Pliny the elder

Pliny the elderIn existographies, Pliny the elder (23-79AD) (776-885 AUC) (Ѻ) (IQ:170|#385) (Murray 4000:19|B) (FA:26) (CR:33), aka Galius Plinius Secundus, not to be confused with his nephew Pliny the younger (61-113AD), was a Roman scholar, natural philosopher, military leader, god skeptic, stoic, and oft-cited first ever encyclopedist, noted for his 77AD Natural History, a 10-volume compendium of ancient knowledge, wherein he touches on topics such as the soul (see: Pliny on the soul), origin of cremation, etc.

Natural History
In 77AD, Pliny penned Natural History, a 10-volume, 37-book, all-knowledge comprising treatise, wherein he attempts to cover all subjects connected to nature;

“My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one among the Greeks who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject.”

Pliny uses Aristotle's division of nature: animal, vegetable, and mineral.

Subjects including: resurrection, gods, astronomy, mathematics, geography, ethnography, anthropology, human physiology, zoology, botany, agriculture, horticulture, pharmacology, mining, mineralogy, sculpture, painting, and precious stones, among other subjects. [1]

God | Disproofs
See main: disproofs of the existence of god
Pliny in his section "On God" advocates a god equals power of nature and or god equals the sun's energy type of view; the gist of which is as follows: [6]

“Between this body [earth] and the heavens there are suspended, in this aerial spirit, seven stars, separated by determinate spaces, which, on account of their motion, we call wandering, although, in reality, none are less so. The sun is carried along in the midst of these, a body of great size and power, the ruler, not only of the seasons and of the different climates, but also of the stars themselves and of the heavens. When we consider his operations, we must regard him as the life, or rather the mind of the universe, the chief regulator and the god of nature; he also lends his light to the other stars. He is most illustrious and excellent, beholding all things and hearing all things, which, I perceive, is ascribed to him exclusively by the prince of poets, Homer.”
— Pliny the elder (77AD), Natural History, Volume One (pgs. 19-21)

“The power of nature is what we call god.”
— Pliny the elder (77AD), Natural History, Volume One (pg. 25); cited by Jennifer Hecht (2004) in Doubt (pg. 154)

Pliny, in his section “The Search for God”, outlined a number of refutations and absurdities about beliefs in gods; an example of which is as follows: [2]

“Some nations have animals—even repulsive creatures—as gods. To believe that some gods are always old and grey-haired, while others are young men and boys, or lame, born from eggs, or who live and die on alternate days—such beliefs are little short of the fantasies of children.”

The "born from eggs", to note, is reference to the Memphis creation myth, wherein in the god Ptah is the maker of the golden egg. [4] The young and old god, is reference to the young sun (Ra the youth), midday sun (Ra), and evening sun (Ra the elder).

Beliefs | Religion
The following is a synopsis of Pliny's belief system:

“Pliny, with respect to philosophical opinions, did not rigidly adhere to any sect. He reprobates the Epicurean tenet of an infinity of worlds; favors the Pythagorean notion of the harmony of the spheres; speaks of the universe as god, after the manner of the Stoics, and sometimes seems to pass over into the field of the sceptics. For the most part, however, he leans to the doctrine of Epicurus.”
— William Enfield (1819), History of Philosophy, Volume Two (pg. 131); in: Natural History, Volume One (pg. 20)

(add)

Soul
The following are the two main soul term usages by Pliny from volume one:

“During the very time of these games of mine, a hairy star was seen during seven days, in the part of the heavens which is under the Great Bear. It rose about the eleventh hour of the day, was very bright, and was conspicuous in all parts of the earth. The common people sup-posed the star to indicate, that the soul of Caesar was admitted among the immortal gods; under which designation it was that the star was placed on the bust which was lately consecrated in the forums.”
— Augustus Caesar (c.30BC), Source; cited by Pliny the elder (77AD) in Natural History, Volume One (pg. 58)

“This same Hipparchus, who can never be sufficiently commended, as one who more especially proved the relation of the stars to man, and that our souls are a portion of heaven, discovered a new star that was produced in his own age, and, by observing its motions on the day in which it shone, he was led to doubt whether it does not often happen, that those stars have motion which we suppose to be fixed. And the same individual attempted, what might seem pre-sumptuous even in a deity, viz. to number the stars for posterity and to express their relations by appropriate names; having previously devised instruments, by which he might mark the places and the magnitudes of each individual star. In this way, it might be easily discovered, not only whether they were destroyed or produced, but whether they changed their relative positions, and likewise, whether they were in-creased or diminished; the heavens being thus left as an inheritance to anyone, who might be found competent to complete his plan.”
— Pliny the elder (77AD), Natural History, Volume 1 (pg. 59)

