Pliny’s Letters, Book 6-9 (selections) and Book 10
Translated by William Melmoth
Sometimes I miss Regulus in our courts. I cannot say I deplore his loss. The man, it must be owned, highly respected his profession, grew pale with study and anxiety over it, and used to write out his speeches though he could not get them by heart. There was a practice he had of painting round his right or left eye,1 and wearing a white patch2 over one side or the other of his forehead, according as he was to plead either for the plaintiff or defendant; of consulting the soothsayers upon the issue of an action; still, all this excessive superstition was really due to his extreme earnestness in his profession. And it was acceptable enough being concerned in the same cause with him, as he always obtained full indulgence in point of time, and never failed to get an audience together; for what could be more convenient than, under the protection of a liberty which you did not ask yourself, and all the odium of the arrangement resting with another, and before an audience which you had not the trouble of collecting, to speak on at your ease, and as long as you thought proper? Nevertheless Regulus did well in departing this life, though he would have done much better had he made his exit sooner. He might really have lived now without any danger to the public, in the reign of a prince under whom he would have had no opportunity of doing any harm. I need not scruple therefore, I think, to say I sometimes miss him: for since his death the custom has prevailed of not allowing, nor indeed of asking, more than an hour or two to plead in, and sometimes not above half that time. The truth is, or advocates take more pleasure in finishing a cause than in defending it; and our judges had rather rise from the bench than sit upon it: such is their indolence, and such their indifference to the honour of eloquence and the interest of justice! But are we wiser than our ancestors? are we more equitable than the laws which grant so many hours and days and adjournments to a case? were our forefathers slow of apprehension, and dull beyond measure? and are we clearer of speech, quicker in our conceptions, or more scrupulous in our decisions, because we get over our causes in fewer hours than they took days? O Regulus! it was by zeal in your profession that you secured an advantage which is but rarely given to the highest integrity. As for myself, whenever I sit upon the bench (which is much oftener than I appear at the bar), I always give the advocates as much time as they require: for I look upon it as highly presuming to pretend to guess, before a case is heard, what time it will require, and to set limits to an affair before one is acquainted with its extent; especially as the first and most sacred duty of a judge is patience, which constitutes an important part of justice. But this, it is objected, would give an opening to much superfluous matter: I grant it may; yet is it not better to hear too much than not to hear enough? Besides, how shall you know that what an advocate has farther to offer will be superfluous, until you have heard him? But this, and many other public abuses, will be best reserved for a conversation when we meet; for I know your affection to the commonwealth inclines you to wish that some means might be found out to check at least those grievances, which would now be very difficult absolutely to remove. But to return to affairs of private concern: I hope all goes well in your family; mine remains in its usual situation. The good which I enjoy grows more acceptable to me by its continuance; as habit renders me less sensible of the evils I suffer. Farewell.
1 This silly piece of superstition seems to have been peculiar to Regulus, and not of any general practice; at least it is a custom of which we find no other mention of antiquity. M.
2 We gather from Martial that the wearing of these was not an unusual practice with fops and dandies. See Epig. ii. 29, in which he ridicules a certain Rufus, and hints that if you were to strip off the 'splenia'" (plasters) "from his face, you would find out that he was a branded runaway slave." Church and Brodribb.
Never was business more disagreeable to me than when it prevented me not only from accompanying you when you went into Campania for your health, but from following you there soon after; for I want particularly to be with you now, that I may learn from my own eyes whether you are growing stronger and stouter, and whether the tranquillity, the amusements, and plenty of that charming country really agree with you. Were you in perfect health, yet I could ill support your absence; for even a moment's uncertainty of the welfare of those we tenderly love causes a feeling of suspense and anxiety: but now your sickness conspires with your absence to trouble me grievously with vague and various anxieties. I dread everything, fancy everything, and, as is natural to those who fear, conjure up the very things I most dread. Let me the more earnestly entreat you then to think of my anxiety, and write to me every day, and even twice a day: I shall be more easy, at least while I am reading your letters, though when I have read them, I shall immediately feel my fears again. Farewell.
1 His wife.
You kindly tell me my absence very sensibly affects you, and that your only consolation is in conversing with my works, which you frequently substitute in my stead. I am glad that you miss me; I am glad that you find some rest in these alleviations. In return, I read over your letters again and again, and am continually taking them up, as if I had just received them; but, alas! this only stirs in me a keener longing for you; for how sweet must her conversation be whose letters have so many charms! Let me receive them, how ever, as often as possible, notwithstanding there is still a mixture of pain in the pleasure they afford me. Farewell.
You know Attilius Crescens, and you love him; who is there, indeed, of any rank or worth, that does not? For myself, I profess to have a friendship for him far exceeding ordinary attachments of the world. Our native towns are separated only by a day's journey; and we got to care for each other when we were very young; the season for passionate friendships. Ours improved by years; and so far from being chilled, it was confirmed by our riper judgments, as those who know us best can witness. He takes pleasure in boasting everywhere of my friendship; as I do to let the world know that his reputation, his ease, and his interest are my peculiar concern. Insomuch that upon his expressing to me some apprehension of insolent treatment from a certain person who was entering upon the tribuneship of the people, I could not forbear answering,
"Long as Achilles breathes this vital air, To touch thy head no impious hand shall dare."1
What is my object in telling you these things? Why, to shew you that I look upon every injury offered to Attilius as done to myself. "But what is the object of all this?" you repeat. You must know then, Valerius Varus, at his death, owed Attilius a sum of money. Though I am on friendly terms with Maximus, his heir, yet there is a closer friendship between him and you. I beg therefore, and entreat you by the affection you have for me, to take care that Attilius is not only paid the capital which is due to him, but all the long arrears of interest too. He neither covets the property of others nor neglects the care of his own; and as he is not engaged in any lucrative profession, he has nothing to depend upon but his own frugality: for as to literature, in which he greatly distinguishes himself, he pursues this merely from motives of pleasure and ambition. In such a situation, the slightest loss presses hard upon a man, and the more so because he has no opportunities of repairing any injury done to his fortune. Remove then, I entreat you, our uneasiness, and suffer me still to enjoy the pleasure of his wit and bonhommie; for I cannot bear to see the cheerfulness of my friend overclouded, whose mirth and good humour dissipates every gloom of melancholy in myself. In short, you know what a pleasant, entertaining fellow he is, and I hope you will not suffer any injury to engloom and embitter his disposition. You may judge by the warmth of his affection how severe his resentments would prove; for a generous and great mind can ill brook an injury when coupled with contempt. But though he could pass it over, yet cannot I: on the contrary, I shall regard it as a wrong and indignity done to myself, and resent it as one offered to my friend; that is, with double warmth. But, after all, why this air of threatening? rather let me end in the same style in which I began, namely, by begging, entreating you so to act in this affair that neither Attilius may have reason to imagine (which I am exceedingly anxious he should not) that I neglect his interest, nor that I may have occasion to charge you with carelessness of mine: as undoubtedly I shall not if you have the same regard for the latter as I have for the former. Farewell.
1 Hom. Il. lib. i., v. 88.
I was lately at Alsium,1 where my mother-in-law has a villa which once belonged to Verginius Rufus. The place renewed in my mind the sorrowful remembrance of that great and excellent man. He was extremely fond of this retirement, and used to call it the nest of his old age. Whichever way I looked, I missed him, I felt his absence. I had an inclination to visit his monument; but I repented having seen it, afterwards: for I found it still unfinished, and this, not from any difficulty residing in the work itself, for it is very plain, or rather indeed slight; but through the neglect of him to whose care it was entrusted. I could not see without a concern, mixed with indignation, the remains of a man, whose fame filled the whole world, lie for ten years after his death without an inscription, or a name. He had, however, directed that the divine and immortal action of his life should be recorded upon his tomb in the following lines:
"Here Rufus lies, who Vindex' arms withstood, Not for himself, but for his country's good."
But faithful friends are so rare, and the dead so soon forgotten, that we shall be obliged ourselves to build even our very tombs, and anticipate the office of our heirs. For who is there that has no reason to fear for himself what we see has happened to Verginius, whose eminence and distinction, while rendering such treatment more shameful, so, in the same way, make it more notorious? Farewell.
1 Now Alzia, not far from Como.
Oh, what a happy day I lately spent! I was called by the prefect of Rome, to assist him in a certain case, and had the pleasure of hearing two excellent young men, Fuscus Salinator and Numidius Quadratus, plead on the opposite sides: their worth is equal, and each of them will one day, I am persuaded, prove an ornament not only to the present age, but to literature itself. They evinced upon this occasion an admirable probity, supported by inflexible courage: their dress was decent, their elocution distinct, their tones were manly, their memory retentive, their genius elevated, and guided by an equal solidity of judgment. I took infinite pleasure in observing them display these noble qualities; particularly as I had the satisfaction to see that, while they looked upon me as their guide and model, they appeared to the audience as my imitators and rivals. It was a day (I cannot but repeat it again) which afforded me the most exquisite happiness, and which I shall ever distinguish with the fairest mark. For what indeed could be either more pleasing to me on the public account than to observe two such noble youths building their fame and glory upon the polite arts; or more desirable upon my own than to be marked out as a worthy example to them in their pursuits of virtue? May the gods still grant me the continuance of that pleasure! And I implore the same gods, you are my witness, to make all these who think me deserving of imitation far better than I am. Farewell.
You were not present at a very singular occurrence here lately: neither was I, but the story reached me just after it had happened. Passienus Paulus, a Roman knight, of good family, and a man of peculiar learning and culture besides, composes elegies, a talent which runs in the family, for Propertius is reckoned by him amongst his ancestors, as well as being his countryman. He was lately reciting a poem which began thus:
"Priscus, at thy command"
whereupon Javolenus Priscus, who happened to be present as a particular friend of the poet's, cried out, "But he is mistaken, I did not command him." Think what laughter and merriment this occasioned. Priscus' wits, you must know, are reckoned rather unsound,1 though he takes a share in public business, is summoned to consultations, and even publicly acts as a lawyer, so that this behaviour of his was the more remarkable and ridiculous: meanwhile Paulus was a good deal disconcerted by his friend's absurdity. You see how necessary it is for those who are anxious to recite their works in public to take care that the audience as well as the author are perfectly sane. Farewell.
1 Nevertheless, Javolenus Priscus was one of the most eminent lawyers of his time, and is frequently quoted in the Digesta of Justinian.
Your request that I would send you an account of my uncle's death, in order to transmit a more exact relation of it to posterity, deserves my acknowledgments; for, if this acciden Here he stopped to consider whether he should turn back again; to which the pilot advising him, "Fortune," said he, "favours the brave; steer to where Pomponianus is." Pomponianus wa out of this narrative whatever is most important: for a letter is one thing, a history another; it is one thing writing to a friend, another thing writing to the public. Farewell.
1 In the Bay of Naples.
2 The Romans used to lie or walk naked in the sun, after anointing their bodies with oil, which was esteemed as greatly contributing to health, and therefore daily practised by them. This custom, however, of anointing themselves, is inveighed against by the satirists as in the number of their luxurious indulgences: but since we find the elder Pliny here, and the amiable Spurinna in a former letter, practising this method, we cannot suppose the thing itself was esteemed unmanly, but only when it was attended with some particular circumstances of an overrefined delicacy. M.
3 Now called Castelamare, in the Bay of Naples. M.
To Cornelius Tacitus
The letter which, in compliance with your request, I wrote to you concerning the death of my uncle has raised, it seems, your curiosity to know what terrors and dangers attended me while I continued at Misenum; for there, I think, my account broke off:
"Though my shock'd soul recoils, my tongue shall tell."
My uncle having left us, I spent such time as was left on my studies (it was on their account indeed that I had stopped behind), till it was time for my bath. After which I went to supper, and then fell into a short and uneasy sleep. There had been noticed for many days before a trembling of the earth, which did not alarm us much, as this is quite an ordinary occurrence in Campania; but it was so particularly violent that night that it not only shook but actually overturned, as it would seem, everything about us. My mother rushed into my chamber, where she found me rising, in order to awaken her. We sat down in the open court of the house, which occupied a small space between the buildings and the sea. As I was at that time but eighteen years of age, I know not whether I should call my behaviour, in this dangerous juncture, courage or folly; but I took up Livy, and amused myself with turning over that author, and even making extracts from him, as if I had been perfectly at my leisure. Just then, a friend of my uncle's, who had lately come to him from Spain, joined us, and observing me sitting by my mother with a book in my hand, reproved her for her calmness, and me at the same time for my careless security: nevertheless I went on with my author. Though it was now morning, the light was still exceedingly faint and doubtful; the buildings all around us tottered, and though we stood upon open ground, yet as the place was narrow and confined, there was no remaining without imminent danger: we therefore resolved to quit the town. A panic-stricken crowd followed us, and (as to a mind distracted with terror every suggestion seems more prudent than its own) pressed on us in dense array to drive us forward as we came out. Being at a convenient distance from the houses, we stood still, in the midst of a most dangerous and dreadful scene. The chariots, which we had ordered to be drawn out, were so agitated backwards and forwards, though upon the most level ground, that we could not keep them steady, even by supporting them with large stones. The sea seemed to roll back upon itself, and to be driven from its banks by the convulsive motion of the earth; it is certain at least the shore was considerably enlarged, and several sea animals were left upon it. On the other side, a black and dreadful cloud, broken with rapid, zigzag flashes, revealed behind it variously shaped masses of flame: these last were like sheet-lightning, but much larger. Upon this our Spanish f came upon us, not such as we have when the sky is cloudy, or when there is no moon, but that of a room when it is shut up, and all the lights put out. You might hear the shrieks of women, the screams of children, and the shouts of men; some calling for their children, others for their parents, others for their husbands, and seeking to recognize each other by the voices that replied; one lamenting his own fate, another that of his family; some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world.1 Among these there were some who augmented the real terrors by others imaginary or wilfully invented. I remember some who declared that one part of Misenum had fallen, that another was on fire; it was false, but they found people to believe them. It now grew rather lighter, which we imagined to be rather the forerunner of an approaching burst of flames (as in truth it was) than the return of day: however, the fire fell at a distance from us: then again we were immersed in thick darkness, and a heavy shower of ashes rained upon us, which we were obliged every now and then to stand up to shake off, otherwise we should have been crushed and buried in the heap. I might boast that, during all this scene of horror, not a sigh, or expression of fear, escaped me, had not my support been grounded in that miserable, though mighty, consolation, that all mankind were involved in the same calamity, and that I was perishing with the world itself. At last this dreadful darkness was dissipated by degrees, like a cloud or smoke; the real day returned, and even the sun shone out, though with a lurid light, as when an eclipse is coming on. Every object that presented itself to our eyes (which were extremely weakened) seemed changed, being covered deep with ashes as if with snow. We returned to Misenum, where we refreshed ourselves as well as we could, and passed an anxious night between hope and fear; though, indeed, with a much larger share of the latter: for the earthquake still continued, while many frenzied persons ran up and down heightening their own and their friends' calamities by terrible predictions. However, my mother and I, notwithstanding the danger we had passed, and that which still threatened us, had no thoughts of leaving the place, till we could receive some news of my uncle.
And now, you will read this narrative without any view of inserting it in your history, of which it is not in the least worthy; and, indeed, you must put it down to your own request if it should appear not worth even the trouble of a letter. Farewell.
1 The Stoic and Epicurean philosophers held that the world was to be destroyed by fire, and all things fall again into original chaos; not excepting even the national gods themselves from the destruction of this general conflagration. M.
How much does the fame of human actions depend upon the station of those who perform them! The very same conduct shall be either applauded to the skies or entirely overlooked, just as it may happen to proceed from a person of conspicuous or obscure rank. I was sailing lately upon our lake,1 with an old man of my acquaintance, who desired me to observe a villa situated upon its banks, which had a chamber overhanging the water. "From that room," said he, "a woman of our city threw herself and her husband." Upon enquiring into the cause, he informed me, "That her husband having been long afflicted with an ulcer in those parts which modesty conceals, she prevailed with him at last to let her inspect the sore, assuring him at the same time that she would most sincerely give her opinion whether there was a possibility of its being cured. Accordingly, upon viewing the ulcer, she found the case hopeless, and therefore advised him to put an end to his life: she herself accompanying him, even leading the way by her example, and being actually the means of his death; for tying herself to her husband, she plunged with him into the lake." Though this happened in the very city where I was born, I never heard it mentioned before; and yet that this action is taken less notice of than that famous one of Arria's, is not because it was less remarkable, but because the person who performed it was more obscure. Farewell.
1 The lake Larius.
I am extremely glad to hear that you intend your daughter for Fuscus Salinator, and congratulate you upon it. His family is patrician,1 and both his father and mother are persons of the most distinguished merit. As for himself, he is studious, learned, and eloquent, and, with all the innocence of a child, unites the sprightliness of youth and the wisdom of age. I am not, believe me, deceived by my affection, when I give him this character; for though I love him, I confess, beyond measure (as his friendship and esteem for me well deserve), yet partiality has no share in my judgment: on the contrary, the stronger my affection for him, the more exactingly I weigh his merit. I will venture, then, to assure you (and I speak it upon my own experience) you could not have, formed to your wishes, a more accomplished son-in-law. May he soon present you with a grandson, who shall be the exact copy of his father! and with what pleasure shall I receive from the arms of two such friends their children or grandchildren, whom I shall claim a sort of right to embrace as my own! Farewell.
1 Those families were styled patrician whose ancestors had been members of the senate in the earliest times of the regal or consular government. M.
You desire me to consider what turn you should give to your speech in honour of the emperor,1 upon your being appointed consul elect.2 It is easy to find copies, not so easy to choose out of them; for his virtues afford such abundant material. However, I will write and give you my opinion, or (what I should prefer) I will let you have it in person, after having laid before you the difficulties which occur to me. I am doubtful, then, whether I should advise you to pursue the method which I observed myself on the same occasion. When I was consul elect, I avoided running into the usual strain of compliment, which, however far from adulation, might yet look like it. Not that I affected firmness and independence, but as well knowing the sentiments of our amiable prince, and being thoroughly persuaded that the highest prais I could offer to him would be to shew the world I was under no necessity of paying him any. When I reflected what profusion of honours had been heaped upon the very worst of his predecessors, nothing, I imagined, could more distinguish a prince of his real virtues from those infamous emperors than to address him in a different manner. And this I thought proper to observe in my speech, lest it might be suspected I passed over his glorious acts, not out of judgment, but inattention. Such was the method I then observed; but I am sensible the same measures are neither agreeable nor indeed suitable to all alike. Besides, the propriety of doing or omitting a thing depends not only upon persons, but time and circumstances; and as the late actions of our illustrious prince afford materials for panegyric, no less just than recent and glorious, I doubt (as I said before) whether I should persuade you in the present instance to adopt the same plan as I did myself. In this, however, I am clear, that it was proper to offer you by way of advice the method I pursued. Farewell.
2 The consuls, though they were chosen in August, did not enter upon their office till the first of January, during which interval they were styled consules designati, consuls elect. It was usual for them upon that occasion to compliment the emperor, by whose appointment, after the dissolution of the republican government, they were chosen. M.
I have the best reason, certainly, for celebrating your birthday as my own, since all the happiness of mine arises from yours, to whose care and diligence it is owing that I am gay here and at my ease in town. - Your Camillian villa1 in Campania has suffered by the injuries of time, and is falling into decay; however, the most valuable parts of the building either remain entire or are but slightly damaged, and it shall be my care to see it put into thorough repair. - Though I flatter myself I have many friends, yet I have scarcely any of the sort you enquire after, and which the affair you mention demands. All mine lie among those whose employments engage them in town; whereas the conduct of country business requires a person of a robust constitution, and bred up to the country, to whom the work may not seem hard, nor the office beneath him, and who does not feel a solitary life depressing. You think most highly of Rufus, for he was a great friend of your son's; but of what use he can be to us upon this occasion, I cannot conceive; though I am sure he will be glad to do all he can for us. Farewell.
1 So called, because it formerly belonged to Camillus. M.
I received lately the most exquisite satisfaction at Centumcellae1 (as it is now called), being summoned thither by Caesar2 to attend a council. Could anything indeed afford a higher pleasure than to see the emperor exercising his justice, his wisdom, and his affability, even in retirement, where those virtues are most observable? Various were the points brought in judgment before him, and which proved, in so many different instances, the excellence of the judge. The cause of Claudius Ariston came on first. He is an Ephesian nobleman, of great munificence and unambitious popularity, whose virtues have rendered him obnoxious to a set of people of far different characters; they had instigated an informer against him, of the same infamous stamp with themselves; but he was honourably acquitted. The next day, the case of Galitta, accused of adultery, was heard. Her husband, who is a military tribune, was upon the point of offering himself as a candidate for certain honours at Rome, but she had stained her own good name and his by an intrigue with a centurion.3 The husband informed the consul's lieutenant, who wrote to the emperor about it. Caesar, having thoroughly sifted the evidence, cashiered the centurion, and sentenced him to banishment. It remained that some penalty should be inflicted likewise upon the other party, as it is a crime of which both must necessarily by equally guilty. But the husband's affection for his wife inclined him to drop that part of the prosecution, not without some reflections on his forbearance; for he continued to live with her even after he had commenced this prosecution, content, it would seem, with having removed his rival. But he was ordered to proceed in the suit; and, though he complied with great reluctance, it was time, which, however, was diversified with amusements of the most agreeable kind. We were every day invited to Caesar's table, which, for so great a prince, was spread with much plainness and simplicity. There we were either entertained with interludes or passed the night in the most pleasing conversation. When we took our leave of him the last day, he made each of us presents; so studiously polite is Caesar! As for myself, I was not only charmed with the dignity and wisdom of the judge, the honour done to the assessors, the ease and unreserved freedom of our social intercourse, but with the exquisite situation of the place itself. This delightful villa is surrounded by the greenest meadows, and overlooks the shore, which bends inwards, forming a complete harbour. The left arm of this port is defended by exceedingly strong works, while the right is in process of completion. An artificial island, which rises at the mouth of the harbour, breaks the force of the waves, and affords a safe passage to ships on either side. This island is formed by a process worth seeing: stones of a most enormous size are transported hither in a large sort of pontoons and, being piled one upon the other, are fixed by their own weight, gradually accumulating in the manner, as it were, of a natural mound. It already lifts its rocky back above the ocean, while the waves which beat upon it, being broken and tossed to an immense height, foam with a prodigious noise, and whiten all the surrounding sea. To these stones are added wooden piers, which in process of time will give it the appearance of a natural island. This haven is to be called by the name of its great author4, and will prove of infinite benefit, by affording a secure retreat to ships on that extensive and dangerous coast. Farewell.
1 Civita Vecchia.
3 An officer in the Roman legions, answering in some sort to a captain in our companies. M.
You did perfectly right in promising a gladiatorial combat to our good friends the citizens of Verona, who have long loved, looked up to, and honoured you; while it was from that city too you received that amiable object of your most tender affection, your late excellent wife. And since you owed some monument or public representation to her memory, what other spectacle could you have exhibited more appropriate to the occasion? Besides, you were so unanimously pressed to do so that to have refused would have looked more like hardness than resolution. The readiness too with which you granted their petition, and the magnificent manner in which you performed it, is very much to your honour; for a greatness of soul is seen in these smaller instances, as well as in matters of higher moment. I wish the African panthers, which you had largely provided for this purpose, had arrived on the day appointed, but though they were delayed by the stormy weather, the obligation to you is equally the same, since it was not your fault that they were not exhibited. Farewell.
