Letters I-IX

1.1 To Septicius.

You have constantly urged me to collect and publish the more highly finished of the letters that I may have written. I have made such a collection, but without preserving the order in which they were composed, as I was not writing a historical narrative. So I have taken them as they happened to come to hand. I can only hope that you will not have cause to regret the advice you gave, and that I shall not repent having followed it; for I shall set to work to recover such letters as have up to now been tossed on one side, and I shall not keep back any that I may write in the future.   Farewell.

1.6 To Cornelius Tacitus.

You will laugh, and I give you leave to. You know what sort of sportsman I am, but I, even I, have bagged three boars, each one of them a perfect beauty. "What!" you will say, "YOU!" Yes, I, and that too without any violent departure from my usual lazy ways. I was sitting by the nets; I had by my side not a hunting spear and a dart, but my pen and writing tablets. I was engaged in some composition and jotting down notes, so that I might have full tablets to take home with me, even though my hands were empty. You need not shrug your shoulders at study under such conditions. It is really surprising how the mind is stimulated by bodily movement and exercise. I find the most powerful incentive to thought in having the woods all about me, in the solitude and the silence which is observed in hunting. So when next you go hunting, take my advice and carry your writing tablets with you as well as your luncheon basket and your flask. You will find that Minerva loves to wander on the mountains quite as much as Diana. Farewell. 

1.9 To Minucius Fundanus.

It is surprising how if you take each day singly here in the city you pass or seem to pass your time reasonably enough when you take stock thereof, but how, when you put the days together, you are dissatisfied with yourself. If you ask any one, "What have you been doing to-day?" he will say, "Oh, I have been attending a coming-of-age function; I was at a betrothal or a wedding; so-and-so asked me to witness the signing of a will; I have been acting as witness to A, or I have been in consultation with B." All these occupations appear of paramount importance on the day in question, but if you remember that you repeat the round day after day, they seem a sheer waste of time, especially when you have got away from them into the country; for then the thought occurs to you, "What a number of days I have frittered away in these chilly formalities!" That is how I feel when I am at my Laurentine Villa and busy reading or writing, or even when I am giving my body a thorough rest and so repairing the pillars of my mind. I hear nothing and say nothing to give me vexation; no one comes backbiting a third party, and I myself have no fault to find with anyone except it be with myself when my pen does not run to my liking. I have no hopes and fears to worry me, no rumours to disturb my rest. I hold converse with myself and with my books. It is a genuine and honest life; such leisure is delicious and honourable, and one might say that it is much more attractive than any business. The sea, the shore, these are the true secret haunts of the Muses, and how many inspirations they give me, how they prompt my musings! Do, I beg of you, as soon as ever you can, turn your back on the din, the idle chatter, and the frivolous occupations of Rome, and give yourself up to study or recreation. It is better, as our friend Attilius once very wittily and very truly said, to have no occupation than to be occupied with nothingness.   Farewell. 

1.10 To Attius Clemens.

If ever there was a time when this Rome of ours was devoted to learning, it is now. There are many shining lights, of whom it will be enough to mention but one. I refer to Euphrates the philosopher.*  I saw a great deal of him, even in the privacy of his home life, during my young soldiering days in Syria, and I did my best to win his affection, though that was not a hard task, for he is ever easy of access, frank, and full of the humanities that he teaches. I only wish that I had been as successful in fulfilling the hopes he then formed of me as he has been increasing his large stock of virtues, though possibly it is I who now admire them the more because I can appreciate them the better. Even now my appreciation is not as complete as it might be. It is only an artist who can thoroughly judge another painter, sculptor, or image-maker, and so too it needs a philosopher to estimate another philosopher at his full merit. But so far as I can judge, Euphrates has many qualities so conspicuously brilliant that they arrest the eyes and attention even of those who have but modest pretensions to learning. His reasoning is acute, weighty, and elegant, often attaining to the breadth and loftiness that we find in Plato. His conversation flows in a copious yet varied stream, strikingly pleasant to the ear, and with a charm that seizes and carries away even the reluctant hearer. Add to this a tall, commanding presence, a handsome face, long flowing hair, a streaming white beard - all of which may be thought accidental adjuncts and without significance, but they do wonderfully increase the veneration he inspires. There is no studied negligence in his dress, it is severely plain but not austere; when you meet him you revere him without shrinking away in awe. His life is purity itself, but he is just as genial; his lash is not for men but for their vices; for the erring he has gentle words of correction rather than sharp rebuke. When he gives advice you cannot help listening in rapt attention, and you hope he will go on persuading you even when the persuasion is complete. He has three children, two of them sons, whom he has brought up with the strictest care. His father-in-law is Pompeius Julianus, a man of great distinction, but whose chief title to fame is that though, as ruler of a province, he might have chosen a son-in-law of the highest social rank, he preferred one who was distinguished not for social dignities but for wisdom.

Yet why describe at greater length a man whose society I can no longer enjoy? Is it to make myself feel my loss the more? For my time is all taken up by the duties of an office - important, no doubt, but tedious in the extreme. I sit on the magistrates' bench; I countersign petitions, I make out the public accounts; I write hosts of letters, but what unliterary productions they are!**  Sometimes - but how seldom I get the opportunity - I complain to Euphrates about these uncongenial duties. He consoles me and even assures me that there is no more noble part in the whole of philosophy than to be a public official, to hear cases, pass judgment, explain the laws and administer justice, and so practise in short what the philosophers do but teach. But he never can persuade me of this, that it is better to be busy as I am than to spend whole days in listening to and acquiring knowledge from him. That makes me the readier to urge you, whose time is your own, to let him put a finish and polish upon you when you come to town, and I hope you will come all the sooner on that account. I am not one of those - and there are many of them - who grudge to others the happiness they are debarred from themselves; on the contrary, I feel a very lively sense of pleasure in seeing my friends abounding in joys that are denied to me.   Farewell.

*A Stoic, who taught in Tyre until he followed Vespasian to Rome. When aged and infirm, he committed suicide, in accordance with Stoic principles (118 A.D.).

**He was at this time Prefect of the Treasury. 

1.12 To Calestrius Tiro.

I have suffered a most grievous loss, if loss is a word that can be applied to my being bereft of so distinguished a man. Corellius Rufus is dead, and what makes my grief the more poignant is that he died by his own act. Such a death is always most lamentable, since neither natural causes nor Fate can be held responsible for it. When people die of disease there is a great consolation in the thought that no one could have prevented it; when they lay violent hands on themselves we feel a pang which nothing can assuage in the thought that they might have lived longer. Corellius, it is true, felt driven to take his own life by Reason - and Reason is always tantamount to Necessity with philosophers - and yet there were abundant inducements for him to live. His conscience was stainless, his reputation beyond reproach; he stood high in men's esteem. Moreover, he had a daughter, a wife, a grandson, and sisters, and, besides all these relations, many genuine friends. But his battle against ill-health had been so long and hopeless that all these splendid rewards of living were outweighed by the reasons that urged him to die.

I have heard him say that he was first attacked by gout in the feet when he was thirty-three years of age. He had inherited the complaint, for it often happens that a tendency to disease is handed down like other qualities in a sort of succession. While he was in the prime of life he overcame his malady and kept it well in check by abstemious and pure living, and when it became sharper in its attacks as he grew old he bore up against it with great fortitude of mind. Even when he suffered incredible torture and the most horrible agony - for the pain was no longer confined, as before, to the feet, but had begun to spread over all his limbs - I went to see him in the time of Domitian when he was staying at his country house. His attendants withdrew from his chamber, as they always did whenever one of his more intimate friends entered the room. Even his wife, a lady who might have been trusted to keep any secret, also used to retire. Looking round the room, he said: "Why do you think I endure pain like this so long? It is that I may outlive that tyrant,* even if only by a single day." Could you but have given him a frame fit to support his resolution, he would have achieved the object of his desire. However, some god heard his prayer and granted it, and then feeling that he could die without anxiety and as a free man ought, he snapped the bonds that bound him to life. Though they were many, he preferred death.

His malady had become worse, though he tried to moderate it by his careful diet, and then, as it still continued to grow, he escaped from it by a fixed resolve. Two, three, four days passed and he refused all food. Then his wife Hispulla sent our mutual friend Caius Geminius to tell me the sad news that Corellius had determined to die, that he was not moved by the entreaties of his wife and daughter, and that I was the only one left who might possibly recall him to life. I rushed to see him, and had almost reached the house when Hispulla sent me another message by Julius Atticus, saying that now even I could do nothing, for his resolve had become more and more fixed. When the doctor offered him nourishment he said, "My mind is made up," and the word has awakened within me not only a sense of loss, but of admiration. I keep thinking what a friend, what a manly friend is now lost to me. He was at the end of his seventy-sixth year, an age long enough even for the stoutest of us. True. He has escaped a lifelong illness; he has died leaving children to survive him, and knowing that the State, which was dearer to him than anything else, was prospering well. Yes, yes, I know all this. And yet I grieve at his death as I should at the death of a young man in the full vigour of life; I grieve - you may think me weak for so doing - on my own account too. For I have lost, lost for ever, the guide, philosopher, and friend of my life. In short, I will say again what I said to my friend Calvisius, when my grief was fresh: "I am afraid I shall not live so well ordered a life now." Send me a word of sympathy, but do not say, "He was an old man, or he was infirm." These are hackneyed words; send me some that are new, that are potent to ease my trouble, that I cannot find in books or hear from my friends. For all that I have heard and read occur to me naturally, but they are powerless in the presence of my excessive sorrow.   Farewell.


