Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Pliny the Roman author of the Natural History, in full Gaius Plinius Secundus, is traditionally known in English as simply Pliny, or as ‘Pliny the Elder’ to distinguish him from his nephew and namesake. His vast work is a unique compilation from Greek and Roman sources, a kind of encyclopedia of the branches of knowledge now called ‘scientific’ and ‘technical’.

Pliny was born in Como in AD 23/24 and had a distinguished military career, serving for some years on the Roman frontier in Germany, where he had the opportunity to explore the source of the Danube. His last posting was as commander of the Roman fleet at Misenum near Naples. From here, when Vesuvius erupted in 79, Pliny sailed to the aid of the people of Pompeii. Others escaped, but Pliny himself was overcome by fumes and died on Stabiae beach.