This obstinate illness of yours alarms me; and though I know how extremely temperate you are, yet I fear lest your disease should get the better of your moderation. Let me entreat you then to resist it with a determined abstemiousness: a remedy, be assured, of all others the most laudable as well as the most salutary. Human nature itself admits the practicability of what I recommend: it is a rule, at least, which I always enjoin my family to observe with respect to myself. "I hope," I say to them, "that should I be attacked with any disorder, I shall desire nothing of which I ought either to be ashamed or have reason to repent; however, if my distemper should prevail over my resolution, I forbid that anything be given me but by the consent of my physicians; and I shall resent your compliance with me in things improper as much as another man would their refusal." I once had a most violent fever; when the fit was a little abated, and I had been anointed,1 my physician offered me something to drink; I held out my hand, desiring he would first feel my pulse, and upon his not seeming quite satisfied, I instantly returned the cup, though it was just at my lips. Afterwards, when I was preparing to go into the bath, twenty days from the first attack of my illness, perceiving the physicians whispering together, I enquired what they were saying. They replied they were of opinion I might possibly bathe with safety; however, that they were not without some suspicion of risk. "What need is there," said I, "of my taking a bath at all?" And so, with perfect calmness and tranquillity, I gave up a pleasure I was upon the point of enjoying, and abstained from the bath as serenely and composedly as though I were going into it. I mention this, not only by way of enforcing my advice by example, but also that this letter may be a sort of tie upon me to persevere in the same resolute abstinence for the future. Farewell.
1 Unction was much esteemed and prescribed by the ancients. Celsus expressly recommends it in the remission of acute distempers: "ungi leniter que pertractari corpus, etiam in acutis et recentibus morbis oportet; in remissione tamen," &c. Celci Med. ed. Almeloveen p. 88. M.
You will not believe what a longing for you possesses me. The chief cause of this is my love; and then we have not grown used to be apart. So it comes to pass that I lie awake a great part of the night, thinking of you; and that by day, when the hours return at which I was wont to visit you, my feet take me, as it is so truly said, to your chamber, but not finding you there I return, sick and sad at heart, like an excluded lover. The only time that is free from these torments is when I am being worn out at the bar, and in the suits of my friends. Judge you what must be my life when I find my repose in toil, my solace in wretchedness and anxiety. Farewell.
1 His wife.
A very singular and remarkable accident has happened in the affair of Varenus, the result of which is yet doubtful. The Bithynians, it is said, have dropped their prosecution of him, being convinced at last that it was rashly undertaken. A deputy from that province is arrived, who has brought with him a decree of their assembly; copies of which he has delivered to Caesar,1 and to several of the leading men in Rome, and also to us, the advocates for Varenus. Magnus,2 nevertheless, w much applause by any speech that I ever made as I did in this instance by making none. Thus the little that I had hitherto said for Varenus was received with the same general approbation. The consuls, agreeably to the request of Polyaenus, reserved the whole affair for the determination of the emperor, whose resolution I impatiently wait for; as that will decide whether I may be entirely secure and easy with respect to Varenus, or must again renew all my trouble and anxiety upon his account. Farewell.
2 One of the Bithynians employed to manage the trial. M.
You desire my opinion as to the method of study you should pursue, in that retirement to which you have long since withdrawn. In the first place, then, I look upon it as a very advantageous practice (and it is what many recommend) to translate either from Greek into Latin or from Latin into Greek. By this means you acquire propriety and dignity of expression, and a variety of beautiful figures, and an ease and strength of exposition, and in the imitation of the best models a facility of creating such models for yourself. Besides, those things which you may possibly have overlooked in an ordinary reading over cannot escape you in translating: and this method will also enlarge your knowledge, and improve your judgment. It may not be amiss, after you have read an author, to turn, as it were, to his rival, and attempt something of your own upon the same topic, and then make a careful comparison between your performance and his, in order to see in what points either you or he may be the happier. You may congratulate yourself indeed if you shall find in some things that you have the advantage of him, while it will be a great mortification if he is always superior. You may sometimes select very famous passages and compete with what you select. The competition is daring enough, but, as it is private, cannot be called impudent. Not but that we have seen instances of persons who have publicly entered this sort of lists with great credit to themselves, and, while they did not despair of overtaking, have gloriously outstripped those whom they thought it sufficient honour to follow. A speech no longer fresh in your memory, you may take up again. You will find plenty in it to leave unaltered, but still more to reject; you will add a new thought here, and alter another there. It is a laborious and tedious task, I own, thus to re-enflame the mind after the first heat is over, to recover an impulse when its force has been checked and spent, and, worse than all, to put new limbs into a body already complete without disturbing the old; but the advantage attending this method will overbalance the difficulty. I know the bent of your present attention is directed towards the eloquence of the bar; but I would not for that reason advise you never to quit the polemic, if I may so call it, and contentious style. As land is improved by sowing it with various seeds, constantly changed, so is the mind by exercising it now with this subject of study, now with that. I would recommend you, therefore, sometimes to take a subject from history, and you might give more care to the composition of your letters. For it frequently happens that in pleading one has occasion to make use not only of historical, but even poetical, styles of description; and then from letters you acquire a concise and simple mode of expression. You will do quite right again in refreshing yourself with poetry: when I say so, I do not mean that species of poetry which turns upon subjects of great length and continuity (such being suitable only for persons of leisure), but those little pieces of the sprightly kind of poesy, which serve as proper reliefs to, and are consistent with, employments of every sort. They commonly go under the title of poetical amusements; but these amusements have sometimes gained their authors as much reputation as works of a more serious nature; and thus (for while I am exhorting you to poetry, why should I not turn poet myself?),
"As yielding wax the artist's skill commands, Submissive shap'd beneath his forming hands; Now dreadful stands in arms a Mars confest; Or now with Venus' softer air imprest; A wanton Cupid now the mould belies; Now shines, severely chaste, a Pallas wife: As not alone to quench the raging flame, The sacred fountain pours her friendly stream; But sweetly gliding through the flow'ry green, Spreads glad refreshment o'er the smiling scene: So, form'd by science, should the ductile mind Receive, distinct, each various art refin'd."
In this manner the greatest men, as well as the greatest orators, used either to exercise or amuse themselves, or rather indeed did both. It is surprising how much the mind is enlivened and refreshed by these little poetical compositions, as they turn upon love, hatred, satire, tenderness, politeness, and everything, in short, that concerns life and the affairs of the world. Besides, the same advantage attends these, as every other sort of poems, that we turn from them to prose with so much the more pleasure after having experienced the difficulty of being constrained and fettered by metre. And now, perhaps, I have troubled you upon this subject longer than you desired; however, there is one thing I have left out: I have not told you what kind of authors you should read; though indeed that was sufficiently implied when I told you on what you should write. Remember to be careful in your choice of authors of every kind: for, as it has been well observed, "though we should read much, we should not read many books." Who those authors are, is so clearly settled, and so generally known, that I need not particularly specify them; besides, I have already extended this letter to such an immoderate length that, while suggesting how you ought to study, I have, I fear, been actually interrupting your studies. I will here resign you therefore to your tablets, either to resume the studies in which you were before engaged or to enter upon some of those I have recommended. Farewell.
To Fabatus (His Wife's Grandfather)
You are surprised, I find, that my share of five-twelfths of the estate which lately fell to me, and which I had directed to be sold to the best bidder, should have been disposed of by my freedman Hermes to Corellia (without putting it up to auction) at the rate of seven hundred thousand sesterces1 for the whole. And as you think it might have fetched nine hundred thousand,2 you are so much the more desirous to know whether I am inclined to ratify what he has done. I am; and listen, while I tell you why, for I hope that not only you will approve, but also that my fellow-coheirs will excuse me for having, upon a motive of superior obligation, separated my interest from theirs. I have the highest esteem for Corellia, both as the sister of Rufus, whose memory will always be a sacred one to me, and as my mother's intimate friend. Besides, that excellent man, Minutius Tuscus, her husband, has every claim to my affection that a long friendship can give him; as there was likewise the closest intimacy between her son and me, so much so indeed that I fixed upon him to preside at the games which I exhibited when I was elected praetor. This lady, when I was last in the country, expressed a strong desire for some place upon the borders of our lake of Comum; I therefore made her an offer, at her own price, of any part of my land there, except what came to me from my father and mother; for that I could not consent to part with, even to Corellia, and accordingly when the inheritance in question fell to me, I wrote to let her know it was to be sold. This letter I sent by Hermes, who, upon her requesting him that he would immediately make over to her my proportion of it, consented. Am I not then obliged to confirm what my freedman has thus done in pursuance of my inclinations? I have only to entreat my fellow-coheirs that they will not take it ill at my hands that I have made a separate sale of what I had certainly a right to dispose of. They are not bound in any way to follow my example, since they have not the same connections with Corellia. They are at full liberty therefore to be guided by interest, which in my own case I chose to sacrifice to friendship. Farewell.
1 About $28,000.
2 About $36,000.
You are truly generous to desire and insist that I take for my share of the estate you purchased of me, not after the rate of seven hundred thousand sesterces for the whole, as my freedman sold it to you; but in the proportion of nine hundred thousand, agreeably to what you gave to the farmers of the twentieths for their part. But I must desire and insist in my turn that you would consider not only what is suitable to your character, but what is worthy of mine; and that you would suffer me to oppose your inclination in this single instance, with the same warmth that I obey it in all others. Farewell.
Every author has his particular reasons for reciting his works; mine, I have often said, are, in order, if any error should have escaped my own observation (as no doubt they do escape it sometimes), to have it pointed out to me. I cannot therefore but be surprised to find (what your letter assures me) that there are some who blame me for reciting my speeches: unless, perhaps, they are of opinion that this is the single species of composition that ought to be held exempt from any correction. If so, I would willingly ask them why they allow (if indeed they do allow) that history may be recited, since it is a work which ought to be devoted to truth, not ostentation? or why tragedy, as it is composed for action and the stage, not for being read to a private audience? or lyric poetry, as it is not a reader, but a chorus of voices and instruments that it requires? They will reply, perhaps, that in the instances referred to, custom has made the practice in question usual: I should be glad to know, then, if they think the person who first introduced this practice is to be condemned? Besides, the rehearsal of speeches is no unprecedented thing either with us or the Grecians. Still, perhaps, they will insist that it can answer no purpose to recite a speech which has already been delivered. True, if one were immediately to repeat am not in the habit of reciting my works publicly, but only to a select circle, whose presence I respect, and whose judgment I value; in a word, whose opinions I attend to as if they were so many individuals I had separately consulted, at the same time that I stand in as much awe before them as I should before the most numerous assembly. What Cicero says of composing will, in my opinion, hold true of the dread we have of the public: "Fear is the most rigid critic imaginable." The very thought of reciting, the very entrance into an assembly, and the agitated concern when one is there; each of these circumstances tends to improve and perfect an author's performance. Upon the whole, therefore, I cannot repent of a practice which I have found by experience so exceedingly useful; and am so far from being discouraged by the trifling objections of these censors that I request you would point out to me if there is yet any other kind of correction, that I may also adopt it; for nothing can sufficiently satisfy my anxiety to render my compositions perfect. I reflect what an undertaking it is, resigning any work into the hands of the public; and I cannot but be persuaded that frequent revisals, and many consultations, must go to the perfecting of a performance, which one desires should universally and for ever please. Farewell.
1 There is a kind of witticism in this expression, which will be lost to the mere English reader, unless he be informed that the Romans had a privilege, confirmed to them by several laws which passed in the earlier ages of the republic, of appealing from the decisions of the magistrates to the general assembly of the people: and they did so in the form of words which Pomponius here applies to a different purpose. M.
The illness of my friend Fannia gives me great concern. She contracted it during her attendance on Junia, one of the Vestal Virgins, engaging in this good office at first voluntarily, Junia being her relation, and afterwards being appointed to it by an order from the college of priests: for these virgins, when excessive ill health renders it necessary to remove them from the temple of Vesta, are always delivered over to the care and custody of some venerable matron. It was owing to her assiduity in the execution of this charge that she contracted her present dangerous disorder, which is a continual fever, attended with a cough that increases daily. She is extremely emaciated, and every part of her seems in a total decay except her spirits: those, indeed, she fully keeps up; and in a way altogether worthy the wife of Helvidius, and the daughter of Thrasea. In all other respects there is such a falling away that I am more than apprehensive upon her account; I am deeply afflicted. I grieve, my friend, that so excellent a woman is going to be removed from the eyes of the world, which will never, perhaps, again behold her equal. So pure she is, so pious, so wise and prudent, so brave and steadfast! Twice she followed her husband into exile, and the third time she was banished herself upon his account. For Senecio, when arraigned for writing the life of Helvidius, having said in his defence that he composed that work at the request of Fannia, Metius Carus, with a stern and threatening air, asked her whether she had made that request, and she replied, "I made it." Did she supply him likewise with materials for the purpose? "I did." Was her mother privy to this transaction? "She was not." In short, throughout her whole examination, not a word escaped her which betrayed the smallest fear. On the contrary, she had preserved a copy of those very books which the senate, overawed by the tyranny of the times, had ordered to be suppressed, and at the same time the effects of the author to be confiscated, and carried with her into exile the very cause of her exile. How pleasing she is, how courteous, and (what is granted to few) no less lovable than worthy of all esteem and admiration! Will she hereafter be pointed out as a model to all wives; and perhaps be esteemed worthy of being set forth as an example of fortitude even to our sex; since, while we still have the pleasure of seeing and conversing with her, we contemplate her with the same admiration, as those heroines who are celebrated in ancient story? For myself, I confess, I cannot but tremble for this illustrious house, which seems shaken to its very foundations, and ready to fall; for though she will leave descendants behind her, yet what a height of virtue must they attain, what glorious deeds must they perform, ere the world will be persuaded that she was not the last of her family! It is an additional affliction and anguish to me that by her death I seem to lose her mother a second time; that worthy mother (and what can I say higher in her praise?) of so noble a woman! who, as she was restored to me in her daughter, so she will now again be taken from me, and the loss of Fannia will thus pierce my heart at once with a fresh, and at the same time reopened, wound. I so truly loved and honoured them both, that I know not which I loved the best; a point they desired might ever remain undetermined. In their prosperity and their adversity I did them every kindness in my power, and was their comforter in exile, as well as their avenger at their return. But I have not yet paid them what I owe, and am so much the more solicitous for the recovery of this lady, that I may have time to discharge my debt to her. Such is the anxiety and sorrow under which I write this letter! But if some divine power should happily turn it into joy, I shall not complain of the alarms I now suffer. Farewell.
Numidia Quadratilla is dead, having almost reached her eightieth year. She enjoyed, up to her last illness, uninterrupted good health, and was unusually stout and robust for one of her sex. She has left a very prudent will, having disposed of two-thirds of her estate to her grandson, and the rest to her granddaughter. The young lady I know very slightly, but the grandson is one of my most intimate friends. He is a remarkable young man, and his merit entitles him to the affection of a relation, even where his blood does not. Notwithstanding his remarkable personal beauty, he escaped every malicious imputation both whilst a boy and when a youth: he was a husband at four-and-twenty, and would have been a father if Providence had not disappointed his hopes. He lived in the family with his grandmother, who was exceedingly devoted to the pleasures of the town, yet observed great severity of conduct himself, while always perfectly deferential and submissive to her. She retained a set of pantomimes, and was an encourager of this class of people to a degree inconsistent with one of her sex and rank. But Quadratus never appeared at these entertainments, whether she exhibited them in the theatre or in her own house; not indeed did she require him to be present. I once heard her say, when she was recommending to me the supervision of her grandson's studies, that it was her custom, in order to pass away some of those unemployed hours with which female life abounds, to amuse herself with playing at chess, or seeing the mimicry of her pantomimes; but that, whenever she engaged in either of those amusements, she constantly sent away her grandson to his studies: she appeared to me to act thus as much out of reverence for the youth as from affection. I was a good deal surprised, as I am sure you will be too, at what he told me the last time the Pontifical games1 were exhibited. As we were coming out of the theatre together, where we had been entertained with a show of these pantomimes, "Do you know," said he, "to-day is the first time I ever saw my grandmother's freedman dance?" Such was the grandson's speech! while a set of men of a far different stamp, in order to do honour to Quadratilla (I am ashamed to call it honour), were running up and down the theatre, pretending to be struck with the utmost admiration and rapture at the performances of those pantomimes, and then imitating in musical chant the mien and manner of their lady patroness. But now all the reward they have got, in return for their theatrical performances, is just a few trivial legacies, which they have the mortification to receive from an heir who was never so much as present at these shows. - I send you this account, knowing you do not dislike hearing town news, and because, too, when any occurrence has given me pleasure, I love to renew it again by relating it. And indeed this instance of affection in Quadratilla, and the honour done therein to that excellent youth, her grandson, has afforded me a very sensible satisfaction; as I extremely rejoice that the house which once belonged to Cassius,2 the founder and chief of the Cassian school, is come into the possession of one no less considerable than its former master. For my friend will fill it and become it as he ought, and its ancient dignity, lustre, and glory will again revive under Quadratus, who, I am persuaded, will prove as eminent an orator as Cassius was a lawyer. Farewell.
1 The priests, as well as other magistrates, exhibited public games to the people when they entered upon their office. M.
2 A famous lawyer who flourished in the reign of the emperor Claudius: those who followed his opinions were said to be Cassians, or of the school of Cassius. M.
The lingering disorder of a friend of mine gave me occasion lately to reflect that we are never so good as when oppressed with illness. Where is the sick man who is either solicited by avarice or inflamed with lust? At such a season he is neither a slave of love nor the fool of ambition; wealth he utterly disregards, and is content with ever so small a portion of it, as being upon the point of leaving even that little. It is then he recollects there are gods, and that he himself is but a man: no mortal is then the object of his envy, his admiration, or his contempt; and the tales of slander neither raise his attention nor feed his curiosity: his dreams are only of baths and fountains. These are the supreme objects of his cares and wishes, while he resolves, if he should recover, to pass the remainder of his days in ease and tranquillity, that is, to live innocently and happily. I may therefore lay down to you and myself a short rule, which the philosophers have endeavoured to inculcate at the expense of many words, and even many volumes; that "we should try and realize in health those resolutions we form in sickness." Farewell.
The present recess from business we are now enjoying affords you leisure to give, and me to receive, instruction. I am extremely desirous therefore to know whether you believe in the existence of ghosts, and that they have a real form, and are a sort of divinities, or only the visionary impressions of a terrified imagination. What particularly inclines me to believe in their existence is a story which I heard of Curtius Rufus. When he was in low circumstances and unknown in the world, he attended the governor of Africa into that province. One evening, as he was walking in the public portico, there appeared to him the figure of a woman, of unusual size and of beauty more than human. And as he stood there, terrified and astonished, she told him she was the tutelary power that presided over Africa, and was come to inform him of the future events of his life: that he should go back to Rome, to enjoy high honours there, and return to that province invested with the proconsular dignity, and there should die. Every circumstance of this prediction actually came to pass. It is said farther that upon his arrival at Carthage, as he was coming out of the ship, the same figure met him upon the shore. It is certain, at least, that being seized with a fit of illness, though there were no symptoms in his case that led those about him to despair, he instantly gave up all hope of recovery; judging, apparently, of the truth of the future part of the prediction by what had already been fulfilled, and of the approaching misfortune from his former prosperity. Now the following story, which I am going to tell you just as I heard it, is it not more terrible than the former, while quite as wonderful? There was at Athens a large and roomy house, which had a bad name, so that no one could live there. In the dead of the night a noise, resembling the clashing of iron, was frequently heard, which, if you listened more attentively, sounded like the rattling of chains, distant at first, but approaching nearer by degrees: immediately afterwards a spectre appeared in the form of an old man, of extremely emaciated and squalid appearance, with a long beard and dishevelled, hair, rattling the chains on his feet and hands. The distressed occupants meanwhile passed their wakeful nights under the most dreadful terrors imaginable. This, as it broke their rest, ruined their health, and brought on distempers, their terror grew upon them, and death ensued. Even in the daytime, though the spirit did not appear, yet the impression remained so strong upon their imaginations that it still seemed before their eyes, and kept them in perpetual alarm. Consequently the house was at length deserted, as being deemed absolutely uninhabitable; so that it was now entirely abandoned to the ghost. However, in hopes that some tenant might be found who was ignorant of this very alarming circumstance, a bill was put up, giving notice that it was either to be let or sold. It happened that Athenodorus,1 the philosopher, came to Athens at this time, and, reading the bill, enquired the price. The extraordinary cheapness raised his suspicion; nevertheless, when and recognized the ghost exactly as it had been described to him: it stood before him, beckoning with the finger, like a person who calls another. Athenodorus in reply made a sign with his hand that it should wait a little, and threw his eyes again upon his papers; the ghost then rattled its chains over the head of the philosopher, who looked up upon this, and seeing it beckoning as before, immediately arose, and, light in hand, followed it. The ghost slowly stalked along, as if encumbered with its chains, and, turning into the area of the house, suddenly vanished. Athenodorus, being thus deserted, made a mark with some grass and leaves on the spot where the spirit left him. The next day he gave information to the magistrates, and advised them to order that spot to be dug up. This was accordingly done, and the skeleton of a man in chains was found there; for the body, having lain a considerable time in the ground, was putrefied and mouldered away from the fetters. The bones, being collected together, were publicly buried, and thus after the ghost was appeased by the proper ceremonies, the house was haunted no more. This story I believe upon the credit of others; what I am going to mention, I give you upon my own. I have a freedman named Marcus, who is by no means illiterate. One night, as he and his younger brother were lying together, he fancied he saw somebody upon his bed, who took out a pair of scissors, and cut off the hair from the top part of his own head, and in the morning, it appeared his hair was actually cut, and the clippings lay scattered about the floor. A short time after this, an event of a similar nature contributed to give credit to the former story. A young lad of my family was sleeping in his apartment with the rest of his companions, when two persons clad in white came in, as he says, through the windows, cut off his hair as he lay, and then returned the same way they entered. The next morning it was found that this boy had been served just as the other, and there was the hair again, spread about the room. Nothing remarkable indeed followed these events, unless perhaps that I escaped a prosecution, in which, if Domitian (during whose reign this happened) had lived some time longer, I should certainly have been involved. For after the death of that emperor, articles of impeachment against me were found in his scrutore, which had been exhibited by Carus. It may therefore be conjectured, since it is customary for persons under any public accusation to let their hair grow, this cutting off the hair of my servants was a sign I should escape the imminent danger that threatened me. Let me desire you then to give this question your mature consideration. The subject deserves your examination; as, I trust, I am not myself altogether unworthy a participation in the abundance of your superior knowledge. And though you should, as usual, balance between two opinions, yet I hope you will lean more on one side than on the other, lest, whilst I consult you in order to have my doubt settled, you should dismiss me in the same suspense and indecision that occasioned you the present application. Farewell.
1 A Stoic philosopher and native of Tarsus. He was tutor for some time to Octavius, afterwards Augustus, Caesar.
You tell me certain persons have blamed me in your company, as being upon all occasions too lavish in the praise I give my friends. I not only acknowledge the charge, but glory in it; for can there be a nobler error than an overflowing benevolence? But still, who are these, let me ask, that are better acquainted with my friends than I am myself? Yet grant there are any such, why will they deny me the satisfaction of so pleasing a mistake? For supposing my friends not to deserve the highest encomiums I give them, yet I am happy in believing they do. Let them recommend then this malignant zeal to those (and their number is not inconsiderable) who imagine they shew their judgment when they indulge their censure upon their friends. As for myself, they will never be able to persuade me I can be guilty of an excess1 in friendship. Farewell.
1 Balzac very prettily observes: "Il y a des rivieres qui ne font jamais tant de bien que quand elles se debordent; de meme, l'amitie n'a rien meilleur que l'exces." M.
