Book Club | May 2022: Pliny Natural Histories “The Nature of Flowers and Garlands”

…chaplets were employed in honour of the gods, the Lares, public as well as domestic, the sepulchres, and the Manes. The highest place, however, in public estimation, was held by the plaited chaplet; such as we find used by the Salii in their sacred rites, and at the solemnization of their yearly banquets. In later times, the rose chaplet has been adopted, and luxury arose at last to such a pitch that a chaplet was held in no esteem at all if it did not consist entirely of leaves sown together with the needle. More recently, again, they have been imported from India, or from nations beyond the countries of India.
But it is looked upon as the most refined of all, to present chaplets made of nard leaves, or else of silk of many colours steeped in unguents. Such is the pitch to which the luxuriousness of our women has at last arrived!

The Book Club selection for this month is Pliny the Elder: Natural Histories, Book 21: “The Nature of Flowers and Garlands.”

Pliny the Elder (23–79 CE) was a Roman author. His most famous work is the Natural Histories which consists of thirty seven books on geography, anthropology, zoology and many other different topics. He died during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE and his nephew Pliny the Younger (61–113 CE), an author and a lawyer, who was a direct witness of that eruption, wrote about it.

Here are links to some translations that are free online:

Translated by John Bostock and H.T. Riley, 1855, online at Perseus
or online at Project Gutenberg
or to view online or download at

Translated by H. Rackham/W.H.S. Jones, 1938, view online or download at

Translated by Philemon Holland, view online or download at
(Note that this is based on the 1634 printing and may be difficult to read!)

Discussion will start and continue in the Forum, and we will meet via Zoom on Tuesday May 31 at 11 a.m. EDT—the link will be posted in the forum just beforehand on the day.

Happy readings!