1.13 To Socius Senecio.

This year has brought us a fine crop of poets: right through April hardly a day passed without some recital or other. I am delighted that literature is so flourishing and that men are giving such open proofs of brains, even though audiences are found so slow in coming together. People as a rule lounge in the squares and waste the time in gossip when they should be listening to the recital. They get someone to come and tell them whether the reciter has entered the hall yet, whether he has got through his introduction, or whether he has nearly reached the end of his reading. Not until then do they enter the room, and even then they come in slowly and languidly. Nor do they sit it out; no, before the close of the recital they slip away, some sidling out so as not to attract attention, others rising openly and walking out boldly. And yet, by Hercules, our fathers tell a story of how Claudius Caesar one day, while walking up and down in the palace, happened to hear some clapping of hands, and on inquiring the cause and being told that Nonianus was giving a reading, he suddenly joined the company to every one's surprise. But nowadays even those who have most time on their hands, after receiving early notices and frequent reminders, either fail to put in an appearance, or if they do come they complain that they have wasted a day just because they have not wasted it. All the more praise and credit, therefore, is due to those who do not allow their love of writing and reciting to be damped either by the laziness or the fastidiousness of their audiences. For my own part, I have hardly ever failed to attend. True, the authors are mostly my friends, for almost all the literary people are also friends of mine, and for this reason I have spent more time in Rome than I had intended. But now I can betake myself to my country retreat and compose something, though not for a public recital, lest those whose readings I attended should think I went not so much to hear their works as to get a claim on them to come and hear mine. As in everything else, if you lend a man your ears, all the grace of the act vanishes if you ask for his in return.   Farewell. 

1.15 To Septicius Clarus.

What a fellow you are! You promise to come to dinner and then fail to turn up! Well, here is my magisterial sentence upon you. You must pay the money I am out of pocket to the last as, and you will find the sum no small one. I had provided for each guest one lettuce, three snails, two eggs, spelt mixed with honey and snow (you will please reckon up the cost of the latter as among the costly of all, since it melts away in the dish), olives from Baetica, cucumbers, onions, and a thousand other equally expensive dainties. You would have listened to a comedian, or a reciter, or a harp-player, or perhaps to all, as I am such a lavish host. But you preferred to dine elsewhere, - where I know not - off oysters, sow's matrices, sea-urchins, and to watch Spanish dancing girls! You will be paid out for it, though how I decline to say. You have done violence to yourself. You have grudged, possibly yourself, but certainly me, a fine treat. Yes, yourself! For how we should have enjoyed ourselves, how we should have laughed together, how we should have applied ourselves! You can dine at many houses in better style than at mine, but nowhere will you have a better time, or such a simple and free and easy entertainment. In short, give me a trial, and if afterwards you do not prefer to excuse yourself to others rather than to me, why then I give you leave to decline my invitations always.   Farewell. 

2.1 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. 

2.6 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. 

2.11 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." 

2.20 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. 

3.2 To Maximus.

I think I am justified in asking you to grant to one of my friends a favour which I should certainly have offered to friends of yours, had I the same opportunity for conferring them as you have. Arrianus Maturus is the leading man in Altinum; and when I say that, I mean not that he is the richest man there - though he possesses considerable property - but I refer to his character, to his chastity, justice, weight, and wisdom. I turn to him in business for advice, and for criticism in literary matters, for he is wonderfully loyal, straightforward, and shrewd. He has the same regard for me as you have, and I cannot conceive a more ardent affection than that. He is by no means an ambitious man, and for that reason, though he might easily have attained the highest rank in the state, he has been content to remain in the equestrian order. Yet I feel that I must do something to add to his honours and give him some token of my regard. And so I am very anxious to heap some dignity upon him, though he does not expect it, knows nothing about it, and perhaps even would rather I did not - but it must be a real distinction and one that involves no troublesome responsibilities. So I ask you to confer upon him such a favour at your earliest opportunity, and I shall be profoundly obliged to you. And he will be also, for though he does not run after honours, he welcomes them as thankfully as if his heart were set upon them.   Farewell. 

3.5 To Baebius Macer.

I was delighted to find that you are so zealous a student of my uncle's books that you would like to possess copies of them all, and that you ask me to give you a complete list of them. I will play the part of an index for you, and tell you, moreover, the order in which they were written, for this is a point that students are interested to know.

"Throwing the Javelin from Horseback," one volume; this was composed, with considerable ingenuity and research, when he was on active service as a cavalry lieutenant {praefectus alae}.

"The Life of Pomponius Secundus," two volumes; - Pomponius was remarkably attached to my uncle, who, so to speak, composed this book to his friend's memory in payment of his debt of gratitude.

"The German Wars," twenty volumes; - this comprises an account of all the wars we have waged with the German races. He commenced it, while on service in Germany, in obedience to the warning of a dream, for, while he was asleep, the shade of Drusus Nero, who had won sweeping victories in that country and died there, appeared to him and kept on entrusting his fame to my uncle, beseeching him to rescue his name from ill-deserved oblivion.

"The Student," three volumes, afterwards split up into six on account of their length; - in this he showed the proper training and equipment of an orator from his cradle up.

"Ambiguity in Language," in eight volumes, was written in the last years of Nero's reign when tyranny had made it dangerous to write any book, no matter the subject, in anything like a free and candid style.

"A Continuation of the History of Aufidius Bassus," in thirty-one books.

"Natural History," in thirty-seven books; - a comprehensive and learned work, covering as wide a field as Nature herself.

Does it surprise you that a busy man found time to finish so many volumes, many of which deal with such minute details? You will wonder the more when I tell you that he for many years pleaded in the law courts, that he died in his fifty-seventh year, and that in the interval his time was taken up and his studies were hindered by the important offices he held and the duties arising out of his friendship with the Emperors. But he possessed a keen intellect; he had a marvellous capacity for work, and his powers of application were enormous. He used to begin to study at night on the Festival of Vulcan, *   not for luck but from his love of study, long before dawn; in winter he would commence at the seventh hour or at the eighth at the very latest, and often at the sixth. He could sleep at call, and it would come upon him and leave him in the middle of his work. Before daybreak he would go to Vespasian - for he too was a night-worker - and then set about his official duties. On his return home he would again give to study any time that he had free. Often in summer after taking a meal, which with him, as in the old days, was always a simple and light one, he would lie in the sun if he had any time to spare, and a book would be read aloud, from which he would take notes and extracts. For he never read without taking extracts, and used to say that there never was a book so bad that it was not good in some passage or another. After his sun bath he usually bathed in cold water, then he took a snack and a brief nap, and subsequently, as though another day had begun, he would study till dinner-time. After dinner a book would be read aloud, and he would take notes in a cursory way. I remember that one of his friends, when the reader pronounced a word wrongly, checked him and made him read it again, and my uncle said to him, "Did you not catch the meaning?" When his friend said "yes," he remarked, "Why then did you make him turn back? We have lost more than ten lines through your interruption." So jealous was he of every moment lost.

In summer he used to rise from the dinner-table while it was still light; in winter always before the first hour had passed, as though there was a law obliging him to do so. Such was his method of living when up to the eyes in work and amid the bustle of Rome. When he was in the country the only time snatched from his work was when he took his bath, and when I say bath I refer to the actual bathing, for while he was being scraped with the strigil or rubbed down, he used to listen to a reader or dictate. When he was travelling he cut himself aloof from every other thought and gave himself up to study alone. At his side he kept a shorthand writer with a book and tablets, who wore mittens on his hands in winter, so that not even the sharpness of the weather should rob him of a moment, and for the same reason, when in Rome, he used to be carried in a litter. I remember that once he rebuked me for walking, saying, "If you were a student, you could not waste your hours like that," for he considered that all time was wasted which was not devoted to study.

