In this letter dated to 107 CE, Pliny the Younger memorializes an independent Roman matron, Ummidia Quadratilla, upon the event of her death. While his depiction of her lifestyle is faintly disapproving, nevertheless he praises her for making a will that gives the bulk of her estate to her two descendants. Most of his letter focuses on one of the two heirs, his talented young friend Quadratus, a rising politician and lawyer. Pliny narrates with delicate distaste her ownership of a troop of pantomimes and her enthusiasm for games of chance, although he praises her provision for her gandson's education and her protection of him from either of her "idle pleasures." Ummidia's ancestry, her wealth, her longevity, and her choice of personal expression seem to have made it possible for her to rise above the traditional Roman matron stereotype. Daughter of Gaius Ummidius Quadratus, who was a consular senator under Claudius and Nero, her family came from the town of Casinum. There a tomb bears her name and inscriptions indicate that she was a patroness of the city, responsible for the construction of the amphitheater and perhaps also the theater, acts of philanthropy strangely absent from Pliny's assessment of her.


(1) Ummidia Quadratilla paulo minus octogensimo aetatis anno decessit usque ad novissimam valetudinem viridis, atque etiam ultra matronalem modum compacto corpore et robusto. (2) Decessit honestissimo testamento: reliquit heredes ex besse nepotem, ex tertia parte neptem. Neptem parum novi, nepotem familiarissime diligo, adulescentem singularem nec iis tantum, quos sanguine attingit, inter propinquos amandum. (3) Ac primum conspicuus forma omnes sermones malignorum et puer et iuvenis evasit, intra quartum et vicensimum annum maritus et, si deus adnuisset, pater. Vixit in contubernio aviae delicatae severissime et tamen obsequentissime.

(4) Habebat illa pantomimos fovebatque, effusius quam principi feminae convenit. Hos Quadratus non in theatro non domi spectabat, nec illa exigebat. (5) Audivi ipsam, cum mihi commendaret nepotis sui studia, solere se, ut feminam in illo otio sexus, laxare animum lusu calculorum, solere spectare pantomimos suos, sed cum factura esset alterutrum, semper se nepoti suo praecepisse abiret studeretque; quod mihi non amore eius magis facere quam reverentia videbatur.

(6) Miraberis, et ego miratus sum. Proximis sacerdotalibus ludis, productis in commissione pantomimis, cum simul theatro ego et Quadratus egrederemur, ait mihi: 'Scis me hodie primum vidisse saltantem aviae meae libertum?' Hoc nepos. (7) At hercule alienissimi homines in honorem Quadratillae - pudet me dixisse honorem - per adulationis officium in theatrum cursitabant exsultabant plaudebant mirabantur ac deinde singulos gestus dominae cum canticis reddebant; qui nunc exiguissima legata, theatralis operae corollarium, accipient ab herede qui non spectabat.

(8) Haec, quia soles si quid incidit novi non invitus audire, deinde quia iucundum est mihi quod ceperam gaudium scribendo retractare. Gaudeo enim pietate defunctae, honore optimi iuvenis; laetor etiam quod domus aliquando C. Cassi, huius qui Cassianae scholae princeps et parens fuit, serviet domino non minori. (9) Implebit enim illam Quadratus meus et decebit, rursusque ei pristinam dignitatem, celebritatem, gloriam reddet, cum tantus orator inde procedet, quantus iuris ille consultus. Vale.

Gemino: Rosianus Geminus may be the Titus Prifernius Paetus who served as questor consularis under Pliny in 100 CE. An orator and statesman, he became consul suffectus in 118 CE, held proconsulships in two provinces, and is last mentioned in inscriptions dated to 152 CE.
This is the second of five letters that Pliny wrote to Geminus, whom he seems to have informally tutored.
S. = salutem dat: sends greetings

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1. paulo minus: a little less
octogesimo, from octogesimus, a, um : eightieth
decessit, from decedo, ere, decessi, decessum: die, depart, pass away
usque ad: continuously up to
novissimam, from novissimus, a, um (superlative of novus): most recent; newest; youngest
valetudinem, from valetudo, valetudinis, f.: illness; state of health
viridis, e: vigorous; lively; youthful; green; modifies aetatis
ultra: with matronalem modum, translate beyond the measure of a matrona
compacto, from compingo, pingere, pegi, pactum: thick, firm; ablative of description with corpore et robusto, a diplomatic reference to the height and width of Ummidia's figure.

