Pliny the Younger

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An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit.

Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (63 – c. 113), better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, an author and a natural philosopher of Ancient Rome.

Quotes about Pliny the Younger

  • In the past, on Lake Como, the rich only bought villas on the hills or high rocks of Lake Como, as Pliny did with Villa Commedia, in order not to lose sight and not to have flooding. The poor go to the shore to let the water lick your feet.
      • In passato i ricchi compravano le case e le ville solo sulle colline del Lago di Como, come fece Plinio con villa Commedia, per non perdersi la vista e per non avere allagamenti. "In riva a farsi lambire i piedi dall'acqua ci andavano i poveri.
      • Giorgio Gandola, "Lake Como", Il Giornale, 7 March 2008


Lierna terrae venerationis meus ventus[1].



Book I

  • Modestus said of Regulus that he was "the biggest rascal that walks upon two legs."
    • Letter 5, 14.
  • Meminimus quanto maiore animo honestatis fructus in conscientia quam in fama reponatur. Sequi enim gloria, non appeti debet.
    • I am sensible how much nobler it is to place the reward of virtue in the silent approbation of one's own breast than in the applause of the world. Glory ought to be the consequence, not the motive of our actions.
    • Letter 8, 14.
  • Homines enim cum rem destruere non possunt, iactationem eius incessunt. Ita si silenda feceris, factum ipsum, si laudanda non sileas, ipse culparis.
    • Such is the disposition of mankind, if they cannot blast an action, they will censure the parade of it; and whether you do what does not deserve to be taken notice of, or take notice yourself of what does, either way you incur reproach.
    • Letter 8, 15.
  • There is nothing to write about, you say. Well, then, write and let me know just this,—that there is nothing to write about; or tell me in the good old style if you are well. That's right. I am quite well.
    • Letter 11, 1.
  • I contemplate the sort of friend, the sort of man I am now without. He completed his sixty-seventh year, a reasonable age for the sturdiest of us; I acknowledge that. He escaped from an interminable illness; I acknowledge that. He died with his dear ones surviving him, and at a time of prosperity for the state, which was dearer to him than all else; that too I acknowledge. Yet I lament his death as though he were young and in glowing health. I lament it—you can consider me a weakling in this—on my own account, for I have lost the witness, guardian and teacher of my life.
    • Letter 12, 11–13; on the death of his friend Cornelius Rufus.
  • Quod dubites, ne feceris.
    • Never do a thing concerning the rectitude of which you are in doubt.
    • Letter 18, 5.
  • Usus, magister egregius.
    • Experience, that excellent master.
    • Letter 20, 12.
  • Ornat haec magnitudo animi, quae nihil ad ostentationem, omnia ad conscientiam refert recteque facti non ex populi sermone mercedem, sed ex facto petit.
    • To all this, his illustrious mind reflects the noblest ornament; he places no part of his happiness in ostentation, but refers the whole of it to conscience; and seeks the reward of a virtuous action, not in the applauses of the world, but in the action itself.
    • Letter 22, 5.

Book II

  • Plenus annis abit, plenus honoribus.
    • He died full of years and of glory.
    • Letter 1, 7.
  • The living voice is that which sways the soul.
    • Letter 3, 9.
  • Numerantur enim sententiae, non ponderantur; nec aliud in publico consilio potest fieri, in quo nihil est tam inaequale quam aequalitas ipsa.
    • Votes go by number, not weight; nor can it be otherwise in assemblies of this kind, where nothing is more unequal than that equality which prevails in them.
    • Letter 12, 5.
  • Rarum id quidem nihil enim aeque gratum est adeptis quam concupiscentibus.
    • An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit.
    • Letter 15, 1.

