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thence a tone and a half to the zodiac. Hence there are seven tones,
which he terms the diapason harmony[259], meaning the whole compass
of the notes. In this, Saturn is said to move in the Doric time,
Jupiter in the Phrygian[260], and so forth of the rest; but this is a
refinement rather amusing than useful.


The stadium is equal to 125 of our Roman paces, or 625 feet[261].
Posidonius[262] supposes that there is a space of not less than 40
stadia around the earth, whence mists[263], winds and clouds[263]
proceed; beyond this he supposes that the air is pure and liquid,
consisting of uninterrupted light; from the clouded region to the
moon there is a space of 2,000,000 of stadia, and thence to the sun
of 500,000,000[264]. It is in consequence of this space that the sun,
notwithstanding his immense magnitude, does not burn the earth. Many
persons have imagined that the clouds rise to the height of 900 stadia.
These points are not completely made out, and are difficult to explain;
but we have given the best account of them that has been published, and
if we may be allowed, in any degree, to pursue these investigations,
there is one infallible geometrical principle, which we cannot reject.
Not that we can ascertain the exact dimensions (for to profess to do
this would be almost the act of a madman), but that the mind may have
some estimate to direct its conjectures. Now it is evident that the
orbit through which the sun passes consists of nearly 366 degrees,
and that the diameter is always the third part and a little less than
the seventh of the circumference[265]. Then taking the half of this
(for the earth is placed in the centre) it will follow, that nearly
one-sixth part of the immense space, which the mind conceives as
constituting the orbit of the sun round the earth, will compose his
altitude. That of the moon will be one-twelfth part, since her course
is so much shorter than that of the sun; she is therefore carried
along midway between the sun and the earth[266]. It is astonishing to
what an extent the weakness of the mind will proceed, urged on by a
little success, as in the above-mentioned instance, to give full scope
to its impudence! Thus, having ventured to guess at the space between
the sun and the earth, we do the same with respect to the heavens,
because he is situated midway between them; so that we may come to know
the measure of the whole world in inches. For if the diameter consist
of seven parts, there will be twenty-two of the same parts in the
circumference; as if we could measure the heavens by a plumb-line!

The Egyptian calculation, which was made out by Petosiris and
Necepsos, supposes that each degree of the lunar orbit (which, as
I have said, is the least) consists of little more than 33 stadia;
in the very large orbit of Saturn the number is double; in that of
the sun, which, as we have said, is in the middle[267], we have
the half of the sum of these numbers. And this is indeed a very
modest calculation[268], since if we add to the orbit of Saturn the
distance from him to the zodiac, we shall have an infinite number of


A few things still remain to be said concerning the world; for stars
are suddenly formed in the heavens themselves; of these there are
various kinds.

(25.) The Greeks name these stars _comets_[271]; we name them Crinitæ,
as if shaggy with bloody locks, and surrounded with bristles like hair.
Those stars, which have a mane hanging down from their lower part, like
a long beard, are named Pogoniæ[272]. Those that are named Acontiæ[273]
vibrate like a dart with a very quick motion. It was one of this kind
which the Emperor Titus described in his very excellent poem, as having
been seen in his fifth consulship; and this was the last of these
bodies which has been observed. When they are short and pointed they
are named Xiphiæ[274]; these are the pale kind; they shine like a
sword and are without any rays; while we name those Discei[275], which,
being of an amber colour, in conformity with their name, emit a few
rays from their margin only. A kind named Pitheus[276] exhibits the
figure of a cask, appearing convex and emitting a smoky light. The kind
named Cerastias[277] has the appearance of a horn; it is like the one
which was visible when the Greeks fought at Salamis. Lampadias[278]
is like a burning torch; Hippias[279] is like a horse’s mane; it has
a very rapid motion, like a circle revolving on itself. There is also
a white comet, with silver hair, so brilliant that it can scarcely be
looked at, exhibiting, as it were, the aspect of the Deity in a human
form. There are some also that are shaggy, having the appearance of
a fleece, surrounded by a kind of crown. There was one, where the
appearance of a mane was changed into that of a spear; it happened in
the 109th olympiad, in the 398th year of the City[280]. The shortest
time during which any one of them has been observed to be visible is 7
days, the longest 180 days.