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2. honestissimo, from honestissimus, a, um (superlative of honestus): honorable, distinguished, respected (i.e., she did not succumb to legacy hunters, to which her activities made her most vulnerable)
testamento, from testamentum, i, n.: will
heredes, from heres, heredis, m./f.: heir
ex besse . . . ex tertia parte: two thirds and one third respectively of her bequest
nepotem, from nepos, nepotis, m.: grandson; descendent; nephew
neptem, from neptis, is, f.: granddaughter
parum, adverb: little, not enough/so well
familiarissime, adverb (superlative of familiaris): intimately, familiarly
diligo, diligere, dilexi, dilectus: esteem, value, love
singularem, from singularis, e: unique; alone, single
attingit, from attingo, attingere, attigi, attactus: touch, reach
propinquos, from propinquus, a, um: acquaintance; neighbor; kin
amandum, future passive participle of amo (1), modifying adulescentem, with iis as ablative of agent. Translation may be facilitated by the following word order:
adulescentem singularem et amandum inter propinquos, non tantum iis, quos sanguine attingit

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3. primum: in the first place
conspicuus, a, um: notable, striking; modifies puer . . . iuvenis
forma, ae, f.: appearance; stature; ablative of description
malignorum, malignus, a, um: ill-natured, spiteful; stingy
evasit, from evado, evadere, evasi, evasus: elude, avoid; escape
quartum et vicessimum : twenty-fourth
adnuisset, from adnuo, adnuere, adnui, adnutus: grant, assent, declare
contubernio, from contubernium, i, n., a military word refering to the practice of soldiers sharing a tent; translate: in company with
aviae, from avia, ae, f.: grandmother
delicatae, from delicatus, a, um: pampered, spoiled, luxury-loving; effeminate
severissime, adverb (superlative of severus): most austerely; strictly; seriously
obsequentissime, adverb (superlative of obsequens): most compliantly; graciously; yieldingly; obediently

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4. pantomimos, from pantomimus, i m.: mime actor; pantomime; the star in a pantomime. The pantomime was a combination of dance, expressive gesture, and song supported by a chorus and orchestra, with plots based on mythological, often erotic themes. While the Romans enjoyed dramatic spectacles, they criticized association with theater people.
fovebat: from foveo, fovere, fovi, fotus; maintain, foster
effusius, adverb (comparative of effusus): more extensively; lavishly
principi, from the adjective princeps: eminent, leading, chief
convenit, from convenio, convenire, conveni, conventus: be appropriate to, fit, be correctly shaped; here used impersonally.
exigebat, from exigo, exigere, exegi, exactus: demand, enforce, exact

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5. cum, conjunction with the subjunctive: when
commendaret, from commendo (1): entrust, commend, commit
solere, from soleo, solere, ---, solitus: be in the habit of, be accustomed to; infinitive in indirect statement with ipsam . . . se as subject.
otio sexus: women of wealth had no serious occupation beyond house and child management; Ummidia used her leisure time to manage (domina) a troop of slaves who would perform in pantomime, publicly and privately, for her own amusement.
laxare: laxo (1): relax; loose; infinitive in indirect statement with se as subject.
lusu calculorum: in a game of stones, i.e., an ancient form of draughts, chess, or backgammon. The traditional Roman matrona was praised for quite other activities, as lanifica and domiseda.
cum, conjunction with the subjunctive: when
alterutrum, from alteruter, tra, trum: one or the other
praecepisse, from praecipio, praecipere, praecepi, praeceptus (with the dative): instruct, order; anticipate; the subject is se (Ummidia), followed by the subjunctive
abiret, from abeo, ire, ivi, itus: go away; the subject is Quadratus (nepoti)
videbatur, from videor, videri, visus sum: seem; be seen; the subject is Ummidia

