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Pliny’s Panegyricus (100 ce) survives as a unique example of senatorial
rhetoric from the early Roman empire. It offers an eyewitness account
of the last years of Domitian’s principate, the reign of Nerva and Tra-
jan’s early years, and it communicates a detailed senatorial view on
the behaviour expected of an emperor. It is an important document
in the development of the ideals of imperial leadership, but it also
contributes greatly to our understanding of imperial political culture
more generally. This volume, the first ever devoted to the Panegyricus,
contains expert studies of its key historical and rhetorical contexts, as
well as important critical approaches to the published version of the
speech and its influence in antiquity. It offers scholars of Roman his-
tory, literature and rhetoric an up-to-date overview of key approaches
to the speech, and students and interested readers an authoritative
introduction to this vital and under-appreciated speech.
paul roche is Senior Lecturer in Latin at the University of Sydney.
He has published a number of articles and chapters on the literature
and history of the early Roman empire, and has a particular focus on
politics and public imagery in Domitianic and Trajanic Rome. He is
the author of Lucan, De Bello Civili Book 1: A Commentary (2009)
and the editor (with W. J. Dominik and J. G. Garthwaite) of Writing
Politics in Imperial Rome (2009).
The Panegyricus in the Roman World
edited by
University of Sydney
cambri dge uni versi ty press
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Singapore, S˜ ao Paulo, Delhi, Tokyo, Mexico City
Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge cb2 8ru, UK
Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:
Cambridge University Press 2011
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without the written
permission of Cambridge University Press.
First published 2011
Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge
A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library
Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data
Pliny’s praise : the Panegyricus in the Roman world / edited by Paul Roche.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and indexes.
isbn 978-1-107-00905-9
1. Pliny, the Younger. Panegyricus. 2. Pliny, the Younger – Literary style.
3. Speeches, addresses, etc., Latin – History and criticism. 4. Praise in literature.
5. Rome – Politics and government – 30 b.c.–284 a.d. – Historiography.
I. Roche, Paul. II. Title: Panegyricus in the Roman world.
pa6640.z5p58 2011

.01 – dc22 2011005727
isbn 978-1-107-00905-9 Hardback
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or
accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to
in this publication, and does not guarantee that any content on such
websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
List of contributors page vii
Preface ix
1 Pliny’s thanksgiving: an introduction to the Panegyricus 1
Paul Roche
2 Self-fashioning in the Panegyricus 29
Carlos F. Nore˜ na
3 The Panegyricus and the monuments of Rome 45
Paul Roche
4 The Panegyricus and rhetorical theory 67
D. C. Innes
5 Ciceronian praise as a step towards Pliny’s Panegyricus 85
Gesine Manuwald
6 Contemporary contexts 104
Bruce Gibson
7 Politics and the sublime in the Panegyricus 125
G. O. Hutchinson
8 Down the Pan: historical exemplarity in the Panegyricus 142
John Henderson
9 Afterwords of praise 175
Roger Rees
Bibliography 189
Index locorum 204
General index 206
bruce gibson is Professor of Latin at the University of Liverpool. As
well as his Statius, Silvae 5: Edited with Introduction, Translation, and
Commentary (Oxford 2006), he has published articles and book chapters
on a range of Latin authors in verse and prose, including Ovid, Pliny,
Statius, Silius Italicus, Tacitus and Apuleius. He is currently writing a
commentary on Pliny’s Panegyricus, and jointly editing with Thomas
Harrison a volume of papers on Polybius in memory of Frank Walbank.
john henderson is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge
and a Fellow of King’s College. He has written wicked books and weird
essays across the range of classical topics, usually reacting enthusiastically
to Roman texts, with quirky books on Pliny’s Letters (Pliny’s Statue: The
Letters, Self-Portraiture, and Classical Art (Exeter 2002)) and on Plautus,
Seneca, Statius, Juvenal, Isidore, plus (in)famously storming articles on
Latin poetry and history, e.g. collected in Fighting for Rome: Poets and
Caesars, History and Civil War (Cambridge 1998) and in Writing Down
Rome: Satire, Comedy and other Offences in Latin Poetry (Oxford 1999).
g. o. hutchinson is Professor of Greek and Latin Languages and Liter-
ature at Oxford University. He works on Greek and Latin, poetry and
prose. He has written: Aeschylus, Septem contra Thebas: Edited with
Introduction and Commentary (Oxford 1985); Hellenistic Poetry (Oxford
1988); Latin Literature from Seneca to Juvenal: A Critical Study (Oxford
1993); Cicero’s Correspondence: A Literary Study (Oxford 1998); Greek
Lyric Poetry: A Commentary on Selected Larger Pieces (Oxford 2001);
Propertius, Elegies Book iv (Cambridge 2006); Talking Books: Readings
in Hellenistic and Roman Books of Poetry (Oxford 2008).
doreen innes is Emeritus Fellow of St Hilda’s College, University of
Oxford. Her research interests are in classical literary criticism. She co-
authored Sopatros the Rhetor (London 1988), edited the Loeb edition of
viii List of contributors
Demetrius On Style (Cambridge, Mass. 1995), and has published articles
on, among others, Gorgias, Aristotle, Cicero and Longinus.
gesine manuwald is Senior Lecturer in Latin Language and Literature at
University College London. Her research interests include Roman epic,
Roman drama, Roman rhetoric and the reception of the classical world.
She has published widely on all those areas, most recently a commentary
on Cicero’s Philippics 3–9 (Berlin 2007), a revised Loeb edition of the
Philippics (Cambridge, Mass. 2009, co-edited with John Ramsey) and a
Roman drama reader (2010).
carlos f. nore ˜ na is Assistant Professor of History at the University
of California, Berkeley. His work focuses on the political and cultural
history of the Roman empire. He is the author of Imperial Ideals in the
Roman West: Representation, Circulation, Power (Cambridge forthcom-
ing) and co-editor, with Bjoern C. Ewald, of The Emperor and Rome:
Space, Representation, and Ritual (Cambridge 2010).
roger rees is Reader in the School of Classics, St Andrews University.
He wrote Layers of Loyalty in Latin Panegyric 289–307 ad (Oxford 2002)
and Diocletian and the Tetrarchy (Edinburgh 2004), and edited Romane
memento: Vergil in the Fourth Century (London 2004) and Ted Hughes
and the Classics (Oxford 2009). He is currently preparing a commentary
on Pacatus’ panegyric to Theodosius, and co-editing with Bruce Gib-
son an Arethusa volume on the reception of Pliny the Younger in late
paul roche is Senior Lecturer in Latin at the University of Sydney. He
is the author of Lucan, De Bello Civili Book 1 (Oxford 2009) and co-
editor (with W. J. Dominik and J. G. Garthwaite) of Writing Politics in
Imperial Rome (Leiden 2009); he has previously published on political
history, public imagery and Latin literature in the early imperial period.
This volume was conceived in the belief that Pliny’s Panegyricus deserves
and will reward more concentrated scholarly attention than it has tradi-
tionally received. Neglect is a natural topos in scholarly prefaces, but it has
genuine substance here; in fact, neglect of the speech has not infrequently
sharpened into antipathy, but neither is justified. A professed cultural dis-
dain for formal praise threatens to alienate us from a speech whose survival
makes it for us a unique specimen of early imperial senatorial oratory,
whose multiple agendas so easily and obviously (indeed explicitly: Pan.
4.1) transcend the mere delivery of praise, and whose political outlook
ranks it variously as a senatorial manifesto and a classic locus of imperial
public-image making. But this same aversion would likewise alienate us
from a vital witness to an emperor who self-consciously styled himself as
a kind of epitome of imperial rule, who occupies in more ways than one
a crucial liminal phase between the principates of the first and second
centuries, and whose early years as emperor would otherwise be almost
completely occluded to us. The Panegyricus is a key document in the evo-
lution of imperial leadership ideals, but it is also a key text more generally
for comprehending early imperial Rome.
The original idea for this volume was to have represented in one place
examinations of the Panegyricus’ various historical and rhetorical contexts,
as well as studies offering critical engagement with the literary fabric of
the Latin text as we have it. I am very grateful to all of the contributors
to this volume: for agreeing to write for this project in the first place,
for the outstanding quality and care invested in their chapters, and for
their patience as the overall book took shape. I am equally grateful to
Michael Sharp for his constant encouragement over the course of the
book’s development, from the initial proposal through to the final form
of the manuscript. The two anonymous readers from the press offered a
wealth of advice, observations and encouragement which have improved
the quality and direction of the volume; it is a pleasure to thank them for
x Preface
their careful reading of the manuscript. In production, both the book and
the editor have benefited greatly from the assistance of Elizabeth Hanlon
and that of Christina Sarigiannidou, who has been a wonderfully helpful
production editor, and the acute copy-editing of Fiona Sewell, who has
eliminated many errors from the typescript and sharpened its clarity and
consistency throughout. Finally I would like to thank my colleagues in the
Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney
for their warmth, collegiality and good humour: to work with them here
is a great pleasure.
chapter 1
Pliny’s thanksgiving: an introduction
to the Panegyricus
Paul Roche
precursors and predecessors
On 1 September 100 ce, Pliny the Younger rose in the senate to deliver
the oration we know as the Panegyricus. This was a gratiarum actio, a ‘vote
of thanks’, offered up to the emperor Trajan (98–117). It was given on
the occasion of Pliny’s attainment of the consulship, the prime goal of
regular senatorial ambition and the highest rung, albeit of suffect status,
on the normal cursus honorum.
Pliny claims as the pretext for his speech
a senatus consultum which had recommended that a vote of thanks be
rendered to the emperor by the consuls (Pan. 4.1, cf. 90.3; Ep. 3.18.1,
6.27.1). In the speech and in his letters, Pliny immediately subjoins to
this recommendation a normative aim: to demonstrate through praise
the behaviour and characteristics expected of a good princeps (Pan. 4.1;
Ep. 3.18.2). In offering praise to his emperor on this occasion, Pliny was
participating in a vibrant rhetorical tradition. Its tropes and themes reflect a
vital and continuous contemporary culture,
while its roots extended a very
long way back into republican culture and politics on the one hand, and
on the other into Greek traditions of praise which had been crystallized
to a certain extent by Isocrates in the mid-fourth century bce, but had
predated him considerably.
Special emphasis falls upon the laudatio funebris, or funeral oration,
in Polybius’ account of the aristocratic funeral (6.53–4). He recounts this
institution to illustrate the republic’s capacity to induce its youth to perform
acts of bravery and to endure danger for the sake of reputation.
The oration
was given from the rostra in the Forum on the occasion of both public and
private funerals. The laudand could be of either sex, although women are
And more: ‘the pinnacle of the Roman social and political order’, as Pliny constructs it in the speech;
see Nore˜ na, p. 38 in this volume.
See Gibson, pp. 104–24 in this volume.
See e.g. Braund (1998) 53–4.
On which: Vollmer (1925); Crawford (1941); Kierdorf (1980).
2 paul roche
more commonly encountered as subjects of a laudatio in the last century
A second oration might also be delivered before the senate in the
case of an exceptionally important individual.
The practice of delivering
a funeral oration was apparently very early, and (naturally tendentious)
claims were made for the venerable antiquity of the practice. Plutarch
asserts, for instance, that P. Valerius Poplicola delivered the laudatio for
L. Junius Brutus the liberator (Plut. Pub. 9.7.102). Likewise, Dionysius
of Halicarnassus claimed that the Roman laudatio predated the Athenian
funeral oration, the epitaphios logos (5.17.3). The epitaphios logos was in any
case a distinct phenomenon on a number of counts. It had as the subject
of its praise a collective of fallen warriors and its exclusive context was
the public funeral. There was moreover a civic dimension to the epitaphios
logos which was muted by comparison within the laudatio funebris. In
the Athenian funeral oration, the virtues of the dead came before the
achievements of the city. The speech also offered consolation to living
relatives and an exhortation to the audience to imitate the virtues of the
In the laudatio funebris, the orator would be the son of the deceased,
or another suitable relative. A serving magistrate within the family would
be an especially appropriate choice (Polyb. 6.53.2). The speech would
comprise two parts: praise of the individual’s achievements, followed by
praise of his or her ancestors. Sources underscore the simple and unadorned
nature of the speech. This was an ideal which was in tension both with
the practical political utility of the speech and with panegyric’s broader
tendency to embellish and adorn (i.e. to be laeta et magnifica et sublimis;
Quint. Inst. 11.3).
The object of a laudatio funebris was to locate and
measure the contribution of the deceased to the reputation of his ancestors.
In the imperial period, the emperor was eulogized by his successor, in
accordance with a decree of the senate (Quint. Inst. 3.7.2). After the delivery
of the laudatio funebris, it was preserved by the family of the deceased, and
could be published more widely. Cicero writes of the enjoyment derived
from reading laudationes (Orat. 11.37; Brut. 16.61–2).
There were other Roman precursors. The year 63 bce saw Cicero’s
inaugural consular speech before the public assembly, the second De Lege
Agraria. In it, he states that the first contio of a new consul was by tradition
See Crawford (1941) 21–2.
Cf. Augustus, praised by Tiberius in the Temple of Caesar and by Drusus from the rostra (Cass. Dio
56.34; Suet. Aug. 100.3).
On this see Loraux (1986) 1–3, 42–3.
On the style of the encomium, see Innes, pp. 69–70 and Hutchinson, pp. 125–41 in this volume.
Pliny’s thanksgiving 3
devoted to (a) rendering thanks to the people in return for their beneficium,
and (b) praising the consul’s own family (Agr. 2.1). A similar function to
that of the laudatio funebris thus emerges in Cicero’s formulation, in that
the type and measure of the contribution made by the speaker to his family’s
dignity were at issue.
One significant departure from the funeral oration is
that the praise in this context was explicitly self-reflexive. This custom was
adapted in the imperial period. Now the new consuls rendered thanks, ex
senatus consulto (Pan. 4.1, cf. 90.3), both to the gods and to the emperor, in
essence, for the latter’s gift of their office.
This new manifestation of the
consular thanksgiving was in place by the end of Augustus’ principate,
and it endured throughout the early imperial period. This was, for example,
the type of speech (it seems) that Verginius Rufus was rehearsing for his
third consulship of 97 when he slipped and broke his thigh (Plin. Ep. 2.1.5).
Each year of the imperial period, then, every ordinary and suffect consul –
or perhaps a representative from each pair – delivered a speech in the
senate whose basic form, theme and intent would have been identical to
those of the Panegyricus. But we are not permitted to imagine that the
published version of Pliny’s speech is representative of this proliferation of
thanksgiving speeches. Pliny’s speech is, self-consciously, a radical extension
of the generic norms obtaining in the first century ce.
Formally prescribed discourses of praise were not, of course, unique to
the Romans. Isocrates makes a claim to being the original author of a prose
encomium in his Evagoras (c.370 bce). The most important axes on which
his claimrests are that his praise is expressed in prose rather than poetry, and
that its subject is a human being rather than a mythological figure (Evag.
He also qualifies his claim on primacy by a clause in which he claims
to have anticipated ‘those who devote themselves to philosophy’. Others
then may have anticipated these men in authoring prose encomia. In any
case, Isocrates’ claim is almost demonstrably false. Aristotle writes of an
encomium of Hippolochus of Thessaly (Rhet. 1368a17) and Isocrates’ own
Busiris displays through its tropes and methods that encomia were clearly
subject to prescription by professional rhetoricians.
In fact, the restrictive
concessions that Isocrates has to establish in order to make a claim on
Cf. Agr. 2.1: Qua in oratione non nulli aliquando digni maiorum loco reperiuntur, plerique autem
hoc perficiunt ut tantum maioribus eorum debitum esse videatur, unde etiam quod posteris solveretur
redundaret. See further Manuwald, pp. 96–7 in this volume.
Cf. Talbert (1984) 227–9; Millar (1993) 14: ‘the Emperor is the auctor of the honor, and the consulship
itself is a gift (res data) which partakes of the maiestas of the giver’ (on the language of Ov. Pont.
Cf. Ov. Pont. 4.4.23–42 on the consul of 13, and Pont. 4.9.41–52, 65–70 on the consul of 17.
A good, succinct overview at Hunter (2003) 13–15.
Hunter (2003) 14.
4 paul roche
primacy in the Evagoras are indicative of the rich poetic and cultural
traditions of epideictic praise feeding into prose encomia in his day. A
close rhetorical and thematic nexus obtains between archaic (and especially
Pindaric) praise poetry and the Athenian epitaphios logos. Isocrates’ true
claim to generic primacy might more helpfully be seen as his fusion of the
two strands.
The Panegyricus was thus the inheritor of a number of important cul-
tural, political, rhetorical and literary contexts which had been developing
in specific modes and circumstances in both Greece and Rome for over
five hundred years prior to its delivery. The various functions and nuances
attending these precursors do make their presence felt within the rhetorical
fabric of Pliny’s speech in the contexts of its delivery, and in its modes of
production. But we are liable to mislead if we promote the importance of
these similar but distinct genres at the expense of the specific cultural, social
and political circumstances informing the moment of the speech itself.
Each speech in the epideictic mode both constructs its own response to the
immediate circumstances informing its delivery and signals its own rela-
tionship with its perceived or declared precursors.
It is the function of this
volume to examine Pliny’s Panegyricus against precisely these tendencies.
The Panegyricus is an exceptionally important speech. This is a fact more
often conceded than celebrated in modern scholarship.
It is ‘our best
example of imperial eloquentia’.
It is the only complete speech to survive
to us from the last of Cicero’s Philippics in 43 bce to the celebration of
the emperor Maximian’s birthday in 289 (Pan. Lat. x(2)), a speech which
itself draws upon the language and imagery of Pliny’s praise.
We can
also assign importance to the Panegyricus irrespective of the accident of
its survival. It is innovative. Pliny’s is apparently the first of the consular
Braund (1998) 54: ‘Like Pindar in his epinician hymns, Isocrates praises an individual; as in the
funeral oration, his subject is dead’; cf. Hunter (2003) 15. On Isocrates and Pindaric encomium see
Race (1987).
Braund (1998) 55.
For a concrete illustration of this tendency see Rees, pp. 175–88 in this volume.
The expressed disappointment of Syme (1938) 217–24 (here endorsing and transmitting the aesthetic
criteria of his nineteenth-century predecessors), Syme (1958a) 114, 94–5 and Goodyear (1982) 660
has become totemic of the speech’s modern reception. For two representative examples see Seager
(1983) 129 and Kraus (2000) 160.
Gowing (2005) 120.
Although the overall impact of the Panegyricus upon the XII Panegyrici Latini must not be overstated:
see Rees, p. 187 in this volume.
Pliny’s thanksgiving 5
gratiarum actiones to be revised, expanded and published.
The reason for
this revision and unusually wider dissemination is alluded to in a number
of places within the speech and the letters which mention it. In a letter to
Vibius Severus (Ep. 3.18) Pliny claimed that he believed it his duty as one
of the boni ciues to publish the speech in order to encourage Trajan along
what he saw as the right path, and to offer instruction to future emperors
through the content of this document (3.18.2). We might also add as an
influence the Trajanic innovation of publishing senatorial acclamations in
the acta diurna (Pan. 75, 95.1): publishing the Panegyricus was a decision
very much in step with the spirit of its age. The immediate reception of the
speech and its publication is difficult to gauge accurately, since all of the
evidence for it comes from Pliny himself. One might tentatively consider as
indices of the speech’s perceived contemporary relevance the small clique
of Pliny’s friends who were not satisfied with two days of recitation of
the Panegyricus and asked for a third (3.18.4). The success of the speech is
unlikely to be unrelated to the fact that Vettenius Severus wrote to Pliny
for advice on how to compose a related species of gratiarum actio, that
delivered by the consul designate (Ep. 6.27). Finally, one aspect of Pliny’s
achievement can be measured by the fact that the literary genre of the prose
panegyric was established by the 140s.
pliny’s programme
The notion found in rhetorical treatises and endorsed by Pliny, that praise
ought to persuade the recipient to a desirable course of action (Arist. Rhet.
1.9.36; cf. Plin. Ep. 3.18, Pan. 4.1), prompts a summary consideration of
Pliny’s programme of advice for his emperor. In Pliny’s formulation, the
speech was delivered ‘so that good rulers should recognize what they have
done and bad ones learn what they ought to do’ (ut . . . boni principes
quae facerent recognoscerent, mali quae facere deberent). Indeed, a consistent
programme of advice is recoverable fromthe specific loci of praise within the
speech. Viewed through this lens, the Panegyricus emerges as a manifesto in
the true sense of the word. It offers admonitory guidance to Trajan not only
on issues which were central to the concerns of the senatorial aristocracy,
but on many other aspects of the principate besides. It is important, both
because it offers a prominent senator’s totalizing view of what an ideal
Durry (1938) 3–8; see too Nore˜ na, pp. 40–1 in this volume.
For the immediate generic impact of the speech, see Rees, p. 176 in this volume.
6 paul roche
emperor should be, and because it embodies the values which a newly
ennobled member of the senate wished to be seen to endorse.
The following suite of advice has been assembled from those moments
in the Panegyricus when Pliny either commends Trajan’s actions – whether
real, alleged to have happened, predicted, or claimed for Trajan by Pliny –
or is explicitly prescriptive regarding the ideal behaviour of the princeps. In
order to arrive at this programme, Pliny’s varying statements of approval
have been recast into simple and impersonal admonitions. The following
duties of the good emperor emerge.
The emperor ought to sustain the notion of his own social parity with
his peers (2.3, 2.4, 22.1–2, 23.1, 24.2, 42.3, 48, 49.5, 60.4, 64.4, esp. 71,
78.4). His supremacy ought not to diminish or impair the dignitas of his
subjects (19.1–2, 22.2, 24.5, 77.4). The emperor ought to be accessible (23.3,
24.3–4, 47.4–5). He ought to be prompt and present in his help (80.3). The
emperor ought to prefer simplicity of appearance or taste, and cultivate
the appearance of his former status as a private citizen; he ought to disdain
artifice (3.5, 3.6, 20.1, 23.6, 24.2, 24.3, 43.2, 49.7–8, 81) and the extravagant
blandishments of previous emperors (7.3, 82.6, 82.9).
The emperor ought to refuse, or remain reluctant to accept, further
powers and titles (2.3, 3.5, 7.1, 9.4, 10.4, 11.4, 21.1, 55.9, 65.1) – for himself
or for his family (84.6) – or an excessive number of consulships (56.3,
57.1–5, 58, 79); he ought to discourage extravagant praise (54.3–4, 55), or
praise offered in or on inappropriate media, occasions, genres and contexts
(54.2). He must not descend into tyranny (45.3, 55.7) or corruption (53.1–5)
or inspire fear (46.1, 46.7). The emperor’s words and promises ought to be
trusted (66.5); he ought to be constant (66.6, esp. 74). He ought to bind
himself to the laws (65).
The emperor ought to participate fully in civic and political functions,
ceremonies and rituals (60.2, 63.1–3, 64, 77, esp. 77.8, 92.3). He must take
the consulship seriously (59, 93.1) and observe constitutional regulations
about the consulship (60.1, 63–77, 76). He ought to allow the senate a
sensible and dignified function (54). He ought to listen to the senate’s
opinion; his choices and emotions ought to be mirrored in theirs (62.2–5,
73); he ought not to promote his own favourites against the senate’s choice
(62.6). He ought to encourage the senate to be free and to participate in
the running of the state (66.1–2, 67, 69, 76, 87.1, esp. 93.1–2); he ought to
treat the senate with respect (69.3, reuerentia); he ought to allow ex-consuls
to assist him freely and fully with their aid and counsel (93.3).
The emperor must attend to and accommodate senatorial requests or
prayers (2.8, 4.3, 6.4, 33.2, 60.4, implied at 78.1, 86–7), and prayers in
Pliny’s thanksgiving 7
general (79.6): this is an earthly reflection of the gods’ accommodation of
human prayers (3.5). Conversely, he must not accommodate the ‘insinuat-
ing counsel’ of self-interested parties, such as delatores (41.3): the emperor
ought not to permit delation (34, 36, 37–9, 42, 62.9).
The emperor ought to embody selfless and unceasing service to the state
(5.6, 7.1, 7.3, 21.1–4, 67.4, 68, 79.5). He ought to behave and administer
the empire with maximum transparency and visibility (20.5, 21.4, 49.5, 56,
62.9, 83.1).
The emperor ought neither to buy peace, nor to claim undeserved
triumphs, but should increase the empire in the best tradition of the middle
republic (12.1–4, 16–17, 56.4–8). The emperor ought to be personally active
with the army (13.1–5); he ought to increase their discipline (18.1, 19.3–4,
23.3), but not value them over the civilian population (25.2).
The emperor ought to recognize and commend the good deeds of his
subordinates (15.5, 18.1 military; 44.5–8, 60.5–7 civilian), and not reward
uitia (45.3); he ought to advance the good (61–2, esp. 62.10, esp. 70, esp.
88.3, esp. 91.2 (Pliny and Tertullus)) and protect against the impact of the
bad (46.8). The emperor ought to show respect to the genealogical claim
to pre-eminence of the nobility, and he ought to advance them accordingly
(69.5–6), but promote new men according to merit (70.1–2).
The emperor ought to be scrupulous in the delivery of his largesse (25–6,
congiarium). He ought to care for the poor as much as the proceres (26.6).
The emperor’s generosity ought not to be dependent upon the deprivation
of others, or serve as a distraction from or recompense for any vice (27.3–4,
28); he ought not to expect remuneration via wills (43.5). The emperor
ought to embody financial propriety and self-control (29.4, 36.3, 50, 55.5;
implicitly criticized at 41).
The emperor ought to ensure libertas (27.1, 58.3, 78.3) and securitas (27.1,
29 for the corn supply, 30.5–32 for Egypt, 35.4 from delation, 36.4 for the
working of the court, 43 for wills, 44.5, 48.2 at court). He ought to allow
freedom of expression at the games (33.3).
The emperor ought not to be overly prescriptive in his guidance
of morality (45.4–6). He ought to support the liberal arts (47). He
ought to cultivate the continuing love of his subjects (49.3). He ought
to discharge the functions of friendship as well as those of imperial
rule (85).
The emperor ought to have simple piety towards the gods (52). His
justice ought not to be compromised by a desire for self-enrichment (80.1–
2). He ought to keep close control over his family (83.2–84.8) and freedmen
8 paul roche
A related matter is the abstraction of such behaviour into virtues.
It has long been recognized that a fundamental characteristic of these
imperial virtues is their celebration of differing nuances of the emperor’s
ability to moderate his own absolute power and to observe self-imposed
Trajan’s virtues in the Panegyricus constitute the largest cluster
of these abstractions attaching to a single human being in the early imperial
Many of them overlap in basic meaning or at least share nuances.
They delineate, as it were, Pliny’s view of the appropriate arenas in which
an emperor should aspire to pre-eminence.
Consider the most commonly invoked virtues in the speech. Those
appearing over ten times in the Panegyricus are modestia (16), moderatio
(16), fides (16), uirtus (16), reuerentia (15), cura (14), labor (14), liberalitas
(13), securitas (12), pudor (11), pietas (11), benignitas (10) and maiestas (10). It
is completely consistent with Trajan’s public imagery that humanitas and
diuinitas (7 times each) receive the same emphasis within the speech.
can clearly see Pliny’s programme reflected in nuce in this emphasis. Mod-
estia and moderatio form the bedrock of Pliny’s prescription: synonymous
terms treating Trajan’s basic self-restraint (TLL s.v. moderatio 1206.5–9).
Pudor is the inner quality which (positively put) compels such moderatio,
or (negatively) prevents Trajan from transgressing it. The property of reuer-
entia extends this basic notion of Trajan’s self-regulation into an observable
demonstration of it in his behaviour. This is the deference with which
he chooses to treat august bodies such as the senate (Pan. 69.4); it also
pertains to the deference owed to his standing as emperor, his dignitas,
his maiestas (Pan. 95; TLL s.v. maiestas 156.1–52). Securitas (public secu-
rity) is, in essence, the benefit accruing to the community as a result of
both the emperor’s self-moderation and his deferential treatment of his
Fides speaks to another aspect of this interpersonal dynamic. This
is Trajan’s maintenance of good faith in his relationships (TLL s.v. fides
675.10–676.45). But fides also has a civic dimension, by which magistrates
For an overview see Charlesworth (1937) 105–38; Weinstock (1971) 228–59; Fears (1981) 827–948;
Wallace-Hadrill (1981) 298–323.
Wallace-Hadrill (1981) 316: ‘These are all social virtues, qualities of self-restraint. The focus is not
on the possession of power, but on the control of it in deference to other members of society.’
There appear to be fifty-one; some of the abstractions in the following list may not meet everyone’s
definition of a virtue. They are abstinentia, auctoritas, benignitas, bonitas, candor, castitas, clementia,
comitas, consilium, continentia, cura, diuinitas, facilitas, familiaritas, felicitas, fides, fortitudo, frugalitas,
grauitas, hilaritas, humanitas, indulgentia, iucunditas, iustitia, labor, liberalitas, magnanimitas, mag-
nitudo, maiestas, mansuetudo, moderatio, modestia, munificentia, opes, patientia, pietas, prouidentia,
pudor, reuerentia, sanctitas, sapientia, securitas, seueritas, simplicitas, suauitas, temperantia, tranquilli-
tas, uerecundia, ueritas, uigilantia, uirtus.
See Roche (2003).
See Braund (2009) 180 on Sen. Clem. 1.1.8.
Pliny’s thanksgiving 9
and judges equitably discharge their responsibilities (TLL s.v. fides 679.4–
Liberalitas and its near synonym, benignitas, encompass the personal
generosity of the emperor (TLL s.v. benignitas 1899.21–1901.32),
cura and labor speak to his industry. Pietas pertains to various aspects of
his mediating role between the Roman state and the gods, his respectful
devotion and attention to the duties owed to the gods and state, as well as
his relationship with his family. All of these virtue terms are manifestations
of his basic, all-encompassing excellence, his uirtus. The density as well as
the variety of virtue terms in the Panegyricus is noteworthy and instructive:
these 13 most frequent virtues appear a total of 174 times throughout the
95 chapters of the speech.
A comparison with other prominent documents which are patently
concerned with promoting or evaluating imperial ideals – the Res Gestae
(c.13), the Senatus Consultum de Pisone Patre (abbr. SCPP, 20 ce), Seneca’s
De Clementia (55–6 ce), and Suetonius’ De Vita Caesarum (early second
century ce) – will assist both in offering context to the imperial ideals
featured in the speech and in measuring the degree to which Pliny’s choice
of virtues is either typical or idiosyncratic. Of the four virtues claimed for
Augustus on the clupeus uirtutis of 27 or 26 bce (ILS 81; RGDA 34.2) –
uirtus, clementia, iustitia and pietas – both uirtus (sixteen times) and pietas
(eleven times) are frequent in the Panegyricus, but neither could have been
omitted in praise of any emperor (and pontifex maximus). Consider their
frequency in the SCPP (pietas nine times; uirtus twice), in De Clementia
(pietas twice; uirtus fifteen times) and Suetonius (pietas eleven times; uirtus
twelve times). This would especially be the case for uirtus – in its military
dimension (OLD 1b) – in one who self-consciously cultivated the image
of himself as a uir militaris. It may surprise that clementia and iustitia
occur with relative infrequency in the Panegyricus (three times each), but
the discretionary and judicial nuances of moderatio,
benignitas (TLL s.v.
benignitas 1899.21–1901.32) or liberalitas, upon which Pliny does place a
great deal of emphasis, may have obviated the need for stressing clementia.
Virtues which appear in Pliny as well as in the biographies of his friend
and contemporary Suetonius, but do not appear in these earlier documents,
are reuerentia (15), labor (14), pudor (11), grauitas (5), facilitas (4), opes (4),
sapientia (3), simplicitas (3), fortitudo (3), abstinentia (1), castitas (1), comitas
(1) and munificentia (1). Virtues which Pliny mentions in the speech but
which do not rate a mention in Suetonius are benignitas (10), frugalitas (5),
See too Hellegouarc’h (1963) 23–40.
See Nore˜ na (2001) 160–4.
For which see Braund (2009) 189 on Sen. Clem. 1.2.2.
10 paul roche
uigilantia (4), mansuetudo (4), temperantia (2), magnanimitas (2), bonitas
(2), prouidentia (1), suauitas (1), candor (1), iucunditas (1) and diuinitas
(1). The only virtues mentioned by Pliny which are absent from all of
these documents are familiaritas (2) and continentia (1). The wide semantic
nuances of each of these terms would ensure that the basic meaning of
each item is represented in one related virtue term or another in many
of Pliny’s predecessors. His innovation in terms of political thought is
not at issue. But the fragmenting of these into an unprecedented array
of properties and the heaping of them onto the emperor in (as far as we
can see) unparalleled quantity is both a significant reflection of Pliny’s
rhetorical agenda and strategy in the Panegyricus, and a powerful index of
the public centralization of all virtuous behaviour into the person of the
emperor. The totalizing expression of these various virtues and the moral
and ethical axes along which they are measured find form at 4.5:
Enituit aliquis in bello, sed obsoleuit in pace; alium toga sed non et arma hones-
tarunt; reuerentiam ille terrore, alius amorem humilitate captauit; ille quaesitam
domi gloriam in publico, hic in publico partam domi perdidit; postremo adhuc
nemo exstitit, cuius uirtutes nullo uitiorum confinio laederentur. At principi nos-
tro quanta concordia quantusque concentus omnium laudum omnisque gloriae
contigit! Vt nihil seueritati eius hilaritate, nihil grauitati simplicitate, nihil maiestati
humanitate detrahitur! (Plin. Pan. 4.5)
One man may have been eminent in war but fallen into torpor in peace; another
man may have been adorned with honour by the toga but not by weapons of war;
one gains respect through fear, another gains love through pandering to the base;
one man destroys in public the reputation he acquired at home, while another
loses his public reputation through his private life. In sum, there has been no
one whose virtues were not dimmed by the close proximity of his vices. But what
great harmony, what a symphony of all praise and of every glory has fallen to our
princeps! Nothing is detracted from his sternness by his good humour, nothing
from his gravity by his lack of pretension, nothing from his majesty by his essential
The metaphor of the emperor’s virtues existing in concordia within his
person mirrors his exemplary function to his family (see esp. 83–4), the
senate and the state as a whole.
pliny on the negative example
Trajan’s superlative qualities are sharply offset by the negative example of
previous emperors, especially (but not exclusively) Domitian. Pliny’s Domi-
tian is, very clearly, a rhetorical construction and a product of the persuasive
Pliny’s thanksgiving 11
agenda of his speech.
It is instructive to compare the criticisms levelled
against him by Pliny with the traditional loci of Ciceronian invective as
established by Christopher Craig.
Of the seventeen standard loci isolated
by Craig,
eleven are present in Pliny’s remarks regarding Domitian.
is a relatively high proportion by comparison with Ciceronian speeches:
Cicero’s In Pisonem has thirteen, his second Philippic features fifteen.
Thus, Pliny’s description of Domitian locked away in the palace (Pan.
48.3–5) illustrates three set pieces of Roman invective: Domitian’s hostility
towards his own family, his cruelty towards his citizens, and his physical
instantiation of his own vices (e.g. his arrogant brow, the ira in his eyes,
the womanish pallor spreading across his body, and the blush indicating
his impudentia). Consider also that the image (at Pan. 49.6) of Domitian’s
lonely gluttony (distentus solitaria cena), yielding to menacing surveillance
and insults heaped upon his guests, before subsiding once more into secret
feasting and unspecified private excesses, draws directly upon a standard
generic marker of invective.
Pliny harps on Domitian’s hypocrisy under a
number of headings and nuances: that he deified Titus only to be a brother
of a god (11.1); that his congiaria were offered up only to cover his uitia
(28.1–2); that his attitude of respect before the senate was a show and that
he cast off his consular obligations once outside the senate house (76.5).
Pliny repeatedly returns to the notion of Domitian’s avarice (41.2–3, 42,
43, 50.5 on his detestanda auaritia) and is expansive on the related topos
of the plundering of private and public properties, whether en route to
or from the provinces (20.4), in the areas around the city (50.1), or in the
capital itself in abuse of his position as judge (80.1). Domitian is surely
For further comments on Pliny’s Domitian, see Hutchinson, pp. 128–31 in this volume, who also
locates him within a rhetorical context (in the failed attempt at the sublime), and Henderson,
pp. 158 and 161–2 in this volume, who discusses the figure of Domitian against the backdrop of
historical exemplarity in the speech.
See Craig (2004) 189–92, who draws on Nisbet (1961), S¨ uss (1975) and Merrill (1975).
Viz. embarrassing family origin; unworthiness of one’s family; physical appearance; eccentricity
of dress; gluttony or drunkenness possibly leading to cruelty and/or lust; hypocrisy for appearing
virtuous; avarice; bribe-taking; pretentiousness; sexual misconduct; hostility to family (misophilia);
cowardice; financial embarrassment or the squandering of one’s patrimony; aspirations to tyranny
or regnum; cruelty to citizens and/or allies; plundering of private and public property; oratorical
Traditional loci of invective appearing in Pan. (first instances only follow in brackets): (1) physical
appearance (48.4); (2) gluttony leading to cruelty (49.6); (3) hypocrisy for appearing virtuous (11.1);
(4) avarice (41.2); (5) pretentiousness (24.5); (6) sexual misconduct (52.3); (7) misophilia (48.3); (8)
cowardice (11.4–5); (9) aspirations to tyranny or regnum (2.3–4); (10) cruelty to citizens and/or allies
(18.3); (11) plundering of private and public property (20.4).
Craig (2004) 191. It is worth noting the comparable length of all three speeches: Cic. Mil.: 105
chapters; Pis.: 99 chapters; Plin. Pan.: 95 chapters.
See too the vaguer references made at Pan. 63.3.
12 paul roche
meant to be among those emperors who, in their scorn for the citizenry,
were carried on the shoulders and bent backs of slaves to tower above their
peers (22.1, 24.5): an index of the emperor’s pretentiousness as well as his
aspirations to tyranny. So too, the emperor’s sexual misconduct, in the
form of his incestuous relationship with his niece, is referred to explicitly
and repeatedly (52.3, 63.7).
There are three loci upon which Pliny spends most space and time
in the speech. Domitian’s cowardice is illustrated with regard to foreign
enemies (11.4–5, 12); rebellious governors (14.5); the citizens of the capital,
in terror of whom he locked himself away in the palace (49.1); and even
amid the otium of his retreat at Alba Longa (82.1). Domitian’s aspirations
to tyranny are likewise illustrated under a number of diverse headings: his
appropriation of divine status (2.3–4, 52.3); the servitude of the senate (2.5);
the adulation he demanded through shows (54.1); his extravagant honours
(54.4, 58). Domitian’s cruelty receives the most frequent attention in the
speech: he unpredictably turned on and assaulted audience members at the
games (33.3–4); maiestas trials filled the coffers of the fiscus and aerarium,
the latter of which was a repository for the blood-soaked spoils of citizens
(42.1); he was surrounded by delatores (45.1); he massacred the citizen body
(48.3); he was armed with terror (49.3); he plotted exile and death for
the consuls (63.3); he threatened Pliny and Tertullus and massacred their
friends (90.5).
Pliny’s process of selection and his agenda in the Panegyricus emerge
more clearly in the light of those traditional invective loci appearing in
Suetonius’ Domitian and Cassius Dio book 67. In Suetonius’ biography
and in the other Flavian lives, fifteen of the seventeen loci are deployed.
Suetonius notes the obscurity of Domitian’s family origin (Vesp. 1.1) and
his early poverty (Dom. 1.1). He is completely explicit that he was unwor-
thy of his family (Vesp. 1.1: gens Flauia, obscura illa quidem ac sine ullis
maiorum imaginibus, sed tamen rei p. nequaquam paenitenda, constet licet
Domitianum cupiditatis ac saeuitiae merito poenas luisse). He notes eccen-
tricities of Domitian’s dress at the agon Capitolinus (Dom. 4.4). Suetonius
also claims that Domitian’s letters, speeches and edicts were composed for
him by others (Dom. 20.1), which can be classified under the locus of orator-
ical ineptitude. Two notable divergences occur between the Panegyricus and
the Life of Domitian. Pliny develops the notion of his menacing gluttony,
while Suetonius insists upon and illustrates his culinary moderation (Dom.
21). Perhaps most striking of all is Suetonius’ use of the locus of financial
embarrassment and the squandering of one’s patrimony: he asserts that his
inopia had made Domitian rapax (3.2). The nearest Pliny comes to availing
Pliny’s thanksgiving 13
himself of the same locus is directed not at Domitian, but at Trajan, when
he wonders whether the resources of the empire can cope with Trajan’s
refusal of gifts of money, his disbursement of donatives and congiaria, as
well as his remission of taxes and dismissal of informers (Pan. 41). It is as
close to criticism of Trajan as Pliny comes in the speech, and it is directly
related to Pliny’s own career and reputation as an expert at the treasury.
Because of his greater remoteness in time fromthe end of the first century
and the epitomized state of his work, it is less significant that Cassius Dio
also treats eight of the loci featured in the Panegyricus.
He cites the locus of
gluttony leading to cruelty via an elaborate anecdote regarding Domitian’s
funereal dinner party, and widens the horizons of his sexual misconduct
to include debauching aristocratic women, but he is otherwise consistent
with the loci of invective found in Pliny. Of all seventeen loci, only bribery
is unmentioned in all three sources; in fact Suetonius notes the lengths to
which Domitian went to suppress it (Dom. 8.1–2, 9.3).
It is of course likely that the range of invective loci might have expanded
beyond the limits of the seventeen found in the practice of Cicero a century
and a half earlier. But most of Pliny’s choices of invective loci in the
Panegyricus are easily understood. His most insistently emphasized issues –
cruelty, tyranny and rapacity – are obvious polar opposites of an ideal
emperor. Perhaps Domitian’s oratorical ineptitude was deemed to be not
antithetical enough to the simple manner affected by the new emperor:
one thinks of the well-publicized, well-meaning ignorance promoted in
Trajan’s exchange with Dio of Prusa (Philostratus VS 1.7.488). Also there
was little scope in denigrating the Flavians as a family without drawing a
comparison with the even more obscure gens Ulpia.
Arguably the most important issue to arise from this discussion – but
ultimately the least easily answered – is that of sincerity and belief.
assembled this list of invective loci in order to demonstrate the poten-
tially marginal nature of credibility in Ciceronian invective. By invoking a
critical number of these traditional loci, Cicero might well have expected
his audience to recognize the formal rhetorical elements of an invective
exercise. In key speeches where the veracity of the charges is very much at
For more on this moment in the speech and on Pliny’s programme of self-definition in the Pane-
gyricus, see Nore˜ na, pp. 30–1 in this volume.
Gluttony leading to cruelty (67.6.3); hypocrisy for appearing virtuous (67.1.3–4, 67.2.6–7, 67.3,
67.12.1–2); avarice (67.5.5); sexual misconduct (67.3.2, 67.12.1–2); misophilia (67.2.1–2, 67.2.5,
67.15.2–4); cowardice (67.4.1, 67.6.3, 67.7.2); aspiration to tyranny (67.4.3, 67.5.7, 67.7.2); cru-
elty to citizens (67.1.1, 67.2.5, 67.3.3
, 67.8.3–4, 67.9.1–6, 67.11.2–4, 67.13.2–3, 67.14.1–3).
A different aspect of the issue treated so well by Bartsch (1994) 148–87.
14 paul roche
the absence of these loci seems also to suggest a desire to steer his
audience away from conceiving the abuse as rhetorically informed rather
than authentically reported. Where, then, does this leave us with Pliny’s
Domitian? Should we conceive of Pliny’s audience as simply relishing the
vigorous application of rhetoric’s lash to the last of the Flavians? Or think
of Pliny’s rhetorical training as facilitating and framing his authentic mem-
ory of the Domitianic principate? Obviously this presentation of the issue
self-consciously polarizes it; but it is well worth considering the difficulty of
locating where along this spectrum a convincing compromise or combina-
tion of these two reactions might be constructed. The nature of the speech’s
relationship with rhetoric and reality naturally prompts a consideration of
its more general evidentiary value.
the panegyricus and trajan’s rome
Pliny’s Panegyricus has always been considered both a very important doc-
ument for recovering Trajanic Rome, and at the same time an immensely
problematic source of information on the events it purports to relate.
provides us with a precious eyewitness report of a period which is docu-
mented with an almost singular poverty, and offers up a wealth of infor-
mation – albeit immersed in an obscuring and often misleading rhetorical
context – on Roman society, politics and public affairs. The following
survey is representative rather than exhaustive.
Pliny alludes to Trajan’s developing career in the emperor’s service. This
is in accordance with the emphasis upon biographical or chronological
approaches to praise suggested in treatises and found in earlier examples
of the genre.
We learn in the Panegyricus of the triumphal ornaments of
Trajan’s father for service in Syria the mid-70s (14.1; attested but without
context on ILS 8970); of Trajan’s own military tribunate under his father;
of the movement in January 89 from Spain to Germany of the VII Gemina
(of which Trajan was legate) in response to the revolt of Saturninus (14.2).
Note that we are misled by Pliny on Domitian’s inertia during this crisis
(cf. Cass. Dio 67.11.5). Enigmas, omissions and distortions remain. That
Trajan spent ten years as a military tribune (15.3) is an astonishing claim:
Such as Cat. 1: see Craig (2007) 335–9.
See, most succinctly, the remarks of Edward Gibbon (ed. Bury) (1909–14) 1.82: ‘we are reduced
to collect the actions of Trajan from the glimmerings of an abridgement [i.e. Cassius Dio], or the
doubtful light of a panegyric’.
See Innes, p. 78 in this volume.
Pliny’s thanksgiving 15
unparalleled and patently untrue.
Pliny suppresses mention of Trajan’s
ordinary consulship in 91 and says that he was ‘found worthy of campaign
upon campaign’ after 89 (14.5 cum aliis super alias expeditionibus . . . dignus
inuenireris): he later appears to refer to Trajan living in the capital during
the mid-90s (44.1). This may allude to operations in the aftermath of
or else to an unknown proconsular appointment. It would have been
noteworthy in the context of the Panegyricus had Trajan been passed over
for proconsular service.
On the other hand, it is an extreme and unlikely
solution to posit continuous commands from 92 to 96.
One of the speech’s most valuable contributions is its adumbration
of the events of the years 96–8, covering the reign of Nerva and the
accession and reign of Trajan to 100. From the Panegyricus we learn of
the full scale of the mutiny of the praetorian guard in 96 (5.6–6.4; cf.
Cass. Dio 68.3.3). From Pliny we also have our best look at the actual
mechanics of Trajan’s adoption by Nerva (8.1–5): the ceremonial details of
the public act; the crisis to which it formed a response; the contemporary
association of this adoption and Galba’s adoption of Piso in 69; and most
tantalizingly of all, Nerva’s motivation in choosing Trajan as his heir,
including comments which may suggest coercion (e.g. 9.2). Beyond the
adoption, Pliny provides information on Trajan’s status, roles and actions
under Nerva. Regarding Trajan’s nomenclature and the public framing of
his role, we learn that he took the titles Caesar, imperator, Germanicus,
was consors tribuniciae potestatis, and that his role was compared to that of
Titus under Vespasian (8.6; cf. 9.1 successor imperii, particeps, socius; 9.3).
Pliny’s speech offers information on Trajan’s official response to Nerva’s
death: deification and priesthoods (11.2–3: the temple is uncorroborated;
89.1), both in high contrast to the unmistakably cool reception of Nerva
by Trajan generally and his total absence from Trajan’s early coinage.
Pliny is our best source on Trajan’s decision to remain absent from
Rome until late 99, and is easily our most detailed source of information
on the early policies of Trajan’s principate: e.g. his Danubian tour and
diplomatic activities in 98–9 (12.2–4, 16.2) and his publication of his trav-
elling accounts in 99 (20.5–6). Pliny is a brilliant witness to the ceremony
attending Trajan’s first entry as emperor into Rome (22.1–6), including the
The nearest precedent is service in three legions: Syme (1938) 220.
So Bennett (1997) 43.
Bennett (1997) 44–5; see below, p. 21.
Bennett (1997) 43–6, relying upon the contemporary view of Trajan as a uir militaris, suggests either
Germania Inferior or Superior in 92 or 93, followed by Pannonia in 95 or 96 (contra Cass. Dio
See Roche (2002) esp. 52–4.
16 paul roche
triumphal nuances obtaining in the emperor’s urban itinerary (23.4–6). We
also observe court ceremonial and its political currency through the eyes
of an ambitious contemporary outsider (24.2).
Pliny documents Trajan’s
gifts to the citizens and soldiers in his first years. We learn that the sol-
diers were paid their donative in instalments, but that the citizens received
their congiarium in one payment (25.2), and that both the congiarium and
alimenta were paid from the emperor’s own funds (27.3). We know from
Pliny that 5,000 new citizens were enrolled for the congiarium (28.4), that
public works helped facilitate the influx of grain to the city (29.2), and that
Trajan helped alleviate an Egyptian drought with shipments of grain from
Rome (30–2).
Pliny documents Trajan’s public actions against informers, as well as the
precursors to this action under Titus and Nerva (34.1–35.5). He also states
that Trajan discouraged charges of maiestas (42). Pliny offers copious detail
on tax reform under Trajan, its antecedent in Nerva’s reign (37–41),
the abolition of debt-collection under Trajan for sums accrued before his
accession (40.5). We also know from the speech that Trajan was selling the
property of the fiscus to augment the treasury in this period (50.5), and that
public building had effectively ceased (51.1).
InformationonTrajanic policy aimedat moderating the emperor’s vener-
ation is problematically entwined with the persuasive agenda of the speech,
but we note Trajan’s refusal to place his statues in the inner sanctum of
temples (52.2), his refusal of prayers to his genius (52.6), and his banning of
laudes imperatoris at games (54.1–2). Pliny’s remarks on the imperial family
and their own publicly demonstrated moderation are relevant to this theme
We note also the condition of his own public utility which Trajan
added to public vows for his safety (67.4, 94.5), and a similar prerequisite
underwriting his protection by the praetorian guard (67.8). Pliny misleads
on Trajan’s refusal of the title pater patriae (21.1; cf. 57.5).
On the senate and the emperor’s relationship with it, Pliny is at once
invaluable and problematic. Pliny overstates the newfound importance of
topics for senatorial debate (54.4–7; cf. Ep. 5.4, 4.12, 3.20). He is detailed
in his coverage of Trajanic consular policy, regarding both the emperor’s
own refusal and acceptance of that honour (56.3, 60.4, 78.1) and his distri-
bution of it to supporters (60.4–7, 61.7). Pliny naturally misleads on the
importance of the Nervan commission to reduce public expenditure and
See Nore˜ na, pp. 31–2 in this volume.
On some implications of this, see Nore˜ na, pp. 30–1 in this volume.
For example in Plotina’s rejection of the title ‘Augusta’; for other items, see Roche (2002).
Pliny’s thanksgiving 17
its influence on Trajan’s choice of consuls of 100 (62.2). On the emperor’s
relationship with the senate as a body, the Panegyricus is outstanding. Pliny
records Trajan patiently enduring the various ceremonies associated with
the consular elections (63–5, 77), that he took the regular consular oath
(64–5, 71, 72) and urged candidates to court the favour of the senate (69).
Pliny provides information on acclamations and political buzzwords (e.g.
74), and notes that these acclamations were now for the first time recorded
in the acta diurna (75, 95.1).
Incidental information abounds. Trajan suppressed pantomimi, and thus
resumed a Domitianic policy discontinued by Nerva (46.1–8). We naturally
have details on the careers of Pliny and Cornutus Tertullus, and on their
roles as praefecti aerarii (90–2). A terminus ante quem for the death of
M. Ulpius Traianus is provided by references in the Panegyricus (89.1). We
know that Attius Suburanus’ colleague in the praetorian prefecture retired
upon Trajan’s return to Rome (86). Amid the sustained excoriation of
Domitian, we glimpse inter alia his negotiation with Decebalus in 89 (11.4;
cf. Cass. Dio 67.7), the conservative reaction to his exotic court personnel
(49.8), his execution of Epaphroditus (53.4), and the enactment of his
damnatio memoriae (52.4–6). Pliny fabricates entirely the circumstances of
Domitian’s assassination (49.1–4). As a final consideration, Pliny publicly
unpacks the resonances of the epithet ‘Optimus’, particularly its associations
with Jupiter Optimus Maximus (2.7, 88.4, 88.8).
The Panegyricus regularly acts as a distorting mirror upon the events
that it reflects for its various audiences (in the senate, at the recitation
or in modern scholarship). Its inaccuracies, exaggerations and omissions
are, however, (usually) easy to note, but we should bear in mind that this
catalogue and its implications are continuously evolving, and that there is
no total consensus on the value of Pliny’s information on some key issues.
Atypically unhelpful as a control on this is the public nature of the delivery
of the speech. Some of Pliny’s audience in the senate in September 100 will
have known differing and more accurate versions of the events he expounds
upon. But the nature of the immediate post-Domitianic period, and the
collective and explicit decision both to remember and to forget Domitian
in a particular mode, render moot some of the expected controlling factors
obtaining between a speech and the experience of its audience. There do,
however, remain some controls for us, which can help us to understand
and contextualize Pliny’s motivation for misrepresenting an event, but
Consider e.g. the nature of Trajan’s career under Domitian, as reconstructed from the Panegyricus
in the works of Bennett (1997), Birley (2000) and Eck (2002).
18 paul roche
these do not extend to offering a corrected version of the content of
the speech: the execration of Domitian’s memory (impacting upon e.g.
the revision of both Pliny’s and Trajan’s career); Pliny’s ‘aspirational self-
representation’ (explaining e.g. the prominence of Nerva’s commission on
public expenditure and his comments on Trajan’s court);
and the generally
admonitory nature of his praise (e.g. the senate’s importance and role).
In sum, for the historian of the early imperial period, the Panegyricus is
an extremely valuable source of information, and yet it remains variously
tantalizing, problematic and disquieting.
domitian, trajan and pliny
Ten years separate the three men at the centre of the Panegyricus.
was born on 24 October 51 in his family home on the Quirinal in Rome
(Suet. Dom. 1.1). Trajan was born on 18 September (Plin. Pan. 92.4) – in
either 53 (Eutr. 8.2)
or 56 (Cass. Dio 68.6.3) – in Italica in Spain. Pliny was
born in 61 or 62 (Plin. Ep. 6.16.4, 6.20.5). The three respective biological
and adoptive fathers had been closely associated with each other. M. Ulpius
Traianus and C. Plinius Secundus had been highly prominent at the courts
of the emperors Vespasian and Titus. The Elder Pliny was an amicus of both
He served with Titus, probably in Germany in 57.
His career
was advanced through the agency of Licinius Mucianus and the favour of
Vespasian and Titus, whom he served as a courtier until his death in 79.
His adoption of his nephew was apparently testamentary (Ep. 5.8.5). It is
possible that M. Ulpius Traianus was the brother-in-law of Titus through
his marriage to the sister of Marcia Furnilla.
In 67 he commanded the
legio X Fretensis under Vespasian in the Jewish War (Joseph. BJ 3.7.31):
the same war in which Titus commanded the XV Apollinaris. Traianus
was suffect consul in the crucial year 70
and was adlected to patrician
status by Vespasian and Titus in their censorship of 73–4 (Plin. Pan. 9.2).
He may have governed the newly amalgamated Cappadocia-Galatia before
his tenure of Syria, which brought him triumphal ornaments for a victory
(perhaps diplomatic) over Parthia. His final appointment was the crowning
achievement of the senatorial career, governance of Asia, in the late 70s.
On which see Nore˜ na, pp. 29–32 in this volume.
See above, pp. 5–10, on Pliny’s programme.
On Pliny’s relationship with Domitian, and Trajan see Soverini (1989).
Syme (1958a) 1.31; Eck (2002) 214 n. 12.
See Crook (1975) 179 with references.
See M¨ unzer (1899) 106; Jones (1984) 15–16.
See Champlin (1983) 257–64; Jones (1992) 11, 59.
See Morris (1953) 79–80.
Pliny’s thanksgiving 19
Galba’s adoption of Piso in January 69 was an unavoidable point of
comparison for Nerva’s adoption of Trajan in late 97. The failure of that
earlier event to quell mutiny was the natural counterpoint for Nerva’s suc-
cessful averting of a civil war (Pan. 8.5), and Galba’s failure set in train
the events which would see Domitian as Caesar and princeps iuuentutis
in the last days of December 69. Throughout the 70s, Domitian’s role
within the regime would be highly visible but junior to his brother, and
solely honorific.
He was suffect consul in 71, 75, 76, 77 and 79; he
was ordinary consul in 73, the year in which Vespasian and Titus would
hold the censorship; and he held various priesthoods. Despite his best
efforts, he was thwarted in his attempts to gain first-hand military experi-
ence in 69 and again in 75. In the same period, the first steps of Trajan’s
career coincided with the spectacular success of his father in Syria.
was military tribune of one of the Syrian legions in the period in which
Traianus accrued ornamenta triumphalia (Pan. 14). After this post, Tra-
jan may have taken the unusual step of a second military tribunate, in
one of the Rhine legions in the last years of the decade (Pan. 14).
quaestorship ought to have been held when Trajan was around 25 years
old, and so should be placed either in this same period in 78, or else in
81. During the 70s Pliny the Younger was in Rome under the tutelage of
Verginius Rufus (Ep. 2.1.8), who had beenoffered the principate twice by his
troops in 68–9, and was relegated to political obscurity during the Flavian
Upon the death of Vespasian in 79, Domitian’s designated suffect con-
sulship for 80 was upgraded by Titus to an ordinary consulship, and he
was furthermore designated consul ordinarius for 82. Despite his expecta-
tions (Suet. Dom. 2.3), his brother bestowed neither tribunician power nor
imperium upon Domitian: only the assurance of being his successor (Suet.
Tit. 9.3). Domitian remained princeps iuuentutis (CIL 3.223), as he had been
since 70, until the death of Titus on 13 September 81. Pliny the Younger’s
career at Rome begins under Titus. Now an adopted son of a prominent
equestrian and Flavian amicus, he began to speak in the Centumviral Court
in 80 or 81 (Ep. 5.8.8); at the same time it is probable that he held a post
on the decemvirate stlitibus iudicandis.
The nature of Trajan’s career under Domitian in the 80s turns on the
date of his birth. If he was born in 53, and therefore held his quaestorship
See Jones (1992) 18–21.
For Trajan’s early career, see Houston (1971) 279–81 with references; Eck (2002) 213–17.
Eck (2002) 214 n. 10 doubts this.
So Birley (2000) 7.
20 paul roche
in around 78 and his praetorship in 83 or 84, the fact that he did not
hold the consulship until 91 is noteworthy. It would normally have been
due to fall to him as a patrician a few years after his praetorship.
It may
indicate a comparative cooling of affection between Domitian and the
family of Trajan, especially by contrast with his father’s spectacular career
under Vespasian.
On the other hand, if he was born in 56, was quaestor
in 81 and praetor in 86 or 87 (he was a praetorius uir by 87: SHA Hadr. 1.4),
the appointment to the consulship of 91 came to him at 35 and thus would
seem about right for a patrician praetorius. He was appointed as legate of
the legio VII Gemina in Spain in 88, an appointment which could not have
been expected to accrue him much glory.
In 89 he was summoned by
Domitian to Germany to suppress the rebellion of Saturninus (Pan. 14).
Saturninus had been killed and his mutiny dismantled by the time Trajan
arrived. Nevertheless, his conspicuous loyalty earned him the ordinary
consulship of 91, with M.’ Acilius Glabrio. If we accept an earlier dating
for Trajan’s birth, 89 may then mark a turning point in Trajan’s career
under Domitian.
Pliny is certainly careful to delineate his own career under Domitian into
two phases. In the first phase he claims that it prospered, but only before
that emperor ‘demonstrated his hatred for good men’ (Pan. 95.3). After this
moment, Pliny claims that he halted his own advancement, preferring a
slower ascendancy over the short cuts to honores which were then on offer
(Pan. 95.4). In the early years of Domitian’s reign, Pliny served as military
tribune in the legio III Gallica, stationed in Syria. By about 84 he was
back in Rome, and serving as a seuir equitum Romanorum: an appropriate
post for a young and well-connected prospective senator.
From the mid-
to late 80s (perhaps as early as 86
), Pliny’s career shows evidence of
Domitian’s favour. Pliny now held the quaestorship as the emperor’s own
candidate. This was an honour which, it seems, was restricted to only two
of the twenty annual candidates (the other man in Pliny’s year was his
friend, Calestrius Tiro).
Pliny retrospectively and inevitably sanitized the
honour as quaestor Caesaris (Ep. 7.16.2). After a few more years had elapsed,
Pliny ceased his activity in the court to be tribune of the plebs (in 88 at the
earliest). Note that his rise was steady rather than fast: his friend Calestrius
See Birley (1981) 24–5.
Thus Eck (2002) 214.
Eck (2002) 214: ‘commanders of this legion, so far as we can make out, had subsequent careers of
no great significance’.
Birley (2000) 8.
Birley (2000) 14; he dates Pliny’s career three to four years earlier than does Vidman in PIR
P 490.
On the significance of being the emperor’s candidate, see C´ ebeillac (1972); Eck (1996) 88; Birley
(2000) 8–9.
Pliny’s thanksgiving 21
anticipated him by one year owing to the ius trium liberorum (Ep. 7.16.2).
Nevertheless, with Domitian’s favour and by his special dispensation, Pliny
had closed the gap again in order to be praetor in the same year as Calestrius
(in 89 at the earliest).
