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Pliny the Younger : Letters

    - BOOK 7

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 Geminus   2 Justus   3 Praesens   4 Pontius   5 Calpurnia   6 Macrinus   7 Saturninus   8 Priscus   9 Fuscus   10 Macrinus   11 Fabatus   12 Minicius   13 Ferox   14 Corellia   15 Saturninus   16 Fabatus   17 Celer   18 Caninius   19 Priscus   20 Tacitus   21 Cornutus   22 Falco   23 Fabatus   24 Geminus   25 Rufus   26 Maximus   27 Sura   28 Septicius   29 Montanus   30 Genitor   31 Cornutus   32 Fabatus   33 Tacitus




[1] L   To Geminus.

I am alarmed to hear that your complaint is so obstinate, and, though I know you to be a man of the most temperate habits, I am afraid lest your ill-health should to some extent weaken the strictness of your manner of living. Let me advise you, therefore, to bear up against it patiently, for therein lies the road to praise and the road to health. Human nature concedes the soundness of my advice. For my own part, when I am well and strong, I talk to my people in the following strain. "I hope," I tell them, "that if ever I fall ill, I shall ask for nothing that will make me ashamed of myself afterwards, and nothing I shall subsequently regret ; but if my ill-health should get the better of my judgment, then I warn you not to give me anything I may ask for, except with the permission of the doctors, and I wish you to understand that, if you do give it to me, I shall make you answer for your complaisance as others would make you answer for your refusal." I remember once, when I was consumed with a raging fever, and had at last got a little better and had been anointed, I was just taking a cooling drink from the doctor, when I stretched out my hand and bade him feel my pulse, and set down the cup which had been put to my lips. Subsequently, on the twentieth day of the fever, while I was being prepared for the bath, I suddenly noticed the doctors whispering among themselves, and asked them why they were doing so. They replied that it might perhaps be safe for me to take a bath, but that they had some doubts on the matter. "Then what necessity is there for me to bathe ?" I asked, and so, without making the slightest fuss, I gave up my hope of the bath, which I had seemed to be already on the point of entering, and resigned myself to do without it with the same composure of mind and features as I had prepared myself to take it. I have told you this incident, first, that I might give you a personal example as well as advice, and, secondly, to tie myself down for the future to practise the same self-control, inasmuch as this letter is a sort of bond and pledge that I will do so.   Farewell.


[2] L   To Justus.

How can you reconcile your statement that you are kept constantly busy by your never-ceasing engagements, with your request for something of mine to read, when, as a rule, it is all I can do to get people with plenty of leisure to waste time over my writings? I will therefore let the summer go by, when you are always busy and have no time to yourself, and as soon as winter comes - when I suppose you will at least have some leisure at nights - I will look among my trifles for something suitable to lay before you. In the meantime, I shall do well if my letters do not bore you, but, as that is inevitable, they shall be as brief as possible.   Farewell.


[3] L   To Praesens.

How is it that you persist in spending so much time first in Lucania and then in Campania ? "Oh," you say, "I belong to Lucania, and my wife to Campania." That is a sound reason for a rather protracted absence, but not for always being away. You really must come back to town, the only place where you can gain office, and dignities, and friendships, both with the great and the small. How long will you play the country despot, waking and sleeping at your own imperial will? How long will you leave your shoes unworn ? How long will leave your toga on holiday ? How long must you have all your days to yourself? It is high time you came back to look us up at our daily grind, if for no other reason than this, to prevent your pleasures from cloying from your having too much of them. Come and pay court to others for a little time, that you may get additional pleasure from someone paying court to you ; come and be hustled in the crowds here, that your solitude may charm you the more ! But how foolish of me to scare away the bird I am trying to coax to come to me ! For very likely my reasons only persuade you to wrap yourself up the tighter in the leisure which I wish you to forego for a while, but not to break with altogether. If I were to entertain you at dinner, I should mingle sharp and piquant dishes with the sweet ones, that the edge of your appetite, when blunted by the latter, might be whetted again by the former, and similarly now I heartily recommend you to season your present joyous mode of existence by an occasional dash of what I may term the bitters of life.   Farewell.


[4] L   To Pontius.

You say you have read my hendecasyllabic verses, *   and you ask how it was that I began to write poetry - I, who seem to you such a staid person, and I am bound to say I do not consider myself a trifler. Well, to go back to the very start, I have always been partial to poetry, for, when I was only fourteen years old, I composed a Greek tragedy. If you ask me what kind of a tragedy it was, I cannot tell you - at any rate I called it one. Subsequently, when on my return from military service, I was detained by contrary winds in the island of Icaria, I wrote some Latin elegiacs, with the sea and the island for my theme. I have also occasionally tried my hand at heroics, but this was my first essay at hendecasyllables, and the occasion of my doing so was as follows.

The volumes of Asinius Gallus, in which he institutes a comparison between his father **   and Cicero, were being read to me at my Laurentine villa, and in them occurs an epigram written by Cicero upon his friend Tiro. Then, when I retired at mid-day - for it was summer-time - for my usual nap and sleep refused to come to me, I began to turn over in my mind the fact that the greatest orators had not only amused themselves with jeux d'esprit of this kind, but had also set great store on their achievements therein. I applied myself to the task, and, much to my surprise - inasmuch as I had not dabbled in verse for a long time - I dashed off in a very few minutes these verses on the subject which had tempted me to write: - "While I was reading the books of Gallus, in which he dared to take the palm of glory from Cicero and give it to his father, I discovered a sportive trifle from Cicero's pen, which is worth regard for the genius with which he has dropped serious subjects and shown that the minds of even great men take delight in the wit and playful sallies which please mankind. For he complains that Tiro cheated his lover by a base deceit, and failed to pay the few kisses that he owed him after dinner. On reading this, I ask: 'Why should I conceal my love, why should I be nervous at proclaiming my feelings or confessing that I too am aware of the deceits of my Tiro, and his treacherous endearments, and his thefts, which add new fuel to my flame ?' " I then tried my hand at elegiacs, and rattled them off just as quickly; then I added to their number, for the facility with which I wrote them lured me on.

Subsequently, when I returned to Rome, I read them to my friends, and they expressed approval of them. Whenever I had any leisure, especially when I was travelling, I essayed a variety of metres. Finally I made up my mind, as many others have done before me, to finish off a volume of hendecasyllables separately, and I do not regret having done so. The verses are read, copied, and even set to music, and the Greeks who have been induced to learn Latin by their admiration of this volume are now adapting them to the harp and the lyre. But why do I go on in this boastful strain ? Still, after all, poets have a licence to be furiously vain, and I am not quoting my own opinion of the value of my verses but that of others. Their criticism, whether right or wrong, certainly pleases me. I only hope that posterity may show the same excellent judgment, or the same want of it.   Farewell.

