Commentary by Dan Houston,
revised by J. Bailly
Pliny complains about the poor quality of young lawyers. They pay for
their applause, and the centumviral court has deteriorated as a result.
The addressee is "Maximus," a common cognomen, and more is not known
about this addressee. Eight other letters of Pliny are also addressed
to a simple "Maximus" (III.2, VI.11, VI.34, VII.26, VII.19, VIII.24,
IX.1, and IX.23) and others are addressed to Messius Maximus (III.20
and IV.25) and Novius Maximus (IV.20 and V.5), but it is not clear
whether this one is identical to any of those.
C. PLINIUS MAXIMO SUO S.
1 Verum opinaris: distringor centumviralibus causis, quae me exercent
magis quam delectant. Sunt enim pleraeque parvae et exiles; raro
incidit vel personarum claritate vel negotii magnitudine insignis. 2 Ad
hoc pauci cum quibus iuvet dicere; ceteri audaces atque etiam magna ex
parte adulescentuli obscuri ad declamandum huc transierunt, tam
irreverenter et temere, ut mihi Atilius noster expresse dixisse
videatur, sic in foro pueros a centumviralibus causis auspicari, ut ab
Homero in scholis. Nam hic quoque ut illic primum coepit esse quod
maximum est. 3 At hercule ante memoriam meam - ita maiores natu solent
dicere -, ne nobilissimis quidem adulescentibus locus erat nisi aliquo
consulari producente: tanta veneratione pulcherrimum opus colebatur. 4
Nunc refractis pudoris et reverentiae claustris, omnia patent omnibus,
nec inducuntur sed irrumpunt. Sequuntur auditores actoribus similes,
conducti et redempti. Manceps convenitur; in media basilica tam palam
sportulae quam in triclinio dantur; ex iudicio in iudicium pari mercede
transitur. 5 Inde iam non inurbane 'Σοφοκλεῖς' vocantur 'ἀπὸ τοῦ σοφῶς
καὶ καλεῖσθαι', isdem Latinum nomen impositum est Laudiceni; 6 et tamen
crescit in dies foeditas utraque lingua notata. Here duo nomenclatores
mei - habent sane aetatem eorum qui nuper togas sumpserint - ternis
denariis ad laudandum trahebantur. Tanti constat ut sis disertissimus.
Hoc pretio quamlibet numerosa subsellia implentur, hoc ingens corona
colligitur, hoc infiniti clamores commoventur, cum mesochorus dedit
signum. 7 Opus est enim signo apud non intellegentes, ne audientes
quidem; 8 nam plerique non audiunt, nec ulli magis laudant. Si quando
transibis per basilicam et voles scire, quo modo quisque dicat, nihil
est quod tribunal ascendas, nihil quod praebeas aurem; facilis
divinatio: scito eum pessime dicere, qui laudabitur maxime.
9 Primus hunc audiendi morem induxit Larcius Licinus, hactenus tamen ut
auditores corrogaret. Ita certe ex Quintiliano praeceptore meo audisse
me memini. 10 Narrabat ille: 'Assectabar Domitium Afrum. Cum apud
centumviros diceret graviter et lente - hoc enim illi actionis genus
erat -, audit ex proximo immodicum insolitumque clamorem. Admiratus
reticuit; ubi silentium factum est, repetit quod abruperat. 11 Iterum
clamor, iterum reticuit, et post silentium coepit. Idem tertio.
Novissime quis diceret quaesiit. Responsum est: "Licinus." Tum
intermissa causa "Centumviri," inquit, "hoc artificium periit."' 12
Quod alioqui perire incipiebat cum perisse Afro videretur, nunc vero
prope funditus exstinctum et eversum est. Pudet referre quae quam
fracta pronuntiatione dicantur, quibus quam teneris clamoribus
excipiantur. 13 Plausus tantum ac potius sola cymbala et tympana illis
canticis desunt: ululatus quidem - neque enim alio vocabulo potest
exprimi theatris quoque indecora laudatio - large supersunt. 14 Nos
tamen adhuc et utilitas amicorum et ratio aetatis moratur ac retinet;
veremur enim ne forte non has indignitates reliquisse, sed laborem
fugisse videamur. Sumus tamen solito rariores, quod initium est
gradatim desinendi. Vale.
