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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
XXI. To Priscus
 
 
AS I know you eagerly embrace every opportunity of obliging me, so there is no man whom I had rather be under an obligation to. I apply to you, therefore, in preference to anyone else, for a favour which I am extremely desirous of obtaining. You, who are commander-in-chief of a very considerable army, have many opportunities of exercising your generosity; and the length of time you have enjoyed that post must have enabled you to provide for all your own friends. I hope you will now turn your eyes upon some of mine: as indeed they are but a few. Your generous disposition, I know, would be better pleased if the number were greater, but one or two will suffice my modest desires; at present I will only mention Voconius Romanus. His father was of great distinction among the Roman knights, and his father-in-law, or, I might more properly call him, his second father (for his affectionate treatment of Voconius entitles him to that appellation), was still more conspicuous. His mother was one of the most considerable ladies of Upper Spain: you know what character the people of that province bear, and how remarkable they are for their strictness of their manners. As for himself, he lately held the post of flamen. 1 Now, from the time when we were first students together, I have felt very tenderly attached to him. We lived under the same roof, in town and country, we joked together, we shared each other’s serious thoughts: for where indeed could I have found a truer friend or pleasanter companion than he? In his conversation, and even in his very voice and countenance, there is a rare sweetness; as at the bar he displays talents of a high order; acuteness, elegance, ease, and skill: and he writes such letters too that were you to read them you would imagine they had been dictated by the Muses themselves. I have a very great affection for him, as he has for me. Even in the earlier part of our lives, I warmly embraced every opportunity of doing him all the good services which then lay in my power, as I have lately obtained for him from our most gracious prince 2 the privilege 3 granted to those who have three children: a favour which, though Cæsar very rarely bestows, and always with great caution, yet he conferred, at my request, in such a manner as to give it the air and grace of being his own choice. The best way of showing that I think he deserves the kindnesses he has already received from me is by increasing them, especially as he always accepts my services so gratefully as to deserve more. Thus I have shown you what manner of man Romanus is, how thoroughly I have proved his worth, and how much I love him. Let me entreat you to honour him with your patronage in a way suitable to the generosity of your heart, and the eminence of your station. But above all let him have your affection; for though you were to confer upon him the utmost you have in your power to bestow, you can give him nothing more valuable than your friendship. That you may see he is worthy of it, even to the closest degree of intimacy, I send you this brief sketch of his tastes, character, his whole life, in fact. I should continue my intercessions in his behalf, but that I know you prefer not being pressed, and I have already repeated them in every line of this letter: for to show a good reason for what one asks is true intercession, and of the most effectual kind. Farewell.  1
 
Note 1. “Any Roman priest devoted to the service of one particular god was designated Flamen, receiving a distinguishing epithet from the deity to whom he ministered. The office was understood to last for life; but a flamen might be compelled to resign for a breach of duty, or even on account of the occurrence of an ill-omened accident while discharging his functions.” Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities. [back]
Note 2. Trajan. [back]
Note 3. By a law passed A. U. 762, it was enacted that every citizen of Rome who had three children should be excused from all troublesome offices where he lived. This privilege the emperors sometimes extended to those who were not legally entitled to it. [back]
 

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