Talk:Natural History (Pliny)/Archive 1

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Naturalis Historia?

Ah yes, Naturalis Historia to be sure. Luckily for us simple folks, Pliny's Natural History still redirects here. The illustrated title page gives a title of Naturalis Historiǣ. Perhaps accuracy is not the main thing. --Wetman 23:13, 24 September 2006 (UTC)

The title on that particular title page is in the genitive case: it means "The first volume of the Natural History of C. Plinius Secundus". So there's no inaccuracy. However, the Wikipedia rule is to choose the form most commonly used by simple (and other) folks in English, isn't it? "Natural History", therefore. Andrew Dalby 21:09, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

Requested move

Naturalis HistoriaNatural History (Pliny)Natural History is the most common title for this work in English: see [1] and [2]. Natural History (Pliny) currently redirects to Naturalis Historia, the result of a recent page move. --Akhilleus (talk) 22:10, 30 September 2006 (UTC)


Add "* Support" or "* Oppose" followed by an optional one-sentence explanation, then sign your opinion with ~~~~

  • Support. As I said above, Wikipedia prefers the name most commonly used in English. Andrew Dalby 01:07, 1 October 2006 (UTC)


Add any additional comments --Akhilleus (talk) 22:10, 30 September 2006 (UTC)


Wikipedia: A "work that is full of insufficient and superfluous allegations, and more varied as nature herself."

Comment on the art section from Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time (BBC Radio 4)

Their show on The Artist (TX 28th March 2002 [3]) says that Pliny's description of historical artists is quite at odds to how they were viewed at the time. Visual artists (sculptors, painters) were held in low regard, little more than manual labourers. The programme says that Pliny spoke about them in far more elevated terms. I am not familiar with this work, but perhaps someone who is may feel that this is worth mentioning? --bodnotbod 18:58, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Roman technology

I have added a new section on technology because Pliny is one of our best source for such information, but much more could be added. There ought to be cross-refs to other authors especially Vitruvius, Varro and even Tacitus. Peterlewis (talk) 07:08, 24 February 2008 (UTC)

I have started to expand the "highlights" section if only because there is a wealth of detail in Pliny to mention, and can be well illustrated from other articles. It also gives the opportunity to produce cross-refs to those other articles. Peterlewis (talk) 19:53, 29 April 2008 (UTC)

Line item notes please

This article is looking mighty fine I think and I acknowledge the worth of the most recent contributions. Wikipedia though insists on line-item notes. Specifically the quotes need statements of where in Pliny you got it and the references in parentheses ought to be in notes. The major ideas need a page number from those books cited. Ideally one should use the "cite book" template and others like it. If you don't know how to do this yet look at the code for any article with auto-generated notes; that is, almost any article. These notes are dog-work no doubt but someone has to do it. I refrain from marring such a nice article with templates so instead I'm using the discussion to suggest it ought to be done. I got other things I'm doing.Dave (talk) 06:41, 2 August 2008 (UTC)

Either ambiguous or non-neutral language

I'm not sure what to think of the following excerpts from the article:

"He is especially interested in not just describing the occurrence of plants, animals and insects, but also their exploitation (or abuse) by man, especially Romans." ("Highlights" heading)

"Silver comes next in Pliny's pantheon of greed." ("Metallurgy" section)

I'm not an expert, so I can't tell if Pliny is deliberately disparaging Roman culture or if the language used to describe his text is just non-neutral. It doesn't help that the note on his writing style is deliriously opaque:

"His style betrays the influence of Seneca. It aims less at clearness and vividness than at epigrammatic point. It abounds not only in antitheses, but also in questions and exclamations, tropes and metaphors, and other mannerisms of the Silver Age. The rhythmical and artistic form of the sentence is sacrificed to a passion for emphasis that delights in deferring the point to the close of the period. The structure of the sentence is also apt to be loose and straggling. There is an excessive use of the ablative absolute, and ablative phrases are often appended in a kind of vague "apposition" to express the author's own opinion of an immediately previous statement, e.g.,[9]

dixit (Apelles) … uno se praestare, quod manum de tabula sciret tollere, memorabili praecepto nocere saepe nimiam diligentiam."

KHAAAAAAAAAAN (talk) 22:46, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

Who Wrote This? Reads Like A Dissertation

As a personal essay I can find little fault in this article. But it's far too personal a piece to survive unchallanged. Some notable examples of fluff include: in a phrase that deserves to be proverbial.. and We are fortunate to have a description of his methods....

The following section on Style I find so incredible I have quoted it whole and verbatim:

His style betrays the influence of Seneca. It aims less at clearness and vividness than at epigrammatic point. It abounds not only in antitheses, but also in questions and exclamations, tropes and metaphors, and other mannerisms of the Silver Age. The rhythmical and artistic form of the sentence is sacrificed to a passion for emphasis that delights in deferring the point to the close of the period. The structure of the sentence is also apt to be loose and straggling. There is an excessive use of the ablative absolute, and ablative phrases are often appended in a kind of vague "apposition" to express the author's own opinion of an immediately previous statement..

