Historical figure Gaio Plinio Secondus

Born in: 23  - Died in: 79
Gaius Pliny the Second (Caius Plinius Secundus), known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman writer, admiral and naturalist.

It was his style to describe things live, and he is for us a true chronicler of the time. He died in fact among the sulphurous exhalations of the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Stabiae, Herculaneum and Pompeii, while trying to observe the volcanic phenomenon more closely. This is why he was recognized as the first vulcanologist in history.

The Naturalis historia, which has 37 volumes, is the only work of Pliny the Elder that has been preserved. This work was the reference text on scientific and technical knowledge throughout the Renaissance and beyond. Pliny has indeed recorded all the knowledge of his time on very different topics, such as cosmology, geography, anthropology, zoology, medicinal substances, metallurgy and mineralogy.
Pliny the Elder was born under the consulship of Gaius Asinius Pollionus and of Gaius Antistio Vetere between 23 and 24 AD. Discussed is the place of his birth: Verona for some, Como (Novocomum) for others. In support of the Veronese thesis there are manuscripts in which it is possible to read Plinius Veronensis and the fact that Pliny himself, in his preface, cites Gaio Valerio Catullo as his own conterraneus (and Catullo was from Verona). To confirm the idea of ​​Como as a place of birth, one observes instead that Eusebius of Caesarea, in his chronicle, unites the name of Pliny with the epithet of Novocomensis. Eusebius and later authors, however, have long confused Pliny, the author of the Naturalis Historia, and Pliny the Younger, his nephew, the author of the letters and the Panegyric of Trajan. The most important argument in favor of Como are the inscriptions present in this city, in which the name of Pliny often returns.

Pliny the Elder holds positions as Cavalry Officer (eques) in Germany, thanks to his mother, companion of Gaius Cecilius of Novum Comum, senator and procurator in Gaul and Spain. Before 35 his father took him to Rome, where he entrusted his education to one of his friends, the poet and general Publio Pomponius Second. Pliny acquired the taste of learning. Two centuries after the death of the Gracchi, the young man admired some of their manuscripts in the library of his guardian and later gave them a biography.

Pliny quotes the grammarians and rhetoricians Quintus Remmius Palemone and Arellio Fusco in his Naturalis historia and was certainly their follower. In Rome he studied botany: the topiary art of Antonio Castore and sees the old lotus plants that once belonged to Marco Licinio Crasso.

He could also contemplate the vast structure built by Nero of the Domus Aurea and probably witnessed Claudio's triumph over the Britons in 44. Under the influence of Lucio Anneo Seneca, he became a student passionate about philosophy and rhetoric and began to practice as a lawyer. . Pliny held civil charges under Vespasiano and Tito. Commander of the Tyrrhenian fleet stationed at Miseno (Praefectus classis Misenis), he died during the eruption of Vesuvius, which destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae.
Pliny the Younger, his nephew, represents him as a man dedicated to study and reading, intent on observing natural phenomena and taking continuous notes, devoting little time to sleep and distractions.

The story of his death, contained in a letter of his nephew Pliny the Younger, contributed to the image of Pliny as a protomartire of experimental science (definition of Italo Calvino), even if, according to his nephew's account, he exposed himself to danger to rescue some citizens fleeing the eruption. The supposed skull of Pliny the Elder is preserved in the Flajani room of the National Historical Museum of Health Art in Rome.
He served in Germany in 47 under the orders of Gneo Domizio Corbulone, participating in the submission of the Cauci and the construction of the canal between the Rhine and the Meuse. As a young commander of a cavalry corps (praefectus alae), he drew during the winter a test of the art of javelin throwing on horseback (equestrian iaculatione). In Gaul and in Spain he noted the meaning of a certain number of Celtic words. He noted the locations associated with the Germanic military campaigns; on the sites of the victories of Drusus, he dreamed that the victor prayed him to pass on his feats to posterity (Plinus Ep., III, 5.4).

He probably accompanied Pomponius, a friend of his father, on expedition against the Catti in the fifties.
Under Nero, he lives mainly in Rome. He cites the card of Armenia and the accesses of the Caspian Sea which was ceded to Rome by Corbulo personnel in 59 (VI, 40). He also assists in the construction of Nero's Domus Aurea after the great fire of 64 (XXXVI, 111). In the meantime, he completes the twenty books of his History of the Germanic Wars, only reference work cited in the first six books of the annals of Tacitus (I, 69). This work is probably one of the main sources of information on the Germanic language. At the beginning of the fifth century, Simmaco had a little hope of finding a copy (Epp., XIV, 8). Plinio devotes much time to relatively more secure subjects, such as grammar and rhetoric.
Under the reign of his friend Vespasian, he returned to Rome as a procurator in Gallia Narbonense (70) and in Roman Spain (73). Also visit Gallia Belgica (74). During his stay in Spain, he devoted himself to agriculture and mining in the country, as well as visiting Africa. [5] Upon his return to Italy, he accepted an assignment from Vespasiano, who consulted him at dawn before participating in his official occupations. At the end of his term, he devoted most of his time to his studies (Plin. Ep., III, 5, 9).

Complete a history of his time in 31 books, which deals with the reign of Nero up to that of Vespasian (N.H., Praef.20). This work is cited by Tacitus, [6] and influences Gaio Svetonio Tranquillo and Plutarco. He completed his great work: the Naturalis historia, an encyclopedic work in which Pliny collects a large part of the knowledge of his era, a work designed under the direction of Nero. The information it collects fill no less than 160 volumes in the year 73, when Larcio Licino, the legacy praetor of Spain Tarraconense tries in vain to buy them with a considerable sum. He dedicates one of his works to Titus Flavius ​​in 77.

On the occasion of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79, which buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, it was in Miseno as praefectus classis Misenis. Wanting to observe the phenomenon as close as possible and wanting to help some of his friends in trouble on the beaches of the Bay of Naples, part with his galleys, which cross the bay to Stabiae (today Castellammare di Stabia) where he died, probably suffocated by volcanic exhalations , 56 years old. The eruption was described by his nephew Pliny the young man whose name was taken into account in the old volcanology: Plinian eruption.

He was busy with his manuscripts for twenty hours a day, sparing even in the hottest time. Sometimes he found himself busy at one in the morning reading and writing by candlelight. After visiting the court he went back to work until noon when he stopped for a short break for a very light lunch at whose end he rested while sunbathing while a secretary made the last reading of the day aloud. After a cold bath, followed by a short rest and a snack, he began to work again, as if it were at the beginning of the day, until the time of dinner.

The only fruit of his tireless work that persists nowadays is his Naturalis Historia, which was used as a reference during many centuries by countless students.

Gaio Plinio Secondus Visited places

Villa Pliniana

 Via Cesare Poggi, 29 - 22020 Torno - Como

Villa Pliniana overlooks the lake in an isolated bay near the town of Torno. The façade is punctuated by four orders of windows; those on the main floor are surmounted by broken tympanums, those... see

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Time period
Ancient History

Italy, Como