the Elder Pliny.

Pliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books online

. (page 11 of 60)
Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 11 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

And this was of importance, because if a wrong name were called, so far
from being pacified, the real author might become still more offended.
From Aulus Gellius. Wern. Club.

BOOK If.] History of Nature. 121

the Poop of a Ship, being broken from the Rest, came down,
and with the Fall covered over the other Ruins. There is re-
ported another Conjecture byPherecydes, who was the Teacher
of Pythagoras; and the same was likewise of divine character;
for, by drawing Water out of a Well he both foresaw and
foretold an Earthquake there. Which, if they be true, how
far off, I pray you, may such Men seem to be from God, even
while they live upon Earth ? But I leave these Things free
for every Man to weigh according to his Judgment : and for
my own Part, I suppose that, without Doubt, the Winds are
the proper Cause. For the Earth never quakes but when
the Sea is still, and the Weather so calm that Birds, in their
flying, cannot hover in the Air; because all the Spirit which
should bear them up, is withdrawn : nor yet at any Time, but
after the Winds are laid ; namely, when the Blast is hidden
within the Veins and Caves of the Earth. Neither is this
Shaking in the Earth any other Thing than is Thunder in the
Cloud : nor the Chasm thereof aught else, but, like the Cleft
out of which the Lightning breaketh, when the Spirit enclosed
within struggleth and stirreth to go forth at Liberty.

Of Chasms of the Earth.

VARIOUSLY, therefore, the Earth is shaken, and thereupon
ensue wonderful Effects. In one Place the Walls of Cities
are laid prostrate : in another they are swallowed up in a deep
Chasm : here are cast up mighty Heaps of Earth ; there are
poured out Rivers of Water; sometimes Fire doth burst forth,
and hot Springs : and again the Course of Rivers is turned
away backward. There goeth before and cometh with it a
terrible Noise : one while a Rumbling more like the lowing
of Beasts : and then again it resembleth a Man's Voice, or
the clattering and rustling of Armour and Weapons; accord-
ing to the Quality of the Matter that receiveth the Noise, or
the Fashion either of the hollow Caverns within, or the
Cranny by which it passeth ; whilst in a narrow Way it
soundeth with a more slender Tone : and the same keepeth
an hoarse Din in winding Caves ; rebounding again in hard

122 History of Nature. [BooK II.

Passages ; roaring in moist Places ; waving and floating in
standing Waters ; boiling against solid Things. And there-
fore, oftentimes a Noise is heard without an Earthquake :
and never doth it shake after exactly the same Manner, but
trembleth and vibrateth. The gaping Chink sometimes re-
maineth wide open, and sheweth what it hath swallowed up ;
and at other Times it closeth up the Mouth, and hideth all :
and the Earth is brought together so again that there remain
no Marks to be seen : notwithstanding many a Time it hath
devoured Cities, and drawn into it a whole Tract of Country.
Maritime Regions, most of all, feel Earthquakes : neither
are the hilly Countries without this Calamity. I myself
have known by examination, that the Alps and Apennines
have oftentimes trembled. In the Autumn and Spring there
happen more Earthquakes than at other Times, the same as
Lightnings. And, therefore, Gallia and Egypt least of all be
shaken : for in Egypt the continual Summer 1 , and in Gallia
the Winter, is against it. Also, Earthquakes are more rife
by Night than by Day. But the greatest Shocks are in the
Morning and Evening. Toward Daylight there be many :
and if by Day, it is usually about Noon. They are also
when the Sun and Moon are eclipsed, because then Tempests
are laid to Rest: but especially, when after much Rain there
followeth a great Heat; or after Heat, much Rain.

Signs of Approaching Earthquakes.

SAILORS also perceive it by an undoubting Conjecture,
when the Waves swell suddenly without any Gale of Wind,
or when they feel a Shock. And then do the Things quake

1 It has been contended that the internal actions of the earth, causing
or affected by volcanic motion, are intimately connected with changes in
the atmosphere and the variety of the seasons ; giving rise also to epidemic
diseases, both in man and animals, and even in vegetables : and on the
other hand, that the actions of the earth, in earthquakes and volcanoes,
are connected with what we now denominate the electric state of the
atmosphere. Several coincidences of this kind have been remarked;
and in either case they are applicable to Egypt above other countries.
Wern. Club.

BOOK II.] History of Nature. 123

which are within the Ships, just as those in Houses, and with
their rustling give Warning beforehand. Birds, likewise,
sit not quietly without Fear. In the Sky, also, there is a
Sign, for there goeth before, either in Daytime, or soon after
the Sun is gone down in Serenity, a thin Streak or Line of a
Cloud stretched out in great Length. Moreover, the Water
in Wells 1 is more troubled than ordinary, and not without
an offensive Smell.

