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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
L. To the Emperor Trajan
 
 
WHEN I reflect upon the splendour of your exalted station, and the magnanimity of your spirit, nothing, I am persuaded, can be more suitable to both than to point out to you such works as are worthy of your glorious and immortal name, as being no less useful than magnificent. Bordering upon the territories of the city of Nicomedia is a most extensive lake; over which marbles, fruits, woods, and all kinds of materials, the commodities of the country, are brought over in boats up to the highroad, at little trouble and expense, but from thence are conveyed in carriages to the seaside, at a much greater charge and with great labour. To remedy this inconvenience, many hands will be in request; but upon such an occasion they cannot be wanting: for the country, and particularly the city, is exceedingly populous; and one may assuredly hope that every person will readily engage in a work which will be of universal benefit. It only remains then to send hither, if you shall think proper, a surveyor or an architect, in order to examine whether the lake lies above the level of the sea; the engineers of this province being of opinion that the former is higher by forty cubits. 1 I find there is in the neighbourhood of this place a large canal, which was cut by a king of this country; but as it is left unfinished, it is uncertain whether it was for the purpose of draining the adjacent fields, or making a communication between the lake and the river. It is equally doubtful too whether the death of the king, or the despair of being able to accomplish the design, prevented the completion of it. If this was the reason, I am so much the more eager and warmly desirous, for the sake of your illustrious character (and I hope you will pardon me the ambition), that you may have the glory of executing what kings could only attempt.  1
 
Note 1. A Roman cubit is equal to 1 foot, 5.406 inches of our measure. Arbuthnot’s Tab. M. [back]
 

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