Pliny the Elder was a natural philosopher from Rome who flourished in the first century AD. He was a multi-faceted personality who was also an author, naturalist, and an Early Roman Empire naval and army commander. Pliny’s Natural History, a Latin treatise that studied the natural world, is his most famous work. The book was regarded as a key authority on scientific issues until the Middle Ages. Pliny started his career in the army as a subordinate officer. Slowly, his interest in Roman literature and understanding of the language drew the attention of various scholars, with whom he developed friendships. He quickly ascended to the rank of commander. He also took part in a number of major military victories. His first book, ‘De jaculatione equestrian,’ was about the employment of missiles while riding a horse. Pomponius Secundus, his old leader, was the subject of his second work. The encyclopedia ‘Naturalis Historia,’ which included 37 books, was his most important work. The encyclopedia is one of the most extensive single works that have survived the Roman Empire. Botany, biology, astronomy, geology, and minerals are among the topics covered. Pliny the Elder met an unfortunate death while attempting to save his friends from the explosion of Mount Vesuvius, which was one of Europe’s most devastating volcanic disasters.
Childhood and Adolescence
Pliny’s year of birth is estimated to be AD 23 or AD 24. Though his exact date of birth is unclear, his year of birth is estimated to be AD 23 or AD 24. Gaius Plinius Celer, an equestrian, was his father’s name, and Marcella was his mother’s name.
Novum Comum, in the Roman Empire’s Transpadane Gaul region, was his birthplace. Gaius Plinius Secundus was his birth name.
His family was affluent and belonged to the empire’s local governing class, the equestrian class. Its members were also expected to serve in the military. Pliny has a sister called Plinia as well. She was the mother of Pliny the Younger, who detailed the work and study routine of Pliny the Elder in his letters.
Pliny was taken to Rome by his father when he was a small boy to study law. Caligula, the emperor of Rome at the time, was enforcing a reign of terror on those he suspected of being dissenters.
The Career of Pliny
Pliny joined the army as a subordinate officer while he was in his early twenties. It was a tradition among equestrian adolescents. His interest in Roman literature drew the attention of several scholars, with whom he became excellent friends. He was also able to penetrate the upper echelons of the state within a short period of time.
He began his military career as a praefectus cohorts, or ‘commander of a cohort,’ under Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo. He took part in the Roman conquest of the Chauci and the construction of a canal connecting the Maas and Rhine rivers a few years later.
After some time, he was assigned to the command of Germania Superior, where he served under Publius Secundus. He was later transported back to Germania Inferior and appointed to prospectus alae or wing commander.
‘De ejaculation Equestria was his first book, which he wrote during this time. The book was about using missiles while riding a horse. Although the book has not survived, some of its contents can be found in his work ‘Natural History.’ He also wrote a 20-volume book titled ‘Wars in Germany.’
When he was 36 years old, he relocated to Rome. The emperor at the time was the infamous Nero, whom Pliny despised much. During his stay in Rome, he worked as a lawyer. Nero committed suicide in AD 68 after losing all of his allies and friends, effectively ending his reign of terror.
After about a year, Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny, ascended to the throne. He, like Pliny, was an equestrian who had climbed through the ranks of the equestrian class.
He aspired to restore peace to the empire while also stabilizing the economy. Throughout Vespasian’s reign, Pliny had a strong relationship with him, and during his stay in Rome, he used to advise both him and his son.
Pliny avoided writing much during Nero’s reign in order to stay out of the limelight. During Vespasian’s reign, however, he was confident that the panic was past and that it would not return, so he returned to work. Vespasian did eventually suppress the philosophers of Rome, but Pliny was not one of them.
In AD 77, Pliny began work on ‘Natural History.’ The book, which he considered to be his most important work, had over a million words in 37 volumes and is still considered one of the most significant ancient writings to have survived to this day.
Pliny12’s ‘Naturalis Historia,’ or ‘Pliny’s Natural History,’ was both Pliny’s final and most important work.
The encyclopedia covers a wide range of topics, including astronomy, mathematics, geography, zoology, botany, physiology, sculpting, and painting, and is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to this day. The book provides insights into both nature and the Roman conception of nature.
The book begins with an introduction to astronomy. Apart from the earth, Pliny claims that there are numerous other bodies. The earth is described by him as a sphere hovering in space.
He also discusses eclipses and comets. He also writes about God, claiming that such an entity would be unconcerned about the state of humanity.
From Books VIII to XI, he discusses Zoology. The elephant and the hippopotamus are both extensively described. He also speaks about bees, whom he admires for their industry, organization, and honey. The majority of the information came from Aristotle.
From Books XII to XVIII, botany is discussed. He goes over the many sorts of trees and their wood qualities. He mentions spices like pepper and ginger. He also discusses sugar’s therapeutic properties.
A large amount of the book is devoted to medical topics. He writes about plants that can be used to make pharmaceuticals. In Book XXX, he also discusses magic, as well as astrology.
In Book XVIII, he discusses agricultural cultivation methods. He talks about all of the known farmed crops and vegetables, as well as the herbs and cures that can be made from them.
He discusses a variety of minerals and gemstones in the latter two books. He condemns the craze for high-end items such as etched diamonds and hardstone carvings. He also discusses the diamond’s form and how the hardness of diamond dust might aid gem engravers in cutting and polishing other gems. He also talks about how to spot fake gemstones.
Pliny also goes into great depth about gold mining, including subterranean mining methods. Base metals, their applications, and extraction are also discussed in one of the volumes.
Pliny The Elder’s Criticism
Due to his premature death, he was unable to make any revisions to his papers, therefore they contain several scientific inaccuracies. There is, nevertheless, a high level of precision. He had indicated properly that Venus is the only celestial body other than the sun and the moon that casts a visible shadow, as well as how the length of the day changes around the planet.
In the 15th century, the first critique of his work appeared. Pliny’s authority began to wane as more and more scholars began to doubt and reject his claims.
By the end of the 17th century, all notable scientists had repudiated ‘Natural History,’ and it was no longer considered a scientific authority. It is, nonetheless, still recognized as one of the greatest and most important literary works for understanding first-century Rome.
Death and the After life
Pliny was appointed as a fleet commander in the Roman Navy shortly before Emperor Vespasian’s death. He was stationed in Misenum during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
He started sailing on a rescue expedition after receiving a telegram from his buddy Retina to save her and Pomponianus, during which he died.
Though the specific cause of his death is unknown, some sources suggest that he ordered a slave to kill him so that he would not die from the volcano’s heat, while others claim that he died of a heart attack. Because the sailors in his immediate vicinity were not killed, it is highly unlikely that he died as a direct result of the volcanic eruption.
At the time of his death, he was between the ages of 55 and 56. He was never married and did not have any children. Pliny the Younger, his nephew, inherited his fortune. A great deal about Pliny the Elder’s life is known now because of his nephew’s books.
Estimated Net Worth