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Pliny the Younger : Letters

    - BOOK 10 ,   Letters 1-60

Translated by J.B.Firth (1900) - a few words and phrases have been modified. The numbering of the letters in this book has been changed slightly to bring it into line with the most recent editions.

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


CONTENTS:   Letters of Pliny to and from the emperor Trajan.   1 - 2 - 3a - 3b - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17a - 17b - 18 - 19 - 20 - 21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25 - 26 - 27 - 28 - 29 - 30 - 31 - 32 - 33 - 34 - 35 - 36 - 37 - 38 - 39 - 40 - 41 - 42 - 43 - 44 - 45 - 46 - 47 - 48 - 49 - 50 - 51 - 52 - 53 - 54 - 55 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59 - 60   → Letters 61-121




[1] L   To Trajan.

Your filial piety, most sacred emperor, prompted your desire to succeed your father as late as possible, but the immortal gods have hastened to bring your talents to the guidance of the state which has fallen to your care. *   I pray therefore that prosperity may wait upon you, and through you upon the human race - in other words, I pray that whatever befalls may be worthy of your reign. It is my earnest wish that both in public and private life strength and cheerfulness, most excellent emperor, may be yours.

(*)   Nerva, who had adopted Trajan three months previously, died on 28th January, 98 A.D.   Trajan received the news of his accession at Cologne, and did not immediately return to Rome.


[2] L   To Trajan.

Words fail me to express the pleasure you have given me, Sir, in that you have thought me worthy of the privileges which belong to those who have three children. *   For although in this case you have granted the prayers of that excellent man, Julius Servianus, who is your devoted servant, I still gather from your rescript that you indulged his wishes all the more willingly because it was for me that he asked the favour. I seem therefore to have attained the summit of my ambition now that at the beginning of your most auspicious reign you have allowed me to win this peculiar mark of your regard, and I desire children of my own all the more now, when I even wished to have them in the late terrible regime, **   as you can judge from my having married twice. But the gods have decreed a better fate for me, and have reserved all my good fortune intact to be granted by your bounty. I should much prefer to become a father at a time like this, when my future happiness and prosperity are assured to me.

(*)   See note to letter ii.13.

(**)   Of Domitian.


[3a] L   To Trajan.

The moment, Sir, I was promoted by your kindness to be prefect of the Treasury of Saturn, I resigned all my other duties, which, I may add, I never took on indiscriminately, in order that I might be able to apply myself wholeheartedly to the office bestowed upon me. Hence, when the provincials desired me to champion their case against Marius Priscus, *   I asked to be excused the honour, and my petition was granted. But subsequently, when the consul-designate proposed that representations should be made to us, whose excuses had already been accepted, to get us to consent to allow the senate to direct us as it pleased and our names to be thrown into the urn, **   I judged it most likely to conduce to the tranquillity of your reign that I should not oppose the wishes of that noble order, especially as they were expressed with such moderation. I trust that you consider that I was justified in giving way, for I wish to test every act and word of mine by the conscientious standard which guides your conduct.

(*)   In 99-100 A.D.; see letter ii. 11.

(**)   When provincials sought to prosecute a governor, an advocate for them was ordinarily chosen by lot, out of several nominated by the Senate. This form was observed even when, as in this case, the provincials asked for some particular advocate.


[3b] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You acted the part of a good citizen and a good senator in thus obeying the injunctions of that noble order, which it was perfectly justified in laying upon you. I trust that you will continue to play that part according to the loyalty you have already shown me.


[4] L   To Trajan.

The kindnesses, most excellent of emperors, which I have received at your hands have been so manifold that I am encouraged to dare to seek your interest on behalf of my friends, among whom Voconius Romanus has deserved, perhaps, the first place. He has been my schoolfellow and companion from my earliest years. For that reason I petitioned the late emperor, your father, to promote him to the senatorial order. However, the granting of my prayer has been left over for your goodness to accomplish, because the mother of Romanus had omitted some legal technicalities in handing over the liberal sum of four million sesterces which she had promised in a document addressed to your father to confer upon her son. *   Nevertheless, she has subsequently, by my advice, made good the omissions, for she has not only conveyed the farms over to him, but has carried out all the legal requirements necessary in making such a conveyance. Now that is finished which delayed my hopes, I have the fullest confidence in pledging my word to you for the character of my friend Romanus, a character which is adorned by his liberal education and his striking filial piety, thanks to which he has deserved this act of generosity on his mother's part, the inheritance he came in for from his father, and his adoption by his step-father. All these qualities are set off by the splendour of his family and the wealth of his parents, and I trust also that even my entreaties on his behalf will add to these separate commendations to your kindness. I pray you therefore. Sir, that you will enable me to receive the congratulations I most desire to obtain, and that since my wishes are honourable - as I hope they are - I may be able to boast of your favourable regard not only towards myself alone but also towards my friend.

(*)   Property to the value of 1,200,000 sesterces was a necessary qualification for senatorial rank. .


[5] L   To Trajan.

