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his friend that he must not expect much plunder when
the provinces had already been squeezed to the utmost,
" when Marius has just stripped his slender Africans
to the skin." The Africa which Priscus had robbed was
a fertile province, including the northern shore of the
continent for a length of about 300 miles, now known
as Tunis and part of Algiers, and important to the
capital as supplying it with a great part of the wheat
which Italy could no longer produce. But Marius
had been something more than an ordinary robber.
He had received bribes so at least his accusers alleged
for bringing about the condemnation and death of
innocent men. One Yitellius Honoratus had bought
from him, for a sum of 2500 in our money, the
banishment of a Roman knight and the execution of
seven of his associates. Another man, Flavius Marti-
anus by name, had paid 6000 for a similar equiva-
lent. Here again the victim was a Roman knight.
He had been beaten with clubs, then condemned to
the mine, and finally strangled in prison. Marius,
anxious to avoid exposure, did not attempt to defend
himself against the charges of rapacity and extortion,

* See Epist. ii. 11, 12.



A STATE TRIAL AT ROME. 39

but, so far confessing his guilt, begged the senate to
appoint arbitrators who should estimate the amount to
be refunded. The province had employed as its coun-
sel the two friends, Pliny and Tacitus. They opposed
the request. The crimes of the accused had, they said,
been too atrocious to admit of such a settlement. The
senate decided that the arbitrators should be appointed,
but that the accusers should have liberty to substan-
tiate, if they could, the other charge. The accomplices
of Priscus were summoned to attend. Honoratus died
before he could be brought before the senate, but
Martianus was produced. After one adjournment,
made for the purpose of bringing the two accused to-
gether, the cause was heard. It was the time the
month of January when the capital was especially
crowded, and the senators attended in unusual numbers.
The Emperor himself presided in his capacity of con-
sul. Pliny, though he had had much experience as
an advocate, felt nervous and anxious. Priscus had
been consul, and had belonged to one of the sacred
colleges; he had been already found guilty of extor-
tion, and it might seem to be pressing hard on a fallen
man to bring against him further charges. The speech,
however, was a great success. It lasted for nearly
five hours. The Emperor showed his personal interest
in the orator by more than once suggesting to the
freedman who stood behind him, that he should warn
his master against an over-exertion to which his some-
what feeble frame was not equal. Pliny was followed
by other advocates on both sides, and the senate was
twice adjourned. A great part of the third day was



40 PLINTS LETTERS.

occupied by reading over the evidence. Then came
the voting. Two propositions had been made. One
was, that Marius should pay into the treasury the
money received from Martianus, and should be ban-
ished from Rome and Italy, while the exile of Mar-
tianus was to extend also to Africa. The other was
identical as far as the money was concerned, but
limited the banishment of Martianus to five years, and
proposed to subject the principal offender to no further
penalties than he had incurred under the charge of
extortion. The severer sentence was ultimately adopted.
It seems to us monstrously inadequate to the offence
of the guilty man ; but such was the character of the
Eoman law, so stern against the slave and the foreigner,
so strangely mild in its dealings with citizens, even
when it had to avenge a citizen's wrongs. Marius
certainly suffered little from his sentence. He found
some pleasant retreat out of Italy, where, as Juvenal
tells us, exile though he was, he lived at ease* and
"basked in the wrath of heaven." Pliny, however,
seemed perfectly satisfied with the result of the trial,
though he complains of the action of the senate in one
which grew out of it, when the deputy of Marius had
to answer for his share in his principal's crimes. This
man, Hostilius Firminus by name, had managed the
disgraceful affair of Martianus, receiving a private
bribe of about 80 " perfume money " it had been
called ; not an inappropriate name, says Pliny, for a

* Literally, "he drank from two o'clock." To dine early
was the mark of wealth and luxury, as no business was trans-
acted after dinner. Juv. Sat. L 49.



A PROVINCIAL TYRANT. 41

notorious fop. A proposition that lie should he de-
graded from the senate was rejected for the milder
alternative of passing over his name in allotting the
provincial governments. " What can he more ahsurd,"
asks Pliny, " than that one whom the senate has cen-
sured should still sit in the senate 1 should have heen
excluded from the proconsulship for had hehaviour
while he was deputy, and yet sit in judgment on pro-
consuls 1 should have heen found guilty of peculation,
and yet have to condemn or acquit other men 1 Such
was the pleasure of the majority. Opinions, you know,
are numbered, not weighed : so it must always he in
a puhlic assemhly, where there is nothing so unequal
as equality." The sensible Eomansaw clearly through
the specious fallacy of " universal suffrage."