(*)   See letter iv. 14.

(**)   Asinius Pollio, consul in 40 B.C.


[5] L   To Calpurnia.

You would scarcely credit how much I miss you and long to see you again. My love for you is the primary cause of this longing, and the fact that we have not been used to be away from each other is the second. Hence it is that I spend a great part of my nights awake and thinking of you, and regularly at the hours when I used to visit you I find my feet carrying me - in the literal sense of the term towards your room, and then, sick and sad at heart, and feeling as though I had been refused admittance, I turn to quit the empty threshold. At one time only am I free from these tormenting pangs, and that is when I am in court and busy pleading for my friends. Imagine, I pray you, how wretched is my life, when I find my rest in hard work, and my solace in being harassed and anxious.   Farewell.


[6] L   To Macrinus.

The suit against Varenus has come to an unusual and remarkable conclusion, and the issue is even now open to doubt. People say that the Bithynians have withdrawn their accusation against him, on the ground that they entered upon it without adequate proofs. That, I repeat, is what people are saying. However, the legate of the province is in Rome, and he has laid the decree of the Council before Caesar, before many of the leading men here, and even before us who are acting for Varenus. None the less our friend Magnus, as usual, persists in his opposition, and he still keeps worrying that estimable man Nigrinus. He pressed the consuls, through Nigrinus, to force Varenus to produce his official accounts.

I was standing by Varenus in a friendly way, and had made up my mind to say nothing, for nothing would have damaged his prospects so much as for me, who had been appointed by the senate to act on his behalf, to begin defending him, as though he were on his trial, when the great thing was to prevent him being put on his trial at all. However, when Nigrinus had concluded his demand, and the consuls looked towards me to say something, I remarked: "You will see that I have just grounds for saying nothing as soon as you have heard the true legates of the province."   "To whom were they sent?" broke in Nigrinus. "To me as well as to others," I answered; "I have the decree of the province in my possession."   "You may think so," said he. "Yes," I retorted, "and if you think otherwise, surely I too may take what view I think fit." Polyaenus, the legate, then explained why the accusation had been abandoned, and demanded that the case should not be prejudged before Caesar undertook his investigation into it. Magnus replied, and Polyaenus spoke again, while I too made a few brief remarks, though I took care to say nothing on the main points, for I have learned by experience that there are times when silence rather than speech makes the real orator, and I can call to mind several instances in which I have done my clients, who were accused on capital charges, more good by not saying anything than I could have done by the most finished address.

In one instance, a mother who had lost her son - for there is no reason why I should not recall some of my old cases, though this was not my motive in writing this letter - accused his freedmen - who were also co-heirs to the estate - of having forged the will and poisoned their master. She brought the matter to the notice of the Emperor, and obtained permission for Julius Servianus to act as judge.

I defended the accused in a crowded court, for the case was a regular cause célèbre, and there were the best counsel of the day engaged on both sides. The hearing was decided by the evidence of the slaves, who were submitted to torture, and their answers were in favour of the accused. Subsequently, the mother appealed to the Emperor, declaring that she had discovered fresh proofs. Suburanus was instructed to give her a hearing again, provided that she brought forward new evidence. Julius Africanus appeared for the mother - a grandson of the orator of whom Passienus Crispus said after listening to his speech : "Excellent, by Jove, excellent; but what is the point of your excellent address?" The grandson is a youth of talent but not particularly smart, and after he had gone on at some length and had come to the end of his allotted time, he remarked, "I hope, Suburanus, you will allow me to add one word more." Thereupon I, as everybody was looking towards me for a lengthy reply, simply said: "I should have replied if Africanus had added that one word more, for I don't doubt that it would have contained all the new evidence spoken of." I can hardly remember an occasion in which I got as much applause for my pleading as I then received for declining to plead.

It has been much the same in the present case, and my policy in saying just what I did on behalf of Varenus and nothing more has been greatly approved. The consuls, as Polyaenus desired, have left the Emperor an entirely free hand, and I am waiting for him to hear the case, with much anxiety; for, when he does, the issue of the day will either free us, who are on Varenus's side, from all trouble and make our minds perfectly easy, or it will entail our setting to work again and a new period of anxious worry.   Farewell.


[7] L   To Saturninus.

I thanked our friend Priscus quite recently, but thanked him a second time in accordance with your request, and was very pleased to do so. It is very gratifying to me that two men of your merits, and both good friends of my own, should have such a cordial attachment to one another and consider that you are under mutual obligations. For Priscus too declares that he finds the greatest possible pleasure in your friendship, and he is vying with you in the noblest form of rivalry - that of mutual love, which will grow stronger as time goes on. I am really sorry to hear that you are so full of business, because it will make it impossible for you to go on with your studies. But if you finish one of your cases by handing it over to a judge, and as you say you have already finished the other, you will begin to enjoy a little leisure where you are, and then will return to us when you have had enough of it.   Farewell.


[8] L   To Priscus.

I cannot tell you how delighted I am that our friend Saturninus sends me letter after letter conveying his best thanks to you. Go on as you have begun, and let your affection for that worthy man be as intimate as possible. You will find his friendship to be full of charm, and that it will stand wear. For while he abounds in all the virtues, the virtue in which he abounds most is constancy in love.   Farewell.


[9] L   To Fuscus.

You ask me how I think you ought to arrange your studies in the retirement you have long been enjoying. I think the most useful plan - and many others give the same advice - is to translate from Greek into Latin, or from Latin into Greek. By practising this you acquire fitness and beauty of expression, a good stock of metaphors, and the power of saying what you mean, whilst, by imitating the best models, you fall into the way of finding thoughts similar to theirs. Those points again which may have slipped your memory as you read are retained there as you translate, and you gain thereby in intelligence and judgment. When you have read an author sufficiently to master his subject and treatment, it will do you no harm to try and rival him, as it were, and write your version out, and then compare it with the book, carefully considering where the original is better expressed than your copy, and vice versa. You may justly congratulate yourself if in a few places yours is the superior, and you may be heartily ashamed of yourself if his beats yours at every point. Occasionally, you may with profit select some very well-known passages and try to improve even on them. This may be a daring contest for you to enter, but it will not be presumptuous on your part, as you will do it in secret, though it is to be remembered that many have emerged from such contests with great credit to themselves, and have shown themselves superior - owing to their not despairing of success - to those whom they thought it would have been sufficient honour to themselves to follow. You will also be able to handle the whole theme again after it has passed out of your mind, to retain some passages, to reject even more, to interpolate and re-write others. That is a laborious task, I know, and very tedious, but the very fact of its being difficult makes it remunerative - in that you feel your enthusiasm kindling afresh, and return to the charge anew after your energies had failed altogether or become languid. Then finally you graft new limbs, as it were, on to the finished trunk and without disturbing the original formation.