After Trajan’s consulship of 91, it is possible that he held a further
appointment as a consular governor. One of the provinces of Moesia or
Pannonia have been proffered as options,
but no evidence supports such
an appointment,
and Eck is right to stress that Trajan’s credentials in
the 80s belie the notion that he was, in any sense of the word, a uir
Pliny seems explicitly to indicate that Trajan lived in Rome in the
mid-90s, when he states uixisti nobiscum, periclitatus es, timuisti, quae tunc
erat innocentium uita (‘you lived with us, you were in danger, you feared:
things which at that time were the life of innocent men’, Pan. 44.1). On
the other hand, he speaks of ‘campaign upon campaign’ for Trajan after 89
(Pan. 14.5).
It is difficult to see how the two statements can accommodate
each other.
During the 90s Pliny served as prefect of the aerarium militare, the
military treasury, although whether he did so under Domitian (i.e. from
94 to 96
) or under Nerva (from 96 to 97
) is not completely certain. The
dating of this post is of the utmost importance for understanding Pliny’s
repeated claims to have been in danger in the last years of Domitian’s
reign. Pliny asserts that, with seven of his friends executed or banished,
he could foresee the same fate for himself (Ep. 3.11.3); that he had been
informed on by the delator Mettius Carus, and that Domitian would surely
have tried him had he survived longer (Ep. 7.27.14); that he was in danger
after the trial of Baebius Massa (Ep. 7.33.3); and that, in the evil years, he
was counted among those who grieved and feared (Pan. 95.5). While his
promotion to the prefecture of the military treasury need not necessarily
be mutually exclusive with Domitian’s displeasure, the earlier dating of
this post would seem to point to Pliny’s transparent revision of an earlier,
successful career under Domitian. The very transparency of this public
revision might give us pause. It seems simply not to have mattered (to
Moesia: Syme (1958a) 33–4; Pannonia: Bennett (1997) 43–6.
SHA Hadr. 2.2–4 is circumstantial.
For the term, see Campbell (1975) 11–31. On Trajan’s proconsular appointments, cf. Eck (2002)
215–16: ‘Why should Domitian have entrusted this province [Pannonia], in which four legions were
stationed, to a patrician without the necessary experience in provincial administration? There were
other loyal senators with better qualifications.’
See above, p. 15.
Sherwin-White (1966) 75; Vidman PIR
P 490.
Birley (2000).
22 paul roche
Pliny) – if we accept the earlier dating – that his contemporaries could see
that this danger to which he laid claim was a fabrication.
Following the death of Domitian, Trajan is attested as governor of
Germania Superior (when he was adopted by Nerva) in October 97 (SHA
Hadr. 2.5; Cass. Dio 68.3.4). His appointment is as remarkable as his
adoption, given his career in the 80s and 90s. Several factors help to explain
it. The immediate political catalyst for the adoption was the inherent
instability of Nerva’s rule, specifically the escalating tension between Nerva
and his praetorian guard (who would mutiny against him in the autumn
of 97), and the pressure being exerted by Cornelius Nigrinus, the governor
of Syria, who was emerging as a potential successor to Nerva. The two
groups may have colluded.
Clearly exerting contrary pressure on Trajan’s
behalf at this time were the consular senators Sex. Iulius Frontinus (cos.
ii with Trajan in February 98; cos. iii ordinarius with Trajan in 100) and
L. Iulius Ursus (cos. ii with Trajan in March 98; cos. iii with Trajan in
January 100).
Pliny alludes to their services to Trajan bene ac fortiter sed
in toga (‘well and bravely, but as civilians’) at Pan. 60.5. After his adoption,
throughout his second ordinary consulship in 98, and even after the death
of Nerva on 28 January of that same year, Trajan remained in the north with
the armies. He toured Pannonia and Moesia, and only returned to Rome
as sole emperor in late 99. In this period at Rome, Pliny was prefect of the
treasury of Saturn, along with Cornutus Tertullus: from the first months
of 98 until he delivered the Panegyricus as suffect consul on 1 September
100 (cf. Pan. 92.1–2).
this volume
The following studies have emerged in response both to the importance
of the Panegyricus and to a modern neglect of the speech that is dispro-
portionate to this importance. The chapters in this volume address three
broad areas of concern: the historical context of the speech; the rhetori-
cal and generic contexts informing both this speech and panegyric more
generally; and what might be styled its interpretative potential and literary
fabric. These three categories are not to be conceived as hermetically sealed
off from each other. Naturally any one of the following discussions may
contribute to more than one of these areas or to other avenues of inquiry.
For more on this revision see Nore˜ na, p. 39 and refs there at n. 26 in this volume.
The thesis of Schwarte (1979) 149–55.
Eck (2002) 219 rightly draws attention to the speed of the iterated second and third consulships,
unparalleled for persons outside the imperial family.
Pliny’s thanksgiving 23
Under the aegis of these three broad headings, a wide range of critical
approaches is represented. It is hoped that they collectively prompt further
consideration and discussion of this key text.
The volume begins, appropriately, with the construction of the author
himself. Carlos Nore˜ na argues that the written text of the Panegyricus
should be seen as an instrument for Pliny’s own self-representation.
underscores Pliny’s role as an innovator in the sphere of self-representation,
and lays emphasis upon the implication throughout the speech that he is
an insider, close to the centre of power, and qualified to pass judgement on
both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ emperors. A number of important dynamics within
this programme of self-definition emerge. One is the display of technical
expertise and the promotion of the illusion of intimacy with the emperor
and the imperial court. Another is Pliny’s subtle and flexible use of the
first person plural, ‘the rather fluid “we”’.
This is deployed to identify
Pliny with various exclusive and politically prestigious groups: the highly
cultured, landowning and (as Pliny constructs them) ‘good’ or ‘innocent’
groups (i.e., in both cases, those claiming opposition to Domitian) within
the senatorial order. He thereby claims, along with membership of these
various groups, the cultural authority and economic pre-eminence as much
as the political, social and cultural capital attaching to them. Another key
dynamic isolated by Nore˜ na is Pliny’s representation of the consulship
itself to develop and lay claim to a particular kind of political authority and
status within the city as consul, a role which is developed from Trajan’s own
shifting status as citizen, senator, consul and emperor. Through developing
this trope, Pliny can suggest equivalency between the emperor and the
consul, and more: that, in high contrast to the emperor’s social obligation
to remain ciuilis, it falls to the consul to embody true pre-eminence over the
citizen body. Most simply and most urgently, the Panegyricus offered to its
author the opportunity to revise his own personal history, and to realign the
association of his own flourishing career fromthe nowexcoriated Domitian
to the new emperor Trajan: the comparandum offered in Tacitean posturing
of independence underscores the options available to Pliny in this respect.
Inthe light of this agenda, the Panegyricus canbe seenas operating alongside
other classic Plinian loci of public self-definition, such as Ep. 3.11, 7.33 and
book 10.
We proceed from the author to his urban context. The reception of
contemporary urban monuments in the Panegyricus offers the editor a
Nore˜ na, pp. 29–44.
See p. 35.
The public utility of this last item was established by Nore˜ na himself (2007).
24 paul roche
significant and discrete locus for examining the nature of Pliny’s engage-
ment in the speech with the public messages disseminated by Trajan and his
government in their first years.
In the period 96–100, Nerva, Trajan and
his family made a number of public claims on Domitianic monuments in
the city, since they could neither physically destroy the structures of Domi-
tian’s building programme, nor eclipse him as builder with public works
of their own. Pliny unsurprisingly endorses the claim of his emperor on
these structures. But my discussion draws attention to both the manner of
his endorsement and its essential conditionality upon Trajan fulfilling and
allaying a number of senatorial expectations and concerns. The rhetorical
tradition in which Pliny was operating set the value of self-promotional
monuments beneath both the subject’s own inner qualities and the immor-
talizing potential of praise. Pliny extends, amplifies and innovates within
this generic tradition by merging encomium’s generic relationship with
monuments with the specific political context of the period 96–100. His
rhetorical reception of the city allows him to move beyond the mere
commemoration of the emperor, and to widen the focus of his concern
to encompass senatorial anxieties, such as the new emperor’s continuing
accessibility, moderation and social parity with his subjects.
Next, a sequence of chapters locates the speech in its various rhetorical
and generic contexts. Initiating this sequence, Doreen C. Innes examines
the correlation of the content and themes treated in the Panegyricus with
the precepts espoused in rhetorical treatises and with rhetorical theory more
In the first half of her chapter, Innes tracks encomium’s con-
stituent elements, objectives and dominant style from its place in the edu-
cational curriculum, via the progymnasmata (elementary exercises from the
school syllabus) and school texts, through to early exponents of encomium:
Plato, Isocrates and Xenophon. Quintilian’s prescriptions receive a detailed
analysis, in keeping with both his own status as a teacher of Pliny, and
encomium’s greater profile in the socio-political culture and discourse of
the period in which he wrote.
Quintilian’s adherence to schoolroom
examples stands in high contrast to the increasing profile of its use in
Roman public life. Context is also supplied via the third-century theorist
Menander II and a (perhaps) near-contemporary exponent of encomium,
Pseudo-Aristides 35. In the second half of her chapter, Innes maps the
organization of Pliny’s speech against this theoretical backdrop and his cre-
ative engagement with the tradition of encomium. Pliny’s foregrounding
of moral qualities in the speech is completely consistent with what Innes
Roche, pp. 45–66.
Innes, pp. 67–84.
See pp. 70–4.
Pliny’s thanksgiving 25
terms ‘the central core of panegyric theory’. A key notion emerging from
this chapter is Pliny’s judgement: his flexible adaptation of the precepts of
rhetorical theory to suit his own specific context and agenda. This versa-
tility is utterly in keeping with rhetorical theory’s own insistence upon the
pre-eminence of the orator’s discretion.
Gesine Manuwald next examines the context offered by Ciceronian
praise, and thereby isolates key material for assessing Pliny’s Panegyricus
as a successor to the epideictic culture of late republican Rome.
As the
political landscape altered around him, Cicero’s varied negotiation of his
own position vis-` a-vis the dominant political figures of his day represents
an important transitional stage in the genre at Rome and exerts a structural
influence on Pliny, who further develops and adapts Ciceronian methods
and strategies withinhis ownmore stable, imperial context. De Lege Manilia
comprises fulsome praise of a third party who does not yet possess but is
to receive unlimited powers. It aims to motivate to action not the laudand
himself, but the audience of the contio, who can ratify his wide-ranging
powers. Pro Marcello marks a further step towards Pliny’s own context.
Now the laudand is already in power and the persuasive agenda of the
speech turns on motivating Caesar to a course of action. Even in the
Philippics, basic strategies of praise are continued, although the goal of
dispensing power, the absence of the laudand, and the authorizing role
of the audience return us to the rhetorical strategies of De Lege Manilia.
The liminal nature of these moments in the evolution of panegyric emerges
from their form, application and underlying ideology. Cicero’s career began
with praise of individuals in clearly defined contexts (such as court cases);
these were well within established Roman conventions. As he became more
involved in political life, praise became for him a powerful political tool.
When it met with his own political objectives, he did not demur at praising
individuals in order to help endow them with power which transcended
the limits of the republican framework, and to influence their wielding of
this power.
The rhetorical contexts of the Panegyricus extend to more than a contin-
uation of republican strategies and tropes. As Bruce Gibson demonstrates,
the Panegyricus must be located not only within the flourishing and ever-
mutable contexts of praise and blame in the early imperial period but, more
precisely and more urgently, within its more specific, Trajanic moment as
praise oratory. The ubiquity of praise and blame in a very wide variety of
genres and discourses speaks to its centrality at the turn of the first century.
Manuwald, pp. 85–103.
Gibson, pp. 104–24.
26 paul roche
Tacitus’ pessimistic appraisal of the vitality of oratory after Cicero (Dial. 1)
must be weighed in the balance both with Tacitus’ own repute as an orator,
particularly of praise (laudator eloquentissimus, Plin. Ep. 2.1.6), and with
the testimony of contemporary and later sources which indicate a concern
with maintaining the standards of oratory and its prestige. Contempo-
rary counterparts to the Panegyricus drawn from historiography, technical
writing and oratory resonate consistently with the trends and strategies
deployed by Pliny. Above all, this was a rhetorical culture of periodiza-
tion, of demarcating the evil past from the benign present. Gibson now
interrogates the notion of the contemporary in Trajanic praise. So far from
the new modes of praise claimed by Pliny and his contemporaries, Gibson
demonstrates, through examples drawn from Domitianic literature and
from authors who were active continuously from the late Flavian period
into that of Nerva and Trajan, that a significant continuity of discourse
inevitably bridged the divide between past and present, and condemned
any claims of a truly new beginning to failure.
The final sequence of chapters in this volume examines the aesthetic,
literary and rhetorical fabric of the Panegyricus itself. Gregory Hutchinson
interrogates the notion of the sublime in Pliny’s master work.
artful realization of aesthetic ideas within the speech is inextricably bound
up with the political and ethical ideas expressed there. The sublime –
and the nexus it frequently shares with history and politics in ancient
thought – is marked early and often as the dominant aesthetic principal
operative within the Panegyricus. Terms of height, size and divinity cue the
reader/listener to the attempted rhetorical elevation, but this very attempt
on the part of the orator to achieve sublimity is itself possessed of the
sublime. Pliny’s Domitian’s own failed attempt to achieve sublimity stands
out against both Demosthenes’ Philip and, naturally, his own Trajan, for
whom, paradoxically, the denial of his own grandeur – his ‘self-effacing
– serves as its most basic guarantee. Hutchinson further offers
up a close reading of an extended extract of the speech (Pan. 27.3–29.5) to
illustrate how the ever-undulating presence of the sublime informs Pliny’s
prose, and its continuous dialogue with other modes and registers of speech.
John Henderson next examines Pliny’s treatment of historical exem-
plarity in the Panegyricus.
Pliny almost continually invokes the past and
figures from Roman history to underwrite his vision of an ideal present,
actualized or prescribed. In the course of the speech Pliny’s exempla extend
backwards in time to the beginnings of the free republic and through to
Hutchinson, pp. 125–41.
See p. 137.
Henderson, pp. 142–74.
Pliny’s thanksgiving 27
the living memory of his audience. Particularly dense clusters of figures
are drawn from the crisis of the Punic Wars and the last generation of
the republic. But Pliny also provides a sequence – carefully edited in the
selective mode of such imperial documents as the Lex de Imperio Ves-
pasiani (CIL 6.930 = ILS 244) and Trajan’s own, later (c.107) numismatic
sequence of imperial commemorative or restoration issues
– of Julio-
Claudian and Flavian emperors. Henderson concentrates upon the rhetor-
ical work invested in these appeals to the name in their context, as aspects
of encomiastic propriety and technique. He attends with especial care to
implied continuities and ruptures between the various pasts assembled in
the speech. The notable absences within the speech are often as significant
as presences invoked by Pliny. This is exemplarity in and by ‘irreference’.
Henderson’s chapter, in effect a reading of the whole speech, highlights
the unusually vast horizons of historical exemplarity in the Panegyricus, to
pursue with equal vigour the ‘disappearing’ of the proper name and its role
within the speech as an index of Pliny’s power as panegyrist to bestow or
to withhold reification.
As a fitting epilogue to the volume, Roger Rees examines the afterlife
of the Panegyricus in antiquity, and thereby decisively modifies commonly
held scholarly assumptions regarding the degree of Pliny’s influence over
the XII Panegyrici Latini.
By the middle decades of the second century,
prose panegyric as a literary form was established, but Fronto maintains an
evidently informed silence about Pliny’s role in this establishment. Likewise
it was Fronto and not Pliny who in 297 was lauded by the panegyrist of
Constantius as ‘the other ornament of Roman eloquence’ (i.e. along with
Cicero, Pan. Lat. viii(4)14.2–3), an omission at odds with the transmission
of Pliny’s speech as the first of the XII Panegyrici Latini. In contrast, by 389,
Pacatus had not only collected together what was for him the canonical
group of panegyrics, and had placed Pliny’s speech as the first item within
that canon, but had alluded in a number of places within his own speech to
Pliny’s and had evidently intended his own oration to be understood against
the backdrop of Pliny’s. Trajan’s pre-eminent status in late antiquity, and
the Spanish heritage he shared with Theodosius, may have helped galvanize
Pacatus’ reassessment of Pliny’s speech. Nevertheless, the various allusions
to the Panegyricus within the speeches of 289, 307 and 310 (Pan. Lat. x(2),
vii(6) and vi(7)) share time and space with a host of other Latin authors
of the classical period, and the overall ‘Plinian character’ of these speeches
is subdued. A total absence of allusion occurs in the works of orators who
See Mattingly (1926) 232–78; Roche (2006) 204–8.
See p. 143.
Rees, pp. 175–88.
28 paul roche
demonstrably knew Pliny’s work, and Pliny (in contrast to Cicero and
Hortensius) is never cited by name in the collection. Pliny in fact never
attained the status of ‘a canonical archetype which demanded emulation’
in late antique Gaul;
rather his legacy was in the creation of a literary
form out of imperial protocols. In Rees’ summative formulation, Pliny’s
Panegyricus became in late antiquity ‘a model example of what imperial
panegyric could be, but not what it had to be’.
See p. 185.
See p. 188.
chapter 2
Self-fashioning in the Panegyricus
Carlos F. Nore˜ na
Implicit in any formal speech in praise of a ruler is the putative authority of
the speaker. To extol the ruler’s background and lineage properly, to char-
acterize his virtues in appropriate terms, to celebrate his accomplishments
in convincing detail and to place them in the most impressive contexts – to
offer a public verdict, in a word, on the legitimacy of the ruler’s power – is
not for everyone to do, and indeed stands as an ambitious assertion of one’s
own knowledge about, and capacity for judgement on, complex matters
of state and high politics. And so it was with Pliny’s gratiarum actio. By
delivering a speech that pronounces on everything from the deeper mean-
ing of Trajan’s adoption by Nerva and the legacies of Domitian’s reign to
the fiscal impact of the emperor’s policy on inheritances and the current
state of senatorial opinion on this or that issue, Pliny leaves little doubt
that he is both close to the centre of power and well qualified to assess
it. That the original speech was given on the occasion of his accession to
a suffect consulship (100 ce) only underlines this impression.
He goes
even further, however, systematically (and often superfluously) display-
ing ‘insider’ knowledge, characterizing the nature of political authority in
imperial Rome to his own advantage, and reciting a number of carefully
chosen chapters from his own biography. Though addressed to the current
emperor, Trajan, and alluding constantly to previous emperors, especially
Domitian, the speech is not really about emperors or imperial rule. It is
ultimately, I will argue, about Pliny himself.
Speaking as a consul, and as one who had already held a number of
administrative posts spanning several imperial reigns, Pliny could assume
that his credentials as an authority on Roman government would be taken
For the ‘publication’ of the text and the relationship between the written and spoken versions,
including both the original actio and subsequent recitations of it to friends, see below, p. 40; in what
follows, I will refer to the text as a ‘speech’, but will treat it primarily as a written document addressed
to a community of readers.
30 carlos f. nore ˜ na
for granted.
Indeed, the very context of the gratiarum actio, in which those
taking up the office of consul thanked the emperor for his support, will
have obviated the need to trot out such credentials.
But trot them out
Pliny does. Note, for example, his insistence both at the beginning and at
the end of the speech that he is, in fact, speaking as consul, a reiteration to
which we will return. Equally telling is his evident concern to demonstrate
possession of the sort of knowledge that would only be available to true
Administrative and fiscal expertise constitutes one such body of knowl-
edge. Consider the extended discussion of Trajan’s policies on taxation and
inheritance (37–41). The regulations concerning the liability of new citi-
zens to the uicesima hereditatum were no doubt important, but Pliny goes
into greater detail, and at greater length, than this subject, in this context,
would seem to demand.
It was an opportunity for self-display that was just
too good to pass up. As a former prefect of the aerarium militare, he could
freely pontificate on the fiscal implications of Trajan’s generosity in this
matter, even going so far as to lecture his senatorial audience on its under-
lying rationale – prefaced by the claim that he was actually magnifying the
emperor’s benefaction in so doing (augeo, patres conscripti, principis munus,
cum ostendo liberalitati eius inesse rationem, 38.4). Towards the end of the
discussion he draws further attention to his proficiency in the subject of the
state’s finances. Commenting to Trajan that he is simply showing ‘consular
concern and apprehension’ (cura et sollicitudo consularis, 41.1) – a typical
reminder of his own grave responsibilities over such matters – Pliny notes
the emperor’s refusal to accept monetary gifts (collationes), his monetary
distributions to soldiers and the urban plebs, his banishment of informers
and his reduction of taxes, and then, after wondering aloud whether Trajan
has properly added up the empire’s revenues, asks a potentially provocative
question: an tantas uires habet frugalitas principis, ut tot impendiis tot ero-
gationibus sola sufficiat? (‘Does the emperor’s thrift by itself have enough
resources to cover so many expenses and payments?’, 41.1).
Embedded in
a long section of the speech on Trajan’s generosity and prudence, this ques-
tion is surely not meant to be alarming. In fact, Pliny explicitly assures his
readers that the state’s finances are in good order (41.2). But that assurance
Pliny’s career: PIR
P 490 (L. Vidman), with Birley (2000) 5–17.
See briefly Talbert (1984) 227–9 for the speeches of thanks, addressed to the emperor and delivered
in the senate, given by incoming consuls and, on occasion, by other officials, such as provincial
In general on the uicesima hereditatum, a 5 per cent inheritance tax levied on Roman citizens (but
only within certain degrees of kinship), see Neesen (1980) 135–41.
Calculation of revenues: interrogandus uideris, satisne computaueris imperi reditus, 41.1.
Self-fashioning in the Panegyricus 31
only carries weight because he has just made such a virtuoso display of his
own competence in this complicated subject.
Access to the exclusive world of the imperial court represents a different
body of insider knowledge, the possession of which Pliny is especially
insistent on demonstrating. Sometimes he pursues this goal in an oblique
manner, by drawing contrasts between Trajan and Domitian in a way that
implies his familiarity with their daily routines. His ostensible purpose
in comparing everyday court life under Trajan and Domitian (48), for
example, is to praise the former at the expense of the latter, but only a daft
reader would have missed the point that such a comparison could only be
made by a regular visitor to the Palatine complex. He underscores this point
by noting, in passing, that he and his friends now spend a lot of time in the
imperial palace, ‘as if in a communal house’ (ut in communi domo, 48.3).
The contrast between the two emperors’ dining habits (49.4–8) functions
in a similar way. Because dining practices were felt to be sensitive indicators
of taste, status and character, the details of Trajan’s banquets were not only
not trivial, but could also serve, once again, to imply that Pliny was one of
the emperor’s regular companions.
So, too, the long discussion of the two
emperors’ very different leisure activities (81–2). The picture of Trajan’s
recreation is patently stereotyped, to be sure, and most readers would have
recognized in it the standard markers of ideal character – hunting as an
indication of uirtus, private visits to sacred groves as a reflection of sincere
pietas, etc. – but this particular perspective on the emperor’s character is
nevertheless focalized by Pliny, which inevitably draws attention to his
putative familiarity with the emperor.
It should be noted that this section
on imperial leisure is followed by extended praise of the emperor’s wife,
Plotina, and his sister, Marciana (83–4), a detailed (if again stereotyped)
exposition that further enhances Pliny’s status as one close to the inner
circle of the imperial regime.
This whole tactic reaches a crescendo of sorts in the celebration of
Trajan’s capacity for friendship (85). Following a scathing critique of the
blanditiae and amoris simulatio (‘flattery’ and ‘feigned loved’, 85.1) that
On Pliny’s treatment of this theme, see Roche, p. 61 in this volume.
Cf. Ep. 6.31.13–14 for another representation of Trajan’s dining habits. For the dinner party
(conuiuium) in early imperial Rome as an arena for the display of aristocratic values, see Roller
(2006) with references.
Pliny insists (82.8) that the emperor’s ‘amusements’ (uoluptates) are good indicators of his virtues
(grauitas, sanctitas, temperantia). It was perhaps risky to emphasize Trajan’s prowess as a hunter, since
it was precisely under Domitian, it seems, that hunting emerged as a marker of imperial uirtus; see
discussion in Tuck (2005) drawing primarily on visual evidence.
32 carlos f. nore ˜ na
prevailed in Domitian’s company, Pliny unleashes a series of laudatory
observations about Trajan as friend:
habes amicos quia amicus ipse es . . . diligis ergo cum diligaris . . . descendis in
omnia familiaritatis officia, et in amicum ex imperatore submitteris, immo tunc
maxime imperator cum amicum agis. (Plin. Pan. 85.2–5)
you have friends because you are yourself a friend . . . you love just as you are
loved . . . you descend to every courtesy of an intimate acquaintance, and humble
yourself from being an emperor to becoming a friend, you are never more an
emperor than when you are a friend.
Such tributes were less platitudinous than most of the praise in the Panegyri-
cus. Friendship, in fact, was never a prominent theme in the extensive Greek
and Roman literary tradition on monarchy, and only seems to emerge as a
part of the discourse on good kingship in the early second century ce.
Pliny appears to be innovating in this passage. In any case, the implication
of his own friendship with Trajan is very close to the surface here. For
how else could one praise the emperor as a friend? And this gives added
significance to a comment made earlier in the speech, that Trajan chooses
his friends ex optimis (‘from the “best men”’, 45.3). That Pliny belongs to
that group goes without saying (but he will say it anyway, as we are about
to see).
These rather different displays of knowledge served to enhance Pliny’s
insider credentials in at least two ways. Recent work on the sociology of
knowledge in the early Roman empire has stressed the numerous con-
nections between knowledge and power during this period, as well as
the cultural authority that different kinds of technical knowledge could
It is not unreasonable to see in Pliny’s lengthy demonstration of
administrative and financial expertise a public claim to a body of knowl-
edge that was not only vital to the functioning of the central state, but
also confined to its most experienced administrators.
The motives behind
See esp. Dio Or. 3.86–116 with Konstan (1997); cf. M. Aur. Med. 1.16.10, 6.30.13 (on Antoninus
Pius). The theme was also picked up in some of the later panegyrics (e.g. Pan. Lat. x(2) 16.1, xi(3)
18.4, 21.2). For affection as a bulwark of royal power, see also Sen. Clem. 1.13.4–5, 1.19.6.
See e.g. the essays collected in K¨ onig and Whitmarsh (2007). See also Wallace-Hadrill (2005) –
an updated and revised version of a chapter first published in 1997 – a concise discussion of the
increased autonomy, and cultural authority, of various bodies of knowledge, some technical, in the
period of the Augustan ‘revolution’; for further elaboration of these points, see now Wallace-Hadrill
(2008) ch. 5, esp. 231–58.
Other efforts to display administrative or technical knowledge include the reference to the senatus
consultum that provides for the delivery of a gratiarum actio (4.1) and the analysis of drought
conditions in Egypt (30–2). The published correspondence, of course, is also filled with implicit
claims to administrative and legal expertise.
Self-fashioning in the Panegyricus 33
the insinuation of his own proximity to the emperor’s inner circle, and
the further implication of social intimacy with Trajan, are even more
transparent. Because aristocratic participation in the world of the imperial
court necessarily conferred both social prestige and political power, Pliny
could effectively elevate his place in the social and political hierarchy by
demonstrating his regular access to Trajan, his family and his courtiers.
In Roman imperial society, in fact, familiarity with the emperor’s domestic
and ‘private’ life was perhaps the ultimate form of insider knowledge.
But what sort of ‘insider’ was Pliny really claiming to be? That he was
a wealthy, landowning aristocrat and member of the senatorial order was,
after all, a given, and did not really need to be communicated in this
speech, especially since his initial audience, and many of his potential
readers, belonged to the same class. Yet there are multiple indications
throughout the speech that Pliny was not content to represent himself
in it as merely another senator – many of whom could naturally claim
similar bodies of insider knowledge for themselves. One of his principal
goals, I would like to suggest, was to highlight his own distinction within
Rome’s social and political elite, which was highly stratified and still very
Two broad strategies are employed to this end. The first is
the use of the first person plural, ‘us’ or ‘we’, woven throughout the speech
in a subtle and flexible manner that ultimately casts Pliny in a positive light.
The second strategy, more innovative, is the articulation of a typology of
political authority in imperial Rome in which the consulship – now held,
of course, by Pliny himself – is revealed as the true linchpin of the civic
‘He thinks he is one of us’, Pliny announces near the beginning of the
speech, ‘and in this he is all the more conspicuous and remarkable, since he
thinks that he is one of us’ (unum ille se ex nobis – et hoc magis excellit atque
eminet, quod unum ex nobis putat, 2.4). The larger group to which both
Trajan, as addressee, and Pliny, as speaker, are here alleged to belong is rather
ambiguous. For in the next clause, Pliny lauds the emperor for realizing that
he is simply a man who governs other men (hominibus praeesse), suggesting
that the ‘us’ in this passage refers to mankind in general; at the beginning
of this passage, however, he characterizes how a consul and a citizen should
Spawforth (2007) offers various perspectives on the nexus between social participation and political
power in the monarchic courts of the ancient world; for the emergence of a court society in the
Roman world, under Augustus, see discussion in Wallace-Hadrill (1996). For the Roman imperial
court in general, see Winterling (1999).
Our understanding of senatorial competition and self-representation under the early empire has
been transformed by a series of seminal studies by Eck, e.g. (1984, 1997, 2005, 2010; cf. Eck and
Heil (2005); further discussion and references below, pp. 38–42.
34 carlos f. nore ˜ na
speak about the emperor (2.1), suggesting two other collectivities, consulars
and Roman citizens, to which both Trajan and Pliny belong. Perhaps he
was referring to the senatorial order. That is certainly the impression one
gets from a number of passages in the speech: the reference to the struggle
between ‘us’ and Trajan’s modesty over the title ‘Father of the Fatherland’
(21.2); the declaration that, following the banishment of the informers, ‘we
ourselves’ and not ‘our slaves’ are the emperor’s friends (42.3), or that ‘we’
gather around the emperor, ‘safe and happy’, no longer fearing the slaughter
of the ‘most renowned citizens’ (48.1–3); the observation that the emperor,
refraining from the confiscation of wealthy estates, shows moderation with
‘us’ and with the treasury (55.5).
In these passages and others like them,
context leaves little doubt that ‘us’ and ‘we’ refer to the community of
Roman senators, and that Pliny is self-consciously identifying himself as
a member of that group. This is consistent with the markedly senatorial
perspective that pervades the entire speech, frequently noted by modern
The logic of some passages, however, implies broad differentiationwithin
the senatorial order as a whole. Praise for Trajan’s banishment of the
informers (delatores), for example, may be read as thinly veiled criticism of
‘bad’ senators:
quantum diuersitas temporum posset, tum maxime cognitum est, cum isdem
quibus antea cautibus innocentissimus quisque, tunc nocentissimus adfigeretur,
cumque insulas omnes, quas modo senatores, iam delatorum turba compleret;
quos . . . in aeternum repressisti. (Plin. Pan. 35.2)
Then indeed we knew how times had changed; the real criminals were nailed to
the very rocks upon which many an innocent man had been nailed; the islands
where senators were exiled were crowded with the informers whose power you had
broken for all time.
The sharp contrast drawn here between the informers (‘real criminals’),
on the one hand, and the senators (‘innocent men’), on the other, though
rhetorically effective, is, of course, tendentious, since many of the most
prominent informers active under Domitian were themselves senators.
21.2 nobis cum modestia tua pugna; 42.3 non enim iam serui nostri principis amici sed nos sumus; 48.1
sed securi et hilares cum commodum est conuenimus; Trajan does not behave like Domitian, who used
to emerge from his hiding places in the palace to destroy high-status visitors (se ad clarissimorum
ciuium strages caedesque proferret, 48.3); 55.5 quo temperamento et nobis et aerario.
For the Panegyricus as representative of a specifically senatorial outlook, see e.g. Durry (1938) 21–4;
Radice (1968) esp. 166–7; Leach (1990) 37; Seelentag (2004) 214–96; Flower (2006) 264.
Translation Radice (1969) (modified).
See discussion in Rutledge (2001) 129–35; cf. 27–30 for senatorial delatores in early imperial Rome.
Self-fashioning in the Panegyricus 35
Pliny was surely conscious of this overlap, and probably assumed that most
of his readers were conscious of it, too – and that they would take the point
that he was to be associated not with these ‘bad’ senators, but with the
‘good’ ones. That there were some senators who were indeed superior to
the rest could also be made explicit. Describing Trajan’s ceremonial arrival
in Rome, to take just one example, Pliny observes that the new emperor
‘was surrounded by the flower of the senatorial order’ (senatus . . . flore,
23.3). The whole tenor of the speech conveys the impression that it was
this select subset of the senatorial order for which Pliny was speaking.
Equally illuminating are those comments, usually made en passant, that
strategically demarcate certain informal groupings within the Roman impe-
rial aristocracy. Pliny reports both on the attitudes of those who are devoted
to culture (quisquam studia humanitatis professus, 47.3), for example, and on
the expenditures of those sufficiently wealthy and well connected to pur-
chase estates in Rome’s suburbs (hortos . . . suburbanum licemur, emimus,
implemus, 50.6–7). In characterizing the outlook and experience of such
groups, each of which connotes a type of achieved status – cultural author-
ity, on the one hand, economic pre-eminence on the other – he effectively
identifies with those groups. Contrast the treatment of those who belong
to the old nobility (69.5–6), an ascribed status to which he had no claim.
The passage concludes with the statement that Trajan not only preserves,
but also ‘creates’, the nobiles.
Even the nobles, in other words, depend
ultimately on the emperor’s favour – which Pliny, as consul, already has.
In general, then, Pliny speaks in several complementary voices through-
out the speech, associating himself in a flexible manner with the imperial
aristocracy in general, with the senatorial order in particular, and, more
particularly still, with several informal subsets within Rome’s political and
social elite: the ‘good’ senators, the lovers of culture, the owners of sub-
urban estates, and the like. In each case, the implicit identification with
an exclusive and high-status group adds to his political, social and cultural
capital. And what emerges over the course of the speech as a whole is the
impression, carefully crafted through the deployment of the rather fluid
‘we’ for whom he claims to speak, that he belongs to the uppermost tier of
Roman imperial society.
One of the principal ways in which Pliny underlines his distinction is by
drawing attention to the importance, prestige and unique character of the
69.6 sunt in honore hominum et in ore famae magna nomina ex tenebris obliuionis indulgentia Caesaris,
cuius haec intentio est ut nobiles et conseruet et faciat. It is worth noting that Trajan, like Pliny, was
not a member of the old nobility – yet another way in which the group memberships of emperor
and senator align (as Dylan Sailor pointed out to me).
36 carlos f. nore ˜ na
consulship. Because this office remained beyond the reach of most senators,
the very fact of delivering a speech on the occasion of his accession to the
suffect consulship was enough to advertise his political prominence and
high social status.
Repeated reference to the fact that he was speaking as
consul, especially at the beginning and end of the speech (1.2, 2.1, 93.3, 94.1),
keeps his own consulship in the foreground, and anchors the otherwise
shifting identity that he assumes. But he goes well beyond this reiteration
of his new consular rank, developing a typology of political authority and
civic status in imperial Rome that is not only arresting and novel, but also
patently self-serving. The main vehicle employed to develop this typology
is the formal addressee of the speech, Trajan, whose composite status as
citizen, senator, consul and emperor provides Pliny with an opportunity
for subtly redefining his own status and identity.
The long section in the middle of the speech devoted to Trajan’s con-
sulships (56–62) – his acceptance of a second and then a third consulship;
his moderate and respectful behaviour as consul; his consular colleagues –
is the axial moment in this rhetorical programme. Prior to this section,
Trajan is mainly identified, and praised, as a private citizen. Though he
left Rome as a priuatus and returned an imperator, Pliny writes, he remains
the same person, equal to everyone else, but nevertheless ‘greater because
He has not changed his habits since becoming emperor (24.2,
43.2), and walks, metaphorically and literally, amongst ‘us’ (24.5). Just like
everyone else, he lived through the terror of Domitian’s tyranny (44.1). In
such passages, the emperor’s personal character, behaviour and experience
are very much those of the priuatus he was before becoming emperor.
the end of the section on Trajan’s consulships, by contrast, he is increasingly
identified either as a fellow senator (e.g. 62.4, 63.6) or, more to the point,
as a consul. In presiding over the senate, for example, he behaves as if only
a consul (ille uero ita consul, ut si tantum consul foret), rightly thinking
himself no higher than a consul (76.6), while those who approach him
as he dispenses justice in the Campus Martius are told that he is not an
emperor, but a consul (77.3). At one point he is even likened to candidates
for the consulship (princeps aequatus candidatis, 71.4). These passages do
not simply celebrate Trajan’s ciuilitas. They imply a virtual equivalence
between emperor and consul.
On competition for the consulship in the high empire, Alf¨ oldy (1977) is still fundamental.
21.4 ut reuersus imperator, qui priuatus exieras, agnoscis agnosceris. Eosdem nos eundem te putas, par
omnibus et hoc tantum ceteris maior quod melior.
See briefly Nore˜ na (2009) 277–8 for the trope of the ‘good’ emperor whose character is unchanged
by his accession to the imperial purple.
Self-fashioning in the Panegyricus 37
The normative identification of Trajan as consul, which slowly emerges
over the course of the speech, can only enhance Pliny’s own status, of course,
since he is now a consul, too. He does reserve special praise for Trajan’s
second consulship, held not in peaceful Rome but on the war-ravaged
frontier (56.4–8), implicitly downgrading his own ‘civilian’ consulship,
but the adamant celebration of Trajan’s consulships in general, a leitmotif
of the speech as a whole, indirectly casts Pliny’s own consulship in a
positive light. But it is in Pliny’s articulation of the relationship between
consulship, emperorship and citizenship that the real innovation lies. The
key passage comes in the middle of the long section on Trajan and the
nam praeter id quod est arduum, duas easque summas potestates simul capere,
tum inest utrique non nulla diuersitas, cum principem quam simillimum esse
priuato, consulem quam dissimillimum deceat. (Plin. Pan. 59.6)
For in addition to the challenge of exercising two types of supreme power simulta-
neously, there is quite a contradiction between them: for while an emperor ought
to be as much as possible like a private citizen, a consul ought to be like him as
little as possible.
The emperor-as-citizen conceit is common enough. Quite striking, by
contrast, is the claim that imperial and consular power are equivalent (duas
summas potestates) and ‘contradictory’, which puts a somewhat unsettling
spin on the representation of Trajan as consul. Are a good emperor and a
good consul actually the same thing, as Pliny asks (59.5)? What really stands
out here is the notion that it is specifically the consul, and not the emperor,
who should be distinguished from the rest of the citizen body. For if the
emperor is just like everyone else, so the logic would seem to go, it is left to
the consuls to exercise the sort of ‘supreme power’ that sets them apart from
(and above?) the average citizen – and his equal, the emperor. Later in the
speech Pliny returns to the principle that consuls in particular stand apart
from private citizens, noting that they should regard themselves, publicly
more than privately, as especially bound to the emperor.
And in another
It should be noted that some manuscripts omit the phrase quam simillimum esse priuato, consulem
quam; cf. the app. crit. of Mynors (1964), who prints this passage, which does have support from
other manuscripts.
90.1 scio, patres conscripti, cum ceteros ciues, tum praecipue consules oportere sic adfici, ut se publice
magis quam priuatim obligatos putent. Note that in distinguishing between the public and private
capacities of those who hold the consulship, Pliny is segregating two categories, the public and the
private, that he normally seeks to conflate, both in this speech – cf. Bartsch (1994) 150–3 – and in
the letters – cf. Riggsby (1998) 83; Nore˜ na (2007) 245–51, 254–7, 269–70.
38 carlos f. nore ˜ na
passage, one with important implications for our understanding of Pliny’s
rhetorical aims in the Panegyricus, he proposes an additional distinction
between an emperor and a consul:
quo iustius senatus ut susciperes quartum consulatum et rogauit et iussit . . . ut
enim ceterorum hominum ita principum, illorum etiam qui sibi di uidentur,
aeuum omne et breue et fragile est. itaque optimum quemque niti et contendere
decet ut post se quoque rei publicae prosit, moderationis scilicet iustitiaeque
monimentis, quae prima statuere consul potest. (Plin. Pan. 78.1–2)
Very justly did the senate ask you and bid you to take up a fourth consul-
ship . . . Because both for other men and for emperors – even those who see
themselves as gods – life is short and fragile. It is fitting, then, that each best man
should labour and exert himself to leave something behind that will be useful to
the state after his death, above all monuments of temperance and justice. And
these monuments, the foremost things, a consul is able to construct.
The message is clear: life is short for all men; among men, it is only
the ‘best’ who should aim to leave their mark on posterity; and among
optimi, it is not the emperor, but the consul, who is truly able to do so.
Thoughthis argument is ostensibly mobilized to persuade Trajanto accept a
fourth consulship, it is difficult to overlook the way in which it constructs
the consulship, which Pliny now holds, as the pinnacle of the Roman
social and political order. Pliny’s rightful place on that pinnacle stands
There are several concrete ways, then, in which Pliny engages in rhetori-
cal self-fashioning in the Panegyricus. The display of technical expertise and
the illusion of intimacy with Trajan and the world of the imperial court
both serve to demonstrate insider knowledge and underline his position
close to the centre of power. Strategic identification with ‘good’ senators
and other exclusive subsets among the imperial elite elevates his social
and political status. And while the putative equivalence of imperial and
consular authority effectively aligns Pliny, the consul, with Trajan, the
emperor/consul, the subtle hints about the superiority of the consulship go
further, endowing Pliny’s office with an honour and status all of its own.
These are all specific examples of how he takes advantage of the gratiarum
actio to project a carefully crafted literary representation of himself. But
there is a much simpler and ultimately more significant way in which this
Note, however, that when it suits his case, Pliny can openly acknowledge the emperor’s power to
grant the consulship (59.2, 63.2, 77.7–8); he also says that the consulship is ‘elevated’ and ‘becomes
greater’ (attolli et augescere) when Trajan holds it (57.5).
Self-fashioning in the Panegyricus 39
speech – or, rather, the publication of it – served Pliny as a useful instru-
ment of literary self-fashioning.
Because his political career had flourished
under Domitian, universally condemned as a ‘bad’ emperor (but only after
his death, it is worth noting), it was very much in Pliny’s interests to be
associated by contemporaries, and in the judgement of posterity, with a
different emperor, a ‘good’ one.
Having reached the consulship under
Trajan, the occasion of the gratiarum actio presented him with a golden
opportunity not only to cement his notional association with Trajan, but
also to contribute actively to the positive construction of the new emperor’s
public image, an image from which he himself stood to benefit. The ide-
alized literary portrait of Trajan that Pliny painted in the speech, and then
put into circulation in its written version, should be seen mainly in this
That Pliny had enjoyed imperial favour and political advancement under
Domitian, and that after the emperor’s death he sought through his writ-
ings to distance himself from the legacy of the hated tyrant, downplaying
the rapid progression of his career during Domitian’s regime and even more
or less concealing his tenure of specific posts, is now well understood.
Analysis of this rhetorical effort has focused almost exclusively on Pliny’s
literary self-representation in his correspondence, and in particular on the
‘literary’ letters collected in books 1–9. There is no question that these
letters were the primary vehicles used by Pliny for the purpose of public
self-fashioning, addressing a wide range of topics including the trajectory
of his political career and the character of his friends and enemies.
self-fashioning was not, however, limited to the first nine books of his
correspondence. In a previous study I suggested that book 10 of the corre-
spondence, the collection of ‘official’ letters sent between Trajan and Pliny
during the latter’s governorship of Bithynia and Pontus, was also exploited
The argument that follows was adumbrated in Nore˜ na (2007) 268–9, and is further developed here.
Under Domitian, Pliny was an imperial quaestor (in 89 or 90), tribune of the plebs (90 or 91),
praetor (93) and prefect of the aerarium militare (from 94); evidence and dates in PIR
P 490. For
two different approaches to the problem of Domitian’s contemporary vs. posthumous reputation,
see Saller (2000) and Wilson (2003); see also Flower (2006) 234–66 for sanctions against Domitian’s
memory. In general on Pliny’s relationships with Domitian and Trajan, see Soverini (1989).
See e.g. Syme (1958a) 75–85, esp. 82 on the failure to mention anywhere in the letters the prefecture
of the aerarium militare, a post which came unusually quickly after the praetorship – and wholly at
odds with the claim in the Panegyricus (95.3–4) that he called a halt to his career under Domitian;
Giovaninni (1987a); Shelton (1987) esp. 129–32; Leach (1990) 18, 36; Bartsch (1994) 167–9; Ludolph
(1997) 44–9; Hoffer (1999) 5–8; Strobel (2003); Flower (2006) 263–70.
In addition to the works cited in n. 23 above, see Riggsby (1995, 1998); Ludolph (1997); Roller
(1998); Henderson (2002); Morello and Gibson (2003); Marchesi (2008).
40 carlos f. nore ˜ na
by Pliny for the purposes of literary self-representation.
In brief, I argue
that in the letters to Trajan, Pliny employs several techniques, especially the
use of the address ‘domine’, to create the impression that he is not merely
a bureaucratic functionary of the emperor, but rather his personal friend.
I further argue that Pliny’s letters to the emperor, though necessary for the
administration of his province, and therefore originally utilitarian in func-
tion, were nevertheless composed with a view to their eventual publication,
above all because they successfully fostered the illusion of friendship with
Trajan, the ‘good’ emperor. Together with several key letters in books 1–9
of the correspondence, especially 3.11 and 7.33, book 10 may be seen, then,
as one part of a large-scale rhetorical programme designed to place Pliny’s
own career in the most positive light, above all through the assertion or
implication of detachment from Domitian and adherence to Trajan. And
it was this programme, I would like to suggest, that the publication of the
Panegyricus was intended to advance.
Central to this argument is the fact that Pliny indeed took the step –
unprecedented, it seems – of publishing a written version of his gratiarum
The significance of this innovation has not been sufficiently empha-
sized. The process may be reconstructed as follows. After composing the
speech and delivering it in the senate, Pliny sent a text of the speech
to friends for comment and criticism (Ep. 3.13.5). He then wrote up an
expanded version (spatiosius et uberius uolumine, Ep. 3.18.1), which he
recited to friends over several days. How, precisely, this longer, written
version differed from the shorter, spoken one cannot be discerned.
sumably the original speech and the subsequent written version underwent
several revisions. Then, finally, the finished written version was ‘published’,
which is to say that authorized copies were circulated beyond Pliny’s cir-
cle of friends, amongst an imagined community of readers, present and
That was the key step. Why he took that step demands more
scrutiny than it has received. In the letter in which he discusses the pub-
lication of the speech (3.18), he states explicitly that he sought both to
Nore˜ na (2007); for two other recent studies sensitive to the rhetorical and ideological currents in
book 10, see Stadter (2006) and Woolf (2006).
We know of earlier gratiarum actiones, but there is no indication that any of Pliny’s predecessors
had published their speeches. Evidence and discussion in Durry (1938) 3–8.
For some informed speculation, see Mesk (1910); cf. Syme (1938) 217.
Pliny discusses these three stages of production – actio (speech), recitatio (recitation) and oratio
(published text) – in Ep. 1.20.9; see discussion in Picone (1977) 122–3. For the Panegyricus in
particular, see also Fantham (1999), detecting some residue of ‘orality’ in the written version; cf.
Picone (1977) 129–32. On the nature of ‘publication’ in the Roman world in general, see Starr (1987);
Fedeli (1989b).
Self-fashioning in the Panegyricus 41
recommend Trajan’s virtues and to provide his successors with an ethical
model that would conduce to their fame.
Scholars have been quite con-
tent to take these statements at face value, only adding that the vocabulary
of praise was mostly prescriptive in nature.
Surely, though, we should be
more alert to how publication promoted Pliny’s individual interests. After
all, Pliny was not only a successful player in the world of imperial politics
and aristocratic competition, but also an innovator in the sphere of self-
representation – the published correspondence is enough to show that.
He may well have believed that his gratiarum actio was a useful guide to
imperial behaviour. But it would be naive to assume that he did not intend
to benefit by its publication.
It should be noted that the speech was delivered very early in Trajan’s
reign, and seems to have been published several months thereafter.
If the
argument of this chapter is correct, then Pliny was taking quite a risk in
linking himself to a new emperor who could easily have degenerated into
a tyrant.
Circumstances dictated Pliny’s choice. He had achieved great
success under Domitian, whose reputation was now beyond rehabilitation,
and had reached the consulship under Trajan, who had at least begun as
a ‘good’ emperor. For Pliny’s goal of associating himself with an emperor,
in other words, it was either Trajan or no one. That Pliny in fact chose to
associate himself closely with an emperor is also worth stressing, since this
was not the only rhetorical avenue open to him. His contemporary Tacitus,
who also faced the challenge of balancing a successful political career under
Domitian with the construction of a positive literary persona, chose a very
Ep. 3.18.2 primum ut imperatori nostro uirtutes suae ueris laudibus commendarentur, deinde ut futuri
principes non quasi a magistro sed tamen sub exemplo praemonerentur, qua potissimum uia possent ad
eandem gloriam niti. He also shows some pride in the literary and stylistic qualities of the speech
(3.18.8–10), suggesting another possible reason for publication. In general on Ep. 3.18, see Marchesi
(2008) 199–203.
E.g. Durry (1938) 21–4; Radice (1968) 166–7, 169; Leach (1990) 37; Braund (1998) 58–68; Fantham
(1999) 231. See also Seelentag (2004) 214–96, arguing that the speech served mainly as a mechanismof
symbolic communication between emperor and senate, expressing a specifically senatorial statement
of ‘consensus’ in Trajan’s rule.
Pliny’s practice of poetic recitation and publication, and the epistolary valuation of this type of
negotium, was also an innovation for a senator; see discussion in Roller (1998).
The latest secure reference is to the first Dacian War of 101–2 (Pan. 16.3). There is also an apparent
allusion to the Dacian triumph, held in winter 102–3, but this may be proleptic; see briefly Syme
(1938) 217–18. Woytek (2006) argues, on linguistic grounds, that the speech post-dates the publi-
cation of Tacitus’ Dialogus and Histories, and should be dated to the second half of 107. Though
plausible, the argument is ultimately subjective.
There were, in fact, troubling signs about the potential of a military autocracy, including the manner
in which Trajan was adopted (Eck 2002), and the unsettling delay in his coming to Rome from
the frontier, which hindered the senate’s role in legitimating the emperor’s power: Seelentag (2004)
48–53, 113–29.
42 carlos f. nore ˜ na
different path, using his historiographical works, especially the Annals, to
underline his personal ‘autonomy’, his fundamental independence fromthe
autocratic regime of any emperor.
In this respect Pliny’s practice is closer
to that of early modern European aristocrats, who also shaped their own
identities and literary personae in close relation to some external authority.
As Greenblatt writes in a now classic study, self-fashioning in sixteenth-
century England normally ‘involve[d] submission to an absolute power or
authority situated at least partially outside the self – God, a sacred book, an
institution such as church, court, colonial or military administration’.
Pliny, that ‘absolute power outside the self’ was the figure of the emperor,
and in the Panegyricus he shows how this type of authority could be turned
to his own advantage.
In conclusion, let us return to the text of the Panegyricus. When the
speech is read primarily as an instrument for Pliny’s self-fashioning, as I
propose that it should be read, one feature of it that is quite conspicuous is
the extended personal ‘biography’ with which the speech concludes (90–
3, 95). In these sections, which function as the structural and thematic
peroration of the speech as a whole, the principal themes related to his self-
fashioning are given a final plug. He opens with the requisite statement that
he and his consular colleague, Cornutus Tertullus, suffered terribly under
Domitian, the optimi cuiusque spoliator et carnifex (‘pillager and executioner
of each best man’), and only just escaped his ‘thunderbolt’ (90.5). Later he
makes his much-ridiculed claim that, of his own accord, he arrested the
progress of his career under ille insidiosus princeps (‘that most treacherous
emperor’, 95.3).
Such assertions serve as final reminders of his detachment
from, and rejection of, the memory of Domitian.
Reference to Nerva’s intention to promote Tertullus and him, ‘hon-
ourable men’ (boni, 90.6), marks the transition to the decisive role played
by Trajan in his elevation to the apex of Roman imperial society. What
follows is nothing less than a full catalogue of evidence demonstrating the
emperor’s active support for the new consuls (in which Pliny speaks for his
colleague Tertullus, more or less eliding him in the process). Trajan offered
them the consulship even before the end of their joint prefecture of the
aerarium Saturni, and so ‘added to the highest honour the glory of rapid
promotion’ (ut ad summam honorem gloria celeritatis accederet, 91.2). The
See Sailor (2008) 6–50 and passim, esp. 9–11, 24–35 on the nexus between ‘autonomy’ (personal and
literary), prestige, imperial power and elite self-representation. This was a later development, though;
note that the preface to Agricola, written at around the time that Pliny delivered his gratiarum actio,
also seeks to imply distance from Domitian and adherence to the new order: Sailor (2008) 71–2.
Greenblatt (1980) 9.
See above, n. 27.
Self-fashioning in the Panegyricus 43
emperor was so keen on appointing them to the consulship, in fact, that he
did not even bother to name their successors to the treasury post first (92.1).
In putting Pliny and Tertullus up for the consulship, we are told, Trajan’s
recommendation compared them favourably to the consuls of the distant
past (illi prisci consules, 91.3). And in advancing their careers, the emperor
relied in particular on the trust he put in their moral purity (integritatis
nostrae fiducia, 92.2). Pliny then changes course, emphasizing the vari-
ous symbolic associations that now obtain in his relationship with Trajan.
Because the consulships of Pliny and Tertullus are held in the same year as
Trajan’s, all of their names will always appear together on the consular fasti
(92.2). Trajan did not merely submit Pliny’s name for the consulship, but
personally presided over the election, administering the oath of office and
announcing the outcome in the campus (92.3). As if that were not enough,
Pliny also notes that he and Tertullus were named consuls during the very
month in which the emperor celebrates his birthday: ‘how beautiful this is
for us!’, he gushes (quam pulchrum nobis, 92.4). And so when he rounds off
this profusion of self-serving observations with the declaration, addressed
to Trajan, that ‘we will always remember that we were consuls, your con-
suls’ (semper nos meminerimus consules fuisse et consules tuos, 93.3), he has
not ‘blinded himself ’ to any ‘paradox of autocracy’.
Rather, he is putting
the finishing touch to his elaborate effort to associate himself as closely as
possible with the new emperor.
There remained, however, at least a hint of independence from monar-
chic power. In the course of his gratiarum actio, as we have seen, Pliny
had also embraced his status as a high-ranking senator, and he returns
to this theme, too, in these climactic sections. After noting that the con-
sulship itself has brought him respect and honour (93.3), and following
a ritual prayer to Jupiter Capitolinus (94), delivered as consul on behalf
of humanity (consul pro rebus humanis, 94.1), he addresses his senatorial
colleagues directly (95), thanking them for the honour they paid him for
the tranquillity of his tribunate, the sober conduct of his praetorship, and
his steadfastness as an advocate for ‘our allies’.
In this final section of the
speech, Pliny is reminding his listeners and readers of the main stages in
his cursus honorum and his service in the courts, and leaving them with
the impression of an important and respected statesman who is honoured
by his peers. And it is for these peers, his fellow senators, that he reserves
Fantham (1999) 236.
95.1 uos mihi in tribunatu quietis, in praetura modestiae, uos in istis etiam officiis, quae studiis nostris
circa tuendos socios iniunxeratis, cum<fidei>tum constantiae antiquissimum testimonium perhibuistis.
44 carlos f. nore ˜ na
his final comment: ego reuerentiae uestrae sic semper inseruiam, non ut me
consulem et mox consularem, sed ut candidatum consulatus putem (‘I will
always submit to the respect due to all of you – not, however, thinking
myself a consul or a consular, but rather a candidate for the consulship’,
95.5). Only a consul could say something like that.
chapter 3
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome
Paul Roche
The paired issues of discontinuity and renewal were hot topics in the
years following Domitian’s assassination. Both Nerva and Trajan had been
intimately connected with the Flavians and with Domitian in particular,
but because of Domitian’s uncompromising treatment of the senatorial
aristocracy, it was expedient for his former courtiers to advertise a break
from Domitianic policy, however distant this pretence was from political
and the emperor’s subjects were keenly observing the public main-
tenance of this pretence. We have a partial glimpse of this phenomenon in
an anecdote preserved from after 97 ce:
Idem apud imperatorem Neruam non minus fortiter. Cenabat Nerua cum paucis;
Veiento proximus atque etiam in sinu recumbebat: dixi omnia cum hominem
nominaui. Incidit sermo de Catullo Messalino, qui luminibus orbatus ingenio
saeuo mala caecitatis addiderat: non uerebatur, non erubescebat, non miserebatur;
quo saepius a Domitiano non secus ac tela, quae et ipsa caeca et improuida fer-
untur, in optimum quemque contorquebatur. De huius nequitia sanguinariisque
sententiis in commune omnes super cenam loquebantur, cum ipse imperator:
‘Quid putamus passurum fuisse si uiueret?’ Et Mauricus: ‘Nobiscum cenaret.’
(Plin. Ep. 4.22.4–6)
He [Junius Mauricus] spoke no less bravely in the presence of the emperor Nerva.
Nerva was dining with a few companions. Veiento was nearest to him and vir-
tually reclining in his lap. I said it all, really, when I named that man. Catullus
Messalinus came up in our conversation. He had been deprived of his eyesight,
and this handicap of blindness had intensified his savage inclination. He was
unafraid, unashamed, unpitying: for that reason he was often launched by Domi-
tian – not unlike spears which themselves are hurled blindly and with no sense of
Both were prominent amici of Domitian: Champlin (1983) 257–64; Jones (1992) 52–4, 59; Murison
(2003) 148–50.
On administrative continuity: Waters (1969) 385–405; Jones (1992) 196–8: ‘if we separate the reality
of the Nervan senate from the fac¸ade created by the official propaganda, we are left, as far as most
people were concerned, with a Domitianic senate inefficiently led’ (197); Grainger (2003) 52–65. On
rhetorical continuity, especially within formal discourses of praise, see Gibson, pp. 104–24 in this
volume, who also considers the following anecdote from Pliny at p. 123.
46 paul roche
forethought – against all the best men. Everyone at the table was discussing his evil
nature and his bloody influence, when the emperor himself asked ‘What do we
think he would have suffered had he survived?’ Mauricus replied ‘He’d be dining
with us.’
In this letter, there is no mention of a specific location, although we might
infer from Veiento’s position next to the emperor and from his hostile
reception that this took place at Nerva’s residence (whether the Domus
Flauia or another). But Mauricus’ rejoinder to Nerva is instructive. It hits
at the perceived continuity between the associates of Domitian and those
of the new emperor, and it makes clear the anxiety and disappointment
felt in some senatorial circles at Nerva’s failure to mark a more effective
break from the least popular aspects of his predecessor’s reign. Mauricus’
exchange with Nerva incidentally also demonstrates that aspects of the
topic were potentially unavoidable for the emperor,
and that claims made
of discontinuity from Domitian were being critically evaluated by the
emperor’s peers.
The expression of this concern manifested itself with particular energy
with regard to the physical monuments of the city. After Domitian’s assas-
sination, the political meaning of those public monuments with strong
Flavian connotations became, in a very specific sense, contested spaces.
Domitian had been arguably the greatest single influence on the city’s
physical fabric since Augustus. One estimate claims in excess of fifty major
structures built, restored or claimed by him.
Many smaller-scale monu-
ments, such as statues and inscriptions, were destroyed or effaced by his
former subjects as part of the damnatio memoriae passed after his death in
September 96 (Plin. Pan. 52.4–5; Suet. Dom. 23.1).
But this destruction was
impossible in the case of larger-scale monuments, and so it was imperative
that their meanings be reinvented. Thus, there was a concerted attempt
to divest them of their Domitianic associations and to impose upon them
more of the desired aspects of his successors’ identity. This attempt began
almost immediately, and so the treatment of the monuments of Rome in
Pliny’s Panegyricus offers an important and self-contained locus for consid-
ering the relationship of Pliny’s speech to the messages emanating from
both Trajan and his cabinet in the first years of his power.
I leave aside whether Nerva was looking for this answer, as suggested by Syme (1958a) 6: ‘the truth may
be, not that Mauricus was brave and Nerva innocent, but that the Emperor, more subtle than some
of the company, quietly laid a trap, elicited the answer he wanted, and extinguished a conversational
topic that had often been heard before’.
Jones (1992) 79–98.
See Griffin (2000) 84–96; Grainger (2003) 45–51; Varner (2004) 111–35.
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome 47
Monuments were moreover a traditional subject to be treated in pan-
egyric. The genre had from its beginning enjoyed a natural, and natu-
rally adversarial, relationship with physical monuments. It was natural,
in that architecture had been both a long-standing metaphor for literary
and a perennial expression of the ruler’s benefaction. It was
naturally adversarial, in that panegyric and physical monuments were com-
peting modes of permanent commemoration. Monuments built by, or in
honour of, or associated with the laudand are present in prose panegyric
from its inception onwards. Thus, for example, Isocrates in the Evago-
ras mentions the Panhellenion built in Aegina to honour Aeacus (15).