Such was the application which enabled him to compile all those volumes I have enumerated, and he left me one hundred and sixty commonplace books, written on both sides of the scrolls, and in a very small handwriting, which really makes the number of the volumes considerably more. He used to say that when he was procurator in Spain he could have sold these commonplace books to Largius Licinus for four hundred thousand sesterces, and at that time they were much fewer in number. Do you not feel when you think of his voluminous writing and reading that he cannot have had any public duties to attend to, and that he cannot have been an intimate friend of the Emperors? Again, when you hear what an amount of work he put into his studies, does it not seem that he neither wrote nor read as much as he might? For his other duties might surely have prevented him from studying altogether, and a man with his application might have accomplished even more than he did. So I often smile when some of my friends call me a book-worm, for if I compare myself with him I am but a shocking idler. Yet am I quite as bad as that, considering the way I am distracted by my public and private duties? Who is there of all those who devote their whole life to literature, who, if compared with him, would not blush for himself as a sleepy-head and a lazy fellow? I have let my pen run on, though I had intended simply to answer your question and give you a list of my uncle's works; but I trust that even my letter may give you as much pleasure as his books, and that it will spur you on not only to read them, but also to compose something worthy to be compared with them.   Farewell.

(*)   The Vulcanalia were on the 23rd of August. "It was customary on this day to commence working by candlelight, which was probably considered as an auspicious beginning of the use of fire, as the day was sacred to the god of this element" (Dict. G. and R. Antiquities). The elder Pliny, we are led to suppose, did not, like other students, observe this practice once, and then leave it off. He commenced his studies by candlelight on this day, as being a convenient date, and so continued them. 

3.14 To Acilius.

A shocking affair, worthy of more publicity than a letter can bestow, has befallen Largius Macedo, a man of praetorian rank, at the hands of his own slaves. He was known to be an overbearing and cruel master, and one who forgot - or rather remembered to keenly - that his own father had been a slave. He was bathing at his villa near Formiae, when he was suddenly surrounded by his slaves. One seized him by the throat, another struck him on the forehead, and others smote him in the chest, belly, and even - I am shocked to say - in the private parts. When they thought the breath had left his body they flung him on to the hot tiled floor to see if he was still alive. Whether he was insensible, or merely pretended to be so, he certainly did not move, and lying there at full length, he made them think that he was actually dead. At length they carried him out as though he had been overcome by the heat and handed him over to his more trusty servants, while his mistresses ran shrieking and wailing to his side. Aroused by their cries and restored by the coolness of the room where he lay, he opened his eyes and moved his limbs, betraying thereby that he was still alive, as it was then safe to do so. His slaves took to flight; most of them have been captured, but some are still being hunted for. Thanks to the attentions he received, Macedo was kept alive for a few days and had the satisfaction of full vengeance before he died, for he exacted the same punishment while he still lived as is usually taken when the victim of a murder dies. You see the dangers, the affronts and insults we are exposed to, and no one can feel at all secure because he is an easy and mild-tempered master, for villainy not deliberation murders masters.

But enough of that subject! Have I any other news to tell you? Let me see! No, there is nothing. If there were, I would tell you, for I have room enough on this sheet, and, as to-day is a holiday, I should have plenty of time to write more. But I will just add an incident which I chance to recall that happened to the same Macedo. When he was in one of the public baths in Rome, a curious and - the event has shown - an ominous accident happened to him. Macedo's servant lightly tapped a Roman knight with his hand to induce him to make room for them to pass, and the knight turned round and struck, not the slave who had touched him but Macedo himself, such a heavy blow with his fist that he almost felled him. So one may say that the bath has been by certain stages the scene first of humiliation to him and then of death.   Farewell. 

3.16 To Nepos.

I have often observed that the greatest words and deeds, both of men and women, are not always the most famous, and my opinion has been confirmed by a talk I had with Fannia yesterday. She is a granddaughter of the Arria who comforted her husband in his dying moments and showed him how to die. She told me many stories of her grandmother, just as heroic but not so well known as the manner of her death, and I think they will seem to you as you read them quite as remarkable as they did to me as I listened to them.

Her husband, Caecina Paetus, was lying ill, and so too was their son, both, it was thought, without chance of recovery. The son died. He was a strikingly handsome lad, modest as he was handsome, and endeared to his parents for his other virtues quite as much as because he was their son. Arria made all the arrangements for the funeral and attended it in person, without her husband knowing anything of it. When she entered his room she pretended that the boy was still alive and even much better, and when her husband constantly asked how the lad was getting on, she replied: "He has had a good sleep, and has taken food with a good appetite." Then when the tears, which she had long forced back, overcame her and burst their way out, she would leave the room, and not till then give grief its course, returning when the flood of tears was over, with dry eyes and composed look, as though she had left her bereavement at the door of the chamber. It was indeed a splendid deed of hers to draw the sword from its sheath, to plunge it into her breast, then to pull it out and offer it to her husband, with the words which will live for ever and seem to have been more than mortal, "Paetus, it does not hurt." *   But at that moment, while speaking and acting thus, there was fame and immortality before her eyes, and I think it an even nobler deed for her without looking for any reward of glory or immortality to force back her tears, to hide her grief, and, even when her son was lost to her, to continue to act a mother's part.

When Scribonianus had started a rebellion in Illyricum against Claudius, Paetus joined his party, and, on the death of Scribonianus, he was brought prisoner to Rome. As he was about to embark, Arria implored the soldiers to take her on board with him. "For," she pleaded, "as he is of consular rank, you will assign him some servants to serve his meals, to valet him and put on his shoes. I will perform all these offices for him." When they refused her, she hired a fishing-boat and in that tiny vessel followed the big ship. Again, in the presence of Claudius she said to the wife of Scribonianus, when that woman was voluntarily giving evidence of the rebellion, "What, shall I listen to you in whose bosom Scribonianus was killed and yet you still live?" Those words showed that her resolve to die gloriously was due to no sudden impulse. Moreover, when her son-in-law Thrasea sought to dissuade her from carrying out her purpose, and urged among his other entreaties the following argument: "If I had to die, would you wish your daughter to die with me?" she replied, "If she had lived as long and as happily with you as I have lived with Paetus, yes." **   This answer increased the anxiety of her friends, and she was watched with greater care. Noticing this, she said, "Your endeavours are vain. You can make me die hard, but you cannot prevent me from dying." As she spoke she jumped from her chair and dashed her head with great force against the wall of the chamber, and fell to the ground. When she came to herself again, she said, "I told you that I should find a difficult way of dying if you denied me an easy one."

Do not sentences like these seem to you more noble than the "Paetus, it does not hurt," to which they gradually led up? Yet, while that saying is famous all over the world, the others are unknown. But they confirm what I said at the outset, that the noblest words and deeds are not always the most famous.   Farewell.

(*)   See Dio Cassius, lx.16 .

(**)   Twenty-four years later, Thrasea was condemned for treason, under Nero, and ordered to choose the manner of his death (66 A.D.). His wife, the younger Arria, sought to die with him, but he persuaded her to live for the sake of their daughter, Fannia ( vii. 19 ). 

3.19 To Calvisius Rufus.

I want to ask your advice, as I have often done, on a matter of private business. Some land adjoining my own, and even running into mine, is for sale, and while there are many considerations tempting me to buy it, there are equally weighty reasons to dissuade me. I feel tempted to purchase, first, because the estate will look well if rounded off, and, secondly, because the conveniences resulting therefrom would be as great as the pleasures it would give me. The same work could be carried on at both places, they could be visited at the same cost of travelling, they could be put under one steward and practically one set of managers, and, while one villa was kept up in style, the other house might be just kept in repair. Moreover, one must take into account the cost of furniture and head-servants, besides gardeners, smiths, and even the gamekeepers, and it makes a great difference whether you have all these in one place or have them distributed in several. Yet, on the other hand, I am afraid it may be rash to risk so much of one's property to the same storms and the same accidents, and it seems safer to meet the caprices of Fortune by not putting all one's eggs into the same basket. Again, there is something exceedingly pleasant in changing one's air and place, and in the travelling from one estate to another.

However, the chief reason why I hesitate is as follows:- The land in question is fertile, rich and well-watered; it consists of meadows, vineyards and woods, which are productive and guarantee an income, not large, it is true, but yet sure. But the fertility of the land is overtaxed by the lack of capital of the tenants. For the last proprietor constantly sold the whole stock, and, though he reduced the arrears of the tenants for the time, he weakened their efficiency for the future, and as their capital failed them their arrears once more began to mount up. I must therefore set them up again, and it will cost me the more because I must provide them with honest slaves, for I have no slaves working in chains in my possession, nor has any landowner in that part of the country. Now, let me tell you the price at which I think I can purchase the property. It is three million sesterces, though at one time the price was five, but owing to the lack of capital of the tenants and the general badness of the times the rents have fallen off and the price has therefore dropped also. Perhaps you will ask whether I can raise these three millions without difficulty. Well, nearly all my capital is invested in land, but I have some money out at interest and I can borrow without any trouble. I can get money from my mother-in-law, whose purse I use as freely as if it were my own. So don't let this consideration trouble you, if the other objections can be got over, and I hope you will give these your most careful attention. For, as in everything else, so too in the matter of investments, your experience and shrewdness are unexceptionable.   Farewell. 

