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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
LIII. To Calvisius
 
 
IT is certain the law does not allow a corporate city to inherit any estate by will, or to receive a legacy. Saturninus, however, who has appointed me his heir, had left a fourth part of his estate to our corporation of Comum; afterwards, instead of a fourth part, he bequeathed four hundred thousand sesterces. 1 This bequest, in the eye of the law, is null and void, but, considered as the clear and express will of the deceased, ought to stand firm and valid. Myself, I consider the will of the dead (though I am afraid what I say will not please the lawyers) of higher authority than the law, especially when the interest of one’s native country is concerned. Ought I, who made them a present of eleven hundred thousand sesterces 2 out of my own patrimony, to withhold a benefaction of little more than a third part of that sum out of an estate which has come quite by a chance into my hands? You, who like a true patriot have the same affection for this our common country, will agree with me in opinion, I feel sure. I wish therefore you would, at the next meeting of the Decurii, acquaint them, just briefly and respectfully, as to how the law stands in this case, and then add that I offer them four hundred thousand sesterces according to the direction in Saturninus’ will. You will represent this donation as his present and his liberality; I only claim the merit of complying with his request. I did not trouble to write to their senate about this, fully relying as I do upon our intimate friendship and your wise discretion, and being quite satisfied that you are both able and willing to act for me upon this occasion as I would for myself; besides, I was afraid I should not seem to have so cautiously guarded my expressions in a letter as you will be able to do in a speech. The countenance, the gesture, and even the tone of voice govern and determine the sense of the speaker, whereas a letter, being without these advantages, is more liable to malignant misinterpretation. Farewell.  1
 
Note 1. About $16,000. [back]
Note 2. About $42,000. [back]
 

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