I predict (and I am persuaded I shall not be deceived) that your histories will be immortal. I frankly own therefore I so much the more earnestly wish to find a place in them. If we are generally careful to have our faces taken by the best artists, ought we not to desire that our actions may be celebrated by an author of your distinguished abilities? I therefore call your attention to the following matter, which, though it cannot have escaped your notice, as it is mentioned in the public journals, still I call your attention to, that you may the more readily believe how agreeable it will be to me that this action, greatly heightened by the risk which attended it, should receive additional lustre from the testimony of a man of your powers. The senate appointed Herennius Senecio, and myself, counsel for the province of Baetica, in their impeachment of Baebius Massa. He was condemned, and the house ordered his effects to be seized into the hands of the public officer. Shortly after, Senecio, having learnt that the consuls intended to sit to hear petitions, came and said to me, "Let us go together, and petition them with the same unanimity in which we executed the office which had been enjoined us, not to suffer Massa's effects to be dissipated by those who were appointed to preserve them." I answered, "As we were counsel in this affair by order of the senate, I recommend it to your consideration whether it would be proper for us, after sentence passed, to interpose any farther." "You are at liberty," said he, "to prescribe what bounds you please to yourself, who have no particular connections with the province, except what arise from your late services to them; but then I was born there, and enjoyed the post of quaestor among them." "If such," I replied, "is your determined resolution, I am ready to accompany you, that whatever resentment may be the consequence of this affair, it may not fall singly upon yourself." We accordingly proceeded to the consuls, where Senecio said what was pertinent to the affair, and I added a few words to the same effect. Scarcely had we ended when Massa, complaining that Senecio had not acted against him with the fidelity of an advocate, but the bitterness of an enemy, desired he might be at liberty to prosecute him for treason. This occasioned general consternation. Whereupon I rose up; "Most noble consuls," said I, "I am afraid it should seem that Massa has tacitly charged me with having favoured him in this cause, since he did not think proper to join me with Senecio in the desired prosecution." This short speech was immediately received with applause, and afterwards got much talked about everywhere. The late emperor Nerva (who, though at that time in a private station, yet interested himself in every meritorious action performed in public) wrote a most impressive letter to me upon the occasion, in which he not only congratulated me, but the age which had produced an example so much in the spirit (as he was pleased to call it) of the good old days. But, whatever be the actual fact, it lies in your power to raise it into a grander and more conspicuously illustrious position, though I am far from desiring you in the least to exceed the bounds of reality. History ought to be guided by strict truth, and worthy actions require nothing more. Farewell.
I had a good journey here, excepting only that some of my servants, were upset by the excessive heat. Poor Encolpius, my reader,1 who is so indispensable to me in my studies and amusements, was so affected with the dust that it brought on a spitting of blood: an accident which will prove no less unpleasant to me than unfortunate to himself, should he be thereby rendered unfit for the literary work in which he so greatly excels. If that should unhappily result, where shall I find one who will read my works so well, or appreciate them so thoroughly, as he? Whose tones will my ears drink in as they do his? But the gods seem to favour our better hopes, as the bleeding is stopped, and the pain abated. Besides, he is extremely temperate; while no concern is wanting on my part or care on his physician's. This, together with the wholesomeness of the air, and the quiet of retirement, gives us reason to expect that the country will contribute as much to the restoration of his health as to his rest. Farewell.
1 Persons of rank and literature among the Romans retained in their families a domestic whose sole business was to read to them. M.
Other people visit their estates in order to recruit their purses; whilst I go to mine only to return so much the poorer. I had sold my vintage to the merchants, who were extremely eager to purchase it, encouraged by the price it then bore, and what it was probable it would rise to: however, they were disappointed in their expectations. Upon this occasion to have made the same general abatement to all would have been much the easiest, though not so equitable a method. Now I hold it particularly worthy of a man of honour to be governed by principles of strict equity in his domestic as well as public conduct; in little matters as in great ones; in his own concerns as well as in those of others. And if every deviation from rectitude is equally criminal,1 every approach to it must be equally praiseworthy. So accordingly, I remitted to all in general one-eighth part of the price they had agreed to give me, that none might go away without some compensation: next, I particularly considered those who had advanced the largest sums towards their purchase, and done me so much the more service, and been greater sufferers themselves. To those, therefore, whose purchase amounted to more than ten thousand sesterces,2 I returned (over and above that which I may call the general and common eighth) a tenth part of what they had paid beyond that sum. I fear I do not express myself sufficiently clearly; I will endeavour to explain my meaning more fully: for instance, suppose a man had purchased of me to the value of fifteen thousand sesterces,3 I remitted to him one-eighth part of that whole sum, and likewise one-tenth of five thousand.4 Besides this, as several had deposited, in different proportions, part of the price they had agreed to pay, whilst others had advanced nothing, I thought it would not be at all fair that all these should be favoured with the same undistinguished remission. To those, therefore, who had made any payments, I returned a tenth part upon the sums so paid. By this means I made a proper acknowledgment to each, according to their respective deserts, and likewise encouraged them, not only to deal with me for the future, but to be prompt in their payments. This instance of my good nature or my judgment (call it which you please) was a considerable expense to me. However, I found my account in it; for all the country greatly approved both of the novelty of these abatements and the manner in which I regulated them. Even those whom I did not "mete" (as they say) "by the same measure," but distinguished according to their several degrees, thought themselves obliged to me, in proportion to the probity of their principles, and went away pleased with having experienced that not with me "The brave and mean an equal honour find."5 Farewell.
1 It was a doctrine maintained by the Stoics that all crimes are equal. M.
2 About $400.
3 About $600.
4 About $93.
5 Hom. Il. lib. ix., v. 319.
Have you ever seen the source of the river Clitumnus? If you have not (and I hardly think you can have seen it yet, or you would have told me), go there as soon as possible. I saw it yesterday, and I blame myself for not having seen it sooner. At the foot of a little hill, well wooded with old cypress-trees, a spring gushes out, which, breaking up into different and unequal streams, forms itself, after several windings, into a large, broad basin of water, so transparently clear that you may count the shining pebbles, and the little pieces of money thrown into it, as they lie at the bottom. From thence it is carried off not so much by the declivity of the ground as by its own weight and exuberance. A mere stream at its source, immediately, on quitting this, you find it expanded into a broad river, fit for large vessels even, allowing a free passage by each other, according as they sail with or against the stream. The current runs so strong, though the ground is level, that the large barges going down the river have no occasion to make use of their oars; while those going up find it difficult to make headway even with the assistance of oars and poles: and this alternate interchange of ease and toil, according as you turn, is exceedingly amusing when one sails up and down merely for pleasure. The banks are well covered with ash and poplar, the shape and colour of the trees being as clearly and distinctly reflected in the stream as if they were actually sunk in it. The water is cold as snow, and as white too. Near it stands an ancient and venerable temple, in which is placed the river-god Clitumnus clothed in the usual robe of state; and indeed the prophetic oracles here delivered sufficiently testify the immediate presence of that divinity. Several little chapels are scattered round, dedicated to particular gods, distinguished each by his own peculiar name and form of worship, and some of them, too, presiding over different fountains. For, besides the principal spring, which is, as it were, the parent of all the rest, there are several other lesser streams, which, taking their rise from various sources, lose themselves in the river; over which a bridge is built that separates the sacred part from that which lies open to common use. Vessels are allowed to come above this bridge, but no person is permitted to swim except below it. The Hispellates, to whom Augustus gave this place, furnish a public bath, and likewise entertain all strangers, at their own expense. Several villas, attracted by the beauty of this river, stand about on its borders. In short, every surrounding object will afford you entertainment. You may also amuse yourself with numberless inscriptions upon the pillars and walls, by different persons, celebrating the virtues of the fountain, and the divinity that presides over it. Many of them you will admire, while some will make you laugh; but I must correct myself when I say so; you are too humane, I know, to laugh upon such an occasion. Farewell.
As you are no less acquainted with the political laws of your country (which include the customs and usages of the senate) than with the civil, I am particularly desirous to have your opinion whether I was mistaken in an affair the more reasonably entreat you, in the first place, to pardon my error (if I have been guilty of one), and, in the next, to lead me out of it by your superior knowledge: for you have always been diligent to examine into the cons therefore in the same manner to be counted in the senate as contrary opinions, since they were delivered as different ones. Suppose the same person had moved that they should both have been banished and put to death, could they possibly, i opinions were resolved at length into two; and of those two, one prevailed, and the other was rejected; while the third, as it was not powerful enough to conquer both the others, had only to choose to which of the two it would yield. Farewell.
1 Those of Nero and Domitian. M.
2 When Nerva and Trajan received the empire. M.
The sickness lately in my family, which has carried off several of my servants, some of them, too, in the prime of their years, has been a great affliction to me. I have two consolations, however, which, though by no means equivalent to such a grief, still are consolations. One is, that as I have always readily manumitted my slaves, their death does not seem altogether immature, if they lived long enough to receive their freedom: the other, that I have allowed them to make a kind of will,1 which I observe as religiously as if they were legally entitled to that privilege. I receive and obey their last requests and injunctions as so many authoritative commands, suffering them to dispose of their effects to whom they please; with this single restriction, that they leave them to someone in my household, for to slaves the house they are in is a kind of state and commonwealth, so to speak. But though I endeavour to acquiesce under these reflections, yet the same tenderness which led me to shew them these indulgences weakens and gets the better of me. However, I would not wish on that account to become harder: though the generality of the world, I know, look upon losses of this kind in no other view than as a diminution of their property, and fancy, by cherishing such an unfeeling temper, they shew a superior fortitude and philosophy. Their fortitude and philosophy I will not dispute. But humane, I am sure, they are not; for it is the very criterion of true manhood to feel those impressions of sorrow which it endeavours to resist, and to admit not to be above the want of consolation. But perhaps I have detained you too long upon this subject, though not so long as I would. There is a certain pleasure even in giving vent to one's grief; especially when we weep on the bosom of a friend who will approve, or, at least, pardon, our tears. Farewell.
1 A slave could acquire no property, and consequently was incapable by law of making a will. M.
Is the weather with you as rude and boisterous as it is with us? All here is tempest and inundation. The Tiber has swelled its channel, and overflowed its banks far and wide. Though the wise precaution of the emperor had guarded against this evil, by cutting several outlets to the river, it has nevertheless flooded all the fields and valleys and entirely overspread the whole face of the flat country. It seems to have gone out to meet those rivers which it used to receive and carry off in one united stream, and has driven them back to deluge those countries it could not reach itself. That most delightful of rivers, the Anio, which seems invited and detained in its course by the villas built along its banks, has almost entirely rooted up and carried away the woods which shaded its borders. It has overthrown whole mountains, and, in endeavouring to find a passage through the mass of ruins that obstructed its way, has forced down houses, and risen and spread over the desolation it has occasioned. The inhabitants of the hill countries, who are situated above the reach of this inundation, have been the melancholy spectators of its dreadful effects, having seen costly furniture, instruments of husbandry, ploughs, and oxen with their drivers, whole herds of cattle, together with the trunks of trees, and beams of the neighbouring villas, floating about in different parts. Nor indeed have these higher places themselves, to which the waters could not reach up, escaped the calamity. A continued heavy rain and tempestuous hurricane, as destructive as the river itself, poured down upon them, and has destroyed all the enclosures which divided that fertile country. It has damaged likewise, and even overturned, some of the public buildings, by the fall of which great numbers have been maimed, smothered, bruised. And thus lamentation over the fate of friends has been added to losses. I am extremely uneasy lest this extensive ruin should have spread to you: I beg therefore, if it has not, you will immediately relieve my anxiety; and indeed I desire you would inform me though it should have done so; for the difference is not great between fearing a danger, and feeling it; except that the evil one feels has some bounds, whereas one's apprehensions have none. For we can suffer no more than what actually has happened, but we fear all that possibly could happen. Farewell.
The common notion is certainly quite a false one, that a man's will is a kind of mirror in which we may clearly discern his real character, for Domitius Tullus appears a much better man since his death than he did during his lifetime. After having artfully encouraged the expectations of those who paid court to him, with a view to being his heirs, he has left his estate to his niece whom he adopted. He has given likewise several very considerable legacies among his grandchildren, and also to his great-grandson. In a word, he has shewn himself a most kind relation throughout his whole will; which is so much the more to be admired as it was not expected of him. This affair has been very much talked about, and various opinions expressed: some call him false, ungrateful, and forgetful, and, while thus railing at him in this way as if they were actually disinherited, kindred, betray their own dishonest designs: others, on the contrary, applaud him extremely for having disappointed the hopes of this infamous tribe of men, whom, considering the disposition of the times, it is but prudence to deceive. They add that he was not at liberty to make any other will, and that he cannot so properly be said to have bequeathed, as returned, his estate to his adopted daughter, since it w had of his riches was to contemplate them. He was even (sad and disgusting to relate) reduced to the necessity of having his teeth washed and scrubbed by others: in allusion to which he used frequently to say, when he was complaining of the indignities which his infirmities obliged him to suffer, that he was every day compelled to lick his servant's fingers. Still, however, he lived on, and was willing to accept of life upon such terms. That he lived so long as he did was particularly owing, indeed, to the care of his wife, who, whatever reputation she might lose at first by her marriage, acquired great honour by her unwearied devotion as his wife. - Thus I have given you all the news of the town, where nothing is talked of but Tullus. It is expected his curiosities will shortly be sold by auction. He had such an abundant collection of very old statues that he actually filled an extensive garden with them, the very same day he purchased it; not to mention numberless other antiques, lying neglected in his lumber-room. If you have anything worth telling me in return, I hope you will not refuse the trouble of writing to me: not only as we are all of us naturally fond, you know, of news, but because example has a very beneficial influence upon our own conduct. Farewell.
Those works of art or nature which are usually the motives of our travels are often overlooked and neglected if they lie within our reach: whether it be that we are naturally less inquisitive concerning those things which are near us, while our curiosity is excited by remote objects; or because the easiness of gratifying a desire is always sure to damp it; or, perhaps, that we put off from time to time going and seeing what we know we have an opportunity of seeing when we please. Whatever the reason be, it is certain there are numberless curiosities in and near Rome which we have not only never seen, but even never so much as heard of: and yet had they been the produce of Greece, or Egypt, or Asia, or any other country which we admire as fertile and productive of belief in wonders, we should long since have heard of them, read of them, and enquired into them. For myself at least, I confess, I have lately been entertained with one of these curiosities, to which I was an entire stranger before. My wife's grandfather desired I would look over his estate near Ameria.1 As I was walking over his grounds, I was shewn a lake that lies below them, called Vadimon,2 about which several very extraordinary things are told. I went up to this lake. It is perfectly circular in form, like a wheel lying on the ground; there is not the least curve or projection of the shore, but all is regular, even and just as if it had been hollowed and cut out by the hand of art. The water is of a clear sky-blue, though with somewhat of a greenish tinge; its smell is sulphurous, and its flavour has medicinal properties, and is deemed of great efficacy in all fractures of the limbs, which it is supposed to heal. Though of but moderate extent, yet the winds have a great effect upon it, throwing it into violent agitation. No vessels are suffered to sail here, as its waters are held sacred; but several floating islands swim about it, covered with reeds and rushes, and with whatever other plants the surrounding marshy ground and the edge itself of the lake produce in greater abundance. Each island has its peculiar shape and size, but the edges of all of them are worn away by their frequent collision with the shore and one another. They are all of the same height and motion; as their respective roots, which are formed like the keel of a boat, may be seen hanging not very far down in the water, and at an equal depth, on whichever side you stand. Sometimes they move in a cluster, and seem to form one entire little continent; sometimes they are dispersed into different quarters by the wind; at other times, when it is calm, they float up and down separately. You may frequently see one of the larger islands sailing along with a lesser joined to it, like a ship with its long boat; or, perhaps, seeming to strive which shall outswim the other: then again they are all driven to the same spot, and by joining themselves to the shore, sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other, lessen or restore the size of the lake in this part or that, accordingly, till at last, uniting in the centre, they restore it to its usual size. The sheep which graze upon the borders of this lake frequently go upon these islands to feed, without perceiving that they have left the shore, until they are alarmed by finding themselves surrounded with water; as though they had been forcibly conveyed and placed there. Afterwards, when the wind drives them back again, they as little perceive their return as their departure. This lake empties itself into a river, which, after running a little way, sinks underground, and, if anything is thrown in, it brings it up again where the stream emerges. - I have given you this account because I imagined it would not be less new, nor less agreeable, to you than it was to me; as I know you take the same pleasure as myself in contemplating the works of nature. Farewell
1 Now called Amelia, a town in Ombria. M.
2 Now Laghetto di Bassano. M.
Nothing, in my opinion, gives a more amiable and becoming grace to our studies, as well as manners, than to temper the serious with the gay, lest the former should degenerate into melancholy, and the latter run up into levity. Upon this plan it is that I diversify my graver works with compositions of a lighter nature. I had chosen a convenient place and season for some productions of that sort to make their appearance in; and designing to accustom them early to the tables of the idle, I fixed upon the month of July, which is usually a time of vacation to the courts of justice, in order to read them to some of my friends I had collected together; and accordingly I placed a desk before each couch. But as I happened that morning to be unexpectedly called away to attend a cause, I took occasion to preface my recital with an apology. I entreated my audience not to impute it to me as any want of due regard for the business to which I had invited them that on the very day I had appointed for reading my performances to a small circle of my friends I did not refuse my services to others in their law affairs. I assured them I would observe the same rule in my writings, and should always give the preference to business before pleasure; to serious engagements before amusing ones; and to my friends before myself. The poems I recited consisted of a variety of subjects in different metres. It is thus that we who dare not rely for much upon our abilities endeavour to avoid satiating our readers. In compliance with the earnest solicitation of my audience, I recited for two days successively; but not in the manner that several practise, by passing over the feebler passages, and making a merit of so doing: on the contrary, I omitted nothing, and freely confessed it. I read the whole, that I might correct the whole; which it is impossible those who only select particular passages can do. The latter method, indeed, may have more the appearance of modesty, and perhaps respect; but the former shows greater simplicity, as well as a more affectionate disposition towards the audience. For the belief that a man's friends have so much regard for him as not to be weary on these occasions, is a sure indication of the love he bears them. Otherwise, what good do friends do you who assemble merely for their own amusement? He who had rather find his friend's performance correct, than make it so, is to be regarded as a stranger, or one who is too lackadaisical to give himself any trouble. Your affection for me leaves me no room to doubt that you are impatient to read my book, even in its present very imperfect condition. And so you shall, but not until I have made those corrections which were the principal inducement of my recital. You are already acquainted with some parts of it; but even those, after they have been improved (or perhaps spoiled, as is sometimes the case by the delay of excessive revision), will seem quite new to you. For when a piece has undergone various changes, it gets to look new, even in those very parts which remain unaltered. Farewell.
My affection for you obliges me, not indeed to direct you (for you are far above the wan bounds: for there can be no danger of excess where one cannot love too well. Farewell.
Others may think as they please; but the happiest man, in my opinion, is he who lives in the conscious anticipation of an honest and enduring name, and secure of future glory in the eyes of posterity. I confess, if I had not the reward of an immortal reputation in view. I should prefer a life of uninterrupted ease and indolent retirement to any other. There seem to be two points worthy every man's attention: endless fame, or the short duration of life. Those who are actuated by the former motive ought to exert themselves to the very utmost of their power; while such as are influenced by the latter should quietly resign themselves to repose, and not wear out a short life in perishable pursuits, as we see so many doing - and then sink at last into utter self-contempt, in the midst of a wretched and fruitless course of false industry. These are my daily reflections, which I communicate to you, in order to renounce them if you do not agree with them; as undoubtedly you will, who are for ever meditating some glorious and immortal enterprise. Farewell.
I have spent these several days past, in reading and writing, with the most pleasing tranquillity imaginable. You will ask, "How that can possibly be in the midst of Rome?" It was the time of celebrating the Circensian games: an entertainment for which I have not the least taste. They have no novelty, no variety to recommend them, nothing, in short, one would wish to see twice. It does the more surprise me therefore that so many thousand people should be possessed with the childish passion of desiring so often to see a parcel of horses gallop, and men standing upright in their chariots. If, indeed, it were the swiftness of the horses, or the skill of the men that attracted them, there might be some pretence of reason for it. But it is the dress1 they like; it is the dress that takes their fancy. And if, in the midst of the course and contest, the different parties were to change colours, their different partisans would change sides, and instantly desert the very same men and horses whom just before they were eagerly following with their eyes, as far as they could see, and shouting out their names with all their might. Such mighty charms, such wondrous power reside in the colour of a paltry tunic! And this not only with the common crowd (more contemptible than the dress they espouse), but even with serious-thinking people. When I observe such men thus insatiably fond of so silly, so low, so uninteresting, so common an entertainment, I congratulate myself on my indifference to these pleasures: and am glad to employ the leisure of this season upon my books, which others throw away upon the most idle occupations. Farewell.
1 The performers at these games were divided into companies, distinguished by the particular colour of their habits; the principal of which were the white, the red, the blue, and the green. Accordingly the spectators favoured one or the other colour, as humour and caprice inclined them. In the reign of Justinian a tumult arose in Constantinople, occasioned merely by a contention among the partisans of these several colours, wherein no less than 30,000 men lost their lives. M.
I am pleased to find by your letter that you are engaged in building; for I may now defend my own conduct by your example. I am myself employed in the same sort of work; and since I have you, who shall deny I have reason on my side? Our situations too are not dissimilar; your buildings are carried on upon the sea-coast, mine are rising upon the side of the Larian lake. I have several villas upon the borders of this lake, but there are two particularly in which as I take most delight, so they give me most employment. They are both situated like those at Baiae1: one of them stands upon a rock, and overlooks the lake; the other actually touches it. The first, supported, as it were, by the lofty buskin,2 I call my tragic; the other, as resting upon the humble rock, my comic villa. Each has its own peculiar charm, recommending it to its possessor so much more on account of this very difference. The former commands a wider, the latter enjoys a nearer view of the lake. One, by a gentle curve, embraces a little bay; the other, being built upon a greater height, forms two; Here you have a strait walk extending itself along the banks of the lake; there, a spacious terrace that falls by a gentle descent towards it. The former does not feel the force of the waves; the latter breaks them; from that you see the fishing-vessels; from this you may fish yourself, and throw your line out of your room, and almost from your bed, as from off a boat. It is the beauties therefore these agreeable villas possess that tempt me to add to them those which are wanting. - But I need not assign a reason to you, who, undoubtedly, will think it a sufficient one that I follow your example. Farewell.
1 Now called Castello di Baia, in Terra di Lavoro. It was the place the Romans chose for their winter retreat; and which they frequented upon account of its warm baths. Some few ruins of the beautiful villas that once covered this delightful coast still remain; and nothing can give one a higher idea of the prodigious expense and magnificence of the Romans in their private buildings than the manner in which some of these were situated. It appears from this letter, as well as from several other passages in the classic writers, that they actually projected into the sea, being erected upon vast piles sunk for that purpose. M.
2 The buskin was a kind of high shoe worn upon the stage by the actors of tragedy, in order to give them a more heroical elevation of stature; as the sock was something between a shoe and stocking, it was appropriated to the comic players. M.
Your letter was particularly acceptable to me, as it mentioned your desire that I would send you something of mine, addressed to you, to insert in your works. I shall find a more appropriate occasion of complying with your request than that which you propose, the subject you point out to me being attended with some objections; and when you reconsider it, you will think so. - As I did not imagine there were any booksellers at Lugdunum,1 I am so much the more pleased to learn that my works are sold there. I rejoice to find they maintain the character abroad which they raised at home, and I begin to flatter myself they have some merit, since persons of such distant countries are agreed in their opinion with regard to them. Farewell.