Evagoras’ equipping of Salamis with walls and further structures in such
a manner that it was inferior to no other city in Greece is also recounted
(47), but note that Isocrates claims Evagoras’ inner qualities, his principles,
as a precondition of the physical amplification of his city (48). The statues
erected to Conon and Evagoras in Athens are also celebrated, and styled
memorials to the men, their friendship and the greatness of their benefac-
tion (57). But these notices compete with a concern to devalue the physical
monument in favour of panegyric as a means of commemorating the lau-
dand. Nicocles’ honouring of his father’s tomb is presented as being less
desirable than an encomium, since a fine speech would make his excellence
immortal (1–5). Statues are likewise acknowledged as fine memorials, but
less effective at conveying images of the deeds and character of the laudand
than a well-composed speech (73). Isocrates ultimately argues that a speech
of praise is better than a statue on the grounds that (a) honourable men
are revered more for their deeds and intellect than their physical beauty;
(b) statues remain in the city, but encomia can be published abroad; and
(c) it is easier to imitate the character and thoughts represented in speech
than the physical beauty captured in statues.
This tendency resonates throughout later prose encomia. Xenophon’s
Agesilaus illustrates the king’s rejection of wealth as an index of power
by the simplicity of his house: its ancient and unimproved doors at once
prove his moderation and affirm his Herculean genealogy (8.7). Note
again the emphatic devaluation of statues here. Agesilaus would not allow
statues to be erected in his honour, despite the desire of many, but worked
unceasingly on the ‘monument of his mind’ (:, ¸uy, . . . uvnutïc, 11.7).
This tradition is also detectable in the Latin laudatory tradition at certain
Cf. e.g. Pind. Ol. 6.1–4; Pyth. 6.7–14; possibly Callim. Aetia fr. 118 Pf.; Verg. G. 3.13; Hor. Carm.
3.30; Wilkinson (1970) 286–90; Thomas (1983) 97–9.
For the generic importance of Isocrates’ Evagoras, see Introduction pp. 3–4.
48 paul roche
points: note Cicero’s urging of Caesar in the Pro Marcello to consider
the gradual erosion of his physical trophies and monuments in contrast
to the immortality of his praise (Marc. 11–12, discussed below); so too the
notion in the Laudes Messallae that the laudand will have no titulus beneath
his portrait capable of containing his deeds, but reams of verse singing his
praise (33–4); and the conclusion of Tacitus’ biography of Agricola, wherein
he positions physical statues of Agricola in relation to his facta dictaque
(presumably as they are recorded in the Agricola) and his eternal fame (Agr.
46). By the time Pliny had come to panegyric, the monuments were a
standard topic in the repertoire.
Nerva, Trajan and his family members all made varying claims on promi-
nent Domitianic structures throughout the city in the period 96–100. They
had to, since they could neither destroy the monuments, nor eclipse Domi-
tian as builder by means of a significant programme of their own public
works. Trajan’s accession was only two years prior to the delivery of the
speech, and although some building activity in general predates the end of
the Dacian Wars,
the vast majority of his expenditure on the monuments
in the city post-dates the year 106.
This absence is itself something that
had to be negotiated in the Panegyricus.
When Pliny turns to Trajan’s
building activity in Rome in general terms, he makes a virtue of necessity,
and celebrates his emperor’s restraint, by calling him parcus in aedificando
(51.1). There is quite a difference here between the fact that not much was
happening in the city and Pliny’s goal of illustrating Trajan’s virtue. This
difference is immediately bridged by calling Trajan diligent in the upkeep
of pre-existing buildings (diligens in tuendo, 51.1). In this last claim, Pliny
could appeal to the paradigm of Augustus’ own image as founder or restorer
of all temples (templorum omnium conditor aut restitutor, Liv. 4.20; cf. Hor.
Carm. 3.6.1–4) and his assertion at Res Gestae 20.4 that he restored eighty-
two temples within the city.
Trajan’s own role as a restorer of the city’s
monuments lay in continuing Domitian’s restoration work after the fire of
80. This had erupted in the Campus Martius and caused destruction both
in the middle and southern areas of the Campus and on the Palatine (Suet.
Dom. 5; Cass. Dio 66.24.2). Beyond this role as restorer, there appears to
have been a cessation of or decline in building activity at Rome, and this is
For contemporary responses to civic euergetism in praise literature, see Gibson, pp. 119–20 in this
Syme (1930) 55–70.
See Paribeni (1926–7) 2.23–58; Bennett (1997) 143–8.
Note the near-total absence of contemporary monuments from Pliny’s letters; this in high contrast
with e.g. their abundance in Ciceronian epistolography: see Clark (2007). I am grateful to one of
the Press’s anonymous readers for drawing my attention to this paper.
On the republican contexts for Augustus’ assertion see Cornell (2000) 50.
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome 49
strongly intimated by Pliny when he claims a safer Rome, now free from
the dangers of building materials being transported through the city:
Itaque non ut ante immanium transuectione saxorum urbis tecta quatiuntur; stant
securae domus nec iam templa nutantia. (Plin. Pan. 51.1)
The walls and roofs in the city have stopped shuddering as they did at the passage
of huge blocks of stone; our houses stand safe and secure and the temples are no
longer threatened with collapse.
This essentially apologetic mode of praise is extended and transformed
in order to celebrate the financial virtue of Trajan, here rendered an instance
of his moderatio:
Satis est tibi nimiumque, cum successeris frugalissimo principi; magnum reicere
aliquid et amputare ex his, quae princeps tamquam necessaria reliquit. Praeterea
pater tuus usibus suis detrahebat quae fortuna imperi dederat, tu tuis quae pater.
(Pan. 51.2)
There is enough, and more than enough for you despite your following an
extremely careful emperor. It was a great thing too to have cut back expendi-
ture even on those projects which he bequeathed to you as though they were
essential items. Besides, your father was denying himself personal enjoyment of
what the fortune of empire had brought him, you deny yourself enjoyment of
what your father made yours.
Perhaps Pliny is drawing here an implicit distinction between public works
and imperial building activity for private purposes, since his transition
from this passage commences with the exclamation at quam magnificus in
publicum es! (‘but how magnificent you are in public [sc. building]!’, Pan.
51.3). If he is, however, this is no less problematic. The Domus Flauia seems
to have been complete by 92,
and there is no evidence for further private
building activity by any of the emperors in the intervening eight years.
Even in this section of the Panegyricus, Pliny’s rhetorical picture of public
structures emerging with miraculous speed is both at odds with the above
quoted comments which immediately precede at 51.1–2, and to a certain
extent betrayed by his own qualifications:
Hinc porticus inde delubra occulta celeritate properantur, ut non consummata sed
tantum commutata uideantur. (Pan. 51.3)
Here rises a portico, there a shrine by some secret speed (occulta celeritate), such that
they seemremodelled rather than completed (non consummata sed tantumcommutata).
So, at least, Gsell (1894) 95 n. 3; cf. also the terminus offered in Martial books 7 and 8, containing
between them three poems on the structure, dated to 92 and after 93 respectively: Gal´ an Vioque
(2002) 1–8 (December 92); Sch¨ offel (2002) 29.
50 paul roche
Non consummata sed tantum commutata is the key: the unavoidable fact was
that Trajan’s building activity had borne very little fruit in the period of
the speech’s composition. Pliny names what dedicated structures he does
see around him in the city. The list reduces to a single item: the Circus
Maximus, itself a restoration and continuation of a Domitianic project.
In the following discussion I consider Pliny’s engagement with the city’s
monuments in the Panegyricus. That he endorses the claim of his emperor
on these structures is of course unsurprising. But much can be revealed
by both the manner of his endorsement and its essential conditionality
upon Trajan fulfilling and allaying a number of senatorial expectations
and concerns. The rhetorical tradition in which Pliny was operating set
the value of self-promotional monuments beneath both the subject’s own
inner qualities and the immortalizing potential of praise. In the Roman
imperial context this formulation was advantageous, in that this praise was
the preserve of the emperor’s subjects rather than the emperor himself. We
will observe that Pliny extends, amplifies and innovates within this generic
tradition by merging encomium’s generic relationship with monuments
with the specific political context of the period 96–100. His rhetorical
reception of the city allows him to move beyond the mere commemora-
tion of the laudand and to widen the focus of his concern to encompass
senatorial concerns, such as the new emperor’s accessibility, moderation
and social parity with his subjects. The structures of Trajan’s Rome are
invested with both positive and negative metaphorical and symbolic con-
tent. This invested content (more easily than the structures themselves)
could then be both periodized – discontinued or initiated at the death of
Domitian in 96 or of Nerva in 98 – and made conditional upon Trajan’s
continuing policy of deference and moderation towards his subjects.
the metaphorical monument
One strategy that Pliny pursues in relation to pre-existing monuments is
to depict them as casting off the specious semblance of themselves and
assuming their true nature as a result of sound Trajanic policy. Thus,
speaking from the vantage point of a former prefect of the treasury, Pliny
opines that the aerarium in the Temple of Saturn had been restored to that
version of itself current in the days before delation had become widespread
(36.1), because it was now no longer a repository of the goods of the
condemned. These goods are framed by Pliny as pollutants, as blood-
soaked plunder (spoliae ciuium, cruentae praedae). Trajan’s banishment
of informers, emphatically treated by Pliny immediately preceding his
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome 51
remarks on the aerarium (34–5), effects a transformation of the aerarium.
It no longer preserves its perverted former status as a receptaculum, but
is now a true temple, a true locus of the god (nunc templum illud nunc
uere dei <sedes>, 36.1). This emphasis upon things realizing their true
nature under Trajan is an obsessively frequent motif of the Panegyricus,
and one amplified well beyond the concerns of earlier examples of the
Returning to the aerarium, Nerva’s failure to make the same break
unequivocally is adumbrated by Pliny’s comment that the aerarium was
the unique place in the world where – even under the best of emperors
(optimo principi, used only of Trajan and Nerva in the speech; of Nerva at
e.g. 7.4, 10.4, 38.1) – the good could fear the evil.
In what may be considered an extension of the same strategy, the phys-
ical monuments themselves are in many instances devalued in favour of
the metaphorical monument to be had in Trajan’s personal qualities and in
the devotion of his subjects. And so, because of Trajan’s moderation –
exemplified in his reluctance to encourage panegyric
– his name is
inscribed not on beams of wood or blocks of stone (another glance at
the paucity of dedicated buildings in this period), but in monuments of
eternal praise (54.7). This was a topic exploited by Cicero in the Pro Mar-
cello, as he attempted to persuade Caesar to value civic virtue over military
quae quidem tanta est ut tropaeis et monumentis tuis adlatura finem sit aetas –
nihil est enim opere et manu factum quod non conficiat et consumat uetustas –
at haec tua iustitia et lenitas florescet cotidie magis. Ita quantum operibus tuis
diuturnitas detrahet, tantum adferet laudibus. (Cic. Marc. 11–12)
[The restoration of Marcellus] is so great that though time will bring an end to your
trophies and monuments – for nothing exists made by human hand which age
will not eventually bring to its end and consume – but your justice and mildness
will flourish more each day! Thus whatever eternity takes from your works, it will
deliver to your praise.
Cf. 1.6 omnibus quae dicentur a me, libertas fides ueritas constet; 16.3 [Trajan] imperator ueram ac
solidam gloriam reportans; 33.4 [Domitian] demens ille uerique honoris ignarus; 49.7 sincera omnia et
uera et ornata grauitate; 54.5 tua ueritas; 55.3 ingeniosior est enim ad excogitandum simulatio ueritate,
seruitus libertate, metus amore; 55.8 scis enim ubi uera principis, ubi sempiterna sit gloria; 63.4 O praua
et inscia uerae maiestatis ambitio; 67.1 [Trajan’s] inadfecta ueritas uerborum; 71.4 [the senate’s] uera
acclamatio (again at 75.5); 73.4 lacrimarum tuarum ueritas; 74.1 uera felicitas; 80.3 O uere principis
atque etiam dei curas; 84.1 tua ueritas; 84.8 uerus honor; 91.4 Trajan’s estimation of the senate. On
the true nature of things to be aspired to or achieved under the influence of the laudand, cf. e.g.
Cic. Marc. 19 uera laus; Cic. Man. 10 uera laus.
Itself a trope of the genre and of contemporary and late Flavian examples of panegyric: see Innes
and Gibson in this volume.
52 paul roche
Pliny again amplifies the sentiment found in his generic predecessors: he
dwells longer on the paradox, and ties it explicitly to the emperor’s wisdom,
made manifest in his self-control:
Ac mihi intuenti sapientiam tuam minus mirum uidetur, quod mortales istos
caducosque titulos aut depreceris aut temperes; scis enim ubi uera principis, ubi
sempiterna sit gloria. Hi sunt honores in quos nihil flammis, nihil senectuti, nihil
successoribus liceat. Arcus enim et statuas, aras etiam templaque demolitur et
obscurat obliuio, neglegit carpitque posteritas: contra contemptor ambitionis et
infinitae potestatis domitor ac frenator animus ipsa uetustate florescit, nec ab ullis
magis laudatur quam quibus minime necesse est. (Plin. Pan. 55.9)
But to me as I contemplate your wisdom, it seems less amazing that you reject or
moderate those ephemeral and perishable titles; for you know where an emperor’s
true, immortal glory lies. These are accolades over which flames, age or successors
have no power whatsoever. For oblivion wears away and buries in darkness not
only arches and statues, but altars and temples: posterity neglects and gradually
despoils them all. On the other hand, a spirit which disdains ambition, which
conquers and controls the desire for unlimited power, flourishes in the very act of
ageing, and is praised by none more than those who are uncompelled to offer it.
Pliny then completes the logical implications of his paradox: physical
monuments are essentially superfluous to the emperor, who is by definition
assured of an eternal legacy. What is at stake for him is the nature of his
later reputation (55.9). Posterity’s esteem can be guaranteed not by statues,
but by uirtus ac merita (‘excellence and benefactions’, 55.10), the emperor’s
interior essence and its exterior manifestation: the prerequisite quality as
well as the ongoing justification of his holding supreme power. Neither
gold nor silver can preserve the emperor’s transitory physical appearance as
much as the favour of his subjects:
Quod quidemprolixe tibi cumulateque contingit, cuius laetissima facies et amabilis
uultus in omnium ciuium ore oculis animo sedet. (Plin. Pan. 55.11)
You enjoy this in overflowing abundance: your beatific face and beloved appearance
dwell in the heart, in the eyes, in the soul of every citizen.
Elsewhere in the speech, gold and silver are emblematic of the unsuccessful
claims to supremacy and respect made by Domitian via physical monu-
ments and objects, in high contrast to the easy security and love Trajan
achieves through his innate qualities and accessibility. At 49.7, gold and
silver plate served at public banquets are outshone by Trajan’s own suauitas
and iucunditas, and by the fact that the occasion is marked by sincerity,
truth and dignity. So far from Pliny’s picture of Domitian carefully not-
ing down the behaviour of his guests and of exotic and low-born court
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome 53
personnel crowding the emperor’s table (49.6, 8), Trajan’s table is charac-
terized by its open access and its freedom of speech (benigna inuitatio et
liberales ioci et studiorum honor, 49.8). Note too how ritual is thus made to
assume its true form under Trajan, as a result of this inclusivity. At 52.3, the
gold and silver statues of the incestuous Domitian had comprehensively
polluted the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, in contrast to the few –
and bronze – statues which Trajan permits to stand (only) in the vestibule
of the temple (52.3): a reflection of his simple veneration, and the fact that
he does not aspire to divine status (52.3).
The central paradox of the speech – that by moderating his claims on
power and status, Trajan will enjoy them all the more effectively – is then
illustrated by the prediction that these few images of Trajan will enjoy an
existence which (like Horace’s Odes at 3.30) will be co-terminal with the
Capitolium itself. On the other hand, Domitian’s countless golden images
have already been gleefully destroyed by his quondam subjects (52.4). At
55.6–8, bronze images of Trajan in secular contexts invoke his similarity
to republican paradigms of tyrannicide. Here Pliny elides out of existence
Trajan’s former friendship with the Flavians. The mere fact of Trajan’s
accession after Domitian’s death is airbrushed into a picture of Trajan
actively ridding Rome of Domitian’s tyranny:
illi enim reges hostemque uictorem moenibus depulerunt, hic regnum ipsum
quaeque alia captiuitas gignit, arcet ac summouet, sedemque obtinet principis ne
sit domino locus. (Plin. Pan. 55.6–7)
For they [Brutus and Camillus] expelled kings and a victorious enemy from the
walls of Rome, he [Trajan] dispels and keeps away tyranny itself and what captivity
begets: he occupies his imperial seat to prevent it being a tyrant’s place.
Note here Pliny’s public codification of the antithesis separating Trajan
from tyranny. In September 100 Trajan was an unknown quantity as
emperor: he had been adopted while away from the city only two years
prior, and had been present in Rome for only eight months. Pliny’s for-
mulation deftly expresses what must have been a prevalent, contemporary
anxiety. Who knew at that stage whether Trajan would be able or will-
ing to preserve his current, palatable habit of muting the realities of his
imperial power without descending into overtly expressed autocracy? Soon
after this point in the speech, Pliny all but countenances the possibility of
Trajan’s transformation as emperor, when he declares, multum in com-
mutandis moribus hominum medius annus ualet, in principum plus (‘the
interval of a year is able to transform a man’s habits greatly, so much more
an emperor’s’, Pan. 59.4).
54 paul roche
the circus maximus
Trajan restored and extended the Circus Maximus (Suet. Dom. 5; Cass. Dio
68.7.2). This project was – with almost absolute certainty – Domitianic in
but its completion was claimed by Trajan in 103 in a number of
media. Two separate coinissues of that year feature the newCircus (BMCRE
3.827, 853–6): one with the emperor addressing the people therein, and
another as viewed from the Palatine residence. The political exploitation of
this project considerably predates these coin issues. The removal of stone
materials from Domitian’s Naumachia somewhere iuxta Tiberim for the
later stages of the Circus restoration is noted by Suetonius (Dom. 5). That
the biographer knew the source of the material speaks to its deliberate
dissemination. Either this publication, or the spectacle of this transferral,
may have played its own role within a wider Trajanic attempt to dissociate
the Circus restoration project fromDomitian, by the destruction of a public
structure possessed of strong associations with that emperor.
A glimpse at
the unpopular public sentiment attaching to the Domitianic Naumachia
survives inCassius Dio, andthis may helpcontextualize Trajan’s destruction
of the edifice in the service of the Circus restoration:
sci tv sciv :ivi ycpi vcuucyicv ttt:tìtot. sci óttûcvcv tv co: tóv:t,
utv cìi,cu otïv cí vcuucynocv:t,, ouyvci ot sci ts :cv ûtcutvcv· ot:c0
,cp tcììc0 sci ytiucvc, ogcopc0 t¸cigvn, ,tvcutvcu cootvi ttt:pt¸tv ts
:, ûtc, ótcììc,vci· óìì’ co:c, ucvoúc, óììcoocutvc, tstivcu, cootv
tìcot ut:cµcìtïv· sci ts :cú:cu tvconocv cos cìi,ci sci t:tìtú:nocv. tg’
tcu tcpcuuûcúutvc, co:cu, otïtvcv ogioi onucoi oic tóon, :, vus:c,
tcptoyt. (Cass. Dio 67.8.2–4)
and in a new place he produced a naval battle. At this last event practically all the
combatants and many of the spectators as well perished. For, though a heavy rain
and violent storm came up suddenly, he nevertheless permitted no one to leave
the spectacle; and though he himself changed his clothing to thick woollen cloaks,
he would not allow the others to change their attire, so that not a few fell sick and
died. By way, no doubt, of consoling the people for this, he provided for them at
public expense a dinner lasting all night.
The anecdote distils Domitian’s lethal self-interest, and may preserve traces
of the gradual embellishment of the story, as it proceeds from the original
day of the event itself and the emperor’s lack of concern for his subjects’
welfare, to the later consequences of this absence of interest in the deaths of
Humphry (1986) 102–3, who understates the likelihood of a Domitianic origin.
Cf. Colledge (2000) 972 on the ‘burst of building in and around Rome, skillfully targeted to please
the public, [intended to] dim. . . memories of Domitian’s architectural self-indulgence’.
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome 55
those exposed to bad weather, to the emperor’s attempt later still to remedy
indignation via public largesse. Later in his reign, Trajan would build his
own Naumachia.
The Circus restoration was promoted as a significant gesture, and the
‘public transcript’ of this event was made unmistakably clear:
it embodied
Trajan’s liberalitas. In the same year as the numismatic advertisement of
the restoration, the dedicatory inscription of a statue in honour of Trajan
explicitly tied this work to Trajan’s personal liberalitas:
Cassius Dio records that another inscription on the monument declared
that Trajan had made the Circus adequate to the Roman people (c:i
t¸cpsc0v:c co:cv : :cv Pcucicv onu ttcinotv, 68.7.2): perhaps
a deliberate, democratizing echo of Nero’s bon mot to be at last living
like a human being in the Domus Aurea (hactenus comprobauit, ut se
diceret quasi hominem tandem habitare coepisse, Suet. Nero 31.3).
immediate context for Dio is Trajan’s high-mindedness (ut,cìcgpcv sci
Pliny’s treatment of the Circus Maximus in the Panegyricus engages
with themes that had been accreting around the project since Domitian’s
assassination. For example, Pliny’s description of the crowd in the newly
restoredCircus transparently evokes the language of the Trajanic inscription
of 103:
On public transcripts see Scott (1990) 1–4; applied to the Panegyricus by Bartsch (1994) 148–87, esp.
On which see Nore˜ na (2001) 160–4.
Elsewhere Trajan would frame his dissimilarity to Nero in explicit terms: ‘Nec ille Polyclitus est nec
ego Nero’ (Plin. Ep. 6.31.9). Trajan was patently interested in Nero’s principate (cf. Aurelius Victor,
Epitome 5.2).
56 paul roche
Auxeras . . . numerum eius congiarii facilitate maioremque in posterum suscipi
liberalitatis tuae fide iusseras. (Plin. Pan. 51.5)
. . . you had grown their number by the open-handedness of your congiar-
ium, and had bidden it to increase further in future by the pledge of your
For the consul there was a ready causal link waiting to be exploited between
Trajan’s accommodation of 5,000 further seats in the Circus Maximus and
the distribution of largesse which had marked Trajan’s accession and was
distributed towards the end of 99:
Nullam congiario culpam, nullam alimentis crudelitatem redemisti, nec tibi bene
faciendi fuit causa ut quae male feceras impune fecisses. Amor impendio isto,
non uenia quaesita est, populusque Romanus obligatus a tribunali tuo, non
exoratus recessit. Obtulisti enim congiarium gaudentibus gaudens securusque
securis; quodque antea principes ad odium sui leniendum tumentibus plebis
animis obiectabant, id tu tam innocens populo dedisti, quam populus accepit.
Paulo minus, patres conscripti, quinque milia ingenuorum fuerunt, quae liber-
alitas principis nostri conquisiuit inuenit adsciuit. Hi subsidium bellorum orna-
mentum pacis publicis sumptibus aluntur, patriamque non ut patriam tantum,
uerum ut altricem amare condiscunt; ex his castra ex his tribus replebuntur, ex his
quandoque nascentur, quibus alimentis opus non sit. (Plin. Pan. 28.4)
You were trying to redeemno fault by your congiarium, no cruelty by your alimenta,
nor did you intend that this kindly act buy you immunity from former crimes.
You sought your people’s love by this expense, not their pardon; the people of
Rome were beholden to your tribunal, they did not withdraw from it exhausted
by prayers. For rejoicing and secure you bestowed the congiarium upon them in
their joy and security; and what previous emperors used to cast before the swelling
anger of their people in order to lessen their hatred, you gave to your people and
they received, both in innocence. Senators, there were just short of 5,000 freeborn
children which the liberalitas of our princeps sought out, found and enrolled. These
children are raised at public expense to be a bulwark in war and an ornament in
peace; they learn to love their country not so much as a fatherland, but as a wet
nurse; from these the camps and tribes will be replenished, from these will be born
children who have no need of alimenta.
Trajan’s first congiariumwas recorded on a sestertius of the year 99 (BMCRE
3.712). On it a togate Trajan sits on the curule chair on an elevated platform;
his right arm extends into an open-handed gesture. Nearby and on a lower
level, two citizens stand before a seated official; one holds out the folds of
his toga, the other mounts the official’s platform. In the background of the
composition the personified Liberalitas holds an abacus. Pliny’s framing of
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome 57
the congiarium in terms of liberalitas is no innovation,
but his positing of
a causal link between the congiarium of 99, the alimenta programme and
the appearance of 5,000 new spectators in this way transforms the demo-
graphic impact of the scheme to make it immediate, and participates in the
speech’s wider thematic presentation of Trajan as a superhuman sponsor of
If the inscription is a ‘fausse evergesie’,
Pliny’s amplification is
nothing short of miraculous.
When Pliny describes the Circus itself, he commences with its fac¸ade’s
evocation of the beauty of the city’s temples, and with the notion that
it is now worthy of the Roman people in their aspect of conquerors of
the world (immensum latus circi templorum pulchritudinem prouocat, digna
populo uictore gentium sedes, 51.3). Here he clearly takes his cue from Trajan’s
celebrated statement that he had made the Circus adequate to the Roman
people (Cass. Dio 68.7.2 t¸cpsc0v:c : :cv Pcucicv onu; cf. Pan.
51.3 digna populo uictore gentium). The allusion to temples may well have
been a convenient or standard point of comparison for a large expanse of
marble or tufa, but here paired in apposition with the notion of the Roman
people as world conquerors, it may also evoke the function of temples as
victory monuments, of the use of the Circus as a route for the triumph, and
of its embellishment with triumphal arches under various emperors. Else-
where in the speech – and particularly in the first twenty-three chapters –
Trajan’s adoption and return to the city from Germany are glossed in terms
which suggest the triumphal return of a victorious general.
Pliny then focuses upon the figure of the emperor himself at the games,
in a passage that orbits around the notion of the emperor’s visibility and
his parity with his subjects:
nec minus ipsa uisenda, quam quae ex illa spectabuntur, uisenda autem cum
cetera specie, tum quod aequatus plebis ac principis locus, siquidem per omne
spatium una facies, omnia continua et paria, nec magis proprius spectanti
Caesari suggestus quam propria quae spectet. Licebit ergo te ciuibus tuis inuicem
Cf. TLL 7.2.1298.33–50 for liberalitas and its easy attachment to congiaria; Nore˜ na (2001) 163–4
establishes the connection between liberalitas issues and congiaria in the period 117–235.
Cf. esp. 26.3–27.4, 29.1–32.4.
Cf. Nore˜ na (2001) 162 (applying the terminology of Veyne (1976) 621–42): ‘This [ILS 286] is the
first securely dated inscription to commemorate this particular imperial virtue, and a prime example
of what Veyne calls a “fausse evergesie”, a routine administrative decision of the Roman state for
which the emperor automatically receives credit simply by virtue of being emperor.’
Cf. esp. 5.3–4, 8.2, 9.2, 11.5, 16.1–3, 17.1–4, 22.2, 23.4 Trajan after he advents mounts the Capitol,
23.6 evoking the conclusion of the triumph.
58 paul roche
contueri; dabitur non cubiculum principis sed ipsum principem cernere in pub-
lico, in populo sedentem, populo cui locorum quinque milia adiecisti. (Plin. Pan.
itself [the Circus] no less to be seen than those things which will be seen there,
but equally to be seen is the fact that there is an equal place for plebs and princeps.
There is but one appearance for the whole arena; all things continuous, equal;
the seating is no more Caesar’s as he looks on than the things which he observes.
Therefore it will be permitted to your citizens to look upon you in turn; it will be
possible to behold, not the emperor’s couch, but the emperor himself, in public,
seated among the people, the people for whom you have added five thousand
That this is alluding to the emperor’s box, the puluinar, and to some
modification of it in the Trajanic reconstruction is apparent from Pliny’s
mention of the cubiculum principis in the subsequent sentence of the
speech (51.5). But the specific nature of the change to the emperor’s seating
arrangement is couched in language which is very far from clear.
Some commentators take this innovation to mean that Domitian
favoured watching the races from the Domus Flauia; Humphry suggests
that cubicula principis was the name of the apartments in the Domus Flauia,
south of the Hippodrome, from where (he posits) Domitian was accus-
tomed to view the races in the Circus Maximus.
But when Suetonius
recounts Domitian’s habits in relation to the spectacula (e.g. Suet. Dom.
4), he omits to mention the viewing area from the palace (a habit not
passed over in the case of other bad emperors
), and if we locate his
questioning of a puerulus about the Egyptian prefecture of Mettius Rufus
(4.2) within the Circus Maximus, Domitian’s presence and visibility amid
the people are more readily understood than his absence; Martial 8.11 is
explicit on the entry of Domitian into the Circus (and cf. 7.7.9f. on the
malaise of the spectators in the Circus when Domitian is absent from
Trajan’s reconstruction of the puluinar does not automatically lend itself
to the egalitarian interpretation favoured by Pliny. In fact, Trajan seems to
have moved the puluinar further up into the seating from the Augustan
position of ground level (in fronte prima spectaculorum, Suet. Cl. 4.3), i.e.
at the very front of the grandstands fronting onto the arena itself. Either
under Augustus or (perhaps less likely) by Trajanic innovation, the puluinar
was in essence a small temple: it was hexastyle; it had a gabled pediment;
Humphry (1986) 80.
Suet. Cal. 18.3; Barrett (2000) 207.
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome 59
it had its own staircase distinct from the seating arrangements in front of
it; its side walls recessed back to the inner wall of the fac¸ade.
Pliny’s response is basically sophistry: the emperor was now no more or
less visible than before. The visibility of the Augustan puluinar’s occupants
is apparent from Augustus’ concern that Claudius not watch the races from
spectare eum circenses ex puluinari non placet nobis; expositus enim in fronte
prima spectaculorum conspicietur. (Suet. Cl. 4.5)
that he should view the games in the Circus from the puluinar does not meet with
my approval; for he will be conspicuous if exposed to full view in front of the
In Pliny’s formulation, the further elevation of a temple for the imperial
family becomes a symbol for the parity of emperor and subject. It is not that
Trajan now towers over his senatorial peers in a structure that explicitly
lays claim to the superhuman status of the emperor and anticipates his
but that the seating for the lower class and the podium of
the temple share the same architectural foundation: ‘all things continuous,
equal’. The physical material of the Circus, transmuted through Pliny’s
praise into a metaphor for the emperor’s own accessibility, becomes a
permanent, architectural embodiment of the first half of the dual tradition
preserved in Cassius Dio:
sci : :t onu ut:’ ttitstic, ouvt,ivt:c sci : ,tpcuoi otuvctpttc,
cuiìti, ó,ctn:c, utv toi, gcµtpc, ot unotvi tìnv tcìtuici, cv. (Cass. Dio
his association with the people was marked by affability and his intercourse with the
senate by dignity, so that he was loved by all and dreaded by none save the enemy.
The consul is complicit in the Trajanic branding of the Circus, but deftly
woven into the fabric of the public script is his concern to foreground the
emperor’s presence among his subjects and his open accessibility. Pliny is
careful to read straight past the potentially self-aggrandizing interpretation
of the restoration of the puluinar to render it a symbol of parity.
See Humphry (1986) 80. The archaeological evidence for the Trajanic puluinar consists of frag. 8g
of the Severan Marble Plan; the mosaic from Luni; and a third-century gem from Geneva, all cited
in Humphry (1986) 81 figs. 35a and 35b, 123 fig. 55, 243–4.
See Van Den Berg (2008) 257–66; at 265: ‘The Puluinar was understood not only as a site to worship
traditional state gods during a religious festival, but also as a place intended for worship of state
consecrated diui, both present and future.’
60 paul roche
the domus flavia
Plotina’s will to remain immune to the morally corrupting influence of
power was expressed publicly upon her entry into the Domus Flauia: ‘I
enter here such a person as I wish to be when I depart’ (:cicú:n utv:ci
tv:c0ûc totpycuci cïc sci t¸tìûtïv µcúìcuci, Cass. Dio 68.5.5). Her
‘official’ entry into the palace was presumably made in 98 at some point
after the death of Nerva on 28 January, and so independent of Trajan,
who returned in late 99, perhaps in October.
The residence had naturally
been a lightning rod for rumour concerning Domitian and his family
and the locus of late Flavian court intrigue; it was moreover the scene of
the assassination of the emperor himself and (evidently) the praetorian
guard’s mutiny against Nerva (cf. Plin. Pan. 6.1 imperator et parens generis
humani obsessus captus inclusus).
The combination of time, place and
the sentiments expressed by Plotina cast the imperial residence itself as
figuratively invested with the potential to corrupt, and she was of course
not the first person to attempt to reinvent the potential meaning of the
palace. Nerva had himself utilized the Palatine residence to advertise his
discontinuity with Domitianic inaccessibility by inscribing the words aedes
publicae on its exterior (Plin. Pan. 47.4).
Pliny often alludes to the Domus Flauia in the Panegyricus. The consul
devalues Nerva’s publicly inscribed gesture of accessibility by making it
conditional upon Trajan’s own ability to open the palace freely to his
subjects: frustra tamen, nisi adoptasset qui habitare ut in publicis posset (‘all
in vain though had he not adopted someone who could inhabit it as though
it were a public place’, 47.4). This for Pliny is the fundamental message
to inscribe onto the palace: that Trajan’s senatorial peers have complete,
open and voluntary access to the emperor at court. He returns to this
theme again in an extended passage at 47.4–49.4. Trajan lives in harmony
with the Nervan inscription to such an extent that it is virtually Trajan’s
own inscription (47.5).
The actual behaviour Pliny is prescribing for his
emperor is then made explicit. Trajan has made court life at the palace
as open of access as the Forum, the temples and the Capitoline: he has
For the date: Plin. Ep. 10.8 (July–August 99: Sherwin-White (1966) 573) with Seelentag (2004) 198
n. 2 for discussion.
Particularly the rumours surrounding his divorce of Domitia and his incestuous relationship with
his niece: cf. Juv. 2.29–33; Tac. Hist. 1.2; Suet. Dom. 22.1; Cass. Dio 67.3; Plin. Pan. 53; Philostr. VA
7.7; Griffin (2000) 62; Roche (2009) 378–80.
Roche (2002) 41, 60.
On this tendency to centralize all achievements within Trajan’s family to Trajan himself see Roche
(2002) 44–6.
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome 61
removed (i.e. reconfigured) the admissiones, the degrees of access which
were humiliating for the many who may have been granted access to the
Aula Regia for the salutatio, but were debarred from the emperor’s private
chambers (47.5).
And not only is greater access extended, Pliny claims, but
the emperor himself is present and visible for generous sections of each day:
Ipse autem ut excipis omnes, ut exspectas! (‘But you yourself, how you receive
everyone, how you await everyone!’, 48.1).
The clear point is that access
to Trajan is and ought to be unmediated through palace personnel, and
later in the speech this image is extended to encompass Trajan’s reception
of foreign emissaries: adeunt statim, dimittuntur statim, tandemque principis
fores exclusa legationum turba non obsidet (‘they are admitted and dismissed
with no delays, finally an excluded crowd of delegates does not besiege the
doors of the palace’, 79.6).
The resulting image is of the emperor surrounded by and integrated with
his peers. Trajan’s complete instantiation of Pliny’s conditional acceptance
of Nerva’s inscription – nisi adoptasset qui habitare ut in publicis posset –
is echoed in the consul’s description of the happy and secure throng sur-
rounding the emperor in his palace: remoramur resistimus ut in communi
domo (‘we delay, we linger as if in a communal house’, 48.3). The model is
illustrated by contrast in Pliny’s bestial image of Domitian, fortified inside
the palace as though it were a cave (belua . . . uelut specu inclusa, 48.3), lurk-
ing in silence, emerging only to destroy relatives and the clarissimi ciues. In
contrast to Plotina’s declared intention to remain unchanged by the palace,
the figure of the emperor himself has the capacity to transform the build-
ing. Under Domitian the doors of the palace were guarded by horrifying
abstractions (48.4) and the emperor was himself abstracted into a grotesque
caricature of terror, arrogance, anger and shamelessness: a product and an
agent of desolation (48.5).
This is in complete contrast to the transparency of Trajan’s occupancy,
and contravenes the necessity for emperors of exposing to public view even
the private areas of their houses:
Habet hoc primum magna fortuna, quod nihil tectum, nihil occultum esse patitur;
principum uero non domus modo sed cubicula ipsa intimosque secessus recludit,
omniaque arcana noscenda famae proponit atque explicat. (Plin. Pan. 83.1)
Great power has this as its primary characteristic: that it suffers nothing to be
covered, nothing to be hidden; it opens up not only the homes of the principes,
Turcan (1987) 132–9; Wallace-Hadrill (1996) 285; Eck (2000) 212.
Cf. Trajan at 48.2 as the admittens princeps.
62 paul roche
but even the cubicula and the most hidden recesses, it exposes and unfolds to
rumour every secret for her knowledge.
Pliny is prescribing for Trajan a means of conceiving of the physical house
which had its roots in late republican treatises and in aristocratic concep-
tions of unending public scrutiny. Velleius recounts Drusus (tr. pl. 91 bce)
instructing an architect to build him a house in which all of his actions
would be visible to the public (Vell. 2.14.3), and Cicero boasted that his
house was on view to the whole city (in conspectu prope totius urbis, Cic.
Dom. 100). Consider Pliny’s complete elision of Vitruvius’ architectural
dichotomy between public and private space:
animaduertendum est, quibus rationibus priuatis aedificiis propria loca
patribus familiarum et quemadmodum communia cum extraneis aedificari
debeant . . . nobilibus uero, qui honores magistratusque gerundo praestare debent
officia ciuibus, faciunda sunt uestibula regalia alta, atria et peristylia amplissima,
siluae ambulationesque laxiores ad decorem maiestatis perfectae . . . (Vitr. 6.5.1, 2)
consider on what principles to build those parts of the individual’s house which
are exclusively for the paterfamilias, and those which are shared with visitors . . . .
For the nobility, who by holding public posts and offices ought to extend services
to their fellow citizens, lofty entrance courts befitting a king, expansive atria
and peristyles, wide gardens and walkways made worthy of the dignity of their
office . . .
Domitian’s use of the palace, on the other hand, had been an aberration
(49.1). He had fortified himself inside, but locked in with him were the
seeds of his own destruction: deception, conspiracy and vengeance against
his own crimes. When Pliny alludes to the assassination of Domitian within
the palace in terms of a personified Poena, he repeatedly emphasizes that
emperor’s isolation from his peers, in terms both of his pretensions to
divinity and of his withdrawal to those parts of the palace which Vitruvius
considered propria loca patribus familiarum, and which were, in an imperial
context, debarred to all but court insiders:
Dimouit perfregitque custodias Poena, angustosque per aditus et obstructos non
secus ac per apertas fores et inuitantia limina irrupit: longe tunc illi diuinitas
sua, longe arcana illa cubilia saeuique secessus, in quos timore et superbia et odio
hominum agebatur. (Plin. Pan. 49.1)
Vengeance displaced and smashed through the guard, and flew through those
narrow hallways and barriers just as if through open doors and inviting thresholds:
no help to him then his divinity, no help then those secret chambers and savage
recesses into which he was driven by his fear, his arrogance and his loathing of
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome 63
This description has specific relevance to the private chambers of the palace
to the southeast of the main peristyle, where the assassination transpired
(Cass. Dio 67.17.1).
Pliny’s account distorts the facts of Domitian’s assas-
sination, in that nobody breached the guard, or swept through the halls:
the emperor was killed by members of his own court (Suet. Dom. 17.10–12;
Cass. Dio 67.15–18).
Domitian’s death had actually nothing whatsoever
to do with living life in the public eye or his treatment of senatorial peers,
and everything to do with isolating members of his own household. But
to Pliny it is a useful counterpoint with which to promote his vision of
the Trajanic court: safer, more secure, built on love rather than cruelty
(reprised at 85.1), and above all rejecting the solitude of the cubiculum for
the crowded gatherings in the public rooms of the palace (49.2).
Pliny now extends the lesson from accessibility to benevolence:
Discimus experimento fidissimam esse custodiam principis innocentiam ipsius.
Haec arx inaccessa, hoc inexpugnabile munimentum, munimento non egere.
Frustra se terrore succinxerit, qui saeptus caritate non fuerit; armis enim arma
irritantur. (Plin. Pan. 49.3)
We learn by experience that the most reliable guard of the emperor is his own
guiltlessness. This is the impenetrable citadel, this is the unstormable rampart: to
need no rampart. He surrounds himself with terror to no effect who has not been
surrounded by affection; for arming oneself merely provokes a response of arms.
The paradoxical conclusion to this scene condenses and recasts Seneca’s
meditationonthe difference betweentyranny and kingship in De Clementia
Consider especially the following sentiments:
Clementia ergo non tantum honestiores sed tutiores praestat ornamentumque
imperiorum est simul et certissima salus. Quid enim est, cur reges consenuerint
liberisque ac nepotibus tradiderint regna, tyrannorum execrabilis ac brevis potestas
sit? (Sen. Clem. 1.11.4)
So clemency does not just bring rulers more honour but greater safety too. It is the
glory of empires at the same time as being their surest means of protection. After
all, why does it happen that kings get to grow old and to hand on their kingdoms
to their children and grandchildren, but that the power of tyrants is accursed and
For further remarks on Pliny’s treatment of Domitian’s assassination, see Hutchinson, this volume
pp. 128–9.
See Murison (2003) 153; Collins (2008) 392.
I am very grateful to one of the Press’s anonymous readers for drawing my attention to De Clementia
64 paul roche
Placido tranquilloque regi fida sunt auxilia sua, ut quibus ad communem salutem
utatur, gloriosusque miles (publicae enim securitati se dare operam videt) omnem
laboremlibens patitur ut parentis custos; at illumacerbumet sanguinariumnecesse
est graventur stipatores sui. (Sen. Clem. 1.13.1)
For a calm and peaceful king, his own guards are reliable, since he uses them for
the protection of the community. In their eagerness for glory, the soldiers, because
they see that they are working for the security of the state, willingly endure all
kinds of toil as the protectors of their Father. But the ruler who is harsh and
bloodthirsty inevitably finds that his own bodyguards resent him.
In the Panegyricus, the sentiment is further leveraged by the Domus Flauia
itself. Pliny returns insistently to the vision of an accessible emperor, in
which the physicality of the palace’s defences are now collapsed into a
metaphor for the emperor’s own physical safety: the suggestion of assassi-
nation is still current from Pliny’s description of Domitian’s death, and it
resides in this passage in its own right, existing in the notion of the good
emperor’s invulnerability and made conditional upon Trajan’s continued
capacity to inhabit the palace ut in publicis.
Pliny’s hand in reinventing the meaning of the Domus Flauia is con-
nected to and reflected in Trajan’s restoration to private ownership of the
houses of the ancient nobility. While the emperor has made his own res-
idence common property with his peers, Pliny reasserts the limitations of
imperial interest in domestic residences (50.1), and is absolutely precise in
his delineation of authority and ownership:
Est quod Caesar non suum uideat, tandemque imperium principis quam patri-
monium maius est. (Plin. Pan. 50.2)
Things exist which Caesar sees and does not own: finally the emperor’s realm
exceeds his personal property.
This policy has a kind of regenerative effect uponthe nobility. Pliny presents
it as an architectural reflection of the restoration of appropriate dignity for
the upper orders of society. Just as the decay of the houses of the old nobility
is a physical manifestation of the social inappropriateness of being owned
by freedmen (habitator seruus, 50.3), so too their newfound lustre reflects
a restoration of social ordering and of Trajan’s affinity with the original
builders of these great houses:
Translations of De Clementia are from Braund (2009).
The Panegyricus and the Monuments of Rome 65
Datur intueri pulcherrimas aedes deterso situ auctas ac uigentes. Magnum hoc
tuum non erga homines modo sed erga tecta ipsa meritum, sistere ruinas soli-
tudinem pellere, ingentia opera eodem quo exstructa sunt animo ab interitu
uindicare. Muta quidem illa et anima carentia sentire tamen et laetari uidentur,
quod niteant quod frequententur, quod aliquando coeperint esse domini scientis.
(Plin. Pan. 50.4)
It is possible to look upon those splendid houses – now that their site has been
cleansed – growing and thriving. This is a great service of yours, not just for the
owners, but for the houses themselves: to halt this ruination, to drive off this
solitude, to save these great works from destruction, is to exhibit the same spirit
with which they were erected. And those inanimate, insensate houses nevertheless
seem to understand this, seem to rejoice, because they gleam, because they are
frequented again, because at last they are the possessions of appreciative owners.
This is more than conservation. Pliny recasts freedmen owning these prop-
erties in terms used exclusively elsewhere in the speech of the bad emperor’s
self-imposed isolation from his peers (solitudo, 50.4; cf. 34.1 of Domitianic
informers, 48.5 both Domitian in the palace and the destruction he causes
when he emerges, 49.2 the haunts of the Domus Flauia which Trajan
rejects for its public spaces). Just as surely their purchase by members
of the aristocracy is cast in terms evoking Trajan’s transformation of the
palace (frequentare, 50.4; cf. 48.2 on senators eager to visit Trajan in the
palace, 49.5 the crowd accompanying Trajan in his leisure hours). This is a
domestic, personal, urban manifestation of Trajan’s reform of the imperial
Both Trajan and Pliny were surrounded by monuments whose bricks
were stamped with the name of Domitian; and this could function as an
appropriate metaphor for the men themselves. In each of the individual
monuments, Pliny works hard to delineate a positive or potentially positive
Trajanic meaning to offset against their Domitianic legacy. In the case of the
Circus Maximus, Pliny exploits Trajan’s own claims to liberalitas in order
to deflate the potentially offensive claims made by Trajan’s restoration of
the puluinar. The emperor’s own residence is collapsed into a metaphor
for the emperor himself – open and accessible rather than fortified and
secluded – and establishes the preconditions of his continuing safety. And
the wider community of aristocratic houses is reinvigorated under their
newly appropriate owners after their sad existence under the tenure of
freedmen. In the Panegyricus, the monuments of Trajan’s Rome are viewed
shimmying beneath a spectrumof varying metaphorical and literal content:
nowclearly discernible under a light film, nowalmost completely abstracted
66 paul roche
into the superlative virtues Pliny would prescribe for his emperor. In each
case, and taken collectively, the physical environment housing the people,
senate and princeps is transformed into an exemplary metaphor of the
integration of all three, and for the benefit of an emperor who at the
moment of its delivery was very much an unknown quantity; after all, who
could have predicted two years into his reign that the exemplary relations
between Domitian and the senate would sour?
For the harmonious relationship between Domitian and the senate in the period 81 to September
87, see Eck (1980) 55; Syme (1977–91) 7.560.
chapter 4
The Panegyricus and rhetorical theory
D. C. Innes
Pliny regularly calls the Panegyricus a gratiarum actio, insistently so in the
opening sections, and that is pretty certainly its title.
Its traditional title,
Panegyricus, has no support from Pliny and is too Greek for an occasion
which Pliny emphatically presents as an old Roman custom in his opening
words (he appeals to maiores and mos in the first two sentences).
In Pliny’s
description of the senatorial decree, his remit was to let good emperors
review their actions (quae facerent recognoscerent, 4.1), bad emperors their
duty (cf. 75.3). But praise was what was expected and given, and in the
published speech, a richly expanded version (spatiosius et uberius, Ep. 3.18.1),
praise of the emperor is paramount (e.g. 3.3, 53.6 and 56.1). In a letter, Pliny
rejects any advisory role; his aim is to praise the emperor for his excellence
(laudare optimum principem, Ep. 3.18.2–3) and present him as a model for
any successors. The speech is thus a prime example of classical panegyric
and our only extant such speech in Latin from the early imperial period.
Together with invective,
encomium constitutes the genre of epideic-
tic, one of the three traditional genres of oratory alongside forensic and
But unlike them the audience of epideictic does not have
The repeated use in the opening section acts as a marker to identify the speech: 1.2, 1.3, 2.3, 3.1, 3.3,
3.4, 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3; cf. Ep. 3.13.1, 3.18.1.
The Greek term tcvn,upisc, originally described a speech given at a public festival, tcvn,upi,,
but was also used more widely as a synonym of encomium, t,scuicv, to describe a formal speech of
praise. Neither term is fully naturalized in Latin. Cicero uses panegyricus only as the title of Isocrates’
speech (De Orat. 37), and Quintilian only to identify the title of speeches at 2.10.11, 3.4.14 and 10.4.4
(in the latter two cases referring to Isocrates’ speech).
Invective is the mirror image of encomium, sharing the same headings and topics but reversing
the content (e.g. Cic. De Orat. 2.349; Quint. Inst. 3.7.19). Panegyric exploits topics of invective in
comparisons, as in Pliny’s contrast of Trajan with Domitian.
The division is Aristotelian (Rhet. 1.3) and is the standard later theory. Quintilian, for example,
supports it on the grounds of logic and best authority (3.4.11). But we know of broader definitions
of epideictic, even to the point of including all literature except forensic and deliberative (Hermog.
Id. 404 Rabe). Modern discussions also rightly emphasize the flexibility and intermingling of the
three genres of oratory from the beginning: see Carey (2007) 237–52. The forensic De Corona of
Demosthenes, for example, includes extensive self-praise, while Isocrates’ Panegyricus was formally
68 d. c. innes
to take a decision (a judge or jury to acquit or condemn, a deliberative
body to accept or reject a proposal). Its aim, Quintilian tells us, is to please
the audience (3.4.6; cf. 2.10.11); it should amplify and embellish its subject
(res amplificare et ornare, 3.7.6);
it was associated with long-established
patterns of structure, topics and style.
Like every educated person of his time Pliny will have been familiar
from an early age with the basic prescription of a simple encomium since
it had a regular place in the school syllabus among the progymnasmata,
the preliminary exercises which prepared the pupil for the later stage of
composing declamations.
Encomium was among the more advanced: e.g.
inde paulatim ad maiora tendere incipiet, laudare claros uiros et uituperare
improbos (‘He will next gradually progress to more demanding pieces,
encomia of the famous and invective against the wicked’, Quint. Inst.
2.4.20). Pliny provides a brief example in a letter, where he recommends the
merits of a potential son-in-law(Ep. 1.14).
He begins and ends with his own
personal ties to the young man, but in the middle he gives an encomium,
as he acknowledges in the final word of the letter, laudibus (‘praises’). He
recommends the young man for the worth and respectability of his home-
town and relatives on both the father’s and the mother’s side; he praises his
virtues of energy, application and modesty in pursuing a successful public
career; and he notes his attractive appearance and considerable wealth.
This little eulogy echoes the basic headings of encomium, as we find
them in school texts like Theon and throughout the ancient theory of
rhetoric. For example, in Cicero’s De Oratore we find origins, physical
qualities such as beauty and strength, external qualities such as wealth,
and, most important of all, virtue (2.342). Similar lists go back at least
deliberative but in practice a panegyric of Athens (Quint. Inst. 3.4.14, Nicolaus 48 Felten). Eulogy
was useful in all forms of oratory (e.g. Cic. De Or. 2.349).
Cf. Plin. Ep. 2.5.3 ornare patriam et amplificare (in praise of his home-town Comum). For Ar.
Rhet. 1368b26–9 amplification (c0¸noi,) is particularly suited to epideictic since the content is
uncontroversial, so you need only invest it with grandeur and beauty.
Basic rhetorical texts: Ar. Rhet. 1.3, 9; Rhet. Alex. 35; Rhet. Her. 3.10–15; Cic. De Inv. 2.177–8, De
Orat. 2.43–7, 341–9, Part. 70–82; Quint. Inst. 2.4, 3.7; Theon, Progymnasmata 8 (see next note);
Pseudo-Dionysius, Art of Rhetoric 1–7; Menander I and II, On Epideictic Speeches. General surveys:
Russell and Wilson (1981) x–xxxiv; Pernot (1986, 1993); Russell (1998); Rees (2007a).
For Theon see Patillon and Bolognesi (1997), conveniently keeping Spengel’s pagination. It has the
original order of the exercises and substantial additional content from the Armenian. For English
translation of Theon and others, see Kennedy (2003). Theon is very probably the earliest extant
Greek author of progymnasmata, roughly contemporary with Quintilian (but for a much later date,
in the fifth century, see Heath (2003) 141–9). On progymnasmata see Bonner (1977) 250–76; Cribiore
(2001) 220–30; Reinhardt and Winterbottom (2006) 74–7.
Hoffer (1999) 177–93; Rees (2007b). This letter of recommendation is the closest to a formal eulogy,
but 2.9, 2.13, 3.2 and 7.22 suggest a template of family, money and qualities of character and a greater
amount of detail than is found in Cicero (so Rees (2007b); cf. also Hor. Ep. 1.9, 12, 22–4).
The Panegyricus and rhetorical theory 69
as early as Rhet. Alex. 35 and draw on still earlier speeches which served
as models. Particularly influential were Agathon’s praise of Love in Plato’s
Symposium (194e–197e) and two speeches in praise of a recently dead king,
Isocrates’ Evagoras and Xenophon’s Agesilaus.
Agathon’s speech is clearly
articulated into separate headings, including the four cardinal virtues of
justice, modesty, courage and wisdom, and runs riot with a richness of style
said to echo Gorgias (Symp. 198c).
Isocrates claims to be the first to write
a prose encomium of a contemporary (8), begins with Evagoras’ origins
and early life, shapes much of the praise to show his virtues, and sets him
up as a model for his son to imitate.
Isocrates also established the panegyric style, a style characterized by
pleasing elaboration and richness, especially in sentence structure. It has a
smooth flow (hiatus between words is avoided) and an abundance of prose
rhythm, rounded periods and clearly patterned assonance and antithesis.
Again our sources agree, as in Cic. Orator 37–42 and already Ar. Rhet.
3.12, where epideictic suits the ìt¸i, ,pcgisn, the style for written texts
(cf. Quint. Inst. 3.8.63). But such a style might readily become flat and
monotonous and was not suited to emotion, as Dionysius warns (Dem.
20). So too for Longinus (On the Sublime 9.3), panegyric may be grand and
sublime but for the most part it lacks emotion. It is a style which needs
to be varied, as is stressed by Pseudo-Dionysius (260 U-R), for example
by simplicity for narrative and grandeur for emperors or gods.
grandeur and sublimity also characterize the delivery advised by Quintilian
(11.3.153 specifically including the gratiarum actio).
Pliny echoes this tradition in his two letters on the revision of the
Panegyricus. In Ep. 3.18.8–10 the genre of epideictic supports his own
preference for a richer style (laetioris stili), even if others admire his passages
in a plainer style (which he may someday come to appreciate). And in Ep.
3.13.3–4, he complains that there can be no originality in content and
the reader will therefore concentrate on style (elocutio).
But he hopes
See Russell and Wilson (1981) xiv–v; Pernot (1993) 19–25; for Evagoras: Braund (1998) 56–8.
Prose encomium began with the fifth-century sophists, who were in turn influenced by earlier poetry
of praise, as Gorgias implicitly acknowledges (Helen 2). Poetic encomium continued: for praise of a
ruler see e.g. Stat. Silv. 4.1 on Domitian’s seventeenth consulship (with Coleman (1988) esp. 62–5);
and Gibson in this volume.
Cic. Orator 96 is only an apparent exception in categorizing it under the middle style. It aims to
please (cf. Orator 37) and that is why it has been rejected by the grand style, which Cicero has
defined in terms of exciting emotion.
He makes obvious use of the traditional five parts of rhetoric (cf. e.g. Quint. Inst. 3.3.1). He
ignores memory but refers to content (inuentio), structure (dispositio), style (elocutio) and delivery
70 d. c. innes
his structure, transitions and figures will also attract attention.
all, even the uneducated can sometimes find good material and deliver
it impressively (inuenire praeclare, enuntiare magnifice), whereas skilled
expertise is needed for appropriate arrangement and a varied use of figures
(disponere apte, figurare uarie). Variety of style is also needed: it cannot
always be grand and sublime (an indication it mostly will be) but needs
some lower tones just as light needs some shadow. Pliny clearly prided
himself on his mastery of style and organization. I shall focus on the latter
and say little on style.
Since he was Pliny’s teacher (Ep. 2.14.9, 6.6.3), it is natural to look more
closely at Quintilian’s discussion of epideictic (3.7). Within a dialogue
setting of 91 bce Cicero had seen panegyric as essentially Greek (De Orat.
2.341), and for Rhet. Her. 3.15 it was rarely found in real life. But by
Quintilian’s time epideictic was a regular feature of Roman public life and
he begins by recognizing this change, emphasizing that Roman custom(mos
Romanus) has found a practical use (3.7.2). The senate may, for example,
assign a magistrate to give a funeral oration, as Pliny illustrates in a letter
describing the funeral of Verginius Rufus in 97: the oration was given by
the consul Tacitus, ‘a most eloquent eulogist’ (laudator eloquentissimus, Ep.
2.1.6). Speeches, Quintilian continues (3.7.3), do exist which are purely for
display, such as the praise of gods and heroes of the past. But even here he
refers to a conspicuous and recent Roman example, the praise of Jupiter
Capitolinus at the sacred contest (which Domitian established in 86).
does not mention gratiarum actiones, though there might be up to a dozen
each year by consuls elect and consuls entering office: it was indeed while
he stood rehearsing one that Verginius Rufus fell, broke his hip and never
Yet within his actual analysis of encomium Quintilian scarcely touches
on real oratory. In his main account, on praise of men (3.7.10–18), he
notes only that ‘sometimes we praise the living’ (3.7.17; so too in invective
But the final item, honours after death, is unusually long and the
initial group of examples, deification, decrees and statues at public expense,
suggests real public oratory (3.7.17–18).
This may then recall the end of
the preceding section, praise of gods, where he refers to mortals who were
deified because of their virtue and pays a cautiously worded compliment
On the skilful use of transitions in epideictic see Pernot (1993) 315–19.
On Pliny’s style see Hutchinson in this volume and Gamberini (1983) 337–448.
Praise of Domitian may well have been the main theme: Bartsch (1994) 270 n. 115; Coleman (1986)
Theon 109 Sp. similarly lists it without discussion.
Cf. Pernot (1993) 176.
The Panegyricus and rhetorical theory 71
to the piety of the current emperor (3.7.9). This overt flattery of Domitian
is itself parallel to the earlier allusion when he cited the sacred contest at
the end of his introductory section on Roman public oratory (3.7.4). If we
include the examples of honours after death we have three closural allusions
to imperial panegyric, a subject under Domitian much too sensitive for the
One further example is from real oratory, within the brief account
of praise of places (3.7.26–7). Quintilian cites Cicero’s praise of Sicily
(Ver. 2.2–8), and since Cicero cites this very passage (Orator 210) to prove
the usefulness of the epideictic style within real (i.e. forensic) oratory,
Quintilian can expect his readers to recall that context. It proves an earlier
point (2.1.11): that encomium and invective are useful within forensic
oratory. He also terms it a digression at 4.3.13 and 11.3.164.
With these exceptions Quintilian keeps to the usual schoolroommenu of
Greek and Roman gods and heroes, the type of encomium he described as
composed for show and not practical use (3.7.3). This disjunction between
adult use in Roman public life and schoolroom training recurs in his
more extensive account of deliberative oratory (3.8). The analysis and
examples are again geared to the schoolroom, but Quintilian explicitly
draws attention to its usefulness in later life: his pupils will be able to apply
what they have learnt cum aduocari coeperint in consilia amicorum, dicere
sententiam in senatu, suadere si quid consulet princeps (‘once they begin to
be called into consultations by friends or deliver an opinion in the senate
or advise the emperor if he consults them’, 3.8.70). The same will be true
for epideictic, and since it is a simpler genre, it is suitably studied before
the student progresses to deliberative and forensic. This may be why in 3.7
Quintilian does not mention the proem or the style of epideictic, reserving
them till he turns to deliberative and can compare the differences (3.8.7–9,
The basic form of eulogy, the default case as it were, is the praise of
famous men (3.7.10–18), and this includes praise of kings and emperors
(ut in regibus principibusque, 3.7.13).
I will compare especially Quintil-
ian’s main source, Cic. De Orat. 2.342–8, and Theon.
I have already
Theon 111 Sp. mentions the proem but gives no details.
Cf. Patillon and Bolognesi (1997) 152: ‘il sert de mod` ele ` a tous les autres’. It is the only type listed
in Suet. Gram. et Rhet. 25.8–9: ac uiros illustres laudare uel uituperare.
Differences in detail serve only to reinforce the impression of a homogeneous body of tradition.
Since it is so important in Pliny, take comparison: Quintilian omits it from 3.7 but he had already
linked it to encomium at 2.4.21 (it may be relevant that in 3.7 it does not fit easily into his three
chronological periods). Theon omits it from encomium, though he noted its usefulness at 61 Sp.,
but his next exercise is comparison, and that is said to use the topics of encomium (113 Sp.). At De
72 d. c. innes
summarized Cicero’s list at 342, and all three share the same standard head-
ings of origins and other external circumstances, things to do with the
body and things to do with the mind. This trio appears already in Ar.
Rhet. 1360b24–8, and Pliny deploys it at Pan. 82.6. But Quintilian adds
an overarching structure of a different set of three headings: things before,
during and after the person’s life. This is unusual in extant texts, though
hardly original;
it usefully recognizes that the standard list of separate
items is in its skeleton a biographical approach, a laudatory or invective
review of a life from beginning to end.
