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arguments. For not only does a figure of this kind return everywhere
into itself[92] and sustain itself, also including itself, requiring
no adjustments, not sensible of either end or beginning in any of its
parts, and is best fitted for that motion, with which, as will appear
hereafter, it is continually turning round; but still more, because we
perceive it, by the evidence of the sight, to be, in every part, convex
and central, which could not be the case were it of any other figure.


The rising and the setting of the sun clearly prove, that this globe
is carried round in the space of twenty-four hours, in an eternal and
never-ceasing circuit, and with incredible swiftness[93]. I am not
able to say, whether the sound caused by the whirling about of so great
a mass be excessive, and, therefore, far beyond what our ears can
perceive, nor, indeed, whether the resounding of so many stars, all
carried along at the same time and revolving in their orbits, may not
produce a kind of delightful harmony of incredible sweetness[94]. To
us, who are in the interior, the world appears to glide silently along,
both by day and by night.

Various circumstances in nature prove to us, that there are impressed
on the heavens innumerable figures of animals and of all kinds of
objects, and that its surface is not perfectly polished like the eggs
of birds, as some celebrated authors assert[95]. For we find that the
seeds of all bodies fall down from it, principally into the ocean,
and, being mixed together, that a variety of monstrous forms are in
this way frequently produced. And, indeed, this is evident to the eye;
for, in one part, we have the figure of a wain, in another of a bear,
of a bull, and of a letter[96]; while, in the middle of them, over our
heads, there is a white circle[97].

(4.) With respect to the name, I am influenced by the unanimous
opinions of all nations. For what the Greeks, from its being
ornamented, have termed κόσμος, we, from its perfect and complete
elegance, have termed _mundus_. The name _cœlum_, no doubt, refers to
its being engraven, as it were, with the stars, as Varro suggests[98].
In confirmation of this idea we may adduce the Zodiac[99], in which
are twelve figures of animals; through them it is that the sun has
continued its course for so many ages.


I do not find that any one has doubted that there are four elements.
The highest of these is supposed to be fire, and hence proceed the
eyes of so many glittering stars. The next is that spirit, which both
the Greeks and ourselves call by the same name, air[102]. It is by
the force of this vital principle, pervading all things and mingling
with all, that the earth, together with the fourth element, water, is
balanced in the middle of space. These are mutually bound together,
the lighter being restrained by the heavier, so that they cannot fly
off; while, on the contrary, from the lighter tending upwards, the
heavier are so suspended, that they cannot fall down. Thus, by an
equal tendency in an opposite direction, each of them remains in its
appropriate place, bound together by the never-ceasing revolution
of the world, which always turning on itself, the earth falls to
the lowest part and is in the middle of the whole, while it remains
suspended in the centre[103], and, as it were, balancing this centre,
in which it is suspended. So that it alone remains immoveable, whilst
all things revolve round it, being connected with every other part,
whilst they all rest upon it.

(6.) Between this body and the heavens there are suspended, in this
aërial spirit, seven stars[104], separated by determinate spaces,
which, on account of their motion, we call wandering, although,
in reality, none are less so[105]. The sun is carried along in the
midst of these, a body of great size and power, the ruler, not only
of the seasons and of the different climates, but also of the stars
themselves and of the heavens[106]. When we consider his operations, we
must regard him as the life, or rather the mind of the universe, the
chief regulator and the God of nature; he also lends his light to the
other stars[107]. He is most illustrious and excellent, beholding all
things and hearing all things, which, I perceive, is ascribed to him
exclusively by the prince of poets, Homer[108].

CHAP. 5. (7.)—OF GOD[109].

