HOME
TheInfoList



Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23/2479), called Pliny the Elder (), was a
Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *''Epistle to the Romans'', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in ...

Roman
author, a
naturalist Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history is calle ...
and
natural philosopher#REDIRECT Natural philosophy#REDIRECT Natural philosophy#REDIRECT Natural philosophy {{R from other capitalisation ... {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{R from other capitalisation ...
, a naval and army commander of the early
Roman Empire#REDIRECT Roman Empire#REDIRECT Roman Empire {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...

Roman Empire, and a friend of emperor
Vespasian Vespasian (; la, Vespasianus ; 17 November AD 9 – 24 June 79) was Roman emperor from 69 to 79. The fourth and last in the Year of the Four Emperors, he founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Empire for 27 years. Vespasian was the first em ...
. He wrote the encyclopedic ''
Naturalis Historia The ''Natural History'' ( la, Naturalis Historia) is a work by Pliny the Elder. It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day and purports to cover all ancient knowledge. The work's subject area ...
'' (''Natural History''), which became an editorial model for
encyclopedia An encyclopedia or encyclopaedia (British English) is a reference work or compendium providing summaries of knowledge either from all branches or from a particular field or discipline. Encyclopedias are divided into articles or entries that ...
s. He spent most of his spare time studying, writing, and investigating natural and geographic phenomena in the field. His nephew,
Pliny the Younger Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo (61 – c. 113), better known as Pliny the Younger (), was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate h ...
, wrote of him in a letter to the historian
Tacitus Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature, a ...
: Among Pliny's greatest works was the twenty-volume work, ''Bella Germaniae'' ("The History of the German Wars"), which is no longer extant. ''Bella Germaniae'', which began where
Aufidius Bassus Aufidius Bassus was a Roman historian who lived in the reign of Tiberius. His work, which probably began with the Roman civil wars or the death of Julius Caesar, was continued by Pliny the Elder. Pliny the Elder carried it down at least as far as t ...
' ''Libri Belli Germanici'' ("The War with the Germans") left off, was used as a source by other prominent Roman historians, including
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46–after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo. He is known primarily for his ''Parallel Lives'', ...

Plutarch
, Tacitus and
Suetonius Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (), commonly known as Suetonius (; c. AD 69 – after AD 122), was a Roman historian who wrote during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire. His most important surviving work is a set of biographies of 12 su ...
. Tacitus – who most scholars agree had never travelled in
Germania Germania ( , ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania'') or Germanic Barbaricum to distinguish it from the Roman provinces of the same name, was a large historical region in north-cent ...
– used ''Bella Germaniae'' as the primary source for his work, '' De origine et situ Germanorum'' ("On the Origin and Situation of the Germans"). Pliny the Elder died in AD 79 in
Stabiae Stabiae () was an ancient city situated near the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia and approximately 4.5 km southwest of Pompeii. Like Pompeii, and being only from Mount Vesuvius, this seaside resort was largely buried by tephra ash i ...
while attempting the rescue of a friend and his family by ship from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which had already destroyed the cities of
Pompeii Pompeii (, ) was an ancient city located in what is now the ''comune'' of Pompei near Naples in the Campania region of Italy. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area (e.g. at Boscoreale, Stabiae), was buried und ...
and
Herculaneum Herculaneum ( it, Ercolano) was an ancient town, located in the modern-day ''comune'' of Ercolano, Campania, Italy. The city was destroyed and buried under volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Like the nearby cit ...
. The wind caused by the sixth and largest
pyroclastic surge 300px, USGS scientist examines pumice blocks at the edge of a pyroclastic flow from Mount St. Helens 3D-Rendering of the above image stack, in parts transparent. Heavy particles in red. Pyroclastic rocks (derived from the el, πῦρ, links=no, m ...
of the volcano's eruption did not allow his ship to leave port, and Pliny died during that event, probably by exposure to volcanic fallout.


Life and times


Background

Pliny's dates are pinned to the
eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 Of the many eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, a major stratovolcano in southern Italy, the most famous is its eruption in 79 AD, which was one of the deadliest in European history. In the late summer or autumn of 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius violently spew ...
and a statement by his nephew that he died in his 56th year, which would put his birth Pliny was the son of an
equestrian The word equestrian is a reference to horseback riding, derived from Latin ' and ', "horse". Horseback riding (or Riding in British English) Notable examples of this are: *Equestrian sports *Equestrianism, the art of horseback riding *Equestrian or ...
Gaius Plinius Celer and his wife Marcella. Neither the younger nor the elder Pliny mention the names. Their ultimate source is a fragmentary inscription ( CIL V 1 3442) found in a field in
Verona Verona ( , ; vec, Verona or ''Veròna'') is a city on the Adige River in Veneto, Italy, with 259,610 inhabitants. It is one of the seven provincial capitals of the region. It is the largest city municipality in the region and the second larges ...
and recorded by the 16th-century Augustinian monk
Onofrio Panvinio The erudite Augustinian Onofrio Panvinio or Onuphrius Panvinius (23 February 1529 – 7 April 1568) was an Italian historian and antiquary, who was librarian to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. Life and work Panvinio was born in Verona. At th ...
. The form is an
elegy In English literature, an elegy is a poem of serious reflection, usually a lament for the dead. However, "for all of its pervasiveness ... the ‘elegy’ remains remarkably ill defined: sometimes used as a catch-all to denominate texts of a somb ...
. The most commonly accepted reconstruction is The actual words are fragmentary. The reading of the inscription depends on the reconstruction, but in all cases the names come through. Whether he was an
augur An augur was a priest and official in the classical Roman world. His main role was the practice of augury: Interpreting the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds – whether they were flying in groups or alone, what noises they m ...

