The Delicacy Mooching Revenge Of Pliny The Younger Against Pontius Allifanus

Pliny the Younger (c. 61/62-113)—a wealthy Roman lawyer, administrative official and statesman—once visited the region of Campania, where his friend, Pontius Allifanus, held considerable estates and influence. Pliny, during this latest trip to Campania, hoped that his friend, Pontius, would be in the city to host the visit. Nevertheless, when Pliny the Younger arrived in the region, he quickly discovered, to his great disappointment (and likely annoyance), that Pontius Allifanus was nowhere to be seen. Fortunately, Pontius was not in any danger or trouble; he was simply seeing to matters elsewhere, and curriers could carry letters to his location and report back with Pontius’ responses. Although Pliny was happy that nothing had happened to his dear pal, he was nevertheless apparently quite put off, and maybe even a little bit angry, that his friend had not cleared his schedule to be present during Pliny’s stay in the region. His absent friend aside, Pliny’s Campania trip turned out to be not all that bad, for he found a curious way to console himself—he evidently reached a state of contentment by indulging in the local delicacies, and, to get back at his friend, he arranged for Pontius Allifanus to pick up the tab for the luxurious meals. Pliny the Younger explained as much in a ‘wish you were here’ styled letter to Pontius Allifanus, which read: “I know what has kept you from being here to welcome my arrival in Campania, but though absent in person you might have been here with all you possess, to judge by the quantities of town and country delicacies I have been offered in your name. I must own I was shameless enough to accept everything. Your servants begged me to do so and I was afraid you would be angry with us all if I refused” (Pliny the Younger, Letters, 6.28). Pliny further defended his feasting by insinuating that Pontius Allifanus had earlier made a friendly remark similar to ‘what’s mine is yours,’  and Pliny definitely made the most of this assertion while he was alone in Campania. Fortunately for Pontius Allifanus, Pliny the Younger promised that he would show more moderation the next time he visited his friend’s estate.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Bacchanalia, by Nicolas Bertin (1668-1736), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the National Museum in Warsaw).


  • The Letters of Pliny the Younger, translated by Betty Radice. New York: Penguin Classics, 1963, 1969.

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