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

Christopher Whitton

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.

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Cassiodorus, Roman magistrate, author of political and religious works, c. 485–c. 580 CE  

M. Shane Bjornlie

Cassiodorus was a prominent participant in the political, intellectual, and religious life of 6th-century ce Italy, and a learned scholar of the classical and Christian traditions. As a member of the administration of the Gothic government under Theoderic and his successors, he advanced through what may be considered the late-Roman cursus honorum. He was also witness to the dramatic political and religious debates of the day, including volatile interactions between the royal court at Ravenna, the Senate at Rome, and the emperor in Constantinople. Justinian’s Gothic War in Italy effectively ended his political career, after which he first became an exile in Constantinople, and then the founder of a school for Christian learning (Vivarium) on his ancestral estates in southern Italy. The literary works that he produced span the spectrum of his personal experiences and attest to the intellectual and cultural range of people living during the 6th century: panegyrics, a chronicle, ethnography, letters, treatises on reading, grammars, Christian exegesis, and ecclesiastical history.

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Sidonius Apollinaris  

Joop van Waarden

Sidonius Apollinaris, c. 430–c. 485 ce, Gallo-Roman aristocrat, poet and letter writer, civil servant, and bishop, is one of the most distinct voices to survive from Late Antiquity as an eyewitness of the end of Roman power in the West. Born in Lyon to a family of high-ranking Gallo-Roman administrators, he became a leading resident of the Auvergne through his marriage. In the 450s and 460s, he delivered poetic panegyrics to three emperors: his father-in-law Avitus, Majorian, and Anthemius, voicing Gallic, and especially Auvergnat, interests. His other poetic output consists of occasional verse, celebrating moments of high-profile aristocratic, and Christian life. He put out a carefully crafted collection of his selected letters in nine books against the foil of his personal and contemporary history, including significant elements like his early career, culminating in the urban prefecture in Rome (468/469), lettered leisure in the company of sophisticated friends on Gallic estates, and the turning of the scales that made him into bishop of his hometown Clermont, in vain opposing the onset of the Visigoths and having to put up with the final withdrawal of Roman authority from Gaul (475/476). After a period of exile, he was reinstated as bishop under Visigothic sovereignty. His career is typical for the kind of aristocratic bishop that emerged in Gaul as imperial career opportunities vanished, social distinction being transferred to office holding in the Church, and a distinguished ascetic lifestyle.