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Pliny's Natural History

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 08 July 2010

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Pliny's Natural History.

Some time in the first century AD, the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder published his Naturalis Historia, or Natural History, an enormous reference work which attempted to bring together knowledge on every subject under the sun.

The Natural History contains information on zoology, astronomy, geography, minerals and mining and - unusually for a work of this period - a detailed treatise on the history of classical art. It's a fascinating snapshot of the state of human knowledge almost two millennia ago.

Pliny's 37-volume magnum opus is one of the most extensive works of classical scholarship to survive in its entirety, and was being consulted by scholars as late as the Renaissance. It had a significant influence on intellectual history, and has provided the template for every subsequent encyclopaedia.

With:

Serafina Cuomo
Reader in Roman History at Birkbeck, University of London

Aude Doody
Lecturer in Classics at University College, Dublin

Liba Taub
Reader in the History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University

Producer: Thomas Morris.

  • FURTHER READING

    Beagon, Mary, ‘Roman Nature: The Thought of Pliny the Elder’ (Oxford University Press, 1992)

    Carey, Sorcha, ‘Pliny’s Catalogue of Culture: Art and Empire in the Natural History’ (Oxford University Press, 2004)

    Doody, Aude, ‘Pliny’s Encyclopedia: The Reception of the Natural History’ (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

    French, Roger, ‘Ancient Natural History’ (Routledge, 1994)

    French, Roger and Greenaway, Frank (eds.), ‘Science in the Early Roman Empire: Pliny the Elder, his Sources and Influence’ (London and Sydney: Croom Helm, 1986)

    Murphy, Trevor, ‘Pliny the Elder’s Natural History: The Empire in the Encyclopaedia’ (Oxford University Press, 2004)

    Radice, Betty, ‘The Letters of the Younger Pliny’ (London: Penguin Classics, 1963)

    Taub, Liba, ‘Ancient Meteorology’ (Routledge, 2003)

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