Letters to an Emperor

Monday, 3 November 2014

Pliny the Younger

Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
Vol. 9, pp. 404-406 of The Harvard Classics

Pliny sought the advice of the Emperor Trajan for dealing with the Christians who were alarmingly on the increase. He casually relates how he had tortured two Christians.

LVI. To the Emperor Trajan

UPON intimating, Sir, my intention to the city of Apemea, 1 of examining into the state of their public dues, their revenue and expenses, they told me they were all extremely willing I should inspect their accounts, but that no proconsul had ever yet looked them over, as they had a privilege (and that of a very ancient date of administering the affairs of their corporation in the manner they thought proper. I required them to draw up a memorial of what they then asserted, which I transmit to you precisely as I received it; though I am sensible it contains several things foreign to the question. I beg you will deign to instruct me as to how I am to act in this affair, for I should be extremely sorry either to exceed or fall short of the duties of my commission.

Note 1. A city in Bithynia. M.

LVII. Trajan to Pliny
THE MEMORIAL of the Apameans annexed to your letter has saved me the necessity of considering the reasons they suggest why the former proconsuls forebore to inspect their accounts, since they are willing to submit them to your examination. Their honest compliance deserves to be rewarded; and they may be assured the enquiry you are to make in pursuance of my orders shall be with a full reserve to their privileges.

LVIII. To the Emperor Trajan
THE NICOMEDIANS, Sir, before my arrival in this province, had begun to build a new forum adjoining their former, in a corner of which stands an ancient temple dedicated to the mother of the gods. 1 This fabric must either be repaired or removed, and for this reason chiefly, because it is a much lower building than that very lofty one which is now in process of erection. Upon enquiry whether this temple had been consecrated, I was informed that their ceremonies of dedication differ from ours. You will be pleased, therefore, Sir, to consider whether a temple which has not been consecrated according to our rites may be removed, 2 consistently with the reverence due to religion: for, if there should be no objection from that quarter, the removal in every other respect would be extremely convenient.

Note 1. Cybele, Rhea, or Ops, as she is otherwise called; from whom, according to the pagan creed, the rest of the gods are supposed to have descended. M. 
Note 2. Whatever was legally consecrated was ever afterwards unapplicable to profane uses. M. 

LIX. Trajan to Pliny
YOU may without scruple, my dearest Secundus, if the situation requires it, remove the temple of the mother of the gods, from the place where it now stands, to any other spot more convenient. You need be under no difficulty with respect to the act of dedication; for the ground of a foreign city 1 is not capable of receiving that kind of consecration which is sanctified by our laws.

Note 1. That is, a city not admitted to enjoy the laws and privileges of Rome. M.

LX. To the Emperor Trajan
WE have celebrated, Sir (with those sentiments of joy your virtues so justly merit), the day of your accession to the empire, which was also its preservation, imploring the gods to preserve you in health and prosperity; for upon your welfare the security and repose of the world depend. I renewed at the same time the oath of allegiance at the head of the army, which repeated it after me in the usual form, the people of the province zealously concurring in the same oath.

LXI. Trajan to Pliny
YOUR letter, my dearest Secundus, was extremely acceptable, as it informed me of the zeal and affection with which you, together with the army and the provincials, solemnized the day of my accession to the empire.

LXII. To the Emperor Trajan
THE DEBTS which were owing to the public are, by the prudence, Sir, of your counsels, and the care of my administration, either actually paid in or now being collected: but I am afraid the money must lie unemployed. For as, on one side, there are few or no opportunities of purchasing land, so on the other, one cannot meet with any person who is willing to borrow of the public 1 (especially at 12 per cent. interest) when they can raise money upon the same terms from private sources. You will consider then, Sir, whether it may not be advisable, in order to invite responsible persons to take this money, to lower the interest; or if that scheme should not succeed, to place it in the hands of the decurii, upon their giving sufficient security to the public. And though they should not be willing to receive it, yet as the rate of interest will be diminished, the hardship will be so much the less.

Note 1. The reason why they did not choose to borrow of the public at the same rate of interest which they paid to private persons was (as one of the commentators observes) because in the former instance they were obliged to give security, whereas in the latter they could raise money upon their personal credit. M.

LXIII. Trajan to Pliny
I AGREE with you, my dear Pliny, that there seems to be no other method of facilitating the placing out of the public money than by lowering the interest; the measure of which you will determine according to the number of the borrowers. But to compel persons to receive it who are not disposed to do so, when possibly they themselves may have no opportunity of employing it, is by no means consistent with the justice of my government.

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