Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
CIV. To Maximus
IT has frequently happened, as I have been pleading before the Court of the Hundred, that these venerable judges, after having preserved for a long period the gravity and solemnity suitable to their character, have suddenly, as though urged by irresistible impulse, risen up to a man and applauded me. I have often likewise gained as much glory in the senate as my utmost wishes could desire: but I never felt a more sensible pleasure than by an account which I lately received from Cornelius Tacitus. He informed me that, at the last Circensian games, he sat next to a Roman knight, who, after conversation had passed between them upon various points of learning, asked him, “Are you an Italian, or a provincial?” Tacitus replied, “Your acquaintance with literature must surely have informed you who I am.” “Pray, then, is it Tacitus or Pliny I am talking with?” I cannot express how highly I am pleased to find that our names are not so much the proper appellatives of men as a kind of distinction for learning herself; and that eloquence renders us known to those who would otherwise be ignorant of us. An accident of the same kind happened to me a few days ago. Fabius Rufinus, a person of distinguished merit, was placed next me at table; and below him a countryman of his, who had just then come to Rome for the first time. Rufinus, calling his friend’s attention to me, said to him, “You see this man?” and entered into a conversation upon the subject of my pursuits: to whom the other immediately replied, “This must undoubtedly be Pliny.” To confess the truth, I look upon these instances as a very considerable recompense of my labours. If Demosthenes had reason to be pleased with the old woman of Athens crying out, “This is Demosthenes!” may not I, then, be allowed to congratulate myself upon the celebrity my name has acquired? Yes, my friend, I will rejoice in it, and without scruple admit that I do. As I only mention the judgment of others, not my own, I am not afraid of incurring the censure of vanity; especially from you, who, whilst envying no man’s reputation, are particularly zealous for mine. Farewell.