Some of them move about in the manner of planets[281], others remain
stationary. They are almost all of them seen towards the north[282],
not indeed in any particular portion of it, but generally in that
white part of it which has obtained the name of the Milky Way.
Aristotle informs us that several of them are to be seen at the same
time[283], but this, as far as I know, has not been observed by any
one else; also that they prognosticate high winds and great heat[284].
They are also visible in the winter months, and about the south pole,
but they have no rays proceeding from them. There was a dreadful one
observed by the Æthiopians and the Egyptians, to which Typhon, a king
of that period, gave his own name; it had a fiery appearance, and
was twisted like a spiral; its aspect was hideous, nor was it like a
star, but rather like a knot of fire[285]. Sometimes there are hairs
attached to the planets and the other stars. Comets are never seen
in the western part of the heavens. It is generally regarded as a
terrific star, and one not easily expiated; as was the case with the
civil commotions in the consulship of Octavius, and also in the war
of Pompey and Cæsar[286]. And in our own age, about the time when
Claudius Cæsar was poisoned and left the Empire to Domitius Nero, and
afterwards, while the latter was Emperor[287], there was one which was
almost constantly seen and was very frightful. It is thought important
to notice towards what part it darts its beams, or from what star
it receives its influence, what it resembles, and in what places it
shines. If it resembles a flute, it portends something unfavourable
respecting music; if it appears in the parts of the signs referred to
the secret members, something respecting lewdness of manners; something
respecting wit and learning, if they form a triangular or quadrangular
figure with the position of some of the fixed stars; and that some one
will be poisoned, if they appear in the head of either the northern or
the southern serpent.

Rome is the only place in the whole world where there is a temple
dedicated to a comet; it was thought by the late Emperor Augustus to
be auspicious to him, from its appearing during the games which he
was celebrating in honour of Venus Genetrix, not long after the death
of his father Cæsar, in the College which was founded by him[288].
He expressed his joy in these terms: “During the very time of these
games of mine, a hairy star was seen during seven days, in the part of
the heavens which is under the Great Bear. It rose about the eleventh
hour of the day[289], was very bright, and was conspicuous in all
parts of the earth. The common people supposed the star to indicate,
that the soul of Cæsar was admitted among the immortal Gods; under
which designation it was that the star was placed on the bust which
was lately consecrated in the forum[290].” This is what he proclaimed
in public, but, in secret, he rejoiced at this auspicious omen,
interpreting it as produced for himself; and, to confess the truth, it
really proved a salutary omen for the world at large[291].

Some persons suppose that these stars are permanent, and that they
move through their proper orbits, but that they are only visible when
they recede from the sun. Others suppose that they are produced by an
accidental vapour together with the force of fire, and that, from this
circumstance, they are liable to be dissipated[292].


This same Hipparchus, who can never be sufficiently commended, as one
who more especially proved the relation of the stars to man, and that
our souls are a portion of heaven, discovered a new star that was
produced in his own age, and, by observing its motions on the day in
which it shone, he was led to doubt whether it does not often happen,
that those stars have motion which we suppose to be fixed. And the same
individual attempted, what might seem presumptuous even in a deity,
viz. to number the stars for posterity and to express their relations
by appropriate names; having previously devised instruments[294], by
which he might mark the places and the magnitudes of each individual
star. In this way it might be easily discovered, not only whether they
were destroyed or produced, but whether they changed their relative
positions, and likewise, whether they were increased or diminished;
the heavens being thus left as an inheritance to any one, who might be
found competent to complete his plan.


The _faces_ shine brilliantly, but they are never seen excepting when
they are falling[296]; one of these darted across the heavens, in
the sight of all the people, at noon-day, when Germanicus Cæsar was
exhibiting a show of gladiators[297]. There are two kinds of them;
those which are called _lampades_ and those which are called _bolides_,
one of which latter was seen during the troubles at Mutina[298]. They
differ from each other in this respect, that the _faces_ produce a long
train of light, the fore-part only being on fire; while the _bolides_,
being entirely in a state of combustion, leave a still longer track
behind them.


The _trabes_ also, which are named δοκοὶ[299], shine in the same
manner; one of these was seen at the time when the Lacedæmonians, by
being conquered at sea, lost their influence in Greece. An opening
sometimes takes place in the firmament, which is named _chasma_[300].


There is a flame of a bloody appearance (and nothing is more dreaded
by mortals) which falls down upon the earth[301], such as was seen in
the third year of the 103rd olympiad, when King Philip was disturbing
Greece. But my opinion is, that these, like everything else, occur at
stated, natural periods, and are not produced, as some persons imagine,
from a variety of causes, such as their fine genius may suggest. They
have indeed been the precursors of great evils, but I conceive that
the evils occurred, not because the prodigies took place, but that
these took place because the evils were appointed to occur at that
period[302]. Their cause is obscure in consequence of their rarity, and
therefore we are not as well acquainted with them as we are with the
rising of the stars, which I have mentioned, and with eclipses and many
other things.


Stars are occasionally seen along with the sun, for whole days
together, and generally round its orb, like wreaths made of the ears
of corn, or circles of various colours[303]; such as occurred when
Augustus, while a very young man, was entering the city, after the
death of his father, in order to take upon himself the great name which
he assumed[304]. (29.) The same _coronæ_ occur about the moon and also
about the principal stars, which are stationary in the heavens.


