John said I should look for a t-shirt saying, “Pliny was here,” because of my delight in learning that he was in fact in Evora, sometime round 72 or 73 A.D. (“The towns in the enjoyment of the ancient Latin rights are Ebora, which also has the name of Liberalitas Julia…” from the Natural History, book 35, thanks to the Perseus site.) I wonder if the Roman temple had been built when he was here? The information I have says only that it was built sometime in the 1st century A.D. Still, I like to think he stood on the hill and looked out to the verdant plain, as we did this morning, maybe in the shadow of the temple.
I should have remembered he’d been on the Iberian peninsula. As a young woman living in London in the mid-1970s, I first encountered the Natural History. An old tattered copy was on the shelf of my room in the rehabilitation home for ex-psychiatric patients where I worked as a volunteer. I read about geology and botany and knew I’d found a soul-mate. I loved Pliny’s confidence, even when he was (absurdly) wrong. And given my own moody sense of the impossibility of true love (I was 21…), I was heartened to learn that it might be possible to have offspring without the bother of a mate: “…Olisipo, famous for its mares, which conceive from the west wind…” (Olisipo is modern-day Lisbon, where we go tomorrow afternoon.) Pliny was the son of an equestrian so perhaps he knew a few secrets about horses.
Anyway, Evora is wonderful. This morning we walked to look at the aquedect, the Agua de Prata, or silver water, built between 1531 and 1537 to bring water to the town from a source 9 km away. There are houses and shops nestled between the arches and plants (I’m sure Pliny could have told me what they are) grow in the crevices between the old stones. And maybe I can find that t-shirt.