I consider it, therefore, an indication of human weakness to inquire
into the figure and form of God. For whatever God be, if there be any
other God[110], and wherever he exists, he is all sense, all sight,
all hearing, all life, all mind[111], and all within himself. To
believe that there are a number of Gods, derived from the virtues and
vices of man[112], as Chastity, Concord, Understanding, Hope, Honour,
Clemency, and Fidelity; or, according to the opinion of Democritus,
that there are only two, Punishment and Reward[113], indicates still
greater folly. Human nature, weak and frail as it is, mindful of its
own infirmity, has made these divisions, so that every one might have
recourse to that which he supposed himself to stand more particularly
in need of[114]. Hence we find different names employed by different
nations; the inferior deities are arranged in classes, and diseases and
plagues are deified, in consequence of our anxious wish to propitiate
them. It was from this cause that a temple was dedicated to Fever, at
the public expense, on the Palatine Hill[115], and to Orbona[116], near
the Temple of the Lares, and that an altar was elected to Good Fortune
on the Esquiline. Hence we may understand how it comes to pass that
there is a greater population of the Celestials than of human beings,
since each individual makes a separate God for himself, adopting his
own Juno and his own Genius[117]. And there are nations who make Gods
of certain animals, and even certain obscene things[118], which are not
to be spoken of, swearing by stinking meats and such like. To suppose
that marriages are contracted between the Gods, and that, during so
long a period, there should have been no issue from them, that some
of them should be old and always grey-headed and others young and like
children, some of a dark, complexion, winged, lame, produced from
eggs, living and dying on alternate days, is sufficiently puerile and
foolish. But it is the height of impudence to imagine, that adultery
takes place between them, that they have contests and quarrels, and
that there are Gods of theft and of various crimes[119]. To assist man
is to be a God; this is the path to eternal glory. This is the path
which the Roman nobles formerly pursued, and this is the path which is
now pursued by the greatest ruler of our age, Vespasian Augustus, he
who has come to the relief of an exhausted empire, as well as by his
sons. This was the ancient mode of remunerating those who deserved it,
to regard them as Gods[120]. For the names of all the Gods, as well as
of the stars that I have mentioned above[121], have been derived from
their services to mankind. And with respect to Jupiter and Mercury, and
the rest of the celestial nomenclature, who does not admit that they
have reference to certain natural phenomena[122]?

But it is ridiculous to suppose, that the great head of all things,
whatever it be, pays any regard to human affairs[123]. Can we believe,
or rather can there be any doubt, that it is not polluted by such a
disagreeable and complicated office? It is not easy to determine which
opinion would be most for the advantage of mankind, since we observe
some who have no respect for the Gods, and others who carry it to a
scandalous excess. They are slaves to foreign ceremonies; they carry on
their fingers the Gods and the monsters whom they worship[124]; they
condemn and they lay great stress on certain kinds of food; they impose
on themselves dreadful ordinances, not even sleeping quietly. They do
not marry or adopt children, or indeed do anything else, without the
sanction of their sacred rites. There are others, on the contrary, who
will cheat in the very Capitol, and will forswear themselves even by
Jupiter Tonans[125], and while these thrive in their crimes, the others
torment themselves with their superstitions to no purpose.

Among these discordant opinions mankind have discovered for themselves
a kind of intermediate deity, by which our scepticism concerning God
is still increased. For all over the world, in all places, and at
all times, Fortune is the only god whom every one invokes; she alone
is spoken of, she alone is accused and is supposed to be guilty; she
alone is in our thoughts, is praised and blamed, and is loaded with
reproaches; wavering as she is, conceived by the generality of mankind
to be blind, wandering, inconstant, uncertain, variable, and often
favouring the unworthy. To her are referred all our losses and all our
gains, and in casting up the accounts of mortals she alone balances the
two pages of our sheet[126]. We are so much in the power of chance,
that chance itself is considered as a God, and the existence of God
becomes doubtful.

