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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

LVI. To Paulinus

AS I know the humanity with which you treat your own servants, I have less reserve in confessing to you the indulgence I shew to mine. I have ever in my mind that line of Homer’s—

  • “Who swayed his people with a father’s love”:
  • and this expression of ours, “father of a family.” But were I harsher and harder than I really am by nature, the ill state of health of my freedman Zosimus (who has the stronger claim upon my tenderness, in that he now stands in more especial need of it) would be sufficient to soften me. He is a good, honest fellow, attentive in his services, and well-read; but his chief talent, and indeed his distinguishing qualification, is that of a comedian, in which he highly excels. His pronunciation is distinct, correct in emphasis, pure, and graceful: he has a very skilled touch, too, upon the lyre, and performs with better execution than is necessary for one of his profession. To this I must add, he reads history, oratory, and poetry, as well as if these had been the sole objects of his study. I am the more particular in enumerating his qualifications, to let you see how many agreeable services I receive from this one servant alone. He is indeed endeared to me by the ties of a long affection, which are strengthened by the danger he is now in. For nature has so formed our hearts that nothing contributes more to incite and kindle affection than the fear of losing the object of it: a fear which I have suffered more than once on his account. Some years ago he strained himself so much by too strong an exertion of his voice, that he spit blood, upon which account I sent him into Egypt; from whence, after a long absence, he lately returned with great benefit to his health. But having again exerted himself for several days together beyond his strength, he was reminded of his former malady by a slight return of his cough, and a spitting of blood. For this reason I intend to send him to your farm at Forum-Julii, having frequently heard you mention it as a healthy air, and recommend the milk of that place as very salutary in disorders of his nature. I beg you would give directions to your people to receive him into your house, and to supply him with whatever he may have occasion for: which will not be much, for he is so sparing and abstemious as not only to abstain from delicacies, but even to deny himself the necessaries his ill state of health requires. I shall furnish him towards his journey with what will be sufficient for one of his moderate requirements, who is coming under your roof. Farewell.