Pliny the Younger - biographical notes

Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus - AD 61 or 62 - 113

Pliny the Younger was born into a wealthy family and adopted by his uncle, an admiral in the Roman Navy. He began to practice law - a common vocation for rich Roman youth - at 18. He was successful in civil law courts to such an extent that he was asked to serve in the political court which tried provincial officials for extortion. During this time, he acheived high administrative posts; that of praetor in 93 and consul in 100. He administered the drainage board of the city of Rome (what a come-down), and was then asked by Trajan in 110 to travel to the province of Bithynia to investigate corruption in its administration. He apparently died there two years later, but not before organising construction of a canal.

Between 100 and 109, Pliny published ten books of selected correspondance by which he is best known today. The letters are carefully written, occasional letters on diverse topics. It is for this reason that he is studied so much in Latin - he not only gives us an excellent account of society at the time, but also of the language.

Pliny also published his forensic and literary speeches, and wrote light verse in the style of Martial later in life. His letters to Tacitus tell us the little that is known about the latter's Histories, to which Pliny contributed his famous account of the eruption of Vesuvius.

My classics teacher calls him a 'pompous ass'.

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