Quintilian lists the following:
(a) things before birth (i.e. origins): the traditional items of country, parents
and ancestors;
(b) things during life, listed under three headings:
(i) qualities of the mind (‘courage, justice, modesty and all the other
(ii) qualities of the body (e.g. beauty and strength), and
(iii) external circumstances (luck, power, wealth and influence);
(c) things after death (this is rarely available): honours such as deification,
decrees and public statues, the verdict of posterity and fame from
He emphasizes, as do Cicero andTheon, that we will praise origins, qualities
of the body and external circumstances not for their possession but as a
test of character in how they are used (so already Ar. Rhet. 1367b28–30;
Rhet. Alex. 35). Praise of the mind, virtue, is the true praise. In later writers
particularly this is often treated under the four cardinal virtues of courage,
justice, modesty and wisdom (the four already used by Agathon in Plato’s
Symposium), but this was not universal. Quintilian lists three of them but
implies a longer list. Theon 110 Sp. lists the four cardinal virtues but then
adds others, ‘piety, generosity, greatness of mind and the like’. Cicero, in
De Oratore 343–7, discusses a long and varied list.
For this, the most important part, praise of the mind, Quintilian out-
lines two approaches. Neither is intrinsically better than the other; the
Orat. 2.348 Cicero may list it either as a standard heading of eulogy in standard position at the end
(so already Isoc. Evag. 65–9) or as the next independent item as in Theon.
He shares some common source with Menander II (see below on 413 and 435 Sp.).
See Pernot (1986) on this crucial point.
He includes omens of birth: cf. e.g. Isoc. Evag. 21; Menander I 371.9 Sp. Omens and the like are also
among the embellishments (ornamenta rerum) in Cic. Part. 73. Pliny uses this topos in the omens
surrounding Trajan’s rise to power: see below.
Honours after death: already Isoc. Evag. 70–2; Ar. Rhet. 1367a1–2. But it is not in De Oratore and
gets only brief mention at Part. 82, Rhet. Her. 3.14, Theon 110 Sp. On Quintilian’s unusually lengthy
treatment, see above, p. 70.
The Panegyricus and rhetorical theory 73
choice depends on who is being praised and what the audience will find
most congenial. There may be a chronological narrative, beginning with
the early years, another standard item (cf. Isoc. Evag. 22; Cic. Part. 82), or
alternatively there may be a list of separate individual virtues, each in turn
supported by acts from the person’s life. Division by virtues is more usual,
but Theon is aware of the alternative, rejecting narrative as more appro-
priate to history, and Cicero (Part. 75) gives two chronological methods as
well as division under the virtues: we may move forward from the past or
move back from the present. Cicero had himself chosen a chronological
structure only a few years earlier in Philippics 2.44–119, an invective against
Antony from boyhood onwards (a puero, 44). He used the alternative, a list
of virtues, in the inset praise of Pompey at De Lege Manilia 28: the ideal
general has four qualities, namely knowledge of military matters, courage
(uirtus), authority (auctoritas) and good luck.
Quintilian’s emphasis on flexibility is repeated in Pliny’s advice to the
consul elect Severus (Ep. 6.27) on how Severus might handle his gratiarum
actio. Pliny recalls his own (never published) gratiarum actio as consul
elect. Trajan’s virtues give abundant material for praise, and Pliny chose to
highlight Trajan’s hatred of flattery (a key theme also in the Panegyricus).
But there can be different approaches, to suit personal taste and changed
circumstances, and Severus may find scope for new material in Trajan’s
recent exploits (the conquest of Dacia). Pliny chose from the emperor’s
personal nature, Severus might choose deeds of war. The importance given
here to different approaches is a useful corrective to any over-reliance on
the lists of theory. The need to adapt to the audience is also important,
and is again something Pliny will have learned from Quintilian: in Sparta,
for example, an interest in literature will be less honoured than in Athens,
and endurance and courage will appeal more (cf. Ar. Rhet. 1367b7–11); and
there are similar differences between individuals (Quint. Inst. 3.7.23–5).
When he discussed the progymnasmata, Quintilian postponed the treat-
ment of encomium and invective (2.4.20–1), and he gives the promised
fuller account when he discusses the whole epideictic genre (3.7). At the
end of his general preface (61 Sp.) Theon conversely calls his account of
encomium a simplified schoolroom version, reserving a precise techni-
cal analysis, :tyvcìc,ic, to its appropriate place.
Yet the shared links
See Steel (2001) 130–5; Rees (2007a) 140–1.
The Aristides Prolegomena (161.12–262.6 Lenz) claim that, at the end of his Progymnasmata, ‘Theon
the technical writer’ (:tyvc,pógc,) referred to an example of a subtype or partial class (utpiscv
tïoc,), like those of encomium, ‘kingship, wedding and funeral speeches and many others’. This
does not appear at the end of our text (now known from the Armenian), but it may be truncated. Or
74 d. c. innes
between Quintilian and Theon indicate that the basic theory of encomium
was already learnt at the earlier stage. Quintilian also cites no sources in
his treatment of the headings of encomium and invective (3.7.6–22), a sign
that the content was uncontroversial and unoriginal.
What then was this more advanced :tyvcìc,ic? The obvious answer
is the detailed handling of specific types of encomia. This is strongly
supported by a passage in a fifth-century Greek writer of progymnasmata,
Nicolaus (49 Felten).
He notes that the elementary schooling did not
tackle the headings for individual subtypes (tìon), speeches suitable for
occasions such as ‘weddings, address to a provincial governor, praise of
Apollo at the Sminthia festival, or any other festival speech or hymn to
a god’ (ttiûcìóuic, n tpcogcvn:isc, n ouivûicsc, n cììc, cìc, tti
tcp:cï, ìt,cutvc, ìc,c, n 0uvc, ûtcv, Nicolaus 49 Felten). Such treatises
survive only much later than Quintilian and Pliny, in Menander I and II
(third century) and Pseudo-Dionysius (not earlier than the late second
century). But similar texts will have been known already by the time of
Pliny and Quintilian.
Quintilian in fact already gives a separate analysis of two of these later
subtypes, the hymn and praise of places.
For both, he is our earliest
extant source but he was hardly the originator. He begins with the praise
of gods (3.7.7–9), a topic with abundant comparative material from the
conventions of hymns in poetry and Agathon’s praise of Love in Plato’s
He also outlines how to praise places like cities (3.7.26–7),
and some common Greek source will lie behind the essential similarity
with the later accounts of Menander I 344–67 Sp., Menander II 382–8
Sp. and Pseudo-Dionysius 257 U-R.
Quintilian tells us that it is han-
dled on similar lines to the praise of men, except that it has its own
individuating characteristics (illa propria), its position and its buildings.
Significantly, he already knows the principles underlying the subtypes
found in the later critics: identify the individuating topics (:c ìoicv or
:c ioióçcv . . . stgóìcicv), then adapt them as appropriate to the basic
there may be a garbled memory of Theon’s reference to the funeral speech (109 Sp.) and his promise
of a more technical work; Heath (2003) 152–3 is cautious. Even so, the subtypes of encomium need
not be attributed to Theon.
Elsewhere, on the nature and audience of epideictic, he does cite sources: 3.7.1, 23, 25, 28.
See Russell and Wilson (1981) xxxvi and Heath (2004) 220. Inclusion of the Sminthia festival
suggests Nicolaus knows or shares a common tradition with Menander II, who ends with this
example (437–46 Sp.).
But Quintilian need not know praise of place as an independent speech, since his example is an
inset praise, that of Sicily at Cic. Ver. 2.2–8 (see above).
On prose hymns see Pernot (1993) 216–38 and Russell (1990a) esp. 207–15.
Full discussion in Pernot (1993) 178–215.
The Panegyricus and rhetorical theory 75
encomiastic structure for praise of men. Compare the claim in Menander
I 332 Sp. that he will show ‘how the same headings underlie them all’.
We may have to wait for Menander II (368–77 Sp.) for the specific
praise of a ruler as such, the µcoiìisc, ìc,c,, but he was not original
and earlier theory was in any case influenced by Isocrates’ Evagoras and
Xenophon’s Agesilaus, each an example of a µcoiìisc, ìc,c,.
der II sets out the following list of headings: proem; country; family;
birth; early years; physical appearance (gúoi,); upbringing, education and
accomplishments; deeds (tpó¸ti,), illustrated according to the four cardi-
nal virtues of courage, justice, modesty and wisdom; good fortune (:úyn);
final comparison; epilogue, ending with prayers for his safety, long life and
succession by his descendants. The headings for origins and early years will
be adapted or omitted to fit the case. Deeds of war precede deeds of peace,
and for both there must always be division according to the virtues, each of
which must have an explicit introduction. Each heading should include a
comparison, and the final comparison should review the whole reign with
that of predecessors, not criticizing them but presenting the current ruler
as perfect.
The headings are presented in a fixed order, and phrases such as
‘next’, ‘add after this’, ‘then divide’ and ‘link this with’ abound, sometimes
with advice on how to provide a link.
Menander II gives a longer and more prescriptive list than Quintilian
but these are the familiar headings for the wider category, praise of famous
men. To produce a µcoiìisc, ìc,c, the basic scheme is just amplified with
details on how each heading is handled to fit an emperor. It is Menander
II’s first subtype and he presents a straightforward, full-scale model with no
specific context or occasion. In the case of the other subtypes the occasion
itself is important (as in Pliny) and brings with it a greater flexibility
since each has its own appropriate features and individuating heading (:c
ioióçcv . . . stgóìcicv). For example, if there is a festival, start with that
since it is the primary theme (424 Sp.). A speech of arrival must express
joy, while its other headings are the usual ones (385 Sp.). In the invitation
speech the reason for the invitation is central and you must keep repeating
Menander II is made much of in the influential study of Cairns (1972) 100–20. He analyses
Theocritus 17 (the ‘Encomium of Ptolemy’), a poem in praise of a living ruler, in terms of acceptance
or rejection by Theocritus of Menander’s headings. Against his over-schematic and anachronistic
approach, see Hunter (2003) 8–24 and Russell and Wilson (1981) xxxi–xxxiv.
Compare the speech on the arrival of a new governor: any comparison of the situation under his
predecessor should not criticize him but simply describe the previous suffering (378 Sp.). But what is
prudent for a Greek (cf. Dio 3.12) is different for Pliny, who openly compares Trajan and Domitian,
a contrast sanctioned by Domitian’s damnatio memoriae and its use a few years earlier in Tac. Agr.
76 d. c. innes
it (429 Sp.), and in the speech of an envoy pleading before the emperor a
single virtue, his moderation (giìcvûpctic), will be amplified throughout
(423 Sp.).
The advice of such repeated themes is an interesting parallel
for Pliny.
The order of the headings may also vary. The informal speech (ìcìió)
lacks the regular textbook structure (:ó¸i, . . . ts :tyvn,, 392 Sp.), and
on any theme you can order the virtues as you see fit and as suits the
sequence of your argument (380 Sp.). Strikingly, in the consolation speech
and the funeral monody (413, 435 Sp.), the need for emotion changes the
usual order and the sequence of the four virtues is replaced by the three
chronological periods, past, present and future.
You should begin with
the present since it will be more emotive to start with the age or manner
of death (435 Sp.). Clearly the very conspicuous fourfold division under
the virtues is too overtly artificial for such emotion. Panegyric also has
its own brief inset encomia, such as praise of a city (396, 417 Sp.), praise
of the emperor within the praise of a provincial governor (379, 415, 426,
429 Sp.), or praise of the emperor’s wife (376 Sp.). Compare Pliny’s praise
of Trajan’s wife and sister at Pan. 83–4.
The choice of speaker and the reason for that choice can also be signifi-
cant. There is little in Menander II, mostly on the more private occasions
of departures, weddings and funerals (399, 407, 419, 434 Sp.). But the
envoy bringing a golden crown to the emperor or pleading before him for
a city in trouble represents his city (179, 181 Sp.). The speaker issuing an
invitation to a governor will begin ‘The city has sent me’, and if he is a
man of some distinction (ó¸icuc) he will refer to himself (424, 426–7
Sp.). Pseudo-Dionysius is more interested in the choice of speaker and says
that in addressing a governor you should explain at the beginning why you
have been chosen and come back at the end to add some personal note
(273, 276 UR). It is a common topos in Greek panegyric proems, as often
in Aristides, and Pliny makes significant use of his own role as consul in
the proem and epilogue.
A relatively close following of Menander’s advice is found in Pseudo-
Aristides 35.
Like Pliny, the unknown author praises an emperor who
1iìcvûpctic is also variously translated as generosity and humanity. It is the virtue of a superior
who treats others fairly, and it covers much of the same range as Latin moderatio, including
accessibility. It is listed under justice at 385 Sp., perhaps also at 374 Sp. (but see Russell and Wilson
(1981) 279).
See above on chronological structure allowed by Quintilian and Cicero.
Author and date are disputed. Aristides can be excluded on linguistic grounds, and it is most often
dated to the third century (K¨ orner 2002). Librale (1994) links it to Trajan, but Trajan had no son and
the address to a son at the end cannot plausibly refer to Trajan himself, as Librale suggests (1276–8).
The Panegyricus and rhetorical theory 77
has become emperor by acclamation after a time of disasters. The proem
is conventional, with a setting at a sacred feast and general topoi on the
greatness of the theme and the speaker’s inadequacy (1–4). No details are
given of origins (country, family, birth) or physical appearance, and the
praise begins with his accession and life before he became emperor (5–
He achieved a smooth succession unmarked by the bloodshed of
predecessors, and he is a ruler worthy of ruling as one would expect from
his character, and as fits (11–13) his education and earlier career. He has all
the virtues (15). These are then treated in turn: justice (16–20), moderation
(giìcvûpctic, 21–6), modesty (27–9) andcourage combinedwithwisdom
(30–7). Each has its comparison: he surpasses Rhadamanthus and Aeacus in
justice (17), is unlike Pausanias in moderation (25), unlike Agamemnon and
Achilles in modesty (27–9) and like Themistocles defeating Xerxes (both
unnamed) in wisdom in war (33). Courage is the virtue which most reveals
an emperor (Menander II, 372 Sp.);
it is delayed from its usual initial
position to show the true exemplar of Homer’s praise of ‘the good king and
mighty spearsman’ (µcoiìtú, :’ ó,cûc, spc:tpc, :’ ciyun:n,, Hom. Il.
3.179) and provide a climax in exalted style as the emperor triumphs over
Germans and Parthians. The epilogue (38–9) is brief, praising his good
fortune and distinction (he surpasses all in wisdom, bravery, piety and
good fortune), and telling his son to follow his father’s example.
If we turn now to consider Pliny in the light of all this background,
epideictic theory encouraged rather more flexibility than Pseudo-Aristides
35 might suggest.
What it could give was a checklist of headings and topoi,
but an orator of Pliny’s standing and experience will then exercise his own
Knowledge of that theory also lets us in turn form a better
understanding of Pliny’s strategy and the reasons behind the organization
of his material. I stress organization since Pliny himself drew attention to
its structure and transitions (see above on Ep. 3.13.3–4).
A striking lack of specific detail makes it impossible to identify any specific emperor, and I incline
to see it as a real speech pruned or adapted to provide a generic model, and this pruning would
explain the clumsiness of the abrupt beginning and end. The setting is baldly ‘a feast and sacred
festival’ (1), but near the end it is clearly a festival to Demeter: ‘now festivals are more splendid and
feasts dearer to the gods, now the fire of Demeter is brighter and more sacred’ (37).
Pliny and Pseudo-Aristides both use a preliminary narrative to show that the emperor deserved to
become emperor, following the model of Xen. Ages. 1.5–2.
Cf. Tac. Agr. 39.2: military leadership is the imperial virtue (imperatoriam uirtutem).
There is also considerable variety in the panegyrics of Aristides: see Pernot (1993) esp. 321–31, a
comparison of Aristides 1 (Panathenaicus) and 26 (To Rome).
Quint. Inst. 6.5.1–2 notes the impossibility of teaching judgement. All he can do is guide judgement
by his advice on what to do or not do in specific cases. For Pseudo-Dionysius 363.11–20 U-R (of
argumentation), it shows a schoolmaster (,pcuuc:isc, óvnp) to follow the traditional headings
from alpha to omega.
78 d. c. innes
To anticipate, he deploys significant manipulation of the epideictic head-
ings to produce a closely interwoven web of key themes. These run through
the whole speech and are carefully prepared in the proem and brought
together at the end. Trajan is the ideal best emperor, optimus princeps, and
as such he has all the virtues. He shows courage in war, and among his
civic virtues particularly moderation. A series of antitheses dominate the
praise. He is not a god or tyrant but a fellow-citizen, ‘one of us’, sharing
and respecting the values of the senate (e.g. Pan. 2.3–4). He is favoured by
Jupiter but behaves like a traditional senator and consul. He is the best,
Domitian the worst of emperors. These various antitheses have been well
treated elsewhere,
and I will not rehearse them all here, but they concern
the central core of panegyric theory: the moral qualities. Instead I shall
focus on how Pliny helps build up that portrayal of Trajan as the ideal
emperor by his use of the other panegyric headings, proem and epilogue,
family, physical qualities, comparisons and good fortune.
Pliny chooses a roughly chronological structure (the alternative structure
we saw allowed by Cicero and Quintilian).
This allows greater flexibility
for repeating and interweaving key points at various stages of the nar-
rative, and it fits the constant antithesis of present and past, Trajan and
I would also suggest that it seems more natural and straight-
forward. Had Pliny chosen carefully separated individual headings and
a formal parade of specific virtues, his speech would have been overtly
artificial and instantly recognizable as panegyric. This might weaken his
claim to tell the truth without flattery to an emperor who dislikes flattery.
Apparent spontaneity is desirable (Pan. 3.1).
In an important and stimulating study, Bartsch discusses Pliny’s repeated
emphasis on truth and flattery in terms of a problemwhether praise can ever
be distinguished from flattery after the excessive and hypocritical adulation
of Domitian.
But literature of praise was too normal and acceptable a
literary form for such public anguish.
Pliny does not, I think, reveal a
credibility gap but simply exploits the contrast of truth and flattery to
See Fears (1981); Wallace-Hadrill (1981, 1982); Braund (1996, 1998) 58–68; Levene (1997); Rees (1998,
Add a wish to emulate Tacitus’ Agricola? Biography was a genre strongly influenced by epideictic,
and after the shared opening headings of origins and early life the main account was essentially
chronological, as in the Agricola and Plutarch’s Lives, or a list of independent headings, as in
Similarly (see above, p. 76) present sorrow and happy past shape the structure of funeral speeches
in Menander II.
Bartsch (1994) 148–87.
For contemporary contexts of praise, see Gibson in this volume.
The Panegyricus and rhetorical theory 79
serve his own rhetorical purposes. The content of imperial praise is, as
Pliny recognizes, conventional and banal (nota uulgata, Ep. 3.13.2), and
his problem is to find an original twist or color. A new and very different
emperor allows him to emphasize sincerity and lack of flattery, and by the
choice of this particular color, truthful speech is made a proof of Trajan’s
For example, Trajan’s refusal to allow private gratiarum actiones
(Pan. 4.2) is no mere detail: Pliny uses it to turn to address the emperor for
the first time, and he does so in a significant juxtaposition with what will be
Trajan’s prime virtue, moderation, Caesar Auguste, moderate (Pan. 4.3). A
standard proem topos becomes a major theme, and this is why Pliny repeats
it, deploying it later to mark out important transitional points (53–5, 71–5).
The proem begins from the occasion, audience and speaker: an address
to the senate by the consul as its representative. Pliny emphasizes the
traditional Roman nature of his initial prayer, and links speaker, senate and
the whole state in offering thanks to the best of emperors, optimus princeps
The proem introduces many of the major themes, the role of
Jupiter, the contrast of truth and flattery, and particularly the emperor’s
virtues. Right from the beginning he is set up as optimus princeps (1.2) and
contrasted with the unnamed Domitian: his courage and a sense of duty,
clemency and moderation entitle him to be called optimus (2.6), and, in a
longer list of virtues and contrasting vices (3.4), he earns honest praise for
civic virtues like moderation and, in final position, energy and courage.
These two lists of virtues also serve a structural purpose. Courage is first
and singled out on its own at 2.6, and it ends the list at 3.4.
Pliny begins
his narrative with Trajan’s military career, with particular emphasis on
his courage and energy (5–19).
Only then does he turn to Trajan’s civic
virtues, especially moderation, as Trajan arrives in Rome.
The consulship is another major theme introduced in the proem and
used in the overall structure. It serves as a linking thread throughout 56–
79, particularly the extended treatment of Trajan’s third consulship. Trajan
shows moderation by his respect for the consulship (and by extension for
the senate and good constitutional government) in his behaviour both as
consul himself and towards those he appointed consul. But it is particularly
See above, p. 73 for the same strategy in another gratiarum actio (Ep. 6.27); for Trajan’s dislike of
flattery cf. Cass. Dio 1.26, 3.2.
Prayer also ends the speech. Compare Dem. De Cor. 1 and 324 for this conventional topos, and for
concluding prayers e.g. Menander II 377 Sp. Pliny’s initial prayer also echoes Cicero, who as consul
similarly began his Pro Murena.
Courage is also set apart from the rest in the epilogue, optime principum fortissime imperatorum
(‘best of emperors and most courageous of generals’, 91.1).
But also moderation: see 16.1–2.
80 d. c. innes
prominent at the end (90–5) when Pliny returns to his own role as consul
in a double epilogue, first (90–3) the traditional personal debt of the two
consuls and then (94.1–95.5) a final prayer to Jupiter for the emperor’s
safety (94) and a final address to the senate with his personal pledge of
service as consul (95). Yet even in the more personal details of his career
Pliny emphasizes that things are no longer as they were under Domitian
(90.5–6, 92.4, implicitly at 93.1), and at the very end of the speech he links
himself to his recurrent contrast of the best and worst of emperors: ‘I love
the best of emperors as much as I was hated by the worst’ (95.4).
A proem alerting us to the main themes of the speech seems unusual for
Pliny may have been influenced by Cicero’s invective Philippic
II, which followed his usual forensic and deliberative practice. As Cicero
advised in De Oratore, you should begin from the very entrails of the case,
ex ipsius uisceribus causae (2.318–19).
After the proem we might expect origins, physical appearance and early
years. Pliny follows rhetorical theory in showing that it is their use, not
their possession that matters, and the only true praise is praise of the
mind. But he avoids the usual series of independent early sections, weaving
them instead into his wider narrative. On physical appearance Pliny is
very brief,
but places it conventionally enough near the beginning (4.7).
Trajan is a consistent whole, embodying the inner qualities but also the
outer qualities of a true emperor. He is tall and dignified, he has a fine head
and noble face, he has the strength and vigour appropriate to his age, and
his premature white hairs add a dignity which shows divine favour. But his
strength then becomes a recurrent theme, both literal and symbolic. Thus
after his adoption the elderly Nerva leans on him, putting the weight of
empire on his shoulders, drawing on his youth and strength (8.3–4), and
these symbolically strong shoulders recur in the speech (at 10.6, 57.5, 82.6).
It is not in the relatively detailed list of proem topoi in Rhet. Her. 3.11–12, and Pernot (1993) 303
cites only Menander II 378 Sp. There a speech welcoming a new governor may begin ‘You have
arrived with favourable omens from the emperor, brilliant like a ray of the sun sent down from on
high.’ Pernot takes this to anticipate a tripartite structure: the occasion, praise of emperor, praise
of governor. But this gives too much weight to a simple proem topos, a conventional comparison
between governor and emperor. Quint. Inst. 3.8.7–9 notes only that epideictic proems can be very
loosely relevant.
Menander II 372 Sp. is also brief and mentions only beauty at birth. But beauty fits a young man
(cf. Isoc. Evag. 22), and when at 2.6 the unnamed Domitian is acclaimed for beauty and Nero for
his actor’s gestures and voice (cf. Dio 3.134), these are inappropriate for an emperor. Bartsch (1994)
276 n. 18 wrongly sees a contradiction between 2.6 and 4.7: Trajan has the right physical qualities,
Domitian (and Nero) the wrong.
Cf. e.g. Plut. Cic. 3.7, Ant. 4.1–3. In biography it may appear late, as in Tac. Agr. 44.2 and regularly
in Suetonius (except for Titus 3), but in early position, as in Pliny, it seems to be linked to character.
Cf. Wardman (1967).
The Panegyricus and rhetorical theory 81
Since Trajan displays courage in military service in his rise to becoming
emperor, Pliny’s narrative follows the traditional order of placing war before
peace and praising courage first of the virtues (9–13).
His narrative of
Trajan as a soldier neatly picks up on his physical qualities. Height, strength,
vigour and stamina mark him out (13.1–2), and, deftly introducing the
traditional topic of early years (14–15), Pliny records Trajan’s military career
as a youth when he already displayed the same characteristics of strength
and energy.
On the march he was always in the lead, forcing speed on
all, and stuck in camp he would gallop off for exercise (14.3). Towards the
end of the speech, his courage, vigour and stamina are again displayed in
his recreations of dangerous hunting and sailing (81–2). Trajan’s energetic
recreations show his moral worth, in contrast to the gambling, sexual
licence and luxury of so many of his predecessors (81.9). At this point,
within the wider topic of the modesty of Trajan’s private life (81–4),
Pliny makes explicit the panegyric topos that physical strength and external
qualities (luck and wealth) do not deserve praise unless the mind is in
control (82.6). Outer and inner strength, private and public life all match
and contribute to present the ideal emperor. Domitian, in careful contrast,
is a coward afraid even of calm waters (82.1), he is pale as a woman and
the red colouring on his face only masks his shamelessness (48.4),
Trajan shows his sincerity with tears and a modest blush (2.8, 73.4).
Family is also made a unifying thread. If there was no distinguished
ancestry, the whole topic could be omitted (Menander II 369–71 Sp.; cf.
Pseudo-Aristides 35), and Pliny ignores Trajan’s Spanish origins: it was no
basis for praise that Trajan was the first emperor to come from outside
Italy. Pliny is also brief in praise of Trajan’s birth-father, noting only in
passing at 9.2 that he had noble birth, was of consular rank and won a
triumph (the same points recur at 58.3).
Instead Pliny highlights Trajan’s
peaceful accession by adoption and divine favour (5.1). Nerva is the father
who provides the usual heading of family, and two sets of omens take
the place of the conventional omens of birth, confirming the favour of
Capitoline Jupiter (invoked already in the proem). Omens from Jupiter
surround Trajan’s departure to war (5.2–4) and he is adopted by Nerva in
The date of delivery excludes Trajan’s Dacian triumph but Pliny introduces it as an imagined future
Cf. Menander II 372 Sp., which cites Isoc. Evag. 22–3.
See Braund (1996) and Rees (1998) 79–83. Accessibility and even humility mark out the good ruler,
as in Trajan’s modest entry into Rome for the first time as emperor (Pan. 22–4).
Cf. Tac. Agr. 45.2. Red colouring is an attractive feature of the proposed bridegroom cited at p. 68
in Plin. Ep. 1.14.
They are also what Agricola achieved (Tac. Agr. 44.3).
82 d. c. innes
the Temple of Jupiter, supported by a further omen, the arrival of laurels
of victory (7–8). At the end Pliny returns to this same topic of omens and
adoption, invoking Capitoline Jupiter to give Trajan a son or guide him to
adopt a son similarly worthy to be adopted in his temple on the Capitoline
Pliny does not use Trajan’s family name until the very end of his praise of
the emperor, whenit appears twice inclosely following significant positions.
At 88.4–10 the senate confers the new title of optimus (‘the best’), and with
it the family name Traianus joins and surpasses the aristocratic senatorial
families of the republic, Piso Frugi, Laelius Sapiens and Metellus Pius.
The title also outdoes that of the emperor Augustus, since optimus is the
title of Jupiter Optimus and can be the true title only of the good emperor.
Then at 89.1–2 Pliny turns to invoke the adoptive father, ‘deified Nerva’
(diue Nerua), alongside the birth-father, ‘father Trajan’ (pater Traiane), in
friendly rivalry over the glory he gave them: the son won a triumph for
one (a detail picking up 14.1) and deified the other. This best of emperors
is thus presented in a dual role, a Traianus who recalls the heroes of the
Roman past, and son of a god, a quasi-divine figure of glory.
Comparisons are regular in panegyric (cf. Menander II), sometimes in
isolated single references, as in Pseudo-Aristides 35, and sometimes a major
theme, as in Isocrates’ Panathenaicus. In Pliny’s presentation of Trajan two
are particularly important, and both highlight Trajan as optimus princeps,
the parallel with Jupiter Optimus and the contrast with Domitian, pessimus
princeps (Pan. 92.4, 94.3, 95.5).
Pliny even draws attention to its traditional
use with the comment that panegyric is insufficiently pleasing without
comparison (53.2). He also shows selective care in his less conspicuous
comparisons. Thus the comparison of Trajan to three republican families
near the end (88.6) balances a list of three near the beginning (13.4), where
Trajan displays the same courage as the families of Fabricius, Scipio and
Camillus, re-embodying Roman ancestral tradition and courage (patrio
more patria uirtute, 13.5). Pliny also avoids naming Greek heroes, perhaps
to link Trajan closely with true Roman values, but he compares Trajan to
the unnamed Heracles near the beginning and again at the end (14.5, 82.7),
a delicate hint that Trajan too will earn deification.
The three families embody three virtues, modesty, wisdom and piety: the title optimus embraces
these and every virtue. For more on historical exemplarity in the speech, see Henderson in
this volume.
For comparison with Zeus/Jupiter, cf. e.g. Theocritus 17.1–4 (Ptolemy), Cic. Pro Rosc. Am. 131 (Sulla)
or Hor. Carm. 3.5.1–4 (Augustus).
The Panegyricus and rhetorical theory 83
One final panegyric heading: good fortune, felicitas, traditionally placed
towards the end of a speech (Menander II 376 Sp.), and an example of
the external qualities like wealth, which, along with physical qualities,
rhetorical theory subordinated to the moral virtues, as Pliny himself asserts
at 82.6 (see above). Similarly at 74.1 the senate’s acclamation of Trajan as
felix recognizes not an external benefit but his mind, and at 88.5 the title of
optimus is superior to felix, since felix recognizes luck, not character (non
moribus sed fortunae). Yet again Pliny openly manipulates a conventional
topic of praise to present Trajan as the ideal emperor with the right moral
character to be optimus.
As optimus princeps Trajan has an exemplary advisory role for the future,
warning future emperors in advance (53.5 praemonere; cf. 20.6, 59.2, 63.1,
73.6, 75.5). This is what Pliny claimed for his speech (Plin. Ep. 3.18.3
praemonerentur); it is a standard epideictic point (e.g. Isoc. Evag. 73–7);
and again it is a theme woven through the speech.
But does Pliny also advise Trajan? This whole issue is complicated by the
multiple addressees, whether Trajan (the object of praise), the senate (the
formal addressee) or the wider readership of the published speech (Plin.
Ep. 3.18.9 omnibus scripsi). If Gorgias and Isocrates praise pan-Hellenism
at a Greek festival, the underlying message to their audience is the need
for Greek unity against a background of disunity. Pliny’s portrayal of a
princeps with divine sanction and all the right moral qualities indicates
there has been a need for such an emperor after the rule of Domitian. It
does not tell us if Pliny intends advice for Trajan’s future behaviour, and
Pliny denies any advisory role (Ep. 3.18.2). He does use verbal forms of
advice, but only in the form of encouragement to continue similarly (43.3,
45.6, 61.10, 62.9). This can be a form of advice that conceals criticism; it
might be the proper caution required in advising rulers;
and the speech
has also been interpreted as a tactful way of telling Trajan what the senate
would like from him in the future.
But it is at least equally likely that
Pliny knew and made public what the emperor himself wished to be said
by way of reassurance.
Imperial ideology and senatorial advice are not
On indirect advice and covert criticism see Ahl (1984); Schouler (1986); Bartsch (1994) on Pliny.
Basic ancient texts: Demetrius, On Style 287–95, Quint. Inst. 9.2.66 (writing under Domitian, he is
significantly silent on contemporary politics) and Pseudo-Dionysius 295–358 U-R.
E.g. Syme (1958a) 31–42, 57–8 ‘a senatorial manifesto’; Braund (1998) 66.
Fears (1981) 910–24 notes the close links between Pliny and the reliefs on the arch of Trajan near
Beneventum, such as Trajan’s arrival on foot in Rome and the figures of Freedom, Concord and
Moderation. Fears argues also that the use of the title optimus is aired and tried out first in Pliny
before it appears on coins.
84 d. c. innes
easily distinguished and I see no cogent internal evidence.
Pliny himself
gives only praise, and I have analysed the speech as such, highlighting his
adaptation of traditional panegyric theory to the praise of a very Roman
ideal ruler.
Katherine Clarke reminds me of the varying interpretations of the senate’s praise of the emperor
in the Tiberian decrees (e.g. Cooley 1998). I should like to thank her and Donald Russell for their
helpful comments.
chapter 5
Ciceronian praise as a step towards
Pliny’s Panegyricus
Gesine Manuwald
The Panegyricus is rightly regarded as an important specimen of early
imperial panegyric: it is frequently singled out as a special text, defined
as the only extant oration from ancient Rome between Cicero’s Philippics
and the imperial panegyrics of the third and fourth centuries.
As it is the
only surviving example of a panegyric oration from the early empire, it
is sometimes even seen as inaugurating a new literary genre in that this
speech became a paradigmatic model that started off a series of imperial
prose panegyrics.
The claim to novelty with respect to Pliny’s Panegyricus
is certainly true in the sense that, obviously, imperial panegyric did not
exist prior to the establishment of the principate and Pliny’s text is the
earliest extant specimen in prose dating to this period. However, this
focus on new features and later developments may not be sufficient for
a full assessment of Pliny’s Panegyricus. For it is a priori unlikely that
any social and cultural customs or the corresponding literary texts in this
period were entirely newcreations rather than developments of conventions
already established in Rome. Indeed, panegyric seems to have existed in
Roman society from its inception, appearing in a variety of contexts that
are not even restricted to the spoken or written word (cf. e.g. ancestors’
masks, triumphal processions). In textual form panegyric may feature in
self-contained pieces or as an element in almost any literary genre in
both poetry and prose. The best-known examples from early Rome are
perhaps the laudationes funebres and the shadowy carmina conuiualia; from
later periods praise of patrons or dedications of poetic works come to
Above all, panegyric acquired a generic identity in separate, self-
contained prose texts as a form of epideictic oratory (according to ancient
See Roche, pp. 4–5 in this volume.
Cf. e.g. K¨ uhn (1985) 1–2; Morford (1992) 578; Fantham (1999) 229; and Rees in this volume.
86 gesine manuwald
rhetorical theory), which
is perhaps best regarded as including any discourse, oral or written, that does not
aimat a specific action or decision but seeks to enhance knowledge, understanding,
or belief, often through praise or blame, whether of persons, things, or values.
Numerous examples of such panegyric can be found in the Ciceronian
corpus: although there are hardly any Ciceronian speeches that could be
classified as ‘epideictic/panegyric’ in their entirety, elements of praise are
contained in most of his speeches even if they would primarily be defined
as ‘judicial’ or ‘deliberative’. This result is not entirely surprising since
in Rome arguments in both court cases and political conflicts tended to
depend not only on the presentation of facts, but also on that of the
characters of the people involved.
Cicero’s precedent must be borne in mind when one turns to Pliny the
Younger: in addition to influences outside the sphere of Roman oratory
and rhetoric, Cicero’s methods of applying praise and the ideals he tried to
propagate thereby were certainly among the foundations on which Pliny
could build when he delivered his inaugural speech as suffect consul. As his
letters reveal, Pliny had enjoyed a thorough rhetorical education, counting
Quintilian among his teachers (e.g. Ep. 2.14.9, 6.6.3), and was used to
discussing questions concerning oratory with his literary acquaintances
(e.g. Ep. 1.20, 5.8); above all, he regarded Cicero as his primary model in
the fields of both oratory and epistolography.
This chapter, therefore, will try to provide the background for assessing
Pliny’s Panegyricus as the result of a preceding development of epideictic
rhetoric at Rome, focusing particularly on the situation in the Ciceronian
period and the impact of Cicero’s works on Pliny.
Only after looking
at earlier examples can it become entirely clear what Pliny’s novelty or
radical changes could consist in or how he might have developed generic
traditions and adapted them to new circumstances.
Hence some aspects
Cf. Kennedy (1997) 45.
See below, p. 98, and cf. generally Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 2–3: ‘with the rise of powerful individuals
at Rome in the first century b.c.e. came praise of the living, and Cicero himself turned his talents to
this field. His Pro Lege Manilia (De Imperio Cn. Pompei) and Pro Marcello exercised a great influence
on subsequent Latin oratory.’ Still, Pro Marcello was certainly not designed as a model for Pliny (but
so K¨ uhn (1985) 2).
Obviously, for both Cicero and Pliny, all that survive are the written (and reworked) versions of
orations actually delivered, with revisions presumably being less extensive in Cicero than in Pliny (cf.
Plin. Ep. 3.13, 3.18). But as the situation is the same for both authors, and they will have published
speeches they thought appropriate for the respective occasions in terms of style and content, this
problem may be disregarded in this context.
In the context of research on forerunners of Pliny’s Panegyricus, Braund (1998) calls Cicero’s Caesarian
speeches ‘proto-panegyrics’ (55) or ‘earliest Roman imperial panegyrics’ (68) or ‘prototypes of Roman
Ciceronian praise 87
and examples of panegyric in Cicero will be discussed here, leading to
suggestions on ways and contexts in which he used this mode of expression
and on how he might have developed it over time and according to varying
situations. In the context of the present volume, this chapter does not
aim at a comprehensive overview of Ciceronian panegyric; instead it will
focus on examples from Cicero’s oratorical and rhetorical works that seem
particularly relevant to Pliny’s Panegyricus with respect to occasion, aim or
On this basis the chapter will go on to discuss possible similarities
and connections between the Ciceronian examples and Pliny’s Panegyricus,
closing with a brief conclusion on Cicero’s role in the development of
Roman prose panegyric.
panegyric in cicero
Cicero’s attitude to praise in public life
Being praised for achievements, winning glory and being remembered
among one’s contemporaries and eventually by posterity was one of Cicero’s
chief concerns for himself throughout most of his life. That is one of
the reasons why, for instance, he wrote works on his consulship and its
aftermath, while he wished that accomplished writers would do the same
(e.g. Fam. 1.9.23, 5.12, Arch. 28). Although Cicero might have been more
concerned about his renown than other Romans, consideration of this
issue must have been an established and acceptable feature of society;
imperial panegyric’ (71) and Cicero’s De Lege Manilia ‘proto-imperial panegyric’ (74–5). She thereby
highlights similarities between these speeches and later imperial ones, while they are not placed within
a broader development or related to their republican context. That Cicero’s Pro Marcello was an
important source for Pliny’s Panegyricus had already been observed by Suster (1890), even though he
interpreted this relationship as the great Cicero having unwittingly inaugurated the decline of Roman
oratory. On the other hand Morford (1992) 578–9 denied that Pro Marcello was a true forerunner of
the Panegyricus, while other scholars have confirmed this relationship: Fantham (1999) 228 sees Pro
Marcello as ‘a double precedent, being both a speech of thanks given in and for the senate, and the
first such speech to an autocrat’. Radice (1968) 170 thinks that ‘the prototype for the treatment of the
subject is that of Cicero in the Pro Marcello’. Levene (1997) esp. 82–3 observes a ‘continuity of theme
between Pro Marcello and Pliny: more than a century of the development of Roman ruler-cult does
not seem to have made a fundamental difference to the way in which rulers are praised’.
The rhetorical genre of epideictic includes both ‘praise’ and its opposite, ‘blame’ (e.g. Rhet. Her. 3.10;
Quint. Inst. 3.7.1). Since what is at issue in this context is the possible effect on Pliny’s Panegyricus,
this chapter will focus on ‘praise’ and ‘panegyric’, which ancient rhetoricians regarded as the more
important element (on the relationship between epideictic and panegyric cf. Cic. De Orat. 2.341–9,
Part. 10, 70; Quint. Inst. 3.3.14, 3.4.12–14). For some aspects of praise and blame in Roman oratory
cf. Smith and Covino (2011).
It is hoped that this study might thereby also make a contribution towards a history of ancient
epideictic oratory, which does not yet exist (cf. Carey (2007) 250: ‘A dedicated study of the evolution
of epideictic oratory is still awaited’). For an overview of Greek epideictic oratory, cf. Carey (2007).
88 gesine manuwald
otherwise it would have been even more difficult for Cicero to talk about
his successes and his desire for them not to be forgotten.
Yet Cicero not only voiced such intentions for himself, but also presented
the desire for glory, defined as ‘someone’s widespread reputation combined
with praise’ (Inv. 2.166 gloria est frequens de aliquo fama cum laude), as
a general aim, using it as an argument in various public contexts: on
several occasions he identified winning glory in exchange for virtuous
achievements as a main goal (e.g. Arch. 14, 26). Cicero even described
praise and glory as the only reward sought by virtue and the sole motivation
for outstanding achievements, possibly involving great dangers (e.g. Arch.
28–9, Rab. Perd. 29, Phil. 5.35). His engagement with the issue is also
demonstrated by a treatise De Gloria, written towards the end of his life,
which has not survived (cf. Att. 15.27.2, 16.2.6, Off. 2.31).
This brief selection shows that Cicero regarded being praised and win-
ning glory as important elements in public life, which spur people on and
may function as arguments and influences.
This raises the questions of
how these features materialized in the context of the Roman republic and
what role they played in republican oratory. An attempt at approaching
these on the basis of Cicero’s preserved orations will be preceded by a
brief look at the theoretical background, since in the case of Cicero, who
was a versatile and prolific orator as well as a writer of rhetorical treatises,
praise/panegyric makes its appearance in both theory and practice.
Discussion of praise and rhetoric in Cicero
Given the importance that Cicero attached to praise as a motivation in
public life, it may come as a slight surprise that he gave less space to
the discussion of its rhetorical equivalent, the epideictic or demonstrative
genre of oratory, than one might expect.
But this seems to agree with the
conventions of both ancient rhetorical theory and Roman society.
In what he says about epideictic, Cicero basically followed the ancient
rhetorical tradition first attested in Aristotle (cf. Arist. Rh. 1.3; cf. also
Rhet. Alex. 1.1, 1.3). In this tradition, there are three types of ora-
tory; the third of these is the demonstrative/epideictic, also called the
However, Cicero’s position became more qualified towards the end of his life, when he, probably
influenced by contemporary political conditions, acknowledged that glory could be misunderstood
and that an individual’s passion for glory might ruin the republic (cf. Cic. Off., esp. 1.68; on this
issue cf. Long (1995)).
Cf. e.g. Cic. De Orat. 2.43–7, 2.341–9, Inv. 2.177–8, Part. 69–82, Orat. 37–42; cf. also Rhet. Her.
3.10–15; Quint. Inst. 3.7.
Ciceronian praise 89
eulogistic/laudatory/encomiastic after its most noteworthy element (e.g.
De Orat. 2.43, 2.65, 3.109, 3.211, Orat. 37, Part. 10, 70, Inv. 1.7; cf. Quint.
Inst. 3.4).
Yet elements of all three forms may occur in the same speech;
in particular, praise and deliberation could come close together, differing
only in the form of expression (e.g. Arist. Rh. 1.9; Quint. Inst. 3.7.28).
When the subject of epideictic oratory comes up in Cicero’s main rhetor-
ical treatise, De Oratore (55 bce), the discussion is rather brief (De Orat.
2.43–7, 2.341–9) and regarded as unnecessary by the speaker, the orator M.
Antonius, since this type of oratory presents no difficulties and is not much
used. Still, Antonius proceeds to list features that might be mentioned in
laudatory speeches: less emphasis should be placed on characteristics that
are bestowed by fortune; instead the judicious use of these features and
the presence of virtues should be highlighted, with particular, appropriate
praise for each virtue and great deeds (cf. also Inv. 2.177–8). The general
rule is that:
sumendae autem res erunt aut magnitudine praestabiles aut novitate primae aut
genere ipso singulares. (Cic. De Orat. 2.347)
[t]he accomplishments we choose to speak about ought to be either outstanding
in importance, or unprecedented in their novelty, or unique by their very nature.
Elsewhere it is added that laudatory speeches demand a particular style,
as all oratorical genres require different styles (De Orat. 3.211). As the epi-
deictic genre is not concerned with proving things, but rather with narrat-
ing achievements and influencing emotions, its style must be particularly
elaborate and copious (Part. 69, 71–3, Orat. 37–8).
Hence it is clear that Cicero was fully aware that there existed such a
rhetorical genre as epideictic oratory and that certain topics and styles were
especially suitable for it. Since he also suggested that this type of oratory was
rarely practised on its own in Rome and less important in Roman public
life than other forms, it is all the more revealing to see when the epideictic
genre was used in republican oratory and what functions it fulfilled.
Forms and functions of Ciceronian praise in practice
Among the Ciceronian speeches preserved and the titles and contexts
known for his lost or fragmentary ones, there is none that could
On the genres of rhetoric cf. e.g. Kennedy (1997); on rhetorical theory and panegyric, see Innes
in this volume.
Translation: May and Wisse (2001).
90 gesine manuwald
unreservedly be called ‘epideictic’ in its entirety.
And as for other ora-
tors from the republican period, there are a number of fragments and
testimonia pointing to funeral orations,
but none that clearly indicates
laudatory orations in other contexts. This does not mean that epideictic
was non-existent in practice. In fact, it occurs rather frequently in speeches
that would primarily be assigned to the judiciary or deliberative genres,
yet include epideictic aspects or passages (cf. also Rhet. Her. 3.15; Quint.
Inst. 3.4.11).
This fusion of oratorical genres might already suggest that
in Roman society the employment of panegyric tended to be political and
rarely merely celebratory.
The Ciceronian speech that is mentioned most frequently as an oration
exhibiting markedly epideictic features and even some imperial characteris-
tics is Pro Marcello, delivered in the senate in 46 bce (cf. Fam. 4.4.4, 4.11).
Despite its title, this oration is not a forensic, but rather a deliberative
speech in terms of setting and addressees:
Cicero thereby expressed his
and the senate’s gratitude to Caesar for having saved and reinstituted M.
Claudius Marcellus (cos. 51 bce). As the decision had already been made by
the time of Cicero’s speech, he praised the person affected only marginally
(Marc. 4).
Cicero’s lost and fragmentary speeches include examples of the limited type of epideictic, mentioned
by Antonius in De Oratore, namely character evidence (Testimonium in P. Clodium Pulchrum,
Testimonium in A. Gabinium). His speech In Senatu in Toga Candida contra C. Antonium et L.
Catilinam Competitores could be regarded as an oration of self-praise and blame of others. Further,
there are addresses to citizens or rulers of foreign towns or nations (Ad Ciues Hennae, In Concilio ad
Ariobarzanem III, Regem Cappadociae), which could be classified as ‘epideictic’ in a broad sense; yet
they seem not to have been focused on extensive praise of the people addressed or other individuals
Cf. Q. Fabius Maximus Cunctator, Laudatio Funebris Quinti Filii; M. Claudius Marcellus, Laudatio
Funebris M. Claudii Marcelli Patris; Q. Caecilius L. f. Metellus, Laudatio Funebris L. Caecilii Metelli
Patris; Q. Fabius Maximus Allobrogicus, Laudatio P. Scipionis Africani Minoris; Q. Lutatius Catulus,
Laudatio Funebris Popiliae Matris; T. Pomponius Atticus, Laudatio Funebris Caeciliae Matris; C.
Iulius Caesar, Laudatio Iuliae Amitae, Laudatio Corneliae Uxoris; M. Iunius Brutus, Laudatio Ap.
Claudii Pulchri, Laudatio M. Porcii Catonis Uticensis; M. Antonius triumvir, Laudatio Funebris C.
Iulii Caesaris. See the conspectus operis in Malcovati (1976).
For some thoughts on Cicero’s exploitation of the epideictic mode for forensic and political purposes
cf. also Dugan (2001). Standard formulae of praise in referring to people and institutions (e.g. uir
clarissimus) have been disregarded here since they have become conventional and do not carry a
particular meaning.
Cf. also Braund (1998) 55: ‘Moreover, it [i.e. Latin panegyric] is characteristically rooted in highly
specific socio-political occasions.’
Cicero’s other ‘Caesarian speeches’ (Pro Ligario, Pro Rege Deiotaro) are similar to some extent in
that Caesar’s reaction is crucial, but they do not contain as much obvious panegyric because of their
different aims and circumstances. Hence Pro Marcello will serve as the most significant example in
this context. On these speeches cf. Gotoff (1993, 2002).
Cf. e.g. Gotoff (1993) 11–12, (2002) 219; Levene (1997) 67.
Ciceronian praise 91
Instead, Cicero used the occasion for a return to politics after an enforced
withdrawal during the preceding civil war (e.g. Marc. 1–3, Fam. 4.4.3–4), to
make a political statement and to commit Caesar to a ‘republican’ policy.
For these purposes Cicero praised Caesar for his military achievements,
exclusively due to Caesar’s outstanding abilities (e.g. Marc. 5–10, 28), andfor
a variety of moral and intellectual virtues, including humanity, clemency,
moderation, generosity, magnanimity, prudence and wisdom (e.g. Marc.
1, 19).
Thus Cicero tried to ensure a positive reception of his speech and
to establish a favourable attitude to his own future activities on the part of
Caesar (cf. Fam. 4.4.4).
This provided the basis for a more wide-reaching political aim: Cicero
could not deny that Caesar had become all-powerful in Rome, and he
therefore did not argue, for instance, for a complete return to ‘pre-
Caesarian republican conditions’. Instead, Cicero pointed out that the
republic depended on Caesar’s welfare and efforts or, in other words, that
its survival was guaranteed by Caesar. He emphasized that Caesar had pre-
served Marcellus for the res publica, that this action was brought about by
Caesar together with the senate, that Caesar aimed at keeping the con-
stitution and that he placed the authority of the senate and the dignity
of the res publica above personal resentments (e.g. Marc. 3, 9, 13). Cicero
thereby tried to commit Caesar to being active for the benefit of all citizens
rather than for his personal advantage, while he insisted on the impor-
tant role of the senate, argued for maintaining the republican constitution
as governing even Caesar, and outlined expectations for the future in a
reunited community under Caesar’s leadership (e.g. Marc. 18, 20, 21–6,
Cf. also Gotoff (2002) 219, 234–5.
Generally, Caesar’s clementia is highlighted as the virtue emphasized by Cicero in this oration.
Rochlitz (1993) 104, 113, however, argues that this may be the case for the other two Caesarian
speeches, but that in Pro Marcello Caesar’s sapientia is more important. Yet it seems problematic
to single out one virtue to the exclusion of others, while it is true that Cicero also stresses Caesar’s
sapientia, as the underlying aim of the speech is to argue for a comprehensive policy (cf. Gotoff
(2002) 226, 229).
Ancient scholia on this oration mention that many interpret it as figurative, i.e. as expressing blame
rather than praise, which the scholiast rejects (cf. Schol. Gronov. D ad Cic. Marc., pp. 295–6 Stangl).
There are indeed no indications in the text that suggest such a reading, and praise combined with
protreptic is more conducive to Cicero’s cause in the situation (see also n. 22 below).
Cicero’s aim of exerting political influence on Caesar in Pro Marcello is obvious (on this issue cf.
e.g. Cipriani (1977); Rambaud (1984); Gotoff (2002) esp. 219, 226, 234–5); whether Cicero was even
voicing a clear summons to tyrannicide, however, seems more doubtful (but so Dyer (1990); cf. also
Morford (1992) 578; contra Dyer’s ironic reading cf. Levene (1997) 68–9; for some critical thoughts
cf. also Gotoff (2002) 223).
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So this speech is epideictic as it praises an individual, but at the same
it is highly political. Cicero used thanks and praise for a past deed, which
he presented as paradigmatic of Caesar’s attitude to the senate (e.g. Marc.
13, 33), in order to induce Caesar to follow a policy in future which Cicero
approved of. Paradigmatically, praise is thus combined with protreptic,
providing a kind of ‘speculum principis’.
Yet, while accepting Caesar’s
superior position, Cicero’s speech remains republican in outlook and aims;
this is evident, for instance, in the terminology he uses to talk about the
senate and the republic as well as in his attitude in addressing himself
formally to the senators.
At the same time it is true that this speech
exhibits a high level of praise directed to a single individual who is to
be influenced and that it shares these features with ‘imperial epideictic
speeches’. Yet, apart from the fact that such a description does not give a
full characterization, this frequently highlighted oration is not an isolated
example, but can rather be placed within a continuous development, which
may shed light on some of its particular characteristics.
From its earliest beginnings Roman oratory had known epideictic ele-
ments, for instance in funeral orations. Although scholars have argued that
praise in such orations operates differently and Cicero’s Antonius disre-
gards them as not being proper oratorical occasions (De Orat. 2.341),
basic structures and the role in public life are similar: even praise of the
deceased can be exploited in everyday politics. As for standard types of
orations, praise of individuals can be found in almost every Roman speech.
In forensic speeches, for instance, orators praise their client’s character and
behaviour and denigrate the opponent. This type of praise is intended to
influence the jury and not the person praised, and it is not to spur on the
people praised before or after the event, but to ensure their standing in
Cf. also Gotoff (1993) xxviii; Rochlitz (1993) 79, 95.
Cicero, however, was aware of the fact that power had passed to one man, who was unlikely to
follow any counsel except his own (cf. Fam. 4.9.2 [to Marcellus, c. September 46 bce]).
Cf. Braund (1998) 55: ‘It might be expected that Roman prose panegyric emerged from the highly
developed tradition of funeral orations, significantly different from the Athenian practice, in that
funerals were occasions for panegyric of individuals. Similarly, Roman gravestones bore encomia
of the dead. But these orations and epitaphs do not constitute or even belong to the genre of
Latin panegyric. The chief differentiation is that Latin panegyric takes as its subject someone living.
Moreover, it is characteristically rooted in highly specific socio-political occasions’; contrast Nixon
and Rodgers (1994) 2: ‘Praise of individuals formed an important class of epideictic oratory, and once
again it was Isocrates who provided the model (Evagoras). The speech in praise of a ruler . . . was a
particularly prominent phenomenon in the Hellenistic world. But formal praise of rulers or public
figures is likely to take place wherever rhetoric flourishes, and Rome had its own independent
tradition of laudationes funebres, or speeches of praise, pronounced at the funerals of great men.’
Ciceronian praise 93
An interesting example of praise in a judicial speech is Cicero’s speech
Pro Archia Poeta (62 bce), dealing with the question of whether the Greek
poet Archias should be given Roman citizenship. Cicero claims that the
case itself is fairly obvious (Arch. 8); he also regards his statement on
the actual issue as brief and straightforward (Arch. 32). Yet he uses the
occasion to insert an extended eulogy of his client’s genius and of literature
more generally, and he comments on and apologizes for this new and
unconventional kind of speaking in a court case at the beginning, in the
middle and at the end of the speech (Arch. 3, 18, 32).
Hence this speech
becomes rather a panegyric of a poet and of literature, while the statement
on the actual case is almost negligible.
Cicero the politician did not make these modifications without a pur-
pose: the praise of Archias is meant to prove that Archias actually deserves
the honour of Roman citizenship. This is essential from Cicero’s personal
point of view, since he is eager to be praised in Archias’ literary works (Arch.
28) and also wishes to justify literary aspirations more generally. Cicero’s
praise of Archias concludes with the claim that the poet deserves the hon-
our of citizenship since he has always praised the Romans in exquisite terms
and continues to do so (Arch. 31). Thus Cicero basically runs the argument
that praise is so important and universally desired that delivering praise
counts as an accomplishment. At the same time this presentation amounts
to a panegyric of literature more broadly and to an acknowledgement of its
political function in Rome. This praise is intended to support Archias and
to do him a favour by demonstrating his accomplishments to the audience
and thereby getting Roman citizenship for him. Beyond this immediate
purpose it is also geared towards the long-term effect of establishing the
role of literature in society.
In the case of Archias, Cicero praised an individual because he wished to
convince the audience that this person deserved to be awarded a particular
distinction. Cicero acted similarly, but in far more extended form and with
more serious and immediate political consequences, in his first political
speech, De Lege Manilia or De Imperio Cn. Pompei (66 bce).
In order to prove that Pompey should be given a superior military
command, Cicero describes him as outstanding in every respect, having
unique and extraordinary merits, having surpassed everyone else in glory,
possessing all the highest qualifications and offering too much material for
This ‘new style of speaking’ probably does not refer to the fact that Cicero introduces epideictic or
laudatory elements (so Dugan (2001) 43), since these had become common by his time; it rather
describes the fact that Cicero is talking extensively about literature and the accomplishments of a
poet in a court of law (see n. 27 below; on the style of this speech cf. Gotoff (1979) esp. 81).
94 gesine manuwald
praise to the orator (e.g. Man. 3, 13, 27–8, 36–42, 51).
Pompey is said to
possess the four attributes of a perfect general (Man. 28: scientia militaris,
uirtus, auctoritas, felicitas), of which his previous achievements provide
ample testimony. And what is more, he has all the other qualities that are
required for a commander and any outstanding individual besides. There
is some praise of the proposer of the bill, C. Manilius, and the audience,
who are to vote on the bill (Man. 69), so as to bring them round to Cicero’s
assessment of the matter. The audience is the entity to be influenced; yet
this is achieved mainly by heaping praise on the object rather than on the
Technically, De Lege Manilia would have to be classified as a deliberative
speech, since Cicero was trying to persuade the assembly of the Roman
people to vote for a particular law. Cicero, however, did not attempt to
achieve this aim by rational, political argument: instead, he praised the
young Pompey elaborately in order to prove that he was qualified for
an extraordinary command, which was in fact unconstitutional. Cicero
thereby eschewed discussion of this delicate political issue (Man. 60–4),
while the overwhelming qualities of Pompey made his cause seem convinc-
ing. The speech is therefore a prime example of laudatory oratory used
in politics, and it also demonstrates that at this early stage in his career
Cicero was already willing to assign great power to private individuals if he
approved of them and thought that the measure was in the interest of the
republic (e.g. Man. 67–8).
In an even more sophisticated way Cicero argued for conveying far-
reaching powers to individuals at the end of his life, in the corpus of
the Philippics. In these speeches, delivered in 44–43 bce after Caesar’s
assassination, Cicero tried to make clear distinctions between the two sides
confronting each other and to spur the senate and the Roman people to
decisive action by, on the one hand, praising the young Octavian and others
who were working for the republic, in Cicero’s view,
and, on the other
hand, denigrating the opponents, the later triumvir Marcus Antonius and
his followers.
The phrase in hac insolita mihi ex hoc loco ratione dicendi (Man. 3) does not point to the epideictic
elements of this speech and define them as unusual for Cicero; instead it indicates that this is
Cicero’s first speech as a magistrate in front of the Roman people (see n. 26 above).
The qualities attributed to Octavian in the Philippics and the language used (e.g. Phil. 3.3, 4.3, 4.4,
5.23, 5.43, 5.47, 5.50, 13.18–19; cf. Ad Brut. 1.3.1) are reminiscent of De Lege Manilia (e.g. Man. 28, 33,
36, 49). Like Pompey in that speech (e.g. Man. 41, 48, 61–2), Octavian is presented in the Philippics
as a promising young person sent by the gods who unexpectedly saves the republic from a crisis
(Phil. 5.23, 5.43, 12.9, 13.18, 13.46, 14.25).
Ciceronian praise 95
Again praise is uttered not in the presence of the individuals concerned,
but before other bodies in order to persuade themto make decrees in favour
of these individuals; besides, there is the expectation that the individuals
would learn of this praise and thereby be influenced to carry on with their
activities and policies. This can be inferred from the speeches themselves;
additionally Cicero’s letters make it clear that he used panegyric as a weapon
in this political fight to influence people and to endow them with powers
beyond the constitutional. Later on, therefore, Cicero had to justify his
policy in the fight against M. Antonius in response to M. Brutus’ criticism
(cf. Ad Brut. 1.15, July 43 bce).
Another individual that Cicero frequently praised, particularly from his
consular year (63 bce) onwards, is of course himself; he famously omits
no occasion to highlight his services for the welfare and the survival of the
republic. This panegyric is designed to justify his measures, to maintain
or reclaim his position in Roman politics and to recommend himself for
future tasks of this kind. This is obvious in the Philippics, where Cicero
frequently reminds audiences of his success in fighting Catiline, compares
M. Antonius to Catiline and thereby suggests that, if this new cause were
entrusted to him or if one followed the policy proposed by him, one would
be equally successful again and be able to save the republic (e.g. Phil. 2.1,
2.11–20, 4.15, 6.17).