Last year, Sir, when I was in serious ill-health and was in some danger of my life I called in an ointment-doctor {iatroliptes}, and I can only adequately repay him for the pains and interest he took in my case if you are kind enough to help me. Let me, therefore, entreat you to bestow on him the Roman citizenship, for he belongs to a foreign race and was manumitted by a foreign lady. His name is Harpocras, his patroness being Thermuthis, the daughter of Theon, but she has been dead for some years. I also beg you to give full Roman citizenship *   to the freedwomen of Antonia Maximilla, a lady of great distinction, Hedia, and Antonia Harmeris. It is at the request of their patroness that I beg this favour.

(*)   Ius Quiritium - even though they had a Roman owner, some slaves were freed by informal methods of manumission that left them without full citizen rights.


[6] L   To Trajan.

I thank you, Sir, for having so promptly granted my request and for your bestowal of full citizenship on the freedwomen of a lady who is my intimate friend, and the Roman citizenship upon Harpocras, my ointment-doctor. But though I gave particulars, in accordance with your wishes, of his age and financial position, I have been reminded by those more skilled in such matters than I am that as Harpocras is an Egyptian, I ought first to have obtained for him the Egyptian citizenship before asking for the Roman. For my own part, I thought that no distinction was drawn between Egyptians and all other foreigners, and so was satisfied with merely informing you that he had received his freedom at the hands of a foreign lady, and that his patroness had been dead for some time. I do not regret my ignorance in this matter, inasmuch as it has enabled me to owe you a deeper debt of gratitude for the same individual. So I beg that you will bestow upon him both the Alexandrine and the Roman citizenship, that I may lawfully enjoy the full extent of your kindness. I have sent particulars of his age and income to your freedmen, according to your instructions, so as to prevent any further accidental delay of your goodness.


[7] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I make a practice of following the rules of my predecessors in not making promiscuous grants of the Alexandrine citizenship, but since you have already obtained the Roman citizenship for Harpocras, your ointment-doctor, I cannot very well refuse this further request of yours. You must let me know to what district he belongs, so that I may write to my friend Pompeius Planta, who is praefect of Egypt.


[8] L   To Trajan.

When, Sir, your late father, *   both by a very fine speech and by setting them a most honourable example himself, urged every citizen to deeds of liberality, I sought permission from him to transfer to a neighbouring township all the statues of the emperors which had come into my possession by various bequests and were kept just as I had received them ill my distant estates, and to add thereto a statue of himself. He granted the request and made most flattering references to myself, and I immediately wrote to the decurions asking them to assign me a plot of ground upon which I might erect a temple **   at my own cost, and they offered to let me choose the site myself as a mark of appreciation of the task I had undertaken. But first my own ill-health, then your father's illness, and subsequently the anxieties of the office you bestowed upon me, have prevented my proceeding with the work. However, I think the present is a convenient opportunity for getting on with it, for my month of duty ends on the Kalends of September and the following month contains a number of holidays. I ask, therefore, as a special favour, that you will allow me to adorn with your statue the work which I am about to begin ; and secondly, that in order to complete it as soon as possible, you will grant me leave of absence. It would be alien to my frank disposition if I were to conceal from your goodness the fact that you will, if you grant me leave, be incidentally aiding very materially my private finances. The rent of my estates in that district exceeds 400,000 sesterces, and if the new tenants are to be settled in time for the next pruning, the letting of the farms must not be any further delayed. Besides, the succession of bad vintages we have had forces me to consider the question of making certain abatements, and I cannot enter into that question unless I am on the spot. So, Sir, if for these reasons you grant me leave for thirty days, I shall owe to your kindness the speedy fulfilment of a work of loyalty and the settlement of my private finances. I cannot reduce the length of leave I ask for to narrower limits, inasmuch as the township and the estates I have spoken of are more than a hundred and fifty miles from Rome.

(*)   The emperor Nerva.

(**)   See letter iii. 4.


[9] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You have given me an abundance of private and all the public reasons I could desire for asking leave of absence, but, personally, I should have been quite content to accept the mere expression of your wish, for I have not the slightest doubt that you will return as early as you possibly can to resume your busy post. I give you permission to erect a statue of mine in the place you ask - although I am very loath to accept such honours - so as to avoid appearing to check the flow of your loyalty towards me.


[10] L   To Trajan.

I cannot express, Sir, in words the joy I experienced when I received your letter telling me that you had granted the Alexandrine as well as the Roman citizenship upon my ointment-doctor Harpocras, although you have made it a rule to follow the practice of your predecessors and not grant it promiscuously. I beg to inform you that Harpocras belongs to the district of Memphis. Let me beg of your great kindness, Sir, to send me a letter, as you promised, for your friend Pompeius Planta, the praefect of Egypt. As, Sir, I shall come to meet you that I may enjoy the pleasure at the earliest moment of welcoming you on your long-hoped-for return, *   I pray that you will permit me to join you on the road as far out from Rome as possible.

(*)   From Germany, in 99 A.D.


[11] L   To Trajan.

My recent illness, Sir, laid me under great obligations to Postumius Marinus, my doctor, and I shall only be able to fully repay him if you are kind enough to grant, with your usual goodness of heart, the request I have to make. I beg you, therefore, to give the citizenship to his relations, to Chrysippus the son of Mithridates, and to the wife of Chrysippus, Stratonica the daughter of Epigonus, and also to the children of the same Chrysippus, Epigonus and Mithridates, with the proviso that they may be placed under the authority of their father, and may preserve their rights as patrons towards their freedmen. I also beg you to bestow full Roman citizenship upon Lucius Satrius Abascantus, Publius Caesius Phosporus, and Pancharia Soteris, whose patrons are quite willing for them to receive the favour.