Text is from www.thelatinlibrary.com, as submitted by
Hansulrich Guhl (Frauenfeld, Switzerland) from an unidentified edition.
Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. Other changes may
have been made by Jacques Bailly. Consult a critical edition for
authoritative information, including manuscript evidence and text
- All numbers refer to Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar
- BA refers to Bradley’s Arnold Latin
- Other commentaries on this letter include:
- Elmer Truesdell Merrill,
Selected Letters of the Younger Pliny, Macmillan, 1927.
- Constantine E. Prichard and Edward R. Bernard, Selected Letters of Pliny, Oxford,
1872 and later.
- J. H. Westcott, Selected
Letters of Pliny, first published 1898, then by the University
of Oklahoma Press in 1965.
opinaris: present indicative in a statement of fact (437).
centumviralibus causis: ablatives of means or instrument, (408). The
centumviral court existed since the early Republic as a court of about
100 members, but kept its name after being enlarged to 180 (Pliny
letter 6.33). The cases were apparently mostly inheritance cases of
quae: feminine nominative plural, subject of both exercent and
delectant. Antecedent is causis.
me: direct object of both exercent and delectant.
magis quam: magis modifies exercent; quam is comparative "than."
pleraeque parvae et exiles: all nominative predicates of sunt (whose
subject is an understood causae). The "-que" here is, unusally, a
permanent part of the word rather than "and."
incidit: insignis is nominative singular (note the transition from
plural - pleraeque parvae et exiles – to singular); claritate and
magnitudine are ablatives of qualtity with genitive modifiers, (415).
ad hoc: "in addition," "moreover."
pauci: predicate nominative: “(select) few” or “elite.” Understand an
impersonal sunt here.
iuvet: subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic.
dicere: the infinitive as subject of the impersonal verb iuvet (454).
magna ex parte: ablative with the preposition ex. Pars is found in many
idioms, just as English "part" is: this idiomatic phrase means "for the
adulescentuli obscuri: ironic: Pliny himself was a novus homo, not a highly pedigreed
ad declamandum: the accusative gerund with ad is an alternative
construction for a purpose clause (506).
transierunt: perfect indicative.
tam irreventer et temere: tam is an adverb modifying irreventer and
temere and is correlative with the following result clause introduced
by ut, (537 note 2). What do irreventer and temere modify?
ut…videatur: a result clause: videatur is the main verb (present
subjunctive) used personally (Atlilius is the subject). dixisse is a
perfect infinitive depending on videatur; it denotes a prior
action. expresse: an adverb used of various artistic things, here
meaning "aptly, vividly" – for more detail about this word, see
Prichard and Bernard ad loc.
sic in foro pueros a centumviralibus causis auspicari, ut ab
Homero in scholis: this is a bon mot
uttered by Atilius Crescens, a friend of Pliny's since childhood and a
wit (see letter VI.8). The whole saying is put into indirect speech
dependent on dixisse.
sic: a demonstrative adverb modifying auspicari, correlative with the
following ut, (323g). Translate only the ut: "as."
pueros: subject of auspicari.
auspicari: (deponent) the main verb in indirect speech, meaning "begin."
a centumviralibus causis: an ablative of source, (403); likewise ab
Homero. We say "to begin with"
or "to begin from" where
Pliny says "auspicari ab."
ut: "as," "just as."
Nam hic quoque ut illic primum coepit
esse quod maximum est.
natu: ablative of specification (418).
dicere: infinitive dependent on solent.
ne…quidem: "ne x quidem" would mean "not even x": ne and quidem
surround the thing emphasized (322f). Do not think of ne and quidem as
independent words with their usual meanings, in other words. When they
occur before and after something, they form a unit meaning "not even .
nisi: introduces the protasis of an irregular condition (521), whose
protasis is the ablative absolute aliquo consulari producente.
pulcherrimum opus: namely, oratory in the law courts. opus can mean
refractis…claustris: an ablative absolute. The genitives pudoris and
reverentiae go with claustris.
nec: means either "and ... not" (as here) or "neither."
inducuntur: Pliny means that they should be lead in and introduced by
some older, more experienced lawyer.
similes: nominative plural, it takes a dative, actoribus (385.2).
manceps: the "agent" of the hired actors.
conducti et redempti: perfect passive participles agreeing with
convenitur: present indicative passive. Note the passives to follow:
in media basilica: the basilica Julia was the location of the
centumviral courts. Pliny emphasizes that this shameful transaction
occurred right out in public.
tam: demonstrative adverb, correlative with quam (323g).
dantur: present indicative passive, the subject is sportulae.
ex iudicio in iudicium: the two courts are not the same. These hired
audiences go from one to the next and get paid each time, Pliny claims.
pari mercede: ablative of price (416).
