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The Letters of the Younger Pliny

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  1,161 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
A prominent lawyer and administrator, Pliny (c. AD 61-113) was also a prolific letter-writer, who numbered among his correspondents such eminent figures as Tacitus, Suetonius and the Emperor Trajan, as well as a wide circle of friends and family. His lively and very personal letters address an astonishing range of topics, from a deeply moving account of his uncle's death i ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 30th 1963 by Penguin Classics (first published 109)
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Aug 11, 2012 Kay rated it liked it
I'll admit that at the time, reading the Letters of Pliny the Younger for my Classics courses was one of my least favorite assignments. Compared to Seneca, Suetonis, and Tacitus, Pliny seemed a bit dry and too run-of-the-mill for my tastes.

Looking back, however, the Letters are what remain in my mind the most.

The Letters opened the doors to the world of the everyday Roman. In his lively, pompous style, Pliny the Younger painted a vivid picture of the real Rome: the state of the crops, the desig
David Gustafson
Jan 06, 2017 David Gustafson rated it it was amazing
While attending the Roman races, Cornelius Tacitus (56-120) was engaged by a young man in a very wide-ranging conversation. Duly impressed, the ardent youth asked him his name and Tacitus replied that he already knew him from his readings. "Then you must be either Tacitus or Pliny," exclaimed the very excited youth.

Pliny (61-113) was absolutely delighted when his friend recounted this incident even though he considered himself a notch below his illustrious contemporary who bequeathed us the "Th
David Sarkies
Jun 04, 2014 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historians and Romanophiles
Recommended to David by: Classical Studies
Shelves: history
A look into the life of a Roman aristocrat
4 June 2014
So we must work at our profession and not make anybody else's idleness an excuse for our own. There is no lack of readers and listeners; it is for us to produce something worth being written and heard.

A part of me wished that I read these letters a lot closer, and also took some notes, because there are a lot of interesting little bits in here, such as an eyewitness account of the eruption of Vesuvius (letter 6:16), two letters in which Pliny
Jo Walton
Feb 11, 2016 Jo Walton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been reading these letters one at a time as one of the many books I've had on the go for months. Because the text is English and then Latin, which I knew but didn't remember, I came to the end unexpectedly, and with unexpected sadness and disappointment. I could happily have kept reading it for another six months if that had been possible.

I started reading these letters thinking "Well, it isn't Cicero." It isn't, and it isn't Cicero's Rome. But Pliny grew on me, and so did his period. There
Justin Evans
"I'm really enjoying reading Pliny. It's strange, but I really identify with him. He's just this guy, he's got his job to do, but what he really cares about is literature, reading it, writing a bit of it, talking about it with his friends."
"I've been imagining myself as Pliny when I write emails. Will this go down in posterity? How can I be a little wittier? Should I redraft this?"
"You know he owned half of Italy, right? And you have a part time job at a liberal arts college?"

That reall
Feb 06, 2015 Yann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Des dizaines et des dizaines de lettres écrites par Pline le jeune, le neveu de Pline l'ancien. Parmi ses correspondant, on va retrouver le très célèbre Tacite. Beaucoup d'histoires de procès (Pline était principalement avocat), mais aussi des lettres légères, entre amis, sur des mystères de la nature, la tristesse de perdre quelqu'un de proche, le souvenir d'un ami vertueux, la glorification d'avoir été reconnu pour sa valeur. On y trouve le récit de la mort de Pline l'ancien lors de l'éruption ...more
A window into the world of the upper-class Roman of Pliny's day.

I felt the most fascinating letters were:

Correspondence with Trajan on various matters when Pliny was governor of Bithynia. Most important to us is the correspondence on treatment of Christians, in which Trajan gave his approval to Pliny's treatment of them.
Description of Pliny's Laurentian villa: XXIII
Beauty of the countryside and description of his Tuscan villa: LII
Legacy-hunting: XXV
What he considers a good dinner party: XIX, XX
Dec 07, 2007 Sara rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of classical history
This collection offers a rare, personal take on life in the late classical world. Pliny the Younger writes on everything from political issues to etiquette advice to love and social issues. One of my favorite letters is the one in which he relates a ghost story (complete with rattling chains). Although the real gem of this collection is Pliny's eye-witness account not only of the eruption of Vesuvius, but of his uncle's (Pliny the Elder's) rescue by boat of a number of people fleeing the now sto ...more
Rob Atkinson
Oct 06, 2015 Rob Atkinson rated it liked it
With my love of social history and Imperial Rome, I had high hopes for this -- the personal correspondence of Pliny the Younger, who included amongst his correspondents Tacitus, Suetonius, and the Emperor Trajan himself. There are some justly famed highlights -- for instance, Pliny's account in two successive letters of the 79 AD eruption of Vesuvius gives us our only eyewitness account of the event. Written in answer to queries from the historian Tacitus, the first chronicles Pliny the Elder's ...more
Dec 10, 2009 Tony rated it really liked it
Shelves: history