A bow appeared round the sun in the consulship of L. Opimius and L.
Fabius[305], and a circle in that of C. Porcius and M. Acilius. (30.)
There was a little circle of a red colour in the consulship of L.
Julius and P. Rutilius.


Eclipses of the sun also take place which are portentous and unusually
long, such as occurred when Cæsar the Dictator was slain, and in the
war against Antony, the sun remained dim for almost a whole year[306].

CHAP. 31. (31.)—MANY SUNS.

And again, many suns have been seen at the same time[307]; not above
or below the real sun, but in an oblique direction, never near nor
opposite to the earth, nor in the night, but either in the east or
in the west. They are said to have been seen once at noon in the
Bosphorus, and to have continued from morning until sunset. Our
ancestors have frequently seen three suns at the same time[308], as
was the case in the consulship of Sp. Postumius and L. Mucius, of L.
Marcius and M. Portius, that of M. Antony and Dolabella, and that of M.
Lepidus and L. Plancus. And we have ourselves seen one during the reign
of the late Emperor Claudius, when he was consul along with Corn.
Orfitus. We have no account transmitted to us of more than three having
been seen at the same time.

CHAP. 32. (32.)—MANY MOONS.

Three moons have also been seen, as was the case in the consulship of
Cn. Domitius and C. Fannius; they have generally been named nocturnal


A bright light has been seen proceeding from the heavens in the
night time, as was the case in the consulship of C. Cæcilius and Cn.
Papirius, and at many other times, so that there has been a kind of
daylight in the night[310].

CHAP. 34. (34.)—BURNING SHIELDS[311].

A burning shield darted across at sunset, from west to east, throwing
out sparks, in the consulship of L. Valerius and C. Marius[312].


We have an account of a spark falling from a star, and increasing as it
approached the earth, until it became of the size of the moon, shining
as through a cloud[313]; it afterwards returned into the heavens and
was converted into a _lampas_; this occurred in the consulship of Cn.
Octavius and C. Scribonius. It was seen by Silanus, the proconsul, and
his attendants[314].


Stars are seen to move about in various directions, but never without
some cause, nor without violent winds proceeding from the same


These stars occur both at sea and at land. I have seen, during the
night-watches of the soldiers, a luminous appearance, like a star,
attached to the javelins on the ramparts. They also settle on the
yard-arms and other parts of ships while sailing, producing a kind
of vocal sound, like that of birds flitting about. When they occur
singly they are mischievous, so as even to sink the vessels, and if
they strike on the lower part of the keel, setting them on fire[317].
When there are two of them they are considered auspicious, and are
thought to predict a prosperous voyage, as it is said that they drive
away that dreadful and terrific meteor named Helena. On this account
their efficacy is ascribed to Castor and Pollux, and they are invoked
as gods. They also occasionally shine round the heads of men in the
evening[318], which is considered as predicting something very
important. But there is great uncertainty respecting the cause of all
these things, and they are concealed in the majesty of nature.


So far I have spoken of the world itself and of the stars. I must now
give an account of the other remarkable phænomena of the heavens. For
our ancestors have given the name of heavens, or, sometimes, another
name, air, to all the seemingly void space, which diffuses around us
this vital spirit. It is situated beneath the moon, indeed much lower,
as is admitted by every one who has made observations on it, and is
composed of a great quantity of air from the upper regions, mixed with
a great quantity of terrestrial vapour, the two forming a compound.
Hence proceed clouds, thunder and lightning of all kinds; hence also
hail, frost, showers, storms and whirlwinds; hence proceed many of the
evils incident to mortals, and the mutual contests of the various parts
of nature. The force of the stars keeps down all terrestrial things
which tend towards the heavens, and the same force attracts to itself
those things which do not go there spontaneously. The showers fall,
mists rise up, rivers are dried up, hail-storms rush down, the rays of
the sun parch the earth, and impel it from all quarters towards the
centre. The same rays, still unbroken, dart back again, and carry with
them whatever they can take up. Vapour falls from on high and returns
again to the same place. Winds arise which contain nothing, but which
return loaded with spoils. The breathing of so many animals draws down
the spirit from the higher regions; but this tends to go in a contrary
direction, and the earth pours out its spirit into the void space of
the heavens. Thus nature moving to and fro, as if impelled by some
machine[319], discord is kindled by the rapid motion of the world.
Nor is the contest allowed to cease, for she is continually whirled
round and lays open the causes of all things, forming an immense globe
about the earth, while she again, from time to time, covers this
other firmament with clouds[320]. This is the region of the winds.
Here their nature principally originates, as well as the causes of
almost all other things[321]; since most persons ascribe the darting
of thunder and lightning to their violence. And to the same cause are
assigned the showers of stones, these having been previously taken up
by the wind, as well as many other bodies in the same way. On this
account we must enter more at large on this subject.


