Pliny the Elder, born in 23 AD, was a Roman author, naturalist, navy commander, and army commander of the first century AD who authored the first encyclopedia ever written about the natural world. It is now available in the Loeb Classical Library in English in ten volumes and covers everything from a mathematical and meteorological survey of the universe as known to the Romans of that time period to a geography and ethnography of the world familiar to the empire to the anthropology of man to zoology and botany to plant products used in medicines which was later to appeal to people in the Middle Ages who used it as an authoritative work, to minerals, fine arts, and gemstones. The work was still being referred to centuries later by the English poet John Milton who wanted to describe the plants in Eden, and he lived in the seventeenth century. New works like Pliny’s were not to be attempted again until at least the eighteenth century or even the nineteenth. A later author equates the Natural History encyclopedia with the Roman Empire the way the Encyclopedia Britannica became associated with the British Empire.
The great encyclopedia writer of ancient Rome, Pliny the Elder, appears as a major character in the upcoming historical thriller Vesuvius Plot soon to be published by Cheops Books LLC. The pursuit of encyclopedia writing and general knowledge about the flora and fauna of Germany where he served as procurator, or governor, got him in trouble with the Germanic tribes.