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Pliny the Younger : Letters

    - BOOK 1

Translated by J.B.Firth (1900) - a few words and phrases have been modified.

See key to translations for an explanation of the format.   Click on the L symbols to go the Latin text of each letter.


CONTENTS:   1 Septicius   2 Arrianus   3 Caninius Rufus   4 Pompeia Celerina   5 Voconius Romanus   6 Cornelius Tacitus   7 Octavius Rufus   8 Saturninus   9 Minucius Fundanus   10 Attius Clemens   11 Fabius Justus   12 Calestrius Tiro   13 Socius Senecio   14 Junius Mauricus   15 Septicius Clarus   16 Erucius   17 Cornelius Titianus   18 Suetonius Tranquillus   19 Romatius Firmus   20 Cornelius Tacitus   21 Paternus   22 Catilius Severus   23 Pompeius Falco   24 Baebius Hispanus




[1] L   To Septicius.

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


[2] L   To Arrianus.

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

(*)   Virgil, Aeneid, vi.129.


[3] L   To Caninius Rufus.

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


[4] L   To Pompeia Celerina, his mother-in-law.

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


[5] L   To Voconius Romanus.

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

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

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

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

(*)   This refers to a wound he had received while supporting Vitellius. - Tacitus, Hist. iii. 80.

(**)   A college of about one hundred judges, as the name implies, divided into Chambers or Courts. It will be found frequently mentioned in these letters.

(†)   The brother of Arulenus Rusticus.


[6] L   To Cornelius Tacitus.

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


[7] L   To Octavius Rufus.

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

(*)   Hom. Il. xvi. 250.

(**)   Octavius Rufus seems to have asked Pliny to appear for Gallus against the Baetici ; or, in the event of his declining to do this, to abstain from appearing on the other side. Pliny refuses the former, but assents to the latter request.

(†)   Hom. Il. i. 528.


[8] L   To Saturninus.

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

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

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

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

(*)   The members of a local senate, something like our town-councillors.


[9] L   To Minucius Fundanus.

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


[10] L   To Attius Clemens.

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

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

(*)   A Stoic, who taught in Tyre until he followed Vespasian to Rome. When aged and infirm, he committed suicide, in accordance with Stoic principles (118 A.D.).

(**)   He was at this time Prefect of the Treasury.


[11] L   To Fabius Justus.

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


[12] L   To Calestrius Tiro.

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

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

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

(*)   Domitian.


[13] L   To Socius Senecio.

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


[14] L   To Junius Mauricus.

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

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

(*)   The Emperor, in his capacity of Censor, could not only admit extra members into the senate, but confer honorary official rank on his nominees.


[15] L   To Septicius Clarus.

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


[16] L   To Erucius.

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

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


[17] L   To Cornelius Titianus.

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

(*)   L. Junius Silanus Torquatus, Nero's victim in 65 A.D.

(**)   Even under Trajan it would not have been allowable to erect statues in public to anti-imperialists.


[18] L   To Suetonius Tranquillus.

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

(*)   See letter vi. 33.

(**)   Literally, "My honour seemed be to me to be my country (to stand in the place of πάτρη, in the line of Homer, Il. xii.243), and anything, if there could be anything, which might be dearer to me than my country."


[19] L   To Romatius Firmus.

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

(*)   His maternal uncle; the elder Pliny.


[20] L   To Cornelius Tacitus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(*)   Pro Cluentio.

(**)   In 65 B.C.; only fragments of the speech have survived.

(†)   Aristophanes, 'Acharnians', 531.


[21] L   To Paternus.

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


[22] L   To Catilius Severus.

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

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

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


[23] L   To Pompeius Falco.

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


[24] L   To Baebius Hispanus.

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

Book 2


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