[12] L   To Trajan.

I know, Sir, that you have not lost sight of the requests I put forward, for your memory never forgets an opportunity for conferring a kindness. Nevertheless, as you have often indulged me in this manner, I would at the same time most earnestly entreat and recommend you to see fit to promote Attius Sura to the praetorship when a vacancy arises. He is a most unambitious man, but he is encouraged to entertain hopes of this office by the splendour of his family, by his remarkable integrity of conduct during his years of poverty, and, above all, by the happy days on which he has fallen, which incite and encourage those of your subjects who have good consciences to hope for the enjoyment of your kindness.


[13] L   To Trajan.

As I am convinced. Sir, that the best testimonial to and appreciation of my character is to receive marks of distinction from so upright an emperor as yourself, I beg you to add to the dignity to which you have so kindly advanced me, by giving me the role either of augur or of septemvir, *   now that they are vacant, so that by virtue of my priesthood I may publicly entreat the favour of the gods for you which now I implore in my private devotion.

(*)   See letter iv. 8.


[14] L   To Trajan.

I congratulate you, best of emperors, on your most remarkable, magnificent, and illustrious victory *   in your own name and that of the State, and I pray the immortal gods that an equally happy result may attend all your plans, that so the glory of your empire may be renewed and increased by your conspicuous virtues.

(*)   In Dacia, probably in 106 A.D.


[15] L   To Trajan.

It is because I feel sure, Sir, that you will be interested to hear, that I send you news that I have rounded Cape Malea and have made my way with all my retinue to Ephesus. Though I have been delayed by contrary winds, I am now on the point of setting out for my province, travelling part of the way by coasters and part by land carriage, for the prevailing Etesian winds are as great an obstacle to journeying by sea as the overpowering heat is by land.


[16] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You have done well to send me news, my dear Pliny, for I am exceedingly interested to hear what sort of a journey you are having to your province. You are doing wisely to make use of coasters and land carriage alternately, according to the difficulties of the various districts.


[17a] L   To Trajan.

Though I had a very favourable passage by sea as far as Ephesus, Sir, when I started from that city and began to make my way along by land carriage I was greatly troubled by the intense heat and some slight attacks of fever, and halted at Pergamum. Then again, when I embarked on coasting vessels, I was detained by contrary winds and did not reach Bithynia until considerably later than I had expected - that is to say, until the 17th of September. *   However, I cannot complain of the delay, for I was enabled after all, most luckily, to be able to celebrate your birthday in the province. **   I am now engaged in examining into the expenditure, revenue, and debts of the people of Prusa, and the more I look into them the more necessary I find it. For a number of sums of money are being detained on various pretexts by private individuals, and certain of the items paid out of the public funds are far from being legitimate. I am writing this. Sir, immediately upon my entry.

(*)   In 111 A.D.

(**)   On 18th September.


[17b] L   To Trajan.

I entered the province, Sir, on September l7th, and I found the people as obediently and loyally disposed towards you as you deserve that the whole human race should be. You might consider, Sir, whether you think it necessary to send a public surveyor, for I think that considerable sums of money might be recovered from the contractors for the public works, if an honest survey were made. I am convinced of that from the public accounts of the people of Prusa, which I am examining with the greatest care.


[18] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I wish it had been possible for you and your companions to reach Bithynia without the slightest inconvenience or illness, and that you could have had as pleasant a journey by water from Ephesus as you had as far as that city. However, I have learned from your letters, my dear Pliny, the date of your arrival in Bithynia, and I trust the people of the province will understand that I have had an eye to their interests, for you too will do what you can to make it clear to them that you were specially selected to be sent to them as my representative. The examination of their public accounts must be one of your first duties, for it is fairly evident that they have been tampered with. I have scarcely enough surveyors for the public works which are in progress at Rome or the immediate district, but surely there are trustworthy persons to be found in every province, and therefore you too will be able to find some, provided you take the trouble to make a careful search.


[19] L   To Trajan.

I beg, Sir, that you will give me the guidance of your advice. I am doubtful whether I ought to guard the prisons by means of the public slaves of the various states - which has been the custom hitherto - or by means of soldiers. For I am afraid that the public slaves are not to be depended upon as guards, and, on the other hand, this duty would take up the time of a very considerable number of soldiers. Meanwhile, I have added a few soldiers to the public slaves, but I see there is some danger of such a course making both negligent, so long as each section feels confident of being able to throw the blame of a fault both have committed upon the other.


[20] L   Trajan to Pliny.

There is no necessity, my dear Pliny, to employ more soldiers in guarding the prisons. Let us continue to observe the custom of your province which utilised the public slaves for that purpose, for it depends upon the severity and attention you show whether they will perform their duties faithfully. As you say, the chief danger to be apprehended, if you mix soldiers with the public slaves, is that they will grow more careless, for each will trust to the other. So let this be our standing rule, to withdraw as few soldiers as possible from the standards.


[21] L   To Trajan.

