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Pliny the Younger : Letters

    - BOOK 10 ,   Letters 61-121

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.   61 - 62 - 63 - 64 - 65 - 66 - 67 - 68 - 69 - 70 - 71 - 72 - 73 - 74 - 75 - 76 - 77 - 78 - 79 - 80 - 81 - 82 - 83 - 84 - 85 - 86a - 86b - 87 - 88 - 89 - 90 - 91 - 92 - 93 - 94 - 95 - 96 - 97 - 98 - 99 - 100 - 101 - 102 - 103 - 104 - 105 - 106 - 107 - 108 - 109 - 110 - 111 - 112 - 113 - 114 - 115 - 116 - 117 - 118 - 119 - 120 - 121


Book 10, Letters 1-60

[61] L   To Trajan.

You very justly, Sir, express the fear that the lake *   may drain itself dry if its waters are turned into the river and so into the sea, but I fancy that I have discovered a way to meet this difficulty. For the lake might be brought right up to the river by means of a canal, and yet it need not be turned into it, but, by leaving a margin between them, the waters of both may be practically joined without actually being so ; and hence, though its waters will not mingle with those of the river, the result will be much the same as if they did, for it will be a simple matter to transfer goods which have been brought up the canal to boats on the river across the narrow strip of land dividing them. That course might be adopted if necessity demanded, but I hope it will not be necessary, for the lake itself is sufficiently deep, and even now has a river flowing out of it in a contrary direction. This could be intercepted and turned into the direction in which we desire it to flow, and so, without any injury to the lake, it would supply us with as much water as it now carries off. Moreover, there are several little streams in the district through which the canal would have to be constructed, and if these were carefully collected, their volume would increase the amount of water supplied by the lake. Again, if it were decided to extend the canal still farther, and narrow it and bring it down to the level of the sea, so that its waters might flow, not into the river, but into the sea, the counter-pressure of the sea would preserve and keep back whatever water comes down from the lake. If there had been none of these natural advantages, we should have had to moderate the flow of the water by floodgates. But all these points and sundry others will be examined and looked into with far greater knowledge by the surveyor whom you have promised to send, and whom, Sir, you really ought to send. For the undertaking is well worthy of your noble mind and your personal attention. Meantime, I have written to that excellent person, Calpurnius Macer, asking him, on your authority, to send me the most suitable surveyor for the purpose.

(*)   See letter 41 of this book.


[62] L   Trajan to Pliny.

It is clear to me, my dear Pliny, that you have shown diligence and careful consideration in the matter of the lake you speak of, since you have thought out so many expedients to prevent all danger of its running dry and to increase its future usefulness for us. Do you, therefore, take whatever steps the matter seems to you to require. I think that Calpurnius Macer *   will not fail to provide you with a surveyor, for the Asiatic provinces are never short of engineers for such undertakings.

(*)   See letter 42 of this book.


[63] L   To Trajan.

Your freedman, Sir, Lycormas, wrote to me saying that if any embassy came from the Bosphorus on its way to Rome I was to detain it until his arrival. As yet no such deputation has come, or, at least, none has reached the city where I am staying. However, a courier has come from King Sauromates, and seizing the opportunity with which chance had presented me, I thought it advisable to send him on with the courier who outstripped Lycormas on his journey, so that you might be able to acquaint yourself with the letters of Lycormas and the king, both of which may be equally important for you to read.


[64] L   To Trajan.

King Sauromates has written to me saying that there are certain matters which you ought to know as soon as possible. For that reason I have given the courier whom he sent to me with the letter an official permit to enable him to travel more quickly.


[65] L   To Trajan.

Sir, the problem as to the status and cost of maintenance of children exposed at birth and then reared by others is an important one which affects the whole province. After listening to the decrees of former emperors on the subject, and finding there was no general or particular rule relating to Bithynia, I thought I ought to consult you on the course you desire to be adopted. For I considered that I ought not to be satisfied with mere precedents in a matter that requires an authoritative expression of your will. I had read to me an edict reputed to have been issued by Augustus respecting (?) Andania, letters of Vespasian to the Lacedaemonians and of Titus to the same people and to the Achaians, and of Domitian to the proconsuls Avidius Nigrinus and Armenius Brocchus, and again to the people of Lacedaemon. I have not sent them on to you, because they seemed to me to be not altogether correct copies, and some appeared to be of doubtful authenticity, and because I imagine that the genuine and correct documents will be found in your archives.


[66] L   Trajan to Pliny.

