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First-century Roman lawyer's hilarious letter to friend shows 'ghosting' isn't a new generation norm

A social snub prompted an ancient Roman author and lawyer to send his friend an aggressive but also funny letter.

First-century Roman lawyer's hilarious letter to friend shows 'ghosting' isn't a new generation norm
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels I Photo by Pixabay

When we think of early Romans, we often imagine them sitting in groups discussing philosophy, law, and other important topics. However, the more we learn about history, the more we realize that people haven't changed much. Proving this point, a letter from Pliny the Younger has been making rounds on the internet. This letter isn't like any of his other letters. It is a rant that shows his anger and frustration after being ghosted by his friend. 

Representative Image Source: Pexels I Photo by  JÉSHOOTS
Representative Image Source: Pexels I Photo by JÉSHOOTS

"Ghosting" is the process of not showing up for arranged meetings. This practice was even evident in ancient Rome. One Roman lawyer fell prey to the phenomenon when he had invited his friend to join him for a relaxed gathering over food and drink but was left hanging as his friend did not show up. His response to the abandoned meeting came with a letter voicing his opinion about the incident, per Open Culture.

Image Source: Image Source: Pliny the Younger (61-circa 113) lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome who served under Trajan and was a friend of Tacitus. Artist Unknown. (Photo by The Print Collector via Getty Images)
Image Source: Image Source: Pliny the Younger (61-circa 113) lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome who served under Trajan and was a friend of Tacitus. Artist Unknown. (Photo by The Print Collector via Getty Images)

It all started when Pliny, a Roman lawyer, invited Septicius Clarus to join him for a gathering over food, wine, and conversation. Pliny, expecting to meet and greet his friend, was saddened when the invitee didn't show up. Or, in today's terms, he was "ghosted." Filled with rage and frustration, Pliny responded by writing a letter to his friend ranting his grievances regarding the incident and most importantly expressing his anger towards his friend.

Representative Image Source: Photo by John-Mark Smith
Representative Image Source: Photo by John-Mark Smith

Letters Live, a YouTube channel where performers read notable letters in front of a live audience, brought this letter to light. The video was a part of the Letters Live event and the American comedian Rob Delaney was seen reading Pliny's letter. Delaney, known for exceptional comic timing, added flavor to the performance while reading the letter. Delaney reads the opening stanza of the letter, "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!"

He then goes on to discuss the lavish food that was prepared for the evening, "Ready for each of us were lettuce, three snails, two eggs and 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!"

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Rachel Claire
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Rachel Claire

However, Pliny continued to rant about his friend's 'no-show' attitude as his letter read, "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!"

Despite the tension between both, Pliny forgave his friend for what he did. They remained good friends after the incident. The video uploaded by Letters Live has received 53,000 views and tons of comments from other YouTube users. While some users commented on the hilariousness of the letter, others pointed out how the performer was the perfect fit for the letter's tone. "This voice is ideal for this letter," commented @SiiriCressey.

Image Source: TikTok | @kristenrosales2919
Image Source: YouTube | @kristenrosales2919
Image Source: YouTube | @Terri_MacKay
Image Source: YouTube | @Terri_MacKay

One user, @Tysto, comically commented, "Before passive aggressiveness was invented, Romans were just straight-up aggressive." Talking about how human nature has remained the same, @jcsrst wrote, "People have always been petty." 



 

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