But there are others who reject this principle and assign events to
the influence of the stars[127], and to the laws of our nativity;
they suppose that God, once for all, issues his decrees and never
afterwards interferes. This opinion begins to gain ground, and both the
learned and the unlearned vulgar are falling into it. Hence we have
the admonitions of thunder, the warnings of oracles, the predictions
of soothsayers, and things too trifling to be mentioned, as sneezing
and stumbling with the feet reckoned among omens[128]. The late Emperor
Augustus[129] relates, that he put the left shoe on the wrong foot,
the day when he was near being assaulted by his soldiers[130]. And
such things as these so embarrass improvident mortals, that among all
of them this alone is certain, that there is nothing certain, and
that there is nothing more proud or more wretched than man. For other
animals have no care but to provide for their subsistence, for which
the spontaneous kindness of nature is all-sufficient; and this one
circumstance renders their lot more especially preferable, that they
never think about glory, or money, or ambition, and, above all, that
they never reflect on death.

The belief, however, that on these points the Gods superintend human
affairs is useful to us, as well as that the punishment of crimes,
although sometimes tardy, from the Deity being occupied with such a
mass of business, is never entirely remitted, and that the human race
was not made the next in rank to himself, in order that they might be
degraded like brutes. And indeed this constitutes the great comfort in
this imperfect state of man, that even the Deity cannot do everything.
For he cannot procure death for himself, even if he wished it, which,
so numerous are the evils of life, has been granted to man as our
chief good. Nor can he make mortals immortal, or recall to life those
who are dead; nor can he effect, that he who has once lived shall not
have lived, or that he who has enjoyed honours shall not have enjoyed
them; nor has he any influence over past events but to cause them to be
forgotten. And, if we illustrate the nature of our connexion with God
by a less serious argument, he cannot make twice ten not to be twenty,
and many other things of this kind. By these considerations the power
of Nature is clearly proved, and is shown to be what we call God. It
is not foreign to the subject to have digressed into these matters,
familiar as they are to every one, from the continual discussions that
take place respecting God[131].


Let us return from this digression to the other parts of nature. The
stars which are described as fixed in the heavens[132], are not, as the
vulgar suppose, attached each of them to different individuals[133],
the brighter to the rich, those that are less so to the poor, and
the dim to the aged, shining according to the lot of the individual,
and separately assigned to mortals; for they have neither come into
existence, nor do they perish in connexion with particular persons,
nor does a falling star indicate that any one is dead. We are not so
closely connected with the heavens as that the shining of the stars
is affected by our death[134]. When they are supposed to shoot or
fall[135], they throw out, by the force of their fire, as if from an
excess of nutriment, the superabundance of the humour which they have
absorbed, as we observe to take place from the oil in our lamps, when
they are burning[136]. The nature of the celestial bodies is eternal,
being interwoven, as it were, with the world, and, by this union,
rendering it solid; but they exert their most powerful influence on
the earth. This, notwithstanding its subtilty, may be known by the
clearness and the magnitude of the effect, as we shall point out in the
proper place[137]. The account of the circles of the heavens will be
better understood when we come to speak of the earth, since they have
all a reference to it; except what has been discovered respecting the
Zodiac, which I shall now detail.

Anaximander the Milesian, in the 58th olympiad[138], is said to have
been the first who understood its obliquity, and thus opened the road
to a correct knowledge of the subject[139]. Afterwards Cleostratus
made the signs in it, first marking those of Aries and Sagittarius;
Atlas had formed the sphere long before this time[140]. But now,
leaving the further consideration of this subject, we must treat of the
bodies that are situated between the earth and the heavens[141].

It is certain that the star called Saturn is the highest, and
therefore appears the smallest, that he passes through the largest
circuit, and that he is at least thirty years in completing it[142].
The course of all the planets, and among others of the Sun, and the
Moon, is in the contrary direction to that of the heavens[143], that
is towards the left, while the heavens are rapidly carried about to
the right[144]. And although, by the stars constantly revolving with
immense velocity, they are raised up, and hurried on to the part where
they set, yet they are all forced, by a motion of their own, in an
opposite direction[145]; and this is so ordered, lest the air, being
always moved in the same direction, by the constant whirling of the
heavens, should accumulate into one mass, whereas now it is divided and
separated and beaten into small pieces, by the opposite motion of the
different stars. Saturn is a star of a cold and rigid nature, while
the orbit of Jupiter is much lower, and is carried round in twelve
years[146]. The next star, Mars, which some persons call Hercules[147],
is of a fiery and burning nature, and from its nearness to the sun is
carried round in little less than two years[148]. In consequence of the
excessive heat of this star and the rigidity of Saturn, Jupiter, which
is interposed between the two, is tempered by both of them, and is thus
rendered salutary. The path of the Sun consists of 360 degrees; but, in
order that the shadow may return to the same point of the dial[149],
we are obliged to add, in each year, five days and the fourth part
of a day. On this account an intercalary day is given to every fifth
year[150], that the period of the seasons may agree with that of the

