The Roman Author Pliny the Younger Gets Ghosted by a Friend, and Goes on a Rant: Hear It Read by Actor Rob Delaney

Pliny the Younger may be best remem­bered for writ­ing the only eye-wit­ness account of the destruc­tion of Pom­peii in 79 AD. It’s a mem­o­rable let­ter still found in mod­ern col­lec­tions of Pliny the Younger’s cor­re­spon­dence. There, you can also find a sim­ple let­ter authored by Pliny, one that reflects not on a shat­ter­ing his­tor­i­cal event, but rather some­thing we can all relate to: the anger the author felt upon get­ting ghost­ed by a friend. To set the scene, Pliny had invit­ed Sep­ti­cius Clarus to join him for some food, wine, and con­ver­sa­tion. But his friend nev­er showed up, and so Pliny fired off a snub let­ter, which actor and come­di­an Rob Delaney reads above at a Let­ters Live event. You can fol­low along with the text below:

Shame on you! You promised to come to din­ner, and you nev­er came!

I’ll take you to court, and you will pay to the last pen­ny for my loss­es, and quite a sum! Ready for each of us were a let­tuce, three snails, and two eggs, bar­ley water with hon­ey wine cooled with snow (you must add the cost of snow as well, in fact the snow in par­tic­u­lar, as it melts in the dish). There were olives, beet­root, gourds, onions, and count­less oth­er del­i­ca­cies no less ele­gant. You would have heard per­form­ers of com­e­dy, or a read­er, or a lyre-play­er, or even all three, such is my gen­eros­i­ty!

But you pre­ferred to dine at some nobody’s house, enjoy­ing oys­ters, sow’s tripe, sea urchins, and per­form­ing-girls from Cadiz. You’ll be pun­ished for this, I won’t say how. What boor­ish­ness was this! You begrudged per­haps your­self, and cer­tain­ly me – but yes, your­self as well. What jok­ing and laugh­ter and learn­ing we would have enjoyed!

You can dine in many hous­es on more elab­o­rate fare, but nowhere more genial­ly, inno­cent­ly, and unguard­ed­ly. Farewell!

In the end, Pliny for­gave his friend. For Pliny ded­i­cat­ed the first of his let­ter to Sep­ti­cius, stat­ing: “You have con­stant­ly urged me to col­lect and pub­lish the more high­ly fin­ished of the let­ters that I may have writ­ten. I have made such a col­lec­tion… I can only hope that you will not have cause to regret the advice you gave, and that I shall not repent hav­ing fol­lowed it.” You can read the col­lec­tion online here.

Relat­ed Con­tent

The Only Writ­ten Eye-Wit­ness Account of Pompeii’s Destruc­tion: Hear Pliny the Younger’s Let­ters on the Mount Vesu­vius Erup­tion

The Lit­tle-Known Bomb­ing of Pom­peii Dur­ing World War II

What the Romans Saw When They Reached New Parts of the World: Hear First-Hand Accounts by Appi­an, Pliny, Tac­i­tus & Oth­er Ancient His­to­ri­ans

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