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of Medical Botany, he proceeds to speak of medicaments derived from
the human body, from which he branches off into discussions on the
history of medicine, and magic, which last he looks upon as an offshoot
from the medical art; and he takes this opportunity of touching upon
many of the then current superstitions and notions on astrology. He
concludes this portion of his work with an account of the medicinal
properties of various waters, and of those of fishes and other aquatic
animals. He then presents us with a treatise on Mineralogy, in which
he has accumulated every possible kind of information relative to the
use of gold, silver, bronze, and other metals; a subject which not
unnaturally leads him into repeated digressions relative to money,
jewels, plate, statues, and statuaries. Mineral pigments next occupy
his attention, with many interesting notices of the great painters
of Greece; from which he passes on to the various kinds of stone and
materials employed in building, and the use of marble for the purposes
of sculpture, including a notice of that art and of the most eminent
sculptors. The last Book is devoted to an account of gems and precious
stones, and concludes with an eulogium on his native country, as alike
distinguished for its fertility, its picturesque beauties, and the
natural endowments and high destinies of its people.

From the writings of Pliny we gather of course a large amount of
information as to his opinions and the constitution of his mind.
His credulity, it must be admitted, is great in the extreme;
though, singularly enough, he severely taxes the Greeks with the
same failing[18]. Were we not assured from other sources that he
was eminently successful in life, was in the enjoyment of opulence,
and honoured with the favour and confidence of princes[19], the
remarks which he frequently makes on human life, in the Seventh Book
more especially, would have led us to the conclusion that he was
a disappointed man, embittered against his fellow-creatures, and
dissatisfied with the terms on which the tenure of life is granted
to us. He opens that Book with a preface replete with querulous
dissatisfaction and repinings at the lot of man—the only ‘tearful’
animal—he says[20]. He repines at the helpless and wretched condition
of the infant at the moment it is ushered into life, and the numerous
pains and vices to which it is doomed to be subject.—Man’s liability
to disease is with him a blemish in the economy of nature:—“life,”
he says, “this gift of nature, however long it may be, is but too
uncertain and too frail; to those even to whom it is most largely
granted, it is dealt out with a sparing and niggardly hand, if we
only think of eternity[21].” As we cannot have life on our own terms,
he does not think it worthy of our acceptance, and more than once
expresses his opinion that the sooner we are rid of it the better.
Sudden death he looks upon as a remarkable phænomenon, but, at the
same time, as the greatest blessing that can be granted to us[22]:
and when he mentions cases of resuscitation, it is only to indulge in
the querulous complaint, that, “exposed as he is by his birth to the
caprices of fortune, man can be certain of nothing; no, not even his
own death[23].” Though anything but[24] an Epicurean, in the modern
acceptation of the word, he seems to have held some, at least, of
the tenets of Epicurus, in reference to the immortality of the soul.
Whether he supposed that the soul, at the moment of death, is resolved
into its previous atoms or constituent elements, he does not inform us;
but he states it as his belief, that after death the soul has no more
existence than it had before birth; that all notions of immortality are
a mere delusion[25]; and that the very idea of a future existence is
ridiculous, and spoils that greatest[26] blessing of nature—death. He
certainly speaks of ghosts or apparitions, seen after death; but these
he probably looked upon as exceptional cases, if indeed he believed[27]
in the stories which he quotes, of which we have no proofs, or rather,
indeed, presumptive proofs to the contrary; for some of them he calls
“magna[28] fabulosetas,” “most fabulous tales.”

