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The Letters of the Younger Pliny The Letters of Pliny the Younger by Pliny the Younger

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This etext was prepared by Rebecca Trump




NOTE.--In the following translation the Teubner text, edited by Keil,
has been followed.


Some slight memoir and critical estimate of the author of this
collection of Letters may perhaps be acceptable to those who are
unfamiliar with the circumstances of the times in which he lived.
Moreover, few have studied the Letters themselves without feeling a warm
affection for the writer of them. He discloses his character therein so
completely, and, in spite of his glaring fault of vanity and his endless
love of adulation, that character is in the main so charming, that one
can easily understand the high esteem in which Pliny was held by the
wide circle of his friends, by the Emperor Trajan, and by the public at
large. The correspondence of Pliny the Younger depicts for us the
everyday life of a Roman gentleman in the best sense of the term. We
see him practising at the Bar; we see him engaged in the civil
magistracies at Rome, and in the governorship of the important province
of Bithynia; we see him consulted by the Emperor on affairs of state,
and occupying a definite place among the "Amici Caesaris." Best of all,
perhaps, we see him in his daily life, a devoted scholar, never so happy
as when he is in his study, laboriously seeking to perfect his style,
whether in verse or prose, by the models of the great writers of the
past and the criticisms of the friends whom he has summoned, in a
friendly way, to hear his compositions read or recited. Or again we
find him at one of his country villas, enjoying a well-earned leisure
after the courts have risen at Rome and all the best society has betaken
itself into the country to escape the heats and fevers of the capital.
We see him managing his estates, listening to the complaints of his
tenants, making abatements of rent, and grumbling at the agricultural
depression and the havoc that the bad seasons have made with his crops.
Or he spends a day in the open air hunting, yet never omits to take with
him a book to read or tablets on which to write, in case the scent is
cold and game is not plentiful. In short, the Letters of Pliny the
Younger give us a picture of social life as it was in the closing years
of the first, and the opening years of the second century of the
Christian era, which is as fascinating as it is absolutely unique.

Pliny was born either in 61 or 62 A.D. at Comum on Lake Larius. His
father, Lucius Caecilius Cilo, had been aedile of the colony, and, dying
young, left a widow, who with her two sons, sought protection with her
brother, Caius Plinius Secundus, the famous author of the Natural
History. The elder Pliny in his will adopted the younger of the two
boys, and so Publius Caecilius Secundus--as he was originally called--
took thenceforth the name of Caius Plinius, L.F. Caecilius Secundus.
Though later usage has assigned him the name of Pliny the Younger, he
was known to his contemporaries and usually addressed as Secundus. But
in his early years Pliny was placed under the guardianship of Virginius
Rufus, one of the most distinguished Romans of his day, a successful and
brilliant general who had twice refused the purple, when offered to him
by his legionaries, and who lived to a ripe old age--the Wellington of
his generation. So it was at Comum that he spent his early boyhood, and
his affection for his birthplace led him in later years to provide for
the educational needs of the youth of the district, who had previously
been obliged to go to Mediolanum (Milan) to obtain their schooling.
What can be better, he asks, than for children to be educated where they
are born, so that they may grow to love their native place by residing
in it? Pliny was fortunate in having so distinguished an uncle. On the
accession of Vespasian, the elder Pliny was called to Rome by the
Emperor, and when his nephew--vixdum adolescentus--joined him in the
capital, he took charge of his studies. At the age of fourteen the
young student had composed a Greek tragedy, to which he playfully refers
in one of his letters, and in Rome he had the benefit of attending the
lectures of the great Quintilian and Nicetes Sacerdos, and of making
literary friendships which were to prove of the utmost value to him in
after years. Pliny tells us that his uncle looked to him for assistance
in his literary work, and he was thus engaged when his uncle lost his
life in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79, so graphically described in the
two famous letters to Tacitus. That Pliny deeply felt the loss of his
relative and patron is shown by the eloquent tribute he paid to his
memory, and doubtless, as his death occurred just at his own entry into
public life, he was deprived of an influence which might have helped him
greatly in his career. Domitian was on the throne, when, in 82, Pliny
joined the 3rd Gallic legion, stationed in Syria, as military tribune.
Service in the field, however, was not to his liking, and, as soon as
his period of soldiering was over, he hurried back to Rome to win his
spurs at the Bar and climb the ladder of civic distinction. He became
Quaestor in 89 on the recommendation of the Emperor, Tribune in 91, and
Praetor in 93.

So far his advancement had been rapid, but evil times succeeded.
Domitian went from bad to worse. Always moody, suspicious, and
revengeful, he began to imitate the worst vices of his predecessors of
the line of Augustus. His hand fell heavily upon the Senatorial order,
and another era of proscription began, in which the dreaded delatores
again became the "terror" of Rome. It was a time of spoliation and
murder, and Pliny writes of it with a shudder. Contrasting with the
happy regime of Trajan that which prevailed in his youth and early
manhood, he declares that virtue was regarded with suspicion and a
premium set upon idleness, that in the camps the generals lacked
authority and the soldiers had no sense of obedience, while, when he
entered the Senate, he found it a craven and tongueless assembly (Curiam
trepidam et elinguem), only convened to perpetrate some piece of
villainy for the Emperor, or to humiliate the Senators by the sense of
their own impotence. Pliny was not the man to make a bold stand against
tyranny, and, during those perilous years, one can well believe that he
did his best to avoid compromising himself, though his sympathies were
wholly on the side of his proscribed friends. He was a typical
official, suave and polished in manner, yet without that perilous
enthusiasm which would simply have marked him for destruction. For two
years he was Prefect of the Military Treasury, an office directly in the
gift of the Emperor, and it would seem, therefore, that his character
for uprightness stood him in good stead with the tyrant even in his
worst years. He did not, like so many of the Roman nobles, retire from
public life and enter into the sullen opposition which enraged the
Emperors even more than active and declared antagonism.

In one passage, indeed, Pliny declares that he, too, was on the black
list of the Emperor, but the words must not be taken too literally. He
was given to boasting, and he may easily have represented, when the
danger was past, that the peril in which he had stood was greater than
it really was. No doubt he felt keenly the judicial murder of his
friends Senecio, Rusticus, and Helvidius, and the banishment of
Mauricus, Gratilla, Arria, and Fannia--for women were not spared in the
general proscription; but, after all, the fact that he held office
during the closing years of Domitian's life is ample proof that he knew
how to walk circumspectly, and did not allow his detestation of the
informers to compromise his safety. When at length, in 96, the Emperor
was assassinated in the palace, and the Senate raised Nerva to the
purple, Pliny stepped forward as the champion of the oppressed, and
impeached Publicius Certus for compassing the death of Helvidius
Priscus, though he was only so far successful that he prevented Certus
from enjoying the consulship which had been promised him. Pliny revised
the speech and published it in book form, and Certus died a few days
after it appeared, haunted, so Pliny tells us, by the vision of his
prosecutor pursuing him, sword in hand. Nerva's reign was short, but he
was succeeded by one of the best of the Roman Emperors, Trajan, a prince
under whose just, impartial and strong rule, a man of Pliny's character
was bound to thrive and pass from office to office. In 98 he had been
appointed by Nerva Prefect of the Treasury of Saturn, and in 100 he held
the Consulship for two months, while still retaining his post at the
Treasury, and delivered his well-known Panegyric on the 1st of
September in that year. Either in 103 or 104 he was advanced to the
Augurate, and two years later was appointed Curator of the Tiber. Then
in 111 or 112--according to Mommsen's Chronology--Trajan bestowed upon
him a signal mark of his esteem by selecting him for the Governorship of
the province of Pontus and Bithynia, which he had transferred from the
list of senatorial to that of imperial provinces. Pliny was given the
special title of Legate Propraetor with full Consular powers, and he
remained in his province for at least fifteen months. After that the
curtain falls. Whether he died in Bithynia, or shortly after his return
to Rome, or whether he lived on to enjoy the ripe old age of which he
writes so pleasantly in his letters, we do not know. Certainly the
probabilities are that, if he had lived, he would have continued to
correspond with his friends, and the absence of further letters makes
for the probability that he died in about his fiftieth year.

In judging these letters for their literary value, the first thing which
strikes the reader is that Pliny did not write for his friends alone.
Whatever the subject of the epistle, whether it was an invitation to
dinner, a description of the charms of the country, an account of a
visit to a friend, or an expression of condolence with some one in his
or her bereavement, he never allowed his pen to run on carelessly. He
scarcely ever prattles in his letters or lets himself go. One always
sees in the writer the literary man, who knows that his correspondence
is being passed round from hand to hand, and who hopes that it will find
readers among posterity. Consequently there is an air of studied
artificiality about many of the letters, which was more to the taste of
the eighteenth than the nineteenth century. They remind one in many
ways of Richardson and Mackenzie, and Pliny would have been recognised
by those two writers, and by the latter in particular, as a thorough
"man of sentiment." Herein they differ greatly from the other important
collection which has come down to us from classical times, the Letters
of Cicero. Pliny, indeed,--and in this he was a true disciple of his
old teacher Quintilian,--took the great Roman orator as his model.
Nothing pleased him more than for his friends to tell him that he was
the Cicero of his time. Like Marcus Tullius, he was the foremost
pleader of his day; like him again he dabbled in poetry, and his verses,
so far as we know them, were sorry stuff. Yet again like his master, he
fondly believed that he enjoyed the special inspiration of the Muses.
Pliny, unfortunately for his reputation, gives us a few samples, which
are quite as lame and jingling as the famous "O fortunatam natam, me
Consule, Romam!" which had made generations of Romans smile. And so, as
Cicero was in all things his master, Pliny too wrote letters, excellent
in their way, but lacking the vivacity and directness of his model, and,
of course, wholly deficient in the political interest which makes
Cicero's correspondence one of the most important authorities for the
history of his troublous time. Pliny's Letters cover the period from
the accession of Nerva down to 113 A.D. None precede the death of
Domitian in September 96. That is to say, they were written in an era
of profound political peace, and most of them in the reign of Trajan,
whose rule Pliny accepted with enthusiastic admiration. One certainly
could have wished that he had written freely to his friends during the
last years of Domitian's tyranny, for the value of such contemporary
documents would have been enormous. But he would only have risked his
life by so doing, and that he had no desire to do. It was not until the
tyrant had fallen under the sword of Stephanus that he felt it safe to
trust his thoughts to paper. The new era which was inaugurated loosened
his tongue and made him breathe more freely. He exulted that at last an
honest man could venture to hold his head high without drawing down upon
himself the vengeance of the vile informers who throve upon the
misfortunes of the State.

Two of Pliny's correspondents and friends were Cornelius Tacitus and
Suetonius Tranquillus. Yet no one can read either the Histories and
Annals of Tacitus or the Lives of the Caesars and then pass to a reading
of Pliny's Letters without being struck by the enormous difference in
their tone and spirit. It is almost impossible to believe that their
respective authors were contemporaries. When turning over the pages of
Tacitus one feels that the vices and despotism of the Emperors and the
Empire had crushed all spirit out of the world, had made quiet family
life impossible, and had stamped out every trace of justice and clean
living. It is a remarkable fact that the great writers of the first
century, as soon as the Augustan era had closed, should have been
masters of a merciless satire, which has rarely been equaled in the
history of the world, and never excelled. When we think of Roman
society, as it was in the early Empire, our thoughts recur to the lurid
canvases which have been painted for us by Juvenal, by Tacitus, by
Lucan, by Seneca, and by Petronius--pictures which have made the world
shudder, and have led even careful historians astray. Pliny supplies
the needful corrective and gives us the reverse side of the medal. Like
the authors we have mentioned, he too writes of the evil days which he
himself has passed through, as of a horrid nightmare from which he has
just awakened; but from his letters, artificial and stilted as they are
in some respects, we learn that there were still to be found those who
had not bowed the knee to Baal.

