C. Plinius Macrino suo s.

Num istic quoque immite et turbidum caelum? hic assiduae tempestates et crebra diluvia. Tiberis alveum excessit et demissioribus ripis alte superfunditur; quamquam fossa quam providentissimus imperator fecit exhaustus, premit valles, innatat campis, quaque planum solum, pro solo cernitur. inde quae solet flumina accipere et permixta devehere, velut obvius retro cogit, atque ita alienis aquis operit agros, quos ipse non tangit. Anio, delicatissimus amnium ideoque adiacentibus villis velut invitatus retentusque, magna ex parte nemora quibus inumbratur fregit et rapuit; subruit montes, et decidentium mole pluribus locis clausus, dum amissum iter quaerit, impulit tecta ac se super ruinas eiecit atque extulit. viderunt quos excelsioribus terris illa tempestas deprehendit, alibi divitum apparatus et gravem supellectilem, alibi instrumenta ruris, ibi boves aratra rectores, hic soluta et libera armenta, atque inter haec arborum truncos aut villarum trabes atque culmina varie lateque fluitantia. ac ne illa quidem malo vacaverunt, ad quae non ascendit amnis. nam pro amne imber assiduus et deiecti nubibus turbines, proruta opera quibus pretiosa rura cinguntur, quassata atque etiam decussa monumenta. multi eius modi casibus debilitati obruti obtriti, et aucta luctibus damna. ne quid simile istic, pro mensura periculi vereor, teque rogo, si nihil tale, quam maturissime sollicitudini meae consulas, sed et si tale, id quoque nunties. nam parvulum differt, patiaris adversa an exspectes; nisi quod tamen est dolendi modus, non est timendi. doleas enim quantum scias accidisse, timeas quantum possit accidere. vale.
(Pliny Minor, Ep. 8.17)

To Macrinus

Is the weather in your parts as rude and boisterous as it is with us ? All here is tempest and inundation. The Tiber has overflowed its channel, and deeply flooded its lower banks. Though drained by a dyke, which the Emperor providently had cut, it submerges the valleys, swims along the fields, and entirely overspreads the flats. The streams which it ordinarily receives and carries down commingled to the sea, it now forcibly checks in their course, by, so to speak, advancing to meet them; and thus deluges with borrowed waters lands it cannot reach itself. That most delightful of rivers, the Anio, which seems invited and detained by the villas upon its banks, has destroyed and carried away much of the woods that shade its brink. It has undermined mountains, and its channel being blocked by the resulting landslides, it has wrecked houses in the endeavour to regain its course, and surges high above the ruins. Dwellers in the uplands, who were out of reach of this fearful inundation, have seen, here the household gear and heavy furniture of lordly mansions, there instruments of husbandry, elsewhere ploughs and oxen with their drivers, elsewhere again herds of cattle let loose and astray, together with trunks of trees, or beams and gables of the neighbouring villas all floating about far and wide. Nor indeed have even these uplands, to which the river did not rise, escaped calamity. For long torrential rains, and waterspouts hurled down from the clouds, have destroyed all the enclosures on the valuable farms, and shaken, and even overturned, public buildings. Numbers have been maimed, crushed, or buried by such accidents, and loss of property has been aggravated by bereavements. I am extremely uneasy lest this extensive disaster should have spread to you; I beg therefore, if it has not, you will immediately relieve my anxiety. And indeed, I desire you would inform me though it should; for there is little difference between expecting misfortune and undergoing it; except that grief has limits, whereas apprehension has none. For we grieve only for what we know has happened; but we fear all that possibly may happen.
(tr. William Melmoth, revised by Winifred Margaret Lambart Hutchinson)


Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples c.1776-80 by Joseph Wright of Derby 1734-1797
Joseph Wright of Derby, Vesuvius in Eruption

Iam navibus cinis incidebat, quo propius accederent, calidior et densior, iam pumices etiam nigrique et ambusti et fracti igne lapides, iam vadum subitum ruinaque montis litora obstantia. Cunctatus paulum, an retro flecteret, mox gubernatori, ut ita faceret, monenti ‘fortes’ inquit ‘fortuna iuvat: Pomponianum pete.’ Stabiis erat, diremptus sinu medio (nam sensim circumactis curvatisque litoribus mare infunditur); ibi, quamquam nondum periculo appropinquante, conspicuo tamen et, cum cresceret, proximo, sarcinas contulerat in naves, certus fugae, si contrarius ventus resedisset; quo tunc avunculus meus secundissimo invectus complectitur trepidantem, consolatur, hortatur, utque timorem eius sua securitate leniret, deferri in balineum iubet; lotus accubat, cenat aut hilaris aut, quod aeque magnum, similis hilari.
(Pliny Minor, Ep. 6.16.5-8)

Ashes were already falling, hotter and thicker as the ships drew near, followed by bits of pumice and blackened stones, charred and cracked by the flames: then suddenly they were in shallow water, and the shore was blocked by the debris from the mountain. For a moment my uncle wondered whether to turn back, but when the helmsman advised this he refused, telling him that Fortune stood by the courageous and they must make for Pomponianus at Stabiae. He was cut off there by the breadth of the bay (for the shore gradually curves round a basin filled by the sea) so that he was not as yet in danger, though it was clear that this would come nearer as it spread. Pomponianus had therefore already put his belongings on board ship, intending to escape if the contrary wind fell. This wind was of course full in my uncle’s favour, and he was able to bring his ship in. He embraced his terrified friend, cheered and encouraged him, and thinking he could calm his fears by showing his own composure, gave orders that he was to be carried to the bathroom. After his bath he lay down and dined; he was quite cheerful, or at any rate he pretended he was, which was no less courageous. (tr. Betty Radice)


Omnia mihi studia, omnes curas, omnia avocamenta exemit excussit eripuit dolor, quem ex morte Iuni Aviti gravissimum cepi. latum clavum in domo mea induerat, suffragio meo adiutus in petendis honoribus fuerat; ad hoc ita me diligebat, ita verebatur, ut me formatore morum, me quasi magistro uteretur. rarum hoc in adulescentibus nostris. nam quotus quisque vel aetati alterius vel auctoritati ut minor cedit? statim sapiunt, statim sciunt omnia, neminem verentur, neminem imitantur, atque ipsi sibi exempla sunt. sed non Avitus, cuius haec praecipua prudentia, quod alios prudentiores arbitrabatur, haec praecipua eruditio quod discere volebat.
(Pliny Minor, Epist. 8.23.1-3)

Work, cares and distractions – all are interrupted, cut short, and driven out of my mind, for the death of Junius Avitus has been a terrible blow. He had assumed the broad stripe of the senator in my house and had my support when standing for office, and such moreover was his affectionate regard for me that he took me for his moral guide and mentor. This is rare in the young people of today, few of whom will yield to age or authority as being their superior. They are born with knowledge and understanding of everything; they show neither respect nor desire to imitate, and set their own standards. Avitus was not like this. His wisdom consisted in his belief that others were wiser than himself, his learning in his readiness to be taught. (tr. Betty Radice)