The Shadow of Vesuvius: A Life of Pliny

Daisy Dunn. Liveright, $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-63149-639-4
Historian Dunn (Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet) intertwines the lives of Pliny the Elder and his nephew, Pliny the Younger, in this illuminating chronicle of the Roman Empire in the latter half of the first century CE. After narrating the elder Pliny’s heroic death in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, Dunn traces the younger Pliny’s career as a lawyer and provincial governor, detailing his rivalry with politician Regulus, friendships with historians Tacitus and Suetonius, and loving marriage to his second wife, Calpurnia. Drawing from Pliny’s Letters, Dunn spotlights her subject’s yearning for his quiet countryside estate; his desire to write a magnum opus like his uncle’s seven-volume Natural History; and his philosophical musings on such topics as oysters, sleep, and snow. She ends her account with the fleeting but famous correspondence between Pliny and Emperor Trajan as the former, near the end of his life, sought guidance on how to stem the tide of Christianity in his role as the governor of Bithynia (in modern Turkey). Skillfully mining primary and secondary source material, Dunn offers a comprehensive study of how the elder Pliny influenced his equally perceptive and ambitious nephew. This eloquent and accessible history offers a revealing glimpse into the daily life of ancient Rome. (Dec.)
Reviewed on : 12/13/2019
Release date: 12/01/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-0940-2117-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-0940-2116-4
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