I know that at the present time your principal study is that of oratory, but I am far from advising you to be for ever cultivating that controversial and, I might say, bellicose branch of letters. For just as our fields gather fresh strength from a change and variety in the crops we sow, so our minds are refreshed by change and variety of study. Occasionally I should like you to take some passage of history, and I would have you to pay considerable attention to letter-writing ; for it often happens that a speaker finds it imperative to be able to explain certain points he may be making, not only with a historical, but also with a poetical touch, and by writing letters one acquires a terse and clear style. It is advisable too to dabble in poetry, not by composing long continuous poems - for they can never be finished except one has abundant leisure - but short epigrammatic verse, which gives you an air of distinction, no matter how serious and responsible may be your profession. Verses like these are spoken of as mere interludes, yet they sometimes win a man as much reputation as his serious occupations. And therefore - for why should I not break out into poetry as I am urging you to write verses? - "As wax is admired, if it be soft and yielding to the touch of deft fingers and in obedience thereto becomes a work of art, stamped either with the form of Mars or chaste Minerva, or representing either Venus or Venus's son ; as hallowed streams do more than stay the path of lire, and often refresh the flowers and meadows green - so the intellect of man should be moulded and led through the plastic arts and be trained to become mobile." Hence it is that the noblest orators - and the noblest men too - used to exercise or amuse themselves in this way, or I should rather say amused and exercised themselves, for it is remarkable how these trifles sharpen a man's wits and at the same time give relaxation to the brain. For they range over love, hatred, anger, pity, mirth - every feeling, in a word, that meets us in everyday life, in the forum, or in the courts. They serve the same useful purpose as other verses, for as soon as we are freed from the exigencies of metre, we take pleasure in fluent prose and our pens run on with greater zest when we have tried both and comparison tells us which is the easier. I have perhaps gone into greater detail than you asked me to, but there is still one point I have omitted, for I have not told you what I think you ought to read, though in one sense I did when I told you what you ought to write. You must bear in mind to choose carefully authors of all styles, for there is an old proverb that a man should read much but not read a multitude of books. Who those authors are is too well known and approved to need further explanation, and, besides, I have let this letter run to such unconscionable length that, while advising you how you ought to study, I have robbed you of time to study. However, pick up your writing-pad again, and either start on one of the subjects I have suggested or carry through the work on which you have already begun.   Farewell.


[10] L   To Macrinus.

I have a way, as soon as I know the beginning of a case, of wanting to be able to add on the conclusion from which it seems to be torn asunder, and so I dare say that you too would like to hear the sequel to the case of Varenus and the Bithynians. *   Polyaenus spoke on the one side and Magnus on the other, and, when the pleadings were concluded, Caesar said: "Neither party shall have cause for complaint on the score of delay : I will take upon myself to find out the wishes of the province." In the meanwhile, Varenus has scored heavily, for how can people help feeling doubtful whether he was justly accused when it is by no means certain that he is accused at all? We can only hope that the province will not again decide in favour of a course which it is said to have condemned, and will not repent of its former repentance.

(*)   See letter 6 of this book.


[11] L   To Fabatus.

You say you are surprised that my freedman Hermes should have sold to Corellia the lands which I have inherited and which I had ordered to be put up for sale, without waiting for them to be offered at auction, and that he should have taken for my five-twelfths share 700,000 sesterces. You add that they might have fetched 900,000, and are therefore the more curious to know whether the sale has received my sanction. It has, and I will tell you why, for I am anxious to approve my conduct to you and satisfy my co-heirs that, in disagreeing with them, I am only obeying what I consider to be a clear call of duty. I have the greatest respect and affection for Corellia, first, because she is the sister of Corellius Rufus, whose memory is especially sacred to me, and, secondly, because she was the intimate friend of my mother. Besides, her excellent husband, Minicius Justus, and myself are old friends, and I had the closest ties with her son, so close, indeed, that during my praetorship he presided at my games.

The last time I was in Corellia's company, she hinted to me that she was desirous of owning some place near our Larian villa. *   I offered her what she required and as much as she required from my own estates, only excepting such lands as had belonged to my father and mother, for these I would not part with even to please Corellia. Consequently, when I came in for the inheritance in question, of which the land you speak of formed part, I wrote to her saying they were for sale. Hermes took the letter, and when she pressed him to assign over to her my share of the property, he did so. So you may judge how I am bound to sanction the bargain made by my freedman, when he acted precisely as I should have done myself. I only hope that my co-heirs will not be annoyed that I should have sold apart from them what I need not have sold at all had I been so minded. They are not forced to follow my example, for they have not the same obligations to Corellia as I have. So they may merely consult their own financial interests, as I could have done, only that I preferred to satisfy the claims of friendship.   Farewell.

(*)   Pliny's villa near the Lago di Como.


[12] L   To Minicius.

Here is the little volume which I have constructed on the plan you suggested to me, in order that your friend - or rather our friend, for have we not all things in common ? - might make use of it if occasion demanded. I have purposely delayed in sending it to you that you might not have time to emend it, or rather pull it to pieces. Yet you will have time after all, but whether to emend or pull it to pieces I do not know, for you master critics always strike out the finest passages. However, even if you do, I shall turn it to good account, for I shall later on take an opportunity of appropriating your criticisms as if they were my own, and I shall benefit and gain applause for the niceness of your taste, as I shall do for the passages you will find with notes against them in the margin and those which have an alternative version written in above them. For wherever I fancied that you would consider a passage rather pompous - owing to its being couched in a lofty and swelling strain - I thought it would be as well to prevent you beating your breast by at once adding a version of a terser and less ornate character, which would commend itself to your judgment, though to me it seems to want spirit and is much inferior to the other. I don't see why I should not make game of you and attack you for your poverty-stricken ideas of style. I have written in this strain to give you the chance of a laugh in the midst of your press of work, but here is a point on which I am serious. Take care you do not fail to remit to me the expense, to which I have put myself, of hiring a special messenger, though I know very well that when you read this you will condemn not only a few passages, but the whole volume itself, and will declare that it is not worth anything at all when you are asked to pay its expenses.   Farewell.


[13] L   To Ferox.

Your letter is at once a clear indication that you are studying and not studying. That is a riddle, you say, and so it is until I tell you more clearly what I mean. Well, I mean this. You say in your letter that you are not studying, but the letter was so polished that it could only have been written by a student. If not, you must be a supremely lucky person to be able to turn out such a finished product in in your hours of idleness and ease.   Farewell.