The question you raise as to those who were born free and exposed by their parents, and then reared by other people and brought up in a state of servitude, has often been dealt with, but I do not find in the records of my predecessors any general rule established for the whole of the provinces. Domitian certainly wrote letters to Avidius Nigrinus and Armenius Brocchus, which perhaps ought to be followed as precedents, but Bithynia is not one of the provinces covered by his letters. Consequently, I do not think that those who prove their right to freedom should have their claims refused, nor do I think that they should have to buy their freedom by paying the cost of their maintenance.


[67] L   To Trajan.

After the messenger of King Sauromates had stayed of his own free will for two days in Nicaea, where he found me, I thought, Sir, that he ought to delay no longer, in the first place, because it was still uncertain when your freedman Lycormas would put in an appearance, and, in the second, because I myself was bound by pressing official business to go and visit another part of my province. I have felt it my duty to bring these facts to your knowledge, as I just recently wrote and told you that I had been asked by Lycormas to keep back any deputation which might come from the Bosphorus until his arrival. There is now no justifiable reason for my delaying him any longer, especially as I fancy the letter of Lycormas which, as I said before, I did not like to keep back, will arrive in Rome some days before this messenger.


[68] L   To Trajan.

Several persons have petitioned me to grant them leave, as other proconsuls have done before my time, to transfer to other resting-places the remains of their ancestors, owing to the ravages of time, the inundation of rivers, or some other similar reasons. Knowing as I do that in Rome the permission of the Pontifical College is necessary in such cases, I have thought that I ought to consult you. Sir, as Chief Pontiff, as to the course you would wish me to pursue.


[69] L   Trajan to Pliny.

It would be very hard on the provincials to lay upon them the necessity of approaching the Pontifical College whenever they desired for some sufficient reason to remove the ashes of their ancestors from one place to another. You should therefore follow the precedents set by those who have governed the province before you, and either give or withhold permission on the merits of each case.


[70] L   To Trajan.

When I was looking about, Sir, for a place upon which to build the baths which you have graciously allowed to be erected at Prusa, *   I was pleased with a site on which there once stood, I am told, a beautiful mansion which is now in a ruinous and unsightly condition. By choosing this we shall beautify what is an eyesore in the city, and we shall extend the city itself without pulling down any buildings, but by merely rebuilding on a finer scale structures which have crumbled away through old age. The history of this mansion is as follows :- Claudius Polyaenus left it in his will to Claudius Caesar, and gave orders that a temple should be erected to the Emperor in the colonnade and that the remainder of the house should be let. For some years the city enjoyed the rent arising therefrom, but as time went on the whole mansion fell in, parts of it being stolen and parts being allowed to decay, until now there is scarcely anything left of it but the ground it stood on. The city, Sir, will consider it a great favour if you will give them the site or order it to be put up for sale, as the situation is such a convenient one. For my own part, if you grant me your permission, I am thinking of clearing the courtyard and constructing the new baths upon it, and of surrounding with a hall and galleries the site on which the old buildings stood, and consecrating them to you, for the work will be a handsome one and worthy of bearing your name as its benefactor. I am sending to you a copy of the will, though it is an imperfect one, and from it you will see that Polyaenus left a considerable amount of furniture for the decoration of the mansion which, like the mansion itself, has now been lost, though I shall do my best to recover it as far as possible.

(*)   See letter 24 of this book.


[71] L   Trajan to Pliny.

We may certainly utilise the courtyard and the ruined mansion, which you say is unoccupied, for the construction of the baths at Prusa. But you did not make it quite clear whether the temple in the colonnade was ever actually completed and consecrated to Claudius; for if it was, then even though it is now in ruins, the ground still remains specially sacred to him.


[72] L   To Trajan.

I have been asked by certain persons to give decisions in cases where men claim they were born free, and demand the restitution of their birth-right, *   and so act in accordance with the precedents set by the letter of Domitian to Minicius Rufus and by the proconsuls in office here before me. I have consulted the decree of the senate relating to that class of cases, and I find that it only deals with provinces which are governed by proconsuls; **   and so, Sir, I have left the matter open, and postponed a decision until you advise me of the course you wish to be followed

(*)   These men, who had been slaves and were afterwards manumitted, wished to have the same status as men who were born free.

(**)   Bithynia was a 'senatorial province', which was usually governed by proconsuls; but Pliny had been sent there as the legate of the emperor.


[73] L   Trajan to Pliny.

If you will send me the decree of the senate which has made you hesitate, I will form my opinion as to whether or not you ought to investigate cases in which the petitioners claim they were born free, and demand the restitution of their birth-right.


[74] L   To Trajan.

