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stbalbach (2)

Naturalis Historia

"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."
Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 16, 2013 - 24 comments

Hero of WWI. Traitor of WWII. Honored in Milltown, NJ.

A Local Street and a Lesson in History [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 7, 2010 - 20 comments

Double Crossing the Rubicon

"Crossing the Rubicon" is a phrase widely believed to refer to the moment when Julius Caesar and his army crossed the stream separating Gaul from Italy, a move which meant civil war and commonly used to mean "point of no return". Now Swiss archaeologists are challenging that theory with a phrase that should be "Double Crossing the Rubicon".
posted by stbalbach on Apr 12, 2004 - 14 comments

Paris not in Paris

Paris is not actually in Paris according to French archaeologists last month. It appears that the ancient capital of Gaul, named after the Celtic tribe Parissi, is not buried under modern-day Paris but under its unremarkable neighbor Nanterre. "It's an unprecedented attack on the French national identity and the greater glory of Paris by a group of dirty-fingernailed parvenus." Spare the dirty archaeologists and blame it on Julius Caesar who gave inaccurate descriptions of the location, returning from the grave causing fresh Parisian identity consternations.
posted by stbalbach on Mar 15, 2004 - 13 comments

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