Pliny the Elder Chatbot

Converse with an AI Pliny the Elder

Interaction and Reaction

Gaius Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder, lived from around 23 CE to 79 AD, primarily in Rome. His death came as a result of the Pompeii explosion, the exact reasoning is debated. Some authors claim he was watching the explosion to further his scientific understanding, others say he perished in an attempt to rescue those in the process of fleeing. In his lifetime Pliny wrote 37 books, entitled Natural History, about plant life, animal life, and geography. The content of these books has been used to train an artificially intelligent chatbot for the purpose of educating the public. Visitors are encouraged to ask the accompanying questions to understand what information Pliny may have been able to provide on the “Rethinking the Past” exhibition. 

The chatbot was created using ChatGPT through a platform called Social Intents. Pliny’s written texts are converted to an HTML file which is then used to train the bot through the Social Intents program. The bot is then modified using instruction phrases that keep the bot in character and inform it of any information not included in the training material. This includes keeping the bot within the proper time period, informing it of Pliny’s death, and ensuring it provides specific rather than general answers. 

Suggested Questions:  

  1. What Roman customs involved plant life? 
  1. What were the proposed medical uses of plant life? 
  1. What knowledge do the Romans have on the natural world for which they credit the Etruscans? 


“Pliny the Elder, the Natural History John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S., H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A., Ed.” Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, BOOK I.1, DEDICATION. 1 Lemaire informs us, in his title-page, that the two first books of the Natural History are edited by M. Alexandre, in his edition. Accessed March 18, 2024. 

Social Intents. “How to Add CHATGPT to Your Website.” Social Intents Knowledge Base. Accessed March 18, 2024. 

Zirkle, Conway. “The Death of Gaius Plinius Secundus (23-79 A.D.).” Isis 58, no. 4 (1967): 553–59.