The Ancient Library

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of being one of the most learned men of the age ; and his friend Tacitus, the historian, had the same honourable distinction. He was also an orator. In his nineteenth year he began to speak in the forum (Ep. v. 8), and he was frequently employed as an advocate before the court of the Centumviri (Ep, i. ] 8—ix. 23), and before the Roman senate, both on the side of the prosecution, as in the cases of Baebius Massa and Harms Prisons, and for the defence, as in the cases of Julius Bassus and Rums Varenus (Ep. vi. 29).

He filled numerous offices in succession. While a young man he served in Syria, as tribunus mili-tum, and was there a hearer of the stoic Euphrates (Ep. i. 10), and of Artemidorus. He was subse­quently quaestor Caesaris, praetor in or about a. d. 93 (Ep. iii. 11), and consul a. d. 100, in which year he wrote his Panegyricus^ which is ad­dressed to Trajamts (Ep. iii. 13). In a. d. 103 he was appointed propraetor of the province Pontica (Ep. x. 77), where he did not stay quite two years. Among his other functions he also discharged that of curator of the channel and the banks of the Tiber (Ep. v. 15, and an inscription in Gruter, p. 454. 3).

Plinius was twice married. His second wife was Calpurnia, the granddaughter of Calpurnius Fabatus, and an accomplished woman : she was con­siderably younger than her husband, who has re­corded her kind attentions to him, and her affection in a letter to her aunt Hispulla (Ep. iv. 19). He had no children by either wife, born alive.

The life of Plinius is chiefly known from his letters. So far as this evidence shows, he was a kind and benevolent man, fond of literary pursuits, and of building on and improving his estates. He was rich, and he spent liberally. He built a temple at Tifernum, at his own cost, and an aedes to Ceres, on his own property. He contributed, or offered to contribute a third of the cost of establishing a school in his patria (probably Co-mum), for the education of the youth there, and he asked his friend Tacitus to look out for teachers (Ep. iv. 13). The dedication of a library at the same place, and the establishment of a fund for the benefit of youths (annuos sumptus in alimenta in-genuorum, Ep. i. 8), are among the instances of his generosity recorded in his letters. He was a kind master to his slaves. His body was feeble, and his health not good. Nothing is known as to the time of his death.

The extant works of Plinius are his Panegyricus and the ten books of his Epistolae. The Panegy­ricus is a fulsome eulogium on Trajanus, in the ex­ordium of which he addresses the patres conscripti, but in the course of the Panegyricus the emperor himself is addressed in the second person. It is of some small value for the information which it con­tains about the author himself and his times.

The letters of Plinius, contained in ten books, furnish the chief materials for his life, and also con­siderable information about his contemporaries. The tenth book consists entirely of letters from Plinius to Trajanus, and from Trajanus to Plinius. The index to Schaefer's edition of Plinius indicates the names of all the persons to whom his extant letters are addressed.

Plinius collected his own letters, as appears from the first letter of the first book, which looks some­thing like a preface to the whole collection. He speaks of collecting others of his letters. It is not an


improbable conjecture that Plinius may have written many of his letters with a view to publication, or that when he was writing some of them, the idea of future publication was in his mind. However they form a very agreeable collection, and make us acquainted with many interesting facts in the life of Plinius and that of his contemporaries.

The letters from Plinius to Trajanus and the em­peror's replies are the most valuable part of the col­lection. The first letter in the tenth book is a letter of congratulation to Trajanus on his accession to the imperial dignity. Other letters contain requests for favours to himself or his friends ; and many of them are on public affairs, on which he consulted the em­peror during his government in Asia Minor. The replies of Trajanus are short, and always to the pur­pose in hand ; for instance, in the matter of the aqueduct of Nicomedia (x. 46,47), and the aqueduct of Sinope (x. 91, 92) ; as to covering over a dirty drain in Amastris, which sent forth a pestilent stench (x. 99) ; on the plan for uniting the lake of Nicomedia to the sea by a canal (x. 50, 51, 69, 70) ; and on the proposal to compel the decuriones to accept loans of the public money, in order that the interest might not be lost: the emperor's notions of justice would not allow him to accede to such a proposal.

The letter on the punishment of the Christians (x. 97), and the emperor's answer (x. 98), have furnished matter for much remark. The fact of a person admitting himself to be a Christian was sufficient for his condemnation ; and the punish­ment appears to have been death (supplicium mi-natus : perseverantes duci jussi). The Christians, on their examination, admitted nothing further than their practice of meeting on a fixed day before it was light, and singing a hymn to Christ, as God (quasi Deo) ; their oath (whatever Plinius may mean by sacramentum) was not to bind them to any crime, but to avoid theft, robbery, adultery, breach of faith, and denial of a deposit. Two female slaves, who were said to be deaconesses (ministrae), were put to the torture by Plinius, but nothing unfavourable to the Christians could be got out of them: the governor could detect nothing except a perverse and extravagant superstition (superstitionem pravam et immodicam). Here­upon he asked the emperor's advice, for the con­tagion of the superstition was spreading ; yet he thought that it might be stopped. The Romans had a horror of secret meetings, especially for re­ligious celebrations, and they had experience of their mischief, as in the case of the Bacchanalia (Liv. xxxix. 8). They made no distinction between the Christians and others who congregated contrary to law : nor did they concern themselves about the particular character of any of these unions: the Roman policy was generally opposed to all meetings at irregular times or places (Ep. x. 43). " It is not true," sa}rs Dr. Taylor (Elements of Civil Law, p. 579), " that the primitive Christians held their assemblies in the night to avoid the interruptions of the civil power : but the converse of that pro­position is true in the utmost latitude ; viz. that they met with molestations from that quarter, be­cause their assemblies were nocturnal." It re­mains a question if they would have been permitted to hold their assemblies in the day time ; and it is not clear that they would. This being premised, the emperor's answer is mild and merciful ; more mild than the practice of his governor had been, more

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