Sir, a soldier named Appuleius, who belongs to the garrison at Nicomedia, has written to tell us that a certain person of the name of Callidromus, on being forcibly detained by two bakers, Maximus and Dionysius, in whose employment he had been, fled for refuge to your statue, and on being brought before the magistrates admitted that he had at one time been the slave of Laberius Maximus, *   that he had been made prisoner by Susagus in Moesia, and sent as a present by Decebalus to Pacorus, the Parthian king. After remaining in his service for many years he had made good his escape, and so found his way to Nicomedia. I had him brought before me, and when he had told me the same story, I thought the best plan was to send him to you. The reason for my delay in so doing is that I have been trying to find a ring bearing the likeness of Pacorus, which he said that he used to wear as an ornament, but which had been stolen from him. For it was my wish to forward this ring, if it could be found, just as I am sending a piece of ore, which the man declares he brought from a Parthian mine. I have sealed it with my own signet, the device on which is a four-horse chariot.

(*)   One of Trajan's generals in command of the Dacian war.   Susagus was a general serving under Decebalus, king of Dacia.


[75] L   To Trajan.

Sir, a person named Julius Largus, of Pontus, whom I had never seen or heard of before - he must have blindly followed the good opinion you have of me - has entrusted me with the management of the money with which he seeks to prove his loyalty towards you. For he has asked me in his will to undertake as heir the division of his property, and after keeping for myself 50,000 sesterces, hand over all that remains to the free cities of Heraclea and Tius. He leaves it to my discretion whether I think it better to erect public works and dedicate them to your glory, or to institute an athletic festival to be held every five years and be called "the Trajan games." I have decided to bring the facts to your notice, and for this special reason, that you may direct me in my choice.


[76] L   Trajan to Pliny.

Julius Largus, in picking you out for your loyalty, has acted as though he knew you intimately. So do you consider the circumstances of each place and the best means of perpetuating his memory, and follow the course you think best.


[77] L   To Trajan.

You acted with your usual prudence, Sir, in instructing that eminent man, Calpurnius Macer, to send a legionary centurion to Byzantium. Consider, I pray, whether for similar reasons one should be sent to Juliopolis also, which, though one of the tiniest of free cities, has very heavy burdens to bear, and if any wrong is done to it, it is the more serious owing to its weakness. Moreover, whatever favours you confer on the people of Juliopolis will benefit the whole province, for the city lies at the extremity of Bithynia, and through it the large number of persons who travel through the province have to pass.


[78] L   Trajan to Pliny.

It is owing to the situation of the free city of Byzantium, and the fact that so many travellers make their way into it from all sides, that, in conformity with established precedent, I have decided to send them a legionary centurion to protect their privileges. If I were to decide to assist the people of Juliopolis in the same way I should be burdening myself with a new precedent. For more and more cities would want the same favour, just in proportion to their weakness, and I have sufficient confidence in your diligence to feel certain that you will do your very best to protect them from harm. If, however, any persons act contrary to my rules, let them be promptly suppressed ; or if any are guilty of offences too grave to be sufficiently punished offhand, notify their commanding officers, if they are soldiers, of the crimes in which you have detected them, or if they are about to return to Rome write and let me know.


[79] L   To Trajan.

There is a provision, Sir, in the Lex Pompeia - which is in force in Bithynia - to the effect that no one is to hold office or sit in the senate who is under thirty years of age, and it is also provided in the same law that all ex-magistrates are to have a seat in that Chamber. Then followed an edict of the Emperor Augustus permitting persons to hold the minor offices from their twenty-second year. The question arises, therefore, whether a man who held office before he was thirty can be admitted by the censors to the senate, and, if he can, whether by the same interpretation those who have not held office may also be appointed senators when they reach the age at which they may become magistrates. This practice has already been followed in some places, and it is said to be unavoidable on the ground that it is much preferable to admit into the senate the sons of well-born persons than to admit plebeians. When I was asked my opinion by the censors-elect, I said I thought that those who had held office before they were thirty might be appointed senators in accordance with the terms of the edict of Augustus and the Lex Pompeia, inasmuch as Augustus allowed those under thirty to hold office, and the law declared that an ex-magistrate should sit in the senate. But I hesitated as to those who had not held office, though they had reached the age when they were eligible for such office. That is why, Sir, I ask your advice on the course you would have me adopt. I enclose with my letter both the heads of the Pompeian Law and the edict of Augustus.


[80] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I agree with the construction you place on the law, my dear Pliny, and I think that the Lex Pompeia is superseded by the edict of Augustus to the extent that persons not less than twenty-two years of age are eligible for office, and that, having held it, they necessarily become senators in all the free cities. But if they have not held office, I do not think that those who are under thirty can be appointed senators in any place, simply because they might hold office if they chose.


[81] L   To Trajan.

