Pliny the Younger

Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo (61 – c. 113), better known as Pliny the Younger (/ˈplɪni/), was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him.

Pliny the Younger wrote hundreds of letters, of which 247 survive and are of great historical value. Some are addressed to reigning emperors or to notables such as the historian Tacitus. Pliny served as an imperial magistrate under Trajan (reigned 98–117),[1] and his letters to Trajan provide one of the few surviving records of the relationship between the imperial office and provincial governors.[2]

Pliny rose through a series of civil and military offices, the cursus honorum. He was a friend of the historian Tacitus and might have employed the biographer Suetonius on his staff. Pliny also came into contact with other well-known men of the period, including the philosophers Artemidorus and Euphrates the Stoic, during his time in Syria.[3]

Pliny the Younger
Como 015
Statue of Pliny the Younger on the facade of Cathedral of S. Maria Maggiore in Como
Born
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus

61 AD
Diedc. 113 AD (aged approx. 52)
OccupationPolitician, judge, author
Parent(s)Lucius Caecilius Cilo and Plinia Marcella

Background

Childhood

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot - Como and Lake Como
Como and Lake Como in 1834, painted by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot

Pliny the Younger was born in Novum Comum (Como, Northern Italy) around 61 the son of Lucius Caecilius Cilo, born there, and his wife Plinia Marcella, a sister of Pliny the Elder.[4] He was the grandson of Senator and landowner Gaius Caecilius, revered his uncle, Pliny the Elder (who at this time was extremely famous around the Roman Empire), and provided sketches of how his uncle worked on the Naturalis Historia.[5]

Cilo died at an early age, when Pliny was still young. As a result, the boy probably lived with his mother. His guardian and preceptor in charge of his education was Lucius Verginius Rufus, famed for quelling a revolt against Nero in 68 AD. After being first tutored at home, Pliny went to Rome for further education. There he was taught rhetoric by Quintilian, a great teacher and author, and Nicetes Sacerdos of Smyrna. It was at this time that Pliny became closer to his uncle Pliny the Elder. When Pliny the Younger was 17 or 18, his uncle Pliny the Elder died attempting to rescue victims of the Vesuvius eruption, and the terms of the Elder Pliny's will passed his estate to his nephew. In the same document the younger Pliny was adopted by his uncle. As a result, Pliny the Younger changed his name from Gaius Caecilius Cilo to Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (his official title was Gaius Plinius Luci filius Caecilius Secundus).[6]

The Younger Pliny Reproved
The Younger Pliny Reproved, colorized copperplate print by Thomas Burke (1749–1815)

There is some evidence that Pliny had a sibling. A memorial erected in Como (now CIL V, 5279) repeats the terms of a will by which the aedile Lucius Caecilius Cilo, son of Lucius, established a fund, the interest of which was to buy oil (used for soap) for the baths of the people of Como. The trustees are apparently named in the inscription: "L. Caecilius Valens and P. Caecilius Secundus, sons of Lucius, and the contubernalis Lutulla." The word contubernalis describing Lutulla is the military term meaning "tent-mate", which can only mean that she was living with Lucius, not as his wife. The first man mentioned, L. Caecilius Valens, is probably the older son. Pliny the Younger confirms[7] that he was a trustee for the largess "of my ancestors". It seems unknown to Pliny the Elder, so Valens' mother was probably not his sister Plinia; perhaps Valens was Lutulla's son from an earlier relationship.

Marriages

Pliny the Younger married three times, firstly, when he was very young (about 18), to a stepdaughter of Veccius Proculus', who died at age 37; secondly, at an unknown date, to the daughter of Pompeia Celerina; and thirdly to Calpurnia, daughter of Calpurnius and granddaughter of Calpurnius Fabatus of Comum. Letters survive in which Pliny recorded this last marriage taking place, his attachment to Calpurnia, and his sadness when she miscarried their child.[8]

Death

Pliny is thought to have died suddenly during his convention in Bithynia-Pontus, around 113 AD, since no events referred to in his letters date later than that.[9]

Career

Pliny was by birth of equestrian rank, that is, a member of the aristocratic order of equites (knights), the lower (beneath the senatorial order) of the two Roman aristocratic orders that monopolised senior civil and military offices during the early Empire. His career began at the age of 18 and initially followed a normal equestrian route. But, unlike most equestrians, he achieved entry into the upper order by being elected Quaestor in his late twenties.[10] (See Career summary below.)