Σοφοκλεῖς: "σοφῶς" was the equivalent of "bravo." Thus while this Greek
word is the plural of the name Sophocles (the playwright), it also
means "bravo-callers," as ἀπὸ τοῦ σοφῶς καὶ καλεῖσθαι indicates (it
means "from the words σοφῶς [bravo] and καλεῖσθαι [to call out]").
isdem: dat. pl. of idem.
Laudiceni: from laus and cena (praise and dinner), because they praised
for their dinner. Laudiceni is supposedly another name for the
Laodiceans. Pliny may be trying to make a pun in Latin. It is a bit
lame and "too clever," because Sophocles has as little to do with
paying an audience as the Laodiceans do. Laudiceni should perhaps be
put into quotation marks: it stands in apposition to nomen.
foeditas utraque lingua notata: notata modifies foeditas, while utraque
lingua is ablative of means: both the Greek and Latin name for the
hired audience members reveal their baseness.
nomenclatores: slaves who reminded one of names and positions of anyone
one met. They had to be intelligent.
sumpserint: subjunctive in relative clause of characteristic – the
nomenclatores were slaves, not citizens, and so would not wear togas.
ternis denariis: ablative of price (416).
ad laudandum: another gerund in a purpose clause (506).
tanti: genitive of value (417).
sis: subjunctive in a purpose clause.
hoc pretio: abl. of price. Hoc is repeated three times in anaphora,
each time as an ablative of price, but in the second and third
instance, pretio is omitted.
quamlibet: modifies numerosa.
subsellia: nominative (neuter plural)
implentur and colligitur and commoventur: present indicative passive
cum: temporal "once." Note the perfect indicative dedit referring to a
present state, "has given."
opus est: takes the ablative (411).
intellegentes and audientes: participles used as substantives. The next
sentence explains audientes.
ne…quidem: see above.
audiunt: audio can mean either "listen" (as here) or "hear."
si quando…aurem: the structure follows:
facilis divinatio: est is omitted (319b).
- si quando transibis per basilicam et voles scire - the protasis
of a future more vivid condition; scire is a complementary infinitive.
- quo modo quisque dicat - an indirect question (573); dicat is
present subjunctive in primary sequence after voles.
- nihil est: the apodosis of the condition (the present indicative
for a general truth, (518).
- quod tribunal ascendas - est quod + subj. = "there is reason to
..."; ascendas is present subjunctive in primary sequence after est.
- nihil (est) - second apodosis: rhetorical repetition.
- quod praebeas aurem: another est quod + subj. clause; praebeas
is present subjunctive (see above).
scito: future imperative (449). No discernible difference in meaning
from the present imperative.
eum pessime dicere: indirect discourse after scito.
laudabitur: future indicative, contemporary with scito.
audiendi: a gerundive in the genitive that depends on morem.
hactenus tamen ut . . . : this sentence lacks a main verb. Supply
something appropriate from the preceding sentence (although there is no
particular verb there that fits here, there is a thought that does).
hactenus ut means "only up to the point that . . .."
ut…corrogaret: a purpose clause – corrogaret is imperfect subjunctive
in secondary sequence after induxit.
ex Quintiliano praeceptore meo: Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, aka
"Quintilian," (40-90's CE) was a famous lawyer and teacher of rhetoric
who wrote the de Institutione Oratoria Libri XII.
