University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Nature as Teacher: Seeing Ancient Rome in the Environment of the Modern City

In a letter to the historian Tacitus, Pliny wrote of the eruption, “I can best describe its shape by likening it to a pine tree. It rose into the sky on a very long ‘trunk’ from which spread some ‘branches.’"

By: Stephanie Hagan

The Roman author Pliny the Younger described the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD by likening the rising cloud of smoke to a pine tree. I didn’t understand what Pliny meant by his analogy, and I certainly couldn’t picture a volcano spewing out a coniferous Christmas tree of smoke and ash. When I arrived […]

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