Gabius Bassus, Sir, the prefect of the coast of Pontus, has come to me in a most respectful and dutiful manner, and has spent several days in my company. So far as I can read his character, he is an excellent man and worthy of your favour. I told him that you had given orders that he should be content with ten privileged soldiers, two horsemen, and one centurion, out of the cohorts which you desired me to command. His answer was that this number was quite inadequate, and that he would himself write to you. That is the reason why I did not think it proper to at once recall from his command those above the assigned number.


[22] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I too have had a letter from Gabius Bassus, in which he says that the force assigned to him by my orders is inadequate. I have ordered the reply which I sent him to be enclosed with this letter, to acquaint you with its contents. It makes all the difference whether such a request is due to the exigencies of the situation or merely to a man's personal ambition. However, we ought to consider primarily the public interest and to take care, as far as possible, that soldiers are not absent from the standards.


[23] L   To Trajan.

The people of Prusa, Sir, have a public bath which is in a neglected and dilapidated state. They wish, with your kind permission, to restore it; but I think a new one ought to be built, and I reckon that you can safely comply with their wishes. The money for its erection will be forthcoming, for first there are the sums I spoke of *   which I have already begun to claim and demand from private individuals, and secondly there is the money usually collected for a free distribution of oil which they are now prepared to utilise for the construction of a new bath. Besides, the dignity of the city and the glory of your reign demand its erection.

(*)   See letter 17a of this book.


[24] L   Trajan to Pliny.

If the construction of a new bath will not cripple the finances of Prusa, we can indulge their wishes, only it must be understood that no new imposts are to be raised to meet the cost, and that their contributions for necessary expenses shall not show any falling off.


[25] L   To Trajan.

Your legate, Sir, Servilius Pudens, reached Nicomedia on November 24th, and has freed me from the suspense entailed by waiting so long for his arrival.


[26] L   To Trajan.

Your kindness to me, Sir, has cemented the friendship between Rosianus Geminus and myself, for he was my quaestor when I was consul, and I found him most remarkably devoted to my interests. Since the end of my consulship he has shown me extraordinary deference, and he is constantly renewing the pledges of our official friendship by the private attentions he pays me. I beg, therefore, that you yourself will favourably entertain my request for his advancement, for if you follow my advice you will bestow upon him your warmest favour. He will do his best in any commission you may give him to deserve still higher posts. I feel compelled to be less lavish in my praise than I might be from the fact that I trust his honesty, uprightness, and industry are already well known to you, not only from the office he has held under your eyes in Rome, but from his service with you in your army. However, I must repeat yet again the request which I fear I have not sufficiently urged upon you - at least, so my affection makes me fancy - and I beg you, Sir, that you will as early as possible see your way to let me rejoice in the advancement of my quaestor's dignity, and in the advancement of my own dignity through his.


[27] L   To Trajan.

Maximus, Sir, your freedman and procurator, assures me that he absolutely requires some soldiers in addition to the ten privileged soldiers whom you ordered me to pass over to that worthy man Gemellinus. I thought it better to leave some of these in attendance upon him as I found them so engaged, especially as he was going into Paphlagonia to collect stores of corn. I also added two horsemen for additional security at his urgent request. I beg of yon to write and let me know what arrangements you would like for the future.


[28] L   Trajan to Pliny.

As my freedman Maximus is on the point of setting out to collect stores of corn you did right to give him a guard of soldiers, for he was engaged on an extraordinary errand. But when he returns to his old duties, the two soldiers you assigned him and two more from Virdius Gemellinus, my procurator, whom he is assisting, will be quite sufficient for him.


[29] L   To Trajan.

Sempronius Caelianus, who is an excellent young officer, has sent me two slaves who were discovered among the recruits, and I have postponed their punishment in order to consult you, who are at once the founder and upholder of military discipline, as to the penalty I should inflict What makes me specially doubtful in the matter is, that though the two men had subscribed to the military oath, they had not been assigned to any company of the legions. So I beg you, Sir, to write and tell me what course I ought to adopt, the more so as the case promises to be a precedent.


[30] L   Trajan to Pliny.

Sempronius Caelianus acted in conformity with my commands in sending to you the slaves, into whose case we must inquire to see whether they have deserved capital punishment. But it all depends on whether they volunteered to serve, or whether they were picked out for service or even offered as substitutes. If they were picked out, then the recruiting officer made a mistake; if they were offered as substitutes, the fault lies with those who offered them; if they came of their own free will, knowing their status as slaves, then they are the persons to be visited with punishment. For it does not much matter that they had not yet been assigned to a company of the legions. The real truth as to their origin should have been found out on the day when they were passed for service.


[31] L   To Trajan.

As you have given me authority to refer to you wherever I am in doubt, you may, Sir, condescend to hear my difficulty without compromising your great position. In many of the States, but especially in Nicomedia and Nicaia, there are certain persons lying under sentence to the mines, to take part in the gladiatorial shows, and to similar penalties, who are now acting as and performing the duties of public slaves, and are even drawing an annual salary as such. When I was told of this, I hesitated for a long time as to what course I ought to adopt. For I thought it would be showing too harsh a severity to hand them over to their penalties after so many years, especially as many of them are old men, and are, to all accounts, now living a decent and respectable life, yet I thought it was scarcely the proper thing to retain criminals as public servants. Moreover, to keep men doing nothing at the State expense is inexpedient, and if they were not kept they might be a source of danger. I have therefore left the whole matter in suspense until I could take your advice. You will ask perhaps how it comes about that they were released from the penalties to which they were condemned. I too have asked the same question, but have found no answer which is at all satisfactory. The decrees by which they were condemned were produced, but no documents sanctioning their liberation, though there are some who say that they were released on petition by the authority of certain proconsuls and legates, and this theory is the more plausible, as it is hardly credible that anyone would have ventured on such a step without authority.


