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26·5 degrees; Almagest, ix. 7. We learn from Hardouin, Lemaire, i. 246,
that there is considerable variation in the MSS. with respect to the
greatest elongation of Mercury.

[160] Sosigenes was an Egyptian mathematician and astronomer, who is
said to have assisted Cæsar in the formation of his Kalendar, as our
author informs us in a subsequent part of his work, xviii. 25; see also
Aikin, Gen. Biog., _in loco_; Enfield’s Phil. ii. 96; Whewell, p. 210;
and Hardouin’s “Index Auctorum,” in Lemaire, i. 213.

[161] Concerning the “magnus annus” Cicero remarks, “efficitur cum
solis et lunæ et quinque errantium ad eandem inter se comparationem,
confectis omnibus spatiis, est facta conversio.” De Nat. Deor. ii. 51.
See the remarks of Marcus in Ajasson, ii. 281-3.

[162] For the various appellations which the moon has received in the
ancient and modern languages, and their relation to each other, the
reader is referred to the learned remarks of Marcus in Ajasson, ii.

[163] Marcus conceives that the epithet _maculosa_ does not refer to
what are called the spots on the moon, but to the circumstance of
the edge of the disc being not illuminated when it is near the full;
Ajasson, ii. 286. But, from the way in which the word is employed at
the end of the chapter, and from the explanation which is given of the
cause of the “maculæ,” I think it ought to be referred to the spotted
appearance of the face of the moon.

[164] “Quum laborare non creditur.” It was a vulgar notion among the
ancients, that when the moon is eclipsed, she is suffering from the
influence of magicians and enchanters, who are endeavouring to draw
her down to the earth, in order to aid them in their superstitious
ceremonies. It was conceived that she might be relieved from her
sufferings by loud noises of various kinds which should drown the songs
of the magicians. Allusion is frequently made to this custom by the
ancient poets, as Virgil, Æn. i. 742, Manilius, i. 227, and Juvenal,
vi. 444; and the language has been transferred to the moderns, as in
Beattie’s Minstrel, ii. 47, “To ease of fancied pangs the labouring

[165] We have some interesting remarks by Marcus respecting Endymion,
and also on the share which Solon and Thales had in correcting the
lunar observations; Ajasson, ii. 288-290.

[166] “Lucem nobis aperuere in hac luce.”

[167] “Cardo.”

[168] Astronomers describe two different revolutions or periods of the
moon; the synodical and the sidereal. The synodical marks the time in
which the moon passes from one conjunction with the sun to the next
conjunction, or other similar position with respect to the sun. The
sidereal period is the time in which the moon returns to the same
position with respect to the stars, or in which it makes a complete
revolution round the earth. These numbers are, for the synodical
period, 29ᵈ 12ʰ 44ᵐ 2·87ˢ, and for the sidereal, 27ᵈ 7ʰ 43ᵐ 11·5ˢ;
Herschel, pp. 213, 224.

[169] Our author, as Marcus remarks, “a compté par nombres ronds;”
Ajasson, ii. 291; the correct number may be found in the preceding note.

[170] It was a general opinion among the ancients, and one which
was entertained until lately by many of the moderns, that the moon
possessed the power of evaporating the water of the ocean. This opinion
appears to have been derived, at least in part, from the effect which
the moon produces on the tides.

[171] “quantum ex sole ipsa concipiat;” from this passage, taken
singly, it might be concluded, that the author supposed the quantity
of light received by the moon to differ at different times; but the
succeeding sentence seems to prove that this is not the case; see the
remarks of Alexandre in Lemaire, ii. 249. Marcus, however, takes a
different view of the subject; Ajasson, ii. 291, 292. He had previously
pointed out Pliny’s opinion respecting the phases of the moon, as one
of the circumstances which indicate his ignorance of astronomy, _ut
supra_, ii. 245, 246.

[172] This doctrine is maintained by Seneca, Quæst. Nat. lib. ii. §
5. p. 701, 702. From the allusion which is made to it by Anacreon, in
his 19th ode, we may presume that it was the current opinion among the

[173] I may remark, that Poinsinet, in this passage, substitutes
“umbra” for “umbræque,” contrary to the authority of all the MSS.,
merely because it accords better with his ideas of correct reasoning.
Although it may be of little consequence in this particular sentence,
yet, as such liberties are not unfrequently taken, I think it
necessary to state my opinion, that this mode of proceeding is never
to be admitted, and that it has proved a source of serious injury to
classical literature. In this account of the astronomical phenomena,
as well as in all the other scientific dissertations that occur in
our author, my aim has been to transfer into our language the exact
sense of the original, without addition or correction. Our object in
reading Pliny is not to acquire a knowledge of natural philosophy,
which might be better learned from the commonest elementary work of the
present day, but to ascertain what were the opinions of the learned
on such subjects when Pliny wrote. I make this remark, because I have
seldom if ever perused a translation of any classical author, where, on
scientific topics, the translator has not endeavoured, more or less, to
correct the mistakes of the original, and to adapt his translation to
the state of modern science.