The following seems to be Pliny's main entry on the soul:

“After burial come the different quiddities as to the existence of the Manes. All men, after their last day, return to what they were before the first; and after death there is no more sensation left in the body or in the soul than there was before birth. But this same vanity of ours extends even to the future, and lyingly fashions to itself an existence even in the very moments which belong to death itself: at one time it has conferred upon us the immortality of the soul; at another transmigration; and at another it has given sensation to the shades below, and paid divine honors to the departed spirit, thus making a kind of deity of him who has but just ceased to be a man. As if, indeed, the mode of breathing with man was in any way different from that of other animals, and as if there were not many other animals to be found whose life is longer than that of man, and yet for whom no one ever presaged anything of a like immortality. For what is the actual substance of the soul, when taken by itself? Of what material does it consist? Where is the seat of its thoughts? How is it to see, or hear, or how to touch? And then, of what use is it, or what can it avail, if it has not these faculties? Where, too, is its residence, and what vast multitudes of these souls and spirits must there be after the lapse of so many ages? But all these are the mere figments of childish ravings, and of that mortality which is so anxious never to cease to exist. It is a similar piece of vanity, too, to preserve the dead bodies of men; just like the promise that he shall come to life again, which was made by Democritus f who, however, never has come to life again himself. Out upon it! What downright madness is it to suppose that life is to recommence after death! or indeed, what repose are we ever to enjoy when we have been once born, if the soul is to retain its consciousness in heaven, and the shades of the dead in the infernal regions? This pleasing delusion, and this credulity, quite cancel that chief good of human nature, death, and, as it were, double the misery of him who is about to die, by anxiety as to what is to happen to him after it. And, indeed, if life really is a good, to whom can it be so to have once lived? How much more easy, then, and how much more devoid of all doubts, is it for each of us to put his trust in himself, and guided by our knowledge of what our state has been before birth, to assume that that after death will be the same.”
— Pliny the Elder (77AD), Natural History, Volume 2 (§:The Manes, or Departed Spirits of the Soul, pg. 218-19)

The translator, John Bostock, footnotes this with: "Pliny views the state after death in the same light as Democritus and Epicurus, utterly denying the immortality of the soul; though it cannut be said that he looks upon life in the same cheerful, laissez fare manner in which it was regarded by the latter of these philosophers." The following are a few summaries of Pliny’s views on the soul:

“Though anything but an Epicurean, in the modern acceptation of the word, he seems to have held some, at least, of the tenets of Epicurus, in reference to the immortality of the soul. Whether he supposed that the soul, at the moment of death, is resolved into its previous atoms or constituent elements, he does not inform us; but he states it as his belief, that after death the soul has no more existence than it had before birth; that all notions of immortality are a mere delusion; and that the very idea of a future existence is ridiculous, and spoils that greatest blessing of nature—death. He certainly speaks of ghosts or apparitions, seen after death; but these he probably looked upon as exceptional cases, if indeed he believed in the stories which he quotes, of which we have no proofs, or rather, indeed, presumptive proofs to the contrary; for some of them he calls ‘magna fabulosetas [most fabulous tales]’.”
— John Bostock (1855), “Life and Writings of Pliny”, in: Natural History, Volume One (pg. xviii)

“Pliny, as will be seen toward the end of the Natural History, Volume Two, laughed to scorn the notion of the immortality of the soul.”
— John Bostock (1855), “note #14” of Natural History, Volume 2 (pg. 119)

“Pliny poses numerous questions about the soul, asking what it is made of, what is its power of thought, how does it hear or touch, and what use it gets of these senses. He asks where the soul resides and how great the crowd of souls from so many ages past. Then he dismisses all of these questions as: ‘characteristic of childish gibberish and of mortal men greedy for an everlasting life.”
Jennifer Hecht (2004), Doubt (pg. 154)

(add)

Chance | Tyche
Pliny digressed on the incredulous phenomenon on chance as god types of worships and belief seen in his day, particularly via the god Tyche (Greek) (Ѻ) or Fortuna (Roman) (Ѻ), as follows: [2]

“Throughout the whole world, in all places and at all times, Fortuna alone is invoked, alone commended, alone accused and subject to reproaches, to her is credited all that is received and we are subject to chance that ‘chance’ herself takes the place of god.”

Here we see what in modern times some refer to as Dawkins god, i.e. ‘chance’ championed as the replacement for god, albeit not without similar ridicule.