[32] L   Trajan to Pliny.

Let us not forget that you were sent to your province for the express reason that there seemed to be many abuses rampant there which required correction. And most certainly we must redress such a scandal as that persons condemned to penalties should not only, as you say, be released therefrom without authorisation, but even be placed in stations which ought to be filled by honest servants. So all those who were sentenced within the last ten years and released on insufficient authority must be sent back to work out their sentences, and if there are any whose condemnation dates back beyond the last ten years and are now old men, let us apportion them to fulfil duties which are not far removed from being penal. For it is the custom to send such cases to work in the public baths, to clean out the sewers, and to repair the roads and streets.


[33] L   To Trajan.

While I was visiting a distant part of the province a most desolating fire broke out at Nicomedia and destroyed a number of private houses and two public buildings, the almshouse *   and temple of Isis, although a road ran between them. The fire was allowed to spread farther than it need have done, first, owing to the violence of the wind, and, secondly, to the laziness of the inhabitants, it being generally agreed that they stood idly by without moving and merely watched the catastrophe. Moreover, there is not a single public fire-engine **   or bucket in the place, and not one solitary appliance for mastering an outbreak of fire. However, these will be provided in accordance with the orders I have already given. But, Sir, I would have you consider whether you think a guild of firemen, of about 150 men, should be instituted. I will take care that no one who is not a genuine fireman should be admitted, and that the guild should not misapply the charter granted to it, and there would be no difficulty in keeping an eye on so small a body.

(*)   Gerousia: this could (as at Sparta) be used as the name of the local senate; but here it seems to refer to a facility for elderly citizens.

(**)   Sipho: this was the standard water pump used by Roman firemen.


[34] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You have conceived the idea that a guild of firemen might be formed in Nicomedia on the model of various others already existing. But it is to be remembered that your province of Bithynia, and especially city states like Nicomedia, are the prey of factions. Whatever name we may give to those who form an association, and whatever the reason of the association may be, they will soon degenerate into secret societies. It is better policy to provide appliances for mastering conflagrations and encourage property owners to make use of them, and, if occasion demands, press the crowd which collects into the same service.


[35] L   To Trajan.

We have taken the usual vows, *   Sir, for your safety, with which the public well-being is bound up, and at the same time paid our vows of last year, praying the gods that they may ever allow us to pay them and renew them again.

(*)   On 3rd January, 112 A.D.


[36] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I am pleased to learn from your letter, my dear Pliny, that you and the people of your province have paid the vows you undertook for my health and safety to the immortal gods, and have again renewed them.


[37] L   To Trajan.

Sir, the people of Nicomedia spent 3,329,000 sesterces upon an aqueduct, which was left in an unfinished state, and I may say in ruin, and they also levied taxes to the extent of two millions for a second one. This too has been abandoned, and to obtain a water-supply those who have wasted these enormous sums must go to new expense. I have myself visited a splendidly clear spring, from which it seems to me the supply ought to be brought to the town as indeed they tried to do by their first scheme - by an aqueduct of arches, so that it might not be confined only to the low-lying and level parts of the city. Very few of the arches are still standing; some could be built from the shaped blocks {lapis quadratus} which were taken from the earlier work, and part again, in my opinion, should be constructed of brick {opus testaceum}, *   which is both cheaper and more easily handled, but the first thing that might be done is for you to send an engineer skilled in such work, or an architect, to prevent a repetition of the former failures. I can at least vouch for this, that such an undertaking would be well worthy of your reign owing to its public utility and its imposing design.

(*)   This would be brick-faced concrete.


[38] L   Trajan to Pliny.

Steps must certainly be taken to provide the city of Nicomedia with a water-supply, and I have every confidence that you will undertake the duty with all necessary diligence. But I swear that it is also part of your diligent duty to find out who is to blame for the waste of such sums of money by the people of Nicomedia on their aqueducts, and whether or not there has been any serving of private interests in thus beginning and then abandoning the works. See that you bring to my knowledge whatever you may find out.


[39] L   To Trajan.