Pliny was active in the Roman legal system, especially in the sphere of the Roman centumviral court, which dealt with inheritance cases. Later, he was a well-known prosecutor and defender at the trials of a series of provincial governors, including Baebius Massa, governor of Baetica; Marius Priscus, governor of Africa; Gaius Caecilius Classicus, governor of Baetica; and most ironically in light of his later appointment to this province, Gaius Julius Bassus and Varenus Rufus, both governors of Bithynia and Pontus.[11]

Pliny's career is commonly considered as a summary of the main Roman public charges and is the best-documented example from this period, offering proof for many aspects of imperial culture. Effectively, Pliny crossed all the principal fields of the organization of the early Roman Empire. It is an achievement for a man to have not only survived the reigns of several disparate emperors, especially the much-detested Domitian, but also to have risen in rank throughout.[12]

Career summary

c. 81 One of the presiding judges in the centumviral court (decemvir litibus iudicandis)
c. 81 Tribunus militum (staff officer) of Legio III Gallica in Syria, probably for six months
80s Officer of the noble order of knights (sevir equitum Romanorum)
Later 80s Entered the Senate
88 or 89 Quaestor attached to the Emperor's staff (quaestor imperatoris)
91 Tribune of the People (tribunus plebis)
93 Praetor
94–96 Prefect of the military treasury (praefectus aerarii militaris)
98–100 Prefect of the treasury of Saturn (praefectus aerari Saturni)
100 Suffect consul with Cornutus Tertullus
103 Propraetor of Bithynia
103–104 Publicly elected Augur
104–106 Superintendent for the banks of the Tiber (curator alvei Tiberis)
104–107 Three times a member of Trajan's judicial council.
110 The imperial governor (legatus Augusti) of Bithynia et Pontus province

Writings

Pliny penned his first work at age 14: a tragedy in Greek.[13] Additionally, in the course of his life, he wrote numerous poems, most of which are lost. He was also known as a notable orator; though he professed himself a follower of Cicero's, Pliny's prose was more magniloquent and less direct than Cicero's.

Pliny's only oration that now survives is the Panegyricus Traiani. This was delivered in the Senate in 100 and is a description of Trajan's figure and actions in an adulatory and emphatic form, especially contrasting him with the Emperor Domitian. It is, however, a relevant document that reveals many details about the Emperor's actions in several fields of his administrative power such as taxes, justice, military discipline, and commerce. Recalling the speech in one of his letters, Pliny shrewdly defines his own motives thus:

I hoped in the first place to encourage our Emperor in his virtues by a sincere tribute and, secondly, to show his successors what path to follow to win the same renown, not by offering instruction but by setting his example before them. To proffer advice on an Emperor's duties might be a noble enterprise, but it would be a heavy responsibility verging on insolence, whereas to praise an excellent ruler (optimum principem) and thereby shine a beacon on the path posterity should follow would be equally effective without appearing presumptuous.[14]

Epistulae

Johan Christian Claussen Dahl 001
Eruption of Vesuvius, 1826 painting by I.C. Dahl

The largest surviving body of Pliny's work is his Epistulae (Letters), a series of personal missives directed to his friends and associates. These letters are a unique testimony of Roman administrative history and everyday life in the 1st century AD. Especially noteworthy among the letters are two in which he describes the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in August 79, during which his uncle Pliny the Elder died (Epistulae VI.16, VI.20), and one in which he asks the Emperor for instructions regarding official policy concerning Christians (Epistulae X.96).