And so, with this volume in our hands, we obtain a personal introduction
to a number of distinguished Romans and Roman matrons, whose names have
been preserved for all time by the Younger Pliny. His circle of friends
was a large one. Let us mention a few of them. We have already spoken
of Virginius Rufus, the grand old soldier and patriot, who, dying at the
age of eighty-four, was awarded a public funeral, while Cornelius
Tacitus, then Consul, delivered the panegyric in his honour. Vestricius
Spurinna was another distinguished general of the old school, and Pliny
relates with enthusiasm how he paid a visit to him in his country-house
when Spurinna was seventy-seven years of age and had retired from public
office. He tells us how his friend spent his day, how he drove and
walked and played tennis to keep himself in health, wrote Greek and
Latin lyrics, and maintained a keen interest in all that went on in the
capital. Corellius Rufus is another of the older men of whom Pliny
writes with sincere affection, and he helped to pay the debt of
gratitude he owed him by numerous acts of kindness to his daughter
Crellia. Voconius Romanus is another of his closest friends, and Pliny
tells us that he wrote such admirable letters that you would think the
Muses themselves must speak in Latin. His literary associates numbered
among them Caius Cornelius Tacitus, Silius Italicus the poet--whose
veneration for Virgil was so great that he kept his master's birthday
with more solemnity than his own, and visited his tomb on the Bay of
Naples with as much respect as worshippers pay to a temple,--Martial the
epigrammatist, Suetonius Tranquillus the historian, and others such as
Passennus Paullus, Caninius Rufus, Virgilius Romanus, and Caius Fannius,
whose works have not survived the wreck of time, though Pliny showers
upon all of them enthusiastic and indiscriminate praise. Again, he
enjoyed the friendship of a number of distinguished foreigners,
professional rhetoricians and philosophers, who came back to Rome after
their sentence of banishment, passed by Domitian, had been revoked by
Nerva and Trajan. Euphrates, Artemidorus, and Isaeus were the three
most famous, and their respective styles are carefully described by
Pliny. Even more interesting perhaps is the gallery of Roman ladies,
whose portraits are limned with so fine and discriminating a touch.
Juvenal again is responsible for much misconception as to the part the
women of Rome played in Roman society. The appalling Sixth Satire, in
which he unhesitatingly declares that most women--if not all--are bad,
and that virtue and chastity are so rare as to be almost unknown, in
which he roundly accuses them of all the vices known to human depravity,
reads like a monstrous and disgraceful libel on the sex when one turns
to Pliny and makes the acquaintance of Arria, Fannia, Corellia, and
Calpurnia. The characters of Arria and Fannia are well known; they are
among the heroines of history. But in Pliny there are numerous
references to women whose names are not even known to us, but the terms
in which they are referred to prove what sweet, womanly lives they led.
For example, he writes to Geminus: "Our friend Macrinus has suffered a
grievous wound. He has lost his wife, who would have been regarded as a
model of all the virtues even if she had lived in the good old days. He
lived with her for thirty-nine years, without so much as a single
quarrel or disagreement." "Vixit cum hac triginta novem annis sine
jurgio, sine offensa. One is reminded of the fine line of Propertius,
in which Cornelia boasts of the blameless union of herself and her
husband, Paullus--

"Viximus insignes inter utramque facem."

This is no isolated example. One of the most pathetic letters is that
in which Pliny writes of the death of the younger daughter of his friend
Fundanus, a girl in her fifteenth year, who had already "the prudence of
age, the gravity of a matron, and all the maidenly modesty and sweetness
of a girl." Pliny tells us how it cut him to the quick to hear her
father give directions that the money he had meant to lay out on dresses
and pearls and jewels for her betrothal should be spent on incense,
unguents, and spices for her bier. What a different picture from
anything we find in Juvenal, who would fain have us believe that
Messalina was the type of the average Roman matron of his day!

Such were some of Pliny's friends. His distinguished position at the
Bar drew him a host of clients; his official status and his friendship
with Trajan gave him the entree into any society he liked. He was,
moreover, a man of considerable wealth, generous, even lavish, with his
money, and his disposition was one of the kindest. He was always ready
to believe the best of any one, always prepared to do a friend a
service, devoted to his wife and her relations, and anxious to deal
justly and honourably with all men. We have called him vain, and vain
he undoubtedly was to an extraordinary degree. But Pliny's vanity is
never offensive. The very naivete with which he acknowledges his
failing disarms all criticism and merely renders it amusing. Indeed, it
is doubtful whether he would have admitted that it was a failing at all,
inasmuch as it was his love of praise which spurred him on to literary
endeavour. The Romans, in their grand manner, affected a certain
magniloquence which is alien to the Anglo-Saxon cast of thought, and if
Horace could declare of his own odes that he had erected a monument more
durable than brass, Pliny, who always had the great masters before him,
naturally fell into the same rather vainglorious train of thought. His
frankest confession is to be found in a letter to Titinius Capito, who
had urged him to write history, when he says: "Me autem nihil aeque ac
diuturnitatis amor et cupido sollicitat, res homine dignissima, eo
presertime qui nullius sibi conscius culpae posteritatis memoriam non
reformidet." Or again, he admits that he is not Stoic enough to be
merely content with the consciousness of having done his duty. He
craves for a public testimony thereto, a little applause from the
bystanders, a vote of thanks from those whom he has benefited. Most of
us desire the same--the difference is that Pliny does not mind owning up
to it. But this vanity of his peeps out in curious places. When we
find him speaking of a young Roman of fashion standing for hours in a
crowd to listen to his pleading in the courts, or of his audience
pressing him not to omit a single line of his poems, or of the
deferential way in which certain young barristers of promise hang on his
lips, copy his gestures and bow to his judgment, one cannot resist a
smile. When he tells us that he went on calmly reading and taking notes
during the eruption of Vesuvius, though the hot ashes were threatening
to overwhelm the villa in which he was staying, or when he quotes the
really execrable verses which some scribbler of the day composed in his
honour, with the most exquisite self-complacency, one is tempted to show
a little impatience at such extravagant self-satisfaction. Tacitus
again--that supreme master of irony--must have occasionally curled his
thin lip on reading some of the epistles which were addressed to him by
his friend Pliny. It is a tribute to Pliny's powers of literary
discernment that he appreciated the marvellous ability of Tacitus,
though had he failed to do so, we should have rated him for his
blindness. No cultured Roman could fail to see that Tacitus had brought
a new literary style to a pitch of the highest perfection, and his fame
throughout his lifetime was enormous. So apparently was Pliny's, and
the latter boasts that their names are mentioned together in everyday
conversation, and in the last wills and testaments of people with
literary taste. Tacitus one day was sitting at the games, and got into
conversation with a stranger sitting in the next seat. It took a
literary turn, and the stranger was delighted with the learning that
Tacitus displayed. "Are you a Roman, or from the country" said he.
"You know me quite well," answered Tacitus, "from the books you have
studied." "Then," rejoined the stranger, "you must be either Tacitus or
Pliny." It was Tacitus himself who told Pliny the story, and one can
imagine how it would delight him. He promptly sits down and tells it to
his friend Maximus, and adds another story of a similar character. But
the most extraordinary passage of all occurs in a letter (vii. 20) to
Tacitus himself. In it Pliny says that when he was a young man and
Tacitus was already famous, he determined to make him his model. There
were, he said, many brilliant geniuses, but you--such was the affinity
of our natures--seemed to me to be the most easy to imitate, and the
most worthy of imitation. Maxime imitabilis, maxime imitandus
videbaris. Unconscious conceit could go no farther!

And yet one can pardon this egregious vanity when one thinks of Pliny's
other qualities. Who else is there in Roman literature who so
thoroughly corresponds with our modern ideal of a rich, generous,
cultured public servant? In one place we find him providing for the
educational needs of his birthplace, Comum. In another he renounces his
share of an inheritance, and bestows it upon his old township. Or he
buys a statue for a temple, finds the money for a new shrine, pays the
debts of an acquaintance, gives a friend's daughter a handsome dowry,
opens his purse and enables another deserving friend to acquire the
status of a senator, or finds Martial his travelling expenses. All the
rising young authors and barristers in Rome looked to him for
encouragement and support; he was ready to attend their public readings,
to rise when the reading was over and say a few words of encouragement,
to canvass for them if they were standing for office, and enlist on
their behalf all the influence at his command. And he only asked in
return a little deference and acknowledgment of his kindness! Most
interesting of all, we find him giving a farm to his old nurse, and
asking a friend to look after it for her. He sends a slave of his, who
was troubled with consumption, to Egypt for a change of air, and
afterwards to the colony of Forum Julii, the modern Frejus on the
Riviera. Pliny writes of the slaves of his household just as any kind-
hearted Jamaican planter would have written before the Emancipation Act,
and it is to be noted that the head slaves of a Roman gentleman's
establishment were often Greeks of high literary attainments, and
treated by their masters as intimate and affectionate friends. Pliny
narrates with a shock of uneasiness and horror the story of a Roman
knight who was beaten to death by the servants of his household, and,
though he admits that the knight had been cruel and overbearing, such an
untimely fate brought home to him the insecurity of all masters--that
insecurity which led the Romans to punish with such merciless severity
any attack by a slave upon his owner. Not that Pliny had any cause for
self-reproach! He tells us in a charming letter his rule of conduct
with his dependants, and the theory on which he conducted his household.
According to his view, "Servis respublica quaedam et quasi civitas domus
est." Consequently, he allowed them to make wills and leave their
property as they desired, provided only that the recipients were also
members of the household, and, what was better still, he speaks of his
"facilitas manumittendi"--his readiness to give them their freedom for
faithful service. One can well imagine that Pliny's was a model family,
that it was his pride to be in every sense of the word a just
paterfamilias, and that he showed his slaves great consideration for
their welfare. He complains, indeed, jocularly in one place that too
much kindness is not good for servants, as it leads them to presume upon
the easy-going temperament of their master, but that is only a good-
natured grumble on the perennial servant problem.

Pliny was thrice married, twice under Domitian, but his second wife died
in 97, and the lady who figures in the letters is his third wife
Calpurnia, grand-daughter of Calpurnius Fabatus, and niece of a lady
named Hispulla. We get a charming picture of their mutual happiness in
a letter written by Pliny to Hispulla, who had had charge of his wife's
education when she was a girl. He praises her intelligence, her
economy, her love for him, and the interest she takes in his career.
When he is pleading in the courts she has messengers to bring her word
of the success of the speech and the result of the trial; when he is
giving a reading to his friends, Calpurnia sits behind a curtain and
greedily drinks in the praises they bestow. She sets his verses to
music, and Hispulla, who made the match, is neatly rewarded at the
conclusion of the letter by Pliny saying that both he and his wife vie
with one another in seeing who can thank her the more. When Calpurnia
was obliged to leave her husband and go to Campania for her health, we
find Pliny writing her tender love-letters, describing his anxiety on
her behalf, telling her how he conjures up the very things he most
dreads, how he reads and re-reads her letters, which are his only
comfort, and begging her to write him certainly once, and if possible,
twice a day. Then in the prettiest passage of all, he tells her how, at
the hours when he used to visit her, he finds his feet carrying him to
the door of her chamber and turns away from the threshold of the empty
room, sad as a lover who finds the door closed against him. The
glimpses which Roman literature affords us of the conjugal happiness of
man and wife are comparatively few. Cicero, indeed, wrote in a similar
strain to his wife Terentia, and used even tenderer diminutives than
Pliny, but the sequel was that he soon afterwards divorced her and
married a rich ward. We do not know the sequel in the case of Pliny.
All we know is that he nearly lost his wife in a dangerous illness
brought on by a miscarriage, and that she accompanied him to Bithynia
during his governorship. Whether she bore him the child which he so
ardently desired is not stated, but the probabilities are against it, as
there is no mention of such an event in the letters. His correspondence
clearly proves that for all his ambition he was essentially a family
man. Nothing could be finer than his description of the heroic devotion
of Arria to her husband, and the pathos with which he describes the
conduct of Fannia, who concealed the death of her dearly loved son from
her sick husband Paetus, telling him the boy was well and resting
quietly, and controlling her motherly tears until she could keep them
back no longer, and rushed from the room to give them free course.
Then, "Satiata siccis oculis composito vultu redibat, tanquam orbitatem
foris reliquisset." No one could have written that beautiful sentence
but a man of tender heart and sympathies.

