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Till the swift sun his annual circle made.
To Libya then he meditates the way ;
With guileful art a stranger to betray,
And sell to bondage in a foreign land :
Much doubting, yet compell'd, I quit the strand.
* * * * *

* * but Jove's intent

Was yet to save the oppress'd and innocent." POPE.

Tacitus ("Agricola," cap. xxviii.) mentions an instance of shipwrecked
persons having been treated as pirates, and sold into slavery. He is speak-
ing of a cohort of the Usipians serving in Britain, who, having left the
island in three light galleys, became the sport of winds and waves. In
this distress they sailed round the extremity of the island, and, through
want of skill in navigation, were wrecked on the Continent, where they
were treated as pirates, first by the Suevians, and afterwards by the Fri-
sians. Being sold to slavery, and in the way of commerce turned over to
different masters, some of them reached the Roman settlements on the
banks of the Rhine, and there grew famous for their sufferings, and the

110 History of Nature. [BooK II.

chants, were driven by tempestuous Weather, and cast upon
Germany. Thus the Seas flowing on every Side about this
divided Globe, bereave us of a Part of the World : so that
neither from thence hither, nor from hence thither, is there
a Passage. The Contemplation of this, serving to discover
the Vanity of Men, seenieth to require that I should submit
to the Eye, how great this is, whatever it be ; and wherein
there is nothing sufficient to satisfy the Appetite of every


What Portion of the Earth is habitable.

Now, in the first Place, it seems to be computed as if the
Earth were the just Half of the Globe, and that no Portion
of it were cut off by the Ocean: which notwithstanding,
clasping round about all the midst thereof, yielding forth
and receiving again all other Waters, and what Exhalations
go out into Clouds, and feeding the very Stars, so many as
they be, and of such great magnitude ; what a mighty Space
will it be thought to take up, and how little can there be left
for men to inhabit ! Surely the possession of so vast a Mass
must be excessive and infinite. Add to this, that of that
which is left, the Heaven hath taken away the greater Part.
For whereas there be of the Heaven five Parts, which they

bold singularity of their voyage. See the " Agricola " of Tacitus, cap.
xxviii., translated by Murphy.

It would even appear that such distressed strangers were deemed a
proper sacrifice to the gods : Herodotus reports it as a tradition (book ii.)
that when Hercules, in his journeyings, arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians
crowned him with a garland, and designed to sacrifice him to Jupiter, if
he had not delivered himself by his great strength. The objection of the
historian to this story, on the ground of the unbloody sacrifices of the
Egyptians, is sufficiently answered by the fact that they were in the habit
of sacrificing red-haired men to their evil deity. Again, in his fourth book,
he says, that the Taurians, a people of Scythia, were accustomed to sacrifice
to a virgin all strangers that suffered shipwreck on their coast, and all
Grecian sailors they were able to seize. The people of Israel, on the con-
trary, were commanded by their law kindly to welcome strangers; for
they themselves had been strangers in a foreign land. Wern. Club.

BOOK II.] History of Nature. 1 1 1

call Zones 1 : all that lieth under the two utmost, on both
Sides about the Poles, namely, the one which is called Sep-
tentrio, or the North, and the other over against it, named
the South, is overcharged with extreme Cold and perpetual
Frost. In both Zones it is always dim, and because the
Aspect of the milder Planets is diverted from thence, the
Light that is, sheweth but little, and appeareth white with the
Frost only. But the Middle of the Earth, in which the Sun
keepeth his Course, scorched and burnt with Flames, is pre-
sently parched with its hot Gleams 2 . Those two only on
either Side, between this burnt Zone and the two frozen, are
Temperate : and even those have not a Passage one to the

1 The poetical account of Ovid, in his " Metamorphoses," expresses
the belief of the ancients in this division. Wern, Club.

2 Whatever acquaintance with the remote regions of the earth the
Phoenicians and Carthaginians might have acquired, was concealed from
the rest of mankind with mercantile jealousy ; and every thing relative
to the course of their navigation was not only a mystery of trade, but a
secret of state. Hence the ignorance of geography manifested by Pliny
and other writers, long after these celebrated voyagers had effected the
circumnavigation of Africa. Polybius, whose history was written about
150 years B. c., and who was particularly distinguished by his attention
to geographical researches, affirms that it was not known, in his time,
whether Africa was a continued continent stretching to the south, or
whether it was encompassed by the sea. Strabo mentions, indeed, the
voyage of Eudoxus, but treats it as a fabulous tale : and Ptolemy, the
most inquisitive and learned of all the ancient geographers, was equally
unacquainted with any parts of Africa situated a few degrees beyond the
Equinoctial Line ; for he supposes that this great continent was not
surrounded by the sea, but that it stretched, without interruption, to-
wards the South Pole ; and he so far mistakes its true figure, that he
describes it as becoming broader and broader as it advances towards the

