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Pliny the Younger : Letters

    - BOOK 2

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

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


CONTENTS:   1 Romanus   2 Paulinus   3 Nepos   4 Calvina   5 Lupercus   6 Avitus   7 Macrinus   8 Caninius   9 Apollinaris   10 Octavius   11 Arrianus   12 Arrianus   13 Priscus   14 Maximus   15 Valerianus   16 Annianus   17 Gallus   18 Mauricus   19 Cerealis   20 Calvisius




[1] L   To Romanus.

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

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

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

(*)   As commander of the army of upper Germany, he had put down the revolt of Vindex in 68 A.D.


[2] L   To Paulinus.

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


[3] L   To Nepos.

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

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

(*)   Juvenal mentions this rhetorician as a powerful speaker (iii. 74).

(**)   Enthymemata, which had a technical sense in logic (a syllogism drawn from probable premises, and later a syllogism with one premise suppressed, cf. Liddell and Scott, sub voce), is here used in the sense of "reflections, general considerations."


[4] L   To Calvina.

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


[5] L   To Lupercus.

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

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

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


[6] L   To Avitus.

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

(*)   i.e. not to be "marked" as socially inferior. Allusion to the mark {nota} which the Censors affixed to names of expelled members in the list of the senate.


[7] L   To Macrinus.

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

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

(*)   See letter iii. 10.


[8] L   To Caninius.

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


[9] L   To Apollinaris.

I am worried and anxious about the candidature of my friend Sextus Erucius. I am quite careworn, and feel for my second self, as it were, a solicitude that I did not feel on my own account. Besides, my honour, my reputation, my position are all at stake: for it was I who obtained from our Emperor for Sextus the right to wear the latus clavus, *   it was I who secured for him the quaestorship; it was owing to my interest that he was advanced to the right of standing for the tribunate, and unless he is elected by the senate, I am afraid that it will look as if I had deceived the Emperor. Consequently, I have to do my best to induce all the senators to take the same favourable view of him that the Emperor did on my recommendation. If this were not reason sufficient to rouse my zeal in his behalf, yet I should like to see a young man helped on, who is of such sterling character, who is of such weight and learning, and is fully worthy of any and every praise, as indeed are all the members of his family.

His father, Erucius Clarus, is a man of probity of the old-fashioned sort, full of learning and an experienced counsel, conducting his cases with splendid honesty, perseverance, and modesty as well. His uncle is Caius Septicius, than whom I never met any one more sterling, simple, frank, and trustworthy. They all see who can shower most affection upon me, though they all love me equally, and now I can repay the love of all in the person of young Erucius. So I am button-holing all my friends, begging them for their support, going round to see them and haunting their houses and favourite resorts, and I am putting both my position and influence to the test by my entreaties. I beg of you to think it worth your while to relieve me of some part of my burden. I will do the same for you whenever you ask the return favour; nay I will do so even if you do not ask me. You are a favourite with many, people seek your society, and you have a wide circle of friends. Do you but give a hint that you have a wish, and there will be plenty who will make your wish their desire.   Farewell.

(*)   A broad purple band on the tunic, indicating, as a general rule, senatorial rank; sometimes, it would seem, bestowed on knights.


[10] L   To Octavius.

What an indolent fellow you are, or perhaps I should say how hard-hearted you are and almost cruel to keep back so long such splendid volumes of verse! How long will you deprive yourself of the chorus of praise that awaits you, and us of the pleasure of reading them? Do let them be borne on the lips of men and circulate through all the wide regions where the Roman tongue is spoken. People have long been eagerly looking forward to your publishing them, and you really ought not to cheat and disappoint them any longer. Some of your verses have become known, and - no thanks to you - have broken down the barriers you set round them, and unless you rescue them and include them in the main body of your work they will one day, like vagrant slaves, find someone else to claim the ownership of them. Don't lose sight of the fact that you are but mortal, and that you can only defend yourself from being forgotten by such a monument as this: all other titles to fame are fragile and perishable, and come to a sudden end as soon as the breath is out of your body. You will say, as usual, "Oh! my friends must see to that for me." *   Well, I hope you have friends loyal enough, learned enough, painstaking enough, to be capable and desirous of undertaking such a responsible task, but I would have you consider whether it is altogether prudent to expect from other people the toil which you will not undergo for yourself. However, as to publishing, do as you please, but at least give some public readings, in order to stir you on to publishing, and that you may at length see how pleased people will be to hear you, as I have for a long time been bold enough to anticipate on your account. For I picture to myself what a run there will be to hear you, how they will admire your work, what applause is in store for you, and what a hush of attention. Personally, when I speak or recite I like a hush quite as much as loud applause, provided that the people are quiet, because they are keenly interested and eager to hear more. With such a reward before you so absolutely certain, do not go on chilling our enthusiasm by that never-ending hesitation of yours, for if it once gets over a certain line, there is a danger of people giving it another name and saying you are idle, slothful, or even nervous.   Farewell.

(*)   That is to say, after I am gone.


[11] L   To Arrianus.