Pliny's tastes were catholic. He writes with delight, but without
pretending to be a connoisseur, of an antique statuette which he had
purchased out of a legacy. Some rich men in Rome had the mania for
antiques--Corinthian bronzes were the rage in Pliny's day--as badly as
those who haunt our modern sale-rooms. Pliny's hobby, if he had been
living in our time, would probably have been books. He is one of the
most bookish men of antiquity. Wherever he went his books went with
him; in his carriage, in his gardens they never left his side. He
betrays, moreover, a taste for the beauties of nature which is
distinctly un-Roman. Even the Roman poets were almost utterly oblivious
to the charms of scenery. When Horace points out of the window to the
snow lying deep on Soracte, it is not to emphasise the beauty of the
scene, but a preliminary to telling the boy to pile the logs of Algidus
upon the fire. Even Virgil, who occasionally paints a bit of landscape
or seascape in the Aeneid, does so in a half-hearted fashion, as a mere
preface to the incident which is to follow, not from a poet's love of
beauty. In Pliny, on the other hand, we find the modern love for a
beautiful view. Me nihil aeque ac natura opera delectant. When he
describes his Tuscan villa he uses language with which we feel in
complete harmony. He specifies the places from which the best views may
be obtained; and if the garden seems to our taste to have been laid out
in rather a formal way, with its box-trees cut into different shapes of
animals and birds, he was in that respect only following the fashion of
his day, and his delight in the unadorned beauties of the surrounding
country has a genuine ring in it. In another curious respect Pliny was
ahead of his times. He had no taste for the Circensian games and the
brutalities of the gladiatorial shows. Writing to Sempronius Rufus (iv.
22), he bluntly declares that he wishes they could be abolished in Rome,
inasmuch as they degrade the character and morals of the whole world.
In another passage (ix. 6) he says that the Circensian games have not
the smallest attraction for him--ne levissime quidem teneor. He cannot
understand why so many thousands of grown-up people take such a childish
pleasure in watching horses running races. It is not the speed of the
horses or the skill of the drivers which is the attraction,--if it were,
there might be some reason for their enthusiasm,--what they go to see is
the victory of their pet racing colours, the triumph of the reds, blues,
or greens. Favent panno, pannum amant.

We find him writing on all manner of subjects. He asks his scientific
friends to explain to him the mystery of a spring whose waters ebb and
flow, of a lake which contained floating islands, and in one letter he
tells a fascinating ghost story of quite the conventional type, about a
haunted house, which drove any unwary tenant crazy, and the ghost of a
murdered man which walked with clanking chains. Pliny was no cut and
dried philosopher. Like his master Cicero he was an eclectic, and
pinned his faith to no single creed. Whatever was human interested him,
and on whatever interested him he put pen to paper. It need scarcely be
said how valuable these letters are in filling up the gaps of Roman
history. We have to thank Pliny for our knowledge of the great eruption
of Vesuvius which overwhelmed Pompeii and Herculaneum, and it was
probably only due to the accident that the elder Pliny was one of the
victims that we possess the two striking letters in which the disaster
is described. In another letter our author describes how the Emperor
Trajan sent for him and others to his country seat at Centum Cellae, to
help him to try certain important cases, and then he tells us of the
modest, simple living of Trajan--Suavitas simplicitasque convictus--and
the presents he gave them on their departure. The debates in the
Senate, the trials in the Court of the Hundred, the public readings in
the city, which--first introduced by Asinius Pollio in the time of
Augustus--were then the fashion,--of all these Pliny gives us a clear
presentment. His charity is hardly ever at fault. Only when he writes
of Regulus and Pallas does he dip his pen in gall. But Regulus had been
his bitter enemy and an informer, and the memory of Pallas was justly

A few words may be added respecting the letters which form the Tenth
Book of his correspondence, and which show us Pliny acting as Governor
of the province of Pontus and Bithynia. He had been sent there because
the finances of many of the cities had been allowed to fall into a
shocking state, and because the Emperor wanted a man whom he could
thoroughly trust to put them straight. No doubt Pliny, while flattered
at this proof of Trajan's regard, felt the severance from his friends
and ordinary pursuits which this term of absence necessitated. But
compare his attitude with that of Cicero as Governor of Cilicia! Cicero
crawled on the outward journey, and when he reached his destination he
counted the days to his return like a bullied school-boy counts the days
to the end of the term. He writes to his friends in the capital,
begging and praying of them that they will prevent his being obliged to
stay for a second year. All his thoughts are of Rome and how to return
there. The wretched provincials bore him to distraction; he yearns for
the wider arena of the capital in which to play the swelling part to
which he aspires. There is, in short, not a trace in Cicero's letters
from his province to show that he took the slightest interest in his new
surroundings. Pliny displays a far different spirit. He reminds us
more of the Colonial Governor of our own day. He is interested in the
past history and traditions of the country, he is anxious that the
cities shall have good water supplies, good baths, good theatres, good
gymnasia. He is for ever suggesting to the Emperor that he should send
architects to consult with him on some important public work. And these
letters disclose to us what a wonderful system of organised government
the Roman Empire possessed. Pliny even writes to Trajan to ask
permission that an evil-smelling sewer may be covered over in a town
called Amastria. If all the governors of the provinces wrote home for
orders on such points, the Emperor must indeed have been busy, and some
of his replies to Pliny show that Trajan hinted very plainly that a
governor ought to have some initiative of his own. None the less, the
tenour of this correspondence proves that Trajan held the threads of
government very jealously in his own hands. When Pliny suggested the
establishment of a small fire-brigade in Nicomedia, where the citizens
had stood enjoying the aesthetic beauty of a disastrous fire which
destroyed whole streets, instead of putting it out, Trajan sharply
vetoed the suggestion, on the ground that the Greeks were factious
people and would turn even a fire-brigade to illicit and seditious

There is, of course, one letter to Trajan which has achieved world-wide
fame, that in which he asks the Emperor how he wishes him to deal with
the Christians who were brought before him and refused to worship the
statues of the Emperor and the gods. So much has been written upon this
subject that it is almost superfluous to add more. Yet it may be
pointed out that the letter only confirms our estimate of the kindliness
and scrupulous justice of Pliny. He acquits the Christians of all
criminal practices; he bears testimony to the purity of their lives and
their principles. What baffles and vexes him is their "pertinacity and
inflexible obstinacy"--Neque enim dubitabam, qualecunque esset quod
fateretur, pertinaciam certe et inflexibilem obstinationem debere
puniri. He could not understand, in other words, why, when the theory
of the Roman religion was so tolerant, the Christians should be so
intolerantly narrow-minded and bigoted. As we have said, Pliny was an
eclectic, and an eclectic is the last person to understand the frame of
mind which glories in martyrdom. Such was Pliny's attitude towards the
purely religious side of the question, but that, after all, was not the
main issue. With him, as the representative of the Roman Emperor, the
crime of the Christians lay not so much in their refusal to worship the
statues of Jupiter and the heavenly host of the Pagan mythology, as in
their refusal to worship the statue of the Emperor. Church and State
have never been so closely identified in any form of government as in
that of the early Roman Empire. The genius of the Emperor was the
genius of the Empire; to refuse to sprinkle a few grains of incense on
the ara of Trajan was an act of gross political treason to the best of
rulers. No wonder, therefore, that Pliny felt constrained to punish
these harmless members of a sect which he could not understand.
Trajan's reply is equally clear and distinct. He discountenanced all
inquisition and persecution. The Christians are not to be hunted down,
no notice is to be taken of anonymous accusations, and if any suspected
person renounces his error and offers prayers publicly to the gods of
Rome, no further action is to be taken against him. On the other hand,
if the case is proved and the accused still remains obstinate,
punishment must follow and the law be maintained. Pliny evidently
thought that if the Christians were given a chance of renouncing their
past folly the growth of the new religion would be checked. He speaks
of a certain revival of the old religion, of the temples once more being
thronged by worshippers, and the sacrificial victims again finding
buyers, though almost in the same sentence he describes "the contagion
of the Christian superstition" as having spread not only in the towns
but into the villages and rural districts. He did not foresee that in
process of time a Roman Emperor would himself embrace the new faith and
persecute the upholders of the old with the same vigour as was in his
day applied to the repression of the new.





You have constantly urged me to collect and publish the more highly
finished of the letters that I may have written. I have made such a
collection, but without preserving the order in which they were
composed, as I was not writing a historical narrative. So I have taken
them as they happened to come to hand. I can only hope that you will
not have cause to regret the advice you gave, and that I shall not
repent having followed it; for I shall set to work to recover such
letters as have up to now been tossed on one side, and I shall not keep
back any that I may write in the future. Farewell.


As I see that your arrival is likely to be later than I expected, I
forward you the speech which I promised in an earlier letter. I beg
that you will read and revise it as you have done with other
compositions of mine, because I think none of my previous works is
written in quite the same style. I have tried to imitate, at least in
manner and turns of phrase, your old favourite, Demosthenes, and Calvus,
to whom I have recently taken a great fancy; for to catch the fire and
power of such acknowledged stylists is only given to the heaven-inspired
few. I hope you will not think me conceited if I say that the subject-
matter was not unworthy of such imitation, for throughout the whole
argument I found something that kept rousing me from my sleepy and
confirmed indolence, that is to say, as far as a person of my
temperament can be roused. Not that I abjured altogether the pigments
of our master Cicero; when an opportunity arose for a pleasant little
excursion from the main path of my argument I availed myself of it, as
my object was to be terse without being unnecessarily dry. Nor must you
think that I am apologising for these few passages. For just to make
your eye for faults the keener, I will confess that both my friends here
and myself have no fear of publishing the speech, if you will but set
your mark of approval against the passages that possibly show my folly.
I must publish something, and I only hope that the best thing for the
purpose may be this volume which is ready finished. That is the prayer
of a lazy man, is it not? but there are several reasons why I must
publish, and the strongest is that the various copies I have lent out
are said to still find readers, though by this time they have lost the
charm of novelty. Of course, it may be that the booksellers say this to
flatter me. Well, let them flatter, so long as fibs of this kind
encourage me to study the harder. Farewell.


How is Comum looking, your darling spot and mine? And that most
charming villa of yours, what of it, and its portico where it is always
spring, its shady clumps of plane trees, its fresh crystal canal, and
the lake below that gives such a charming view? How is the exercise
ground, so soft yet firm to the foot; how goes the bath that gets the
sun's rays so plentifully as he journeys round it? What too of the big
banqueting halls and the little rooms just for a few, and the retiring
rooms for night and day? Have they full possession of you, and do they
share your company in turn? or are you, as usual, continually being
called away to attend to private family business? You are indeed a
lucky man if you can spend all your leisure there; if you cannot, your
case is that of most of us. But really it is time that you passed on
your unimportant and petty duties for others to look after, and buried
yourself among your books in that secluded yet beautiful retreat. Make
this at once the business and the leisure of your life, your occupation
and your rest; let your waking hours be spent among your books, and your
hours of sleep as well. Mould something, hammer out something that
shall be known as yours for all time. Your other property will find a
succession of heirs when you are gone; what I speak of will continue
yours for ever--if once it begins to be. I know the capacity and
inventive wit that I am spurring on. You have only to think of yourself
as the able man others will think you when you have realised your
ability. Farewell.


What treasures you have in your villas at Ocriculum, at Narnia, at
Carsola and Perusia! Even a bathing place at Narnia! My letters--for
now there is no need for you to write--will have shown you how pleased I
am, or rather the short letter will which I wrote long ago. The fact
is, that some of my own property is scarcely so completely mine as is
some of yours; the only difference being that I get more thoroughly and
attentively looked after by your servants than I do by my own. You will
very likely find the same thing yourself when you come to stay in one of
my villas. I hope you will, in the first place that you may get as much
pleasure out of what belongs to me as I have from what belongs to you,
and in the second that my people may be roused a little to a sense of
their duties. I find them rather remiss in their behaviour and almost
careless. But that is their way; if they have a considerate master,
their fear of him grows less and less as they get to know him, while a
new face sharpens their attention and they study to gain their master's
good opinion, not by looking after his wants but those of his guests.