[174] The terms here employed are respectively _interventus_,
_objectio_, and _interpositus_; it may be doubted whether the author
intended to employ them in the precise sense which is indicated by
their etymology.

[175] “metæ et turbini inverso.” The _metæ_ were small pyramids placed
at the two extremities of the spina, or central division of the circus:
see Montfaucon, v. iii. p. 176; Adam, p. 341.

[176] The eclipses of the moon are only visible when the spectator is
so situated as to be able to observe the shadow of the earth, or is on
that side of the earth which is turned from the sun.

[177] “non semper in scrupulis partium congruente siderum motu.” On
the term _scrupulus_ Hardouin remarks, “Scrupuli, nodi sunt, in quibus
circuli, quos in suo cursu Sol et Luna efficiunt, se mutuo secant.”
Lemaire, ii. 251. Ptolemy, Magn. Const. vi. 6-11, gives a full and
generally correct account of the principal phænomena of eclipses.

[178] Marcus conceives that our author must here mean, not the actual,
but the apparent size of these bodies; Ajasson, ii. 295; but I do not
perceive that the text authorizes this interpretation.

[179] I have given the simple translation of the original as it
now stands in the MSS.; whether these may have been corrupted, or
the author reasoned incorrectly, I do not venture to decide. The
commentators have, according to their usual custom, proposed various
emendations and explanations, for which I may refer to the note of
Hardouin in Lemaire, ii. 252, with the judicious remarks of Alexandre,
and to those of Marcus in Ajasson, ii. 295-298, who appear to me to
take a correct view of the subject.

[180] Alexandre remarks, “Hinc tamen potius distantia quam magnitudo
Solis colligi potest.” Lemaire, ii. 252. And the same remark applies to
the two next positions of our author.

[181] Alexandre remarks on the argument of our author, perhaps a little
too severely, “Absurde dictum; nam aliis oritur, aliis occidit, dum
aliis est a vertice; quod vel pueri sentiunt.” Lemaire, ii. 253. But
we may suppose, that Pliny, in this passage, only meant to say, that
as the sun became vertical to each successive part of the equinoctial
district, no shadows were formed in it.

[182] The commentators have thought it necessary to discuss the
question, whether, in this passage, Pliny refers to the Ida of Crete
or of Asia Minor. But the discussion is unnecessary, as the statement
of the author is equally inapplicable to both of them. Mela appears to
refer to this opinion in the following passage, where he is describing
the Ida of Asia Minor; “ipse mens ... orientem solem aliter quam in
aliis terris solet aspici, ostentat.” lib. i. cap. 18.

[183] “Ut dictum est superiore capite, quo Plinius falso contendit
Terram esse Luna minorem.” Alexandre in Lemaire, ii. 253. The words of
the text, however, apply equally to the comparative size of the earth
and the sun, as of the earth and the moon.

[184] “turbo rectus;” literally an upright top.

[185] “meta.”

[186] This has been pointed out as one of our author’s erroneous
opinions on astronomy. The earth is really about 1/30 nearer the sun in
our winters than in our summers. The greater degree of heat produced
by his rays in the latter case depends upon their falling on the
surface of the earth less obliquely. This is the principal cause of the
different temperatures of the equatorial and polar regions.

[187] This eclipse is calculated to have occurred on the 28th of June,
168 B.C.; Brewster’s Encyc. “Chronology,” p. 415, 424. We have an
account of this transaction in Livy, xliv. 37, and in Plutarch, Life of
Paulus Æmilius, Langhorne’s trans. ii. 279; he however does not mention
the name of Gallus. See also Val. Maximus, viii. 11. 1, and Quintilian,
i. 10. Val. Maximus does not say that Gallus predicted the eclipse, but
explained the cause of it when it had occurred; and the same statement
is made by Cicero, De Repub. i. 15. For an account of Sulpicius, see
Hardouin’s Index auctorum, Lemaire, i. 214.

[188] An account of this event is given by Herodotus, Clio, § 74. There
has been the same kind of discussion among the commentators, respecting
the dates in the text, as was noticed above, note [154], p. 29: see the
remarks of Brotier and of Marcus in Lemaire and Ajasson, _in loco_.
Astronomers have calculated that the eclipse took place May 28th, 585
B.C.; Brewster, _ut supra_, pp. 414, 419.

