Pliny the Elder  [23 - 79 CE]

Roman patrician who served briefly as a cavalry commander in Germany under Claudius, procurator of Spain under Nero & commander of the fleet at Naples under Vespasian. He was killed by poisonous fumes while investigating the beginning of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.  For most of his life Gaius Plinius Secundus was a reclusive scholar, who just 2 years before his death published one of the most influential works of classical Latin literature:

  • Natural History - 37 volume study of "the nature of things." The world's first encyclopedia. Each book was organized by topic in which the author detailed information that he had learned both by reading & personal observation. This is the first scholarly work whose  author methodically documented his sources of information. For some 1500 years Pliny's work was regarded as the ultimate authority for observations about nature. Though it is no longer accepted as accurate as a scientific text, it remains a valuable historical source for information about the 1st c. Roman world & worldview.

[Edition used:  Pliny. Natural History Book 5 (in Loeb Classical Library: Pliny 
vol 2) Ed. H. Rackham. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1942.]

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