Pliny the Younger

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  • Topic: Roman Empire, Domitian, Trajan
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  • Published : May 25, 2009
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This letter was written by Pliny the Younger to the Emperor

Trajan while he was serving as the Governor of the Roman

Province of Asia Minor during the time frame 111 through 113.

This letter was written after Pliny had his first

interactions with the Chirsitans. This letter seems to have been

written as a letter of concern, asking the Emperor for guidance

on how to handle legalities of his interactions with Christians.

This concern was seen in his opening statement to the Emperor,

“It is my invariable rule, Sir, to refer to you in all matters

where I feel doubtful; for who is more capable of removing my

scruples, or informing my ignorance.”1

In my opinion, I believe that Pliny is clear in his

communication to the Emperor. “I am unacquainted not only with

the nature of their crimes, or the measures of their punishment,

but how far it is proper to enter into an examination concerning

them.”2 This statement to me, clarifies his concern of the

religion, in whether or not the practice of Christianity is


This letter signifies the importance of the changing world

and the concern of how to handle those changes. I think that

Pliny voiced that concern throughout this letter. He seemed to

have been disturbed and unaware of how to handle these changes,

and, if in fact these changes could be punishable; as this was

not the way of the Roman beliefs. This was put clearly toward

the end of Pliny’s letter, “This contagious superstition

is not confined to the cities only, but has spread its infection

among the neighboring villages.”3

In summary, I feel that this letter is of significant

concern and is an interesting account into the history of how

Christianity was observed and dealt with in the Roman Empire.

Pliny the Younger. The Letters of Pliny (Caius Plinius Caecilius Secundus): Book 10, Letters 97 and 98, Translated by
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