Pliny the Elder.

The Natural History of Pliny, Volume 1 (of 6) online

. (page 10 of 57)
Online LibraryPliny the ElderThe Natural History of Pliny, Volume 1 (of 6) → online text (page 10 of 57)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

rolled away from it.


In the ordinary course of things islands are also formed by this means.
The sea has torn Sicily from Italy[575], Cyprus from Syria, Eubœa
from Bœotia[576], Atalante and Macris[577] from Eubœa, Besbycus from
Bithynia, and Leucosia from the promontory of the Sirens.


Again, islands are taken from the sea and added to the main land;
Antissa[578] to Lesbos, Zephyrium to Halicarnassus, Æthusa to Myndus,
Dromiscus and Perne to Miletus, Narthecusa to the promontory of
Parthenium. Hybanda, which was formerly an island of Ionia, is now 200
stadia distant from the sea. Syries is now become a part of Ephesus,
and, in the same neighbourhood, Derasidas and Sophonia form part of
Magnesia; while Epidaurus and Oricum are no longer islands[579].


The sea has totally carried off certain lands, and first of all, if
we are to believe Plato[580], for an immense space where the Atlantic
ocean is now extended. More lately we see what has been produced by
our inland sea; Acarnania has been overwhelmed by the Ambracian gulf,
Achaia by the Corinthian, Europe and Asia by the Propontis and Pontus.
And besides these, the sea has rent asunder Leucas, Antirrhium, the
Hellespont, and the two Bosphori[581].


And not to speak of bays and gulfs, the earth feeds on itself; it has
devoured the very high mountain of Cybotus, with the town of Curites;
also Sipylus in Magnesia[582], and formerly, in the same place, a very
celebrated city, which was called Tantalis; also the land belonging to
the cities Galanis and Gamales in Phœnicia, together with the cities
themselves; also Phegium, the most lofty ridge in Æthiopia[583]. Nor
are the shores of the sea more to be depended upon.


The sea near the Palus Mæotis has carried away Pyrrha and Antissa,
also Elice and Bura[584] in the gulf of Corinth, traces of which
places are visible in the ocean. From the island Cea it has seized on
30,000 paces, which were suddenly torn off, with many persons on them.
In Sicily also the half of the city of Tyndaris, and all the part of
Italy which is wanting[585]; in like manner it carried off Eleusina in

CHAP. 95. (93.)—OF VENTS[587] IN THE EARTH.

But let us say no more of earthquakes and of whatever may be regarded
as the sepulchres of cities[588]; let us rather speak of the wonders of
the earth than of the crimes of nature. But, by Hercules! the history
of the heavens themselves would not be more difficult to relate:—the
abundance of metals, so various, so rich, so prolific, rising up[589]
during so many ages; when, throughout all the world, so much is,
every day, destroyed by fire, by waste, by shipwreck, by wars, and
by frauds; and while so much is consumed by luxury and by such a
number of people:—the figures on gems, so multiplied in their forms;
the variously-coloured spots on certain stones, and the whiteness of
others, excluding everything except light:—the virtues of medicinal
springs, and the perpetual fires bursting out in so many places, for
so many ages:—the exhalation of deadly vapours, either emitted from
caverns[590], or from certain unhealthy districts; some of them fatal
to birds alone, as at Soracte, a district near the city[591]; others
to all animals, except to man[592], while others are so to man also,
as in the country of Sinuessa and Puteoli. They are generally called
vents, and, by some persons, Charon’s sewers, from their exhaling a
deadly vapour. Also at Amsanctum, in the country of the Hirpini, at the
temple of Mephitis[593], there is a place which kills all those who
enter it. And the same takes place at Hierapolis in Asia[594], where
no one can enter with safety, except the priest of the great Mother of
the Gods. In other places there are prophetic caves, where those who
are intoxicated with the vapour which rises from them predict future
events[595], as at the most noble of all oracles, Delphi. In which
cases, what mortal is there who can assign any other cause, than the
divine power of nature, which is everywhere diffused, and thus bursts
forth in various places?