Pliny on resurrection
The opening section from Pliny's 77AD encyclopedia article on people said to have come back to life after being laid out for burial, wherein he discusses a number of people, including a woman said to have been dead for seven days, but makes NO mention of an "Jesus", said to have famously died in 33AD, been dead for three days, and then resurrected. [2]
Christ myth
See main: Silent historians problem
In Christ myth arguments, Pliny the elder is oft-cited as someone who should have written, specifically in his Natural History (79AD), about the now-famous character of “Jesus Christ” – said to have existed as a real person (from 0 to 33AD) – but did not. Pliny even devotes a section to “revival of people pronounced dead, commenting “life is full of such predictions, but they should not be collected, since more often than not they are false”, but makes no mention of a person named Jesus being revived from the dead? [2]

Roman | Vespasian
Pliny, in addition to being a naval and army commander in the early Roman empire, was a personal friend of emperor Vespasian (reign: 69-79AD), during which time the gods Serapis (Osiris-Apis) and Isis were the supreme gods of Roman worship. [3]

Study | Method
The following a description of the works and general through-going study method of Pliny the elder, described by his nephew Pliny the younger: [5]

“His first composition was a treatise On the Use of the Javelin by Cavalry, in one book. This he composed, with equal diligence and ingenuity, while he was in command of a troop of horse. His second work was the Life of Q. Pomponius Secundus, in two books, a person by whom he had been particularly beloved.— These books he composed as a tribute which was justly due to the memory of his deceased friend. His next work was twenty books on The Wars in Germany, in which he has compiled an account of all the wars in which we have been engaged with the people of that country This he had begun while serving in Germany, having been recommended to do so in a dream. For in his sleep he thought that the figure of Drusus Nero stood by him—the same Drusus, who after the most extensive conquests in that country, there met his death. Commending his memory to Pliny's attentive care, Drusus conjured him to rescue it from the decaying effect of oblivion. Next to these came his three books entitled The Student, divided, on account of their great size, into six volumes. In these he has given instructions for the training of the orator, from the cradle to his entrance on public life. In the latter years of Nero's reign, he wrote eight books, On Difficulties in the Latin Language; that being a period at which every kind of study, in any way free-spoken or even of elevated style, would have been rendered dangerous by the tyranny that was exercised. His next work was his Continuation of the History of Aufidius Bassus, in thirty-one books; after which came his Natural History, in thirty-seven books, a work remarkable for its comprehensiveness and erudition, and not less varied than nature herself.

You will wonder how a man so occupied with business could possibly find time to write such a number of volumes, many of them on subjects of a nature so difficult to be treated of. You will be even more astonished when you learn, that for some time he pleaded at the bar as an advocate, that he was only in his fifty-sixth year at the time of his death, and that the time that intervened was equally trenched upon and frittered away by the most weighty duties of business, and the marks of favor shewn him by princes. His genius, however, was truly quite incredible, his zeal indefatigable, and his power of application wonderful in the extreme. At the festival of the Vulcanalia, he began to sit up to a late hour by candle-light, not for the purpose of consulting the stars, but with the object of pursuing his studies; while, in the winter, he would set to work at the seventh hour of the night, or the eighth at the very latest, often indeed at the sixth [midnight]. By nature, he had the faculty of being able to fall asleep in a moment; indeed, slumber would sometimes overtake him in his studies, and then leave him just as suddenly. Before daybreak, he was in the habit of attending the Emperor Vespasian, — for he, too, was one who made an excellent use of his nights, — and then betook himself to the duties with which he was charged. On his return home, he devoted all the time which was still remaining to study. Taking an early repast, after the old fashion, light, and easy of digestion, in the summer time, if he had any leisure to spare, he would lie down in the sun-shine, while some book was read to him, he himself making notes and extracts in the meanwhile; for it was his habit never to read anything without making extracts, it being a maxim of his, that ‘there is no book so bad but that some good may be got out of it.’ After thus enjoying sunshine, he generally took a cold bath; after which he would sit down to a slight repast, and then take a short nap. On awaking, as though another day had now commenced, he would study till the hour for the evening meal, during which some book was generally read to him, he making comments on it in a cursory manner.

