But meanwhile I am enjoying my friends’ teasing

From Pliny’s Letters (5.13) – I note this passage as an instance of Pliny’s relaxing of his authorial persona – of allowing a view to a less constructed version of his self.  Where several times he hints, as immediately below in 4.14 and 5.3, at the livelier sides of his personality, he rarely allows those elements into his published letters so they’re all the more welcome and effective when they do appear.


With this letter you will receive some hendecasyllables of mine with which I amuse myself when I have time to spare in my carriage, my bath, or at dinner. Here are my jokes and witticisms, my loves, sorrows, complaints and vexations; now my style is simple, now more elevated, and I try through variety to appeal to different tastes and produce a few things to please everyone.

Accipies cum hac epistula hendecasyllabos nostros, quibus nos in vehiculo in balineo inter cenam oblectamus otium temporis. His iocamur ludimus amamus dolemus querimur irascimur, describimus aliquid modo pressius modo elatius, atque ipsa varietate temptamus efficere, ut alia aliis quaedam fortasse omnibus placeant.


I admit that I do often write verse which is far from serious, for I also listen to comedy, watch farces, read lyric poetry, and appreciate Sotadic verse; there are besides times when I laugh, make jokes, and enjoy my fun, in fact I can sum up all these innocent relaxations in a word “I am human.”

facio non numquam versiculos severos parum, facio; nam et comoedias audio et specto mimos et lyricos lego et Sotadicos intellego; aliquando praeterea rideo iocor ludo, utque omnia innoxiae remissionis genera breviter amplectar, homo sum.


But before a vote could be taken, Nigrinus, the tribune of the people, read out a well-phrased statement of great importance. In this he complained that counsel sold their services, faked lawsuits for money, settled them by collusion, and made a boast of the large regular incomes to be made by robbery of their fellow-citizens. He quoted the relevant paragraphs of the law, reminded the Senate of its decrees, and ended by saying that our noble Emperor should be asked to remedy these serious evils himself, since the law and the Senate’s decrees were fallen into contempt. After a few days the Emperor issued a decree, which was firm but moderate in tone. It is published in the official records, so you can read it.

How glad I am that I have always kept clear of any contracts, presents, remunerations, or even small gifts for my conduct of cases! It is true that one ought to shun dishonesty as a shameful thing, not because it is illegal; but, even so, it is a pleasure to find an official ban on a practice one would never have permitted oneself. Perhaps I shall lose some of the credit and reputation I won from my resolve—in fact I am sure to do so, when everyone is compelled to behave as I did of my own free will—but meanwhile I am enjoying my friends’ teasing, when they hail me as a prophet or pretend that this measure is directed against my own robberies and greed.

Sed prius quam sententiae dicerentur, Nigrinus tribunus plebis recitavit libellum disertum et gravem, quo questus est venire advocationes, venire etiam praevaricationes, in lites coiri, et gloriae loco poni ex spoliis civium magnos et statos reditus. Recitavit capita legum, admonuit senatus consultorum, in fine dixit petendum ab optimo principe, ut quia leges, quia senatus consulta contemnerentur, ipse tantis vitiis mederetur. Pauci dies, et liber principis severus et tamen moderatus: leges ipsum; est in publicis actis. Quam me iuvat, quod in causis agendis non modo pactione dono munere verum etiam xeniis semper abstinui! Oportet quidem, quae sunt inhonesta, non quasi inlicita sed quasi pudenda vitare; iucundum tamen si prohiberi publice videas, quod numquam tibi ipse permiseris. Erit fortasse, immo non dubie, huius propositi mei et minor laus et obscurior fama, cum omnes ex necessitate facient quod ego sponte faciebam. Interim fruor voluptate, cum alii divinum me, alii meis rapinis meae avaritiae occursum per ludum ac iocum dictitant. Vale.

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