3.21  To Cornelius Priscus.

I hear that Valerius Martialis *   is dead, and I am much troubled at the news. He was a man of genius, witty and caustic, yet one who in his writings showed as much candour as he did biting wit and ability to sting. When he left Rome I made him a present to help to defray his travelling expenses, as a tribute to the friendship I bore him and to the verses he had composed about me. It was the custom in the old days to reward with offices of distinction or money grants those who had composed eulogies of private individuals or cities, but in our day this custom, like many other honourable and excellent practices, was one of the first to fall into disuse. For when we cease to do deeds worthy of praise, we think it is folly to be praised. Do you ask what the verses are which excited my gratitude? I would refer you to the volume itself, but that I have some by heart, and if you like these, you may look out the others for yourself in the book. He addresses the Muse and bids her seek my house on the Esquiline and approach it with great respect:-

"But take care that you do not knock at his learned door at a time when you should not. He devotes whole days together to crabbed Minerva, while he prepares for the ears of the Court of the Hundred speeches which posterity and the ages to come may compare even with the pages of Arpinum's Cicero. It will be better if you go late in the day, when the evening lamps are lit; that is YOUR hour, when the Wine God is at his revels, when the rose is Queen of the feast, when men's locks drip perfume. At such an hour even unbending Catos may read my poems."   **

Was I not right to take a most friendly farewell of a man who wrote a poem like that about me, and do I do wrong if I now bewail his death as that of a bosom-friend? For he gave me the best he could, and would have given me more if he had had it in his power. And yet what more can be given to a man than glory and praise and immortality? But you may say that Martialis' poems will not live for ever. Well, perhaps not, yet at least he wrote them in the hope that they would.   Farewell.

(*)   Martial, the poet. The exact date of his death (between 101 and 104 A.D.) is unknown. Martial had retired, probably in 98 A.D., to his native town Bilbilis in Spain.

(**)   Martial, x. 19. 

4.13 To Cornelius Tacitus.

I am delighted that you have returned to Rome, for though your arrival is always welcome, it is especially so to me at the present moment. I shall be spending a few more days at my Tusculan villa in order to finish a small work which I have in hand, for I am afraid that if I do not carry it right through now that it is nearly completed I shall find it irksome to start on it again. In the meanwhile, that I may lose no time, I am sending this letter as a sort of forerunner to make a request which, when I am in town, I shall ask you to grant.

But first of all, let me tell you my reasons for asking it. When I was last in my native district a son of a fellow townsman of mine, a youth under age, came to pay his respects to me. I said to him, "Do you keep up your studies?" "Yes," said he. "Where?" I asked. "At Mediolanum," he replied. "But why not here?" I queried. Then the lad's father, who was with him, and indeed had brought him, replied, "Because we have no teachers here." "How is that?" I asked. "It is a matter of urgent importance to you who are fathers" - and it so happened, luckily, that a number of fathers were listening to me - "that your children should get their schooling here on the spot. For where can they pass the time so pleasantly as in their native place; where can they be brought up so virtuously as under their parents' eyes; where so inexpensively as at home? If you put your money together you could hire teachers at a trifling cost, and you could add to their stipends the sums you now spend upon your sons' lodgings and travelling money, which are no light amounts. I have no children of my own, but still, in the interest of the State, which I may consider as my child or my parent, I am prepared to contribute a third part of the amount which you may decide to club together. I would even promise the whole sum, if I were not afraid that if I did so my generosity would be corrupted to serve private interests, as I see is the case in many places where teachers are employed at the public charge. There is but one way of preventing this evil, and that is by leaving the right of employing the teachers to the parents alone, who will be careful to make a right choice if they are required to find the money. For those who perhaps would be careless in dealing with other people's money will assuredly be careful in spending their own, and they will take care that the teacher who gets my money will be worth his salt when he will also get money from them as well. So put your heads together, make up your minds, and let my example inspire you, for I can assure you that the greater the contribution you lay upon me the better I shall be pleased. You cannot make your children a more handsome present than this, nor can you do your native place a better turn. Let those who are born here be brought up here, and from their earliest days accustom them to love and know every foot of their native soil. I hope you may be able to attract such distinguished teachers that boys will be sent here to study from the towns round about, and that, as now your children flock to other places, so in the future other people's children may flock hither."

I thought it best to repeat this conversation in detail and from the very beginning, to convince you how glad I shall be if you will undertake my commission. As the subject is one of such importance, I beg and implore you to look out for some teachers from among the throng of learned people who gather round you in admiration of your genius, whom we can approach about the matter, but in such a way that we do not pledge ourselves to employ any one of them. For I wish to give the parents a perfectly free hand. They must judge and choose for themselves; my responsibilities go no further than a sympathetic interest and the payment of my share of the cost. So if you find anyone who is confident in his own abilities, let him go to Comum, but on the express understanding that he builds upon no certainty beyond his own confidence in himself.   Farewell. 

4.19 To Calpurnia Hispulla.

As you yourself are a model of the family virtues, as you returned the affection of your brother, who was the best of men and devoted to you, and as you love his daughter as though she were your own child, and show her not only the affection of an aunt but even that of the father she has lost, I feel sure you will be delighted to know that she is proving herself worthy of her father, worthy of you, and worthy of her grandfather. She has a sharp wit, she is wonderfully economical, and she loves me - which is a guarantee of her purity. Moreover, owing to her fondness for me she has developed a taste for study. She collects all my speeches, she reads them, and learns them by heart. When I am about to plead, what anxiety she shows; when the pleading is over, how pleased she is! She has relays of people to bring her news as to the reception I get, the applause I excite, and the verdicts I win from the judges. Whenever I recite, she sits near me screened from the audience by a curtain, and her ears greedily drink in what people say to my credit. She even sings my verses and sets them to music, though she has no master to teach her but love, which is the best instructor of all. Hence I feel perfectly assured that our mutual happiness will be lasting, and will continue to grow day by day. For she loves in me not my youth *   nor my person - both of which are subject to gradual decay and age - but my reputation. Nor would other feelings become one who had been brought up at your knee, who had been trained by your precepts, who had seen in your house nothing that was not pure and honourable, and, in short, had been taught to love me at your recommendation. For as you loved and venerated my mother as a daughter, so even when I was a boy you used to shape my character, and encourage me, and prophesy that I should develop into the man that my wife now believes me to be. Consequently my wife and I try to see who can thank you best, I because you have given her to me, and she because you gave me to her, as though you chose us the one for the other.   Farewell.

(*)   Pliny was probably about forty years old at this time. 

4.30 To Licinius Sura.   *

I have brought you as a present from my native district a problem which is fully worthy even of your profound learning. A spring rises in the mountain-side; it flows down a rocky course, and is caught in a little artificial banqueting house. After the water has been retained there for a time it falls into the Larian lake. There is a wonderful phenomenon connected with it, for thrice every day it rises and falls with fixed regularity of volume. Close by it you may recline and take a meal, and drink from the spring itself, for the water is very cool, and meanwhile it ebbs and flows at regular and stated intervals. If you place a ring or anything else on a dry spot by the edge, the water gradually rises to it and at last covers it, and then just as gradually recedes and leaves it bare; while if you watch it for any length of time, you may see both processes twice or thrice repeated. Is there any unseen air which first distends and then tightens the orifice and mouth of the spring, resisting its onset and yielding at its withdrawal? We observe something of this sort in jars and other similar vessels which have not a direct and free opening, for these, when held either perpendicularly or aslant, pour out their contents with a sort of gulp, as though there were some obstruction to a free passage. Or is this spring like the ocean, and is its volume enlarged and lessened alternately by the same laws that govern the ebb and flow of the tide? Or again, just as rivers on their way to the sea are driven back on themselves by contrary winds and the opposing tide, is there anything that can drive back the outflow of this spring? Or is there some latent reservoir which diminishes and retards the flow while it is gradually collecting the water that has been drained off, and increases and quickens the flow when the process of collection is complete? Or is there some curiously hidden and unseen balance which, when emptied, raises and thrusts forth the spring, and, when filled, checks and stifles its flow? Please investigate the causes which bring about this wonderful result, for you have the ability to do so; it is more than enough for me if I have described the phenomenon with accuracy. **   Farewell.

(*)   The famous general, and friend of Trajan.

(**)   This intermittent spring is also mentioned by Pliny the Elder, HN ii.(106)232. 

5.8 To Titinius Capito.

You urge me to write history, nor are you the first to do so. Many others have often given me the same advice, and I am quite willing to follow it, not because I feel confident that I should succeed in so doing - for it would be presumption to think so until one had tried - but because it seems to me a very proper thing not to let people be forgotten whose fame ought never to die, and to perpetuate the glories of others together with one's own. Personally, I confess that there is nothing on which I have set my heart so much as to win a lasting reputation, and the ambition is a worthy one for any man, especially for one who is not conscious of having committed any wrong and has no cause to fear being remembered by posterity. Hence it is that both day and night I scheme to find a way "to raise myself above the ordinary dull level": my ambition goes no farther than that, for it is quite beyond my dreams "that my victorious name should pass from mouth to mouth." *   "And yet - !" **   - but I am quite satisfied with the fame which history alone seems to promise me. For one reaps but a small reward from oratory and poetry, unless our eloquence is really first-class, while history seems to charm people in whatever style it is written. For men are naturally curious; they are delighted even by the baldest relation of facts, and so we see them carried away even by little stories and anecdotes.

