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date: 17 June 2024

Pliny (2) the Younger, 61/62–c. 112 celocked

Pliny (2) the Younger, 61/62–c. 112 celocked

  • Christopher Whitton

Summary

Pliny the Younger is the best-documented private individual of the early Roman principate, and one of the most accomplished writers of Latin prose. Nephew of Pliny the Elder, he rose from provincial equestrian origins to serve as suffect consul in 100 ce and governor of Pontus-Bithynia in c. 110–112. His nine-book Epistles is an innovative collection of purportedly authentic letters, crafted into a literary work of minute artistry. It sketches a fragmented portrait of Trajanic elite society, with Pliny as the exemplary individual at its centre. Among its varied contents are eleven letters to Tacitus, including celebrated narratives of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79, several accounts of senatorial trials, and fulsome descriptions of two villas belonging to Pliny. The Panegyricus, the only extant Latin speech from the two hundred years following the death of Cicero, is a founding example of imperial encomium, praising Trajan and vilifying Domitian. The book of letters to and from Trajan known as Epistles 10 bears unique witness to Roman provincial governance, and to early Roman views of Christianity. All three works proved influential in later antiquity, and again from the Renaissance.

Subjects

  • Latin Literature
  • Roman History and Historiography

Updated in this version

Article rewritten to reflect current scholarship.

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