Pliny’s Exemplary Society
: Crafting Models in Letter

  • Matthew John Mordue

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis examines Pliny’s use of the epistolary form to construct exemplarity. Scholarship has conventionally examined the moral messages of the Epistles’role-models, as well as Pliny’s self-representation as the ultimate exemplum of the virtues which are promoted in his correspondence. This thesis demonstrates that Pliny not only uses his exempla to guide his readers, but also to raise various ethical questions. In this light, the exempla of the collection provide a moral and ideological framework which aims to influence Pliny’s readers and lead to a better future under Trajan after the moral fall of the Domitianic past. Furthermore, by analysing Pliny’s use of letters in crafting and transmitting his exempla, this thesis offers a new angle from which to read the Epistles and opens a new avenue of research for future studies into exemplarity in the ancient world more widely. A comprehensive examination into the exempla of Pliny’s Epistles also has implications regarding the role of Book 10 in the corpus. The imperial correspondence has long been considered an unedited and unliterary dossier; yet more recent studies have suggested that Book 10 may have been edited as an artistic unit. This thesis provides a new approach to this conundrum by demonstrating that examining the Epistles with a sensitivity to exemplarity can unite the ten books of the collection. I contend that Pliny and Trajan are depicted as an ideal governor and emperor respectively and that a reader who was familiar with the moral framework of the private correspondence could read Book 10as presenting in action the values which were promoted in Books 1 to 9.
    Date of Award3 May 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorKathryn Tempest (Director of Studies) & Marta Garcia Morcillo (Co-Supervisor)


    • Pliny the Younger.
    • Roman History.
    • Pliny.
    • Latin Literature.
    • Exemplarity.
    • Ancient Letters.

    Cite this