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De Beneficiis and Roman Society*

  • Miriam Griffin (a1)

The exchange of beneficia — gifts and services — was an important feature of Greek and Roman society at all periods. Its prominence was reflected in the number of philosophical works that analysed the phenomenon. From the fourth century B.C. onwards, εὐεργεσία and χάρις became subjects of moral discourse. Xenophon, particularly in his Socratic works and the Cyropaideia, and Aristotle, in his rhetorical and ethical writings, already anticipate much of what the Hellenistic schools were to elaborate. One of Aristotle's followers gave the first clear formulation we have of the idea that ‘the giving and interchange of favours holds together the lives of men’. Aristotle's successor Theophrastus wrote the first treatise we know of to deal wholly and specifically with the subject of χάρις. His On Gratitude (περὶ χάριτος: D.L. 5.48) had a long line of successors, including Epicurus' On Gifts and Gratitude (περὶ δώρων καὶ χάριτος: D.L. 10.28) and Chrysippus' Stoic treatments of the subject, both as part of a general work On Duties (περὶ κατορθωμάτων) and in a separate work On Favours (περὶ χαρίτων) (SVF 3.674; 2.1081 ).

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I am grateful to Andrew Dyck, Brad Inwood, and the late Thomas Wiedemann for significant help with an earlier version of this paper, and, more recently, to Gillian Clark and the Editorial Committee.

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1 In Xenophon εὐεργεσία and χάρις are normally correlatives, χάρις, being used predominantly in the concrete sense of a favour returned, or in the abstract sense of gratitude. For these senses, of which the concrete is primary and earlier, see Moussy, C., Gratia et sa famille (1966), 412–14.

2 Many of the references are collected by Inwood, B., ‘Politics and paradox in Seneca's De Beneficiis’, in Laks, A. and Schofield, M. (eds), Justice and Generosity (1995). 241–65.

3 Pseudo-Aristotle frag. 3 in Plezia, M. (ed.), Aristotelis Epistularum Fragmenta cum Testamento (1961), 44–5: χάριτος ἀμοιβὴ καὶ δόσις συνέχει τοὺς τῶν ἀνθρώπων βίους, τῶν μὲν διδόντων, τῶν δὲ λαμβανόντων τῶν δ΄αὖ πάλιν ἀνταποδόντων.

4 It is common to translate περὶ χάριτος as ‘On Gratitude’, and the title attested for Dionysius περὶ πλούτου καὶ χάριτος καὶ τιμωρίας (D.L. 7.167) suggests that this is correct: τιμωρία would be revenge for an injury parallel to gratitude for a benefit, as in Seneca's Ep. 81.7: ‘“Hoc certe”, inquis, “iustitiae convenit, suum cuique reddere, beneficio gratiam, iniuriae talionem aut certe malam gratiam”’ (‘“But surely”, you say, “it is the part of justice to render to each that which is his due — thanks in return for a benefit, and retribution, or at any rate ill-will, in return for an injury”’). Moreover, as Moussy, op. cit. (n. 1), 412–14, shows, of the abstract meanings of χάρις, gratitude for benefits is earlier and remains more common than the sense of favour or goodwill leading to their conferral. When used in the plural, the χάρις of the title had, not the abstract sense of gratitude, but its original concrete senses of objects or services given and returned, a sense already well-established in Homer.

5 The reciprocal aspect of relationships with friends and associates seems to have been of great concern even at the lower social levels, to judge from its prominence in the gnomic school papyri, Morgan, T., Literate Education in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds (1998), 127.

6 Seneca, Ben. 1.4.2: ‘De beneficiis dicendum est et ordinanda res quae maxime humanam societatem alligat; danda lex vitae … docendi sunt libenter dare, libenter accipere, libenter reddere’; Cicero, Off. 1.22 fin.: ‘In hoc naturam debemus ducem sequi, communes utilitates in medium adferre, mutatione officiorum, dando accipiendo, turn artibus, turn opera, tum facultatibus devincire hominum inter homines societatem.’

7 Seneca, Ben. 1.10.4: ‘Erunt homicidae, tyranni, fures, adulteri, raptores, sacrilegi, proditores; infra omnia ista ingratus est, nisi quod omnia ista ab ingrato sunt, sine quo vix ullum magnum facinus adcrevit’; cf. 1.1.2; Cicero, Off. 1.47–8: ‘nullum enim officium referenda gratia magis necessarium est … nam cum duo genera liberalitatis sint, unum dandi beneficii, alterum reddendi, demus necne in nostra potestate est, non reddere viro bono non licet, modo id facere possit sine iniuria.’