When, Sir, I was at Prusa, near Mt. Olympus, and was enjoying a rest from public business at my lodgings - I was about to leave the town on the same day - a magistrate named Asclepiades sent me a message saying that Claudius Eumolpus had appealed to me. It appeared that one Cocceianus Dion *   had requested in the senate that the city should formally take over the public work on which he had been engaged, and that Eumolpus, who was appearing for Flavius Archippus, said that Dion ought to be made to produce plans of the work before it was handed over to the city, alleging that he had not finished it as he ought to have done. He added that your statue had been placed in the temple, together with the remains of Dion's wife and son, **   and demanded that I should investigate the matter in proper legal form. When I said that I would do so forthwith and postpone my journey, he asked that I would put off the day of hearing, so as to give him time to prepare his case, and that I would investigate the matter in another city. I replied that I would hear it tried at Nicaea and when I had taken my seat on the bench in that place to listen to the pleading, Eumolpus once more began to try and get a further adjournment on the ground that he was still not quite ready; while Dion, on the other hand, demanded that the case should be heard at once. A good deal was said on both sides relating to the subject at issue. I thought that a further adjournment should be made, and that I had better consult you in a matter that looked like forming a precedent, and I told both parties to hand in written statements of their separate demands, for I wished that you should hear the points put forward as far as possible in their own words. Dion said that he would give in a statement, and Eumolpus also promised to set down in writing his points, so far as they related to matters of state. But in the charge about the remains he said that he was not the accuser, but merely the advocate of Flavius Archippus, whose commission he was undertaking. Archippus, who was being represented by Eumolpus, as at Prusa, then said that he too would make a written statement. Yet neither Eumolpus nor Archippus has yet handed in any, though I have waited a long time; Dion, on the other hand, has done so, and I enclose it with this letter. I have visited the place in question and seen your statue in position in the library, while the building, where the wife and son of Dion are said to be buried, lies in the courtyard, which is enclosed by porticos. I beg you, Sir, to condescend to advise me in forming a decision on a case like this, for it has created great public interest, as it was bound to do, considering the facts are admitted, and there are precedents on both sides.

(*)   Better known as Dio Chrysostom, the orator and philosopher; his speeches On the Duty of a Ruler were addressed to Trajan.

(**)   To place the statue of an emperor close to graves would be an act liable to prosecution.


[82] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You need have had no hesitation, my dear Pliny, on the point concerning which you have thought it necessary to consult me, for you are well aware of my fixed resolve not to seek to make people respect my name by fear and terrorism and charges of treason. Dismiss the inquiry, therefore, which I should not admit even if there were precedents to support it, and let Cocceianus Dion be required to submit the plan of the whole building he has raised under your supervision, as public interests demand that he should. Indeed he does not decline to do so - and ought not to, if he did.


[83] L   To Trajan.

I have been publicly asked, Sir, by what is and ought to be the most sacred thing in the world to me, I mean your eternal fame and well-being, to forward to you a memorial of the people of Nicaea, and therefore, as I did not think it right to refuse, I accepted it and enclose it with this letter.


[84] L   Trajan to Pliny.

As the people of Nicaea declare that Augustus conferred upon them the right to enjoy the property of those citizens who die intestate, you must inquire into the matter, and summon before you all who are concerned in the question, including Virdius Gemellinus and Epimachus, my freedman, who are procurators, and then, after giving due weight to the arguments on the other side, come to the decision you think best.


[85] L   To Trajan.

Sir, I have found Maximus, your freedman and procurator, all the time we have been together, a man of probity, industry, and diligence, and as devoted to discipline as he is eager to prosecute your interests, and I gladly, therefore, bear witness to you of his worth, as is my duty.


[86a] L   To Trajan.

Sir, I can recommend to you most heartily, as it is my duty to do, Gabius Bassus, the prefect of the coast of Pontus, as an upright, honest, and diligent public servant, and as one who has showed me the greatest respect.


[86b] L   To Trajan.

*   . . . He has been trained in military service under your standard, and he owes the fact that he is worthy of your favour to the training he there received. The soldiers and country people around me have learned to trust his justice and humanity, and they have vied with one another in giving him public and private testimonials of their regard. These facts I bring before your notice as I am in duty bound to do.

(*)   The beginning of this letter has been lost.


[87] L   To Trajan.

Sir, I served with Nymphidius Lupus in the army when he was chief centurion ; when he was prefect I was a military tribune, and from that time I began to have a strong affection for him. Subsequently, our affection increased as our friendship grew older, and so I imposed on him in his retirement and induced him to come to Bithynia with me and serve on my staff. This he has done and will continue to do in the most friendly way, without regard for his age and his due retirement. For this reason I look upon his near friends as my own, especially his son Nymphidius Lupus, a young man of integrity and industry, well worthy of such a father, and one who amply deserves your favour, as you may judge from the first proof he has given of his mettle. For as prefect of a cohort he has won glowing praise from two such excellent officers as Julius Ferox and Fuscus Salinator. My joy and self-congratulation will be satisfied by the advancement of the son.