Epistles concerning the eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Pliny wrote the two letters describing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius approximately 25 years after the event, and both were sent in response to the request of his friend, the historian Tacitus, who wanted to know more about Pliny the Elder's death. The two letters have great historical value due to their accurate description of Vesuvius' eruption; Pliny's attention to detail in the letters about Vesuvius is so keen that modern volcanologists describe those types of eruptions as "Plinian eruptions".[15]

Epistle concerning the Christian Religion

As the Roman governor of Bithynia-Pontus (now in modern Turkey) Pliny wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan around 112 AD and asked for counsel on dealing with Christians. In the letter (Epistulae X.96) Pliny detailed an account of how he conducted trials of suspected Christians who appeared before him as a result of anonymous accusations and asked for the Emperor's guidance on how they should be treated.[16] Pliny had never performed a legal investigation of Christians and thus consulted Trajan in order to be on solid ground regarding his actions. Pliny saved his letters and Trajan's replies[17] and these are the earliest surviving Roman documents to refer to early Christians.[18] Trajan's response to Pliny makes it clear that being a Christian was sufficient for punishment, but Christians were not to be tracked down and anonymous denunciations were to be ignored.[19] The correspondence between Pliny and Emperor Trajan shows that the Roman Empire, as a government entity, did not at this time “seek out” Christians for prosecution or persecution.[20]

Manuscripts

The first - incomplete - edition of Pliny's Epistles was published in Italy in 1471. Sometime between 1495 and 1500 Giovanni Giocondo discovered a manuscript in Paris of Pliny's tenth book of letters, containing his correspondence with Trajan, and published it in Paris, dedicating the work to Louis XII. The first complete edition was produced by the press of Aldus Manutius in 1508.[21] (See Editio princeps for details.)

Villas

BellagiodiEst
View of Bellagio in Lake Como. The institution on the hill is Villa Serbelloni, believed to have been constructed on the site of Pliny's villa "Tragedy."

Pliny loved villas. Being wealthy, he owned many, such as the one in Lake Como named "Tragedy" because of its location high on a hill. Another, on the shore of the lake, was named "Comedy" because it was sited low down.[22] Pliny's main estate in Italy was in the north of Umbria, under the passes of Bocca Trabaria and Bocca Serriola, where wood was harvested for Roman ships and sent to Rome via the Tiber.

