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from the natives, and acceptance of bribes for the condemnation of the innocent, had become notorious; and Pliny was one of the advocates for the prosecutions. In commenting upon the lenient punishment of one of these offenders by the Senate, he remarks that opinions are numbered, not weighed, and that, in a public assembly, there is nothing so unequal as equality.
He practised chiefly, however, in the civil courts, and, in one of his letters, gives instances of the unprofessional conduct of the younger members of the bar, by many of whom all the barriers of modesty and reverence broken down, and who shamelessly hired audiences to applaud them. He also gives a sketch of an informer, named Regulus, who had amassed a fortune at his detestable occupation, in which some of the infamous proceedings of the class are exposed, and he shows that to be feared often does far more for a man than to be loved. Speaking of causes being argued and decided in the courts much more rapidly than formerly, he asks—Are we wiser than our ancestors, or is our practice more just and reasonable than the law itself, which liberally grants so many hours, and days, and adjournments? The very first duty that a judge owes to his position is patience; for even superfluous matter had better be listened to than any important point omitted. Still referring to Regulus, he tells how he secured a legacy by pretending to predict the recovery of a dying woman; and, in another case, begged the physicians to prolong a man's life, in order that he might make a will in his favour, and then reproached them for grudging him the happy release of death. He also relates that, on the death of his son, he ostentatiously. slaughtered all his favourite ponies, and dogs, and birds, on his funeral pile, and, ordering an immense number of statues and pictures of the boy, invited an audience to hear a memoir of him read, which he afterwards had printed for public distribution. Commenting on the force of character which prompted all this, his conclusion is that, as modesty cripples the action of virtue, so effrontery strengthens vice.
For more than two centuries the wealth of the whole civilized world had been gradually pouring into Rome,
creating among its possessors a craving for luxury and display, and also a taste for works of art and ancient literature, instead of oratory and politics. Amongst the men of letters with whom he associated, Pliny mentions Silius Italicus, who composed a poem on the Punic war, and starved himself to death rather than endure the pain of an incurable disease ; Tacitus, with whom he exchanged compositions for mutual criticism ; and Martial, whose writings had plenty of flavour, plenty of bitterness, and not less of straight-forward honesty. Others to whom he alludes are Euphrates, a stoic from Syria, whose person and speeches were very winning ; Artemidorus, a Greek philosopher, who was possessed of marvellous endurance ; and Isceus, an elegant scholar, with a wonderful gift of speaking without preparation. In one of his letters Pliny recommends the practice of translation for acquiring propriety of expression, as well as style and taste, and points out the help to be derived from history and poetry, both in speaking and in composition. Remember, he adds, to be careful in your choice of authors, and that one ought to read much, but not many books. In literature, he concludes, I find my joy and my solace; there is no gladness that it cannot increase, no sorrow that it cannot lessen; it makes me understand my troubles better, and bear them more patiently. Certainly there is a pleasure in these pursuits, but they prosper best when the heart is light.
We learn from Horace that there were booksellers and publishers in Rome, but Pliny tells us that it was customary for authors to read or recite their compositions in public before incurring the expense of having copies made for sale, and that, during the fashionable season, patrons of literature received invitations almost daily to such readings, the listeners at which nearly always included hired applauders. He also explains how he managed to get an audience for his own works, and to secure their attention and approval.
He often alludes to the picturesque scenery of Como, where he was born, and where many wealthy Romans had villas on the banks of the lake. He describes a bronze statue which he had purchased as a gift to the temple of Jupiter there, and he presented the inhabitants with a
library, explaining to a friend his motives for preferring a stimulus to mental culture to provision for public games
a gladiatorial show. Subsequently, in a letter to Tacitus, he offered to contribute largely towards the establishment of a school, being satisfied that he could do nothing better for his fellow townsmen than accustom their children, by educating them in the place of their birth, to love and cling to their native soil.
No particulars are recorded of his first marriage, but many pleasant glimpses are obtained from his letters of his domestic happiness with his second wife. Writing to her aunt, he praises her intelligence, her frugality, and her devotion to him, just as a modern husband might do; and three of his letters to her are charming specimens of his solicitude and affection. Then there is a letter to his grandfather on his having dedicated a chapel to the memory of his son, and congratulating him on his birthday. In another he speaks kindly of his freedmen and slaves, and asks a friend to receive one of them, who is an invalid, that he may have the benefit of change of air. Among his acquaintances was Verginius Rufus, who twice declined to be made emperor by the legions he commanded in Germany, and whose death and public funeral are described. Writing of Spurinna, another friend, he dwells upon his regular habits, his daily drive with his wife, his literary tastes, his afternoon bath and game at tennis, his elegantly served dinner, and his vigorous frame and intellect at the age of seventy-seven.
