Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
XCV. To Maximus
MY affection for you obliges me, not indeed to direct you (for you are far above the want of a guide), but to admonish you carefully to observe and resolutely to put in practice what you already know, that is, in other words, to know it to better purpose. Consider that you are sent to that noble province, Achaia, the real and genuine Greece, where politeness, learning, and even agriculture itself, are supposed to have taken their first rise; sent to regulate the condition of free cities; sent, that is, to a society of men who breathe the spirit of true manhood and liberty; who have maintained the rights they received from Nature, by courage, by virtue, by alliances; in a word, by civil and religious faith. Revere the gods, their founders; their ancient glory, and even that very antiquity itself which, venerable in men, is sacred in states. Honour them therefore for their deeds of old renown, nay, their very legendary traditions. Grant to everyone his full dignity, privileges, yes, and the indulgence of his very vanity. Remember it was from this nation we derived our laws; that she did not receive ours by conquest, but gave us hers by favour. Remember it is Athens to which you go; it is Lacedæmon you govern; and to deprive such a people of the declining shadow, the remaining name of liberty, would be cruel, inhuman, barbarous. Physicians, you see, though in sickness there is no difference between freedom and slavery, yet treat persons of the former rank with more tenderness than those of the latter. Reflect what these cities once were; but so reflect as not to despise them for what they are now. Far be pride and asperity from my friend; nor fear, by a proper condescension, to lay yourself open to contempt. Can he who is vested with the power and bears the ensigns of authority, can he fail of meeting with respect, unless by pursuing base and sordid measures, and first breaking through that reverence he owes to himself? Ill, believe me, is power proved by insult; ill can terror command veneration, and far more effectual is affection in obtaining one’s purpose than fear. For terror operates no longer than its object is present, but love produces its effects with its object at a distance: and as absence changes the former into hatred, it raises the latter into respect. And therefore you ought (and I cannot but repeat it too often), you ought to well consider the nature of your office, and to represent to yourself how great and important the task is of governing a free state. For what can be better for society than such government, what can be more precious than freedom? How ignominious then must his conduct be who turns good government into anarchy, and liberty into slavery? To these considerations let me add that you have an established reputation to maintain: the fame you acquired by the administration of the quæstorship in Bithynia, the good opinion of the emperor, the credit you obtained when you were tribune and prætor, in a word, this very government, which may be looked upon as the reward of your former services, are all so many glorious weights which are incumbent upon you to support with suitable dignity. The more strenuously therefore you ought to endeavour that it may not be said you shewed greater urbanity, integrity, and ability in a province remote from Rome, than in one which lies so much nearer the capital; in the midst of a nation of slaves, than among a free people; that it may not be remarked that it was chance, and not judgment, appointed you to this office; that your character was unknown and unexperienced, not tried and approved. For (and it is a maxim which your reading and conversation must have often suggested to you) it is a far greater disgrace losing the name one has once acquired than never to have attained it. I again beg you to be persuaded that I did not write this letter with a design of instruction, but of reminder. Though, indeed, if I had, it would have only been in consequence of the great affection I bear you: a sentiment which I am in no fear of carrying beyond its just bounds: for there can be no danger of excess where one cannot love too well. Farewell.