I know you are always delighted when the senate behaves in a way befitting its rank, for though your love of peace and quiet has caused you to withdraw from Rome, your anxiety that public life should be kept at a high level is as strong as it ever was. So let me tell you what has been going on during the last few days. The proceedings are memorable owing to the commanding position of the person most concerned; they will have a healthy influence because of the sharp lesson that has been administered; and the importance of the case will make them famous for all time.

Marius Priscus, on being accused by the people of Africa, whom he had governed as proconsul, declined to defend himself before the senate and asked to have judges assigned to hear the case. *   Cornelius Tacitus and myself were instructed to appear for the provincials, and we came to the conclusion that we were bound in honesty to our clients to notify the senate that the charges of inhumanity and cruelty brought against Priscus were too serious to be heard by a panel of judges, inasmuch as he was accused of having received bribes to condemn and even put to death innocent persons. Fronto Catius spoke in reply, and urged that the prosecution should be confined within the law dealing with extortion: he is wonderfully skilled at drawing tears, and throughout his speech he filled his sails with a breeze of pathos. Then a hubbub arose, and there were loud exclamations of applause and dissent; some held that a trial of the case by the senate was barred by law; **   others declared that the senate was quite competent and entitled to deal with it, and argued that the law should punish the whole guilt of the defendant. At length Julius Ferox, the consul-designate, a man of honour and probity, gave it as his opinion that judges should be assigned for the time being, and that those who were said to have bribed Priscus to punish innocent persons should be summoned to Rome. This proposal not only carried the day, but it was the only one that was numerously supported in spite of the previous fierce dissension, for it has often been remarked that though partisanship and pity lead men to make very keen and heated attacks in the first instance, they gradually sober down under the influence of further consideration and reason. Hence it comes about that no one cares to make the point, when the other people are sitting still, which a number of persons may be anxious to make if an uproar is going on all round them; for when you get away from the throng a quiet consideration of the subject at issue makes clear all the points that were lost sight of in the throng of speakers.

Well, the witnesses who were summoned came to Rome, viz., Vitellius Honoratus and Flavius Martianus. Honoratus was charged with having bribed Priscus to the tune of three hundred thousand sesterces to exile a Roman knight and put seven of his friends to death; Martianus was accused of having given Priscus seven hundred thousand sesterces to sentence a single Roman knight to still more grievous punishment, for he was beaten with rods, condemned to the mines, and then strangled in prison. Honoratus - luckily for him - escaped the investigation of the senate by dying; Martianus was brought before them when Priscus was not present. Consequently Tuccius Cerealis, a man of consular rank, pleaded senatorial privileges and demanded that Priscus should be informed of the attendance of Martianus, either because he thought that Priscus by being present would have a better chance of awakening the compassion of the senate or to increase the feeling against him, or possibly, and I think this was his real motive, because strict justice demanded that both should defend themselves against a charge that affected them both, and that both should be punished if they could not rebut the accusation.

The subject was postponed to the next meeting of the senate, and a very august assembly it was. The Emperor presided in his capacity as consul; besides, the month of January brings crowds of people to Rome and especially senators,   and moreover the importance of the case, the great notoriety it had obtained, which had been increased by the delays that had taken place, and the ingrained curiosity of all men to get to know all the details of an unusually important matter, had made everybody flock to Rome from all quarters. You can imagine how nervous and anxious we were in having to speak in such a gathering and in the presence of the Emperor on such an important case. It was not the first time that I had pleaded in the senate, and there is nowhere where I get a more sympathetic hearing, but then the novelty of the whole position seemed to afflict me with a feeling of nervousness I had never felt before. For in addition to all that I have mentioned above I kept thinking of the difficulties of the case and was oppressed by the feeling that Priscus, the defendant, had once held consular rank and been one of the seven regulators of the sacred feasts, and was now deprived of both these dignities.   So I found it a very trying task to accuse a man on whom sentence had already been passed, for though the shocking offences with which he was charged weighed heavily against him, he yet was protected to a certain extent by the commiseration felt for a man already condemned to punishment that one might have thought final.

However, as soon as I had pulled myself together and collected my thoughts, I began my address, and though I was nervous I was on the best of terms with my audience. I spoke for nearly five hours, for, in addition to the twelve water-clocks - the largest I could get - which had been assigned to me, I obtained four others. And, as matters turned out, everything that I thought before speaking would have proved an obstacle in the way of a good speech really helped me during my address. As for the Emperor, he showed me such kind attention and consideration - for it would be too much to call it anxiety on my behalf - that he frequently nodded to my freedman, who was standing just behind me, to give me a hint not to overtax my voice and lungs, when he thought that I was throwing myself too ardently into my pleading and imposing too great a burden on my slender frame. Claudius Marcellinus answered me on behalf of Martianus, and then the senate was dismissed and met again on the following day. For there was no time to begin a fresh speech, as it would have had to be broken off by the fall of night. On the following day, Salvius Liberalis, a man of shrewd wit, careful in the arrangement of his speeches, with a pointed style and a fund of learning, spoke for Marius, and in his speech he certainly brought out all he knew. Cornelius Tacitus replied to him in a wonderfully eloquent address, characterised by that lofty dignity which is the chief charm of his oratory. Then Fronto Catius made another excellent speech on Marius's behalf, and he spent more time in appeals for mercy than in rebutting evidence, as befitted the part of the case that he had then to deal with. The fall of night terminated his speech but did not break it off altogether, and so the proceedings lasted over into the third day. This was quite fine and just like it used to be for the senate to be interrupted by nightfall, and for the members to be called and sit for three days running.

