Provincial governorship was a fine line of exercising your own power and giving what power was due to the emperor. One did not want to step on the toes of an emperor, as in the case of Agricola, and end up without a political career for the sake of one’s safety.
In the case of Pliny and Trajan, a relationship of necessity and formalities is showcased. Pliny needed Trajan for Trajan made him who he was, and Trajan needed Pliny for he could not govern the whole empire without his governors. Pliny, in a constant show of affection and admiration, requests a multitude of things from Trajan; many of which Pliny could make his own decisions on and is merely asking as a show of his subordination to Trajan. In the letters, Pliny is often asking for Trajan to send money to something that would glorify Trajan’s name. Pliny emphasized Trajan’s glory by saying, “This is, moreover, a scheme which is worthy of the town’s prestige and splendor of your reign.” (CP 53) In a later letter, he also exalted Trajan’s splendor, “You will forgive my ambition for your greater glory.
” (CP 54) Pliny isn’t just saying these admirations because he wants to glorify his emperor; he has a very specific goal in mind. By making everything about the emperor’s, a governor is setting himself up to get his request granted. A main goal of emperors was to make their name legendary. By leaving traces of themselves throughout the empire, they assure themselves a lasting influence on the empire. Pliny plays to this part of Trajan. All his building projects lead back to the glory of Trajan. One of the best example of Trajan’s need for governors to make decisions for him is seen in Letter CXVII; Trajan asserts the importance of Pliny’s position, “But I made you my choice so that you could use your good judgement in exercising a moderating influence on the behaviour of the people in your province, and could make your own decisions about what is necessary for their peace and security.” (CP 56) Governors were critically important to the empire.
They asserted the Emperor’s dominance in the provinces and also maintained peace and order. This afforded them some liberty to make decisions concerning the good of the people in their province. In the case of Pliny, he asserted his position under the emperor by asking his opinion on matter that he could most likely deal with by himself. Pliny and Trajan’s relationship has allowed a look at the relationship between emperors and governors. They show that both parties needed each other, one for the maintenance of stability in their provinces and the other for the right to rule of a province.