It would be tedious to relate at length the course of
another trial, or rather series of trials, of a similar kind,
in which Pliny was engaged about this time. During
the year in which Africa had heen suffering under the
exactions of Priscus, Baetica, one of the divisions of
Further Spain, had found a worse tyrant in Caecilius
Classicus.* Curiously enough, Priscus was a native of
Spain, Classicus of Africa ; and the unlucky Spaniards
consoled themselves by a melancholy jest upon the
coincidence, " we have got as good as we gave."
Classicus was an open and notorious offender. He had
had the impudence regularly to enter in his books how
much every disgraceful affair had brought him in.
This interesting volume had been seized, as also had
been a letter to his mistress at Eome. " Hurrah ! " it

* Epist. iii. 9.



42 . PLINY'S LETTERS.

said, "Hurrah! I am coining to you a free man; I have
sold up half these fellows in the province, and have
cleared two-and-thirty thousand pounds." Classicus,
however, was beyond the reach of justice. He was
dead it was more than suspected by his own hand.
But other criminals were left, and the province deter-
mined to press the charge against them. They were
tried, not before the senate, but before juries appointed
by that body, and in batches. The prosecution, for
which Pliny appeared, had no difficulty in proving
agency the facts themselves were notorious. The de-
fence was, that the agency had been under compulsion.
Pliny was successful ; and though the immediate rela-
tives of Classicus his wife, daughter, and son-in-law
had been included in the indictment were acquitted,
many of his accomplices were condemned, and visited
with punishment, utterly inadequate, as it seems to
us, but yet considered at the time sufficiently severe.
An incident of the trial deserves mention, for its bear-
ing on the subject of the earlier part of the chapter.
One of the witnesses turned upon Norbanus Licinianus,
an official whom the province had employed to assist
in the case against his late superior, and accused him
of what we should call " compounding a felony," by
entering into a corrupt understanding with the wife of
Classicus. The wrath of the senate blazed up in a
moment. The man had plied the trade of an informer
in the days of Domitian. Old charges, not relevant,
as far as can be seen, to the matter in hand, were
brought against him among them, one that he had cor-
rupted one of the jurymen on a former trial. Licini-



NORBANUS LICINIANUS. 43

anus was visited with a severer sentence than any that
we hear of elsewhere. He was banished to an island.
There must have been some solid stuff in the man, if,
as Pliny tells us without knowing whether to call such
conduct courage or impudence, he continued to perform
his part in the great cause of which his own trial had
been an interlude, without flinching, to the end.



CHAPTER V.

THE ROMAN BAR PLINY's PRACTICE IN THE COURT
OP THE HUNDRED REQULUS.

PLINY, as we have said, gained early distinction by
practice as an advocate. The bar had long been an
honourable profession at Rome, and the way to wealth
and high office. In theory, the Roman counsel gave
his services gratuitously; his remuneration consisted
in presents from his clients, which, however, in pro-
cess of time, came to be commuted into regular fees.
A law' was passed in 204 B.C., forbidding such fees
to be received, and it was confirmed during the reign
of Augustus by a decree of the senate. Under the
reigns of his successors it seems to have been syste-
matically evaded, and occasional attempts to revive
it proved failures. The law, in fact, must have be-
come a dead letter ; and all that was done to check
the supposed evils of hired advocacy was to limit the
amount which a counsel might receive. This, as we
have it from Tacitus and from Pliny, was fixed at
about 80, and it was understood to be illegal for an
advocate to receive this fee till he had actually rendered
his services. It seems, however, hardly likely that such



PRACTICE AT THE ROMAN BAR. 45

a regulation could have been strictly enforced. The
lawyers, we may be sure, were too useful and influential
a class to be tied down by any such artificial arrange-
ment. Tacitus mentions an instance of a fee of some-
thing like 3500 having been once paid by a Eoman
knight. Senators of moderate fortune had always been
in the habit of increasing their means by practice at the
bar; and though, from time to time, they might grossly
abuse their opportunities by shameless rapacity, it was
on the whole felt to be expedient to put as little legal
restraint on them as possible. Pliny very clearly
implies in one of his letters that it must be left to
public opinion to adjust the relations between advo-
cates and their clients.