Did you ever see a man more abject and fawning than Marcus Regulus has
been since the death of Domitian? His misdeeds were better concealed
during that prince's reign, but they were every bit as bad as they were
in the time of Nero. He began to be afraid that I was angry with him
and he was not mistaken, for I certainly was annoyed. After doing what
he could to help those who were compassing the ruin of Rusticus
Arulenus, he had openly exulted at his death, and went so far as to
publicly read and then publish a pamphlet in which he violently attacks
Rusticus and even calls him "the Stoics' ape," adding that "he is marked
with the brand of Vitellius." You recognise, of course, the Regulian
style! He tears to pieces Herennius Senecio so savagely that Metius
Carus said to him, "What have you to do with my dead men? Did I ever
worry your Crassus or Camerinus?"--these being some of Regulus's victims
in the days of Nero. Regulus thought I bore him malice for this, and so
he did not invite me when he read his pamphlet. Besides, he remembered
that he once mortally attacked me in the Court of the Centumviri.

I was a witness on behalf of Arionilla, the wife of Timon, at the
request of Rusticus Arulenus, and Regulus was conducting the
prosecution. We on our side were relying for part of the defence on a
decision of Metius Modestus, an excellent man who had been banished by
Domitian and was at that moment in exile. This was Regulus's
opportunity. "Tell me, Secundus," said he, "what you think of
Modestus." You see in what peril I should have placed myself if I had
answered that I thought highly of him, and how disgraceful it would have
been if I had said that I thought ill of him. I fancy it must have been
the gods who came to my rescue. "I will tell you what I think of him,"
I said, "when the Court has to give a decision on the point." He
returned to the charge: "My question is, what do you think of
Modestus?" Again I replied: "Witnesses used to be interrogated about
persons in the dock, not about those who are already convicted." A
third time he asked: "Well, I won't ask you now what you think of
Modestus, but what you think of his loyalty." "You ask me," said I,
"for my opinion. But I do not think it is in order for you to ask an
opinion on what the Court has already passed judgment." He was
silenced, while I was congratulated and praised for not having smirched
my reputation by giving an answer that might have been discreet but
would certainly have been dishonest, and for not having entangled myself
in the meshes of such a crafty question.

Well, now the fellow is conscience-stricken, and buttonholes first
Caecilius Celer and then implores Fabius Justsus to reconcile me to him.
Not content with that, he makes his way in to see Spurinna, and begs and
prays of him--you know what an abject coward he is when he is
frightened--as follows. "Do go," says he, "and call on Pliny in the
morning--early in the morning, for my suspense is unbearable--and do
what you can to remove his anger against me." I was early awake that
day, when a message came from Spurinna, "I am coming to see you." I
sent back word, "I will come and see you." We met at the portico of
Livia, just as we were each of us on the way to see the other. He
explained his commission from Regulus and added his own entreaties, but
did not press the point too strongly, as became a worthy gentleman
asking a favour for a worthless acquaintance. This was my answer:
"Well, you must see for yourself what message you think best to take
back to Regulus; I should not like you to be under any misapprehension.
I am waiting till Mauricus returns"--he had not yet returned from exile-
-"and so I cannot give you an answer either way, for I shall do just
what he thinks best. It is he who is principally interested in this
matter, I am only secondarily concerned." A few days afterwards Regulus
himself met me when I was paying my respects to the new praetor. He
followed me thither and asked for a private conversation. He said he
was afraid that something he once said in the Court of the Centumviri
rankled in my memory, when, in replying to Satrius Rufus and myself, he
remarked, "Satrius Rufus, who is quite content with the eloquence of our
days, and does not seek to rival Cicero." I told him that as I had his
own confession for it I could now see that the remark was a spiteful
one, but that it was quite possible to put a complimentary construction
upon it. "For," said I, "I do try to rival Cicero, and I am not content
with the eloquence of our own time. I think it is very stupid not to
take as models the very best masters. But how is it that you remember
this case and forget the other one in which you asked me what I thought
of the loyalty of Metius Modestus?" As you know, he is always pale, but
he grew perceptibly paler at this thrust. Then he stammered out, "I put
the question not to damage you but Modestus." Observe the man's
malignant nature who does not mind acknowledging that he wished to do an
injury to an exile. Then he went on to make this fine excuse; "He wrote
in a letter which was read aloud in Domitian's presence, 'Regulus is the
vilest creature that walks on two legs.'" Modestus never wrote a truer

That practically closed the conversation. I did not wish it to go any
further, so that I might not commit myself until Mauricus arrived.
Moreover, I am quite aware that Regulus is a difficult bird to net. He
is rich, he is a shrewd intriguer, he has no inconsiderable body of
followers and a still larger circle of those who fear him, and fear is
often a more powerful factor than affection. But, after all, these are
bonds that may be shattered and weakened, for a bad man's influence is
as little to be relied upon as is the man himself. Moreover, let me
repeat that I am waiting for Mauricus. He is a man of sound judgment
and sagacity, which he has learned by experience, and he can gauge what
is likely to happen in the future from what has occurred in the past. I
shall be guided by him, and either strike a blow or put by my weapons
just as he thinks best. I have written you this letter because it is
only right, considering our regard for one another, that you should be
acquainted not only with what I have said and done, but also with my
plans for the future. Farewell.


You will laugh, and I give you leave to. You know what sort of
sportsman I am, but I, even I, have bagged three boars, each one of them
a perfect beauty. "What!" you will say, "YOU!" Yes, I, and that too
without any violent departure from my usual lazy ways. I was sitting by
the nets; I had by my side not a hunting spear and a dart, but my pen
and writing tablets. I was engaged in some composition and jotting down
notes, so that I might have full tablets to take home with me, even
though my hands were empty. You need not shrug your shoulders at study
under such conditions. It is really surprising how the mind is
stimulated by bodily movement and exercise. I find the most powerful
incentive to thought in having the woods all about me, in the solitude
and the silence which is observed in hunting. So when next you go
hunting, take my advice and carry your writing tablets with you as well
as your luncheon basket and your flask. You will find that Minerva
loves to wander on the mountains quite as much as Diana. Farewell.


See on what a pinnacle you have placed me by giving me the same power
and royal will that Homer attributed to Jupiter, Best and Greatest:--
"One half his prayer the Father granted, the other half he refused."
For I too can answer your request by just nodding a yes or no. It is
open to me, especially as you press me to do so, to decline to act on
behalf of the Barbici against a single individual; but I should be
violating the good faith and constancy that you admire in me, if I were
to accept a brief against a province to which I am bound by many
friendly ties, and by the work and dangers I have often undertaken in
its behalf. So I will take a middle course, and of the alternative
favours you ask I will choose the one which will commend itself both to
your interest and your judgment. For what I have to consider is not so
much what will meet your wishes of the moment, but how to do that which
will win the steady approval of a man of your high character. I hope to
be in Rome about the Ides of October and then join my credit with yours,
and convince Gallus in person of the wisdom of my resolve, though even
now you may assure him of my good intentions. "He spake, and Kronios
nodded his dark brows." Homer again, but why should I not go on plying
you with Homeric lines? You will not let me ply you with verses of your
own, though I love them so well that I think your permission to quote
them would be the one bribe that would induce me to appear against the
Barbici. I have almost made a shocking omission, and forgotten to thank
you for the dates you sent me. They are very fine, and are likely to
prove strong rivals of my figs and mushrooms. Farewell.


Your letter, asking me to send you one of my compositions, came at an
opportune moment, for I had just made up my mind to do so. So you were
spurring a willing horse, and you have not only spoiled your only chance
of making excuses for declining, but have enabled me to press work upon
you without feeling ashamed at asking the favour. For it would be
equally unbecoming for me to hesitate about accepting your offer as for
you who made it to look upon it as a bore. However, you must not expect
anything of an original kind from a lazy man like me. I shall only ask
you to find time to again look through the speech which I made to my
townsfolk at the dedication of the public library. I remember that you
have already criticised a few points therein, but merely in a general
way, and I now beg that you will not only criticise it as a whole, but
will ply your pencil on particular passages as well, in your severest
manner. For even after a thorough revision it will still be open to us
to publish or suppress it as we think fit. Very likely the revision
will help us out of our hesitation and enable us to decide one way or
the other. By looking through it again and again we shall either find
that it is not worth publication or we shall render it worthy by the way
we revise it.

What makes me doubtful is rather the subject-matter than the actual
composition. It is perhaps a shade too laudatory and ostentatious. And
this will be more than our modesty can carry, however plain and
unassuming the style in which it is written, especially as I have to
enlarge on the munificence of my relatives as well as on my own. It is
a ticklish and dangerous subject, even when one can flatter one's self
that there was no way of avoiding it. For if people grow impatient at
hearing the praises of others, how much more difficult must it be to
prevent a speech becoming tedious when we sing our own praises or those
of our family? We look askance even at unpretentious honesty, and do so
all the more when its fame is trumpeted abroad. In short, it is only
the good action that is done by stealth and passes unapplauded which
protects the doer from the carping criticism of the world. For this
reason I have often debated whether I ought to have composed the speech,
such as it is, simply to suit my own feelings, or whether I should have
looked beyond myself to the public. I am inclined to the former
alternative by the thought that many actions which are necessary to the
performance of an object lose their point and appositeness when that
object is attained. I will not weary you with examples further than to
ask whether anything could have been more appropriate than my gracing in
writing the reasons which prompted my generosity. By so doing, the
result was that I grew familiar with generous sentiments; the more I
discussed the virtue the more I saw its beauties, and above all I saved
myself from the reaction that often follows a sudden fit of open-
handedness. From all this there gradually grew up within me the habit
of despising money, and whereas nature seems to have tied men down to
their money bags to guard them, I was enabled to throw off the
prevailing shackles of avarice by my long and carefully reasoned love of
generosity. Consequently my munificence appeared to me to be all the
more worthy of praise, inasmuch as I was drawn to it by reason and not
by any sudden impulse.

Again, I also felt that I was promising not mere games or gladiatorial
shows, but an annual subscription for the upbringing of freeborn youths.
The pleasures of the eye and ear never lack eulogists; on the contrary,
they need rather to be put in the background than in the foreground by
speakers: but to obtain volunteers who will undertake the fatigue and
hard work of self-culture, we have not only to offer rewards but to
encourage them with the choicest addresses. For if doctors have to coax
their patients into adopting an insipid but yet wholesome diet, how much
the more ought the man who is giving his fellows good advice to use all
the allurements of oratory to make his hearers adopt a course which,
though most useful, is not generally popular? Especially is this the
case when we have to try and convince men who have no children of the
value of the boon which is bestowed on those who have, and to induce all
the rest to wait patiently till their turn comes to receive the benefit
now given to a few, and in the meantime show themselves fit recipients
for it. But just as then, when we wished to explain the meaning and
bearing of our bounty, we were studying the common good and not seeking
an opportunity for self-boasting, so now in the matter of publication we
are afraid lest people should think that we have had an eye not so much
to the benefit of others as to our own glorification. Besides, we do
not forget how much better it is to seek the reward of a good action in
the testimony of one's conscience than in fame. For glory ought to
follow of its own accord, and not to be consciously sought for; nor,
again, is a good deed any the less beautiful because owing to some
chance or other no glory attends it. Those who boast of their own good
deeds are credited not so much with boasting for having done them, but
with having done them in order to be able to boast of them.
Consequently what would have been considered a noble action if told of
by a stranger, loses its striking qualities when recounted by the actual
doer. For when men find that the deed itself is inassailable they
attack the boastfulness of the doer, and hence if you commit anything to
be ashamed of, the deed itself is blamed, while if you perform anything
deserving of praise, you are blamed for not having kept silence upon it.

Beyond all this, however, there is a special obstacle in the way of
publishing the speech. I delivered it not before the people but before
the municipal corporation, not in public but in the Council Chamber. So
I am afraid that it may look inconsistent if, after avoiding the
applause and cheers of the crowd when I delivered the speech, I now seek
for that applause by publishing it, and if, after getting the common
people, whose interests I was seeking, removed from the threshold and
the walls of the Chamber--to prevent the appearance of courting
popularity--I should now seem to deliberately seek the acclamations of
those who are only interested in my munificence to the extent of having
a good example shown them. Well, I have told you the grounds of my
hesitation, but I shall follow the advice you give me, for its weight
will be reason sufficient for me. Farewell.


