Author: Gibson, Roy K.
Publication date: 18/06/2020
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Pliny the Younger (c. 60-112 C.E.) – senator and consul in the Rome of emperors Domitian and Trajan, eyewitness to the eruption of Vesuvius in 79, and early ‘persecutor’ of Christians on the Black Sea – remains Rome’s best documented private individual between Cicero and Augustine. No Roman writer, not even Vergil, ties his identity to the regions of Italy more successfully than Pliny. His individuality can be captured by focusing on the range of locales in which he lived: from his hometown of Comum (Como) at the foot of the Italian Alps, down through the villa and farms he owned in Umbria, to the senate and courtrooms of Rome and the magnificent residence he owned on the coast near the capital.
Organized geographically, Man of High Empire is the first full-scale biography devoted solely to the Younger Pliny. Reserved, punctilious, occasionally patronizing, and perhaps inclined to overvalue his achievements, Pliny has seemed to some the ancient equivalent of Mr. Collins, the unctuous vicar of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Roy K. Gibson reveals a man more complex than this unfair comparison suggests. An innovating landowner in Umbria and a deeply generous benefactor in Comum, Pliny is also a consul who plays with words in Rome and dispenses summary justice in the provinces. A solicitous, if rather traditional, husband in northern Italy, Pliny is also a literary modernist in Rome, and-more surprisingly-a secret pessimist about Trajan, the ‘best’ of emperors. Pliny’s life is a window on to the Empire at its zenith. The book concludes with an archaeological tour guide of the sites associated with Pliny.