There are certain lands which shake when any one passes over them[596];
as in the territory of the Gabii, not far from the city of Rome, there
are about 200 acres which shake when cavalry passes over it: the same
thing takes place at Reate.

(95.) There are certain islands which are always floating[597], as in
the territory of the Cæcubum[598], and of the above-mentioned Reate,
of Mutina, and of Statonia. In the lake of Vadimonis and the waters of
Cutiliæ there is a dark wood, which is never seen in the same place for
a day and a night together. In Lydia, the islands named Calaminæ are
not only driven about by the wind, but may be even pushed at pleasure
from place to place, by poles: many citizens saved themselves by this
means in the Mithridatic war. There are some small islands in the
Nymphæus, called the Dancers[599], because, when choruses are sung,
they are moved by the motions of those who beat time. In the great
Italian lake of Tarquinii, there are two islands with groves on them,
which are driven about by the wind, so as at one time to exhibit the
figure of a triangle and at another of a circle; but they never form a


There is at Paphos a celebrated temple of Venus, in a certain court of
which it never rains; also at Nea, a town of Troas, in the spot which
surrounds the statue of Minerva: in this place also the remains of
animals that are sacrificed never putrefy[601].


Near Harpasa, a town of Asia, there stands a terrific rock, which may
be moved by a single finger; but if it be pushed by the force of the
whole body, it resists[602]. In the Tauric peninsula, in the state of
the Parasini, there is a kind of earth which cures all wounds[603].
About Assos, in Troas, a stone is found, by which all bodies are
consumed; it is called Sarcophagus[604]. There are two mountains near
the river Indus; the nature of one is to attract iron, of the other to
repel it: hence, if there be nails in the shoes, the feet cannot be
drawn off the one, or set down on the other[605]. It has been noticed,
that at Locris and Crotona, there has never been a pestilence, nor have
they ever suffered from an earthquake; in Lycia there are always forty
calm days before an earthquake. In the territory of Argyripa the corn
which is sown never springs up. At the altars of Mucius, in the country
of the Veii, and about Tusculum, and in the Cimmerian Forest, there are
places in which things that are pushed into the ground cannot be pulled
out again. The hay which is grown in Crustuminium is noxious on the
spot, but elsewhere it is wholesome[606].


Much has been said about the nature of waters; but the most wonderful
circumstance is the alternate flowing and ebbing of the tides, which
exists, indeed, under various forms, but is caused by the sun and the
moon. The tide flows twice and ebbs twice between each two risings
of the moon, always in the space of twenty-four hours. First, the
moon rising with the stars[607] swells out the tide, and after some
time, having gained the summit of the heavens, she declines from the
meridian and sets, and the tide subsides. Again, after she has set, and
moves in the heavens under the earth, as she approaches the meridian
on the opposite side, the tide flows in; after which it recedes
until she again rises to us. But the tide of the next day is never
at the same time with that of the preceding; as if the planet was in
attendance[608], greedily drinking up the sea, and continually rising
in a different place from what she did the day before. The intervals
are, however, equal, being always of six hours; not indeed in respect
of any particular day or night or place[609], but equinoctial hours,
and therefore they are unequal as estimated by the length of common
hours, since a greater number of them[610] fall on some certain days or
nights, and they are never equal everywhere except at the equinox. This
is a great, most clear, and even divine proof of the dullness of those,
who deny that the stars go below the earth and rise up again, and that
nature presents the same face in the same states of their rising and
setting[611]; for the course of the stars is equally obvious in the one
case as in the other, producing the same effect as when it is manifest
to the sight.

There is a difference in the tides, depending on the moon, of a
complicated nature, and, first, as to the period of seven days. For the
tides are of moderate height from the new moon to the first quarter;
from this time they increase, and are the highest at the full: they
then decrease. On the seventh day they are equal to what they were at
the first quarter, and they again increase from the time that she is
at first quarter on the other side. At her conjunction with the sun
they are equally high as at the full. When the moon is in the northern
hemisphere, and recedes further from the earth, the tides are lower
than when, going towards the south, she exercises her influence at a
less distance[612]. After an interval of eight years, and the hundredth
revolution of the moon, the periods and the heights of the tides return
into the same order as at first, this planet always acting upon them;
and all these effects are likewise increased by the annual changes of
the sun[613], the tides rising up higher at the equinoxes, and more so
at the autumnal than at the vernal; while they are lower[614] about the
winter solstice, and still more so at the summer solstice; not indeed
precisely at the points of time which I have mentioned, but a few days
after[615]; for example, not exactly at the full nor at the new moon,
but after them; and not immediately when the moon becomes visible or
invisible, or has advanced to the middle of her course, but generally
about two hours later than the equinoctial hours[616]; the effect of
what is going on in the heavens being felt after a short interval; as
we observe with respect to lightning, thunder, and thunderbolts.