I remember, on one occasion, a friend of his interrupting the reader, who had given the wrong pronunciation to some words, and making him go over them again. ‘You understood him, didn't you?’ said my uncle. ‘Yes’, said the other. ‘Why, then, did you make him go over it again? Through this interruption of yours, we have? lost more than ten lines.’ So thrifty a manager was he of time! In summer, he rose from the evening meal by daylight; and, in winter, during the first hour of the night [6-7PM], just as though there had been some law which made it compulsory on him to do so. This is how he lived in the midst of his employments, and the bustle of the city. When in retirement in the country, the time spent in the bath was the only portion that was not allotted by him to study. When I say in the bath, I mean while he was in the water; for while his body was being scraped with the strigil and rubbed, he either had some book read to him, or else would dictate himself. While upon a journey, as though relieved from every other care, he devoted himself to study, and nothing else.

By his side was his secretary, with a book and tablets; and, in the winter time, the secretary’s hands were protected by gloves, that the severity of the weather might not deprive his master for a single moment of his services. It was for this reason also that, when at Rome, he would never move about except in a litter. I remember that on one occasion he found fault with me for walking — ‘You might have avoided losing all those hours’, said he; for he looked upon every moment as lost which was not devoted to study. It was by means of such unremitting industry as this that he completed so many works, and left me 160 volumes of notes, written extremely small on both sides, which in fact renders the collection doubly voluminous. He himself used to relate, that when he was procurator in Spain, he might have parted with his common-place book to Largius Licinius for 400,000 sesterces; and at that time the collection was not so extensive as afterwards. When you come to think of how much he must have read, of how much he has written, would you not really suppose that he had never been engaged in business, and had never enjoyed the favor of princes? And yet, on the other hand, when you hear what labor he expended upon his studies, does it not almost seem that he has neither written nor read enough? For, in fact, what pursuits are those that would not have been interrupted by occupations such as his? While, again, what is there that such unremitting perseverance as his could not have effected? I am in the habit, therefore, of laughing at it when people call me a studious man, — me who, in comparison with him, am a downright idler; and yet I devote to study as much time as my public engagements on the one hand, and my duties to my friends on the other, will admit of. Who is there, then, out of all those who have devoted their whole life to literature, that ought not, when put in comparison with him, to quite blush at a life that would almost appear to have been devoted to slothfulness and inactivity?”

Here, we might compare this intensity of study method to that of the description of Gerald Massey and his book store reading method.

Natural History (Pliny) 5-volumes
A 5-volume set of Pliny's Natural History.
Influence
In 1804, Percy Shelley, at age 14, while studying at Eton College, translated half of Pliny’s Natural History from Latin into English.

Quotes | On
The following are quotes on Pliny:

“To a man so eager as he was in the pursuit of knowledge, this appeared to be a most singular phenomenon, and one that deserved to be viewed more closely; accordingly he gave orders for a light Liburnian vessel to be got ready.”
Pliny the Younger (c.80AD), recount of last day of his uncle; in: Natural History, Volume One (pg. ix)

Pliny has worked upon a plan which is much more extensive than that of Aristotle, and not improbably too extensive. He has made it his object to embrace every subject; indeed, he would appear to have taken the measure of nature, and to have found her too contracted for his expansive genius. His Natural History, independently of that of animals, plants, and minerals, includes an account of the heavens and the earth, of medicine, commerce, navigation, the liberal and mechanical arts, the origin of usages and customs, in a word, the history of all the natural sciences and all the arts of human invention. What, too, is still more astonishing, in each of these departments Pliny shows himself equally great. The grandeur of his ideas and the dignity of his style confer an additional lustre on the profoundness of his erudition; not only did he know all that was known in his time, but he was also gifted with that comprehensiveness of view which in some measure multiplies knowledge. He had all that delicacy of perception upon which depend so materially both elegance and taste, and he communicates to his readers that freedom of thought and that boldness of sentiment, which constitute the true germ of philosophy. His work, as varied as Nature herself, always paints her in her most attractive colors. It is, so to say, a compilation from all that had been written before his time: a record of all that was excellent or useful; but this record has in it features so grand, this compilation contains matter grouped in a manner so novel, that it is preferable to most of the original works that treat upon similar subjects.”
Buffon (c.1750), “Discours Premier sur l’Histoire Naturelle”; in: Natural History, Volume One (soul, pgs. ixx-xx)

“The enlightened and benevolent Pliny [in his Natural History] thus publicly professes himself an atheist.”
Percy Shelley (1811), The Necessity of Atheism [8]

“From the titles which he gives to Titus (39-81AD) (Ѻ) in the dedicatory preface, it is pretty clear that Pliny's Natural History was published 77AD, two years before his death.”
— John Bostock (1855), “Life and Writings of Pliny”, in: Natural History, Volume One (pg. viii)

