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Pliny the Elder

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BornNovum Comum, Gallia Cisalpina, (Como, Italy), 22 or 23

DiedStabiae, (Campania, Italy), August 79

Pliny's Natural History described the known state of astronomy and astrology, and was influential for 1,000 years or more.

Pliny's Natural History, in 37 volumes, contained, he wrote, “twenty thousand noteworthy facts obtained from one hundred authors … with a great number of other facts in addition that were either ignored by our predecessors or have been discovered by subsequent experience.” This composition was Pliny's last, for the natural spectacles that he so admired led him to his death: As commander of the Imperial Fleet at Misenum, he had set sail partly for a closer look at the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and partly to rescue those stranded by the same eruption. Landing at Stabiae, he judged the situation safe enough to bathe, sup, and snore through the night. But just before dawn, Pliny was awakened for immediate evacuation. The exertion and excitement must...

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Selected References

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

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  • Eastwood, Bruce S. (1989). Astronomy and Optics from Pliny to Descartes: Texts, Diagrams and Conceptual Structures. London: Variorum Reprints.

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

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  • Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (1997). On Famous Men (De viris illustris), translated by J. C. Rolfe. In Vol. 2 of The Lives of the Caesars. Loeb Classical Library, no. 38. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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  • Irby‐Massie, Georgia L. and Paul T. Keyser (2002.) Greek Science of the Hellenistic Era: A Sourcebook. London: Routledge.

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  • Pliny the Elder (1938–1963). Natural History, translated by H. Rackham. 10 Vols. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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  • Pliny the Younger (1969). Letters and Panegyricus. 2 Vols. Translation by Betty Radice. Vol. 1. Loeb Classical Library, no. 55. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. (Letters III.5, VI.16, and VI.20.)

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  • Zirkle, Conway (1967). “The Death of Gaius Plinius Secundus (23–79 AD).” Isis 58: 553–559.

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Kwan, A. (2007). Pliny the Elder. In: , et al. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. Springer, New York, NY.

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