Pliny the Younger: A Life in Roman Letters

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A&C Black, Nov 28, 2013 - History - 224 pages
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Pliny the Younger who lived c. 100 AD, left a large collection of letters, thanks to which we know him better than almost any other Roman. He is best known as witness to the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 that destroyed Pompeii, and for his dealings with the early Christians when a regional governor. He was not an emperor or general, but a famous lawyer of his time specialising in private finance and later a senior state official specialising in public finance.

His life straddled both a 'bad'; emperor (Domitian) and a 'good'; emperor (Trajan), so his life and letters are relevant to perennial political questions like how an honourable man could serve an absolute autocracy such as Rome, and how justice could live alongside power. His letters also give a unique insight into social, literary and domestic life among the wealthy upper classes of the empire. He knew most of the famous writers of his time, and wrote love letters to his wife. But there are serious controversies about how honest and truthful a man he was - did he use his letters to rewrite history (his own history) and cover up questionable aspects of his career?

This general biographical account of Pliny is the first of its kind and covers all aspects of his life in a systematic way. This accessible title tackles key issues including his political anxieties and issues, his relationship with women and his literary style in a roughly chronological order. It covers his life as a lawyer, both in private practice and in state prosecutions, his literary circle, his career in state office and his working relationships with two very different emperors, his background, his property and his family life.

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1 Your witness your defendant
Are Plinys letters what they seem?
3 Youth class and that Plinian eruption
4 Starring in the noisy Court of One Hundred Men
5 Sparring with Regulus and the most immoral fraud
Corruption and the limits of Roman justice
Among the flames of thunderbolts?
You tell us to be free We will be
13 His literary circle whos in whos out wheres Juvenal?
Those quarrelsome little Greeks
15 Christians what is the crime and what is the punishment?
16 Meeting Pliny
Index of Names
Index of Place Names

Marriages but no children
10 How rich was Pliny? Assets income and expenses
A literary house and garden tour
Pantomime in the salon

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About the author (2013)

Rex Winsbury has a PhD in classical studies from London University. He has worked at the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph and the BBC, and as a self-employed publisher, editor and journalist. He has also taught at City University, Imperial College, and Birkbeck College, London. His titles include The Roman Book (Bloomsbury 2009) and Zenobia of Palmyra (Bloomsbury 2010).

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