Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
LIII. To Calvisius
IT is certain the law does not allow a corporate city to inherit any estate by will, or to receive a legacy. Saturninus, however, who has appointed me his heir, had left a fourth part of his estate to our corporation of Comum; afterwards, instead of a fourth part, he bequeathed four hundred thousand sesterces. This bequest, in the eye of the law, is null and void, but, considered as the clear and express will of the deceased, ought to stand firm and valid. Myself, I consider the will of the dead (though I am afraid what I say will not please the lawyers) of higher authority than the law, especially when the interest of one’s native country is concerned. Ought I, who made them a present of eleven hundred thousand sesterces out of my own patrimony, to withhold a benefaction of little more than a third part of that sum out of an estate which has come quite by a chance into my hands? You, who like a true patriot have the same affection for this our common country, will agree with me in opinion, I feel sure. I wish therefore you would, at the next meeting of the Decurii, acquaint them, just briefly and respectfully, as to how the law stands in this case, and then add that I offer them four hundred thousand sesterces according to the direction in Saturninus’ will. You will represent this donation as his present and his liberality; I only claim the merit of complying with his request. I did not trouble to write to their senate about this, fully relying as I do upon our intimate friendship and your wise discretion, and being quite satisfied that you are both able and willing to act for me upon this occasion as I would for myself; besides, I was afraid I should not seem to have so cautiously guarded my expressions in a letter as you will be able to do in a speech. The countenance, the gesture, and even the tone of voice govern and determine the sense of the speaker, whereas a letter, being without these advantages, is more liable to malignant misinterpretation. Farewell.