The theatre at Nicaea, Sir, the greater part of which has already been constructed, though it is still incomplete, has already cost more than ten million sesterces, - so at least I am told, for the accounts have not been made out, - and I am afraid the money has been thrown away. For the building has sunk, and there are great gaping crevices to be seen, either because the ground is soft and damp, or owing to the brittleness and crumbling character of the stone, and so it is worth consideration whether it should be finished or abandoned, or even pulled down. For the props and buttresses by which it is shored up seem to me to be more costly than strength-giving. Many parts of this theatre were promised by private persons, as for example the galleries and porticos above the pit, but all these are postponed now that the work, which had to be finished first, has come to a stop. The same people of Nicaea began, before my arrival here, to restore the public gymnasium, which had been destroyed by fire, on a more extensive and wider scale than the old building, and they have already disbursed a considerable sum thereon, and I fear to very little purpose, for the structure is not well put together, and looks disjointed. Moreover, the architect - though it is true he is the rival of the man who began the work - declares that the walls, in spite of their being twenty-two feet thick, cannot bear the weight placed upon them, because they have not been put together with cement in the middle, and have not been strengthened with brickwork. The people of Claudiopolis, again, are excavating rather than constructing an immense public bath in a low-lying situation with a mountain hanging over it, and they are using for the purpose the sums which the senators, who were added to the local council by your kindness, have either paid as their entrance fee, *   or are paying according as I ask them for it. Consequently, as I am afraid that the public money at Nicaea may be unprofitably spent, and that - what is more precious than any money - your kindness at Claudiopolis may be turned to unprofitable account, I beg you not only for the sake of the theatre, but also for these baths, to send an architect to see which is the better course to adopt, either, after the money which has already been expended, to finish by hook or by crook the works as they have been begun, or to repair them where they seem to require it, or if necessary change the sites entirely, lest in our anxiety to save the money already disbursed we should lay out the remaining sums with just as poor results.

(*)   In Bithynia those elected to the local senates paid no entrance fee, but those admitted on the Emperor's nomination paid either one or two thousand denarii, according to circumstances; see letter 112 of this book.


[40] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You will be best able to judge and determine what ought to be done at the present time in the matter of the theatre which the people of Nicaea have begun to build. It will be enough for me to be informed of the plan you adopt. Do not trouble, moreover, to call on the private individuals to build the portions they promised until the theatre is erected, for they made those promises for the sake of having a theatre. All the Greek peoples have a passion for gymnasia, and so perhaps the people of Nicaea have set about building one on a rather lavish scale, but they must be content to cut their coat according to their cloth. You again must decide on what advice to give to the people of Claudiopolis in the matter of the bath which, as you say, they have begun to build in a rather unsuitable site. There must be plenty of architects to advise you, for there is no province which is without some men of experience and skill in that profession, and remember again that it does not save time to send one from Rome, when so many of our architects come to Rome from Greece.


[41] L   To Trajan.

I consider the splendour of your position and the loftiness of your mind, it seems to me most fitting that I should point out to you schemes which would be worthy of your eternal fame and glory, and which would not only be imposing to the imagination, but of great public utility. There lies in the territory of the people of Nicomedia a most spacious lake, *   by which marble, grain, timber, and bulky articles can be brought by barges to the high road with but little expense and labour, though it is a very laborious and costly business to take them down on waggons to the sea. **   [ (?) To connect the lake with the sea ] would demand a large supply of workmen, but they are to be found on the spot, for in the country districts labourers are plentiful, and they are still more plentiful in the city, while it is quite certain that all would be perfectly willing to help in an undertaking which would be of profit to everyone. It only remains for you, if you think fit, to send a surveyor or an architect to make careful observations and find out whether the lake lies at a higher level than the sea, for the engineers in this district hold that it is forty cubits higher. I find that one of the earlier kings   dug a trench over the same site, but it is doubtful whether his object was to drain off the moisture from the surrounding fields, or to join the waters of the lake and the river. For the trench was not completed, and it is not known whether the work was abandoned because of the king's death, or because the success of the enterprise was despaired of. But this only fires my desire and anxiety - you will pardon my eager ambition for your glory - that you should complete what the kings merely commenced.

(*)   Lake Sapanca, which was called Lake Sophon in antiquity.

(**)   There is a gap of uncertain length in the text at this point.

(†)   It is not known which king this refers to.


[42] L   Trajan to Pliny.

That lake you speak of may perhaps tempt me into making up my mind to connect it with the sea, but obviously careful investigations must be made to provide against its totally emptying itself if its waters be brought down to the sea, and to find out what volume of water flows into it, and what are the sources of supply. You will be able to obtain a surveyor from Calpurnius Macer, * and I will also send you someone who is an expert in that class of work.

(*)   Calpurnius Macer is known to have been legate of Lower Moesia in 112 A.D.


[43] L   To Trajan.

When I asked for a statement of the expenditure of the city of Byzantium - which is abnormally high - it was pointed out to me, Sir, that a delegate was sent every year with a complimentary decree to pay his respects to you, and that he received the sum of twelve thousand sesterces for so doing. Remembering your instructions, I determined to order that the delegate should be kept at home, and that only the decree should be forwarded, in order to lighten the expenses without interfering with the performance of their public act of homage. Again, a tax of three thousand sesterces has been levied upon the same city, which is given every year as travelling expenses to the delegate who is sent to pay the homage of the city to the governor of Moesia. This, too, I decided to do away with for the future. I beg, Sir, that, by writing and telling me what you think of these matters, you will deign either to approve my decision or correct me if you think I have been at fault.


[44] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You have done quite right, my dear Pliny, in cancelling the expenditure by the people of Byzantium of those twelve thousand sesterces on a delegate to come and pay their respects to me. They will for the future do their duty well enough, even though the decree alone is sent on to me through you. The governor of Moesia will also pardon them if they are less lavish in the honours they show him.


[45] L   To Trajan.

I beg you, Sir, to write and tell me whether you wish the permits, *   the terms of which have expired, to be recognised as valid, and for how long, and so free me from my indecision. For I am afraid of blundering either one way or the other, either by confirming what ought to lapse, or by putting obstacles in the way of those which are necessary.

