed the sacred rites?" It is not known whether her purpose was to soften Caesar's heart or to deride him, whether she spoke the words to show her confidence in herself or her contempt of the Emperor. Yet she continued to utter them until she was led to the place of execution, and whether she was innocent or not, she certainly appeared to be so. Nay, even when she was being let down into the dreadful pit and her dress caught as she was being lowered, she turned and readjusted it, and when the executioner offered her his hand she declined it and drew back, as though she put away from her with horror the idea of having her chaste and pure body defiled by his loathsome touch. Thus she preserved her sanctity to the last and displayed all the tokens of a chaste woman, like Hecuba, "taking care that she might fall in seemly wise."
Moreover, when Celer, the Roman knight who was accused of having intrigued with Cornelia, was being scourged with rods in the Forum, he did nothing but cry out, "What have I done? I have done nothing." Consequently Domitian's evil reputation for cruelty and injustice blazed up on all hands. He fastened upon Licinianus for hiding a freedwoman of Cornelia on one of his farms. Licinianus was advised by his friends who interested themselves on his behalf to take refuge in making a confession and beg for pardon, if he wished to escape being flogged in the Forum, and he did so. Herennius Senecio spoke for him in his absence very much in the words of Homer, "Patroclus is fallen," for he said, "Instead of being an advocate, I am the bearer of news: Licinianus has removed himself." This so pleased Domitian that he allowed his gratification to betray him into exclaiming, "Licinianus has cleared us." He even went on to say that it would not do to press a man who admitted his fault too hard, and gave him permission to get together what he could of his belongings before his goods were confiscated, and granted him a pleasant place of exile as a reward for his consideration. Subsequently, by the clemency of the Emperor Nerva, he was removed to Sicily, where he now is a Professor of Rhetoric and takes his revenge upon Fortune in his prefatory remarks.
You see how careful I am to obey your wishes, as I not only give you the news of the town, but news from abroad, and minutely trace a story from its very beginning. I took for granted that, as you were away from Rome at the time, all you heard of Licinianus was that he had been banished for incest. For rumour only gives one the gist of the matter, not the various stages through which it passes. Surely I deserve that you should return the compliment and write and tell me what is going on in your town and neighbourhood, for something worthy of note is always happening. But say what you will, provided you give me the news in as long a letter as I have written to you. I shall count up not only the pages, but the lines and the syllables. Farewell.
4.XII. -- To Maturus Arrianus.
You have a regard for Egnatius Marcellinus and you often commend him to my notice; you will love him and commend him the more when you hear what he has recently done. After setting out as quaestor for his province, he lost by death a secretary, who was allotted to him, before the day when the man's salary fell due, and he made up his mind and resolved that he ought not to keep the money which had been paid over to him to give to the secretary. So when he returned he consulted first Caesar and then the Senate, on Caesar's recommendation, as to what was to be done with the money. It was a trifling question, but, after all, it was a question. The secretary's heirs claimed it should pass to them; the prefects of the treasury claimed it for the people. The case was heard, and counsel for the heirs and for the people pleaded in turn, and both spoke well to the point. Caecilius Strabo proposed that it should be paid over to the treasury; Baebius Macer that it should be given to the man's heirs; Strabo carried the day. I hope you will praise Marcellinus for his conduct, as I did on the spot, for, although he thinks it more than enough to have been congratulated by the Emperor and the Senate, he will be glad to have your commendation as well. All who are anxious for glory and reputation are wonderfully pleased with the approbation and praise even of men of no particular account, while Marcellinus has such regard for you that he attaches the greatest importance to your opinion. Besides, if he knows that the fame of his action has penetrated so far, he cannot but be pleased at the ground his praises have covered and the rapidity and distance they have travelled. For it somehow happens that men prefer a wide even to a well-grounded reputation. Farewell.
4.XIII. -- To Tacitus.
I am delighted that you have returned to Rome, for though your arrival is always welcome, it is especially so to me at the present moment. I shall be spending a few more days at my Tusculan villa in order to finish a small work which I have in hand, for I am afraid that if I do not carry it right through now that it is nearly completed I shall find it irksome to start on it again. In the meanwhile, that I may lose no time, I am sending this letter as a sort of forerunner to make a request which, when I am in town, I shall ask you to grant.
