As one of the largest and most comprehensive surviving works from the Roman Empire, Pliny the Elder’s Natural History offers a rare glimpse into the scholarship of the ancient world. In 37 books, Pliny the Elder—not to be confused with his nephew, Pliny the Younger—covers botany, zoology, astronomy, geology, geography, mineralogy, and how each of these interact with Roman life. Pliny the Elder claims to be the only Roman to ever attempt such a massive task, and to this day Natural History is a crucial source of information on the technological advances and nature of the Roman era.
As a naturalist, natural philosopher, naval and army commander, and personal friend of Emperor Vespasian, Pliny the Elder experienced much of the world for himself, but he also knew the importance of using established and trusted sources in scholarship. As a result, Pliny the Elder’s Natural History is essentially a detailed encyclopedia, and every encyclopedia since has followed its form in scope, depth, and use of original and reliable sources. For that reason, this text continues to provide scholars with valuable insights today.
This collection contains the complete texts in their Loeb Classical Library editions, translated by Harris Rackham. Each text includes the original Latin and the English translation for easy side-by-side comparison. Logos’ language tools allow you to go deeper into the Latin text and explore Pliny the Elder’s elegant language. Use the dictionary lookup tool to examine difficult English words used by the translator or challenging Latin words used by Pliny the Elder. Students of science, literature, anthropology, and history will enjoy these works and appreciate their significance.
For my part I deem those blessed to whom, by favor of the gods, it has been granted either to do what is worth writing of, or to write what is worth reading; above measure blessed on whom both gifts have been conferred. In the latter number will be my uncle, by virtue of his own and of your compositions.
Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23–79), was a naturalist, natural philosopher, naval and army commander, friend of the emperor, uncle of Pliny the Younger, and an avid writer. When he wasn’t studying or investigating the world around him, he was writing about it. Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger wrote about his life and his major contributions to Roman academia. His writings include History of the German Wars, The Student, On Doubtful Phraseology, Natural History, and other works, all of which are lost besides Natural History. Pliny the Elder died attempting to rescue a family friend from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Scholars are uncertain whether he died from the toxic fumes or natural causes.