A certain friend of mine lately chastised his son, in my presence, for being somewhat too expensive in the matter of dogs and horses. "And pray," I asked him, when the youth had left us, "did you never commit a fault yourself which deserved your father's correction? Did you never? I repeat. Nay, are you not sometimes even now guilty of errors which your son, were he in your place, might with equal gravity reprove? Are not all mankind subject to indiscretions? And have we not each of us our particular follies in which we fondly indulge ourselves?"
The great affection I have for you induced me to set this instance of unreasonable severity before you - a caution not to treat your son with too much harshness and severity. Consider, he is but a boy, and that there was a time when you were so too. In exerting, therefore, the authority of a father, remember always that you are a man, and the parent of a man. Farewell.
The pleasure and attention with which you read the vindication I published of Helvidius,1 has greatly raised your curiosity, it seems, to be informed of those particulars relating to that affair, which are not mentioned in the defence; as you were too young to be present yourself at that transaction. When Domitian was assassinated, a glorious opportunity, I thought, offered itself to me of pursuing the guilty, vindicating the injured, and advancing my own reputation. But amidst an infinite variety of the blackest crimes, none appeared to me more atrocious than that a senator, of praetorian dignity, and invested with the sacred character of a judge, should, even in the very senate itself, lay violent hands upon a member2 of that body, one of consular rank, and who then stood arraigned before him. Besides this general consideration, I also happened to be on terms of particular intimacy with Helvidius, as far as this was possible with one who, through fear of the times, endeavoured to veil the lustre of his fame, and his virtues, in obscurity and retirement. Arria likewise, and her daughter Fannia, who was mother-in-law to Helvidius, were in the number of my friends. But it was not so much private attachments as the honour of the public, a just indignation at the action, and the danger of the example if it should pass unpunished, that animated me upon the occasion. At the first restoration of liberty,3 every man singled out his own particular enemy (though it must be confessed, those only of a lower rank), and, in the midst of much clamour and confusion, no sooner brought the charge than procured the condemnation. But for myself, I thought it would be more reasonable and more effectual, not to take advantage o with perfect calmness, and without being in the least alarmed. Such is the effect of conscious integrity; and so much difference is there with respect to inspiring confidence or fear, whether the world had only rather one should forbear a certain act, or absolutely condemns it. It would be too tedious to relate all that was advanced, by different parties, upon this occasion. At length the consul said, "You will be at liberty, Secundus, to propose what you think proper when your turn comes to give your opinion upon the order of the day."5 I replied, "You must allow me a liberty which you never yet refused to any"; and so sat down: when immediately the house went upon another business. In the meanwhile, one of my consular friends took me aside, and, with great earnestness telling me he thought I had carried on this affair with more boldness than prudence, used every method of reproof and persuasion to prevail with me to desist; adding at the same time that I should certainly, if I persevered, render myself obnoxious to some future prince. "Be it so," I returned, "should he prove a bad one." Scarcely had he left me when a second came up: "Whatever," said he, "are you attempting? Why ever will you ruin yourself? Do you consider the risks you expose yourself to? Why will you presume too much on the present situation of public affairs, when it is so uncertain what turn they may hereafter take? You are attacking a man who is actually at the head of the treasury, and will shortly be consul. Besides, recollect what credit he has, and with what powerful friendships he is supported." Upon which he named a certain person, who (not without several strong and suspicious rumours) was then at the head of a powerful army in the east. I replied,
"'All I've foreseen, and oft in thought revolv'd;6
and am willing, if fate shall so decree, to suffer in an honest cause, provided I can draw vengeance down upon a most infamous one." The time for the members to give their opinions was now arrived. Domitius Apollinaris, the consul elect, spoke first; after him Fabricius Vejento, then Fabius Maximinus, Vettius Proculus next (who married my wife's mother, and who was the colleague of Publicius Certus, the person on whom the debate turned), and last of all Ammius Flaccus. They all defended Certus as if I had named him (though I had not yet so much as once mentioned him), and entered upon his justification as if I had exhibited a specific charge. It is not necessary to repeat in this place what they respectively said, having given it all at length in their words, in the speech above-mentioned. Avidius Quietus and Cornutus Tertullus answered them. The former observed, "that it was extremely unjust not to hear the complaints of those who thought themselves injured, and therefore that Arria and Fannia ought not to be denied the privilege of laying their grievances before the house; and that the point for the consideration of the senate was not the rank of the person, but the merit of the cause."
Then Cornutus rose up and acquainted the house, that, as he was appointed guardian to the daughter of Helvidius by the consuls, upon the petition of her mother and her father-in-law, he felt himself compelled to fulfil the duty of his trust. In the execution of which, however, he would endeavour to set some bounds to his indignation by following that great example of moderation which those excellent women7 had set, who contented themselves with barely informing the senate of the cruelties which Certus committed in order to carry on his infamous adulation; and therefore," he said, "he would move only that, if a punishment due to a crime so notoriously known should be remitted, Certus might at least be branded with some mark of the displeasure of that august assembly." Satrius Rutus spoke next, and, meaning to steer a middle course, expressed himself with considerable ambiguity. "I am of opinion," said he, "that great injustice will be done to Certus if he is not acquitted (for I do not scruple to mention his name, since the friends of Arria and Fannia, as well as his own, have done so too), nor indeed have we any occasion for anxiety upon this account. We who think well of the man shall judge him with the same impartiality as the rest; but if he is innocent, as I hope he is, and shall be glad to find, I think this house may very justly deny the present motion till some charge has been proved against him." Thus, according to the respective order in which they were called upon, they delivered their several opinions. When it came to my turn, I rose up, and, using same introduction to my speech as I have published in the defence, I replied to them severally. It is surprising with what attention, what clamorous applause I was heard, even by those who just before were loudest against me: such a wonderful change was wrought either by the importance of the affair, the successful progress of the speech, or the resolution of the advocate. After I had finished, Vejento attempted to reply; but the general clamour raised against him not permitting him to go on, "I entreat you, conscript fathers,"8 said he, "not to oblige me to implore the assistance of the tribunes."9 Immediately the tribune Murena cried out, "You have my permission, most illustrious Vejento, to go on." But still the clamour was renewed. In the interval, the consul ordered the house to divide, and having counted the voices, dismissed the senate, leaving Vejento in the midst, still attempting to speak. He made great complaints of this affront (as he called it), applying the following lines of Homer to himself:
"Great perils, father, wait the unequal fight; Those younger champions will thy strength o'ercome."10
There was hardly a man in the senate that did not embrace and kiss me, and all strove who should applaud me most, for having, at the cost of private enmities, revived a custom so long disused, of freely consulting the senate upon affairs that concern the honour of the public; in a word, for having wiped off that reproach which was thrown upon it by other orders in the state, "that the senators mutually favoured the members of their own body, while they were very severe in animadverting upon the rest of their fellow citizens." All this was transacted in the absence of Certus; who kept out of the way either because he suspected something of this nature was intended to be moved, or (as was alleged in his excuse) that he was really unwell. Caesar, however, did not refer the examination of this matter to the senate. But I succeeded, nevertheless, in my aim, another person being appointed to succeed Certus in the consulship, while the election of his colleague to that office was confirmed. And thus, the wish with which I concluded my speech, was actually accomplished: "May he be obliged," said I, "to renounce, under a virtuous prince,11 that reward he received from an infamous one!"12 Some time after I recollected, as well as I could, the speech I had made upon this occasion; to which I made several additions. It happened (though indeed it had the appearance of being something more than casual) that a few days after I had published this piece, Certus was taken ill and died. I was told that his imagination was continually haunted with this affair, and kept picturing me ever before his eyes, as a man pursuing him with a drawn sword. Whether there was any truth in this rumour, I will not venture to assert; but, for the sake of example, however, I could wish it might gain credit. And now I have sent you a letter which (considering it is a letter) is as long as the defence you say you have read: but you must thank yourself for not being content with such information as that piece could afford you. Farewell.
1 He was accused of treason, under pretence that in a dramatic piece which he composed he had, in the characters of Paris and Cenone, reflected upon Domitian for divorcing his wife Domitia. Suet. in Vit. Domit. c. 10. M.
3 Upon the accession of Nerva to the empire, after the death of Domitian. M.
4 Our author's first wife, of whom we have no particular account. After her death, he married his favourite, Calpurnia. M.
5 It is very remarkable that, when any senator was asked his opinion in the house, he had the privilege of speaking as long as he pleased upon any other affair before he came to the point in question. Aul. Gell. lib. iv., c. 10. M.
6 Aeneid, lib. vi., v. 105.
7 Arria and Fannia.
8 The appellation by which the senate was addressed. M.
9 The tribunes were magistrates chosen at first out of the body of the commons, for the defence of their liberties, and to interpose in all grievances offered by their superiors. Their authority extended even to the deliberations of the senate. M.
10 Diomed's speech to Nestor, advising him to retire from the field of battle. Iliad, viii. 102. Pope. M.
12 Domitian; by whom he had been appointed consul elect, though he had not yet entered upon that office. M.
I have received your letter, in which you complain of having been highly disgusted lately at a very splendid entertainment, by a set of buffoons, mummers, and wanton prostitutes, who were dancing about round the tables.1 But let me advise you to smooth your knitted brow somewhat. I confess, indeed, I admit nothing of this kind at my own house; however, I bear with it in others. "And why, then," you will be ready to ask, "not have them yourself?" The truth is, because the gestures of the wanton, the pleasantries of the buffoon, or the extravagancies of the mummer, give me no pleasure, as they give me no surprise. It is my particular taste, you see, not my judgment, that I plead against them. And, indeed, what numbers are there who think the entertainments with which you and I are most delighted no better than impertinent follies! How many are there who, as soon as a reader, a lyrist, or a comedian is introduced, either take their leave of the company or, if they remain, shew as much dislike to this sort of thing as you did to those monsters, as you call them! Let us bear therefore, my friend, with others in their amusements, that they, in return, may shew indulgence to ours. Farewell.
1 These persons were introduced at most of the tables of the great, for the purposes of mirth and gaiety, and constituted an essential part in all polite entertainments among the Romans. It is surprising how soon this great people fell off from their original severity of manners, and were tainted with the stale refinements of foreign luxury. Livy dates the rise of this and other unmanly delicacies from the conquest of Scipio Asiaticus over Antiochus; that is, when the Roman name had scarce subsisted above a hundred and threescore years. "Luxuriae peregrinae origo," says he, "exercitu Asiatico in urbem invecta est." This triumphant army caught, it seems, the contagious softness of the people it subdued; and, on its return to Rome, spread an infection among their countrymen, which worked by slow degrees, till it effected their total destruction. Thus did Eastern luxury revenge itself on Roman arms. It may be wondered that Pliny should keep his own temper, and check the indignation of his friends, at a scene which was fit only for the dissolute revels of the infamous Trimalchio. But it will not, perhaps, be doing justice to our author to take an estimate of his real sentiments upon this point from the letter before us. Genitor, it seems, was a man of strict, but rather of too austere morals for the free turn of the age: "emendatus et gravis: paulo etiam horridior et durior ut in hac licentia temporum" (Ep. iii., 1. 3). But as there is a certain seasonable accommodation to the manners of the times, not only extremely consistent with, but highly conducive to, the interests of virtue, Pliny, probably, may affect a greater latitude than he in general approved, in order to draw off his friend from that stiffness and unyielding disposition which might prejudice those of a gayer turn against him, and consequently lessen the beneficial influence of his virtues upon the world. M.
Your freedman, whom you lately mentioned to me with displeasure, has been with me, and threw himself at my feet with as much submission as he could have fallen at yours. He earnestly requested me with many tears, and even with all the eloquence of silent sorrow, to intercede for him; in short, he convinced me by his whole behaviour that he sincerely repents of his fault. I am persuaded he is thoroughly reformed, because he seems deeply sensible of his guilt. I know you are angry with him, and I know, too, it is not without reason; but clemency can never exert itself more laudably than when there is the most cause for resentment. You once had an affection for this man, and, I hope, will have again; meanwhile, let me only prevail with you to pardon him. If he should incur your displeasure hereafter, you will have so much the stronger plea in excuse for your anger as you shew yourself more merciful to him now. Concede something to his youth, to his tears, and to your own natural mildness of temper: do not make him uneasy any longer, and I will add, too, do not make yourself so; for a man of your kindness of heart cannot be angry without feeling great uneasiness. I am afraid, were I to join my entreaties with his, I should seem rather to compel than request you to forgive him. Yet I will not scruple even to write mine with his; and in so much the stronger terms as I have very sharply and severely reproved him, positively threatening never to interpose again in his behalf. But though it was proper to say this to him, in order to make him more fearful of offending, I do not say so to you. I may perhaps, again have occasion to entreat you upon his account, and again obtain your forgiveness; supposing, I mean, his fault should be such as may become me to intercede for, and you to pardon. Farewell.
It has frequently happened, as I have been pleading before the Court of the Hundred, that these venerable judges, after having preserved for a long period the gravity and solemnity suitable to their character, have suddenly, as though urged by irresistible impulse, risen up to a man and applauded me. I have often likewise gained as much glory in the senate as my utmost wishes could desire: but I never felt a more sensible pleasure than by an account which I lately received from Cornelius Tacitus. He informed me that, at the last Circensian games, he sat next to a Roman knight, who, after conversation had passed between them upon various points of learning, asked him, "Are you an Italian, or a provincial?" Tacitus replied, "Your acquaintance with literature must surely have informed you who I am." "Pray, then, is it Tacitus or Pliny I am talking with?" I cannot express how highly I am pleased to find that our names are not so much the proper appellatives of men as a kind of distinction for learning herself; and that eloquence renders us known to those who would otherwise be ignorant of us. An accident of the same kind happened to me a few days ago. Fabius Rufinus, a person of distinguished merit, was placed next me at table; and below him a countryman of his, who had just then come to Rome for the first time. Rufinus, calling his friend's attention to me, said to him, "You see this man?" and entered into a conversation upon the subject of my pursuits: to whom the other immediately replied, "This must undoubtedly be Pliny." To confess the truth, I look upon these instances as a very considerable recompense of my labours. If Demosthenes had reason to be pleased with the old woman of Athens crying out, "This is Demosthenes!" may not I, then, be allowed to congratulate myself upon the celebrity my name has acquired? Yes, my friend, I will rejoice in it, and without scruple admit that I do. As I only mention the judgment of others, not my own, I am not afraid of incurring the censure of vanity; especially from you, who, whilst envying no man's reputation, are particularly zealous for mine. Farewell.
I greatly approve of your having, in compliance with my letter,1 received again into your favour and family a discarded freedman, whom you once admitted into a share of your affection. This will afford you, I doubt not, great satisfaction. It certainly has me, both as a proof that your passion can be controlled, and as an instance of your paying so much regard to me as either to yield to my authority or to comply with my request. Let me, therefore, at once both praise and thank you. At the same time I must advise you to be disposed for the future to pardon the faults of your people, though there should be none to intercede in their behalf. Farewell.
1 See letter 9.21.
I said once (and, I think, not inaptly) of a certain orator of the present age, whose compositions are extremely regular and correct, but deficient in grandeur and embellishment, "His only fault is that he has none." Whereas he, who is possessed of the true spirit of oratory, should be bold and elevated, and sometimes even flame out, be hurried away, and frequently tread upon the brink of a precipice: for danger is generally near whatever is towering and exalted. The plain, it is true, affords a safer, but for that reason a more humble and inglorious, path: they who run are more likely to stumble thsn they who creep; but the latter gain no honour by not slipping, while the former even fall with glory. It is with eloquence as with some other arts; she is never more pleasing than when she risks most. Have you not observed what acclamations our rope-dancers excite at the instant of imminent danger? Whatever is most entirely unexpected, or, as the Greeks more strongly express it, whatever is most perilous, most excites our admiration. The pilot's skill is by no means equally proved in a calm as in a storm: in the former case he tamely enters the port, unnoticed and unapplauded; but when the cordage cracks, the mast bends, and the rudder groans, then it is that he shines out in all his glory, and is hailed as little inferior to a sea-god.
The reason of my making this observation is, because, if I mistake not, you have marked some passages in my writings for being tumid, exuberant, and overwrought, which, in my estimation, are but adequate to the thought, or boldly sublime. But it is material to consider whether your criticism turns upon such points as are real faults, or only striking and remarkable expressions. Whatever is elevated is sure to be observed; but it requires a very nice judgment to distinguish the bounds between true and false grandeur; between loftiness and exaggeration. To give an instance out of Homer, the author who can, with the greatest propriety, fly from one extreme of style to another:
"Heav'n in loud thunder bids the trumpet sound; And wide beneath them groans the rending ground."1
"Reclin'd on clouds his steed and armour lay."2
So in this passage:
"As torrents roll, increas'd by numerous rills, With rage impetuous down their echoing hills, Rush to the vales, and pour'd along the plain, Roar through a thousand channels to the main."3
It requires, I say, the nicest balance to poise these metaphors, and determine whether they are incredible and meaningless, or majestic and sublime. Not that I think anything which I have written, or can write, admits of comparison with these. I am not quite so foolish; but what I would be understood to contend for is, that we should give eloquence free rein, and not restrain the force and impetuosity of genius within too narrow a compass. But it will be said, perhaps, that one law applies to orators, another to poets. As if, in truth, Marc-Tully were not as bold in his metaphors as any of the poets! But not to mention particular instances from him, in a point where, I imagine, there can be no dispute; does Demosthenes4 himself, that model and standard of true oratory, does Demosthenes check and repress the fire of his indignation, in that well-known passage which begins thus? - "These wicked men, these flatterers, and these destroyers of mankind," &c. - And again: "It is neither with stones nor bricks that I have fortified this city," &c. - And afterwards: "I have thrown up these outworks before Attica, and pointed out to you all the resources which human prudence can suggest," &c. - And in another place: "O Athenians, I swear by the immortal gods that he is intoxicated with the grandeur of his own actions," &c.5 - But what can be more daring and beautiful than that long digression which begins in this manner: "A terrible disease"? - The following passage likewise, though somewhat shorter, is equally boldly conceived: "Then it was I rose up in opposition to the daring Pytho, who poured forth a torrent of menaces agai expressly declared therein that the ambassadors sent to the Oretae gave the five talents, not to you, but to Callias. And that you may be convinced of the truth of what I say (after having stripped the decree of its galleys, its trim, and its arrogant ostentation), read the clause itself." And in another part: "Suffer him not to break cover and escape out of the limits of the question." A metaphor he is so fond of that he repeats it again. "But remaining firm and confident in the assembly, drive him into the merits of the question, and observe well how he doubles." - Is his style more reserved and simple when he says: "But you are ever wounding our ears, and are more concerned in the success of your daily harangues than for the salvation of the city"? - What follows is conceived in a yet higher strain of metaphor: "Will you not expel this man as the common calamity of Greece? Will you not seize and punish this pirate of the state, who sails about in quest of favourable conjunctures," &c. - With many other passages of a similar nature. And now I expect you will make the same attacks upon certain expressions in this letter as you did upon those I have been endeavouring to defend. The rudder that groans, and the pilot compared to a sea-god, will not, I imagine, escape your criticism: for I perceive, while I am suing for indulgence to my former style, I have fallen into the same kind of figurative diction which you condemn. But attack them if you please, provided you will immediately appoint a day when we may meet to discuss these matters in person: you will then either teach me to be less daring or I shall teach you to be more bold. Farewell.
1 Iliad, xxi. 387. Pope. M.
2 Iliad, v. 356, speaking of Mars. M.
3 Iliad, iv. 452. Pope.
4 The design of Pliny in this letter is to justify the figurative expressions he had employed, probably in some oration, by instances of the same warmth of colouring from those great masters of eloquence, Demosthenes and his rival, Aeschines. But the force of the passages which he produces from these orators must necessarily be greatly weakened to a mere modern reader, some of them being only hinted at, as generally well known; and the metaphors in several of the others have either lost much of their original spirit and boldness, by being introduced and received in common language, or cannot, perhaps, be preserved in an English translation. M.
5 See 1st Philippic.
6 See Demosthenes' speech in defence of Ctesiphon.
7 See 2nd Olynthiac.
8 See Aeschines' speech against Ctesiphon.
I have met with a story, which, although authenticated by undoubted evidence, looks very like fable, and would afford a worthy field for the exercise of so exuberant, lofty, and truly poetical a genius as your own. It was related to me the other day over the dinner table, where the conversation happened to run upon various kinds of marvels. The person who told the story was a man of unsuspected veracity: but what has a poet to do with truth? However, you might venture to rely upon his testimony, even though you had the character of a faithful historian to support. There is in Africa a town called Hippo, situated not far from the seacoast: it stands upon a navigable lake communicating with an estuary in the form of a river, which alternately continued his usual playful tricks. All the magistrates round flocked hither to view this sight, whose arrival and prolonged stay, was an additional expense, which the slender finances of this little community would ill afford; besides, the quiet and retirement of the place was utterly destroyed. It was thought proper, therefore, to remove the occasion of this concourse, by privately killing the poor dolphin. And now, with what a flow of tenderness will you describe this affecting catastrophe!2 and how will your genius adorn and heighten this moving story! Though, indeed the subject does not require any fictitious embellishments; it will be sufficient to describe the actual facts of the case without suppression or diminution. Farewell.
1 It was a religious ceremony practised by the ancients to pour precious ointments upon the statues of their gods: Avitus, it is probable, imagined this dolphin was some sea-divinity, and therefore expressed his veneration of him by the solemnity of a sacred unction. M.
2 The overflowing humanity of Pliny's temper breaks out upon all occasions, but he discovers it in nothing more strongly than by the impression which this little story appears to have made upon him. True benevolence, indeed, extends itself through the whole compass of existence, and sympathizes with he distress of every creature of sensation. Little minds may be apt to consider a compassion of this inferior kind as an instance of weakness; but it is undoubtedly the evidence of a noble nature. Homer thought it not unbecoming the character even of a hero to melt into tears at a distress of this sort, and has given us a most amiable and affecting picture of Ulysses weeping over his faithful dog Argus, when he expires at his feet: "Soft pity touch'd the mighty master's soul; Adown his cheek the tear unbidden stole, Stole unperceived; he turn'd his head and dry'd The drop humane. . . ." (Odyss. xvii. Pope.) M.
You want to know how I portion out my day, in my summer villa at Tuscum? I get up just when I please; generally about sunrise, often earlier, but seldom later than this. I keep the shutters closed, as darkness and silence wonderfully promote meditation. Thus free and abstracted from those outward objects which dissipate attention, I am left to my own thoughts; nor suffer my mind to wander with my eyes, but keep my eyes in subjection to my mind, which, when they are not distracted by a multiplicity of external objects, see nothing but what the imagination represents to them. If I have any work in hand, this is the time I choose for thinking it out, word for word, even to the minutest accuracy of expression. In this way I compose more or less, according as the subject is more or less difficult, and I find myself able to retain it. I then call my secretary, and, opening the shutters, dictate to him what I have put into shape, after which I dismiss him, then call him in again, and again dismiss him. About ten or eleven o'clock (for I do not observe one fixed hour), according to the weather, I either walk upon my terrace or in the covered portico, and there I continue to meditate or dictate what remains upon the subject in which I am engaged. This completed, I get into my chariot, where I employ myself as before, when I was walking, or in my study; and find this change of scene refreshes and keeps up my attention. On my return home, I take a little nap, then a walk, and after that repeat out loud and distinctly some Greek or Latin speech, not so much for the sake of strengthening my voice as my digestion;1 though indeed the voice at the same time is strengthened by this practice. I then take another walk, am anointed, do my exercises, and go into the bath. At supper, if I have only my wife or a few friends with me, some author is read to us; and after supper we are entertained either with music or an interlude. When that is finished, I take my walk with my family, among whom I am not without some scholars. Thus we pass our evenings in varied conversation; and the day, even when at the longest, steals imperceptibly away. Upon some occasions I change the order in certain of the articles above - mentioned. For instance, if I have studied longer or walked more than usual, after my second sleep, and reading a speech or two aloud, instead of using my chariot I get on horseback; by which means I ensure as much exercise and lose less time. The visits of my friends from the neighbouring villages claim some part of the day; and sometimes, by an agreeable interruption, they come in very seasonably to relieve me when I am feeling tired. I now and then amuse myself with hunting, but always take my tablets into the field, that, if I should meet with no game, I may at least bring home something. Part of my time too (though not so much as they desire) is allotted to my tenants; whose rustic complaints, along with these city occupations, make my literary studies still more delightful to me. Farewell.
