A Curious Case: Pliny Does Not Write History (Ep. 5.8)

Main Article Content

Jonathan J. Price


Despite Pliny’s admiration for historical writing and his clear literary and rhetorical skill, he never wrote history. In Ep. 5.8, written in 105-106 CE to Titinius Capito, he explains why in a convoluted and confusing series of excuses that have been variously interpreted. This article argues that the letter is a subtle but demonstrative rejection of history-writing which both reflects and comments on the state of Roman historiography in Pliny‘s generation. This is the direct result of the conditions under the Principate. The audience for accurate historical accounts of recent events was dwindling. Even fewer dared to write it, Tacitus (whom Pliny highly admired) being a brilliant exception. It could be that Pliny was trying to transmute epistolography into a kind of historiography.

Article Details