[189] Hipparchus is generally regarded as the first astronomer who
prosecuted the science in a regular and systematic manner. See Whewell,
C. 3. p. 169 _et seq._, 177-179. He is supposed to have made his
observations between the years 160 and 125 B.C. He made a catalogue of
the fixed stars, which is preserved in Ptolemy’s Magn. Const. The only
work of his now extant is his commentary on Aratus; it is contained in
Petau’s Uranologie. We find, among the ancients, many traces of their
acquaintance with the period of 600 years, or what is termed the great
year, when the solar and lunar phænomena recur precisely at the same
points. Cassini, Mem. Acad., and Bailly, Hist. Anc. Astron., have shown
that there is an actual foundation for this opinion. See the remarks of
Marcus in Ajasson, ii. 302, 303.

[190] Seneca, the tragedian, refers to this superstitious opinion in
some beautiful verses, which are given to the chorus at the termination
of the fourth act of the Thyestes.

[191] We have an account of this event in Thucydides, Smith’s trans.
ii. 244, and in Plutarch, Langhorne’s trans. iii. 406. It is calculated
to have happened Aug. 27th, 413 B.C.; Brewster, _ut supra_, p. 415, 421.

[192] The elegant lines of Ovid, in his Fasti, i. 297 _et seq._,
express the same sentiment: “Felices animos, quibus hoc cognoscere
primis,” &c.

[193] I have already remarked upon the use of this term as applied to
the eclipses of the moon in note [164], p. 31.

[194] According to the remarks of Marcus, it appears probable that
this sol-lunar period, as it has been termed, was discovered by the
Chaldeans; Ajasson, ii. 306, 307.

[195] “coitus.”

[196] “Hoc enim periodo (223 mensium) plerumque redeunt eclipses, non
multum differentes, denis tamen gradibus zodiaci antecedentes;” Kepler,
as quoted by Alexandre, in Lemaire, ii. 238.

[197] The terms “sub terra” and “superne” are interpreted, by most of
the commentators, below and above the horizon respectively; see Marcus
in Ajasson, ii. 307.

[198] “globo terræ obstante convexitatibus mundi.” The term _convexus_,
as applied to the heavens, or visible firmament, simply signifies
_arched_; not opposed to _concave_, like the English word _convex_.

[199] This point is discussed by Ptolemy, Magn. Const. vi. 6; “De
distantia eclipticorum mensium.” See also the remarks of Hardouin in
Lemaire, ii. 260, 261; and of Poinsinet, i. 67.

[200] These are styled horizontal eclipses; they depend on the
refractive power of the atmosphere, causing the sun to be visible above
the horizon, although it is actually below it. Brotier states, that
eclipses of this description occurred on the 17th July, 1590, on the
30th November, 1648, and on the 16th January, 1660; Lemaire, ii. 260.

[201] This is supposed to have been in the year 72 of our æra, when it
is said that the sun was eclipsed, in Italy, on the 8th, and the moon
on the 22nd of February; see Hardouin and Alexandre, in Lemaire, ii.

[202] In a subsequent part of the work, xviii. 75, the author gives
a different rate of increase, viz. 51-1/2 minutes; neither of these
numbers is correct; the mean rate of increase being, according to
Alexandre, about 54′ or 55′; Lemaire, ii. 261, 262. See also Marcus in
Ajasson, ii. 311-14.

[203] It is scarcely necessary to remark, that the effect, as here
stated, has no connexion with the supposed cause.

[204] “luminum canonica.”

[205] Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

[206] They are then said, in astronomical language, to rise heliacally.

[207] In the last chapter this distance was stated to be 7 degrees; see
the remarks of Alexandre, in Lemaire, ii. 263.

[208] “radiorum ejus contactu reguntur.” The doctrine of the ancient
astronomers was, that the motions of the planets are always governed by
the rays of the sun, according to its position, attracting or repelling

[209] A planet appears to be stationary, _i. e._ to be referred to
the same point of the zodiac, when it is so situated with respect to
the earth, that a straight line passing through the two bodies forms
a tangent to the smaller orbit. The apparent motion of the planets,
sometimes direct and at other times retrograde, with their stationary
positions, is occasioned by the earth and the planets moving in
concentric orbits, with different velocities. One hundred and twenty
degrees is the mean distance at which the three superior planets become
stationary. We have an elaborate dissertation by Marcus, on the unequal
velocities of the planets, and on their stations and retrogradations,
as well according to the system of Aristotle as to that of Copernicus;
Ajasson, ii. 316 _et seq._ He remarks, and, I conceive, with justice,
“... ce n’est pas dans les traités d’astronomie de nos savans que l’on
doit puiser les détails destinés à éclaircir le texte des chapitres
xii, xiii, xiv et xv du second livre de Pline.... Je ne dis rien des
commentaires de Poinsinet, d’Hardouin et d’autres savans peu versés
en matière d’astronomie, qui ont fait dire à Pline les plus grandes

[210] “Occasus planetæ vespertinus dicitur, quo die desinit post
occasum solis supra horizontem oculis se præbere manifestum;” Alexandre
in Lemaire, ii. 265. It is then said to set heliacally.