Cornutus Tertullus, the consul-designate, a man of high character and a devoted champion of justice, gave as his opinion that the seven hundred thousand sesterces which Marius had received should be confiscated to the Treasury, that Marius should be banished from Rome and Italy, and that Martianus should be banished from Rome, Italy, and Africa. Towards the conclusion of his speech he added the remark that the senate considered that, since Tacitus and myself, who had been summoned to plead for the provincials, had fulfilled our duties with diligence and fearlessness, we had acted in a manner worthy of the commission entrusted to us. The consuls-designate agreed, and all the consulars did likewise, until it was Pompeius Collega's turn to speak. He proposed that the seven hundred thousand sesterces received by Marius should be confiscated to the Treasury, that Martianus should be banished   for five years, and that Marius should suffer no further penalty than that for extortion - which had already been passed upon him. Opinion was largely divided, and there was possibly a majority in favour of the latter proposal, which was the more lenient or less severe of the two, for even some of those who appeared to have supported Cornutus changed sides and were ready to vote for Collega, who had spoken after them. But when the House divided, those who stood near the seats of the consuls began to cross over to the side of Cornutus. Then those who were allowing themselves to be counted as supporters of Collega also crossed over, and Collega was left with a mere handful. He complained bitterly afterwards of those who had led him to make the proposal he did, especially of Regulus, who had failed to support him in the proposal that he himself had suggested. But Regulus is a fickle fellow, rash to a degree, yet a great coward as well.

Such was the close of this most important investigation; but there is still another bit of public business on hand of some consequence, for Hostilius Firminus, the legate of Marius Priscus, who was implicated in the matter, had received a very rough handling. It was proved by the accounts of Martianus and a speech he made in the Council of the Town of Leptis that he had engaged with Priscus in a very shady transaction, that he had bargained to receive from Martianus 50,000 denarii and had received in addition ten million sesterces under the head of perfume money - a most disgraceful thing for a soldier, but one which was not at all inconsistent with his character as a man with well-trimmed hair and polished skin. It was agreed on the motion of Cornutus that the case should be investigated at the next meeting of the senate, but at that meeting he did not put in an appearance, either from some accidental reason or because he knew he was guilty.

Well, I have told you the news of Rome, you must write and tell me the news of the country. How are your shrubs getting on, your vines and your crops, and those dainty sheep of yours? In short, unless you send me as long a letter I am sending you, you mustn't expect anything more than the scrappiest note from me in the future.   Farewell.

(*)   i.e., He declined defending himself in the senate, and asked for a trial before judges. These judges would be empowered to inquire into the charges of extortion etc., and assess damages. But it seems they would not be entitled to examine into the graver charges brought against him. If, then, the senate had sent him before this court or commission, it would have been held to acquit him of, or at least to condone, the weightier charges.

(**)   Their argument seems to have been that Marius had virtually pleaded guilty to the charge of extortion etc., by demanding judges to estimate damages, and that the senate was stopped from proceeding further - a strange argument.

(†)   It was the month when the new magistrates entered on their offices. The year was 100 A.D.

(††)   The judices (judges) had condemned him for bribery since the previous sitting of the senate.

(‡)   Relegare, a lighter form of banishment than the interdictio mentioned just before. As we have no separate words to express the different senses in English, we must again render by "banish."


[12] L   To Arrianus.

As for the bit of public business which, as I told you in my last letter, arose out of the case of Marius Priscus, I don't know whether it has been thoroughly pruned, but it certainly has been trimmed. *   When Firminus was called before the senate he replied to the charges brought against him. What they were you know. The two consuls-designate thereupon expressed their opinions as to the sentence and disagreed with one another. Cornutus Tertullus proposed that he should be degraded from his rank as senator; Acutius Nerva urged that when the provinces were allotted Firminus's claim should not be allowed, **   and his suggestion, as being the least severe, carried the day, though on the whole I think it is the harsher and more vindictive of the two. For what could be more wretched than to be cut off and debarred from all the privileges of senatorship, and yet not to be freed from its toil and trouble? What position can be more trying for a man with such a stain on his name than not to be allowed to hide himself from public view, but to have to show himself in a position of eminence to the gaze and pointing fingers of the world? Moreover, can you imagine anything, from the point of view of the public interest, less fitting or becoming than that a member of the senate who has been branded by that body should keep his seat among them, that he should retain equal rank with the very persons who branded him, that after being debarred from holding a proconsulship for disgraceful conduct as legate he should sit in judgment on other governors, and that after being found guilty of peculation he should pronounce the condemnation or acquittal of others? However, the majority approved this proposal, for votes are merely counted and are not weighed according to merit, and there is no other way possible in a public council. Yet in such cases this presumed equality of opinions is really most unequal, for all are equal in the right to vote though the judgment of the voters is a very unequal quantity. I have fulfilled my promise and made good my word contained in the earlier letter I sent you, which I reckon you will by this time have received, for I entrusted it to a fleet and conscientious messenger who must have reached you unless he has been hindered on the road. It now rests with you to recompense me for both these epistles with the very fullest letter that can be sent from where you are staying.   Farewell.