The notion of the ancients concerning such an excessive degree of heat
in the Torrid Zone as rendered it uninhabitable, and their persisting in
this error long after they began to have some commercial intercourse with
several parts of India lying within the Tropics, is very extraordinary.
Pliny, in this chapter, falls in with both these errors : and Cicero (" Som-
nium Scipionis") holds the same opinion, and other authorities might be
adduced. See the Notes to Robertson's " History of America," where he
attempts to account for the apparent inconsistency of the ancients with
respect to their theory and experience. Wern. Club.

1 12 History of Nature. [BooK II .

other, by .Reason of the burning Heat of the Planet. Thus
the Heaven hath taken from the Earth three Parts : and
what the Ocean hath plucked from it besides, is uncertain.
And even that one Portion remaining unto us, I know not
whether it be not even in greater Danger. For the same
Ocean entering (as we will shew) into many Creeks, keepeth
a Roaring against the other Seas within the Earth, and
so near cometh unto them, that the Arabian Gulf is not from
the Egyptian Sea above 115 Miles: the Caspian likewise
from the Pontic no more than 375. And the same floweth
between, and entereth into so many Arms, as thereby it
divideth Africa, Europe, and Asia asunder. What a Quan-
tity of the Land it taketh up may be reckoned at this Day
by the Measure of so many Rivers and Marshes. Add
thereto the Lakes and Pools : and take also from the Earth
the high Mountains, bearing their Heads aloft into the Sky,
so as hardly the Eye can reach their Heights; with the
Woods and steep Descents of the Valleys, the Wildernesses,
and Wilds left desert for a thousand Causes. These, so many
Pieces of the Earth, or rather as most have written, this little
Point of the World (for surely the Earth is nothing else in
Comparison of the whole) is the only Matter and Seat of our
Glory : here we seek for Honours, here we exercise our
Dominion : here we covet Wealth : here all Mankind is set
upon Turbulence : here we raise Wars even between Citizens
of the same Country : and with mutual Murders we make
more Room in the Earth^ And to let pass the public Fury
of Nations abroad, this is it wherein we drive out our Neigh-
bours on our Borders, and by Stealth dig Turf from our
Neighbour's Soil to put it unto our own : and when a Man
hath extended his Lands, and gotten Countries to himself far
and near, what a goodly deal of the Earth doth he enjoy !
but if he extends his Bounds to the full of his Covetous-
ness, what Portion thereof shall he hold when at last he is

BOOK II.] History of Nature. 113

That the Earth is in the midst of the World.

THAT the Earth is in the midst of the whole World,
appeareth by undoubted Reasons : but most evidently by the
equal Hours of the Equinox. For, unless it were in the
midst, the Instruments called Dioptrce have proved that
Nights and Days could not be found equal : and those In-
struments, above all other, confirm the same : seeing that in
the Equinox, by the same Line, both Rising and Setting of
the Sun are seen ; but the Summer Sun rising, and the Win-
ter setting, by their own several Lines. Which could by no
means happen if the Earth resteth not in the Centre.


Of the Unequal Rising of the Stars: of the Eclipse, both
where and how it cometh.

THERE are three Circles closed within the Zones afore-
named, which distinguish the Inequalities of the Days :
which are, the (Summer) Solstitial Tropic, from the highest
Part of the Zodiac, in regard of us, toward the North Clime ;
and against it, another called the Winter Tropic, toward the
Southern Pole : and in like Manner the Equinoctial, which
goeth in the midst of the Zodiac Circle. The Cause of the
rest, which we wonder at, is in the Figure of the Earth itself,
which, together with the Water, is, by the same Arguments,
known to be like a Globe : for so, doubtless, it cometh to
pass, that with us the Stars about the North Pole never set ;
and those contrariwise of the South, never rise. And again,
those which are here be not seen of them, by Reason that the
Globe of the Earth swelleth up in the midst between. Again,
Trogloditine, and Egypt bordering upon it, never see the
North Pole Stars : neither hath Italy a Sight of Canopus, or
that which they name Berenice's Hair. Likewise another,
which, under the Empire of Augustus, men surnamed Ccesaris


1 14 History of Nature. [BooK 1 1 .

