Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Well, I thought I ordered "The Last Days Of Pompeii", the mini-series based on the book by Bulwer-Lytton and which starred Brian Blessed, Ernest Borgnine, Linda Purl, Franco Nero, Anthony Quayle, and Sir Lawrence Olivier. Instead, Netflix sent me "Pompeii: The Last Day'.

This was a documentary with scenes acted out, including Tim Pigott-Smith as Pliny the Elder. (I recently saw Pigott-Smith in a recent 'Poirot': "Taken At The Flood".

And I really enjoyed it a lot! It makes for an excellent companion piece to the recent 'Doctor Who' episode "The Fires Of Pompeii". In fact, someday I hope we see the Doctor return to soon after the events and meet Pliny the Younger.

Here's what Wikipedia says about Pliny the Elder's ill-fated voyage towards the shores of Pompeii after Vesuvius blew its top:
Gaius or Caius Plinius Secundus, (AD 23 – August 24, AD 79), better known as Pliny the Elder, was an ancient author, naturalist or natural philosopher and naval and military commander of some importance who wrote Naturalis Historia. He is known for his saying "True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read".

He received from Vespasian the appointment of praefect of the Roman Navy. On August 24, 79 A.D., he was stationed at Misenum, at the time of the great eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which overwhelmed Pompeii and Herculaneum. A desire to observe the phenomenon directly, and also to rescue some of his friends from their perilous position on the shore of the Bay of Naples, led to the launching of his galleys and crossing the bay to Stabiae (near the modern town of Castellammare di Stabia).

His nephew, whom he had adopted, Pliny the Younger, provided an account of his death, and suggested that he collapsed and died through inhaling poisonous gases emitted from the volcano. His body was found interred under the ashes of the Vesuvium with no apparent injuries on 26 August, after the plume had dispersed, tending to confirm asphyxiation or poisoning.

The story of his last hours is told in an interesting letter addressed twenty-seven years afterwards to Tacitus by the Elder Pliny's nephew and heir, Pliny the Younger, who also sent to another correspondent an account of his uncle's writings and his manner of life.

Pliny is still remembered in volcanology where the term Plinian (or Plinean) refers to a very violent eruption of a volcano marked by columns of smoke and ash extending high into the stratosphere. The term ultra-Plinian is reserved for the most violent type of Plinian eruption such as the 1883 destruction of Krakatoa.

Toby OB

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