Friday, June 25, 2021

M/M: A "Tiro" for his own, Pliny, Epist. VII.4.6

Trigger Warning: The relationship between Cicero and Tiro is a complex one. Tiro was originally Cicero's slave, then Cicero's freedman; at death, he became the publisher of Cicero's writings.  Although modern readers would not glamorize or romanticize this relationship due to the power imbalance, the Roman author Pliny idealizes and idolizes the pair. 

Cum libros Galli legerem, quibus ille parenti

ausus de Cicerone dare est palmamque decusque,

lascivum inveni lusum Ciceronis et illo

spectandum ingenio, quo seria condidit et quo

humanis salibus multo varioque lepore

magnorum ostendit mentes gaudere virorum.

Nam queritur quod fraude mala frustratus amantem

paucula cenato sibi debita savia Tiro

tempore nocturno subtraxerit. His ego lectis

'cur post haec' inquam 'nostros celamus amores

nullumque in medium timidi damus atque fatemur

Tironisque dolos, Tironis nosse fugaces

blanditias et furta novas addentia flammas?'

--Pliny the Younger, Epistles VII.4.6

While reading the works of Gallus,

a man who dared to give glory & praise

To his parent over Cicero,

I found a flirty little ditty of Cicero’s

which reflects the man’s talent

that he had also used to compose serious matters;

this example shows that the minds of great men

rejoice in human wit of many types & genres.

For Cicero complained that Tiro had deceived his lover in an evil deceit,

By leaving dinner at the end of the night

Without his usual kiss.

Reading this, I asked myself,

“Why do I hide my love [amores]*,

Why do I wholly give myself over to fear,

Why don’t I confess that I know my Tiro’s games,

That I know my Tiro’s coy affection,

that my Tiro’s withheld kisses add new flames to my heart?"

* amores in the plural can mean "relationship," "lover," or "love"



Name: Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus  

Date:  61 BCE – 113 CE

Works:  Letters



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 the Younger was an Italian born noble and nephew of the famous natural historian Pliny the Elder. He is best known for publishing his private correspondence, in which he flouts his connections with other illustrious Romans (including the Emperor Trajan and the author Tacitus). Two of the most famous examples of these are his “eyewitness” account of the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE and his letter to the emperor Trajan regarding the treatment of Christians.


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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