Gaius Plinio Cecilio Secondo was a Roman writer and senator, called Pliny the Younger to distinguish him from the homonymous uncle Pliny the Elder. P. Cecilio Secondo was born in Como in 61 or 62 from a rich family of equestrian rank. His father Lucio Cecilio died in 70, and the child was taken under the tutelage of his maternal uncle Pliny the Elder, whose death in 79, having been named as a willow son, took the names Gaius and Pliny. Since he was still a minor, Pliny was entrusted to his family friend Verginio Rufo, who had already taken care of him immediately after his father's death. His sister Cecilia had died at a young age and when her mother Plinia died in 1983, he inherited all her family's wealth.
Pliny did his first studies in Como and then, in the absence of professors who would allow him to study higher, he moved to Rome from his uncle. In this period, in which he was "almost still a child", he was already created patron of the city of Tifernum, where the Plinii owned a villa. In Rome he studied eloquence at the Quintilian school, which educated him in the taste of a sober, "gentle and delicate" style, and of the Greek rhetor Nicete Sacerdote, who instead taught him the Asian eloquence, characterized by the "speed and enthusiasm of discourse ", so that from the decantation and conciliation to which the two teachings underwent Pliny drew his personal style," rather neutral and anodyne ".
At the age of fourteen he composed a tragedy in Greek and at seventeen he was in Miseno when the tragic eruption of Vesuvius occurred, which in August 79 destroyed Herculaneum and Pompeii and also cost the life of his uncle, who wanted to rush to the disaster. He described those events many years later with two letters to Tacitus.
Pliny was married three times. Widow still very young of his first wife, he remarried with the daughter of the rich landowner of central Italy Pompeia Celerina, perhaps a relative of Pompey. Once again widowed towards 97, around the year 103 he married Calpurnia, much younger than him and nephew of Calpurnio Fabato, an influential citizen of Como. From none of the three wives Pliny had children, and yet his friend Trajan granted him, in 98, the ius trium liberorum.
At nineteen he began to practice law. In 93 he successfully accused of embezzlement Bebio Massa, proconsul of Betica, and from the end of the first century was the protagonist of some important trials, such as that against Mario Prisco, governor of the province of Africa, where Pliny, together with Tacitus, supported the accusation of extortion and murder, then he was prosecutor in the trial against Giulio Classico, governor of Bithynia, accused of extortion. Instead he was defender of Giulio Basso, another governor of Bithynia, and his lawyer Vareno Rufo, also accused of extortion, as well as in the trial that, under Trajan, rehabilitated Elvidio Prisco, sent to death by Domitian in 93.
Fragment of the epigraph of the Baths of Como.
His first public role was that of decemvir stlitibus iudicandis, that is, he was one of the ten presidents of the centumviri tribunal, which in the first instance judged cases whose importance gave them to the judgment of other tribunals. Subsequently, military service began on September 13, 81, and was a tribune of the III Gallic Legion allocated to Syria. Here he attended the lessons of two Stoic philosophers of whom he became a friend and then found again in Rome, Euphrates and Artemidorus, son-in-law of Musonius, whom he comforted during the persecutions of Domitian.
After his military service, during which he was mainly entrusted with administrative tasks, on his return journey to Rome he was forced to stop on the island of Icaria and composed "elegiac verses in Latin on that sea and that island". In Rome he was named sevir equitum romanorum. The sevirals had the burden of offering the people the relevant seviral games, but such a purely honorific and expensive duty was the prelude to a lucrative public career.
Around 1989 he began to cover all the stages of the cursus honorum, listed in the commemorative epigraph of the Baths of Como, which he gave as a testament. Under Domitian he was a quaestor and at the end of his appointment he entered the Senate, then he was a tribune of the plebs and later a praetor and prefect of the military treasury. In 98, under Trajan, he was prefect of the Treasury of Saturn, or superintendent of the treasure. In 100 he became consul suffetto for two or three months, then augur and curator of the bed of the Tiber and the banks of the cloache of Rome. He ended his career with the appointment in 111 as governor of the province of Pontus and Bithynia as legatus Augusti pro praetore, a position that was confirmed by the Senate being a senatorial province.
He was still governor when he died, in 113 or 114, probably in Bithynia.