Another of his acquaintances was a martyr to gout; and by another he was asked to find a husband for his brother's daughter, and a tutor for his children. Several of his letters are addressed to Voconius Romanus, a very intimate friend, who was a charming talker, with a sweet expression of countenance, and possessing abilities of the highest order. The most touching of all his letters is one announcing the death, in her fourteenth year, of a friend's daughter who, he says, combined the gravity of a matron with the sweetness of a girl, and was worthy of a longer life, nay, of immortality. How she clung to her father's neck, how affectionately she greeted his friends, how she loved her nurse and attendants, how intelligently she read, and with what self-restraint and patience she bore her last illness, encouraging those around her by the vigour of her mind, even when all her bodily strength was gone! She was betrothed, he adds, to a noble youth, and it went to his heart to hear the order given that what was to have been laid out in dresses and jewels, should be spent on incense, and unguents, and spices.
Pliny lived much in the country, and was fond of contrasting life in Rome with rural enjoyments, the busy routine of his occupations in town with the quiet reading and writing, and the refreshing bodily repose in his house at Laurentum ; adopting the saying of his friend Atilius, that it is better to have nothing to do, than to be doing nothing.'
His appreciation of beautiful scenery is evinced in a description of the source of the Clitumnus, a river in Umbria ; and he mentions that, besides the principal spring, several others, each with a distinct source, unite with it in its onward course ; just as the water from a number of wells is made to converge into a single stream, in the hilly regions of Afghanistan, for the purpose of irrigating the cultivable plains around them. He was also fond of describing the attractions of his rural residences, of which he had several, and how conveniently and comfortably the different rooms were arranged and furnished, with well-stocked gardens attached to them, and access to the sea-shore, where excellent soles and prawns might be caught. His Tuscan property was some distance from the sea, in the midst of an amphitheatre surrounded by mountains, whose heights were covered with trees, and their sides with vineyards, whilst the woods were stocked with game, and bountiful crops were yielded by the rich soil of the valleys below. The arable land, he continues, is so stiff that it has to be gone over nine times with the plough, and neverfailing streams flow through the sloping meadows. Passing the stables, and through a shrubbery of evergreens, to the house, with its colonnade and porch, and a lawn ornamented with statues, and box trees in fantastic shapes, one seems to be reading of a country seat in England, rather than of a Roman gentleman's estate nearly two thousand years ago. He speaks, too, of having built a temple at a place where he owned some land, and of the banquet he intended to give on the occasion of its consecration, quite after the present fashion.
We must now follow him to Bithynia and Pontus, in Asia Minor, of which provinces he was appointed governor by Trajan in the year A.D. 103. Writing from there to a friend who was proceeding to the government of Achaia, he gives vent to his reverence for the Grecian birth-places of civilisation and literature, and urges him to respect the traditions and legends of its present inhabitants, remembering what each of the States once was, and to rule them, as the cities of freemen still, with love and gentleness. In his own administration he seems to have referred the most trivial questions for the decision of the emperor, who objected to the formation of a fire brigade, lest it should become a factious political society, and reproved Pliny for not having detected the jobbery of the townspeople in the construction of an aqueduct. In another instance Trajan demurred to the erection of public baths on the site of an old temple, pointing out that the ground was still sacred.
For many years after the establishment of Christianity the Romans, who were tolerant of all religions, confused the new faith with that of the Jews, and Titus imagined that the destruction of their temple at Jerusalem would also eradicate the Christians. They had, however, now spread their doctrine through every province of the empire, and Pliny writes to Trajan for instructions how they should be dealt with. He represents them as meeting secretly before daybreak to pray to Christ, binding themselves by an oath to lead an honest and moral life, and eating a harmless meal together. He adds that their superstition has reached the villages and the country, as well as the cities, and is embraced by persons of all ranks and ages. The emperor, in reply, tells him not to go out of his way to look for them, but if brought before him, and they refuse to deny that they are Christians, they must be punished. Anonymous informations, however, ought not, he says, to be received in any prosecutions, as being dangerous precedents, and contrary to the spirit of the age.
After remaining two years in his province Pliny returned