But the tides of the ocean cover greater spaces and produce greater
inundations than the tides of the other seas; whether it be that the
whole of the universe taken together is more full of life than its
individual parts, or that the large open space feels more sensibly the
power of the planet, as it moves freely about, than when restrained
within narrow bounds. On which account neither lakes nor rivers are
moved in the same manner. Pytheas[617] of Massilia informs us, that in
Britain the tide rises 80 cubits[618]. Inland seas are enclosed as in a
harbour, but, in some parts of them, there is a more free space which
obeys the influence[619]. Among many other examples, the force of the
tide will carry us in three days from Italy to Utica, when the sea is
tranquil and there is no impulse from the sails[620]. But these motions
are more felt about the shores than in the deep parts of the seas, as
in the body the extremities of the veins feel the pulse, which is the
vital spirit, more than the other parts[621]. And in most estuaries,
on account of the unequal rising of the stars in each tract, the tides
differ from each other, but this respects the period, not the nature of
them; as is the case in the Syrtes.


There are, however, some tides which are of a peculiar nature, as in
the Tauromenian Euripus[622], where the ebb and flow is more frequent
than in other places, and in Eubœa, where it takes place seven times
during the day and the night. The tides intermit three times during
each month, being the 7th, 8th and 9th day of the moon[623]. At Gades,
which is very near the temple of Hercules, there is a spring enclosed
like a well, which sometimes rises and falls with the ocean, and, at
other times, in both respects contrary to it. In the same place there
is another well, which always agrees with the ocean. On the shores of
the Bætis[624], there is a town where the wells become lower when the
tide rises, and fill again when it ebbs; while at other times they
remain stationary. The same thing occurs in one well in the town of
Hispalis[625], while there is nothing peculiar in the other wells. The
Euxine always flows into the Propontis, the water never flowing back
into the Euxine[626].


All seas are purified at the full moon[627]; some also at stated
periods. At Messina and Mylæ a refuse matter, like dung[628], is cast
up on the shore, whence originated the story of the oxen of the Sun
having had their stable at that place. To what has been said above (not
to omit anything with which I am acquainted) Aristotle adds, that no
animal dies except when the tide is ebbing. The observation has been
often made on the ocean of Gaul; but it has only been found true with
respect to man[629].


Hence we may certainly conjecture, that the moon is not unjustly
regarded as the star of our life[630]. This it is that replenishes the
earth[631]; when she approaches it, she fills all bodies, while, when
she recedes, she empties them. From this cause it is that shell-fish
grow with her increase[632], and that those animals which are without
blood more particularly experience her influence; also, that the blood
of man is increased or diminished in proportion to the quantity of
her light; also that the leaves and vegetables generally, as I shall
describe in the proper place[633], feel her influence, her power
penetrating all things.


Fluids are dried up by the heat of the sun; we have therefore regarded
it as a masculine star, burning up and absorbing everything[634].


Hence it is that the widely-diffused sea is impregnated with the
flavour of salt, in consequence of what is sweet and mild being
evaporated from it, which the force of fire easily accomplishes;
while all the more acrid and thick matter is left behind; on which
account the water of the sea is less salt at some depth than at the
surface. And this is a more true cause of the acrid flavour, than that
the sea is the continued perspiration of the land[635], or that the
greater part of the dry vapour is mixed with it, or that the nature of
the earth is such that it impregnates the waters, and, as it were,
medicates them[636]. Among the prodigies which have occurred, there is
one which happened when Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, was expelled
from his kingdom; that, for the space of one day, the water in the
harbour became sweet.