[88] L   To Trajan.

I pray, Sir, that you may keep this birthday *   and many others in the greatest happiness, and that in strength and security you may increase the fame and eternal praise of your glory by adding to the list of your noble achievements.

(*)   18th September 112 A.D.


[89] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I acknowledge your prayer, my dear Pliny, that I may celebrate many happy birthdays, and that our Empire may continue to prosper.


[90] L   To Trajan.

The people of Sinope, Sir, are short of a proper water-supply, though a good and plentiful supply might be brought from a distance of about sixteen miles. However, there is a dangerously soft piece of ground a little more than a mile from the source, which I have in the meanwhile ordered to be surveyed, to see whether it could bear the weight of an aqueduct. If we undertake to build the funds will not be lacking, if you, Sir, grant permission to this healthy and pleasantly placed but very thirsty colony to begin the work.


[91] L   Trajan to Pliny.

Make a careful survey, my dear Pliny, as you have begun to do, to see whether the place which looks dangerous can support the weight of an aqueduct. I do not think we ought to hesitate about bringing a proper water-supply to the colony of Sinope, provided that it can bear the expense alone, inasmuch as the improvement would contribute both to its health and to its charms as a place of residence.


[92] L   To Trajan.

The free and allied city *   of Amisum, thanks to your favour, enjoys its own special laws. I have enclosed with this letter, Sir, a memorial relating to their collections for the poor, that you may decide in what way the practice is to be permitted, to what lengths it may be carried, or where it should be checked.

(*)   Civitas foederata: a city whose autonomy was assured by a formal treaty.


[93] L   Trajan to Pliny.

If permission has been granted to the people of Amisum, whose memorial you enclosed with your letter, in the laws which govern the terms of their alliance, to make a collection for the poor, we have no reason to prevent them ; and we can permit it the more readily in that the collection is utilised for the support of the distressed and not to bring people together and form illicit societies. But in other free states which are under our jurisdiction collections of this kind are not to be permitted.


[94] L   To Trajan.

Sir, I have long admired the character and literary abilities of Suetonius Tranquillus, a man of the highest integrity, probity, and learning ; he has been my constant companion, and I have begun to love him the better as I have learned to know him the more thoroughly. There are two reasons why the privileges of the ius trium liberorum should be conferred upon him. One is that he wins the final proof of his friends' good opinion of him and is mentioned in their wills, *   and the other is that he has not been fortunate in his marriage. He has therefore to rely, through us, upon obtaining from your kindness what has been denied him by the perversity of Fortune. I know, Sir, how great is the favour I am asking, but I ask it none the less from you, inasmuch as I find you are always most indulgent in granting my requests. And you may see how earnestly I desire it, for I should not ask it when I am miles away if I were only half-hearted in preferring my petition.

(*)   By the Lex Papia Poppaea, married persons, without children, were unable to take bequests in their entirety, a portion going to the public treasury.


[95] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You assuredly know, my dear Pliny, how sparingly I grant these favours, for I often declare in the senate that I have not exceeded the number with which I told that august order I should be content. However, I have granted your request, and I have ordered a note to be entered on my diaries that I have bestowed the privilege of the ius trium liberorum upon Suetonius Tranquillus on the customary understanding.


[96] L   To Trajan.

It is my custom, Sir, to refer to you in all cases where I do not feel sure, for who can better direct my doubts or inform my ignorance? I have never been present at any legal examination of the Christians, and I do not know, therefore, what are the usual penalties passed upon them, or the limits of those penalties, or how searching an inquiry should be made. I have hesitated a great deal in considering whether any distinctions should be drawn according to the ages of the accused; whether the weak should be punished as severely as the more robust; whether if they renounce their faith they should be pardoned, or whether the man who has once been a Christian should gain nothing by recanting; whether the name itself, even though otherwise innocent of crime, should be punished, or only the crimes that gather round it.

