Pliny ( the Elder)

(Caius Plinius Secundus)


Pliny the Elder was a scholar and author who produced one of the largest bodies of writings of ancient times. He served in the army in Germany as a young man and when he returned to Italy, studied philosophy and rhetoric with Seneca. His hobby of collecting interesting information of all sorts from sources everywhere he went, seems to have been with him from the beginning of his career. He recorded many of his early observations in journals. One of his first published books, was Bella Germaniae, a history of the German Wars. Although it is no longer extant, it was used as a source by other historians including Tacitus. He also wrote eight books on Grammar and Rhetoric, called Dubii sermonis. By far his most famous work however, was Naturalis Historia, the most extensive encyclopedia of ancient times. It included sections on astronomy, geography, anthropology, zoology, botany, medicine, mineralogy, the arts, and many other topics. By the time it was finished it filled over 160 volumes. It was published in 77 A.D., and was dedicated to Titus, son of Emperor Vespasian. Two years later, Pliny the Elder perished while investigating the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius at Pompeii.

Key events during the life of Pliny the Elder:

Served in the army in lower Germany.
  Studied philosophy and rhetoric under Seneca.
Accompanied Pomponius on an expedition against Chatti.
  Visited Germany. Wrote 20 books on history of the German Wars.
Published Dubii sermonis, eight books on grammar and rhetoric.
Procurator in Gaul, under Vespasian.
Procurator in Hispania.
Completed Naturalis Historia, an encyclopedia of 160 volumes.
  Wrote history from Nero to Vespasian (not published until after his death).
Died while investigating the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius at Pompeii.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Student  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Buried Cities  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Destruction of Pompeii  in  Historical Tales: Roman  by  Charles Morris
Ptolemy's Maps  in  A Book of Discovery  by  M. B. Synge

Image Links

Interior of a house in Pompeii
 in The Story of the Romans

The Destruction of Herculaneum
 in Greatest Nations - Rome

The Ruins of Pompeii
 in Historical Tales: Roman

Short Biography
Vespasian First emperor of humble origins. Founder of Flavian dynasty.
Titus Second Flavian emperor. Conquered Jerusalem. Reigned with father Vespasian.
Seneca Tutor and minister to Nero. Forced to commit suicide after falling from grace.
Nero Fifth emperor. Murdered mother, wife, and brother. Fiddled while Rome burned.