Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
LXXXV. To Tacitus
I PREDICT (and I am persuaded I shall not be deceived) that your histories will be immortal. I frankly own therefore I so much the more earnestly wish to find a place in them. If we are generally careful to have our faces taken by the best artists, ought we not to desire that our actions may be celebrated by an author of your distinguished abilities? I therefore call your attention to the following matter, which, though it cannot have escaped your notice, as it is mentioned in the public journals, still I call your attention to, that you may the more readily believe how agreeable it will be to me that this action, greatly heightened by the risk which attended it, should receive additional lustre from the testimony of a man of your powers. The senate appointed Herennius Senecio, and myself, counsel for the province of Bætica, in their impeachment of Bæbius Massa. He was condemned, and the house ordered his effects to be seized into the hands of the public officer. Shortly after, Senecio, having learnt that the consuls intended to sit to hear petitions, came and said to me, “Let us go together, and petition them with the same unanimity in which we executed the office which had been enjoined us, not to suffer Massa’s effects to be dissipated by those who were appointed to preserve them.” I answered, “As we were counsel in this affair by order of the senate, I recommend it to your consideration whether it would be proper for us, after sentence passed, to interpose any farther.” “You are at liberty,” said he, “to prescribe what bounds you please to yourself, who have no particular connections with the province, except what arise from your late services to them; but then I was born there, and enjoyed the post of quæstor among them.” “If such,” I replied, “is your determined resolution, I am ready to accompany you, that whatever resentment may be the consequence of this affair, it may not fall singly upon yourself.” We accordingly proceeded to the consuls, where Senecio said what was pertinent to the affair, and I added a few words to the same effect. Scarcely had we ended when Massa, complaining that Senecio had not acted against him with the fidelity of an advocate, but the bitterness of an enemy, desired he might be at liberty to prosecute him for treason. This occasioned general consternation. Whereupon I rose up; “Most noble consuls,” said I, “I am afraid it should seem that Massa has tacitly charged me with having favoured him in this cause, since he did not think proper to join me with Senecio in the desired prosecution.” This short speech was immediately received with applause, and afterwards got much talked about everywhere. The late emperor Nerva (who, though at that time in a private station, yet interested himself in every meritorious action performed in public) wrote a most impressive letter to me upon the occasion, in which he not only congratulated me, but the age which had produced an example so much in the spirit (as he was pleased to call it) of the good old days. But, whatever be the actual fact, it lies in your power to raise it into a grander and more conspicuously illustrious position, though I am far from desiring you in the least to exceed the bounds of reality. History ought to be guided by strict truth, and worthy actions require nothing more. Farewell.