In relation to human inventions, it is worthy of remark, that he
states that the first[29] thing in which mankind agreed, was the use of
the Ionian alphabet; the second, the practice of shaving[30] the beard,
and the employment of barbers; and the third, the division of time into

We cannot more appropriately conclude this review of the Life and Works
of Pliny, than by quoting the opinions of two of the most eminent
philosophers of modern times, Buffon and Cuvier; though the former,
it must be admitted, has spoken of him in somewhat too high terms of
commendation, and in instituting a comparison between Pliny’s work and
those of Aristotle, has placed in juxtaposition the names of two men
who, beyond an ardent thirst for knowledge, had no characteristics in

“Pliny,” says Buffon[31], “has worked upon a plan which is much more
extensive than that of Aristotle, and not improbably too extensive.
He has made it his object to embrace every subject; indeed he would
appear to have taken the measure of Nature, and to have found her
too contracted for his expansive genius. His ‘Natural History,’
independently of that of animals, plants, and minerals, includes
an account of the heavens and the earth, of medicine, commerce,
navigation, the liberal and mechanical arts, the origin of usages and
customs, in a word, the history of all the natural sciences and all the
arts of human invention. What, too, is still more astonishing, in each
of these departments Pliny shows himself equally great. The grandeur of
his ideas and the dignity of his style confer an additional lustre on
the profoundness of his erudition; not only did he know all that was
known in his time, but he was also gifted with that comprehensiveness
of view which in some measure multiplies knowledge. He had all that
delicacy of perception upon which depend so materially both elegance
and taste, and he communicates to his readers that freedom of thought
and that boldness of sentiment, which constitute the true germ of
philosophy. His work, as varied as Nature herself, always paints her
in her most attractive colours. It is, so to say, a compilation from
all that had been written before his time: a record of all that was
excellent or useful; but this record has in it features so grand, this
compilation contains matter grouped in a manner so novel, that it
is preferable to most of the original works that treat upon similar

The judgment pronounced by Cuvier on Pliny’s work, though somewhat
less highly coloured, awards to it a high rank among the most valuable
productions of antiquity. “The work of Pliny[32],” says he, “is one
of the most precious monuments that have come down to us from ancient
times, and affords proof of an astonishing amount of erudition in one
who was a warrior and a statesman. To appreciate with justice this vast
and celebrated composition, it is necessary to regard it in several
points of view—with reference to the plan proposed, the facts stated,
and the style employed. The plan proposed by the writer is of immense
extent—it is his object to write not merely a Natural History in our
restricted sense of the term, not an account merely, more or less
detailed, of animals, plants, and minerals, but a work which embraces
astronomy, physics, geography, agriculture, commerce, medicine, and
the fine arts—and all these in addition to natural history properly
so called; while at the same time he continually interweaves with
his narrative information upon the arts which bear relation to man
considered metaphysically, and the history of nations,—so much so
indeed, that in many respects this work was the Encyclopædia of its
age. It was impossible in running over, however cursorily, such a
prodigious number of subjects, that the writer should not have made
us acquainted with a multitude of facts, which, while remarkable in
themselves, are the more precious from the circumstance that at the
present day he is the only author extant who relates them. It is to
be regretted however that the manner in which he has collected and
grouped this mass of matter, has caused it to lose some portion of its
value, from his mixture of fable with truth, and more especially from
the difficulty, and in some cases, the impossibility, of discovering
exactly of what object[33] he is speaking. But if Pliny possesses
little merit as a critic, it is far otherwise with his talent as a
writer, and the immense treasury which he opens to us of Latin terms
and forms of expression: these, from the very abundance of the subjects
upon which he treats, render his work one of the richest repositories
of the Roman language. Wherever he finds it possible to give expression
to general ideas or to philosophical views, his language assumes
considerable energy and vivacity, and his thoughts present to us a
certain novelty and boldness which tend in a very great degree to
relieve the dryness of his enumerations, and, with the majority of his
readers, excuse the insufficiency of his scientific indications. He
is always noble and serious, full of the love of justice and virtue,
detestation of cruelty and baseness, of which he had such frightful
instances before his eyes, and contempt for that unbridled luxury which
in his time had so deeply corrupted the Roman people. For these great
merits Pliny cannot be too highly praised, and despite the faults
which we are obliged to admit in him when viewed as a naturalist, we
are bound to regard him as one of the most meritorious of the Roman
writers, and among those most worthy to be reckoned in the number of
the classics who wrote after the reign of Augustus.”





