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Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder)

Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder)

23/24-79 c.e.

Soldier, encyclopedist


Mt. Vesuvius. Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder, was an Italian native, born in 23/24 C.E. in Novum Comum and educated in Rome. He was from a wealthy background and was therefore able to assume the rank of equestrian. He spent several years in military service in Germany, where he took part (at times as a cavalry commander) in campaigns against the Chauci in Upper Germany. In Lower Germany, Pliny served under an esteemed patron, Pomponius Secundus, whose biography he later wrote. Pliny died on 24 August 79 C.E. during the eruption of Vesuvius. The volcano’s eruption destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum. Pliny died of smoke inhalation in Misenum. His fascinating Naturalis historia, in thirty-seven books, was an encyclopedic compendium that aimed at assembling all human knowledge about the world around him.


Mary Beagon, Roman Nature: The Thought of Pliny the Elder (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).

Roger French and Frank Greenaway, Science in the Early Roman Empire: Pliny the Elder, His Sources and Influence (London & Sydney: Croom Helm, 1986).

Paul T. Keyser, “Pliny the Elder,” in Ancient Roman Writers, Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 211, edited by Ward W. Briggs (Columbia, S.C.: Bruccoli Clark Layman / Detroit: Gale Group, 1999), pp. 235–242.

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