Biography of Plinio el Viejo (ca. 23-79)

Roman writer born in the colony of Novum Comum, current as, at the end of 23 or at the beginning of the 24 A.d. in the bosom of a family of equites; He/She died August 25, 79, during a maritime expedition that departed from his residence in Miseno (place located in the Northwest of the Gulf of Naples) to observe one of the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius; According to testimony of his nephew, Pliny the younger, it seems that he/she died after being hit by the lava thrown by the volcano, although today there are many scholars who believe that he/she died of natural causes during the journey by sea.

Due to Plinio the younger many of the news we have on the life and work of the author of Naturalis history. Other sources are the writings of the own Plinio, the elder and a vita of Suetonius. He/She worked as a senior official of the Empire (with several procurationes) and had, among others, destination in Germania (where they fought elbow with elbow with Titus, the future emperor), Narbonense Gaul, Hispania (specifically, in the province of Tarragona, which received it in 74 ad, and he/she saw how his Naturalis written history) and the Belgium Gaul; at the end of his career as a public server, he/she had use of Admiral of the fleet of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

In his military career, there was only an interruption of about ten years from the 57 or 58 onwards; at that time, that could not count on the supports necessary to follow the cursus honorum, Pliny devoted himself to the study of rhetoric and grammar. Thus, this true polymath gave a magnificent example to his contemporaries and the men of the future, the possibility of mixing the otium and negotium or otium nec to full advantage. On the other hand, with your Naturalis history, gave a good example of how it is possible to combine the knowledge of the world and nature with a few lessons of Moral philosophy that underpin all the work.

Over the centuries, this encyclopedist was considered the great sage of ancient Rome, as Aristotle was Greek. After the oblivion in which his work was mired in the medieval centuries, Pliny was one of the great authors of the Italian Quattrocento and the 16th century in Europe. The fortune of his great encyclopedia is checked in a rich textual tradition, supported by more than 200 codices. In his Naturalis historia, he/she forged continued moral and political lessons, that strongly advocates the imperial cause of Titus and Vespasian, versus the bloodthirsty modes of other previous emperors (amongst others, he/she met in a very direct way the excesses of Nero). In that way, the of this Moral philosophy, the European Renaissance claimed with enthusiasm the work of Pliny.

The lost literary works

The news about the production of this writer, of which nothing remains us outside the Naturalis history, will we have to his own nephew, Plinio the younger, in a letter to Tacitus (III, 5). There are the following works, in the same order in which they are designated:


Military theory

-De iaculatione equestri (on the management of the Javelin throw on horseback). This work fits perfectly into the work of a thousand as Pliny; in particular, he/she composed the work when he/she was only head of Squadron or praefectus alae.

Historical writings

-De Vita Pomponi Secundi (life of Pomponio second). This work, written in two books, is a tribute to its second Commander in Chief in Germania, author of tragedies and admired military, which triumphed over Germanic tribes such as the of the Chatti. -Bella Germaniae (Germania war). It is a witness at first hand about at the Germania campaigns prior to the year 47, which pays tribute to Druze César. It consisted of a total of 20 books and was a primary source for Tacitus into Annales and Germania. -A fine Aufidi Bassi (continuation of the history of Aufidio Baso). 31 books composing it, written between the years 71 and 77, constitute a clear demonstration of the historiographical genre in Rome, following the path opened by Aufidio Baso, and the far, by Livy.

Grammatical writings

-Three Studiosi in sex volumina propter amplitudinem divisi, quibus oratorem ab incunabulis Institut et perficit. It is a treaty about the formation of the sententiae for controversiae-based speaker. The foundations for this work, which concluded the year 67, are in the following title, first step for studies of rhetoric. -Cnidion sermonis libri octo. As just indicated, this is only an introduction to the art of oratory, although it enjoyed great prestige in his time.

La Naturalis historia

The monumental 37 books of the natural history of Pliny are the only thing that is known of this successful Roman author. In them, the author wanted to meet a true compendium of wisdom for service of all men of the present and the future, as a great work of reference; to do this, in the preface to his work, Pliny says that it has been able to gather more than 20,000 data from more than 2,000 books from 100 leading authors reading (the Latin writers is 146, while the foreigners, mostly Greek, reach the 327), as well as others that are not in any written source.

