The Death of Pliny the Elder

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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 volcanic eruption in the western world.
petis ut tibi avunculi mei exitum scribam, quo verius
tradere posteris possis.
You ask that I write to you about the death of my uncle, so
that you can hand [the story] down to posterity more
erat Miseni classemque imperio praesens regebat.
He was at Misenum and in person he was commanding the
fleet with imperial power.
nonum kal. Septembres hora fere septima mater mea
indicat ei nubem mirabilem apparere quae visa est ei,
ut eruditissimo viro, magna propiusque noscenda.
On the ninth day before the Kalends of September, at about
the seventh hour, my mother pointed out to him that a
strange cloud was appearing, which seemed to him, as a
very studious man, large and needing to be investigated at
close quarters.
iubet liburnicam parari me si venire una vellem rogat
respondi studere me malle, et forte ipse quod scriberem
He ordered a fast boat to be prepared he asked me if I
wished to come with him I replied that I preferred to study,
and by chance he himself had given [me] something to

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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 under [it/Vesuvius], and there was not
any flight except by ship): she was begging that he rescue
her from such great danger.
vertis ille consilium et quod studioso animo inceperat
obit maximo.…read more

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Now ash was falling onto the ships, hotter and thicker, the
nearer they approached now even pumice stones and black
stones both scorched and broken by fire now [there was]
sudden shallow water and the shore blocking [their way]
with debris from the mountain.…read more

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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
his (Pomponianus') fear with his own composure, he
ordered that he be carried into a bath.
lotus recumbit cenat, aut hilaris aut (quod est aeque
magnum) similis hilari.
Having bathed he reclined, he dined, either cheerfully or,
which is equally great, pretending to be cheerful.…read more

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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.…read more

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Then he gave himself to rest and he rested in a very deep
sleep indeed for the passage of his breath, which on
account of the stoutness of his body was rather heavy and
rather noisy, was being heard by those who were moving
about near the threshold.
sed area ex qua cubiculum adibatur ita iam cinere
mixtisque pumicibus completa surrexerat, ut si longior
in cubiculo mora esset, exitus negaretur.…read more

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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 alios
timorem timor vicit.…read more

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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
[my uncle] demanded cold water and drained it down.
deinde flammae flammarumque praenuntius odor
sulphuris alios in fugam vertunt, excitant illum.…read more

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

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