Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Love in Action Mode: Pliny, Hist. Nat. VII.xxxvi.121

Love comes in many forms, and this description of pietas [duty towards those you love, including the gods] shows examples of love and duty towards one's parent, spouse, sibling, as well as people not defined as family members by society. 

Pietatis exempla infinita quidem toto orbe extitere, sed Romae unum cui comparari cuncta non possint. humilis in plebe et ideo ignobilis puerpera, supplicii causa carcere inclusa matre cum impetrasset aditum, a ianitore semper excussa ante ne quid inferret cibi, deprehensa est uberibus suis alens eam. quo miraculo matris salus donata filiae pietati est ambaeque perpetuis alimentis, et locus ille eidem consecratus deae, C. Quinctio M. Acilio coss. templo Pietatis extructo in illius carceris sede, ubi nunc Marcelli theatrum est.

Gracchorum pater anguibus prehensis in domo, cum responderetur ipsum victurum alterius sexus interempto: Immo vero, inquit, meum necate, Cornelia enim iuvenis est et parere adhuc potest. hoc erat uxori parcere et re publicae consulere; idque mox consecutum est. M. Lepidus Apuleiae uxoris caritate post repudium obiit. P. Rutilius morbo levi impeditus nunciata fratris repulsa in consulatus petitione ilico expiravit. P. Catienus Philotimus patronum adeo dilexit ut heres omnibus bonis institutus in rogum eius se iaceret.

--Pliny the Elder, Hist. Nat. VII.xxxvi.121-122


There are countless examples of love throughout the globe, but the rest cannot compare to what happened at Rome. There once was a poor plebeian woman who had recently given birth. She obtained a visit with her incarcerated mother. Even though she was always searched so that she wouldn’t give her mother any food, she was caught feeding her mother with her breastmilk. Because of this act of love, her mother was freed and both women were given state benefits for life. In 150 BCE [the year that C. Quinctius and M. Acilius were consuls], this location was then consecrated to the Goddess; the prison was torn down and a Temple of Piety was erected. [This is now where the Theater of Marcellus is located].

The father of the Gracchi brothers once caught two snakes inside his house*; when he was told that he would live if he killed the female snake, he replied, “No way! Kill mine, then. Cornelia is young and is still fertile.” What he meant was to spare his wife and respect the republic’s wishes; he soon perished.

M. Lepidus pined to death after divorcing his wife Apuleia.

When P. Rutilius was a bit sick and he found out that his brother lost the candidacy for consulship, he died of shock.

P. Catiennus Philotimus loved his patron so much that, even though he was the sole beneficiary of the man’s will, he tossed himself onto the man’s pyre.

* a pair of snakes is also seen in the myth of Tiresias, with a different meaning and outcome.



Name:  Gaius Plinius Secundus

Date:  23 – 79 CE

Works:  Naturalis Historia*



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Pliny was an Italian-born Roman statesman and author who lived during the reigns of the early Roman emperors. He spent most of his life in service of his country; he ultimately gave his life in arranging the evacuation of the regions devastated by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. His work, the Natural History, is a 37-volume collection of art, history, and science of the ancient world.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE


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