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Monday: January 16, 2006

Reading I: Pliny on the Murder of Larcius Macedo

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:09 PM GMT-0500

Dear Acilius,

1 A terrible thing, worthy of more than just a letter, has been suffered at the hands of his slaves by Larcius Macedo, a man of praetorian rank, a haughty and savage master who remembered too little — or rather too well — that his own father had been a slave. 2 He was bathing in his villa at Formiae. Suddenly his slaves surround him. One attacks his throat, another strikes his face, another his chest and belly, and even (disgusting to say) batters his private parts; and when they thought he was dead, they threw him down on the heated stone pavement to test whether he was alive. Either because he was unconscious, or because he was pretending to be unconscious, he lay outstretched and motionless and convinced them that he was entirely dead. 3 Only then is he carried out, as if he had been overcome by the heat. His more faithful slaves take him up, and his concubines come running with howling and shouts. Roused by their cries and revived by the coolness of the place he shows by opening his eyes and moving his body (as it was now safe) that he is still alive. 4 The slaves scatter; most of them have been captured, the rest are being sought. He himself, kept alive with difficulty for a few days, passed away, not without the consolation of vengeance, avenged while he was alive as those who have been murdered are avenged. 5 You see how many dangers, how many outrages, how many insults we are exposed to; nor is it possible for anyone to be safe just because he is lenient and kind; for it is not by rational calculation that masters are murdered, but by viciousness.

6 But enough about that. What else is new? Nothing, otherwise I would append it, for the page is not yet full, and the holiday allows further composition. I will add something that just occurred to me about the same Macedo. Once, as he was bathing in the public baths at Rome, a remarkable and (as the outcome showed) ominous thing occurred. 7 A Roman knight, lightly touched by a slave of his so that he would step aside, turned around and struck with the palm of his hand not the slave by whom he had been touched, but Macedo himself, so hard that he almost fell down. 8 Thus by a kind of gradation the baths were for him a place first of dishonor, afterwards of death. Goodbye.

(from The Younger Pliny, Letters, 3.14. Latin text here.)

Ancient Text of the Week

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:04 PM GMT-0500

Coming up shortly, as promised, the Younger Pliny on the murder of Larcius Macedo. This is a private letter, but no doubt polished up, since Pliny published it himself in his own lifetime. I have tried to translate it fairly closely. For instance, like other Latin authors, Pliny makes much use of the historical present for vividness, and I have translated these as presents whenever possible.

Questions, comments, and objections will be most welcome. These may be on the substance of the letter or the obscurities and infelicities in my translation.