[14] L   To Corellia.

It is really most handsome on your part to not only request but also to insist so strongly that I should authorise my people to receive from you, as the price of that estate, not the 700,000 sesterces which you arranged to pay my freedman for it, but 900,000, *   according to the rate which you paid the revenue officers for the twentieth part. **   But in my turn I also request and insist that you should consider not only what is becoming for you, but also what is becoming for me, and that in this one particular you should allow me to decline to accede to your wishes with the same spirit that I usually display to obey them. Farewell,

(*)   See letter 11 of this book.

(**)   The collectors claimed a twentieth part of the inherited lands, estimating them, of course, at their full value. This Corellia would "buy back", by a sum of money, the transaction amounting to what we should call a five per cent inheritance tax, with which the lands were charged.


[15] L   To Saturninus.

You ask me how I am spending my time. Just in the old way you know of; I am very busy ; I do what I can for my friends, I occasionally find time for study, and I should be much happier, though I do not say I should be better employed, if my studies were my constant and invariable, instead of only being my occasional, employment. As for yourself, I should be grieved to think you were engaged in a round of uncongenial work, did I not know that you were most honourably employed ; for there is no more laudable occupation than to look after the business of one's country and to arbitrate on the differences of one's friends. I felt sure that you would find our friend Priscus *   a charming companion. I knew what an unaffected, courteous man he was, and now I find that he is also most grateful, inasmuch as you say that he has pleasant recollections of the services I have done him. That was a trait in his character with which I was less familiar.   Farewell.

(*)   See letter 8 of this book.


[16] L   To Fabatus.

I have a very intimate regard for Calestrius Tiro, who is bound to me by close personal and official ties. We served in the army together, and were colleagues in the quaestorship under Caesar. As he had children, he took precedence of me in the tribuneship, *   and I succeeded him in the praetorship, when Caesar excused me a year in the age-limit. **   I frequently went to stay in his country houses, and he has often passed his days of convalescence under my roof. He is now on the point of journeying to his province of Baetica, as proconsul, and will pass through Ticinum. I hope, indeed I am confident, that I can easily prevail upon him to turn off the main road and visit you, if you desire to give full freedom to the slaves whom you recently manumitted in the presence of your friends.   You need not have the slightest fear that this will cause Tiro inconvenience, for to do me a favour he would not think it too far to tramp round the entire earth. So lay aside that excessive modesty of yours and just consult your own wishes. Tiro will be as charmed to do what I wish him as I shall be to carry out your injunctions.   Farewell.

(*)   By the Lex Papia Poppaea, a candidate with several children was preferred to one with fewer or none.

(**)   That is, having allowed me to serve the office of praetor a year before I was properly eligible.

(†)   In his capacity of proconsul, Calestrius Tiro would be able to give legal effect to this informal act of manumission.


[17] L   To Celer.

Every author has his own reasons for giving recitals; mine, as I have often said before, is that I may discover any slip I may have made, and I certainly do make them. So I am surprised when you say that some people have found fault with me for giving recitals of speeches at all, unless, indeed, they think that speeches are the only kind of composition which requires no emendations. I should be very glad if they were to tell me why they allow - if they do allow it - that history is a proper subject for recitation, seeing that history is written not for display but in the interests of strict truth, or why they should consider a tragedy a fit subject, seeing that it requires not an audience room but a stage and actors, or lyric verses, which need not a reader but the accompaniment of a chorus and a lyre. Perhaps they will say that long established custom sanctions the practice. Then is the originator of it to be blamed ? Besides, not only our own countrymen but the Greeks as well have constantly read speeches. But, they say, it is a waste of time to give a reading of a speech which has already been delivered. So it would be if the speech remained identically the same, and you read it to the same audience and immediately after its delivery; but if you make a number of additions, if you recast numerous passages, if you have a new audience, or if the audience be the same and yet a considerable time has elapsed, why should one hesitate more about giving a reading of an already delivered speech than about publishing it ? It may be argued that it is difficult to make a speech convincing when it is read. True, but that is a point connected with the difficulty of reciting, and has no bearing on the argument that a speech should not be read at all.

For my own part I desire applause, not when I am reciting but when other people are reading my book, and that is why I let no opportunity of emending a passage escape me. In the first place, I go carefully over what I have written again and again; then I read it to two or three friends; subsequently I pass it on to others to make marginal criticisms, and, if I am in doubt, I once more call in a friend or two to help me in weighing their value. Last of all, I read it to a large audience, and it is then, if you can credit the statement, that I make the severest corrections, because the greater my anxiety to please, the more diligent I am in application. But the best judges of all are modesty, respect, and awe. Consider the matter in this light. If you are going to enter into conversation with some one person, however learned he may be, are you not less flurried than you would be if you were entering into conversation with a number of people or with persons who know nothing ? Is not your diffidence the greatest just at the moment when you rise to plead, and is it not then that you wish not only a large part of your speech but the whole of it were cast in a different mould ? Especially is this the case if the scene of the encounter is a spacious one and there is a dense ring of spectators, for we feel nervous even of the meanest and commonest folk who crowd there. If you think your opening points are badly received, does it not weaken your nerve and make you feel like collapse? I fancy so, the reason being that there exists a considerable weight of sound opinion in mere numbers simply, and though, if you take them individually, their judgment is worth next to nothing, taken collectively, it is worth a great deal.

Hence it was that Pomponius Secundus, who used to write tragedies, was in the habit of exclaiming, " I appeal to the people," whenever he thought that a passage should be retained, which some one of his intimate friends considered had better be expunged, and so he either stuck to his own opinion or followed that of his friend, according as the people received the passage in silence or greeted it with applause. Such was the high estimate he formed of the popular judgment; whether rightly or wrongly does not affect me. For my custom is to call in, not the people, but a few carefully selected friends, whose judgment I respect and have confidence in, and whose faces I can watch individually, yet who are numerous enough collectively to put me in some awe. For I think that although Marcus Cicero says, "Composition is the keenest critic in the world," *   this applies even more to the fear of speaking in public. The very fact that we keep thinking we are going to give a reading sharpens our critical taste, so too does our entry into the audience-hall, so too do our pale looks, anxious tremors, and our glances from side to side. Hence I am far from repenting of my practice, which I find of the greatest value to me, and so far am I from being deterred by the idle talk of my critics that I beg of you to point out to me some additional method of criticism in addition to those I have enumerated. For though I take great pains I never seem to take enough. I keep thinking what a serious matter it is to place anything in the hands of the public for them to read, nor can I persuade myself that' any work of mine, which you are always anxious should get a welcome everywhere, does not stand in need of constant revision by myself and a number of my friends.   Farewell.