Again, there is a precedent in my own family which impels me towards writing history. My uncle, who was also my father by adoption, was a historian of the most scrupulous type, and I find all wise men agree that one can do nothing better than follow in the footsteps of one's ancestors, provided that they have gone in the right path themselves. Why, then, do I hesitate? For this reason, that I have delivered a number of pleadings of serious importance, and it is my intention to revise them carefully - though my hopes of fame from them are only slight - lest, in spite of all the trouble they have given me, they should perish with me, just for want of receiving the last polishing and additional touches. For if you have a view to what posterity will say, all that is not absolutely finished must be classed as incomplete matter. You will say: "Yes, but you can touch up your pleadings and compose history at the same time." I wish I could, but each is so great a task that I should think I had done very well to have finished either.

I began to plead in the forum in my nineteenth year, and it is only just now that I begin to see darkly what an orator ought to be. What would happen if I were to take on a new task in addition to this one? Oratory and history have many things in common, but they also differ greatly in the points that seem common to both. There is narrative in both, but of a different type; the humblest, meanest and most common-place subjects suit the one; the other requires research, splendour, and dignity. In the one you may describe the bones, muscles, and nerves of the body, in the other brawny parts and flowing manes. In oratory one wants force, invective, sustained attack; in history the charm is obtained by copiousness and agreeableness, even by sweetness of style. Lastly, the words used, the forms of speech, and the construction of the sentences are different. For, as Thucydides remarks, it makes all the difference whether the composition is to be a possession for all time or a declamation for the moment; †   oratory has to do with the latter, history with the former.

Hence it is that I do not feel tempted to hopelessly jumble together two dissimilar styles which differ from one another just because of their great importance, and I am afraid I should become bewildered by such a terrible medley and write in the one style just where I ought to be employing the other. For the meantime, therefore, to use the language of the courts, I ask your gracious permission to go on with my pleading. However, do you be good enough even now to consider the period which it would be best for me to tackle. Shall it be a period of ancient history which others have dealt with before me? If so, the materials are all ready to hand, but the putting them together would be a heavy task. On the other hand, if I choose a modern period which has not been dealt with, I shall get but small thanks and am bound to give serious offence. For, besides the fact that the general standard of morality is so lax that there is much more to censure than to praise, you are sure to be called miserly if you praise and too censorious if you censure, though you may have been lavish of appreciation and scrupulously guarded in reproach. However, these considerations do not stay me, for I have the courage of my convictions. I only beg of you to prepare the way for me in the direction you urge me to take, and choose a subject for me, so that, when I am at length ready to take pen in hand, no other overpowering reason may crop up to make me hesitate and delay my purpose.   Farewell.

(*)   These two lines are from Virgil's third Georgic.

(**)   From the boat-race in the fifth book of the Aeneid. Mnestheus, in danger of being left behind, cries out - "I no longer seek the first place - and yet ! and yet ! "

(†)   Thuc. i.22. 

5.9 To Rufus.

I had gone down to the Basilica Julia to listen to the speeches of the counsel to whom I had to reply from the last postponement. The judges were in their places; the decemvirs had arrived; the advocates were moving to and fro, and then came a long silence, broken at last by a message from the praetor. The centumviri were dismissed and the hearing was put off, at which I was glad, for I am never so well prepared that I am not pleased at having extra time given me. The postponement was due to Nepos, the praetor-designate, who hears cases with the most scrupulous attention to legal forms. He had issued a short edict warning both plaintiffs and defendants that he would strictly carry out the decree of the senate. Attached to the edict was a copy of the decree, which provided "that all persons engaged in any lawsuit are hereby ordered to take an oath before their cases are heard, that they have neither given nor promised any sum to their advocates, nor have entered into any contract to pay them for their advocacy." In these words and other long sentences as well, advocates were forbidden to sell their services and litigants to buy them, although, when a suit is over, the latter are allowed to offer their counsel a sum not exceeding ten thousand sesterces. The praetor, who was presiding over the court of the centumviri, was embarrassed by this decree of Nepos and gave us an unexpected holiday, while he made up his mind whether or not he should follow the example that had been set. Meanwhile, the whole town is discussing the edict of Nepos, some favourably, others adversely. Many people are saying: "Well, we have found a man to set the crooked straight. But have there been no praetors before Nepos, and who is Nepos that he should mend our public morals?" On the other hand, a number of people argue: "He has acted quite rightly. He has mastered the laws before entering office, he has read the decrees of the senate, he is putting a stop to a disgraceful system of bargaining, and he will not allow a most honourable profession to be bought and sold in a scandalous way." That is how people are talking everywhere, and there will be no majority for one side or the other till it is known how the matter will end. It is very deplorable, but it is the accepted rule that good or bad counsels are approved or condemned according to whether they turn out well or badly. The result is that we find the self-same deed ascribed sometimes to zeal, sometimes to vanity, and even to love of liberty and downright madness.   Farewell. 

5.19 To Paulinus.

I notice how kindly you treat your servants, so I will be quite frank with you, and tell you with what indulgence I treat mine. I always bear in mind that phrase in Homer, "like a father mild," and our own Latin phrase, "father of his family." Even if I had naturally been of a harsher and less genial disposition, the weakness of my freedman Zosimus would melt my harshness, for one has to show him greater kindness just in proportion as he needs it more at his time of life. He is an honest fellow, devoted to his duties and well-educated, but his chief accomplishment and, so to speak, his particular recommendation is his skill in playing comedy, in which he is really admirable. For his delivery is sharp, intelligent, to the point, and even graceful, and he plays the lyre much better than is usually expected from a comedian. He is also so clever in reading speeches, history and poetry, that you would fancy he had never studied anything else. I have gone into all this detail to show you how many services this one man can render me, and how pleasant they are. Moreover, I have long entertained a great regard for him, which has been increased by his serious ill-health, for Nature has so arranged it that nothing fires and stimulates our affection so much as the fear of losing the object of it, and I have on more than one occasion been afraid of losing Zosimus.

Some years since, while he was reciting with great earnestness and fire, he spat blood, and I sent him on that account to Egypt, from which country he recently returned with his health restored. Then, after severely taxing his voice for days together, he was warned of his old malady by a slight cough, and once more brought up some blood. So I have decided to send him to the farm which you own at Forum Julii, *   for I have often heard you say that the air there is healthy, and the milk peculiarly beneficial to complaints of this kind. I should be glad, therefore, if you will write to your people to take him in at the house and give him lodging, and accommodate him with anything he may require at his expense. His needs will be very small, for he is so sparing and abstemious that his frugality leads him to deny himself, not only dainties, but even that which is necessary for his weak health. When he sets out, I will give him sufficient travelling money for one who is going to your part of the country.   Farewell.

(*)   Now Fréjus in the South of France. 

6.31 To Cornelianus.

I was greatly delighted when our Emperor sent for me to Centum Cellae - for that is the name of the place - to act as a member of his Council. For what could be more gratifying than to be privileged to witness the justice, dignity, and charming manners of the Emperor in his country retreat, where he allows these qualities the freest play? There were a variety of cases to be heard, and they were of a kind to bring out the virtues of the judge in different ways and forms.

Claudius Aristo, the leading citizen at Ephesus, a man of great generosity, and who had won popularity by innocent means, pleaded his own case. His popularity had made people envious of him, and some of his enemies, who were utterly unlike him in character, had suborned a man to lay information against him. So he was acquitted, and his reputation vindicated. On the following day was taken the case of Galitta, who was accused of adultery. She was the wife of a military tribune, who was about to stand for public office, and she had compromised her own reputation and her husband's by intriguing with a centurion. The husband had reported the matter to the consular legate, and the latter had reported it to Caesar. After carefully examining the proofs, the Emperor degraded the centurion, and even banished him. Still the punishment was not complete, for adultery is an offence in which two perils are necessarily concerned, but the husband's affection for his wife, whom he allowed to remain in his house even I after discovering her adultery - content as it were to have trot his rival out of the way - led him to delay the prosecution, in spite of the scandal to which his forbearance gave rise. He was summoned to carry the charge through, and did so against his will. However, it was necessary that she should be condemned, even though her accuser did not wish her to be, and she was declared guilty, and sentenced to the punishment inflicted by the Julian Law.* Caesar affixed to the sentence both the name of the centurion and a statement of the rules of military discipline on the point, lest people should think that he reserved the right to hear all such cases himself.

