C. PLINIUS CAECILIUS SECUNDUS


Pliny the Younger lived at the end of the first and in the early second century AD. He was born in Como. After losing his father he was adopted by his uncle, Pliny the Elder. Quintilian was among his teachers. He was a lawyer and went through the cursus honorum. He expressed his gratitude to Trajan in the Panegyricus (a speech held before Trajan had started work in Portus). He had a villa to the south of Ostia, at the coast, one of a long row of villa's. It is described in his Letters, in which he also describes a flooding of the Tiber.


Epistulae 2, 17, 15
C. Plinius Gallo suo s.
(1) Miraris cur me Laurentinum vel - si ita mavis -, Laurens meum tanto opere delectet; desines mirari, cum cognoveris gratiam villae, opportunitatem loci, litoris spatium.
(2) Decem septem milibus passuum ab urbe secessit, ut peractis quae agenda fuerint salvo iam et composito die possis ibi manere. Aditur non una via; nam et Laurentina et Ostiensis eodem ferunt, sed Laurentina a quarto decimo lapide, Ostiensis ab undecimo relinquenda est. Utrimque excipit iter aliqua ex parte harenosum, iunctis paulo gravius et longius, equo breve et molle.
(3) Varia hinc atque inde facies; nam modo occurrentibus silvis via coartatur, modo latissimis pratis diffunditur et patescit; multi greges ovium, multa ibi equorum boum armenta, quae montibus hieme depulsa herbis et tepore verno nitescunt. Villa usibus capax, non sumptuosa tutela.
(4) Cuius in prima parte atrium frugi, nec tamen sordidum; deinde porticus in D litterae similitudinem circumactae, quibus parvola sed festiva area includitur. Egregium hac adversus tempestates receptaculum; nam specularibus ac multo magis imminentibus rectis muniuntur.
(5) Est contra medias cavaedium hilare, mox triclinium satis pulchrum, quod in litus excurrit ac si quando Africo mare impulsum est, fractis iam et novissimis fluctibus leviter alluitur. Undique valvas aut fenestras non minores valvis habet atque ita a lateribus a fronte quasi tria maria prospectat; a tergo cavaedium porticum aream porticum rursus, mox atrium silvas et longinquos respicit montes.
(6) Huius a laeva retractius paulo cubiculum est amplum, deinde aliud minus quod altera fenestra admittit orientem, occidentem altera retinet; hac et subiacens mare longius quidem sed securius intuetur.
(7) Huius cubiculi et triclinii illius obiectu includitur angulus, qui purissimum solem continet et accendit. Hoc hibernaculum, hoc etiam gymnasium meorum est; ibi omnes silent venti, exceptis qui nubilum inducunt, et serenum ante quam usum loci eripiunt.
(8) Annectitur angulo cubiculum in hapsida curvatum, quod ambitum solis fenestris omnibus sequitur. Parieti eius in bibliothecae speciem armarium insertum est, quod non legendos libros sed lectitandos capit.
(9) Adhaeret dormitorium membrum transitu interiacente, qui suspensus et tubulatus conceptum vaporem salubri temperamento huc illuc digerit et ministrat. Reliqua pars lateris huius servorum libertorumque usibus detinetur, plerisque tam mundis, ut accipere hospites possint.
(10) Ex alio latere cubiculum est politissimum; deinde vel cubiculum grande vel modica cenatio, quae plurimo sole, plurimo mari lucet; post hanc cubiculum cum procoetone, altitudine aestivum, munimentis hibernum; est enim subductum omnibus ventis. Huic cubiculo aliud et procoeton communi pariete iunguntur.
(11) Inde balinei cella frigidaria spatiosa et effusa, cuius in contrariis parietibus duo baptisteria velut eiecta sinuantur, abunde capacia si mare in proximo cogites. Adiacet unctorium, hypocauston, adiacet propnigeon balinei, mox duae cellae magis elegantes quam sumptuosae; cohaeret calida piscina mirifica, ex qua natantes mare aspiciunt,
(12) nec procul sphaeristerium quod calidissimo soli inclinato iam die occurrit. Hic turris erigitur, sub qua diaetae duae, totidem in ipsa, praeterea cenatio quae latissimum mare longissimum litus villas amoenissimas possidet.
(13) Est et alia turris; in hac cubiculum, in quo sol nascitur conditurque; lata post apotheca et horreum, sub hoc triclinium, quod turbati maris non nisi fragorem et sonum patitur, eumque iam languidum ac desinentem; hortum et gestationem videt, qua hortus includitur.
(14) Gestatio buxo aut rore marino, ubi deficit buxus, ambitur; nam buxus, qua parte defenditur tectis, abunde viret; aperto caelo apertoque vento et quamquam longinqua aspergine maris inarescit.
(15) Adiacet gestationi interiore circumitu vinea tenera et umbrosa, nudisque etiam pedibus mollis et cedens. Hortum morus et ficus frequens vestit, quarum arborum illa vel maxime ferax terra est, malignior ceteris. Hac non deteriore quam maris facie cenatio remota a mari fruitur, cingitur diaetis duabus a tergo, quarum fenestris subiacet vestibulum villae et hortus alius pinguis et rusticus.