(*)   Diploma: in this context, probably a permit to use the official post.


[46] L   Trajan to Pliny.

The permits, of which the terms have expired, ought not to be recognised, and consequently I make it my special duty to send out new permits to all the provinces before the day when they are required.


[47] L   To Trajan.

When I wished, Sir, to be informed of those who owed money to the city of Apamea, and of its revenue and expenditure, I was told that though everyone was anxious that the accounts of the colony should be gone through by me, no proconsul had ever done so before, and that it was one of their privileges and most ancient usages that the administration of the colony should be left to themselves entirely. I got them to set forth in a memorial their arguments and the authorities they cited, which I am sending on to you just as I received it, although I am aware that much of it is quite irrelevant to the point at issue. So I beg you will deign to instruct me as to the course I should adopt, for I am anxious not to seem either to have exceeded or to have fallen short of my duty.


[48] L   Trajan to Pliny.

The memorial of the people of Apamea which you enclosed with your letter makes it unnecessary for me to examine into the reasons why they wish it to be known that those who have hitherto acted as proconsuls in the province refrained from inspecting their accounts, though they have no objection to your inspecting them. Their frankness, therefore, merits reward, and you will let them know that your inspection at my express wish will not prejudice the privileges they possess.


[49] L   To Trajan.

Before my arrival, Sir, the people of Nicomedia had commenced to make certain additions to their old forum, in one corner of which stands a very ancient shrine of the Great Mother, *   which should either be restored or removed to another site, principally for this reason, that it is much less lofty than the new buildings, which are being run up to a good height. When I inquired whether the temple was protected by any legal enactments, I discovered that the form of dedication is different here from what it is with us in Rome. Consider therefore. Sir, whether you think that a temple can be removed without desecration when there has been no legal consecration of the site, for, if there are no religious objections, the removal would be a great convenience.

(*)   The Phrygian goddess Cybele.


[50] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You may, my dear Pliny, without any religious scruples, if the site seems to require the change, remove the temple of the Mother of the Gods to a more suitable spot, nor need the fact that there is no record of legal consecration trouble you, for the soil of a foreign city may not be suitable for the consecration which our laws enjoin.


[51] L   To Trajan.

It is difficult. Sir, to find words to express the pleasure I have received at the favour you have shown my wife's mother *   and myself in transferring her relative, Caelius Clemens, to this province. For I begin to realise thoroughly the full measure of your kindness when I and all my household receive such abundant favours at your hands, adequate thanks for which I dare not venture to offer you, though I do thank you from the bottom of my heart. Consequently, I take refuge in vows on your behalf, and pray to Heaven that I may not be thought unworthy of the kindnesses you shower so plentifully upon me.

(*)   Pompeia Celerina; see for instance letter i. 4.


[52] L   To Trajan.

We have celebrated. Sir, with the thankfulness appropriate to the occasion, the day on which you preserved the empire by undertaking the duties of Emperor, *   and have prayed the gods to keep you in safety and prosperity, since on you: safety rest the protection and security of the human race We also repeated the formula at the head of the troops, who swore the oath of loyalty in the usual way, while the provincials vied with them in displaying the same attachment towards you.

(*)   28th January.


[53] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I am glad to learn from your letter, my dear Pliny, with what devotion and joy the troops and the provincials have celebrated the anniversary of my coming to the throne, repeating the formula at your dictation.


[54] L   To Trajan

Thanks, Sir, to your forethought and my administration the public revenues have either already been collected or are being collected at this moment, and I am afraid that the money may lie idle. For an opportunity of buying land rarely or never arises, and it is impossible to find persons ready to borrow from the State, especially at twelve per cent per month, for at that rate they can borrow from private individuals. Consider therefore, Sir, whether you think the rate of interest should be lowered and by this means attract suitable borrowers, or whether, if they are not forthcoming even then, the money should be divided among the decurions in such a way that they give good security for it to the State. Such a course, even though it displeased them and they were unwilling to take the money, would be less obnoxious provided the rate were lowered.


[55] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I do not see any other remedy, my dear Pliny, than the lowering of the rate of interest, which would facilitate the investment of the public moneys. You must fix the rate according to the number of those likely to borrow. But if people are averse to borrowing, it would not be in consonance with the justice of our reign to force a loan upon them, as possibly they too would find no investment for it.


[56] L   To Trajan.

I thank you. Sir, most sincerely that in the midst of your most pressing business of state you have deigned to give me directions on the matters about which I have consulted you, and I beg that you will do the same now. For a certain person came to me and informed me that some enemies of his who had been banished for three years by that distinguished man, Servilius Calvus, *   were still lingering in the province, while they on the other hand declared that the sentence against them had been revoked - also by Calvus - and read out to me his edict. That is why I think it necessary to refer the whole matter to you just as it stands. For while your instructions warn me against recalling those who have been banished by others or by myself, they do not cover the case of those who have been banished and recalled from banishment by another governor. Hence, Sir, I thought I ought to consult you as to the course you would wish me to adopt, not only in the instances I have quoted, but also when persons are discovered in the province who have been banished for ever and have not had the sentence revoked. A case of this sort came under my notice in my judicial capacity. For a man was brought before me who had been banished for ever by the proconsul, Julius Bassus. **   Knowing as I did that the decrees of Bassus had been rescinded, and that the senate had given permission to all who had been sentenced by him to have their cases tried over again, if they brought their appeal within two years, I asked this man who had been banished by Bassus which proconsul he had approached and told his story to. He said he had not laid his case before anyone. It is this which made me consult you whether I should hand him over to complete his sentence or inflict additional punishment, and I should like to know what course you think I ought to adopt towards him and others who may be found to be similarly situated. I enclose with this letter the decree of Calvus and his edict, and also the decree of Bassus.

