The Ancient Library

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devoted the time which, he still had remaining to study. After a slender meal he would, in the summer time, lie in the sunshine while some one read to him, he himself making notes and extracts. He never read anything without making extracts in this way, for he used to say that there was no book so bad but that some good might be got out of it. He would then take a cold bath, and, after a slight repast, sleep a very little, and then pursue his studies till the time of the coena. During this meal some book was read to, and commented on by him. At table, as might be supposed, he spent but a short time. Such was his mode of life when in the midst of the bustle and confusion of the city. When in retirement in the country, the time spent in the bath was nearly the only interval not allotted to study, and that he reduced to the narrowest limits ; for during all the process of scraping and rubbing he had some book read to him, or himself dictated. When on a journey he had a secretary by his side with a book and tablets, and in the winter season made him wear gloves that his writing might not be impeded by the cold. He once found fault with his nephew for walking, as by so doing he lost a good deal of time that might have been employed in study. By this incessant application, persevered in throughout his lifetime, he amassed an enormous amount of materials, and at his death left to his nephew 160 volumina of notes (electorum commentarii), written extremely small on both sides. While procurator in Spain, when the number of them was considerably less, he had been offered 400,000 sesterces for them* by one Largius Licinius. With some reason might his nephew say that, when compared with Pliny, those who had spent their whole lives in literary pursuits seemed as if they had spent them in nothing else than sleep and idleness. When we consider the multiplicity of his engagements, both public and private, the time occupied in military services, in the discharge of the duties of the offices which he held, in his forensic studies and practice, in visits to the emperor, and the per­formance of the miscellaneous commissions en­trusted to him by the latter, the extent of his acquisitions is indeed astonishing. From the ma­terials which he had in this way collected he com­piled his celebrated Historia Naturalis, which he dedicated to Titus, and published, as appears from the titles given to Titus in the preface, about A. d.


The circumstances of the death of Pliny were remarkable. The details are given in a letter of the younger Pliny to Tacitus (Ep. vi. 16). Pliny had been appointed admiral by Vespasian, and in A. d. 79 was stationed with the fleet at Misenum, when the celebrated eruption of Vesuvius took place, which overwhelmed Herculaneum and Pom­peii. On the 24th of August, while he was, as usual, engaged in study, his attention was called by his sister to a cloud of unusual size and shape, rising to a great height, in the form of a pine-tree, from Vesuvius (as was afterwards disco­vered), sometimes white, sometimes blackish and spotted, according as the smoke was more or less mixed with cinders and earth. He immediately went to a spot from which he could get a better view of the phaenomenon ; but, desiring to ex­amine it still more closely, he ordered a light vessel to be got ready, in which he embarked, taking his tablets with him. The sailors of the


ships at Retina, who had just escaped from the imminent danger, urged him to turn back. He resolved, however, to proceed, and in the hope of rendering assistance to those who were in peril, ordered the ships to be launched, and proceeded to the point of danger, retaining calmness and self-possession enough to observe and have noted down the various forms which the cloud assumed. Hot cinders and pumice stones now fell thickly upon the vessels, and they were in danger of being left aground by a sudden retreat of the sea. He hesitated for an instant whether to proceed or not; but quoting the maxim of Terence, fortes fortuna adjuvat, directed the steersman to conduct him to Pomponianus, who was at Stabiae, and whom he found preparing to set sail. Pliny did his best to restore his courage, and ordered a bath to be prepared for himself. He then, with a cheerful countenance, presented himself at the dinner-table, endeavouring to induce his friend to believe that the flames which burst out with increased violence were only those of some villages which the pea­sants had abandoned, and afterwards retired to rest, and slept soundly. But, as the court .of the house was becoming fast filled with cinders, so that egress would in a short time have become impossible, he was roused, and joined Pompo­nianus. As the house, from the frequent and violent shocks, was in momentary danger of fall­ing, it appeared the safer plan to betake themselves into the open fields, which they did, tying pillows upon their heads to protect them from the falling stones and ashes. Though it was already day, the darkness was profound. They went to the shore to see if it were possible to embark, but found the sea too tempestuous to allow them to do so. Pliny then lay down on a sail which was spread for him. Alarmed by the approach of flames, preceded by a smell of sulphur, his com­panions took to flight. His slaves assisted him to rise, but he almost immediately dropped down again, suffocated, as his nepheAV conjectures, by the vapours, for he had naturally weak lungs. His body was afterwards found unhurt, even his clothes not being disordered, and his attitude that of one asleep rather than that of a corpse.

It may easily be supposed that Pliny, with his inordinate appetite for accumulating knowledge out of books, was not the man to produce a scientific work of any value. He had no genius, as indeed might have been inferred from the bent of his mind. He was not even an original ob­server. The materials which he worked up into his huge encyclopaedic compilation were almost all derived at second-hand, though doubtless he has incorporated the results of his own observation in a larger number of instances than those in which he indicates such to be the case. Nor did he, as a compiler, show either judgment or dis­crimination in the selection of his materials, so that in his accounts the true and the false are found intermixed in nearly equal proportion,— the latter, if any thing, predominating, even with regard to subjects on which more accurate inform­ation might have been obtained ; for, as he wrote on a multiplicity of subjects with which he had no scientific acquaintance, he was entirely at the mercy of those from whose writings he borrowed his information, being incapable of correcting their errors, or, as may be seen even from what he has borrowed from Aristotle, of determining the rela-

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