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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
XLI. To Maturus Arrianus
 
 
MY advancement to the dignity of augur 1 is an honour that justly indeed merits your congratulations; not only because it is highly honourable to receive, even in the slightest instances, a testimony of the approbation of so wise and discreet a prince, 2 but because it is, moreover, an ancient and religious institution, which has this sacred and peculiar privilege annexed to it, that it is for life. Other sacerdotal offices, though they may, perhaps, be almost equal to this one in dignity, yet, as they are given, so they may be taken away again: but fortune has no further power over this than to bestow it. What recommends this dignity still more highly is, that I have the honour to succeed so illustrious a person as Julius Frontinus. He for many years, upon the nomination-day of proper persons to be received into the sacred college, constantly proposed me, as though he had a view to electing me as his successor; and since it actually proved so in the event, I am willing to look upon it as something more than mere accident. But the circumstance, it seems, that most pleases you in this affair, is, that Cicero enjoyed the same post; and you rejoice (you tell me) to find that I follow his steps as closely in the path of honours as I endeavour to do in that of eloquence. I wish, indeed, that as I had the advantage of being admitted earlier into the same order of priesthood, and into the consular office, than Cicero, so I might, in my later years, catch some spark, at least, of his divine genius! The former, indeed, being at man’s disposal, may be conferred on me and on many others, but the latter it is as presumptuous to hope for as it is difficult to reach, being in the gift of heaven alone. Farewell.  1
 
Note 1. Their business was to interpret dreams, oracles, prodigies, &c., and to foretell whether any action should be fortunate or prejudicial to particular persons, or to the whole commonwealth. Upon this account, they very often occasioned the displacing of magistrates, the deferring of public assemblies, &c. Kennet’s Rom. Antiq. M. [back]
Note 2. Trajan. [back]
 

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