Pliny the Younger (61 CE-c. 113 CE) was a well-connected official in the Rome of the first century, and it is through his ten Books of Letters that we have one of the liveliest and most informal pictures of the period.
As a lawyer and magistrate, he rose through the senate to become consul in AD 100 and therefore corresponded with leading figures including the historian Tacitus, the biographer Suetonius, the philosophers Artemidorus and Euphrates the Stoic and, most notably, Emperor Trajan. The letters which flowed between Trajan and Pliny in the last decade of his life form Book X and are a remarkable glimpse into the relationship an emperor would have with an ‘imperial magistrate’. The letters are particularly well known because they touch upon key topics of the time. These include the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (in which Pliny’s uncle, Pliny the Elder, died) and his interaction with the early Christians, but Pliny also gives accounts of or comments on political events, trials, and social and domestic issues. These letters effectively allow us to meet and listen to a significant Roman of the time.
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Roman life brilliantly illuminated!
- Rachel Redford