In the meantime, this is the plan which I have adopted in the case of those Christians who have been brought before me. I ask them whether they are Christians; if they say yes, then I repeat the question a second and a third time, warning them of the penalties it entails, and if they still persist, I order them to be taken away to prison. For I do not doubt that, whatever the character of the crime may be which they confess, their pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy certainly ought to be punished. *   There were others who showed similar mad folly whom I reserved to be sent to Rome, as they were Roman citizens. **   Subsequently, as is usually the way, the very fact of my taking up this question led to a great increase of accusations, and a variety of cases were brought before me. A pamphlet was issued anonymously, containing the names of a number of people. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians and called upon the gods in the usual formula, reciting the words after me, those who offered incense and wine before your image, which I had given orders to be brought forward for this purpose, together with the statues of the deities - all such I considered should be discharged, especially as they cursed the name of Christ, which, it is said, those who are really Christians cannot be induced to do. Others, whose names were given me by an informer, first said that they were Christians and afterwards denied it, declaring that they had been but were so no longer, some of them having recanted many years before, and more than one so long as twenty years back. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the deities, and cursed the name of Christ. But they declared that the sum of their guilt or their error only amounted to this, that on a stated day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak and to recite a hymn among themselves to Christ, as though he were a god, and that so far from binding themselves by oath to commit any crime, their oath was to abstain from theft, robbery, adultery, and from breach of faith, and not to deny trust money placed in their keeping when called upon to deliver it. When this ceremony was concluded, it had been their custom to depart and meet again to take food, but it was of no special character and quite harmless, and they had ceased this practice after the edict in which, in accordance with your orders, I had forbidden all secret societies.   I thought it the more necessary, therefore, to find out what truth there was in these statements by submitting two women, who were called deaconesses, to the torture, but I found nothing but a debased superstition carried to great lengths. So I postponed my examination, and immediately consulted you. The matter seems to me worthy of your consideration, especially as there are so many people involved in the danger. Many persons of all ages, and of both sexes alike, are being brought into peril of their lives by their accusers, and the process will go on. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only through the free cities, but into the villages and the rural districts, and yet it seems to me that it can be checked and set right. It is beyond doubt that the temples, which have been almost deserted, are beginning again to be thronged with worshippers, that the sacred rites which have for a long time been allowed to lapse are now being renewed, and that the food for the sacrificial victims is once more finding a sale, whereas, up to recently, a buyer was hardly to be found. From this it is easy to infer what vast numbers of people might be reclaimed, if only they were given an opportunity of repentance.

(*)   Pliny leaves it unclear whether the Christians were accused of a specific crime; it seems that to confess to being Christian was considered sufficient proof of guilt.

(**)   Except by special delegation of the Emperor's own legal powers, no provincial governor had power to inflict the death penalty on a Roman citizen, but must allow him to take his trial at Rome.

(†)   Or 'political societies'. The same word {hetaeriae} is used in relation to a guild of firemen, in letter 34 of this book.


[97] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You have adopted the proper course, my dear Pliny, in examining into the cases of those who have been denounced to you as Christians, for no hard and fast rule can be laid down to meet a question of such wide extent. The Christians are not to be hunted out ; if they are brought before you and the offence is proved, they are to be punished, but with this reservation - that if any one denies that he is a Christian and makes it clear that he is not, by offering prayers to our deities, then he is to be pardoned because of his recantation, however suspicious his past conduct may have been. *   But pamphlets published anonymously must not carry any weight whatever, no matter what the charge may be, for they are not only a precedent of the very worst type, but they are not in consonance with the spirit of our age.

(*)   For an early Christian reaction to Trajan's decision, see Tertullian's 'Apology', chapter 2 (written in about 197 A.D.).


[98] L   To Trajan.

The city of Amastris, Sir, which is both elegantly and finely built, boasts among its most striking features a very beautiful and lengthy street, down one side of which, to its full extent, runs what is called a river, but it is really a sewer of the foulest kind. This is not only an eyesore because it is so disgusting to look at, but it is a danger to health from its shocking smells. For these reasons, both for the sake of health and appearance, it ought to be covered over, and this will be done if you give leave, while we will take care that the money shall be forthcoming for so important and necessary a work.


[99] L   Trajan to Pliny.

It stands to reason, my dear Pliny, that the stream which flows through the city of Amastris should be covered over, if by remaining uncovered it endangers the public health. I feel certain that, with your usual diligence, you will take care that the money for the work will be forthcoming.


[100] L   To Trajan.

We have paid. Sir, with joyfulness and alacrity the vows we publicly pronounced for the years that are past, and we have undertaken new ones, *   the troops and the provincials vying with one another to show their loyalty. We pray the gods that they may preserve you and the State in prosperity and safety, and show you the good will which you have so richly deserved, not only by your exceeding and numerous virtues, but by your striking integrity of life and the obedience and honour you have paid to Heaven.

(*)   On 3rd January 113 A.D.


[101] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I have been glad to learn from your letter, my dear Pliny, that the troops and the provincials in joyful unison have paid the vows they made for my safety, reciting the formula after you, and that they have undertaken new vows for the future.


[102] L   To Trajan.

We have celebrated with all due religious observance the lucky day upon which you succeeded to the throne and the care of the human race was placed in your keeping, *   and have commended our public vows and thanksgivings to the gods who set you to rule over us.

(*)   28th January.