See also

References

  1. ^ Bennett, Julian (1997). Trajan: Optimus Princeps: A Life and Times. New York & London: Routledge. pp. 113–125.
  2. ^ John W. Roberts, ed. (2007). "Pliny the Younger". The Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192801463. Retrieved March 24, 2014. The tenth bk. of letters contains all of Pliny's correspondence with Trajan. [...] The provincial letters are the only such dossier surviving entire, and are a major source for understanding Roman provincial government. (subscription required)
  3. ^ Shelton, Jo-Ann (2013). The Women of Pliny's Letters. Women of the Ancient World Series. New York, NY: Rutledge. pp. 159–161. ISBN 978-0-203-09812-7.
  4. ^ Salway, B. (1994). Journal of Roman Studies. 84. pp. 124–145.
  5. ^ Pliny Letters 3.5.8–12. See English translation (Plinius the Elder (2)) and Latin text (C. PLINII CAECILII SECVNDI EPISTVLARVM LIBER TERTIVS).
  6. ^ Radice, Betty (1975). The Letters of the Younger Pliny. Penguin Classics. p. 13.
  7. ^ "I.8, To Saturninus". Letters. I am compelled to discourse of my own largesse, as well as those of my ancestors.
  8. ^ Pliny. Letters. p. 8.10.
  9. ^ Hurley, Donna.W (2011). Suetonius The Caesars. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company. pp. x. ISBN 978-1-60384-313-3.
  10. ^ Cf. Pliny: A Self-Portrait in Letters, The Folio Society, London (1978), Intro. pp.9–11
  11. ^ Cf. Pliny: A Self-Portrait in Letters, Intro. pp.10–16
  12. ^ Cf. op. cit., Intro. p.15-18
  13. ^ "quin etiam quattuordecim natus annos Graecam tragoediam scripsi.": ''Epistulae VII. iv
  14. ^ Epistulae III. xviii, here translated by Betty Radice, The Letters of the Younger Pliny, Penguin Classics (1975), p. 104
  15. ^ "VHP Photo Glossary: Plinian eruption". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  16. ^ The Early Christian Church Volume 1 by Philip Carrington (Aug 11, 2011) ISBN 0521166411 Cambridge Univ Press page 429
  17. ^ Pagan Rome and the Early Christians by Stephen Benko (1 Jul 1986) ISBN 0253203856 pages 5-7
  18. ^ St. Croix, G.E.M (November 1963). "Why Were the Early Christians Persecuted?". Past & Present. 26: 6–38. doi:10.1093/past/26.1.6. JSTOR 649902.
  19. ^ The Power of Sacrifice: Roman and Christian Discourses in Conflict by George Heyman (Nov 2007) ISBN 0813214890 pages xii-ix
  20. ^ "Pliny the Younger on the Christ". Retrieved May 10, 2012.
  21. ^ "Iohannem Iucundum architectum illum Veronensem, quem annos 1494–1506 in Gallia egisse novimus, codicem decem librorum Parisiis invenisse testis est Gulielmus Budaeus...Eodem ferme tempore Venetias ad Aldum Manutium editionem suam parantem, quae anno 1508 proditura erat, epistulas ex eodem vetustissimo codice descriptas misit ipse Iucundus." (R.A.B. Mynors, C. Plini Caecili Secundi Epistularum Libri Decem, Oxford University Press (1976), Praefatio xviii–xix
  22. ^ de la Ruffinière Du Prey, Pierre (1994). The villas of Pliny from antiquity to posterity (illustrated ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-226-17300-9.

Further reading

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Quintus Acutius Nerva,
and Lucius Fabius Tuscus

as suffect consul
Suffect Consul of the Roman Empire
100
with Gaius Julius Cornutus Tertullus
Succeeded by
Lucius Roscius Aelianus Maecius Celer,
and Tiberius Claudius Sacerdos Julianus

as suffect consul
Arria

Arria (also Arria Major) was a woman in ancient Rome. Her husband, Caecina Paetus, was ordered by the emperor Claudius to commit suicide for his part in a rebellion but was not capable of forcing himself to do so. Arria wrenched the dagger from him and stabbed herself, then returned it to her husband, telling him that it didn't hurt ("Non dolet, Paete!"). Her story was recorded in the letters of Pliny the Younger, who obtained his information from Arria's granddaughter, Fannia.

Arulenus Rusticus

Quintus Junius Arulenus Rusticus (c. 35 – 93 AD) was a Roman Senator and a friend and follower of Thrasea Paetus, and like him an ardent admirer of Stoic philosophy. Arulenus Rusticus attained a suffect consulship in the nundinium September-December 92 with Gaius Julius Silanus as his colleague. He was one of a group of Stoics who opposed the perceived tyranny and autocratic tendencies of certain emperors, known today as the Stoic Opposition.

His contemporaries referred to him in varying ways. The Fasti of Potentia and Ostia call him Q. Arulenus Rusticus, while Tacitus, Pliny the Younger and Dio Cassius call him Arulenus Rusticus or Rusticus Arulenus, yet Suetonius Junius Rusticus. That his brother was a friend of Pliny the Younger named Junius Mauricus, the senator Junius Rusticus (attested as alive in AD 29) is commonly identified as his father, and Quintus Junius Rusticus (suffect consul in 133 and ordinary consul in 162) as his grandson, only increases the perplexity. In his monograph on Roman naming practices, Olli Salomies attempted to determine to which gens Arulenus Rusticus belonged—Aruleni or Junii–only admit there is no better explanation than the suggestion of Ronald Syme that Arulenus "is either adoptive or maternal -- and accorded preference to the indistinctive 'Iunius'".