Please! Blitterbug (talk) 12:36, 18 April 2010 (UTC)

Adding the appropriate tag. But if it takes that many years to notice this, it's going to take a while before someone goes on and rewrites it. 8ty3hree (talk) 01:52, 19 December 2012 (UTC)
The tag at the top in this case seems wrong as the article is well cited and the conclusions drawn, even if in a few places in too-colourful language, are generally supported by the citations. The paragraph mentioned had already been cleaned up. However the style is somewhat flowery: a general copy-edit is needed. I've cleaned up the appraisal, will have another look after the holiday. Chiswick Chap (talk) 08:40, 19 December 2012 (UTC)

Rediscovery of Laocoon

What does this extended discussion really have to do with Pliny's encyclopedia other than it may have been mentioned in it? The discussion really ventures way beyond any connection to Pliny's involvement —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:07, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

Corn in Europe in 77A.D.?

How can Pliny speak of "worms and beetles fall off the ears of corn" when the article on Maize specifically states that "After European contact with the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, explorers and traders carried maize back to Europe and introduced it to other countries"? How can he speak of a crop that in his specific place and time didn't exist? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:38, 29 February 2012 (UTC)

See Corn (disambiguation): "In much of the English-speaking world, the term "corn" is a generic term for cereal crops, such as barley, oats, rye and wheat". --Saddhiyama (talk) 17:12, 29 February 2012 (UTC)

'Topics' missing, unbalanced coverage

The section on "Topics" currently omits quite a few topics of the book, most obviously the whole of Books II - VI on astronomy and geography.

Medicine and pharmacology are almost entirely omitted also, Books XX - XXX (the last being on magic).

As well as omissions, the coverage of topics is extremely uneven, with very brief coverage of botany and zoology, and detailed coverage of metallurgy and mining: perhaps these were personal interests of an earlier editor.

Some rework of the section appears necessary. Chiswick Chap (talk) 07:23, 19 May 2014 (UTC)

Quite a bit to do

On browsing the article, I also noticed a couple of things that need attention. Some of them have been noted in earlier posts. I'll get to them if I can ...

  • A couple of Latin quotes without translation;
Done. Chiswick Chap (talk) 09:04, 21 May 2014 (UTC)
  • The section titled 'Reception' outlines the reaction of just one person, a 20th century Italian author of no special relevance that I can discern. Does this warrant a section of its own, given much of the rest of the content is about the NH's importance and reception? If so it needs a much wider coverage;
On whether we need to cover the reception of Pliny: definitely. On whether a section: it's usual. Maybe we reorg to group more content in 'Reception'; maybe we add more people's reception (seems likely); and maybe we handle it outside. Chiswick Chap (talk) 14:47, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
  • At least two of the References (#10 and #11) are much more comments than references. I'm not saying they aren't valuable, just that they're in the wrong place;
Moved a number of refs and several inline asides to efn footnotes.
  • The section headed "Method" begins: "His nephew, Pliny the Younger, described Pliny's method in the Natural History:" Did PtY give his description within the NH, or did he elsewhere describe PtE's method of writing the NH? Either way this needs a Ref.;
  • There are a number of what appear to be refs to NH Books/Chapters when Pliny is quoted, which is great. Then there are numerous quotes that aren't ref'd;
Think we have them in order now.
  • Unreferenced assertions from and about external sources etc.
Chopped a lot of WP:OR, added several refs.
  • Some variation in referencing styles.
Not a GA matter, but am tidying the worst of it up.

And overall I agree with previous comments to the effect that parts of this don't read much like an encyclopedia article. Parts of it are almost chatty and opinion based*, and others are academic-essay like.

Chopped the worst of it, done some copy-editing, cut opinions, moved details to footnotes.

So ... I'll put it on my List of things that I potter around with, from time to time. If anyone wants to get more enthustiastic, go to it!

Oh, I should add, a LOT of good and hard work has also been done here, and I don't mean to 'dump' on the article as a whole.

(* I have a basic test of objectivity: more adjectives = less objective)**

Chopped a lot of purple prose.

(** Don't take this literally. Adjectives can be good, obviously. Just not too many, you know?)