[103] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I have been glad to learn from your letter that the anniversary of my succession has been celebrated by the troops and the provincials with due thanksgiving, reciting the formula after you.


[104] L   To Trajan.

Valerius Paulinus, Sir, has left me the right of patronage over all his Latin freedmen *   to the exclusion of his son Paulinus, and I beg of you in the meantime to grant the full Roman rights to three of them. I am afraid it would seem too much to request your indulgence for all alike, and I ought to be the more modest in asking your indulgence as it is granted to me so fully. But those for whom I beg this favour are Caius Valerius Astraeus, Caius Valerius Dionysius, and Caius Valerius Aper.

(*)   Freedmen who had only limited rights, under the terms of the Lex Aelia Sentia.


[105] L   Trajan to Pliny.

Your early solicitation of my favour for those who have been placed under your patronage by Valerius Paulinus does you so much credit that I have in the meantime given orders for a note to be entered in my archives to the effect that I have bestowed the full Roman citizenship on those for whom you have asked it, and I will do the same for the others upon your making application.


[106] L   To Trajan.

Publius Attius Aquila, Sir, a centurion of the sixth cohort of horse, *   asked me to forward to you a memorial in which he begs your indulgence on behalf of the status of his daughter. I thought it would be hard to deny him, especially as I know what a ready and kindly ear you turn to the requests of your soldiers.

(*)   A mixed cohort of infantry as well as cavalry.


[107] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I have read the memorial which you sent to me from Publius Attius Aquila, a centurion of the sixth cohort of horse, and I have been moved by his entreaties to bestow upon his daughter the Roman citizenship. I am sending you a copy of the order, which you will please hand over to him.


[108] L   To Trajan.

I beg you, Sir, to send me word what legal rights you wish the cities of Bithynia and Pontus to possess in getting in moneys which may be due to them, either as rents or the proceeds of sales, or for any other cause. I have found that they have been granted the position of preferential creditors by many proconsuls, and that the privilege has acquired a sort of legal sanction. I think, however, that you should make some definite decree on the subject by means of which their rights may be established for the future, for the preferential claim, however justly granted to them by the proconsuls, will be short-lived and invalid unless it receives your official authorisation.


[109] L   Trajan to Pliny.

The legal position of the cities of Bithynia and Pontus, in getting in moneys which may be due to them for any reason, must be determined by consulting the special laws of each city. If they possess the privilege of ranking as preferential creditors, it must be respected ; if they do not, then I shall not think of granting it to the detriment of private creditors.


[110] L   To Trajan.

The public prosecutor, Sir, of the city of Amisus has claimed in court before me the sum of 40,000 denarii from Julius Piso, which was given to him out of the public funds twenty years before by the senate and confirmed by a public meeting, and he urged in defence of the claim your edicts, in which donations of that sort are forbidden. Piso, on the other hand, declared that he had made great monetary contributions to the city funds, and had well-nigh spent all his means. He urged, moreover, the length of time which had elapsed since the gift was made, and begged that he might not be compelled to pay back what he had received many years before for a number of services rendered, saying that to do so would mean the ruin of what position he still had left to him. For these reasons I thought it best to adjourn the case as it stood, that I might consult you on the course you think best to adopt.


[111] L   Trajan to Pliny.

Though it is true my edicts forbid the grants of public money to individuals, yet it does not follow that grants made years ago ought to be inquired into anew and revoked and annulled, for to do so would shatter the position of a host of persons. Let us therefore ignore all such donations that are twenty years old, for I wish to do what is best, not only for the public funds of each city, but for the individuals living therein.


[112] L   To Trajan.

The Lex Pompeia, Sir, which is in use in Bithynia and Pontus, does not make it compulsory for those who are appointed by the censors to a seat in the senate to pay a sum of money to the public funds, but those who by your special favour have been appointed senators in certain cities, over and above the usual number of those bodies, have paid either one or two thousand denarii. Subsequently, the proconsul Anicius Maximus gave orders that even those who were appointed by the censors should make some contribution of varying amounts to the public funds, at least in a few cities. It rests, therefore, with you to determine whether all who are appointed senators should be obliged to pay a fixed sum as entrance money, for it is only proper that a rule meant to be permanent should be drawn up by yourself, whose acts and words deserve to live for ever.


[113] L   Trajan to Pliny.

It is impossible for me to draw up a general rule as to whether newly-made senators in every city in Bithynia ought or ought not to pay an honorarium as entrance money. I think that the laws of each city should be observed - which is always the safest course to adopt . . . *

(*)   The end of this letter is missing.


[114] L   To Trajan.

