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Pliny and the Dolphin—or a Story About Storytelling

From: Arethusa
Volume 42, Number 2, Spring 2009
pp. 161-179 | 10.1353/are.0.0021



The younger Pliny's Epistle 9.33, offering to Caninius an "amazing" dolphin story as "raw material" for a poem, invites a "literary" reading. Close verbal parallels to its unnamed source, the elder Pliny's Natural History 9.8.26, make clear the allusion and emphasize by contrast the younger's generally more "artful" prose. Parallels to Epistle 8.4, about Caninius's mooted poem on the Dacian War, cast that artfulness in precise "poetic" terms. By allusively suppressing his uncle and, as it were, gently scooping his friend, Pliny makes of the dolphin story a polished and playful story about his own storytelling.