Pliny the Younger Criticism - Essay

Elmer Truesdell Merrill (essay date January-October 1915)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Merrill, Elmer Truesdell. “The Tradition of Pliny's Letters.” Classical Philology 10 (January-October 1915): 8-25.

[In the following essay, Merrill traces the manuscript history of and critical commentary on Pliny's Letters from Pliny's own day to the early twentieth century.]

It is my purpose to attempt in these pages a mere outline sketch, therefore without much argument, of the tradition of Pliny's Letters i-ix from the time of their first appearance down to the era of the early printed editions. Where I could I have avoided the duplication of discussion by referring to articles already published.

Jean Masson in...

(The entire section is 6975 words.)

Selatie Edgar Stout (essay date 1954)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Stout, Selatie Edgar. Introduction to Scribe and Critic at Work in Pliny's Letters: Notes on the History and Present Status of the Text, pp. 1-10. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1954.

[In the following essay, Stout offers a publication history of Pliny's Letters and notes that textual criticism on the work from the 1800s sheds important light on the authoritativeness of the source of the manuscripts used by scholars.]

For about 375 years after the death of Pliny the Younger, which probably occurred a.d. 113, his Epistulae were circulated in two corpuses, one containing the nine books of the Letters to His Friends and the other...

(The entire section is 4538 words.)

A. N. Sherwin-White (essay date 1966)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Sherwin-White, A. N. “General Introduction to the Private Letters.” In The Letters of Pliny: A Historical and Social Commentary, pp. ix-xli. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966.

[In the following essay, Sherwin-White praises the formal, yet simple language used by Pliny to illustrate the major themes and subjects in his Letters,, discusses their chronology and composition, and evaluates their authenticity as correspondence.]


Satura nostra tota est, was the Roman claim. They might have added epistula quoque, with justice so far as the surviving literature is...

(The entire section is 11141 words.)

A. N. Sherwin-White (essay date April 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Sherwin-White, A. N. “Pliny, the Man and His Letters.” Greece and Rome 16, no. 1 (April 1969): 76-90.

[In the following essay, Sherwin-White examines Pliny's letters and notes that they reveal much about the writer's own personality, including his humanity, generosity, boldness, his weaknesses, and his pleasant nature.]

Pliny lived in the heyday of the Roman empire, being born in a.d. 62 in the middle of the reign of Nero, at Comum by Lake Como in north Italy, and he lived until about a.d. 112. His family were not of the old Roman nobility but belonged to the second grade of the Roman upper classes, the so-called Knights or equites Romani. Pliny...

(The entire section is 7393 words.)

Elizabeth Spalding Dobson (essay date April 1982)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Spalding Dobson, Elizabeth. “Pliny the Younger's Depiction of Women.” The Classical Bulletin 58, no. 6 (April 1982): 81-85.

[In the following essay, Spalding Dobson examines Pliny's letters, focusing specifically on his portraits of intelligent, virtuous, and heroic upper-class Roman women, noting the uniqueness of these characterizations in comparison with female characterizations by Pliny's contemporaries.]

A study of Pliny the Younger's letters to and about women provides some interesting cultural insights into the position of the aristocratic woman of Rome and its environs in the early second century A.D. At the same time, the reader gains insight into...

(The entire section is 3151 words.)

Albert A. Bell (essay date 1990)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bell, Albert A. “Pliny the Younger: The Kinder, Gentler Roman.” Classical Bulletin 66, no. 1-2 (1990): 37-41.

[In the following essay, Bell argues that Pliny's gentle nature and reputation as a good husband, generous employer, fair master, tender man, and principled public servant—evidence of which is culled from his letters—suggest a kinder side to Roman life than depicted by other, more satiric classical authors.]

If one were to play word association, the mention of “Roman” almost certainly would not evoke responses such as “kind” or “gentle.” Orgies, slaughter in the amphitheatre, exposure of newborn children, brutal treatment of slaves,...

(The entire section is 3219 words.)