(*)   Cicero, De Oratore, i. (33)150.


[18] L   To Caninius.

You ask me how the money which you have given to our fellow-townsmen for an annual feast may be secured after you are dead and gone. It is quite right of you to consult me on such a subject, but it is not easy to give an answer. If you hand over the money in a lump sum to the community, the danger is that it may be squandered, and if you give it in the form of land it will be neglected as all public lands are. For my own part, I can find no more satisfactory plan than that which I followed myself. For instead of paying down the 500,000 sesterces which I had promised as an endowment for the education of free-born boys and girls, I transferred some land of mine, which was worth considerably more, to the State agent and received it back from him, after he had fixed a rent for it, the arrangement being that I should pay 30,000 sesterces a year. By this plan the principal is secured to the community and the interest is also safe, while the land in question will always find a tenant to keep it in good order, as it is worth much more than the rent put upon it. Of course I am aware that the transaction has cost me more than the sum which people think I have given, for the selling price of that fine bit of land has been diminished by the obligation to pay the reserved rent. However, we ought to prefer public interests to private ones, and interests which will go in perpetuity to those which perish with us, and we should give much more careful consideration to our benefactions than to merely growing rich.   Farewell.


[19] L   To Priscus.

I am really troubled at the ill-health of Fannia. She contracted her disease by nursing Junia, one of the Vestal Virgins, a duty she undertook at first voluntarily - for Junia is a relative of hers - and then at the bidding of the high-priests. For when the Vestal Virgins are obliged to leave the temple of Vesta through serious ill-health, they are committed to the care and custody of matrons. And it was while Fannia was busily engaged in this charitable office that she fell into her present dangerous condition. She cannot shake off the fever, her cough is growing worse, she is terribly emaciated, and subject to great exhaustion. Yet her mind and spirit are wonderfully strong, quite worthy of Helvidius her husband and Thrasea her father, but in all other respects she is losing ground, and the sight fills me not only with apprehension but with positive pain ; for it grieves me to think of so excellent a woman being torn from all of us, who will never, I fear, see her like again.

What a pure, upright life she has led ! How dignified she was, and how loyal ! Twice she followed her husband into exile, and was herself banished the third time on her husband's account. For when Senecio was put on his trial for having written a Life of Helvidius, and said, in the course of his defence, that he had been requested to do so by Fannia, Metius Carus with a threatening gesture asked her whether she had made such a request. "I did request him," was the answer. "Did you give him materials to write from?" he went on. "I did give them."   "Did your mother know ?"   "She did not know." Not a word did she utter to show that she shrank from the perils which threatened her. More than that, though the senate had passed a decree - under compulsion and owing to the dangers of the times - that the volumes in question should be destroyed, she took care to preserve and keep them after her goods had been confiscated, and she even carried them with her into the exile of which they were the cause. Again, what a delightful and charming woman she was, commanding not only deep respect, but love, as but few women can ! Will there ever be another whom we can point to as a pattern to our wives? or another from whom even we men may take a lesson in personal courage - one who inspires us when we see and hear her with the admiration we feel for the heroines of history about whom we read? To my mind, it seems as though the whole house were tottering, and about to be torn from its foundations and fall in ruins, in spite of the fact that she has children. For what virtues they will have to display, and what noble deeds they will have to do to convince us that in Fannia's death there did not perish the last of her house ! Personally, I am tormented and grieved by the thought that I seem to be once again losing her mother, that worthy mother of so distinguished a daughter - for I can give her no higher praise than that. Fannia was her mother over again, and we seemed to have Arria restored to us in her ; but soon she will again take her from us, and the thought tears open an old wound and makes a fresh one. I revered them both, and I loved them both. I could not say which I revered and loved the more, nor did they like any distinction to be made. They had my services at command, both in prosperity and adversity. I comforted them in their exile ; I avenged them on their recall. But I have not yet paid off all the debt I owe them, and it is for this reason that I long for Fannia to be preserved to us, that I may still have time to pay in full. Such is the anxiety of mind with which I write to you, and if any deity will turn my anxiety to joy I will not complain of my present apprehensions.   Farewell.


[20] L   To Tacitus.

I have read your book *   and taken the greatest possible pains in marking the passages which struck me as requiring alteration or excision. I speak frankly, for it is my custom to tell the truth and yours to hear it without annoyance. Besides, it is just those people who most deserve praise who take criticism with the least impatience. Now I am looking forward to receiving my book from you with your critical notes. To me this is a most gratifying and even beautiful interchange of compliments. I am really charmed to think that if those who come after us are interested in us at all, the tale will everywhere be told of how you and I lived together as devoted, frank and loyal friends. It will be thought as uncommon as it is remarkable that two men of nearly the same age and dignities, who had achieved some distinction in the world of letters - for I am bound to speak rather sparingly in your praise as I am associating myself with you - should mutually admire and encourage one another to write. When I was quite a young man, and you had already won reputation and glory for yourself, it was my earnest wish to follow in your footsteps, and be next to you and recognised as "next to you, though the interval between us was great". **   There were many men of genius in those days, but the similarity of our natures compelled me to regard you as the one whom I could best imitate, and the one most worthy of such imitation. So I am the more delighted to find that, whenever the conversation turns upon literature, our names are mentioned together, and that, when people speak of you, my name immediately occurs to their minds. There are, it is true, some who are preferred to both of us. But so long as our names are coupled together I care not whose is placed first, because, in my opinion, he who is placed next to you is easily first. Moreover, you must have noticed this in the wills where our names have occurred, for we invariably receive the same legacies, and in equal shares, unless it so happens that the maker of the will is the particular friend of one of us. All these things point to the moral that we should increase the affection we bear one another, since we are linked together by so many ties, by our literary tastes, characters, and reputations, and above all, by the final judgments of dying men.   Farewell.

(**)   It is not known which book this refers to - perhaps a book from the Histories of Tacitus. See also letter viii. 7.

(**)   Virgil, Aeneid, v. 320.


[21] L   To Cornutus.

I am obedient to your commands, my dear colleague, and I really am taking care of my eyes according to your instructions. For on my way hither I travelled in a closed carriage, and was as much shut out from the light as though I had been in my bedchamber, and now that I am here, I am not only keeping off writing, but reading too. It is a hard matter, but I obey, and I study only with my ears. By drawing the curtains I darken my bedchamber without absolutely excluding all light, while by shutting the lower windows of the gallery it is about equally light and dark. By these means I am gradually schooling myself to bear the light. I take my bath because it is good for me, and I take wine, though very sparingly, because it does me no harm. This has been my general custom, and I have a keeper to look after me. *   I was delighted to receive the chicken you sent me. Weak as my eyes are, they were yet sufficiently strong to discover that it was a plump one.   Farewell.

