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Epistŏla

ἐπιστολή). A letter, written upon paper for transmission to an absent person, as distinguished from one written upon waxed tablets (Cic. ; Caes. ; Tac. ; Plin. Ep. xiv. 11, chartae epistolares.) The annexed illustration represents a letter

Sealed Letter. (Pompeian Painting.)

folded and sealed, with its direction, as represented by a painting on the walls of a house at Pompeii, in which it is accompanied by various implements employed for writing, both on paper and wax. It is engraved in the Mus. Borb. xiv. tav. a and b, 1852, where the address upon it is thus deciphered: Marco Lucretio Flamini Martis Decurioni Pompei.—“To Marcus Lucretius, Priest of Mars, Decurion, Pompeii.” (See Writing and Writing Materials.) Letters usually had prefixed to them the name of the sender and the person addressed, and were not signed at the end. The following are some of the usual forms: Cicero Varroni (Cicero to Varro); Cicero Dolabellae S. (Cicero to Dolabella, greeting); Cicero Planco D. (Cicero to Plancus gives greeting); Cicero Imp. Planco (Cicero, the commander, to Plancus); Cicero D. Bruto S. P. D. (Cicero to Decimus Brutus gives a hearty greeting); Cicero Terentiae Suae (Cicero to his Terentia). S. stands for salutem; S. D. salutem dicit; and S. P. D. for salutem plurimam dicit. Formulas of courtesy that often begin letters are the following: V. E. (si vales, bene est); S. V. B. E. E. V. (si vales bene est; ego valeo); S. V. E. Q. V. B. E. E. Q. V. (si vos exercitusque valetis bene est; ego quoque valeo), etc. Phrases of courtesy or affection at the end of a letter are the following: Vale.—Cura ut valeas.— Da operam ut valeas.—Fac ut diligentissime te ipsum custodias.—Cura ut valeas et me, ut amas, ama.— Cura ut valeas et nos ames et tibi persuadeas te a me fraterne amari.—Vale et nos dilige.—Bene vale et me dilige.—Fac valeas meque ames.—Tu, ut instituisti, me diligas rogo, proprieque tuum esse tibi persuadeas. — Fac valeas meque mutuo diligas.—Etiam atque etiam vale.

The date and place, if written at all, are given at the end of the letter. Thus: Data pr. Kal. Mai. Brundisii.—Hoc ex Nicia, etc.

The epistle plays an important part in ancient as in modern literature, though in classical Greek literature the number of genuine letters is small. The collection attributed to Plato, though highly interesting and regarded by Grote as authentic, is rejected by recent scholarship; and so the letters ascribed to Demosthenes, to Aeschines, and to Xenophon. The nine that bear the name of Isocrates are universally accepted as his. (See Isocrates.) Three letters of Epicurus are preserved by Diogenes Laertius. Specimens of the official epistle are to be seen in the oration of Demosthenes on the Crown. Much valuable information on the history of the times is gathered from the later Greek letters of Gregory Nanzianzenus, Basil, Chrysostom, and other ecclesiastical writers.

Letter writing was from an early period cultivated among the Romans, and both official and personal letters of eminent men soon began to be collected, such as the letters of the elder Cato to his son, and of Cornelia to C. Gracchus. At a later period, those of Caesar, Brutus, and especially of Cicero, were preserved. Most of the Roman letters remaining to us are not the genuine private correspondence of their authors, but were from the first written with an eye to publication, like the priggish and self-conscious epistles of the younger Pliny. The most valuable correspondence ever preserved is that of Cicero, whose letters to the number of nearly one thousand were published by his amanuensis, Tiro (q.v.). These are the familiar effusions of the orator, written with no view to publication, and are invaluable for the light they throw upon the personality of the writer and the history of his times. See Cicero.

Examples of letters in historical works are those in Antipater, Quadrigarius, and especially in Sallust. The epistolary form was also used by the jurists for their responsa on questions of law; by scholars for their learned discussions (e. g. Verrius Flaccus, Lactantius, etc.); by physicians for medical expositions (e. g. Marcellus Empiricus and Oribasius); and by the rhetoricians of the imperial age as a form of stylistic exercise. (See Teuffel, Hist. of Rom. Lit., Eng. trans., i. pp. 73-76). Next to the letters of Cicero, those of Pliny the Younger are most read. Other important letterwriters are Seneca, Fronto, Symmachus, Sidonius, and still later Salvianus, Ruricius, Ennodius, Lactantius, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Cassiodorus. Specimens of Vergil's correspondence are given by Macrobius (i. 24, 11).

The poetical epistle was cultivated as early as B.C. 146 by Sp. Mummius, who, when in camp before Corinth, addressed satirical letters in verse to friends at Rome (Ad Att. xiii. 6, 4). Several of the satires of Lucilius were composed in the form of letters, and the poem of Catullus to Manlius (68 A) is in the epistolary form. The most successful in this department of literature were Horace in his two books of Epistolae and Ovid in the imaginary love-letters (Heroides) and in his own genuine lamentations from exile (Tristia and the Epistolae ex Ponto). Statius, Ausonius, and Claudianus are later examples of the poetical epistolographer.

Forged letters are frequently found in Latin literature. Instances are the Epistulae Medicinales professedly from Hippocrates to Maecenas, and the celebrated fourteen letters which form the alleged correspondence between Seneca and St. Paul, which were, however, accepted as genuine by St. Jerome (De Vir. Illust. 12), and by St. Augustine (Epist. 153). On these see Fleury, St. Paul et Sénèque (Paris, 1853); Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epist. to the Philippians, p. 260 (London, 1868); and Aubertin, Sénèque et St. Paul (Paris, 1869).

Bibliography.—See Roberts, Hist. of Letter Writing (1843); Grote, Plato and the other Companions of Socrates, ii. pp. 220 foll.; Czwalina, De Epistularum Actorumque, etc. Fide et Auctoritate (Bonn, 1871); Nisard, Notes sur les Lettres de Cicéron (Paris, 1882); and Tyrrell's introduction to his edition of the Correspondence of Cicero (1893). The Greek epistolographers are collected by Hercher in his Epistolographi Graeci (Paris, 1873); and on the Latin rhetorical letter writers see Halm's Rhetores Latini, pp. 447 foll. and 589. On the epistle in fiction, see Novels and Romances.

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