But first of all, let me tell you my reasons for asking it. When I was last in my native district a son of a fellow townsman of mine, a youth under age, came to pay his respects to me. I said to him, "Do you keep up your studies?" "Yes," said he. "Where?" I asked. "At Mediolanum," he replied. "But why not here?" I queried. Then the lad's father, who was with him, and indeed had brought him, replied, "Because we have no teachers here." "How is that?" I asked. "It is a matter of urgent importance to you who are fathers" -- and it so happened, luckily, that a number of fathers were listening to me -- "that your children should get their schooling here on the spot. For where can they pass the time so pleasantly as in their native place; where can they be brought up so virtuously as under their parents' eyes; where so inexpensively as at home? If you put your money together you could hire teachers at a trifling cost, and you could add to their stipends the sums you now spend upon your sons' lodgings and travelling money, which are no light amounts. I have no children of my own, but still, in the interest of the State, which I may consider as my child or my parent, I am prepared to contribute a third part of the amount which you may decide to club together. I would even promise the whole sum, if I were not afraid that if I did so my generosity would be corrupted to serve private interests, as I see is the case in many places where teachers are employed at the public charge. There is but one way of preventing this evil, and that is by leaving the right of employing the teachers to the parents alone, who will be careful to make a right choice if they are required to find the money. For those who perhaps would be careless in dealing with other people's money will assuredly be careful in spending their own, and they will take care that the teacher who gets my money will be worth his salt when he will also get money from them as well. So put your heads together, make up your minds, and let my example inspire you, for I can assure you that the greater the contribution you lay upon me the better I shall be pleased. You cannot make your children a more handsome present than this, nor can you do your native place a better turn. Let those who are born here be brought up here, and from their earliest days accustom them to love and know every foot of their native soil. I hope you may be able to attract such distinguished teachers that boys will be sent here to study from the towns round about, and that, as now your children flock to other places, so in the future other people's children may flock hither."
I thought it best to repeat this conversation in detail and from the very beginning, to convince you how glad I shall be if you will undertake my commission. As the subject is one of such importance, I beg and implore you to look out for some teachers from among the throng of learned people who gather round you in admiration of your genius, whom we can sound on the matter, but in such a way that we do not pledge ourselves to employ any one of them. For I wish to give the parents a perfectly free hand. They must judge and choose for themselves; my responsibilities go no further than a sympathetic interest and the payment of my share of the cost. So if you find any one who is confident in his own abilities, let him go to Comum, but on the express understanding that he builds upon no certainty beyond his own confidence in himself. Farewell.
4.XIV. -- To Paternus.
Perhaps you are asking and looking out for a speech of mine, as you usually do, but I am sending you some wares of another sort, exotic trifles, the fruit of my playtime. You will receive with this letter some hendecasyllabics of mine with which I pass my leisure hours pleasantly when driving, or in the bath, or at dinner. They contain my jests, my sportive fancies, my loves, sorrows, displeasures and wrath, described sometimes in a humble, sometimes in a lofty strain. My object has been to please different tastes by this variety of treatment, and I hope that certain pieces will be liked by every one. Some of them will possibly strike you as being rather wanton, but a man of your scholarship will bear in mind that the very greatest and gravest authors who have handled such subjects have not only dealt with lascivious themes, but have treated them in the plainest language. I have not done that, not because I have greater austerity than they -- by no means, but because I am not quite so daring. Otherwise, I am aware that Catullus has laid down the best and truest regulations governing this style of poetry in his lines: "For it becomes a pious bard to be chaste himself, though there is no need for his verses to be so. Nay, if they are to have wit and charm, they must be voluptuous and not too modest."
You may guess from this what store I set on your critical judgment when I say that I prefer you should weigh the whole in the balance rather than pick out a few for your special praise. Yet pieces, perfect in themselves, cease to appear so the moment they are all on a dead level of perfection. Besides, a reader of judgment and acumen ought not to compare different pieces with one another, but to weigh each on its own merits and not to think one inferior to another, if it is perfect of its kind. But why say more? What more foolish than to excuse or commend mere trifles with a long preface? Still there is one thing of which I think I should advise you, and it is that I am thinking of calling these trifles "Hendecasyllables," a title which simply refers to the single metre employed. So, whether you prefer to call them epigrams, or idylls, or eclogues, or little poems, as many do, or any other name, remember that I only offer you "Hendecasyllables." I appeal to your candour to speak to me frankly about my tiny volume as you would to a third person, and this is no hard request. For if this trifling work of mind were my chef d'oeuvre, or my one solitary composition, it might perhaps seem harsh to say, "Seek out some other employment for your talent," but it is perfectly gentle and kindly criticism to say, "You have another sphere in which you show to greater advantage." Farewell.