Athenodorus Cananites

Athenodorus Cananites (Greek: Ἀθηνόδωρος Κανανίτης, Athenodoros Kananites; c. 74 BC – 7 AD) was a Stoic philosopher.

Clitumnus

In Roman mythology, Clitumnus (; Latin: Clītumnus) was a son of Oceanus and Tethys. He was the god of the Clitunno River in Umbria.

Reference to Clitumnus is best attested in Pliny the Younger "Letters" 8.8: "Hard by is an ancient and sacred temple, where stands Jupiter Clitumnus himself clad and adorned with a toga praetexta, and the oracular responses delivered there prove that the deity dwells within and foretells the future."The Roman Emperor Caligula visited the sacred grove prior to his abortive invasion of Britain, presumably to consult the oracle of Clitumnus.

Cryptoporticus

In Ancient Roman architecture a cryptoporticus (from Greek crypta and porticus) is a covered corridor or passageway. The usual English is "cryptoportico". The cryptoportico is a semi-subterranean gallery whose vaulting supports portico structures aboveground and which is lit from openings at the tops of its arches.

On sloping sites the open side of a cryptoporticus is often partially at ground level and supports a structure such as a forum or Roman villa, in which case it served as basis villae. It is often vaulted and lit by openings in the vault. In the letters of Pliny the Younger, the term is used as a synonym of crypt. The shade and semi-excavated site of a cryptoportico provided cool and moderated temperatures useful for storage of perishables, while it offered a level and slightly raised podium for the superstructure.

Epistulae (Pliny)

The Epistulae are a series of personal missives by Pliny the Younger directed to his friends and associates. These letters are a unique testimony of Roman administrative history and everyday life in the 1st century. The style is very different from that in the Panegyricus, and some commentators maintain that Pliny initiated a new genre: the letter written for publication. This genre offers a different type of record than the more usual history; one that dispenses with objectivity but is no less valuable for it. Especially noteworthy among the letters are two in which he describes the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in August 79 during which his uncle Pliny the Elder died (Epistulae VI.16, VI.20), and one in which he asks the Emperor for instructions regarding official policy concerning Christians (Epistulae X.96).

The Epistulae are usually treated as two halves: those in Books 1 to 9, which Pliny prepared for publication, and those in Book 10, all of which were written to or by the Emperor Trajan during Pliny's governorship of Bithynia-Pontus. This final book was, significantly, not intended for publication.

Other major literary figures of the late 1st century AD appear in the collection as friends or acquaintances of Pliny's, e. g. the poet Martial, the historian Tacitus and the biographer Suetonius. However, arguably the most famous literary figure to appear in Pliny's letters is his uncle. His nephew provides details of how his uncle worked tirelessly to finish his magnum opus, the Historia Naturalis (Natural History). Since Pliny the Younger was heir to his uncle's estate, he inherited his uncle's large library, and benefited from the acquisition.

Eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79

Mount Vesuvius, a stratovolcano in modern-day Italy, erupted in 79 AD in one of the most famous and deadly volcanic eruptions in European history, which was witnessed and documented by Pliny the Younger, a Roman administrator and poet. Mount Vesuvius violently spewed forth a deadly cloud of super-heated tephra and gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), ejecting molten rock, pulverized pumice and hot ash at 1.5 million tons per second, ultimately releasing 100,000 times the thermal energy of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. Several Roman settlements were obliterated and buried underneath massive pyroclastic surges and ashfall deposits, the best known being Pompeii and Herculaneum. After archeological excavations revealed much about the lives of the inhabitants, the area became a major tourist attraction, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and part of Vesuvius National Park.

The total population of both cities was 16,000–20,000. The remains of over 1,500 people have been found at Pompeii and Herculaneum, but the death toll is still unclear. The event is the namesake for the Vesuvian type of volcanic eruptions, characterized by eruption columns of hot gases and ash exploding into the stratosphere, although the event also included pyroclastic flows associated with Pelean eruptions.

