The Illustrious Life of Pliny the Elder

Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known in history as Pliny the Elder, was an influential administrator, officer, and author during his life.  Although he was only fifty-six years old at the time of his death, he left behind a great legacy of political respect and appreciation, as well as a reputation for being one of the strongest ancient Roman historians whose work survives to this day.  Though he was not overly appreciated during his own lifetime, the writing of this privileged military general provides much knowledge of Roman life, science, and philosophy.

Born in Como, Italy into a powerful and elite equestrian family (akin to knights), Pliny the Elder lived from 23 or 24 AD until August 24, 79 AD, the exact date of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii, in which Pliny met his final end. He had no children of his own and never married, more absorbed with his work, his writings, and travels.

In 35 AD, he traveled to Rome at the ripe young age of ten to be given a proper Roman education. There, he was taught the art of rhetoric and public speaking, both invaluable skills for someone from his wealthy upbringing. His tutelage served him well as he worked under Publius Pomponius Secundus, a renowned tragic poet who first introduced Pliny to the art of literature. Throughout the rest of his life (while on the road, and in between careers) Pliny worked tirelessly on a variety of written works.

Between the years 45 and 47 AD, Pliny found himself in Gallia Belgica as a military officer of the Roman forces, and later as leader of the cavalry. With the Roman army he widely toured the provinces, moving from Germany to the Mediterranean and possibly even to the British Isles. He aided in the defeat of such tribes as the Frisians of the lowlands…

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