8 Key examples are: Gill, C., Postlethwaite, N., and Seaford, R. (eds), Reciprocity in Ancient Athens (1988); Saller, R. P., Personal Patronage under the Early Empire (1982); idem, ‘Status and patronage’, CAH XI2(2000), ch. 28, 838–51; Wallace-Hadrill, A., ‘Patronage in Roman society’, in Wallace-Hadrill, A. (ed.), Patronage in Ancient Society (1989), 6385; idem, ‘The Imperial Court’, CAH X2 (1996), ch. 7, 282–308.

9 Inwood, op. cit. (n. 2). F.-R. Chaumartin, Le De Beneficiis de Sénèque, sa signification philosophique, politique et sociale (1985) is mainly concerned with identifying Seneca's sources. K. Abel, ‘Senecas lex vitae’, Pöner Stoische Studien (1987) = Abel, K., Die Sinnfrage des Lebens (1995), 42 ff. provides a valuable analysis of the structure of the work.

10 Between the death of Caninius Rebilus in A.D. 56 (Tacitus, Ann. 13.30.2), who is mentioned by Seneca, clearly posthumously, as infamis (Ben. 2.21.6), and June of 64, the dramatic date of Seneca's Ep. 81 which mentions the treatise at para. 3 (M. Griffin, Seneca (2nd edn, 1991), 399, 400).

11 Gabba, E., ‘Per un'interpretazione politica del De Officiis di Cicerone’, RAL ser. 8, 34 (1979), 117–41; M. Griffin and E. M. Atkins (eds), Cicero On Duties (1991), xii–xv; A. A. Long, ‘Cicero's politics in De Officiis’, in Laks and Schofield, op. cit. (n. 2), 213–40; A. R. Dyck, A Commentary on Cicero, De Officiis (1996), 8–10; 29–36; Lefèvre, E., Panaitios' und Ciceros Pflichtenlehre. Vom philosophischen Traktat zum politischen Lehrbuch, Historia Einzelschriften 150 (2001).

12 See Griffin, op. cit. (n. 10), 455–6. Despite his deliciously appropriate name, it is unlikely that he is a fictional character, as Seneca mentions him again as a friend in Ep. 91, where he gives him a more concrete identity as a citizen of Lugdunum, inconsolable at the devastation of his patria by fire.

13 As Cicero indicates at 1.65. Aristotle's μεγαλόψυχος was a more natural ideal for the Roman governing class, as Polybius' account of the younger Scipio shows, a description that stresses reputation and conveys no hint of doing good by stealth, as Seneca recommends (Polybius 31.25.9, 28.4, 28.7, 28.10, cf. Ben. 2.9.2–10).

14 But, of course, the last two are just extras, additions to the principal reward, which is having performed the virtuous act (Ben. 2.33.3).

15 MacMullen, R., ‘Personal power in the Roman Empire’, AJPh 107 (1986), 512–24, at 521.

16 Mur. 65: ‘Etenim isti ipsi mihi videntur vestri praeceptores et virtutis magistri finis officiorum paulo longius quam natura vellet protulisse ut, cum ad ultimum animo contendissemus, ibi tamen ubi oporteret consisteremus.’

17 Examples are: Off. 1.43–4; 2.54–5; Ben. 4.20.3; 5.17.4; 6.38.2–4.

18 This is the main thesis, and the most convincing, of the important book by R. P. Saller, Personal Patronage under the Early Empire (1982).

19 Ep. 73.9: ‘hoc docet philosophia praecipue, bene debere beneficia, bene solvere …’

20 Alexander, W. H., ‘Lucius Annaeus Seneca de Beneficiis Libri VII, the text emended and explained’, University of California Publications 14 (19501952), 3. This is a reprint of two articles which appeared in Classical Quarterly 1934 and 1937.

21 The conferring of benefits occurs within each of the three types in which φιλία is divided, relationships based on virtue, those based on pleasure, and those based on utility (NE 8.13.1162834–1163323). φιλία provides a necessary outlet for beneficence by the prosperous (NE 8.1.1155a6–10).

22 Saller, in CAH XI 2 (2000), 838. Wallace-Hadrill, op. cit. (n. 8, 1989), 71 ff. admits that explaining the politics of the Late Republic in terms of ‘patronage’ and ‘clientela’ is dead but still thinks that ‘patronage’ viewed as moral responsibilities and social relationships was crucial to the working of Roman society, serving as a technique of integration and social control. E. Gruen, The Last Generation of the Roman Republic (pbk edn, 1994), Preface pp. viii–ix, argues for the importance of patronage socially, if not politically. The abandonment of patronage as the key to Republican politics results from the devastating attack of P. A. Brunt, ‘Clientela’, The Fall of the Roman Republic and Related Essays (1988), 382–442.