Below the Sun[151] revolves the great star called Venus, wandering
with an alternate motion[152], and, even in its surnames, rivalling
the Sun and the Moon. For when it precedes the day and rises in the
morning, it receives the name of Lucifer, as if it were another sun,
hastening on the day. On the contrary, when it shines in the west, it
is named Vesper, as prolonging the light, and performing the office
of the moon. Pythagoras, the Samian, was the first who discovered
its nature[153], about the 62nd olympiad, in the 222nd year of the
City[154]. It excels all the other stars in size, and its brilliancy
is so considerable, that it is the only star which produces a shadow
by its rays. There has, consequently, been great interest made for its
name; some have called it the star of Juno[155], others of Isis, and
others of the Mother of the Gods. By its influence everything in the
earth is generated. For, as it rises in either direction, it sprinkles
everything with its genial dew, and not only matures the productions
of the earth, but stimulates all living things[156]. It completes the
circuit of the zodiac in 348 days, never receding from the sun more
than 46 degrees, according to Timæus[157].

Similarly circumstanced, but by no means equal in size and in power,
next to it, is the star Mercury, by some called Apollo[158]; it is
carried in a lower orbit, and moves in a course which is quicker by
nine days, shining sometimes before the rising of the sun, and at
other times after its setting, but never going farther from it than 23
degrees[159], as we learn from Timæus and Sosigenes[160]. The nature of
these two stars is peculiar, and is not the same with those mentioned
above, for those are seen to recede from the sun through one-third or
one-fourth part of the heavens, and are often seen opposite to it. They
have also other larger circuits, in which they make their complete
revolutions, as will be described in the account of the great year[161].

(9.) But the Moon[162], which is the last of the stars, and the one
the most connected with the earth, the remedy provided by nature for
darkness, excels all the others in its admirable qualities. By the
variety of appearances which it assumes, it puzzles the observers,
mortified that they should be the most ignorant concerning that star
which is the nearest to them. She is always either waxing or waning;
sometimes her disc is curved into horns, sometimes it is divided
into two equal portions, and at other times it is swelled out into
a full orb; sometimes she appears spotted[163] and suddenly becomes
very bright; she appears very large with her full orb and suddenly
becomes invisible; now continuing during all the night, now rising
late, and now aiding the light of the sun during a part of the day;
becoming eclipsed and yet being visible while she is eclipsed;
concealing herself at the end of the month and yet not supposed to
be eclipsed[164]. Sometimes she is low down, sometimes she is high
up, and that not according to one uniform course, being at one time
raised up to the heavens, at other times almost contiguous to the
mountains; now elevated in the north, now depressed in the south; all
which circumstances having been noticed by Endymion, a report was
spread about, that he was in love with the moon[165]. We are not indeed
sufficiently grateful to those, who, with so much labour and care,
have enlightened us with this light[166]; while, so diseased is the
human mind, that we take pleasure in writing the annals of blood and
slaughter, in order that the crimes of men may be made known to those
who are ignorant of the constitution of the world itself.