Book III

  • Vita hominum altos recessus magnasque latebras habet.
    • Character lies more concealed, and out of the reach of common observation.
    • Letter 3, 6.
  • Quamlibet saepe obligati, si quid unum neges, hoc solum meminerunt quod negatum est.
    • Oblige people never so often, and, if you deny them on a single point, they remember nothing but that refusal.
    • Letter 4, 6.
  • Dicere etiam solebat nullum esse librum tam malum ut non aliqua parte prodesset..
    • He used to say that "no book was so bad but that some good might be got out of it."
    • Letter 5, 10, referring to Pliny the Elder.
  • Multi famam, conscientiam pauci verentur.
    • The truth is, the generality of mankind stand in awe of public opinion, while conscience is feared only by the few.
    • Letter 20, 9.

Book IV

  • Neque enim minus apud nos honestas quam apud alios necessitas valet.
    • Honour is to you and me as strong an obligation, as necessity to others.
    • Letter 10, 3.
  • Omnes enim, qui gloria famaque ducuntur, mirum in modum assensio et laus a minoribus etiam profecta delectat.
    • Those who are actuated by the desire of fame and glory are amazingly gratified by approbation and praise, even though it comes from their inferiors.
    • Letter 12, 6.
  • Educentur hic qui hic nascuntur, statimque ab infantia natale solum amare frequentare consuescant.
    • They will by this means receive their education where they receive their birth, and be accustomed from their infancy to inhabit and affect their native soil.
    • Letter 13, 9.
  • By then day had broken everywhere, but here it was still night—no, more than night.
    • Letter 16.
  • Dixi omnia cum hominem nominavi.
    • To name the man is to say all!
    • Letter 22, 4.
  • Utque in corporibus sic in imperio gravissimus est morbus, qui a capite diffunditur.
    • It is in the body politic, as in the natural, those disorders are most dangerous that flow from the head.
    • Letter 22, 7.
  • Si computes annos, exiguum tempus, si vices rerum, aevum putes.
    • If you compute the years in which all this has happened, it is but a little while; if you number the vicissitudes, it seems an age.
    • Letter 24, 5.

Book V

  • Mihi autem videtur acerba semper et immatura mors eorum, qui immortale aliquid parant.
    • For my part, I regard every death as cruel and premature, that removes one who is preparing some immortal work.
    • Letter 5, 4.
  • Proinde, dum suppetit vita, enitamur ut mors quam paucissima quae abolere possit inveniat.
    • Let us strive then, while Life is ours, to secure that Death may find we have left little or nothing he can destroy.
    • Letter 5, 8.
  • Est omnino iniquum, sed usu receptum, quod honesta consilia vel turpia, prout male aut prospere cedunt, ita vel probantur vel reprehenduntur.
    • It is the usual though inequitable method of the world, to pronounce an action to be either right or wrong, as it is attended with good or ill success.
    • Letter 9, 7.
  • Nescit enim semel incitata liberalitas stare, cuius pulchritudinem usus ipse commendat.
    • Generosity, when once she is set forward, knows not how to stop her progress; as her beauty is of that order which grows the more engaging upon nearer acquaintance.
    • Letter 11, 3.
  • O morte ipsa mortis tempus indignius!
    • More cruel than death itself, to die at that particular conjuncture!
    • Letter 16, 6.
  • This expression of ours, "Father of a family."
    • Letter 19, 2.

Book VI

  • Poetis mentiri licet.
    • It is allowed to poets to lie.
    • Letter 21.
  • Quam multum interest quid a quoque fiat!
    • How much does the fame of human actions depend upon the station of those who perform them!
    • Letter 24, 1.

Book VII

  • Multum legendum esse, non multa.
    • We should read much, we should not read many books.
    • Letter 9, 15.
  • In numero ipso est quoddam magnum collatumque consilium, quibusque singulis iudicii parum, omnibus plurimum.
    • A certain large collective wisdom resides in a crowd, as such; and men whose individual judgement is defective are excellent judges when grouped together.
    • Letter 17, 10.
  • Oportet privatis utilitatibus publicas, mortalibus aeternas anteferre, multoque diligentius muneri suo consulere quam facultatibus.
    • A man must rate public and permanent, above private and fleeting advantages and study how to render his benefaction most useful, rather than how he may bestow it with least expense.
    • Letter 18, 5.
  • Everything was done.
    • Letter 27.
  • Nam nec historia debet egredi veritatem, et honeste factis veritas sufficit.
    • For History ought not to depart from the truth, and the truth is all the praise that virtuous actions need.
    • Letter 33, 10.