Helps against approaching Earthquakes.

BUT there is a Remedy for the same, such as Caverns in
many Places do yield : for they discharge the Wind that was
conceived there before : a Thing observed in certain Towns,
which because they stand hollow, and have many Sinks dug
to convey away their Filth, are less shaken. And in the
same Towns, those Parts which be pendant are the safer : as
is well seen in Naples, in Italy, where that Quarter thereof
which is solid is subject to such Casualties. And in Houses
the Arches are most safe, and the Angles of Walls, and
those Posts which, in shaking, will jog to and fro every Way.
Walls made of Brick or Earth take less Harm when they be
shaken in an Earthquake. And a great Difference there is
in the Manner of Earthquakes ; for the Motion is after many
Sorts. The safest is, when Houses as they rock keep a trem-
bling and warbling Noise : also when the Earth seemeth to
swell up in rising : and again to settle down with an alterna-
tive Motion. It is harmless, also, when Houses run on End
together by a contrary Stroke, and jut one against another:
for the one Motion doth withstand the other. The bending
downward in Manner of waving, and a rolling like to surging
Billows, is that which is so dangerous ; or when the whole

1 A consideration of the fact here expressed might have mitigated the
wonder felt by Pliny at the prognostication of approaching earthquakes,
referred to in chapter Ixxix. Their prescience only proved a close ob-
servance of Nature by these illustrious inquirers, and how far they were
in advance of the philosophy of the day. Wern. Club.

124 History of Nature. [ BOOK II.

Motion forceth itself to one Side. These Tremblings of the
Earth give over when the Wind is vented out : but if they
continue, then they cease not for forty Days : yea, and many
Times it is longer, so that some of them have lasted for the
Space of a Year or two.

Portentous Earthquakes, seen only once.

THERE happened once (which I found in the Books of
Tuscan Science) within the Territory of Modena (whilst
L. Martins and Sex. Julius were Consuls) a mighty Portent
of the Earth : for two Mountains rushed together, and with
the utmost Clamour assaulted one another, and then retired
again. It fell out in the Daytime : and between them there
issued flaming Fire and Smoke, mounting up into the Sky :
while a great Number of Roman Knights, a Multitude of
Servants, and Passers-by, stood and beheld it from the Mml-
lian Way. With this Conflict all the Villages upon them
were dashed in Pieces ; and very much Cattle that was
within died therewith. And this happened the Year before
the social War ; which I doubt whether it were not more
pernicious to the Land of Italy than the Civil Wars. That was
no less wonderful a Prodigy, which was known also in our
Age, in the last Year of Nero the Emperor (as we have shewn
in his Acts), when Meadows and Olive-rows (notwithstanding
the great public Road lay between) passed across into one
another's Place, in the Marrucine Territory, within the Lands
of Vectius Marcellus, a Roman Knight, Procurator under
Nero in his Affairs.

Wonders of Earthquakes.

THERE happen together with Earthquakes, Inundations
of the Sea ; which is infused into the Earth with the same
Wind, or else received into the hollow Receptacle as it set-
tleth down. The greatest Earthquake within the Remem-
brance of Man, was that which happened during the Reign

BOOK II.] History of Nature. 125

of Tiberius Ccesar, when twelve Cities of Asia were over-
turned in one Night. But Earthquakes were most frequent
in the Punic War, when within one Year there were an-
nounced at Rome seven-and-fifty l . In which Year, indeed,
when the Carthaginians and Romans fought a Battle at the
Lake Thrasymenus, none of either army perceived the Oc-
currence of a great Earthquake. Neither is this a simple
evil Thing, nor doth the Danger consist only in the Earth-
quake itself, but that which it portendeth is as bad or worse.
Never did the City of Rome experience an Earthquake, but
it proved a Warning of some unhappy Event to follow.

In what Places the Seas have gone back.

THE same Cause is to be rendered of some new Piece of
Ground, when the before-named Wind within the Earth,
able to inflate and raise the Ground, was still not of Power
sufficient to break forth and escape. For there groweth firm
Land not only by that which Rivers bring in (as the Islands
Echinades, which were raised up by the River Achelous ;
and also by the Nile the greater Part of Egypt, into which,
if we believe Homer, from the Island Pharus there was a
Course by Sea of a Day and Night's Sailing), but also by the
retiring of the Sea; as the same Poet hath written of the
Circeice. The like is said to have happened both in the
Haven of Ambracia, for the Space of ten thousand Paces ;
and also in that of the Athenians for five thousand Paces,
near Piraeeum : also at Ephesus, where formerly the Sea
flowed near to the Temple of .Diana. Indeed, if we believe
Herodotus, it was all a Sea from above Memphis to the
Ethiopian Mountains : and likewise from the Plains of Arabia.
It was Sea also about Ilium, and all Teuthrania ; and where
the River Meander now runneth by Meadows 2 .