Fannia

Fannia (fl. around 100 AD) was a woman of Ancient Rome, notable as the granddaughter of Arria Major.

Fannia is recorded in the writings of Pliny the Younger as a woman of fortitude and respectability. As with her grandmother, Fannia is described as a political rebel in her own right. She was married to Helvidius Priscus and followed him twice into exile, once when he was exiled by Nero for sympathising with two outcasts (Brutus and Cassius), then for the second time when he was exiled by Vespasian for opposing his reign.

Eventually, Fannia herself was exiled in 93 AD for instigating the creation and publication of a biographical book about her husband under the rule of Domitian. This mild sentence was reflected in the death of the author, Herennius Senecio, who was executed due to his involvement. During the trial of Senecio, he blamed the book on Fannia as she had asked him to write it, a statement that Fannia confirmed. She was asked if, and confirmed that, she had given Senecio her husband's diaries. Pliny writes that: "she did not utter a single word to reduce the danger to herself." When her possessions were seized, Fannia managed to save the diaries and biography of her husband and even took them with her into exile.

In 103 AD, Pliny recorded that Fannia had "contracted this illness". She had been nursing a relative (Junia) from an unnamed "serious illness" and as Junia was a vestal virgin she had been obliged to leave Vesta's hearth and go into the care of a matron. Whilst taking care of her Fannia herself fell ill, and is described by Pliny: thus: "She has constant fever and a cough that is getting worse; she is emaciated and generally in decline. Only her spirit is vigorous, worthy of her husband." Though Pliny the Younger was regularly prone to exaggeration of great extent, his repeated expressions of worry suggest that the illness was one from which Fannia did not recover.

Gaius Septicius Clarus

Gaius Septicius Clarus (fl. 2nd century CE), was a prefect of the Roman imperial bodyguard (better known as the Praetorian Guard) and influential as a friend and supporter of famous Silver Age authors Pliny the Younger and Suetonius.

Histories (Tacitus)

Histories (Latin: Historiae) is a Roman historical chronicle by Tacitus. Written c. 100–110, it covers the Year of Four Emperors following the downfall of Nero, as well as the period between the rise of the Flavian Dynasty (69–96) under Vespasian and the death of Domitian.Together, the Histories and the Annals amounted to 30 books. Saint Jerome refers to these books explicitly, and about half of them have survived. Although scholars disagree on how to assign the books to each work, traditionally, fourteen are assigned to Histories and sixteen to the Annals. Tacitus' friend Pliny the Younger referred to "your histories" when writing to Tacitus about the earlier work.By the time Tacitus had completed the Histories, it covered Roman history from AD 69, following Nero's death, to AD 96, the end of Domitian's reign. The Annals deals with the five decades before Nero, from AD 14, the reign of Tiberius, to AD 68, when Nero died.

Lucius Verginius Rufus

Lucius Verginius Rufus (AD 15-97; sometimes incorrectly called Lucius Virginus Rufus), was a Roman commander of Germania Superior during the late 1st century. He was three times consul (in 63, 69, and 97), born near Comum, the birthplace of both Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger.

Verginius Rufus was born in Northern Italy as a member of an equestrian family. He became consul in 63 under the emperor Nero. After his consulship, Verginius Rufus was made governor of Germania Superior. When Gaius Iulius Vindex revolted against Nero in 67, Verginius Rufus led an army against him and defeated the rebel in 68 near modern-day Besançon. After Nero's fall, the legions under Verginius Rufus hailed him emperor in preference to Servius Sulpicius Galba (Vindex' ally), but Verginius Rufus refused to accept the purple. After the death of Otho in April 69, the soldiers again offered the throne to Verginius, but he again refused it. Verginius retreated to an estate at Alsium on the coast of Etruria northwest of Rome. There he studied, composed poems, and had a literary salon.