From this section, Scholars infer that Quintilian was not alive at the
time of the writing of this letter. Because this is the earliest
reference to him as dead, this letter is the terminus ante quem for Quintilian's death.
memini: introduces indirect discourse.
diceret: subjunctive in a cum temporal clause denoting past time.
illi: a dative of possession (373).
proximo: perhaps supply a noun such as "iudicio," "court," or simply
"from nearby" (OLD proximus 2
lists ex proximo as "from
admiratus: "admire" is not what this means, as the context makes clear
silentium: nominative neuter.
abruperat: pluperfect indicative. Normally transitive, this verb is
used intransitively here: it is easy enough to supply "his speech" as
the object, however.
iterum clamor, iterum reticuit, et post silentium coepit: a tricolon.
Supply an appropriate verb with clamor.
idem: refers to the shouting then silence. Supply an appropriate verb.
tertio: "a third time."
novissime: temporal adverb, "eventually," "in the end."
diceret: subjunctive in an indirect question; imperfect in secondary
sequence after quaesiit.
intermissa causa: ablative absolute.
centumviri: vocative, (340).
periit: a perfect definite (473).
perire: complimentary infinitive with incipiebat.
incipiebat: perhaps an inceptive imperfect "was beginning to begin" or
"was just beginning" (471c).
cum: cum temporal "when" referring to the past can take the subjunctive.
perisse: perfect infinitive depending on, and denoting a time prior to,
prope: modifies funditus.
pudet referre: the infinitive referre is really the subject of the
"impersonal" pudet (454).
quam: introduces an indirect question, (573).
fracta pronuntiatione: ablatives of quality (415). Refers to a style of
oratory which evidently used vocal techniques (perhaps falsetto,
accent, and other histrionic or "over-the-top" techniques).
quae quam and quibus quam: rhetorically contrived. quam is adverbial
"how" in each case, modifying fracta and teneris. Quam is also probably
interrogative, which makes this a doubly determined subjunctive clause
(quae and quibus already determine it : see next comment).
dicantur and excipiantur: present passive subjunctives in clauses that
are either relative clauses of characteristic or indirect questions
(depending on whether one takes quae and quibus as interrogatives or
relatives): the translation is much the same in either case.
plausus…desunt: plausus and sola cymbala are nom. pl., the main verb is
desunt, and desunt takes dative illis canticis (373b). These are the
trappings of the cult of Cybele, whose eunuch worshippers were well
tantum: adverbial "only."
ac potius: a phrase used to correct or emend a statement: "or rather."
ululatus quidem large supersunt: the main sentence; supersunt is
indicative in a statement of fact.
neque…laudatio: the subject is laudatio; the main verb is potest, which
takes the complimentary infinitive (passive in this case) exprimi. alio
vocabulo is an ablative of instrument (408); and theatris is ablative
of place where (426) and should be taken closely with indecora.
indecora is a predicate adjective, feminine nominative singular,
modifying laudatio. quoque is an adverb modifying indecora.
nos…retinet: utilitas and ratio are the subjects; amicorum and aetatis
are genitives limiting the subjects; nos (referring to Pliny) is the
direct object, and moratur (deponent) and retinet are the main verbs.
Why singular? Sometimes the verb of a compound subject is
singular (BA 26).
veremur…videamur: veremur (plural for singular) introduces an
affirmative fear clause with ne + subjunctive (564). The main verb of
the fear clause is videamur (primary sequence after veremur); has
indignitates is the direct object of reliquisse (note the placement of
non: it negates this part only), and laborem is the direct object of
fugisse. The perfect infinitives denote time prior to videamur.
sumus: plural for singular
solito: an ablative of comparison, (406).