It was, as we have seen, at the end of Vespasian's
reign that Pliny entered on the profession of the bar,
and it would seem that he continued it during the
reigns of Titus and Domitian. He was well off", but
by no means so rich as many men of his time ; and
he, no doubt, found in the pursuit of the law the
surest road to wealth and official rank. The court in
which he began to practise, and with which indeed he
seems chiefly to have been connected, was distinguished
as the Court of the Hundred. Its precise functions are
not clearly known to us ; it is, however, certain that
it had to decide a great number of important civil
matters, and that various questions concerning owner-
ship and the devolution of property were brought
before it. Pliny frequently alludes to it, and in the
following letter describes some peculiar and amusing
practices to which young aspirants to legal fame were



46 PLINY'S LETTERS.

not ashamed to stoop. The letter is addressed to his
friend Maximus : *

" Your conjecture is correct ; I am at present quite
overworked with cases in the Hundred Court, which
give me more occupation than pleasure. Most of
them are paltry and insignificant, for we seldom get a
case in which a distinguished person or an important
matter is involved. Besides, only a few of the coun-
sel are men with whom it is any satisfaction to hold a
brief ; the rest are an impudent set, and many of them
are unknown young men, who come into the court to
make a speech by way of practice ; and they do it with
so little respect for their profession, and so recklessly,
that I think my friend Atilius has very correctly said,
that boys make a beginning at the bar with cases in
the Hundred Court, just as they begin their school
studies with Homer. At the bar, as at school, the
most important study is the first entered on. Before
my time, so my seniors tell me, even the noblest
youths could find no place in court unless they were
introduced by a man of consular rank ; so great was
the respect with which the most honourable of all
professions was regarded. Now all the barriers of
modesty and reverence are broken down, and instead
of being introduced, they thrust themselves into the
court. They have an audience like themselves, reg-
ularly hired for the occasion ; a speculator contracts
to supply them; presents are passed to them quite
openly in the court, and they go for the same hire from
court to court. Yesterday two young slaves of mine
* Epist. ii. 14.



THE ROMAN BAR. 47

were dragged off to applaud somebody, at half-a-crown
apiece. Such is the price of the highest eloquence.
For this you may fill a number of benches, collect a
crowd, and have a burst of cheering as soon as ever
the leader of the chorus has given his signal. Those
who don't understand, and who are not even listening,
must have a signal given them. Most of them pay no
attention, and these very persons cheer the most loudly.
If you ever have occasion to go through the colonnade
in which the court is held, and wish to know how the
different speakers acquit themselves, you need not go
on to the raised platform where the judges sit you
need not listen to the speeches ; it is easy enough to
give a right guess, for you may be sure that the man
who is most loudly cheered is the worst speaker.
Largius Licinus was the first to introduce this fashion,
but he only went round to people, and begged them to
come to the court and hear the speeches. This, at
any rate, is what I remember to have been told by my
tutor, Quintilian. ' I used,' he said, ' to attend on the
famous pleader Domitius Afer, and to go with him into
court. Once, when he was speaking in his usual slow
and impressive manner before the Hundred, he heard
close to him a great and strange noise. He paused in
astonishment. As soon as it ceased, he resumed the
thread of his argument, when the noise was repeated.
He again paused, and, when silence was restored, for
the third time continued his speech. At last he
asked, who was speaking ] The reply was, Licinus.
Upon this he broke off the case, and addressing the
judges, said, " My profession, gentlemen, is at an end."'



48 PLINY'S LETTERS.

Indeed, for many other reasons, the profession of the
bar was on its way to ruin at the time when Afer
thought it was wholly ruined. Now, it is certain that
it is all over with it. I am ashamed to tell you of
the mincing and affected pronunciation of the speakers,
and of the shrill - voiced applause with which their
speeches are received. All that is wanted to complete
the performance is the clapping of hands, and the
noise of drums and cymbals ; even the wildest shout-
ing (for there is no other phrase to describe a style
of cheering which would be unseemly in a theatre) is
a frequent accompaniment. For myself, a regard for
the benefit of my friends, and my comparative youth,
still keep me to my professional work ; for I am afraid
that people would think that I had given up a labori-
ous occupation rather than simply avoided such dis-
graceful scenes. However, I go into court less fre-
quently than was my wont, and this is a beginning of
gradual retirement from practice."