(*)   See letter vii.1.


[22] L   To Falco.

You will be the less surprised that I have been in such haste to ask you to bestow a military tribuneship on my friend when I tell you who and what sort of a man he is. But I can give you his name and describe him to you now, as I am sure of your promise. He is Cornelius Minicianus, and an ornament to my district, both in dignity and morals. He is of high birth, very well-to-do, but with a love of letters such as you would expect in a poor man. *   As a judge he is the soul of honour, and he is a powerful pleader and a thoroughly loyal friend. You will think that it is you who have received the favour when you get to know him intimately, and he is worthy of any honour and distinction in the world. I could say more, but I do not wish to sing the praises of so modest a man in a more extravagant tune.   Farewell.

(*)   i.e., as those who are forced, by lack of means, to labour at a profession.


[23] L   To Fabatus.

I am delighted that you feel strong enough to meet Tiro at Mediolanum, but in order that you may continue to feel so well, I beg that you will not tax your years by imposing such fatigue upon yourself. Nay, I positively insist that you shall await his coming at your own home and inside the house, and that you shall not so much as cross your bedroom threshold. For, though I love him as a brother, he must not expect from one whom I look upon as a parent the attentions which he would not have expected his own father to show him.   Farewell.


[24] L   To Geminus.

Ummidia Quadratilla has died just before reaching her eightieth year. Right up to her last illness she was hale and hearty, for she was physically so strong knit and robust as to be quite an exception to her sex. She died after making a will which does her great credit, as she left two-thirds of her property to her grandson, and the remaining third to her granddaughter. I hardly know the latter, but I am on terms of close friendship with the grandson, a young man of exceptional qualities, who challenges the affection of others besides those who are related to him. In the first place, he is particularly handsome, but he passed through boyhood and youth without a breath of scandal. He married when in his twenty-fourth year, and would now have been a father had Providence permitted.

He lived under his grandmother's roof, yet, though she was a woman of luxurious tastes, he never gave way to excesses, and still managed to obey her every whim. She used to keep a troupe of pantomimic artistes, and showed them an extravagant favour which hardly became a lady of her rank. Yet Quadratus never used to witness their performances, either in the theatre or in her house, and she did not require that he should. I have heard the old lady say, when commending her grandson's literary compositions to my notice, *   that though she, with a woman's love of indolence, had been in the habit of amusing herself by playing draughts **   and watching the performances of her troupe, she had always urged her grandson to go away and study whenever she intended to amuse herself in either of these two ways. I think she did so from a feeling of shame that her grandson should see her thus engaged, quite as much as from the love she bore him. This will surprise you, as it certainly surprised me. At the last Sacerdotal Games, when, after the pantomimic troupe had appeared on the stage and given their performance, Quadratus and I were leaving the theatre, he said to me : "Do you know that to-day is the first time that I have seen my grandmother's freedmen dance ?" Such is the grandson. Yet a number of men, who were in no way related to her, were running into the theatre in honour of Quadratilla - I am ashamed to use the word in such a connection, and will rather say, in order to flatter her - and were clapping, applauding, admiring, and then copying the peculiar gestures of their mistress with snatches of song. These creatures will now receive from the heir, who never witnessed their conduct, a very trifling legacy as a reward for their buffooneries.

I give you these details because I know you like to hear any news that is stirring, and besides, it is a pleasure to me to renew my gratification by writing and telling it to you. For I am delighted at the affection shown by the deceased, at the honour in which this excellent young man is held, and I am pleased to think that the house, which once belonged to Caius Cassius - the Cassius who was the founder and principal of the Cassian school of lawyers - will have another equally distinguished man to rule over it. My friend Quadratus will worthily fill it and be a credit to it, and will restore to it its old dignity, fame, and glory, when he, who is as great an orator as Cassius was a lawyer, is daily seen to leave its doors.   Farewell.

(*)   See letter vi. 11.

(**)   Calculi - perhaps the game of Latrunculi.


[25] L   To Rufus.

Alas ! how many learned men there are who are buried out of sight and lost to fame either through their own modesty or their retiring habits. Yet, when we are about to make a speech or give a reading we are nervous only of those who parade their learning, while those who say nothing appear to great advantage just because they show their respect for an important literary work by receiving it in silence. I am basing this judgment of mine on actual experience. Terentius Junior, who had gone through his term of military service as a member of the equestrian order, and had also acted as procurator of the province of Gallia Narbonensis without a stain on his character, betook himself to his country estate, and preferred a life of quiet leisure to the dignities which might have been his for the asking. I used to regard him as a good head of a household and as a careful farmer, and so, when he was entertaining me as his guest, I turned the conversation on to the topics in which I thought he was most at home. But he recalled me from them to the field of literature, and his conversation showed the most profound learning. How crisp his judgments were, and how polished both his Latin and Greek ! He has obtained such a mastery over both languages that he seems to excel most in the one in which he happens to be speaking. His reading has been very wide, and he has an amazing memory. You would fancy he lived at Athens and not in a country house. But why say more ? He has intensified my nervousness and made me just as afraid of the good people who live in the country and seem to be mere country squires as of those whom I know to be men of deep learning. So let me warn you too, for, if you look closely, you will find that, not only in the army, but in the world of letters, the best equipped, the best armed, and the keenest wits are often concealed under a rough exterior.   Farewell.


[26] L   To Maximus.

I have just been reminded by the illness of a friend of mine that we mortals are most virtuous when we are in bad health. For where is there a sick man who is tempted by either avarice or lust? He is no longer a slave to his passions; he does not grasp at distinctions ; he pays no heed to riches, and however small his fortune may be, he reckons it enough, as he will have to leave it behind him. It is then that he remembers the gods, and that he is mortal ; he envies no one I he admires no one j he despises no one. He pays no heed to malicious gossip and gets no pleasure from it ; his visions are of the baths and the fountains. They are his one care, the one thing he longs for, and he plans for the future, if so be that he shall recover, a gentle and easy life, one in which he shall do no one any harm and enjoy perfect happiness. So the lesson, which the philosophers try to teach us in a multitude of words and a multitude of volumes, I can sum up in brief for your edification and mine - and it is this, that we should continue to live when we are in good health as we vow that we will live when we are ill.   Farewell.


[27] L   To Sura.

