Botany

Pliny the Elder: Natural History

The Natural History (Latin: Naturalis Historia) by Pliny the Elder, was dedicated to the Emperor Titus in 77 CE, and published posthumously, following Pliny's death while observing the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. It is an encyclopedic work, designed to illustrate a philosophical belief in a benign providence, and to assimilate Greek knowledge for the Roman World. Despite a reputation for credulity, the sheer breadth of Pliny's interests make the Natural History a work of lasting value.

Book I provides a summary of contents and list of Roman and foreign authorities cited. Book II focuses on cosmology and physics, while books III-VI cover the geography of the known world. Book VII deals with the human body, Books VIII-XI with animals, Books XII-XIX with botany. The medicinal properties of plants are covered in Books XX-XXVII and of animals in Books XXVIII-XXXII. Books XXXIII-XXXVII examine minerology, with the aesthetic properties of stones providing the occasion for an excursus on art.

The Natural History at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Internet Archive:  The Natural History of PlinyVol I - Vol II - Vol III - Vol IV - Vol V - Vol VI. Translated by John Bostock and Henry T. Riley (1855-57). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Pliny's Natural History - Vol I - Vol II. Translated by Philemon Holland (1601, printed 1847-48). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Elder Pliny's Chapters on the History of Art, translated by K. Jex-Blake. Multiple formats.

LacusCurtius. Natural History. Latin text, HTML format.

Latin Library: Naturalis Historiae. Latin text, HTML format.

Loebulus. L330 - Pliny -- Natural History I: Books 1-2. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L352 - Pliny -- Natural History II: Books 3-7. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L353 - Pliny -- Natural History III: Books 8-11. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L370 - Pliny -- Natural History IV: Books 12-16. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L371 - Pliny -- Natural History V: Books 17-19. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L392 - Pliny -- Natural History VI: Books 20-23. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

LoebulusL393 - Pliny -- Natural History VII: Books 24-27. Index of Plants. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L418 - Pliny -- Natural History VIII: Books 28-32. Index of Fishes. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L394 - Pliny -- Natural History IX: Books 33-35. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also at the Internet Archive.

Perseus: Latin text, edited by K.F.T. Mayhoff (1906). English text, translated by John Bostock (1855).

University of Chicago: The Historie of the World, translated by Philemon Holland (1601). HTML format.

Other Resources

BBC In Our Time: Pliny's Natural History - Radio programme presented by Melvyn Bragg, with Serafina Cuomo, Aude Doody and Liba Taub.

Librivox: The Natural History -  public domain audiobook.

Livius: Pliny the Elder, Natural History.

Roger Pearse: The manuscripts of Pliny the Elder’s “Natural History.

Wikipedia: Natural History (Pliny).

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Pliny's sources

Pliny is unusual among ancient writers in explicitly citing a copious range of sources. The extant authors mentioned in the summary of the work in Book I include:

Aeschylus - Anacreon - Aristotle - Callimachus - Cato the Elder - Cicero - Columella - Cornelius Nepos - Herodotus - Hesiod - Hippocrates - Homer - Horace- Livy - Menander - Ovid - Pindar - Plautus - Polybius - Pomponius Mela - Seneca - Sophocles - Theophrastus - Thucydides - Varro - Virgil - Vitruvius.

Pliny's contemporaries

Pliny the Younger: Letters.

Tacitus: The Germania - thought to be strongly influenced by Pliny's lost work on the German Wars.

Pliny's influence

Isidore of Seville: Etymologies - An encyclopedic work from late antiquity that relies heavily on Pliny. 


Theophrastus: Enquiry Into Plants

The Enquiry into Plants (Greek: ,Περὶ φυτῶν ἱστορία)  by Theophrastus is the earliest major work on botany in the classical tradition. Theophrastus seems to have specialised in applying the methods of the peripatetic school in this area, while his teacher focused on animals.

The Enquiry Into Plants at Amazon: United States | Canada | United Kingdom | France | Germany | Spain | Italy

Free online texts

Loebulus. L070 - Theophrastus -- Enquiry into Plants I: Books 1-5. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also available via the Internet Archive.

Loebulus. L079 - Theophrastus -- Enquiry into Plants II: Books 6-9. Treatise on Odours. Concerning Weather Signs. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English. Also available via the Internet Archive.

ToposText: Enquiry into Plants, translated by Arthur Fenton Hort (1916). HTML text with linked Google Maps.

Other Resources

History of Philosophy without any gaps: The Next Generation: the Followers of Plato and Aristotle - podcast by philosopher Peter Adamson.

Edward Worth Library: Theophrastus of Eresus.

Simon Fraser University: Theophrastus Project.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosphy: Theophrastus, by Katerina Ierodiakonou

Wikipedia: Theophrastus - Historia Plantarum (Theophrastus).

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Theophrastus: Characters

Aristotle: On the Soul (De Anima).

Aristotle: History of Animals.

Pliny: Natural History.

 Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.