Pliny the Younger, Letters, Book VI.16; lines 1,4,7-20 (with some adaptation)
About the author
To find out about Pliny the Younger's life and works, click here
This excellent animation shows a timelapse of the eruption of AD 79.
Listen to it...!
Terrific, precise translation produced by Stephen O'Brien and Clive Madel of the Camden School for Girls, London.
Depending on your default audio player, you may need to save the file on your computer before opening it.
The complete letter (VI.16) written to Tacitus by Pliny the Younger describing his uncle's death during the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79.
This is followed by a follow-up letter (VI.20) to Tacitus describing how Pliny the Younger himself experienced the eruption. Well worth a read!
For general information about Pliny the Elder see the separate weblink section below.
A detailed article on the life and works of Tacitus which amply reveals how little we really know about this important Roman historian.
Tacitus wrote also about Britain, providing a vivid account of our "wild" island in his work Agricola
. To read his description, see Stage 28
In AD79 there were two imperial fleets at the ready: one based at Ravenna on the northern Adriatic coast of Italy, and the other based at Misenum in the Bay of Naples on the west coast.The Misenum fleet was the more important and remained in service for four centuries. There may have been over 10,000 sailors at the time of Nero manning perhaps 50 ships.
This website gives details, known from inscriptions, of the boats in the fleets.
Have you heard the one about the fleet? It's a classic!
The Latin word for fleet, classis, derived from its original reference to one of the five wealth bands or "classes" that the early Romans had been divided into for purposes of military taxation. Later in the Roman period, its adjectival form, classicus or "classical" was applied to literature considered "top class" and worthy of imitation. And it's from this term refering to high quality literature that today's term "classic" and the alternative names for Latin and Greek - "Classics" - derive.
Terrific possible reconstruction of the libunica
which was a relatively small warship with two banks of oars (thus a type of bireme
) that was renowned for its speed and agility. Developed by the Liburnians (from modern Croatia), it was adopted by the Roman navy from the time of Augustus.Another view
showing arrangement of rowers who sit on the same level, although the oars sit at two levels. These reconstructions are based on the ships depicted on Trajan's Column
The famous wall-paintings of biremes from the House of the Vettii
in Pompeii show biremes, but there is not sufficient detail to specify the type of bireme.
Rectina and her husband or lover Tascius are otherwise unknown.
Many commentators regard Tascius as the same person as the later-mentioned Pomponianus - Tascius being his nomen (family-name) and Pomponianus his cognomen (nickname); however, it is surprising that abandoned Rectina is not mentioned again by either Pliny or her "husband" Pomponianus.
was a large Roman warship, the exact form of which is unknown, but which was probably fitted with either a single bank of oars
with 4 men at each oar, or two banks of oars
, one above each other with 2 men at each oar - either system providing 4 men close to each other - and so satisfying its designation as a quadrireme
or a "4er". (The systematic reckoning that there were four banks of oars, following from the known use of two banks in biremes and three banks in triremes, however, can no longer be applied on practical grounds).
This ship was a development of the highly succesful Classical Greek trireme
, a modern reconstruction of which has dispelled any doubts that such awkward-looking ships (in this case with 3 banks of oars; 1 man at each oar) could in fact be rowed.
There are loads of informative links and images about the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79, Vesuvius today and volcanoes in general in Stage 12
But to whet your appetite here's an exclusive link to the terrific painting illustrated in the Anthology:
Marvellous painting of the 1774 eruption by Joseph Wright of Derby.
In the Derby Museums and Art Gallery.
Dramatic 18th-century painting depicting Pliny the Elder's final moments.
Entitled "The Eruption of Vesuvius" it was painted in 1779 by Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes.
In a private collection.
Background notes, cultural and literary analysis courtesy of Godfrey Evans of Chelmsford County High School for Girls.
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