augur
and whether she was named Grania Marcella are less certain.
Jean Hardouin Jean Hardouin ( en, John Hardwin; la, Johannes Harduinus; 1646 – 3 September 1729), French classical scholar, was born at Quimper in Brittany. Having acquired a taste for literature in his father's book-shop, he sought and obtained admission into ...
presents a statement from an unknown source that he claims was ancient, that Pliny was from Verona and that his parents were Celer and Marcella. Hardouin also cites the conterraneity (see below) of
Catullus Gaius Valerius Catullus ( ; ; c. 84 – c. 54 BC) was a Latin poet of the late Roman Republic who wrote chiefly in the neoteric style of poetry, focusing on personal life rather than classical heroes. His surviving works are still read widely ...
. How the inscription got to Verona is unknown, but it could have arrived by dispersal of property from Pliny the Younger's then Tuscan (now Umbrian) estate at Colle Plinio, north of
Città di Castello Città di Castello (; "Castle Town") is a city and ''comune'' in the province of Perugia, in the northern part of Umbria. It is situated on a slope of the Apennines, on the flood plain along the upper part of the river Tiber. The city is north of P ...
, identified with certainty by his initials in the roof tiles. He kept statues of his ancestors there. Pliny the Elder was born at
Como Como (, ; lmo, Còmm, label=Comasco , or ; lat, Novum Comum; rm, Com) is a city and ''comune'' in Lombardy, Italy. It is the administrative capital of the Province of Como. Its proximity to Lake Como and to the Alps has made Como a tourist d ...
, not at Verona: it is only as a native of old ''
Gallia Transpadana Cisalpine Gaul ( la, Gallia Cisalpina, also called ''Gallia Citerior'' or ''Gallia Togata'') was the part of Italy inhabited by Celts (Gauls) during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. After its conquest by the Roman Republic in the 220s BC it was conside ...
'' that he calls
Catullus Gaius Valerius Catullus ( ; ; c. 84 – c. 54 BC) was a Latin poet of the late Roman Republic who wrote chiefly in the neoteric style of poetry, focusing on personal life rather than classical heroes. His surviving works are still read widely ...
of Verona his ''conterraneus'', or fellow-countryman, not his ''municeps'', or fellow-townsman. A statue of Pliny on the façade of the
Como Cathedral Como Cathedral ( it, Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta; ''Duomo di Como'') is the Roman Catholic cathedral of the city of Como, Lombardy, Italy, and the seat of the Bishop of Como. It is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hist ...
celebrates him as a native son. He had a sister, Plinia, who married into the Caecilii and was the mother of his nephew, Pliny the Younger, whose letters describe his work and study regimen in detail. In one of his letters to Tacitus (''avunculus meus''), Pliny the Younger details how his uncle's breakfasts would be light and simple (''levis et facilis'') following the customs of our forefathers (''veterum more interdiu''). Pliny the Younger wanted to convey that Pliny the Elder was a "good Roman", which means that he maintained the customs of the great Roman forefathers. This statement would have pleased Tacitus. Two inscriptions identifying the hometown of Pliny the Younger as Como take precedence over the Verona theory. One ( CIL V 5262) commemorates the younger's career as the imperial magistrate and details his considerable charitable and municipal expenses on behalf of the people of Como. Another (CIL V 5667) identifies his father Lucius' village as present-day Fecchio (tribe Oufentina), a hamlet of
Cantù Cantù (; Brianzöö: ) is a city and ''comune'' in the Province of Como, located at the center of the Brianza zone in Lombardy. It is the second largest city in Brianza. History The name could stem from that of the Canturigi, a population of In ...
, near Como. Therefore, Plinia likely was a local girl and Pliny the Elder, her brother, was from Como. Gaius was a member of the
Plinia ''Plinia'' is a genus of flowering plants in the myrtle family, Myrtaceae described by Linnaeus in 1753. It is native to Central and South America as well as the West Indies.Sánchez-Vindas, P. E. 2001. Calycolpus, Eugenia, Myrcia, Myrcianthes, M ...
''
gens In ancient Rome, a gens ( or ), plural gentes, was a family consisting of individuals who shared the same nomen and who claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a ''stirps'' (plural ''stirpes''). The ''gens'' was an ...
:'' the
Insubric Western Lombard is a group of dialects of Lombard, a Romance language spoken in Italy. It is widespread in the Lombard provinces of Milan, Monza, Varese, Como, Lecco, Sondrio, a small part of Cremona (except Crema and its neighbours), Lodi and Pav ...
root ''Plina'' still persists, with rhotacism, in the local surname "Prina". He did not take his father's
cognomen A ''cognomen'' (, ; Latin plural ''cognomina''; from ''con-'' "together with" and ''(g)nomen'' "name") was the third name of a citizen of ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. Initially, it was a nickname, but lost that purpose when it beca ...
, Celer, but assumed his own, Secundus. As his adopted son took the same cognomen, Pliny founded a branch, the Plinii Secundi. The family was prosperous; Pliny the Younger's combined inherited estates made him so wealthy that he could found a school and a library, endow a fund to feed the women and children of Como, and own multiple estates around
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The territo ...
and Lake Como, as well as enrich some of his friends as a personal favor. No earlier instances of the Plinii are known. In 59 BC, only about 82 years before Pliny's birth,
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman general and statesman who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus and Po ...