It is surprising how if you take each day singly here in the city you
pass or seem to pass your time reasonably enough when you take stock
thereof, but how, when you put the days together, you are dissatisfied
with yourself. If you ask any one, "What have you been doing to-day?"
he will say, "Oh, I have been attending a coming-of-age function; I was
at a betrothal or a wedding; so-and-so asked me to witness the signing
of a will; I have been acting as witness to A, or I have been in
consultation with B." All these occupations appear of paramount
importance on the day in question, but if you remember that you repeat
the round day after day, they seem a sheer waste of time, especially
when you have got away from them into the country; for then the thought
occurs to you, "What a number of days I have frittered away in these
chilly formalities!" That is how I feel when I am at my Laurentine
Villa and busy reading or writing, or even when I am giving my body a
thorough rest and so repairing the pillars of my mind. I hear nothing
and say nothing to give me vexation; no one comes backbiting a third
party, and I myself have no fault to find with any one except it be with
myself when my pen does not run to my liking. I have no hopes and fears
to worry me, no rumours to disturb my rest. I hold converse with myself
and with my books. 'Tis a genuine and honest life; such leisure is
delicious and honourable, and one might say that it is much more
attractive than any business. The sea, the shore, these are the true
secret haunts of the Muses, and how many inspirations they give me, how
they prompt my musings! Do, I beg of you, as soon as ever you can, turn
your back on the din, the idle chatter, and the frivolous occupations of
Rome, and give yourself up to study or recreation. It is better, as our
friend Attilius once very wittily and very truly said, to have no
occupation than to be occupied with nothingness. Farewell.


If ever there was a time when this Rome of ours was devoted to learning,
it is now. There are many shining lights, of whom it will be enough to
mention but one. I refer to Euphrates the philosopher. I saw a great
deal of him, even in the privacy of his home life, during my young
soldiering days in Syria, and I did my best to win his affection, though
that was not a hard task, for he is ever easy of access, frank, and full
of the humanities that he teaches. I only wish that I had been as
successful in fulfilling the hopes he then formed of me as he has been
increasing his large stock of virtues, though possibly it is I who now
admire them the more because I can appreciate them the better. Even now
my appreciation is not as complete as it might be. It is only an artist
who can thoroughly judge another painter, sculptor, or image-maker, and
so too it needs a philosopher to estimate another philosopher at his
full merit. But so far as I can judge, Euphrates has many qualities so
conspicuously brilliant that they arrest the eyes and attention even of
those who have but modest pretensions to learning. His reasoning is
acute, weighty, and elegant, often attaining to the breadth and
loftiness that we find in Plato. His conversation flows in a copious
yet varied stream, strikingly pleasant to the ear, and with a charm that
seizes and carries away even the reluctant hearer. Add to this a tall,
commanding presence, a handsome face, long flowing hair, a streaming
white beard--all of which may be thought accidental adjuncts and without
significance, but they do wonderfully increase the veneration he
inspires. There is no studied negligence in his dress, it is severely
plain but not austere; when you meet him you revere him without
shrinking away in awe. His life is purity itself, but he is just as
genial; his lash is not for men but for their vices; for the erring he
has gentle words of correction rather than sharp rebuke. When he gives
advice you cannot help listening in rapt attention, and you hope he will
go on persuading you even when the persuasion is complete. He has three
children, two of them sons, whom he has brought up with the strictest
care. His father-in-law is Pompeius Julianus, a man of great
distinction, but whose chief title to fame is that though, as ruler of a
province, he might have chosen a son-in-law of the highest social rank,
he preferred one who was distinguished not for social dignities but for

Yet why describe at greater length a man whose society I can no longer
enjoy? Is it to make myself feel my loss the more? For my time is all
taken up by the duties of an office--important, no doubt, but tedious in
the extreme. I sit at my magisterial desk; I countersign petitions, I
make out the public accounts; I write hosts of letters, but what
illiterary productions they are! Sometimes--but how seldom I get the
opportunity--I complain to Euphrates about these uncongenial duties. He
consoles me and even assures me that there is no more noble part in the
whole of philosophy than to be a public official, to hear cases, pass
judgment, explain the laws and administer justice, and so practise in
short what the philosophers do but teach. But he never can persuade me
of this, that it is better to be busy as I am than to spend whole days
in listening to and acquiring knowledge from him. That makes me the
readier to urge you, whose time is your own, to let him put a finish and
polish upon you when you come to town, and I hope you will come all the
sooner on that account. I am not one of those--and there are many of
them--who grudge to others the happiness they are debarred from
themselves; on the contrary, I feel a very lively sense of pleasure in
seeing my friends abounding in joys that are denied to me. Farewell.


It is quite a long time since I had a letter from you. "Oh," you say,
"there has been nothing to write about." But at least you might write
and say just that, or you might send me the line with which our
grandfathers used to begin their letters: "All is well if you are well,
for I am well." I should be quite satisfied with so much; for, after
all, it is the heart of a letter. Do you think I am joking? I am
perfectly serious. Pray, let me know of your doings. It makes me feel
downright uneasy to be kept in ignorance. Farewell.


I have suffered a most grievous loss, if loss is a word that can be
applied to my being bereft of so distinguished a man. Corellius Rufus
is dead, and what makes my grief the more poignant is that he died by
his own act. Such a death is always most lamentable, since neither
natural causes nor Fate can be held responsible for it. When people die
of disease there is a great consolation in the thought that no one could
have prevented it; when they lay violent hands on themselves we feel a
pang which nothing can assuage in the thought that they might have lived
longer. Corellius, it is true, felt driven to take his own life by
Reason--and Reason is always tantamount to Necessity with philosophers--
and yet there were abundant inducements for him to live. His conscience
was stainless, his reputation beyond reproach; he stood high in men's
esteem. Moreover, he had a daughter, a wife, a grandson, and sisters,
and, besides all these relations, many genuine friends. But his battle
against ill-health had been so long and hopeless that all these splendid
rewards of living were outweighed by the reasons that urged him to die.

I have heard him say that he was first attacked by gout in the feet when
he was thirty-three years of age. He had inherited the complaint, for
it often happens that a tendency to disease is handed down like other
qualities in a sort of succession. While he was in the prime of life he
overcame his malady and kept it well in check by abstemious and pure
living, and when it became sharper in its attacks as he grew old he bore
up against it with great fortitude of mind. Even when he suffered
incredible torture and the most horrible agony--for the pain was no
longer confined, as before, to the feet, but had begun to spread over
all his limbs--I went to see him in the time of Domitian when he was
staying at his country house. His attendants withdrew from his chamber,
as they always did whenever one of his more intimate friends entered the
room. Even his wife, a lady who might have been trusted to keep any
secret, also used to retire. Looking round the room, he said: "Why do
you think I endure pain like this so long? It is that I may outlive
that tyrant, even if only by a single day." Could you but have given
him a frame fit to support his resolution, he would have achieved the
object of his desire. However, some god heard his prayer and granted
it, and then feeling that he could die without anxiety and as a free man
ought, he snapped the bonds that bound him to life. Though they were
many, he preferred death.

His malady had become worse, though he tried to moderate it by his
careful diet, and then, as it still continued to grow, he escaped from
it by a fixed resolve. Two, three, four days passed and he refused all
food. Then his wife Hispulla sent our mutual friend Caius Geminius to
tell me the sad news that Corellius had determined to die, that he was
not moved by the entreaties of his wife and daughter, and that I was the
only one left who might possibly recall him to life. I flew to see him,
and had almost reached the house when Hispulla sent me another message
by Julius Atticus, saying that now even I could do nothing, for his
resolve had become more and more fixed. When the doctor offered him
nourishment he said, "My mind is made up," and the word has awakened
within me not only a sense of loss, but of admiration. I keep thinking
what a friend, what a manly friend is now lost to me. He was at the end
of his seventy-sixth year, an age long enough even for the stoutest of
us. True. He has escaped a lifelong illness; he has died leaving
children to survive him, and knowing that the State, which was dearer to
him than everything else beside, was prospering well. Yes, yes, I know
all this. And yet I grieve at his death as I should at the death of a
young man in the full vigour of life; I grieve--you may think me weak
for so doing--on my own account too. For I have lost, lost for ever,
the guide, philosopher, and friend of my life. In short, I will say
again what I said to my friend Calvisius, when my grief was fresh: "I
am afraid I shall not live so well ordered a life now." Send me a word
of sympathy, but do not say, "He was an old man, or he was infirm."
These are hackneyed words; send me some that are new, that are potent to
ease my trouble, that I cannot find in books or hear from my friends.
For all that I have heard and read occur to me naturally, but they are
powerless in the presence of my excessive sorrow. Farewell.


This year has brought us a fine crop of poets: right through April
hardly a day passed without some recital or other. I am delighted that
literature is so flourishing and that men are giving such open proofs of
brains, even though audiences are found so slow in coming together.
People as a rule lounge in the squares and waste the time in gossip when
they should be listening to the recital. They get some one to come and
tell them whether the reciter has entered the hall yet, whether he has
got through his introduction, or whether he has nearly reached the end
of his reading. Not until then do they enter the room, and even then
they come in slowly and languidly. Nor do they sit it out; no, before
the close of the recital they slip away, some sidling out so as not to
attract attention, others rising openly and walking out boldly. And
yet, by Hercules, our fathers tell a story of how Claudius Caesar one
day, while walking up and down in the palace, happened to hear some
clapping of hands, and on inquiring the cause and being told that
Nonianus was giving a reading, he suddenly joined the company to every
one's surprise. But nowadays even those who have most time on their
hands, after receiving early notices and frequent reminders, either fail
to put in an appearance, or if they do come they complain that they have
wasted a day just because they have not wasted it. All the more praise
and credit, therefore, is due to those who do not allow their love of
writing and reciting to be damped either by the laziness or the
fastidiousness of their audiences. For my own part, I have hardly ever
failed to attend. True, the authors are mostly my friends, for almost
all the literary people are also friends of mine, and for this reason I
have spent more time in Rome than I had intended. But now I can betake
myself to my country retreat and compose something, though not for a
public recital, lest those whose readings I attended should think I went
not so much to hear their works as to get a claim on them to come and
hear mine. As in everything else, if you lend a man your ears, all the
grace of the act vanishes if you ask for his in return. Farewell.


You ask me to look out for a husband for your brother's daughter, and
you do well to select me for such a commission. For you know how I
looked up to him, and what an affection I had for his splendid
qualities; you know, too, what good advice he gave me in my salad days,
and how by his warm praises he actually made it appear that I deserved
them. You could not have given me a more important commission or one
that I should be better pleased to undertake, and there is no charge
that I could possibly accept as a greater compliment to myself than that
of being set to choose a young man worthy of being the father of
grandchildren to Arulenus Rusticus. I should have had to look carefully
and long, had it not been that Minucius Acilianus was ready to hand,--
one might almost say that Providence had prepared him for the purpose.
He has for me the close and affectionate regard of one young man for
another--for he is only a few years younger than myself--yet at the same
time he pays me the deference due to a man of years, for he is as
anxious that I should mould and form his character as I used to be that
you and your son should mould mine. His native place is Brixia, a part
of that Italy of ours which still retains and preserves much of the old-
fashioned courtesy, frugality and even rusticity. His father, Minucius
Macrinus, was one of the leaders of the Equestrian order, because he did
not wish to attain higher rank; he was admitted by the divine Vespasian
to Praetorian rank, and to the end of his days preferred this modest and
honourable distinction to the--what shall I say?--ambitions or dignities
for which we strive. His grandmother on his mother's side was Serrana
Procula, who belonged to the township of Patavia. You know the
character of that place--well, Serrana was a model of austere living
even to the people of Patavia. His uncle was Publius Acilius, a man of
almost unique weight, judgment, and honour. In short, you will find
nothing in the whole of his family which will fail to please you as much
as if the family were your own.

As for Acilianus himself, he is an energetic and untiring worker, and
the very pink of courtesy. He has already acquitted himself with great
credit in the quaestorship, tribunate, and praetorship, and so he has
thus spared you the trouble of having to canvass in his behalf. He has
a frank, open countenance, fresh-coloured and blooming; a handsome,
well-made figure, and an air that would become a senator. These are
points which, in my opinion, are not to be neglected, for I regard them
as meet rewards to a girl for her chastity. I don't know whether I
should add that his father is a well-to-do man, for when I think of you
and your brother for whom we are looking out for a son-in-law, I feel
disinclined to speak of money. On the other hand, when I consider the
prevailing tendencies of the day and the laws of the state which lay
such prominent stress upon the matter of income, I think it right not to
overlook the point. Moreover, when I remember the possible issue of the
marriage, I feel that in choosing a bridegroom one must take his income
into account. Perhaps you will imagine that I have let my affection run
away with me, and that I have exaggerated my friend's merits beyond
their due. But I pledge you my word of honour that you will find his
virtues to be far in excess of my description of them. I have the most
intense affection for the young man, and he deserves my love, but it is
one of the proofs of a lover that you do not overburden the object of
your regard with praise. Farewell.


