Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reading Pliny

Over the years, I've heard many references to Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. This summer, I decided to find out about them. I found out that The Elder has a series of books on natural history, and The Younger a collection of published letters. I requested the first volume of each from the library.

First, I learned that they are not father and son, but uncle and nephew! Younger is the son of Elder's sister.

I was plodding through the natural history of Elder, and just decided last night that I'd had enough. It's interesting enough, but slow and kind of convoluted. Being written a couple thousand years ago, the understanding of how things work is pretty different. It was interesting to read how they thought so long ago, but I finally realized I wasn't enjoying it that much.

Now I am reading the Letters of Pliny the Younger, Volume 1 of 10, and I am enjoying this much more.

Some bits I've particularly enjoyed this morning:

from letter X, to Attius Clemens, writing about his admired friend the philosopher Euphrates: " is plain to my limited judgement that Euphrates has many remarkable gifts which make their appeal felt even by people of no more than average education. His arguments are subtle, his reasoning profound, and his words well-chosen, so that often he seems to have something of the sublimity and richness of Plato. He talks readily on many subjects with a special charm which can captivate and so convince the most reluctant listener...His dress is always neat, and his serious manner makes no show of austerity, so that your first reaction on meeting him would be admiration rather than repulsion. He leads a wholly blameless life while remaining entirely human; he attacks vices, not individuals, and aims at reforming wrongdoers instead of punishing them. You would follow his teaching with rapt attention, eager for him to continue convincing you long after you are convinced."

I just love that, both the way it is phrased, and the character of the man he described. "He leads a wholly blameless life while remaining entirely human."  To me, that sums up neatly what should be the character of a Christian!  To lead a clean life before God, while staying approachable, humble, joyful, and full of love.

I also love that bit about '...eager for him to continue convincing you long after you are convinced." That is so neatly phrased, and such a delightful thing to say of someone!

How glad I am that I decided to indulge my curiosity about the Plinys! :)