desinendi: genitive of the gerund, used objectively (504) dependent on
abrumpo, -ere, -rupi, -ruptum, to take by force, seize
action, onis, f., doing, activity, action
admiror, -ari, -atus sum, to wonder at
adulescentulus, i, m., a small boy
aetas, atis, f., age
ante, prep., before, in front of
apud, prep., among
alioqui, adv., on the contrary, from another point of view
artificium, -i, n., profession, trade, craft
ascendo, -ere, -scensi, -scensum, to climb, rise
assector, -ari, -atus sum, to follow, be an adherent of
audax, cis, adj., bold, daring
audio, -ire, -ii (-ive) –itum, to hear
auditor, is, m., a hearer, student
auris, is, f., ear
auspicor, -ari, -atus sum, to enter upon, begin
basilica, ea, f., courthouse
canticum, i, n., song (in Roman comedy)
cause, ae, f., cause, grounds, motion, reason
centumviralis, e, adj., of the centumvirs (jury of 100)
certe, adv., certain
ceterus, a, um, the rest, remaining
clamor, oris, m., shout
claritas, atis, f., clarity, brightness, renown
claustra, orum, n., lock, bar, bolt
coepi, -isse, coeptum, to begin
colligo, -ere, -legi, -lectum, to gather, collect
colo, -ere, -ui, cultum, to cultivate, esteem
commoveo, -ere, -i, -motum, to stir up, cause a commotion
conduco, -ere, -duxi, -ductum, collect; hire
consto, -are, stiti, stand together, agree, correspond, cost
consularis, e, adj., of consular rank (used of a person)
convenio, -ire, veni, ventum, to meet, interview, gather
corona, ae, f., crown, garland, crowd
corrogo, -are, -avi, -atum, summon
cresco, -ere, crevi, cretum, to arise, grow, come into being
cymbalum, i, n., cymbal (fig. a tedius speaker)
declamaro, -are, -avi, -atum, to recite, practice public speaking
delecto, -are, -avi, -atum, to delight, attract, amuse
denarius, i, m., money
desino, -ere, -ii, -itum, to leave off
dico, -ere, -xi, dictum, to speak
dies, ei, m., day
disertus, a, um, flowing, eloquent, clear
desino, desinere, desivi, desitum, cease, stop
distringo, -ere, -nxi, -ictum, to draw apart, distract
divinatio, onis, f., clairvoyance, forecasting, predicting
do, -are, dedi, datum, give
enim, conj., in fact, namely, for
etiam, conj. and adv., also, yet, besides, even, still
everto, -ere, -i, -sum, to overthrow, ruin, destroy
excipio, excipere, excepi, exceptum, receive (as a performance is
exerceo, -ere, -ui, -itum, to train, cultivate, employ, bother
exilis, e, adj., thin, small, feeble
exprimo, -ere, -essi, -essum, express, put into words
exstinguo, -ere, -xi, -ctum, to put out, kill, destroy
facilis, e, adj., easy
foeditas, atis, f., hideousness
forum, i, n., forum
fractus, a, um, interrupted, feeble, weak
funditus, adv., from the bottom, entirely
genus, eris, n., race, breed, descent, kind
gradatim, adv., gradually
graviter, adv., heavily, violently, sadly
habeo, -ere, -ui, habitum, to have, hold
hactenus, adv., to this place, thus far. hitherto
hercule, interjection, by Hercules
here (heri), adv., yesterday
huc, adv., here, to this, point, to such a degree
immodicus, a, um, huge, enormous
impleo, -ere, -evi, -etum –to fill up, satisfy, enrich
impono, -ere, posui, positum, to place on, lay on, impose
incido, -ere, -idi, -casum, to happen, occur
induco, -ere, duxi, ductum, to lead in(to)
infinitus, a, um, limitless
ingens, ntis, adj., huge, vast
insigne, is, n., signal, mark, distinction
insolitus, a, um, unaccustomed, strange
intellegens, ntis, adj., intelligent
intermitto, -ere, -misi, -missum, to interrupt, break off
inurbanus, a, um, rude, unsophisticated
irreverenter, adv., disrespectfully
irrumpo, -ere, rupi, ruptum, to rush into, break down
ita, adv., so, thus
iudicium, i, n., trial, opinion, decision
iuvo, -are, iuvi, iutum, to help (impers., it pleases)
laudo, -are, -avi, -atum, to praise
lenet, adv., lightly, gladly
lingua, ae, f., tongue, speech, language
locus, i, m., place, location
magis, adv., more, to a greater extent
magnitudo, inis, f., large, importance, power, quantity
magnus, a, um, big, large, important, great
maiores, um, m., ancestors