What a fellow you are! You promise to come to dinner and then fail to
turn up! Well, here is my magisterial sentence upon you. You must pay
the money I am out of pocket to the last farthing, and you will find the
sum no small one. I had provided for each guest one lettuce, three
snails, two eggs, spelt mixed with honey and snow (you will please
reckon up the cost of the latter as among the costly of all, since it
melts away in the dish), olives from Baetica, cucumbers, onions, and a
thousand other equally expensive dainties. You would have listened to a
comedian, or a reciter, or a harp-player, or perhaps to all, as I am
such a lavish host. But you preferred to dine elsewhere,--where I know
not--off oysters, sow's matrices, sea-urchins, and to watch Spanish
dancing girls! You will be paid out for it, though how I decline to
say. You have done violence to yourself. You have grudged, possibly
yourself, but certainly me, a fine treat. Yes, yourself! For how we
should have enjoyed ourselves, how we should have laughed together, how
we should have applied ourselves! You can dine at many houses in better
style than at mine, but nowhere will you have a better time, or such a
simple and free and easy entertainment. In short, give me a trial, and
if afterwards you do not prefer to excuse yourself to others rather than
to me, why then I give you leave to decline my invitations always.


I used to be very fond of Pompeius Saturninus--our Saturninus, as I may
call him--and to admire his intellectual powers, even before I knew him;
they were so varied, so supple, so many-sided; but now I am devoted to
him body and soul. I have heard him pleading in the Courts, always keen
and empassioned, and his addresses are as polished and graceful when
they are impromptu as when they have been carefully prepared. He has a
never-failing flow of apt sentiment; his style is weighty and dignified,
his language is of the sonorous, classical school. All these qualities
charm me immensely when they come pouring forth in a streaming rush of
eloquence, and they charm me too when I read them in book form. You
will experience the same pleasure as I do when you take them up, and you
will at once compare them with some one of the old masters whose rival
indeed he is. You will find even greater charm in the style of his
historical compositions, in its terseness, its lucidity, smoothness,
brilliancy and stateliness, for there is the same vigour in the
historical harangues as there is in his own orations, only rather more
compressed, restricted, and epigrammatic.

Moreover, he writes verses that Catullus or Calvus might have composed.
They are positively brimming over with grace, sweetness, irony and love.
He occasionally, and of set design, interpolates among these smooth and
easy-flowing verses others cast in a more rugged mould, and here again
he is like Catullus and Calvus. A little while ago he read me some
letters which he declared had been written by his wife. I thought, on
hearing them, that they were either Plautus or Terence in prose, and
whether they were composed, as he said, by his wife or by himself, as he
denies, his credit is the same. It belongs to him either as the actual
author of the letters or as the teacher who has made such a polished and
learned lady of his wife--whom he married when she was a girl. So I
pass the whole day in the company of Saturninus. I read him before I
set pen to paper; I read him again after finishing my writing, and again
when I am at leisure. He is always the same but never seems the same.
Let me urge and beg of you to do likewise, for the fact that the author
is still alive ought not to be of any detriment to his works. If he had
been a contemporary of those on whom we have never set eyes, we should
not only be seeking to procure copies of his books but also asking for
busts of him. Why then, as he is still amongst us, should his credit
and popularity dwindle, as though we were tired of him? Surely it is
discreditable and scandalous that we should not give a man the due he
richly deserves, simply because we can see him with our own eyes, speak
to him, hear him, embrace him, and not only praise but love him.


Faith and loyalty are not yet extinct among men: there are still those
to be found who keep friendly remembrances even of the dead. Titinius
Capito has obtained permission from our Emperor to erect a statue of
Lucius Silanus in the Forum. It is a graceful and entirely praiseworthy
act to turn one's friendship with a sovereign to such a purpose, and to
use all the influence one possesses to obtain honours for others. But
Capito is a devoted hero-worshipper; it is remarkable how religiously
and enthusiastically he regards the busts of the Bruti, the Cassii, and
the Catos in his own house, where he may do as he pleases in this
matter. He even composes splendid lyrics on the lives of all the most
famous men of the past. Surely a man who is such an intense admirer of
the virtue of others must know how to exemplify a crowd of virtues in
his own person. Lucius Silanus quite deserved the honour that has been
paid to him, and Capito in seeking to immortalise his memory has
immortalised his own quite as much. For it is not more honourable and
distinguished to have a statue of one's own in the Forum of the Roman
People than to be the author of some one else's statue being placed
there. Farewell.


You say in your letter that you have been troubled by a dream, and are
afraid lest your suit should go against you. So you ask me to try and
get it postponed, and that I will have to put it off for a few days, or
at least for one day. It is not an easy matter, but I will do my best,
for, as Homer says, "A dream comes from Zeus." However, it makes all
the difference whether your dreams usually signify the course of future
events or their opposite. When I think over a certain dream I once had,
what causes you fear seems to me to promise a splendid termination to
your case. I had undertaken a brief for Julius Pastor, when there
appeared to me in my sleep a vision of my mother-in-law, who threw
herself on her knees before me and begged that I would not plead. I was
quite a young man at the time of the action, which was to be heard in
the Fourfold Court, and I was appearing against the most powerful men of
the State, including some of the Friends of Caesar. All these things or
any one of them might well have shattered my resolution after such an
ominous dream. Nevertheless, I went on with the case, remembering the
well-known line of Homer: "But one omen is best, to fight on behalf of
one's country." For in my case the keeping of my word seemed to me as
important as fighting on behalf of my country or as any other still more
pressing consideration--if any consideration more pressing can be
imagined. Well, the action went off successfully, and it was the way
that I conducted that case which got me a hearing with men and opened
the door to fame. So I advise you to see whether you too cannot turn
your dream, as I did mine, to a prosperous issue, or if you think that
it is safer to follow the well-known proverb: "Never do anything if you
feel the least hesitation," write and tell me so. I will invent some
excuse or other, and will so arrange matters that you can have your suit
brought on when you like. For, after all, your position is not the same
as mine was; a trial before the Centumvir's Court cannot be postponed on
any consideration, but an action like yours can be, although it is
rather difficult to arrange. Farewell.


You and I were born in the same township, we went to school together,
and shared quarters from an early age; your father was on terms of
friendship with my mother and my uncle, and with me--as far as the
disparity in our years allowed. These are overwhelming reasons why I
ought to advance you as far as I can along the path of dignities. The
fact of your being a decurio in our town shows that you have an income
of a hundred thousand sesterces, and so, that we may have the pleasure
of enjoying your society not only as a decurio, but as a Roman knight, I
offer you 300,000 numm., to make up the equestrian qualification. The
length of our friendship is sufficient guarantee that you will not
forget this favour, and I do not even urge you to enjoy with modesty the
dignity which I thus enable you to attain, as perhaps I ought, just
because I know you will do so without any urging from without. People
ought to guard an honour all the more carefully, when, in so doing, they
are taking care of a gift bestowed by the kindness of a friend.


I am constantly having arguments with a friend of mine who is a learned
and practised speaker, but who admires in pleading nothing so much as
brevity. I allow that brevity ought to be observed, if the case permits
of it; but sometimes it is an act of collusion to pass over matters that
ought to be mentioned, and it is even an act of collusion to run briefly
and rapidly over points which ought to be dwelt upon, to be thoroughly
driven home, and to be taken up and dealt with more than once. For very
often an argument acquires strength and weight by being handled at some
length, and a speech ought to be impressed on the mind, not by a short,
sharp shock, but by measured blows, just as a sword should be used in
dealing with the body of an opponent. Thereupon he plies me with
authorities, and flourishes before me the speeches of Lysias among the
Greeks, and those of the Gracchi and Cato from among Roman orators. The
majority of these are certainly characterised by conciseness and
brevity, but I quote against Lysias the examples of Demosthenes,
Aeschines, Hyperides, and a multitude of others, while against the
Gracchi and Cato I set Pollio, Caesar, Caelius, and, above all, Marcus
Tullius, whose longest speech is generally considered to be his best.
And upon my word, as with all other good things, the more there is of a
good book, the better it is. You know how it is with statues, images,
pictures, and the outlines of many animals and even trees, that if they
are at all graceful nothing gives them a greater charm than size. It is
just the same with speeches,--even the mere volumes themselves acquire a
certain additional dignity and beauty from mere bulk.

These are but a few of the many arguments I usually employ to establish
my point; but there is no pinning my friend down in an argument. He is
such a slippery fellow that he wriggles off the pin and declares that
these same orators, whose speeches I instance, spoke at less length than
their published addresses seem to show. I hold the contrary to be the
case, and there are many speeches of many orators in favour of my
opinion, as, for example, the Pro Murena and the Pro Vareno of Cicero,
in which he indicates by side-heads alone, and quite barely and briefly,
how he dealt with certain charges against his clients. From these it is
clear that he actually spoke at much greater length and left out a
considerable number of passages when he published the addresses. Cicero
indeed says that in his defence of Cluentius "he had simply followed the
ancient custom and compressed his whole case into a peroration," and
that in defending Caius Cornelius "he had pleaded for four days." Hence
it cannot be questioned that after speaking somewhat discursively for
several days, as he was bound to do, he subsequently trimmed and revised
his oration and compressed it into a single book--a long one, it is
true, but yet a single book.

But, argues my friend, a good indictment is a different thing from a
good speech. I know some people hold that view, but I--of course I may
be wrong--feel persuaded that though it is possible to have a good
indictment without a good speech, it is not possible for a good speech
not to be a good indictment. For a speech is the exemplar of an
indictment--one might even call it its archetype. Hence in every first-
class oration we find a thousand extempore figures of speech, even in
those which we know to have been carefully edited. For example, in the
Speech against Verres:--"--some artist. What was his name? Yes, you
are quite right. My friends here tell me it was Polycletus." It
follows, therefore, that the most perfect indictment is that which most
resembles a spoken speech, provided only that sufficiently adequate time
is allowed for its delivery. If it is not, then the orator is not at
fault, but the presiding magistrate is very much to blame. My opinion
receives support from the laws, which are lavish in the amount of time
they place at a pleader's disposal. They do not inculcate brevity among
counsel, but exhaustiveness--that is to say, they give them time for a
painstaking statement of their case, and this is quite incompatible with
brevity, except the most unimportant actions. I will add also what
experience has taught me, and experience is the finest master. I have
constantly acted as counsel, as presiding magistrate, and as one of the
consulting bench. Different people are influenced by different things,
and it often happens that unimportant details have important
consequences. Men do not think alike, nor have they the same
inclinations, and hence it comes about that though people have listened
together to the same case being tried, they often form different
opinions about it, and sometimes, though arriving at the same
conclusion, they have been influenced by very different motives.
Moreover, each one has a bias in favour of his own interpretation, and
thus, when a second party enunciates an opinion which he himself has
arrived at, he takes it for gospel and holds to it firmly.
Consequently, a pleader should give each member of the jury something
that he may get hold of and recognise as his own opinion.

Regulus once said to me when we were in Court together: "You think you
ought to follow up every single point in the case: I lose no time in
getting a view of my opponent's throat, and consider only the easiest
way of cutting it." (I must admit that he does cut it when he gets hold
of it, but often in trying to get a hold he makes a mistake.) Here was
my answer to him: "Yes, but sometimes what you think is the throat is
only the knee, or the shin bone or the ankle. As for myself, I may not
be quick at getting a clear view of my enemy's throat, but I keep
feeling for a grip and try him at every point. In short, as the Greeks
say, 'I leave no stone unturned.'" I am like a husbandman, I look
carefully after not only my vineyards but my orchards, not only my
orchards but my meadows, while in the meadows I set seed for barley,
beans, and other vegetables, as well as for spelt and the best white
wheat. So when I plead in the Courts I scatter my arguments like seeds
with a lavish hand, and reap the crop that they produce. For the minds
of judges are as obscure, as little to be relied upon, and as deceptive
as the dispositions of storms and soils.