(*)   Circumcisum et adrasum, "clipped and shaved," perhaps an allusion to the dandified ways of Firminus, mentioned at the end of the last letter.

(**)   Taking away from him all chance of going out as a provincial governor, and pillaging on his own account.


[13] L   To Priscus.

I know you are only too pleased to seize an opportunity for doing me a service, and for my own part I would rather be in your debt than in that of any one else. So, for both these reasons, I have decided to choose you of all people as the one from whom to ask a favour which I am very anxious to have granted me. You are in command of a magnificent army, which gives you abundant material for conferring favours, and, moreover, has provided you with ample time during which you have advanced the interests of your own friends. Now give my friends a turn, please. There are not many of them, though you doubtless wish there were. But I am too modest to ask favours for more than one or two. Indeed there is only one, and that is Voconius Romanus. His father held a distinguished position in the equestrian order; his stepfather, or rather his second father, an even more distinguished place, for Voconius took the name of the latter out of his regard for him, while his mother belonged to one of the leading families of Hither Spain. You know how sound and weighty the opinion of that province is - well, Voconius was quite recently its flamen. *   When we were students he and I were close and intimate friends; we spent our days together in Rome and in the country; he was my companion both in moments of work and play. You could not imagine a more trusty friend or a more delightful companion. He has wonderful conversational powers, and a remarkably sweet face and expression, and besides this he possesses a lofty intellect and is shrewd, pleasant, ready, and a clever advocate. The letters he writes are so good as to make you think the Muses speak Latin. I have the greatest affection for him, and he has the same for me. When we were both young I did all that I possibly could as a young man to advance him, and just lately I induced our excellent Emperor to grant him the privileges attached to the parentage of three children. **   That is a favour he bestows but sparingly and after careful choice, yet he acceded to my request as though the choice were his own. There is no better way by which I may keep up my services to him than by adding to their number, especially as he, the recipient, shows himself so grateful to me that by accepting former favours he earns others to come. I have told you what kind of a man he is, how thoroughly I esteem him and how dear he is to me, and I now ask you to use your wits and splendid opportunities for his advancement. Above all, give him your regard, for though you shower upon him your richest dignities you can give him nothing more valuable than your friendship. It was to assure you that he is worthy of even your closest intimacy that I have briefly set before you his tastes, his character and his whole life. I would spin out my request to greater length, but I know that you would rather I did not press you further and the whole of this letter is nothing but a request. For the best way of asking a favour is to give good reason for asking it.   Farewell.

(*)   i.e., priest of the Temple of "Rome and Augustus" at Tarraco. This flamen was elected annually by the cities of the province. .

(**)   Ius trium liberorum. Certain privileges and immunities were enjoyed by those who had three or more children ; and these were sometimes (as here) bestowed as a favour on others.


[14] L   To Maximus.

Yes, you are quite right; my time is fully taken up by cases in the centumviral court, *   but they give me more worry than pleasure, for most of them are of a minor and unimportant character. Only rarely does a case crop up that stands out, owing either to the distinguished position of the persons in the suit or to the magnitude of the interests involved. Add to this that there are very few with whom I care to plead; all the other advocates are bumptious, and for the most part young men of no standing, who come over here to do their declamations with such utter want of respect and modesty that I think our friend Atilius just hit the nail on the head when he said that mere boys begin their forensic career with cases in the centumviral court, just as they begin with Homer in the schools. For here as there they make their first beginnings on the hardest subjects. Yet, by Heaven, before my time - to use an old man's phrase - not even the highest-born youths had any standing here, unless they were introduced by a man of consular rank.

Such was the respect with which this noble profession was regarded, but now modesty and respect are thrown to the winds and one man is as good as another. So far from being introduced, they burst their way in. Their audiences follow them as if they were actors, bought and paid to do so; the agent is there to meet them in the middle of the basilica, where the doles of money are handed over as openly as the doles of food at a banquet; and they are ready to pass from one court to another for a similar bribe. So these hirelings have been rather wittily dubbed Sophocleses - from their readiness to call bravo, - and they have also been given the Latin name of Laudiceni - from their eagerness to applaud for the sake of getting a dinner. **   Yet this disgraceful practice gets worse from day to day, in spite of the terms of opprobrium applied to it in both languages. Yesterday two of my own nomenclators   - young men, I admit, about the age of those who have just assumed the toga ††   - were enticed off to join in the applause for three denarii apiece. Such is the outlay you must make to get a reputation for eloquence! At that price you can fill the benches, however many there are, you can collect a great throng of bystanders and obtain thunders of applause as soon as the conductor gives the signal. For a signal is absolutely necessary for people who do not understand and do not even listen to the speeches, and many of these fellows do not listen at all, though they applaud as heartily as any. If you happen to be crossing through the basilica and wish to know how any one is speaking, there is no need for you to mount to the Bench or listen. It is perfectly safe to guess on the principle that he is speaking worst who gets the most applause.