4.XV. -- To Fundanus.
If I have ever been guided by judgment, it has been in the strength of regard I have for Asinius Rufus. He is one of a thousand, and a devoted admirer of all good men among whom why may I not include myself? He is on the very closest of terms of friendship with Cornelius Tacitus, and you know what an honourable man Tacitus is. So if you have any high opinion of both Tacitus and myself, you must also think as highly of Rufus as you do of us, since similarity of character is perhaps the strongest bond for cementing friendships. Rufus has a number of children. Even in this respect he has acted the part of a good citizen, in that he was willing to freely undertake the responsibilities entailed upon him by the fruitfulness of his wife, in an age when the advantages of being childless are such that many people consider even one son to be a burden. He has scorned all those advantages, and has also become a grandfather. For a grandfather he is, thanks to Saturius Firmus, whom you will love as I do when you know him as intimately.
I mention these particulars to show you what a large and numerous household you can oblige by a single favour, and I am induced to ask it from you, in the first place, because I wish to do so, and in the second, owing to a good omen. For we hope and prophesy that next year you will be consul, and we are led to make that forecast by your own good qualities, and by the opinion that the Emperor has of you. But it also happens that Asinius Bassus, the eldest son of Rufus, will be quaestor in the same year, and he is a young man even more worthy than his father, though I don't know whether I ought to mention such a fact, which the modesty of the young fellow would deny, but which his father desires me to think and openly declare. Though you always repose confidence in what I say, it is difficult, I know, for you to credit my account of an absent man when I say that he possesses splendid industry, probity, learning, wit, application, and powers of memory, as you will discover for yourself when you have tried him. I only wish that our age was so productive of men of high character that there were others to whom you ought to give preference over Bassus; if it did, I should be the first to advise and exhort you to take a good look round, and consider long and carefully on whom your choice should fall. But as it is -- yet no, I do not wish to boast about my friend, I will merely say that he is a young man well deserving of adoption by you as a son in the old-fashioned way. For prudent men, like yourself, ought to receive as children from the State children such as we are accustomed to hope that Nature will bestow upon us. When you are consul it will become you to have as quaestor a man whose father was praetor, and whose relatives are of consular rank, especially as he, although still young, is in his turn already in their judgment an honour to them and their family. So I hope you will grant my request and take my advice.
Above all, pardon me if you think I am acting prematurely, first, because in a State where to get a thing done depends on the earliness of the application, those who wait for the proper time find the fruit not only ripe but plucked, and, secondly, when one is anxious to get a favour it is very pleasant to enjoy in advance the certainty of obtaining it. Give Bassus the opportunity of respecting you even now as consul, and do you entertain a friendly regard for him as your quaestor, and let us who are devoted to both of you have the enjoyment of this double satisfaction. For while our regard for you and Bassus is such that we shall use all our resources, energy, and influence to obtain the advancement of Bassus, no matter to what consul he is assigned as quaestor -- as well as the advancement of any quaestor that may be allotted to you -- it would be immensely gratifying to us if we could at one and the same time prove our friendship and advance your interests as consul by helping the cause of our young friend, and if you of all people, whose wishes the Senate is so ready to gratify, and in whose recommendations they place such implicit trust, were to stand forth as the seconder of my desires. Farewell.
4.XVI. -- To Valerius Paulinus.
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, on my account, on your own, and on that of the public. The student still has his meed of recompense. Just recently, when I had to speak in the Court of the Hundred, I could find no way in except by crossing the tribunal and passing through the judges, all the other places were so crowded and thronged. Moreover, a certain young man of fashion who had his tunic torn to pieces -- as often happens in a crowd -- kept his ground for seven long hours with only his toga thrown round him. For my speech lasted all that time; and though it cost me a great effort, the results were more than worth it. Let us therefore prosecute our studies, and not allow the idleness of other people to be an excuse for laziness on our part. We can still find an audience and readers, provided only that our compositions are worth hearing, and worth the paper they are written on. Farewell.