23 Saller, in CAH XI 2, 838, a modification adumbrated in Wallace-Hadrill's introduction to Patronage in Ancient Society, op. cit. (n. 8), 3.

25 ‘Because patronage by definition involved the exchange of goods and services, the vocabulary describing those goods and services — beneficium, officium, meritum — are perhaps the best pointers to patronal relationships’ is the formulation in CAH XI2, 839.

26 Saller, op. cit. (n. 18), 126.

27 CAH XI2, 846–50. On these, see below, pp. 107, 109.

28 Wallace-Hadrill, op. cit. (n. 8, 1989), 77. As regards the latter part of the statement, it is hard to see how the kind of financial assistance that Atticus gave his senatorial friends fits into this model.

29 Chaumartin, op. cit. (n. 9), 290–310; ‘Les désillusions de Sénèque devant l'évolution de la politique néronienne et l'aspiration à la retraite: le “De vita beata” et le “De beneficiis”’, ANRW 2.36.3, 1718–19. He lays particular stress on imperial freedmen.

30 Saller, op. cit. (n. 18), 9 points out that the word patronus in the literature of the early Empire is restricted to legal advocates, patrons of communities, and ex-masters of freedmen.

31 Brunt, op. cit. (n. 22), 416 adducing Off. 1.53–8; Ars Poetica 312 ff.; Seneca, Ep. 95.37 quotes a standard type of moral precept: ‘Hoc patri praestare debes, hoc liberis, hoc amicis, hoc hospitibus’ and adds ‘uxor’ in his discussion.

32 Off. 2.69: ‘qui se locupletes honoratos beatos putant, ii ne obligari quidem beneficio volunt; quin etiam beneficium se dedisse arbitrantur cum ipsi quamvis magnum aliquod acceperint, atque etiam a se aut postulari aut exspectari aliquid suspicantur, patrocinio vero se usos aut clientes appellari mortis instar putant.’ As Dyck, op. cit. (n. 11), 458 points out, Cicero here manages to present the feelings of the locupletes, honorati, beati, to whom most people prefer to give benefits, ‘in a crescendo of suspicion and indignation’. He compares Caes., BC 3.18.4 where Pompey says that life and citizenship would not be worth having if he owed it to a beneficium Caesaris.

33 Ben. 2.23.2–3: ‘Verentur palam ferre, ut sua potius virtute quam alieno adiutorio consecuti dicantur; rariores in eorum officiis sunt quibus vitam aut dignitatem debent, et dum opinionem clientium timent, graviorem subeunt ingratorum.’ Contrast the Republican aristocrat in V.M. 5.2.7 who gratefully calls such a benefactor ‘patronus’.

34 These attitudes had received their classic formulation in Aristotle's description of the μεγαλόψυχος (NE 4.3.1124b9–14).

35 White, P., Promised Verse: Poets in the Society of Augustan Rome (1993), 31.

36 Indeed in his letters Cicero speaks in terms of amicitia to and of a man, who modestly describes himself as a cliens and Cicero as his patronus: with Fam. 6.6.2; 6.9.1, compare 6.7.4; 729.2.

37 Saller, op. cit. (n. 18), 12.

38 A. Winterling, Aula Caesaris: Studien zur Institutionalisiering des römischen Kaiserhofes in der Zeit von Augustus bis Commodus (31 v.Chr.–192 n.Chr.) (1999), 121 argues plausibly that Seneca does not refer to an overt classification and designation at the salutatio but a de facto system of admission, possibly involving admission to different rooms which the master of the house visited in sequence. The point Seneca is making at 6.33.4 is, however, misconstrued: he does not mean that hierarchizing destroys true friendship, but that the courtesy term amici, used of the large numbers (illustrated by the ranking) at the salutatio does not designate true amici, in the sense of people who speak frankly and are bound to one by true affection.

39 Yakobson, A., Elections and Electioneering in Rome, Historia Einzelschriften 128 (1999), 71, sees that explanations in terms of not needing to mention what is familiar or of consideration for the feelings of individuals ‘would seem to apply to texts describing specific instances of social intercourse rather than to Cicero's general discussion of social norms and ties in De Officiis’.