Largius Licinius was the first to introduce this new fashion of procuring an audience, but he went no further than asking people to go and hear him. At least I remember that Quintilian, my old tutor, used to tell me so. He told the story thus: "I was in attendance on Domitius Afer when he was pleading in the centumviral court in the deliberate and measured style with which he conducted all his cases. He happened to hear from a neighbouring court the sound of extravagant and unusual applause. Wondering what it could mean, he stopped, and then resumed where he had broken off as soon as quiet was restored. Again the shouts came, again he stopped, and after a short period of quiet it began again for the third time. In the end he inquired who was speaking, and was told that it was Licinius. At that he discontinued his case, exclaiming: 'Centumviri, this is death to our profession.'" Indeed, it was beginning to go to the bad in other ways when Afer thought that it had already gone to the bad, but it is now practically ruined and destroyed, root and branch. I am ashamed to tell you what an affected delivery these people have and with what unnatural cheering their speeches are greeted. Their sing-song style only wants clapping of hands, or rather cymbals and drums, to make them like the priests of Cybele, for as for howlings - there is no other word to express the unseemly applause in the theatres - they have enough and to spare. It is only a desire to save my friends and my age   that has induced me to go on practising so long, for I am afraid people would think that if I retired my object was not to shun these indecent scenes but to escape hard work. Yet I am making fewer appearances than usual, and that is the beginning of gradually ceasing to attend altogether.   Farewell.

(*)   The court or chamber of a hundred judges. See note to letter i. 5.

(**)   Σοφοκλεῖς, shouters of "bravo," with a humorous reference to the tragedian's name. Laudiceni : toadies for the sake of a meal.

(†)   Slaves who accompanied their masters in the streets to tell them the names of people whom they met.

(††)   "They are fourteen or fifteen years of age" - the age at which a citizen would assume the toga virilis.

(‡)   i.e., he was still too young to think retirement proper.


[15] L   To Valerianus.

How does your old Marsian property treat you? And your new purchase? Do you like the estate now that it is your own? It is rarely one does, for we never find things as nice when we have obtained them as when we wished to obtain them. My mother's property is giving me considerable trouble, but I like it because it was my mother's, and besides, I have put up with so much that I am now hardened. If people go on complaining long enough, they end in being ashamed to complain further.   Farewell.


[16] L   To Annianus.   *

You, with your usual watchfulness on my behalf, advise me that the codicils of Acilianus, who left me heir to half his estate, may be treated as though they were non-existent, because they are not confirmed by the will. I was quite aware of the law on the subject, for even those who know nothing else know as much as that. But I have made a law of my own for such cases, which leads me to treat as valid the wishes of a dead man, even though they are not legally binding upon me. It is beyond question that the codicils in question were drawn up by Acilianus in his own hand. So, even though they are not confirmed by the will, I shall carefully carry out their intentions as though they were, especially as there is no loophole for an informer to meddle in the matter. For if there were any reason to be afraid of the money I have given being confiscated, I ought to act with perhaps greater hesitation and caution; but since an heir is at perfect liberty to give away what has reverted to him under an inheritance, there is no reason why I should not abide by my own law, which does not clash with the regulations of the State.   Farewell.

(*)   This letter requires explanation. Acilianus had made a regular will, leaving Pliny heir to half his property. He had subsequently written certain codicils - not, as some suppose, directing Pliny to pay his legacy, or a part of it, to others, for it seems that such codicils would have been valid, even without a will - but in which other specific legacies had been made ; and to make these valid, a will was necessary. These legacies would have diminished Pliny's share or reduced it to nothing. Annianus accordingly tells him that he may treat the codicils as so much waste paper. Pliny replies that he shall carry out the testator's wishes, and that there is no law to prevent him. For the codicils being legally void, his whole half share reverts to him (subsedit), and of course he can do with it he likes, i.e. pay the above-named legacies out of it. There is clearly no ground, he adds, for any information being laid against me on this account.


[17] L   To Gallus.

You are surprised, you say, at my infatuation for my Laurentine estate, or Laurentian if you prefer it so. *   You will cease to wonder when you are told the charms of the villa, the handiness of its site, and the stretch of shore it commands. It is seventeen miles distant from Rome, so that after getting through all your business, and without loss or curtailment of your working hours, you can go and stay there. It can be reached by more than one route, for the roads to Laurentium and Ostia both lead in the same direction, but you must branch off on the former at the eleventh, and on the latter at the fourteenth milestone. From both of these points onward the road is for the most part rather sandy, which makes it a tedious and lengthy journey if you drive, but if you ride it is easy going and quickly covered. The scenery on either hand is full of variety. At places the path is a narrow one with woods running down to it on both sides, at other points it passes through spreading meadows and is wide and open. You will see abundant flocks of sheep and many herds of cattle and horses, which are driven down from the high ground in the winter and grow sleek in a pasturage and a temperature like those of spring.