Julius Caesar
founded Novum Comum (reverting to Comum) as a ''
colonia Colonia may refer to: Arts and entertainment *Colonia (music group), a Croatian dance music group *Colonia (Autopsia album), 2002 *Colonia (A Camp album), 2009 *''Colonia'' (film), a 2015 historical romantic thriller Places *Colonia (Roman), a ...
'' to secure the region against the Alpine tribes, whom he had been unable to defeat. He imported a population of 4,500 from other provinces to be placed in
Comasco Comasco is a dialect of Western Lombard language spoken in the city and suburbs of Como. It belongs to the Comasco-Lecchese group. Characteristics It shares similarities with Milanese, but more precisely consists of a transition between Brianzö ...
and 500 aristocratic Greeks to found Novum Comum itself. The community was thus multi-ethnic and the Plinies could have come from anywhere. Whether any conclusions can be drawn from Pliny's preference for Greek words, or
Julius Pokorny Julius Pokorny (12 June 1887 – 8 April 1970) was an Austrian-Czech linguist and scholar of the Celtic languages, particularly Irish, and a supporter of Irish nationalism. He held academic posts in Austrian and German universities. Early life an ...
's derivation of the name from north Italic as "bald" is a matter of speculative opinion. No record of any ethnic distinctions in Pliny's time is apparent – the population considered themselves to be Roman citizens. Pliny the Elder did not marry and had no children. In his will, he adopted his nephew, which entitled the latter to inherit the entire estate. The adoption is called a "testamental adoption" by writers on the topic, who assert that it applied to the name change only, but Roman jurisprudence recognizes no such category. Pliny the Younger thus became the adopted son of Pliny the Elder after the latter's death. For at least some of the time, however, Pliny the Elder resided in the same house in
Misenum Miseno is one of the ''frazioni'' of the municipality of Bacoli in the Italian Province of Naples. Known in ancient Roman times as Misenum, it is the site of a great Roman port. Geography Nearby Cape Miseno marks the northwestern end of the Bay ...
with his sister and nephew (whose husband and father, respectively, had died young); they were living there when Pliny the Elder decided to investigate the eruption of
Mount Vesuvius Mount Vesuvius ( ; it, Vesuvio ; nap, 'O Vesuvio , also or ; la, Vesuvius , also , or ) is a somma-stratovolcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania, Italy, about east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is one of severa ...
, and was sidetracked by the need for rescue operations and a messenger from his friend asking for assistance.


Student and lawyer

Pliny's father took him to Rome to be educated in lawmaking. Pliny relates that he saw
Marcus Servilius Nonianus Marcus Servilius Nonianus (died in 59AD) was a Roman senator, best known as a historian. He was ordinary consul in 35 as the colleague of Gaius Cestius Gallus. Tacitus described Servilius Nonianus as a man of great eloquence and good-nature.Tacitu ...
.


Junior officer

In AD 46, at about age 23, Pliny entered the army as a junior officer, as was the custom for young men of equestrian rank.
Ronald Syme Sir Ronald Syme, (11 March 1903 – 4 September 1989) was a New Zealand-born historian and classicist. His great work was ''The Roman Revolution'' (1939), a masterly and controversial analysis of Roman political life in the period following t ...

Ronald Syme
, Plinian scholar, reconstructs three periods at three ranks.Beagon (2005) p.3. Pliny's interest in Roman literature attracted the attention and friendship of other men of letters in the higher ranks, with whom he formed lasting friendships. Later, these friendships assisted his entry into the upper echelons of the state; however, he was trusted for his knowledge and ability, as well. According to Syme, he began as a ''praefectus cohortis'', a "commander of a
cohort Cohort or cohortes may refer to: * Cohort (educational group), a group of students working together through the same academic curriculum * Cohort (floating point), a set of different encodings of the same numerical value * Cohort (military unit), ...
" (an infantry cohort, as junior officers began in the infantry), under
Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo (Peltuinum c. AD 7 – 67) was a popular Roman general, brother-in-law of the emperor Caligula and father-in-law of Domitian. The emperor Nero, highly fearful of Corbulo's reputation, ordered him to commit suicide, which th ...
, himself a writer (whose works did not survive) in
Germania Inferior Germania Inferior ("Lower Germania") was a Roman province from AD 85 until the province was renamed as Germania Secunda in the fourth century. Located on the west bank of the Rhine and bordering the North Sea, the capital of the province was Colo ...
. In AD 47, he took part in the Roman conquest of the
Chauci The Chauci (german: Chauken, and identical or similar in other regional modern languages) were an ancient Germanic tribe living in the low-lying region between the Rivers Ems and Elbe, on both sides of the Weser and ranging as far inland as the uppe ...
and the construction of the canal between the rivers
Maas Maas, MAAS or MaaS may refer to: People * Maas (surname), including a list of people with the name * Maas Thajoon Akbar (1880–1944), a Ceylonese judge and lawyer * Timo Maas (born 1969), a German DJ/producer and remixer * Thomas Samuel "Maas" Sw ...