40 Mem. 1.2.7; 2.9.8; 3.11.11. Thucydides writes οὐ γὰρ πάσχοντες ἐυ, ἀλλὰ δρῶντες κτώμεθα τοὺς φίλους (2.40.4); Cicero, Mur. 24 of the use of oratory (clearly in defending cases in the courts) as creating ‘plurimas gratias, firmissimas amicitias, maxima studia’; Pliny ‘nulla cum provincia necessitudo nisi ex beneficio tuo et hoc recenti’ (Ep. 7.33.5).

41 Contr. 2.5.13: ‘Non est beneficium sed officium facere quod debeas: sic filius patri se dicat beneficium dare’ (‘It is no benefit but a duty to do what you ought to do. On this basis, a son might say he conferred a benefit on a father’). The question raised by the final point is treated at length in Seneca, Ben. 3.29 ff.

42 Ben. 3.18.1: ‘beneficium esse, quod alienus det (alienus est, qui potuit sine reprehensione cessare); officium esse filii, uxoris, earum personarum, quas necessitudo suscitat et ferre opem iubet’. Saller, op. cit. (n. 18), 18 assumes without warrant that the view is Hecato's and states incorrectly that Seneca disapproves of this view. That he accepts it is shown by 3.21.1: ‘quam diu praestatur, quod a servo exigi solet, ministerium est; ubi plus, quam quod servo necesse est, beneficium est … est aliquid, quod dominus praestare servo debeat, ut cibaria, ut vestiarium; nemo hoc dixit beneficium. At indulsit, liberalius educavit, artes, quibus erudiuntur ingenui, tradidit; beneficium est.’ Here Seneca clearly accepts that a ministerium is the ordinary duty of a slave vs. a beneficium which goes beyond that duty and that a parallel distinction holds for the dominus: the parallel is clearly officium vs. beneficium.

43 Saller, op. cit. (n. 18), 17–20 notes that th e distinction between officium and beneficium did not govern common Latin usage. At Ep. 81.6 in the phrase ‘officii meminisse’ Seneca uses officium for what he has been calling, and will continue to call, beneficium, while Cicero in Off. 1.48, ‘si in eos quos speramus nobis profuturos non dubitamus officia conferre’, contradicts his own notion in the next sentence that the initiatory gesture is a beneficium. Sometimes it is the desire to refer elegantly and concisely to the two reciprocal actions by using the same Latin word, as in ‘mutuis officiis’, ‘beneficiorum commercio’ (Ben. 4.18.1), that leads to the imprecision.

44 White, op. cit. (n. 35), 13; 27–8; 31–2; Spisak, A. L., ‘Gift-giving in Martial’, 243–55 and M. Kleijwegt, ‘Extra fortunam est quidquid donatur amicis’, 256–77, both in F. Grewing (ed.), Toto Notus in Orbe, Perspektiven der Martial Interpretation (1998).

45 Aristotle in fact raises the question what degree of inequality is still compatible with φιλία (NE 8.5.1157b35–115831; 8.7.1158b28–1159b6 ff.; 8.13.1162a34–II62b5). The point is even clearer in the Eudemian Ethics 7.4.1239a1–6 where Aristotle says that only when parties are equal, can they be friends, on which see Schofield, M., ‘Political friendship and reciprocity’, Saving the City (1999), ch. 5, 88. Cic, Amic. 69–71; Sen., Ben. 2.15.1.

46 On friendship and exchange in Martial, see Spisak, op. cit. (n. 44), 243–55. Dixon, S., ‘Gift and debt in the Roman élite’, ECM 12 (1993), 451, 456 stresses that exchange within the upper echelons of society based in the city of Rome ‘is expressed by the participants in terms of friendship rather than the frankly unequal language of patronage characteristic of fsvours from the weslthy to the clearly subordinate’.

47 Ben. 2.18.5: ‘debeo enim, cum reddidi, rursus incipere, manetque amicitia; et ut in amicitiam non reciperem indignum, sic ne in beneficiorum quidem sacratissimum ius, ex quo amicitia oritur’, cf. 2.21.2, Clem. 1.9.11.

48 Ben. 3.12.1: ‘quaedam amicis data sunt, quaedam ignotis; plus est, quamvis idem detur, si ei datur, quem nosse a beneficio tuo incipis.’

49 Frag. 94 Haase; 19.5; Trillitzsch 59 §6 Vottero: ‘sic solebat beneficia libenter dare, patienter perdere; sic properabat benignitas eius’. This is adduced as one example of the friend's virtues which should be rehearsed in order to keep his memory fresh. A. Fürst, Streit under Freunden (1996), 187–93 discusses the treatise and shows its importance for the healing of rifts. Cf. Ep. 9.8, 10.