1 By the regimen which Pliny here follows, one would imagine, if he had not told us who were his physicians, that the celebrated Celsus was in the number. That author expressly recommends reading aloud, and afterwards walking, as beneficial in disorders of the stomach: "Si quis stomacho laborat, legere clare debet; post lectionem ambulare," &c. Celsi Medic. 1. i., c. 8. M.
As you are not of a disposition to expect from your friends the ordinary ceremonial observances of society when they cannot observe them without inconvenience to themselves, so I love you too steadfastly to be apprehensive of your taking otherwise than I wish you should my not waiting upon you on the first day of your entrance upon the consular office, especially as I am detained here by the necessity of letting my farms upon long leases. I am obliged to enter upon an entirely new plan with my tenants: for under the former leases, though I made them very considerable abatements, they have run greatly in arrear. For this reason several of them have not only taken no sort of care to lessen a debt which they found themselves incapable of wholly discharging, but have even seized and consumed all the produce of the land, in the belief that it would now be of no advantage to themselves to spare it. I must therefore obviate this increasing evil, and endeavour to find out some remedy against it. The only one I can think of is, not to reserve my rent in money, but in kind, and so place some of my servants to overlook the tillage, and guard the stock; as indeed there is no sort of revenue more agreeable to reason than what arises from the bounty of the soil, the seasons, and the climate. It is true, this method will require great honesty, sharp eyes, and many hands. However, I must risk the experiment, and, as in an inveterate complaint, try every change of remedy. You see, it is not any pleasurable indulgence that prevents my attending you on the first day of your consulship. I shall celebrate it, nevertheless, as much as if I were present, and pay my vows for you here, with all the warmest tokens of joy and congratulation. Farewell.
You are much pleased, I find, with the account I gave you in my former letter of how I spend the summer season at Tuscum, and desire to know what alteration I make in my method when I am at Laurentum in the winter. None at all, except abridging myself of my sleep at noon, and borrowing a good piece of the night before daybreak and after sunset for study: and if business is very urgent (which in winter very frequently happens), instead of having interludes or music after supper, I reconsider whatever I have previously dictated, and improve my memory at the same time by this frequent mental revision. Thus I have given you a general sketch of my mode of life in summer and winter; to which you may add the intermediate seasons of spring and autumn, in which, while losing nothing out of the day, I gain but little from the night. Farewell.
To the Emperor Trajan
The pious affection you bore, most sacred Emperor, to your august father induced you to wish it might be late ere you succeeded him. But the immortal gods thought proper to hasten the advancement of those virtues to the helm of the commonwealth which had already shared in the steerage.2 May you then, and the world through your means, enjoy every prosperity worthy of your reign: to which let me add my wishes, most excellent Emperor, upon a private as well as public account, that your health and spirits may be preserved firm and unbroken.
1 The greater part of the following letters were written by Pliny during his administration in the province of Bithynia. They are of a style and character extremely different from those in the preceding collection; whence some critics have injudiciously inferred that they are the production of another hand: not considering that the occasion necessarily required a different manner. In letters of business, as these chiefly are, turn and sentiment would be foreign and impertinent; politeness and elegance of expression being the essentials that constitute perfection in this kind: and in that view, though they may be less entertaining, they have not less merit than the former. But besides their particular excellence as letters, they have a farther recommendation as so many valuable pieces of history, by throwing a strong light upon the character of one of the most amiable and glorious princes in the Roman annals. Trajan appears throughout in the most striking attitude that majesty can be placed in; in the exertion of power to the godlike purposes of justice and benevolence: and what one of the ancient historians has said of him is here clearly verified, that "he rather chose to be loved than flattered by his people." To have been distinguished by the favour and friendship of a monarch of so exalted a character is an honour that reflects the brightest lustre upon our author; as to have been served and celebrated by a courtier of Pliny's genius and virtues is the noblest monument of glory that could have been raised to Trajan. M.
2 Nerva, who succeeded Domitian, reigned but sixteen months and a few days. Before his death he not only adopted Trajan, and named him for his successor, but actually admitted him into a share of the government; giving him the titles of Caesar, Germanicus, and Imperator. Vid. Plin. Paneg. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
You have occasioned me, Sir, an inexpressible pleasure in deeming me worthy of enjoying the privilege which the laws confer on those who have three children. For although it was from an indulgence to the request of the excellent Julius Servianus, your own most devoted servant, that you granted this favour, yet I have the satisfaction to find by the words of your rescript that you complied the more willingly as his application was in my behalf. I cannot but look upon myself as in possession of my utmost wish, after having thus received, at the beginning of your most auspicious reign, so distinguishing a mark of your peculiar favour; at the same time that it considerably heightens my desire of leaving a family behind me. I was not entirely without this desire even in the late most unhappy times: as my two marriages will induce you to believe. But the gods decreed it better, by reserving every valuable privilege to the bounty of your generous dispensations. And indeed the pleasure of being a father will be so much more acceptable to me now, that I can enjoy it in full security and happiness.
To the Emperor Trajan
When by your gracious indulgence, Sir, I was appointed to preside at the treasury of Saturn, I immediately renounced all engagements of the bar (as indeed I never blended business of that kind with the functions of the state), that no avocations might call off my attention from the post to which I was appointed. For this reason, when the province of Africa petitioned the senate that I might undertake their cause against Marius Priscus, I excused myself from that office; and my excuse was allowed. But when afterwards the consul elect proposed that the senate should apply to us again, and endeavour to prevail with us to yield to its inclinations, and suffer our names to be thrown into the urn, I thought it most agreeable to that tranquillity and good order which so happily distinguishes your times not to oppose (especially in so reasonable an instance) the will of that august assembly. And, as I am desirous that all my words and actions may receive the sanction of your exemplary virtue, I hope you approve of my compliance.
Trajan to Pliny
You acted as became a good citizen and a worthy senator, by paying obedience to the just requisition of that august assembly: and I have full confidence you will faithfully discharge the business you have undertaken.
To the Emperor Trajan
The experience, most excellent Emperor, I have had of your unbounded generosity to me, in my own person, encourages me to hope I may be yet farther obliged to it, in that of my friends. Voconius Romanus (who was my schoolfellow and companion from our earliest years) claims the first rank in that number; in consequence of which I petitioned your sacred father to promote him to the dignity of the senatorial order. But the completion of my request is reserved to your goodness; for his mother had not then advanced, in the manner the law directs, the liberal gift of four hundred thousand sesterces,1 which she engaged to give him, in her letter to the late emperor, your father. This, however, by my advice she has since done, having made over certain estates to him, as well as completed every other act necessary to make the conveyance valid. The difficulties therefore being removed which deferred the gratification of our wishes, it is with full confidence I venture to assure you of the worth of my friend Romanus, heightened and adorned as it is not only by liberal culture, but by his extraordinary tenderness to his parents as well. It is to that virtue he owes the present liberality of his mother; as well as his immediate succession to his late father's estate, and his adoption by his father-in-law. To these personal qualifications, the wealth and rank of his family give additional lustre; and I persuade myself it will be some further recommendation that I solicit in his behalf. Let me, then, entreat you, Sir, to enable me to congratulate Romanus on so desirable an occasion, and at the same time to indulge an eager and, I hope, laudable ambition, of having it in my power to boast that your favourable regards are extended not only to myself, but also to my friend.
To the Emperor Trajan
Having been attacked last year by a very severe and dangerous illness, I employed a physician, whose care and diligence, Sir, I cannot sufficiently reward, but by your gracious assistance. I entreat you therefore to make him a denizen of Rome; for as he is the freedman of a foreign lady, he is, consequently, himself also a foreigner. His name is Harpocras; his patroness (who has been dead a considerable time) was Thermuthis, the daughter of Theon. I further entreat you to bestow the full privileges of a Roman citizen upon Hedia and Antonia Harmeris, the freedwomen of Antonia Maximilla, a lady of great merit. It is at her desire I make this request.
To the Emperor Trajan
I return you thanks, Sir, for your ready compliance with my desire, in granting the complete privileges of a Roman to the freedwomen of a lady to whom I am allied, and also for making Harpocras, my physician, a denizen of Rome. But when, agreeably to your directions, I gave in an account of his age and estate, I was informed by those who are better skilled in the affairs than I pretend to be, that, as he is an Egyptian, I ought first to have obtained for him the freedom of Alexandria before he was made free of Rome. I confess, indeed, as I was ignorant of any difference in this case between those of Egypt and other countries, I contended myself with only acquainting you that he had been manumitted by a foreign lady long since deceased. However, it is an ignorance I cannot regret, since it affords me an opportunity of receiving from you a double obligation in favour of the same person. That I may legally therefore enjoy the benefit of your goodness, I beg you would be pleased to grant him the freedom of the city of Alexandria, as well as that of Rome. And that your gracious intentions may not meet with any further obstacles, I have taken care, as you directed, to send an account to your freedman of his age and possessions.
Trajan to Pliny
It is my resolution, in pursuance of the maxim observed by the prince my predecessors, to be extremely cautious in granting the freedom of the city of Alexandria: however, since you have obtained of me the freedom of Rome for your physician Harpocras, I cannot refuse you this other request. You must let me know to what district he belongs, that I may give you a letter to my friend Pompeius Planta, governor of Egypt.
To the Emperor Trajan
After your late sacred father, Sir, had, in a noble speech, as well as by his own generous example, exhorted and encouraged the public to acts of munificence, I implored his permission to remove the several statues which I had of the former emperors to my corporation, and at the same time requested permission to add his own to the number. For as I had hitherto let them remain in the respective places in which they stood when they were left to me by several different inheritances, they were dispersed in distant parts of my estate. He was pleased to grant my request, and at the same time to give me a very ample testimony of his approbation. I immediately, therefore, wrote to the decurii, to desire they would allot a piece of ground, upon which I might build a temple at my own expense; and they, as a mark of honour to my design, offered me the choice of any site I might think proper. However, my own ill health in the first place, and later that of your father, together with the duties of that employment which you were both pleased to entrust me, prevented my proceeding with that design. But I have now, I think, a convenient opportunity of making an excursion for the purpose, as my monthly attendance1 ends on the 1st of September, and there are several festivals in the month following. My first request, then, is that you would permit me to adorn the temple I am going to erect with your statue, and next (in order to the execution of my design with all the expedition possible) that you would indulge me with leave of absence. It would ill become the sincerity I profess, were I to dissemble that your goodness in complying with this desire will at the same time be extremely serviceable to me in my own private affairs. It is absolutely necessary I should not defer any longer the letting of my lands in that province; for, besides that they amount to above four hundred thousand sesterces,2 the time for dressing the vineyards is approaching, and that business must fall upon my new tenants. The unfruitfulness of the seasons besides, for several years past, obliges me to think of making some abatements in my rents; which I cannot possibly settle unless I am present. I shall be indebted, then, to your indulgence, Sir, for the expedition of my work of piety, and the settlement of my own private affairs, if you will be pleased to grant me leave of absence3 for thirty days. I cannot give myself a shorter time, as the town and the estate of which I am speaking lie above a hundred and fifty miles from Rome.
1 Pliny enjoyed the office of treasurer in conjunction with Cornutus Tertullus. It was the custom at Rome for those who had colleagues to administer the duties of their posts by monthly turns. Buchner. M.
2 About $16,000; the annual income of Pliny's estate in Tuscany. He mentions another near Comum in Milan, the yearly value of which does not appear. We find him likewise meditating the purchase of an estate, for which he was to give about $117,000 of our money; but whether he ever completed that purchase is uncertain. This, however, we are sure of, that his fortunes were but moderate, considering his high station and necessary expenses; and yet, by the advantage of a judicious economy, we have seen him, in the course of these letters, exercising a liberality of which after-ages have furnished no parallel. M.
3 The senators were not allowed to go from Rome into the provinces without having first obtained leave of the emperor. Sicily, however, had the privilege to be excepted out of that law; as Gallia Narbonensis afterwards was, by Claudius Caesar. Tacit. Ann. xii., c. 23. M.
Trajan to Pliny
You have given me many private reasons, and every public one, why you desire leave of absence; but I need no other than that it is your desire: and I doubt not of your returning as soon as possible to the duty of an office which so much requires your attendance. As I would not seem to check any instance of your affection towards me, I shall not oppose your erecting my statue in the place you desire; though in general I am extremely cautious in giving any encouragement to honours of that kind.
To the Emperor Trajan
I cannot express, Sir, the pleasure your letter gave me, by which I am informed that you have made my physician Harpocras a denizen of Alexandria; notwithstanding your resolution to follow the maxim of your predecessors in this point, by being extremely cautious in granting that privilege. Agreeably to your directions, I acquaint you that Harpocras belongs to the district of Memphis.1 I entreat you then, most gracious Emperor, to send me, as you promised, a letter to your friend Pompeius Planta, governor of Egypt.
As I purpose (in order to have the earliest enjoyment of your presence, so ardently wished for here) to come to meet you, I beg, Sir, you would permit me to extend my journey as far as possible.
1 One of the four governments of Lower Egypt. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
I was greatly obliged, Sir, in my late illness, to Posthumius Marinus, my physician; and I cannot make him a suitable return, but by the assistance of your wonted gracious indulgence. I entreat you then to make Chrysippus Mithridates and his wife Stratonica (who are related to Marinus) denizens of Rome. I entreat likewise the same privilege in favour of Epigonus and Mithridates, the two sons of Chrysippus; but with this restriction,1 that they may remain under the dominion of their father, and yet reserve their right of patronage over their own freedmen. I further entreat you to grant the full privileges of a Roman to L. Satrius Abascantius, P. Caesius Phosphorus, and Pancharia Soteris. This request I make with the consent of their patrons.
1 The extensive power of paternal authority was (as has been observed in the notes above) peculiar to the Romans. But after Chrysippus was made a denizen of Rome, he was not, it would seem, consequentially entitled to that privilege over those children which were born before his denization. On the other hand, if it was expressly granted him, his children could not preserve their right of patronage over their own freedmen, because that right would of course devolve to their father, by means of this acquired dominion over them. The denization therefore of his children is as expressly solicited as his own. But both parties becoming Quirites, the children by this creation, and not pleading in right of their father, would be patres fam. To prevent which the clause is added, "ita ut sint in patris potestate": as there is another to save to them their rights of patronage over their freedmen, though they were reduced in patriam potestatem. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
Though I am well assured, Sir, that you, who never omit any opportunity of exerting your generosity, are not unmindful of the request I lately made to you, yet, as you have often indulged me in this manner, give me leave to remind and earnestly entreat you to bestow the praetorship now vacant upon Attius Sura. Though his ambition is extremely moderate, yet the quality of his birth, the inflexible integrity he has preserved in a very narrow fortune, and, more than all, the felicity of your times, which encourages conscious virtue to claim your favour, induce him to hope he may experience it in the present instance.
To the Emperor Trajan
As I am sensible, Sir, that the highest applause my actions can receive is to be distinguished by so excellent a prince, I beg you would be graciously pleased to add either the office of augur or septemvir1 (both which are now vacant) to the dignity I already enjoy by your indulgence; that I my have the satisfaction of publicly offering up those vows for your prosperity, from the duty of my office, which I daily prefer to the gods in private, from the affection of my heart.
1 One of the seven priests who presided over the feasts appointed in honour of Jupiter and the other gods; an office, as appears, of high dignity, since Pliny ranks it with the augurship. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
I congratulate both you and the public, most excellent Emperor, upon the great and glorious victory you have obtained; so agreeable to the heroism of ancient Rome. May the immortal gods grant the same happy success to all your designs, that, under the administration of so many princely virtues, the splendour of the empire may shine out, not only in its former, but with additional lustre.1
1 It is possible the victory here alluded to was that famous one which Trajan gained over the Dacians. It is certain, at least, Pliny lived to see his wish accomplished, this emperor having carried the Roman splendour to its highest pitch, and extended the dominions of the empire farther than any of his predecessors; as after his death it began to decline. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
Having safely passed the promontory of Malea, I am arrived at Ephesus with all my retinue, notwithstanding I was detained for some time by contrary winds: a piece of information, Sir, in which, I trust, you will feel yourself concerned. I propose pursuing the remainder of my journey to the province1 partly in light vessels, and partly in post-chaises: for as the excessive heats will prevent my travelling altogether by land, so the Etesian winds,2 which are now set in, will not permit me to proceed entirely by sea.
1 Bithynia, a province in Anatolia, or Asia Minor, of which Pliny was appointed governor by Trajan, in the sixth year of his reign, A.D. 103, not as an ordinary proconsul, but as that emperor's own lieutenant, with powers extraordinary. (See Dio.) The following letters were written during his administration of that province. M.
2 A north wind in the Grecian seas, which rises yearly sometime in July, and continues to the end of August; though others extend it to the middle of September. They blow only in the daytime. Varenius' Geogr. v. i., p. 513. M.
Trajan to Pliny
Your information, my dear Pliny, was extremely agreeable to me, as it does concern me to know in what manner you arrive at your province. It is a wise intention of yours to travel either by sea or land, as you shall find most convenient.
To the Emperor Trajan
As I had a very favourable voyage to Ephesus, so in travelling by post chaise from thence I was extremely troubled by the heats, and also by some slight feverish attacks, which kept me some time at Pergamus. From there, Sir, I got on board a coasting vessel, but, being again detained by contrary winds, did not arrive at Bithynia so soon as I had hoped. However, I have no reason to complain of this delay, since (which indeed was the most auspicious circumstance that could attend me) I reached the province in time to celebrate your birthday. I am at present engaged in examining the finances of the Prusenses,1 their expenses, revenues, and credits; and the farther I proceed in this work, the more I am convinced of the necessity of my enquiry. Several large sums of money are owing to the city from private persons, which they neglect to pay upon various pretences; as, on the other hand, I find the public funds are, in some instances, very unwarrantably applied. This, Sir, I write to you immediately on my arrival. I entered this province on the 17th of September,2 and found in it that obedience and loyalty towards yourself which you justly merit from all mankind. You will consider, Sir, whether it would not be proper to send a surveyor here; for I am inclined to think much might be deducted from what is charged by those who have the conduct of the public works if a faithful admeasurement were to be taken: at least I am of that opinion from what I have already seen of the accounts of this city, which I am now going into as fully as is possible.
1 The inhabitants of Prusa (Brusa), a principal city of Bithynia.
2 In the sixth year of Trajan's reign, A. D. 103, and the 41st of our author's age: he continued in this province about eighteen months. Vid. Mass. in Vit. Plin. 129. M.
Trajan to Pliny
I should have rejoiced to have heard that you arrived at Bithynia without the smallest inconvenience to yourself or any of your retinue, and that your journey from Ephesus had been as easy as your voyage to that place was favourable. For the rest, your letter informs me, my dearest Secundus, on what day you reached Bithynia. The people of that province will be convinced, I persuade myself, that I am attentive to their interest; as your conduct towards them will make it manifest that I could have chosen no more proper person to supply my place. The examination of the public accounts ought certainly to be your first employment, as they are evidently in great disorder. I have scarcely surveyors sufficient to inspect those works1 which I am carrying on at Rome, and in the neighborhood; but persons of integrity and skill in this art may be found, most certainly, in every province, so that they will not fail you if only you will make due enquiry.
1 Among other noble works which this glorious emperor executed, the forum or square which went by his name seems to have been the most magnificent. It was built with the foreign spoils he had taken in war. The covering of this edifice was all brass, the porticoes exceedingly beautiful and magnificent, with pillars of more than ordinary height and dimensions. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
I beg your determination, Sir, on a point I am exceedingly doubtful about: it is whether I should place the public slaves1 as sentries round the prisons of the several cities in this province (as has been hitherto the practice) or employ a party of soldiers for that purpose? On the one hand, I am afraid the public slaves will not attend this duty with the fidelity they ought; and, on the other, that it will engage too large a body of the soldiery. In the meanwhile I have joined a few of the latter with the former. I am apprehensive, however, there may be some danger that this method will occasion a general neglect of duty, as it will afford them a mutual opportunity of throwing the blame upon each other.
1 Slaves who were purchased by the public. M."]
Trajan to Pliny
There is no occasion, my dearest Secundus, to draw off any soldiers in order to guard the prisons, Let us rather persevere in the ancient customs observed in this province, of employing the public slaves for that purpose; and the fidelity with which they shall execute their duty will depend much upon your care and strict discipline. It is greatly to be feared, as you observe, if the soldiers should be mixed with the public slaves, they will mutually trust to each other, and by that means grow so much the more negligent. But my principal objection is that as few soldiers as possible should be withdrawn from their standard.
To the Emperor Trajan
Gabius Bassus, who commands upon the frontiers of Pontica, in a manner suitable to the respect and duty which he owes you, came to me, and has been with me, Sir, for several days, As far as I could observe, he is a person of great merit and worthy of your favour. I acquainted him it was your order that he should retain only ten beneficiary1 soldiers, two horse-guards, and one centurion out of the troops which you were pleased to assign to my command. He assured me those would not be sufficient, and that he would write to you accordingly; for which reason I thought it proper not immediately to recall his supernumeraries.
1 The most probable conjecture (for it is a point of a good deal of obscurity) concerning the beneficiarii seems to be that they were a certain number of soldiers exempted from the usual duty of their office, in order to be employed as a sort of bodyguards to the general. These were probably foot; as the equites here mentioned were perhaps of the same nature, only that they served on horseback. Equites singulares Caesaris Augusti, &c., are frequently met with upon ancient inscriptions, and are generally supposed to mean the bodyguards of the emperor. M.
Trajan to Pliny
I have received from Gabius Bassus the letter you mention, acquainting me that the number of soldiers I had ordered him was not sufficient; and for your information I have directed my answer to be hereunto annexed. It is very material to distinguish between what the exigency of affairs requires and what an ambitious desire of extending power may think necessary. As for ourselves, the public welfare must be our only guide: accordingly it is incumbent upon us to take all possible care that the soldiers shall not be absent from their standard.
To the Emperor Trajan
The Prusenses, Sir, having an ancient bath which lies in a ruinous state, desire your leave to repair it; but, upon examination, I am of opinion it ought to be rebuilt. I think, therefore, you may indulge them in this request, as there will be a sufficient fund for that purpose, partly from those debts which are due from private persons to the public which I am now collecting in; and partly from what they raise among themselves towards furnishing the bath with oil, which they are willing to apply to the carrying on of this building; a work which the dignity of the city and the splendour of your times seem to demand.
Trajan to Pliny
If the erecting a public bath will not be too great a charge upon the Prusenses, we may comply with their request; provided, however, that no new tax be levied for this purpose, nor any of those taken off which are appropriated to necessary services.
To the Emperor Trajan
My lieutenant, Servilius Pudens, came to Nicomedia,1 Sir, on the 24th of November, and by his arrival freed me, at length, from the anxiety of a very uneasy expectation.
