• Translating Pliny’s Letters about Vesuvius – update

    The blog posts about the Vesuvius eruption are on hold while I complete my book, Pliny and the Destruction of Vesuvius (Routledge, 2021). The book is about Letters 6.16 and 6.20, and has these chapters:

    1. Two Plinys: Short biographies of the Elder and Younger Pliny, setting the context for the Vesuvian letters;
    2. Two Letters: A reconstruction of the transmission history of Epp. 6.16 and 6.20 within the context of the whole manuscript tradition of the Epistulae. This is based on the collation of every known extant manuscript and early printed edition of the text of those letters (which has never been done before). It will show, among other things, how ‘November’ crept into the manuscript tradition as an error, how that error was propagated, and why the textual tradition cannot be used as a basis for arguing that the eruption happened in October or November, despite the repeated citation of problematic 17th-/18th-c. scholarship and recent press favoring a non-August date. Previews of my argument and evidence will be given at public lectures in Tampa Bay (Archaeological Institute of America, 6:00 p.m., 29 Oct. 2019), San Francisco St. University (18 Nov. 2019), Milwaukee (Archaeological Institute of America, 9 Feb. 2020), Spokane (Archaeological Institute of America, 20 Feb. 2020), and Knoxville (Archaeological Institute of America, 10 Mar. 2020).
    3. Two Days: a reconstruction, based on the latest volcanological studies and a new complete GIS model of the AD-79 topography of the Bay of Naples, of the eruption sequence, its effects upon the landscape and people of the Bay of Naples, and how those new studies enlighten the accounts in Pliny’s Epistulae, including the likely location of the Pliny’s villa from which the eruption was first spotted.
    4. Epistulae 6.16, The Elder’s Story: Text, new translation, and commentary;
    5. Epistulae 6.20, The Younger’s Story: Text, new translation, and commentary;
    6. An appendix of the manuscripts and printed editions, with a link to spreadsheets of the collations of Epp. 6.16 and 6.20, which will then be posted on this blog for public availability and study.

    Thank you kindly for your patience.

  • Translating Pliny’s letters about Vesuvius, pt. 11. The Elements Torn Asunder

    Drawback from the Boxing Day tsunami, 2004, Hat Rai Lay Beach, Thailand

    6.20.7-9: The Elements Torn Asunder.

    This post belongs to a serialized translation and commentary of Pliny the Younger’s letters (6.16 and 6.20) to the historian Tacitus about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. This is the third installment for letter 6.20, and the eleventh overall.

    This installment was completed with the contributions of DePauw LAT 223 students Jackson Hicks, Luke Lohrstorfer, and Leigh Plummer in Fall 2014 and 2015.

    The Younger Pliny and his mother have been unsettled by strong tremors at their seaside residence early on the morning of the second day of the eruption. The Elder Pliny, who sailed off the afternoon before, is on the Stabian seashore with his friend Pomponianus.

    7 Tum demum excedere oppido visum; sequitur vulgus attonitum, quodque in pavore simile prudentiae, alienum consilium suo praefert, ingentique agmine abeuntes premit et impellit.

    7. At that point, it finally seemed best to exit the town. A confounded mob followed — and what in fear seems akin to wisdom, each prefers another’s judgement to their own — and in a massive throng it presses and pushes us on as we leave.

    Tottering roof tiles have finally forced Younger Pliny, his mother, and their household to abandon their home at Misenum. They are joined by a mob of slaves, freedpersons, and neighbors (vulgus attonitum) who lack, and desire, direction. As he has since 6.20.4, Younger Pliny generates synchronicity—across the bay, at the same time (in letter 6.16.16), Elder Pliny and Pomponianus’ household are also deciding whether to stay or go. In these twin dilemmas, Younger Pliny focuses on the psychological processes of decision-making under stress: Continue reading

  • Translating Pliny’s letters about Vesuvius, pt. 10. When in Doubt, Study

    Angela Kauffmann, Pliny the Younger and his Mother at Misenum, 79 A.D. (1785) Princeton University Art Museum (detail)

    Angela Kauffmann, Pliny the Younger and his Mother at Misenum, 79 A.D. (1785) Princeton University Art Museum (detail; see full painting below)

    6.20.4-6: When in Doubt, Study.

    This post belongs to a serialized translation and commentary of Pliny the Younger’s letters (6.16 and 6.20) to the historian Tacitus about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. This is the second installment for letter 6.20, and the tenth overall.

    This installment was completed with the contributions of DePauw LAT 223 students Jackson Hicks and Leigh Plummer in Fall 2014 and 2015.

    At this point in the story, Younger Pliny has spent a restless and bumpy night while his uncle the Elder Pliny has sailed off to investigate the eruption and try to evacuate refugees. He awakens to a dark day.

    4 Inrupit cubiculum meum mater; surgebam invicem, si quiesceret excitaturus. Resedimus in area domus, quae mare a tectis modico spatio dividebat.

    4 My mother burst into my bedroom at the same time I was getting up, about to rouse her, were she still asleep. We sat down in a courtyard of the house which was separating, by a modest extent, the sea from the buildings.

    In the Latin, noteworthy is the mixed conditional with a present-contrary-to-fact imperfect subjunctive (quiesceret) in the protasis, and a future-more-vivid future active participle (exciturus) in the apodosis, all set up by the imperfect of surgebam: “Right then I was in the process of getting up, about to wake [my mom] up (which I was definitely going to do), if she were [still] sleeping (which she wasn’t).” In the second sentence, the relative clause (area…quae) is straightforward.

    The first line is dotted with adrenaline vocabulary (inrupit, surgebam, excitaturus) that perks up the reader at the same time that the story’s main characters (Pliny and his mother) are waking up during the night to find each other out of mutual concern. There is a running theme in this letter about the anxiety of separation. Uncle Pliny is away (and at about this time in letter 6.16, also being roused [excitatus]); he “left behind” Young Pliny (relictus, from 6.20.1). Can mother and son stay together as the volcanic storm descends upon them?

    Continue reading

  • ROMARCH: Liverpool Research Day: Pompeii

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    MEDITERRANEAN ARCHAEOLOGY RESEARCH DAY

    Pompeii

    POSTPONED
    (further information will be posted when it becomes 
    available)

    Saturday 15th February 2014

    The Gallery, Foresight Centre, University of Liverpool

    Pompeii is the most iconic city of the ancient world and has come to stand as a symbol for the ancient world in the popular imagination and contemporary media. However, there is still much that we do not fully understand about this most famous of archaeological sites and exciting new research directions are taking seek to contextualise our understanding of Pompeii as a living community within its contemporary Roman context as well as an enduring emblem of the achievement of Roman culture and the destructive power of nature.

    Aimed at researchers, learners and the general public, this day consists of lively illustrated lectures on all aspects by leading international researchers on their latest research into ancient Pompeii and modern perceptions of the city and its cultural legacy. Papers cover aspects of history, archaeology, geology and the reception of Pompeii by contemporary societies. There will also be a hands-on demonstration of Roman artefacts during the break.

    To book a place online go to: http://payments.liv.ac.uk/browse/extra_info.asp?compid=1&modid=2&deptid=38&catid=45&prodid=190

    <see below for the full programme>

    Continue reading