Providing a series of fascinating views of Imperial Rome, The Letters of the Younger Pliny also offer one of the fullest self-portraits to survive from classical times. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with an introduction by Betty Radice.
A prominent lawyer and administrator, Pliny was also a prolific letter-writer, who numbered among his correspondents such eminent figures as Tacitus, Suetonius and the Emperor Trajan, as well as a wide circle of friends and family. His lively and very personal letters address an astonishing range of topics, from a deeply moving account of his uncle’s death in the eruption that engulfed Pompeii, to observations on the early Christians – ‘a desperate sort of cult carried to extravagant lengths’ – from descriptions of everyday life in Rome, with its scandals and court cases, to Pliny’s life in the country.
Betty Radice’s definitive edition was the forst complete modern translation of Pliny’s letters. In her introduction she examines the shrewd, tolerant and occasionally pompous man who emerges from these letters.
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (c. 61-113), better known as Pliny the Younger, and nephew of Pliny the Elder, was born in Como, Italy. Beginning his career at the bar when he was eighteen, Pliny managed to emerge unscathed from Domitian’s ‘reign of terror’, even being appointed an official at the treasury. In 103 he was awarded a priesthood in recognition of his distinguished public service, and was prominent in several major prosecutions. His nine books of personal letters were selected by Pliny himself and published during his lifetime, while his official correspondence with Trajan was published as a tenth book after his death and contains a celebrated exchange of letters on the early Christians.
If you enjoyed The Letters of the Younger Pliny, you might like Tacitus’ The Annals of Imperial Rome, also available in Penguin Classics.