(16) Hinc cryptoporticus prope publici operis extenditur. Utrimque fenestrae, a mari plures, ab horto singulae sed alternis pauciores. Hae cum serenus dies et immotus, omnes, cum hinc vel inde ventis inquietus, qua venti quiescunt sine iniuria patent.
(17) Ante cryptoporticum xystus violis odoratus. Teporem solis infusi repercussu cryptoporticus auget, quae ut tenet solem sic aquilonem inhibet summovetque, quantumque caloris ante tantum retro frigoris; similiter africum sistit, atque ita diversissimos ventos alium alio latere frangit et finit. Haec iucunditas eius hieme, maior aestate.
(18) Nam ante meridiem xystum, post meridiem gestationis hortique proximam partem umbra sua temperat, quae, ut dies crevit decrevitve, modo brevior modo longior hac vel illa cadit.
(19) Ipsa vero cryptoporticus tum maxime caret sole, cum ardentissimus culmini eius insistit. Ad hoc patentibus fenestris favonios accipit transmittitque nec umquam aere pigro et manente ingravescit.
(20) In capite xysti, deinceps cryptoporticus horti, diaeta est amores mei, re vera amores: ipse posui. In hac heliocaminus quidem alia xystum, alia mare, utraque solem, cubiculum autem valvis cryptoporticum, fenestra prospicit mare.
(21) Contra parietem medium zotheca perquam eleganter recedit, quae specularibus et velis obductis reductisve modo adicitur cubiculo modo aufertur. Lectum et duas cathedras capit; a pedibus mare, a tergo villae, a capite silvae: tot facies locorum totidem fenestris et distinguit et miscet.
(22) Iunctum est cubiculum noctis et somni. Non illud voces servolorum, non maris murmur, non tempestatum motus non fulgurum lumen, ac ne diem quidem sentit, nisi fenestris apertis. Tam alti abdicitque secreti illa ratio, quod interiacens andron parietem cubiculi hortique distinguit atque ita omnem sonum media inanitate consumit.
(23) Applicitum est cubiculo hypocauston perexiguum, quod angusta fenestra suppositum calorem, ut ratio exigit, aut effundit aut retinet. Procoeton inde et cubiculum porrigitur in solem, quem orientem statim exceptum ultra meridiem oblicum quidem sed tamen servat.
(24) In hanc ego diaetam cum me recepi, abesse mihi etiam a villa mea videor, magnamque eius voluptatem praecipue Saturnalibus capio, cum reliqua pars tecti licentia dierum festisque clamoribus personat; nam nec ipse meorum lusibus nec illi studiis meis obstrepunt.
(25) Haec utilitas haec amoenitas deficitur aqua salienti, sed puteos ac potius fontes habet; sunt enim in summo. Et omnino litoris illius mira natura: quacumque loco moveris humum, obvius et paratus umor occurrit, isque sincerus ac ne leviter quidem tanta maris vicinitate corruptus.
(26) Suggerunt affatim ligna proximae silvae; ceteras copias ostiensis colonia ministrat. Frugi quidem homini sufficit etiam vicus, quem una villa discernit. In hoc balinea meritoria tria, magna commoditas, si forte balineum domi vel subitus adventus vel brevior mora calfacere dissuadeat.
(27) Litus ornant varietate gratissima nunc continua nunc intermissa tecta villarum, quae praestant multarum urbium faciem, sive mari sive ipso litore utare; quod non numquam longa tranquillitas mollit, saepius frequens et contrarius fluctus indurat.
(28) Mare non sane pretiosis piscibus abundat, soleas tamen et squillas optimas egerit. Villa vero nostra etiam mediterraneas copias praestat, lac in primis; nam illuc e pascuis pecora conveniunt, si quando aquam umbramve sectantur.
(29) Iustisne de causis iam tibi videor incolere inhabitare diligere secessum? quem tu nimis urbanus es nisi concupiscis. Atque utinam concupiscas! ut tot tantisque dotibus villulae nostrae maxima commendatio ex tuo contubernio accedat. Vale.
To Gallus.
(1) You may wonder why my Laurentine place (or my Laurentian, if you like that better) is such a joy to me, but once you realize the attractions of the home itself, the amenities of its situation, and its extensive sea-front, you will have your answer.
(2) It is seventeen miles from Rome, so that it is possible to spend the night there after necessary business is done, without having cut short or hurried the day's work, and it can be approached by more than one route; the roads to Laurentum and Ostia both lead in that direction, but you must leave the one at the fourteenth milestone and the other at the eleventh. Whichever way you go, the side road you take is sandy for some distance and rather heavy and slow-going if you drive, but soft and easily covered on horseback.
(3) The view on either side is full of variety, for sometimes the road narrows as it passes through the woods, and then it broadens and opens out through wide meadows where there are many flocks of sheep and herds of horses and cattle driven down from the mountains in winter to grow sleek on the pastures in the springlike climate. The house is large enough for my needs but not expensive to keep up.
(4) It opens into a hall, unpretentious but not without dignity, and then there are two colonnades, rounded like the letter D, which enclose a small but pleasant courtyard. This makes a splendid retreat in bad weather, being protected by windows and still more by the overhanging roof.