Maas
and
Rhine ), Surselva, Graubünden, Switzerland , source1_coordinates= , source1_elevation = , source2 = Rein Posteriur/Hinterrhein , source2_location = Paradies Glacier, Graubünden, Switzerland , source2_coordinates= , source2_elevation ...

Rhine
. His description of the Roman ships anchored in the stream overnight having to ward off floating trees has the stamp of an eyewitness account. At some uncertain date, Pliny was transferred to the command of
Germania Superior 250px, Northern part of the province with the Limes Germanicus. Germania Superior ("Upper Germania") was an imperial province of the Roman Empire. It comprised an area of today's western Switzerland, the French Jura and Alsace regions, and southwe ...
under Publius Pomponius Secundus with a promotion to
military tribune A military tribune (Latin ''tribunus militum'', "tribune of the soldiers", Greek ''chiliarchos'', χιλίαρχος) was an officer of the Roman army who ranked below the legate and above the centurion. Young men of Equestrian rank often served a ...
, which was a staff position, with duties assigned by the district commander. Pomponius was a half-brother of Corbulo. They had the same mother,
Vistilia Vistilia was a Roman matron of the gens Vistilia known by her contemporaries for having seven children by six different husbands; Pliny the Elder was more impressed by the fact most of her pregnancies were remarkably brief. Five of her sons became c ...
, a powerful matron of the Roman upper classes, who had seven children by six husbands, some of whom had imperial connections, including a future empress. Pliny's assignments are not clear, but he must have participated in the campaign against the
Chatti The Chatti (also Chatthi or Catti) were an ancient Germanic tribe whose homeland was near the upper Weser (''Visurgis''). They lived in central and northern Hesse and southern Lower Saxony, along the upper reaches of that river and in the valley ...
of AD 50, at age 27, in his fourth year of service. Associated with the commander in the ''
praetorium The Latin term —or or —originally signified a general's tent within a Roman castrum, castellum, or encampment.Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 2 ed., s.v. "Praetorium". London: John Murray, 1872. It derived from the ...

praetorium
'', he became a familiar and close friend of Pomponius, who also was a man of letters. At another uncertain date, Pliny was transferred back to Germania Inferior. Corbulo had moved on, assuming command in the east. This time, Pliny was promoted to ''praefectus alae'', "commander of a wing", responsible for a cavalry battalion of about 480 men. He spent the rest of his military service there. A decorative '' phalera'', or piece of harness, with his name on it has been found at '' Castra Vetera'', modern Xanten, then a large Roman army and naval base on the lower Rhine. Pliny's last commander there, apparently neither a man of letters nor a close friend of his, was
Pompeius Paullinus Pompeius Paullinus was a Roman senator, who was active during the reigns of Claudius and Nero. He was suffect consul during a ''nundinium'' in either the year 53 or 54. According to Pliny the Elder, Paullinus was the son of Pompeius Paulinus, an ''e ...
, governor of Germania Inferior AD 55–58. Pliny relates that he personally knew Paulinus to have carried around 12,000 pounds of silver service on which to dine in a campaign against the Germans (a practice which would not have endeared him to the disciplined Pliny). According to his nephew, during this period, he wrote his first book (perhaps in winter quarters when more spare time was available), a work on the use of
missiles In military terminology, a missile, also known as a guided missile or guided rocket, is a guided airborne ranged weapon capable of self-propelled flight usually by a jet engine or rocket motor. Missiles have four system components: targeting/g ...
on horseback, ''De Jaculatione Equestri'' ("On the Use of the Dart by Cavalry"). It has not survived, but in ''Natural History'', he seems to reveal at least part of its content, using the movements of the horse to assist the
javelin A javelin is a light spear designed primarily to be thrown, historically as a ranged weapon, but today predominantly for sport. The javelin is almost always thrown by hand, unlike the sling, bow, and crossbow, which launch projectiles with the a ...
-man in throwing missiles while astride its back. During this period, he also dreamed that the spirit of Drusus Nero begged him to save his memory from oblivion. The dream prompted Pliny to begin forthwith a history of all the wars between the Romans and the Germans, which he did not complete for some years.