1 The capital of Bithynia; its modern name is Izmid.
To the Emperor Trajan
Your generosity to me, Sir, was the occasion of uniting me to Rosianus Geminus, by the strongest ties; for he was my quaestor when I was consul. His behaviour to me during the continuance of our offices was highly respectful, and he has treated me ever since with so peculiar a regard that, besides the many obligations I owe him upon a public account, I am indebted to him for the strongest pledges of private friendship. I entreat you, then, to comply with my request for the advancement of one whom (if my recommendation has any weight) you will even distinguish with your particular favour; and whatever trust you shall repose in him, he will endeavour to show himself still deserving of an higher. But I am the more sparing in my praises of him, being persuaded his integrity, his probity, and his vigilance are well known to you, not only from those high posts which he has exercised in Rome within your immediate inspection, but from his behaviour when he served under you in the army. One thing, however, my affection for him inclines me to think, I have not yet sufficiently done; and therefore, Sir, I repeat my entreaties that you will give me the pleasure, as early as possible, of rejoicing in the advancement of my quaestor, or, in other words, of receiving an addition to my own honours, in the person of my friend.
To the Emperor Trajan
I am assured, Sir, by your freedman and receiver-general Maximus, that it is necessary he should have a party of soldiers assigned to him, over and besides the beneficiarii, whom by your orders I allotted to the very worthy Gemellinus. Those, therefore, whom I found in his service, I thought proper he should retain, especially as he was going into Paphlagonia,1 in order to procure corn. For his better protection likewise, and because it was his request, I added two of the cavalry. But I beg you would inform me, in your next despatches, what method you would have me observe for the future in points of this nature.
1 A province in Asia Minor, bounded by the Black Sea on the north, Bithynia on the west, Pontus on the east, and Phrygia on the south.
Trajan to Pliny
As my freedman Maximus was going upon an extraordinary commission to procure corn, I approve of your having supplied him with a file of soldiers. But when he shall return to the duties of his former post, I think two from you and as many from his coadjutor, my receiver-general Virdius Gemellinus, will be sufficient.
To the Emperor Trajan
The very excellent young man Sempronius Caelianus, having discovered two slaves1 among the recruits, has sent them to me. But I deferred passing sentence till I had consulted you, the restorer and upholder of military discipline, concerning the punishment proper to be inflicted upon them. My principal doubt is this, whether although they have taken the military oath, they are yet entered into any particular legion. I request you, therefore, Sir, to inform me what course I should pursue in this affair, especially as it concerns example.
1 The Roman policy excluded slaves from entering into military service, and it was death if they did so. However, upon cases of great necessity, this maxim was dispensed with; but then they were first made free before they were received into the army, excepting only (as Servius in his notes upon Virgil observes) after the fatal battle of Cannae; when the public distress was so great that the Romans recruited their army with their slaves, though they had not time to give them their freedom. One reason, perhaps, of this policy might be that they did not think it safe to arm so considerable a body of men, whose numbers, in the times when the Roman luxury was at its highest, we may have some idea of by the instance which Pliny the naturalist mentions of Claudius Isodorus, who at the time of his death was possessed of no less than 4,116 slaves, notwithstanding he had lost great numbers in the civil wars. Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxiii. 10. M.
Trajan to Pliny
Sempronius Caelianus has acted agreeably to my orders, in sending such persons to be tried before you as appear to deserve capital punishment. It is material, however, in the case in question, to enquire whether these slaves enlisted themselves voluntarily, or were chosen by the officers, or presented as substitutes for others. If they were chosen, the officer is guilty; if they are substitutes, the blame rests with those who deputed them; but if, conscious of the legal inabilities of their station, they presented themselves voluntarily, the punishment must fall upon their own heads. That they are not yet entered into any legion, makes no great difference in their case; for they ought to have given a true account of themselves immediately upon their being approved as fit for the service.
To the Emperor Trajan
As I have your permission, Sir, to address myself to you in all my doubts, you will not consider it beneath your dignity to descend to those humbler affairs which concern my administration of this province. I find there are in several cities, particularly those of Nicomedia and Nicea, certain persons who take upon themselves to act as public slaves, and receive an annual stipend accordingly; notwithstanding they have been condemned either to the mines, the public games,1 or other punishments of the like nature. Having received information of this abuse, I have been long debating with myself what I ought to do. On the one hand, to send them back again to their respective punishments (many of them being now grown old, and behaving, as I am assured, with sobriety and modesty) would, I thought, be proceeding against them too severely; on the other, to retain convicted criminals in the public service, seemed not altogether decent. I considered at the same time to support these people in idleness would be an useless expense to the public; and to leave them to starve would be dangerous. I was obliged, therefore, to suspend the determination of this matter till I could consult with you. You will be desirous, perhaps, to be informed how it happened that these persons escaped the punishments to which they were condemned. This enquiry I have also made, but cannot return you any satisfactory answer. The decrees against them were indeed produced; but no record appears of their having ever been reversed. It was asserted, however, that these people were pardoned upon their petition to the proconsuls, or their lieutenants; which seems likely to be the truth, as it is improbable any person would have dared to set them at liberty without authority.
1 A punishment among the Romans, usually inflicted upon slaves, by which they were to engage with wild beasts, or perform the part of gladiators, in the public shows. M.
Trajan to Pliny
You will remember you were sent into Bithynia for the particular purpose of correcting those many abuses which appeared in need of reform. Now none stands more so than that criminals who have been sentenced to punishment should not only be set at liberty (as your letter informs me) without authority, but even appointed to employments which ought only to be exercised by persons whose characters are irreproachable. Those, therefore, among them who have been convicted within these ten years, and whose sentence has not been reversed by proper authority, must be sent back again to their respective punishments: but where more than ten years have elapsed since their conviction, and they are grown old and infirm, let them be disposed of in such employments as are but few degrees removed from the punishments to which they were sentenced; that is, either to attend upon the public baths, cleanse the common sewers, or repair the streets and highways, the usual offices assigned to such persons.
To the Emperor Trajan
While I was making a progress in a different part of the province, a most extensive fire broke out at Nicomedia, which not only consumed several private houses, but also two public buildings; the town-house and the temple of Isis, though they stood on contrary sides of the street. The occasion of its spreading thus far was partly owing to the violence of the wind, and partly to the indolence of the people, who, manifestly, stood idle and motionless spectators of this terrible calamity. The truth is the city was not furnished with either engines,1 buckets, or any single instrument suitable for extinguishing fires; which I have now, however, given directions to have prepared. You will consider, Sir, whether it may not be advisable to institute a company of firemen, consisting only of one hundred and fifty members. I will take care none but those of that business shall be admitted into it, and that the privileges granted them shall not be applied to any other purpose. As this corporate body will be restricted to so small a number of members, it will be easy to keep them under proper regulation.
1 It has been generally imagined that the ancients had not the art of raising water by engines; but this passage seems to favour the contrary opinion. The word in the original is sipho, which Hesychius explains (as one of the commentators observes), "instrumentum ad jaculandas aquas adversus incendia"; "an instrument to throw up water against fires." But there is a passage in Seneca which seems to put this matter beyond conjecture, though none of the critics upon this place have taken notice of it: "Solemus," says he, "duabus manibus inter se junctis aquam concipere, et compressa ultrimque palma in modum siphonis exprimere" (Q. N. l. ii. 16); where we plainly see the use of this sipho was to throw up water, and consequently the Romans were acquainted with that art. The account which Pliny gives of his fountains at Tuscum is likewise another evident proof. M.
Trajan to Pliny
You are of opinion it would be proper to establish a company of firemen in Nicomedia, agreeably to what has been practised in several other cities. But it is to be remembered that societies of this sort have greatly disturbed the peace of the province in general, and of those cities in particular. Whatever name we give them, and for whatever purposes them may be founded, they will not fail to form themselves into factious, assemblies, however short their meetings may be. It will therefore be safer to provide such machines as are of service in extinguishing fires, enjoining the owners of houses to assist in preventing the mischief from spreading, and, if it should be necessary, to call in the aid of the populace.
To the Emperor Trajan
We have acquitted, Sir, and renewed our annual vows1 for your prosperity, in which that of the empire is essentially involved, imploring the gods to grant us ever thus to pay and thus to repeat them.
1 This was an anniversary custom observed throughout the empire on the 30th of December. M.
Trajan to Pliny
I received the satisfaction, my dearest Secundus, of being informed by your letter that you, together with the people under your government, have both discharged and renewed your vows to the immortal gods for my health and happiness.
To the Emperor Trajan
The citizens of Nicomedia, Sir, have expended three million, three hundred and twenty-nine sesterces1 in building an aqueduct; but, not being able to finish it, the works are entirely falling to ruin. They made a second attempt in another place, where they laid out two millions.2 But this likewise is discontinued; so that, after having been at an immense charge to no purpose, they must still be at further expense, in order to be accommodated with water. I have examined a fine spring from whence the water may be conveyed over arches (as was attempted in their first design) in such a manner that the higher as well as level and low parts of the city may be supplied. There are still remaining a very few of the old arches; and the square stones, moreover, employed in the former building, may be used in turning the new arches. I am of opinion part should be raised with brick, as that will be the easier and cheaper material. But that this work may not meet with the same ill success as the former, it will be necessary to send here an architect, or someone skilled in the construction of this kind of waterworks. And I will venture to say, from the beauty and usefulness of the design, it will be an erection well worthy the splendour of your times.
1 About $132,000.
2 About $80,000.
Trajan to Pliny
Care must be taken to supply the city of Nicomedia with water; and that business, I am well persuaded, you will perform with all the diligence you ought. But really it is no less incumbent upon you to examine by whose misconduct it has happened that such large sums have been thrown away upon this, lest they apply the money to private purposes, and the aqueduct in question, like the preceding, should be begun, and afterwards left unfinished. You will let me know the result of your inquiry.
To the Emperor Trajan
The citizens of Nicea, Sir, are building a theatre, which, though it is not yet finished, has already exhausted, as I am informed (for I have not examined the account myself), above ten millions of sesterces;1 and, what is worse, I fear to no purpose. For either from the foundation being laid in soft, marshy ground, or that the stone itself is light and crumbling, the walls are sinking, and cracked from top to bottom. It deserves your consideration, therefore, whether it would be best to carry on this work, or entirely discontinue it, or rather, perhaps, whether it would not be most prudent absolutely to destroy it: for the buttresses and foundations by means of which it is from time to time kept up appear to me more expensive than solid. Several private persons have undertaken to build the compartments of this theatre at their own expense, some engaging to erect the portico, others the galleries over the pit:2 but this design cannot be executed, as the principal building which ought first to be completed is now at a stand. This city is also rebuilding, upon a far more enlarged plan, the gymnasium,3 which was burnt down before my arrival in the province. They have already been at some (and, I rather fear, a fruitless), expense. The structure is not only irregular and ill-proportioned, but the present architect (who, it must be owned, is a rival to the person who was first employed) asserts that the walls, although twenty-two feet4 in thickness, are not strong enough to support the superstructure, as the interstices are filled up with quarry stones, and the walls are not overlaid with brickwork. Also the inhabitants of Claudiopolis5 are sinking (I cannot call it erecting) a large public bath, upon a low spot of ground which lies at the foot of a mountain. The fund appropriated for the carrying on of this work arises from the money which those honorary members you were pleased to add to the senate paid (or, at least, are ready to pay whenever I call upon them) for their admission.6 As I am afraid, therefore, the public money in the city of Nicea, and (what is infinitely more valuable than any pecuniary consideration) your bounty in that of Nicopolis, should be ill applied, I must desire you to send hither an architect to inspect, not only the theatre, but the bath; in order to consider whether, after all the expense which has already been laid out, it will be better to finish them upon the present plan, or alter the one, and remove the other, in as far as may seem necessary: for otherwise we may perhaps throw away our future cost in endeavouring not to lose what we have already expended.
1 About $400,000. To those who are not acquainted with the immense riches of the ancients, it may seem incredible that a city, and not the capital one either, of a conquered province should expend so large a sum of money upon only the shell (as it appears to be) of a theatre: but Asia was esteemed the most considerable part of the world for wealth; its fertility and exportations (as Tully observes) exceeding those of all other countries. M.
2 The word cavea, in the original, comprehends more than what we call the pit in our theatres, as it means the whole space in which the spectators sat. These theatres, being open at the top, the galleries here mentioned were for the convenience of retiring in bad weather. M.
3 A place in which the athletic exercises were performed, and where the philosophers also used to read their lectures. M.
4 The Roman foot consisted of 11.7 inches of our standard. M.
5 A colony in the district of Cataonia, in Cappadocia.
6 The honorary senators, that is, such who were not received into the council of the city by election, but by the appointment of the emperor, paid a certain sum of money upon their admission into the senate. M.
Trajan to Pliny
You, who are upon the spot, will best be able to consider and determine what is proper to be done concerning the theatre which the inhabitants of Nicea are building; as for myself, it will be sufficient if you let me know your determination. With respect to the particular parts of this theatre which are to be raised at a private charge, you will see those engagements fulfilled when the body of the building to which they are to be annexed shall be finished. - These paltry Greeks1 are, I know, immoderately fond of gymnastic diversions, and therefore, perhaps, the citizens of Nicea have planned a more magnificent building for this purpose than is necessary; however, they must be content with such as will be sufficient to answer the purpose for which it is intended. I leave it entirely to you to persuade the Claudiopolitani as you shall think proper with regard to their bath, which they have placed, it seems, in a very improper situation. As there is no province that is not furnished with men of skill and ingenuity, you cannot possibly want architects; unless you think it the shortest way to procure them from Rome, when it is generally from Greece that they come to us.
1 "Graeculi. Even under the empire, with its relaxed morality and luxurious tone, the Romans continued to apply this contemptuous designation to a people to whom they owed what taste for art and culture they possessed." Church and Brodribb.
To the Emperor Trajan
When I reflect upon the splendour of your exalted station, and the magnanimity of your spirit, nothing, I am persuaded, can be more suitable to both than to point out to you such works as are worthy of your glorious and immortal name, as being no less useful than magnificent. Bordering upon the territories of the city of Nicomedia is a most extensive lake; over which marbles, fruits, woods, and all kinds of materials, the commodities of the country, are brought over in boats up to the highroad, at little trouble and expense, but from thence are conveyed in carriages to the seaside, at a much greater charge and with great labour. To remedy this inconvenience, many hands will be in request; but upon such an occasion they cannot be wanting: for the country, and particularly the city, is exceedingly populous; and one may assuredly hope that every person will readily engage in a work which will be of universal benefit. It only remains then to send hither, if you shall think proper, a surveyor or an architect, in order to examine whether the lake lies above the level of the sea; the engineers of this province being of opinion that the former is higher by forty cubits.1 I find there is in the neighbourhood of this place a large canal, which was cut by a king of this country; but as it is left unfinished, it is uncertain whether it was for the purpose of draining the adjacent fields, or making a communication between the lake and the river. It is equally doubtful too whether the death of the king, or the despair of being able to accomplish the design, prevented the completion of it. If this was the reason, I am so much the more eager and warmly desirous, for the sake of your illustrious character (and I hope you will pardon me the ambition), that you may have the glory of executing what kings could only attempt.
1 A Roman cubit is equal to 1 foot, 5.406 inches of our measure. Arbuthnot's Tab. M.
Trajan to Pliny
There is something in the scheme you propose of opening a communication between the lake and the sea, which may, perhaps, tempt me to consent. But you must first carefully examine the situation of this body of water, what quantity it contains, and from whence it is supplied; lest, by giving it an opening into the sea, it should be totally drained. You may apply to Calpurnius Macer for an engineer, and I will also send you from hence someone skilled in works of this nature.
To the Emperor Trajan
Upon examining into the public expenses of the city of Byzantium, which, I find, are extremely great, I was informed, Sir, that the appointments of the ambassador whom they send yearly to you with their homage, and the decree which passes in the senate upon that occasion, amount to twelve thousand sesterces.1 But knowing the generous maxims of your government, I thought proper to send the decree without the ambassador, that, at the same time they discharged their public duty to you, their expense incurred in the manner of paying it might be lightened. This city is likewise taxed with the sum of three thousand sesterces2 towards defraying the expense of an envoy, whom they annually send to compliment the governor of Moesia: this expense I have also directed to be spared. I beg, Sir, you would deign either to confirm my judgment or correct my error in these points, by acquainting me with your sentiments.
1 About $480,]
2 About $120.
Trajan to Pliny
I entirely approve, my dearest Secundus, of your having excused by Byzantines that expense of twelve thousand sesterces in sending an ambassador to me. I shall esteem their duty as sufficiently paid, though I only receive the act of their senate through your hands. The governor of Moesia must likewise excuse them if they compliment him at a less expense.
To the Emperor Trajan
I Beg, Sir, you would settle a doubt I have concerning your diplomas;1 whether you think proper that those diplomas the dates of which are expired shall continue in force, and for how long? For I am apprehensive I may, through ignorance, either confirm such of these instruments as are illegal or prevent the effect of those which are necessary.
1 A diploma is properly a grant of certain privileges either to particular places or persons. It signifies also grants of other kinds; and it sometimes means post-warrants, as, perhaps, it does in this place. M.
Trajan to Pliny
The diplomas whose dates are expired must by no means be made use of. For which reason it is an inviolable rule with me to send new instruments of this kind into all the provinces before they are immediately wanted.
To the Emperor Trajan
Upon intimating, Sir, my intention to the city of Apemea,1 of examining into the state of their public dues, their revenue and expenses, they told me they were all extremely willing I should inspect their accounts, but that no proconsul had ever yet looked them over, as they had a privilege (and that of a very ancient date of administering the affairs of their corporation in the manner they thought proper. I required them to draw up a memorial of what they then asserted, which I transmit to you precisely as I received it; though I am sensible it contains several things foreign to the question. I beg you will deign to instruct me as to how I am to act in this affair, for I should be extremely sorry either to exceed or fall short of the duties of my commission.
1 A city in Bithynia. M.
Trajan to Pliny
The memorial of the Apameans annexed to your letter has saved me the necessity of considering the reasons they suggest why the former proconsuls forebore to inspect their accounts, since they are willing to submit them to your examination. Their honest compliance deserves to be rewarded; and they may be assured the enquiry you are to make in pursuance of my orders shall be with a full reserve to their privileges.
To the Emperor Trajan
The Nicomedians, Sir, before my arrival in this province, had begun to build a new forum adjoining their former, in a corner of which stands an ancient temple dedicated to the mother of the gods.1 This fabric must either be repaired or removed, and for this reason chiefly, because it is a much lower building than that very lofty one which is now in process of erection. Upon enquiry whether this temple had been consecrated, I was informed that their ceremonies of dedication differ from ours. You will be pleased, therefore, Sir, to consider whether a temple which has not been consecrated according to our rites may be removed,2 consistently with the reverence due to religion: for, if there should be no objection from that quarter, the removal in every other respect would be extremely convenient.
1 Cybele, Rhea, or Ops, as she is otherwise called; from whom, according to the pagan creed, the rest of the gods are supposed to have descended. M.
2 Whatever was legally consecrated was ever afterwards unapplicable to profane uses. M.
Trajan to Pliny
You may without scruple, my dearest Secundus, if the sieuation requires it, remove the temple of the mother of the gods, from the place where it now stands, to any other spot more convenient. You need be under no difficulty with respect to the act of dedication; for the ground of a foreign city1 is not capable of receiving that kind of consecration which is sanctified by our laws.
1 That is, a city not admitted to enjoy the laws and privileges of Rome. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
It is not easy, Sir, to express the joy I received when I heard you had, in compliance with the request of my mother-in-law and myself, granted Coelius Clemens the proconsulship of this province after the expiration of his consular office; as it is from thence I learn the full extent of your goodness towards me, which thus graciously extends itself through my whole family. As I dare not pretend to make an equal return to those obligations I so justly owe you, I can only have recourse to vows, and ardently implore the gods that I may not be found unworthy of those favours which you are repeatedly conferring upon me.
To the Emperor Trajan
We have celebrated, Sir (with those sentiments of joy your virtues so justly merit), the day of your accession to the empire, which was also its preservation, imploring the gods to preserve you in health and prosperity; for upon your welfare the security and repose of the world depend. I renewed at the same time the oath of allegiance at the head of the army, which repeated it after me in the usual form, the people of the province zealously concurring in the same oath.
Trajan to Pliny
Your letter, my dearest Secundus, was extremely acceptable, as it informed me of the zeal and affection with which you, together with the army and the provincials, solemnized the day of my accession to the empire.
To the Emperor Trajan
The debts which were owing to the public are, by the prudence, Sir, of your counsels, and the care of my administration, either actually paid in or now being collected: but I am afraid the money must lie unemployed. For as, on one side, there are few or no opportunities of purchasing land, so on the other, one cannot meet with any person who is willing to borrow of the public1 (especially at 12 per cent. interest) when they can raise money upon the same terms from private sources. You will consider then, Sir, whether it may not be advisable, in order to invite responsible persons to take this money, to lower the interest; or if that scheme should not succeed, to place it in the hands of the decurii, upon their giving sufficient security to the public. And though they should not be willing to receive it, yet as the rate of interest will be diminished, the hardship will be so much the less.
1 The reason why they did not choose to borrow of the public at the same rate of interest which they paid to private persons was (as one of the commentators observes) because in the former instance they were obliged to give security, whereas in the latter they could raise money upon their personal credit. M.
Trajan to Pliny
I agree with you, my dear Pliny, that there seems to be no other method of facilitating the placing out of the public money than by lowering the interest; the measure of which you will determine according to the number of the borrowers. But to compel persons to receive it who are not disposed to do so, when possibly they themselves may have no opportunity of employing it, is by no means consistent with the justice of my government.
To the Emperor Trajan
I return you my warmest acknowledgments, Sir, that, among the many important occupations in which you are engaged, you have condescended to be my guide on those points on which I have consulted you: a favour which I must now again beseech you to grant me. A certain person presented himself with a complaint that his adversaries, who had been banished for three years by the illustrious Servilius Calvus, still remained in the province: they, on the contrary, affirmed that Calvus had revoked their sentence, and produced his edict to that effect. I thought it necessary, therefore, to refer the whole affair to you. For as I have your express orders not to restore any person who has been sentenced to banishment either by myself or others, so I have no directions with respect to those who, having been banished by some of my predecessors in this government, have by them also been restored. It is necessary for me, therefore, to beg you would inform me, Sir, how I am to act with regard to the above-mentioned persons, as well as others, who, after having been condemned to perpetual banishment, have been found in the province without permission to return; for cases of that nature have likewise fallen under my cognizance. A person was brought before me who had been sentenced to perpetual exile by the proconsul Julius Bassus, but knowing that the acts of Bassus, during his administration, had been rescinded, and that the senate had granted leave to all those who had fallen under his condemnation of appealing from his decision at any time within the space of two years, I enquired of this man whether he had accordingly stated his case to the proconsul. He replied he had not. I beg then you would inform me whether you would have him sent back into exile, or whether you think some more severe and what kind of punishment should be inflicted upon him, and such others who may hereafter be found under the same circumstances. I have annexed to my letter the decree of Calvus, and the edict by which the persons above-mentioned were restored, as also the decree of Bassus.
Trajan to Pliny
I will let you know my determination concerning those exiles who were banished for three years by the proconsul P. Servilius Calvus, and soon afterwards restored to the province by his edict, when I shall have informed myself from him of the reasons of this proceeding. With respect to that person who was sentenced to perpetual banishment by Julius Bassus, yet continued to remain in the province, without making his appeal if he thought himself aggrieved (though he had two years given him for that purpose), I would have him sent in chains to my praetorian prefects:1 for, only to remand him back to a punishment which he has contumaciously eluded will by no means be a sufficient punishment.
