Why Did Pliny Write Natural History?

Pliny the Elder was a renowned Roman author and naturalist who lived in the first century AD. His most famous work is the Natural History, which is a vast encyclopedia of natural sciences.

The work covers a wide range of topics, including astronomy, geography, zoology, botany, and mineralogy. In this article, we will explore why Pliny wrote Natural History.

The Purpose of Natural History

Pliny wrote Natural History with the intention of providing a comprehensive overview of the natural world. He believed that by describing the world around us in detail, we can gain a better understanding of our place in it. Pliny was fascinated by nature and its complexities, and he wanted to share his knowledge with others.

The Influence of Greek Philosophy

The Greeks had a strong tradition of scientific inquiry that inspired Pliny. He was particularly influenced by Aristotle’s work on natural history. Aristotle’s approach to science emphasized observation and classification, which is evident in Pliny’s writing as well.

Pliny’s Personal Motivations

In addition to his love for nature and his desire to share knowledge with others, Pliny had personal motivations for writing Natural History. He was ambitious and wanted to leave behind a lasting legacy. By creating an encyclopedia that covered so many different subjects, he hoped to establish himself as an authority on all things related to the natural world.

The Political Climate of Rome

At the time Pliny was writing Natural History, Rome was undergoing significant political changes. The Roman Empire was expanding rapidly and new territories were being conquered.

This created a demand for information about these new lands and their resources. Natural History provided this information in great detail.

The Legacy of Natural History

Natural History has been hugely influential throughout history. It was one of the most widely read works during medieval times and was used as a primary source for scientific knowledge. Many later naturalists, including Charles Darwin, were influenced by Pliny’s work.


In conclusion, Pliny wrote Natural History for several reasons. He was driven by his love of nature, his desire to share knowledge, his personal ambitions, and the political climate of Rome. His work has had a lasting impact on the scientific community and continues to be studied and admired today.