Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?c.A.D. 113). Letters. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
LXXXV. To the Emperor Trajan
WHILST I was despatching some public affairs, Sir, at my apartments in Prusa, at the foot of Olympus, with the intention of leaving that city the same day, the magistrate Asclepiades informed me that Eumolpus had appealed to me from a motion which Cocceianus Dion made in their senate. Dion, it seems, having been appointed supervisor of a public building, desired that it might be assigned1 to the city in form. Eumolpus, who was counsel for Flavius Archippus, insisted that Dion should first be required to deliver in his accounts relating to this work, before it was assigned to the corporation; suggesting that he had not acted in the manner he ought. He added, at the same time, that in this building, in which your statue is erected, the bodies of Dions wife and son are entombed,2 and urged me to hear this cause in the public court of judicature. Upon my at once assenting to his request, and deferring my journey for that purpose, he desired a longer day in order to prepare matters for hearing, and that I would try this cause in some other city. I appointed the city of Nicea; where, when I had taken my seat, the same Eumolpus, pretending not to be yet sufficiently instructed, moved that the trial might be again put off: Dion, on the contrary, insisted it should be heard. They debated this point very fully on both sides, and entered a little into the merits of the cause; when, being of opinion that it was reasonable it should be adjourned, and thinking it proper to consult with you in an affair which was of consequence in point of precedent, I directed them to exhibit the articles of their respective allegations in writing; for I was desirous you should judge from their own representations of the state of the question between them. Dion promised to comply with this direction, and Eumolpus also assured me he would draw up a memorial of what he had to allege on the part of the community. But he added that, being only concerned as advocate on behalf of Archippus, whose instructions he had laid before me, he had no charge to bring with respect to the sepulchres. Archippus, however, for whom Eumolpus was counsel here, as at Prusa, assured me he would himself present a charge in form upon this head. But neither Eumolpus nor Archippus (though I have waited several days for that purpose) have yet performed their engagement: Dion indeed has; and I have annexed his memorial to this letter. I have inspected the buildings in question, where I find your statue is placed in a library; and as to the edifice in which the bodies of Dions wife and son are said to be deposited, it stands in the middle of a court, which is enclosed with a colonnade. Deign, therefore, I entreat you, Sir, to direct my judgment in the determination of this cause above all others, as it is a point to which the public is greatly attentive, and necessarily so, since the fact is not only acknowledged, but countenanced by many precedents.
Note 1. This probably, was some act whereby the city was to ratify and confirm the proceedings of Dion under the commission assigned to him. [back]
Note 2. It was a notion which generally prevailed with the ancients, in the Jewish as well as heathen world, that there was a pollution in the contact of dead bodies, and this they extended to the very house in which the corpse lay, and even to the uncovered vessels that stood in the same room. (Vid. Pot. Antiq. v. ii. 181.) From some such opinion as this it is probable that the circumstance here mentioned, of placing Trajans statue where these bodies were deposited, was esteemed as a mark of disrespect to his person. [back]