[211] The interpretation of this passage has given rise to much
discussion among the commentators and translators; I may refer the
reader to the remarks of Poinsinet, i. 70, 71; of Alexandre in Lemaire,
ii. 266; and of Marcus in Ajasson, ii. 328. I conceive the meaning
of the author to be, that while the other planets become stationary,
when at 120 degrees from the sun, Mars becomes so at 90 degrees,
being detained by the rays, which act upon him more powerfully, in
consequence of his being nearer to their source.

[212] I may refer to the remarks of Marcus on the respective distances
from the sun at which Venus and Mercury become stationary, and when
they attain their greatest elongations; Ajasson, ii. 328, 329.
According to Ptolemy, Magn. Constr. lib. viii. cap. 7, the evening
setting of Venus is at 5° 40′ from the sun, and that of Mercury at 11°

[213] “Ἁψὶς, ligneus rotæ circulus, ab ἅπτω necto;” Hederic _in loco_.
The term is employed in a somewhat different sense by the modern
astronomers, to signify the point in the orbit of a planet, when it
is either at the greatest or the least distance from the earth, or
the body about which it revolves; the former being termed the apogee,
aphelion, or the higher apsis; the latter the perigee, perhelion, or
lower apsis; Jennings on the Globes, pp. 64, 65.

[214] “mundo.”

[215] “ratione circini semper indubitata.”

[216] In consequence of the precession of the equinoxes these points
are continually advancing from W. to E., and are now about 30 degrees
from the situation they were in when the observations were first made
by the modern astronomers.

[217] Our author here probably refers to the motions of the planets
through their epicycles or secondary circles, the centres of which were
supposed to be in the peripheries of the primary circles. See Alexandre
in Lemaire, ii. 270.

[218] It is to this visible appearance of convexity in the heavens that
Ovid refers in the story of Phaëton, where he is describing the daily
path of the sun; Metam. ii. 63-67.

[219] “quam quod illi subjacet;” under this designation the author
obviously meant to include the temperate zones, although it technically
applies only to the part between the tropics. It is scarcely necessary
to remark, that modern discoveries have shown that this opinion
respecting the Arctic zone is not strictly correct.

[220] The breadth of the zodiac, which was limited by the ancients
to 12 degrees, has been extended by the modern astronomers to 18,
and would require to be much farther extended to include the newly
discovered planet. Herschel’s Astronomy, § 254.

[221] There is considerable difficulty in ascertaining the meaning
of the terms employed by our author in describing the course of
the planet Mercury through the zodiac; “medio ejus,” “supra,” and
“infra.” Hardouin’s comment is as follows: “Duas zodiaci partes seu
gradus pererrat, quum ipse per medium incedit signiferum: supra, quum
deflectit ad Aquilonem, per quatuor alias ejusdem partes vagatur:
infra, quum descendit ad Austrum, discedit duabus.” Lemaire, ii. 271,
272. But Marcus has shown that the opinion of Hardouin is inadmissible
and inconsistent with the facts; Ajasson, ii. 338-341. He proposes one,
which he conceives to be more correct, but we may probably be led to
the conclusion, that the imperfect knowledge and incorrect opinions of
our author on these subjects must render it impossible to afford an
adequate explanation.

[222] “flexuoso draconum meatu;” Poinsinet remarks, “Les Grecs ...
appellaient dragons les bracelets, les hausse-cols, les chainettes, et
généralement tout ce qui avait une figure armillaire;” i. 79, 80.

[223] As this remark appears to contradict what was said in the last
sentence respecting the sun, we may suspect some error in the text; see
Poinsinet, Alexandre, and Marcus, _in loco_.

[224] The following comparative statement is given by Alexandre of the
geocentric latitudes of the planets, as assigned by Pliny, and as laid
down by the moderns. Lemaire, ii. 273:—

_Pliny._ _Moderns._
Venus 8° 9° 22′
Moon 6 6 0
Mercury 5 6 54
Mars 2 0 1 51
Jupiter 1 30 1 30
Saturn 1 (or 2°) 2 30

[225] It appears from the remark at the end of this chapter, that this
explanation applies to the superior planets alone.

