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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
XXXVI. To Calvisius Rufus
 
 
I MUST have recourse to you, as usual, in an affair which concerns my finances. An estate adjoining my land, and indeed running into it, is for sale. There are several considerations strongly inclining me to this purchase, while there are others no less weighty deterring me from it. Its first recommendation is, the beauty which will result from uniting this farm to my own lands; next, the advantage as well as pleasure of being able to visit it without additional trouble and expense; to have it superintended by the same steward, and almost by the same sub-agents, and to have one villa to support and embellish, the other just to keep in common repair. I take into this account furniture, housekeepers, fancy-gardeners, artificers, and even hunting-apparatus, as it makes a very great difference whether you get these altogether into one place or scatter them about in several. On the other hand, I don’t know whether it is prudent to expose so large a property to the same climate, and the same risks of accident happening; to distribute one’s possessions about seems a safer way of meeting the caprice of fortune, besides, there is something extremely pleasant in the change of air and place, and the going about between one’s properties. And now, to come to the chief consideration: the lands are rich, fertile, and well watered, consisting chiefly of meadow-ground, vineyard, and wood, while the supply of building timber and its returns, though moderate, still, keep at the same rate. But the soil, fertile as it is, has been much impoverished by not having been properly looked after. The person last in possession used frequently to seize and sell the stock, by which means, although he lessened his tenants’ arrears for the time being, yet he left them nothing to go on with and the arrears ran up again in consequence. I shall be obliged, then, to provide them with slaves, which I must buy, and at a higher than the usual price, as these will be good ones; for I keep no fettered slaves 1 myself, and there are none upon the estate. For the rest, the price, you must know, is three millions of sesterces. 2 It has formerly gone for five millions, 3 but owing partly to the general hardness of the times, and partly to its being thus stripped of tenants, the income of this estate is reduced, and consequently its value. You will be inclined perhaps to enquire whether I can easily raise the purchase-money? My estate, it is true, is almost entirely in land, though I have some money out at interest; but I shall find no difficulty in borrowing any sum I may want. I can get it from my wife’s mother, whose purse I may use with the same freedom as my own; so that you need not trouble yourself at all upon that point, should you have no other objections, which I should like you very carefully to consider: for, as in everything else, so, particularly in matters of economy, no man has more judgment and experience than yourself. Farewell.  1
 
Note 1. The Romans used to employ their criminals in the lower offices of husbandry, such as ploughing, &c. Plin. H. N. 1. 18, 3. M. [back]
Note 2. About $100,000. [back]
Note 3. About $200,000. [back]
 

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