Monday, March 17, 2014

Pliny the Younger - Latin Literature

Welcome back to my blog! Today, I'm talking about Pliny the Younger! He was a Roman lawyer, author, and Magistrate, not to be confused with his uncle Pliny the Elder. In this case, we are going to analyze some of the different personal letters he wrote. Below is the link from where I read them.

You may be thinking "Okay, it's just some letters, I can do that. I don't see any sense in analyzing some letters". But if you pay attention, you'll notice something about these letters: They are ALL beautifully written and have special things in common. What do I mean when I say this? Let's see.

The first letter of the web page, the one to Fabatus, is merely speaking about seeing Fabatus again. But when you read "For I cannot tell you how we long to see you, and we shall no longer delay our visit. To that end we are even now getting our luggage together, and we shall push on as fast as the state of the roads will permit" you can only think you are reading Shakespear or an author like that. You'd never think that it is just a letter sent by a normal man to his wive's grandfather.

Another thing that was able to catch my attention was in the second letter. "It is strange how people are flocking to call upon him. Every one detests and hates him, yet they run to visit him in shoals as though they both admired and loved him. To put in a nutshell what I mean, people in paying court to Regulus are copying the example he set." It's speaking about hypocrites. These people have existed since the beginning of times, and it can be shown in this letter by Pliny to Attius Clemens. It is all politics, I think: when you are in public, you have to grieve your own and others' loses, you have to show someone empathy and do everything that is expected from you, even if you despise someone on the inside.  This is something we can all see nowadays, when almost every person has two or more faces for different occasions.

This kind of writing (personal letters) can tell us a lot about how the world and life was back then. Often, when people write history books or epics, they exagerate the facts and change the way things look, as it is said, "History is written by the victor." But when we are able to find personal letters from different people, they can tell a lot about how the times really were. Still, there's obviously some feelings and thoughts that must be hidden in these letters: what would happen if it got caught? For example in the letter 23, to Pomponius Bassus, Pliny begins with: "I have been called in by our excellent Emperor to take part and advise upon the following case." I'm sure he was thinking something more similar to "The dammed Emperor wants me to do his job again..." But, of course, that is something that can't be written! God knows who might stumble upon this letter and show it to the Emperor.

I think this whole genre of writing letters or correspondence to close friends, coworkers and family is a more reliable way of knowing what was really happening, how the different strings in the government and social life worked. Even though there is some modification, as I said in the last paragraph, you don't lie to your close friends the way you can lie to the world itself. This is why Pliny the Younger's letters have much importance when we analyze Roman lifestile and Latin literature. 

As Pliny the Younger always says: Farewell.

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