Rectina

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From the book or series of The Roman Mysteries (The Secret of Vesuvius) it explains that during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, Pliny the Elder received a message from a friend named Rectina. This prompted him to set sail with galleys and a cutter partly in order to observe what was happening at closer range, and partly to attempt a rescue of some of the people of the towns at the foot of the volcano.

Pliny's ships were driven back from the shore and it would seem that Rectina was not rescued by Pliny the Elder, although it is possible she might have survived the eruption.

Rectina, wife of Cascus or Tascus or Tascius[edit]

Pliny the Younger mentions Rectina, whom he calls the wife of Cascus, Tascus or Tascius, in Letter 16 of book VI of his Letters. Different online translations of this letter, from Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus, disagree on the name of Rectina's husband.

As wife of 'Cascus'[edit]

'Cascus' is possibly a reference to Pedius Cascus, a Roman senator and aristocrat.

As wife of 'Tascus'[edit]

'Tascus' is possibly a typo for 'Tascius' (see below).

As wife of 'Tascius'[edit]

'Tascius' could refer to Tascius Pomponianus, whom Pliny did visit at Stabia after failing to land near Herculaneum. It is not obvious from Pliny's letter that the two historical characters were linked in any way.

In modern literature[edit]

Rectina appears as a character in book 2 of Caroline Lawrence's dramatic fiction series "The Roman Mysteries" written for children. In that story she appears as wife of Tascius Pomponianus of Stabia.

Several scenes in Robert Harris' bestselling novel Pompeii are set in the Villa of the Papyri, just before the eruption engulfed it. In this story, the villa is claimed to belong to Roman aristocrat Pedius Cascus and his wife Rectina. At the start of the eruption Rectina prepares to have the library evacuated and sends urgent word to her old friend, Pliny the Elder, who commands the Roman Navy at Misenum on the other side of the Bay of Naples. Pliny immediately sets out in a warship, and gets in sight of the villa, but the eruption prevents him from landing and taking off Rectina and her library - which is thus left for modern archaeologists to find.