50 Kloft, H., Liberalitas Principis: Herkunft und Bedeutung. Studien zur Prinzipatsideologie (1970) only lists ch. II (about Scipio) and ch. 31, which is a comparison of friendship and liberality: ‘ut enim benefici liberalesque sumus, non ut exigamus gratiam (neque enim beneficium faeneramur, sed natura propensi ad liberalitatem sumus), sic amicitiam non spe mercedis adducti’, a negative allusion to Aristotle's category of utilitarian friendship. Amic. 71 and 73 treat the question of benefits appropriate to the recipient.

51 The classic paper of Brunt, P., ‘Amicitia in the Late Republic’, Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 11 (1965), 120, revised in his The Fall of the Roman Republic (1988), 350–81 makes the point for the Republic; White, op. cit. (n. 35), 14–19; 28; 31, for the Augustan poets; Spisak, op. cit. (n. 44), 243–55, for Martial in particular.

52 Ep. 81.9 where he explains why common usage prefers ‘gratiam referre’, which means to repay voluntarily, to ‘gratiam reddere’ which means to repay on demand. Moussy, op. cit. (n. 1), 253, 267–9 points out that Seneca himself does not always observe this distinction (at Ben. 3.2.2; 5.16.4 he uses ‘gratiam reddere’, as indeed he just has at Ep. 81.7), but that he is right to say that the first expression is more common than the second. The distinction is observed in the proverb as quoted by Cicero in Off. 2.69: ‘pecuniam qui habeat, non reddidisse, qui reddiderit, non habere, gratiam autem et qui rettulerit habere et qui habeat rettulisse.’

53 The contrast with debt was already a common one. Cicero, rejecting self-interested liberality, says ‘neque enim beneficium faeneramur’ (Amic. 31).

54 He attributes this contrast of ‘beneficium’ and ‘negotiatio’ to Cleanthes at 6.12.2, but the contrast made there is not between the pure benefit to the recipient and the incidental benefit to the buyer in certain exchanges between seller and buyer, but between the pure benefit to the recipient and the incidental benefit to the animals and men sold when the seller looks after them as a means of achieving more profit.

55 Similarly, Aristotle had contrasted ‘legal utilitarian friendship’ (φιλία κατὰ τὸ χρήσιμον), i.e. market exchange or even more long-term contracts of credit (which involve trust and hence are more φιλικόν) enforced by law, with ‘moral utiliarian friendship’ (ἠθική φιλία κατὰ τὸ χρήσιμον), in which the gift or service is not made on specified terms enforceable by law, though an equivalent or greater return is expected (NE 8.13.1162 b 22 ff.). Seneca is making a similar contrast, though he sets a higher standard for the moral type in specifying that no return should be expected by the giver. In Aristotelian terms, his view amounts to ignoring the moral (non-legal) friendship based on utility and concentrating on the friendship based on virtue where the value of the benefit depends on the donor's intention (NE 8.13.1163a 23–4).

56 C. Gill, ‘Altruism or reciprocity in Greek philosophy’, in Gill, Postlethwaite, and Seaford, op. cit. (n. 8), 303–28, traces this concept in Greek ethical thought, noting that the social ideal of shared life or reciprocity underlies the practical discussions of the ideal by Cicero and Seneca (326).

57 Heath, A., Rational Choice and Social Exchange (1976), esp. 5060, provides a good survey and critique of such theories.

58 Mauss, M., The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies (1954, rev. 1966) = translation by I. Cunnison of ‘Essai sur le don, forme et raison de l'échange dans les sociétés archaïques’, Année Sociologique n.s. 1 (1925), 30–186.

59 Veyne, P., Bread and Circuses (1990), an abridgement and translation of Le pain et le cirque (1976), 7. Similar ideas are found in Hands, A. R., Charities and Social Aid in Greece and Rome (1968), 32–3; Saller, op. cit. (n. 18), 13–15; Seaford's introduction (3–4) and H. van Wees, ‘Reciprocity in anthropological theory’, 47 in Gill, Postlethwaite and Seaford, op. cit. (n. 8). This approach, which goes back to Mauss, op. cit. (n. 58), 45, is branded as ‘anthropological elementarism’ by Cheal, D., The Gift Economy (1988), who prefers to see gift transmission as having an emotional function in cementing relationships, rather than an economic or political one.

60 This was true in Athens (Xen., Mem. 2.2.3). Seneca may have been thinking of the patria potestas.

61 Heath, op. cit. (n. 57), 181–4 summarizes two approaches of macrosociology — functionalism and conflict theory. It is functionalism that is relevant to De Beneficiis.

62 van Wees, op. cit. (n. 59), 25 ff.

