Home  »  Letters Pliny the Younger  »  XL. To the Emperor Trajan

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

XL. To the Emperor Trajan

AS I have your permission, Sir, to address myself to you in all my doubts, you will not consider it beneath your dignity to descend to those humbler affairs which concern my administration of this province. I find there are in several cities, particularly those of Nicomedia and Nicea, certain persons who take upon themselves to act as public slaves, and receive an annual stipend accordingly; notwithstanding they have been condemned either to the mines, the public games, or other punishments of the like nature. Having received information of this abuse, I have been long debating with myself what I ought to do. On the one hand, to send them back again to their respective punishments (many of them being now grown old, and behaving, as I am assured, with sobriety and modesty) would, I thought, be proceeding against them too severely; on the other, to retain convicted criminals in the public service, seemed not altogether decent. I considered at the same time to support these people in idleness would be an useless expense to the public; and to leave them to starve would be dangerous. I was obliged, therefore, to suspend the determination of this matter till I could consult with you. You will be desirous, perhaps, to be informed how it happened that these persons escaped the punishments to which they were condemned. This enquiry I have also made, but cannot return you any satisfactory answer. The decrees against them were indeed produced; but no record appears of their having ever been reversed. It was asserted, however, that these people were pardoned upon their petition to the proconsuls, or their lieutenants; which seems likely to be the truth, as it is improbable any person would have dared to set them at liberty without authority.