The Elder Pliny on The Greatest Happiness

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 35.9-12

“It would be wrong to ignore the new invention in which, if not from gold then surely from bronze, images of those immortal spirits are set up in libraries, or even more those who did not exist are given shape and they produce glances which are not traditional, as has happened with Homer. As it goes though, I believe that there is no greater kind of happiness that if everyone should forever desire to know what kind of person someone was. In Rome this was the innovation of Asinius Pollio who first established a library by declaring works of genius a public good. Whether they kinds of Alexandria or Pergamum began this earlier—those men who built their libraries in a great contest—I couldn’t decide easily. But that friend of Cicero, Atticus, is a witness that a certain passion for images burned in earlier days in the volume he published on the topic…

Non est praetereundum et novicium inventum, siquidem non ex auro argentove, at  certe ex aere in bibliothecis dicantur illis, quorum immortales animae in locis iisdem loquuntur, quin immo etiam quae non sunt finguntur, pariuntque desideria non traditos vultus, sicut in Homero evenit. utique maius, ut equidem arbitror, nullum est felicitatis specimen quam semper omnes scire cupere, qualis fuerit aliquis. Asini Pollionis hoc Romae inventum, qui primus bibliothecam dicando ingenia hominum rem publicam fecit. an priores coeperint Alexandreae et Pergami reges, qui bibliothecas magno certamine instituere, non facile dixerim. imaginum amorem flagrasse quondam testes sunt Atticus ille Ciceronis edito de iis volumine…

Image result for Roman imagines

Pssst…Do you want to know what we were like?

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