Thronon*: which yet are remarkable Stars. And so evidently
bendeth the Convexity of the Earth, that Canopus at Alex-
andria seemeth to the Beholders elevated above the Earth
almost one-fourth Part of a Sign ; but at Rhodes, the same
appeareth almost to touch the very Horizon, and in Pontus,
where the Elevation of the North Pole is highest, it is not
seen at all : yea, and this same Pole at Rhodes is hidden,
but more in Alexandria. In Arabia it is all hid at the first
Watch of the Night in November ; but at the second, it is
visible. In Meroe, at Midsummer, in the Evening, it ap-
peareth for a while ; but some few Days before the Rising
of Arcturus it is seen with the very Dawning of the Day.
Sailors, by their Voyages, come to the Knowledge of these
Stars most of any other, by Reason that some Seas are oppo-
site unto some Stars ; but others lie flat and incline forward
to others : so that also those Pole Stars appear suddenly, as
rising out of the Sea, which lay hidden before under the
winding Compass of a Ball. For the Heaven (Mundus)
riseth not aloft in this higher Pole, as some Men have said ;
for if so, these Stars should be seen in every Place : but those
that to the nearest Observers are supposed to be higher, the
same seem to them afar off to be immersed in the Sea. And
as this North Pole seemeth to be aloft to those that are
situated directly under it, so to them that be removed so far
as the other Devexity or Fall of the Earth, those abovesaid
Stars rise up aloft there, while these decline downward which
here were mounted on high. Which Thing could not possibly
fall out but in the Figure of a Ball. And hence it is, that
the Inhabitants of the East perceive not the Eclipses of the
Sun and Moon in the Evening, no more than those that
dwell West in the Morning : but those that be at Noon in the
South they often see. At the Time that Alexander the Great
obtained his famous Victory at Arbela, it is said that the
Moon was eclipsed at the second Hour of the Night : but this
Eclipse was at the Time of her Rising in Sicily. The Eclipse

1 Ccesaris Thronon: a new name affixed to an old constellation by
some flattering Greek ; but of which no further clue remains. The name
is not found in any other writer. Wern. Club.

BOOK II.] History of Nature. 115

of the Sun which happened before the Kalends of May, when
Vipsanus and Fonteius were Consuls (and that was not many
Years past) was seen in Campania between the seventh and
eighth Hours of the Day : but Corbulo (a Commander then
in Armenia) made Report, that it was seen there between the
tenth and eleventh Hours of the same Day : which was be-
cause the Compass of the Globe discovereth and hideth some
Things to some, and other to others. But if the Earth were
level, all Things should appear at once to all Men ; for neither
would one Night be longer than another, nor would the Day of
twelve Hours appear equal to any but to those that are seated
in the midst of the Earth, which now in all Parts agree toge-
ther alike.


What is the Reason of the Daylight upon the Earth?

AND hence it is, that it is neither Night nor Day at one
Time in all Parts of the World ; because the Opposition of
the Globe bringeth Night, and the Circuit thereof the Day.
This is known by many Experiments 1 . In Africa and Spain
there were raised by Annibal, high Watch-towers : and in
Asia, for the Fear of Pirates, the like Help of Beacons was
erected. Wherein it was observed oftentimes, that the Fires
giving Warning before (which were set on Fire at the sixth
Hour of the Day), were descried by them that were farthest
off in Asia, at the third Hour of the Night. Philonides, the
Courier of the same Alexander, despatched in nine Hours of
the Day 1200 Stadia, as far as from Sicyone to Elis : and
from thence again (although he went down Hill all the Way)
he returned oftentimes, but not before the third Hour of the
Night. The Cause was, because he had the Sun with him in
his Setting out ; and in his Return to Sicyon he went against
it, and ere he came home, left it in the West behind. Which
is the Reason also, that they who by Daylight sail Westward
in the shortest Day of the Year, pass along more Way than
those who sail all the Night long at the same Time, because
the others accompany the Sun.

1 These effects of longitude are either greatly exaggerated or untrue.
- Wem. Club.

116 History of Nature. [BoOK II.


The Gnomonic Art of the same Matter : and also of the first


ALSO the Instruments serving for the Hours will not
serve for all Places : but in every 300 Stadia, or 500 at the
farthest, the Shadows that the Sun casteth are changed ; and
therefore the Shadow of the Style in the Dial, which they
call the Gnomon, in Egypt, at Noon, in the equinoctial Day,
is little more in length than half the Gnomon. But in the
city of Rome the Shadow wanteth the ninth Part of the
Gnomon. In the Town of Ancona it is longer by a thirty-
fifth Part. But in that Part of Italy which is called Venice,
at the same Time and Hour the Shadow and the Gnomon
are of one Length.