On the third day began the inquiry into the will of Julius Tiro, a case which had been greatly talked about, and had given rise to conflicting reports, inasmuch as it was known that the will was genuine in part, and in part a forgery. The accused were Sempronius Senecio, a Roman knight, and Eurythmus, one of Caesar's freedmen and agents. When the Emperor was in Dacia, the heirs had written a joint letter, asking him to undertake an inquiry into the will, and he had consented. On his return he appointed a day, and when some of the heirs were in favour of letting the accusation drop, as though out of consideration for Eurythmus, he very finely said, "Eurythmus is not Polyclitus, and I am not Nero."** Yet at their request he favoured them with a postponement, and when the day had at length arrived, he took his seat to hear the case. On the side of the heirs only two put in an appearance, and they demanded that as all had joined in the accusation, they should all be forced to go on with the action, or else that they too should be allowed to withdraw. Caesar spoke with great gravity and moderation, and when the advocate for Senecio and Eurythmus remarked that the accused would be left open to suspicion unless they were heard in their own behalf, he said, "I don't care whether they are left open to suspicion or not, I certainly am myself." Then turning to us, he said: "Consider what we ought to do; for these people want to complain that they were not allowed to prosecute." Subsequently, in accordance with the advice of his Council, he ordered that all the heirs should be instructed either to go on with the case, or that each should come and state sufficient reasons for not doing so, warning them that unless they did that he would go so far as to pronounce sentence against them for bringing false charges.

You see in what a strictly honourable and arduous manner we spent our days, though they were followed by the most agreeable relaxations. Every day we were summoned to dine with the Emperor, and modest dinners they were for one of his imperial position. Sometimes we listened to entertainers, sometimes we had delightful conversations lasting far into the night. On the last day, just as we were setting out, Caesar sent us parting presents, such is his thoughtfulness and courtesy. As for myself, I delighted in the importance of the cases heard, in the honour of being summoned to the Council, and in the charm and simplicity of his mode of life, while I was equally pleased with the place itself. The villa, which is exquisitely beautiful, is surrounded by meadows of the richest green; it abuts on the sea-shore, in the bight of which a harbour is being hastily formed, the left arm having been strengthened by masonry of great solidity, while the right is now in course of construction. In the mouth of the harbour an island rises out of the sea, which by its position breaks the force of the waves that are carried in by the wind, and affords a safe passage to ships on either side. The island has been artificially constructed, and is not a natural formation, for a broad barge brings up a number of immense stones, which are thrown into the water, one on top of the other, and these are kept in position by their own weight, and gradually become built up into a sort of breakwater. The ridge of stones already overtops the surface, and when the waves strike upon it, it breaks them into spray and throws them to a great height. That causes a loud-resounding roar, and the sea all round is white with foam. Subsequently concrete will be added to the stones, to give it the appearance of a natural island as time goes on. This harbour will be called - and indeed it already is called - after the name of its constructor, and it will prove a haven of the greatest value, inasmuch as there is a long stretch of shore which has no harbour, and the sailors will use this as a place of refuge.   Farewell.

(*)   Under the 'Lex Julia de adulteriis', a woman forfeited half her dowry and was banished to an island.

(**)   Polyclitus was a freedman of Nero. The sense is, "I do not favour my freedmen and condone their oppressions and extortions, as Nero did."

7.9 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. 

7.17 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. 

7.18 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. 

7.24 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. 

7.27 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. 

7.33 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. 

8.7 To Tacitus.

It was not as one master to another, nor as one pupil to another, that you sent me your book - though you say it was the latter - but it was as a master to his pupil, for you are the master and I am the pupil, and whereas you summon me back to school, I am for extending the holidays. There, could I possibly have written a more involved sentence than that? *   Does it not absolutely prove that, so far from being worthy to be called your master, I do not deserve to be even called your pupil? None the less, I will put on the master's gown, and I will exercise the right of correcting your book which you have granted me, and will do so all the more freely because, in the meanwhile, I shall not send you any book of mine upon which you may take your revenge.   Farewell.

(*)   Literally, "could I have stretched hyperbaton further ...". 

8.8 To Romanus.

Have you ever seen the spring at Clitumnus? If not - and I think you have not, or else you would have told me about it - go and see it, as I have done quite recently. I only regret that I did not visit it before. A fair-sized hill rises from the plain, well wooded, and dark with ancient cypress trees. From beneath it the spring issues and forces its way out through a number of channels, though these are of unequal size. After passing through the little whirlpool which it makes, it spreads out into a broad sheet of pure and crystal water, so clear that you can count the small coins and pebbles that have been thrown into it. Thence it is forced forward, not because of any slope of the ground, but by its own volume and weight. So what was just before a spring now becomes a broad, noble river, deep enough for ships to navigate, and these pass to and fro and meet one another, as they travel in opposite directions. The current is so strong that a ship going down-stream moves no faster if oars are used, though the ground is dead level, but in the opposite direction it is all the men can do to row and pole their way along against the current. Those who are sailing for pleasure and amusement find it an agreeable diversion, just by turning the ship's head round, to pass from indolence to toil or from toil to indolence. The banks are clad with an abundance of ash and poplar trees, which you can count in the clear stream, for they seem to be growing bright and green in the water, which for coldness is as cold as the snows, and as transparent in colour.

Hard by is an ancient and sacred temple, where stands Jupiter Clitumnus himself clad and adorned with a toga praetexta, and the oracular responses delivered there prove that the deity dwells within and foretells the future. Round about are sprinkled a number of little chapels, each containing the statue of a god. There is a special cult for each and a particular name, and some of them have springs dedicated to them, for in addition to the one I have described, which may be called the parent spring, there are lesser ones separated from the chief one, but they all flow into the river, which is spanned by a bridge that marks the dividing line between the sacred and public water. In the upper part you are only allowed to go in a boat, the lower is also open to swimmers. The people of Hispellum, to whom the place was made over as a free gift by Augustus, have provided a public bath and accommodation; there are also some villas standing on the river bank, whose owners were attracted by the charming scenery. In a word, there is nothing there but what will delight you, for you may study and read the numerous inscriptions in praise of the spring and the deity which have been placed upon every column and every wall. Most of them you will commend, a few will make you laugh, but stay, I am forgetting that you are so kind-hearted that you will laugh at none.   Farewell. 

8.16 To Paternus.

I have been greatly upset by illness in my household, some of my servants having died, and at an early age. I have two consolations, which, though they are by no means equivalent to my grief, do certainly afford me comfort. One is, that I have been generous in giving them their freedom, - for I do not consider that I have lost them altogether immaturely when they died free men, - and the other is, that I allow my slaves to make, as it were, valid wills, and I preserve them as I should strictly legal documents. *   They lay their commissions and requests before me just as they please, and I carry them out as though I were obeying an order. They have full power to divide their property and leave donations and bequests as they will, provided that the beneficiaries are members of my household, for with slaves their master's house takes the place of commonwealth and state. But though I have these consolations to make my mind easier, I feel shattered and broken by just that same sense of common humanity which led me to grant them these indulgences. Not that I wish I were harder of heart. I am quite aware that there are other people who call misfortunes of this kind a mere pecuniary loss, and plume themselves thereon as great men and wise. Whether they are great and wise I do not know, but they certainly are not men. The true man is sensible to pain and feeling, and even while he fights against his trouble admits consolations; he is not a person who never knows the need of comfort. Perhaps I have written more than I ought, though it is still less than I desired. For there is a certain pleasure even in feeling pain, especially if your tears are falling while the arm of a friend is around you, and he is ready to applaud or excuse them as they fall.   Farewell.

(*)   Slaves were not allowed by Roman law to hold or bequeath property. 

8.17 To Macrinus.

Have you, where you are, been having inclement and tempestuous weather? Here we have had nothing but storm after storm and constant deluges of rain. Tiber has deserted his proper channel and is now deep over the more low-lying banks. In spite of the drainage of the ditches constructed with great foresight by the Emperor, the river overwhelms the valleys; all the fields are under water, and wherever the ground is level there you can see only water in place of dry ground. Consequently, instead of receiving as usual the streams which flow into it and carrying off their waters mingled with its own, it places as it were a barrier in their path and checks their progress, and so covers the fields, which it does not touch itself, with an alien flood. Even the Anio, that daintiest of rivers, so dainty that it seems to be tempted to linger by the villas on its banks, has thrown down and carried off in great measure the woods which lend it their shade; it has overthrown mountains, and then, shut in by the masses of debris, has overturned buildings in its efforts to regain its lost channel, and raised and spread itself upon their ruins. Those who were caught by the storm upon higher ground saw everywhere around them, here the ruined remains of rich and splendid furniture, there the implements of husbandry, oxen and ploughs and their drivers, mingled with herds of cattle, loose and free from restraint, with trunks of trees and crossbeams from ruined villas, all floating to and fro in wide confusion. Nor have those places which lay too high for the river to reach them escaped disaster. For, instead of being inundated by the river, they suffered from continued rains and whirlwinds, which rushed down from the rainclouds, which tore down the hedges enclosing their rich fields, and shook the public buildings to their foundations when they did not lay them low. A number of people have been maimed, overwhelmed, and crushed by these accidents, and so their material losses have been made the heavier by their being thrown into mourning. I am much afraid that you, where you are, will have had a similar experience proportionate to the dangers of your position; and I beg of you, if you have not, to relieve my anxiety on your account as soon as possible, and if you have, that you will tell me all about it. For it makes little difference whether you actually meet with disaster or only apprehend it, except that you can put a limit to your grief, but not to your fears. Our griefs can be apportioned to what we know has befallen us, but our apprehensions rise to what may befall us.   Farewell. 

