August 25th 79: Pliny the Elder died
On this day in 79 AD, the famous Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder died. Pliny was a prominent Roman citizen, serving in the army and becoming a friend of Emperor Vespasian. Among his written works include his comprehensive Natural History which is the precursor for all modern encyclopedias. In his capacity as fleet commander of the Roman Navy, Pliny witnessed the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. Following the eruption, Pliny crossed the Bay of Naples in an attempt to rescue a friend from the devastation and to observe the phenomenon directly. Despite the rubble raining down on his boat, Pliny pushed his boat onward and declared "Fortune favours the brave". Once he reached the shore and found his friend, Pliny’s party became stranded on the shore. The next day he collapsed and died, supposedly from the toxic fumes, however the rest of his party returned safely. In his will he legally adopted his nephew Pliny the Younger who also became a renowned philosopher and served as a provincial governor of Bithynia; his letters to Emperor Trajan provide fascinating evidence of the relationship between emperors and governors in the Roman Empire.