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Dio Chrysostom and Pliny the Younger

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Bronze portrait of the emperor Trajan. Glyptothek, München (Germany). Photo Marco Prins. Trajan (Glyptothek, München)
Dio Cocceianus of Prusa (c.40 - after 112) was a Greek politician and philosopher, and one of the first representatives of the Second Sophistic. In 111, he was accused of lèse-majesté. As it happens, the governor who preseded this trial was Pliny the Younger, who wrote a letter about this incident to the emperor Trajan, whose reply also survives. The correspondence is presented here in the translation by William Melmoth and Fredericq Bosanquet.

Pliny to Trajan (Pliny, Letter 10.81)

While I was despatching some public affairs, Sir, at my apartments in Prusa, at the foot of Olympus, with the intention of leaving that city the same day, the magistrate Asclepiades informed me that Eumolpus had appealed to me from a motion which Cocceianus Dio made in their senate.

Dion, it seems, having been appointed supervisor of a public building, desired that it might be assigned to the city in form. Eumolpus, who was counsel for Flavius Archippus, insisted that Dio should first be required to deliver in his accounts relating to this work, before it was assigned to the corporation, suggesting that he had not acted in the manner he ought. He added, at the same time, that in this building, in which your statue is erected, the bodies of Dion’s wife and son are entombed, and urged me to hear this cause in the public court of judicature.

Upon my at once assenting to his request, and deferring my journey for that purpose, he desired a longer day in order to prepare matters for hearing, and that I would try this cause in some other city. I appointed the city of Nicaea; where, when I had taken my seat, the same Eumolpus, pretending not to be yet sufficiently instructed, moved that the trial might be again put off: Dio, on the contrary, insisted it should be heard. They debated this point very fully on both sides, and entered a little into the merits of the cause.

When, being of opinion that it was reasonable it should be adjourned, and thinking it proper to consult with you in an affair which was of consequence in point of precedent, I directed them to exhibit the articles of their respective allegations in writing; for I was desirous you should judge from their own representations of the state of the question between them. Dio promised to comply with this direction, and Eumolpus also assured me he would draw up a memorial of what he had to allege on the part of the community. But he added that, being only concerned as advocate on behalf of Archippus, whose instructions he had laid before me, he had no charge to bring with respect to the sepulchres. Archippus, however, for whom Eumolpus was counsel here, as at Prusa, assured me he would himself present a charge in form upon this head. But neither Eumolpus nor Archippus (though I have waited several days for that purpose) have yet performed their engagement: Dio indeed has; and I have annexed his memorial to this letter.

I have inspected the buildings in question, where I find your statue is placed in a library; and as to the edifice in which the bodies of Dio's wife and son are said to be deposited, it stands in the middle of a court, which is enclosed with a colonnade. Deign, therefore, I entreat you, Sir, to direct my judgment in the determination of this cause above all others, as it is a point to which the public is greatly attentive, and necessarily so, since the fact is not only acknowledged, but countenanced by many precedents.

Trajan to Pliny (Pliny, Letter 10.82)

You well know, my dearest Secundus, that it is my standing maxim not to create an awe of my person by severe and rigorous measures, and by construing every slight offence into an act of treason; you had no reason, therefore, to hesitate a moment upon the point concerning which you thought proper to consult me. Without entering, therefore, into the merits of that question (to which I would by no means give any attention, though there were ever so many instances of the same kind), I recommend to your care the examination of Dio's accounts relating to the public works which he has finished; as it is a case in which the interest of the city is concerned, and as Dio neither ought nor, it seems, does refuse to submit to the examination.
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2007
Revision: 25 Dec. 2007
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