Pliny the Younger: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Pliny the Younger.

  • Pliny the Younger was a writer, lawyer and magistrate in Ancient Rome.

  • He was born in Como in Northern Italy in 61 AD.
  • His uncle was Pliny the Elder (a writer and philosopher) and the two were close until Pliny the Elder died trying to rescue people from the Vesuvius eruption.
  • His full name was Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus.
  • Pliny fulfilled many roles in Roman political and legal society during his lifetime. He was a judge, a member of the Senate, a superintendent, a member of judicial councils and a governor.
  • He wrote many poems and hundreds of letters. His letters give us  glimpse of Roman life in the 1st century. In two letters, he described the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. These were penned 25 years after the event and were sent to Tacitus, a famous Roman historian.

Pliny the Younger

  • Pliny was very wealthy. He owned many villas, including ones in Lake Como and Umbria.
  • He knew the Roman biographer Suetonius and the philosophers Artemidorus and Euphrates the Stoic.
  • He published nine volumes of his letters from 100 and 109 AD.
  • He was married three times.
  • Pliny the Younger is thought to have died around 112 AD. His death isn’t recorded, but his letters don’t refer to any events that take place after 112.

What next? Learn more about the Romans.

Herculaneum: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Herculaneum.

  • Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town located near Naples and Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy. It was named after the Greek hero Hercules and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site.

  • The settlement was founded by the Greeks around 600 BC. Because of its strategic location near the Bay of Naples, the town became an important trading centre.
  • The residents of Herculaneum were probably quite wealthy, as shown by the design of the buildings and some of the archaeological discoveries. At its height, around 20,000 people lived in the city.
  • The nearby volcano, Mount Vesuvius, erupted on August 24th, 79 AD. The people of the city did not think the volcano was a serious threat as it had not erupted for about 800 years.
  • When Mount Vesuvius began to erupt, Herculaneum was evacuated. It was long thought that all of the inhabitants managed to escape, but more than 300 bodies have since been discovered huddled together on the beach and in arched buildings (thought to have been boat houses).
  • The people were killed by the intense heat of generated by the volcano’s eruption. The temperatures were so high (approaching 500 degrees C) that the inhabitants of Herculaneum were killed very quickly, even if they were sheltering in buildings.
  • The buildings in Herculaneum were buried from the ground up, by ash and several flows of boiling mud. Many of the upper floors are still intact and have beautiful mosaics and frescoes.
  • The eruptions of Vesuvius were the first to be documented. Pliny the Younger described the eruptions in letters and today, scientists use the word plinian to describe a volcano erupting.
  • Excavations at Herculaneum were first carried out by Spanish archaeologists in 1738. When nearby Pompeii was discovered, the excavations were halted and then began again during the 20th century.
  • Herculaneum had bath houses for men and women, a gymnasium and a temple. Visitors today can even see the remains of an ancient Roman fast food restaurant which used heated bowls.
  • Many of the structures were expensive villas overlooking the waterfront. One of the most luxurious was the Villa of the Papyri, which may have been the home of Julius Caesar‘s father in law.

What next? Find out more facts about the Romans, or learn all about volcanoes.

10 Pompeii Facts

Here are some facts about the city of Pompeii.

  • Pompeii was an ancient city in southern Italy. The remains of the settlement are located near to Naples.
  • The city of Pompeii was built at the foot of the volcano, Mount Vesuvius.

  • Pompeii predates Roman rule. Historians think it was a settlement built by the Oscan civilization in about the 6th century BC. It was then controlled by the Samnites, before becoming a Roman city in about 80 BC.
  • The city grew over the years and the original wooden buildings were slowly replaced with structures of brick and stone.
  • During the first century AD,  Pompeii was developing into a flourishing city port. It was a prosperous resort for numerous wealthy visitors. It contained many Roman villas, an amphitheatre, two theatres, several temples and an aqueduct system.
  • In 62 AD a severe earthquake did a significant amount of damage to Pompeii’s buildings. It took several years to rebuild the city after the damage and many of the residents relocated to other Roman cities.
  • Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The eruption buried the city under volcanic ashes and cinders and exposed the city’s 20,000 inhabitants to blasts of hot air with temperatures of up to 250 degrees C, easily hot enough to kill even those people who were sheltering inside stone buildings.
  • Pliny the Younger, a Roman writer, witnessed the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and his uncle, Pliny the Elder, lost his life trying to rescue the people of Pompeii.
  • Volcanic ashes completely covered the city, preserving the buildings.
  • People had forgotten that Pompeii even existed, and it lay buried under the ground for hundreds of years. In 1748 the excavation of Pompeii was begun and it archaeologists are still working on the site to this day.
  • In 1863, Giuseppe Fiorelli realised that some of the voids and gaps in the layers of ash were left by the decomposed bodies of Pompeii’s inhabitants. He pumped plaster into the holes and produced accurate casts of the people of Pompeii. A similar process is carried out today, using resin instead of plaster.

Pompeii

  • The eruption of Vesuvius was quite sudden, and many of Pompeii’s inhabitants lost their lives while going about their daily work.
  • Pompeii was not the only city covered by volcanic ash as a result of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius. Herculaneum and Stabiae may not be as famous, but the ash and cinders preserved them too.
  • Many of the buildings of Pompeii uncovered by archaeologists were in fantastically good condition and many of the walls were still covered with frescoes. Hundreds of well-preserved artifacts were also found.
  • Pompeii is now a major tourist attraction. It is UNESCO World Heritage Site and it attracts more than 2 million visitors every year.

What next? Discover more Roman facts or learn more about volcanoes.