After the murder of Emperor Domitian, Marcus Cocceius Nerva was elected emperor by the senate. Nerva chose as his co-consul for 97 the elderly Verginius Rufus, who was enticed out of retirement. However, when Verginius Rufus was to hold a speech, he dropped a book he was carrying, and while bending down to pick it up, slipped and broke his hip. He died not long afterward at the age of 82 and was given a state funeral.

At the public burial with which he was honored, the historian Tacitus (then consul) delivered the funeral oration. Pliny the Younger, his neighbor and ward, has recorded the lines which Verginius had ordered to be engraved upon his tomb: Hic situs est Rufus, pulso qui Vindice quondam Imperium asseruit non sibi sed patriae ("Here lies Rufus, who after defeating Vindex, did not take power, but gave it to the fatherland").

Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius ( ; Italian: Monte Vesuvio [ˈmonte veˈzuːvjo]; Neapolitan: Vesuvio; Latin: Mons Vesuvius [mõːs wɛˈsʊwɪ.ʊs]; also Vesevus or Vesaevus in some Roman sources) is a somma-stratovolcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania, Italy, about 9 km (5.6 mi) east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc. Vesuvius consists of a large cone partially encircled by the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier and originally much higher structure.

Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis and Stabiae, as well as several other settlements. The eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ashes and volcanic gases to a height of 33 km (21 mi), spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 6×105 cubic metres (7.8×105 cu yd) per second, ultimately releasing a hundred thousand times the thermal energy released by the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. More than 1,000 people died in the eruption, but exact numbers are unknown. The only surviving eyewitness account of the event consists of two letters by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus.Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years. Today, it is regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living nearby, making it the most densely populated volcanic region in the world, as well as its tendency towards violent, explosive eruptions of the Plinian type.

Natural History (Pliny)

The Natural History (Latin: Naturalis Historia) is a book about the whole of the natural world in Latin by Pliny the Elder, a Roman author and naval commander who died in 79 AD.

It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day and purports to cover all ancient knowledge. The work's subject area is thus not limited to what is today understood by natural history; Pliny himself defines his scope as "the natural world, or life". It is encyclopedic in scope, but its structure is not like that of a modern encyclopedia.

The work is divided into 37 books, organised into ten volumes. These cover topics including astronomy, mathematics, geography, ethnography, anthropology, human physiology, zoology, botany, agriculture, horticulture, pharmacology, mining, mineralogy, sculpture, painting, and precious stones.

Pliny's Natural History became a model for later encyclopedias and scholarly works as a result of its breadth of subject matter, its referencing of original authors, and its index. The work is dedicated to the emperor Titus, a son of Pliny's close friend, the emperor Vespasian, in the first year of Titus's reign. It is the only work by Pliny to have survived, and the last that he published. He began it in 77, and had not made a final revision at the time of his death during the AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius.

Nicomedia

Nicomedia (; Greek: Νικομήδεια, Nikomedeia; modern İzmit) was an ancient Greek city in what is now Turkey. In 286 Nicomedia became the eastern and most senior capital city of the Roman Empire (chosen by Diocletian who assumed the title Augustus of the East), a status which the city maintained during the Tetrarchy system (293–324).

The Tetrarchy ended with the Battle of Chrysopolis (Üsküdar) in 324, when Constantine defeated Licinius and became the sole emperor. In 330 Constantine chose for himself the nearby Byzantium (which was renamed Constantinople, modern Istanbul) as the new capital of the Roman Empire.

Plinian eruption

Plinian eruptions or Vesuvian eruptions are volcanic eruptions marked by their similarity to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, which destroyed the ancient Roman cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The eruption was described in a letter written by Pliny the Younger, after the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder.

Plinian/Vesuvian eruptions are marked by columns of volcanic debris and hot gases ejected high into the stratosphere, the second layer of Earth's atmosphere. The key characteristics are ejection of large amount of pumice and very powerful continuous gas-driven eruptions. According to the Volcanic Explosivity Index, Plinian eruptions have a VEI of 4, 5 or 6, sub-Plinian 3 or 4, and ultra-Plinian 6, 7 or 8.

