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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
LXXXVII. To Calvisius
 
 
OTHER people visit their estates in order to recruit their purses; whilst I go to mine only to return so much the poorer. I had sold my vintage to the merchants, who were extremely eager to purchase it, encouraged by the price it then bore, and what it was probable it would rise to: however, they were disappointed in their expectations. Upon this occasion to have made the same general abatement to all would have been much the easiest, though not so equitable a method. Now I hold it particularly worthy of a man of honour to be governed by principles of strict equity in his domestic as well as public conduct; in little matters as in great ones; in his own concerns as well as in those of others. And if every deviation from rectitude is equally criminal, 1 every approach to it must be equally praiseworthy. So accordingly, I remitted to all in general one-eighth part of the price they had agreed to give me, that none might go away without some compensation: next, I particularly considered those who had advanced the largest sums towards their purchase, and done me so much the more service, and been greater sufferers themselves. To those, therefore, whose purchase amounted to more than ten thousand sesterces, 2 I returned (over and above that which I may call the general and common eighth) a tenth part of what they had paid beyond that sum. I fear I do not express myself sufficiently clearly; I will endeavour to explain my meaning more fully: for instance, suppose a man had purchased of me to the value of fifteen thousand sesterces, 3 I remitted to him one-eighth part of that whole sum, and likewise one-tenth of five thousand. 4 Besides this, as several had deposited, in different proportions, part of the price they had agreed to pay, whilst others had advanced nothing, I thought it would not be at all fair that all these should be favoured with the same undistinguished remission. To those, therefore, who had made any payments, I returned a tenth part upon the sums so paid. By this means I made a proper acknowledgment to each, according to their respective deserts, and likewise encouraged them, not only to deal with me for the future, but to be prompt in their payments. This instance of my good-nature or my judgment (call it which you please) was a considerable expense to me. However, I found my account in it; for all the country greatly approved both of the novelty of these abatements and the manner in which I regulated them. Even those whom I did not “mete” (as they say) “by the same measure,” but distinguished according to their several degrees, thought themselves obliged to me, in proportion to the probity of their principles, and went away pleased with having experienced that not with me
        “The brave and mean an equal honour find.” 5
Farewell.
  1
 
Note 1. It was a doctrine maintained by the Stoics that all crimes are equal. M. [back]
Note 2. About $400. [back]
Note 3. About $600. [back]
Note 4. About $93. [back]
Note 5. Hom. Il. lib. ix. v. 319. [back]
 

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