manceps, ipis, m., a contractor, dealer
medius, a, um, middle central
memini, -isse, to remember
memoria, ae, f., memory, time, lifetime
merces, edis, f., pay, bribe, reward
moror, -ari, -atus sum, to delay
mesochorus, i, m., one who stands in the middle of a chorus
mos, moris, m., custom, usage
nam, conj., for
narro, -are, -avi, narratum, to tell
negotium, i, n., business, matter, affair, thing
nisi, conj., unless, except
nobilis, e, adj., known, familiar
nomen, inis, n., name
nomenclator, oris, m., name-caller (a servant employed to tell his
master the names of guests)
noster, nostra, nostrum, our
noto, -are, -avi, -atum, to mark, designate
novissime, on the last occasion, in the end, eventually
numerosus, a, um, numerous
nunc, adv., now
nunc, adv., now
nuper, adv., recently, lately
obscurus, a, um, dark shady, dim, secret, vague
omnis, e, adj., all, every
opinor, -ari, -atus sum, to suppose, imagine, conjecture
opus, operis, n., occupation, profession, work
palam, adv., openly, plainly
pareo, -ere, peperi, partum, to bear, bring forth
pars, partis, f., part
parvus, a, um, small, little, short, brief
pateo, -ere, patui, to stand open, be open
pauci, ae, a, adj., few (masc. plur. pronoun, the select, elite)
pareo, -ire, -ui -itum, be visible, at hand
pereo, -ire, -ii (-ivi), -itum, to die, perish
persona, ae, f., mask, character, part
pessime (superl. of male), adv., worst
plausus, us, m. - clapping
plerusque, pleraque, plerumque, a great part of, most
potius, adv., rather
praebeo, -ere, -ui, -itum, hold out, offer, supply
praeceptor, oris, m., teacher. tutor
pretium, i, n., price, value, worth
primus, a, um, first, foremost
produco, -ere, -xi, -ctum, to bring out, produce, promote
pronuntiatio, onis, f., a proclamation
prope, adv., near, nearby, at hand
proximus, a, um, nearest, next, adjoining
pudeo, -ere, -ui or puditum est, to make ashamed
pudor, oris, m., shame
pulcher, pulchra, pulchrum, beautiful, fair
quaero, -ere, -ii (-ivi), -itum, to seek, ask
quam, adv., as, than; how!, how?
quamlibet, adv., as much as you please
quando, adv., when
qui, quae, quod, relative pronoun, who, which
quidem, adv., indeed, in fact
quod, conj., because
quoque, adv., too
raro, adv., rarely, seldom
rarus, a, um, rare
ratio, onis, f., reason
redimo, -ere, -emi, -emptum, to buy
refero, referre, retuli, relatum, to give back, return, restore
(impers., it matters, is of consequence)
refringo, -ere, fregi, fractum, to break open, break down
repeto, -ere, -ii (-ivi) –itum, head back to, return to, repeat
respondeo, -ere, -di, -nsum, to answer, respond
reticeo, -ere, ui, to keep silent, keep secret
retineo, -ere, -ui, -entum, to hold back, keep back, retain
sane, adv., sanely, reasonably
schola, ae, f., school
scio, -ire, scivi, scitum, to know, discern, realize
sequor, -i, secutus sum, to follow
sic, adv., thus
signum, i, n., sign, signal
silentium, i, n. - silence
similis, e, adj, - like
soleo, -ere, -ui, -itum, accustomed
solitus, a, um, accustomed
sportula, ae, f., a dole, food and money
subsellium, i, n., seat, bench, stool
sumo, -ere, sumpsi, sumptum, to take up, put on
supersum, superesse, superfui, superfuturus, exist in plenty, be
tam, adv., to such an extent, so
tamen, adv., yet, just the same
tantum (adv.), only
tantus, a, um, of such size, so big
temere, adv., blindly, random, chance
tener, tenera, tenerum, soft, delicate
terni, ae, a, - three apiece, three each
theatrum, i, n. - theatre
toga, ea, f., toga
traho, -ere, traxi, tractum, to draw, drag
transeo, -ire, -ii (or -ivi), -itum –to cross, desert. pass over
triclinium, i,, n., dining couch
tum, adv., then, at that time
tympanum, i, n., drum, cylinder
ullus, a, um, any
ululatus, us, m. - howling
uter, utra, utrum, which (of two)
vel…vel, adv., either, or
veneratio, onis, f., reverence, respect
vero, adv., truly
verum, adv., truly, (in responses), but in fact, but yet
video, -ere, visi, visum, to see
vocabulum, i, n., word, name, term
voco, -are, -avi, -atum- call, name, summon, invoke
volo, velle, volui, to wish, want