What emerges from these examples is that Cicero frequently used praise
of individuals for political and tactical purposes, in order to support the
policy he approved of and to contribute to what he regarded as the welfare
of the republic by influencing political developments, occasionally includ-
ing egotistical elements. Such a type of panegyric may be directed to a
person who is present and is to be influenced in a certain way, or concern
people not present in order to move the audience to make specific decrees
about them which would be politically expedient in the orator’s view. For
the individuals concerned it means that praise awarded or to be awarded
does not spur them on to particular actions, but rewards them for deeds
already done, showing them that their efforts have been recognized by their
fellow citizens; it is the expectation of gaining this renown according to
contemporary social conventions that may incite them to embark on fur-
ther exceptional, virtuous deeds. Another function of this type of praise is
to enshrine noble deeds in people’s memories and thereby possibly to moti-
vate others to similar deeds. In daily political life this kind of praise may be
used to justify people’s deeds (if controversial) with hindsight and confirm
them in their attitudes. Generally, however, this application of praise goes
96 gesine manuwald
beyond the recognition of individuals and pursues more comprehensive
Examples of oratorical panegyric connected with Cicero’s biography
Just as Pliny’s Panegyricus was Pliny’s inaugural speech as consul, so Cicero’s
first two speeches De Lege Agraria, given on 1 January 63 bce before the
senate and the Roman people respectively, are his speeches in the same
Although the situations and aims of these orations are widely
dissimilar fromthat by Pliny, they too contain praise and gratitude triggered
by the occasion. Unfortunately, the opening of Cicero’s speech to the senate
is lost, but the speech to the people is almost equally revealing, both in terms
of the tradition of such speeches and with respect to Cicero’s particular
Cicero started his speech to the Roman people by stating that the
inaugural speeches of consuls typically combined gratitude for the people’s
favour with praise of the incoming consul’s ancestors (apparently designed
to enhance and safeguard the position of the new consul); but as this
option was not available to him as a ‘new man’, he could only talk about
himself and the people (Agr. 2.1–2). Claiming that he did not wish to appear
immoderate or arrogant by speaking about himself, Cicero went on to heap
praise on the people, who had elected him, and thanked them for their
confidence, while details of the voting process and comparisons with other
men previously in the same position emphasized Cicero’s achievements
(Agr. 2.1–7). This presentation reveals the role of the people in the political
process (which Cicero may exaggerate), the dependence of individuals
appointed on the respective bodies, and Cicero’s aim to appear as a ‘popular
consul’ (popularis consul) from the start (Agr. 2.6, 2.9, 2.15). So this praise
After the customary religious ceremonies at the start of a new year, the new consuls used to hold
a senate meeting on 1 January, which was dedicated to the general political situation and during
which they made their inaugural speeches. Only in a few instances was a specific issue dealt with
on these occasions as it was in 63 bce (cf. Cic. Red. Pop. 11–15, Sest. 72–5 for 1 January 57 bce,
Phil. 5 for 1 January 43 bce). At any rate the tradition that consuls made inaugural speeches is not
an imperial invention, but goes back to republican times, while there is, of course, a difference in
the bodies responsible and the actual power of the consul (cf. Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 3: ‘For
example, it is clear that the gratiarum actio became panegyrical at an early stage. In the republic,
it was customary for consuls to deliver a speech of thanks to the senatus populusque Romanus for
their consulship. By Augustus’ day the incumbent thanked the gods, and Caesar (Ov. Pont. 4.4.35–
39). Pliny’s Panegyricus merely happens to be the first of such speeches to have survived’). Pliny
remarks that both institution and topics had become hackneyed by his time (cf. Ep. 3.13.2, 3.18.1,
Ciceronian praise 97
serves as an appreciation of the voters, and it tries to include them in
the administration of this office and to establish good relations with the
electorate from the beginning.
Overall, Cicero basically offered a programme for an ideal consulship,
almost a ‘speculum consulis’, which at the same time indicated that he
was able, willing and ideally suited to realizing it: he was to be a consul
concerned for the people’s welfare, guaranteeing liberty, peace and tran-
quillity. Cicero clearly used this introductory speech to present himself in
a favourable light and to ensure a good relationship with the people. At the
same time, as a particular question was at issue, the second half of Cicero’s
speech deals with the proposal of a new agrarian law by the tribune of
the people, Rullus. In this section Cicero’s oration develops into a speech
of blame, since he accuses the tribune of inconsiderateness and mocks his
alleged concern for the people, pointing out that his proposed measures
would actually harm the people. Cicero thereby also employed the speech
to convince the people of a particular decision, which they might not
regard as advantageous to them at first, but which is in fact, as he set out to
Asimilar, albeit less official and formal situation is behind Cicero’s pair of
speeches delivered after his return from exile, Post Reditum ad Senatum and
Post Reditum ad Quirites (57 bce).
Here too Cicero praised and thanked
both groups and some individuals for their efforts on his behalf, thus again
trying to establish a good relationship with the major political bodies from
the point of his return and opening up the possibility for him to play a
dominant role in Roman politics again. Hence Cicero praised himself and
thus justified his actions during his consulship and outlined the policy he
was determined to follow now that he was back in Rome. So these speeches
could be regarded as ‘inaugural speeches’ as it were, expressing gratitude
for the status achieved and marking the start of Cicero’s political activities
after his return from exile.
These two instances show that praise can be closely connected to thanks
and that on those occasions such speeches may be used for sketching a
political programme for the future.
Levene (1997) 67–8, 77 seems to have been the only one so far to connect Cicero’s speeches after his
return from exile with his Pro Marcello and Pliny’s Panegyricus in the sense that all of them can be
regarded as gratiarum actiones, while at the same time rightly distinguishing between praise for the
people and that for individual rulers.
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cicero and pliny
Pliny mentions Cicero several times in his letters and compares himself
to this model in a variety of respects.
For instance, besides the obvious
issue of writing, he notes that they were both consuls, augurs and patrons
of poets (Ep. 3.15.1, 4.8.4–5). In these areas Cicero is Pliny’s model as he is
for his writing in general (Ep. 4.8.4–5). More precisely, Pliny justifies his
making of verses, which apparently had been criticized by contemporaries,
by the fact that, in addition to practising other, more serious genres, Cicero
also produced verses (Ep. 5.3.5, 7.4.3–6). In letter writing, Pliny as well as
his correspondents regard Cicero as a model, even though Pliny thinks that
his situation is so dissimilar that Cicero’s standard is unattainable for him
(Ep. 9.2).
In oratory too Cicero is among Pliny’s major stylistic models (Ep. 1.2.4,
1.5.11–13, 1.20, 9.26.8). Yet, as regards oratory, Pliny talks only about style
with reference to Cicero, but not about topics, genres or occasions. Never-
theless, it is clear that he was thoroughly familiar with Cicero’s works and
composed his own oratory in relation to them. So it would hardly be
surprising if in the Panegyricus, his sole extant speech, some influence of
Cicero’s oratory was detected.
The evidence on Cicero presented so far suggests some conclusions on
the relationship between Pliny’s Panegyricus and Ciceronian praise: just
as Cicero had done at the start of his consular year (and again after his
return from exile), Pliny gave an inaugural speech as consul and praised
the body that had appointed him. Obviously, election and appointment
practices as well as the actual political influence of consuls had changed
by imperial times. Therefore Cicero as the incoming magistrate was able
On Pliny’s relationship to Cicero (with respect to the letters) cf. e.g. Wolff (2004); Marchesi (2008)
207–40. In this context one must bear in mind the cautionary remarks of Riggsby (1995) 132
n. 19: ‘The potential for conflict over just what “Cicero” stands for points up the fact that Pliny’s
model is a particularly early second-century construct which need not correspond to either ours or
Cicero’s own versions of “Cicero” (note particularly Pliny’s Cicero’s commitment to neoteric-style
poetry), nor even to other possible contemporary versions. The study of such versions, or the
earlier ones reflected in Quintilian or Seneca the Elder, are the topic of another essay. Similarly, the
reconstruction of Catullus and the neoterics implied in Pliny would be an interesting, but again
distinct, area of study.’ But if one concentrates on issues comparable in Cicero and Pliny without
putting too much focus on Pliny’s evaluation of his model, the problem is perhaps sufficiently
Another, non-political epideictic speech by Pliny is his funeral oration on the son of his friend
Spurinna. Therein he follows the Roman tradition, albeit adapted to imperial conventions, in that
such speeches were written up and recited on occasions distinct from the actual event (cf. Ep. 3.10;
cf. Fantham (1999) 227). For some examples of epideictic in Pliny’s letters cf. Aubrion (1975). For
an attempt at distinguishing between different types of panegyric or propaganda in the epistles and
in the Panegyricus cf. Hoffer (2006).
Ciceronian praise 99
to outline his political programme for his time in office and to ask the
audience to contribute to it by praising them. This option was not open to
consuls in Pliny’s time even though in his speech Pliny retained the senate
as his primary addressee
and thereby kept to republican conventions on
a formal level.
As for the role of panegyric in the area of contents, Pliny instead praised
the emperor, i.e. the individual who had appointed him and who was
the only one who actually influenced politics. By this strategy Pliny tried
to commit the emperor to a policy of which he approved and which
he regarded as beneficial to the political community. Hence this praise
basically has a hortatory function and gives the speech the character of a
‘speculum principis’ (e.g. Pan. 4.1, 45, Ep. 3.18.2–3).
Cicero had used a sim-
ilar strategy of praising people to trigger certain actions in De lege Manilia,
Pro Marcello and the Philippics. These were not the inaugural speeches of
a consul, but they were given in contexts in which Cicero accepted that
powerful individuals were needed or that powerful individuals made deci-
sions. Therefore he followed a strategy later used towards emperors: as he
had identified empowering and influencing these people as the only way
to shape politics, he did so by means of praise.
Both orators, therefore, combine praise and political purposes in par-
ticular speeches and use praise as a tool in politics when other methods
fail to promise success, because of the distribution of power and the role
of the orator in the political framework. Pliny’s political strategy is similar
to Cicero’s procedure in particular speeches: Pliny too accepts the exis-
tence and pre-eminent position of a single powerful individual (cf. also
Ep. 3.20.12); at the same time he makes requirements of this individual
as to his morals and behaviour. His political concept also overlaps with
Cicero’s, since he attempts to integrate the emperor into a constitutional
framework and tries to retain elements of the republican constitution in
emphasizing the role of libertas and the important position of the senate; if
the ruler does not strive towards his own personal advantage, but acts for
the common welfare and subjects himself to the needs of the community
and the constitution, the res publica and its ideals can continue, as it were
Cf. e.g. Molin (1989) 790, 796.
Cf. Ep. 3.18.2–3: primum ut imperatori nostri uirtutes suae ueris laudibus commendarentur, deinde
ut futuri principes non quasi a magistro, sed tamen sub exemplo praemonerentur, qua potissimum uia
possent ad eandem gloriam niti. nam praecipere, qualis esse debeat princeps, pulchrum quidem, sed
onerosum ac prope superbum est; laudare uero optimum principem et per hoc posteris uelut e specula
lumen, quod sequantur, ostendere, idem utilitatis habet, adrogantiae nihil. Cf. also Rochlitz (1993) 87.
100 gesine manuwald
(e.g. Pan. 62–6, 76, 93).
Just as Cicero does in the Philippics in view of
Caesar’s preceding dictatorship, Pliny welcomes the regained freedom of
speech and the opportunities for political intervention after the reign of
Domitian (esp. Pan. 66.4–5).
The powerful men’s virtues that are highlighted in the Ciceronian
speeches and in the Panegyricus necessarily change according to the occa-
sion, and the rhetorical style of such political speeches of praise develops
according to the conventions of each period and each orator’s prefer-
ences. Yet the functional use of praise as an influence on a single powerful
individual and the attempt thereby to pursue one’s own political agenda
with a republican background are the same. Cicero thus prepared the way
for Pliny’s Panegyricus not only by providing a paradigmatic example of
sophisticated political oratory, but also by showing strategies of employing
panegyric as a political tool within a political framework dominated by
Overall, therefore, the examples of Ciceronian panegyric discussed sug-
gest that Pliny’s Panegyricus is not something radically new, but rather a
logical further development of an existing oratorical genre under altered
circumstances. This concerns both the circumstances of the speech and
the political strategy employed: while basic occasion and function remain
similar, the ‘republican gratiarum actio’ of a new consul has developed into
a vote of thanks to the appointing emperor combined with praise; and
presenting one’s own policy has changed into an attempt at influencing the
emperor’s policy.
Hence in Pliny’s Panegyricus the element of praise of individuals for
political purposes comes to the fore; still, the ideal of the republican con-
stitution is not completely abandoned, and therefore, in this respect too,
there is a logical development from republican speeches praising individ-
uals. This means not merely that there are single speeches that could be
regarded as forerunners of imperial panegyric, but that all these instances
have to be placed within a wider context and a broader development.
Even the earliest forms of panegyric at Rome are rarely dissociated
completely from a political context: if someone’s ancestors or a deceased
member of the family are praised at a funeral, this is advantageous to the
Cf. also Radice (1968); K¨ uhn (1985) 6; Morford (1992); Fantham (1999) 230–1; Ramelli (1999);
Barbu-Moravov´ a (2000).
Ciceronian praise 101
living; if an accuser or defendant is praised who has or may potentially
have an influential political position, the lawyer tries to be on good terms
with him and to safeguard his client’s standing. Hence, a political and
tactical use appears to have been a characteristic of Roman panegyric from
the start. Even though the panegyric seems to have a general tendency
to merge with the protreptic, its political application turns out to be a
dominant feature in Roman society. As a result, out of the various aspects
available for praise mentioned by rhetoricians (e.g. Rhet. Her. 3.10), it is
not external circumstances or physical attributes that dominate in these
speeches; instead the orators’ praise focuses on qualities of character, since
this is what can be influenced and is vital to governing a community
De Lege Manilia, then, is Cicero’s first political speech and therefore
the first extant example of an obvious tactical use of panegyric in a clear
political context (which is one feature of imperial panegyric). Cicero’s
speech consists of extensive praise of one individual who is to be endowed
with unlimited powers, while this praise is addressed not to the person
concerned in order to motivate him to a particular action, but to the
Roman people, who should endow this person with wide-ranging powers.
In the sense that a speech is mainly devoted to praising one individual
to achieve a specific purpose, Cicero’s Pro Marcello can be regarded as
a further step. Even though the republican institution of the senate is
maintained, the orator targets one powerful individual on whom decisions
rest. The significant difference from earlier speeches, where the praise is
intended to convince the audience of the worth of the person concerned,
is that in Caesar’s case the object of praise is already in power and the
success of the orator’s plea depends on the effect on the sole ruler who is
to be motivated. This difference could be seen as indicative of the contrast
between republic and principate and of the gradual development towards
powerful individuals determining politics during Cicero’s lifetime.
Although Cicero’s Caesarian speeches perhaps mirror the situation in
imperial times most closely, they are not the latest of his speeches or
the latest ‘republican’ speeches to be preserved: chronologically, they are
followed by the corpus of the Philippics. One might argue that in these
speeches circumstances have returned to a republican framework: Cicero is
speaking in the senate or before the popular assembly in order to persuade
the respective groups of a particular policy. Yet he tries to achieve his aim
of preserving the republic by assigning great power to individuals: just as
he had done more than twenty years earlier in the case of Pompey, Cicero
now praises Octavian in order to justify investing him with superior power
102 gesine manuwald
to fight M. Antonius and thus save the republic (in Cicero’s view). The
difference in the Caesarian speeches is, of course, that the individuals talked
about are not present and the praise is designed to move the audience to
authorize their deeds, which rather reminds one of De Lege Manilia.
Yet the argument itself and the qualities Cicero praised in individuals
are reminiscent of imperial categories: by singling out individuals and by
claiming that those who were active in the best interest of the republic (as
judged by Cicero) needed to be given unlimited powers and had the right
to act independently without constitutional backing, he prepared (perhaps
unknowingly and unwittingly) the ideology of the principate (esp. Phil.
So one might venture to conclude that in the speeches of Cicero, whose
lifetime coincided with the beginnings of the gradual change from the
republican to the imperial period, ‘a transition from republican panegyric
to imperial panegyric’ can be seen, both in form and application and
in the underlying ideology. Cicero began with praise of individuals in
clearly defined contexts such as court cases, well within established Roman
conventions. By the time he started to become more involved in political
life, he used praise as a political tool, and when he regarded it as politically
expedient, he did not hesitate to praise individuals to endow them with
superior power beyond the republican framework and to influence their
wielding of this power.
Cicero therefore proved to be an influential model for later orators since
he had not only become a canonical and paradigmatic representative of the
genre, but also showed ways to develop and adapt the traditional (originally
Greek) conventions of oratorical panegyric to a changing environment, to
use the genre of epideictic as a political tool and to pursue one’s political
goals, if one relies on others, by exploiting praise. Therefore it is not surpris-
ing that Pliny, as a diligent reader and excerptor of previous writers, could
not only find a precedent for this type of speech in Cicero (his inaugural
speeches as consul), but as an attentive student could see paradigmatic ways
to participate in politics under monarchical conditions by means of praise.
It therefore does not come as a real surprise that his oration’s sincerity in
comparison with other texts of the period has been stressed:
Pliny does
not just deliver obligatory praise, but pursues a serious aim as he tries to
influence politics in imperial times.
Some of Cicero’s speeches onthe thresholdof the principate cantherefore
be seen as an important step in the development of political panegyric at
Cf. Bartsch (1994) 148–87, esp. 148–9.
Ciceronian praise 103
Rome and thus as a structural influence on Pliny. Living at the time of a fully
established principate, Pliny further developed the methods indicated by
Cicero and applied them successfully to contemporary circumstances. As
he thereby completed the development inaugurated by Cicero and adapted
the typological model established by Cicero to the altered conditions, his
speech could become a convenient and ready-made model for later Latin
chapter 6
Contemporary contexts
Bruce Gibson
Pliny’s Panegyricus in praise of Trajan stands alone as the only significant
piece of Latin prose epideictic to have survived from the early empire. This
should not, however, obscure the fact that we do have other evidence for
praise literature in Pliny’s time. The issue of how to define Pliny’s own era
is also something which needs consideration. Not only Pliny’s Panegyricus,
but also the tenth book of the Letters, dealing with Trajan (reigned 98–117),
provide of course an irresistible and powerful impulse to consider Pliny
as part of the great age of Trajan, what his contemporary Tacitus was to
describe at the opening of his Histories as a fortunate time, ubi sentire quae
uelis et quae sentias dicere licet (‘when you can think what you want, and
say what you think’, Hist. 1.1.4). This chapter will accordingly begin with
a brief glance at the culture of praise and blame, especially praise, in the
early empire, before examining oratorical praise under Trajan, and then
will move to consider how any inquiry into the contemporary contexts
of the Panegyricus is not such a straightforward process, especially as the
nature of what is and what is not contemporary is itself so important a
theme in Pliny’s treatment of Trajan.
the culture of epideixis
Antiquity presents a mixed picture of epideictic, the discourse of praise
and its opposite, blame. On the one hand, the epigraphic habit of the
Graeco-Roman world leaves behind a vast repertory of honorary decrees,
suggesting that praise was ubiquitous throughout the ancient world, and
important enough to be given the chance of surviving for posterity in the
form of inscriptions carved on stone. On the other hand, if we think of
the classic divisions of oratory in antiquity, then praise and blame seem
to have only a slight presence in the manuals on rhetoric, which have far
I am indebted to Kathleen Coleman, Roger Rees, Paul Roche, Robin Seager and Tony Woodman
for their invaluable comments on an earlier draft of this chapter.
Contemporary contexts 105
more to say about forensic and deliberative oratory. From Pliny’s own time,
Quintilian, for example, is very clear on the place of epideictic as the third
part of oratory (Inst. 2.4.21), and this is reflected in the scarcity of coverage
which is found in other rhetorical manuals of a whole range of periods
(compare for instance the brief treatment of epideictic in the anonymous
Rhetorica ad Herennium, 3.10–3.15). However, in spite of the slight emphasis
on epideictic as a separate form in rhetorical treatises, it is important to bear
in mind that praise and blame very regularly spill out of pure epideictic
into other types of oratory, as noted in the Rhetorica ad Herennium (3.15).
It is also the case that praise and blame might be felt to have a central role in
genres outside oratory, such as epic or historiography, especially as they are
genres where the representation of speech is a significant feature.
we find in the late antique commentator on Virgil, Servius, the assertion
that Virgil’s intention in writing the Aeneid was to imitate Homer and to
praise Augustus.
From Pliny’s own time, there is much material which points towards
the importance of praise and blame in discourses and genres of all types.
The pervasiveness of epideictic influence in the Greek world has been
demonstrated by Alex Hardie, in his work on Statius and the culture of
professional poetry, especially in Greek-speaking areas of the empire.
in the culture of the Latin world, we can note that Quintilian believed
that it was appropriate for those learning to speak to be trained in exercises
consisting of praise and blame (Inst. 2.4.20).
Quintilian also emphasizes
the fact that epideictic speeches could be regarded as setting a high value
on entertainment of the audience, which might well be achieved through
extra stylistic flourishes:
namet iniis actionibus quae inaliqua sine dubio ueritate uersantur sed sunt ad pop-
ularem aptatae delectationem, quales legimus panegyricos totumque hoc demon-
stratiuum genus, permittitur adhibere plus cultus, omnemque artem quae latere
plerumque in iudiciis debet non confiteri modo sed ostentare etiam hominibus in
hoc aduocatis. (Quint. Inst. 2.10.11)
For further discussion of epideictic, including its capacity to blend with other types of discourse, see
Innes and Manuwald in this volume.
Note too that historiography more generally might be viewed in terms of praise: thus Tacitus,
commenting on the remoteness of the Second Punic War as subject matter, remarks that it does not
matter whether one praises Carthaginians or Romans more (Tac. Ann. 4.33.4): for the possibility that
Tacitus is referring to Silius Italicus here, see Woodman (2009a) 37. For the general association of
praise and blame with historiography, see Woodman (1988) 41–5, 95–8.
Hardie (1983).
See Reinhardt and Winterbottom (2006) 199–100 ad loc. for further examples. For more discussion
of the place of encomium in school training, see Innes, p. 68 in this volume.
Reinhardt and Winterbottom (2006) 172–3 ad loc. offer useful discussion of this passage; cf. Quint.
Inst. 3.4.14.
106 bruce gibson
For even in those speeches which are certainly involved in some aspect of real life,
but are designed for the people’s pleasure, such as are the panegyrics that we read
and the whole of this kind of epideictic writing, it is permissible to bring to bear
more of one’s stylistic qualities, and not only to own up to all that skill that one
should generally keep hidden in forensic speeches, but even to put it on display
for those summoned for the purpose.
Equally, one should not ignore other types of examples from outside ora-
tory. The Letters of Pliny himself are an important place to see how this
diffusion of praise and blame operates on the ground, with Pliny regularly
seeking to praise his friends and sometimes also casting aspersions on his
enemies. The Letters also contain evidence for the way in which epideictic
concerns could affect other types of literary work: thus we hear of C. Fan-
nius’ three books on the deaths of famous men (Plin. Ep. 5.5.3–4), where
what is at stake is clearly laudation of those who have died.
The centrality of praise as a feature of public life in Rome, even under the
republic, is also something which needs to be noted. As early as the second
century bce, Polybius noted the effects of laudatory oratory on listeners
at the funerals of distinguished public figures (6.53.2–3, 6.54.1–2).
regard to praise of the living, the late republic furnishes an example such
as the Pro Marcello of Cicero, where Caesar, already very close to the role
that would later be occupied by the emperors, is praised for his unique
qualities and his role as the healer of the problems of the Roman state.
And it should not be forgotten that Pliny’s Panegyricus is part of a tradition
whereby the holder of a consulship would express his thanks (gratiarum
actio). This is a custom which goes back to the time of Augustus, since, as
Marcel Durry noted in his commentary, the earliest certain evidence is in
Ovid’s Epistulae ex Ponto at 4.4.35–42, which suggests that the practice was
already in place around the end of Augustus’ reign.
oratory in the age of trajan
Though Tacitus’ Dialogus (usually dated to the period in which Pliny’s
speech was delivered and then written up for publication
) famously
See further Coleman (2000) 22–4; Ash (2003) 222–3; Marchesi (2008) 158, 171–89 on the obituary
letters in Pliny, and the wider tradition of biographies and literature on the deaths of famous men.
On the tradition of funerary oratory in Rome, see Kierdorf (1980).
For Ciceronian praise and blame, see e.g. Levene (1997) 68–77; Manuwald, pp. 87–97 in this
Durry (1938) 3–4.
The precise chronological relationship between the two works has generated a lively controversy:
on the dating of the Dialogus and the publication of the Panegyricus, see e.g. Murgia (1985); Brink
Contemporary contexts 107
begins with the aim of investigating the idea that oratory was in decline
after its heyday in the time of Cicero, there are more positive testimonies
with regard to the standard and quality of contemporary oratory. The
anecdote in a later biography of the emperor Hadrian (SHA Hadr. 3.1) to
the effect that he was laughed at for rustic pronunciation of Latin in the
senate, whilst holding office as quaestor during the reign of Trajan, points
to an underlying concern that standards should not deteriorate. More
concretely, we can note Pliny’s interest in his letters in giving an account
of oratorical performances, both in a courtroom setting and elsewhere.
Pliny’s letters (Ep. 2.11 and 12) on the trial of the notorious Marius Priscus
in 100, before the delivery of the Panegyricus later in the same year, illustrate
well how important forensic oratory was to Pliny and his readers;
the fact
that Trajan is reported to have presided as judge in public cases (Cass. Dio
68.10.2) will have increased the prestige available to orators. The gloomy
picture of oratory evoked by Tacitus’ Dialogus must therefore be treated
with some caution.
But the importance of praise too should not be underestimated. One
example of the kind of evidence which we have (which also reflects the
significance of discourses of praise in the elite culture of the early empire)
is Pliny’s Ep. 2.1, relating to the death of Verginius Rufus, who, remarkably,
held the consulship three times in the course of an extraordinary career
which had seen him refusing the throne offered him by his own legions
in the aftermath of Nero’s death in 68. Pliny strikingly goes on to note
in this letter how Verginius was praised after death: laudatus est a consule
Cornelio Tacito; nam hic supremus felicitati eius cumulus accessit, laudator
eloquentissimus (‘his encomium was delivered by the consul Cornelius Tac-
itus, for this final pinnacle was added to his great fortune, that he had a
most eloquent encomiast’, Ep. 2.1.6). It is striking that it is Tacitus, whose
own work on oratory had pointed to decline, whom Pliny declares to be at
the forefront of contemporary oratory.
Furthermore, the detail at Ep. 2.1.5
that Verginius died as a result of complications arising from an accident
sustained whilst preparing a speech of thanks for his third consulship in 97
(1994); Mayer (2001) 22–7; most recently, Woytek (2006) has argued powerfully for publication of
the Panegyricus in 107 ce. For Pliny’s own account of the process of revision of the speech, Ep. 3.18
is a key text, on which see now Marchesi (2008) 198–203.
Mayer (2003) is a key treatment of the importance of oratory and Pliny’s use of his letters as a means
to emphasizing his own role as an orator.
Coleman (2000) 25 suggests that the role of Pliny and Tacitus in this trial may be comparable to
the activities of the delatores under Domitian.
On Ep. 2.1, see Marchesi (2008) 189–99.
108 bruce gibson
under Trajan’s predecessor, Nerva (reigned 96–8), perhaps hints at the pres-
tige accorded to such praise oratory, and the expectation that even such
a venerable and respected figure as Verginius was nevertheless supposed
to put in a high-quality performance, however frequent such speeches of
thanks must have been.
Praise of Trajan is also at stake elsewhere in the letters of Pliny, as in
Ep. 6.27, where Pliny, safe in the glory of his own panegyric of Trajan,
responds to advice on how his correspondent Vettenius Severus as consul
designate should speak in praise of Trajan. While the occasion of this
speech is likely to be different from the timing of the Panegyricus, which
Pliny delivered on his actual assumption of the consulship, it is striking
how Pliny in his letter evokes themes also found in his panegyric: he
explains how he had wanted to draw a contrast between good and bad
emperors (Ep. 6.27.3), but then, significantly, adds that perhaps the times
have changed, and there is therefore scope for praising new achievements
of Trajan (Ep. 6.27.4–5; cf. Pan. 2.3). This letter therefore points again
not only to the importance of imperial praise, but also to the difficulties
involved in covering suitable material. It is also a reminder that, even within
a narrow span of years (Severus held the consulship in 107, only seven years
after Pliny), Pliny was prepared to acknowledge that the conditions for
imperial panegyric might well have changed, suggesting that panegyric,
far from being a stale and fossilized mode of utterance, was constantly
having to adapt itself and change in order to be viable. Given the prestige
still accruing to oratory which Pliny’s letters attest, speakers of imperial
panegyric, one of the most conspicuous types of speech made by the
senatorial class, had to do everything to avoid giving the impression of a
stale and predictable discourse. A generation or so later, we can observe the
excitement with which Fronto contemplates the prospect of his speech in
praise of Antoninus Pius, and the possibility that it will not lie forgotten
in the archives of the senate (Ep. 2.4.1 Van Den Hout).
other writing in the age of trajan
It is also important to recognize that Pliny’s praise of Trajan has other coun-
terparts elsewhere, not only in oratory, but also in other genres. Prefaces are
one place where we can get an idea of prevailing trends. Tacitus’ celebration
in the preface to the Histories of the liberty of thought and expression which
characterized the reigns of Trajan and his predecessor Nerva we have already
See Van Den Hout (1988) 25.
Contemporary contexts 109
seen, but the preface to his Agricola is also a text which, like the Panegyricus,
draws attention to the chronological divide separating itself off from the
prior Flavian era that had come to an end with the murder of Domitian
(reigned 81–96).
As well as constructing the antithesis between good rule
(Trajan) and bad (Domitian) that is familiar from the Panegyricus, Tacitus
strikingly sees the earlier period in terms of a failure of utterance (and
perhaps even memory) in response to the tyranny of Domitian (Ag. 2.3–4),
who had not hesitated to persecute literature which was deemed offensive
(Ag. 2.1–2). This in turn allows Tacitus to present his work on Agricola
as part of a new process of slow and hesitant literary revival under more
favourable political conditions, non tamen pigebit uel incondita ac rudi uoce
memoriam prioris seruitutis ac testimonium praesentium bonorum composuisse
(‘it will not, however, be displeasing even with an unformed and rough
voice to have composed a memoir of prior servitude and a testimonial
to present good fortune’, Ag. 3.3). And so, in the opening chapter of the
Histories, Tacitus regards Nerva and Trajan as appropriate and agreeable
subjects for him to work on in his old age. The sense of literary revival is of
course closely bound up with the concept of intellectual freedom, a topic
which Pliny in the Panegyricus makes much of, reporting that the need for
flattery of the emperor in both private and public discourse has gone (Pan.
2.1–3), whilst acknowledging as well the way in which Trajan has done
much to enhance rhetorical and philosophical studies (Pan. 47.1–3).
A perhaps somewhat unexpected, but nevertheless important, parallel
for the Panegyricus is also provided by the monograph by Julius Frontinus,
consul for the second and third time in 98 and 100,
in two books on
This text is most likely to have been begun under Nerva, but
to have been completed after Trajan’s accession,
and gives a flavour of
how praise of the emperor might be presented even in a highly specialized
context. In the preface, for instance, we can note Frontinus’ initial emphasis
on the delegation of authority by the emperor (Fron. Aq. praef. 1–2), which
is perhaps of a piece with Pliny’s emphasis on Trajan’s desire not to trespass
Woodman (forthcoming a) offers a full treatment of the Agricola’s preface and its treatment of time.
For a positive view of Trajan’s intellectual capacities, see Moles (1990) 300–1 and n. 15. For the
rhetoric of literary revival under Trajan, cf. Pliny’s remarks on Titinius Capito at Ep. 8.12.1, though,
as Coleman (2000) 37 notes, this kind of thing can be found in the era of Domitian as well: see the
praise of Manilius Vopiscus at Stat. Silv. 1. praef. 23–5.
Frontinus’ first consulship is probably to be dated to 73: see Rodgers (2004) 1.
On the flurry of technical writing which is likely to have been composed under Trajan, see Coleman
(2000) 27–8. Key recent studies of Frontinus include the commentaries of Del Chicca (2004) and
Rodgers (2004), as well as Peachin (2004) and K¨ onig (2007).
For the date, see Rodgers (2004) 5–8, K¨ onig (2007) 179 and n. 17.
110 bruce gibson
on the authority of other magistrates (note for instance the discussion
of Trajan’s encouragement and reward for good provincial government
in Pan. 70). Emphasis on the successful independent conduct of office
holders also strikes a chord with contemporary concerns about the role of
freedmen. Though the clich´ e that the Flavians were overly fond of allowing
authority and responsibility to be devolved on imperial freedmen needs to
be treated with caution, both Frontinus and Pliny can be seen, in more
or less subtle ways, to engage with this perceived issue: thus Pliny allots
the theme of Trajan’s freedmen, and the contrast with past practice, a
prominent position (Pan. 88.1–3),
right before the discussion of Trajan’s
claim to be called Optimus.
Frontinus also offers us a valuable comparandum for the way in which
Trajan’s civic achievements are spoken of in the Panegyricus. The require-
ment to offer praise to emperors for their peacetime achievements was an
acute concern for anyone seeking to praise the princeps under the empire;
contrast Tacitus’ sour remarks at Ann. 4.32.2 on the failure of emperors
to continue the process of Roman expansion that had characterized the
Roman republic. Trajan had of course had an earlier military career (Pan.
but the highlights of the reign in military terms, the subjugation
of the Dacian kingdom and the victories against the Parthians, were yet
to come when Pliny gave his speech in 100.
Thus the need to provide
praise of emperors that was based on other kinds of achievement was a
strong one. In Frontinus, we accordingly find the emperor praised for his
improvements to the water supply of Rome, for acting with foresight in
preventing fraudulent private appropriations of the water supply, prevent-
ing drought by allowing various areas to have access to more than one
supply source, and generally enhancing the palatability of Rome’s water
(Fron. Aq. 87–9).
These kinds of benign intervention, even to the extent of alleviating
potential natural calamities, find their parallel in the section of Pliny’s
Panegyricus dealing with Trajan’s improvements to the corn supply of
Though note that in fact Domitian too appointed the equestrian Titinius Capito to the post of ab
epistulis (which he would continue to hold in the succeeding reigns): see further Saller (2000) 11.
On the use of the title optimus in the Panegyricus, see e.g. Rees (2001) 160–2; Seelentag (2004)
240–7; Gibson (2010) 130–3. For optimus as a title given to earlier emperors, see Woodman (1977)
245 on Vell. 2.126.5.
See e.g. Woodman (1977) 241 on Vell. 2.126.3.
For Trajan’s earlier career before becoming emperor, see Roche, pp. 18–22 in this volume.
Though note that if Woytek (2006) is right to put the publication of the speech as not before 107,
the audience of the published speech would therefore have been familiar with Trajan’s final conquest
of the Dacians.
Contemporary contexts 111
and his response to the failure of the Nile to flood in Egypt
(Pan. 29–32). Similarly, when Frontinus discusses the economics of how
the workforce of the city’s aqueducts is paid, great emphasis is laid on how
there is a clear distinction between the civic treasury (the aerarium) and
the emperor’s own funds (fiscus) with regard to the sources from which
emoluments are drawn, but Frontinus is also careful to emphasize how the
emperor funds material expenses as well (Aq. 118).
In the same section,
Frontinus also makes it clear that funds accruing through payments for
water-rights, which had previously gone to Domitian, were remitted to
the people by Nerva. These two strands, a transparent distinction between
imperial and private funds, and the euergetism of the emperor, illustrate
the kinds of rhetoric which were possible about the domestic achievements
of Nerva and Trajan. In the Panegyricus, they find their counterpart in
chapters 36–41, where Pliny speaks first of the absolutely clear distinction
between the state treasury and Trajan’s private funds, and then of Trajan’s
measures to reform taxation. Frontinus, it is true, does not include Pliny’s
emphasis on the manner in which the privy purse obtained much of its
funding under Domitian as a result of confiscations (Pan. 42), but the
focus in both texts on imperial benevolence and the distinction between
different kinds of funds is an important one. We can see too, as we take our
leave of Frontinus, how the signature keyword of Pliny’s speech, optimus
(‘best’), is also a gambit used, though less expansively, by Frontinus at the
start of book 2 (Aq. 64) when referring to the foresight of the ‘best and most
diligent’ emperor (prouidentia optimi diligentissimique Neruae principis).
A quite different kind of praise literature is represented by the Greek
oratory of Dio Chrysostom, most notably in the four celebrated kingship
orations (Or. 1–4).
These speeches are certainly from the period after
Domitian’s death,
but have a different series of approaches and emphases.
In one sense, the career of Dio of course represents a very different path
from that of Pliny, since he typified the Greek-speaking elites of the eastern
Vell. 2.126.3 similarly notes the benign pricing of corn under Tiberius: see further Woodman (1977)
241 ad loc.
Of course such claims relating to an emperor’s use of his personal funds may also reflect (or indeed
be reflected in) a regime’s own rhetoric: cf. ILS 293, from North Africa and dating from 112, referring
to a new bridge built by Trajan: [pon]tem nouum a fundamentis [op]era militum suorum et pecunia
sua [p]rouinciae Africae fecit.
Rodgers (2004) 227 deletes optimi and -que here, comparing prouidentia diligentissimi principis at
Aq. 87.2, but even in the Panegyricus Pliny uses the word optimus of Nerva (together with Trajan) at
Pan. 7.4.
Moles (1990) is an essential treatment of these speeches; see also the discussion in Swain (1996)
Desideri (1978) 297 suggests that the Third Oration may refer to Nerva, rather than to Trajan.
112 bruce gibson
empire, being a member of a leading family at Prusa in Bithynia in north-
west Asia Minor. On the other hand, Dio offers some striking intersections
with the world of Pliny the Younger. Perhaps the least significant aspect
of this, oddly, is Dio’s own encounter with Pliny, recorded in Ep. 10.81
and 82, which deal with a dispute involving Dio which is presented before
Pliny, with the orator being blamed for not presenting due account of
his management of a public building project and being accused of having
located a statue of Trajan in the same place where members of his family
were buried.
Trajan’s reply emphasizes the need not to press the charge
of maiestas.
Though the juxtaposition of Pliny and Dio may appeal to those who
pursue literary prosopography, Dio’s career is of more importance to the
Panegyricus if we reflect that he too had had a difficult time under Domitian,
having been exiled at an early point in the reign for offending the emperor;
while his likely connections with the earlier Stoic Musonius Rufus,
had been exiled under Nero, remind us furthermore of the way in which
philosophy could sometimes fall foul of imperial circles. It is interesting
that Fronto includes the philosopher Euphrates, lauded by Pliny in Ep.
1.10, alongside Dio himself in a list of pupils of Musonius Rufus.
On the
other hand, the presence of philosophy in Dio’s kingship orations is much
more marked than anything remotely comparable in Pliny’s Panegyricus.
This can be seen, for instance, in the presence of philosophic myth as a
means of writing political theory: thus the First Oration has a long section
(1.56–84) in which the god Hermes takes Heracles to see the twin female
personifications of Kingship and Tyranny, in a manner which directly
recalls the tradition going back to Prodicus that reported a choice made
by Heracles between Virtue and Vice.
Even less directly about Trajan
is the Second Oration, which is cast as a conversation between Philip II
of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great about Homer, which then
leads into a discussion of kingship which is largely conducted through
On this episode, see Desideri (1978) 1–2; Jones (1978) 103.
On Dio’s exile, see Desideri (1978) 187–260; Jones (1978) 45–52; Sidebottom (1996).
See Jones (1978) 12–16.
Fronto, Epistulae ad M. Antoninum de Eloquentia 1.4 (Van Den Hout (1988) 135): quid nostra
memoria Euphrates, Dio, Timocrates, Athenodotus? quid horum magister Musonius? nonne summa
facundia praediti neque minus sapientiae quam eloquentiae gloria incluti exstiterunt? For discussion of
Fronto and Dio, see Desideri (1978) 6–16.
Xen. Mem. 2.1.21–34. See Desideri (1978) 314–16, with notes; Moles (1990) 322–30; Trapp (1990)
143 n. 2, who provides a wide range of references to this legend. It is worth noting here that there is
in fact crossover of these ideas into more straightforwardly non-philosophical texts in Latin in the
period: note the encounter between Scipio and Virtus and Voluptas at Silius, Punica 15.18–128, on
which see Ripoll (2000) 165–70.
Contemporary contexts 113
appeal to Homeric exemplars.
Similarly remote in setting are the opening
and conclusion of the Third Oration, which begins with Socrates calling
into question the supposed happiness of the Persian king.
Yet it should
not be assumed that Dio’s approach is entirely one of avoidance of more
contemporary resonances.
For example, we can note in the Third Oration how Dio engages with
the issue of flattery, but uses the device of a Socratic setting as a means
of broaching the subject, by referring to the story of how Hippias tried to
blame Socrates for telling the truth, which then prompts Dio to explain
that he is unable not to tell the truth. This then allows for an extended
discussion of scìcstic (‘flattery’, 3.14–28),
which does, however, afford
an important crossover with Pliny’s Panegyricus, where the importance
of sincerity under Trajan (and insincerity on the part of associates of
Domitian) is a major theme. Dio indeed takes a particularly forthright line
on this issue, eschewing retreat into apologetics for past silence under the
tyranny of Domitian, and instead pointing out that he had in fact engaged
in open discourse under the preceding reign (3.12–13), so that his claim
to be taken as truthful under Trajan is supported by his previous open
and truthful approach under Domitian, even though it led to his exile.
Dio thereby positions himself in such a way as to be more immune to the
critique of Pliny implicit in the modern scholarship of e.g. Bartsch, who
has pointed out how claiming that past praise of Domitian was insincere
whereas present praise of Trajan is genuine is a position which can be liable
to collapse.
Two other areas of Dio’s Kingship Orations also illustrate the intellectual
thought of the Panegyricus well. First, the treatment of the gods, though
wrapped up in a classicizing and Hellenized mode of presentation, does
reflect the way in which representations of Trajan seem to have avoided the
excesses of the Domitianic period in terms of the relation between emperor
and gods. Regardless of whether or not Domitian did expect always to be
Though the references to Alexander should of course be understood as complimentary to Trajan:
on this speech see Desideri (1978) 316–18, who argues that the presentation of Philip and Alexander
here is a complimentary allusion to the dead Nerva and to Trajan, who surpasses his adoptive father;
cf. Moles (1990) 337–47.
On the use of Socrates here, see Desideri (1978) 298–9; Moles (1990) 350.
It is notable that in the case of another contemporary figure, Plutarch, there is some debate within the
scholarship as to the extent to which Plutarch’s writings reflect direct engagement with the Trajanic
world: the conference volume edited by Stadter and Van Der Stock (2002) contains contributions
which adopt a range of positions on this issue.
On this section of the speech, see Moles (1990) 353–5.
On this passage, see Desideri (1978) 299; Moles (1990) 353–4; Bartsch (1994) 178–9.
For sincerity as a key theme of the speech, see Bartsch (1994) 149.
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addressed as dominus et deus, as is alleged in Suet. Dom. 13.2 (the issue is not
we can note the way in which Zeus is a present force in
the orations, just as a role is given to Jupiter in the Panegyricus of Pliny.
both cases, we can see the role of the traditional Olympian as reflective of
the desire to pull back from the way in which Domitian had too obviously
assumed various aspects of Jupiter in his self-presentation. Assuredly, there
are complexities to the presentation of Domitian in earlier periods, but
what is important here is the way in which Jupiter and Zeus are brought
back to prominence in Pliny and Dio. In Pliny it might be argued that
there are some disquieting moments in the treatment of Jove and Trajan.
Thus Jupiter’s cult title of Optimus Maximus, used by Pliny at the start
of the speech, is perhaps made problematic in the rest of the speech, since
the title optimus is so relentlessly used of Trajan himself, even though at the
time of delivery optimus was only an unofficial part of Trajan’s titulature.
When Pliny invokes Jupiter at the end of the speech through his Capi-
toline title, it is almost as if the model of the emperor as an equivalent
of Jove, already something with a long history in the poets, is somehow
creeping back in, with the hint that optimus is Trajan’s title now, especially
as Pliny has already suggested that Trajan is somehow acting for Jupiter
(Pan. 80.4–5).
By contrast, in Dio the distinction between Zeus and the
good king is portrayed with a much clearer hierarchy: thus, in the Second
Oration, a discussion of the bull simile applied to Agamemnon in Iliad
2.480–3 leads to the not unexpected comparison between a bull and a king
(Or. 2.65–72), but this pattern of rulership is made more complex by the
way in which Dio adds a further dimension, suggesting that the relation-
ship between Zeus and a king is analogous to that between herdsmen and
bull, with the salutary additional reminder that the herdsmen do not allow
a bad bull to continue to cause trouble (Or. 2.73–8).
The second area of overlap between Dio’s orations and Pliny’s Panegyri-
cus is the taste for the antithesis of good and bad king. To some extent this
is of course a traditional theme, and Dio’s treatment in the Third Oration
(3.42–9) of the basic three types of government (kingship, aristocracy and
democracy) and the corrupt forms that often ensue may be felt to evoke
Polybius’ celebrated treatment of the mixed constitution in book 6, even
See e.g. Jones (1992) 108–9; Nauta (2002) 382–3; Gibson (2006) 92–3.
Levene (1997) is a fundamental treatment of divinity in the context of imperial panegyric.
Cf. Bartsch (1994) 163–4 on divine comparisons in the Panegyricus; Levene (1997) 81–2; Rees (2001)
164; Gibson (2010) 126.
On this section of Oration 2, see Moles (1990) 345–6. Oration 1.37–49 is a further treatment of Zeus
and the issue of kingship; cf. Moles (1990) 316–18.
Contemporary contexts 115
though it takes a different turn with Dio’s very un-Polybian preference
for kingship (3.50–7).
However, the taste for contrast, whilst obviously
presenting certain rhetorical advantages in terms of the opportunities for
brilliant antithesis, should be seen as something which was especially avail-
able to those who wanted to set up Trajan and Domitian as a contrasting
pair. In Pliny, this pairing tends to be ad hominem, and linked to the spe-
cific virtues of Trajan and the vices of Domitian, who is only mentioned by
name twice in the Panegyricus (11.1, 20.4), but very clearly indicated as the
negative example. If there is a generalizing tendency, it is in fact one that
singles Trajan out as the example that all subsequent emperors, whether
good or bad, have to be matched against. In Dio, the strategy is different
in that a balanced antithesis of generalized good and bad kings is presented
in the speeches. Specific details in Dio tend to be used not in relation to
the emperor, but within the historical or quasi-fictional settings: thus in
Oration 1, the speech is framed with details relating to Alexander the Great
and Timotheus at the beginning (Or. 1.1–3), and to a story of Dio meeting
an old woman on the banks of the Alpheus later on (Or. 1.50–8), who then
tells him the story of Heracles’ choice; but the meat of the speech, the dis-
cussion of the qualities that make the good king, does not display anything
like this level of specific detail. Certainly Dio’s speeches do not offer any
parallel for the way in which Pliny offers discussion of Trajan’s measures
on taxation and inheritance (Pan. 37–41, 43). The taste for antithesis in
relation to Trajan and bad emperors, then, is something which the two
orators share, but the use made of specific contemporary detail by Pliny is
very different from the generalized views of kingship which are offered by
Indeed, one might ask the question, to what extent do the speeches of
Dio actually constitute panegyric? The answer will probably be ‘Not very
much.’ It is true that there are passages in the speeches which do deal
directly with the emperor, such as the statement at Oration 1.9 that the
words need to be appropriate to Trajan, or the discussion of the emperor’s
virtues at Oration 3.2–5 (though even that passage is cast in surprisingly
general terms).
But, if looked at overall, the speeches aim to praise Trajan
through suggestive discussion of what an ideal king might be, with the
implicit suggestion that the ideal king and Trajan might correspond in
many ways. For Pliny, however, the details of Trajan’s achievements are
what go together to make him an ideal princeps, one who will become
See further Moles (1990) 355–7.
On this passage, see Moles (1990) 351–2.
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exemplary and ideal for those who are to come. Hence the greater emphasis
on directness of praise in Pliny, whereas in Dio the philosophic guise in
which the speeches are couched creates distance, and a sense of something
generalized, which nevertheless is – in spite of all Dio’s protestations –
generally favourable and even flattering towards Trajan.
a new kind of praise?
The way in which Pliny, as we have seen, cannot help evoking the equation
of emperor and Jupiter which Dio is much more successful at controlling
should remind us that Trajanic praise may not always be so straightfor-
wardly innocent when set alongside its Domitianic predecessor. To this
extent, it is useful to consider what the nature of the contemporary context
itself is, as a means of seeing how far the divide set up by Pliny between
the age of Domitian and that of Trajan is actually successful. Dio’s remark,
mentioned above, that he was someone who told the truth both in the past
and in the present under Trajan (Or. 3.12–13), is a useful passage to bear in
mind when probing the extent to which Trajanic rhetoric may or may not
succeed in its anxious task of self-definition against the previous age.
Pliny in particular wants to see a clear divide. This comes through most
clearly when he establishes a link between the nature of the age and the
type of discourse which it produces: discernatur orationibus nostris diuersitas
temporum, et ex ipso genere gratiarum agendarum intellegatur cui quando sint
actae (‘let the different quality of the age be marked out in our speeches, and
from the very type of thanks that are to be expressed, let it be understood
who is being given them, and when’, Pan. 2.3).
At a stroke Pliny conveys
how Trajan leads to new kinds of utterance (cf. Tac. Hist. 1.1.4, quoted
Inevitably, given the damnatio memoriae which was applied to Domitian
after his death,
there are no surviving examples of oratory from his reign,
though we do at least hear of the trials that are documented as having taken
place under him; examples include the trials of figures such as Arulenus
Rusticus and Herennius Senecio mentioned by Tacitus in the Agricola (2.1,
45.1). What we do have, however, is evidence of various types of writers
who bridge the gap between Domitian and Trajan. For the orators, we
should note that the contemporary context includes Pliny and Tacitus,
On this passage, see Bartsch (1994) 157.
On which see further Varner (2004) 111–135. The term damnatio memoriae itself is of course modern,
but its uses are recognized by Varner (2004) 2 and n. 5.
Contemporary contexts 117
who practised oratory during Domitian’s reign as well as during that of
But there are also other figures who carried on their work from
Domitian’s reign into the new age. If we turn to poetry, the career of
Martial is illustrative as well of the way in which neither Trajan’s accession
in early 98 nor even the dramatic moment of Domitian’s assassination in
September 96 in fact marks a decisive and irrevocable watershed moment –
at least in terms of literature.
A figure such as Silius Italicus, who may
have continued working on his Punica into the time of Trajan, is an even
more instructive case in point, since his oratorical exploits (or failures)
took place under Nero (reigned 54–68), when he appears to have acted as
a delator, only for him to survive the entire Flavian period, into the time
of Nerva and Trajan. The question asked in Tacitus’ Dialogus, as to where
one might draw the line in relation to where ancient and modern literature
begin and end (see e.g. the speech of Aper at Tac. Dial. 16.4–18.1), is a
relevant parallel here, so that, even on simple chronological grounds, the
issue about what is and what is not contemporary to Pliny’s Panegyricus is
not a straightforward one.
If viewed from the perspective of ideology, the impression Pliny strives
to give in the Panegyricus is that modes of contemporary praise have com-
pletely changed.
Thus, Pliny praises Trajan for directing thanks being
offered for his qualities towards Jupiter Optimus Maximus, rather than to
his own genius:
simili reuerentia, Caesar, non apud genium tuum bonitati tuae gratias agi, sed
apud numen Iouis optimi maximi pateris: illi debere nos quidquid tibi debeamus,
illius quod bene facias muneris esse qui te dedit. (Plin. Pan. 52.6)
With similar reverence, Caesar, you do not allow thanks to be offered for your
goodness in the name of your genius, but in the name of the divinity of Jupiter
Optimus Maximus, on the grounds that we owe to him whatever we owe to you,
and that whatever you do well is through the gift of him who gave you to us.
Pliny’s point can be borne out here if we contrast it with a passage
from Domitianic literature. In Silv. 5.1, a poem addressed to an impe-
rial freedman, Abascantus, who has lost his wife, Statius imagines the dead
woman instructing Abascantus on what he should do in the light of her
For the suggestion that Tacitus’ fame as an orator goes back to Domitian’s reign, see Syme (1958a) 66,
though Tacitus’ extremely successful public career will in any case have required oratorical expertise.
Coleman (2000) is a crucial treatment of the continuities and differing shadings of emphasis that
characterize the literary output that follows on from Domitian’s death.
Cf. Bartsch (1994) 150–2 on Pan. 2.1–2.
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tu limite coepto
tende libens sacrumque latus geniumque potentem
inrequietus ama. (Stat. Silv. 5.1.186–8)
Go gladly on the path you have started, and tirelessly adore the sacred presence
and the powerful godhead.
The way in which the Statius passage blatantly includes an instruction
to Abascantus to love the genius of Domitian may be felt to confirm the
point made by Pliny in Pan. 2.3 that the praise he offers really is something
different fromwhat had gone before. Other passages in the speech, however,
illustrate a more nuanced kind of overlap with the past.
To take a small instance first, we can observe how the emperor’s exertions
on the battlefield are described through reference to the emperor’s sweat.
The orator imagines a time when posterity will long to know about the
sites of Trajan’s military achievements:
ueniet ergo tempus quo posteri uisere uisendumque tradere minoribus suis gestient,
quis sudores tuos hauserit campus, quae refectiones tuas arbores, quae somnum
saxa praetexerint . . . (Plin. Pan. 15.4)
The time will therefore come when posterity will want to see and hand over to
its descendants to see, what field soaked up your sweat, what trees sheltered your
moments of refreshment, what rocks sheltered your sleep . . .
This image of sweat as an index of exertion can be paralleled with reference
to Domitian: at Silv. 5.1.134, Statius imagines Abascantus’ wife wanting her
husband to stand by Domitian in battle, sprinkled by sweat from his great
A more significant example is Pan. 30–1, where Pliny records, with some
pleasure, the circumstances of a failure of the Nile flood in Egypt, and
Trajan’s actions in response in order to help the Egyptians. The generally
negative attitude towards Egypt that emerges here is part of a long tradition
in Latin literature,
but again Silv. 5.1 furnishes a parallel for the idea
that an emperor might be concerned with the condition of the Nile,
when Statius imagines Abascantus’ concerns on behalf of Domitian about
whether the Nile has flooded or not (Silv. 5.1.99–100). Even the theme
of how praise itself is to be received, something where Pliny is so anxious
to draw distinctions, presents a Domitianic parallel: thus Ruurd Nauta
has shown how Pliny’s desire not to offend Trajan with too much praise
(Pan. 3.2) can be paralleled in the preface to Martial’s eighth book, where
See Gibson (2006) 359 for examples.
Contemporary contexts 119
Martial is keen that Domitian should not be worn down by too much
quam [sc. materiam] quidem subinde aliqua iocorum mixtura uariare temp-
tauimus, ne caelesti uerecundiae tuae laudes suas, quae facilius te fatigare possint
quam nos satiare, omnis uersus ingeret. (Mart. 8 praef. 6–9)
this material at least I have from time to time attempted to vary with a certain
leavening of jests, lest every verse heap upon your heavenly modesty its praises
which could more easily tire you rather than sating me.
Similarly, the idea of the emperor actively restraining praise, one that is so
important in Pliny (see e.g. Pan. 4.2, where Trajan is praised for prevent-
ing private expressions of thanks, and only allowing public thanksgivings
because they are at the behest of the senate), can in fact be found in Statius’
Silvae, where he describes the people’s acclamations for Domitian:
tollunt innumeras ad astra uoces
Saturnalia principis sonantes
et dulci dominum fauore clamant:
hoc solum uetuit licere Caesar. (Stat. Silv. 1.6.81–4)
They raise countless voices to the stars that ring out the emperor’s Saturnalia, and
they shout out that he is their master with sweet expression of favour: this is the
only thing that Caesar forbade them to be allowed.
Whilst it is true that the occasion is the Saturnalia, which might have some
relevance to this incident, it is nevertheless the case here that Domitian’s
action in refusing and moderating praise, even if it may only have been
momentary, is seen as praiseworthy in the context of the poem.
Another disconcerting (from a Plinian perspective) example of Domi-
tianic modesty is found at Silv. 4.2.42–3, where Statius describes being
present at a banquet given by the emperor and having the chance to see
the emperor ‘modestly lowering the standards of his own fortune’ (sum-
mittentemque modeste / fortunae uexilla suae).
The example is particularly
striking as it comes from a significant Domitianic grouping, the first three
poems of Silv. 4. For reasons of space I shall confine my remarks here to
the first two poems, but it should be noted briefly that the third poem,
Nauta (2002) 412–13.
Thompson (1984) offers an important treatment of this passage, arguing that the reticence ascribed
to Domitian here may be genuine. See also Bartsch (1994) 163; for discussion of the whole poem,
see Nauta (2002) 396–402.
Though note that Domitian’s modesty would of course be criticized subsequently as being hyp-
ocritical: see Coleman (1988) 97 on this passage, who cites Suet. Dom. 2.2 simulauit et ipse mire
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on Domitian’s Via Domitiana in Campania, fits into the pattern of praise
for imperial euergetism of the kind which we have encountered before in
this chapter, both in relation to Nerva and in relation to Trajan. In the
first poem, Statius praises the seventeenth consulship of Domitian. The
poem affords opportunities for interesting comparison both in terms of
the theme of imperial consulships and as a version of a formal utterance
of praise to the emperor. On the surface, Statius presents something very
different, with most of the poem being given over to a speech from the god
Janus (Domitian’s consulship naturally was held at the start of the year in
question, 95).
All the same, there are points of contact: thus the reference to the delight
felt by those inRome (Silv. 4.1.25–7) canbe compared to scenes such as Plin.
Pan. 22, where Pliny recounts Trajan’s entry into Rome for the first time
after his accession in absentia.
Similarly, the emphasis on the hope
that the emperor will hold more consulships is perhaps not so different
from the way in which Trajan can be praised by Pliny. Thus Statius’ sugges-
tion that Domitian repeatedly refuses and rejects honours that are offered
to him (Silv. 4.1.33–5) has clear parallels with the situation with Trajan,
who is habitually presented as keen to reject honours.
But when Statius
refers to Domitian’s reluctance to hold the consulship at the outset of his
poem, the parallels with Pliny may turn out to be uncomfortable:
precibusque receptis,
curia Caesareum gaudet uicisse pudorem. (Stat. Silv. 4.1.9–10)
and when their prayers have been accepted, the senate rejoices to have overcome
Caesar’s sense of modesty.
At much greater length, Pliny describes Trajan’s desire not to be consul for
a third time in 99 and then in 100 ce (Pan. 57–60), and the appeals that
were made to him to reconsider. Within this passage, Pliny even points
out that the manner in which Trajan refused the consulship was different
from the way others had done so, since others rejected the office as being
too unimportant, whereas Trajan rejected it as if it were the greatest thing
For such scenes of the return of a leading figure to a city, see Woodman (1977) 130–1 on Vell.
See Bartsch (1994) 164. Coleman (1988) 68 on Silv. 4.1.10 rightly points out that feigned refusal
to hold honours was characteristic of numerous Roman rulers; cf. Woodman (1977) 213 on Vell.
Contemporary contexts 121
(Pan. 59.1). But when Pliny describes how Trajan changed his mind, the
parallel with Statius’ language of victory over a modest emperor is striking:
His tot tantisque rationibus quamquam multum reluctata uerecundia principis
nostri tandem tamen cessit. (Plin. Pan. 60.4)
Though it had struggled greatly with these reasons that were so many and so
important, all the same the modesty of our princeps at last gave in.
The passage dealing with the request for Trajan to hold a fourth consulship
in 101 is similar (Pan. 78–9), and one can note there how Pliny places the
emphasis on the fact that it is the senate which is putting pressure on Trajan
to hold the office, just as Statius had referred to the curia in connection
with Domitian (Silv. 4.1.10). Within the same poem, we can also note how
Statius uses the device of comparison with predecessors in relation to their
conduct whilst holding consulships, just as Pliny does. Thus at Silv. 4.1.27–
33, Statius says that there has been nothing to compare with Domitian’s
consulship before, and then challenges Vetustas (Antiquity) to produce
examples worthy of Domitian: Augustus is then dismissed with the remark
that he only came to deserve his consulships late on (sero, 32). Pliny offers
something similar in Pan. 57, where he describes first how two consuls
nominated in Nero’s final year, 68, were deprived of the consulship, so that
Nero could hold it himself (Pan. 57.1–2), and then mentions how even
under the republic in its heyday there were those who held the consulship
five or six times, before then mentioning Augustus and Caesar (admittedly
without the note of censure of Augustus imparted by Statius).
If we turn to Silv. 4.2, dealing with Statius’ presence at a banquet given
by Domitian, it might appear on the surface that there is little in common
between Statius’ poem, which might seem an easy target for criticism as
servile flattery, and Pliny’s speech. When Statius claims that the experience
of dinner in Domitian’s palace makes him think that he is reclining in the
presence of Jupiter (Silv. 4.2.10–12), we might seem to be very far from
Pliny’s picture of the more modest Trajan, especially when Statius asks
whether he is even able to look at Domitian, when he is reclining at his
tene ego, regnator terrarum orbisque subacti
magne parens, te, spes hominum, te, cura deorum,
cerno iacens? (Stat. Silv. 4.2.14–16)
Cf. Vell. 2.124.2.
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Is it you that I see as I recline, ruler of the earth and great father of the conquered
world, you, the hope of men, you, who are a care to the gods?
There is of course nothing in the Panegyricus comparable to Statius’ expres-
sion of wonder at his ability to look at Domitian.
However, the other
elements of Statius’ praise of Domitian here can be paralleled in the speech:
Pliny refers to Trajan in terms of universal rule at Pan. 12.1 (at nunc rediit
omnibus terror et metus et uotum imperata faciendi, ‘but now terror and fear
has returned to all, and the prayer that they may do what they are ordered
to’), in the context of a general discussion of how barbarian nations are obe-
dient to Rome. Pliny also calls Trajan parens, noting indeed that parens is a
word that can be used of Trajan whereas before Domitian was accustomed
to be called dominus: nusquam ut deo, nusquam ut numini blandiamur:
non enim de tyranno, sed de ciue, non de domino, sed de parente loquimur
(‘nowhere let us flatter him as a god, nowhere as a divinity: for we are not
speaking of a tyrant, but of a citizen, not of a master, but of a parent’,
Pan. 2.3).