(5) Opposite the middle of it is a cheerful inner hall, and then a dining-room which really is rather fine; it runs out towards the shore, and whenever the sea is driven inland by the south-west wind it is lightly washed by the spray of the spent breakers. It has folding doors or windows as large as the doors all round, so that at the front and sides it seems to look out on to three seas, and at the back has a view through the inner hall, the courtyard with the two colonnades, and the entrance-hall to the woods and mountains in the distance.
(6) To the left of this and a little farther back from the sea is a large bedroom, and then another smaller one which lets in the morning sunshine with one window and holds the last rays of the evening sun with the other; from this window too is a view of the sea beneath, this time at a safe distance.
(7) In the angle of this room and the dining-room is a corner which retains and intensifies the concentrated warmth of the sun, and this is the winter-quarters and gymnasium of my household for no winds can be heard there except those which bring the rain clouds and the place can still be used after the weather has broken.
(8) Round the corner is a room built round in an apse to let in the sun as it moves round and shines in each window in turn, and with one wall fitted with shelves like a library to hold the books which I read and read again.
(9) Next comes a bedroom on the other side of a passage which has a floor raised and fitted with pipes to receive hot steam and circulate it at a regulated temperature. The remaining rooms on this side of the house are kept for the use of my slaves and freedmen, but most of them are quite presentable enough to receive guests.
(10) On the other side of the dining-room is an elegantly decorated bedroom, and then one which can either be a bedroom or a moderate-sized dining-room and enjoys the bright light of the sun reflected from the sea; behind is another room with an antechamber, high enough to be cool in summer and a refuge in winter, for it is sheltered from every wind. A similar room and antechamber are divided off by a single wall.
(11) Then comes the cooling-room of the bath, which is large and spacious and has two curved baths built out of opposite walls; these are quite large enough if you consider that the sea is so near. Next come the oiling-room, the furnace-room, and the antechamber to the bath, and then two rest-rooms, beautifully decorated in a simple style, leading to the heated swimming-bath which is much admired and from which swimmers can see the sea.
(12) Close by is the ball-court which receives the full warmth of the setting sun. Here there is a second storey, with two living-rooms below and two above, as well as a dining-room which commands the whole expanse of the sea and stretch of shore with all its lovely houses.
(13) Elsewhere another upper storey contains a room which receives both the rising and setting sun, and a good-sized wine-store and granary behind, while below is a dining-room where nothing is known of a high sea but the sound of the breakers, and even that as a dying murmur; it looks on to the garden and the encircling drive.
(14) All round the drive runs a hedge of box, or rosemary to fill any gaps, for box will flourish extensively where it is sheltered by the buildings, but dries up if exposed in the open to the wind and salt spray even at a distance.
(15) Inside the inner ring of the drive is a young and shady vine pergola, where the soil is soft and yielding even to the bare foot. The garden itself is thickly planted with mulberries and figs, trees which the soil bears very well though it is less kind to others. On this side the dining-room away from the sea has a view as lovely as that of the sea itself, while from the windows of the two rooms behind can be seen the entrance to the house and another well-stocked kitchen garden.
(16) Here begins a covered arcade nearly as large as a public building. It has windows on both sides, but more facing the sea, as there is one in each alternate bay on the garden side. These all stand open on a fine and windless day, and in stormy weather can safely be opened on the side away from the wind.
(17) In front is a terrace scented with violets. As the sun beats down, the arcade increases its heat by reflection and not only retains the sun but keeps off the north-east wind so that it is as hot in front as it is cool behind. In the same way it checks the south-west wind, thus breaking the force of winds from wholly opposite quarters by one or the other of its sides; it is pleasant in winter but still more so in summer
(18) when the terrace is kept cool in the morning and the drive and nearer part of the garden in the afternoon, as its shadow falls shorter or longer on one side or the other while the day advances or declines.