Pliny's practice in this court had brought him into
contact with one of the worst and most notorious speci-
mens of the informer class. This was Regulus, who
is the subject of frequent allusions in these letters.
He had laid the foundations of a successful career in
Nero's reign, and had continued to struggle out of ob-
scure poverty into immense wealth and high social
position. Under Vespasian and Titus he must have
been obliged to content himself with simply living on
his ill-gotten gains; but the last years of Domitian
raised him to the very highest pinnacle of prosperity.
He became a prince among millionaires, and a terror



THE INFORMER REGULUS. 49

to all good men. It is painful to find such a man
the object of the grossest flatteries from the poet Mar-
tial, and it shows how a man of real genius could
become morally debased under the sinister influences
of that bad time. To the infamous trade of a false
accuser Eegulus added the practice of the arts of the for-
tune-hunter, which he plied with the most shameless
assiduity. Pliny's stories about him illustrate a curi-
ous phase of Roman life. The following letters (of
which we give the substance) show us the manner of
man that he was, and may be supposed to indicate the
general character of his class.

PLINY TO VOCONIUS BOMANUS.*

" Did you ever see a man more cowed, more down
in the mouth, than Eegulus since Domitian's death ?
His crimes under Domitian were quite as bad as those
under Nero, but they were less easy of detection. He
began to fear I was angry with him, and so indeed I
was. He had done his best to imperil Rusticus Aru-
lenus ; he openly rejoiced at his death, and even
published a book in which he abused him, and called
him ' an ape of Stoic philosophers.' He made such
a savage attack on Herennius Senecio that Metius
Car us said to him, ' What have you to do with my
victims ? Did I ever attack Crassus or Camerinus 1 '
These were men whom Regulus had accused and ruined
in Nero's reign. He thought I was indignant at all
this ; and so, when he gave a reading to a select circle
out of the book he had published, he did not invite me.

* Epist. i. 5.
A. C. Vol. xi. D



50 PLINY'S LETTERS.

He remembered, too, what a savage attack he had
once made on me in the Court of the Hundred. I
was counsel for Arrionilla, a case which I had under-
taken at the request of Arulenus. I had Regulus
against me. In one part of the case I laid much stress
on an opinion given by Modestus, an excellent man,
who was then by Domitian's order in banishment.
Up jumps Regulus, and says to me, ' Pray, what view
do you take of the character of Modestus ? ' It would,
you see, have been very dangerous to me to have
replied, ' I think well of him ; ' it would have been
an infamous thing to have said the contrary. Well, I
really believe that Providence helped me out of the
scrape. ' I will answer your question,' I replied, ' if
this is the matter on which the court is about to
pronounce judgment.' He could say nothing. I was
praised and congratulated for having avoided com-
promising my credit by a safe but discreditable answer,
and for having escaped the snare of such an invidious
question. He was thoroughly frightened, and rushes
up to Csecilius Celer and Fabius Justus, and begs them
to reconcile us. This was not enough for him; he
goes off to Spurinna, and, with that cringing manner
which he always has when he is frightened, he says to
him, ' Pray, go and call on Pliny the very first thing
in the morning (be sure you do this, for I can't endure
my anxiety any longer), and do your best to prevail
on him not to be angry with me.' I had risen early ;
there comes a message from Spurinna to this effect,
' I am coming to see you.' I sent back word, ' I am
myself coming to you.' Well, we meet on the way in



