Home  »  Letters Pliny the Younger  »  XII. To Suetonius Tranquillus

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

XII. To Suetonius Tranquillus

YOU tell me in your letter that you are extremely alarmed by a dream; apprehending that it forebodes some ill success to you in the case you have undertaken to defend; and, therefore, desire that I would get it adjourned for a few days, or, at least, to the next. This will be no easy matter, but I will try:

  • .…”For dreams descend from Jove.”
  • Meanwhile, it is very material for you to recollect whether your dreams generally represent things as they afterwards fall out, or quite the reverse. But if I may judge of yours by one that happened to myself, this dream that alarms you seems to portend that you will acquit yourself with great success. I had promised to stand counsel for Junius Pastor; when I fancied in my sleep that my mother-in-law came to me, and, throwing herself at my feet, earnestly entreated me not to plead. I was at that time a very young man; the case was to be argued in the four centumviral courts; my adversaries were some of the most important personages in Rome, and particular favourites of Cæsar, any of which circumstances were sufficient, after such an inauspicious dream, to have discouraged me. Notwithstanding this, I engaged in the cause, reflecting that,
  • “Without a sign, his sword the brave man draws,
  • And asks no omen but his country’s cause.”
  • for I looked upon the promise I had given to be as sacred to me as my country, or, if that were possible, more so, The event happened as I wished; and it was that very case which first procured me the favourable attention of the public, and threw open to me the gates of Fame. Consider then whether your dream, like this one I have related, may not presignify success. But, after all, perhaps you will think it safer to pursue this cautious maxim: “Never do a thing concerning the rectitude of which you are in doubt”; if so, write me word. In the interval, I will consider of some excuse, and will so plead your cause that you may be able to plead it yourself any day you like best. In this respect, you are in a better situation than I was: the court of the centumviri, where I was to plead, admits of no adjournment: whereas, in that where your case is to be heard, though no easy matter to procure one, still, however, it is possible. Farewell.