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The Death of Pliny the Elder
The historian, Tacitus, has asked the younger Pliny to write
a detailed account of the events leading to the death of his
uncle in the eruption of Vesuvius on 24th
August, AD 79.
Pliny's account provides us with the first recorded
description of a…

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egrediebatur domo accipit codicillos Rectinae Tasci
imminenti periculo perterritae (nam villa eius
subiacebat, nec ulla nisi navibus fuga): orabat ut se
tanto discrimini eriperet.
He was going out from the house he received a note from
Rectina wife of Tascius, terrified by the imminent danger (for
her house was lying…

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iam navibus cinis incidebat, calidior et densior, quo
propius accederent iam pumices etiam lapidesque nigri
et ambusti et fracti igne iam vadum subitum et litora
ruina montis obstantia.
Now ash was falling onto the ships, hotter and thicker, the
nearer they approached now even pumice stones and black
stones both…

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quo tum secudissimo avunculus meus invectus,
amplectitur trepidantem consolatur hortatur, utque
timorem eius sua securitate leniret, iubet ferri in
Then with the wind directly behind him, my uncle sailed into
Stabiae, he embraced his trembling friend (Pomponianus),
he cheered him, he encouraged him, and, in order to calm

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He, to allay fear, kept saying that the fires burning were
those left behind by panicking country dwellers and empty
houses in the abandoned areas.

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tum se quieti dedit et quievit verissimo quidem somno
nam meatus animae, qui illi propter amplitudinem
corporis gravior et sonantior erat, ab eis qui limini
obversabantur audiebatur.
Then he gave himself to rest and he rested in a very deep
sleep indeed for the passage of his breath, which on…

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For the buildings were shaking with frequent and huge
tremors, and as if they had been torn away from their
foundations they seemed now to sway forwards and

sub dio rursus casus pumicum mutuebatur, quamquam
levium exesorumque, quod tamen periculorum collatio
elegit et apud illum quidem ratio rationem, apud…

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They decided to go out onto the shore, and to investigate
from close by whether the sea offered flight it was still
remaining swollen and unfavourable.

ibi in abiecto linteo recumbens semel atque iterum
frigidam aquam poposcit hausitque.
Lying down there in thrown down cloth time and again he

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appearance of his body was more similar to a sleeping man
than to a dead one.

Pliny ends his account at this point with an assurance of the
accuracy of everything that he has described.

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