Frederick Jones (essay date 1991)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Jones, Frederick. “Naming in Pliny's Letters.” Symbolae Osleonses 66 (1991): 147-70.

[In the following essay, Jones studies Pliny's Letters as a means of gaining insight into the social conditions and protocols under which Latin name forms were used.]

Language inevitably makes and enacts presuppositions about the social conditions under which communication takes place. Thus Cicero distinguished private and various kinds of public discourse (ad Famm. 9.21; 15.21), Quintilian distinguished persuasive functions (12.10.59), and writing and speaking (12.10.49f), and stressed the importance of gauging the audience and the circumstances...

(The entire section is 7896 words.)

Mark P. O. Morford (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Morford, Mark P. O. “Iubes Esse Liberos: Pliny's Panegyricus and Liberty.” American Journal of Philology 113 (1992): 575-93.

[In the following essay, Morford defends Pliny's Panegyricus from the harsh criticism it has received, arguing that the work should be viewed within the conventions of ceremonial rhetoric.]

Pliny's Panegyricus has been harshly treated in recent decades. The opinion of Frank Goodyear is typical: “It has fallen, not undeservedly, into almost universal contempt.”1 Sir Ronald Syme is hardly more subtle: “The Panegyricus survives as the solitary specimen of Latin eloquence from the...

(The entire section is 7403 words.)

Gunhild Vidén (essay date 1993)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Vidén, Gunhild. “Women in the Works of Pliny the Younger.” In Women in Roman Literature: Attitudes of Authors under the Early Empire, pp. 91-107. Goteborg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1993.

[In the following essay, Vidén discusses Pliny's Letters to and about Roman women, illustrating that Pliny included a number of women among his friends and that his traditional Roman view of marriage and family reflected his idea of the exemplary woman.]

It is hard to think of any author who differs more in tone from Tacitus than his contemporary and friend Pliny the younger. Where Tacitus gives proof of severity and harsh judgement Pliny's work...

(The entire section is 8041 words.)

John Bodel (essay date fall 1995)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bodel, John. “Minicia Marcella: Taken before Her Time.” American Journal of Philology 116, no. 3 (fall 1995): 453-60.

[In the following essay, Bodel discusses discrepancies in an obituary composed by Pliny, theorizing that Pliny's account is not so concerned with factual details regarding the death as it is about the rhetorical, literary, and philosophical implications of the young woman's passing.]

Writing to his friend Aefulanus Marcellinus sometime in a.d. 105 or 106, the younger Pliny lamented the untimely death of the daughter of a mutual friend, Minicius Fundanus: destined for an advantageous marriage, the girl had been deprived of her appointed...

(The entire section is 3296 words.)

Debra Hershkowitz (essay date 1995)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hershkowitz, Debra. “Pliny the Poet.” Greece and Rome 42, no. 2 (1995): 168-81.

[In the following essay, Hershkowitz notes that although Pliny considered his poetry an interest that was secondary to his oratory, it was a significant part of his literary activity, often aiding him greatly in his work as a statesman and an orator.]

In letter 4.14, Pliny the Younger remarks that he doesn't worry too much about criticism of his poetry since he's not planning to give up the day job (§10):

nam si hoc opusculum nostrum aut potissimum esset aut solum, fortasse posset durum uideri dicere ‘quaere quod agas’: molle et humanum...

(The entire section is 6599 words.)

Andrew M. Riggsby (essay date winter 1998)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Riggsby, Andrew M. “Self and Community in Pliny the Younger.” Arethusa 31, no. 1 (winter 1998): 75-97.

[In the following essay, Riggsby shows how a comparison between Pliny's letters and those of other Roman authors who concerned themselves with the role of the orator reveals him as an extremely conservative intellectual in terms of his thinking on the relationship between the individual and community.]

Pliny the Younger described himself as an imitation, if a somewhat pale one, of Cicero (4.8.4-5, 9.2.2-3). In a recent paper examining this connection, I argued that its value for Pliny lay in the identification of both men as orators and the further...

(The entire section is 9365 words.)