1 Announced by the augurs, and therefore a strong proof of the agita-
tion of the public mind. Wern Club.

2 The records of all nations afford proof of similar facts, which are
still more extensively shewn by the discoveries of modern geology. It

126 History of Nature. [BooK II.

The Reason of Islands rising out of the Sea.

THERE be Lands also that are produced after another
Manner, and emerge on a sudden in some Sea : as if Nature
struck a Balance with herself, by giving again in one Place
that which her gaping Gulfs had swallowed up in another.

What Islands have sprung up, and at what Times 1 .

THOSE Islands, long since famous, Delos and Rhodes,
are recorded to have risen out of the Sea : and afterwards,
others that were less, namely, Anaphe, beyond Melos ; Nea,
between Lemnus and Hellespont ; Alon, between Lebedus
and Teos ; and Thera, and Therasia, among the Cyclades ;
which latter shewed in the fourth Year of the 135th Olym-
piad. Moreover, among the same Islands, 130 Years after,
Hiera, which is the same as Automate. And two Stadii from
it, after 110 Years, Thia, in our own Time, upon the eighth
Day before the Ides of July, when M. Junius Syllanus and
L. Balbus were Consuls.

What Lands the Seas have broken in between.

IN our own Presence, and near to Italy, between the
JEtolian Islands ; and also near to Crete, there was one that
shewed itself with hot Fountains out of the Sea, for 1500

was a part of the teaching of Pythagoras, as we learn from Ovid (book
xv.) ; and by him it seems to have been made a portion of his doctrine of
the metempsychosis. Wern. Club.

1 What are denominated eruptions of elevation have occurred in
various ages, and in almost every quarter of the world. The latest, and,
perhaps the most precise, account, of such an elevation of an island from
the bottom of the sea, is that of Graham's Island, in 1831, in the Medi-
terranean Sea, between Partellaria and Sciacca ; of which many parti-
culars are given in several publications of that date : and popularly in
London's "Magazine of Natural History," vol. iv. Wern. Club.

BOOK II.] History of Nature. 127

Paces: and another in the third Year of the 143rd Olympiad,
within the Tuscan Gulf, which latter burned with a violent
Wind. It is recorded, also, that when a great Multitude of
Fishes floated about it, those Persons died presently that
fed thereof. So they report, that in the Campain Gulf the
Pithecusae Islands appeared. And soon after, the Mountain
Epopos in them (at which Time there suddenly shone out a
flaming Fire from it) was laid level with the plain Country.
Within the same, also, there was a Town swallowed up by
the deep Sea ; and in another Earthquake there appeared a
standing Pool : but in another, by the Fall of some Moun-
tains, there grew the Island Prochyta: for after this Manner,
also, Nature hath formed Islands. Thus, she disjoined Sicily
from Italy, Cyprus from Syria, Euboea from Bceotia, Ata-
lante and Macris from Euboea, Besbycus from Bithynia,
Leucostia from the Promontory of the Syrenes 1 .

What Islands became joined to the Main.

AGAIN, she hath taken Islands from the Sea, and joined
them to the Main Land ; as, for Instance, Antissa to Lesbos,
Zephyria to Halicarnassus, Aethusa to Myndus, Dromiscos
and Pern to Miletus, and Narthecusa to the Promontory
Parthenius. Hybanda, once an Island of Ionia, is now dis-
tant from the Sea 200 Stadia. As for Syria, Ephesus hath it
now in the midland Parts far from the Sea. So Magnesia,
neighbour to it, hath Derasitas and Sophonia. Epidaurus
and Oricum have ceased to be Islands.

What Lands have been turned wholly into Sea.

NATURE hath altogether taken away some Lands ; the
chief of which was where now is the Atlantic Sea, but which

1 To this may be added, Britain from France. But, in truth, to dis-
ruptions of this kind we owe, for the most part, the present distribution of
the geography of the world. Wern. Club.

128 History of Nature. [BooK II.

was formerly a Continent for a mighty Space of Ground ; if
we may credit Plato. And soon after, in our Mediter-
ranean Sea, all men may see at this Day how much hath
been immersed ; as, Acarnania by the inward Gulf of Am-
bracia ; Achaia within that of Corinth ; Europe and Asia
within Propontis and Pontus. And besides, the Sea hath
broken through Leucas, Antirrhium, Hellespont, and the
two Bosphori.

