Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?c.A.D. 113). Letters. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
XXXVIII. To the Emperor Trajan
THE VERY excellent young man Sempronius Cælianus, having discovered two slaves1 among the recruits, has sent them to me. But I deferred passing sentence till I had consulted you, the restorer and upholder of military discipline, concerning the punishment proper to be inflicted upon them. My principal doubt is this, whether although they have taken the military oath, they are yet entered into any particular legion. I request you, therefore, Sir, to inform me what course I should pursue in this affair, especially as it concerns example.
Note 1. The Roman policy excluded slaves from entering into military service, and it was death if they did so. However, upon cases of great necessity, this maxim was dispensed with; but then they were first made free before they were received into the army, excepting only (as Servius in his notes upon Virgil observes) after the fatal battle of Cannæ; when the public distress was so great that the Romans recruited their army with their slaves, though they had not time to give them their freedom. One reason, perhaps, of this policy might be that they did not think it safe to arm so considerable a body of men, whose numbers, in the times when the Roman luxury was at its highest, we may have some idea of by the instance which Pliny the naturalist mentions of Claudius Isodorus, who at the time of his death was possessed of no less than 4,116 slaves, notwithstanding he had lost great numbers in the civil wars. Plin. Hist. Nat. xxxiii. 10. M. [back]