4.XVII. -- To Asinius Gallus.
You recommend and press me to take up the case of Corellia, in her absence, against Caius Caecilius, the consul-designate. I thank you for the recommendation, but I am a little hurt at your pressing me; it was right of you to recommend me to do so, and so inform me of the case, but I needed no pressing to do what it would have been scandalous for me to leave undone. Am I the man to hesitate a second about protecting the rights of a daughter of Corellius? It is true that I am not only an acquaintance, but also a close friend of him whom you ask me to oppose. Moreover, he is a man of position and the office for which he has been chosen is a great one, one indeed for which I cannot but feel all the greater respect, inasmuch as I recently held it myself. It is natural that a man should desire the dignities to which he has himself attained to be held in the very highest esteem.
However, all those considerations seem unimportant and trifling when I consider that I am about to champion the daughter of Corellius. I picture to myself that worthy gentleman, a man second to none in our age for gravity, uprightness of life, and quickness of judgment. I began to love him because I admired him so much, and the better I learned to know him the more my admiration grew -- a result that rarely happens. Yes, and I knew his character thoroughly; he had no secrets from me, I knew him in his sportive and serious moods, in his moments both of sorrow and joy. I was but a young man, yet, young as I was, he held me in honour, and I will make bold to say that he paid me the respect he would have paid to one of his own years. When I sought advancement, it was he who canvassed and spoke for me; when I entered upon an office he introduced me and stood by my side; in all administrative work he gave me counsel and kept me straight; in short, in all my public duties, despite his weakness and his years, he showed himself to have the energy and fire of youth. How he helped to build up my reputation at home and in public, and even with the Emperor himself! For when it so happened that the conversation in the presence of the Emperor Nerva turned upon the subject of the promising young men of the day, and several speakers sang my praises, Corellius kept silence for a little while -- a fact which added material weight to his remarks -- and then he said in that grave manner you knew so well, "I must be careful how I praise Secundus, for he never does anything without taking my advice." The words were a tribute such as it would have been unreasonable for me to ask for or expect, for they amounted to this, that I never acted except in the most prudent manner, since I invariably acted on the advice of a man of his consummate prudence.
Nay, even on his deathbed he said to his daughter, as she is never tired of repeating, "I have procured for you a multitude of friends, and, even had I lived longer, I could hardly have got you more, but best of all I have won you the friendship of Secundus and Cornutus." When I think of those words, I feel that it is my duty to work hard, that I may not seem to have fallen short in any particular of the confidence reposed in me by such an excellent judge of men. So I will take up Corellia's case without loss of time, nor will I mind giving offence to others by the course I adopt. Yet I think that I shall not only be excused, but receive the praises even of him who, as you say, is bringing this new action against Corellia, possibly because she is a woman, if during the hearing I explain my motives, more fully and amply than I can in the narrow limits of a letter, either in order to justify or even to win approval of my conduct. Farewell.
4.XVIII. -- To Arrius Antoninus.
How can I better prove to you how greatly I admire your Greek epigrams than by the fact that I have tried to imitate some of them and turn them into Latin? I grant they have lost in the translation, and this is due in the first place to the poorness of my wits, and in the second place -- and even more -- to what Lucretius calls the poverty of our native tongue. But if these verses, writ in Latin and by me, seem to you to possess any grace, you may guess how charming the originals are which were written in Greek and by you. Farewell.
4.XIX. -- To Calpurnia Hispulla.