1 These, in the original institution as settled by Augustus, were only commanders of his body-guards; but in the later times of the Roman empire they were next in authority under the emperor, to whom they seem to have acted as a sort of prime ministers. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
When I cited the judges, Sir, to attend me at a sessions1 which I was going to hold, Flavius Archippus claimed the privilege of being excused as exercising the profession of a philosopher.2 It was alleged by some who were present that he ought not only to be excused from that office, but even struck out of the roll of judges, and remanded back to the punishment from which he had escaped by breaking his chains. At the same time a sentence of the proconsul Velius Paullus was read, by which it appeared that Archippus had been condemned to the mines for forgery. He had nothing to produce in proof of this sentence having ever been reversed. He alleged, however, in favour of his restitution, a petition which he presented to Domitian, together with a letter from that prince, and a decree of the Prusensians in his honour. To these he subjoined a letter which he had received from you; as also an edict and a letter of your august father confirming the grants which had been made to him by Domitian. For these reasons, notwithstanding crimes of so atrocious a nature were laid to his charge, I did not think proper to determine anything concerning him, without first consulting with you, as it is an affair which seems to merit your particular decision. I have transmitted to you, with this letter, the several allegations on both sides.
Domitian's Letter to Terentius Maximus
"Flavius Archippus, the philosopher, has prevailed with me to give an order that six hundred thousand sesterces3 be laid out in the purchase of an estate for the support of him and his family, in the neighbourhood of Prusias,4 his native country. Let this be accordingly done; and place that sum to the account of my benefactions."
From the Same to L. Appius Maximus
"I recommend, my dear Maximus, to your protection that worthy philosopher, Archippus; a person whose moral conduct is agreeable to the principles of the philosophy he professes; and I would have you pay entire regard to whatever he shall reasonably request."
The Edict of the Emperor Nerva
"There are some points, no doubt, Quirites, concerning which the happy tenor of my government is a sufficient indication of my sentiments; and a good prince need not give an express declaration in matters wherein his intention cannot but be clearly understood. Every citizen in the empire will bear me witness that I gave up my private repose to the security of the public, and in order that I might have the pleasure of dispensing new bounties of my own, as also of confirming those which had been granted by predecessors. But lest the memory of him5 who conferred these grants, or the diffidence of those who received them, should occasion any interruption to the public joy, I thought it as necessary as it is agreeable to me to obviate these suspicions by assuring them of my indulgence. I do not wish any man who has obtained a private or a public privilege from one of the former emperors to imagine he is to be deprived of such a privilege, merely that he may owe the restoration of it to me; nor need any who have received the gratifications of imperial favour petition me to have them confirmed. Rather let them leave me at leisure for conferring new grants, under the assurance that I am only to be solicited for those bounties which have not already been obtained, and which the happier fortune of the empire has put it in my power to bestow."
1 The provinces were divided into a kind of circuits called conventus, whither the proconsuls used to go in order to administer justice. The judges here mentioned must not be understood to mean the same sort of judicial officers as with us; they rather answered to our juries M.
2 By the imperial constitutions the philosophers were exempted from all public functions. Catanaeus. M.
3 About $24,000.
4 Geographers are not agreed where to place this city; Cellarius conjectures it may possibly be the same with Prusa ad Olympum, Prusa at the foot of Mount Olympus in Mysia. M.
From the Same to Tullius Justus
"Since I have publicly decreed that all acts begun and accomplished in former reigns should be confirmed, the letters of Domitian must remain valid."
To the Emperor Trajan
Flavius Archippus has conjured me, by all my vows for your prosperity, and by your immortal glory, that I would transmit to you the memorial which he presented to me. I could not refuse a request couched in such terms; however, I acquainted the prosecutrix with this my intention, from whom I have also received a memorial on her part. I have annexed them both to this letter; that by hearing, as it were, each party, you may the better be enabled to decide.
Trajan to Pliny
It is possible that Domitian might have been ignorant of the circumstances in which Archippus was when he wrote the letter so much to that philosopher's credit. However, it is more agreeable to my disposition to suppose that prince designed he should be restored to his former situation; especially since he so often had the honour of a statue decreed to him by those who could not be ignorant of the sentence pronounced against him by the proconsul Paullus. But I do not mean to intimate, my dear Pliny, that if any new charge should be brought against him, you should be the less disposed to hear his accusers. I have examined the memorial of his prosecutrix, Furia Prima, as well as that of Archippus himself, which you sent with your last letter.
To the Emperor Trajan
The apprehensions you express, Sir, that the lake will be in danger of being entirely drained if a communication should be opened between that and the sea, by means of the river, are agreeable to that prudence and forethought you so eminently possess; but I think I have found a method to obviate that inconvenience. A channel may be cut from the lake up to the river so as not quite to join them, leaving just a narrow strip of land between, preserving the lake; by this means it will not only be kept quite separate from the river, but all the same purposes will be answered as if they were united: for it will be extremely easy to convey over that little intervening ridge whatever goods shall be brought down by the canal. This is a scheme which may be pursued, if it should be found necessary; but I hope there will be no occasion to have recourse to it. For, in the first place, the lake itself is pretty deep; and, in the next, by damming up the river which runs from it on the opposite side and turning its course as we shall find expedient, the same quantity of water may be retained. Besides, there are several brooks near the place where it is proposed the channel shall be cut which, if skilfully collected, will supply the lake with water in proportion to what it shall discharge. But if you should rather approve of the channel's being extended farther and cut narrower, and so conveyed directly into the sea, without running into the river, the reflux of the tide will return whatever it receives from the lake. After all, if the nature of the place should not admit of any of these schemes, the course of the water may be checked by sluices. These, however, and many other particulars, will be more skilfully examined into by the engineer, whom, indeed, Sir, you ought to send, according to your promise, for it is an enterprise well worthy of your attention and magnificence. In the meanwhile, I have written to the illustrious Calpurnius Macer, in pursuance of your orders, to send me the most skilful engineer to be had.
Trajan to Pliny
It is evident, my dearest Secundus, that neither your prudence nor your care has been wanting in this affair of the lake, since, in order to render it of more general benefit, you have provided so many expedients against the danger of its being drained. I leave it to your own choice to pursue whichever of the schemes shall be thought most proper. Calpurnius Macer will furnish you, no doubt, with an engineer, as artificers of that kind are not wanting in his province.
To the Emperor Trajan
I received, Sir, a despatch from your freedman, Lycormas, desiring me, if any embassy from Bosporus1 should come here on the way to Rome, that I would detain it till his arrival. None has yet arrived, at least in the city2 where I now am. But a courier passing through this place from the king of Sarmatia,3 I embrace the opportunity which accidentally offers itself, of sending with him the messenger whom Lycormas despatched hither, that you might be informed by both their letters of what, perhaps, it may be expedient you should be acquainted with at one and the same time.
1 The town of Panticapoeum, also called Bosporus, standing on the European side of the Cimmerian Bosporus (Straits of Kaffa), in the modern Crimea.
2 Nicea (as appears by the 15th letter of this book), a city in Bithynia, now called Isnik. M.
3 Sarmatia was divided into European, Asiatic, and German Sarmatia. It is not exactly known what bounds the ancients gave to this extensive region; however, in general, it comprehended the northern part of Russia, and the greater part of Poland, &c. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
I am informed by a letter from the king of Sarmatia that there are certain affairs of which you ought to be informed as soon as possible. In order, therefore, to hasten the despatches which his courier was charged with to you, I granted him an order to make use of the public post.1
1 The first invention of public couriers is ascribed to Cyrus, who, in order to receive the earliest intelligence from the governors of the several provinces, erected posthouses throughout the kingdom of Persia, at equal distances, which supplied men and horses to forward the public despatches. Augustus was the first who introduced this most useful institution among the Romans, by employing post-chaises, disposed at convenient distances, for the purpose of political intelligence. The magistrates of every city were obliged to furnish horses for these messengers, upon producing a diploma, or a king of warrant, either from the emperor himself or from those who had that authority under him. Sometimes, though upon very extraordinary occasions, persons who travelled upon their private affairs, were allowed the use of these post-chaises. It is surprising they were not sooner used for the purposes of commerce and private communication. Louis XI. first established them in France, in the year 1474; but it was not till the 12th of Car. II. that the post-office was settled in England by Act of Parliament. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
A very considerable question, Sir, in which the whole province is interested, has been lately started, concerning the state1 and maintenance of deserted children.2 I have examined the constitutions of former princes upon this head, but not finding anything in them relating, either in general or particular, to the Bithynians, I thought it necessary to apply to you for your directions: for in a point which seems to require the special interposition of your authority, I could not content myself with following precedents. An edict of the emperor Augustus (as pretended) was read to me, concerning one Annia; as also a letter from Vespasian to the Lacedaemonians, and another from Titus to the same, with one likewise from him to the Achaeans, also some letters from Domitian, directed to the proconsuls Avidius Nigrinus and Armenius Brocchus, together with one from that prince to the Lacedaemonians: but I have not transmitted them to you, as they were not correct (and some of them too of doubtful authenticity), and also because I imagine the true copies are preserved in your archives.
1 That is, whether they should be considered in a state of freedom or slavery. M.
2 "Parents throughout the entire ancient world had the right to expose their children and leave them to their fate. Hence would sometimes arise the question whether such a child, if found and brought up by another, was entitled to his freedom, whether also the person thus adopting him must grant him his freedom without repayment for the cost of maintenance." Church and Brodribb.
Trajan To Pliny
The question concerning children who were exposed by their parents, and afterwards preserved by others, and educated in a state of servitude, though born free, has been frequently discussed; but I do not find in the constitutions of the princes my predecessors any general regulation upon this head, extending to all the provinces. There are, indeed, some rescripts of Domitian to Avidius Nigrinus and Armenius Brocchus, which ought to be observed; but Bithynia is not comprehended in the provinces therein mentioned. I am of opinion, therefore, that the claims of those who assert their right of freedom upon this footing should be allowed; without obliging them to purchase their liberty by repaying the money advanced for their maintenance.1
1 "This decision of Trajan, the effect of which would be that persons would be slow to adopt an abandoned child which, when brought up, its unnatural parents could claim back without any compensation for its nurture, seems harsh, and we find that it was disregarded by the later emperors in their legal decisions on the subject." Church and Brodribb.
To the Emperor Trajan
The ambassador from the king of Sarmatia having remained two days, by his own choice, at Nicea, I did not think it reasonable, Sir, to detain him any longer: because, in the first place, it was still uncertain when your freedman, Lycormas, would arrive, and then again some indispensable affairs require my presence in a different part of the province. Of this I thought it necessary that you should be informed, because I lately acquainted you in a letter that Lycormas had desired, if any embassy should come this way from Bosporus, that I would detain it till his arrival. But I saw no plausible pretext for keeping him back any longer, especially as the despatches from Lycormas, which (as I mentioned before) I was not willing to detain, would probably reach you some days sooner than this ambassador.
To the Emperor Trajan
Having been petitioned by some persons to grant them the liberty (agreeably to the practice of former proconsuls) of removing the relics of their deceased relations, upon the suggestion that either their monuments were decayed by age or ruined by the inundations of the river, or for other reasons of the same kind, I thought proper, Sir, knowing that in cases of this nature it is usual at Rome to apply to the college of priests, to consult you, who are the sovereign of that sacred order, as to how you would have me act in this case.
Trajan to Pliny
It will be a hardship upon the provincials to oblige them to address themselves to the college of priests whenever they may have just reasons for removing the ashes of their ancestors. In this case, therefore, it will be better you should follow the example of the governors your predecessors, and grant or deny them this liberty as you shall see reasonable.
To the Emperor Trajan
I have enquired, Sir, at Prusa, for a proper place on which to erect the bath you were pleased to allow that city to build, and I have found one to my satisfaction. It is upon the site where formerly, I am told, stood a very beautiful mansion, but which is now entirely fallen into ruins. By fixing upon that spot, we shall gain the advantage of ornamenting the city in a part which at present is exceedingly deformed, and enlarging it at the same time without removing any of the buildings; only restoring one which is fallen to decay. There are some circumstances attending this structure of which it is proper I should inform you. Claudius Polyaenus bequeathed it to the emperor Claudius Caesar, with directions that a temple should be erected to that prince in a colonnade-court, and that the remainder of the house should be let in apartments. The city received the rents for a considerable time; but partly by its having been plundered, and partly by its being neglected, the whole house, colonnade-court and all, is entirely gone to ruin, and there is now scarcely anything remaining of it but the ground upon which it stood. If you shall think proper, Sir, either to give or sell this spot of ground to the city, as it lies so conveniently for their purpose, they will receive it as a most particular favour. I intend, with your permission, to place the bath in the vacant area, and to extend a range of porticoes with seats in that part where the former edifice stood. This new erection I purpose dedicating to you, by whose bounty it will rise with all the elegance and magnificence worthy of your glorious name. I have sent you a copy of the will, by which, though it is inaccurate, you will see that Polyaenus left several articles of ornament for the embellishment of this house; but these also are lost with all the rest: I will, however, make the strictest enquiry after them that I am able.
Trajan to Pliny
I have no objection to the Prusenses making use of the ruined court and house, which you say are untenanted, for the erection of their bath. But it is not sufficiently clear by your letter whether the temple in the centre of the colonnade-court was actually dedicated to Claudius or not; for if it were, it is still consecrated ground!1
1 And consequently by the Roman laws unapplicable to any other purposes. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
I have been pressed by some persons to take upon himself the enquiry of causes relating to claims of freedom by birthright, agreeably to a rescript of Domitian's to Minucius Rufus, and the practice of former proconsuls. But upon casting my eye on the decree of the senate concerning cases of this nature, I find it only mentions the proconsular province.1 I have therefore, Sir, deferred interfering in this affair, till I shall receive your instructions as to how you would have me proceed.
1 The Roman provinces in the times of the emperors were of two sorts: those which were distinguished by the name of the provinciae Caesaris and the provinciae senatus. The provinciae Caesaris, or imperial provinces, were such as the emperor, for reasons of policy, reserved to his own immediate administration, or of those whom he thought proper to appoint: the provinciae senatus, or proconsular provinces, were such as he left to the government of proconsuls or praetors, chosen in the ordinary method of election. (Vid. Suet. in Aug. c. 47.) Of the former kind was Bithynia, at the time when our author presided there. (Vid. Masson, Vit. Plin. p. 133.) M.
Trajan to Pliny
If you will send me the decree of the senate, which occasioned your doubt, I shall be able to judge whether it is proper you should take upon yourself the enquiry of causes relating to claims of freedom by birthright.
To the Emperor Trajan
I received a letter, Sir, from Apuleius, a military man, belonging to the garrison at Nicomedia, informing me that one Callidromus, being arrested by Maximus and Dionysius (two bakers, to whom he had hired himself), fled for refuge to your statue;1 that, being brought before a magistrate, he declared he was formerly slave to Laberius Maximus, but being taken prisoner by Susagus2 in Moesia,3 he was sent as a present from Decebalus to Pacorus, king of Parthia, in whose service he continued several years, from whence he made his escape, and came to Nicomedia. When he was examined before me, he confirmed this account, for which reason I thought it necessary to send4 him to you. This I should have done sooner, but I delayed his journey in order to make an enquiry concerning a seal ring which he said was taken from him, upon which was engraven the figure of Pacorus in his royal robes; I was desirous (if it could have been found) of transmitting this curiosity to you, with a small gold nugget which he says he brought from out of the Parthian mines. I have affixed my seal to it, the impression of which is a chariot drawn by four horses.
1 Particular temples, altars, and statues were allowed among the Romans as places of privilege and sanctuary to slaves, debtors, and malefactors, This custom was introduced by Romulus, who borrowed it probably from the Greeks;' but during the free state of Rome, few of these asylums were permitted. This custom prevailed most under the emperors, till it grew so scandalous that the Emperor Pius found it necessary to restrain those privileged places by an edict. See Lipsii Excurs. ad Taciti Ann. iii., c. 36. M.
2 General under Decebalus, king of the Dacians. M.
3 A province in Dacia, comprehending the southern parts of Servia and part of Bulgaria. M.
4 The second expedition of Trajan against Decebalus was undertaken the same year that Pliny went governor into this province; the reason therefore why Pliny sent this Callidromus to the emperor seems to be that some use might possibly be made of him in favour of that design. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
Julius Largus, of Pontus1 (a person whom I never saw, nor indeed ever heard his name till lately), in confidence, Sir, of your distinguishing judgment in my favour, has entrusted me with the execution of the last instance of his loyalty towards you. He has left me, by his will, his estate upon trust, in the first place to receive out of it fifty thousand sesterces2 for my own use, and to apply the remainder for the benefit of the cities of Heraclea and Tios,3 either by erecting some public edifice dedicated to your honour or instituting athletic games, according as I shall judge proper. These games are to be celebrated every five years, and to be called Trajan's games. My principal reason for acquainting you with this bequest is that I may receive your directions which of the respective alternatives to choose.
1 A province in Asia, bordering upon the Black Sea, and by some ancient geographers considered as one province with Bithynia. M.
2 About $2,000. M.
3 Cities of Pontus near the Euxine or Black Sea. M.
Trajan to Pliny
By the prudent choice Julius Largus has made of a trustee, one would imagine he had known you perfectly well. You will consider then what will most tend to perpetuate his memory, under the circumstances of the respective cities, and make your option accordingly.
To the Emperor Trajan
You acted agreeably, Sir, to your usual prudence and foresight in ordering the illustrious Calpurnius Macer to send a legionary centurion to Byzantium: you will consider whether the city of Juliopolis1 does not deserve the same regard, which, though it is extremely small, sustains very great burthens, and is so much the more exposed to injuries as it is less capable of resisting them. Whatever benefits you shall confer upon the city will in effect be advantageous to the whole country; for it is situated at the entrance of Bithynia, and is the town through which all who travel into this province generally pass.
1 Gordium, the old capital of Phrygia. It afterwards, in the reign of the emperor Augustus, received the name of Juliopolis. (See Smith's Classical Dict.)]
Trajan to Pliny
The circumstances of the city of Byzantium are such, by the great confluence of strangers to it, that I held it incumbent upon me, and consistent with the customs of former reigns, to send thither a legionary centurion's guard to preserve the privileges of that state. But if we should distinguish the city of Juliopolis in the same way, it will be introducing a precedent for many others, whose claim to that favour will rise in proportion to their want of strength. I have so much confidence, however, in your administration as to believe you will omit no method of protecting them from injuries. If any persons shall act contrary to the discipline I have enjoined, let them be instantly corrected; or if they happen to be soldiers, and their crimes should be too enormous for immediate chastisement, I would have them sent to their officers, with an account of the particular misdemeanour you shall find they have been guilty of; but if the delinquents should be on their way to Rome, inform me by letter.
To the Emperor Trajan
By a law of Pompey's1 concerning the Bithynians, it is enacted, Sir, that no person shall be a magistrate, or be chosen into the senate, under the age of thirty. By the same law it is declared that those who have exercised the office of magistrate are qualified to be members of the senate. Subsequent to this law, the emperor Augustus published an edict, by which it was ordained that persons of the age of twenty-two should be capable of being magistrates. The question, therefore, is whether those who have exercised the functions of a magistrate before the age of thirty may be legally chosen into the senate by the censors?2 And if so, whether, by the same kind of construction, they may be elected senators, at the age which entitles them to be magistrates, though they should not actually have borne any office? A custom which, it seems, has hitherto been observed, and is said to be expedient, as it is rather better that persons of noble birth should be admitted into the senate than those of plebeian rank. The censors elect having desired my sentiments upon this point, I was of opinion that both by the law of Pompey and the edict of Augustus those who had exercised the magistracy before the age of thirty might be chosen into the senate; and for this reason, because the edict allows the office of magistrate to be undertaken before thirty; and the law declares that whoever has been a magistrate should be eligible for the senate. But with respect to those who never discharged any office in the state, though they were of the age required for that purpose, I had some doubt: and therefore, Sir, I apply to you for your directions. I have subjoined to this letter the heads of the law, together with the edict of Augustus.
1 Pompey the Great, having subdued Mithridates, and by that means greatly enlarged the Roman empire, passed several laws relating to the newly conquered provinces, and, among others, that which is here mentioned. M.
2 The right of electing senators did not originally belong to the censors, who were only, as Cicero somewhere calls them, guardians of the discipline and manners of the city; but in process of time they engrossed the whole privilege of conferring that honour. M.
Trajan to Pliny
I agree with you, my dearest Secundus, in your construction, and am of opinion that the law of Pompey is so far repealed by the edict of the emperor Augustus that those persons who are not less than twenty-two years of age may execute the office of magistrates, and, when they have, may be received into the senate of their respective cities. But I think that they who are under thirty years of age, and have not discharged the function of a magistrate, cannot, upon pretence that in point of years they were competent to the office, legally be elected into the senate of their several communities.
To the Emperor Trajan
Whilst I was despatching some public affairs, Sir, at my apartments in Prusa, at the foot of Olympus, with the intention of leaving that city the same day, the magistrate Asclepiades informed me that Eumolpus had appealed to me from a motion which Cocceianus Dion made in their senate. Dion, it seems, having been appointed supervisor of a public building, desired that it might be assigned1 to the city in form. Eumolpus, who was counsel for Flavius Archippus, insisted that Dion should first be required to deliver in his accounts relating to this work, before it was assigned to the corporation; suggesting that he had not acted in the manner he ought. He added, at the same time, that in this building, in which your statue is erected, the bodies of Dion's wife and son are entombed,2 and urged me to hear this cause in the public court of judicature. Upon my at once assenting to his request, and deferring my journey for that purpose, he desired a longer day in order to prepare matters for hearing, and that I would try this cause in some other city. I appointed the city of Nicea; where, when I had taken my seat, the same Eumolpus, pretending not to be yet sufficiently instructed, moved that the trial might be again put off: Dion, on the contrary, insisted it should be heard. They debated this point very fully on both sides, and entered a little into the merits of the cause; when, being of opinion that it was reasonable it should be adjourned, and thinking it proper to consult with you in an affair which was of consequence in point of precedent, I directed them to exhibit the articles of their respective allegations in writing; for I was desirous you should judge from their own representations of the state of the question between them. Dion promised to comply with this direction, and Eumolpus also assured me he would draw up a memorial of what he had to allege on the part of the community. But he added that, being only concerned as advocate on behalf of Archippus, whose instructions he had laid before me, he had no charge to bring with respect to the sepulchres. Archippus, however, for whom Eumolpus was counsel here, as at Prusa, assured me he would himself present a charge in form upon this head. But neither Eumolpus nor Archippus (though I have waited several days for that purpose) have yet performed their engagement: Dion indeed has; and I have annexed his memorial to this letter. I have inspected the buildings in question, where I find your statue is placed in a library; and as to the edifice in which the bodies of Dion's wife and son are said to be deposited, it stands in the middle of a court, which is enclosed with a colonnade. Deign, therefore, I entreat you, Sir, to direct my judgment in the determination of this cause above all others, as it is a point to which the public is greatly attentive, and necessarily so, since the fact is not only acknowledged, but countenanced by many precedents.
1 This probably, was some act whereby the city was to ratify and confirm the proceedings of Dion under the commission assigned to him.
2 It was a notion which generally prevailed with the ancients, in the Jewish as well as heathen world, that there was a pollution in the contact of dead bodies, and this they extended to the very house in which the corpse lay, and even to the uncovered vessels that stood in the same room. (Vid. Pot. Antiq. v. ii. 181.) From some such opinion as this it is probable that the circumstance here mentioned, of placing Trajan's statue where these bodies were deposited, was esteemed as a mark of disrespect to his person.