63 This theme receives particular emphasis in Book 4. See also Ep. 81.19–24.

64 For the metaphysical basis, see further, Griffin, M., ‘Seneca and Pliny’, The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Political Thought (2000), 545–8.

65 Inwood, op. cit. (n. 2), 259–60, 263–4 discusses the image of the game and shows how Seneca's highminded advice actually has the practical aim of encouraging the process of exchange. For a fuller discussion of the sophistication of Seneca's theory in sociological terms, see Griffin, M., ‘Seneca as a sociologist’, Fedeli, P. and Cipriani, G. (eds), Proceedings of Convegno Senecano of 1999 (2003), 1517.

66 Att. 11.3-5: ‘illud unum intellegi volumus, illius liberalitatem neque temporariam neque callidam fuisse. id ex ipsis rebus ac temporibus iudicari potest, quod non florentibus se venditavit, sed afflictis semper succurrit… idem immortali memoria percepta retinebat beneficia; quae autem ipse tribuerat, tam diu meminerat, quoad ille gratus erat, qui acceperat.’

67 Andria 44–5: ‘istaec commemoratio quasi exprobatiost immemori beneficii.’

68 He is in fact one of the authors who supplies Seneca with the maxims he uses to end his early Letters to Lucilius and whose value in teaching he commends in Ep. 8.8–9, cf. 94.28; 108.9.

69 Publilius Syrus 68: ‘beneficium dando accepit, qui digno dedit’; 91: ‘beneficium dignis ubi des, omnes obliges’; 274: ‘inopi beneficium bis dat qui dat celeriter’. The lines are cited according to J. W. and A. M. Duff (eds), Minor Latin Poets (1968). Cf. Ennius: ‘dum quidquid des, des celere’ (Non. p. 510.10).

70 Bourdieu, P., The Logic of Practice (2000), 108, cf. no. This is an English translation by Nice, R. of Le sens pratique (1980).

71 Inwood, op. cit. (n. 2), 263.

72 Veyne, op. cit. (n. 59), 6.

73 Guillemin, A.-M., Pline et la vie littéraire de son temps (1929), 8, n. 1: ‘Le De beneficiis est à la fois un manuel des vertus sociales et un code de la civilité. Ses nombreuses coïncidences avec les lettres de Pline fournissent des points de repère pour la détermination des usages mondains de l'époque impériale.’

74 Parker, R., ‘The values of Pliny’, Omnibus 15 (1988), 6.

75 ‘No letter to a doctor, a philosopher, a freedman’, as Syme, R., ‘Correspondents of Pliny’, Historia 34 (1985), 343 = Roman Papers 5 (1988), 460, remarks. Pliny must, of course, have written such letters, but as Brunt, op. cit. (n. 22), 389 says, Pliny concerns himself with the ‘duties of men of high station’.

76 Veyne, op. cit. (n. 59), 9. One may be less disposed to agree with the end of the sentence, ‘which falsely makes their author seem highly pleased with himself’.

77 Harris, W. V., Restraining Rage (2001), 18, 312, 314.

78 Riggsby, A., ‘Self and community in the Younger Pliny’, Arethusa 31 (1998), 7597 stresses his construction of an image that would win community approval.

79 Syme, R., ‘Pliny's less successful friends’, Historia 9 (1960), 362379 = Roman Papers 2 (1979), 477–95.

80 The view that Pliny published Book 10 himself, advanced by Woolf, G. (‘Becoming Roman, staying Greek’, PCPhS 40 (1995), 139), presents difficulties, of which the principal ones are: (i) that the letters finish abruptly during the term of his governorship, (ii) that Ep. I. I suggests that he only intended to publish letters by himself, a practice observed except in Book 10, and (iii) that Ep. 1.10.9 shows that he regarded letters written as part of professional duties as ‘inlitteratissimas’, whereas the letters Pliny published were ‘paulo curatius scriptae’.

81 Bourdieu, op. cit. (n. 70), 110 says of what he calls ‘official truth’ that it ‘has a practical efficacy, for even if it were belied by the practice of everyone, like a grammatical rule to which every case proved an exception, it would still remain a true description of such practices as are intended to be acceptable. The ethic of honour bears down on each agent with the weight of all the other agents.’

82 ‘Ego ne illud quidem admoneo, quod admonere deberem, nisi scirem sponte facturum, ut dignitate a me data quam modestissime ut a me data utare.’ Henderson, J., ‘Finding homegrown talent – Pliny Letters 1.19’, Greece & Rome 49 (2002), 223, in approving Guillemin's point, adds that such an admonition is paraded for our instruction: ‘this is how such things are best done’.