The villa is large enough for all requirements, and is not expensive to keep in repair. At its entrance there is a modest but by no means mean-looking hall; then come the cloisters, which are rounded into the likeness of the letter D, and these enclose a smallish but handsome courtyard. They make a fine place of refuge in a storm, for they are protected by glazed windows and deep overhanging eaves. Facing the middle of the cloisters is a cheerful inner court, then comes a dining-room running down towards the shore, which is handsome enough for any one, and when the sea is disturbed by the south-west wind the room is just flecked by the spray of the spent waves. There are folding doors on all sides of it, or windows that are quite as large as such doors, and so from the two sides and the front it commands a prospect as it were of three seas, while at the back one can see through the inner court, the cloisters, the courtyard, then more cloisters and the hall, and through them the woods and the distant hills. A little farther back, on the left-hand side, is a spacious chamber; then a smaller one which admits the rising sun by one window and by another enjoys his last lingering rays as he sets, and this room also commands a view of the sea that lies beneath it, at a longer but more secure distance. An angle is formed by this chamber and the dining-room, which catches and concentrates the purest rays of the sun. This forms the winter apartments and exercise ground for my household. No wind penetrates thither except those which bring up rain-clouds and only prevent the place being used when they take away the fine weather. Adjoining this angle is a chamber with one wall rounded like a bay, which catches the sun on all its windows as he moves through the heavens. In the wall of this room I have had shelves placed like a library, which contains the volumes which I not only read, but read over and over again. Next to it is a sleeping chamber, through a passage supported by pillars and fitted with pipes which catch the hot air and circulate it from place to place, keeping the rooms at a healthy temperature. The remaining part of this side of the villa is appropriated to the use of my slaves and freedmen, most of the rooms being sufficiently well furnished for the reception of guests.

On the other side of the building there is a nicely decorated chamber, then another room which would serve either as a large bed-chamber or a moderate sized dining-room, as it enjoys plenty of sunshine and an extensive sea-view. Behind this is an apartment with an ante-room, suitable for summer use because of its height, and for winter use owing to it sheltered position, for it is out of reach of all winds. Another room with an ante-room is joined to this by a common wall. Next to it is the cold bath room, a spacious and wide chamber, with two curved swimming baths thrown out as it were from opposite sides of the room and facing one another. They hold plenty of water if you consider how close the sea is. **   Adjoining this room is the anointing room, then the sweating room, and then the heating room, from which you pass to two chambers of graceful rather than sumptuous proportions. Attached to these is a warm swimming bath which everybody admires, and from it those who are taking a swim can command a view of the sea. Close by is the ball court, which receives the warmest rays of the afternoon sun; on one side a tower has been built with two sitting rooms on the ground floor, two more on the first floor, and above them a dining-room commanding a wide expanse of sea, a long stretch of shore, and the pleasantest villas of the neighbourhood. There is also a second tower, containing a bedroom which gets the sun morning and evening, and a spacious wine cellar and store-room at the back of it. On the floor beneath is a sitting-room where, even when the sea is stormy, you hear the roar and thunder only in subdued and dying murmurs. It looks out upon the exercise ground, which runs round the garden.

This exercise ground has a border of boxwood, or rosemary where the box does not grow well - for box thrives admirably when it is sheltered by buildings, but where it is fully exposed to wind and weather and to the spray of the sea, though it stands at a great distance therefrom, it is apt to shrivel. On the inside ring of the exercise ground is a pretty and shady alley of vines, which is soft and yielding even to the bare foot. The garden itself is clad with a number of mulberry and fig-trees, the soil being especially suitable for the former trees, though it is not so kindly to the others. On this side, the dining-room away from the sea commands as fine a view as that of the sea itself. It is closed in behind by two day-rooms, from the windows of which can be seen the entrance to the villa from the road and another garden as rich as the first one but not so ornamental.

Along its side stretches a covered portico, almost long enough for a public building. It has windows on both sides, most of them facing the sea; those looking on the garden are single ones, and less numerous than those on the other side, as every alternate window was left out. All these are kept open when it is a fine day and there is no wind; when the wind is high, the windows only on the sheltered side are opened and no harm is done.   In front of the portico is a terrace walk that is fragrant with violets. The portico increases the warmth of the sun by radiation, and retains the heat just as it keeps off and breaks the force of the north wind. Hence it is as warm in front as it is cool behind. In the same way it checks the south-west winds, and similarly with all winds from whatever quarter they blow - it tempers them and stops them dead. This is its charm in winter, but in summer it is even greater, for in the mornings its shade tempers the heat of the terrace walk, and in the afternoon the heat of the exercise ground and the nearest part of the garden, the shadows falling longer and shorter on the two sides respectively as the sun rises to his meridian and sinks to his setting. Indeed, the portico has least sunshine when the sun is blazing down upon its roof. Consequently it receives the west winds through its open windows and circulates them through the building, and so never becomes oppressive through the stuffy air remaining within it.

