Pliny's Natural History has too often been regarded as simply a quarry for quaint stories--a view which has tended to overshadow its overall structure and purpose. In this book, Beagon redresses the balance and illuminates the Natural History as the work of an author with an identifiable mode of thinking and a coherent attitude toward his clearly-stated theme, Nature. Taking its cue from Pliny, the book examines his cosmology and in particular his portrayal of the relationship between nature and what he considered nature's greatest creation, Humankind. Author and work are also placed in their wider literary and historical context. Pliny himself emerges no longer as a faceless compiler but as a character with a valuable contribution to make to an understanding of intellectual attitudes in the first century A.D. A more typical Roman than most of the intellectual authors studied today, he can offer a much more accurate picture of the Roman in his "natural" setting.
`Mary Beagon's interesting new book ... contributes further to the understanding of the underlying ideas of the work and the aims of its author ... B. does a very good job in giving us a grounding in the essential unity of Pliny's work and the importance of Natura to his conception of human life ... B.'s new book renews and increases one's admiration of Pliny's achievement, but leaves one with a lingering doubt that he could ever be regarded as a
typical member of any age!'
Bryn Mawr Classical Review
`a splendid effort.'
Peter Jones, Literary Review
'particularly to be welcomed ... there are fascinating insights into particular aspects of Pliny's thought'
Greece & Rome, April 1993
'easily the best general treatment that Pliny has ever received, sympathetic and clear-headed both ... It is a work that belongs in the library of every classicist, yet is accessible to readers from other fields ... the work is remarkably accessible to the non-specialist; and for clarity of expression and cogency of argument Beagon can hardly be bettered.'
Alexander P. MacGregor, Jr., University of Illinois at Chicago, Classical Bulletin 69 (1993)
'Beagon's book is focused, well organized, persuasive. It's the worthy, educated world-view of a productive high official under a conscientious emperor.'
Paul McKechnie, Prudentia, Vol XXV, No 2, November 1993
`Much of her success is due to the clear arrangement of her thoughts into self-contained units, each dealing with a different relationship between man and the natural world ... The combination of thorough scholarship and interesting ideas has made accessible a work whose sheer scale can be daunting. B.'s bibliography is varied and excellent, and the book is easy to refer to ... It represents an important elucidation of a piece of intellectual history,
fully supported by a strongly text-based approach.'
Journal of Hellenic Studies