This usage, however, to which Pliny so frequently has recourse, can
be uncomfortably paralleled in Statius and Martial, but with reference to
it is of course even more striking that Pliny’s general point
in Pan. 2.3, that the old flatteries are no longer needed, is also a move
made by Martial 10.72 (note especially dicturus dominum deumque non
sum, ‘I am not about to speak of a lord and god’, 10.72.3). Similarly, the
incentive for citizens to have children under Trajan is marked out with a
quadruple repetition of spes at Pan. 27.1,
where Trajan gives parents hopes
of sustenance, donatives, liberty and freedom from care; comparable too is
the end of the Panegyricus, where, without using the word spes, Pliny makes
his closing prayer to the gods for Trajan’s continued well-being, remarking
that simplex cunctaque ista complexum omnium uotum est, salus principis
(‘everyone’s prayer is simple and embraces all those things, the safety of the
For Pliny’s experience of dining with Trajan, see Ep. 6.31.13, emphasizing Trajan’s modest habits.
Other sections of this letter (2, 13–14) are, however, more lavish in their praise of the days spent
by Trajan’s consilium with the emperor at Centum Cellae; see further the suggestive discussion of
Nore˜ na (2007) 255.
Durry (1938) 86 on Pan. 2.3 laconically but rightly (‘pourtant Pline, dans ses lettres, dit ` a Trajan
domine’) notes the manner in which Trajan is addressed as dominus in Pliny’s Bithynian correspon-
dence in book 10: see e.g. Ep. 10.2.1, where Sherwin-White (1966) 557–8 perhaps over-anxiously
explains that dominus also had a function in social usage, and ‘was a natural term of address from
the equestrian procurators to the Princeps, and easily adopted by the legates’, and see also Bartsch
(1994) 166 and n. 41.
For parens applied to the emperor, cf. Mart. 7.7.5, 9.5.1; Stat. Silv. 1.2.178, 4.1.17; Pan. 4.2, 6.1, 10.6,
21.4, 26.3, 29.2, 39.5, 53.1, 67.1, 87.1, 87.3, 94.4.
For this topos, see the references collected by Woodman (1977) 135 on Vell. 2.103.5.
Contemporary contexts 123
princeps’, Pan. 94.2). And the allied idea of the emperor as a concern for the
gods, a cura deorum, as Statius phrases it in the passage above, is also found
in Pliny’s speech, when Pliny opens the Panegyricus with the observation
that Trajan’s accession resolves the question of whether or not rulers are
given to the earth by chance or by fate, since Trajan was chosen with the
active involvement of Jupiter (Pan. 1.4–6).
This passage is incidentally
the opposite of Tacitus’ bleak observation at the outset of the Histories that
the events of the civil war demonstrated that the gods were concerned not
for human safety, but for taking vengeance on mortals (Tac. Hist. 1.3.2).
Thus even a passage in Statius which appears to contain a flagrant example
of the kind of flattering hyperbole which Pliny is so anxious to distance
himself from in the Panegyricus nevertheless contains a number of elements
which can all be paralleled in Pliny’s speech.
What emerges from a consideration of the kinds of crossover that are
illustrated here between Domitianic literature and the Panegyricus is that
the Plinian attempt to control and define notions of what is contemporary
and what is past is doomed to failure. However much Pliny attempts to
differentiate present and past modes of discourse, the sheer intertextuality
of language itself and the commonplaces of praise mean that his praise
of Trajan cannot help but recall praise of Domitian. And of course, more
widely, the attempt to draw a line under the Domitianic age at 96 ce,
popular not only in antiquity but in much scholarship too until only very
recently, was not likely to work. K. M. Coleman has rightly noted how
the anecdote in Pliny’s Ep. 4.22.6 of the emperor Nerva asking where the
notorious Catullus Messalinus would be if he was still alive, and getting
the answer from one of his companions that he would be having dinner
with them, points to the personal continuities,
but the story may be seen
as reflecting other kinds of continuity as well, that one emperor might well
act or be treated in the same way as another would be. Ultimately, if we
are thinking of the contemporary contexts of the Panegyricus, we have to
Compare too the reference at Pan. 94.3 to the cura which is already attributed to Jupiter in respect
of Trajan: nec uero nouam tibi iniungimus curam. tu enim iam tunc illum in tutelam recepisti. At Pan.
80.3, Pliny suggests an overlap between imperial and divine cares: O uere principis atque etiam dei
curas, reconciliare aemulas ciuitates, tumentesque populos non imperio magis quam ratione compescere;
intercedere iniquitatibus magistratuum, infectumque reddere quidquid fieri non oportuerit; postremo
uelocissimi sideris more omnia inuisere omnia audire, et undecumque inuocatum statim uelut adesse et
Damon (2003) 97 ad loc. compares Pan. 35.4 diuus Titus securitati nostrae ultionique prospexerat
ideoque numinibus aequatus est.
The anecdote is quoted in full by Roche, pp. 45–6 in this volume. Coleman (2000) 27. On Pliny’s
own career under Domitian, see e.g. Syme (1958a) 75–85; Sherwin–White (1966) 73–5; Bartsch
(1994) 167–9.
124 bruce gibson
reflect that the process of drawing the line which determines what is and
what is not contemporary was an ideological one in Pliny’s time, and that
to some extent we are unable to escape from that contingency. Thus Pliny’s
attempts to suggest that the literature of the new age is something different
from what has gone before are perhaps to be treated with some caution.
chapter 7
Politics and the sublime in the Panegyricus
G. O. Hutchinson
How does the thought of the Panegyricus relate to the aesthetics that
underlie it? The question has been little explored; but what we have is
a version of the speech which Pliny circulated partly as a work of art.
Oratorical art involves aesthetic ideas; in seeing how those aesthetic ideas
are realized, we will see in turn how the political ideas are realized, in an
ill-comprehended achievement of Roman prose.
Nec uero adfectanda sunt semper | elata et excelsa | (‘nor should one strive
perpetually for lofty and exalted effects’, Ep. 3.13.4). So Pliny on this speech.
The passage indicates that elevation is important, even dominant, in the
speech. Formally Pliny is emphasizing his artful variety, a value that matters
to him (cf. 3.13.4 with e.g. 5.17.2); likewise he stresses his expression and
technique rather than his speaking magnifice ‘grandly’ (3.13.2–3). But we
need not be very experienced readers of Pliny or students of negatives to see
that Pliny is with modest indirectness pointing our attention precisely to
the sublime element in his speech (we shall return to the word ‘sublime’).
Other letters make it clear that sublimity in oratory is a vital concept for
Pliny. Its permissibility is the focus of controversy; but the controversy is
in Pliny another indirect mode of self-display. There is every reason, then,
to explore the nature of sublimity in the Panegyricus.
It will give some useful pointers if we begin from modern ideas of the
sublime, not to import anachronism, but for stimulation and contrast. The
I amgrateful for help fromMr H. Day, and Professors P. Cheney, P. R. Hardie, A. Laird, C. Martindale
and J. I. Porter.
Because of space, this chapter will concentrate on Pliny’s approach, not its context in controversy
(cf. Gamberini (1983) 12–26); there Cicero and the Atticists, Quintilian and the Senecans, play
parts in oratory’s perpetual tug-of-war between restraint and daring. On the Panegyricus’ style more
technically, see Gamberini (1983) 377–448. This chapter also omits epideictic and panegyric traditions,
dealt with by other contributors. Within this chapter, the symbol | denotes a rhythmical close: i.e.
one of
¯ ¯˘¯
; a final
may be replaced by a breuis in longo, any other

denotes overlapping rhythmical closes. For more detail see Hutchinson (1995); cf. Fedeli (1989a)
Ep. 3.13.4 on shade commending light suggests the superior importance of elevation there.
126 g. o. hutchinson
idea has been loaded with vast, and shifting, significance from the seven-
teenth to the twenty-first centuries. Some overlapping sources of sublime
experience have been: art; nature; historical events; human nobility; the
divine. Events have become particularly important in recent discussion,
with huge and spectacular atrocities creeping into the place of nature, so
important in the eighteenth century; overwhelming shock and horror at
these extraordinary events are seen as sublime emotions. Events and nobil-
ity are combined in the question of the sublime in politics. So National
Socialism is held to have aimed at a sublime and anti-rational effect. It has
been argued that for Michelet in the nineteenth century the Terror of the
French Revolution produced a false sublime. Less a matter of projected
image is the sublimity for Schiller of freedom and struggles for freedom.
All this will prove of interest for the Panegyricus.
A relation between politics, history and sublimity is evident in much
ancient discussion. Longinus, whenever he is writing, introduces a philoso-
pher to argue that sublimity requires the great men whom democracy can
nurse: freedom encourages both ‘the aspirations of the great-minded’ (:c
gpcvnuc:c :cv ut,cìcgpcvcv) and competition for oratorical emi-
nence. Imperial rule is contrasted, so the reference (44.3, 5) to ‘just slavery’
suggests; competition perhaps especially evokes the fourth century bce.
Maternus in Tacitus’ Dialogus presents a related view. The tumult of the
Greek fourth, or the Roman first, century bce is formally viewed as unde-
sirable; but it kept Demosthenes (?) from any low utterance (36.1), and
left oratory tanto altior et excelsior | (‘all the higher and loftier’, 37.8). The
amplitudo (‘importance’) of events made Demosthenes and Cicero great
(37.6; cf. Ann. 4.32). Cicero implies the Philippics show a otuvc:tpc, et
tcìi:isc:tpc, (‘grander and more politically minded’) Demosthenes than
his law-court speeches (Att. 2.1.3; cf. Orat. 111, Ad Brut. 2.3.4). A relation
between politics and sublimity in a speech on the emperor who allegedly
restored freedom seems eminently plausible.
This is the moment to look more closely at the idea of sublimity in Pliny.
He uses terms of height, size and divinity to express what we might call an
The sublime and Nazism: Hoffmann (2006) 252–3; Michelet: Peyrache-Leborgne (1997) 394–5;
Schiller: Barone (2004) esp. 215–19. Events: Ray (2005) e.g. 5, 10; Shaw (2006) 120–30. More widely
(often with discussion of Longinus):
Ziˇ zek (1989); Ashfield and de Bolla (1996); Hartmann (1997);
Frank (1999); Zima (2002); Gilby (2006); Till (2006).
Bartsch (1994) 204–6 discusses the relation of Longinus 44 and Maternus; but Heath (1999) radically
places Longinus in the third century ce. Hermog. Id. 1.9 pp. 266–7 Rabe involves political freedom
in the splendour (ìcutpc:n,) of Dem. 18.208; cf. Long. 16.2. For Tac. Dial. 36.1, cf. G¨ ungerich
(1980) 156, and note Quint. Inst. 10.1.76–80. Panegyricus and Dialogus: Bru` ere (1954); G¨ ungerich
(1956); Brink (1994) 265–9; Mayer (2001) 23–5; Woytek (2006) 115–56; but Tacitus’ priority has not
in my view been established.
Politics and the sublime in the Panegyricus 127
elevated element in oratory. Ep. 9.26 contains his longest discussion. Here
it seems that he is particularly concerned with expression: the quotations
from Demosthenes are not all marked by elevation of content. But the
magnificence of Demosthenes’ political stance, and to some degree of
Aeschines’, is not readily excluded; and the aesthetic risk run by the orator is
also seenas sublime. Sublimity contains anelement that goes beyondmerely
grandiose utterance: it involves an artistically triumphant trespassing of
boundaries. Demosthenes’ and Cicero’s daring (8 audeat, 9 audacia; contra
13 timidum) is not simply daring to be like poetry (cf. 8 minus audeat: ‘as
if Cicero dared less than poets!’). Since the risk is of aesthetic disaster, fine
judgement is relevant, as it would not be in nature: the focus of the ancient
category is particularly on art. But it is clear that within art nobility and
events are sources of the sublime for Pliny. So in Ep. 8.4 the elata . . . materia
(‘exalted subject matter’), which requires the poet Caninius to rise high,
is Trajan’s Dacian campaign; its greatness includes the king pulsum regia,
pulsum etiam uita . . . nihil desperantem (‘driven from his court, driven from
his life, but never despairing’, Ep. 8.4.2). This moral elevation in the midst
of external collapse, captured too in Trajan’s Column, will translate into
sublime poetry, if Caninius can match its level and vastness. The idea
of daunting challenge shows that more than mere dignity of language is
Demosthenes is central in Ep. 9.26, and a crucial model for Pliny: cf.
1.2 (other end of the series), 6.33.11, 7.30.5. Demosthenes 18, like Cicero’s
Second Philippic and In Pisonem, must be a significant overall model for
a speech contrasting a good and a bad figure, even if the Panegyricus’
detailed intertextuality is built mainly from Latin, as often in this period.
At all events, Demosthenes 18 makes a rewarding comparison with Pliny’s
strategy of the sublime, especially in its treatment of Aeschines. Demo-
sthenes’ Aeschines to some degree embodies attempts at grandeur which
are aesthetically unsuccessful and politically deceptive: he is :c0 otuvcìc-
,cu :cu:cui (‘this speaker of grand words’, 18.133, cf. 19.255), followed
by ìc,ópic oúo:nvc utìt:noc, (‘having practised your wretched little
speeches’; cf. also 18.258). His words are ttcyûtï, (‘ponderous’ as well
as ‘tiresome’, 18.127), full of tragic and moral bombast (127), from the
On the Dacian War and its context see Stefan (2005); more briefly: G˘ azdac (2002), 20–2. The death
of Decebalus is scene cxlv on Trajan’s Column (Lepper and Frere (1988) 176–7; Settis (1988) 526;
Coarelli (2000) 215); the theme is widely diffused on pottery, including lamps (Stefan (2005) 692).
For sublimity and elevation in Ep. 9.26 and elsewhere, cf. Quadlbauer (1958) esp. 107–9 (I could not
see Quadlbauer (1949), but cf. Fedeli (1989a) 418); Cova (1966) esp. 37–47, 141–5; Picone (1977) esp.
72–83; Armisen-Marchetti (1990); Hutchinson (1993) esp. 12–15; Cugusi (2003); Delarue (2004).
128 g. o. hutchinson
tcpóonuc, pn:cp (‘counterfeit speaker’, 242). But he is above all an
embodiment of lowness and uispc¸uyic (‘little-mindedness’, 279), striv-
ing maliciously and jealously (121, 279, 303) against the noble and upright
policies and character of Demosthenes. Demosthenes’ policies are not,
unlike Aeschines’, :cttivcv or :, tcìtc, óvó¸icv (‘low’ or ‘unworthy
of the city’, 18.108, cf. 178).
Pliny’s Domitian is a very different figure. Not that he has Philip’s
ut,cìc¸uyic (‘greatness of mind’, Dem. 18.67). He presents, within the
speech, a substantial and false attempt to attain sublimity. He aimed at
a fearsome divinity; 52.7 shows sacrifices of (a large part of ) ingentes
hostiarum greges | (‘mighty herds of victims’), intended for Jupiter’s temple,
at Domitian’s statue:
cum saeuissimi domini | atrocissima effigies | tanto uictimarum| cruore coleretur |
quantum ipse humani sanguinis

profundebat. | (Plin. Pan. 52.7)
since the appalling statue of the savage master was worshipped with as much gore
of victims as he himself used to shed the blood of humans.
He is here monstrous, not absurd. But his truces horrendasque imagines |
(‘fierce and terrible images’, 52.5) were physically deconstructed in the pub-
lic attack. Their terrore et minis | (‘terror and threats’) were metamorphosed
by fire. His building plans in their vast exploitation of nature falsely resem-
ble the true sublimity with which Trajan overcomes nature: non . . . omnem
etiam saltum immensa possessione circumuenis, | nec unius oculis | flumina
montes maria deseruiunt | (‘you do not enclose every wood with limitless
ownership, nor do the rivers, mountains and seas devote themselves to one
master’s eyes’, 50.1; cf. 16.5: Trajan overcoming sea, rivers and mountains).
Under Trajan non ut ante immanium transuectione saxorum | urbis tecta
quatiuntur | (‘the buildings of the city are not shaken as before by the trans-
portation of mighty rocks’, 51.1): the image has a suggestion of grandeur,
but verges on the parody of a military campaign or an earthquake.
Particularly notable is the climactic passage on Domitian’s palace,
quam nuper illa immanissima belua | plurimo terrore munierat, | cum uelut
quodam specu inclusa | nunc propinquorum sanguinem lamberet, | nunc se ad
Overall models: even on Cicero’s Philippics cf. Manuwald (2007) 135–6. For Demosthenes’ reputation
cf. Drerup (1923) 104–13; Pernot (2006) esp. 206–20 for sublimity; Kremmydas (2007). For the
aesthetic element in Demosthenes’ encounter with Aeschines, cf. e.g. Cic. De Orat. 26; Dion. Hal.
Dem. 55–8. Caecilius had written a work comparing them (Suda s 1165.9 Adler; Ofenloch (1907) 1).
For Demosthenes’ depiction of Aeschines cf. Dyck (1985); Easterling (1999); Worman (2008) 260–72.
Domitian in Pliny: e.g. Orentzel (1980); Molin (1989) 787–8; Soverini (1989) esp. 539–40; Strobel
Politics and the sublime in the Panegyricus 129
clarissimorumciuiumstrages caedesque proferret. | . . . ad hoc ipse occursu quoque
uisuque terribilis: | superbia in fronte, | ira in oculis, | femineus pallor in corpore,
| in ore impudentia multo rubore suffusa. | . . . ille tamen, quibus sibi parietibus
et muris | salutem suam tueri uidebatur, | dolum secum et insidias | et ultorem
scelerum deum inclusit.| dimouit perfregitque custodias Poena, | angustosque per
aditus et obstructos | non secus ac per apertas fores | et inuitantia limina irrupit: |
longe tunc illi diuinitas sua, | longe arcana illa cubilia saeuique secessus, | in quos
timore et superbia et odio hominum agebatur. | (Plin. Pan. 48.3–49.1)
Not long ago that most monstrous beast had fortified it with the greatest terror: as
if shut in some cave, the beast would now lick the blood of its family, now bring
itself out to slaughter illustrious citizens. . . . He himself was there too, fearful even
to meet or see; there was arrogance on his brow, anger in his eyes, a womanish
paleness in his body, a wantonness and redness all over his face. . . . He thought
he was protecting his safety with the walls of rooms and house; but within those
walls he had shut in with himself deceptive attack and a god to avenge his crimes.
The watch was dispersed and broken through by Punishment; she burst through
the narrow and blocked entrances as if they were open doors and welcoming
thresholds. Being divine did not help him then; nor did those secret bedrooms
and savage retreats, into which he was driven by fear, arrogance and hatred of
The immanissima belua | is Ciceronian language, and a subhuman entity;
but the image is developed with a kind of grandeur unlike depictions
of Aeschines, or even Antony or Clodius. The image of licking blood
recalls Polybius on the tyrant Philip V (7.13.6) or Lucan’s ironic picture
of Caesar’s picture of a Sulla-like Pompey (1.327–32; Cic. Phil. 2.71 is
much less developed). The sequence of description after uisuque terribilis
| brings out the less sublime fall into effeminacy. In 49 the tyrant’s own
fear becomes apparent, with Demosthenic suggestions of a trust in walls
and a cowardly confinement to the house (18.299, cit. Plin. Ep. 9.26; 97
scv tv cisiosci :i, co:cv scûtip¸c, :npi ‘even if one shuts oneself in
a room and guards oneself’, cf. 217). Real divine agency (ultorem. . . deum,
Poena) undoes Domitian’s false divinity. Pliny’s language and the events
deconstruct Domitian’s false sublimity. The events themselves become
grimly sublime through Pliny’s language, which here powerfully draws on
the poetry quoted by Dem. 19.255, Solon fr. 4.26–8 West. Throughout the
speech Domitian’s attempt at political sublimity is exposed and undone.
For Poena cf. esp. Hor. Carm. 3.2.31–2; also Aesch. 1.190–1. The speech presents Domitian’s image
of himself as his own creation. This chapter does not discuss actual resemblances between Pliny’s
praise of Trajan and earlier writers’ praise of Domitian, for which see Gibson’s excellent discus-
sion above, pp. 104–24. In my view, within the speech any consciousness of that earlier praise
will be turned to account: either the speech will encourage a selective and distorted impression
130 g. o. hutchinson
Trajan’s sublimity is authentic and unsought; it is more profound even
than the sublimity of terrible events. The most straightforward element
is nature (always mediated through Pliny’s art). The Rhine, Danube and
Nile, standard objects of wonder, are sources of magnificence for Demetrius
(Eloc. 121), and connected with the sublime by Longinus (35.4). Cicero uses
them in lauding Caesar’s deeds (stupescent posteri . . . Rhenum, Oceanum,
Nilum, ‘posterity will be amazed at the Rhine, the Ocean, and the Nile’,
Marc. 28). These, and the grandeur of distance (Kant’s mathematical sub-
lime), are surpassed or undone by Trajan, both through action and through
the mind:
cum. . . Rhenumque et Euphraten | admirationis tuae societate

coniungeres |
(Plin. Pan. 14.1)
when you joined Rhine and Euphrates to unite in wonder at you
omnia haec tam prona tamque cedentia uirtutibus tuis sentiet, | ut subsedisse
montes, | flumina exaruisse, | interceptum mare, | inlatasque sibi non classes
nostras sed terras ipsas arbitretur. | (Plin. Pan. 16.5)
[such a king] will perceive all these things yielding so readily to your powers that
he will think the mountains have sunk, the rivers have dried, the sea has been
diverted, that not our ships but our very land has been brought against him.
magnificum, Caesar, et tuum| disiunctissimas terras | munificentiae ingenio uelut
admouere, | immensaque spatia liberalitate contrahere . . . | (Plin. Pan. 25.5)
It is a magnificent action, and your kind of action, Caesar, to move most remote
lands here, as it were, by your brilliant generosity, and to draw huge spaces together
by your munificence . . .
post haec, si uolet, Nilus amet alueum suum | et fluminis modum seruet. | (Plin.
Pan. 31.4)
From now on, the Nile, if it chooses, can hug its channel and keep the limits
expected of a river.
Divinity is in antiquity a fundamental source of the sublime. Longinus
is particularly interested in the sublime infringement of the boundary
between mortal and god (1.2, 8.2, 9.7, 16.2 (quoting Dem. 18.208)). Pliny
of that praise, or it is to be seen as making truly points which earlier praise had made falsely
(cf. p. 135 below).
Danube and Euphrates on Trajan’s coinage: RIC nos. 100, 642 (plates 8.142, 11.191); BMCRE
nos. 395–9 (plate 15.6), 1033–40 (plate 42.4); Belloni nos. 108, 466 (plates 5 and 24), Banti (1983)
nos. 28–31; Richier (1997) 601–2, 605 (plates 3.2, 3.4). Rhine on Domitian’s coinage: RIC no. 362
(cf. Stat. Theb. 1.19 on Rhine and Danube). Cf. also Opp. Hal. 2.678–9. For Pan. 12.3–4 note the
paradoxographical [Arist.] Mir. 846b29–32.
Politics and the sublime in the Panegyricus 131
himself presents an approach to that boundary as sublime in Ep. 9.26.4,
13 dis maris proximus | (the helmsmen who masters stormy seas is held to
be ‘very close in rank to the gods of the sea’). This takes us at once to
the beginning of the Panegyricus (quod . . . pulchrius munus deorum | quam
castus et sanctus | et dis simillimus princeps? | ‘what lovelier gift of the gods
is there than a pure and upright princeps, very like the gods?’, 1.3; cf. 7.5).
The last phrase strikingly advances and complicates the thought; the jump
from the preceding adjectives hints at an important point. Trajan does
not assert his own divinity; Domitian falsely asserted his own divinity;
Pliny truly asserts Trajan’s near-divinity, and implies his future divinity. It
is through Pliny’s language that Trajan sublimely reaches the border; but
Trajan’s own restraint attains a special kind of sublimity through denying
sublimity. Nusquam ut deo, nusquam ut numini blandiamur | . . . hoc magis
excellit atque eminet, | quod unum [sc. se] ex nobis putat | nec minus hominem
se quam hominibus praeesse meminit | (‘under no circumstances let us flatter
him as if he were a god or divine power . . . he excels (rises above) us all
the more because he thinks he is one of us and remembers he is a mortal
no less than he remembers it is mortals he is in charge of’, 2.3–4). Excellit
atque eminet | suggests elevation (cf. 24.4).
Pliny’s words and Trajan’s thoughts play artfully around the theme, but
also suggest sublimity. In chapter 11 –
tu sideribus patremintulisti | non . . . non . . . non . . . sed quia deumcredis. | minus
hoc est cum fit ab iis qui et sese deos putant. | sed licet illum aris puluinaribus
flamine | colas, non alio magis tamen deum et facis et probas quam quod ipse talis
es. | (Plin. Pan. 11.2–3)
You brought your father to the stars not to . . . or . . . or . . . but because you think
he is a god. This is of less account when done by those who think themselves gods
too. But though you worship him with altars, gods’ couches and a priest, nothing
you do makes and proves him a god more than you being as you are.
– quia deum credis | has an almost humorous simplicity; the swipe at
Domitian that follows uses simple language with aggressive irony. But after
the religious pomp of aris puluinaribus flamine |, the final talis es through
simple words conveys Trajan’s supreme greatness of character (cf. 27.1).
In 52.6, after the destruction of Domitian’s impious magnificence, we
learn that Trajan piously has thanks for his bonitas ‘kindness’ directed to
Jupiter, not his own genius: illi debere nos | quidquid tibi debeamus, | illius
On Trajan and divinity in the Panegyricus cf. Bartsch (1994) 1–4; Braund (1998) 63–4; M´ ethy (2000)
397–400. For the divine and the sublime (and otuvc:n, ‘grandeur’) cf. Hagedorn (1964) 30–3.
132 g. o. hutchinson
quod bene facias muneris esse qui te dedit | (‘you say that it is it to him we
owe whatever we owe to you: it is thanks to him who gave you that you
do well’). The indicative dedit at the end suggests a move from Trajan’s
thought into Pliny’s. The simple language of te dedit, with no nobis, rises
into grandeur, made more sublime by the preceding renunciation and Tra-
jan’s understated bene facias. We can see the grandeur from 80.5, where
te dedit comes again, of Jupiter, but in an exalted passage where Trajan
is made Jupiter’s earthly equivalent, and likened to a swift star (cf. 35.5
of the sun, and also 19.1). In this passage Pliny pushes sublimely at the
limits he sets himself: o uere principis atque etiam dei curas | (‘ah! these are
truly the concerns of a princeps and even a god’, 80.3). The uere in theory
applies to dei too, though etiam marks the stretching; the genitive permits
a mere comparison with a god, though the parallel with principis hints
towards an assertion. The exclamation connects the utterance to a surge
of emotion; the talia esse crediderim | (‘such things, I would think’) com-
paring Trajan’s actions to Jupiter’s (80.4) locates the comparison in Pliny’s
Events and nobility together take us to the heart of the paradoxical
sublime which Trajan embodies, a sublime based on his denial of the
It is part of this paradox that apparently slight occurrences, as
well as historically momentous happenings, can be full of importance.
We may start, however, with Trajan’s crucial entry into Rome in 99 ce.
In the background stand Horace’s depictions of Augustus’ returns, and
Cicero’s proud portrayal of his own return and contrast with Piso’s (Pis.
51–5, moving into attack on Piso’s philosophical defence of his modestly
avoiding a triumph). Pliny exploits the imagery of height often used for
the sublime. Trajan, unlike other principes, was not carried in on men’s
Cf. Pan. 4.3–4. In 78.4 it is the whole senate’s subjectivity; Pliny has just set noble action against
the brevity of life (78.2, cf. Dem. 18.97), and contrasted the false belief of some principes in their
own divinity. As to Jupiter, Trajan actually takes over Domitian’s most extreme coin-type, in which
he holds a thunderbolt: BMCRE
Domitian nos. 381, 410 (plates 75.8, 77.5), Trajan no. 825 (plate
30.4); Carradice (1983) 114, 144 (plate 10.4). For neither princeps will the type suggest identity with
Jupiter (there seem to me problems with the traditio fulminis alleged on the Beneventum arch, left
attic panel, city side (De Maria (1988) 131 and plate 11.1) and RIC Trajan no. 249–50, BMCRE 493–7
(plate 17.16)). For Jupiter as CONSERVATORI PATRIS PATRIAE protecting Trajan see RIC nos.
619, 643; BMCRE nos. § p. 959,

p. 1013,

p. 1016; Belloni (1973) no. 130; Banti (1983) nos. 39–41;
Fell (1992) 77–8 (cf. IOVI CONSERVATORI at e.g. BMCRE
Domitian no. 354 (plate 73.10)).
Poetry referring to Domitian figuratively as Jupiter should be read with an awareness of genre and
tradition (cf. esp. Ovid’s exile poetry).
Cf. p. 131 above.
Politics and the sublime in the Panegyricus 133
tu sola corporis proceritate | elatior aliis et excelsior | non de patientia nostra |
quendam triumphum, | sed de superbia principum egisti. | (Plin. Pan. 22.2)
It was only the tallness of your body that made you higher and loftier than others;
you held a triumph, as it were, not over our passivity but over the arrogance of
His own natural height, without display, gives him a symbolic elevation;
he vanquishes pride, but in doing so gains a mental triumph.
Trajan’s rising above others is like that of allegorical abstractions, quasi-
divine but not separated from men: emines excellis ut Honor, ut Potestas,
| quae super homines quidem, hominum sunt tamen | (‘you rise above us
like Honour or Power, which, while they are above men, yet belong to
them’, 24.4). Pliny has already brought in the laws as a comparison (for
the personification, cf. Dio Chrys. Or. 1.75, and note ut,cìcgpcv, ‘great-
minded’). The final thing that raises Trajan ‘above’ the principes is libertas
(‘freedom’, 24.5): politics and the republic are deeply involved in his ele-
vation. The concluding clause plays on apotheosis, with finely concrete
paradox: te ad sidera tollit humus ista communis | et confusa principis ues-
tigia (‘you are lifted to the stars by this ground which you share, and by
the footprints of the princeps mixed with those of others’, 24.5). Joining
himself with humanity raises him to near-godhead. We may contrast the
Horatian uirtus (‘Virtue’) which stands for Augustus and spernit humum
(‘scorns the ground’, Hor. Carm. 3.2.24; cf. Virg. G. 2.473–4). The passage
is also set against the triumph in which Trajan will be raised sublimem
(‘aloft’, 17.2) over conquered enemies: but these are not Romans, and the
triumph is still (within the speech) in the speaker’s imagination. Trajan has
done something magnum. . . , magnum (‘great . . . , great’, 16.2) precisely
by refusing to cross the boundary of the Danube and win a triumph.
The theme of height is similarly exploited in an incident which appears
of much less historic significance. When Trajan had named the consular
candidates, he got down from his curule chair to ground level and kissed
Cf. proceritas corporis | (‘tallness of body’) in 4.6–7. On the right attic panel, city side, of the arch
at Beneventum, Trajan is taller than the consuls, and the same height as the gods (De Maria (1988)
232, plate 11.2). This is evidence, as other panels show, not for the physical stature of Trajan but
for the symbolic significance of height. On Trajan’s arrival cf. Roche (2003) 433–4; it is depicted on
the Beneventum arch, city side, bottom pair of panels, De Maria (1988) 232, plate 10. For Pliny’s
treatment of Trajan’s ciuilitas cf. Braund (1998) 58–68. Great battles are Demetrius’ first instance of
magnificence (:c ut,cìctpttt,) in subject matter (Eloc. 75).
On the last passage, cf. Belloni (1974) 1114–16. Pliny’s speech as it develops plays down (cf. Picone
(1977) 180–1) the militarism so conspicuous in Trajanic sculpture. Despite Pan. 59.2, see De Maria
(1988) 295 and Palombi (1993) for the arch of RIC Trajan nos. 419–20; BMCRE Trajan no. † p. 733;
Banti (1983) nos. 332–3 (100 ce).
134 g. o. hutchinson
them (71.1); the whole senate’s paradoxical cry tanto maior, tanto augustior |
(‘that makes you all the greater, all the more august’, 71.4) is developed by
nam cui nihil ad augendum [augescendum coni. Hutchinson
] fastigium superest,
| hic uno modo crescere potest, si se ipse summittat | securus magnitudinis suae. |
(Plin. Pan. 71.4)
He who has got no summit left for growth can grow in only one way: lowering
himself, without fears for his greatness.
For principes need have no fear of humilitas (‘lowness’; contrast 4.5, and
cf. Dem. 18.108, 178). The paradox is made vivid by the image in se ipse
summittat |; a grandiose ethos is imbued into it by securus magnitudinis
suae | (cf. 19.1–3). The senate’s cry recalls Nerva when he adopts Trajan:
repente solito maior augustiorque | (‘suddenly greater and more august than
usual’, 8.3). The speech characteristically draws greatness from seemingly
limited material.
In 61 Pliny again focuses on a meaningful moment; he stresses his
subjective impression: equidem illum antiquum senatum| contueri uidebar |
(‘I, at least, thought I was beholding the famed senate of old’, 61.1). A
consul designate awaiting his third consulship was asked his opinion when
another third consul (Frontinus) was present as well as Trajan. The moment
embodied Trajan’s generosity to others with the consulship: quanti tunc illi
quantusque tu! | (‘how great they were then, and how great were you!’, 61.1).
In 61 the language of size and of height again mingle. Trajan’s figurative
height could have made others’ look less, like corpora quamlibet ardua et
excelsa procerioribus admota (‘bodies, however high and lofty, when brought
next to loftier ones’, 61.2):
illos tamen tu, | quamquam non potuisti tibi aequare

cum uelles, | adeo in edito
collocasti | ut tantum super ceteros | quantum infra te cernerentur. | (Plin. Pan.
The imagery and superest require a point the person could grow to, not a fastigium that could
be grown (so translators). An intransitive augeo is unlikely in Pliny: Sall. Hist. fr. 77.6 M; TLL
For a raised chair indicating Trajan’s exalted status cf. e.g. (curule) RIC nos. 380–1; BMCRE
nos. 712, 767, 769 (plates 25.4, 27.11); Belloni (1973) no. 194; Banti (1983) nos. 42–5, 47–50. On
Nerva in the Panegyricus (and Trajanic coinage) cf. Soverini (1989) 548–52; Roche (2002) 44–6, 52–4.
He naturally appears, with many other imperial figures, on the attic fac¸ade of the East Colonnade
in the Forum of Trajan (Packer (1997) 103 fig. 57, 380–1). On the kiss, cf. Roche (2003) 435; even
if Trajan explicitly asked Pliny to mention these aspects, their role in the aesthetics of the speech is
not diminished.
Politics and the sublime in the Panegyricus 135
But although you could not put them on a level with yourself, despite wanting to,
you put them in such an exalted position that it could be seen they were as much
above all others as they were beneath you.
The wish for the quasi-physical elevation of others is proof of his own
ingentis animi | (‘mighty spirit’, 61.4): it is characteristic of greatness uelle
quantum possis (‘to want nothing less than one can do’). It is further
and paradoxical proof of Trajan’s greatness that he cannot make others
match him. Earlier, magnanimitas (‘greatness of mind’) is expetito semper
honore abstinere | (‘abstaining from an honour that people always seek’,
58.5); striving for perpetual honour as consul is liuor (‘jealousy’, 58.4). The
beginning of the republic is explicitly recalled (58.3).
Trajan’s principate as an event is the restoration of liberty, which his
specific actions renew: it thus returns Rome almost to the republic, and at
the same time repeats the great moment when the kings were expelled. A
more weighty event in Roman history could not be found. It is deployed
in urging Trajan to take a fourth consulship (reciperata libertas |, ‘freedom
when it was just recovered’, 78.3). The sublime implications of freedom
have already been seen. Pliny paints an exhilarating picture (66) of Tra-
jan’s restoration of liberty in his first appearance in the senate as consul.
Intriguingly, the moment is externally a repetition of the usual deceit from
emperors (66.3); what makes this different is Trajan’s mind. In turn, his
action elevates the mind of the Romans. From an inglorious if excusable
state of terror et metus et misera . . . prudentia (‘fear, dread, and wretched
caution’) the senate is returned to caring and speaking about the res publica
(66.4–5; a Demosthenic and Ciceronian source of elevation). The paradox
in iubes esse liberos:

erimus | (‘you bid us be free; we will be’) should not at
first be pressed too hard; iubeo can have the sense ‘bid’, and another clause
follows. But the idea is turned round when the senate iussit ‘told’ Trajan to
take his fourth consulship: imperi hoc uerbum, | non adulationis | (‘this is a
word of command, not flattery’, 78.1). Such is their freedom, and such is
Cf. with magnanimitas ut,cìcgpcv (‘great-spirited’) used by Cass. Dio (Xiph.) 68.7.2 of Trajan’s
restrained inscription on the Circus Maximus. Trajan’s and Frontinus’ names as consuls both
followed by ‘ii’ or ‘iii’ will have made a striking sight: cf. e.g. CIL 6.2222, 13.7711, 16.42 (L¨ orincz
(2001) 155); Frontinus’ second consulship began 1 February 98 (Fast. Ost. Fj; Vidman (1957) 45, 93,
plate 7). For Trajan’s treatment of Frontinus, see Fein (1994) 205–6; Bennett (1997) 108. But one may
doubt arguments to Domitian’s own contempt of fellow-consuls from omissions on inscriptions
by others (Carradice (1983) 144, 151): see esp. CIL 12.2602 (post-Domitianic; Vespasian also named
without colleague, Nerva without his colleague Domitian).
136 g. o. hutchinson
the noble action and mind of Trajan, whose plan is ut libertatem reuoces ac
reducas | (‘to call, and bring, Freedom back’, 78.3).
The return of the Romans from an unelevated mentality is taken on to
the level of personal relationships (85). Again, what seems less momentous
historically and politically is no less important a source of elevation for
Pliny. After flattery and peior odio | amoris simulatio | ‘the pretence of
love, worse than hatred’ (85.1), amicitia ‘Friendship’ like libertas has been
brought back by Trajan: tu hanc pulsam et errantem

reduxisti | (85.1–2 ‘you
have brought her back; she had been driven away and was wandering’).
Friendship is described in exalted and physical terms, and linked with
freedom and a readiness to make demands: neque est ullus adfectus | tam
erectus et liber | et dominationis impatiens, | nec qui magis uices exigat | (‘no
other emotion stands so upright and free, or will so little tolerate master-
like despotism; none insists more on a return’, 85.3). Trajan should not
think such closeness to others humile (‘low’), as it is implied Domitian
would have (85.7).
Demosthenes emphasizes in himself and his speech the absence of false-
hood, and the presence of straightforwardness (e.g. 18.58 ctìc, ‘sim-
ply’; contrast 159, 276). In Pliny, Trajan’s simplicitas (‘simplicity’) is more
paradoxical, a quality one might expect to clash with grauitas (‘weight-
iness’, 4.6). His simplicitati . . . ueritatique (‘simplicity and truthfulness’,
54.5) enable the senate to escape from miserae adulationis | (‘wretched
flattery’, 54.1), and mark him out as unique among principes (54.6). The
paragraph ends with sublime negatives to convey the glory of his rejecting
glory: quod ego titulis omnibus | speciosius reor, | quando non trabibus aut

nomen tuum| sed monimentis aeternae laudis inciditur | (‘I think this
is more glorious than any inscription, when your name is cut, not on archi-
traves or rocks, but on monuments of praise that will last for ever’, 54.7;
cf. 84.8).
For iubes esse liberos cf. Livy 45.22.3, 26.12 senatum populumque Romanum Illyrios esse liberos iubere
‘that the senate and people of Rome bade the Illyrians be free’, 29.4. Trajan’s acceptance of a fourth
consulate appears on coins from October 100 on; cf. Belloni (1973) xvi–xvii. Relevant to the republic
is Augustus’ slight place in the Panegyricus: cf. Lyasse (2008) 337–42. Nerva’s principate is not itself
the real restoration of liberty: note the deft phrasing at 8.1. On the late appearance of Libertas in
Trajan’s coinage, cf. Belloni (1974) 1089–90; contrast LIBERTAS RESTITVTA from at least 70 in
Vespasian 525, 549 (plates 19.15, 22.1).
With simplicitati tuae ueritatique | cf. 84.1 and Dio Chrys. Or. 1.26 :nv utv cov ctìc:n:c sci
:nv óìnûticv n,tï:ci µcoiìiscv sci gpcviucv (‘[the good king]) thinks simplicity and truth is
something kingly and wise’). Note also Cass. Dio (Xiph.) 68.6.2 tìtïo:cv ,cp tti :t oiscic:n:i
sci tt’ óvopti : :t ctìc:n:i :cv nûcv oittpttt (‘[Trajan]) stood out particularly in justice
and courage and in the simplicity of his manners’).
Politics and the sublime in the Panegyricus 137
The monimentis are undefined; they suggest obliquely the mighty oration
which is nowbeing heard or read. Trajan’s own oratory is not praised chiefly
as oratory, rather as an embodiment of his fides (‘trustworthiness’), seen
in the inadfectata ueritas uerborum (‘unaffected truthfulness of his words’)
and the whole manner of delivery (67.1). At the moment when Trajan and
Pliny might seem to come closest, Pliny draws significance from what for
Trajan is straightforward and transparent. As ever, he stages revelations of
Trajan’s self-effacing greatness. The speech is built on a contrast not just
between Trajan and Domitian, but between Trajan and Pliny, somewhat
as in Cicero the pressing and intelligent orator is set against the simple
Roscius or the pressing and emotional orator is set against the sublimely
impassive Milo. The contrast with Pliny, like that with Domitian, makes
the praise more vivid and more tolerable. It brings out that Trajan does
not strive for glory; adulation is precluded. The gifted orator’s writing
in its continual freshness and surprise averts (for the careful reader) the
monotony of unseasoned laudation. Underlying the writing is the same
elegance of paradox and subtlety of thought as in the letters. The overall
sublimity of impact is not a matter of endless straining for extremes, but
a convergence of Trajan’s unstrained nobility and Pliny’s intelligent and
unobvious praise.
We should finally look in more detail at some of this writing. We will
take parts of a typical passage which does not use such obvious sources or
imagery of the sublime as those so far discussed. This will show us how
what we may now see as sublimity is locally in constant alternation and
dialogue with other sorts of writing; it should also give us a fuller idea of
the general sublimity which emerges.
27.3 quocirca nihil magis in tota tua liberalitate laudauerim, | quam quod congia-
rium das de tuo, alimenta de tuo, | neque a te liberi ciuium | ut ferarum catuli
sanguine et caedibus | nutriuntur; | 27.4 quodque gratissimum est accipientibus, |
sciunt dari sibi | quod nemini sit ereptum, | locupletatisque tam multis | pauperi-
orem esse factum | principem tantum. | quamquam ne hunc quidem: nam cuius
est quidquid est omnium, | tantum ipse quantum omnes habet.
28.1 alio me uocat numerosa gloria tua. | alio autem? quasi uero iam satis ueneratus
miratusque sim| quod tantam pecuniam

profudisti | non ut flagitii tibi conscius
| ab insectatione eius | auerteres famam, | nec ut tristes hominum maestosque
sermones | laetiore materia | detineres! | . . . 28.2 amor impendio isto, | non uenia
quaesita est, | populusque Romanus | obligatus | a tribunali tuo, non exoratus
recessit. | 28.3 obtulisti enim congiarium | gaudentibus gaudens | securusque
On 67.1 cf. Fantham (1999) 233.
138 g. o. hutchinson
securis | . . . 28.7 dabis congiaria si uoles, praestabis alimenta si uoles: | illi tamen
propter te nascuntur.
29.1 instar ego perpetui congiarii | reor adfluentiam annonae. | huius aliquando |
cura Pompeio | non minus addidit gloriae | quam pulsus ambitus campo, | exactus
hostis mari, | Oriens triumphis | Occidensque lustratus. | 29.2 nec uero ille ciuilius
| quam parens noster | auctoritate consilio fide reclusit uias, | portus patefecit,
itinera terris | litoribus mare litora mari

reddidit, | diuersasque gentes | ita
commercio miscuit | ut quod genitum esset usquam, | id apud omnes natum
uideretur. | 29.3 nonne cernere datur | ut sine ullius iniuria | omnis usibus nostris
| annus exuberet? | . . . 29.5 inde copiae, | inde annona de qua inter licentem
uendentemque conueniat, | inde hic satietas | nec fames usquam. | (Plin. Pan.
27.3 Hence I would like to praise nothing in all this generosity of yours more
than your giving the largesse and the maintenance from your own resources.
The children of citizens are not being fed like the young of beasts on blood and
slaughter. 27.4 They know, as is most welcome for those who receive things, that
what they are being given has not been snatched from anyone else, and that when
so many have been made rich, the only one who has been made poor is the princeps.
Though not even he has been, they know: the man who has whatever all have,
himself has as much as all do.
28.1 Your glory, with its many aspects, calls me away elsewhere. Elsewhere? As
if I had yet sufficiently revered and wondered at your pouring forth so much
money with no aim of diverting rumour from attacking a crime you knew you
had committed, or occupying people’s grim and gloomy conversations with a
more cheerful subject!. . . . 28.2 It was love, not pardon which you sought with
that expense; the Roman people left your tribunal obliged, not won over. 28.3 You
gave your largesse with shared joy, shared freedom from care. 28.7 You can give
largesse if you like, and provide maintenance if you like; but those children are
born because of you.
29.1 Like a continual largesse, I believe, is the abundance of the corn-supply. Taking
this on gave Pompey long ago no less glory than driving bribery from the place of
elections and the enemy from the sea and traversing east and west with triumphs.
29.2 Nor did he behave more like a citizen than did our Father, authoritatively,
strategically and dependably, in unclosing roads, opening up ports, giving back
journeys to the land, the sea to the shores, the shores to the sea, in mixing different
races through trade so that what was produced anywhere seemed to have been born
everywhere. 29.3 Have we not been granted to see how the entire year abounds
for our purposes, without anyone suffering wrong? . . . 29.5 This [purchase by the
fiscus] is what produces abundance, and a corn-supply that bidder and seller can
agree on; this is what produces abundance here and hunger nowhere.
Trajan gives largesse to encourage the birth of children, and his own
nature makes people want to have children in his world, as they would not
Politics and the sublime in the Panegyricus 139
in Domitian’s. The image of the ferarum catuli (27.3) would demean the
human and Roman beneficiaries, but suggestions of an epic simile, and the
impressive sanguine et caedibus |, convey a kind of dark historical sublimity
from terrible events. Conversely, the impoverishment of the princeps (27.4)
seems to associate an almost amusingly undignified idea with Trajan, for
a moment; but it impressively displays his simple generosity. A twist then
reminds us of the greatness of his position, but suggests a moral basis:
not just that he owns everything, but that he enters into the happiness
of all.
The apparent transition (28.1) presents a striking personification: the
inanimate gloria acts on the rapt person, with a Horatian exaltation (cf.
Carm. 3.25). But with a fine reversal, the transition is undone (contrast
18.1), and Pliny enhances the glory and the subtlety. Not merely the fact of
generosity but the motive of innocence is brought out through a contrast
with the machiavellianism of other principes: auerteres famam | (effectively
ordered) and tristes . . . maestosque sermones | . . . detineres convey in the
negative an ignoble attitude. After more such negatives (omitted here),
the positive amor (28.2) begins a sentence; it lights up the discourse with
the simple and ardent emotion that governs Trajan’s relations with the
Roman people. A searching distinction between participles brings out that
earlier principes were really at the mercy of the people – an ignominious
position. The polyptoton in 28.3 shows the emotional equality of people
and princeps; the intensity of the figure creates an elevated depiction of
what Trajan has created. The whole section ends (28.7) with a grandiose
dismissal of the financial aspects; the simple talis es (27.1, ‘you are such a
person’) now rises into the powerful simplicity of propter te nascuntur. Here
is the Trajanic sublime.
The actual transition (29.1) works through neat metaphor; the metaphor,
with perpetui, gives the impression of raising us to a still higher pitch. (glo-
riae takes up gloria in 28.1.) Now instead of praise through contrast with a
Trajan receives the globe from Nerva (or the senate) on RIC Trajan no. 28, BMCRE Trajan
nos. 53–5 (plates 10.3–4). Belloni (1973) 2 describes the act cautiously. With the significant de
tuo (27.3), cf. Sen. Ep. 77.8. For locupletatisque cf. locupletatori ciuium in CIL 6.958, 40500–1 (108
ce). On Domitian’s financial crisis see Carradice (1983) 159–66. Pan. 25–8 are discussed by Aubrion
(1975) 109–10.
Children are very prominent in Trajanic material; Trajan’s alimentary scheme for them begins soon
after this speech (on it see Woolf (1990); Lo Cascio (2000); CIL 6.40497 (note the urban context),
9.1455 (Ligures Baebiani, 101 ce), 11.1147 (Veleia, late 102 or later)). Cf. the Beneventum arch,
inside right: De Maria (1988) 131, 233 plate 13.1; Kleiner (1992) 224, 226; Molin (1994) 719–20; on
coins e.g. RIC no. 474, BMCRE no. 920 (plate 35.10), unusually with ROMA REST; Belloni (1973)
nos. 111, 124–5 (plate 5); Banti (1983) nos. 3–13.
140 g. o. hutchinson
negative, we have a complicated device. Trajan is likened to a great repub-
lican figure, who (from one perspective) championed the senate against
Caesar, and was lauded in Cicero’s Pro Lege Manilia. Pompey’s achieve-
ment is matched with deeds of his which themselves rise into sublimity;
they grow in space and reach a spatial sublime (cf. Orientem Occidentemque
conectit | ‘joins east and west’, 32.2). Trajan’s action is then presented for-
mally through Pompey’s (29.2): ciuilius seems an unelevated word; but it
points to Trajan’s republican and unassuming attitude (cf. 2.7) towards what
was in fact a spatially magnificent achievement. A trio of abstract nouns
suggests the qualities of a republican leader in parens noster; the vigorous
verbs reclusit and patefecit show the power of his action; land and sea give
the grandeur of space, while litoribus mare litora mari | ingeniously brings
out a double benefit. usquam and apud omnes portray a transformation
of the world. A shorter sentence (29.3) brings us directly into the present,
with question and deixis. A poetic phrase concludes it, annus exuberet |; the
transgression of prose norms in this combination helps express the trans-
gression of normal temporal limits. The whole year (omnis is in forceful
hyperbaton) has the fruitfulness associated with a part. But added to this
splendour is the moral point sine ullius iniuria |. As with Trajan’s handouts,
no one suffers. The final sentence (29.5) creates a tricolon which at first
seems to heighten the style – then to descend as we proceed to commercial
agreement, with the prosaic licentem uendentemque – then to rise with the
vision of hunger absent from the world. The spatial grandeur has a moral
dimension. This leads into a passage (30–1) where Egypt’s boasts and the
mighty Nile are excelled.
When the speech is given the intent and reflective reading which it
demands, it can be seen to fluctuate continually in its stylistic level, and yet
to present overall a glorious sublimity. This sublimity is political and moral,
but can only be realized through Pliny’s art. It separates itself forcefully from
the false sublime of other principes. On Trajan’s side, it springs paradoxically
from an avoidance of aspiration towards sublimity; on Pliny’s side, it
rests not only on truth but on penetration, on an ability to see through
Annona appears on Trajan’s coinage, as on Nerva’s and Domitian’s (Carradice (1983) 112, 114); cf.
e.g. with prow of ship and cornucopiae, RIC Traj. nos. 492–4; BMCRE Traj. nos. 781–3 (plates
28.5); Belloni (1973) no. 49 (plate 2); Banti (1983) nos. 180–2. They also depict Trajan’s port at Ostia:
RIC nos. 471 (plate 11.189), 631; BMCRE no. 770A (plate 28.1); Banti (1983) nos. 82–4A; Meiggs
(1973) 161–6; cf. also ILS 298 (Ancona, 114–15 ce). Parens noster avoids but alludes to the official
pater patriae (cf. M´ ethy (2000) 383–4); though granted to both Nerva and Domitian, that title has
republican roots. It is evidenced early in Trajan’s coinage, and is ubiquitous in documents, cf. e.g.
Pferdehirt (2004) no. 8 (plates 10–11; 99 ce); Eck and Pangerl (2004) photo p. 234; AE 2004 1913
(100 ce).
Politics and the sublime in the Panegyricus 141
Trajan’s modesty and through apparently insignificant material or aspects
to sublime reality and sublime utterance. A merely literary analysis cannot
reach historical actuality; but on its own imaginative terms, the speech
offers a remarkable version of the political sublime. Its aesthetics are made
inextricable from its political and ethical meaning.
chapter 8
Down the Pan: historical exemplarity
in the Panegyricus
John Henderson
distincte definiteque designat
(Pan.88.6: cpiouc, / tcpcoico:cìn / cucictpcgcpcv)
Pan[egyricus] is addressed through the senators in session (patres conscripti,
1.1). Thanksgiving is directed to the gods for their gift of an Optimus
princeps before the speech turns towards parens noster for allowing the
event: Caesar Auguste (4.3). A secundary function, thanksgiving by the
speaker for appointment to the consulate, is subjoined, in a doubly self-
reflexive address on behalf of Pliny and his colleague Cornutus Tertullus
(90.3); and here the performance thanks Trajan both as consul on behalf
of the Roman state and on Pliny’s, too (tu . . . , suo quoque nomine, 91.1; cf.
90.3). Trajan and his new pair of (suffect) consuls give and get the glory
generated over again whenever recitation of the speech evokes another
‘here and now’ for its ‘we and this’. Besides these protagonists, Pliny will
find cause to name a clutch of figures from Roman history:
on the one
hand, heroes of the republic, pegged to the earliest phase through the
Hannibalic War and into the second- and first-century finale – Fabricii,
Scipiones, Camilli (13.4); Bruti, Camilli again (55.6); Papirii and Quinctii
(57.5); Pisones, Laelii and Metelli (88.6);
on the other, the proto-emperor
Pompey (29.1). The line of emperors from Augustus to Domitian receives
citations (Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian,
11.1; Augustus, 4.5, 88.10; Nero, 53.4; Titus, 35.4; Domitian, 20.4; nowhere
Panegyricus’ loci on history are listed in Durry (1938) 37–8 (with several errors); see too Innes in this
volume, esp. p. 82.
For the classic tabulation of Roman historical exempla, see Litchfield (1914). For modern revaluation,
see essays in Coudry and Sp¨ ath (2001) esp. for Camilli and Fabricii. For Scipiones cf. e.g. Henderson
(1997) 33–6; Bruti and Metelli: Henderson (1998) 73–107, 109–11; Papirii Cursores: Oakley (2005)
175–7; Quinctii: Ogilvie (1965) 399–400, cf. 516–17, on Quinctius Capitolinus; for Pisones (a pinsendo,
Plin. Nat. 18.10) and Laelii, see below on Pan. 88.6.
Down the Pan 143
Caligula), although necessarily the names of Trajan’s two fathers, adoptive
and natural, steal the show: Nerva (7.4, 7.7, 8.2, 8.3, 8.5, 10.2, 35.4, 38.6,
89.1, 90.6) and Traianus pater (88.6, 89.2; cf. pater, 9.2).
Whereas Domitian’s name disappears but for its two bows early on, so
that insistently vindictive disappearing of the monster into oblivion can fea-
ture extensively as the vituperative flipside of the binary rhetoric of praise,
the encomium buoys up the mood of celebration by harping on the new
emperor’s auspicious advent as the blessed ‘son of god’. Specifically, paraded
invocation of diuus Nerua inaugurates Trajan’s reflexive legitimation of a
new (anti-)dynasty through consecration of his predecessor: chosen succes-
sor turns chosen ‘son’ as chosen one, to articulate an unprecedented peace-
ful transfer of power shorn of blood-ties and genetics.
Pan makes plenny
of noise spelling out the dynamics of this new deal for emperors of Rome,
laying before senatorial elites present and to come the role of nomination
in the authorization of a Caesar assembled through detailed presentation of
Practising parsimonious nominalization, irreference, reticence
and rhetorical damnatio memoriae, the amplificatory swell in the modal-
ity of praise compensates by performing self-referential explicitation of
exemplary manipulation of stripped-down, dismantled, unplugged history
in suturing positive representation of the present. Ratifying personalized
power through secured terms of acclamation is presented as the prize for
this governmental rhetoric between House and Palace. Dots and crosses
from history weave into the texture of political encomium the amplifica-
tory resonance of historicality: it needs tracking through the grain of the
By rooting newly tooled beatification in a Rome-long tradition of ‘his-
torical exempla’ which begins from sanctification of an individual’s signal
heroics in service to Rome, and then blurs into their descendants’ fam-
ily legacy and cult,
the imperial orator can surf on a venerable tradi-
tion of beatification by award of an acclamatory epithet:
the product of
this reward for virtue had long been styled as self-advertising inheritance
and pressure of expectation on each future generation in the gens.
For disappearing the other in invective, see Henderson (2006) 143–7 on Cic. Pis.
For accession panegyric: Braund (1998) esp. 65–8; post-assassination: Hoffer (2006) esp. 80–4 on
Pan. 5–10.
For the all-enveloping Trajan made from paradox: Rees (2001).
For the logic of naming/entitlement: McCulloch (1989). On Roman naming: Salway (1994); cf.
Wilson (1998) esp. ‘Part i. Ancient Rome’.
On Pan’s manipulation of history and exempla: Molin (1989) 789–91.
For parodic nostalgia on historical exempla within Roman onomastic discourse, see Henderson (1997)
on Juv. 8.
144 john henderson
euphemous hyperbole had become a ploy in the repertoire of clans com-
peting for honours and predominance in the stakes of the republic, so it
inflated to mark successive bids to outsize those stakes, expropriated to
glamorize the would-be autocrat and deliver him soi-disant ascendancy. As
master-signifiers of mastery concretized around the emergence of ‘Caesar’
as the self-perpetuating gentilician core of a panoply of transcendental tit-
ulature, ‘Imperator’, ‘Augustus’, reinforced by deification of dead autocrats
realized as divine affiliation, diui filius, the first dynasty of Julio-Claudian
emperors had created an elaborate, yet notably elastic, impro-system that
demonstrated the intrication of any individual reign within longer-term
stakes for obedience;
after the rapid-fire disruptions and abortive shifts of
the failed bids to found the second dynasty, the Flavians had resumed the
nomenclature and father–son model of succession ready-made, but also
recapitulated the pattern of step-up sublation to valorize unprecedented
majesty in fresh hype.
The New Man Pliny’s New Dawn for a New Emperor will launch the
bid to found a third dynasty on a selective review of names for power
in Latin that extend from traditions from way back when elected consuls
brokered between their predecessors and their prospective replacements
to boss Rome. But his target will be to clinch, on top of an underlying
continuation of positive spin from adherence to exemplary heroes and
accredited emperors, dissociation fromthe demonized Domitianic negative
plus an overlay of charismatic bedazzle for Trajan’s annunciation.
trashing of the tyrant must mesh with gentle backgrounding of the catalyst
‘enabler’ Nerva. But Pan’s blazoned solution to the terminological challenge
hands Rome and its latest Caesar Augustus the blankestest cheque available
to Latinity, exhaustively unpacking the indefeasible subsumption within
its bravura modesty of all actual or imaginable forerunners. It would catch
on, too, later in the reign (on diplomas from 114 ce).
Pliny’s very first word (bene) already cues us in, his first proposition
homes on the beatitude (optimo principi), and his first lesson self-enacts
its conferring by senatorial decree here and now facilitated by the consul’s
voice amid senatorial felicitations (‘Optimi’ cognomen, 2.7). All the speech’s
negotiations with earlier precedents in naming power – felix and magnus,
See Syme (1958b).
For the emergence of exempla as Roman discourse (rather than as consensual shorthand), see esp.
Mayer (1991) on Seneca; Chaplin (2000) esp. ch. 5 on Livy; Roller (2004); B¨ ucher (2006); Fox
(2007) esp. ch. 6; Langlands (2008) 160–4. I have learned much from Brooke (2009) on Ciceronian
On Trajan as ‘Optimus’ see Nore˜ na (2007) 258 n. 58; cf. Fell (1992).
Down the Pan 145
Caesar, imperator, Germanicus, pater patriae, augustus (add augusta; and
amicus principis) – will be there to be beggared by the thrill of this new
‘vacant sign’, whose point is to catch us up in the well-wishing dramati-
cally attributed to an excitable senatorial audience. As vows, prayers and
well-wishing bulk up the rippling bouts of thanksgiving, text-act leads
the congregation into the optative mood, into overpowering optimism,
and panegyric appellates into epiphanic being our ‘Optimus princeps’. The
bestest shorthand ‘name’ for this superlative rhetoric would have to be
Pan loses no time in indicating that it (this box-set version)
means to twin-
task as on the one hand specifically occasioned performance, delivering on
its brief as the latest affirmation of age-old traditions of political oratory in
the functioning of the Roman state apparatus,
and on the other knowing
exhibition of the logic inherent in the thinking encoded in its routines and
formulae: Bene ac sapienter . . . maiores instituerunt (‘Good and wise that
the ancestors put in place the principle’, 1.1). The agenda, to begin with,
will be choice of language, and so it should be, heading up any speech-act
same as any other transaction: to get off on the right foot, pray for the
blessing of the gods. This formulaic summary of Romanness (mos) is a
pious preamble ushering in the optimal instance of the consul charged
with the task of rendering (wording) thanks to ‘a/the best princeps’, doing
the bidding of the senate.