Pliny’s Natural History is not a ‘natural history’ in the modern acceptation of the term, but rather a vast encyclopedia of ancient knowledge and belief upon almost every known subject — ‘not less varied than Nature herself’, as his nephew says. It comprises, within the compass of thirty-seven books, 20,000 matters of importance, collected from about 2,000 volumes (nearly all of which have now perished), the works, as Pliny himself states, of 100 writers of authority; together with a vast number of additional matters unknown to those authorities, and many of them the results of his own experience and observation. Jean Hardouin (1646-1729) (Ѻ) has drawn up a catalogue of the authors quoted by Pliny; they amount in number to between 400 and 500.”
— John Bostock (1855), “Life and Writings of Pliny”, in: Natural History, Volume One (pg. xvi)

Quotes | By
The following are noted quotes:

“The nature of the animated beings which exist upon [earth], is hardly in any degree less worthy of our contemplation than its other features; if, indeed, the human mind is able to embrace the whole of so diversified a subject. Our first attention is justly due to man, for whose sake all other things appear to have been produced by nature; though, on the other hand, with so great and so severe penalties for the enjoyment of her bounteous gifts, that it is far from easy to determine, whether she has proved to him a kind parent, or a merciless step-mother.”
— Pliny the elder (77AD), Natural History, Volume 2 (pg. 117)

Man occupies a small fraction of the earth, itself a mere dot in the universe.”
— Pliny the elder (77AD), Natural History [2]

“If I had to meet any divinity, I would meet none but the sun.”
— Pliny (70AD), Publication; cited by Jean Meslier (1729) in The Testament (pg. 343)

“Fortune favors the bold.”
— Pliny the elder (79AD), comment made upon hesitating for a moment, on whether or not to turn back, in route to study the newly erupting Mount Vesuvius, after the pilot strongly advised him to do so; in: Natural History, Volume One (pg. x)

“It is a virtue and manifestation of a fitting modesty to acknowledge anyone through whom one has made progress.”
— Pliny the Elder (75AD), Publication; cited by Robert Boyle (1660) in New Experiments Physico-Mechanical, Touching the Spring of the Air and its Effects [9]

References
1. Natural History (Pliny) – Wikipedia.
2. (a) Pliny (the elder). (77AD). Natural History, Volume 2 (translators: John Bostock and H.T. Riley) (§:Contents, pgs. iii-; §:Persons who have come to life again after being laid out for burial, pgs. 210-213). Henry G. Bohn, 1855.
(b) Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (§:Pliny the Elder, pgs. 152-54). HarperOne.
3. Budge, Wallis. (1904). The Gods of the Egyptians, Volume Two (Vespasian, pg. 217; Serapis, pg. 349) (Ѻ). Dover, 1969.
4. Thims, Libb. (2016). Smart Atheism: For Kids (pdf | 309-pgs). Publisher.
5. Pliny the younger (c.80AD), “Epistle addressed to Macer”, in: Natural History, Volume One (pgs. xii-xv)
6. Pliny (the elder). (77AD). Natural History, Volume 1 (translators: John Bostock and H.T. Riley) (§:Contents, pg. xxiii-; §2.5: Of God, pgs. 20-24) . Henry G. Bohn, 1855.
7. Pliny (the elder). (77AD). Natural History, Volume 2 (translators: John Bostock and H.T. Riley) (§:Contents, pgs. iii-; animated being, pg. 117). Henry G. Bohn, 1855.
8. Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (pg. 421). HarperOne.
9. Conlon, Thomas. (2011). Thinking About Nothing: Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Experiments on the Vacuum (pg. 71). Saint Austin Press/LuLu.

Further reading
● Pliny (the elder). (77AD). Natural History, Volume 1 (translators: John Bostock and H.T. Riley) (§:Contents, pg. xxiii-). Henry G. Bohn, 1855.
● Pliny (the elder). (77AD). Natural History, Volume 2 (translators: John Bostock and H.T. Riley). Henry G. Bohn, 1855.
● Pliny (the elder). (77AD). Natural History, Volume 3 (translators: John Bostock and H.T. Riley). Henry G. Bohn, 1855.
● Pliny (the elder). (77AD). Natural History, Volume 4 (translators: John Bostock and H.T. Riley). Henry G. Bohn, 1855.
● Pliny (the elder). (77AD). Natural History, Volume 5 (translators: John Bostock and H.T. Riley). Henry G. Bohn, 1855.
● Pliny (the elder). (77AD). Natural History, Volume 6 (translators: John Bostock and H.T. Riley). Henry G. Bohn, 1855.

External links
Pliny the elder – Wikipedia.

TDics icon ns

More pages