Recent scholarship has examined Pliny's efforts to embed his acts of patronage in the rhetorical context of paternity. This paper examines how Pliny employs the discourse of paternity in representing himself as a mentor and exemplary model for young men, with particular focus on Book 8 of the Letters. Though he lacks a child or adoptive heir himself, Pliny embeds his work in a tradition in which Roman writers from the Elder Cato onward presented literary authority as coextensive with paternal authority. In Ep. 8.14, Pliny presents an idealized image of education by fathers or paternal surrogates that legitimates both his receipt of benefits from his mentors and his own efforts to instruct young men in the manner of a father. Pliny presents his published work as a model for Genialis in Ep. 8.13 and his personal life as an example for Junius Avitus in Ep. 8.23. Ep. 8.10, 11 and 18 provide further contexts for Pliny's discourse of paternity. Two additional examples of the creation of relatedness in elite Roman culture (interactions with caregivers and the experience of contubernium) are briefly discussed. I consider in conclusion how study of Pliny's Letters may contribute to the larger cross-cultural project of understanding how otherwise unrelated persons, through informal activities such as mentorship, may construct relationships more salient to them than their biological or legal kinships.
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