(101.) The moon, on the contrary, is said to be a feminine and delicate
planet, and also nocturnal; also that it resolves humours and draws
them out, but does not carry them off. It is manifest that the carcases
of wild beasts are rendered putrid by its beams, that, during sleep, it
draws up the accumulated torpor into the head, that it melts ice, and
relaxes all things by its moistening spirit[637]. Thus the changes of
nature compensate each other, and are always adequate to their destined
purpose; some of them congealing the elements of the stars and others
dissolving them. The moon is said to be fed by fresh, and the sun by
salt water.


Fabianus[638] informs us that the greatest depth of the sea is 15
stadia[639]. We learn from others, that in the Euxine, opposite to the
nation of the Coraxi, at what is called the Depths of the Euxine[640],
about 300 stadia[641] from the main land, the sea is immensely deep, no
bottom having been found.


It is very remarkable that fresh water should burst out close to
the sea, as from pipes. But there is no end to the wonders that are
connected with the nature of waters. Fresh water floats on sea water,
no doubt from its being lighter; and therefore sea water, which is of
a heavier nature[642], supports better what floats upon it. And, in
some places, different kinds of fresh water float upon each other; as
that of the river which falls into the Fucinus; that of the Addua into
the Larius; of the Ticinus into the Verbanus; of the Mincius into the
Benacus; of the Ollius into the Sevinus; and of the Rhone into the
Leman lake[643] (this last being beyond the Alps, the others in Italy):
all which rivers passing through the lakes for many miles, generally
carry off no more water than they bring with them. The same thing is
said to occur in the Orontes, a river of Syria, and in many others.

Some rivers, from a real hatred of the sea, pass under it, as does
Arethusa, a fountain of Syracuse, in which the substances are found
that are thrown into the Alpheus; which, after flowing by Olympia, is
discharged into the sea, on the shore of the Peloponnesus[644]. The
Lycus in Asia[645], the Erasinus in Argolis, and the Tigris[646] in
Mesopotamia, sink into the earth and burst out again. Substances which
are thrown into the fountain of Æsculapius at Athens[647] are cast up
at the fountain of Phalerum. The river which sinks into the ground
in the plain of Atinum[648] comes up again at the distance of twenty
miles, and the Timavus does the same in Aquileia[649].

In the lake Asphaltites, in Judæa, which produces bitumen, no substance
will sink, nor in the lake Arethusa[650], in the Greater Armenia: in
this lake, although it contains nitre, fish are found. In the country
of the Salentini, near the town of Manduria, there is a lake[651] full
to the brim, the waters of which are never diminished by what is taken
out of it, nor increased by what is added. Wood, which is thrown into
the river of the Cicones[652], or into the lake Velinus in Picenum,
becomes coated with a stony crust, while in the Surius, a river of
Colchis, the whole substance becomes as hard as stone. In the same
manner, in the Silarus[653], beyond Surrentum, not only twigs which
are immersed in it, but likewise leaves are petrified; the water at the
same time being proper for drinking. In the stream which runs from the
marsh of Reate[654] there is a rock, which continues to increase in
size, and in the Red Sea olive-trees and green shrubs are produced[655].

There are many springs which are remarkable for their warmth. This
is the case even among the ridges of the Alps[656], and in the sea
itself, between Italy and Ænaria, as in the bay of Baiæ, and in the
Liris and many other rivers[657]. There are many places in which fresh
water may be procured from the sea, as at the Chelidonian Isles, and
at Arados, and in the ocean at Gades. Green plants are produced in
the warm springs of Padua, frogs in those of Pisa, and fish in those
of Vetulonia in Etruria, which is not far from the sea. In Casinas
there is a cold river called Scatebra, which in summer is more full
of water[658]. In this, as in the river Stymphalis, in Arcadia, small
water-mice are produced. The fountain of Jupiter in Dodona, although
it is as cold as ice, and extinguishes torches that are plunged into
it, yet, if they be brought near it, it kindles them again[659].
This spring always becomes dry at noon, from which circumstance it
is called Ἀναπαυόμενον[660]: it then increases and becomes full at
midnight, after which it again visibly decreases. In Illyricum there is
a cold spring, over which if garments are spread they take fire. The
pool of Jupiter Ammon, which is cold during the day, is warm during
the night[661]. In the country of the Troglodytæ[662], what they call
the Fountain of the Sun, about noon is fresh and very cold; it then
gradually grows warm, and, at midnight, becomes hot and saline[663].