Wayne 12:59, 19 May 2014 (UTC)

Yes, I noticed the adjectives thing a year or two ago while trying to write new articles. It's quite hard to justify any of them except in rather definite paraphrases, better in direct quotes. I agree with the drift of most of this, and intend to work on the missing topics first, followed by extending the Reception section. Chiswick Chap (talk)

Magnes the Shepherd

The was prompted by this edit by myself where I added text referring to Magnes the shepherd to this article, and a similar edit to Etymologiae. Chiswick Chap messaged me after reverting both edits. I have moved the discussion here to reach a wider audience. --LukeSurl t c 10:21, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

Moved from User talk:LukeSurl

Hi, I can't have made myself clear, so let me try a second time. Nobody doubts that one of the hundreds of stories gathered and randomly retailed by Pliny includes the piece of nonsense about Magnes the supposedly magnet-using shepherd. He tells many other such unproven stories. The question is, so what? We know, too, that that other random retailer of thousands of unreliable sources, Isidore, gleefully retailed the not-even-third-hand tale. No, what is required is an independent source attesting reliably to why this ridiculous tale is worth picking out of the morass as notably more significant than all the others. Pliny himself is not a source you can use for this purpose, and nor is Isidore. Since, however, Magnes already (inexplicably) has his own article, I'd have thought he was already covered considerably more than he deserves, and there's no need to spam him over all sorts of other articles. Chiswick Chap (talk) 20:01, 20 March 2015 (UTC)

Hi Chiswick Chap, I'm just trying to build the web. A request came in at the Teahouse to create the article, and Fuhghettaboutit put together a nice article in response. Now this is a quite niche topic and clearly there's precious few mainspace articles that Magnes the shepherd can be reasonably linked to. The link from history of magnetism does the bare-minimum de-orphaning, but it's desirable to try and incorporate this article into the encyclopedia to more than the absolute minimum. The scattering of references to Magnes in ancient texts pretty much is the story here, so the obvious candidates are Naturalis Historia and Etymologiae.
Considering that Magnes the shepherd is now an existing article, and it would almost certainly pass AfD (you are welcome to nominate), it is reasonable to make efforts to link to it from two or three pages. I contend that my concise edits to Naturalis Historia and Etymologiae added little clutter (especially to the rather sparse Etymologiae article, which could do with more content in the "The work" section), and provided links which a reader may well be interested to follow.
what is required is an independent source attesting reliably to why this ridiculous tale is worth picking out: In-article references are required for verification of facts, and not to prove the notability of a subject of established notability to other editors.
In short, if you disagree with Magnes the shepherd's inclusion in Wikipedia you can propose the article for deletion. But if by the article's persistence the notability of the subject is established, it serves no purpose to exclude Wikilinks from the most closely-related articles.
--LukeSurl t c 21:05, 20 March 2015 (UTC)
If I wanted to delete the article, I'd take it to AfD. But as I said above, I think the Magnes article quite sufficient coverage.
"Building the web": I don't buy it. Every wikilink "builds the web", but not all are helpful. Every company, every new music track, every other thing tries to form a web of connections to draw traffic, and you're no different. Each new article scrabbles about desperately looking for hooks (so major articles get bombarded with attempted hooks to things that from their perspective are very minor). The teahouse request may have been well-meant; clever or ignorant; well-thought-out or simply silly, I won't hazard a guess. I can see exactly why the Magnes article wishes to bluelink to Pliny. But of the thousands, literally, of stories in Pliny, I am utterly unconvinced that Magnes is more than a piece of the most minor trivia to justify any sort of reverse link in the form of a mention in the NH article. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. Chiswick Chap (talk) 21:41, 20 March 2015 (UTC)
I feel the above argument would be appropriate if we were discussing an edit to Pliny the Elder. However this is not what is being proposed. There is a natural hierarchy of articles: Pliny -> Books by Pliny -> Stories of these books, and it is useful to help readers navigate this chain with Wikilinks. The article Magnes the shepherd is, for the most part, a discussion of how a snippet of Naturalis Historia, has been treated by the centuries and is a useful supplement to its 'parent' article.
Regarding the thousands, literally, of stories in Pliny, this is true, but only a few dozen of these stories have dedicated articles about them. Making an effort to add appropriate Wikilinks in the prose of Naturalis Historia for subtopic articles that do exist is unlikely to be a significant burden to the article, indeed they would be is a useful contribution for both 'parent' and 'child' articles. --LukeSurl t c 10:33, 26 March 2015 (UTC)
Glad you agree about the thousands. I don't agree (not every article that cites Origin of Species deserves a link there, it's not just wrong at Charles Darwin, it's wrong, period), but since we've already spilt far too much ink on this absurd little link, I'll put something very brief back to terminate the discussion.Chiswick Chap (talk) 11:53, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

"Precious stones" link may not be the best available.

The article linked to in the introduction to this article for the phrase, "precious stones," is "Engraved gem", which is not known as a "precious stone" in the same way a Gemstone is. In fact, the article that is currently linked to contains a link (actually, it contains two, but that is besides the point at hand) to the Gemstone article, and states:

"An engraved gem is a small gemstone, usually semi-precious, that has been carved, in the Western tradition normally with images or inscriptions only on one face."

I am making this section to inquire about the reason for the inclusion of the Engraved gem article, since there may be a reason that I have missed along the way. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Crossark (talkcontribs) 23:57, 10 May 2015 (UTC)

No idea; have moved gemstone link from late in section to top - you could WP:BOLDly have made this uncontroversial change. Chiswick Chap (talk) 05:54, 11 May 2015 (UTC)