PLIN'Y THE ELDER. GAIT'S PLINIFS SECUN Drs. The author of the celebrated Historic Natu rails. Ile was horn in the north of Italy, probably at Novum Comum (Conio), A.D. 23. Whether it was his birthplace or not, Novum Comum was certainly his family's place of residence, since he had estates in its neighborhood. While still young he was sent to Rome, where his ample means and high connections secured him the best education. At the age of twenty-three he entered the army, and served in Germany as commander of a troop of cavalry under Lucius Pomponius Seeundus. of whom. in later life. he wrote a memoir. He traveled over nearly all the frontier of that extensive province, visited the Chanel and the sources of the Danube, composed (luring the intervals of military duty his treatise De Icculatione Equestri. and commenced a history (afterwards completed in twenty books) of the Germanic wars. On his return to Rome in 52 with Pomponius, he entered on the study of juris prudence; but his pleading wa, unsueees-ful. and, accordingly. he retired to his native place. There he wrote his S'tudiosus, a treatise in three books on the training of a young orator from the nursery to his entrance on public life. and ap parently intended to guide the education of his nephew; also his grammatical work, Dubius Scow), in eight books. Shortly before Nero's death we find him a procurator in Spain. where, in 71. he heard of his brother-in-law's decease, and of his being intrusted with the guardianship of his nephew, Pliny the Younger. whom he adopted on his return to Rnme before 73. pa,ian, the reigning Emperor, whom he had known while in Germany, received him as one of hi, most intimate friends; and it was at this period that he completed, in 31 books, and brought down to his own time the Roman history of Aufidius Bassus. His mode of study at this time was a model of systematic assiduity. He would begin his studies by candle-light in au tumn at a late hour of the night. and in winter at one or two in the morning. Before daybreak he would call on the Emperor, for whom he would proceed to execute various commissions; this done he would return home and resume his studies. A slender meal would follow; after which he would take notes or extracts from the hook which were read to him. The practice of jotting down important facts or observations was habit ual with him, and he was often heard to say that there was no book, however bad, from which some good could not be got. A cold bath, fol lowed by a light meal and a short sleep, occupied another interval, after which he would study till the cenc, or dinner-time. Even at this meal some
book was read to him on which he would make comments. When on a journey, again, he was never without a secretary at his elbow, provided with a book and tablets. By this mode of life he collected an immense mass of materials. from which he compiled his great Historic Naturalis, published about 77. No fewer than IGO rob/mina of note, were found at his death. two years afterwards. At the time of the great eruption of Vesuvius, which overwhelmed Herculaneum and Pompeii, in 79, he was stationed off Misenum, in command of the Roman fleet. Eager to examine the phenomenon more closely, lie landed at Sta.
where he was suffocated by the vapors caused by the eruption. He was, as his nephew tells u-, corpulent and asthmatic, and so sank the more readily. None of his attendants shared his fate. The story of his death is described in two letters of his nephew. Pliny the Younger, to Taeitu-, written many years after the event (v., 16 and 20).
Of all his works. only his Historic Ycturalis has come down to us. It comprehends astronomy. meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zo6logy, botany. everything, in short, which is a natural or non-artificial product. Moreover, the work is interspersed with digressions on such subjeets as human institutions and inventions. and the history of the fine arts. It is divided into 37 books, the first of them being a dedicatory epis tle to Titus. with a table of contents of the remainincr hooks, and embraces, as we are told in the preface. 20.000 matters of importance. extracted from about 2000 volumes. Its scientific merit is not great. There is little attempt at philosophical arrangement: the observations are nearly all taken at second hand, and show small discrimination in separating the true from the false. or the probable from the marvelous. His meaning is often obscure. owing to his lack of personal acquaintance with the matters of which he treats and his failure to grasp the true sense of the authors whom lie cites or translates. But the work is a great monument of industry and research, and most valuable as supplying its with on a great variety of subjects as to which we have no other means of information. The best critical editions of the test are those of Siihfg (S vols., Gotha. 1851-5S) ; Jan (Leipzig, 1S75-80) and Mayhoff (a recension of Jan, Leipzig. 1875-97). There is an old English translation Holland London, 1601). and a more recent one, in Bohn's Library. by Bo. Lock and Riley t Loudon. 1s55-571. Pliny's Chap on the history of art art' edited, with com mentary, by dex-Blake and Sellers (London, 1896).