What Lands have swallowed up themselves.

AND now to pass over Arms of the Sea and Lakes, the
Earth hath devoured and buried herself: as, for Example,
that very high Mountain, Cybotus, with the Town Curites ;
Sipylus in Magnesia : and in the same Place before that, the
most noble City called Tantalus : the Territories of Galanis
and Gamale in Phcenice, together with the Cities themselves.
Phogium, also, a very high Hill in Ethiopia, as if the very
Shores were not to be trusted, but they also must work

What Cities have been swallowed up by the Sea.

THE Sea of Pontus hath overwhelmed Pyrrha and Antyssa,
about Maeotis ; and Elice, and Bura in the Gulf of Corinth :
whereof the Marks are to be seen in the deep Water. Out
of the Island Cea more than 30,000 Paces of Ground were
lost suddenly, with very many Men. In Sicily, also, the Sea
came in and took away half the City Thindaris, and all
between Italy and Sicily. The like it did in Bosotia and

Of the Wonders of the Land.

LET us speak no more of Earthquakes, and any Thing
else of that Kind ; for we will rather speak of the Wonders

BOOK II.] History / Nature. 129

of the Earth than of the mischievous Freaks of Nature. And
surely the History of celestial Things was not more hard to
be related : the Wealth is such of Metals, in such Variety, so
rich, so fruitful, rising still one under another, for so many
Ages ; notwithstanding that daily there is so much consumed
throughout the World, with Fires, Ruins, Shipwrecks, Wars,
and fraudulent Practices : yea, and so much spent in luxury
by so many Men living ! yet how many Sorts of Gems there
be still so painted ! In precious Stones, what Variety of
Colours! 'and how bespotted ! And among them, the Bril-
liancy of some one excluding all else but Light! The Virtue
of medicinable Fountains : the continual Burning for so
many Ages of Fire issuing forth in so many Places : the
deadly Exhalations in some Places, either emitted from Pits
when they were sunk, or else from the very Position of the
Ground ; present Death in one Place to the Birds only (as at
Soracte, in a Quarter near the City) ; in others, to all other
living Creatures, save only Man : yea, and sometime to Men
also, as in the Territories of Sinuessa and Puteoli. Which
damp Holes 1 , breathing out a deadly Air, some call Charonece
Scrobes, or Charon's Ditches. Likewise in the Hirpines'
Land, that of Amsanctus, a Cave near the Temple of Me-
phitesy into which as many as enter die presently. After the
like Manner, at Hierapolis in Asia there is another such,
fatal to all except the Priest of the great Mother. In other
Places there be also Caves possessing a prophetical Power :
by the Exhalation of which Men are intoxicated, and so

1 The nature of the air now denominated carbonic acid gas, which,
when attempted to be inhaled, is destructive to animal life, was unknown,
except in these effects, to the ancients. It is to this that the well-known
Grotto del' Cane in Italy, as well as sometimes deep, moist, and stagnant
pits among ourselves, owe their fatal qualities. The inhalations at Delphi
were probably artificial ; and those who visited the prophetic cave of
Trophonius were observed to be ever afterward affected with constitu-
tional gloom ; which, however, might be the effect of the drugs that were
given them to drink, under the name of the "Waters of the Mnemosme."
In chap. ciii. a reference is made to a natural spring producing similar
effects. Wern. Club.

1 30 History of Nature. [BoOK 1 1 ,

foretell Things to come ; as at Delphi, that most renowned
Oracle. In which Things, what other Reason can any mortal
Man assign, than the divine Power of Nature diffused through
all, which breaketh forth at Times in sundry Sorts?

Of Lands always trembling.

SOME Parts of the Earth there be that tremble under
Men's Feet as they go ; as in the Territory of the Gabians,
not far from Rome, where there be almost 200 Jugera of
Ground, which tremble as Horsemen ride over them : and
the same in the Territory of Reate.

Of Islands ever floating.

SOME Islands are always floating 1 ; as in the Country
about Caecubum, Reate above-named, Mutina, and Statonia.
Also in the Lake Vadimonis, and near the Waters Cutyliae,
there is a dark Grove, which is never seen in one Place for
a Day and Night together. Moreover, in Lydia, the Isles
Calaminae are not only driven to and fro by Winds, but also
many be thrust about with long Poles, which Way a Man
will : a Thing that saved many a Man's Life in the War
against Mithridates. There are other little ones also in the
River Nymphaeus, called Saltuares (or Dancers), because in
any Concert of Musicians, they are moved at the Stroke of
the Feet, as keeping their Time. In the great Lake of
Italy, called Tarquiniensis, two Islands carry about with
them Groves : one while appearing triangular, another while
round, when they close one to the other by the Drift of
Winds, but never four-square.

