In the year 79 CE, Pliny the Elder set out to investigate a large cloud of ash rising in the sky above the Bay of Naples. It was the eruption of Vesuvius, and Pliny did not survive.
“I think we can all empathize with someone who’s like a son, or in this case, an adopted son, trying to kind of make his own mark and escape the shadow of his father, and leave something on the world of his own.”
A trailblazing naturalist, he is best remembered today for his multivolume encyclopedia of Natural History,and we are able to retrace his final hours thanks to a vivid account by his nephew, Pliny the Younger. Inspired by his beloved uncle, the young Pliny became a lawyer, senator, poet, and representative of the emperor. His published letters are fascinating reflections on life and politics in the Roman Empire.
In this episode, Daisy Dunn, classicist and author of The Shadow of Vesuvius: A Life of Pliny,and Kenneth Lapatin, curator of antiquities at the Getty Museum, discuss the two Plinys and their profound impact on our understanding of ancient Rome.