Friday, March 17, 2023


Praesens the Slacker

Pliny, letter to Bruttius Praesens (7.3; tr. P.G. Walsh):
(1) Why do you persist in spending so much time, now in Lucania, and now in Campania? 'The reason is', you reply, 'that I am a Lucanian, and my wife is a Campanian.'

(2) This is a reasonable excuse for a prolonged absence, but not for an indefinite one. So why don't you return to Rome some time, where your distinction and glory and friendships with both upper and lower classes reside? For how long will you play the monarch? For how long will you enjoy late nights as you wish, and lie in for as long as you like? For how long will your shoes never be worn, your toga remain on holiday, and your day be entirely free?

(3) It is time to revisit our problems, if for no other reason than to avoid letting those pleasures of yours flag through overindulgence. Come and greet us for a short time, to take greater pleasure in being greeted. Experience the crush of this Roman crowd, so as to take full delight in solitude.

(4) But why do I foolishly dissuade one whom I am trying to entice? Perhaps these very exhortations may encourage you to bury yourself more and more in the leisure which I do not wish you to tear yourself away from, but merely to interrupt.

(5) If I were giving you dinner, I would mingle the sweet dishes with tangy and spicy ones, so that when your digestion was dulled and cloyed with the first, it could be sharpened by the second. Likewise I now urge you to season your most sweet manner of life from time to time with a few tart flavours. Farewell.

(1) tantane perseverantia tu modo in Lucania, modo in Campania? 'ipse enim' inquis 'Lucanus, uxor Campana.'

(2) iusta causa longioris absentiae, non perpetuae tamen. quin ergo aliquando in urbem redis? ubi dignitas, honor, amicitiae tam superiores quam minores. quousque regnabis? quousque vigilabis cum voles, dormies quamdiu voles? quousque calcei nusquam, toga feriata, liber totus dies?

(3) tempus est te revisere molestias nostras vel ob hoc solum, ne voluptates istae satietate languescant. saluta paulisper, quo sit tibi iucundius salutari, terere in hac turba, ut te solitudo delectet.

(4) sed quid imprudens, quem evocare conor, retardo? fortasse enim his ipsis admoneris, ut te magis ac magis otio involvas; quod ego non abrumpi, sed intermitti volo.

(5) ut enim, si cenam tibi facerem, dulcibus cibis acres acutosque miscerem, ut obtusus illis et oblitus stomachus his excitaretur, ita nunc hortor, ut iucundissimum genus vitae non nullis interdum quasi acoribus condias. vale.
A.N. Sherwin-White on calcei:
The senatorial shoe was a high red sandal, distinguished by its lacings (lora, corrigiae), and in the case of patricians by an ivory buckle (lunula). Mommsen, DPR vii.63 ff., discusses it at length.
On Bruttius Praesens see Ronald Syme, "Pliny' s Less Successful Friends," in his Roman Papers, II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), pp. 477-495 (at 489-491).

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