THE INFORMER REQULUS. , 51

Livia's portico ; Spurinna explains the wishes of Eegu-
lus, and adds his own entreaties, as you would expect
from a very good man on behalf of one wholly unlike
himself. I replied to him, ' You will yourself clearly
perceive what message you think had best be sent
back to Eegulus ; you ought not to be misled by me.
I am waiting the return of Mauricus (he had not yet
come back from exile); I can't give you an answer
either way, because I mean to do whatever he decides
on, for he ought to be my leader in this matter, and I
ought to be simply his follower.' A few days after-
wards, Eegulus met me at one of the prsetor's levees ;
he kept close to me, and begged me to give him a
private interview. He then told me he was afraid
that a remark he had once made in the Court of the
Hundred still rankled in my mind. The remark, he
said, was made when he was replying as counsel to
myself and to Satrius Eufus, and was this ' Satrius
Eufus, who does not attempt to rival Cicero, and who
is content with the eloquence of our own day.' My
answer to him was ' I see now that you meant it ill-
naturedly, because you admit it yourself; but your
remark might have been taken as intended to be
complimentary. I do try to rival Cicero, and I am
not content with the eloquence of our own day. It is,
I think, the height of folly not to propose to one's self
the best pattern for imitation. But how comes it that
you remember this circumstance so distinctly, and
have forgotten the occasion in court when you asked
me what was my opinion of the loyalty of Modestus 1 '
Pale as he always looks, he then turned as pale as



52 PLINY'S LETTERS.

death, and stammered out that he asked the question, not
to hurt me, but to hurt Modestus. Note the fellow's
vindictive cruelty; he actually confessed to himself
that he wished to do an injury to one in exile. He
added an admirable reason for his conduct. ' Modes-
tus,' he said, ' in a letter written by him which was
read out before Domitian, used the following expression
Regulus, of all two-footed creatures the wickedest.'
And Modestus was perfectly right. This ended our
conversation. I did not wish to go further in the
matter, or to tie my hands in any way, till Mauricus
had returned. I am very well aware that Regulus is
a formidable person. He is rich, influential, courted
by many, feared by many, and to be feared often does
more for a man than to be loved."

The following letter, written after the death of
Regulus, describes some of the eccentric devices by
which he endeavoured to render his pleading in court
more effective.

PLINY TO ARRIANUS.*

" Sometimes I miss Regulus in our courts. I cannot
say I deplore his loss. My reason for missing him is,
that he really respected his profession, that he bestowed
infinite labour on it, made himself pale with study
and anxiety, wrote out his speeches, though he could
not get them by heart. He had a queer practice of
painting round his right eye if he was counsel for the
plaintiff, his left if he was for the defendant ; of wear-
ing a white patch on his forehead; of asking the
* Epist. vL 1.



DECLINE OF THE BAR. 53

soothsayers what the issue of the action would be, and
so forth. Yet all this eccentricity was really due to
his extreme earnestness in his profession. There was
another thing which was very acceptable to the counsel
who were engaged with him. He asked for unlimited
time in speaking, and he got together an audience.
What could be pleasanter than to be able to speak as
long as you liked before a full court, when the odium
of the whole arrangement rested with another 1 Still,
at any rate, Regulus has done well in ridding the
world of his presence ; and he would have done better
had he done it sooner. As things are now, he really
might have lived without hurt to the state under an
emperor in whose time he could not possibly do
mischief. And so one may very properly feel that
one sometimes misses him. Since his death it has
become an established practice for the court to give,
and for the counsel to ask, a limited time for the
pleadings. For both those who plead wish to have
done with it rather than to go on speaking, and the
judges who hfear the- case are anxious to decide it
rather than to continue sitting on the bench. Such
neglect, such apathy in a word, such utter indifference
as to our professional duties has come over us. Are
we wiser than our ancestors, or is our practice more
just and reasonable than the law itself, which liberally
grants ever so many hours, and days, and adjourn-
ments? Are we to consider them dull and beyond
measure tedious, and to fancy that we speak more
clearly, understand more readily, decide matters with
more scrupulous care, because we get through cases in



54 PLINY'S LETTERS.

fewer hours than they took days ? Begulus ! it
was by zeal in your profession that you secured an
advantage which is but rarely given to the highest
integrity. For my own part, whenever I have to hear
a case (and this I do oftener than I plead), I give
the greatest amount of time which any counsel asks.
It is, I think, rash to try to conjecture to what length a
cause yet to be tried is likely to run, and to set a limit
to an affair the extent of which is unknown to you.
The very first duty which a judge owes to his position
is to have that patience which constitutes an important
part of justice. Even superfluous matter had better
be brought forward than any really necessary point
be omitted. Besides, it is impossible to say whether


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