Literary interlude

At the earliest time Pliny could have left the service,
Nero Nero ( ; Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December 37 – 9 June 68 AD) was the fifth Roman emperor, ruling from 54 to 68. His infamous reign is usually associated with tyranny, extravagance, and debauchery.Kragelund, Patrick. 2000. ...
, the last of the
Julio-Claudian dynasty , native_name_lang=Latin, coat of arms=Julio-claudian prince CdM Inv57-7.jpg, image_size=180px, caption=Bust of a Julio-Claudian prince, type=Roman imperial house, country= Roman Empire, estates=* Imperial Palaces of the Palatine Hill * House of Augustus ...
, had been emperor for two years. He did not leave office until AD 68, when Pliny was 45 years old. During that time, Pliny did not hold any high office or work in the service of the state. In the subsequent
Flavian dynasty#REDIRECT Flavian dynasty#REDIRECT Flavian dynasty {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
, his services were in such demand that he had to give up his law practice, which suggests that he had been trying not to attract the attention of Nero, who was a dangerous acquaintance. Under Nero, Pliny lived mainly in Rome. He mentions the map of
Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country located in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.The UNbr>classification of world regions places Armenia in Western Asia; the ...
and the neighbourhood of the
Caspian Sea#REDIRECT Caspian Sea#REDIRECT Caspian Sea {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
, which was sent to Rome by the staff of Corbulo in 58. He also witnessed the construction of Nero's
Domus Aurea The Domus Aurea (Latin, "Golden House") was a vast landscaped palace built by the Emperor Nero in the heart of ancient Rome after the great fire in 64 AD had destroyed a large part of the city and the aristocratic palaces on the Palatine Hill.Rot ...
or "Golden House" after the
Great Fire of Rome The Great Fire of Rome ( la, incendium magnum Romae), was an urban fire that occurred in July, AD 64. The fire began in the merchant shops around Rome's chariot stadium, Circus Maximus, on the night of 19 July. After six days, the fire was brought ...
in 64. Besides pleading law cases, Pliny wrote, researched, and studied. His second published work was "The Life of Pomponius Secundus," a two-volume biography of his old commander, Pomponius Secundus. Meanwhile, he was completing his monumental work ''Bella Germaniae'', the only authority expressly quoted in the first six books of the ''
Annales Annales or annals are a concise form of historical writing which record events chronologically, year by year. List of Works with titles containing the word "Annales" *Annales (Ennius), an epic poem by Quintus Ennius covering Roman history from the ...
'' of
Tacitus Publius (or Gaius) Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature, a ...
, and probably one of the principal authorities for the same author's ''
Germania Germania ( , ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania'') or Germanic Barbaricum to distinguish it from the Roman provinces of the same name, was a large historical region in north-cent ...
''. It disappeared in favor of the writings of Tacitus (which are far shorter), and, early in the fifth century, Symmachus had little hope of finding a copy. Like Caligula, Nero seemed to grow gradually more insane as his reign progressed. Pliny devoted much of his time to writing on the comparatively safe subjects of
grammar In linguistics, the grammar (from Ancient Greek ''grammatikḗ'') of a natural language is its set of structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clauses, phrases, and words. The term can also refer to the study of such const ...
and rhetoric. He published a three-book, six-volume educational manual on rhetoric, entitled ''Studiosus'', "The Student". Pliny the Younger says of it: "The orator is trained from his very cradle and perfected." It was followed by eight books entitled ''Dubii sermonis'', "Of Doubtful Phraseology". These are both now
lost work A lost work is a document, literary work, or piece of multimedia produced some time in the past, of which no surviving copies are known to exist. This term most commonly applies to works from the classical world, although it is increasingly used in ...
s. His nephew relates: "He wrote this under Nero, in the last years of his reign, when every kind of literary pursuit which was in the least independent or elevated had been rendered dangerous by servitude." In 68, Nero no longer had any friends and supporters. He committed suicide, and the reign of terror was at an end, as was the interlude in Pliny's obligation to the state.


Senior officer

At the end of AD 69, after a year of civil war consequent on the death of Nero,
Vespasian Vespasian (; la, Vespasianus ; 17 November AD 9 – 24 June 79) was Roman emperor from 69 to 79. The fourth and last in the Year of the Four Emperors, he founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Empire for 27 years. Vespasian was the first em ...
, a successful general, became emperor. Like Pliny, he had come from the equestrian class, rising through the ranks of the army and public offices and defeating the other contenders for the highest office. His main tasks were to re-establish peace under imperial control and to place the economy on a sound footing. He needed in his administration all the loyalty and assistance he could find. Pliny, apparently trusted without question, perhaps (reading between the lines) recommended by Vespasian's son Titus, was put to work immediately and was kept in a continuous succession of the most distinguished procuratorships, according to
Suetonius Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (), commonly known as Suetonius (; c. AD 69 – after AD 122), was a Roman historian who wrote during the early Imperial era of the Roman Empire. His most important surviving work is a set of biographies of 12 su ...
. A
procurator Procurator (with procuracy or procuratorate referring to the office itself) may refer to: * Procurator, one engaged in procuration, the action of taking care of, hence management, stewardship, agency * ''Procurator'' (Ancient Rome), the title of v ...
was generally a governor of an imperial province. The empire was perpetually short of, and was always seeking, officeholders for its numerous offices. Throughout the latter stages of Pliny's life, he maintained good relations with Emperor Vespasian. As is written in the first line of Pliny the Younger's ''Avunculus Meus'': In this passage, Pliny the Younger conveys to Tacitus that his uncle was ever the academic, always working. The word ''ibat'' (imperfect, "he used to go") gives a sense of repeated or customary action. In the subsequent text, he mentions again how most of his uncle's day was spent working, reading, and writing. He notes that Pliny "was indeed a very ready sleeper, sometimes dropping off in the middle of his studies and then waking up again." A definitive study of the procuratorships of Pliny was compiled by the classical scholar
Friedrich MünzerFriedrich Münzer (22 April 1868 – 20 October 1942) was a German classical scholar noted for the development of prosopography, particularly for his demonstrations of how family relationships in ancient Rome connected to political struggles. He died ...
, which was reasserted by
Ronald Syme Sir Ronald Syme, (11 March 1903 – 4 September 1989) was a New Zealand-born historian and classicist. His great work was ''The Roman Revolution'' (1939), a masterly and controversial analysis of Roman political life in the period following t ...

