• Pliny and the Eruption of Vesuvius – publication March 2022

    _BookCoverPliny and the Eruption of Vesuvius (Routledge, March 2022) is in press. Here is how to order for your library at a 20% discount. My blog posts about the Vesuvius eruption are well obsolete, but I will leave them as-is for archival purposes. The book is about Letters 6.16 and 6.20, and contains 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 and available extant manuscript and early printed edition of the text of those letters (which has never been done before).
    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. In addition, this chapter treats the date of the eruption, both in the manuscript tradition, and in the archaeological evidence. It shows, 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.
    4. Epistulae 6.16, The Elder’s Story: Text, textual variants, new translation, and detailed commentary.
    5. Epistulae 6.20, The Younger’s Story: Text, textual variants, new translation, and detailed commentary.

    Routledge will also host the data files behind the arguments in their Online Resources. Those will include:

    1. A side-by-side continuous Latin and English translation of Epp. 6.16, 6.20, including the collation markers (PDF).
    2. Ep. 6.16 Inventory of Sources and Collation (Excel spreadsheet).
    3. Ep. 6.20 Inventory of Sources and Collation (Excel spreadsheet).
    4. Epp. 6.16 and 6.20 Collation “Fingerprints” — the key readings that decipher the manuscript tradition (Excel spreadsheet).
    5. Select Collation of Epp. 1.8, 12, 23-24 — key readings to understand the manuscript tradition for Epp. 1.1-5.6 and the F source (PDF).
    6. Select Collation of Book 8 Letters — key readings to understand the manuscript tradition for the theta branch of the manuscript tradition (PDF).
    7. Collation Encoding Key (how manuscript abbreviations in items 2-6 are encoded in the collation spreadsheets) (PDF).
    8. Continuous Color Diagram for the Manuscript Tradition (PDF).
    9. Continuous Halftone Diagram of the Eruption Sequence (PDF).
    10. Geographic Information System (GIS) of the pre-eruption Bay of Naples in AD 79 (ArcGIS folder).

    Please cite my work appropriately. Thank you.

  • 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?

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