Nor do I forget that in his eulogy of that consummate orator, Pericles,
the comedy-writer Eupolis used the following language:--"But besides his
keenness, Persuasion sate upon his lips. So he charmed all ears and,
alone of all our orators, left his thrill behind him in his hearer's
minds." But even Pericles would not have possessed the persuasion and
charm of which Eupolis speaks merely owing to his conciseness or to his
keenness, or to both (for they are different attributes), unless he had
also possessed consummate oratorical power. In order to delight and
carry conviction an orator must have ample time and room allowed him,
for he alone can leave a thrill in his hearers' minds who plants his
weapon besides merely puncturing the skin. Again, see what another
comic poet writes of the same Pericles: "He lightened, he thundered, he
turned Hellas upside down." Such metaphors as thunder, lightning, and
chaos and confusion could not be used of abbreviated and compressed
oratory, but only of oratory on a sweeping scale, pitched in a lofty and
exalted key.

But, you say, the mean is the best. Quite so, but the mean is as much
neglected by those who fail to do justice to their subject as by those
who overdo it, by those who wear a bearing rein as by those who give
themselves their heads. And so you often hear the criticism that a
speech was "frigid and weak," just as you hear that another was
"overloaded and a mass of repetition." The one speaker is said to have
over-elaborated his subject, the other not to have risen to the
occasion. Both are at fault; one through weakness, the other through
too much strength, and the latter, though he may not show the more
refined intellect, certainly shows the more robust mind. When I say
this it must not be supposed that I am approving Homer's Thersites--the
man who was a torrent of words--but rather his Ulysses, whose "words
were like snow-flakes in winter," though at the same time I admire his
Menelaus, who spoke "Few words, but well to the point." Yet, if I had
to choose, I should prefer the speech that is like the winter snow-
storm--viz. fluent, flowing, and of generous width; and not only that,
but divine and celestial. It may, I know, be said that many people
prefer a short pleading. No doubt, but they are lazy creatures, and it
is ridiculous to consult the tastes of such sloths as though they were
critics. For if you take their opinion as worth anything, you will find
that they not only prefer a short pleading, but no pleading at all.

Well, I have told you what I think. I shall change my opinion if you do
not agree with me, but in that case I beg of you to give me clear
reasons for your disagreement; for although I feel bound to bow to a man
of your judgment, yet in a point of such importance, I consider that I
ought to give way rather to a reasoned statement than to an ipse dixit.
But even if you think I am right, still write and tell me so, and make
the letter as short as you like--for you will thus confirm my judgment.
If I am wrong, see that you write me a very long letter. I feel sure I
have not estimated you wrongly in thus asking you for a short note if
you agree with me, while laying on you the obligation of writing at
length if you disagree. Farewell.


Let me acknowledge not only the keenness of your judgment but the
sharpness of your eyesight, not because you are full of wisdom--no,
don't plume yourself on that--but because you are just as wise as I am,
and that is saying a great deal. Yet, joking apart, I think the slaves
which I bought on your recommendation are a tidy-looking lot. It now
remains to be seen whether they are honest; because in judging the value
of a slave, it is better to trust one's ears than one's eyes. Farewell.


Here am I still in Rome, and a good deal surprised to find myself here.
But I am troubled at the long illness of Titus Aristo, which he cannot
shake off. He is a man for whom I feel an extraordinary admiration and
affection: search where you will, he is second to none in character,
uprightness, and learning--so much so that I hardly look upon his
illness as that of a mere individual being in danger. It is rather as
if literature and all good arts were personified in him, and through him
were in grievous peril. What a knowledge he has of private and public
rights and the laws relating to them! What a mastery he has of things
in general, what experience, what an acquaintance with the past! There
is nothing you may wish to learn that he cannot teach you; to me,
certainly, he is a perfect mine of learning whenever I am requiring any
out-of-the-way information. Then again, how convincing his conversation
is, how strongly it impresses you, how modest and becoming is his
hesitation! What is there that he does not know straight away? And
yet, often enough, he shows hesitation and doubt, from the very
diversity of the reasons that come crowding into his mind, and upon
these he brings to bear his keen and mighty intellect, and, going back
to their fountain-head, reviews them, tests them, and weighs them in the
balance. Again, how sparing he is in his manner of life, how unassuming
in his dress! I often look at his bedroom and the bed itself, as though
they were models of old-fashioned economy. However, they are adorned by
his splendid mind, which has not a thought for ostentation, but refers
everything to his conscience. He seeks his reward for a good deed not
in the praise of the world, but in the deed itself. In short, you will
not find it easy to discover any one, even among those who prefer to
study wisdom rather than take heed to their bodily pleasures, worthy to
be compared with him. He does not haunt the training grounds and the
public porticos, nor does he charm the idle moments of others and his
own by indulging in long talks; no, he is always in his toga and always
at work; his services are at the disposal of many in the Courts, and he
helps numbers more by his advice. Yet in chastity of life, in piety, in
justice, in courage even, there is no one of all his acquaintance to
whom he need give place.

You would marvel, if you were by his side, at the patience with which he
endures his illness, how he fights against his suffering, how he resists
his thirst, how, without moving and without throwing off his bed-
clothes, he endures the dreadful burning heats of his fever. Just
recently he sent for me and a few others of his especial friends with
me, and begged us to consult his doctors and ask them about the
termination of his illness, so that if there were no hope for him he
might voluntarily give up his life, but might fight against it and hold
out if the illness only threatened to be difficult and long. He owed
it, he said, to the prayers of his wife, the tears of his daughter, and
the regard of us who were his friends, not to cheat our hopes by a
voluntary death, providing those hopes were not altogether futile. I
think that such an acknowledgment as that must be especially difficult
to make, and worthy of the highest praise; for many people are quite
capable of hastening to death under the impulse of a sudden instinct,
but only a truly noble mind can weigh up the pros and cons of the
matter, and resolve to live or die according to the dictates of Reason.
However, the doctors give us reassuring promises, and it now remains for
the Deity to confirm and fulfil them, and so at length release me from
my anxiety. The moment my mind is easy, I shall be off to my Laurentine
Villa--that is to say, to my books and tablets, and to my studious ease.
For now as I sit by my friend's bedside I can neither read nor write,
and I am so anxious that I have no inclination for such study.

Well, I have told you my fears, my hopes, and my future plans; it is
your turn now to write and tell me what you have been doing, what you
are doing now, and what your plans are, and I hope your letter will be a
more cheerful one than mine. If you have nothing to complain about, it
will be no small consolation to me in my general upset. Farewell.


You ask me whether I think you ought to practise in the courts while you
are tribune. The answer entirely depends on the conception you have of
the tribuneship, whether you think it is a mere empty honour, a name
with no real dignity, or an office of the highest sanctity, and one that
no one, not even the holder himself, ought to slight in the least
degree. When I was tribune, I may have been wrong for thinking that I
was somebody, but I acted as if I were, and I abstained from practising
in the courts. In the first place, I thought it below my dignity that
I, at whose entrance every one ought to rise and give way, should stand
to plead while all others were sitting; or that I, who could impose
silence on all and sundry, should be ordered to be silent by a water-
clock; that I, whom it was a crime to interrupt, should be subjected
even to abuse, and that I should make people think I was a spiritless
fellow if I let an insult pass unnoticed, or proud and puffed up if I
resented and avenged it. Again, there was this embarrassing thought
always before me. Supposing appeal was made to me as tribune either by
my client or by the other party to the suit, what should I do? Lend him
aid, or keep silence and say not a word, and thus forswear my magistracy
and reduce myself to a mere private citizen? Moved by these
considerations, I preferred to be at the disposal of all men as a
tribune rather than act as an advocate for a few. But, to repeat what I
said before, it makes all the difference what conception you happen to
have of the office, and what part you essay to play. Providing you
carry it through to the end, either will be quite congruous with a man
of wisdom. Farewell.


My comrade Tranquillus wishes to buy a bit of land which your friend is
said to be offering for sale. I beg that you will see that he purchases
it at a fair price, for in that case he will be glad to have bought it.
A bad bargain is always annoying, and especially so as it seems to show
that the previous owner has played one a scurvy trick. As to the plot
in question, if only the price is right, there are many reasons that
tempt my friend Tranquillus to buy--the nearness of the city, the
convenient road, the modest dimensions of his villa and the extent of
the farm, which is just enough to pleasantly disengage his thoughts from
other things, but not enough to give him any worry. In fact learned
schoolmen, like Tranquillus, on turning land-owners, ought only to have
just sufficient land to enable them to get rid of headaches, cure their
eyes, walk lazily round their boundary paths, make one beaten track for
themselves, get to know all their vines and count their trees. I have
gone into these details that you might understand what a regard I have
for Tranquillus, and how greatly I shall be indebted to you if he is
enabled to purchase the estate which has all these advantages to commend
it at such a reasonable price that he will not regret having bought it.



Not for many years have the Roman people seen so striking and even so
memorable a spectacle as that provided by the public funeral of
Virginius Rufus, one of our noblest and most distinguished citizens, and
not less fortunate than distinguished. He lived in a blaze of glory for
thirty years. He read poems and histories composed in his honour, and
so enjoyed in life the fame that awaited him among posterity. He held
the consulship three times, so that he might attain the highest
distinction open to a private citizen, as he had declined to lay hands
on the sovereign power. He escaped unscathed from the Emperors, who
were suspicious of his motives and hated him for his virtues; while the
best Emperor of them all, and the one who was his devoted friend, he
left behind him safely installed on the throne, as though his life had
been preserved for this very reason, that he might be honoured with a
public funeral. He was eighty-three years of age when he died,
sublimely calm, and respected by all. He enjoyed good health, for
though his hands were palsied they gave him no pain: only the closing
scenes were rather painful and prolonged, but even in them he won men's
praise. For while he was getting ready a speech, to return thanks to
the Emperor during his consulship, he happened to take up a rather heavy
book. As he was an old man and standing at the time, its weight caused
it to fall from his hands, and while he was stooping to pick it up his
foot slipped on the smooth and slippery floor, and he fell and broke his
collar-bone. This was not very skilfully set for him, and owing to his
old age it did not heal properly. But his funeral was a source of glory
to the Emperor, to the age in which he lived, and even to the Roman
Forum and the rostra. His panegyric was pronounced by Cornelius
Tacitus, and Virginius's good fortune was crowned by this, that he had
the most eloquent man in Rome to speak his praises.

He died full of years, full of honours, full even of the honours he
refused. We shall seek his like in vain; we shall lose in him a living
example of an earlier age. I shall miss him most of all, for my
affection equalled my admiration, not only of his public virtue but of
his private life. In the first place, we came from the same district,
we belonged to neighbouring municipalities, our estates and property lay
alongside, and, moreover, he was left as my guardian and showed me all
the affection of a parent. When I was a candidate for office he
honoured me with his support; in all my elections he left his private
retreat and hastened to escort me in all my entries upon office--though
for years he had ceased to show his friends these attentions,--and on
the day when the priests are accustomed to nominate those they think to
be worthiest of the priesthood he always gave me his nomination. Even
in his last illness, when he was afraid lest he should be appointed one
of the commission of five who were being appointed on the decree of the
Senate to lessen public expenditure, he chose me, young as I am--though
he had a number of friends still surviving who were much older than I
and men of consular rank--to act as his substitute, and he used these
words: "Even if I had a son, I should give this commission to you."
Hence it is that I cannot help but mourn his death on your bosom, as
though he had died before his time; if indeed it is right to mourn at
all in such a case, or speak of death in connection with such a man, who
has rather ceased to be mortal than ceased to live. For he still lives
and will do for all time, and he will acquire a broader existence in the
memories and conversation of mankind, now that he has gone from our

I wished to write to you on many other subjects, but my whole mind is
given up to and fixed on this one subject of thought. I keep thinking
of Virginius, I dream of him, and, though my dreams are illusory, they
are so vivid that I seem to hear his voice, to speak to him, to embrace
him. It may be that we have other citizens like him in his virtues, and
shall continue to have them, but there is none to equal with him in
glory. Farewell.