(19) Inside the arcade, of course, there is least sunshine when the sun is blazing down on its roof, and as its open windows allow the western breezes to enter and circulate, the atmosphere is never heavy with stale air.
(20) At the far end of the terrace, the arcade and the garden is a suite of rooms which are really and truly my favourites, for I had them built myself. Here is a sun-parlour facing the terrace on one side, the sea on the other, and the sun on both. There is also a room which has folding doors opening on to the arcade and a window looking out on the sea.
(21) Opposite the intervening wall is a beautifully designed alcove which can be thrown into the room by folding back its glass doors and curtains, or cut off from it if they are closed; it is large enough to hold a couch and two arm-chairs, and has the sea at its foot, the neighbouring villas behind, and the woods beyond, views which can be seen separately from its many windows or blended into one.
(22) Next to it is a bedroom for use at night which neither the voices of my household, the sea's murmur, nor the noise of a storm can penetrate, any more than the lightning's flash and light of day unless the shutters are open. This profound peace and seclusion are due to the dividing passage which runs between the room and the garden so that any noise is lost in the intervening space.
(23) A tiny furnace-room is built on here, and by a narrow outlet retains or circulates the heat underneath as required. Then there is an ante-room and a second bedroom, built out to face the sun and catch its rays the moment it rises, and retain them until after midday, though by then at an angle.
(24) When I retire to this suite I feel as if I have left my house altogether and much enjoy the sensation; especially during the Saturnalia when the rest of the roof resounds with festive cries in the holiday freedom, for I am not disturbing my household's merrymaking nor they my work.
(25) Only one thing is needed to complete the amenities and beauty of the house - running water; but there are wells, or rather springs, for they are very near the surface. It is in fact a remarkable characteristic of this shore that wherever you dig you come upon water at once which is pure and not in the least brackish, although the sea is so near.
(26) The woods close by provide plenty of firewood, and the town of Ostia supplies us with everything else. There is also a village, just beyond the next house, which can satisfy anyone's modest needs, and here there are three baths for hire, a great convenience if a sudden arrival or too short a stay makes us reluctant to heat up the bath at home.
(27) The sea-front gains much from the pleasing variety of the houses built either in groups or far apart; from the sea or shore these look like a number of cities. The sand on the shore is sometimes too soft for walking after a long spell of fine weather, but more often it is hardened by the constant washing of the waves.
(28) The sea has admittedly few fish of any value, but it gives us excellent soles and prawns, and all inland produce is provided by the house, especialy milk: for the herds collect there from the pastures whenever they seek water and shade.
(29) And now do you think I have a good case for making this retreat my haunt and home where I love to be? You are too polite a townsman if you don't covet it! But I hope you will, for then the many attractions of my treasured house will have another strong recommendation in your company. Farewell.

Translation: Penguin, B. Radice.

Epistulae 8, 17, 1-2
C. Plinius Macrino suo s.
Tiberis alveum excessit et demissioribis ripis alte superfunditur. Quamquam fossa, quam providentissimus imperator fecit, exhaustus premit vallis, innatat campis, quaque planum solum, pro solo cernitur.
To Macrinus.
The Tiber has overflowed its bed and deeply flooded its lower banks, so that although it is being drained by the canal cut by the Emperor, with his usual foresight, it is filling the valleys and inundating the fields, and wherever there is level ground there is nothing to be seen but water.

Translation: Penguin, B. Radice.

Panegyricus XXIX,2
Nec vero ille civilius quam parens noster auctoritate consilio fide reclusit vias portus patefecit, itinera terris litoribus mare litora mari reddidit, diversasque gentes ita commercio miscuit, ut quod genitum esset usquam, id apud omnes natum videretur. Herein he [Pompeius] proved himself no finer than our father [Trajan], who in his wisdom and authority and devotion to the people has opened roads, built harbours, created routes overland, let the sea into the shore and moved the shore out to sea, and linked far distant peoples by trade so that natural products in any place now seem to belong to all.

Translation: Penguin, B. Radice.