It is believed there is something similar in the north of England.
Wern. Club.

BOOK II.] History of Nature. \ 3 1


In what Lands it never raineth. Also, Wonders of the Earth,
and other Elements heaped together.

PAPHOS hath in it a famous Temple of Venus: upon a
certain Floor and Altar whereof it never raineth 1 . Likewise
in Nea, a Town of Troas, it never rains about the Image of
Minerva. In the same, also, the Beasts killed for Sacrifice,
if they be left there, never putrify. Near to Harpasa, a
Town in Asia, there stands a craggy and awful Rock, movable
with one Finger, but if you thrust it with your whole Body,
it will stiffly resist 2 . In the Peninsula of the Tauri and City
Parasinum, there is a kind of Earth that healeth all Wounds,
But about Assos, in Troas, there grows a Stone by which all
Bodies are consumed, and thereupon it is termed Sarco-
phagus. There be two Mountains near the River Indus : the
Nature of the one is to hold fast all Manner of Iron, and of
the other, to reject it : and r therefore, if the Sole of a Man's
Shoes be clouted with Nails, in the one of them a Man can-
not pluck away his Foot, and in the other he cannot take
any footing. It is noted, that in Locri and Crotone the Pes-
tilence was never known, nor any Danger by Earthquake.
And in Lycia, after an Earthquake, it is fair Weather for
forty Days. In the Territory of Arda, if Corn be sowed, it
never groweth. At the Altars Murtiae in the Veientian
Country, and in Tusculanum, and the Wood Cyminia, there
be certain Places, wherein whatever is pitched into the
Ground can never be plucked up again. In the Crustumin
Country all the Hay there growing is hurtful in the same
Place : but if removed, it is good and wholesome.

1 Tacitus alludes to the same circumstance, b. xviii. Wern. Club.

2 The Logan stone, near the Land's End, in Cornwall, is a well-known
example of the same thing. The simple fact is, that a very large stone is
poised very nearly on its centre of gravity, while the limit of oscillation is
narrow. Wern. Club.

1 32 History of Nature. [BooK 1 1 .


What is the Reason of the Ebb and Flow of the Sea : and
where it is that they keep no Order.

OF the Nature of Waters much hath been said ; but that
the Tide of the Sea should flow and ebb, is a very wonderful
Thing indeed. The Manner thereof is various, but the Cause
is in the Sun and Moon. Between two Risings of the Moon
they flow twice and twice go back, and always in the Space
of four-and- twenty Hours. And first as she riseth aloft
together with the World, the Tides swell ; and presently
again, as she goeth from the Height of the Meridian Line
and inclineth Westward, they subside : again, as she moveth
from the West, under our Horizon, and approacheth to the
Point contrary to the Meridian, they flow, and then they are
received back into the Sea until she rise again : and never
keepeth the Tide the same Hour that it did the Day before :
for it giveth Attendance upon the Planet, which greedily
draweth with it the Seas, and evermore riseth to Day in some
other Place than it did yesterday. Nevertheless, the Tides
keep just the same Times between, and hold always six
Hours a-piece : I mean not of every Day and Night or Place
indifferently, but only the Equinoctial. For in regard of
Hours, the Tides of the Sea are unequal : forasmuch as by
Day and Night the Tides are more or less one Time than
another : in the Equinoctial only they are equal in all Places.
A powerful Argument this is, and full of Light, to convince
the Dulness of those who are of opinion, that the Planets
being under the Earth lose their Power : and that their
Virtue beginneth when they are above only. For they shew
their Effects as well under as above the Earth, as well as the
Earth which worketh in all Parts. And plain it is, that the
Moon performeth her Operations as well under the Earth as
when we see her visibly above : neither is her Course any
other beneath than above our Horizon. But yet the Altera-
tion of the Moon is manifold, and first every seven Days:
for while she is new, the Tides be but small, until the first

BOOK 1 1 .] History of Nature. \ 33

Quarter : and as she groweth bigger they flow more, so that
at the full they swell most of all. From that Time they be-
come more mild : and in the first Days of the decrease unto
the seventh, the Tides are equal. Again, when she is divided
on the other Side they are increased. And in the Conjunc-
tion they are equal to the Tides of the full. And evidently
it appeareth, that when she is Northerly and removed far-
ther from the Earth, the Tides are more gentle than when
she is gone Southerly : for then she worketh nearer Hand,
and putteth forth her full Power. Every eight Years, also,

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 11 of 60)