Where and when there be no Shadows.

IN like Manner they say, that in the Town of Syene
(which is above Alexandria fifty Stadia), at Noon, in the
midst of Summer, there is no Shadow : and that for Experi-
ment thereof, a Well that was sunk in the Ground was lighted
to the Bottom ; whereby it appeareth that the Sun at that
Time is directly over that Place. Which also at the same
Time happeneth in India, above the River Hypasis, as Onesi-
critus hath written. And it is known that in Berenice, a
City of the Trogloditse, and from thence 4820 Stadia in the
same Country, at the Town of Ptolemais (which was built at
first on the Border of the Red Sea, for the Pleasure of hunt-
ing Elephants), the same is to be seen forty-five Days before
the Summer Solstice, and as long after : so that for the
Space of ninety Days all Shadows are cast toward the South.
Again, in the Island of Meroe, which is the capital Place of
the Ethiopian Nation, and is inhabited 5000 Stadia from
Syene, upon the River Nile, twice in the Year the Shadows
disappear ; which is, when the Sun is in the eighteenth De-
grees of Taurus , and in the fourteenth of Leo. In the Coun-

BOOK II.] History of Nature. 1 1 7

try of the Oretes, in India, there is a Mountain named Maleus,
near which the Shadows in Summer are cast into the South,
and in Winter to the North. There, for fifteen Nights only,
the Constellation Septentrio is to be seen. In the same
India, at Patales (a famous Port), the Sun riseth on the
right Hand, and Shadows fall to the South. While Alex-
ander was there, Onesicritus, an Officer of his, wrote that it
was observed there, that the North Star was seen the first
Part only of the Night : also that in such Places of India where
there were no Shadows, the North Star did not appear : and
that those Quarters were called Ascia* 9 where they kept no
Reckoning of Hours.


Where Twice in the Year the Shadows fall in contrary

BUT throughout all Trogloditice, -Eratosthenes hath writ-
ten, that the Shadows twice a- Year, for forty-five Days, fall
in contrary Directions.

Where the Day is longest, and where shortest.

IT cometh thus to pass, that by the variable Increment of
the Daylight, the longest Day in Meroe doth comprehend
twelve equinoctial Hours, and eight Parts of one Hour: but
in Alexandria, fourteen Hours ; in Italy, fifteen ; in Britain,
seventeen, where, in Summer, the Nights being light, by
infallible Experience shew that which Reason forceth to be-
lieve : namely, that at Midsummer, as the Sun approacheth
near to the Pole of the World, the Places of the Earth lying
underneath, have Day continually for six Months: and con-
trariwise, Night, when the Sun is remote as far as Bruma.
And this, Pythias of Massiles hath written of Thule 2 , an
Island distant Northward from Britain six Days' sailing ; and

1 That is, without shadow.

2 This is judged to be Iceland. The geography of Britain will be
found in the fourth book. Wern. Club.

118 History of Nature. [BoOK II.

some affirm the same of Mona, which is an Island distant
from Camalodunum, a Town of Britain, about two hundred


Of the Horologium, or Dial.

THIS Understanding of Shadows, and what is named
Gnonomice, Anaximenes the Milesian, the Disciple of Anaxi-
mander above-named, discovered : and he was the first also
that shewed in Lacedsemon the Horologe (or Dial 1 ) which
they call Sciotericon.

How the Days are observed.

THE very Day itself Men have, after divers Manners,
observed. The Babylonians count for Day all the Time be-
tween two Sun-risings ; the Athenians between the Set-
tings ; The Umbrians from Noon to Noon : but all the
common Sort from Daylight until it be dark : the Roman
Priests, and those that have defined a Civil Day, and likewise
the Egyptians and Hipparchus, from Midnight to Midnight 2 .
That the Spaces between Lights are greater or less betwixt
Sunrisings, near the Solstices, than the Equinoctials ap-
peareth by this : that the Position of the Zodiac, about the
Middle Parts thereof, is more oblique ; but toward the Sol-
stice more direct.

The Reason of the Difference of Nations.

HEREUNTO we must annex such Things as are linked to
celestial Causes. For it is beyond doubt that the Ethiopians,

1 The Greeks were accustomed to regard as discoverers those who first
made any thing known to their nation. But the dial was in use at the
palace of Ahaz at Jesusalem, nearly 150 years before the time that Pliny
mentions. Wern. Club.

