The Curious Eye of the Elder Pliny

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Curiosity, both in classical antiquity and later, had ambiguous connotations. In investigating the world around them, ancient philosophers, including Seneca, tended to advocate the investigation of celestial over terrestrial matters as the road to philosophical fulfilment. Pliny's focus in his 'Natural History' is, however, on the latter. This paper explores the nuances of this terrestrial curiosity, focussing in particular on the extent to which the key motif of vision assumes distinctive qualities in keeping with the author's wider project. It argues that the individual objects of Pliny's curiosity are highlighted to produce an emotional response very different from that of Seneca's serene contemplation, yet equally valid as an appreciation of nature.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPliny the Elder: Themes and Contexts
EditorsRoy K Gibson
Place of PublicationLeiden
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9789004202344
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


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