As you yourself are a model of the family virtues, as you returned the affection of your brother, who was the best of men and devoted to you, and as you love his daughter as though she were your own child, and show her not only the affection of an aunt but even that of the father she has lost, I feel sure you will be delighted to know that she is proving herself worthy of her father, worthy of you, and worthy of her grandfather. She has a sharp wit, she is wonderfully economical, and she loves me -- which is a guarantee of her purity. Moreover, owing to her fondness for me she has developed a taste for study. She collects all my speeches, she reads them, and learns them by heart. When I am about to plead, what anxiety she shows; when the pleading is over, how pleased she is! She has relays of people to bring her news as to the reception I get, the applause I excite, and the verdicts I win from the judges. Whenever I recite, she sits near me screened from the audience by a curtain, and her ears greedily drink in what people say to my credit. She even sings my verses and sets them to music, though she has no master to teach her but love, which is the best instructor of all. Hence I feel perfectly assured that our mutual happiness will be lasting, and will continue to grow day by day. For she loves in me not my youth nor my person -- both of which are subject to gradual decay and age -- but my reputation. Nor would other feelings become one who had been brought up at your knee, who had been trained by your precepts, who had seen in your house nothing that was not pure and honourable, and, in short, had been taught to love me at your recommendation. For as you loved and venerated my mother as a daughter, so even when I was a boy you used to shape my character, and encourage me, and prophesy that I should develop into the man that my wife now believes me to be. Consequently my wife and I try to see who can thank you best, I because you have given her to me, and she because you gave me to her, as though you chose us the one for the other. Farewell.
4.XX. -- To Maximus.
You know my opinion of your volumes singly, for I have written to tell you as I finished each one; now let me give my broad view of the whole work. It is beautifully written, with power, incisiveness, loftiness, and variety of treatment, in elegant, pure language, with plenty of metaphor, while it is comprehensive and covers an amount of ground that does you great credit. You have been carried far by the sweeping sails of your genius and your resentment, both of which have been a great help to you; for your genius has lent a lofty magnificence to your resentment, which in turn has added power and sharpness to your genius. Farewell.
4.XXI. -- To Velius Cerealis.
What a terribly sad fate has overtaken those two sisters, the Helvidiae! Both to have given birth to daughters, and both to have died in childbirth! I am very, very sorry, yet I keep my grief within bounds. What seems to me so lamentable is that two honourable ladies should in the very spring-time of life have been carried off at the moment of becoming mothers. I am grieved for the infants who are left motherless at their birth; I am grieved for their excellent husbands, and grieved also on my own account. For even now I retain the warmest affection for their dead father, as I have shown in my pleading and my books. Now but one of his three children is alive, and only one remains to support a house which a little time ago had so many props to sustain it. But my grief will be greatly relieved should Fortune preserve him at least to robust and vigorous health, and make him as good a man as his father and grandfather were before him. I am the more anxious for his health and character now that he is the only one left. You know the tenderness of my mind where my affections are engaged and how nervous I am, so you must not be surprised if I show most anxiety on behalf of those of whom I have formed the greatest hopes. Farewell.
4.XXII. -- To Sempronius Rufus.
I have been called in by our excellent Emperor to take part and advise upon the following case. Under the will of a certain person, it has been the custom at Vienne to hold a gymnastic contest. Trebonius Rufus, a man of high principle and a personal friend of mine, in his capacity of duumvir, discontinued and abolished the custom, and it was objected that he had no legal authority to do so. He pleaded his case not only with eloquence but to good effect, and what lent force to his pleading was that he spoke with discretion and dignity, as a Roman and a good citizen should, in a matter that concerned himself. When the opinion of the Council was taken, Junius Mauricus, who stands second to none for strength of will and devotion to truth, was against restoring the contest to the people of Vienne, and he added, "I wish the games could be abolished at Rome as well." That is a bold consistent line, you will say. So it is, but that is no new thing with Mauricus. He spoke just as frankly before the Emperor Nerva. Nerva was dining with a few friends; Veiento was sitting next to him and was leaning on his shoulder -- I need say no more after mentioning the man's name. The conversation turned upon Catullus Messalinus, who was blind, and had that curse to bear in addition to his savage disposition. He was void of fear, shame, and pity, and on that account Domitian often used him as a tool for the destruction of the best men in the State, just as though he were a dart urging on its blind and sightless course. All at table were speaking of this man's villainy and bloody counsels, when the Emperor himself said: "I wonder what his fate would be if he were alive to-day," to which Mauricus replied, "He would be dining with us." I have made a long digression, but willingly. The Council resolved that the contest should be abolished, because it had corrupted the morals of Vienne, just as our contests have corrupted the whole world. For the vices of Vienne go no further than their own walls, but ours spread far and wide. As in the body corporal, so in the body of the State, the most dangerous diseases are those that spread from the head. Farewell.
4.XXIII. -- To Pomponius Bassus.
