Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pliny the Elder – to the Rescue

In my June 2nd blog, I recounted the old story about two painters and their trompe l’oeil competition. While visiting Pompeii I learned more. It seems that Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder) A.D. 23–79, Roman naturalist, encyclopedist, and writer, included that story in his work entitled “Naturalis Historia.” The date of his death (A.D. 79) intrigued me as that was the date Vesuvius spouted the ash that buried the Roman sea-port of Pompeii. A little more investigation revealed that his nephew, named Pliny the Younger, wrote an account that was discovered in the 16th Century. Pliny the Elder had noticed the cloud spouting from one of the mountains. Unsure which mountain was involved he had decided to sail from Misenum toward the Herculaneum-Pompeii coast line to investigate. Just prior to sailing, he had been handed a message from Rectina, wife of Tascus, whose house was at the foot of Mt. Vesuvius, imploring Pliny the Elder to rescue her by sea (as escape by land was impossible). So he made for Pompeii. The enjoyed reading the account by his nephew (who became a lawyer at age 19). You may, too.

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