I am angry with you; whether I ought to be I am not quite sure, but I am
angry all the same. You know how affection is often biassed, how it is
always liable to make a man unreasonable, and how it causes him to flare
up on even small provocation. But I have serious grounds for my anger,
whether they are just or not, and so I am assuming that they are as just
as they are serious, and am downright cross with you because you have
not sent me a line for such a long time. There is only one way that you
can obtain forgiveness, and that is by your writing me at once a number
of long letters. That will be the only excuse I shall take as genuine;
any others you may send I shall regard as false. For I won't listen to
such stuff as "I was away from Rome," or "I have been fearfully busy."
As for the plea, "I have not been at all well," I hope Providence has
been too kind to let you write that. I am at my country house, enjoying
study and idleness in turns, and both of these delights are born of
leisure-hours. Farewell.


Isaeus's reputation--and it was a great one--had preceded him to Rome,
but it was found to fall short of his merits. He has consummate
oratorical power, fluency and choice of expression, and though he always
speaks extempore his speeches might have been carefully written out long
beforehand. He speaks in Greek, and that the purest Attic; his
prefatory remarks are polished, neat and agreeable, and occasionally
stately and sparkling. He asks to be supplied with a number of subjects
for discussion, and allows his audience to choose which they will have
and often which side they would like him to take. Then he rises to his
feet, wraps his gown round him, and begins. Without losing a moment he
has everything at his fingers' ends, irrespective of the subject
selected. Deep thoughts come crowding into his mind and words flow to
his lips. And such words--exquisitely choice! Every now and then there
come flashes which show how widely he has read and how much he has
written. He opens his case to the point; he states his position
clearly; his arguments are incisive; his conclusions are forcible; his
word-painting is magnificent. In a word, he instructs, delights, and
impresses his hearers, so that you can hardly say wherein he most
excels. He makes constant use of rhetorical arguments, his syllogisms
are crisp and finished--though that is not an easy matter to attain even
with a pen. He has a wonderful memory and can repeat, without missing a
single word, even his extempore speeches. He has attained this facility
by study and constant practice, for he does nothing else day or night:
either as a listener or speaker he is for ever discussing. He has
passed his sixtieth year and is still only a rhetorician, and there is
no more honest and upright class of men living. For we who are always
rubbing shoulders with others in the Forum and in the lawsuits of
everyday life, cannot help picking up a good deal of roguery, while in
the imaginary cases of the lecture hall and the schoolroom it is like
fighting with the button on the foil and quite harmless, and is every
whit as enjoyable, especially for men of years. For what can be more
enjoyable for men in their old age than that which gave them the keenest
pleasure in their youth?

Consequently, I look upon Isaeus not only as a wonderfully learned man
but as one who possesses a most enviable lot, and you must be made of
flint and iron if you do not burn to make his acquaintance. So if there
is nothing else to draw you here, if I myself am not a sufficient
attraction, do come to hear Isaeus. Have you never read of the man who
lived at Gades who was so fired by the name and glory of Titus Livius
that he came from the remotest corner of the world to see him, and
returned the moment he had set eyes on him? It would stamp a man as an
illiterate boor and a lazy idler, it would be disgraceful almost for any
one not to think the journey worth the trouble when the reward is a
study which is more delightful, more elegant, and has more of the
humanities than any other. You will say: "But I have here authors just
as learned, whose works I can read." Granted, but you can always read
an author, while you cannot always listen to him. Moreover, as the
proverb goes, the spoken word is invariably much more impressive than
the written one; for however lively what you read may be, it does not
sink so deeply into the mind as what is pressed home by the accent, the
expression, and the whole bearing and action of a speaker. This must be
admitted unless we think the story of Aeschines untrue, when, after
reading a speech of Demosthenes at Rhodes, he is said to have exclaimed
to those who expressed their admiration of it: "Yes, but what would you
have said if you had heard the beast himself?" And yet Aeschines
himself, if we are to believe Demosthenes, had a very striking delivery!
None the less he acknowledged that the author of the speech delivered it
far better than he had done. All these things point to this, that you
should hear Isaeus, if only to enable you to say that you have heard
him. Farewell.


If your father had owed his other creditors, or any one of them, as much
as he owed to me, there would perhaps have been good reason for you to
hesitate about entering on the inheritance of an estate which even a man
might find burdensome. However, I am now the sole creditor, for as we
are relations I thought it my duty to pay off all those who were--I will
not say importunate--but were rather more particular about getting their
money. When your father was alive, and you were about to be married, I
contributed 100,000 sesterces towards your dower, in addition to the sum
which your father assigned as your wedding portion, out of my pocket--
for it had to be paid out of my money,--so you have ample proof of my
leniency towards you in money matters, and you may boldly rely thereon
and defend the credit and honour of your dead father. Moreover, to show
you that I can be generous with my purse as well as with my advice, I
authorise you to enter as paid whatever sum was owing by your father to
me. You need not be afraid that my generosity will embarrass my
finances. Though my means are modest, though my position is expensive
to keep up and my income is equally small and precarious owing to the
state of the land market, my unemployed capital is increased by my
economical living, and this is the source, as I may call it, from which
I gratify my generosity. I have to husband it carefully lest the source
should dry up if I draw on it too freely; but such caution is reserved
for others. In your case I can easily justify my liberality, even
though it be rather larger than usual. Farewell.


I have forwarded to you the speech which you have often asked for, and
which I have often promised to send, but not the whole of it. A portion
thereof is still undergoing the polishing process. Meanwhile, I thought
it would not be out of place to submit to your judgment the parts which
seemed to me to be more finished. I hope you will bestow on them the
same critical attention that the writer has given them. I have never
handled any subject that demanded greater pains from me, for whereas in
other speeches I have submitted merely my carefulness and good faith to
men's judgment, in this I submit my patriotism as well. It is out of
that that the speech has grown, for it is a pleasure to sing the praises
of one's native place and at the same time to do what I could to help
its interests and its fame. But be sure you prune even these passages
according to your judgment. For when I think of the fastidiousness of
the general reader and the niceties of his taste, I understand that the
best way to win praise is to keep within moderate limits.

Yet at the same time, though I ask you to show this strictness, I feel
bound to request you to display the opposite quality also and deal
indulgently with many of the passages. For we must make certain
concessions to our young readers, especially if the subject-matter
allows of it. Descriptions of scenery, of which there are more than
usual in this speech, should be treated not in a strict historical
fashion, but with some approach to poetic licence. However, if any one
thinks that I have written more ornately than is warranted by the
serious nature of the subject, the remaining portions of the address
ought to mollify what one may call the austerity of such a man. I have
certainly tried, by varying the character of the style, to get hold of
all sorts and conditions of readers, and though I am afraid that each
individual reader will not find every single passage to his liking, yet
I think I may be pretty confident that the variety of styles will
recommend the whole to all classes. For at a banquet, though we each
one of us taboo certain dishes, yet we all praise the banquet as a
whole, nor do the dishes which our palate declines make those we like
any less enjoyable. I want my speech to be taken in the same spirit,
not because I think I have succeeded in my aim, but because I have tried
to succeed therein, and I believe my efforts will not have been in vain
if only you will take pains now with what I enclose in this letter and
afterwards with the remaining portions.

You will say that you cannot do this sufficiently carefully until you
have gone through the entire speech. That is so; but for the present
you will be able to get a thorough acquaintance with what I send you,
and there are sure to be certain passages that can be altered in part.
For if you were to see the head or any limb of a statue torn from the
trunk, though you might not be able to speak definitely of its symmetry
and proportion to the rest of the body, you would at least be able to
judge whether the part you were looking at was sufficiently well shaped.
That is the only reason why authors send round to their friends
specimens of their speeches, because any part can be judged to be
perfect or not apart from the remainder. The pleasure of speaking with
you has led me farther than I intended, but I will conclude for fear of
exceeding in a letter the limits which I think ought to be set to a
speech. Farewell.


It would be a long story--and it is of no importance--to tell you how I
came to be dining--for I am no particular friend of his--with a man who
thought he combined elegance with economy, but who appeared to me to be
both mean and lavish, for he set the best dishes before himself and a
few others and treated the rest to cheap and scrappy food. He had
apportioned the wine in small decanters of three different kinds, not in
order to give his guests their choice but so that they might not refuse.
He had one kind for himself and us, another for his less distinguished
friends--for he is a man who classifies his acquaintances--and a third
for his own freedmen and those of his guests. The man who sat next to
me noticed this and asked me if I approved of it. I said no. "Then how
do you arrange matters?" he asked. "I set the same before all," I
answered, "for I invite my friends to dine not to grade them one above
the other, and those whom I have set at equal places at my board and on
my couches I treat as equals in every respect." What! even the
freedmen?" he said. "Yes," I replied, "for then I regard them as my
guests at table, not as freedmen." He went on: "It must cost you a
lot." "Not at all," said I. "Then how do you manage it?" "It's easily
done; because my freedmen do not drink the same wine as I do, but I
drink the same that they do." And, by Jove, the fact is that if you
keep off gluttony it is not at all ruinously expensive to entertain a
number of people to the fare you have yourself. It is this gluttony
which is to be put down, to be reduced as it were to the ranks, if you
wish to cut down expenses, and you will find it better to consult your
own moderate living than to care about the nasty things people may say
of you. What then is my point? Just this, that I don't want you, who
are a young man of great promise, to be taken in by the extravagance
with which some people load their tables under the guise of economy.
Whenever such a concrete instance comes in my way it becomes the
affection I bear you to warn you of what you ought to avoid by giving
you an example. So remember that there is nothing you should eschew
more than this new association of extravagance and meanness; they are
abominable qualities when separated and single, and still more so when
you get a combination of them. Farewell.


Yesterday, on the motion of the Emperor, a triumphal statue was decreed
to Vestricius Spurinna. He is not one of those heroes, of whom there
have been many, who have never stood in battle, never seen a camp, and
never heard the call of the trumpets except at the public shows: no, he
is one of the real heroes who used to win that decoration by the sweat
of their brow, by shedding their blood and doing mighty deeds. For
Spurinna restored by force of arms the king of the Bructeri to his
kingdom, and, after threatening war, subdued that savage race by the
terror of his name, which is the noblest kind of victory. That was the
reward of his valour, and the fact that his son Cottius, whom he lost
while he was away on his duties, was deemed worthy of being honoured
with a statue has solaced his grief for his loss. Young men rarely
attain such distinction, but his father deserved this additional honour,
for it required some considerable solace to heal his bitter wound.
Moreover, Cottius himself had given such striking proofs of his splendid
character that his short and narrow life ought to be prolonged by the
immortality, so to speak, that a statue confers upon him; for his
uprightness, his weight of character, his influence were such that his
virtues served as a spur even to the older men with whom he has now been
placed on an equality by the honour paid to him.

If I understand the matter aright, in conferring that dignity upon him,
regard was had not only to the memory of the dead man and the grief of
his father, but also to the effect it would have upon others. When such
splendid rewards are bestowed upon young men--provided they deserve
them--they will serve to sharpen the inclinations of the rising
generation to the practice of the honourable arts; they will make our
leading men more desirous of bringing up their children, increase the
joy they will have in them if they survive, and provide a glorious
consolation if they lose them. It is for these reasons that I rejoice
on public grounds that a statue has been decreed to Cottius, and on
personal grounds I am equally delighted. My affection for that most
accomplished youth was as strong as is my ungovernable sorrow at his
loss. So I shall find it soothing from time to time to gaze upon his
statue, to look back upon it, to stand beneath it, and to walk past it.
For if the busts of the dead that we set up in our private houses
assuage our grief, how much more soothing should be the statues of our
dead friends erected in the most frequented spots, which recall to us
not only the form and face of our lost ones, but also their dignities
and glory? Farewell.


Are you at your books, or are you fishing, or hunting, or doing all
three together? For the latter is possible in the neighbourhood of our
Larian lake. The lake supplies fish in plenty, the woods that girdle
its shores are full of game, and their secluded recesses inspire one to
study. But whether you combine the three at once, or occupy yourself
with either one of them, I cannot say "I grudge you your happiness,"
though I feel annoyed to think that I am debarred from pleasures which I
long for as ardently as an invalid longs for wine, and the baths, and
the fountains. If I cannot unloose the close meshes of the net that
enfolds me, shall I never snap them asunder? Never, I am afraid, for
new business keeps piling up on top of the old, and that without even
the old being got rid of. Every day the entangling chain of my
engagements seems to lengthen by acquiring additional links. Farewell.

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