Ronald Syme
and became a standard reference point. Münzer hypothesized four procuratorships, of which two are certainly attested and two are probable but not certain. However, two does not satisfy Suetonius' description of a continuous succession. Consequently, Plinian scholars present two to four procuratorships, the four comprising (i) Gallia Narbonensis in 70, (ii) Africa in 70–72, (iii) Hispania Tarraconensis in 72–74, and (iv) Gallia Belgica in 74–76. According to Syme, Pliny may have been "successor to Valerius Paulinus", procurator of
Gallia Narbonensis Gallia Narbonensis can be seen in the south of modern-day France as a Roman province. Gallia Narbonensis (Latin for "Gaul of Narbonne", from its chief settlement) was a Roman province located in what is now Languedoc and Provence, in southern Fr ...
(southeastern France), early in AD 70. He seems to have a "familiarity with the ''provincia''", which, however, might otherwise be explained. For example, he says
In the cultivation of the soil, the manners and civilization of the inhabitants, and the extent of its wealth, it is surpassed by none of the provinces, and, in short, might be more truthfully described as a part of Italy than as a province.
denoting a general popular familiarity with the region. Pliny certainly spent some time in the province of Africa, most likely as a procurator. Among other events or features that he saw are the provoking of ''rubetae'', poisonous toads (
Bufonidae{{Cat main, Toad This category contains both species commonly called toads, and the true toads from the family Bufonidae. Animals by common name Frogs ...

Bufonidae
), by the Psylli; the buildings made with molded earthen walls, "superior in solidity to any cement;" and the unusual, fertile seaside oasis of Gabès (then Tacape), Tunisia, currently a World Heritage Site. Syme assigns the African procuratorship to AD 70–72. The procuratorship of Hispania Tarraconensis was next. A statement by Pliny the Younger that his uncle was offered 400,000 ''sesterces'' for his manuscripts by Larcius Licinius while he (Pliny the Elder) was procurator of Hispania makes it the most certain of the three. Pliny lists the peoples of "Hither Hispania", including population statistics and civic rights (modern Asturias and Gallaecia). He stops short of mentioning them all for fear of "wearying the reader". As this is the only geographic region for which he gives this information, Syme hypothesizes that Pliny contributed to the census of Hither Hispania conducted in 73/74 by Vibius Crispus, legate from the Emperor, thus dating Pliny's procuratorship there. During his stay in Hispania, he became familiar with the agriculture and especially the gold mines of the north and west of the country. His descriptions of the various methods of mining appear to be wikt:eyewitness, eyewitness judging by the discussion of gold mining methods in his ''Natural History''. He might have visited the mine excavated at Las Médulas. The last position of procurator, an uncertain one, was of Gallia Belgica, based on Pliny's familiarity with it. The capital of the province was Augusta Treverorum (History of Trier, Trier), named for the Treveri surrounding it. Pliny says that in "the year but one before this" a severe winter killed the first crops planted by the Treviri; they sowed again in March and had "a most abundant harvest." The problem is to identify "this", the year in which the passage was written. Using 77 as the date of composition Syme arrives at AD 74–75 as the date of the procuratorship, when Pliny is presumed to have witnessed these events. The argument is based entirely on presumptions; nevertheless, this date is required to achieve Suetonius' continuity of procuratorships, if the one in Gallia Belgica occurred. Pliny was allowed home (Rome) at some time in AD 75–76. He was presumably at home for the first official release of ''Natural History'' in 77. Whether he was in Rome for the dedication of Vespasian's Temple of Peace, Rome, Temple of Peace in the Forum in 75, which was in essence a museum for display of art works plundered by Nero and formerly adorning the Domus Aurea, is uncertain, as is his possible command of the ''vigiles'' (night watchmen), a lesser post. No actual post is discernible for this period. On the bare circumstances, he was an official agent of the emperor in a quasiprivate capacity. Perhaps he was between posts. In any case, his appointment as commander of the imperial fleet at
Misenum Miseno is one of the ''frazioni'' of the municipality of Bacoli in the Italian Province of Naples. Known in ancient Roman times as Misenum, it is the site of a great Roman port. Geography Nearby Cape Miseno marks the northwestern end of the Bay ...
took him there, where he resided with his sister and nephew. Vespasian died of disease on 23 June 79. Pliny outlived him by two months.