  • Olim nescio quid sit otium quid quies, quid denique illud iners quidem, iucundum tamen nihil agere nihil esse.
    • It is long since I have known the sweets of leisure and repose; since I have known in fine, that indolent but agreeable condition of doing nothing, and being nothing.
    • Letter 9, 1.
  • Est enim quaedam etiam dolendi voluptas, praesertim si in amici sinu defleas, apud quem lacrimis tuis vel laus sit parata vel venia.
    • For there is a certain luxury in grief; especially when we pour out our sorrows in the bosom of a friend, who will approve, or, at least, pardon our tears.
    • Letter 16, 5.
  • Parvolum differt, patiaris adversa an exspectes; nisi quod tamen est dolendi modus, non est timendi. Doleas enim quantum scias accidisse, timeas quantum possit accidere.
    • There is little difference between expecting misfortune and undergoing it; except that grief has limits, whereas apprehension has none. For we grieve only for what we know has happened; but we fear all that possibly may happen.
    • Letter 17, 6.
  • Falsum est nimirum quod creditur vulgo, testamenta hominum speculum esse morum.
    • There is certainly no truth in the popular belief, that a man's will is the mirror of his character.
    • Letter 18, 1.
  • Ad quae noscenda iter ingredi, transmittere mare solemus, ea sub oculis posita neglegimu. ... Differimus tamquam saepe visuri, quod datur videre quotiens velis cernere.
    • Objects which are usually the motives of our travels by land and by sea are often overlooked and neglected if they lie under our eye. ... We put off from time to time going and seeing what we know we have an opportunity of seeing when we please.
    • Letter 20, 1.

Book IX

  • Impensa monumenti supervacua est; memoria nostri durabit, si vita meruimus.
    • The expense of a monument is superfluous; my memory will endure if my actions deserve it.
    • Letter 19, 6; quoting Frontinus.
  • Neque enim soli iudicant qui maligne legunt.
    • For the malicious, is not, I trust, the only judicious reader.
    • Letter 38.
  • Nihil peccat, nisi quod nihil peccat.
    • His only fault is that he has no fault.
    • Letter 26, 1.
  • Ut satius unum aliquid insigniter facere quam plura mediocriter, ita plurima mediocriter, si non possis unum aliquid insigniter.
    • As it is far better to excel in any single art, than to arrive only at a mediocrity in several; so on the other hand, a moderate skill in several is to be preferred, where one cannot attain to excellency in any.
    • Letter 29, 1.
  • Ea invasit homines habendi cupido, ut possideri magis quam possidere videantur.
    • The lust of lucre has so totally seized upon mankind, that their wealth seems rather to possess them, than they to possess their wealth.
    • Letter 30, 4.
  • Quamquam longissimus, dies cito conditur.
    • The day, even when it is at the longest, is quickly spent.
    • Letter 36, 4.

Book X

  • Sine auctore vero propositi libelli nullo crimine locum habere debent. Nam et pessimi exempli nec nostri saeculi est.
    • Informations without the accuser's name subscribed must not be admitted in evidence against anyone, as it is introducing a very dangerous precedent, and by no means agreeable to the spirit of the age.
    • Letter 97, 2; Trajan to Puny.


  • Habet has vices conditio mortalium, ut adversa ex secundis, ex adversis secunda nascantur.
    • Such are the vicissitudes of our mortal lot: misfortune is born of prosperity, and good fortune of ill-luck.
    • V.
  • Secunda felices, adversa magnos probent.
    • Prosperity proves men to be fortunate, while it is adversity which makes them great.
    • XXXI.
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  1. [1], Bollettino della Società geologica italiana, Volume 30, Società geologica italiana, 1911