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6. miraberis, miro (1): wonder, marvel, be surprised
proximis, from proximus (superlative of prope): last; next; nearest
sacerdotalibus, from sacerdotalis, e: priestly, sacerdotal; some games were in the charge of magistrates, others of the priestly colleges
ludis, from ludus, i, m.: game, sport, play; plural: public spectacles (distinguished from munera, the gladitorial combats) consisting of races in the circus, theatrical performances, athletic competitions. In Pliny's time the year offered some 150 days of public entertainment.
commissione, from commissio, commissionis, f.: competition; Ummidia did not hire out her troop but rather entered it in dramatic competition.
simul, adverb: at the same time, together
egrederemur, from egredior, egredi, egressus sum: exit; go; disembark
saltantem, from salto (1): dance, jump about
libertum, from libertus, i, m: freedman; Ummidia freed her pantomime.
hoc, from hic, haec, hoc: in this context, translate herein is or in this you see. As above, without being censurious, Pliny contrasts Ummidia's Julio-Claudian taste for luxury with her grandson's (and apparently his own) more austere mode of life set, no doubt, by the example of the early Flavians.

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7. hercule, interjection: by Hercules!
alienissimi, from alienissimus, a, um (superlative of alienus): very different; quite other
honorem, from honor, oris, m.: tribute; esteem; office
adulationis, from adulatio, adulationis, f.: fawning; servility; flattery
cursitabant, from cursito (1): run about
exsultabant, from exsulto (1): jump about; rejoice
plaudebant, from plaudo, plaudere, plausi, plausus: applaud; express approval
gestus, from gestus, gestus, m.: gesture, movement of the limbs
canticis, from canticum, i, n.: dramatic aria; song
reddebant, from reddo, reddere, reddidi, redditum: reproduce, repeat; give back; report
exiguissima, from exiguissimus, a, um (superlative of exiguus): smallest
legata, from legatum, i, n.: bequest, legacy
operae, from opera, ae, f.: service, care, work; teatralis opera refers to the organized claque who applauded at theater productions.
corollarium, i, n.: gratuity; present; the word originally referred to the actor's garland, bestowed on the winning actor.

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8. Haec: ellipsis of the verb; supply tibi scribo or tibi mitto
quid = aliquid after si; use the following order to translate:
quia non invitus soles audire si quid novi incidit
incidit, from incido, incidere, incidi, incasus: happen; befall; occur
invitus, a, um: unwilling, reluctant
iucundum, from iucundus, a, um: pleasant; delightful
gaudium, i. n.: delight, enjoyment, joy
retractare, from retracto (1) reconsider; take up again; renew; translate using the following word order:
quia mihi iucundum est retractare scribendo gaudium quod ceperam.
defunctae, from defungor, fungi, functus sum: die; finish, have done with
optimi, from optimus, a, um (superlative of bonus): most excellent; best, most honest
aliquando: once; at some time; sometimes
Cassianae scholae: Gaius Cassius Longinus, descendant of the Cassius who plotted Caesar's murder, was a famous jurisconsult under Claudius and Nero. He composed a treatise on civil law, gave informal instruction to young lawyers, and founded a school of legal interpretation named after him, dying of old age in the reign of Vespasian. He was well respected as a conservative with a high regard for tradition. Quadratus was a descendant.
parens, parentis, m.: founder; parent; ancestor
serviet, from servio, ire, ivi, itum: be of use to; serve; be a slave
minori, from minor (comparative of parvus): lesser, inferior; smaller, younger

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implebit, from impleo, plere, plevi, pletus: satisfy; fill up; fulfill
illam: refers to domus
decebit, from decet, decere, decuit: it is fitting/right/ proper
rursus, adverb:again; back; in return
ei: refers to domus
pristinam: pristinus, a, um: original; former; oldtime
procedet, from procedo, cedere, cessi, cessum: come forth; advance; continue
iuris consultus: jurisconsult; lawyer; jurist

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Kimberly Nickerson
Classics Major
Class of 2005
The College of New Rochelle
New Rochelle, New York

Dr. A. Raia
Email to: araia@cnr.edu
Associate Professor of Classics
CLS 239 Roman Women