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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.’"

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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