Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?c.A.D. 113). Letters. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
LXXIII. To Restitutus
THIS obstinate illness of yours alarms me; and though I know how extremely temperate you are, yet I fear lest your disease should get the better of your moderation. Let me entreat you then to resist it with a determined abstemiousness: a remedy, be assured, of all others the most laudable as well as the most salutary. Human nature itself admits the practicability of what I recommend: it is a rule, at least, which I always enjoin my family to observe with respect to myself. I hope, I say to them, that should I be attacked with any disorder, I shall desire nothing of which I ought either to be ashamed or have reason to repent; however, if my distemper should prevail over my resolution, I forbid that anything be given me but by the consent of my physicians; and I shall resent your compliance with me in things improper as much as another man would their refusal. I once had a most violent fever; when the fit was a little abated, and I had been anointed,1 my physician offered me something to drink; I held out my hand, desiring he would first feel my pulse, and upon his not seeming quite satisfied, I instantly returned the cup, though it was just at my lips. Afterwards, when I was preparing to go into the bath, twenty days from the first attack of my illness, perceiving the physicians whispering together, I enquired what they were saying. They replied they were of opinion I might possibly bathe with safety; however, that they were not without some suspicion of risk. What need is there, said I, of my taking a bath at all? And so, with perfect calmness and tranquillity, I gave up a pleasure I was upon the point of enjoying, and abstained from the bath as serenely and composedly as though I were going into it. I mention this, not only by way of enforcing my advice by example, but also that this letter may be a sort of tie upon me to persevere in the same resolute abstinence for the future. Farewell.
Note 1. Unction was much esteemed and prescribed by the ancients. Celsus expressly recommends it in the remission of acute distempers: ungi leniter que pertractari corpus, etiam in acutis et recentibus morbis oportet; in remissione tamen, &c. Celci Med. ed. Almeloveen p. 88. M. [back]