2 The Jews began their day from the first appearance of stars in the
evening ; believing this to mark the period when creation began to be set
in order, and time to be measured. Wern. Club.

BOOK II.] History of Nature. 1 19

by Reason of the Sun's Vicinity, are scorched with the Heat
thereof, like to them that be burnt, having their Beards and
Hair curled. Also, that in the opposite Climate of the
World to it, in the frozen Regions, the People have white
Skins, Hair growing long, and straight, and yellow; but they
be fierce by Reason of the rigorous Cold : howbeit, the one,
as well as the other, in this Change, are dull : and the very
Legs argue the Temperature. For in the Ethiopians the
Juice is drawn upward again by the Nature of Heat : but
among the northern Nations the same is driven to the infe-
rior Parts, because Moisture is apt to fall downward. Here
are bred hurtful wild Beasts : but there are found Crea-
tures of a Variety of Shapes ; and especially Fowls and Birds
of many Forms : they are tall of Stature, as well in one Part
as the other : in the hot Regions, by occasion of the natural
Tendency of Fire ; in the other, through the Nourishment by
Moisture. But in the Midst of the Earth there is an whole-
some Mixture from both Sides ; the whole Tract is fruitful
for all Things, and the Habit of Men's Bodies of a balanced
Constitution. In the Colour, also, there existeth a great
Temperature. The Manners of the People are gentle, their
Senses clear, their Capacity fertile and capable of all Things
within the Compass of Nature. They also bear sovereign
Rule, and sway Empires, which those uttermost Nations
never had : yet true it is, that even they who are out
of the Temperate Zones may not consent to be subject nor
accommodate themselves unto these : for such is their
savage Nature that it urgeth them to living solitary by


Of Earthquakes*.

THE Babylonians were of Opinion, that Earthquakes and
Chasms, and all other Occurrences of this Nature, are occa-

1 The definition of an earthquake is, the transit of a wave of elastic
compression in any direction, from vertically upwards, to horizontally in
any azimuth, through the surface and crust of the earth, from any centre
of impulse (whether producing flexure or fracture), or from more than

120 History of Nature. [BOOK IF.

sioned by the Influence of the Planets : bat of those three
only to which they attribute Lightnings. And it is effected
by the Means of their keeping their Course with the Sun, or
meeting with him : and especially when this Concurrence is
about the Quadratures of the Heaven. And if it be true, as
it is reported, of Anaximander, the Milesian Natural Philo-
sopher, his Foreknowledge of Things was excellent and wor-
thy of Immortality : for they say he forewarned the Lacede-
monians to look well to their City and Dwelling-houses, for
that an Earthquake approached ; which fell out accord-
ingly : when not only their whole City was shaken, but also
a great Part of the Mountain Taygetus, which projected like

one ; and which may be attended with tidal and sound waves, dependent
upon the former, and upon circumstances of position as to sea and land.
MALLET : Transactions of Royal Irish Academy, vol. xix.

The causes, and many of the attending phenomena, are as much a
matter of conjecture now as when Pliny wrote ; but he does not even
deem worthy of notice the popular supposition, that the giants who had
rebelled against the gods were buried beneath these mountains, where
by their struggles they gave occasion to those commotions : nor that the
shop of Vulcan was beneath Etna, of which the crater was the chimney.
It is more remarkable that he makes no reference to the idea of Pytha-
goras (Ovid's " Metamorphoses," b. xv.), that the phenomena of volcanic
eruption was a vital action of the earth, regarded as an animal ; for that
the earth was such we find Pliny expressing a decided opinion. But the
concluding explanation of the poet, however, was that which best suited
his inquiries.

Ceremonies concerning Earthquakes. Whilst it was a maxim of the
state religion, that earthquakes were caused by the displeasure of some
divinity, it was still necessary that each occurrence of such phenomenon
should be fully announced by the proper officers, before the religious
observances appropriate to the case could be required ; and thus was se-
cured a guard against such alarms as might agitate the public mind, if
any neglect might seem to arise. The ceremonies were by public an-
nouncement ; and they were so imperative upon all, that any one engaging
in ordinary work at the time of these feriae would be judged to have
violated them. The salutation to the divine power that may have caused
the shock was, " Si Deo, si Dea," &c., to obviate the danger of an error
regarding which god, or which sex of these deities, had caused the calamity.

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 10 of 60)