At the head of the terrace and portico successively is a garden suite of rooms, my favourite spot and well worthy of being so. I had them built myself. In this is a sunny chamber which commands the terrace on one side, the sea on another, and the sun on both; besides an apartment which looks on the portico through folding doors and on the sea through a window. In the middle of the wall is a neat recess, which by means of glazed windows and curtains can either be thrown into the adjoining room or be cut off from it. It holds a couch and two easy-chairs, and as you lie on the couch you have the sea at your feet, the villa at your back, and the woods at your head, and all these views may be looked at separately from each window or blended into one prospect. Adjoining is a chamber for passing the night in or taking a nap, and unless the windows are open, you do not hear a sound either of your slaves talking, or the murmur of the sea, or the raging of the storms; nor do you see the flashes of the lightning or know that it is day. This deep seclusion and remoteness is due to the fact that an intervening passage separates the wall of the chamber from that of the garden, and so all the sound is dissipated in the empty space between. A very small heating apparatus has been fitted to the room, which, by means of a narrow trap-door, either diffuses or retains the hot air as may be required. Adjoining it is an ante-room and a chamber projected towards the sun, which the latter room catches immediately upon his rising, and retains his rays beyond mid-day though they fall aslant upon it. When I betake myself into this sitting-room, I seem to be quite away even from my villa, and I find it delightful to sit there, especially during the Saturnalia, when all the rest of the house rings with the merriment and shouts of the festival-makers; for then I do not interfere with their amusements, and they do not distract me from my studies.

The convenience and charm of the situation of my villa have one drawback in that it contains no running water, but I draw my supply from wells or rather fountains, for they are situated at a high level. Indeed, it is one of the curious characteristics of the shore here that wherever you dig you find moisture ready to hand, and the water is quite fresh and not even brackish in the slightest degree, though the sea is so close by. The neighbouring woods furnish us with abundance of fuel, and other supplies we get from the colony of Ostia. The village, which is separated only by one residence from my own, supplies my modest wants; it boasts of three public baths, which are a great convenience, when you do not feel inclined to heat your own bath at home, if you arrive unexpectedly or wish to save time. The shore is beautified by a most pleasing variety of villa buildings, some of which are close together, while others have great intervals between them. They give the appearance of a number of cities, whether you view them from the sea or from the shore itself, and the sands of the latter are sometimes loosened by a long spell of quiet weather, or - as more often happens - are hardened by the constant beating of the waves. The sea does not indeed abound with fish of any value, but it yields excellent soles and prawns. Yet our villa provides us with plenty of inland produce and especially milk, for the herds come down to us from the pastures whenever they seek water or shade.

Well, do you think that I have just reasons for living here, for passing my time here, and for loving a retreat for which your mouth must be watering, unless you are a confirmed town-bird? I wish that your mouth did water! If it did, the many great charms of my little villa would be enhanced in the highest degree by your company.   Farewell.

(*)   There have been various attempts to recreate the appearance of Pliny's villa. See for instance the pictures and plans at virginia.edu .

(**)   That is, for those who wanted cold baths.

(†)   When the north wind blew from the garden-side, the windows on that side would be shut, and those on the sea-side opened, and vice versa.


[18] L   To Mauricus.

No, you could not have given me a pleasanter commission than to find a teacher of rhetoric for your brother's children. For, thanks to you, I go to school again, and, as it were, enjoy once more the happiest days of my life. I sit among young people, as I used to do, *   and I can judge what authority I have among them owing to my literary pursuits. Just recently in a full class-room, before a number of members of our order, **   the boys were joking among themselves quite loudly; the moment I entered they were quiet as mice. I should not mention the incident except that it redounded more to their credit than to mine, and that I wish you to feel sure that your brother's sons can attend the lectures to their advantage. Moreover, when I have heard all the lectures, I will write and tell you what I think about each one of them, and so - as far as I can by a letter - I will make you think that you have heard them all yourself. I owe this to you, and I owe it to the memory of your brother to deal loyally by him and take this interest, especially on such an important subject. For what can touch you more closely than that these children - I should say your children, but that you love them more than if they were your own - should be found worthy of such a father and such an uncle as yourself. Even if you had not asked me to look after them, I should have done so on my own account. I do not forget that in choosing a public teacher one is apt to give offence, but on behalf of your brother's sons I must risk giving offence and even incurring animosity with as little compunction as a parent would in looking after his own children.   Farewell.

(*)   It was a public teacher, to whose modest lectures he might send his nephews, that Mauricus required. Pliny accordingly attended several of their classes, in order to judge of their respective qualifications.

(**)   Grown-up people often attended the classes of the more eminent lecturers.


[19] L   To Cerealis.