[226] It is not easy, as Marcus observes, Ajasson, ii. 341, 345, to
comprehend the exact meaning of this passage, or to reconcile it with
the other parts of our author’s theory.

[227] “Ecliptica,” called by the moderns the nodes; i. e. the two
points where the orbits of the planets cut the ecliptic. See the
remarks of Marcus on this term; Ajasson, ii. 345, 346.

[228] We may presume that our author here refers to the apparent motion
of the planets, not to their actual acceleration or retardation.

[229] The editors have differed in the reading of this passage; I have
followed that of Lemaire.

[230] “incipit detrahi numerus.” According to the explanation of
Alexandre, “numerus nempe partium quas certo temporis intervallo
emetiuntur.” Lemaire, ii. 275. Marcus remarks in this place, “Dans tout
ce chapitre et dans le suivant, Pline a placé dans une correlation de
causité, tout ce qu’il croit arriver en même temps; mais il n’a pas
prouvé par-là que les phenomènes célestes qui sont contemporains sont
engendrés les uns par les autres.” Ajasson, ii. 349.

[231] The hypothesis of Pliny appears to be, that the planets are
affected by the rays of the sun, and that according to the angle at
which they receive the impulse, they are either accelerated or retarded
in their course.

[232] “ex priore triquetro.”

[233] Alexandre supposes, as I conceive justly, that our author, in
this passage, only refers to the writings of his own countrymen;
Lemaire, ii. 276.

[234] According to Ptolemy, these numbers are respectively 47° 51′ and
24° 3′; the modern astronomers have ascertained them to be 48° and 29°.
The least elongations of the planets are, according to Ptolemy, 44° 7′
and 18° 50′, and according to the observations of the moderns, 45° and
16°; Marcus in Ajasson, ii. 354.

[235] I have not translated the clause, “quum sint diversæ stelæ,” as,
according to Hardouin, it is not found “in probatissimis codd.,” and
appears to have little connexion with the other parts of the sentence;
it is omitted by Valpy and Lemaire, but is retained by Poinsinet and

[236] When these inferior planets have arrived at a certain apparent
distance from the sun, they are come to the extent of their orbits, as
seen from the earth.

[237] “Quum ad illam Solis distantiam pervenerunt, ultra procedere
non possunt, deficiente circuli longitudine, id est, amplitudine.”
Alexandre in Lemaire, ii. 277.

[238] The transits of the inferior planets had not been observed by the

[239] “utroque modo;” “latitudine et altitudine;” Hardouin in Lemaire,
ii. 279.

[240] “Catholica.”

[241] “... quæ (stella Martis) ut maxime excentrica volvitur, motus
etiam maxime dissonos habere diu visa est....;” Alexandre in Lemaire,
ii. 180.

[242] “... qui numerus sexangulas mundi efficit formas.”

[243] Lynceus was one of the Argonauts and was celebrated for the
acuteness of his vision; Val. Flaccus, i. 462 _et seq._

[244] The relative situation of these astronomical phænomena has
changed since the time of Pliny, in consequence of the precession of
the equinoxes. For an illustration and explanation of the various
statements in this chapter I may refer to the remarks of Marcus in
Ajasson, ii. 368-370.

[245] Ptolemy’s account of the colours of the planets is nearly similar
to that of our author; “Candidus color Jovialis est, rutilus Martius,
flavus Veneris, varius Mercurii;” De Jur. Astrol. ii. 9.

[246] This effect cannot be produced by any of the planets, except
perhaps, to a certain extent, by Venus.

[247] “mundi.”

[248] It is scarcely necessary to remark, that the method which Pliny
employs to explain the different phases of the moon betrays his
ignorance, not only of the cause of these particular phænomena, but
of the general principles which affect the appearance of the heavenly

[249] “seminani ambitur orbe.” According to the interpretation of
Hardouin, “Orbe non perfecto et absoluto;” “major dimidia, minor
plena;” Lemaire, ii. 284.

[250] As Alexandre justly remarks, our author refers here to the
aspects only of the planets, not to their phases; ii. 284.

[251] “centrum terræ;” the equator, the part equally distant from the
two poles or extremities.

[252] It may be remarked, that the equinoxes did not actually take
place at this period in the points mentioned by Pliny, but in the
28th degrees of Pisces and Virgo respectively; he appears to have
conformed to the popular opinion, as we may learn from Columella, lib.
ix. cap. 14. The degrees mentioned above were those fixed by the Greek
astronomers who formed the celestial sphere, and which was about 138
years before the Christian æra. See the remarks of Marcus in Ajasson,

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