Short eruptions can end in less than a day, but longer events can continue for several days or months. The longer eruptions begin with production of clouds of volcanic ash, sometimes with pyroclastic surges. The amount of magma erupted can be so large that it depletes the magma chamber below, causing the top of the volcano to collapse, resulting in a caldera. Fine ash and pulverized pumice can deposit over large areas. Plinian eruptions are often accompanied by loud noises, such as those generated by the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa. The sudden discharge of electrical charges accumulated in the air around the ascending column of volcanic ashes also often causes lightning strikes as depicted by the English geologist George Julius Poulett Scrope in his painting of 1822.

The lava is usually dacitic or rhyolitic, rich in silica. Basaltic, low-silica lavas are unusual for Plinian eruptions; the most recent basaltic example is the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera on New Zealand's North Island.

Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder (; born Gaius Plinius Secundus, AD 23–79) was a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of emperor Vespasian.

Pliny wrote the encyclopedic Naturalis Historia (Natural History), which became an editorial model for encyclopedias.

He spent most of his spare time studying, writing, and investigating natural and geographic phenomena in the field.

His nephew, Pliny the Younger, wrote of him in a letter to the historian Tacitus:

For my part I deem those blessed to whom, by favour of the gods, it has been granted either to do what is worth writing of, or to write what is worth reading; above measure blessed those on whom both gifts have been conferred. In the latter number will be my uncle, by virtue of his own and of your compositions.

Pliny the Younger refers to Tacitus’s reliance upon his uncle's book, the History of the German Wars.

Pliny the Elder died in AD 79 in Stabiae while attempting the rescue of a friend and his family by ship from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which had already destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The wind caused by the sixth and largest pyroclastic surge of the volcano’s eruption did not allow his ship to leave port, and Pliny probably died during that event.

Pliny the Younger on Christians

Pliny the Younger, the Roman governor of Bithynia et Pontus (now in modern Turkey) wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan around 112 AD and asked for counsel on dealing with Christians. The letter (Epistulae X.96) details an account of how Pliny conducted trials of suspected Christians who appeared before him as a result of anonymous accusations and asks for the Emperor's guidance on how they should be treated.Neither Pliny nor Trajan mentions the crime that Christians had committed, except for being a Christian; and other historical sources do not provide a simple answer to what that crime could be, but most likely due to the stubborn refusal of Christians to worship Roman gods; making them appear as objecting to Roman rule.Pliny states that he gives Christians multiple chances to affirm they are innocent and if they refuse three times, they are executed. Pliny states that his investigations have revealed nothing on the Christians' part but harmless practices and "depraved, excessive superstition." However, Pliny seems concerned about the rapid spread of this "superstition"; and views Christian gatherings as a potential starting point for sedition.The letter is the first pagan account to refer to Christianity, providing key information on early Christian beliefs and practices and how these were viewed and dealt with by the Romans. The letter and Trajan's reply indicate that at the time of its writing there was no systematic and official Empire-wide persecution of Christians. There was persecution of Christians before this but only on a local basis. Trajan's reply also offers valuable insight into the relationship between Roman provincial governors and Emperors and indicates that at the time Christians were not sought out or tracked down by imperial orders, and that persecutions could be local and sporadic.

Titus Vestricius Spurinna

Titus Vestricius Spurinna (ca. 24–after 105 AD) was a Roman senator, consul, and a friend and role model of Pliny the Younger. He was consul at least twice, the first time possibly in 72, and the second in the year 98 as the colleague of the emperor Trajan. Spurinna is one of the correspondents in Pliny's Letters, and had literary interests of his own, including writing lyric poetry. Pliny says dinner parties at his home were often enlivened by scenes from Roman comedy.Pliny admired Vestricius Spurinna for his active but orderly life as a septuagenarian. He enjoyed conversation, reading and writing, exercise, and bathing. His diet was simple but good, and he enjoyed the full use of his faculties, remaining both physically and mentally vigorous.

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