Meeting materials are facts or beef, events or historiae and a diversity of personal contributions that the author himself tilda's observations. The whole could only agavillar him a man who was reading incessantly and, during the night, making that they read him works of diverse nature for long hours, taking advantage of that I slept very little. Despite its homogeneous criteria for sources of value and nature very different (in the eyes of a modern reader), Naturalis story is a true monument of Roman literature.

Likewise, Plinian company meant a great lexicographical project, which gave rich technical glossaries that abound the Blois and other so many foreign terms that are documented in different parts of the Empire. Unfortunately, the style of Pliny has had few detractors over the centuries, although in recent years so-called investigations abound to assert the merits of Naturalis writing history.

After an exordium like this, in which pays homage to the sages who preceded him and lashes out against the plagiarios silencing sources that depart, Plinio trace a first book that summarizes all the subjects that will be addressed in all the 36 remaining books, arranged in nine sections which aims to completeness at all times:

Book II: Cosmos.Libros III-VI: Geografia.libro VII: Antropologia.libros VIII-XI: Animales.Libros XII-XIX: Vegetales.Libros XX-XXVII: vegetable drugs and medical use.Books XVIII - XXII: Animals and its medical use...Book XXXIII - XXXVII: Minerals and its medical use; architecture.

Altogether, the work is perfectly organized and locked, while the origin is in endless notes of work; with them, Pliny was able to assemble one set where the epicenter is none other than the man himself, that nature serves in the most diverse ways. With this primary idea in mind, it is understood that it pass from the universe to the world and this man; Finally, the gradation leads to animals, vegetables and minerals. In purity, the set does not form properly an encyclopedia, since its author turned completely on what interested him (the nature from the viewpoint of physicists or doctors and pharmacists) and ignored almost everything else.

This work was continued by numerous medieval encyclopaedists, with Isidore of Seville in front of everyone.

The textual tradition

Much of the text is due to the Carolingian renaissance, but his resurrection was the work of the humanists of the Quattrocento; of course, in this recovery of Plinio the old for Western culture was decisive Edition Venetian Prince of 1469, which was continued by others so many incunabulum editions and posincunables in different parts of Europe. The names of the editors of the natural history shine on their own, as Ermolao Barbaro is after the 1492 Rome, Sabellico after the 1502 of Venice, Erasmus after the 1525 of Basel, while Dalechamp gave the rich Edition of 1587 fundamentals in Lyon.

Despite such efforts, for two centuries, the Plinian Vulgate was in the edition of Hardouin of 1685, with successive reissues; in fact, over her his 1827-1831 text based Lemaire . In the middle of that century high German Philology, with editions of Sillig (1851-1855), that of Jan (1854-1870), of Detlefesen (1866-1882) and Mayhoff (1892-1909) took over. In those same years, saw light the Plinian Urlichs Chrestomathia (1857), which brings together the comments to the Naturalis historia. The modern editions owe much to the efforts carried out by scholars just cited, even though most of the time be carried out a new recensio and the mandatory colish collatio.

In Spain, the teaching of Pliny begins in the late 15th century with the arrival of Italian humanists such as Lucio Marineo Sículo; in 1513, we know that natural history was the text explained by Nebrija University of Alcalá; In 1524, is the Glossa litteralis primum et secundum Naturalis Historiae in books, composed by the real doctor Francisco López de Villalobos; In 1544, the edition of Hernán Núñez, also known as El Pinciano or El Comendador Griego, out on the street from Salamanca presses; in 1546, the erasmista Juan de Jarava prints in Antwerp the Philosophia natural briefly treated and very diligently compiled Aristotiles, Pliny, Plato and other serious authors. Finally, in 1576 topped its romance version humanist Francisco Hernández, who unfortunately was in manuscript form and has only been edited recently (1998); Fortunately, annotated translation prepared degree Gerónimo de Huerte, who dedicated it to Felipe IV, could see light in Madrid in 1624.


Those interested in the original Latin text should be based on solid editions as of J. Beaujeu et to the. (Paris: Bude [Les Belles letters], 1950-1972), in 35 volumes; the first volume of the of A. Fontán, A. Moure is recommended for the reader who is content with a Spanish translation, et al., with a foreword by G. Serbat (Madrid: Gredos, 1995).