Pliny the Elder was born Gaius Plinius Secundus, who lived A.D. 23 – 79. He was a famous Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and friend of the emperor Vespasian. He was author of a celebrated Natural History, an encyclopedic work on science which was authoritative through the Middle Ages. He died of sudden asphyxiation from volcanic gasses when he approached on foot too near the area surrounding Herculaneum and Pompeii during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. His nephew was Pliny the Younger.