Love #8: Blood of the Coopracambra
1. After marriage in 100CE, Calpurnia seldom left Pliny's side, eventually travelling with him to the Eastern provinces when the Emperor appointed him the extraordinary oversight of Bithynia in anticipation of Trajan's attempted conquest of the East. Elsewhere, Pliny refers to her central role in his intellectual life, travel with her to Como, their evening walks, and the routine of the day. For her, he was prepared to break all the rules, even risk incurring the displeasure of the Emperor. In turn, she forgave him the faults of youth and age. If they did not part as a matter of course, these three letters may reference one significant exception. Calpurnia had an early miscarriage and almost perished. During her recovery she travelled without Pliny (who was conducting trials and then, possibly, a short investigation) to relatives south of Rome, near present day Naples, to recuperate. As a result of the miscarriage, Calpurnia did not have children - a circumstance that usually led to divorce as childless couples suffered significant social and political repercussions. These letters provide insight into their choice to remain together.
2. In the last two letters, one can hear her independent voice conveyed by her letters to him, the content which we may infer from his responses. The subtle change in Pliny's position (3rd letter) drives home her importance to him.
3. I have placed these letters in what appears to me, to be their logical order. I have read the interesting arguments put by academics about these three letters and choose to reject the proposition that they are crafted in counterpoise to letters to his professional friends.
[My workdesk for Letters (the novel, not my re-translation) is here.]
Copyright Dark Aelf, 2021
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