Noted author

During Nero's reign of terror, Pliny avoided working on any writing that would attract attention to himself. His works on oratory in the last years of Nero's reign (67, 68) focused on form rather than on content. He began working on content again probably after Vespasian's rule began in AD 69, when the terror clearly was over and would not be resumed. It was to some degree reinstituted (and later cancelled by his son Titus) when Vespasian suppressed the philosophers at Rome, but not Pliny, who was not among them, representing, as he says, something new in Rome, an encyclopedist (certainly, a venerable tradition outside Italy). In his next work, ''Bella Germaniae'', Pliny completed the history which
Aufidius Bassus Aufidius Bassus was a Roman historian who lived in the reign of Tiberius. His work, which probably began with the Roman civil wars or the death of Julius Caesar, was continued by Pliny the Elder. Pliny the Elder carried it down at least as far as t ...
left unfinished. Pliny's continuation of Bassus's ''History'' was one of the authorities followed by Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Suetonius and
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; AD 46–after AD 119) was a Greek Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo. He is known primarily for his ''Parallel Lives'', ...

Plutarch
. Tacitus also cites Pliny as a source. He is mentioned concerning the loyalty of Burrus, commander of the Praetorian Guard, whom
Nero Nero ( ; Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 15 December 37 – 9 June 68 AD) was the fifth Roman emperor, ruling from 54 to 68. His infamous reign is usually associated with tyranny, extravagance, and debauchery.Kragelund, Patrick. 2000. ...
removed for disloyalty. Tacitus portrays parts of Pliny's view of the Pisonian conspiracy to kill Nero and make Piso emperor as "absurd" and mentions that he could not decide whether Pliny's account or that of Marcus Valerius Messala Corvinus (consul 58), Messalla was more accurate concerning some of the details of the Year of the Four Emperors. Evidently Pliny's extension of Bassus extended at least from the reign of Nero to that of Vespasian. Pliny seems to have known it was going to be controversial, as he deliberately reserved it for publication after his death:
It has been long completed and its accuracy confirmed; but I have determined to commit the charge of it to my heirs, lest I should have been suspected, during my lifetime, of having been unduly influenced by ambition. By this means I confer an obligation on those who occupy the same ground with myself; and also on posterity, who, I am aware, will contend with me, as I have done with my predecessors.


''Natural History''

Pliny's last work, according to his nephew, was the ''
Naturalis Historia The ''Natural History'' ( la, Naturalis Historia) is a work by Pliny the Elder. It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day and purports to cover all ancient knowledge. The work's subject area ...
'' (''Natural History''), an encyclopedia into which he collected much of the knowledge of his time. It comprised 37 books. His sources were personal experience, his own prior works (such as the work on Germania), and extracts from other works. These extracts were collected in the following manner: One servant would read aloud, and another would write the extract as dictated by Pliny. He is said to have dictated extracts while taking a bath. In winter, he furnished the copier with gloves and long sleeves so his writing hand would not stiffen with cold (Pliny the Younger in ''avunculus meus''). His extract collection finally reached about 160 volumes, which Larcius Licinius, the legatus, Praetorian legate of Hispania Tarraconensis, unsuccessfully offered to purchase for 400,000 ''sesterces.'' That would have been in 73/74 (see above). Pliny bequeathed the extracts to his nephew. When composition of ''Natural History'' began is unknown. Since he was preoccupied with his other works under Nero and then had to finish the history of his times, he is unlikely to have begun before 70. The procuratorships offered the ideal opportunity for an encyclopedic frame of mind. The date of an overall composition cannot be assigned to any one year. The dates of different parts must be determined, if they can, by Philology, philological analysis (the ''post mortem'' of the scholars). The closest known event to a single publication date, that is, when the manuscript was probably released to the public for borrowing and copying, and was probably sent to the Flavians, is the date of the Dedication in the first of the 37 books. It is to the ''imperator'' Titus. As Titus and Vespasian had the same name, Titus Flavius Vespasianus, earlier writers hypothesized a dedication to Vespasian. Pliny's mention of a brother (Domitian) and joint offices with a father, calling that father "great", points certainly to Titus.Beagon (2005), p. 7. Pliny also says that Titus had been Roman consul, consul six times. The first six consulships of Titus were in 70, 72, 74, 75, 76, and 77, all conjointly with Vespasian, and the seventh was in 79. This brings the date of the Dedication probably to 77. In that year, Vespasian was 68. He had been ruling conjointly with Titus for some years. The title ''imperator'' does not indicate that Titus was sole emperor, but was awarded for a military victory, in this case that in Jerusalem in 70. Aside from minor finishing touches, the work in 37 books was completed in AD 77. That it was written entirely in 77 or that Pliny was finished with it then cannot be proved. Moreover, the dedication could have been written before publication, and it could have been published either privately or publicly earlier without the dedication. The only certain fact is that Pliny did no further work on it after AD 79. ''Natural History'' is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire and purports to cover the entire field of ancient knowledge, based on the best authorities available to Pliny. He claims to be the only Roman ever to have undertaken such a work. It encompasses the fields of botany, zoology, astronomy, geology, and mineralogy, as well as the exploitation of those resources. It remains a standard work for the Roman period and the advances in technology and understanding of natural phenomena at the time. His discussions of some technical advances are the only sources for those inventions, such as hushing in mining technology or the use of water mills for crushing or grinding grain. Much of what he wrote about has been confirmed by archaeology. It is virtually the only work that describes the work of artists of the time, and is a reference work for the history of art. As such, Pliny's approach to describing the work of artists was to inform Lorenzo Ghiberti in writing his commentaries and Giorgio Vasari who wrote the celebrated ''Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects''. The work became a model for all later encyclopedias in terms of the breadth of subject matter examined, the need to reference original authors, and a comprehensive index list of the contents. It is the only work by Pliny to have survived, and the last that he published, lacking a final revision at his sudden and unexpected death in the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius.