Sir, according to the Lex Pompeia, the free cities of Bithynia have the right to enrol anyone they please as a citizen, provided that he does not belong to any of the other Bithynian cities. The same law lays down provisions stating the causes for which a member of a senate may be expelled by the censors. Consequently, certain censors have consulted me on the point whether they ought to expel any member who belonged to another city. However, I was influenced by the fact that, though the law forbids the election of such a person, it does not order his expulsion from the senate for that reason ; and, besides, I was assured that in every city there were a number of senators belonging to other cities, and that any interference would seriously affect the position of a host of individuals and cities, inasmuch as that section of the law had for many years fallen into abeyance by general consent. So I thought it necessary to consult you as to the line you would wish me to adopt. I enclose with this letter the sections of the law on the subject.


[115] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You did right to hesitate, my dear Pliny, before giving your answer to the censors who consulted you about the admission to the senate of citizens belonging to other cities but to the same province. For the authority of the law, and the old-established custom of acting contrary to it, naturally pulled you different ways. My own feeling in the matter is that we should not attempt to disturb past arrangements, and that those persons who have been appointed senators, no matter what cities they belonged to, should retain their position. For the future, however, the Lex Pompeia must be observed, although to try and enforce it retrospectively would necessarily entail great disturbance.


[116] L   To Trajan.

It is the custom for those who assume the gown of manhood {toga virilis}, or who marry, or enter upon office, or dedicate any public work, to invite all the senate, and even a considerable number of the common people, and present each person with one or two denarii. I beg you will tell me whether you think this practice should be kept up, and to what extent, for while I think that the inviting of friends is permissible, especially on solemn occasions, I am afraid that those who invite a thousand persons, or sometimes more, exceed all due limits, and seem to be guilty of what may be regarded as a special kind of bribery.


[117] L   Trajan to Pliny.

I approve your apprehension that there is a look of bribery about invitations which are given on a wholesale scale and exceed due limits, and bring people together in whole societies, as it were, to receive customary presents, which is a very different thing from giving a present to each man because you know him. But the reason I selected your prudent self as governor was that you might exercise a moderating influence upon the customs of that province, and that you might so order matters as to secure its future quiet.


[118] L   To Trajan.

The athletes, Sir, think that the rewards which you have promised as prizes in the iselastic contests *   ought to be due to them from the day they receive their laurel crowns, for they argue that the date of their entry into their native place is immaterial, and that the material fact is the time of their victory which entitles them to that entry. I am in the habit of countersigning the drafts for payment with the phrase "under the head of iselastic money," and I have a very strong feeling that the time ought to be dated from the day when they make their entry. The same people are also demanding the special rewards for the contest which you have made iselastic, although they were winners before it was so made by you, for they say it is only fair that they should receive the rewards for games which have now begun to be iselastic, considering that they do not receive the rewards for those which have ceased after their victory to be so. On this point I have the gravest doubts as to the advisability of making the prizes retrospective, and giving rewards to which the winners were not entitled when the contests took place. I beg you, therefore, to set my doubts at rest - that is to say, I beg that you will deign to explain the way you wish your generosity to be applied.

(*)   Contests in public games, the victor in which was entitled to make a public entry (a "victory parade") into his native city.


[119] L   Trajan to Pliny.

It seems to me that the rewards ought to begin to be due from the date when the winner makes his public entry into his own city. The special rewards for those contests which I have been pleased to class as iselastic ought not to be retrospective, if they were not iselastic before. Nor does the fact that the victors no longer receive the rewards for the contests from which I have taken away the iselastic privileges assist their claim, for though the conditions of the contests are changed, the rewards which they have carried off are not reclaimed.


[120] L   To Trajan.

Up to the present moment, Sir, I have not granted anyone a special permit, *   nor have I despatched any messenger except on your service. However, I have been obliged to break from this rule of mine, for when I heard of the death of my wife's grandfather, **   and my wife was anxious to hasten to the side of her aunt,   I thought it would be hard to deny her the use of a permit, especially as the value of such an act of kindness on her part depended on her prompt arrival, and as I knew that I could approve to you the cause of a journey which was motivated by family affection. I have written this letter because I thought I should not be showing you the gratitude I ought, if I omitted to mention that I owed this particular favour to your kindness, in addition to all those you have showered upon me. I was so confident of your kindness that, without asking your permission, I did not hesitate to do what, if I had asked your permission, would have been done too late.

(*)   Diploma: see letter 45 of this book.

(**)   Calpurnius Fabatus.

(†)   Calpurnia Hispulla.


[121] L   Trajan to Pliny.

You did right, my dear Pliny, in having confidence in my sympathy. There is no doubt that, if you had waited to ask my permission to expedite your wife's journey by the permits which I have given you for official purposes, they would have been of little service to her, especially as the speed with which she travelled must have made her arrival still more welcome to her aunt.

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