The Roman Empire - In The First Century
Home The Roman Empire Special Features The Series Resources For Educators
Pliny the Younger
Emperor Trajan
A witness to the eruption of Vesuvius, Pliny the Younger (61 113 AD) was a successful politician, public servant, and advisor to the Emperor Trajan.

His letters offer a huge window into life at the end of the first century.

Adopted son

Born into a wealthy family who lived in northern Italy, Pliny was too young to have been affected by the civil wars that followed the death of Nero. His own father died when Pliny was still very young and he was adopted by his uncle, Pliny the Elder.

This was clearly a life-changing experience, but one that was common to most Romans. Many people at that time died young from infectious disease, famine or childbirth, and one in four children did not survive their first year. As a result, funerals were a standard part of daily life.

Trial lawyer

His education over, Pliny completed his army service in Syria and began to practice law. He quickly found his skills to be in great demand and specialized in prosecuting provincial officials for extortion. Also a senator, he was climbing the political ladder and became consul of Rome in 100 AD.

In 110 AD, Trajan sent Pliny to Bithynia (part of present-day Turkey) to investigate corruption there. He appears to have died a few years later.

Claim to fame

His lasting fame, however, comes from the nine books of letters that he published between 100 and 109 AD. In them, he discussed a variety of topics: some focused on recent political, literary or social news, some covered his domestic life, and others looked back at past events. The letters were carefully crafted, mixing philosophy and history with poetry.

Other letters gave advice to young men, described scenes he had witnessed and offered brief character sketches of leading figures in Roman society. Overall, they provide an extensive and personal picture of Roman life during the reign of Trajan.

His motivation appears to have been simple: Pliny wanted fame. He hoped that these letters would help shape the history of the empire, but most of all he wanted them to make him famous.

Where to next:
Writers - Pliny the Elder
Emperor - Trajan

Virtual Library: Read some excerpts from Pliny the Younger's writing.

Legacy   Races   Stylus  
Posterity   Sword   Stylus  
Stylus   Trajan      

Related Links:

Virtual Library   Virtual Library
Writers   Writers
The Roman Empire

Republic to Empire

Age of Augustus

Years of Trial

Empire Reborn


Social Order

Life in Roman Times

- Virgil
- Ovid
- Seneca
- Petronius
- Pliny the Elder
- Pliny the Younger
- Historians
- Juvenal

Enemies and Rebels


The Roman Empire - In The First Century