I have been delighted to hear from our mutual friends that you map out and bear your retirement in a way that is worthy of your ripe wisdom, that you live in a charming spot, that you take exercise on both sea and land, that you have plenty of good conversation, that you read a great deal and listen to others reading, and that, though your stock of knowledge is vast, you yet add thereto every day. That is just the way a man should spend his later years after filling the highest magistracies, after commanding armies, and devoting himself wholly to the service of the State for as long as it became him to do so. For we owe our early and middle manhood to our country, our last years are due to ourselves -- as indeed the laws direct which enforce retirement when we reach a certain age. When will that appointed time come to me? When shall I attain the age at which I may honourably retire and imitate the example of beautiful and perfect peace that you set me? When shall I be able to enjoy calm retreat without people calling it not peaceful tranquillity but laziness and sloth? Farewell.
4.XXIV. -- To Fabius Valens.
Just recently, after pleading before the Centumviri in the fourfold Court, I happened to remember that in my younger days I had also pleaded in the same court. My thoughts, as usual, began to take a wider range, and I commenced to recall to my memory those whom I had worked with in this court and in that. I found I was the only one left who had practised in both, so sweeping were the changes effected by the slenderness of human life and the fickleness of fortune. Some of those who used to plead in my young days are dead, others are in exile; age and ill health have convinced others that their speaking days are over; some are enjoying of their own free will the pleasures of retirement, or are in command of armies, or have been withdrawn from civil employments by becoming the personal friends of the Emperor. Even in my own case how many changes I have gone through! I first owed my promotion to my literary studies; then they brought me into danger, and then again won me still further advancement. My friendships with worthy citizens likewise first helped me, then stood in my way, and now again they assist me. If you count the years, the time seems but short; but count the changes and the ups and downs, and it seems an age. This may be taken by us as a lesson never to despair of anything, and never to impose a blind trust in anything, when we see so many vicissitudes brought about by this inconstant world of ours. I deem it a mark of friendship on my part to make you the confidant of my thoughts, and to admonish you by the precepts and examples with which I admonish myself. That is the raison d'etre of this letter. Farewell.
4.XXV. -- To Messius Maximus.
I wrote and told you that there was a danger of the ballot leading to abuses. Events have confirmed my view. At the last election a number of flippant jests were written on some of the voting cards and even obscenities, while on one of them were found, not the names of the candidates, but those of the voters. The Senate was furious, and loudly called upon the offended Emperor to punish the writer. But the guilty person was not discovered and lay close, and he possibly was one of those who professed the greatest indignation. Yet what conduct may we not consider him capable of at home when he plays such disgraceful jokes in a matter of such importance and at such a serious moment, and yet in the Senate is an incisive, courteous, and pretty speaker? However, people of no principle are encouraged to act in this shameful way when they feel they can safely say, "Who will find me out?" Such a man asks for a voting card, takes a pen in his hand, bends his head, has no fear of any one, and holds himself cheap. That is the origin of scurrilities only worthy of the stage and the platform. But where can one turn, and where is one to look for a cure? On every hand the evils are more powerful than the remedies. Yet "all these things will be seen to by one above us," whose daily working hours are lengthened and whose labours are considerably increased by this lumpish, yet unbridled, perversity.
4.XXVI. -- To Nepos.
You ask me to be sure to look over and correct my speeches, which you have taken the greatest pains to get together. I will with pleasure, for what duty is there that I ought to be better pleased to undertake, especially as it is you who ask me? When a man of your weight, scholarship, and learning, and, above all, one who is never idle for a moment, and is about to be governor of an important province, sets such store on having my writings to take with him on his travels, surely I ought to do my best to prevent this part of his luggage from appearing useless in his eyes. So I will do what I can, first, to make those companions of your voyage as agreeable as possible, and, secondly, to enable you to find on your return others that you may like to add to their number. Believe me, the fact that you read what I write is no small incentive to me to produce new works. Farewell.
4.XXVII. -- To Pompeius Falco.
This is the third day that I have been attending the recitals of Sentius Augurinus, which I have not only enjoyed immensely, but admired as well. He calls his work "Poetical Pieces." Many are airy trifles; many deal with noble themes, and they abound in wit, tenderness, sweetness, and sting. Unless it is that my affection for him, or the fact that he has lavished praises upon me, warps my judgment, I must say that for some years past there have been no such finished poems of their class produced. Augurinus took as his theme the fact that I occasionally amuse myself with writing verses. I will enable you to act the critic of my criticism if I can recall the second line of the piece. I remember the others, and now I think I have them all.