83 H.-P. Bütler, Die geistige Welt des jüngeren Plinius (1970), 127 notes parallels with Cicero and Seneca; Manning, C. E., ‘Liberalitas–the decline and rehabilitation of a virtue’, Greece & Rome 32 (1985), 74–5 concentrates on the parallels in this and other Pliny letters with Cicero's arguments which ‘had become part of the intellectual furniture of Rome's ruling classes’.

84 Leach, E. W., ‘Politics of self-representation in Pliny's Letters and Roman portrait sculpture’, CA 9 (1990), 1439, shrewdly comments at 28, ‘We may suspect that he has no clear program for improving the speech in mind. Rather he raises the question of publication as an excuse to supplement the content of the speech by an exterior clarification of his intentions’. Cf. S. E. Hoffer, The Anxieties of Pliny the Younger (1999), 101, 109–10.

85 Millar, F., ‘Epictetus and the imperial Court’, JRS 55 (1965), 147 points out that Epictetus is a good counterfoil to Pliny in being critical of the values and aspirations of Roman society.

86 So Bourdieu, op. cit. (n. 70), 105–7, 126–9, in post-Marxist vein, likes to represent the verbalizations of its own practice within a society: ‘the official norm and the native theory reinforce the repression of the objective truth’ (107).

87 Eck, W., ‘Senatorial self-representation: developments in the Augustan period’, in Millar, F. and Segal, E. (eds), Caesar Augustus (1984), 129–67.

88 In Nero's reign indeed, one of his favourites, the praetor Fabricius Veiento, registered his protest at Nero's putting beyond the reach of magistrates the provision of chariot races, by training dogs for racing rather than horses (Dio Cassius 61.6; Suet., Nero 22). Nero responded by contributing prizes, and other generous emperors provided help, but in such a way as to produce uniformity and reduce competition within the élite, so that the Senate enjoyed a corporate eminence well below his own.

89 Cicero had also stressed the need for rational discrimination in Off. 1.49, and we find it in Polybius' portrait of the younger Scipio (31.28.10–11).

90 See above: Tiberius is used to illustrate the point that discrimination should not mean censure.

91 Ann. 1.75.3–4; 2.48.3, and Hist. 1.52 where Vitellius' generosity is criticized as ‘sine modo, sine iudicio’. Fronto, Ad M.Caes. 5.52; Dio Cass. 71.19, cf. 52.15.3, 19.1–2; SHA Hadr. 10.3–6.

92 Saller, op. cit. (n. 18), 110; Cotton, H., ‘The concept of indulgentia under Trajan’, Chiron 14 (1984), 265.

93 Eck, W., ‘Spezialisierung in der staatlichen Administration des römischen Reiches in der hohen Kaiserzeit’, in de Blois, L. (ed.), Administration, Prosopography and Appointment Policies in the Roman Empire (2001), 123; idem, ‘Imperial administration and epigraphy’, in A. Bowman, H. Cotton, M. Goodman and S. Price (eds), Representations of Empire, Proceedings of the British Academy 114 (2002), 131–52. He is principally concerned to establish the operation of rules, socio-political norms, in the promotion of officials at all levels.

94 Marcus Aurelius' letter of appointment to Domitius Marsianus as equestrian procurator (AE 1962, 183a) notes that continued imperial favour will require continued innocentia, diligentia, experientia.

95 Guillemin, op. cit. (n. 73), 5–6; 10 shows that letters of recommendation must enumerate the virtues of the person recommended to show he is worthy of the favour. In Pliny's published letters, acquiring glory for the person praised with a wider public and with posterity is an additional motive.

96 ‘Nihil licet tribuas ei quantum amplissimum potes, nihil tamen amplius potes amicitia tua; cuius esse eum usque ad intimam familiaritatem capacem quo magis scires, breviter tibi studia mores omnem denique vitam eius expressi.’ See Cotton, H., ‘Military tribunates and the exercise of patronage’, Chiron 11 (1981), 237–8. Eck, op. cit. (n. 93, 2002), 142 connects the vagueness with the existence of norms of promotion which guided expectations: both parties to the recommendation knew what was appropriate.

97 Kloft, op. cit. (n. 50), 162, cf. 149 stresses that the ideal of liberality applied to the Princeps rested on the values of the Roman nobiles and on those contained in Hellenistic monarchical ideals, which were themselves based on Greek aristocratic culture.

