Nonfiction > Harvard Classics > Pliny the Younger > Letters
Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
LXXI. To Cornelianus
I RECEIVED lately the most exquisite satisfaction at Centumcellæ 1 (as it is now called), being summoned thither by Cæsar 2 to attend a council. Could anything indeed afford a higher pleasure than to see the emperor exercising his justice, his wisdom, and his affability, even in retirement, where those virtues are most observable? Various were the points brought in judgment before him, and which proved, in so many different instances, the excellence of the judge. The cause of Claudius Ariston came on first. He is an Ephesian nobleman, of great munificence and unambitious popularity, whose virtues have rendered him obnoxious to a set of people of far different characters; they had instigated an informer against him, of the same infamous stamp with themselves; but he was honourably acquitted. The next day, the case of Galitta, accused of adultery, was heard. Her husband, who is a military tribune, was upon the point of offering himself as a candidate for certain honours at Rome, but she had stained her own good name and his by an intrigue with a centurion. 3 The husband informed the consul’s lieutenant, who wrote to the emperor about it. Cæsar, having thoroughly sifted the evidence, cashiered the centurion, and sentenced him to banishment. It remained that some penalty should be inflicted likewise upon the other party, as it is a crime of which both must necessarily by equally guilty. But the husband’s affection for his wife inclined him to drop that part of the prosecution, not without some reflections on his forbearance; for he continued to live with her even after he had commenced this prosecution, content, it would seem, with having removed his rival. But he was ordered to proceed in the suit; and, though he complied with great reluctance, it was necessary, nevertheless, that she should be condemned. Accordingly, she was sentenced to the punishment directed by the Julian law. 4 The emperor thought proper to specify, in his decree, the name and office of the centurion, that it might appear he passed it in virtue of military discipline; lest it should be imagined he claimed a particular cognizance in every cause of the same nature. The third day was employed in examining into an affair which had occasioned a good deal of talk and various reports; it was concerning the codicils of Julius Tiro, part of which was plainly genuine, while the other part, it was alleged, was forged. The persons accused of this fraud were Sempronius Senecio, a Roman knight, and Eurythmus, Cæsar’s freedman and procurator. 5 The heirs jointly petitioned the emperor, when he was in Dacia, 6 that he would reserve to himself the trial of this cause; to which he consented. On his return from that expedition, he appointed a day for the hearing; and when some of the heirs, as though out of respect to Eurythmus, offered to withdraw the suit, the emperor nobly replied, “He is not Polycletus, 7 nor am I Nero.” However, he indulged the petitioners with an adjournment, and the time being expired, he now sat to hear the cause. Two of the heirs appeared, and desired that either their whole number might be compelled to plead, as they had all joined in the information, or that they also might have leave to withdraw. Cæsar delivered his opinion with great dignity and moderation; and when the counsel on the part of Senecio and Eurythmus had represented that unless their clients were heard, they would remain under the suspicion of guilt,—“I am not concerned,” said the emperor, “what suspicions they may lie under, it is I that am suspected”; and then turning to us, “Advise me,” said he, “how to act in this affair, for you see they complain when allowed to withdraw their suit.” At length, by the advice of the counsel, he ordered notice to be given to the heirs that they should either proceed with the case or each of them justify their reasons for not doing so; otherwise that he would pass sentence upon them as calumniators. 8 Thus you see how usefully and seriously we spent our time, which, however, was diversified with amusements of the most agreeable kind. We were every day invited to Cæsar’s table, which, for so great a prince, was spread with much plainness and simplicity. There we were either entertained with interludes or passed the night in the most pleasing conversation. When we took our leave of him the last day, he made each of us presents; so studiously polite is Cæsar! As for myself, I was not only charmed with the dignity and wisdom of the judge, the honour done to the assessors, the ease and unreserved freedom of our social intercourse, but with the exquisite situation of the place itself. This delightful villa is surrounded by the greenest meadows, and overlooks the shore, which bends inwards, forming a complete harbour. The left arm of this port is defended by exceedingly strong works, while the right is in process of completion. An artificial island, which rises at the mouth of the harbour, breaks the force of the waves, and affords a safe passage to ships on either side. This island is formed by a process worth seeing: stones of a most enormous size are transported hither in a large sort of pontoons and, being piled one upon the other, are fixed by their own weight, gradually accumulating in the manner, as it were, of a natural mound. It already lifts its rocky back above the ocean, while the waves which beat upon it, being broken and tossed to an immense height, foam with a prodigious noise, and whiten all the surrounding sea. To these stones are added wooden piers, which in process of time will give it the appearance of a natural island. This haven is to be called by the name of its great author, 9 and will prove of infinite benefit, by affording a secure retreat to ships on that extensive and dangerous coast. Farewell.  1
Note 1. Civita Vecchia. [back]
Note 2. Trajan. [back]
Note 3. An officer in the Roman legions, answering in some sort to a captain in our companies. M. [back]
Note 4. This law was made by Augustus Cæsar; but it nowhere clearly appears what was the peculiar punishment it inflicted. M. [back]
Note 5. An officer employed by the emperor to receive and regulate the public revenue in the provinces. M. [back]
Note 6. Comprehending Transylvania, Moldavia, and Walachia. M. [back]
Note 7. Polycletus was a freedman, and great favourite of Nero. M. [back]
Note 8. Memmius, or Rhemmius (the critics are not agreed which), was author of a law by which it was enacted that whosoever was convicted to calumny and false accusation should be stigmatized with a mark in his forehead; and by the law of the twelve tables, false accusers were to suffer the same punishment as would have been inflicted upon the person unjustly accused if the crime had been proved. M. [back]
Note 9. Trajan. [back]


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