Being nearest to the axis[167], and therefore having the smallest
orbit, the Moon passes in twenty-seven days and the one-third part of a
day[168], through the same space for which Saturn, the highest of the
planets, as was stated above, requires thirty years. After remaining
for two days in conjunction with the sun, on the thirtieth day she
again very slowly emerges to pursue her accustomed course[169]. I
know not whether she ought not to be considered as our instructress
in everything that can be known respecting the heavens; as that the
year is divided into the twelve divisions of the months, since she
follows the sun for the same number of times, until he returns to the
commencement of his course; and that her brightness, as well as that
of the other stars, is regulated by that of the sun, if indeed they
all of them shine by light borrowed from him, such as we see floating
about, when it is reflected from the surface of water. On this account
it is that she dissolves so much moisture, by a gentle and less
perfect force, and adds to the quantity of that which the rays of the
sun consume[170]. On this account she appears with an unequal light,
because being full only when she is in opposition, on all the remaining
days she shows only so much of herself to the earth as she receives
light from the sun[171]. She is not seen in conjunction, because, at
that time, she sends back the whole stream of light to the source
whence she has derived it. That the stars generally are nourished by
the terrestrial moisture is evident, because, when the moon is only
half visible she is sometimes seen spotted, her power of absorbing
moisture not having been powerful enough; for the spots are nothing
else than the dregs of the earth drawn up along with the moisture[172].
(10.) But her eclipses and those of the sun, the most wonderful of
all the phenomena of nature, and which are like prodigies, serve to
indicate the magnitude of these bodies and the shadow[173] which they


For it is evident that the sun is hid by the intervention[174] of the
moon, and the moon by the opposition[174] of the earth, and that these
changes are mutual, the moon, by her interposition[174], taking the
rays of the sun from the earth, and the earth from the moon. As she
advances darkness is suddenly produced, and again the sun is obscured
by her shade; for night is nothing more than the shade of the earth.
The figure of this shade is like that of a pyramid or an inverted
top[175]; and the moon enters it only near its point, and it does
not exceed the height of the moon, for there is no other star which
is obscured in the same manner, while a figure of this kind always
terminates in a point. The flight of birds, when very lofty, shows that
shadows do not extend beyond a certain distance; their limit appears to
be the termination of the air and the commencement of the æther. Above
the moon everything is pure and full of an eternal light. The stars are
visible to us in the night, in the same way that other luminous bodies
are seen in the dark. It is from these causes that the moon is eclipsed
during the night[176]. The two kinds of eclipses are not, however, at
the stated monthly periods, on account of the obliquity of the zodiac,
and the irregularly wandering course of the moon, as stated above;
besides that the motions of these stars do not always occur exactly at
the same points[177].


This kind of reasoning carries the human mind to the heavens, and by
contemplating the world as it were from thence, it discloses to us the
magnitude of the three greatest bodies in nature[178]. For the sun
could not be entirely concealed from the earth, by the intervention of
the moon, if the earth were greater than the moon[179]. And the vast
size of the third body, the sun, is manifest from that of the other
two, so that it is not necessary to scrutinize its size, by arguing
from its visible appearance, or from any conjectures of the mind; it
must be immense, because the shadows of rows of trees, extending for
any number of miles, are disposed in right lines[180], as if the sun
were in the middle of space. Also, because, at the equinox, he is
vertical to all the inhabitants of the southern districts at the same
time[181]; also, because the shadows of all the people who live on this
side of the tropic fall, at noon, towards the north, and, at sunrise,
point to the west. But this could not be the case unless the sun were
much greater than the earth; nor, unless it much exceeded Mount Ida in
breadth, could he be seen when he rises, passing considerably beyond
it to the right and to the left, especially, considering that it is
separated by so great an interval[182].

The eclipse of the moon affords an undoubted argument of the sun’s
magnitude, as it also does of the small size of the earth[183]. For
there are shadows of three figures, and it is evident, that if the body
which produces the shadow be equal to the light, then it will be thrown
off in the form of a pillar, and have no termination. If the body be
greater than the light, the shadow will be in the form of an inverted
cone[184] the bottom being the narrowest part, and being, at the same
time, of an infinite length. If the body be less than the light, then
we shall have the figure of a pyramid[185], terminating in a point. Now

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