In the middle of the day, during summer, the source of the Po, as if
reposing itself, is always dry[664]. In the island of Tenedos there
is a spring, which, after the summer solstice, is full of water, from
the third hour of the night to the sixth[665]. The fountain Inopus, in
the island of Delos, decreases and increases in the same manner as the
Nile, and also at the same periods[666]. There is a small island in the
sea, opposite to the river Timavus, containing warm springs, which
increase and decrease at the same time with the tides of the sea[667].
In the territory of Pitinum, on the other side of the Apennines, the
river Novanus, which during the solstice is quite a torrent, is dry in
the winter[668].

In Faliscum, all the water which the oxen drink turns them white; in
Bœotia, the river Melas turns the sheep black; the Cephissus, which
flows out of a lake of the same name, turns them white[669]; again,
the Peneus turns them black, and the Xanthus, near Ilium, makes them
red, whence the river derives its name[670]. In Pontus, the river
Astaces waters certain plains, where the mares give black milk, which
the people use in diet. In Reate there is a spring called Neminia,
which rises up sometimes in one place and sometimes in another, and in
this way indicates a change in the produce of the earth[671]. There
is a spring in the harbour of Brundisium that yields water which
never becomes putrid at sea. The water of the Lyncestis, which is
said to be acidulous, intoxicates like wine[672]; this is the case
also in Paphlagonia[673] and in the territory of Calenum[674]. In the
island of Andros, at the temple of Father Bacchus, we are assured by
Mucianus, who was thrice consul, that there is a spring, which, on the
nones of January, always has the flavour of wine; it is called Διὸς
Θεοδοσία[675]. Near Nonacris, in Arcadia, the Styx[676], which is not
unlike it either in odour or in colour, instantly destroys those who
drink it. Also in Librosus, a hill in the country of the Tauri, there
are three springs which inevitably produce death, but without pain.
In the territory of the Carrinenses in Spain[677], two springs burst
out close together, the one of which absorbs everything, the other
throws them out. In the same country there is another spring, which
gives to all the fish the appearance of gold, although, when out of
the water, they do not differ in any respect from other fish. In the
territory of Como, near the Larian lake, there is a copious spring,
which always swells up and subsides again every hour[678]. In the
island of Cydonea[679], before Lesbos, there is a warm fountain, which
flows only during the spring season. The lake Sinnaus[680], in Asia, is
impregnated with wormwood, which grows about it. At Colophon, in the
cave of the Clarian Apollo, there is a pool, by the drinking of which a
power is acquired of uttering wonderful oracles; but the lives of those
who drink of it are shortened[681]. In our own times, during the last
years of Nero’s life, we have seen rivers flowing backwards, as I have
stated in my history of his times[682].

And indeed who can be mistaken as to the fact, that all springs are
colder in summer than in winter[683], as well as these other wonderful
operations of nature; that copper and lead sink when in a mass, but
float when spread out[684]; and of things that are equally heavy, some
will sink to the bottom, while others will remain on the surface[685];
that heavy bodies are more easily moved in water[686]; that a stone
from Scyros, although very large, will float, while the same, when
broken into small pieces, sinks[687]; that the body of an animal,
newly deprived of life, sinks, but that, when it is swelled out, it
floats[688]; that empty vessels are drawn out of the water with no more
ease than those that are full[689]; that rain-water is more useful for
salt-pits than other kinds of water[690]; that salt cannot be made,
unless it is mixed with fresh water[691]; that salt water freezes
with more difficulty[692], and is more readily heated[693]; that the
sea is warmer in winter[694] and more salt in the autumn[695]; that
everything is soothed by oil, and that this is the reason why divers

Online LibraryPliny the ElderThe Natural History of Pliny, Volume 1 (of 6) → online text (page 10 of 57)