C. Plinius Secundus to his friend Titus Vespasian 1




1. Whether the world be finite, and whether there be more than
one world 13

2. Of the form of the world 16

3. Of its nature; whence the name is derived _ib._

4. Of the elements and the planets 18

5. Of God 20

6. Of the nature of the stars; of the motion of the planets 25

7. Of the eclipses of the moon and the sun 34

8. Of the magnitude of the stars 35

9. An account of the observations that have been made on the
heavens by different individuals 36

10. On the recurrence of the eclipses of the sun and the moon 38

11. Of the motion of the moon 40

12. Of the motions of the planets and the general laws of their
aspects _ib._

13. Why the same stars appear at some times more lofty and at
other times more near 42

14. Why the same stars have different motions 47

15. General laws of the planets 48

16. The reason why the stars are of different colours 49

17. Of the motion of the sun and the cause of the irregularity
of the days 50

18. Why thunder is ascribed to Jupiter 51

19. Of the distances of the stars 52

20. Of the harmony of the stars _ib._

21. Of the dimensions of the world 53

22. Of the stars which appear suddenly, or of comets 55

23. Their nature, situation, and species 56

24. The doctrine of Hipparchus about the stars 59

25. Examples from history of celestial prodigies;
_Faces_, _Lampades_, and _Bolides_ _ib._

26. _Trabes Cælestes_; _Chasma Cæli_ 60

27. Of the colours of the sky and of celestial flame _ib._

28. Of celestial coronæ 61

29. Of sudden circles 62

30. Of unusually long eclipses of the sun _ib._

31. Many suns _ib._

32. Many moons 63

33. Daylight in the night _ib._

34. Burning shields _ib._

35. An ominous appearance in the heavens, that was seen
once only _ib._

36. Of stars which move about in various directions 64

37. Of the stars which are named Castor and Pollux _ib._

38. Of the air, and on the cause of the showers of stones 65

39. Of the stated seasons 66

40. Of the rising of the dog-star 67

41. Of the regular influence of the different seasons _ib._

42. Of uncertain states of the weather 69

43. Of thunder and lightning _ib._

44. The origin of winds 70

45. Various observations respecting winds 71

46. The different kinds of winds 73

47. The periods of the winds 75

48. Nature of the winds 77

49. Ecnephias and Typhon 79

50. Tornadoes; blasting winds; whirlwinds, and other wonderful
kinds of tempests 80

51. Of thunder; in what countries it does not fall, and for
what reason _ib._

52. Of the different kinds of lightning and their wonderful
effects 81

53. The Etrurian and the Roman observations on these points 82

54. Of conjuring up thunder 83

55. General laws of lightning 84

56. Objects which are never struck 86

57. Showers of milk, blood, flesh, iron, wool, and baked tiles 87

58. Rattling of arms and the sound of trumpets heard in
the sky 88

59. Of stones that have fallen from the clouds. The opinion of
Anaxagoras respecting them _ib._

60. The rainbow 89

61. The nature of hail, snow, hoar, mist, dew; the forms
of clouds 90

62. The peculiarities of the weather in different places 91

63. Nature of the earth _ib._

64. Of the form of the earth 94

65. Whether there be antipodes? _ib._

66. How the water is connected with the earth. Of the
navigation of the sea and the rivers 97

67. Whether the ocean surrounds the earth 98

68. What part of the earth is inhabited 100

69. That the earth is in the middle of the world 102

70. Of the obliquity of the zones _ib._

71. Of the inequality of climates _ib._

72. In what places eclipses are invisible, and why this is
the case 104

73. What regulates the daylight on the earth 105

74. Remarks on dials, as connected with this subject 106

75. When and where there are no shadows 107

76. Where this takes place twice in the year and where the