(*)   Governor of Bithynia, 108-110 A.D.

(**)   See letter iv. 9.


[57] L   Trajan to Pliny.

What steps ought to be taken with respect to those who were banished for three years by the proconsul Servilius Calvus, and afterwards were recalled by an edict of his and remained in the province, I will write and tell you shortly as soon as I have ascertained from Calvus the reason for his recalling them. As to the man who was banished for ever by Julius Bassus, he had two years allowed him in which to appeal if he considered he had been unjustly banished, and as he failed to do so and continued to linger in the province, he must be sent in chains to the prefects of my praetorian guard. *   For he will not be sufficiently punished by being sent to complete his former sentence, inasmuch as he impudently evaded it.

(*)   To await trial; as St Paul in Acts xxviii.16.


[58] L   To Trajan.

When, Sir, I was about to hold a court and was calling out the names of the judges, Flavius Archippus began to ask leave to be excused on the ground that he was a philosopher. I was indeed told by some other persons that he ought not only to be excused from sitting as a judge but that his name ought to be struck off the list, and that he himself should be handed back to finish the sentence which he had evaded by breaking out of prison. A judgment of the proconsul Velius Paullus was read to me, which showed that Archippus had been condemned to the mines for forgery, and he could produce nothing to prove that the sentence had been revoked. However, he brings forward, in lieu of a pardon, a petition which he sent to Domitian and a letter which Domitian wrote in reply, referring to some distinction conferred upon him, and he also produces a decree of the people of Prusa. In addition to these documents, there is a letter written by yourself to him, and an edict and a letter of your father's in which he confirmed the privileges granted by Domitian. Consequently, though the man is involved in such serious charges, I thought I had better come to no decision until I had taken your advice on a point which I consider quite worthy of your attention. I enclose with this letter the documents which have been produced on both sides.

• A letter from Domitian to Terentius Maximus:

I have granted the request of Flavius Archippus, the philosopher, that I should order land of the value of 600,000 sesterces to be bought for him near Prusa, his native place. I wish this to be acquired for him, and you will charge the whole amount to my account as a gift from me.

• A letter from Domitian to Lucius Appius Maximus: *

I desire, my dear Maximus, that you will regard Archippus the philosopher, who is a worthy man, and whose character fully corresponds with the nobility of his profession, as specially commended to your notice, and that you will show him the full extent of your kindness in any reasonable request he may lay before you.

• Edict of the late Emperor Nerva:

There are some things, Romans, that go without saying in such prosperous times as we are now enjoying, nor should people look to a good emperor to declare himself on points wherein his position is thoroughly understood. For every citizen is well assured, and can answer for me without prompting, that I have preferred the security of the State to my own convenience, and in so doing have both conferred new privileges and confirmed old ones that were conceded before my time. However, to prevent there being any interruption of the public felicity by doubts and hesitation arising from the nervousness of those who have obtained favours, or from the memory of the emperor who granted them, I have thought that it is advisable, and that it will give general pleasure, if I remove all doubt by giving proof of my kind indulgence. I do not wish any one to think that any benefit conferred upon him, in either a private or public capacity by any other emperor, will be taken away from him just in order that he may owe the confirmation of his privilege to myself. Let all such grants be regarded as ratified and absolutely secure, and let those who write to thank me for the favours which the royal house has bestowed upon them not fail to renew their applications for more. Only let them give me time for new kindnesses, and understand that the favours they solicit must be such as they do not already possess.

• A letter from Nerva to Tullius Justus:

Since I have made it my rule to preserve all arrangements begun and carried through in the previous reigns, the letters of Domitian must also remain valid.

(*)   Proconsul of Bithynia under Domitian.


[59] L   To Trajan.

Flavius Archippus has implored me, by your safety and eternal fame, to transmit to you a memorial which he has placed in my hands. I thought it my duty to grant his request, but at the same time to acquaint his accuser of the fact that I was about to send it. She too has sent me a memorial, which I enclose with this letter, so that having heard, as it were, both sides of the case, you may the more easily determine on the course to pursue.


[60] L   Trajan to Pliny.

It is possible, of course, that Domitian was unaware of the true circumstances in which Archippus was situated when he wrote in such a flattering strain about the honour to be paid him. However, it suits my way of thinking better to suppose that he was restored to his old position by the intervention of the Emperor, especially as the honour of a statue was so often decreed to Archippus by persons who were thoroughly aware of the sentence passed upon him by the proconsul Paullus. These facts, however, my dear Pliny, do not mean that you should consider any new charge brought against him as the less deserving of attention. I have read the memorials of Furia Prima, his accuser, and of Archippus himself, which you enclosed in your second letter.

Book 10, Letters 61-121


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