The leisure we are both of us enjoying gives you an opportunity of imparting, and me an opportunity of receiving, information. So I should very much like to know whether in your opinion there are such things as ghosts, whether you think they have a shape of their own and a touch of the supernatural in them, or whether you consider they are vain, empty shadows and mere creatures of our fears and imaginations. For my own part, I feel led to believe that they have a real existence, and this mainly from what I hear befell Curtius Rufus. *

In the days when he was still poor and obscure, he had attached himself to the person of the governor of Africa. One evening at sundown he was walking in the portico, when the figure of a woman - but taller and more beautiful than mortal woman - presented itself before him and told Rufus, who was terrified with fright, that she was Africa and could foretell the future. She declared that he would go to Rome and hold high offices of state, and that he would also return with plenary powers as governor to that same province, and there meet his death. All these details were fulfilled. Moreover, when he was entering Carthage and just stepping out of his ship, the same figure is said to have met him on the beach. Certain it is that when he was attacked by illness, he interpreted the future by the past, and his coming adversity by his present prosperity, and, though none of his people were despairing of his recovery, he cast aside all hope of getting better.

Now I want you to consider whether the following story, which I shall tell you just as I heard it, is not even more terrifying and no less wonderful than the other. There stood at Athens a spacious and roomy house, but it had an evil reputation of being fatal to those who lived in it. In the silence of the night the clank of iron and, if you listened with closer attention, the rattle of chains were heard, the sound coming first from a distance and afterwards quite close at hand. Then appeared the ghostly form of an old man, emaciated, filthy, decrepit, with a flowing beard and hair on end, with fetters round his legs and chains on his hands, which he kept shaking. The terrified inmates passed sleepless nights of fearful terror, and following upon their sleeplessness came disease and then death as their fears increased. For every now and again, though the ghost had vanished, memory conjured up the vision before their eyes, and their fright remained longer than the apparition which had caused it. Then the house was deserted and condemned to stand empty, and was wholly abandoned to the spectre, while the authorities forbade that it should be sold or let to anyone wishing to take it, not knowing under what a curse it lay.

The philosopher Athenodorus came to Athens, read the notice board, and on hearing the price hesitated, because the low rent made him suspicious. Then he was told the whole story, and, so far from being deterred, he became the more eager to rent it When evening began to fall, he ordered his people to make him up a bed in the front of the house, and asked for his tablets, a pen, and a lamp. Dismissing all his servants to the inner rooms, he applied mind, eyes, and hand to the task of writing, lest by having nothing to think about he might begin to conjure up the apparition of which he had been told and other idle fears. At first the night was just as still there as elsewhere, then the iron was rattled and the chains clanked. Athenodorus did not raise his eyes, nor cease to write, but fortified his resolution and closed his ears. The noise became louder and drew nearer, and was heard now on the threshold and then within the room itself. He turned his head, and saw and recognised the ghost which had been described to him. It stood and beckoned with its finger, as if calling him; but Athenodorus merely motioned with his hand, as if to bid it wait a little, and once more bent over his tablets and plied his pen. As he wrote the spectre rattled its chains over his head, and looking round he saw that it was beckoning as before, so, without further delay, he took up the lamp and followed. The spectre walked with slow steps, as though burdened by the chains, then it turned off into the courtyard of the house and suddenly vanished, leaving its companion alone, who thereupon plucked some grass and foliage to mark the place. On the following day he went to the magistrates and advised them to give orders that the place should be dug up. Bones were found with chains wound round them. Time and the action of the soil had made the flesh moulder, and left the bones bare and eaten away by the chains, but the remains were collected and given a public burial. Ever afterwards the house was free of the ghost which had been thus laid with due ceremony.

I quite believe those who vouch for these details, but the following story I can vouch for to others. I have a freedman who is a man of some education. A younger brother of his was sleeping with him in the same bed, and he thought he saw someone sitting upon the bed and applying a pair of shears to his head, and even cutting off some hair from his crown. When day broke, his hair actually was cut at the crown, and the locks were found lying close by. A little time elapsed, and a similar incident occurred to make people believe the other story was true. A young slave of mine was sleeping with a number of others in the dormitory, when, according to his story, two men clothed in white tunics entered by the window and cut his hair as he slept, retiring by the way they came. Daylight revealed that his hair had been cut and the locks lay scattered around. No incident of any note followed, unless it was that I escaped prosecution, as I should not have done if Domitian, in whose reign these incidents had taken place, had lived any longer than he did. For in his writing-desk there was discovered a document sent in by Carus which denounced me. This gives rise to the conjecture that, as it is the custom for accused persons to let their hair go untrimmed, the fact that the hair of my slaves was cut was a sign that the peril overhanging me had passed away.

I beg of you to bring your erudition to bear on these stories. The matter is one which is worth long and careful, consideration, nor am I altogether undeserving of your imparting to me your plentiful knowledge. I will let you follow your usual habit of arguing on both sides of the case, but be sure that you take up one side more strongly than the other, so that I may not go away in suspense and uncertainty, when the reason I asked your advice was just this - that you should put an end to my doubts.   Farewell.

(*)   The story is also told in Tacius, Annals, xi. 21.


[28] L   To Septicius.

You say that certain persons have found fault with me in your presence, on the ground that I never lose an opportunity of extravagantly praising my friends. Well, I plead guilty, and I am proud to do so. For what can be more honourable to a man than to be charged with an excess of good nature? Who are they who profess to know my friends better than I do, and, if they do know them better, why should they grudge me so happy a delusion ? Even though my friends are not all my fancy paints them, still I am to be congratulated that they appear to be so in my eyes. So let these good people - and I am sure there are not many of them - who think it shows good judgment to carp at their friends, transfer their malignant zeal to others, they will never persuade me into thinking that I love my friends too well.   Farewell.


[29] L   To Montanus.

You will first laugh, then feel annoyed, and then laugh again, if ever you read something which you will think almost incredible, unless you see it with your own eyes. I noticed the other day, just before you come to the first milestone on the Tiburtine Road, a monument to Pallas *   bearing this inscription: - "To him, because of his loyal services to his patrons, the senate decreed the honourable distinctions of praetorian rank together with five million sesterces, but he was content to take the distinctions alone." Well, for my own part, I have never been much surprised at gifts which are more often bestowed by Fortune than by deliberate judgment, but this inscription, more than anything else, convinced me how unreal and empty are the distinctions which are sometimes thrown away on such vile and disreputable rascals as Pallas. Yet the scoundrel had the audacity to accept the one, refuse the other, and then parade it before posterity as a proof of his moderation ! Put there, why should I lose my temper ? It is better to laugh at it, lest those who have by sheer good fortune arrived at such a pinnacle as to become laughing-stocks should think that they had reached a dignified position.   Farewell.

(*)   A freedman and favourite of the emperor Claudius.


[30] L   To Genitor.