Pliny (The Younger). A SELF PORTRAIT. **** This Pliny is known as the Younger to distinguish him from his uncle, Pliny, the Elder. We know about his uncle through his own famous work, “A Natural History,” which in those times ran to thirty-seven volumes. This Pliny was a Senator in Rome during the latter half of the first century A.D. Young Pliny managed to arrange most of his correspondence into a grouping of ten books before his death. They are more or less chronological, and represent a telli
Alexander Rolfe
Jun 21, 2016 Alexander Rolfe rated it it was amazing
Sometimes it's hard to tell a personality flaw from a difference of values. Pliny seems full of himself occasionally, but I hesitate to call him vain because he solicits and accepts direct criticism without getting his feathers ruffled. I think I'm just seeing the Roman concern for fame and regard for rank. I found him on the whole a likeable fellow.

Anyway, this is an excellent window into the life of a Roman around 100 AD. It's good enough to make it onto my syllabus for a high school classica
Jan 14, 2017 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pliny is the sweetest and most adorable person, with a kind heart and incredible generosity of spirit; these letters are charming, uplifting, morally admirable and will tell you so much about life and attitudes under the Antonines. Whether you're interested in ancient Rome or not, I simply can't recommend reading them highly enough.
Mar 08, 2016 Mejix rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a fascinating historical document written by an insufferably vain and pompous Roman senator. Pliny was a social creature and his description of daily Roman life is vivid and rich in detail. His is not a very likable voice though, and the book is better read in small doses.
Feb 01, 2011 Philippe rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, translated
In high school I was an eager student of Latin, and so having read Caesar, Sallustius, Livius and many other great authors in the original, I was under the impression of having a good background in Roman history. And so it came that I didn't read anything about this particular historical period in at least fifteen years. Pliny's letters made me realise how superficial and cliche-ridden my understanding of that epoch was. It seems that as a high school student one is focused on the language to su ...more
Jennifer Malin
Sep 09, 2011 Jennifer Malin rated it really liked it
Being a Pompeii buff, I'd seen Pliny's evocative letter describing his personal experience of the year 79 eruption of Vesuvius (in which his uncle, Pliny the Elder, died). I was curious what else he had to say in his letters, so I picked up this book.

Pliny the Younger was a lawyer in ancient Rome, and though I was more interested in the domestic side of his life, I imagine it must be fascinating for modern attorneys to read about the workings of their profession 2,000 years ago. Even I found it
May 18, 2015 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: greco-roman
These letters are fantastic. On one level, the provide an avenue into the life of the Roman "optimates," and to a lesser extent, all of Roman society. On another level, it is interesting to trace certain themes throughout the whole collection, such as Pliny's concern for his leisure time (otium), and his efforts towards building a favorable legacy. Certain favorite letters include: 3.5 (a description of Pliny the Elder), 3.13 (contains helpful information about what parts of public speaking the ...more
Petruccio Hambasket IV
Jul 29, 2015 Petruccio Hambasket IV rated it it was amazing
This is such a quiet and pleasantly dry book that it almost drops my blood pressure every time I read it.

Other then the the marvelous historical insight into nuances and concepts exhibited by the early Roman Empire this book doesn't have much going for it that could be used for "recommendation".

Lots of the time Pliny is doing regular stuff like thanking one of his parents in law, or describing to us the layout of his vacation pad, or writing intermediary letters to try and improve the politica
Aug 24, 2010 Angel rated it it was ok
I picked this up because I saw it reviewed elsewhere (can't recall where now). Anyhow, it is not the most interesting book unless you really are into minutia. Pliny the Younger was a lawyer and politician in Imperial Rome, and much of the correspondence deals with cases he tried. It also deals with letters to friends, providing political advice and other types of advice, etc. If nothing else, it shows that politicians back in the day were not that different than today's in the sense of self-prom ...more
Nov 12, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Duh, I'm only 100% done in my reading, now I'm to update my progress? The program must have been written by a sports broadcaster. Pliny the Younger would not approve of values greater than C% in this instance.

