Love #8: Blood of the Coopracambra


To Calpurnia, Good health!
I cannot survive without you. Thoughts of you chain me tight.
My love echoes through all we have built. If you are not here to quiet it, the unanswered questions drive me crazy.
Instead, at night, my mind turns without rest. In daytime, I pace the spaces and interspaces of our life, searching for your trace. My heart pauses at the locked door of your chambers: silent and deserted.
Look at me! Is this life: that I must turn to the sledgehammer of toil to escape the pain of love?

To Calpurnia, Good health!
I thought we had lost all, but you tell me you are recovering in those vine covered hills, far to the south.
I need to be with you right now, and I hate the circumstance that keep us apart. My eyes need to see you growing stronger and eating properly. I need you to return to health. I trust that my family in Naples is helping you recover with their sun soaked gardens, warm springs, and sweet fish stews. But, I need to see it for myself. I must know if the area truly agrees with you.
Maybe I am over-reacting. I know you are in good hands, but our loss torments me and I cannot bear the thought of you remaining unwell.
I dream up the most implausible thoughts. I imagine the worst possibilities.
Please write to me. Ignore the expense, send a courier twice a day. Word from you is the only light that pierces the clouds around me. With such anxiety, every cure is only temporary.

To Calpurnia, Good health!
You tell me that you have found consolation in a younger man during our absence. You have found a library with my earlier books and you are conversing with my younger self.
In this circumstance I am pleased you miss me, and that your cure gives you rest.
Back here in the capital, I hear your lyre dance across your letters to me. I listen to the music within, time and time again, and a great longing rises within me. How much sweeter will it be to talk the days away next to you!
Send more. Do not spare the pleasure or the pain.


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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