Pliny the Elder

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Gaius Plinius Secundus, commonly known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman natural historian who lived in the 1st century A.D. He was born in either A.D. 23 or 24 in the town of Novum Comum (the predecessor of the modern city of Como in northern Italy).[1] As a member of the Equestrian order, Rome's middle rank of citizens, Pliny's career took him into the army in A.D. 47. He served with the army in Germany for ten years and his experience with the cavalry prompted him to write On the Use of the Javelin as a Cavalry Weapon. After leaving the army Pliny moved to Rome, though details surrounding his activities in the Empire's capital are obscure.[2] It is known, however, that Pliny was a critic of the Emperor Nero, who reigned from A.D. 54 to 68. Pliny later wrote that Nero was "the destroyer of the human race".[3]

After an uprising against Nero resulted in the Emperor's suicide in A.D. 68, a year of civil war followed. Vespasian emerged as the successor and Pliny was a supporter. In A.D. 77 Pliny's Natural History was published, a 37-book encyclopaedia dedicated to the Emperor Titus (who succeeded Vespasian).[4] In A.D. 79 Pliny the Elder was admiral of the Roman fleet of Misenum, on Italy's west coast. The city was situated 30km from Pompeii, and when Mount Vesuvius erupted on 24 August Pliny led the fleet to aid the citizens near the volcano. He died on the expedition, and his nephew, Pliny the Younger, recounted the events decades later in two letters to the historian Tacitus.[5]

References

  1. Healy, John F. (1999). Pliny the Elder on Science and Technology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 1. ISBN 0-19-814687-6.
  2. Healy, Pliny the Elder on Science and Technology, pp. 4–6.
  3. Griffin, Miriam T. (1987). Nero: The End of a Dynasty. London: Routledge. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-0415214643.
  4. Healy, Pliny the Elder on Science and Technology, pp. 7, 37–38, 40.
  5. Cooley, Alison & Cooley, M. G. L (2004). Pompeii: a sourcebook, p. 32. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415262118.