Trajan to Pliny
You well know, my dearest Secundus, that it is my standing maxim not to create an awe of my person by severe and rigorous measures, and by construing every slight offence into an act of treason; you had no reason, therefore, to hesitate a moment upon the point concerning which you thought proper to consult me. Without entering, therefore, into the merits of that question (to which I would by no means give any attention, though there were ever so many instances of the same kind), I recommend to your care the examination of Dion's accounts relating to the public works which he has finished; as it is a case in which the interest of the city is concerned, and as Dion neither ought nor, it seems, does refuse to submit to the examination.
To the Emperor Trajan
The Niceans having, in the name of their community, conjured me, Sir, by all my hopes and wishes for your prosperity and immortal glory (an adjuration which is and ought to be most sacred to me), to present to you their petition, I did not think myself at liberty to refuse them: I have therefore annexed it to this letter.
Trajan to Pliny
The Niceans, I find, claim a right, by an edict of Augustus, to the estate of every citizen who dies intestate. You will therefore summon the several parties interested in this question, and, examining these pretensions, with the assistance of the procurators Virdius Gemellinus, and Epimachus, my freedman (having duly weighed every argument that shall be alleged against the claim), determine as shall appear most equitable.
To the Emperor Trajan
Your freedman and procurator,1 Maximus, behaved, Sir, during all the time we were together, with great probity, attention, and diligence; as one strongly attached to your interest, and strictly observant of discipline. This testimony I willingly give him; and I give it with all the fidelity I owe you.
1 Receiver of the finances. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
After having experienced, Sir, in Gabius Bassus, who commands on the Pontic1 coast, the greatest integrity, honour, and diligence, as well as the most particular respect to myself, I cannot refuse him my best wishes and suffrage; and I give them to him with all that fidelity which is due to you. I have found him abundantly qualified by having served in the army under you; and it is owing to the advantages of your discipline that he has learned to merit your favour. The soldiery and the people here, who have had full experience of his justice and humanity, rival each other in that glorious testimony they give of his conduct, both in public and in private; and I certify this with all the sincerity you have a right to expect from me.
1 The coast round the Black Sea.
To the Emperor Trajan
Nymphidius Lupus,1 Sir, and myself, served in the army together; he commanded a body of the auxiliary forces at the same time that I was military tribune; and it was from thence my affection for him began. A long acquaintance has since mutually endeared and strengthened our friendship. For this reason I did violence to his repose, and insisted upon his attending me into Bithynia, as my assessor in council. He most readily granted me this proof of his friendship; and without any regard to the plea of age, or the ease of retirement, he shared, and continues to share, with me, the fatigue of public business. I consider his relations, therefore, as my own; in which number Nymphidius Lupus, his son, claims my particular regard. He is a youth of great merit and indefatigable application, and in every respect well worthy of so excellent a father. The early proof he gave of his merit, when he commanded a regiment of foot, shews him to be equal to any honour you may think proper to confer upon him; and it gained him the strongest testimony of approbation from those most illustrious personages, Julius Ferox and Fuscus Salinator. And I will add, Sir, that I shall rejoice in any accession of dignity which he shall receive, as an occasion of particular satisfaction to myself.
1 The text calls him primipilarem, that is, one who had been primipilus, an officer in the army, whose post was both highly honourable and profitable; among other parts of his office he had the care of the eagle, or chief standard of the legion. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
May this and many succeeding birthdays be attended, Sir, with the highest felicity to you; and may you, in the midst of an uninterrupted course of health and prosperity, be still adding to the increase of that immortal glory which your virtues justly merit!
Trajan to Pliny
Your wishes, my dearest Secundus, for my enjoyment of many happy birthdays amidst the glory and prosperity of the republic were extremely agreeable to me.
To the Emperor Trajan
The inhabitants of Sinope1 are ill supplied, Sir, with water, which, however, may be brought thither from about sixteen miles' distance in great plenty and perfection. The ground, indeed, near the source of this spring is, for rather over a mile, of a very suspicious and marshy nature; but I have directed an examination to be made (which will be effected at a small expense) whether it is sufficiently firm to support any superstructure. I have taken care to provide a sufficient fund for this purpose, if you should approve, Sir, of a work so conducive to the health and enjoyment of this colony, greatly distressed by a scarcity of water.
1 A thriving Greek colony in the territory of Sinopis, on the Euxine.
Trajan To Pliny
I would have you proceed, my dearest Secundus, in carefully examining whether the ground you suspect is firm enough to support an aqueduct. For I have no manner of doubt that the Sinopian colony ought to be supplied with water; provided their finances will bear the expense of a work so conducive to their health and pleasure.
To the Emperor Trajan
The free and confederate city of the Amiseni1 enjoys, by your indulgence, the privilege of its own laws. A memorial being presented to me there, concerning a charitable institution,2 I have subjoined it to this letter, that you may consider, Sir, whether, and how far, this society ought to be licensed or prohibited.
1 A colony of Athenians in the province of Pontus. Their town, Amisus, on the coast, was one of the residences of Mithridates.
2 Casaubon, in his observations upon Theophrastus (as cited by one of the commentators), informs us that there were at Athens and other cities of Greece certain fraternities which paid into a common chest a monthly contribution towards the support of such of their members who had fallen into misfortunes; upon condition that, if ever they arrived to more prosperous circumstances, they should repay into the general fund the money so advanced. M.
Trajan to Pliny
If the petition of the Amiseni which you have transmitted to me, concerning the establishment of a charitable society, be agreeable to their own laws, which by the articles of alliance it is stipulated they shall enjoy, I shall not oppose it; especially if these contributions are employed, not for the purpose of riot and faction, but for the support of the indigent. In other cities, however, which are subject to our laws, I would have all assemblies of this nature prohibited.
To the Emperor Trajan
Suetonius Tranquillus, Sir, is a most excellent, honourable, and learned man. I was so much pleased with his tastes and disposition that I have long since invited him into my family, as my constant guest and domestic friend; and my affection for him increased the more I knew of him. Two reasons concur to render the privilege1 which the law grants to those who have three children particularly necessary to him; I mean the bounty of his friends, and the ill success of his marriage. Those advantages, therefore, which nature had denied to him, he hopes to obtain from your goodness, by my intercession. I am thoroughly sensible, Sir, of the value of the privilege I am asking; but I know, too, I am asking it from one whose gracious compliance with all my desires I have amply experienced. How passionately I wish to do so in the present instance, you will judge by my thus requesting it in my absence; which I would not, had it not been a favour which I am more than ordinarily anxious to obtain.
1 By the law for encouragement of matrimony (some account of which has already been given in a previous note), as a penalty upon those who lived bachelors, they were declared incapable of inheriting any legacy by will; so likewise, if, being married, they had no children, they could not claim the full advantage of benefactions of that kind. M.
Trajan to Pliny
You cannot but be sensible, my dearest Secundus, how reserved I am in granting favours of the kind you desire; having frequently declared in the senate that I had not exceeded the number of which I assured that illustrious order I would be contented with. I have yielded, however, to your request, and have directed an article to be inserted in my register, that I have conferred upon Tranquillus, on my usual conditions, the privilege which the law grants to those who have three children.
To the Emperor Trajan
It is my invariable rule, Sir, to refer to you in all matters where I feel doubtful; for who is more capable of removing my scruples, or informing my ignorance? Having never been present at any trials concerning those who profess Christianity, I am unacquainted not only with the nature of their crimes, or the measure of their punishment, but how far it is proper to enter into an examination concerning them. Whether, therefore, any difference is usually made with respect to ages, or no distinction is to be observed between the young and the adult; whether repentance entitles them to a pardon; or if a man has been once a Christian, it avails nothing to desist from his error; whether the very profession of Christianity, unattended with any criminal act, or only the crimes themselves inherent in the profession are punishable; on all these points I am in great doubt. In the meanwhile, the method I have observed towards those who have been brought before me as Christians is this: I asked them whether they were Christians; if they admitted it, I repeated the question twice, and threatened them with punishment; if they persisted, I ordered them to be at once punished: for I was persuaded, whatever the nature of their opinions might be, a contumacious and inflexible obstinacy certainly deserved correction. There were others also brought before me possessed with the same infatuation, but being Roman citizens,2 I directed them to be sent to Rome.
But this crime spreading (as is usually the case) while it was actually under prosecution, several instances of the same nature occurred. An anonymous information was laid before me containing a charge against several persons, who upon examination denied they were Christians, or had ever been so. They repeated after me an invocation to the gods, and offered religious rites with wine and incense before your statue (which for that purpose I had ordered to be brought, together with those of the gods), and even reviled the name of Christ: whereas there is no forcing, it is said, those who are really Christians into any of these compliances: I thought it proper, therefore, to discharge them. Some among those who were accused by a witness in person at first confessed themselves Christians, but immediately after denied it; the rest owned indeed that they had been of that number formerly, but had now (some above three, others more, and a few above twenty years ago) renounced that error. They all worshipped your statue and the images of the gods, uttering imprecations at the same time against the name of Christ. They affirmed the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they met on a stated day before it was light, and addressed a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity, binding themselves by a solemn oath, not for the purposes of any wicked design, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal. From this custom, however, they desisted after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your commands, I forbade the meeting of any assemblies. After receiving this account, I judged it so much the more necessary to endeavor to extort the real truth, by putting two female slaves to the torture, who were said to officiate' in their religious rites: but all I could discover was evidence of an absurd and extravagant superstition.
I deemed it expedient, therefore, to adjourn all further proceedings, in order to consult you. For it appears to be a matter highly deserving your consideration, more especially as great numbers must be involved in the danger of these prosecutions, which have already extended, and are still likely to extend, to persons of all ranks and ages, and even of both sexes. In fact, this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread its infection among the neighbouring villages and country. Nevertheless, it still seems possible to restrain its progress. The temples, at least, which were once almost deserted, begin now to be frequented; and the sacred rites, after a long intermission, are again revived; while there is a general demand for the victims, which till lately found very few purchasers. From all this it is easy to conjecture what numbers might be reclaimed if a general pardon were granted to those who shall repent of their error.
1 This letter is esteemed as almost the only genuine monument of ecclesiastical antiquity relating to the times immediately succeeding the Apostles, it being written at most not above forty years after the death of St. Paul. It was preserved by the Christians themselves as a clear and unsuspicious evidence of the purity of their doctrines, and is frequently appealed to by the early writers of the Church against the calumnies of their adversaries. M.
2 It was one of the privileges of a Roman citizen, secured by the Sempronian law, that he could not be capitally convicted but by the suffrage of the people; which seems to have been still so far in force as to make it necessary to send the persons here mentioned to Rome. M.
3 These women, it is supposed, exercised the same office as Phoebe, mentioned by St. Paul, whom he styles deaconess of the church of Cenchrea. Their business was to tend the poor and sick, and other charitable offices; as also to assist at the ceremony of female baptism, for the more decent performance of that rite: as Vossius observes upon this passage. M.
Trajan to Pliny
You have adopted the right course, my dearest Secundus, in investigating the charges against the Christians who were brought before you. It is not possible to lay down any general rule for all such cases. Do not go out of your way to look for them. If indeed they should be brought before you, and the crime is proved, they must be punished;1 with the restriction, however, that where the party denies he is a Christian, and shall make it evident that he is not, by invoking our gods, let him (notwithstanding any former suspicion) be pardoned upon his repentance. Anonymous informations ought not to be received in any sort of prosecution. It is introducing a very dangerous precedent, and is quite foreign to the spirit of our age.
1 If we impartially examine this prosecution of the Christians, we shall find it to have been grounded on the ancient constitution of the state, and not to have proceeded from a cruel or arbitrary temper in Trajan. The Roman legislature appears to have been early jealous of any innovation in point of public worship; and we find the magistrates, during the old republic, frequently interposing in cases of that nature. Valerius Maximus has collected some instances to that purpose (L. i., c. 3), and Livy mentions it as an established principle of the earlier ages of the commonwealth, to guard against the introduction of foreign ceremonies of religion. It was an old and fixed maxim likewise of the Roman government not to suffer any unlicensed assemblies of the people. From hence it seems evident that the Christians had rendered themselves obnoxious not so much to Trajan as to the ancient and settled laws of the state, by introducing a foreign worship, and assembling themselves without authority. M.
To the Emperor Trajan
The elegant and beautiful city of Amastris,1 Sir, has, among other principal constructions, a very fine street and of considerable length, on one entire side of which runs what is called indeed a river, but in fact is no other than a vile common sewer, extremely offensive to the eye, and at the same time very pestilential on account of its noxious smell. It will be advantageous, therefore, in point of health, as well as decency, to have it covered; which shall be done with your permission: as I will take care, on my part, that money be not wanting for executing so noble and necessary a work.
1 On the coast of Paphlagonia.
Trajan to Pliny
It is highly reasonable, my dearest Secundus, if the water which runs through the city of Amastris is prejudicial, while uncovered, to the health of the inhabitants, that it should be covered up. I am well assured you will, with your usual application, take care that the money necessary for this work shall not be wanting.
To the Emperor Trajan
We have celebrated, Sir, with great joy and festivity, those votive solemnities which were publicly proclaimed as formerly, and renewed them the present year, accompanied by the soldiers and provincials, who zealously joined with us in imploring the gods that they would be graciously pleased to preserve you and the republic in that state of prosperity which your many and great virtues, particularly your piety and reverence towards them, so justly merit.
Trajan to Pliny
It was agreeable to me to learn by your letter that the army and the provincials seconded you, with the most joyful unanimity, in those vows which you paid and renewed to the immortal gods for my preservation and prosperity.
To the Emperor Trajan
We have celebrated, with all the warmth of that pious zeal we justly ought, the day on which, by a most happy succession, the protection of mankind was committed over into your hands; recommending to the gods, from whom you received the empire, the object of your public vows and congratulations.
Trajan to Pliny
I was extremely well pleased to be informed by your letter that you had, at the head of the soldiers and the provincials, solemnized my accession to the empire with all due joy and zeal.
To the Emperor Trajan
Valerius Paulinus, Sir, having bequeathed to me the right of patronage1 over all his freedmen, except one, I entreat you to grant the freedom of Rome to three of them. To desire you to extend this favour to all of them would, I fear, be too unreasonable a trespass upon your indulgence; which, in proportion as I have amply experienced, I ought to be so much the more cautious in troubling. The persons for whom I make this request are C. Valerius Astraeus, C. Valerius Dionysius, and C. Valerius Aper.
1 By the Papian law, which passed in the consulship of M. Papius Mutilus and Q. Poppeas Secundus, u.c. 761, if a freedman died worth a hundred thousand sesterces (or about $4,000 of our money), leaving only one child, his patron (that is, the master from whom he received his liberty) was entitled to half his estate; if he left two children, to one-third; but if more than two, then the patron was absolutely excluded. This was afterwards altered by Justinian, Inst. l. iii., tit. 8. M.
Trajan to Pliny
You act most generously in so early soliciting in favour of those whom Valerius Paulinus has confided to your trust. I have accordingly granted the freedom of the city to such of his freedmen for whom you requested it, and have directed the patent to be registered: I am ready to confer the same on the rest, whenever you shall desire me.
To the Emperor Trajan
P. Attius Aquila, a centurion of the sixth equestrian cohort, requested me, Sir, to transmit his petition to you, in favour of his daughter. I thought it would be unkind to refuse him this service, knowing, as I do, with what patience and kindness you attend to the petitions of the soldiers.
Trajan to Pliny
I have read the petition of P. Attius Aquila, centurion of the sixth equestrian cohort, which you sent to me; and in compliance with his request, I have conferred upon his daughter the freedom of the city of Rome. I send you at the same time the patent, which you will deliver to him.
To the Emperor Trajan
I request, Sir, your directions with respect to the recovering those debts which are due to the cities of Bithynia and Pontus, either for rent, or goods sold, or upon any other consideration. I find they have a privilege, conceded to them by several proconsuls, of being preferred to other creditors; and this custom has prevailed as if it had been established by law. Your prudence, I imagine, will think it necessary to enact some settled rule, by which their rights may always be secured. For the edicts of others, how wisely soever founded, are but feeble and temporary ordinances, unless confirmed and sanctioned by your authority.
Trajan to Pliny
The right which the cities either of Pontus or Bithynia claim relating to the recovery of debts of whatever kind, due to their several communities, must be determined agreeably to their respective laws. Where any of these communities enjoy the privilege of being preferred to other creditors, it must be maintained; but, where no such privilege prevails, it is not just I should establish one, in prejudice of private property.
To the Emperor Trajan
The solicitor to the treasury of the city of Amisus instituted a claim, Sir, before me against Julius Piso of about forty thousand denarii,1 presented to him by the public above twenty years ago, with the consent of the general council and assembly of the city: and he founded his demand upon certain of your edicts, by which donations of this kind are prohibited. Piso, on the other hand, asserted that he had conferred large sums of money upon the community, and indeed had thereby expended almost the whole of his estate. He insisted upon the length of time which had intervened since this donation, and hoped that he should not be compelled, to the ruin of the remainder of his fortunes, to refund a present which had been granted him long since, in return for many good offices he had done the city. For this reason, Sir, I thought it necessary to suspend giving any judgment in this cause till I shall receive your directions.
1 About $7,000.
Trajan to Pliny
Though by my edicts I have ordained that no largesses shall be given out of the public money, yet, that numberless private persons may not be disturbed in the secure possession of their fortunes, those donations which have been made long since ought not to be called in question or revoked. We will not, therefore, enquire into anything that has been transacted in this affair so long ago as twenty years; for I would be no less attentive to secure the repose of every private man than to preserve the treasure of every public community.
To the Emperor Trajan
The Pompeian law, Sir, which is observed in Pontus and Bithynia, does not direct that any money for their admission shall be paid in by those who are elected into the senate by the censors. It has, however, been usual for such members as have been admitted into those assemblies, in pursuance of the privilege which you were pleased to grant to some particular cities, of receiving above their legal number, to pay one1 or two thousand denarii2 on their election. Subsequent to this, the proconsul Anicius Maximus ordained (though indeed his edict related to some few cities only) that those who were elected by the censors should also pay into the treasury a certain sum, which varied in different places. It remains, therefore, for your consideration whether it would not be proper to settle a certain sum for each member who is elected into the councils to pay upon his entrance; for it well becomes you, whose every word and action deserve to be immortalized, to establish laws that shall endure for ever.
1 About $175.
2 About $350.
Trajan to Pliny
I can give no general directions applicable to all the cities of Bithynia, in relation to those who are elected members of their respective councils, whether they shall pay an honorary fee upon their admittance or not. I think that the safest method which can be pursued is to follow the particular laws of each city; and I also think that the censors ought to make the sum less for those who are chosen into the senate contrary to their inclinations than for the rest.
To the Emperor Trajan
The Pompeian law, Sir, allows the Bithynians to give the freedom of their respective cities to any person they think proper, provided he is not a foreigner, but native of some of the cities of this province. The same law specifies the particular causes for which the censors may expel any member of the senate, but makes no mention of foreigners. Certain of the censors, therefore, have desired my opinion whether they ought to expel a member if he should happen to be a foreigner. But I thought it necessary to receive your instructions in this case; not only because the law, though it forbids foreigners to be admitted citizens, does not direct that a senator shall be expelled for the same reason, but because I am informed that in every city in the province a great number of the senators are foreigners. If, therefore, this clause of the law, which seems to be antiquated by a long custom to the contrary, should be enforced, many cities, as well as private persons, must be injured by it. I have annexed the heads of this law to my letter.
Trajan to Pliny
You might well be doubtful, my dearest Secundus, what reply to give to the censors, who consulted you concerning their right to elect into the senate foreign citizens, though of the same province. The authority of the law on one side, and long custom prevailing against it on the other, might justly occasion you to hesitate. The proper mean to observe in this case will be to make no change in what is past, but to allow those senators who are already elected, though contrary to law, to keep their seats, to whatever city they may belong; in all future elections, however, to pursue the directions of the Pompeian law: for to give it a retrospective operation would necessarily introduce great confusion.
To the Emperor Trajan
It is customary here upon any person taking the manly robe, solemnizing his marriage, entering upon the office of a magistrate, or dedicating any public work, to invite the whole senate, together with a considerable part of the commonalty, and distribute to each of the company one or two denarii.1 I request you to inform me whether you think proper this ceremony should be observed, or how far you approve of it. For myself, though I am of opinion that upon some occasions, especially those of public festivals, this kind of invitation may be permitted, yet, when carried so far as to draw together a thousand persons, and sometimes more, it seems to be going beyond a reasonable number, and has somewhat the appearance of ambitious largesses.
1 The denarius = 17 cents. The sum total, then, distributed among one thousand persons at the rate of, say, two denarii apiece would amount to about $350.
Trajan to Pliny
You very justly apprehend that those public invitations which extend to an immoderate number of people, and where the dole is distributed, not singly to a few acquaintances, but, as it were, to whole collective bodies, may be turned to the factious purposes of ambition. But I appointed you to your present government, fully relying upon your prudence, and in the persuasion that you would take proper measures for regulating the manners and settling the peace of the province.
To the Emperor Trajan
The athletic victors, Sir, in the Iselastic1 games, conceive that the stipend you have established for the conquerors becomes due from the day they are crowned: for it is not at all material, they say, what time they were triumphantly conducted into their country, but when they marited that honour. On the contrary, when I consider the meaning of the term Iselastic, I am strongly inclined to think that it is intended the stipend should commence from the time of their public entry. They likewise petition to be allowed the treat you give at those combats which you have converted into Iselastic, though they were conquerors before the appointment of that institution: for it is but reasonable, they assert, that they should receive the reward in this instance, as they are deprived of it at those games which have been divested of the honour of being Iselastic, since their victory. But I am very doubtful whether a retrospect should be admitted in the case in question, and a reward given, to which the claimants had no right at the time they obtained the victory, I beg, therefore, you would be pleased to direct my judgment in these points, by explaining the intention of your own benefactions.
1 These games are called Iselastic from the Greek word eibeXauvw, invehor, because the victors, drawn by white horses, and wearing crowns on their heads, were conducted with great pomp into their respective cities, which they entered through a breach in the walls made for that purpose; intimating, as Plutarch observes, that a city which produced such able and victorious citizens, had little occasion for the defence of walls (Catanaeus). They received also annually a certain honorary stipend from the public. M.
Trajan to Pliny
The stipend appointed for the conqueror in the Iselastic games ought not, I think, to commence till he makes his triumphant entry into his city. Nor are the prizes, at those combats which I thought proper to make Iselastic, to be extended backwards to those who were victors before that alteration took place. With regard to the plea which these athletic combatants urge, that they ought to receive the Iselastic prize at those combats which have been made Iselastic subsequent to their conquests, as they are denied it in the same case where the games have ceased to be so, it proves nothing in their favour; the notwithstanding any new arrangement which has been made relating to these games, they are not called upon to return the recompense which they received prior to such alteration.
To the Emperor Trajan
I have hitherto never, Sir, granted an order for post-chaises to any person, or upon any occasion, but in affairs that relate to your administration. I find myself, however, at present under a sort of necessity of breaking through this fixed rule. My wife having received an account of her grandfather's death, and being desirous to wait upon her aunt with all possible expedition, I thought it would be unkind to deny her the use of this privilege; as the grace of so tender an office consists in the early discharge of it, and as I well knew a journey which was founded in filial piety could not fail of your approbation. I should think myself highly ungrateful, therefore, were I not to acknowledge that, among other great obligations which I owe to your indulgence, I have this in particular, that, in confidence of your favour, I have ventured to do, without consulting you, what would have been too late had I waited for your consent.
Trajan to Pliny
You did me justice, my dearest Secundus, in confiding in my affection towards you. Without doubt, if you had waited for my consent to forward your wife in her journey by means of those warrants which I have entrusted to your care, the use of them would not have answered your purpose; since it was proper this visit to her aunt should have the additional recommendation of being paid with all possible expedition.