It is obvious that there are causes of the seasons and of other things
which have been stated, while there are some things which are casual,
or of which the reason has not yet been discovered. For who can doubt
that summer and winter, and the annual revolution of the seasons are
caused by the motion of the stars[322]? As therefore the nature of
the sun is understood to influence the temperature of the year, so
each of the other stars has its specific power, which produces its
appropriate effects. Some abound in a fluid retaining its liquid state,
others, in the same fluid concreted into hoar frost, compressed into
snow, or frozen into hail; some are prolific in winds, some in heat,
some in vapours, some in dew, some in cold. But these bodies must not
be supposed to be actually of the size which they appear, since the
consideration of their immense height clearly proves, that none of them
are less than the moon. Each of them exercises its influence over us
by its own motions; this is particularly observable with respect to
Saturn, which produces a great quantity of rain in its transits. Nor is
this power confined to the stars which change their situations, but is
found to exist in many of the fixed stars, whenever they are impelled
by the force of any of the planets, or excited by the impulse of their
rays; as we find to be the case with respect to the Suculæ[323],
which the Greeks, in reference to their rainy nature, have termed the
Hyades[324]. There are also certain events which occur spontaneously,
and at stated periods, as the rising of the Kids[325]. The star
Arcturus scarcely ever rises without storms of hail occurring.


Who is there that does not know that the vapour of the sun is kindled
by the rising of the Dog-star? The most powerful effects are felt on
the earth from this star. When it rises, the seas are troubled, the
wines in our cellars ferment, and stagnant waters are set in motion.
There is a wild beast, named by the Egyptians Oryx, which, when the
star rises, is said to stand opposite to it, to look steadfastly at it,
and then to sneeze, as if it were worshiping it[326]. There is no doubt
that dogs, during the whole of this period, are peculiarly disposed to
become rabid[327].


There is moreover a peculiar influence in the different degrees of
certain signs, as in the autumnal equinox, and also in the winter
solstice, when we find that a particular star is connected with
the state of the weather[328]. It is not so much the recurrence of
showers and storms, as of various circumstances, which act both upon
animals and vegetables. Some are planet-struck[329], and others, at
stated times, are affected in the bowels, the sinews, the head, or
the intellect. The olive, the white poplar, and the willow turn
their leaves round at the summer solstice. The herb pulegium, when
dried and hanging up in a house, blossoms on the very day of the
winter solstice, and bladders burst in consequence of their being
distended with air[330]. One might wonder at this, did we not observe
every day, that the plant named heliotrope always looks towards the
setting sun, and is, at all hours, turned towards him, even when he
is obscured by clouds[331]. It is certain that the bodies of oysters
and of whelks[332], and of shell-fish generally, are increased in size
and again diminished by the influence of the moon. Certain accurate
observers have found out, that the entrails of the field-mouse[333]
correspond in number to the moon’s age, and that the very small animal,
the ant, feels the power of this luminary, always resting from her
labours at the change of the moon. And so much the more disgraceful
is our ignorance, as every one acknowledges that the diseases in the
eyes of certain beasts of burden increase and diminish according to the
age of the moon. But the immensity of the heavens, divided as they are
into seventy-two[334] constellations, may serve as an excuse. These are
the resemblances of certain things, animate and inanimate, into which
the learned have divided the heavens. In these they have announced
1600 stars, as being remarkable either for their effects or their
appearance; for example, in the tail of the Bull there are seven stars,
which are named Vergiliæ[335]; in his forehead are the Suculæ; there
is also Bootes, which follows the seven northern stars[336].


But I would not deny, that there may exist showers and winds,
independent of these causes, since it is certain that an exhalation
proceeds from the earth, which is sometimes moist, and at other times,
in consequence of the vapours, like dense smoke; and also, that clouds
are formed, either from the fluid rising up on high, or from the air
being compressed into a fluid[337]. Their density and their substance
is very clearly proved from their intercepting the sun’s rays, which
are visible by divers, even in the deepest waters[338].


It cannot therefore be denied, that fire proceeding from the stars
which are above the clouds, may fall on them, as we frequently observe
on serene evenings, and that the air is agitated by the impulse, as
darts when they are hurled whiz through the air. And when it arrives
at the cloud, a discordant kind of vapour is produced, as when hot
iron is plunged into water, and a wreath of smoke is evolved. Hence
arise squalls. And if wind or vapour be struggling in the cloud,
thunder is discharged; if it bursts out with a flame, there is a
thunderbolt; if it be long in forcing out its way, it is simply a
flash of lightning[339]. By the latter the cloud is simply rent, by
the former it is shattered. Thunder is produced by the stroke given
to the condensed air, and hence it is that the fire darts from the
chinks of the clouds. It is possible also that the vapour, which has
risen from the earth, being repelled by the stars, may produce thunder,

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