8.21 To Arrianus.

As in my daily life, so in my studies I think it is most becoming as well as most natural for a man to mingle grave and gay together, lest too much gravity should result in austerity, and too much gaiety in wantonness. That is what leads me to intersperse my more serious works with trifles and playful poems. I chose the most suitable time and place for launching them, and, after having had desks placed before the couches, I called together my friends in the month of July, when law business is at its quietest, in order that my poems might get accustomed to receive a hearing from lazy people over dinner. It so happened that on that very day I was summoned to take part as counsel in a case which came on very suddenly, and this made it necessary for me to say something by way of preface. I begged that no one would think me disrespectful because I had not kept clear of the courts and business on a day when I was to give a reading, especially as my audience was to be a select number of my friends, that is to say, people who were doubly my friends. I added that I made it an invariable rule in my writing to put business before pleasure, and take serious matter before amusements, and that my first object as I wrote was to please my friends and then myself.

My volume was a mélange of different subjects and metres, for those of us who are not quite sure about our genius choose variety, in order to minimise the risk of boring our readers. The reading lasted for two days, this being necessitated by the applause of my audience; for though some people in giving a reading skip whole passages, and by so doing imply that what they skip is bad, I never pass over a word, and I even boldly acknowledge that I do not. I read every line in order that I may correct every line, and this cannot be done by those who read only selected passages. You may say that the other course is the more modest, and perhaps shows a greater regard for the audience. It may be so, but my plan is the more frank and the more friendly. For it is the man who is so sure of the affection of his audience that he is not afraid of wearying them, who is their real friend; and, besides, what are acquaintances worth if they merely come to your house to gratify themselves alone? He who prefers to listen to a good volume written by his friend rather than help to make it a good volume, is a self-indulgent fellow, who is no better than a mere stranger.

I don't doubt that you, with your usual kindness towards me, are anxious to read this book of mine, which is still quite new, as soon as possible. Well, you shall, but only when it has been carefully revised, for that was the object I had in view when I gave the reading. With parts of it, indeed, you are already familiar, but these I have subsequently changed, either for better or possibly for worse - as is sometimes the case, when we revise long after the original was written - and when you read them you will find that they are new to you and entirely re-written. For when we have made a number of alterations, even the passages which have not been touched seem to have been altered too.   Farewell. 

8.24 To Maximus.

My affection for you is such that I feel compelled not to direct you - for you have no need of a director - but to strongly advise you to keep in strict remembrance certain points that you are well aware of, and to realise their truth even more than you now do. Bear in mind that you have been sent to the province of Achaia, which is the real and genuine Greece, where the humanities, literature, and even the science of agriculture are believed to have been discovered; that your mission is to regulate the status of the free cities, or, in other words, that you will have to deal with men who are really men and free, men who have preserved the rights, given to them by nature, by their own virtues, merits, friendship, and by the ties of treaties and religious observance. Pay all due respect to the gods and the names of the gods, whom they regard as their founders; respect their ancient glory, and just that quality of age which in a man is venerable, but in cities is hallowed. Show deference to antiquity, to glorious deeds, and even to their legends. Do not whittle away any man's dignity or liberties, or even humble anyone's self-conceit. Keep constantly before you the thought that this is the land which sent us our constitutional rights, and gave us our laws, not as a conqueror, but in answer to our request. *  

Remember that the city you are going to is Athens, that the city you will govern is Lacedaemon, and that it would be a brutal, savage, and barbarous deed to take from them the shadow and name of liberty, which are all that now remain to them. You will have noticed that though there is no difference between slaves and freemen when they are in ill-health, the freemen receive gentler and milder treatment at the hands of their medical attendants. Remember, therefore, the past of each city, not that you may despise it for ceasing to be great - no, let there be no trace of haughtiness and disdain in your conduct. Do not be afraid that people will despise you for your kindness, for is any man with full military command and the fasces despised, unless he is craven-spirited or mean, or first shows that he despises himself? It is a bad thing when a governor learns to feel his power by subjecting others to indignities, and a bad thing again when a man makes his power respected by striking terror into those around him. Affection is a far more potent lever by which to obtain what you desire than fear. For fear vanishes when you are absent, but affection remains; and while the former turns to hate, the latter turns to reverence. You must constantly remember - for I will repeat what I said before - to bear in mind the real meaning of the title of your official position, and think what an important duty you are performing in regulating the status of the free cities. For what is more important in civil societies than proper regulations, and what is more precious than freedom ? How scandalous it would be if order were to be turned into confusion, and liberty into slavery ! You must also remember that you have to rival your own past record; you are burdened by the excellent reputation which you brought back from Bithynia with you after your quaestorship, by the testimonials given you by the Emperor, by your tribuneship, praetorship, and by this very mission, which was assigned to you as a sort of reward for your splendid services. So you will have to do your best to prevent people from thinking that you have shown greater humanity, integrity, and tact in a far-off province than in one nearer Rome, among slaves than among freemen, and when you were chosen for the mission by lot rather than by deliberate choice,**   and that you were an untried and unknown man, and not one of tried and proved experience. Moreover, as you have often heard and read, it is much more disgraceful to lose a good reputation than to fail to win one.

As I said at the outset, I want you to take these words as those of a friend who is advising and not directing you, although I do direct you also, for I have no fear - such is my affection for you - of going beyond the limits of propriety. There is no danger of transgressing where the limits ought to be unbounded.   Farewell.

(*)   An allusion to the despatch of ambassadors from Rome to Greece, for the purpose of being instructed in the laws of Solon etc., in 454 B.C.

(**)   Of the emperor, by whose appointment Maximus was sent to Greece. 

9.6 To Calvisius.

I have been spending all my time here among my tablets and books as quietly as I could wish. "How is that possible," you ask, "in Rome?" Well, the Circensian games have been on, and that is a kind of spectacle which has not the slightest attraction for me. There is no novelty, no variety in it, nothing which one wants to see twice. Hence I am the more amazed that so many thousands of men *   should be eager, like a pack of children, to see horses running time after time, and the charioteers bending over their cars. There might be some reason for their enthusiasm if it was the speed of the horses or the skill of the drivers that was the attraction, but it is the racing-colours which they favour, and the racing-colours that fire their love. If, in the middle of the course and during the race itself, the colours were to be changed, their enthusiasm and partisanship would change with them, and they would suddenly desert the drivers and the horses, whom they recognise afar and whose names they shout aloud. Such is the influence and authority vested in one cheap tunic, I don't say with the common crowd, - for that is even cheaper than the tunic, - but with certain men of position; and when I consider that they can sit for so long without growing tired, looking on at such a fruitless, cheerless, and tedious sport, I really feel a sort of pleasure in the thought that what they take delight in has no charm for me. Thus it is that I have been only too glad to pass my leisure time among my books during the race-meeting, while others have been wasting their days in the most idle occupations.   Farewell.

(*)   The Circus Maximus, as extended by Nero, held 250,000 spectators, according to Pliny the Elder, HN. xxxvi. (24)102. 

9.19 To Ruso.

You say that you have read in one of my letters that Verginius Rufus ordered the following inscription to be placed on his tomb : - "Here lies Rufus, who, after overthrowing Vindex, claimed the supreme rule, not for himself, but for his country." *   You find fault with him for giving such an order, and you go on to say that the conduct of Frontinus was better and nobler, who gave instructions that no monument at all should be erected to his memory. Then, at the close of your letter, you ask me for my opinion on both men. Well, I had a strong affection for both, but of the two I had a higher admiration for the one with whom you find fault; in fact, my admiration for him was such that I did not think he could be praised sufficiently, though now I have to undertake his defence. Personally, I consider that all men who have accomplished any great and memorable deed are not only to be excused, but even praised in the highest degree, if they seek to secure the immortality they have deserved, and, in their certainty of undying fame, strive to perpetuate still further their glory and renown by the inscriptions on their monuments. Nor, I think, would it be easy for me to find anyone but Verginius who showed as much modesty in speaking of his achievements as those achievements were glorious.