Death

Pliny, who had been appointed ''Roman_navy#High_Command, praefectus classis'' in the Roman navy by Vespasian, was stationed with the fleet at
Misenum Miseno is one of the ''frazioni'' of the municipality of Bacoli in the Italian Province of Naples. Known in ancient Roman times as Misenum, it is the site of a great Roman port. Geography Nearby Cape Miseno marks the northwestern end of the Bay ...
at the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. He organized and led a rescue mission upon receiving a message from his friend Rectina, who had been left stranded in
Stabiae Stabiae () was an ancient city situated near the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia and approximately 4.5 km southwest of Pompeii. Like Pompeii, and being only from Mount Vesuvius, this seaside resort was largely buried by tephra ash i ...
during the eruption. Pliny boarded one of several Galley#Roman_Imperial_era, galleys that he dispatched across the Gulf of Naples to Stabiae. As Pliny's vessel approached the shore near Herculaneum, cinders and pumice began to fall on it. The helmsman advised turning back, to which Pliny replied, "Fortune favours the bold; steer to where Pomponianus is." Upon reaching Stabiae, they found Roman Senate, Senator Pomponianus, but the same winds that brought them there prevented them from leaving. The group waited for the wind to abate, but they decided to leave later that evening for fear their houses would collapse. The group fled when a plume of Volcanic gas, hot toxic gases engulfed them. Pliny (a corpulent man who suffered from a chronic respiratory condition, possibly asthma) however was left behind, as he had died from Asphyxia, asphyxiation caused by the toxic gases. Upon the group's return three days later after the plume had dispersed, Pliny's body was found, with no apparent external injuries. Twenty-seven years later, upon a request from Tacitus, Pliny the Younger provided an account (obtained from the survivors from Stabiae) of his uncle's death. Suetonius wrote that Pliny approached the shore only from scientific interest and then asked a slave to kill him to avoid heat from the volcano. Jacob Bigelow, after summarizing the information about Pliny's death contained in Pliny the Younger's letter to Tacitus, concluded that Pliny had died from apoplexy or heart disease. In 1967, science historian Conway Zirkle similarly stated that "there is widespread and persisting misinformation" about Pliny's death. He suggested that despite his rescue attempt, Pliny never came within miles of Mount Vesuvius and no evidence has been found that shows he died from breathing in fumes, and like Bigelow, concluded that he died of a heart attack.Zirkle, Conway. (1967). ''The Death of Gaius Plinius Secundus (23-79 A.D.)''. ''Isis (journal), Isis'' 58: 553-559.


See also

* Plinian eruption * Plinius (crater), Plinius, lunar crater


References


Sources

* Beagon, Mary. (1992). ''Roman Nature: The Thought of Pliny the Elder.'' Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. * * * Doody, Aude. (2010). ''Pliny's Encyclopedia: The Reception of the Natural History.'' Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press. * * Fane-Saunders, Peter. (2016). ''Pliny the Elder and the Emergence of Renaissance Architecture.'' New York: Cambridge University Press. * French, Roger, and Frank Greenaway, eds. (1986). ''Science in the Early Roman Empire: Pliny the Elder, His Sources and Influence.'' London: Croom Helm. * Gibson, Roy and Ruth Morello eds. (2011). ''Pliny the Elder: Themes and Contexts.'' Leiden: Brill. * * * Laehn, Thomas R. (2013). ''Pliny's Defense of Empire.'' Routledge Innovations in Political Theory. New York: Routledge. * * * * * *


Secondary material

* * *


External links

* * * *
Works by Pliny the Elder at Perseus Digital Library

Online Galleries, History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries
High resolution images of works by Pliny the Elder in.jpg and.tiff format. * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Pliny the Elder Ancient Roman admirals Ancient Roman antiquarians Ancient Roman soldiers Classical geography Classical Latin literature Deaths in volcanic eruptions People from Como Ancient Roman scientists Philosophers of Roman Italy Pre-Linnaean botanists Roman encyclopedists Roman-era geographers Roman-era philosophers Silver Age Latin writers 1st-century Romans 20s births Year of birth uncertain 79 deaths Plinii