98 Eck, W., Drew-Bear, T., and Herrmann, P., ‘Sacrae Litterae’, Chiron 7 (1977), 355–83; Eck, W., ‘Die Präsenz senatorischer Familien in den Städten des Imperium Romanum bis zum späten 3.Jahrhundert’, in Eck, W., Galsterer, H. and Wolff, H. (eds), Studien zur antiken Sozialgeschichte (1980), 283322: many examples of benefactions in Italy by senators in the Julio-Claudian and Flavian periods are listed on pp. 295–6.

99 Pliny, Ep. 10.8.1. See Leach, op. cit. (n. 84), 29; Hoffer, op. cit. (n. 84), 94–7. In the period from Augustus to Trajan senators adopted formally as patroni of communities — an honour usually conferred in recognition of benefactions, or in hopes of them, or both —were not natives of the towns, so their benefactions were spread even more widely than those of the equites (J. Nicols, ‘Pliny and the patronage of communities’, Hermes 108 (1980), 365–85). This important activity meant that the governing élite of Rome was not confined to the ‘court’ and limited to passing on favours from the emperor to others.

100 Though Seneca was aware that discrimination between recipients on grounds of merit was not to be applied here: ‘A king gives offices to the worthy, but a congiarium even to the unworthy’ (Ben. 4.28.2, cf. 6).

101 Pan. 60.6: ‘non tibi magnus princeps, sed non ingratus amicus videris.’

102 Of equestrians like Voconius Romanus (Ep. 2.13.2, 5); Arrianus Maturus (3.2.1); Suetonius (3.8.3); the elder Nymphidius Lupus (10.87.1); or young senatorii like Junius Naso (6.6.5).

103 D'Arms, J. H., ‘The Roman convivium and the idea of equality’, in O. Murray (ed.), Sympotica: A Symposium on the Symposion (1990), 308–19.

104 The kiss: The imperial court’, CAH X 2 (1996), 291. On the reality under Domitian: D'Arms, op. cit. (n. 103), 309 and P. Zanker, ‘Domitian's palace on the Palatine and the imperial image’, in Bowman, Cotton, Goodman and Price, op. cit. (n. 93), 105–30.

105 Suet., Vit. Hor.: ‘Sume tibi aliquid iuris apud me, tamquam si convictor mihi fueris. Recte enim et non temere feceris …’; Sen., Ben. 2.3.2: ‘postea, quidquid desiderabis, tuo iure exiges; semel rusticitati tuae ignoscetur.’

106 Though the last of these is addressed to Augustus Caesar, the way Seneca presents his suggestions up to that point indicates that his advice is general.

107 Cotton, op. cit. (n. 92), 266.

108 Pliny, Epp. 2.13.8; 10.2.2; 10.3A; 10.4.1, 5; 10.5.1; 10.6.2; 10.8.4, 6; 10.10.2; 10.11.1, 2; 10.12.1, 2; 10.13; 10.21.1; 10.23.1; 10.24; 10.26.2; 10.51.2; 10.86B; 10.87.3; 10.92; 10.94.3; 10.104; 10.106; 10.112.1; 10.120.2.

109 An imperial procurator under Hadrian received a dedication in Mauretania from a fellow-citizen of his native town of Saldae ‘to his most indulgent friend for benefits which he had bestowed on himself’ (‘amico indulgentissimo ob beneficia quae in se contulit’, CIL 8.20684).

110 Eck, W., A. Caballos and F. Fernández, Das senatus consultum de Cn. Pisone patre (1996), 3950, lines 115–18. The whole passage runs: ‘senatum arbitrari et Iuliae Aug(ustae), optume de r(e) p(ublica) meritae non partu tantum modo principis nostri, sed etiam multis magnisq(ue) erga cuiusq(ue) ordinis homines beneficis, quae, cum iure meritoq(ue) plurumum posse <t> in eo, quod a senatu petere deberet, parcissume uteretur eo, et principis nostri summa <e> erga matrem suam pietati suffragandum indulgendumq(ue) esse remittiq(ue) poenam Plancinae placere.’

111 AE 1962, no. 288; Pliny, Ep. 10.58.8.

112 Dickey, E., Latin Forms of Address (2002), 96104.

113 Even less generous emperors who, as Saller, op. cit. (n. 18), 69 says, ‘manipulate beneficia in order to put people in their debt’ are subscribing to the theory that reciprocation is possible.

114 Saller, op. cit. (n. 18), 1.

115 Griffin, op. cit. (n. io), 294, n. 1.

* I am grateful to Andrew Dyck, Brad Inwood, and the late Thomas Wiedemann for significant help with an earlier version of this paper, and, more recently, to Gillian Clark and the Editorial Committee.

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