Greece and Rome (Second Series)

Research Article

Pliny, the Man and his Letters

A. N. Sherwin-White

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 Ramani. Pliny trained to become an advocate in the courts of civil law, and partly by his talents and partly through the influence of family friends in the senatorial class he gained promotion to the senior grade of the Roman administration. He became a Roman senator when he was about twenty-eight years old, and eventually climbed to the top rung of the Roman public service. So he was in Roman terms a self-made man, the first senator of his family. But he was also a highly educated man; as a young man he attended the schools of the most famous professors of literature at Rome, and especially that of the great Quintilian, whose book on the art of rhetoric survives to show the sort of education that Pliny received.