shadows fall in opposite directions 108

77. Where the days are the longest and where the shortest _ib._

78. Of the first dial 109

79. Of the mode in which the days are computed 110

80. Of the difference of nations as depending on the nature
of the world _ib._

81. Of earthquakes 111

82. Of clefts of the earth 112

83. Signs of an approaching earthquake 114

84. Preservatives against future earthquakes _ib._

85. Prodigies of the earth which have occurred once only 115

86. Wonderful circumstances attending earthquakes 116

87. In what places the sea has receded _ib._

88. The mode in which islands rise up 117

89. What islands have been formed, and at what periods 118

90. Lands which have been separated by the sea 119

91. Islands which have been united to the main land _ib._

92. Lands which have been totally changed into seas _ib._

93. Lands which have been swallowed up 120

94. Cities which have been absorbed by the sea _ib._

95. Of vents in the earth 121

96. Of certain lands which are always shaking, and of
floating islands 122

97. Places in which it never rains 123

98. The wonders of various countries collected together _ib._

99. Concerning the cause of the flowing and ebbing of the sea 124

100. Where the tides rise and fall in an unusual manner 127

101. Wonders of the sea 128

102. The power of the moon over the land and the sea _ib._

103. The power of the sun 129

104. Why the sea is salt _ib._

105. Where the sea is the deepest 130

106. The wonders of fountains and rivers 131

107. The wonders of fire and water united 138

108. Of Maltha 138

109. Of naphtha 139

110. Places which are always burning _ib._

111. Wonders of fire alone 141

112. The dimensions of the earth 143

113. The harmonical proportion of the universe 147



Introduction 151

1. The boundaries and gulfs of Europe first set forth in
a general way 153

2. Of Spain generally _ib._

3. Of Bætica 154

4. Of Nearer Spain 164

5. Of the province of Gallia Narbonensis 174

6. Of Italy 180

7. Of the ninth region of Italy 184

8. The seventh region of Italy 186

9. The first region of Italy; the Tiber; Rome 191

10. The third region of Italy 207

11. Sixty-four islands, among which are the Baleares 210

12. Corsica 213

13. Sardinia 215

14. Sicily 216

15. Magna Græcia, beginning at Locri 222

16. The second region of Italy 225

17. The fourth region of Italy 231

18. The fifth region of Italy 235

19. The sixth region of Italy 237

20. The eighth region of Italy; the Padus 241

21. The eleventh region of Italy; Italia Transpadana 246

22. The tenth region of Italy 248

23. Istria, its people and locality 251

24. The Alps, and the Alpine nations 254

25. Liburnia and Illyricum 257

26. Dalmatia 259

27. The Norici 262

28. Pannonia 263

29. Mœsia 264

30. Islands of the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic 265



1. Epirus 271

2. Acarnania 273

3. Ætolia 275

4. Locris and Phocis 276

5. The Peloponnesus 278

6. Achaia 280

7. Messenia 282

8. Laconia 283

9. Argolis 284

10. Arcadia 285

11. Attica 288

12. Bœotia 290

13. Doris 293

14. Phthiotis 293

15. Thessaly Proper 294

16. Magnesia 296

17. Macedonia 297

18. Thrace; the Ægean Sea 302

19. The islands which lie before the lands already mentioned 310

20. Crete 313

21. Eubœa 316

22. The Cyclades 317

23. The Sporades 320

24. The Hellespont.—The lake Mæotis 326

25. Dacia, Sarmatia 329

26. Scythia 330

27. The islands of the Euxine. The islands of the northern
ocean 338

28. Germany 345

29. Ninety-six islands of the Gallic ocean 349

30. Britannia 350

31. Gallia Belgica 353

32. Gallia Lugdunensis 355

33. Gallia Aquitanica 357

34. Nearer Spain, its coast along the Gallic ocean 360

35. Lusitania 363

36. The islands in the Atlantic ocean 367

37. The general measurement of Europe 369


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