I learned more from Pliny's Letters about the daily life and times of a well positioned Roman citizen than any other source to date. They range from touching (to his wife), fascinating (his account of the Pompey eruption & death of his uncle), to sobbering (how to deal with the Christia
Seamus Enright
Aug 16, 2012 Seamus Enright rated it liked it
He certainly lived in interesting times...Even though he's considered a primary source for information about life in the Roman Empire, paradoxically you have to know a lot about the structures of that society to really understand his work. A lot of the letters are about obscure legal matters which may be of interest to legal historians but not to someone with a casual interest in Ancient History. On the other hand his accounts of Pompeii and the treatment of early Christians are really enlighten ...more
Aug 10, 2015 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though it took me forever to finish, I did enjoy this compilation of letters by Pliny the Younger. The structure of society has not changed so very much in 2,000 years! Pliny describes his seaside villa, recommends certain young men for notice, tells of decisions at work, and shares his communications with the Emperor Trajan. The description of the eruption of Pompeii is of course remarkable enough on its own to set this book apart. No letter is very long, which makes this something easy to pick ...more
While this book does contain a lot of first hand information about life in Imperial Rome - especially the legal system and the elaborate network of favors, obligations, and patronage in the Senatorial class - it's not especially readable, being a collection of letters written by Pliny (and, near the end, by the Emperor Trajan to Pliny). Also, to be honest, Pliny does spend a good bit of time blowing his own horn about his virtue, legal acumen and generosity, which starts to wear on the reader af ...more
May 04, 2011 Kgwhitehurst rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pliny the Younger is a more positive a Stoic than say Seneca. Good glimpse at the way the Roman courts and Roman argumentation worked. Roman literary custom is also covered though I tend to find it trite and self-serving. His letters to Tacitus concerning his uncle's death are moving and revelatory. Two books left to go. Last book deals with his correspondence with Trajan. That'll be interesting.
Jan 15, 2009 Nate rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, rome, memoir
A pretty delightful change from the works of his contemporaries Tacitus and Suetonius. Pliny's letters give a more rounded and full picture of day to day life in the Roman Empire. Highlights include his account of the eruption of Vesuvius that wiped out Pompeii, and killed his uncle Pliny the Elder; his correspondence with Emperor Trajan; discussions of early Christians (whom he had executed); and descriptions of his country estates.
Aug 14, 2007 Joslyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone wanting to learn about politics in Ancient Rome
The letters of Pliny the Younger in this Oxford edition are nicely translated, capturing the eloquence, persuasiveness and desription known to be trademarks of his. A great source for those who want to take a deeper look at the politics of the Rome, forerunner to our own political system and tactics. Also interesting are the first hand accounts of historical events like the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Raeanna Hammerbacker
Jul 23, 2014 Raeanna Hammerbacker rated it it was amazing
An amazing look into the elite, political and social life of wealthy Roman citizens. From descriptions of leisurely homes to correspondence with the emperor Trajan to eyewitness accounts of the eruption of Vesuvius, Pliny the Younger's letters are an invaluable source to any one wanting to construct a context for studying the late Roman Republic and following Empire.
Feb 24, 2009 Christina rated it did not like it
I hate Pliny the Younger. I learned that Pliny the Younger is a pompous ass who likes to talk himself up as well as other people. He thinks he is amazing, he is long winded and if I had the unfortunate chance of meeting him in person I'd toss him off a fricking cliff.
May 14, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it
Intruiging look into the life of an ancient Roman diplomat. A collection of letters dealing with everything from an ancient Roman dinner party to the "Christian problem" that the Emperor Trajan had. A must read for anyone interested in ancient Roman culture.
May 23, 2010 Elissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Like Samuel Pepys, but in ancient Rome! Pliny had a lot of personality and many interests. Loved the Vesuvius part, poetry readings, vestal virgins, persecuting christians, etc. Very educational, need to read more about ancient Rome.
Aug 05, 2015 Laure added it
Shelves: school, literature
Read (translated) them in Latin as the subject of our exams. Loved the insight it gave in Roman life and their way of living. Pliny is a very intelligent and erudite man, but he is also quite full of himself and very elitist.
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  • Natural History: A Selection
  • Selected Letters
  • The Later Roman Empire (A.D. 354-378)
  • Epigrams
  • The Histories
  • Lives of the Later Caesars
  • Rome in the Late Republic
  • The Poems
  • The Poems of Exile: Tristia and the Black Sea Letters
  • The Jugurthine War and the Conspiracy of Catiline
  • The Sixteen Satires
  • Rome and Italy: Books VI-X of the History of Rome from its Foundation
  • Makers of Rome: Nine Lives
  • The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus
  • The Civil Wars
  • Brief Lives
  • The History of Alexander
  • Four Tragedies and Octavia
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo (61 AD – ca. 112 AD), better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him and they were both witnesses to the eruption of Vesuvius on 24 August 79 AD.

"You would have heard the wails of women, the shrieks of infants, shouts
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“An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit.” 18 likes
“So we must work at our profession and not make anybody else's idleness an excuse for our own. There is no lack of readers and listeners; it is for us to produce something worth being written and heard.” 3 likes
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