Pliny the Elder

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Gaius Plinius Secundus (23 AD – August 25, 79), better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian. Spending most of his spare time studying, writing or investigating natural and geographic phenomena in the field, he wrote an encyclopedic work, Naturalis Historia, which became a model for all such works written subsequently. Pliny the Younger, his nephew, wrote of him in a letter to the historian Tacitus:

Pliny is referring to the fact that Tacitus relied on his uncle's now missing work on the History of the German Wars. Pliny the Elder died on August 25, 79 AD, while attempting the rescue by ship of a friend and his family from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that had just destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The prevailing wind would not allow his ship to leave the shore. His companions attributed his collapse and death to toxic fumes, but they were unaffected by the fumes, suggesting natural causes.[2]

Contents

Life and times

Background

Pliny's dates are pinned to the eruption of Vesuvius in August,[4] 79, and a statement of his nephew that he died in his 56th year, which would make his birth in 23 AD.

Pliny was the son of an equestrian, 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 and recorded by the 16th-century Augustinian monk Onofrio Panvinio at Verona. What the inscription says depends on the reconstruction,[5] except that in all cases the names come through. Whether he was an augur and she was named Grania Marcella are less certain. Jean Hardouin presents a statement from an unknown source he claims was ancient that Pliny was from Verona and that his parents were Celer and Marcella.[6] Hardouin also cites the conterraneity of Catullus.[5]

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