I, who enjoyed his intimate regard and approval, can bear witness that only on one occasion did he in my presence refer to his own actions, and that came about in the following way : - He and Cluvius **   were in conversation and Cluvius remarked: "You know, Verginius, how scrupulously accurate history ought to be, and so, if you find anything in my histories which is not quite what you would have it, I must ask you to forgive it." Verginius replied : "Why, don't you know, Cluvius, that I acted as I did just to enable you historians to write what you please?" However, be that as it may, let us compare Frontinus with Verginius on this very point - that the former seems to you to have shown greater reticence and modesty. He forbade the erection of a memorial, but in what words? "The cost of a memorial is waste of money ; if my life has been such as to deserve remembrance, men will not forget me." Do you think it shows greater modesty for a man to write down for all the world to read that his memory will endure, than to record your achievements in two verses on one particular spot? However, my point is not to find fault with Frontinus but to defend Verginius, yet how can I better defend his conduct before you than by comparing him with the man whom you prefer? In my judgment, neither is to be blamed, for both of them have equally striven for glory, though they adopted different means, the one by asking for the inscription, which was his due, and the other by professing to make men think he had despised it.   Farewell.

(*)   See letter vi. 10.

(**)   Cluvius Rufus, who wrote a history of his times and was one of Tacitus's sources. 

9.23 To Maximus.

When I have been pleading, it has often happened that the centumviri, after strictly preserving for a long time their judicial dignity and gravity, have suddenly leaped to their feet en masse and applauded me, as if they could not help themselves but were obliged to do so. I have often again left the senate-house with just as much glory as I had hoped to obtain, but I never felt greater gratification than I did a little while ago at something which Cornelius Tacitus told me in conversation. He said that he was sitting by the side of a certain individual at the last Circensian games, and that, after they had had a long and learned talk on a variety of subjects, his acquaintance said to him: "Are you from Italy or the provinces?" Tacitus replied : "You know me quite well, and that from the books of mine you have read."   "Then," said the man, "you are either Tacitus or Pliny." I cannot express to you how pleased I am that our names are, so to speak, the property of literature, that they are literary titles rather than the names of two men, and that both of us are familiar by our writings to persons who would otherwise know nothing of us. A similar incident happened a day or two before. That excellent man, Fadius Rufinus, was dining with me on the same couch, and next above him was a fellow-townsman of his who had just that day come to town for the first time. Rufinus, pointing me out to this man, said, "Do you see my friend here?" Then they spoke at length about my literary work, and the stranger remarked, "Surely, he is Pliny." I don't mind confessing that I think I am well repaid for my work, and if Demosthenes was justified in being pleased when an old woman of Attica recognised him with the words, "Why, here is Demosthenes," *   ought not I too to be glad that my name is so widely known ? As a matter of fact, I am glad and I say so, for I am not afraid of being considered boastful, when it is not my opinion about myself but that of others which I put forward, and especially when you are my confidant - you who grudge no one his fair praise, and are constantly doing what you can to increase my fame.   Farewell.

(*)   See Cicero, Tusc. v. (36)103. 

9.33 To Caninius.

I have come upon a true story - though it sounds very like a fable - which is quite worthy of engaging the attention of a mind so happy, so lofty, and so poetical as yours, *   and I came across it at the dinner-table, while the guests were telling various marvellous tales. The author is a man you can implicitly credit, though what has a poet to do with fact? Yet I can assure you that the narrator was one whom you would have trusted, even if you were going to write history. **

There is in Africa a colony called Hippo, quite close to the sea, while hard by is a navigable expanse of water, out of which flows a channel like a river, which, according ns the tide is either ebbing or flowing, is carried into the sea or borne back into the stagnant sheet of water. In this place the people of all ages are devoted to fishing, sailing, and swimming, especially the boys, who are tempted thereto by having nothing to do, and by their love of play. They think it a fine thing to show their pluck by swimming out as far as possible, and he is looked upon as the champion who swims the longest way out and leaves the shore and those who are swimming with him farthest behind. While engaged in one of these contests a certain boy, more daring than the rest, kept swimming on and on. A dolphin met him, and first swam in front of the boy, then behind him, then round him, then came up beneath to carry him, put him off, and again came under him, and carried the lad, who was much afraid, first to the open sea, and then, turning to the shore, restored him to dry land and to his playmates. The story spread through the colony, and every one flocked to the spot to gaze upon the lad, as though he were a marvel, to ask him questions, hear the tale, and tell it over again.

On the following day they crowded to the shore, and scanned the sea and the sheet of water. The boys began to swim, and among them was the hero of the adventure, but he showed less daring than before. Again the dolphin returned at the same time and approached the boy, but he fled with the rest. As though inviting him to approach, and calling him to return, the dolphin leaped out of the sea, then dived and twisted and turned itself into various shapes. This was repeated on the next day, and the day after, and on subsequent days, until the men, who had been bred to the sea, began to be ashamed of being afraid. They approached the dolphin, played with him, and gave him a name, and, when he offered himself to their touch, they stroked and handled him. Their boldness grew as they got to know him. In particular, the boy who was the hero of the first adventure with him, leaped on his back as he swam about, and was carried out to sea and brought back again, the boy thinking that the dolphin recognised and was fond of him, while he too grew attached to the dolphin. Neither showed fear of the other, and thereby the boy grew bolder, and the dolphin still more tame. Moreover, other boys swam with them on the right hand and on the left, urging and encouraging them on, and, curiously enough, another dolphin accompanied the first one, but only as a spectator of the fun, and for company's sake, for he did not follow the other dolphin's example, and would not allow anyone to touch him, but merely led the way for its companion out to sea, and back again, as the boy's playmates did for him.

It is almost incredible, but yet every bit as true as the details just given, that the dolphin which thus carried the lad on his back and played with the boys, used to make his way up from the sea on to dry land, and, after drying himself on the sand and getting warm with the heat of the sun, would roll back again into the sea. It is well known too that Octavius Avitus, the proconsular legate, moved by some absurd superstition, poured a quantity of perfume upon the dolphin as he lay on the shore, and that the fish lied fur refuge from this novel treatment and the smell of the perfume out to the deep sea, and only appeared again at the end of several days, in a limp and melancholy condition. Afterwards, however, it recovered its strength, and resumed its former playfulness and attendance upon the boy. All the magistrates flocked to see the sight, and, as they came and stayed, the finances of the little state were seriously embarrassed by its new expenses, while the place itself began to lose its peaceful and tranquil character. So it was decided to put to death secretly the object which drew the people thither.

I can imagine how you will regret this sad ending, how eloquently you will bewail it, and adorn and magnify the tale. Yet there is no need to add a single fictitious incident, or work it up ; all it requires is that none of the true details shall be omitted.   Farewell.

(*)   Caninius Rufus was a poet; see letter viii. 4.

(**)   The story of this dolphin is also told by Pliny the Elder, HN. ix. (8)26. 

9.36 To Fuscus.

You ask me how I spend the day on my Tuscan villa in summer time. Well, I wake at my own sweet will, usually about the first hour, though it is often before, and rarely later. I keep my windows shut, for it is remarkable how, when all is still and in darkness, and I am withdrawn from distracting influences and am left to myself, and free to do what I like, my thoughts are not led by my eyes, but my eyes by my thoughts; and so my eyes, when they have nothing else to look at, only see the objects which are present before my mind. If I have anything on hand, I think it over, and weigh every word as carefully as though I were actually writing or revising, and in this way I get through more or less work, according as the subject is easy or difficult to compose and bear in mind. I call for a shorthand writer, and, after letting in the daylight, I dictate the passages which I have composed, then he leaves me, and I send for him again, and once again dismiss him.

At the fourth or fifth hour, according as the weather tempts me - for I have no fixed and settled plan for the day - I betake myself to my terrace or covered portico, and there again I resume my thinking and dictating. I ride in my carriage, and still continue my mental occupation, just as when I am walking or lying down. My concentration of thought is unaffected, or rather is refreshed by the change. Then I snatch a brief sleep and again walk, and afterwards read aloud a Greek or Latin speech, as clearly and distinctly as I can, not so much to exercise the vocal organs as to help my digestion, though it does at the same time strengthen my voice. I take another walk, then I am anointed, and take exercise and a bath. While I am at dinner, if I am dining with my wife or a few friends, a book is read to us, and afterwards we hear a comic actor or a musician; then I walk with my attendants, some of whom are men of learning. Thus the evening is passed away with talk on all sorts of subjects, and even the longest day is soon done.

Sometimes I vary this routine, for, if I have been lying down, or walking for any length of time, as soon as I have had my sleep and read aloud, I ride on horseback instead of in a carriage, as it takes less time, and one gets over the ground faster. My friends come in from the neighbouring towns to see me, and take up part of the day, and occasionally, when I am tired, I welcome their call as a pleasant relief. Sometimes I go hunting, but never without my tablets, so that though I may take no game, I still have something to bring back with me. Part of my time too is given to my tenants - though in their opinion not enough - and their clownish complaints give me a fresh zest for my literary work and my round of engagements in town.   Farewell.