Insaniam e ligno (nat . hist . XXXvi 114) Pline et le double théâtre de curion ou les sous-entendus d’une description

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Alexandre Grandazzi



In book 36 of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, a book devoted to stone, there’s an extensive description of Curio’s wooden theatre, a surprising fact which warrants an explanation. Equally surprising is the unremarked upon absence in the same book of any mention of the Colosseum amphitheater, a stone monument which was being built when Pliny was writing his encyclopedia, and whose huge construction site in the center of Rome he could hardly have missed. It would seem that Pliny’s disapproval of Curio’s theatre, a device that gave birth to the neologism amphitheatrum, should be read as a veiled criticism aimed at the imperial decision to provide the Urbs with an amphitheatrum novum which was to be the largest structure of this type ever built until this date. The encyclopedist’s feelings towards the Flavian dynasty thus appear to be more ambiguous than is generally thought.


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