There is no more beautiful gift of the gods
than a princeps who is as godlike as can be, intones the voice, and you can
feel it, too, as the level lifts to herald clarity beyond the reach of doubt or
dispute and proclaim our prince the placement of no hidden workings of
destiny but of the up-front and in-person choice of the Almighty Jupiter.
This consul steps himself into evocative shoes, ‘summoned up’ as the latest
incarnation of that long line of anonymized maiores, as if ‘rising to the
occasion’ and ‘coming back to life’ are one and the same, as they must
always have been (excitamur). Through Pliny speak so many: they prayed
to Jove as the Founder. The difference today makes is Pliny’s supplement:
For the reworking of Panegyricus according to Plin. Ep. 3.18, see Henderson (2002) 141–51; Habinek
(2007) 214–15.
For the ‘public script’ realized through the rhetorical performance of sincerity, see the classic account
in Bartsch (1994) ch. 5.
For Pan’s manipulation of principatus, see Ramelli (1999); Gowing (2005) esp. 120–31.
146 john henderson
to Jove as ‘Preserver of the Empire’.
Adding and adapting, the speech must
befit Iuppiter Optimus, live up to consulate, senate and emperor alike. This
consul heads, speaks but also stands for all citizens, who shall, henceforth,
match Jupiter in openly and presently declaring their thoughts. [2] But to
achieve this they must avert and exorcise adulation, be rid of the voices of
the past, their own words, of insincerity, untruth, slavery:
‘May we say
nothing of the kind we said before’ (cf. 75.6 below; an excitable twist on
the stock panegyric stance, where there is ‘No call to avoid what others
have put into their speeches before’, Isoc. Pan. 9).
Wishing away the past powers the present by foregrounding epoch-
making as prime duty of all ‘our speeches’: demarcation of Now by
antithesis with Then is the conceptual principle underpinning the baseline
dynamics of thanksgiving as epideictic genre, anchoring and motivating the
invention, conceptualization and marshalling of continuities and ruptures
between the past/s into and as (if ) ‘given’ epochs, eras, periods, regimes;
and their definition of the present through ‘negative antithesis’. For you can
tune in to the way thanks deliver depending on who it is being thanked;
there has to be a corresponsion, since a tyrant is not a fellow-Roman, a
slave-owner is no father. Our princeps is not a god, not a divinity? So don’t
fawn on him as if he is. As one of us, he learned, as wisdom has it, same
place we did, that ‘He’s only a human in charge of humans’ (meminit). Pon-
der: you can tell lots from the way that the people of Rome come up with
customized epithets to chant at each princeps – from Yesterday’s ‘Beaut’,
to Today’s ‘Braveheart’, other times’ ‘What moves, what uox’ versus Tra-
jan’s ‘Respect! Frugality! Courtesy!’ Then there is the senate. Harder to lay
down the law here – ‘How about us?’ – but how does the house habitually
behave (solemus)? This Emperor of ours is not (is he?) hailed as divine, but
chorused for being human, adjusted, obliging: so to the rhetorical cap we
have been steered towards, so we get there as if tentatively, with a follow-up
‘question’, a rider. ‘So now: what is there as appropriately citizen-among-
citizens and senator-to-senator as that “nickname” we’ve pinned on you:
“Best”?’ (‘Optimi’ cognomen, 2.7).
We’ve got this far without dignifying any of them with their names,
Domitian, Nero, whatever, and spotlight the strategy right here, dropping
the quizzical feint and out with it: ‘What made this emperor’s prerogative
and monopoly was the way his predecessors grabbed all they could’ (2.8).
To get the feel of the honorific quotient of ‘Optimus’ is clearly vital since we
A cult title, already transferred to sobriquet of Augustus by Velleius, 2.60.1.
On Pan’s manipulation of the Roman discourse of ‘freedom’, see Morford (1992).
Down the Pan 147
follow up by paralleling it by juxtaposition with ‘felix’, similarly acclaimed
as social and non-hierarchical, as ‘we’ call him and us ‘lucky’ and break
through his defences by embarrassing him into understanding how this
discourse works: tears and blushes are inflicted, conjured, at and as part of
the unveiled dynamics of imperial acclamation: what is said, what is meant;
what is heard, what is recognized (agnoscit . . . sentitque . . . dici, 2.8). Any
emperor needs reminding that senators decide what they mean when they
choose to call him anything; that consular thanksgiving has a history,
practises cultural mnemonics and preaches its (self-)perpetuation into the
bargain: complimenting one on being special, distinct from his role, tells
him that he will become one more ‘previous princeps’, and the antithesis
between epochs is in the rhetorical gift of ‘our speeches’. So this first
episode has paved a congratulatory path towards delivering on the promise
to come up with words on ‘our princeps’ that couldn’t seem possible to
apply to ‘another one’ (2.1), by gleefully flagging up the new (anti-)title of
‘Optimus’ with a big ‘O’, and specifying that its appeal is that it means less
than shouting ‘lucky’ – little more than an unassuming ‘sir’, and as such
the keynote condensation of recovery from oppression: ‘Simply the Best’.
Pliny manages to broker this pact for the lot of them, on the button,
by bonding into his text the most loaded laconic touch of all: ‘haec faciat,
haec audiat’ (2.8), he cites us as reciting, in our best wishes for a mutually
beneficial era in prospect: at once, ‘may he fulfil his vows and hear our
pledge of allegiance’ and ‘he wants acclamation, he does his stuff’. It’s all
very well and as it should be for the consul to proclaim the out-of-left-field
thought that if the emperor doesn’t fulfil his vows, they won’t play ball and
pray; but that’s how to introduce a gossamer promise as good as a threat,
and reduce a good guy to tears of joy and cheeks ablaze with humili- . . . .
Scoffing at the unthinkable makes it thinkable. Since the emperor wants
everything to go smoothly too, and so answer his prayers, he’ll say amen
to this, and as indeed one trained senator among the rest understand
how lightly and expertly this appointee is conveying how this business
of acclamation works. Appointment as (t)his emperor’s nominee for a
couple of magic months in fall 100 ce presumably included the calculation
that Pliny’s gift and penchant for documenting his public service might
turn into a best chance to headline as most understanding of emperors,
though neither of them could dream they would boss Latin Panegyric in
perpetuity. If the model of succession through adoption took hold, if not
as first preference, then Rome would never have, or need, a ‘fourth dynasty’
to be inaugurated and conceived afresh: Trajan could, if he kept faith with
Pan and made like Nerva, figure and remain the paradigm of successful
148 john henderson
succession. On anything like that prognostication, Pliny’s sophistic coup
of hitting on the prime equivocation in ‘Optimus’ between non-despotic
ordinary sociality and ultimate enfolding of all protocols of praise within
one single abyss of obeisance would take some beating.
After a well-rounded meditation self-reflexively sketching lessons on the
counterproductive outcomes of premeditated rhetoric attempting to beat
the pandemonium of spontaneously improvised acclamation at its own
[4] the voice of Pan resumes its vindication as standard consular
commission, briskly glossed as an institutionalized ‘reminder’ to emperors
(recognoscerent – ‘what good ones do, and bad ones should’). As ‘by decree
of the senate’ it escapes the emperors’ blanket veto on private thanksgiving,
a ‘necessity’ imposed on – ‘you, Caesar Augustus’: for here is where we turn
momentarily to evoke Trajan’s presence by direct address. Ready to turn
back towards the patres conscripti for Pliny’s summoning up of an iconic
likeness that would live up to the emperor’s power ‘on a par with the gods’’,
before the gaze pans Trajan with another vocative address ‘in your direction,
Caesar Augustus’. Naturally, the sight of ‘our princeps’ before us outstrips
fantasy, combining in one frame the star features of all forerunners but
minus the warts (like the artist piecing together loveliness from the best
body parts distributed between all the beauties in town; see below on 89).
Here again the text scrubs names (unless Pliny infiltrates his friend Tacitus,
busy filling his Histories’ portrait gallery of emperors: tacitus agitaui (4.3),
running us past a list of polarized profiles for a dream-leader that maybe
most readily cash out as Tiberius/Galba (if we forbear in this context from
blurring ‘principes’ to take in the late republic’s Antony/Cicero), Julius
Caesar/Titus, Galba/Augustus. [5] In confirming Trajan has the necessary
quality to look the part of panacea, we get to specify his peaceful accession
by adoption, eliminating both (Augustus’ and Vespasian’s) first and second
dynasties from comparison, as arising from civil wars and coup d’´etat.
This minimalist double review of imperial physiognomics proves to kick
off detailed and lengthy (pre-Suetonian biopic) narration of Trajan’s rise
to power, his passage to the purple, starting with omens as positive as
On the orchestration of Pliny’s praise, see esp. Lassandro (2003).
Down the Pan 149
those of (unspecified and unspecifiable) ‘other principes’ were sinister, as a
Capitol crowd jumped the gun and mistook Trajan already for the emperor,
before events conspired to force him to accept adoption by a wobbly Nerva
succumbing to mutiny, arrest and confinement. Pliny lays on the spooky
atmosphere thick and embellishes the clich´ es that paint this ‘coup’ a velvet
revolution: storms before calm, the ups and downs of life, ‘It was almost
worth going through all that!’ Rome ran for refuge in Trajan’s lap, as Trajan
was summoned to save the city by adoption the way ‘great commanders in
the old days’ (olim duces magni, 4.2) used to be in the habit of being recalled
from the front on far-flung campaigns to aid their country back home. No
names pilfer limelight – and this time we would find ourselves hard put to
fill in the blank (with which hoary worthies from way back when? Is this
Agesilaus (Nep. Ages. 4.1), or shall we shoehorn a reclaimed Camillus in?
Try it!) and obliged instead to supply the obvious panjandrum: Hannibal,
finally dislodged from Italy, ` a la Agesilaus in Asia, by direct threat to his
Carthage (Liv. 30.9), for Trajan’s trailblazer! (Could Silius’ epic of Pliny’s
moment be ‘rehabilitating’ that Roman anathema so unequivocally? Never!
See below.) [7] Truly, this ‘journey to the principate is unprecedented,
unheard of’.
This (non-deathbed) adoption set genetic kinship aside, the sole prior
bond being between ‘gentlemen/(two of ) the best’ (uterque Optimus, 7.4).
Not a private deal struck in a palace bedroom to appease an empress, unlike
‘one or two’ stepfathers we should (this time) specify (Augustus adopting
Livia’s Tiberius, Tac. Ann. 1.3.3, 5.6; Claudius and Nero, with Agrippina
playing Tanaquil (see Liv. 1.41), Tac. Ann. 12.25, 68.3; current empress
Plotina would engineer Hadrian’s successor without ever mothering a son).
Hard to miss the shadow of that anxiety, The Upstart, in the formulaic
phrasing of this ‘helpmeet’s elevation to partnership’ (assumptus es in labo-
rum curarumque consortium, 7.3) – shades, that is, of the suicidal climber
Sejanus, built-in liability of every palace stuck with a throneful of senility
(Tac. Ann. 4.2.3, 7.1). Once liberated, the idea that a hiccoup in assured gov-
ernance could be the opportunity for the Strong Man to wade in – and step
up – requires energetic rhetorical disarming: with reluctance from the pro-
motee (recusatio, 5.5; ‘summons to save the state’, 6.4) preparing the way for
mimetic participation (an . . . quaeras? Non . . . totam per ciuitatem circum-
feras oculos et . . . existimes . . . inueneris? . . . possis . . . adoptes . . . adoptasses,
7.5–7). Focalization through the promoter gets each of us playing emperor
playing the field, looking for ‘the best option’ (quem Optimum quem dis
For the strategy of chronological narration, see Innes in this volume, esp. p. 78.
150 john henderson
simillimum, 7.5), so as to play down the cardinal thought that picking
childless and time-expiring Nerva for quasi ‘interrex’, if he didn’t pick
himself (which of ‘you’ were in on that deal?), had necessarily set his reign
the nerve-racking one-item agenda of succession, willy-nilly. Yes, he was
set the primeval challenge at Rome, of smoothing sound administration
while avoiding the stigma of ‘tyrannical-Tarquinian, regal’ arbitrariness
(superbum istud et regium, 7.6).
Plugging the ‘Bene ac Sapienter’ tropology for all it’s worth, Pliny tunes
out nervous Nervan fragility by giving us a seat at a theoretically wised-up
appointment committee onhigh, fathering comprehensionof the dynamics
of adoptive succession on Nerva, with a professorial tweak from himself.
‘Pick the one acceptedas future ruler evenif youdon’t pick him. . . . Biology,
he (must have) reasoned, makes no difference – except that a bad choice
is harder to take (just how it is, people being people, huh!) than bad luck
with a prince of the blood.’ Damnation! – (We know why that misfortune
was tolerated . . . but we’re tipping the balance away from fatalism and
knuckling under to unbiddable human nature, sold on paternity.)
[8] For thinking political fixers, the chances of choice are optimized by
avoidance strategies (uitauit hunc casum, ‘chance/disaster’, 8.1). Widening
participation meant including incurably regressive homines (like ‘you’ and
‘us’ – and him?), so fully ceremonial referral of the decision to the gods, for
a ruling from ‘Jupiter Best and Greatest’, manifested through annunciatory
miracle as the emperor’s deposition of the latest Pannonian victory-laurel
on Jove’s lap wired divine electricity through Nerva’s suddenly majestic
and recharged frame as he – He – summoned gods and men to wit-
ness the Assumption of Trajan in absentia: his adoption as ‘sole aid’ and
‘support’ (more troublingly reminiscent ‘Upstart’ riffs). Power sharing or
abdication – same difference? As this Anchises rediuiuus is touched by the
Deity and shouldered by the ‘son’ he and Rome need, the Trajan before our
senate session fills in for the ‘virtual presence’ (non secus ac praesenti tibi, 8.4)
of his role as Aeneas . . . on the point of quitting his razed Troy forever. . . .
The orator packs in links to the stock of ‘archetypal’ scenarios to make us
remember, and forget (to remember), selectively where cashing out analo-
gies and dwelling on implications would scatter core thrust into fraught
periphery. Tacitus gets to stage and dwell on the ‘fifteen-minutes-of-fame’
geriatric emperor Galba’s prequel for Nerva’s adoption of his update on Piso
Licinianus’ shot at stand-in Aeneas, showing how this once proud repub-
lican family’s procession of honours turned to repeat butchery and mar-
tyrdom to autocracy, topped by the five-days-long zenith/nadir of rhetori-
cally gilded co-rule pending decapitation in the forum of civil war chaos,
Down the Pan 151
69 ce-style (Tac. Hist. 1.14, 48); Pliny is not going to call up by mention
this misfire into downfall atrocity, and blots out the prompt his Anchises
overdub harbours to terminal crisis with oratorically enacted muting: ‘And
lo! In a trice down sank all hubbub.’ Sh! All down to the adoptee – utter
contrast, how could we ever/so soon forget?, with the trouble that did
not die down but arose from the immediately preceding episode of impe-
rial succession-adoption: Domitian’s abortive promotion to next-in-line of
Flavius Clemens’ short-lived sons, restyled Domitianus and Vespasianus,
the last-ditch arrangement cancelled in the sudden arraignment and exe-
cution of their father shortly before Domitian’s assassination (oblitine
sumus . . . ?, 8.5). Picking Trajan did the trick for Nerva: ‘Lo! In a trice:
“son”– “Caesar” – “imperator” – “partner in tribunician sacrosanctity”.’
The titles all rolled into one packed magic moment of grace – where not
so long before a ‘true father’ only ever bestowed titles on one of his two
sons (namely, the other one – Titus). As Pan backs his embryonic dyarchy
model, history shudders through. On the cue ‘imperator’, Pliny turns to
make hay with the imperial title ‘Germanicus’: not the adopted son of
Tiberius, named for his father’s conquests; not Pliny’s patron and honorary
‘parent’ Verginius Rufus, proud to lead the legions in Germany to suppress
revolt – without being tempted to march south at their head and seize
the throne (Ep. 2.1, 6.10, 9.19: affiliation, commemoration, vindication);
and not the vanity of Domitian’s self-styling as ‘Germanicus’. Quite the
reverse, as this commander of Germany was sent the title from Rome, at
the frontier, ordered to accept the package while still unroyalled, so far as
he knew, and therefore honour-bound by the grand traditions of military
discipline to obey orders from his at once imperator, princeps and father
(mos a maioribus traditus, 9.5). [10] Icing on the cake: he had to obey
the more because others were disobeying; and supersession of said cake: it
wasn’t Nerva’s pick but the Roman consensus, SPQR, which Nerva got to
first, that’s all. Everyone’s prayers answered. So they were at the mercy of
this marshal; he did spare Rome (moderatus es, 10.3).
This cat slipped out of the bag with the elevation to imperator, a matter
of more than ‘the name, the icons, the insignia’, in Trajan’s case active
physical leadership in camp, the original and still, clearly, the patent core
to the title (10.3). When this soldier’s soldier became ‘Caesar’ in Germany,
he was driving straight for the top, all too like the original, Julius, and only
restrained by his own preference to keep his new name of ‘son’, ‘opting’
152 john henderson
for second-in-command so long as he served the ‘optimal/saintliest’ ‘gent.’
of an oldster (optabas . . . optimo illi et sanctissimo seni, 10.4; the juncture
where Pliny chooses to openhis letter-file with Trajan: imperator sanctissime,
optauerat . . . imperator optime, . . . opto, Ep. 10.1).
The timing worked out divinely: Nerva’s last act in life was to adopt his
consecrator, immortality so close, historians will dispute whether he was
still human. His one-line epitaph will style him ‘father of the state qua
father of Trajan’ (nomine, 10.6). The pretty conceits are flirting with quite
the wrong company: deification ceremonial is a routine, so Trajan treads
a rut. But no, this version will not just tick the boxes (bene) but grasp
the logic (sapienter): [11] Nerva’s apotheosis ‘copied the formulae but with
discernment’ (hoc idem sed alia mente, 11.1). You could, then, have fooled us:
forcing rhetoric is required to distinguish Nerva/Trajan from their models.
And poisoned Penegyricus makes short work of the short set of precedents,
supplying names to target derision. Augustus/Tiberius aimed ‘to smuggle in
blasphemy trials’ (maiestas); Claudius/Nero ‘to mock him’; Vespasian/Titus
and Titus/Domitian ‘to look like son and brother of god’. Whereas (here’s
heresy) Trajan – Trajan is a believer, has faith, a ‘good successor’s faith’.
Those latest Flavian precursors basked in high and mighty sloth trading on
their father’s divinity; Trajan instead looks past them to ‘vie with the classic
early Roman heroes’ (illos ueteres et antiquos). Who shall be nameless. [A
lacuna interrupts a transition . . .
. . . and] we next meet another jibe at a generalissimo whose ‘celebration of a
triumph was the most reliable pointer to his having been routed’ (Domitian
in 89 ce). [12] Pan is following up the topic of the imperatorium nomen,
facing about to watch the enemies of Rome contemplate a new ‘old-style
classic Roman leader’ (Romanum ducem unum ex illis ueteribus et priscis,
12.1). In panic, they don’t cut deals for hostages or sell ‘victories’, but
beg and grovel, ‘delivering panegyrics’ of their own when they get lucky
(agunt gratias) and otherwise ‘stifling grumbles’ (non audent queri). Tribes
across the Danube frontier learn to revere the newcomer’s serene mastery
of their extreme biosphere; [13] and the soldiers that face them adore his
See Hoffer (2006).
Down the Pan 153
exemplary hands-on mucking-in troop-handling regime reviving the grand
world-conquering tradition of Rome: the formulae of this legendary set
piece tap into the core narrative history repertoire and its nostalgias (Sall.
Jug. 45, 85.33–5). This drum needs banging: Rome has itself a soldier-
emperor, a soldier emperor (commilito) in the house. More than a comrade
for the all-time stars in the pantheon:
hac mihi admiratione dignus imperator <uix> uideretur si inter Fabricios et
Scipiones et Camillos esset; tunc enim illum imitationis ardor semperque melior
aliquis accenderet. (Plin. Pan. 13.4)
A commandant would <hardly> seem worthy of this admiration to me if oper-
ating with Fabriciuses + Scipios + Camilluses to right and left. You see, back in
their day his fire would be lit by the burn of emulation, by endless betterment.
These cohorts in polysyndeton optimize our princeps by raiding Virgilian
Anchises’ panoptic catechism for Romanness (tu . . . Romane, memento,
Verg. A. 6.851) for the holiest haul of historical exempla: Fabricius heads
844, Scipiadae head 843, and Camillus closes 825. This intertextuality
window-references to the taster of a home-grown crop of heroes in the
laudes Italiae (Verg. G. 2.169–70): magnosque Camillos, | Scipiadas hinge
the couplet, building to the climax of te, maxime Caesar |. Virgil paraded his
underworld pageant to choreograph mos maiorum in action, as the factory
of eternal gentilician recycling promises to engineer imitationis ardor sem-
perque melior aliquis (13.5). Pan’s concentrated triad offer us first a one-off
hero from the early third-century Pyrrhic victories, given the ‘generaliz-
ing plural’ treatment that stamps traditionalism into this protreptic.
too can from nowhere invent yourself as a new name on the list of lists,
as Rome augments. Clan Fabricia making its solitary mark. Last comes
Furius Camillus from the early fourth century, rescuing Rome from torch-
ing by Gallic invaders. His name carried his fame through the speaking
cognomen ‘altarboy’, propagated through homonymous son and grandson
consuls, but never leaching the glory away from ‘the original’. Instead,
mighty Camillus acquired a meta-role as exemplary ‘second founder’ of
Rome, boxing and coxing between (a) Romulus and Augustus (Liv. 5.49.7)
and (b) Brutus and Julius/Augustus (see belowon 55.6) in competing triadic
epochs in Roman history, kingdom, republic/imperium, principate. Ever-
renewable preservationism, bridge between Cicero’s bank of exempla and
Pliny’s/Tacitus’ amplificatory extensions (e.g. Asinius Gallus at Tac. Ann.
For discussion of the ‘generalizing plural’ in Latin, see Henderson (1997) on Hor. C. 1.12 at 29–32
with 97–114.
154 john henderson
2.33, Fabricios . . . Scipiones vs. Ann. 6.2, Scipiones . . . et Silani et Cassii).
Central, to virtually everything, come the Cornelii Scipiones, dominating
the culture-hero stakes from their rise in the early third century to their
second-century hegemony. They always were a clan branch marked off by
their cognomen, but arriving on the scene in waves, regularly in fraternal
pairs, but also twinned across generations by duplicate exploits, especially
the rhyming triumphal agnomen of the two Africani, brandishing their
conquest and extirpation of Hannibal and Carthage, besides Asiaticus for
the brother of Africanus Maior, and Numantinus to double up polyon-
omy for Africanus Minor. ‘Gentlemen’s cane/geriatric walking-stick/regal
sceptre/Almighty’s lightning-bolt’, a ‘Scipio’ stands for the entire apparatus
of exemplary provocation to emulate, replicate, pluralize and even out-
strip but not oust, displace but never replace, those ancestors. At least one
up-and-coming Cornelius Scipio is, for sure, here listening (Salvidienus
Orfitus, cos. 110).
What Pliny releases with this flourish of Names is the ideologized trademark
of oratory at Rome, codified for the (Flavian) curriculum of Trajan and
Pliny by the imperial professor in rhetoric as the crowning glory of Oratory:
neque ea solum quae talibus disciplinis continentur, sed magis etiam quae sunt tra-
dita antiquitus dicta ac facta praeclare et nosse et animo semper agitare conueniet.
quae profecto nusquam plura maioraque quam in nostrae ciuitatis monumentis
an fortitudinem, iustitiam, fidem, continentiam, frugalitatem, contemptum
doloris ac mortis melius alii docebunt quam Fabricii, Curii, Reguli, Decii, Mucii
aliique innumerabiles? quantum enim Graeci praeceptis ualent, tantum Romani,
quod est maius, exemplis. (Quint. Inst. 12.2.29–30)
and familiarity with not just the contents of those subjects will be appropriate but
the more so the venerable tradition of word and deed passed on: activate them
mentally forever. They will nowhere show up in greater quantity and scale than in
the archives of our country.
Take heroism, righteousness, trustworthiness, self-discipline, frugality, con-
tempt for pain and for death. Who will better teach these lessons than Fabriciuses,
Curiuses, Reguluses, Deciuses, Muciuses, and countless others? Because, strong as
the Greeks are in precepts, the Romans are just as strong, and this is the grander
factor, when it comes to exemplary figures.
‘Historical exempla’ gave oratory in court terrain for battle with and over
malleable, appropriable, deniable narratives drawn froman archive without
Down the Pan 155
a definitive text to appeal to; they provided all speakers, especially on
ceremonial occasions for epideictic suavity, grandiosity, pomposity, with
upbeat material for persuasion, at once in your face and subliminal, and
with opiate padding, feel-good and rapid-fire. Before all, they stretched the
memory store, and extended to a stiff test of credentials for playing the
Roman game, well or at all. Skilful deployment bespoke cultural eloquence,
no less:
in primis uero abundare debet orator exemplorum copia cum ueterum tum etiam
nouorum, adeo ut non ea modo quae conscripta sunt historiis aut sermonibus uelut
per manus tradita quaeque cotidie aguntur debeat nosse, uerum ne ea quidem quae
sunt a clarioribus poetis ficta neglegere.
nam illa quidem priora aut testimoniorum aut etiam iudicatorum optinent
locum, sed haec quoque aut uetustatis fide tuta sunt aut ab hominibus magnis
praeceptorum loco ficta creduntur. sciat ergo quam plurima: unde etiam senibus
auctoritas maior est, quod plura nosse et uidisse creduntur (quod Homerus fre-
quentissime testatur). sed non est exspectanda ultima aetas, cum studia praestent
ut, quantum ad cognitionem pertinet rerum, etiam praeteritis saeculis uixisse
uideamur. (Quint. Inst. 12.4.1–2)
A first principle is that the orator must be awash with abundant supply of exempla
from both yesteryear and also fresh arrivals. So much so that he must not only be
familiar with write-ups in history books or dialogues, so to speak passed on hand
to hand, plus daily events, but never neglect either even the factions of poets on
the canon.
You see the first category rank as testimonials or even verdicts, but the second
set either have the safeguard of Antiquity’s credibility or else are trusted as an
imaginary scenario for precepts from the Greats. So he’s to know the mostest,
the more the better. Which is why veterans have the greater authority: they are
trusted to know more because they’ve seen more (as Homer testifies all the time).
But no, no waiting for your last phase, because study is guaranteed, so far as our
awareness of data is concerned, to make us look like we’ve lived the centuries,
however bygone.
Here Cicero was the master technician, practitioner/theorist rolled into
one, and furnished the textbook cases:
quis Carthaginiensium pluris fuit Hannibale consilio, uirtute, rebus gestis, qui
unus cum tot imperatoribus nostris per tot annos de imperio et de gloria decer-
tauit? hunc sui ciues e ciuitate eiecerunt: nos etiam hostem litteris nostris et
memoria uidemus esse celebratum. qua re imitemur nostros Brutos, Camillos,
Ahalas, Decios, Curios, Fabricios, Maximos, Scipiones, Lentulos, Aemilios, innu-
merabilis alios qui hanc rem publicam stabiliuerunt; quos equidem in deorum
immortalium coetu ac numero repono. (Cic. Sest. 142–3)
156 john henderson
Which Punic outranked Hannibal as planner, hero and high achiever? He fought
it out single-handed with our legion commanders over decades, for supremacy
and fame both. His people threw him out, whereas we watch glorification of our
foe in Roman pages and memories. So let us imitate our Brutuses, Camilluses,
Ahalas, Deciuses, Curiuses, Fabriciuses, Fabiuses, Scipios, Lentuluses, Aemiliuses,
and the myriads who built the republic strong. Them I lodge sure in the company
and roster of the immortal gods.
Now (tradition also knows to say, of itself, as a traditional feedback loop
of self-policing) a lot of this goes a long way; mantra easily spills into
inanition. Lips can curl when saints form a queue:
dicet aliquis: ‘Haec est igitur tua disciplina?’ . . . ego, si quis . . . hoc robore
animi atque hac indole uirtutis atque continentiae fuit, ut respueret omnes
uoluptates . . . nihil in uita expetendum putaret, nisi quod esset cum laude et
cum dignitate coniunctum, hunc mea sententia diuinis quibusdam bonis instruc-
tum atque ornatum puto. ex hoc genere illos fuisse arbitror Camillos, Fabricios,
Curios omnesque eos, qui haec ex minimis tanta fecerunt.
uerum haec genera uirtutum non solum in moribus nostris, sed uix iam in
libris reperiuntur. chartae quoque, quae illam pristinam seueritatem continebant,
obsoleuerunt. (Cic. Cael. 39–40)
Someone will ask ‘So this is what you call discipline, huh? ’ . . . I say, anyone with
the strength of mind and constitutional courage and control required to repudiate
all pleasures . . . and recognize as a life target only the concomitants of repute and
honour, he gets my vote for his distinguished panoply of divine blessings. The ilk,
I warrant, of the Camilluses, Fabriciuses, Curiuses and all who once built Rome
from nothing to grandeur.
But. This idiomof excellence is today hardly to be found in the Roman make-up,
or even in the library. Even the pages that formerly enshrined the old puritanism
have faded away.
Pliny too is citing the citation system, as such (as if incidental, automatic
and, no less, exempli gratia), for all that his multiplicate trio do prose-
cute their rhetorical mission, of smoothing the nobody upstart Spaniard
n´ e Ulpius Traianus into self-inventing ‘son and heir of diuus (Cocceius)
Nerva, latest of the Caesars, the Augustuses’, as the latest product from
the factory belt. But he is also using it to incubate his hero as a born-
out-of-time education on legs to all budding Romans to come. That is,
Pan freshens up here by going militant, anti-intellectual, book-trashingly
censorious, as Plin laments the passing of live militarist culture in favour
of academic theory, fun where fatigues belong, inspirational bemedalled
Down the Pan 157
vets. replaced by Greekling/weakling boffins, in order to wheel on the lone
autodidact Trajan, turned on by ‘the forefathers’ traditions of the father-
land’s excellences’ (patrio more patria uirtute, 13.5). The great exception,
this phenomenal one-man bubble reinvents the race for exemplary status
sine aemulo sine exemplo secum certare secum contendere ac sicut imperat solus
solum ita esse qui debeat imperare. (Plin. Pan. 13.5)
with neither rival nor paradigm he competes solo, fights himself, and just as he
stands alone as emperor, so he alone qualifies to rule the empire.
So the thanksgiving narrative plumps for parsimonious deployment of
the exemplary heritage, with such good cause. Right here, the maiores
are summoned to open its new chapter for the storybooks, starring the
‘incunabulation and kindergarten’ of Pliny’s version of Trajan: The Early
Years (` a la Tac. Agr. 5). Writing Trajan from his start at his father’s side
in Parthia, then his call from Spain to go do Domitian’s dirty work for
him in Germany (already deserving the ‘Germanicus’ badge), re-launches
his journey to the summit, kitting the boy out with seven-league boots bor-
rowed from that indefatigable son of Jupiter who strode to Spain and back,
bestrode the globe east–west in fact on his dragon-slaying ordeals/crusades.
By Hercules (14.5)! The blatant hook was Spain; the topic remains the
soldier-imperator; hereabouts formative training tours us up through the
career steps, when Trajan learned his song well so he could teach it, ten
years of geopolitical coursework, travelling, earning spurs . . . Pliny’s text
does it, too: showing/teaching us how reading this hagiography is, as its
destiny, to generate echelons of would-be clones. [15] Boys will get the
bug from Pan (as from Lives/Annals of Trajan proper) and want to visit
the heritage sites wherever Trajan toiled, rested, guested. Instead of Virgil’s
Evander guiding Aeneas round the future location of the city of Rome,
already memorializing the inspirational heroics of Hercules on site, now
Rome the world empire hosts its posterity on the Trajan Trail (tectum mag-
nus hospes impleueris, 15.4: aude, hospes, contemnere opes . . . angusti subter
fastigia tecti | ingentem Aenean duxit, Verg. A. 8.364–6).
Again, the process of enculturation is here an open book, even to Roman
schoolboys, laying out the dynamics of hero-fiction even while applying
the craft to tailor its specific commission and deliver. Because the prince
who became royal grew up a priuatus, he could project straight onto the
158 john henderson
legendary champions that won the world before royalty. The story of his rise
would incapsulate and reiterate the mythistory of Rome; so far, no Caesar
born to reign had made it, but the maximal contrast with the Trajanectory
was the non-story of Domitian, non-achieving teenager, back-up prince
in reserve, then unintended heir, turning into sagaless progenitor of zilch.
Foregone conclusion, nothing gone nowhere. Pliny makes Trajan transume
all Wannabes after his lead, tracking and tracing Trajan across the empire
‘just the way the hallowed footprints of mighty leaders were pointed out
to you in the same places back then’.
This in the present (speech), for the future (tracking back over Trajan’s
transition to exemplary status, for replication, for good). To make our
consummate ‘historical exemplum’-to-be, we resume our traipse through
the emperor’s past, catching up with that mucking-in soldierly c.-in-c.
(commilito, 15.5 ∼ 13.3). With the topic of military governance, the consul
traces out on behalf of the House what emperor they will be thankful
to have had, and to have recommended to him, them, and his and their
The line is drawn at the Danube bank between crossing over to glory-hunt
a triumph (transeas, 16.2) ` a la Domitianic mock-up, and [17] waiting in
beautiful Trajanic non-aggression for the real thing to come, with mighty
chieftains’ names ondisplay (ingentia ducumnomina nec indecora nominibus
corpora, 17.2). [18] Meantime, retrieving ‘lapsed camp discipline’ traditions
from ‘the flawed previous era’ (∼ Sall. Iug. 45; Tac. Ann. 13.35), Trajan gets
officers licking troops into shape, on guard against enemy not emperor,
no longer dreading the guys more than the other side; [19] without over-
shadowing them, he fuses control with the common touch (imperatorem
commilitonemque, 19.3) until [20] the home trip called, from and in peace,
‘like some great commander – you! – heading out to the front’, achieving
total polarity against ‘that transit, no, not transit, but the scorched earth
trail of a certain recent Caesar’ (quam dissimilis nuper alterius principis tran-
situs, 20.4). Here (as I think) Pliny names and shames ‘Domitian’s March’,
as he outdoes Cicero’s branding of his bˆete noire’s non-iter-sed-calamitas that
first made his name as Demosthenic scourge (Cic. Ver. 1.46). The specific
prompt here to ‘future emperors, like it or not, to know’, and know good,
‘“The Tab – To Their Own Cost”’, models the Domitian/Trajan divide as
the permanent acid test:
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propositis . . . duobus exemplis meminerint perinde coniecturam de moribus suis
homines esse facturos, prout hoc uel illud elegerint. (Plin. Pan. 20.6)
put this pair of exempla before them and be it never forgot that folk will ready-
reckon their character according to whether they chose ‘A’ or they chose ‘B’.
[21] Still en route, Trajan indulged in no ‘new honours, new titles’ rig-
marole, and – lo! – still deferred the obligatory coronation entitlement to
the label pater patriae, concurrent with the rest of the purpling package
(nomen illud, quod alii primo statim principatus die ut imperatoris et Caesaris
receperunt, 21.2). [22] His day one was the Entry to Rome, ‘not charioted
by a white triumph team, not shouldered high and haughty, as per prede-
cessors’ (priores . . . solebant, 22.1). [23] Instead he went walkabout for this
introitus, the son treading in his father’s footsteps (isdem uestigiis, 23.5),
[24] the very ‘optimizing’ epitome of imperial promise (talis denique quales
alii principes futuros se pollicentur, 24.1) – where ‘pre-Ulpian emperors had
lost the use of their feet’ and so ‘were shouldered above the likes of us’; ‘the
common ground, blurred imperial footprints, reached Trajan for the stars’.
The thanksgiving speech’s ‘longeurs road’ matches the multitude of favours
to acclaim, globe-shrinking handouts for army and [26] populus worldwide
matched by child benefit investment in citizens of the future, [27] backed
by the personal panache that spells reassurance, not ‘incurable diseases
afflicting an emperor, featuring rage’. [28] Freebies in high-rolling profu-
sion, not to be confused with previous sweeteners to lessen dislike (antea
principes, 28.3), [29] flood into quasi-unending state subsidy in the form
of grain prices, ‘once the source of as much glory for its controller Pompey
the Great (“Magnus” ∼ non minus) as his cumulative successes with the
lex Pompeia dismissing bribery and affray from elections, his sweeping of
piracy from the Mediterranean, and his triumphal processions sanctifying
the world all the way from the rising to the setting sun’ (29.1) (Asia to go
with Africa and Spain). NowPliny is using this uniquely extended historical
exemplum to bridge from dole through corn supply to relief for Egyptian
famine to spread Trajanic munificence planet-wide. The only Great with
a term as daily bread czar to rank up there with world conquest (cf. Cic.
Att. 4.1.6–7) is worth it despite the reminders of this loser’s assassination
and decapitation at the Nile Delta in Civil War against the first of the
Caesars, Julius, because Latin annona debouches so easily into miraculous
160 john henderson
fertility per annum, opening up trade routes into transporting (deuehunt)
exuberant bumper harvests.
[30] For Trajan’s now eclipses the glory of Nilotic Egypt, proverbially
gross producer-exporter of grain (deuexerat, 30.1). [31] Whose unheard-of
crop failure handed Fortune the ‘raw materials and geo-metaphorical set-
ting’ for disproving the old saw that Rome depends on Egypt for foodstuff
in a reversal that shipped back (reuexit, 31.3) such floods of transported
grain cargo that ‘the Nile never flowed more bountifully’. A once-for-all-
time warning to swollen-headed Egypt, teach its unreliable stream a lesson
(post haec . . . , 31.4). [32] Same then goes (for Trajan as for Pompey) for all
Roman territories, the transglobal trade community directing surplus to
deficit areas.
The Pan cameo for Pompey may import associations with Cicero’s
ground-breaking encomium, where (admittedly years before lex or cura)
he pressed that his appointment to an extraordinary commission to see
off the Mithridatic War was in the impro-spirit of echt Roman traditions
of adaptability (Man. 60–1).
Where the other chief classic precedent for
gratiarum actio to a (in fact, the) Caesar, namely the brisk Pro Marcello,
confines itself to making history by making a historical exemplum of Julius
the Merciful,
and adduces no roll-call of predecessors (who might undo
Cicero’s strenuous screening out of exploits stained with Civil War), the
Maniliana unrolls just one such pageant (23):
reliquum est ut de felicitate (quam praestare de se ipso nemo potest, meminisse et
commemorare de altero possumus, sicut aequumest homines de potestate deorum)
timide et pauca dicamus. ego enim sic existimo: Maximo, Marcello, Scipioni,
Mario, et ceteris magnis imperatoribus non solum propter uirtutem, sed etiam
propter fortunam saepius imperia mandata atque exercitus esse commissos. . . . de
huius autemhominis felicitate, de quo nunc agimus, hac utar moderatione dicendi,
non ut in illius potestate fortunampositamesse dicam, sed ut praeterita meminisse,
reliqua sperare uideamur, ne aut inuisa dis immortalibus oratio nostra aut ingrata
esse uideatur. (Cic. Man. 23)
For finale, let me speak of Being Lucky. Nobody can deliver this of themselves,
but we can commemorate it of another (as humans of the power of the gods, fair
enough). A few timid remarks, the way I see it: Fabius, Marcellus, Scipio, Marius
& co. – the Greats among commanders – they all had commands entrusted to
them with armies assigned not just for their excellence but also, and more often,
See Steel (2001) 113–56.
For Pro Marcello as prime forerunner of the imperial Latin panegyric, see Levene (1997) 68–77 – but
allow the leading consular the whip hand in curia, as brandished by Dyer (1990); for Pro Marcello
as a forerunner to the Panegyricus see too Manuwald, pp. 90–2 in this volume.
Down the Pan 161
for being fortunate. . . . On this person here’s luck, in the present case, I shall treat
in toned-down style, not to claim Fortune is put in his power, but to come over as
mindful of the past and hopeful of what remains, so my speech won’t come across
as either hated by the gods or thankless.
But here the brash ethos suits bold tribunician agitation pushing the enve-
lope and sports street legal Marius for cred. with plebeian orthodoxy. There
is none of the senior consular resonance of Cicero coming out, on the back
of the Marcellus ‘pardon’, from boycotting the senate to bespeak the sen-
ate’s prerogative of declaiming in the name of Rome: there he defines live
enthymemic parameters within which Caesar could deserve and so retain
admiration and cooperation.
But Rome did not live on bread alone. Generous but to no fault, Trajan
supplied ‘circuses’ (as well as panem): beautiful spectaculars with none of
the bring-down negatives familiar from when ‘that Psychopath’ ran the
show(s), when dislike for a gladiator would become a trial for disloyalty,
fans became human torch exhibits on the end of a hook, and paranoid
readings of support given or withheld were the order of the day. [34] One
(one-off ) beautiful ‘special’ rounded up the hangover vermin from those
days, informers (delatores) and suchlike ‘cancer in the body politic’.
The nautical wheeze now was to herd them on a boat and push it out, at the
mercy of wind and wave, ‘onto whatever rocks they deliver them’ (detulis-
sent, 35.1). This purge allusively riffs on Cicero’s exorcismof the Catilinarian
conspirators (excidisti intestinum malum, 34.2; ∼ Cat. 1.5), but civilizes –
and entertains – by forgoing execution of those left to lurk and instead
substituting bloodless stagecraft; but up front it melodramatizes that sea-
change in ‘The Times’ (quantum diuersitas temporum, 35.2), while unleash-
ing vitriolic spite, crowing, terror in virtually Domitianic (tooth for a tooth)
vindictiveness. This topic, of a thousand sanctions on the parasites, springs
that heaven-bound ‘Titan’ of an emperor Titus on us for his moment,
tightly knitted in as trailblazing provider for ‘our security and retribution’
(ingenti animo, 35.4 ∼ ingentia . . . animos, 34.3; securitati, 35.4 ∼ secura,
34.1, securitate, 35.1; ultioni ∼ ultionem, 35.4; cf. 36.2; prospexerat, 35.4 ∼
prospectare, 35.1). [36] Titus may be good and a god, though (a) Flavian:
but since his edict on the penalties for false informing cannot have worked
even as the ascension he had earned was granted (sc. by Domitian), since
Gubernatorial-govern-mental anecdote: Manolaraki (2008) esp. 377–83.
162 john henderson
the informers fastbred (sc. under Domitian), and though Nerva beefed it
up apparently to the full and to everyone’s satisfaction, now Trajan has
excogitated so much, it’s as though he dreamed it up out of thin air! So
Titus’ bit-part makes him a less than exemplary extra, walking on to be cut;
he can, however, stand in for the ‘before’ (sc. before Domitian) recovered
for the proprieties of civil law ‘today’. Further profuse generosity is backed
by silencing the racketeers, sh!, the way we were ‘before informers’.
[37–52] Administration, administration, administration: the fine-print
budgeting, tax calculus, social programme, daily regime of consultation,
work and rest, public works and monuments that amount to ‘our security’
choke the speech along between sporadic reminders of uncanny bonding
with Nerva, ‘optimal emperor as optimal father’ (37.6, 38.6, 43.4), as against
rapacious ‘earlier – tyrant – emperors’ blanked as if they never were (39.2;
40.3; ut regum ita Caesarum, 43.5; 50.2), and above all ‘that unforgotten’
bent ‘emperor’, ‘that gargantuan beast’ With No Name ‘tormented in his
own (Cyclops) cave’, ‘the sex-crime emperor’ statuefied in every niche,
‘sadistic slave-driver’ (42.4, 48.3–5, 52.3, 52.7). [45] Constructing ‘what
we need, our exemplum’ (45.6) for history well and wisely, surfing on the
backwash of remembered adversity shared with us (44.1), will deliver on the
top-down copycat compulsion represented by impacting follow-my-leader
paradigm – by optimization (optare . . . meliorem. . . melior . . . non . . . nisi
Optimum, 44.3; cf. 52.3; proximating Jupiter Optimus Maximus, 52.6; 53.2).
It already is, on paper: melius homines exemplis docentur (45.6; cf. 47.6). A
hard act, Pan hopes and says, to follow.
Meanwhile excursions into historicality are starved – ‘earlier emperors
with the exception of your father, oh plus one or two (no, that’s too many)’
enthused over bad subjects, preferring slaves: defining despotism. Who
they? Augustus? Titus? Really? [46] Closure of degrading pantomime turns
the clock back to the ‘Hollywood emperor’ charade (scaenicus imperator
∼ Tac. Ann. 15.50.4). [53] So, dict. sap., Pliny elaborately editorializes the
‘whole’ dynamic of his running comparison between best and bad emper-
ors, spicing it with pot/kettle sarcasm on ‘Nero’s recent revenge’, when
Domitian executed his assassin, to clinch the symmetry with future male-
factors and their prospective retroactive cursing by posterity (sub exemplo
praemonere, 53.5). Pan’s every word operates the enthymeme that a rebuke
for the last emperor delivers the best praise of the one living: ‘Silence on a
bad emperor from posterity is proof positive that the one they have behaves
the same way.’
[54] Which is tantamount to registering that adulation shadows puny
panegyric as evil twin, just as showbiz, the major arts, poetry and history
Down the Pan 163
(annales) are haunted, along with senatorial debate and all decision-making
discourse, by the duty to assign honorific formulae and nominations, aka
pandering: e.g. ‘a month to rename, several months, why not?, per Caesar’
(54.4). The classic ‘unsung hero’ paradox has Pliny make a meal of it proving
that the loveliest title ascribed to ‘Trajan’ ordains him the refuser of titles:
[55] that will go down the ages, ‘There once was an emperor who . . . ’
(contrast ‘earlier times’; more sapientia; and prolixe . . . cumulateque self-
describes, as it enacts, its text). Yet – or yes – the odd tribute makes it
through, like the odd statue (cf. unam alteramue et hanc aeream, 52.3):
quales olimob egregia in rempublicammerita priuatis dicabantur; uisuntur eadem
e materia Caesaris statuae qua Brutorum qua Camillorum. (Plin. Pan. 55.6)
just like the ones once upon a time dedicated to citizens to mark exceptional
service to the state: pilgrims visit Caesars Trajans made of the same material as the
Brutuses and Camilluses.
Camillus we have met pluralized-cum-‘generalized’ already (13.4); he | and |
Brutus were both singular in Anchises’ panorama (Verg. A. 6.825, 818).
Virgil specified the first founder of the republic, and pairing with Camillus
olim would discount other Brutuses here too, for all the proximity of
‘Caesar’ and its twin‘Brutus’, sc. his best friend and assassin, the tyrannicide.
But there is no conflict here: the original Brutus, the ‘Liberator’, rid Rome
of monarchs in the first place. No matter, Pliny presses on with the brazen
paradox-mongering of orthodoxy on the ‘principate’:
nec discrepat causa: illi enim reges hostemque uictorem moenibus depulerunt,
hic regnum ipsum quaeque alia captiuitas gignit, arcet ac summouet, sedemque
obtinet principis ne sit domino locus. (Plin. Pan. 55.7)
And the logic contains no contradiction: whereas they drove kings and victorious
foe from the city walls, he repels and shoos kingship itself, plus the rest of the
products of being captured: takes over the throne of a princeps/emperor so there’s
no place for the despot/enslaver.
With this belaboured climax to the onslaught of administrative items
building towards the arrival of Trajan at the consulate (diuisio at 41.1),
the broadest sweep of Roman historicality served to crown Pan’s portrait
for eternity of the ‘lovable’ living statue facing the senate’s gaze. Arrival at
the climax/rhetorical bridge to the section is marked by self-commentary
flourish (diuisio here): ‘You must have spotted long since, my first
164 john henderson
readers/senators, that my treatment is not selective’ but instead holistic con-
strual of AnEmperor, purpureus pannus.
‘You, imperator auguste’ and Pan’s
‘hi-fidelity narration’ cannot skip or finesse, or miss a moment (uel transilire
uel praeteruehi, 56.2; quod momentum, quod . . . temporis punctum. . . omnia,
56.2). Of optimization (nisi Optimus non, 56.1; optime . . . laudasse, 56.2).
It was with the sermonizing topic of the ‘inscribed monument’ that
Pliny stretched his humdrum epistolary corpus to support that ‘history of
the present’’s solitary showcase for historical exempla: excused and accom-
modated as involuntary outrage expressed through sarcasm, the context
is the official award of honorary insignia plus a big cheque to a ‘satisfied’
Claudius’ freedman secretary with the pretentiously evocative royal name
of Pallas (Ep. 7.29.2; as if straight from the Aeneid, another Arcadian son
of Evander, cf. Tac. Ann. 12.53.3).
This prompts the follow-up explosion
on the trail of the original decree of the senate, which made the epitaph
seem ‘modest – even self-deprecating’:
conferant se misceantque, non dico illi ueteres, Africani Achaici Numantini, sed
hi proximi Marii Sullae Pompei (nolo progredi longius): infra Palladis laudes
iacebunt. (Plin. Ep. 8.6.2)
Come for the comparison, mingle. Not you, from Antiquity, Africanuses,
Achaicuses, Numantinuses, but you, from next door, Mariuses, Sullas, Pompeys –
No! I refuse to go down that road. Far enough. – All of them will lie flattened
beneath panegyric for Pallas.
Why, a grateful House even voted, and glossed, thanksgiving to Caesar
re Pallas (Pallantis nomine, 8.6.5; ∼ Pan, see on 75 below). And Pliny
strains his didactic/reflexive letter to the limit in pain-full transcription
spliced with his imaginative efforts to recreate each scenario (quamquam
indignationem quibusdam in locis fortasse ultra modum extulerim, 8.6.17).
That princeps Optimus (8.6.10, 13) set out, well and wise, the ‘beautiful
rationale’ (8.6.15, cf. exemplo . . . Pallantis, 13):
ut exemplo Pallantis praemiorum ad studium aemulationis ceteri prouocarentur.
ea honorum utilitas erat. (Plin. Ep. 8.6.15)
the dividend of the honours bestowed was intended to use Pallas’ exemplary
rewards to provoke everyone else to pitch in and take him on. Pour encourager les
For Pliny’s pride in the ordo . . . et transitus et figurae on show in Pan, see Ep. 3.13.3, with Henderson
(2002) 133; on style and composition in Pan, cf. Gamberini (1983) 337–448.
Pallas in Plin. Ep.: Henderson (2002) 33–4.
Down the Pan 165
The Epistles writes down its negative historical exemplumby summoning up,
first, honorific titles wonby the second-century generalissimos of the world-
conquering republic who fought for Rome: both Scipio Africanuses –
one of them dumb-cluck counted twice, for ‘Numantinus’ was the second
triumphal agnomen won by Scipio Africanus Minor (Aemilianus; see above
on 13.4); plus Mummius ‘Achaicus’, who sacked rebel Achaean Corinth
the same year as Scipio Aemilianus sacked Carthage (146). And, second,
the first-century republic-conquering generalissimos who also fought for
Rome, but did it their way: Marius fighting it out with his former lieutenant
Sulla; then Pompey the Great (whose missing partner would be Julius
Caesar, link between Aeneas’ Trojans, Venus, Jupiter and every ever-after
Roman emperor, including Pallas’ eventual executor, Nero). Where the
first names were acquired extras, Rome trampling the other (Carthage,
Spain, Greece – Achaea in central Hellas, including Arcadia), the second
triad made their given names name fame, whether Rough Diamond New
Man Marius, Faded Aristo Cornelius Sulla, or son of a general from the
backwoods Pompey (Sullae Felices did recur up to Claudius’ reign; Pompeii
and ‘Magni’ went their separate ways to oblivion). Feel Pliny deconstruct =
rip apart (M. Antonius) Pallas’ identity, between slave turned emperor’s pal
and chief minion and self-styled scion of a legend from the first paragraphs
of Rome’s foundation myth. Burst balloon – flat as a pancake. The next
note will receive a certain book from Tacitus, ‘as teacher to pupil’ (8.7.1).
With, and in (it declares), an impossibly strained outsize hyperbaton . . .
Under two years narrated, and Pan heralds arrival at the pinnacle topic of
purple consulates with mock-despair at the speech’s ‘near-infinite diffusion’
(∼ Liv. 31.1.5). Trajan’s first doesn’t count (a mention: under Domitian in
91); the second was Nervan but held in absentia, at the front ‘as they used
to do when it was traditional to switch costumes, consular robes for com-
mander’s cloak, and chase down uncharted lands for victory’ (56.4; sc. back
when consuls stayed in Rome before their mission abroad as proconsul,
before Sulla, even before the mid-second century). Throw in a ‘lovely’ and
duly elaborated scenario ‘not seen for centuries’ when the paraphernalia
of capital and camp met together and acclamation as ‘imperator Traianus’
was hailed live, for scorning, not for taming, the foe.
[57] The third was refused at the start of Trajan’s reign, though several
‘new emperors’ (Gaius, Otho, Domitian) would keep transferring con-
sulates destined for others to themselves, while one (Nero) even at the end
166 john henderson
of his reign seized and stole a consulate he had himself bestowed ‘though it
was almost over’ (57.2; from rebel Julius Vindex). Was Trajan shy of a third
consulate or his first as emperor? In ‘a state that had seen consuls v and
even vi [see below] – not those that were installed as liberty breathed her
last, through force and uprising, but those in retirement and absence who
had consulates brought them on their farms – the emperor of the human
race turned down a iii, as, huh, too heavy?’ (57.4):
tantone Papiriis etiam et Quinctiis moderatior ‘Augustus’ et ‘Caesar’ et ‘pater
patriae’? (Plin. Pan. 57.5)
Is being ‘Augustus/Caesar/pater patriae’ rolled into one more restrained than being
one of the Papiriuses/Quinctiuses?
On the bona fide elected quintuple consulate mark were the late fourth-
century Papirius Cursor, early third-century and late third-century Fabii
Maximi, and late third-century Claudius Marcellus; on the sextuple,
mid-fifth-century Quinctius Capitolinus. Consuls summoned from the
plough were late fifth-century Quinctius Cincinnatus
and mid-third-
century Atilius Regulus. Bracketing (non-Virgilian) Papirius and Quinc-
tius together here heads up Cursor and Capitolinus in these generalizing
plurals, excluding e.g. Cursor’s son and, among Quinctii, Cincinnatus,
Flamininus et al. The men of violence would be Marius (vii) and Caesar
(v). [58] But Pliny tears away from his chronological procession, skipping
appeal for comparison to ‘the one whose serial consulates created a long
and undifferentiated “year”’ (58.1) and so fading out Augustus (xiii, with
ix continuous 33–23 bce) and Vespasian (ix, with viii in 70–9) to collapse
emperor excesses into the hate-object of ‘comparison’ Domitian (x, with
vii in a row 82–8). By facing Trajan with his own contemporary luminaries
among consular senators: Fabricius Veiento (iii: possibly now dead?) and
those others granted to open and so name their year (Cornelius Palma,
Cornelius Senecio), the orating consul blurs us from his New Era back to
the New Republic: ‘This is the way at the expulsion of the kings the year
of freedom began; the way once upon that time throwing off enslavement
brought unroyal names into the consul lists’ (58.3).
[59] Through this potted history of ‘republican’ imperium, we all but
catch up with the moment, lobbying still against the emperor’s recusatio
for his cos. iii. (‘Teach future emperors their duty’). [60] But Trajan has
by now conceded, for when he could be present, i.e. for the present term,
to be cos. iii together with unroyal coss. iii: Frontinus iii ordinarius from
Ogilvie (1965) 428–9, 436, 441.
Down the Pan 167
1 January, to be replaced by [incertus] suffect cos. for March–April. These
were the first such pairings with emperors granted to civilians, whereas
‘once upon a time’, by contrast, ‘allies in war and partners in peril’ were
sparingly bestowed: on Agrippa in 27 bce, L. Vitellius in 47 ce, Licinius
Mucianus in 72, and Verginius Rufus in 97. [61] We catch us up/put the
clock back some more, at the sight nine months back of illum antiquum
senatum (61.1) when a cos. iii sat side by side with a cos. iii formally
requiring the cos. designate to state his vote: father Nerva had already
teamed them as coss. ii (in 98), in crisis, ‘just like olden days when once
upon a time the enemy drew close, the republic was drawn into last-ditch
peril, and the call would come for a hero tried and tested in high office
and high distinction. It wasn’t a case of consulships delivered to the same
people, but the same people delivered to consulships’ (61.7). ‘Many more
coss. iii, please!’ (61.10). [62] Unlike paulo ante, optimal – exemplary –
relations obtain between senate and emperor nunc.
On with Trajan’s present and correct consulate, then? No: first . . . the
preliminaries! Exemplary candidature ‘for good emperors to ape and bad
uns to find amazing’ (63.1). Not the way ‘predecessor emperors’ did it, but
in person down ‘on the ancient site of the people’s power’ (the Campus
Martius ∼ metaphorized at/as honoris et gloriae campus, 70.8), submitting
to every ritual requirement: [64] ‘Imp./Caesar/Augustus stood to attention
attending the enthroned presiding consul, as if there’s nothing unusual in
that’ (64.2). Lovely twists a-plenty to all this! [65] And so too, well-and-
wise consular conduct (nunc primum disco, 65.1) through and out of office,
‘unlike those who chucked in a consulate just a few days in, or before it
even started’ (65.3: Tiberius, Caligula and Domitian).
So ‘finale tallied with overture’. [66] But, senators – Pan holds out
against skipping (non transilui, 66.1). At no point stuck for material, our
single-minded slo’mo’ Trajanectoratory presses on down the tract ‘with-
out deviation, dispersion, repetition’ (66.1; well/wise? Check!). From Day
One = the 1 January pledges under oath, [67] you could see this self-
less emperor meant it, unlike alii, and ‘he won’t forget we appreciate this
time you can depend on because life was so different under a pessimized
emperor’ (67.3). [68] So, a happy and carefree day, when on their turn
‘other emperors were torn by anxiety and panic attack’ (68.2). [69] On
to conduct of the next selections, where ‘should anyone need a histori-
cal example’, Trajan noted, ‘they should copy you’. ‘A hard example to
168 john henderson
follow: Caesar’ + ‘A hard example to follow, Caesar’ (69.3). Cue (a) train
of aristocrats – ‘great names summoned up by Caesar’s kindness from the
darkness of oblivion’ (69.5) – accelerated back into the limelight, to their
ancestors’ level (Cornelius Dolabella Metilianus, Cornelius Scipio Salvi-
dienus Orfitus, Pinarius Severus . . . ). [70] And (b) our New Man from
Novum Comum, cos. Pliny, risks orating an anecdote to match, on a
certain quaestorian candidate well known to the rest of the House (and
to Ep. 8.4: Sex. Quinctilius Valerius Maximus), encouraged to make his
descendants as noble as their parents made those aristos. His origins in
Asian Mysia on the Troad made him a good lesson for provincials when
he governed a province. (As good a lesson as a certain New Man hailing
from Italica in Baetica, presently governing this very provincial’s selection
process.) [71] Again matching sequel to prequel, Trajan presents ‘an archaic
sight for our sore eyes: an emperor stood on a level with the candidates’
(71.3). Calling the names over set wheels of optimization in train (faciebas
ergo, cum diceres optimos, 71.1). [72] And the ceremonial prayers, ‘after so
long, too long’ (72.2), saw emperor and senate as one, whereas ‘for sure the
demise of previous emperors has taught that only those loved by people are
loved by the gods!’ (72.4). Not that the prayers changed scripts along with
the prayers’ fortunes; rather (so Pan self-reflects), ‘the same words are meant
differently’ (72.7). [73] But the novelty of joyous pandemonium around a
blubbing emperor ‘has burdened’, will burden, ‘future emperors – and our
descendants, the latter requiring they deserve to hear the same prayers, the
former cross at not hearing them’ (73.6). [74] Amid felicitations to Trajan
and to ‘Us’, the House rang with more pithy ‘skill and – solemn – wisdom’
(sapienter et grauiter, 74.2): in the gnomic ‘crede nobis, crede tibi’ (‘Trust
us/Trust your self’, 74.2), they could even tell a Trajan to look to his laurels,
and with ‘what forfeited the worst emperor’s trust, win the best’s’ (74.3).
[75] Business opens with the business of this one oration, beggared
by its oral matrix, in live acclamation, and the transumption of both into
‘published articles’ and onto ‘inscribed monuments’. The rhetorical Panfare
acclaims here and now, on this page for each successive us, the fact that the
scriptural fanfare was possible for this occasion, unlike past equivalents, and
does the nation good and proud to ‘go out to the masses and be forwarded
to the future’ (75.3). Pliny ‘pursues and syllogizes’ these ‘details’: (a) get the
world in on the act; (b) prove verdicts on emperors good or bad need not be
posthumous; (c) demonstrate in agendo the previous ban on thanksgiving,
now lifted ‘(c) negatively, so as not to suppress our enthusiasm and/for
Trajan’s deserts; (µ) positively, so as to think ahead for History to come
through Exemplarity’. Well to be wise, as Pliny lays down the generic law
Down the Pan 169
for Eulogy: discant et principes acclamationes ueras falsasque discernere (‘Even
emperors must learn to tell the difference in acclamation: true or false?’,
75.5). For this, its own graphic text, as it bids to become master-text for all
Panegyrici Latini:
quid nunc ego . . . nisi ut haereat animo tuo gaudium, quod tunc oculis protulisti;
ames illum diem et tamen uincas, noua merearis, noua audias? eadem enim dici
nisi <ob eadem> facta non possunt. (Plin. Pan. 75.6)
Right here, right now. To stick in the mind this spectacular Trajansport of the joy
your eyes broadcast in the moment. The day to love, and yet to beat; fresh services
evoking fresh congratulations. The Iron Law is, the same words are down to the
same deeds.