I am much concerned at your loss of a pupil who, as you say, showed the greatest promise. I am sure that his illness and death must have interfered with your studies, for do I not know that you never lose a chance of looking after a friend, and that those whom you esteem you love with heart and soul? As for myself, I cannot escape even here from being as busy as though I were in town, for someone is always nominating me to act as judge or arbitrator. Besides, there are the country people and their squabbles, and they keep pouring into my ears their rights and wrongs, after my long absence, as they think they have a right to do. Again, I am never free from the exceedingly troublesome task of letting my farms, so difficult is it to meet with suitable tenants. Hence my studies are precarious, but yet I do study, for I write a little as well as read. It is when I read that I feel by comparison how badly I write, although you put fresh heart into me by comparing my treatise in vindication of Helvidius *   with the speech of Demosthenes against Meidias. To tell you the truth, when I was composing my own work, I kept turning over the pages of that oration, not in the hope of rivalling it - for only a wretch or a fool would do that - but to imitate it and follow in the same strain as far as the differences in our genius - the infinitely great and the infinitely little - and the dissimilarity of the subject-matter would allow.   Farewell.

(*)   See letter ix. 13.


[31] L   To Cornutus.

Claudius Pollio is desirous of gaining your affection, and he deserves to gain it: first, because he desires it, and secondly, because he himself has a high regard for you. Nor does any one - or but very rarely - seek the friendship of another unless he has for him a certain regard. In other respects, he is a man of upright life, strict principles, and quiet tastes, and if there can be such a thing as being over modest, Pollio might be called so. When we were serving in the army together, I saw a good deal of him, and that not merely as a brother officer. He commanded one of the alae, and when I was ordered by the consular legate to examine closely into the military accounts of the alae and the cohorts, I discovered in several cases that there had been rapacity and carelessness going on to an enormous and scandalous extent, but, in the case of Pollio, I found that his accounts showed that he had taken the greatest pains to manage them with complete honesty. Subsequently, when he was promoted to some of the most important positions in the revenue department, he never on any single occasion fell a victim to temptation, or swerved from the passion for integrity which was deep rooted in his character. He never let prosperity make him lose his head ; he never, in all the various offices which he held, lost for a moment his reputation for magnanimity; and he displayed the same resolution in carrying out his duties as he now displays in his retirement. Greatly to his credit, he willingly interrupted and laid aside that retirement for a little time, when our friend Corellius chose him as his assistant in parcelling out and allotting the lands which were given to the State by the generosity of the Emperor Nerva. What glory does not a man deserve when he is picked out by a person of such excellence as Corellius, who had such a wide range of selection ?

Moreover, you can judge how scrupulously and loyally he serves his friends, by the numbers of people whose last wills and testaments show the opinion they formed of him, as, for example, Annius Bassus, one of our most respected citizens, whose memory Pollio preserves and keeps alive with such grateful thanks and warmth that he has published a biography of him, for he is just as devoted to letters as he is to other honourable professions. That was a charming act as well as a rare mark of kindness, and he deserves credit for it, for most people only bear the dead in remembrance sufficiently to find fault with them. So take my advice, and accept the friendship which Pollio so eagerly offers you; receive him with open arms; nay, do you make the first overtures, and show him the affection you would if you were returning an act of kindness. For in the offices of friendship he who makes the first step does not lay himself under any obligations save those of thanks.   Farewell.


[32] L   To Fabatus.

I am delighted that the visit of my friend Tiro was so agreeable to you, *   but I was immensely pleased to read in your letter that you had taken advantage of the fact that your visitor was a proconsul to give a number of your slaves their freedom. For while I am anxious that our native district should grow richer in all good things, I am specially anxious that the number of its citizens should increase, as that is the soundest distinction of which a town can boast. I was also pleased, though not of course in the way of courting favour, when you went on to say that they had joined my name with yours in returning thanks and acknowledging your kindness. As Xenophon remarks, **   praise is the sweetest thing a man can hear, especially if he thinks he deserves it.   Farewell.

(*)   See letters 16 and 23 of this book.

(**)   Memorabilia, ii. 1.13.


[33] L   To Tacitus.

I venture to prophesy - and I know my prognostics are right - that your histories will be immortal, and that, I frankly confess, makes me the more anxious to figure in them. For if it is quite an ordinary thing for us to take care to secure the best painter to paint our portrait, ought we not also to be desirous of getting an author and historian of your calibre to describe our deeds ? That is why though it could hardly escape your careful eye, as it is to be found in the public records - I bring the following incident before your notice, and I do so in order to assure you how pleased I shall be, if you will lend your powers of description and the weight of your testimony to setting forth the way I behaved on an occasion when I reaped credit, owing to the dangers to which I exposed myself.

The senate had appointed me to act with Herennius Senecio on behalf of the province of Baetica in the prosecution of Baebius Massa, *   and, when Massa had been sentenced, it decreed that his property should be placed under public custody. Senecio came to me, after finding out that the consuls would be at liberty to hear petitions, and said : "We have loyally acted together in carrying through the prosecution laid upon us, now let us approach the consuls together and petition them not to allow those who ought to take care of the property to embezzle any of it." My answer was this : "As we were appointed by the senate to prosecute, don't you think that we have fully carried out our duties as soon as the senate has finished the hearing of the case?" He replied: "Well, you may fix what limit you like to your duties, as the only ties you have with the province are those arising from the kindness you have shown it, and they are of very recent date. But I was born there, and acted as quaestor there." So I said: "Well, if you have quite made up your mind, I will follow your lead, to prevent any odium which may arise out of this falling entirely upon your shoulders." We went to the consuls; Senecio laid the case before them, and I added just a few words. We had scarcely finished when Massa complained that Senecio had stepped beyond the loyalty he owed to his clients, and was importing into the case the bitterness of a private enemy, and he impeached him for disloyalty. Everyone was horror-struck, but I remarked : "I am afraid, most noble consuls, that Massa by his silence has insinuated a charge of collusion against me, in that he has not also impeached me." The remark was immediately taken up, and, for years afterwards, it was often spoken of and commended. The late Emperor Nerva, who, even when he was a private individual, used to take strict notice of all honourable public actions, sent me a letter couched in the most complimentary terms, in which he not only congratulated me, but also the age in which I lived, for having had the privilege to witness an example that was worthy of the good old days. Such were the terms he used.

My conduct on this occasion, whatever its worth may have been, will be made even more famous, more distinguished, and more noble if you describe it, although I do not ask of you to go beyond the strict letter of what actually occurred. For history ought never to transgress against truth, and an honourable action wants nothing more than to be faithfully recorded.   Farewell.

(*)   In 93 A.D.; see letter vi.29.

Book 8


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