You urge me to recite my speech before a company of my friends. I will do so, because you ask me to, but I am exceedingly doubtful of the wisdom of the step. For I cannot help remembering that speeches which are recited lose all their spirit and passion and almost the right to the name of speeches - which are properly enhanced and fired by the bench of judges, the crowds of supporters, the waiting for the verdict, the reputation of the various counsel, and the divided partisanship of the audience. Besides all this, there are the gestures of the pleader, his moving to and fro, even his hurried strides, and every movement of his body which corresponds to some thought passing through his mind. Hence it is that those who plead sitting down, although they have practically the same environment as those who plead standing, are not so impressive and telling just because they happen to be seated. But when a man recites a speech, his eyes and hands - which are the most important aids to expression - are otherwise occupied, and so it is no wonder that the attention of the audience becomes languid, when there are no external graces to charm them and no thrills to stimulate them. Moreover, the address I am talking about is a fighting speech and full of contentious matter, and Nature has so ordained it that we think, if a subject has given us trouble to write, it will give an audience trouble to listen to it. How few conscientious listeners there are who prefer a stiff, closely-reasoned argument to honeyed and sonorous eloquence! It is wrong, I know, that there should be a difference of taste between judge and listener, but there is such a difference and it constantly crops up. The audience want one thing and the judges another, whereas, on the contrary, a listener ought to be impressed just by those points which would make most impression on him if he were judge. However, it is possible that in spite of these difficulties the speech may be recommended by a certain novelty - a novelty that is quite Roman, - for though the Greeks have a custom which does bear a remote resemblance to it, it is really quite different. For just as it was their practice, in showing that a law was opposed to earlier laws, to prove that it was so by comparing it with the others, so I had to show that my accusation was covered by the law against extortion by comparing it with other laws as well as by proving it from the law itself. Such a subject, though far from having any charm for the ears of the man in the street, ought to be as interesting to the learned as it is uninteresting to the unlearned. But if I make up my mind to recite the speech, I shall invite all the learned people to hear it. However, please think it over by all means and tell me whether you still consider that I ought to recite it; place on either side all the considerations I have raised, and choose the conclusion which has the weight of argument in its favour. It is from you, not from me, that a reason will be required; my apology will be that I did as I was told.   Farewell.


[20] L   To Calvisius.

Get ready your penny and I will tell you a golden story, nay, more than one, for the new one has reminded me of some old tales, and it does not matter with which I begin. Verania, the wife of Piso, was lying very ill - I mean the Piso who was adopted by Galba. Regulus paid her a visit. First mark the impudence of the man in coming to see the invalid, for he had been her husband's bitter enemy and she loathed and detested him. However, that might pass if he had only called, but he actually sat down beside her on the couch and asked her on what day and at what hour she had been born. On being told he puts on a grave look, fixes his eyes hard, moves his lips, works his fingers and makes his reckoning, but says nothing. Then after keeping the poor lady on tenterhooks, wondering what he would say, he exclaims: "You are passing through a critical time, but you will pull through. Still, just to reassure you, I will go and consult a soothsayer with whom I have often had dealings." He goes off at once; offers the sacrifice and swears that the appearance of the entrails corresponds with the warning of the stars. She, with all the credulity of an invalid, calls for her tablets and writes down a legacy for Regulus; subsequently she grows worse and exclaims as she dies, "What a rascal, what a lying and worse than perjured wretch, thus to have sworn falsely on the head of his son!"

That is Regulus's trick, and he has recourse to the scandalous device constantly, for he calls down the anger of the gods, whom he daily outrages, upon the head of his luckless son. Velleius Blaesus, the rich Consular, was stricken with the illness which carried him off, and was desirous of changing his will. Regulus, who was capable of hoping for anything from an alteration of the will because he had lately begun to haunt him on the chance of a legacy, begged and prayed of the doctors to prolong Blaesus's life by hook or by crook. But when the will was signed he took quite a different line. He changed his tone and said to the same doctors: "How long do you intend to torture the poor man? Why do you grudge him an easy death when you cannot give him life?" Blaesus dies, and, as though he had heard every word, he leaves Regulus nothing at all.

Two stories are quite enough. Or do you ask for a third, on the rhetoricians' principle? Well, I have one for you. When Aurelia, a lady of great means, was about to make her will, she put on for the occasion her most handsome tunics. When Regulus came to witness the signing he said, "I beg you to leave me these." Aurelia thought the man was joking, but he was serious and pressed the matter. Well, to cut the story short, he compelled the poor woman to open the tablets and leave to him the tunics she was wearing at the time. He watched her as she wrote, and looked to see whether she had written it rightly. Aurelia still lives, but he forced her to make that legacy as if she had been on the point of death. Yet this is the fellow who receives inheritances and legacies as though he deserved them.

But why do I worry myself when I live in a country where villainy and rascality have long been getting not less but far more handsome rewards than modesty and virtue? Look at Regulus, for example, who, from being poor and lowly, has now become such a rich man by sheer villainy that he once told me that, when he was consulting the omens as to how soon he would be worth sixty millions of sesterces, he found double sets of entrails, which were a token that he would be worth120 millions. So he will too, if only he goes on, as he has begun, dictating wills which are not their own to the very people who are making their wills, which is about the most disgraceful kind of forgery imaginable.   Farewell.

Book 3


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