"I sing songs in trifling measures, which Catullus, Calvus, and the poets of old have employed before me. But what matters that to me? Pliny alone I count my senior. When he quits the Forum, his taste is for light verses; he seeks an object for his love, and thinks that he is loved in return. What a man is Pliny, worth how many Catos! Go now, you who love, and love no more."
You see how smart, how apposite, how clear-cut the verses are, and I can promise you that the whole book is equally good. I will send you a copy as soon as it is published. Meanwhile, give the young man your regard and congratulate the age on producing such genius, which he enhances by the beauty of his morals. He passes his time with Spurinna and Antoninus; he is related to the one, and shares the same house with the other. You may guess from this that he is a youth of finished parts, when he is thus loved by men of their years and worth. For the old adage is wonderfully true, "You may tell a man by the company he keeps." Farewell.
4.XXVIII. -- To Vibius Severus.
Herennius Severus, a man of great learning, is anxious to place in his library portraits of your fellow-townsmen, Cornelius Nepos and Titus Catius, and he asks me to get them copied and painted if there are any such portraits in their native place, as there probably are. I am laying this commission upon you rather than on any one else, first, because you are always kind enough to grant any favour I ask; secondly, because I know your reverence for literary studies and your love of literary men; and, lastly, because you love and reverence your native place, and entertain the same feelings for those who have helped to make its name famous. So I beg you to find as careful a painter as you can, for while it is hard to paint a portrait from an original, it is far more difficult to make a good imitation of an imitation. Moreover, please do not let the painter you choose make any variations from his copy, even though they are for the better. Farewell.
4.XXIX. -- To Romatius Firmus.
Do be careful, my dear friend, and the next time there is business afoot, see to it that you come into court, whatever happens. It is no good your putting your confidence in me and so continuing your slumber; if you stay away, you will have to smart for it. For look you, Licinius Nepos, who is making a sharp and resolute praetor, has levied a fine even on a senator. The latter pleaded his cause in the Senate, but he did so in the form of suing for forgiveness. The fine was remitted, yet he had an uneasy time; he had to ask for pardon, and he was obliged to sue for forgiveness. You will say, "Oh, but all praetors are not so strict." Don't make any mistake! For though it is only a strict praetor who would make or revive such a precedent, when once it has been made or revived even the most lenient officials can put it into execution. Farewell.
4.XXX. -- To Licinius Sura.
I have brought you as a present from my native district a problem which is fully worthy even of your profound learning. A spring rises in the mountain-side; it flows down a rocky course, and is caught in a little artificial banqueting house. After the water has been retained there for a time it falls into the Larian lake. There is a wonderful phenomenon connected with it, for thrice every day it rises and falls with fixed regularity of volume. Close by it you may recline and take a meal, and drink from the spring itself, for the water is very cool, and meanwhile it ebbs and flows at regular and stated intervals. If you place a ring or anything else on a dry spot by the edge, the water gradually rises to it and at last covers it, and then just as gradually recedes and leaves it bare; while if you watch it for any length of time, you may see both processes twice or thrice repeated. Is there any unseen air which first distends and then tightens the orifice and mouth of the spring, resisting its onset and yielding at its withdrawal? We observe something of this sort in jars and other similar vessels which have not a direct and free opening, for these, when held either perpendicularly or aslant, pour out their contents with a sort of gulp, as though there were some obstruction to a free passage. Or is this spring like the ocean, and is its volume enlarged and lessened alternately by the same laws that govern the ebb and flow of the tide? Or again, just as rivers on their way to the sea are driven back on themselves by contrary winds and the opposing tide, is there anything that can drive back the outflow of this spring? Or is there some latent reservoir which diminishes and retards the flow while it is gradually collecting the water that has been drained off, and increases and quickens the flow when the process of collection is complete? Or is there some curiously hidden and unseen balance which, when emptied, raises and thrusts forth the spring, and, when filled, checks and stifles its flow? Please investigate the causes which bring about this wonderful result, for you have the ability to do so; it is more than enough for me if I have described the phenomenon with accuracy. Farewell.
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Letters of Pliny the Younger - Book IV