So this speech is for keeps and not shy of telling us so.
[76] Meantime, back and on to business, the exemplary ‘primeval con-
sul’’s iron constitution powering through the 48-hour session of free-style
debate, so properly conducted ‘it looked like some Great Hero from Antiq-
uity had walked in, to serve under a Good Emperor!’ (76.9). [77] Running
selections, running jurisdiction, all amounting to running a course in Con-
sulship. [78] And provoking justified demands-commands-remands for a
cos. iv. So as to optimize one brief span and prosper the future (the details
spill out); without spoiling the consulate’s originary titular identification
with Liberty Regained; incidentally relieving the embarrassment of those
ordinary cos. iiis; [79] without fighting the will of the House; without
flunking the Idiot’s Guide to Consulship: ‘the more the better’ . . . [80]
Sun goes down on High Court Judge Trajan, working through every day’s
trials, playing God the Cosmic Father running planet earth with each nod
in one parting paroxysm on consularity from consul Pliny.
Between consular emperor and consular orator we take a step down through
off-duty Trajan’s regimen (∼ the finale of Pliny’s regimen at Ep. 9.37,
three from the end of the last book). This meaty hunter revives the once-
traditional training of future principes (then ‘leaders’ now ‘emperors’), for
real, unlike other emperors’ charades. This boatie is the diametrical oppo-
site of [82] Dormition shivering on a barge towed across inland lake or
seaside bay, good sport for Danube and Rhine to host. Not to be defen-
sive about it, muscular physique does have its role in heroic labours; see
any Greek Myths collection in your off-duty reading (see under Cephalus,
Orion, et al.; and Hercules, Castor and Pollux, etc. etc. Exemplorum gratia).
170 john henderson
Relax and enjoy contrasting – listing – ‘most emperors’’s ways to unwind.
[83] Before going behind the scenes, inside the palace, to catch domes-
tic optimization at work, call on empress (Pompeia Plotina) and duchess
(Trajan’s sister Ulpia Marciana). [84] They are well/wisely postponing the
grand-dame title of ‘Augustas’ until earned (sc. until one becomes a mother,
the other a wife).
[85] The courtier’s honorific status of ‘friend’, no longer
‘a word/name without content/substance’ (nomen tantum amicitiae, 85.1),
evokes [86] an offbeat second ‘nautical’ anecdote that must find space in
Pan (o rem memoriae litterisque mandandam, 86.2): one [unknown] per-
sonally appointed Commander of the Guard is allowed by Trajan to resign,
personally escorted on board ship, with the full propemptic treatment,
waves and more tears. . . . Take for granted acts of generosity (taceo . . . all
the way through 86.5–6),
[87] one facet of overall well-and-wise handling
of citizen subjects to set before its converse, [88] due handling of servants,
freed or slaves: in contrast to ‘most emperors out of twelve, who treated
their citizens as if they owned them, and their freedmen as if they owned
them’ (88.1).
If this last topic hyperlinked the prime hits Claudius and Nero (see the
Annales when Tacitus gets to writing them), then it helped bridge through
time-expired Nerva to boy-wonder Trajan via congratulation on inheriting
staff from ‘father and the good Flavians’ (88.3), and so pave the path towards
closing down the main structure of Pan through a ring back to the adoption
saga and its precipitation of the ‘innovatory’ nickname ‘Traianus Optimus’
(now awarded by SPQR ∼ 2.7). To stick this nonce dyad into the Roman
archive permanently, Pan pulls out all the stops to scale Heaven. The
rhetoric, the discourse, of Historical Exemplarity
supplies the terms for
meta-terminological optimization:
an satius fuit, ‘Felicem’ uocare? quod non moribus sed fortunae datum est. satius
‘Magnum’? cui plus inuidiae quam pulchritudinis inest. adoptauit te Optimus
princeps in suum, senatus in ‘Optimi’ nomen.
hoc tibi tam proprium quam paternum; nec magis definite distincteque desig-
nat, qui ‘Traianum’, quam qui ‘Optimum’ appellat: ut olim frugalitate Pisones,
sapientia Laelii, pietate Metelli monstrabantur. quae simul omnia uno isto nomine
continentur. nec uideri potest Optimus, nisi qui est optimis omnibus in sua
cuiusque laude praestantior.
One happy Trajanic ‘family’: Roche (2002).
Nautical rhetoric: Manolaraki (2008) esp. 377–83.
Exemplarity critiqued: Goldhill (1994); Gelley (1995). With (self-)reference to ‘Augustus’, see Lowrie
(2009) on Res Gestae.
Down the Pan 171
merito tibi ergo post ceteras appellationes haec est addita ut maior. minus est
enim imperatorem et Caesarem et Augustum, quam omnibus imperatoribus et
Caesaribus et Augustis esse meliorem.
ideoque ille parens hominumdeorumque Optimi prius, deinde Maximi nomine
colitur. quo praeclarior laus tua, quem non minus constat Optimum esse, quam
adsecutus es nomen, quod ad alium transire non possit, nisi ut appareat in bono
principe alienum, in malo falsum, quod licet omnes postea usurpent, semper
tamen agnoscetur ut tuum.
etenim, ut nomine ‘Augusti’ admonemur eius cui primum dicatum est, ita haec
‘Optimi’ appellatio numquam memoriae hominum sine te recurret, quotiensque
posteri nostri ‘Optimum’ aliquem uocare cogentur, totiens recordabantur quis
meruerit uocari. (Plin. Pan. 88.5–10)
Being called ‘Lucky’ would have worked? No, that doesn’t reward ethics, it rewards
fortune. ‘The Great’ would? No, the jealousy factor’s higher than the beauty. Your
were adopted by a gent./the best emperor for his own, but the senate adopted you
for the title of ‘The Best’.
This is your own property as well as your father’s legacy to you. It’s no more
specific, or more diagnostic, a nomenclature if you are addressed as ‘Trajan’
rather than ‘The Best’. It’s like Pisos getting fingered in the old days for being
‘Frugal’, Laeliuses for ‘Wise’, Metelluses for ‘Good Boys’. And all those qualities are
simultaneously subsumed in your single name, given that the only person who can
look ‘the best’ is the one who is out ahead of all ‘the best’ in their own particular
category of distinction.
So you deserve to have this form of address pinned on you to complete the set:
for the extra greatness. It’s plainly less great to be ‘Imp./Caes./Aug.’ than to better
all of the ‘Imps./Caesars/Augustuses’.
And that is why ‘The One who is Father of the Human Race and the Gods’
is worshipped first by the name ‘The Best’, and then ‘The Greatest’. Hence your
distinction is the more dazzling as the one who, beyond dispute, is no less ‘the
best’ than ‘the greatest’.
You have acquired a name which cannot trajansfer to anyone else – if not to
stand revealed as someone else’s property in the case of a good emperor, and as
counterfeit in a bad one; and even if all emperors ever after usurp it, it will still
forever be recognized as yours.
Plus: the parallel with the name ‘Augustus’, which tells us to think of the one first
hallowed by it, means that this form of address as ‘The Best’ will never present itself
again to human memory without you. Every time Roman posterity are obliged to
call anyone ‘The Best’, they shall remember each time who it was that earned the
right to be so called.
Did and does every Roman not think ‘Sulla’ with every felicitation in the
book (see on 56.1–2 above: reburnished aristo turned butcher neo-con)
172 john henderson
Cornelius Sulla?
And (the automatic pairing for prime examples of hon-
orific ad hominem title, e.g. Liv. 30.45.6) was every great a cue to think
‘Pompey’, and Pompey (see on 29.1 and 56.1–2 above: backwoodsman
turned Alexander then all-time loser),
and Pompeys? What to make of
the slide from ‘optimus, gent.’, to ‘Optimus, Perfection’, as we are making
it happen, when we pan down the speech, re-registering/pre-registering as
we go every single bonus, melior, optimum in the book, together with all
their doubles, pessimus, peior, malus? Founding the dynasty by adopting
Trajan may be the core trajansaction, but every Latin sentence henceforth
valorizes the new value system, engrossed and disseminated around the
trajanscendental signifier of Value.
To think cold fusion of ‘Trajan–Optimus’, Pliny turns to three specimens
of those dubbed ‘Good Guys’, Calpurnius Piso ‘Frugi’ (cos. 134: as tribune,
first – successful – legislator against extortion (Cic. Font. 39); recycling the
nickname through Cicero’s son-in-law and the cos. 15) and, involving an
oneiric polarity, to the ‘generalized’ Laelius ‘Sapiens’ (cos. 140: allegedly
so called from ‘Wise-ly’ dropping a land-redistribution bill before the fan
was hit (Plut. Ti. Gracch. 8.3); to his friends, ‘Philosophicizing Adviser’
to Scipio Aemilianus (Cic. Am. 7); otherwise bare of cognomen, son of
a nouus-and-Scipio Africanus Maior lieutenant); and, to clinch a saintly
tricolon, Caecilius Metellus ‘Piuses’ (cos. 80: successful lobbyist for his
father’s pardon from exile (Val. Max. 5.2.7); matched for Piety by his
adoptive son Metellus (Pius) Scipio). Shades of the republic at, and tipping
from, its zenith, this triangulated omenclature models for the multiplicity
and plurivocality of mundane republican ideology, long absorbed into the
monoeidic ontology of celestialized autocracy. This is, no doubt, how the
logic of ‘abstraction’ gets going, as spectacularly enshrined in the (fatally
flawed, and newly vicious) myth of The Artist’s synthetic statue of Perfect
Beauty (cf. on 4 above). In the short version of Uncle Pliny (Nat. 35.64),
Zeuxis was to make a statue for the city of Acragas to dedicate in the temple
of Hera ‘Lacinia’, so he held a beauty parade of their girls and chose five
of the best, so his painting would reflect ‘the feature in each of ’em that
got most votes’ (quod in quaque laudatissimum esset). In Cicero’s elaborated
prooemial set piece (Inv. 2.1–3), Zeuxis was handsomely commissioned by
the city of Croton as the maestro to adorn the temple of Hera, including a
portrait of Helen, to embody ‘the surpassing beauty of the female form’. He
got them to volunteer to send him their most beautiful girls; he chose five,
‘because he reckoned it impossible to find everything he was looking for to
Cf. Henderson (1998) 177–80.
Henderson (1998) 196–7, 200–3.
Down the Pan 173
get to sexiness in one body: when it comes to perfecting anything in any
simple category in all its parts, nature just never does turn out the finished
article’ (2.3). (So, nice reader, welcome to an omnium gatherum textbook,
or Variorum.) This is scandalously anti-organic fetishistic thinking fit for a
cosmetic surgery brochure; but . . . it rolls up both of Pliny’s own pin-ups
in one composite figure of Perfection – ‘father / avatar as Orator’! – and
provides Pan with exactly the specious ‘logic’ required to send imperatorial
epideixis through the roof. The po’mo’ satirist Lucian (Im. 5–10) cobbles
together for his meta-Beauty Parade the sexiest statues known to Art, to
perfect his transcendent image of Beauty, hailing her, after Xenophon’s
most beautiful femme fatale in fiction, as, precisely, ‘Pan-thea’.
(ahem!) the consul’s composite composition hails all the power in Power
as the abstraction of Abstraction: ‘“Emperor” = the set of sets of honorific
cartouches for specific virtues’.
But then, within Emperor Newspeak, the set of titles for emperor –
‘Imp./Caesar/Augustus’ – has become (inherently, as its point!) trumpable
through historical iteration, even more definitively than those one-owner
labels hung on a bearer with the chance of sticking, however compro-
mised by the rhetoricians’ ‘generalizing plural’. It must be the rule that any
specific bearer of this Christmas-tree package of dignifiers is trumped by
the subsumption of the whole line-up into one Superior Being, once they
are treated as ‘generalizable plurals’ – ‘imperators/Caesars/Augustuses’ – and
rolled into one Bigger Unit (ut maior). This is the Pan logic of optimization
(minus est ∼ esse meliorem), which apotheoses imperial titulature by bring-
ing it flush with the Almighty Principle/Principal that declares Roman
(Father) ‘Jupiter’ Optimized to mean Maximized, and to put them in the
order ‘Optimus >Maximus’ to indicate the hierarchy: ‘Best’ is not less great
than ‘Greatest’ (non minus: even if you mustn’t say this is Better).
Now to
call a halt to all such transumptive moves ad infinitum: we are already at,
or in, infinitum; there shall be no further trajansition because ‘The Bestest’
won’t ever unfuse from ‘Trajan’ (any more than Jove will ever wake up ‘O.’
but not ‘M.’, or vice versa). ‘Traianus Optimus’ will never be counterfeited,
always be recognized as henotheistic Monad. Attached to the Origin, as
are all ‘Augustuses’ to the original Augustus: so that every appellation of
‘an Optimus’ will trigger cultural memory, wired to the Gent. who first
On Zeuxis’ Helen and ‘abstraction’: Stewart (1997) 93 and 247.
For the principle of self-beatific auxesis in ‘Augustus’ (from augeo/augurium), see Lowrie (forthcom-
ing); for ‘Caesar’ as would-be transcendental signifier, see Henderson (1998) 99–100, 167, 195–7,
199, 211.
174 john henderson
earned the acclamation. The Ultimate End of HiStory, thanks to Grace
that deifines (defies-deifies-defines) Examplifiction.
Pan winds up with I.O.M. and down through a combination of (a) pater/
diuus Nerva flush with joy at seeing the choice for Optimus both be and
be hailed Optimus, himself optimus, ‘Gent.’, bettered by his son (meliorem:
recall the myth of Thetis’ son, destined to best his father, and therefore
best not the Almighty’s lovechild, Catul. 64.27); and in a double declension
(b) Traianus pater, as the doubles call the odds in banter on genetic vs.
elective filiation. [90] With this descent, Pliny emerges to give his work his
consular seal of approval in a sphragis that perorates with a self-aduertising
parade of the panegyrist’s power to award and withhold reification through
naming/shaming that loudly declares itself a de rigueur topos of Thanks-
giving. [91] The last ‘historicizing’ flashes in the Pan reimpose the polarity
between Trajan and ‘those emperors’ and turn Pliny and his silent partner
Tertullus into ‘those consuls of Antiquity’. Detailed/lightning recapitula-
tion of Trajan’s trajectory [92] into the moulding of this moment (fast
approaching 18 September on Pliny’s watch, the magic Optimum day when
Trajan was born, Damnation was assassinated, and Nerva took charge,
( . . . Optimum, meliorem optimo – ecstatic hyperbole here in two ticks tor-
pedoes everything, every superlative, Pan has staked its all on) brings us full
circle back, [93–5] through Pliny’s own longius iter (lived, eluding Domi-
tian, and now textualized, thanks to Trajan), to a traditionalist’s closing
prayers to Rome’s tutelary deities under Capitoline Jupiter (in fine oratio-
nis, 94.1; ∼ dicendi initium, 1.1; peppered now with seueritas demonizing
the ‘ravenous bandit’, 94.3). Our consultation of this optimization theorist
concludes, well-and-wisely, ‘loving the best emperor as much as previously
hated by the worst’ (95.5), by installing himself as eternally up for s/election
as consul(tant). Affinity with Trajan throughout evinced this plan of Plin
to play the emperor of Pan.
chapter 9
Afterwords of praise
Roger Rees
Pliny’s intention that the oratio (i.e. the written version, Ep. 1.20.9) of
his Panegyricus be available to posterity was explicit (Ep. 3.13, 3.18).
So if
his self-important aspiration that the speech prove directly instructive to
future emperors (Ep. 3.18.2–3; Pan. 4.1) was not to be realized, it was not
for lack of effort on his behalf, since his conscious attempt to revise and
expand the original version and to secure the speech’s survival through
distribution seems to have been an ambitious and original project.
process of revision and publication was in keeping not only with Pliny’s
general practice in publishing his oratory, but also perhaps with his long-
term commitment to publish his letters.
As his own literary agent for his
speeches and letters, Pliny was bold and innovative, but if he would have
been pleased with the reception of his Panegyricus in later antiquity, it was
perhaps not what he would have imagined.
Forty-three years after Pliny’s suffect consulship, Fronto was to take sim-
ilar office, in July and August. In a letter to Marcus Aurelius in early July
143 ce, prompted by a question from the Caesar, Fronto explained that
he was postponing delivery of his gratiarum actio to Augustus Antoninus
Pius for the consulship until 13 August.
As part of his explanation, Fronto
disclosed that the many speeches of praise he had delivered in the senate to
Marcus Aurelius’ grandfather Hadrian still maintained an interested read-
ership, sunt orationes istae frequenter in omnium manibus (‘those speeches
are often in everyone’s hands’, 1. p. 110
), and that he had similar hopes
for the speech under preparation to Antoninus, laudatio mea non in Actis
On Pliny’s actio and oratio, Fantham (1999) 226.
For Pliny’s initiative, Fantham (1999) 229; for recent consideration of his ambition, Manolaraki
(2008) 388.
For publication of his letters, Sherwin-White (1966, 1969); for publication of his oratory, Mayer
On the complicated chronology and differentiation between letters relating to the speech for his
consulate and the speech for his designation (and others), see Van Den Hout (1999) 44–6, 61, 382–3.
Citations of Fronto use the volume and page number of the edition of Haines (1919).
176 roger rees
Senatus abstrusa lateat, sed in manibus hominum oculisque uersetur (‘may my
panegyric not lie hidden in the Acts of the Senate but be in the hands and
before the eyes of men’, 1. p. 110). Of principal interest here is that Fronto
actively sought for his panegyrics to enjoy wide literary appeal rather than
to stand as part of a documentary record.
If we take him at his word,
then he was already successful in this goal and aspired to further achieve-
ment. After it was finally declaimed, Antoninus himself was grateful for
the speech, as he took the time to explain in a letter (1. pp. 126–7) and
Marcus Aurelius was rapturous in his approval (1. p. 128); and eighteen
years on, in 161, Fronto was to hear from Marcus Aurelius, now Augustus
himself, that he had enjoyed re-reading the same speech or speeches of 143:
patris tui laudes a me in senatu designato et inito consulatu meo dictas legisti
libenter (‘you read with pleasure the praises of your father spoken by me
in the senate as consul designate and early in the office’, Haines 1. p. 302).
Only scraps of Fronto’s oratory survive, including the opening words he
intended for a speech of thanks to Antoninus Pius for the consulship which
Fronto intended to write as part of his proclamation for display on a board
(1. p. 110),
but it seems from the evidence of his letters that the principle of
prose panegyric as a literary form, actively to be published and distributed,
and of interest beyond its dramatic date and setting to a wider audience,
was firmly established.
Elsewhere in his correspondence, Fronto discusses
the style, tone and subject matter of his panegyrics and epideictic rhetoric
more generally (e.g. 1. pp. 104–6, 118, 130–6; 2. p. 136.). In various of his
rhetorical practices and associated discourse, therefore, Fronto can be seen
as a continuator of the sort of intellectual preoccupations foregrounded by
Pliny some decades previously.
On the other hand, at no point does Fronto express a debt to Pliny: there
are no references or allusions to him or his writing. While this is in keeping
with Fronto’s customary preference for republican authors such as Ennius,
Sallust and Cicero, his happy continuation of a literary-political practice
originated, it seems, by Pliny the Younger, is variously suggestive.
It is
unlikely that so soon after the speech to Trajan and its revision and publi-
cation, Fronto was unaware of Pliny’s initiative; nor does it seem probable
that the practice of publication and distribution of imperial panegyric had
become so standard in the four decades since 100 ce that acknowledgement
Champlin (1980) 51–2.
Van Den Hout (1999) 61.
Champlin (1980) 83–9, on what the lost speech might have contained.
On Fronto’s interest in republican authors, Van Den Hout (1999) vi–vii. For Fronto’s references to
such, cf. e.g. 1. p. 166, 2. pp. 4, 49, 74.
Afterwords of praise 177
of Pliny’s role was either superfluous or unimpressive. In sum, the relation-
ship between Pliny and Fronto as imperial panegyrists seems to have been
complicated: Fronto seems to have quietly assumed Pliny’s reification of
panegyric as an acceptable literary form for discussion and publication, but
at the same time to have downplayed that very influence. This ambivalent
relationship between Pliny and Fronto was to play a further role in later
antiquity’s reception of the Panegyricus.
Another century and a half on, in the spring of 297, an anonymous orator
addressed a panegyric to the Caesar Constantius, probably in Trier.
year before Constantius had overseen the reconquest of Britain after about a
decade of separatist rule, and the speech is dominated by a narrative of that
campaign. The orator draws a favourable comparisonbetweenConstantius’
active involvement in the reconquest and the distant role Antoninus Pius
had played from Rome in the recovery of southern Scotland all those years
before. This comparison is introduced by reference to Fronto:
itaque Fronto, Romanae eloquentiae non secundum sed alterum decus, cum belli
in Britannia confecti laudem Antonino principi daret, quamuis ille in ipso Vrbis
palatio residens gerendi eius mandasset auspicium, ueluti longae nauis gubernaculis
praesidentem totius uelificationis et cursus gloriam meruisse testatus est. at enim
tu, Caesar inuicte . . . (Pan. Lat. viii(4)14.2–3)
And so, when Fronto – not the second but the other ornament of Roman elo-
quence – praised Antoninus for completing the war in Britain, even though the
emperor had delegated command while himself staying in his palace at Rome, he
swore that he had deserved the glory for the whole naval launch and expedition as
if he had been in charge at the long-ships’ helm. But you, unconquered Caesar . . .
It may be that the panegyric the orator cites was in fact the same gratiarum
actio for the consulship that Fronto discusses in his letters.
The orator’s
patient rehearsal of some of Fronto’s speech’s details perhaps suggests that
he could not assume of his audience a very close recall of the panegyric.
But at the same time, his confident designation of Fronto as Romanae
eloquentiae non secundum sed alterum decus (a phrase itself echoing Marcus
Aurelius’ characterization of Fronto in a letter of 143 as decus eloquentiae
Romanae, 1. p. 130) indicates the availability of at least some of Fronto’s
output in northeast Gaul in the late third century, and his excellent repu-
tation there at the time: the equal, the orator implies of course, of Cicero.
Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 105–6; Rees (2002) 95–129.
Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 133.
Champlin (1980) 165 n. 27; Van Den Hout (1999) 612; and below on Ausonius on the circulation of
Fronto’s oratory in late antiquity.
Nixon (1990) 34; cf. Van Den Hout (1999) x, who claims that ‘no quotations from or references to
these letters are found before [the fourth century]’, and 607–8.
178 roger rees
Perhaps this commendation received allusive affirmation too: Klotz iden-
tified more than a dozen intertexts which give the speech what now seems
a distinctively Ciceronian patina, and speculated too that the orator else-
where alluded to Fronto’s now lost panegyric.
Without sufficient extant
material, moderns cannot evaluate the orator’s favourable judgement of
Fronto, but the claim, which in its inflation of Marcus Aurelius’ phrase
significantly elevates Fronto from ‘an ornament’ to ‘the other ornament’, is
nonetheless an arresting one in consideration of later antiquity’s reception
of the Panegyricus. There is, it seems, no reminiscence of Pliny.
This is
remarkable precisely because the Gallic speech was preserved in the very
collection which had at its head Pliny’s Panegyricus.
The Panegyrici Latini is a late antique collection of twelve speeches, many
of them anonymous, spanning nearly three hundred years, from Pliny’s
Panegyricus to a speech by Pacatus to the emperor Theodosius in 389.
is in this context that the complete Panegyricus survived antiquity, to be
rediscovered in Mainz in 1433.
The Panegyricus is first in the collection
in date and in manuscript sequence, but thereafter the speeches are not in
chronological order.
The second in manuscript sequence is the latest
in date – that of Pacatus – which among other arguments has led to the
now orthodox assumption that Pacatus himself, a professor of rhetoric
at Bordeaux, put the collection together sometime soon after 389.
preference for Cicero and Fronto explicitly articulated by Constantius’
panegyrist in 297 should deter any assumptions about the pre-eminent
status of the Panegyricus in late antiquity that the speech’s position as
first in Pacatus’ collection may prompt. The commendation of Fronto
in a collection fronted by Pliny crystallizes the problematic status of the
Panegyricus in late antiquity, for like Fronto himself the century before, the
orator of 297 does not put Pliny on a pedestal.
Pacatus’ own approval of Pliny’s speech extends beyond his inclusion
of it in the anthology to intertextual engagement. A few examples, from
two early chapters of Pacatus’ speech to Theodosius (Pan. Lat. ii(12)): in
Klotz (1911) 544–7; Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 126 n. 37; cf. Van Den Hout (1999) 383.
Klotz (1911) 546–8, with varying conviction.
For texts, translations and historical commentaries on the speeches after Pliny’s, see Nixon and
Rodgers (1994); for other complete editions, see Mynors (1964), Paladini and Fedeli (1976) and
Lassandro (1992).
Winterbottom in Reynolds (1983) 289; Lassandro (2000) 25–32; Garc´ıa Ruiz (2006) 38–9.
Hence the dual reference system with Roman numerals denoting manuscript sequence and Arabic
numerals chronological order; see Rees (2002) 20.
On Pacatus’ life and work, see Turcan-Verkerk (2003); on his role as editor, Pichon (1906a) 137,
(1906b) 244–7; for a reading of Pacatus’ possible editorial intentions with the Panegyrici, see Rees
(forthcoming a).
Afterwords of praise 179
chapter 2, Pacatus’ comments on the climate of freedom of speech in which
he claimed to speak non . . . expressae metu uoces (‘utterances not extorted by
fear’, 2.2) recalls Pliny’s recedant uoces illae quas metus exprimebat (‘let those
utterances which fear used to extort disappear’, Pan. 2.2). Likewise, Pacatus’
paradoxical play duas res diuersissimas iunxi metum et temeritatem (‘I have
combined two most disparate qualities – fear and audacity’, 2.2) is clearly
an autobiographical redeployment of Pliny’s compliment to Trajan iunxisti
enim ac miscuisti res diuersissimas, securitatem olim imperantis et incipientis
pudorem (‘you combined and mixed most disparate qualities, the assurance
of one used to ruling and the modesty of a beginner’, Pan. 24.1);
in chapter
12, Pacatus’ credetne hoc olimuentura posteritas? (‘Will posterity to come ever
believe this?’, 12.3) recalls Pliny’s credentne posteri? (‘Will future generations
believe?’, Pan. 9.2), and likewise Pliny’s iam imperator . . . et . . . quantum ad
te pertinet, priuatus (‘now both emperor and, as far as you are concerned, a
private citizen’, Pan. 9.3) seems the hypotext for Pacatus’ quid tua intererat
te principem fieri, qui futurus eras in imperatore priuatus? (‘What difference
did it make for you to become emperor, when as emperor you were going
to be a private citizen?’, 12.5). What seems likely from these apparently
very deliberate phrases is that Pacatus included Pliny’s Panegyricus in the
anthology not (only) as an act of literary preservation for its own sake,
but amongst other things, to provide a key against which his own speech
could be read. In combination, the priority given to the Panegyricus in the
collection and its juxtaposition with Pacatus’ own speech equip the reader
with all the means to evaluate the interplays in consistency and difference
between the two speeches – and, indeed, post an insistent invitation to do
so. Various possibilities suggest themselves.
In the intertexts above, canvassing the political licence to speak freely,
and the nature of imperial accession and demeanour, we might identify
essentially ideological phenomena. In late antiquity, Trajan’s reputation
was unparalleled: to be felicior Augusto melior Traiano (‘more blessed than
Augustus, better than Trajan’, Eutropius, Breuiarum 8.5.3) was the imperial
dream. What better analogue could there be for Pacatus’ commendation of
Theodosius, recently emerged victorious from one civil war (against Mag-
nus Maximus) and soon to face another (Eugenius), than Rome’s most
reputedly distinguished emperor? At the same time, as Turcan-Verkerk has
pointed out, the Spanish origin that connected Trajan and Theodosius
Against Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 449 n. 5, who call this latter intertext ‘hackneyed and familiar’,
it seems to me precisely calqued upon Pliny.
Ronning (2007) 139–44.
180 roger rees
would invite further assimilation of the two.
The political potential of a
relationship with the Panegyricus was considerable, and the ideological
character of many of Pacatus’ allusions to Pliny reminds us that late
antiquity’s attitude towards Pliny’s text owed much to Trajan’s reputa-
tion – just as, at the same time, Trajan’s reputation in late antiquity might
have owed much to Pliny’s Panegyricus.
Another role the Panegyricus fulfils in the collection is to provide literary
credibility. Speaking in the senate house in Rome, Pacatus makes one arm
of his opening captatio beneuolentiae denounce his own oratory as rudem
hunc et incultumTransalpini sermonis horrorem(‘the rough and uncultivated
horror of this Transalpine speech’, 1.3). In effect, Pacatus acknowledges
his own Romanization a desideratum. In a bewitching argument, then,
Pacatus’ disingenuous opening claim is finessed by links to the Panegyricus
(at the levels of editorial organization and verbal reminiscence). Pliny’s
speech itself is presented as the originary imperial-panegyrical work, the
number one; and at the same time, far from being a clumsy outsider,
Pacatus promotes himself as the number two, a worthy heir to Pliny; his
knowledge of and reaction to the Panegyricus endorse Pacatus’ oratorical
endeavour. In his reception of the speech, Pacatus’ editorial and literary
motivations coalesce advantageously in a process which both invokes and
extends a tradition.
Pacatus may have beeninspired to canonize the Panegyricus by precedents
in speeches from earlier on in late antiquity.
For example, addressing
the emperor Maximian in Trier in April 289, the anonymous orator’s
quantam tu mereris aetatem (‘the lifetime you deserve’, Pan. Lat. x(2)2.7)
reprises Pliny’s dent tibi, Caesar, aetatem di quam mereris (‘Caesar, may
the gods give you the lifetime you deserve’, Pan. 28.6); so too on their
addressees’ accessions, te . . . plus tribuisse beneficii quam acceperis (‘you gave
more benefit than you received’, x(2)3.1) recalls exspectatum est tempus quo
liqueret non tam accepisse te beneficium quam dedisse (‘we had to wait for
a time to see that you had given rather than received a benefit’, Pan.
Pliny’s version of the ‘ship of state’ metaphor – quae te publicae
salutis gubernaculis admoueret (‘which moved you [sc. Trajan] to the helm
of the state’s health’, 6.2) – underlies both rei publicae . . . salutarem manum
gubernaculis addidisti (‘you added your [sc. Maximian] healthy hand to the
state’s helm’, x(2)4.2) and Pacatus’ uiro publicis gubernaculis admouendo
Turcan-Verkerk (2003) 65.
For further discussion of Pacatus’ allusions to Pliny, see Rees (forthcoming a).
Cf. his Letters, Cameron (1965).
Klotz (1911) 535, with some other examples.
Afterwords of praise 181
(‘by moving a man [sc. Theodosius] to the state’s helm’, 3.5): between
them there is a chain which enhances the anthology’s sense of collectivity.
In a section of his speech to Constantine in 307, an orators’ apostrophe
to the emperor’s late father Constantius quanto nunc gaudio poteris (‘how
much pleasure you now have’, Pan. Lat. vii(6)14.4) in diction and thought
is indebted to Pliny’s exclamation to the deified Nerva quanto nunc, diue
Nerua, gaudio frueris (‘how much pleasure you now enjoy’, Pan. 89.1).
In a speech of 310 and perhaps less distinctively, non fortuita hominum
consensio . . . te principem fecit (‘no chance agreement amongst men made
you emperor’, vi(7)3.1) recalls Pliny’s non te propria cupiditas . . . principem
fecit (‘no personal desire made you emperor’, Pan. 7.1).
It is such intertexts
that make it certain that the Panegyricus was known as early as the late
third century. Perhaps it was their acquaintance and engagement with the
Panegyricus that commended it or their own speeches (or both) to Pacatus,
when, a century later, he composed his own panegyric and compiled his
However, any status the Panegyricus is granted by its position at the head
of the collection, and by the scattered intertexts within it, is complicated
by the summoning of Roman literary ghosts other than Pliny’s at various
points and with differing urgency throughout the anthology. This gallery of
great names which populates the collection, by means of allusion through
intertext, direct quotation or even name-dropping, is extensive. Fronto and
Cicero, so appreciatively invoked in the phrase from 297, are joined across
the collection by others, such as Sallust, Caesar, Livy, Velleius, Florus,
Seneca and Tacitus.
Further, it should immediately be conceded that
the Plinian intertexts in the eleven speeches with which the Panegyricus is
preserved are hardly their most conspicuous literary quality. Even if some
such intertexts are considered marked, it should be noted that others are
not, and that some speeches, such as that of 297 mentioned above, feature
Nor can we account for any one orator’s inattention to Pliny by
assuming the Panegyricus was unknown to him, as we can with the Letters;
for, just as we have seen that the author of the speech of 289 knew and
admired the Panegyricus to the extent that he adapted certain phrases for
inclusion in his own speech, so too the orator of 291 knew the speech
of 289, as multiple similarities make absolutely clear (and have convinced
Klotz (1911) 550.
Klotz (1911) 554.
With, it should be made clear, varied combinations and inconsistent concentration; e.g. on Pan.
Lat. vi(7), see Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 218.
Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 18.
Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 14. ‘Clearly their reading must have often embraced Pliny.’
182 roger rees
some readers that they are, in fact, the work of the same hand).
unlike the speech of 289, that of 291 features no echoes of Pliny beyond
what Klotz identified as ‘a certain similarity of thought’.
Likewise, the
author of the speech of 297 knew the speeches of 289 and 291 and drew on
them variously, but the Plinian element in x(2) is completely overlooked.
The silences about Pliny are, it seems, quite deliberate.
If after his own headline act, Pliny has to jostle for time under the
spotlight in the Panegyrici Latini, Cicero has the lead role. Ciceronian
intertexts far outnumber Pliny’s, from the speech of 289 to Pacatus’ a
century later.
And much as by position it is the Panegyricus that Pacatus as
editor privileges, it is not the descendants of Pliny whose critical judgement
he confesses to fear himself, but those of the republican orators Cato, Cicero
and Hortensius (1.4).
Throughout the anthology, Cicero’s works, his
panegyrical speeches, particularly the Pro Lege Manilia, find most echoes;
four of the collection draw on that speech’s proemium as if to assert their
own rhetorical and wider cultural credentials from the start, and the orator
of 297 uses the Pro Marcello similarly cogently.
Meanwhile, Pliny’s name
never features.
A further concession must be that whatever debts or attitudes the later
speeches’ intertextual engagement with the Panegyricus may reveal, stylistic
and other literary differences between Pliny’s speech and them are as many
and as conspicuous as the political and ideological differences which distin-
guish Trajan from the various emperors addressed in the later panegyrics.
The orators’ individual preferences and idiosyncrasies are apparent across
the collection, but the risk of oversimplifying notwithstanding, they all
stand apart from Pliny’s. Pacatus’ speech is the next longest of the twelve
after Pliny’s, but even so it is only half the length of the Panegyricus;
are very much shorter.
Whereas Pliny revised and expanded his speech
for publication, the later works seem to have been published as delivered.
The late antique panegyrists were quick to illuminate their speeches with
literary embellishments from far beyond Pliny’s compass – some of their
prose reading has been mentioned already, but the speeches also include
Rees (2002) 193–204.
Klotz (1911) 535, specifically between xi(3)15 and Pan. 56, on which John Henderson has expanded
in Gibson and Rees (forthcoming); Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 18.
Klotz (1911) 548–9.
Note the moderation in identifying literary debts urged by Vereeke (1975).
Nixon (1990).
Klotz (1911) 544; Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 17.
Did all the late antique panegyrists who had read the Panegyricus know its author? Cameron (1965)
289–90 on the late antique confusion between the Elder and Younger Pliny.
Thirty-eight OCT sides, compared to Pliny’s eighty-one.
L’Huillier (1992) 429–39.
Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 33; cf. L’Huillier (1992) 169 on Pacatus.
Afterwords of praise 183
imaginative redeployment of the poets Ennius, Lucretius, Ovid, Statius,
Virgil and others.
There are a few neologisms in these speeches, almost
exclusively in the panegyrics by Claudius Mamertinus (iii(11)) and Pacatus
himself, and some ‘post-classical’ forms and syntax too. The contemporary
preference for the cursus mixtus in prose rhythm holds good for the late
antique speeches, and although there are of course rhetorical conceits, such
as repetitions, tricola and prosopopeia, as befit epideictic oratory, the late
speeches’ sentiments are very rarely articulated in the indulgent amplifica-
tions for which the Panegyricus is well known.
Although it was available
to generations of orators in late antique Gaul, it is equally clear that the
Panegyricus was not simply a template for their own speeches, ready for
systematic remodelling.
Despite Pacatus’ enthusiasm for the Panegyricus,
evidenced in his roles as orator and anthologizer, it cannot have been any
decisively Plinian character that commended speeches to him for inclu-
sion in his collection. The Panegyrici Latini collection privileges Pliny by
putting him first, but it is not an album of cover-versions.
In many respects, it is difficult to calibrate the extent to which the
Panegyrici Latini represent oratorical norms in late antique Gaul, but the
surviving fragments of Symmachus’ imperial panegyrics offer useful com-
paranda. Symmachus was in Gaul in the late 360s, to visit the imperial
court, and in Trier itself he delivered panegyrics to the emperors Valen-
tinian and Gratian, sections of which survive.
In Symmachus’ first speech
to Valentinian, Pliny’s Panegyricus seems faintly to reverberate: for exam-
ple, on elaborating his addressee’s unique qualification for imperial office
by rejecting other potential aspirants, Symmachus’ fuerit aliquis in pace
iucundus, sed idem rebus trepidis parum felix (‘one man was happy in peace-
time, but the same was less successful in dangerous times’, Or. 1.6) evokes
Pliny’s identical argument and similar phrasing, enituit aliquis in bello, sed
obsoleuit in pace (‘one man shone in war, but paled in peacetime’, Pan.
Rees (2004a) and in Gibson and Rees (forthcoming).
Nixon and Rodgers (1994) 15–21, with bibliography, including Chruzander (1897). On the style
of the Panegyricus, see Durry (1938), Rees (2001) and Hutchinson in this volume. Manolaraki
(2008) argues for a carefully articulated relationship between subject and rhetoric in the theme of
Cf. Winterbottom in Reynolds (1983) 289: ‘[the Panegyricus] was a primary model for a collection of
later encomia of fourth century emperors’; Manolaraki (2008) 374. ‘the archetypal model for later
imperial eulogies’. Note the identification of rhetorical handbooks and treatises, notably Menander
Rhetor, as a ‘rival’ evolutionary theory for the Panegyrici Latini; Mesk (1912), discussed by Nixon
and Rodgers (1994) 10–13.
For Symmachus’ political career, see Sogno (2006); the fragmentary texts are edited by Pabst (1989);
they survive from a sixth-century rescript which also contains fragments of Pliny’s Panegyricus – see
Mynors (1964) ix and Winterbottom in Reynolds (1983) 289.
184 roger rees
more faintly perhaps, Symmachus’ characterization of Valentinian
before his accession as a well-travelled and durable soldier (Or. 1) recalls
Pliny’s Trajan (Pan. 13–15).
Macrobius classified Pliny and Symmachus
together in the same genus dicendi pingue et floridum in quo Plinius Secun-
dus quondam et nunc nullo ueterum minor noster Symmachus luxuriatur (‘the
rich and florid [type] in which Pliny Secundus once luxuriated, and our
Symmachus does now, inferior to none of his predecessors’, Sat. 5.1.7).
There are connections between the two, both in Symmachus’ text and
in a contemporary’s perception, but at the same time, it is Cicero whom
Symmachus quotes and whose name he cites, in an early passage (1.2). No
credit is granted to Pliny, here or in the fragments of Symmachus’ other
imperial panegyrics. This pattern may be replicated in the case of Sym-
machus’ Letters, which were published in nine books of private and one of
official correspondence, as had been Pliny’s, but no debt is acknowledged
explicitly or by clear allusion.
Symmachus’ friend and fourth-century Gaul’s most prolific literary
author showed no such reticence. In the prose close to his Cento Nuptialis,
just after the pornographic imminutio scene, in determined affirmation
of the distinction between literature and life, Ausonius names Pliny as an
example of a virtuous author of scurrilous verse: meminerint autem, quippe
eruditi, probissimo uiro Plinio in poematiis lasciuiam, in moribus constitisse
censuram (‘Let them remember, being learned men, that in his poetry Pliny,
that most upright man, was lascivious, but in his morals he was censorious’,
4–5 Green).
Pliny’s poetry is lost to us, but Ausonius’ remark makes it
feasible that it – and/or Pliny’s letters in which he comments on his poetry –
was available to him and his erudite contemporaries.
Much safer is the
assumption that Pliny’s Panegyricus would have been available to Ausonius,
since we know from the Panegyrici Latini that it was available to Gallic
orators before and during his lifetime.
But although Ausonius was ready
to invoke Pliny in justification of his own scandalous poetry, and prob-
ably had access to the Panegyricus, no such explicitly authorizing gesture
is granted to Pliny in Ausonius’ gratiarum actio for the consulship of 379.
Pabst (1989) 130 n. 38; see also Pabst (1989) 128 n. 19, 135 n. 85.
Note also the loaded commilitones, Symm. Or. 1.19 and Plin. Pan. 15.5; and the play on priuatus
princeps, Symm. Or. 1.2 and Plin. Pan. 9.3.
Cameron (1965) 295–8.
Recalling Plin. Ep. 4.14, itself quoting Catul. 16; Green (1991) 524–5, xxi.
On Pliny’s poetry, Hershkowitz (1995). The question of its survival to late antiquity is complicated
by the attribution of a line of Martial (1.4.8) to Pliny in Ausonius’ MSS (Green 139 l.3); Cameron
(1965) 295 sees the mistake as Ausonius’, Green (1991) 524 as a scribe’s.
Green (1991) 537 assumes Ausonius’ familiarity with Pliny’s speech.
Afterwords of praise 185
Pliny is not named, and although the panegyric is long, it lacks the stylistic
flair of Pliny’s speech.
There may be instances of topoi where Ausonius
drew on Pliny, but none is celebrated as such, and verbal reminiscences are
not striking.
Ausonius, however, is not unaware of his panegyrical ancestry, but again,
like the orator of 297 before him, it is to Fronto that he turns when he
addresses a question to himself in dramatized outrage in tanti te ergo oratoris
[sc. Frontonis] fastigium gloriosus attollis? (‘Do you arrogantly raise yourself
to the heights of such an orator [as Fronto]?’, 8.33). Ausonius invokes
Fronto as the only appropriate model for himself as consul and tutor to
an emperor, unica mihi et amplectanda est Frontonis imitatio (‘the only one
I must imitate is Fronto’, 7.32). Of course, Pliny had not been tutor to
Trajan, so was not a possible model for Ausonius according to his logic,
but the artifice of the argument that Ausonius frames again signals Fronto’s
high stock in late antique Gaul, and imitatio of him extended, it seems, to
the same suppression or downplaying of Pliny’s Panegyricus that, I argued
above, Fronto himself had practised two hundred years earlier.
when Pliny could conveniently have been cited as a precedent for a man
grateful for the consulship, he isn’t, while Cicero’s name is happily dropped
(6.25), and his work is also suitably paraphrased (12.58, recalling Cic. Pis.
1). It seems, then, that the Panegyricus was available to Symmachus and
Ausonius, but as was the case for the authors of the Panegyrici Latini, their
evocations of it varied but never amounted to treatment of it – or Pliny –
as a canonical archetype which demanded emulation.
Confronting the position that Pliny’s Letters were unavailable in late
antiquity until they were rediscovered by Sidonius Apollinaris in the later
fifth century,
Alan Cameron argued that his correspondence was in fact
known in the late fourth century.
In contrast, the intertextual record
establishes beyond any doubt that the Panegyricus was available to orators,
at least in Gaul, from as early as the first Latin speech to survive to us
after Pliny’s, that of 289. But the lack of uniformity in the legacy of the
Green (1991) xxiii on the speech’s ‘ponderous amplitude’; on the style of the gratiarum actio see
Green (1991) 538 and ad locc.: e.g. 539 on the ‘disarmingly simple opening’.
Green (1991) 537 and e.g. 540. Uotis pro tua salute susceptis – nam de sua cui non te imperante securitas?
(‘with wishes for your well-being – for with you in power, whose property is not secure?’, 1.3) perhaps
draws on Pliny’s non te distringimus uotis. non enim pacem, non concordiam, non securitatem, non
opes oramus, non honores: simplex cunctaque ista complexum unum omnium uotum est, salus principis
(‘we don’t strip you with our wishes; we don’t pray for peace, or harmony, or security or wealth or
honours: everyone’s simple and sole wish, which covers all those things, is the emperor’s well-being’,
Pan. 94.2), but the force is considerably diluted by Ausonius’ much plainer style.
On Fronto in late antiquity, see Macr. 5.1.7 siccum [genus dicendi]; Sid. Ep. 4.3.1 Frontonia grauitas.
The view was established in Merrill (1915) and Stout (1955).
Cameron (1965).
186 roger rees
Panegyricus in later antiquity is difficult to interpret, both in the broad
canvas of late antique literary culture and at the decisive moment of the
publication of Pacatus’ collection.
Fronto’s general preference had been for republican over imperial liter-
ature, and accordingly he turned to Cicero (not Pliny) for his panegyrical
Later antique panegyrics’ frequent turns to Cicero (and occa-
sional turns to Fronto) could thus be seen as a continuation, in only a
slightly modified form, of that preference. On the other hand, a panegyric
to an emperor was by definition an imperial phenomenon and one for
which there was increasing demand as court ceremonial evolved quickly
after the mid-third century; the swelling ranks of orators, especially those
on the margins of the empire’s spread, eager to promote themselves or their
community, would want literary models to emulate. In such an atmo-
sphere, the topoi, lexis and style of the speech which had set itself up as the
high-water mark of Latin imperial panegyric could demand attention and
invite emulation; yet in late antiquity’s cumulative aesthetic, where generic
and historical boundaries are blurred, Pliny would not replace Cicero and
Fronto, but join them, each to feature (or not) according to the contin-
gencies of the new work and its author’s judgement and preferences. These
themselves would be various. In the case of Fronto, silence about the Pane-
gyricus is perhaps best explained by the political reality that commendatory
reference to panegyrical discourse under a previous regime, especially the
immediate predecessor’s, was inappropriate. Pliny himself had spoken of
the venal dishonesty of panegyrics to emperors before Trajan, creating an
effective context for his assertions of his own sincerity (Pan. 2–3).
Fronto, perhaps Pliny’s Panegyricus could have been both an inspiration
and a bˆete noire. But for later orators, without any sense of Pliny or Trajan
as recent rivals, the Panegyricus could have served as a vital landmark in
rhetorical history – a speech which legitimized their own oratorical endeav-
ours, but demanded of them no specific engagement.
And so Pliny’s ghost
could whisper in the speech of 289, leave only faint trace elements in 291,
be snubbed in 297, whisper again in 307, and so on. Presumably made
available through the reading lists of trainee orators in schools of rhetoric,
such as at Bordeaux and Autun, the Panegyricus would have been a fine
working example of effective imperial panegyric, a useful learning resource,
Notable exceptions would be the consistently high regard for Virgil, despite Fronto, and Fronto’s
own work.
Morford (1992) and Bartsch (1994); Gibson, pp. 116–24 in this volume.
Ronning (2007) 142.
Afterwords of praise 187
to complement the rhetorical treatises that were, no doubt, also in circu-
lation. The speech was available to orators, but without any of the sense
of magnetic imperative that drew late antique authors towards Cicero and
The varied record of verbal reminiscence of the Panegyricus in late antiq-
uity, therefore, might suggest that the speech’s most durable legacy was
less textual (or political) than generic – Pliny’s creation of respectable belles
lettres out of imperial panegyric seems to have been held up as a decisive
milestone in Roman rhetorical history. With Pliny’s example behind them,
Fronto, Symmachus and Ausonius could confidently intend their pane-
gyrics for publication as works of literary interest. Similarly, the Constan-
tinian period saw the collation of an anthology of seven of the panegyrics
which Pacatus was to include in his collection of twelve.
Who compiled
this earlier anthology, or why, or even how it then reached Pacatus are mat-
ters for speculation, but overall we can posit a fourth-century culture of an
intellectual readership of imperial panegyrics after their original delivery.
The availability of Pliny’s Panegyricus throughout those same decades is
hardly likely to have been coincidental, and Pacatus’ summa manus – the
re-publication of Pliny’s speech at the head of the new anthology, at the
same time as Pliny’s Letters were enjoying a revival – would, inter alia,
have underlined the respectability of the principle. After Pliny, the genre
of panegyric, and not just his Panegyricus, could hope for later readers.
At the same time, the record of verbal reminiscence indicates that Paca-
tus’ major role in the ancient afterlife of the Panegyricus may have a dis-
torting effect on appreciation of the speech’s reception in late antiquity.
Pacatus’ decision in 389 to quarry the Panegyricus himself, and soon after-
wards to extend the practice of anthologizing panegyric, and to privilege
Pliny in his new anthology, may combine to misrepresent the influence the
speech had exerted at a stylistic level throughout the fourth century. Paca-
tus’ intervention brings the Plinian element to the surface, and decisively
enhances the speeches’ emulative and collective characters; but the belated-
ness of these effects must also be remembered. Perhaps Pacatus’ decision to
anthologize the Panegyricus was not so much a recognition of the status the
speech already held but, in part, an attempt to secure for it the appreciative
audience Pacatus felt it deserved but lacked (and in so doing, of course,
enabling wider appreciation of his own allusive engagement with Pliny’s
Despite the absence, in some cases, of Plinian intertexts, note the claim of Cameron (1965) 295 n. 4
that ‘all panegyrists of the later empire [were] perfectly familiar with Pliny’s Panegyricus’.
Rees (2011).
188 roger rees
On the other hand, lack of enthusiasm for the text of Pliny’s Panegyricus,
if correctly identified in a lack of verbal reminiscence of it, or in appeals to
Cicero and Fronto as authorities, did not turn Pacatus against speeches
from the previous hundred years, despite his own commitment to it.
As orator and editor, Pacatus comes over as decisive in his own tastes
but tolerant of others’; and for all the potentially flattening effects of
courtly protocols and rhetorical conventions, the variety in late antique
oratory’s response to the Panegyricus reveals the considered eclecticism of
which the genre was capable. Ultimately the synergy of the XII Panegyrici
Latini draws upon more than the charge between its first two speeches.
The Panegyricus’ first place in the collection reverently enshrines it as an
admirable precursor, but the texts that follow frame it as a model example
of what imperial panegyric could be, but not what it had to be. As the
original, literary imperial Latin prose panegyric, the Panegyricus boasts the
genre’s acceptability, its grandness, its stature, its need to be read seriously;
it provided the fundamental premise, the bedrock from which Pacatus’
anthology could develop a more varied aesthetic and ideological range. If
intertextual glances to the Panegyricus bring authority and credibility, the
tradition it is seen to begin is one that tolerates – even encourages – this
development, variety and adaptation. This is a case not of cloning but of
generic modification. The Panegyricus is the ideal start to authorize the
showcasing of rhetorical flair, for while an orator speaks of his emperor’s
incomparability and his novelty, he himself needs to renew, and so emerges
a tension between the authority of the past’s legacy and each generation’s
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Index locorum
1.9.36, 5
Cassius Dio
67.8.2–4, 54
68.7.3, 59
De Imperio Cn. Pompeii (Pro Lege Manilia)
23, 160
De Oratore
2.347, 89
Pro Caelio
39–40, 156
Pro Marcello 11–12, 51
Pro Sestio
142–3, 155
Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae
286, 55
8, 3
8 praef. 6–9, 119
Panegyrici Latini
viii(4)14.2–3, 177
Pliny the Younger
3.13, 40, 69, 79, 125, 175
3.18, 1, 5, 40, 67, 69, 83,
4.22.4–6, 45
8.6.2, 164
8.6.15, 164
9.26, 126–8
1–2, 145–8
3–5, 148
4.5, 10
6–8, 148–51
9–10, 151–2
10–11, 152
11.2–3, 131
12–13, 152–4, 156–7
13.4, 153
13.5, 157
14.1, 130
14–15, 157–8
15.4, 118
16.5, 130
16–24, 158–9
20.6, 159
22.2, 133
25.5, 130
25–32, 159–61
27.3–29.5, 137–40
28.4, 56
31.4, 130
33–55, 161–3
35.2, 34
37–41, 30–1
47.4–49.4, 60
48.3–49.1, 129
49.1, 62
49.3, 63
50.2, 64
50.4, 65
51.1, 49
51.2, 49
51.3, 49
51.3–5, 58
51.5, 56
52.3, 117
52.7, 128
55.6, 163
55.6–7, 53
55.7, 163
55.9, 52
55.11, 52
Index locorum 205
56.1–2, 163–5
56.2–62, 165–7
56–62, 36–7
57.5, 166
59.6, 37
60.4, 121
61.3, 134
63–80, 167–9
71.4, 134
75.6, 169
78.1–2, 38
81–9, 169–74
83.1, 61
85.2–5, 32
88.5–10, 171
90–3, 95, 42–3
90–5, 174
Institutio Oratoria
2.10.11, 105
3.7, 70–4
12.2.29–30, 154
12.4.1–2, 155
Seneca the Younger
De Clementia
1.11.4, 63
1.13.1, 64
1.6.81–4, 119
4.1.9–10, 120
4.2.14–16, 121
5.1.186–8, 118
4.5, 59
De Architectura
6.5.1, 2, 62
General index
Acilius Glabrio, Manius, 20
acta diurna, 5, 17
aerarium militare, 21, 30
aerarium Saturni, 42, 50
Aeschines, 127, 129
Antoninus Pius, 108, 175, 177
Attius Suburanus, 17
Augustus, 9, 48, 59, 82, 133, 142, 144, 149, 152,
153, 162, 166, 171, 179
Ausonius (Decimus Magnus Ausonius), 184,
185, 187
Calestrius Tiro, 20, 21
Camilli, 153–4
cardinal virtues, 9, 69, 72, 75
Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero)
and the Panegyrici Latini, 177, 178, 182, 184,
and the sublime, 126, 127
attitude to praise in public life, 87–8
De Imperio Cn. Pompeii (Pro Lege Manilia),
De Lege agraria, 2, 96–7
De Oratore, 68, 72, 80
discussions of praise and rhetoric, 88–9
forms and function of praise, 89–96
Philippics, 94–5
Pliny’s model, 86, 98–100, 102
Pro Archia Poeta, 93
Pro Marcello, 48, 51, 90, 99, 101, 106, 160,
speeches post reditum, 97
Circus Maximus, 54–9
puluinar, 57–9
Claudius (Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus),
59, 142, 149, 152, 164, 165, 170
Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Constantinus),
Constantius (Flavius Valerius Constantius I),
177, 178, 181
consular actiarum gratio, 2–3
Cornutus Tertullus, 7, 12, 17, 22, 42, 43, 142,
cubiculum principis, 58
cultural authority of technical knowledge,
Curiatius Maternus, 126
delation, delatores (informers), 7, 12, 21, 34, 50,
117, 161
Demosthenes, 126, 127, 136
model for Pliny, 127, 136
Dio Chrysostom, Orationes, 111–16
divinity and the sublime, 130–1
Domitian (Titus Flavius Domitianus)
and Pliny’s career, 39
and praise, 116–23
and the sublime, 128–9
as negative example, 10–14
assassination, 62
career, 18–22
damnatio memoriae, 17, 46, 116, 143
great builder, 46
his monuments, 45–66
in the Panegyricus, 10–14, 128–9
principate, 17
solitude, 65
surveillance of guests, 52
Domus Flauia, 46, 49, 58, 60, 64, 65
Egypt, 7, 111, 118, 140, 160
emperors and the consulship, 165–6
encomium, 3, 47, 50, 67, 68, 70, 71, 73, 107, 143,
epideictic oratory
and biographical structure, 72–3
and comparisons, 82
and division by virtues, 72
and praise of the mind, 72–3
culture of, 104–6
hymns and praise of places, 74
organization, 70–7
General index 207
Quintilian on, 70–5
style, 69–70
epitaphios logos, 2, 4
Fabricii, 153–4
Fabricius Veiento, Aulus Didius Gallus, 46
fire of 17, 48
Frontinus, De Aquae Ductis, 109–11
Fronto (Marcus Cornelius Fronto), 177
and the Panegyrici Latini, 177–8
preference for republican literature, 186
Galba (Servius Sulpicius Galba), 15, 19, 148,
Gratian (Flavius Gratianus), 183
Hercules, 157, 169
invective loci (as per Craig (2004)), 12, 13
Isocrates, 1, 3, 47, 69, 75, 82, 83
Evagoras, 3, 4, 47, 69, 75
Iunius Mauricus, 45
Jupiter, 17, 43, 53, 70, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 114, 116,
117, 121, 123, 131, 145, 150, 157, 165, 173, 174
laudatio funebris, 1, 2, 3, 175
Laudes Messallae, 48
libertas (freedom), 7, 99, 133, 135, 136
Longinus, 69, 126, 130
Marcus Aurelius, 175, 177
Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis), 118–19
Maximian (Marcus Aurelius Valerius
Maximianus), 4, 180
Menander I, 74, 75
Menander II, 74, 75, 76
Naumachia of Domitian, 54–5
Nerva (Marcus Cocceius Nerva), 15, 22, 51, 80,
81, 82, 109, 149
and Domus Flauia, 60
claims on Domitianic monuments, 48
connected with Domitian, 45
principate, 15
reign, 15
Nicolaus (49 Felten), 74
Nile, 111, 118, 130, 140, 159, 160
Oratory in the age of Trajan, 106–8
Pacatus, 178, 179, 180, 182, 186, 187, 188
Pallas (Marcus Antonius Pallas), 164, 165
panegyric and physical monuments, 47–8
Panegyrici Latini, 187–8
admonitory programme, 5–10, 67
aesthetics, 125–41
and contemporary praise culture, 104–24
and genre of prose panegyric, 5, 187–8
and ‘metaphorical monuments’, 50–3
and monuments of Rome, 45–66
and negative exemplarity, 10–14
and rhetorical theory, 67–84
and strategy of antithesis, 53, 69, 78, 109, 114,
115, 146, 147
and the first person plural, 33–5
and the sublime, 125–41
consulship in, 79–80
elevation, 125, 127, 131, 133, 135, 136, 149
evidentiary value, 14–18
friendship in, 136
gold and silver in, 52, 53
historical exemplarity in, 142–74
imperial virtues in, 8–10
legacy in antiquity, 187–8
occasion, 1
Optimization, 162, 164, 168, 170, 173, 174
organization of material, 70, 77, 180
precursors and predecessors, 1–4
proem, 71, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81
publication, 4–5, 40–1
significance, 4–5
sincerity and belief, 13–14, 17, 21–2
style, 69–70
time in, 146
title of, 67
Trajan’s family in, 81–2
Plato’s Symposium
Agathon’s speech in praise of Love, 69, 74
Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus), 18
Pliny the Younger (Gaius Plinius Caecilius
administrative expertise, 29–33
and knowledge of the imperial court, 31
and the character of the consulship, 36
as consul, 37–8
as ‘insider’, 33–5
career, 18–22, 39, 41–3
friendship with Trajan, 31–2
his consulship, 44
insider knowledge, 29–33
self-fashioning, 29–44
supporter of Trajan, 41–3
Pompeia Plotina, 31, 60, 61, 149, 170
Pompey (Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus), 73, 93,
94, 101, 129, 138, 140, 142, 159, 160, 165, 172
progymnasmata, 68
Pseudo-Aristides 7, 76, 77, 81, 82
Pseudo-Dionysius, 69
208 General index
Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus), 70–5
praise of Domitian, 70–1
Res Gestae Diui Augusti, 9, 48
Scipiones, 153–4
securitas (security), 7, 8
Senatus Consultum de Pisone Patre, 9
Seneca’s De Clementia, 9
Sidonius Apollinaris (Gaius Sollius Modestus
Apollinaris Sidonius), 185
Silius Italicus (Tiberius Catius Asconius Silius
Italicus), 117
Statius, Siluae, 117–18, 119
sublime the, 125, 127, 130, 132, 137
Suetonius, 9, 12, 13, 54, 58
Symmachus (Quintus Aurelius Symmachus),
183, 184, 185, 187
Tacitus, Agricola, 48, 109, 116
technical analysis, 73
Theodosius, 178, 179, 181
Theon, 68, 71, 72, 73
three chronological periods, 76
Traianus Pater (Marcus Ulpius Traianus), 18, 19,
82, 143, 156, 165, 170, 173, 174
death, 17
Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Traianus)
accessibility, 60–4
and the sublime, 130–7
appearance, 80
as consul, 36–8
career, 14–15, 18–22
connected with Domitian, 45
courage, 81
early principate, 16
liberalitas (generosity), 55–7
‘Optimus’, 17, 82, 110, 114, 117, 142, 145, 146,
147, 148, 149, 162, 164, 170, 172, 173, 174
paucity of early building projects, 48
policies on taxation and inheritance, 30
recreation, 31
relationship with the senate, 16–17
Trajanic literary culture, 108–16
Trajanic praise culture
continuity and periodization, 116–23
Valentinian I, 183, 184
Verginius Rufus, Lucius, 3, 19, 70, 107, 151,
Vettenius Severus, 5, 108
Vibius Severus, 5
Xenophon, 47, 69, 75, 173

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