Das Grabmal des Verginius Rufus (Plinius, epist. 2,1, 6,10 und 9,19)
Pages 339 - 387
With his epistolary obituary and his epistolary completion of Verginius’ grave, Pliny takes the place of both a son and a patron. His closeness to the great man is evidence of his own social status. Verginius’ problematic past is not touched on; Pliny confines himself to reporting Verginius’ own self-defence concerning his loyalties as commander of Upper Germany in the crisis of 68/69 A. D. In supplying the missing epitaph, Pliny asserts the superiority of literary praise over material monument. His success is attested through a friend’s acquaintance with the epitaph from Pliny’s epistle. In his response, Pliny defends self-commemoration as practised by Verginius and himself against the disdain for any epitaph evinced by Frontinus, which he unveils as pseudo-modesty. At the same time, he again claims the superiority of literature over monument. A neglect of gravestones and inscriptions grew fashionable among the aristocracy under the emperors. Frontinus’ disinterest also harmonizes with his personal attitudes in De aquis. How were Frontinus’ refusal and Verginius’ epigram originally recorded? Pliny’s disapproval of Verginius’ and Frontinus’ non-commemoration matches his indignation at Pallas’ sepulchral and honorary inscriptions which establish the freedman as a Roman model for modesty.