Translating Pliny’s Letters

I finally got a chance to check out Pedar Foss’ latest blog-related project … here’s an intro from his very self:

This begins a series of posts that will translate and comment upon Pliny the Younger’s two letters (6.16 and 6.20) about the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79–the disaster that buried Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other sites. These posts are part of a book project that intends to understand the scholarly and popular reception of those letters. I am also teaching these letters in LAT 223 at DePauw this Fall term, so this is a good time to do it.

I will provide the Latin (using Mynors’ 1963 Oxford Classical Text [OCT]), and then work through it with a translation, dissection of grammatical constructions, and discussion of what the letters tell us. I will doubtless make mistakes as I proceed, and will be grateful for comments and corrections; the essence of scholarship is rectification through better evidence, arguments, or questions.

… the posts are being gathered under the Pliny category at [quem dixere chaos] … definitely worth a look

Some Pompeii Stuff

We’ll start with a video  from the BBC and with a focus on what the people died from:

… and then remind folks of a Scientific American blog on the subject (which includes another one of our fave videos):

… and now that you’re interested (as if you weren’t), we’ll remind folks of the Ancient World Open Bibliography on the subject:

… and in case you didn’t see it in the Scientific American thing up there:

ED: Vesuvian Archaeology Courses

I’ve seen this one in various places (this particular text is via the Classicists list):

New courses for university students: Discover the ancient Romans in the shadow of Vesuvius!

The Herculaneum Centre  is very pleased to announce the launch of a new series of university-level courses related to Vesuvian archaeology that will take place in September 2012 and March 2013, with learning mostly taking place at the sites themselves.

The Vesuvian Archaeology Study Programme has been specifically designed to meet the needs of university students. The programme content is suitable for students of Roman history, archaeology, architecture, history of art and material culture. Students of heritage management and conservation will find the programme offers stimulating case studies that explore the role archaeological sites play in the modern world and the challenges of conserving them.

Participants will visit Pompeii, Herculaneum and Oplontis, lesser known sites such as Villa Sora, as well as exploring the Vesuvius National Park and the National Archaeology Museum in Naples. This rich programme will be led by Dr Joanne Berry, scholar and author of The Complete Pompeii (Thames and Hudson, 2007) and founder of Blogging Pompeii, with input from a range of other scholars and practitioners active in the field.

We bring together the best of our three partners: the Comune di Ercolano (the town council) offers us a network of local partners and resources, the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei (the local heritage authority) ties us to the archaeological site which is used as an open-air classroom, and the British School at Rome offers connections to international and research communities.

Details of the courses can be found at, and a leaflet and application form are available to be downloaded on the British School at Rome website

Please forward this information to your students!

Poking At the Phlegrean Fields

Interesting item — there’s possibly hubris or a bit of Greek or Latin poetry lurking in here — from the UK version of Wired:

Pozzuoli and the Campi Flegrei with names. Pho...
Pozzuoli and the Campi Flegrei with names. Photo taken from the ISS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, has approved the first stages of a plan to drill into the Campi Flegrei caldera, a so-called “supervolcano” in the south of Italy.

The region, which is also known as the Phlegraean Fields, is a 13-kilometre-wide caldera lying mostly underwater, which includes 24 different craters and other volcanic edifices, close to the nearby Mount Vesuvius (pictured). Among them is the Solfatara crater, which the Romans believed to be the home of Vulcan, the god of fire. The region formed over thousands of years of collapse of several volcanoes in the area, and seismologists believe that any eruption would have significant repercussions for the local area and the global climate.

In 2008, to try and find out more about the risks posed by the geology of the area, a team of experts proposed drilling a four-kilometre-deep hole into the caldera, but the plans were vetoed by the mayor at the time, Rosa Russo Iervolino, after others expressed concerns over the risks of the project.

Benedetto De Vivo, a geochemist at the University of Naples, told Science in 2010 that the project carried risks of seismic activity or even explosions. “Nobody can say how bad this explosion would be, but it could put at risk some of the surrounding population,” he said.

However, Ulrich Harms of the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam countered that “there is no risk to the public,” so long as the drilling is done in a controlled way. He pointed out that there have been no explosions at the various multikilometre-depth wells drilled around the world to generate geothermal energy. He argued that the project is necessary to find out more: “It’s not clear if there is a volcanic risk, but it cannot be excluded, and this is why it is better to get more of an idea.”

Naples’ new mayor, de Magistris, has given the green light to the drilling of a pilot hole 500 metres deep, which will be filled with sensors and used to monitor the rising and falling of the surface above the caldera due to movements of the magma within. It’s possible that the readings could be used to inform future strategies for generating geothermal energy in the region, too.

Drilling should start, according to project co-ordinator Giuseppe De Natale, “within a few months”.

I think the jury’s still out on how this one will turn out … they’ve been talking about this sort of thing for a few years now . Stay tuned …