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I would have you proceed, my dearest Secundus, in carefully examining whether the ground you suspect is firm enough to support an aqueduct. For I have no manner of doubt that the Sinopian colony ought to be supplied with water; provided their finances will bear the expense of a work so conducive to their health and pleasure.
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I have received from Gabius Bassus the letter you mention, acquainting me that the number of soldiers I had ordered him was not sufficient; and for your information I have directed my answer to be hereunto annexed. It is very material to distinguish between what the exigency of affairs requires and what an ambitious desire of extending power may think necessary. As for ourselves, the public welfare must be our only guide: accordingly it is incumbent upon us to take all possible care that the soldiers shall not be absent from their standard.
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2 The word cavea, in the original, comprehends more than what we call the pit in our theatres, as it means the whole space in which the spectators sat. These theatres, being open at the top, the galleries here mentioned were for the convenience of retiring in bad weather. M.
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1 About $400,000. To those who are not acquainted with the immense riches of the ancients, it may seem incredible that a city, and not the capital one either, of a conquered province should expend so large a sum of money upon only the shell (as it appears to be) of a theatre: but Asia was esteemed the most considerable part of the world for wealth; its fertility and exportations (as Tully observes) exceeding those of all other countries. M.
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The citizens of Nicea, Sir, are building a theatre, which, though it is not yet finished, has already exhausted, as I am informed (for I have not examined the account myself), above ten millions of sesterces;1 and, what is worse, I fear to no purpose. For either from the foundation being laid in soft, marshy ground, or that the stone itself is light and crumbling, the walls are sinking, and cracked from top to bottom. It deserves your consideration, therefore, whether it would be best to carry on this work, or entirely discontinue it, or rather, perhaps, whether it would not be most prudent absolutely to destroy it: for the buttresses and foundations by means of which it is from time to time kept up appear to me more expensive than solid. Several private persons have undertaken to build the compartments of this theatre at their own expense, some engaging to erect the portico, others the galleries over the pit:2 but this design cannot be executed, as the principal building which ought first to be completed is now at a stand. This city is also rebuilding, upon a far more enlarged plan, the gymnasium,3 which was burnt down before my arrival in the province. They have already been at some (and, I rather fear, a fruitless), expense. The structure is not only irregular and ill-proportioned, but the present architect (who, it must be owned, is a rival to the person who was first employed) asserts that the walls, although twenty-two feet4 in thickness, are not strong enough to support the superstructure, as the interstices are filled up with quarry stones, and the walls are not overlaid with brickwork. Also the inhabitants of Claudiopolis5 are sinking (I cannot call it erecting) a large public bath, upon a low spot of ground which lies at the foot of a mountain. The fund appropriated for the carrying on of this work arises from the money which those honorary members you were pleased to add to the senate paid (or, at least, are ready to pay whenever I call upon them) for their admission.6 As I am afraid, therefore, the public money in the city of Nicea, and (what is infinitely more valuable than any pecuniary consideration) your bounty in that of Nicopolis, should be ill applied, I must desire you to send hither an architect to inspect, not only the theatre, but the bath; in order to consider whether, after all the expense which has already been laid out, it will be better to finish them upon the present plan, or alter the one, and remove the other, in as far as may seem necessary: for otherwise we may perhaps throw away our future cost in endeavouring not to lose what we have already expended.
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You, who are upon the spot, will best be able to consider and determine what is proper to be done concerning the theatre which the inhabitants of Nicea are building; as for myself, it will be sufficient if you let me know your determination. With respect to the particular parts of this theatre which are to be raised at a private charge, you will see those engagements fulfilled when the body of the building to which they are to be annexed shall be finished. - These paltry Greeks1 are, I know, immoderately fond of gymnastic diversions, and therefore, perhaps, the citizens of Nicea have planned a more magnificent building for this purpose than is necessary; however, they must be content with such as will be sufficient to answer the purpose for which it is intended. I leave it entirely to you to persuade the Claudiopolitani as you shall think proper with regard to their bath, which they have placed, it seems, in a very improper situation. As there is no province that is not furnished with men of skill and ingenuity, you cannot possibly want architects; unless you think it the shortest way to procure them from Rome, when it is generally from Greece that they come to us.