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

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Others also have been able to command their Nature in
many Cases.

Examples of Diversity of Habits.

IT is said, that Crassus, Grandfather to that Crassus who
was slain in Parthia, never laughed, and on that account
was called Agelastus: and also that many have been found
to have never wept. Socrates, who was illustrious for his
Wisdom, was seen always to carry the same Countenance,
never being more cheerful nor more disturbed at one Time
than another. But this tendency of the Mind turneth now
and then in the End into a certain Rigour and Sternness
of Nature, so hard and inflexible that it cannot be ruled ;
and so despoileth Men of the humane Affections; and such
are called by the Greeks Apathes. who had the Experience
of many such : and, what is surprising, some of them were
very eminent for Wisdom, as Diogenes the Cynic, Pyrrho,
Heraclitus, and Timo ; the latter being carried away so far
as to hate the whole Human Race. But these were Ex-
amples of depraved Nature. Various remarkable Things are
known ; as in Antonia, the Wife of Drusus, who was never

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 203

seen to spit ; and Pomponius the Poet, a Consular Man, who
never belched. Such as naturally have their Bones solid,
who are seldom met with, are called Cornel (hard as Horn).

Of Strength and Swiftness. 1

VARRO, in his Treatise of prodigious Strength, maketh
Report of Tritanus, who was little in Person, but of incom-
parable Strength, much renowned in the Gladiatorial Play,
with the Armature of the Samnites. He maketh mention
also of a Son of his, a Soldier under Pompey the Great ; and
that he had all over his Body, as well as through his Arms
and Hands, Sinews running straight and across like Net-
work : and when an Enemy challenged him to a Combat,
he overcame him with his right Hand unarmed, and in the
End caught hold of him, and brought him into the Camp
with one Finger. Junius Valens, a Centurion in the Praeto-
rium of Divus Augustus, was accustomed to bear up Waggons
laden with Sacks, until they were discharged : with one Hand
he would hold back a Chariot, standing firm against all the
Force of the Horses. He did also other wonderful Things,
which are to be seen engraved on his Tomb : and therefore
Varro saith that being called Hercules Rusticellus, he took
up his Mule and carried him away. Fusius Salvius carried
up over the Stairs two hundred Pounds' weight on his Feet,
as many in his Hands, and twice as much upon his Shoul-
ders. Myself have seen a Man named Athanatus, with a
great deal of Ostentation walk upon the Stage clothed in a

1 It is observable that in this, and chap, xxiii., Pliny's instances apply
only to animal endurance. Martial took a more correct view of the mental
property, when he said :

" Rebus in angustis facile est contemnere vitam :
Fortiter ille facit, qui miser esse potest." B. xi. Ep. 35.

When Fortune frowns, 'tis easy life to hate ;
But real courage is not crush'd by fate.

Wem. Club.

204 History of Nature. [BooK VII.

Cuirass of Lead weighing five hundred Pounds, and wearing
high Shoes of the same Weight. When Milo, the great
Wrestler of Croton, stood firm upon his Feet, no Man was
able to make him stir in the least Degree : if he held an
Apple, no Man was able to stretch out his Finger. 1 It was a
great matter, that Philippides ran 1140 Stadia, from Athens
to Lacedsemon, in two Days ; until Anistis, a Runner of
Lacedsemon, and Philonides, belonging to Alexander the
Great, ran from Sicyone to Elis in one Day, 1200 Stadia.
But now, indeed, we know some in the Circus able to endure
the running of 160 Miles. And lately when Fonteius and
Vipsanus were Consuls, a young Boy, only nine Years old,
between Noon and Evening ran 75 Miles. And a Man may
wonder the more at this Matter, if he consider, that it was
counted an exceeding great Journey that Tiberius Nero made
in three Chariots in a Day and a Night, when he hasted to
his Brother Drusus, then lying sick in Germany, which was
but 200 Miles. 2

1 Two persons, successively porters to Kings James I. and Charles,
his son, were of great size and strength. The first, particularly, was able
to take two of the tallest yeomen of the guard, one under each arm, and
he ordered them as he pleased. The Emperor Maximinus, who was eight
feet and a half in height, was of enormous strength, even in proportion to
his magnitude. Wern. Club,

2 We have less examples of swiftness of foot, since more rapid convey-
ance is common. Pliny's instances are the more surprising, as they imply
continuance ; but the English King Henry V. was so swift of foot, that
with two of his lords, without any weapons, he would catch a wild buck
in a large park. In Baker's " Chronicle " we are informed, that John
Lepton, of Kepwick, in the county of York, one of the grooms of the
Privy Chamber to James I., for a wager rode for six days successively
between York and London : which is 150 miles. He accomplished the
work of each day, beginning May 20, 1606, before it was dark ; and hav-
ing finished his wager at York on Saturday, on the following Monday he
rode back to London, and on Tuesday to the court at Greenwich : being
as fresh and well as when he began. In the year 1619, July 17, Bernard
Calvert rode from St. George's church, in Southwark, to Dover : thence
by barge to Calais, and from thence back to St. George's church, on the
same day; beginning at three o'clock in the morning, and ending at eight
in the evening, fresh and lusty, although roads were then less perfect
than now. Wern. Club.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 205

Examples of good Eyesight.

WE find in Histories almost incredible Examples of
Sharpness of the Eyes. Cicero hath recorded, that the Poem
of Homer called the Iliad, written on Parchment, was en-
closed within a Nutshell. The same Writer maketh mention
of one who could see to the Distance of 135 Miles. And
M.Varro nameth the Man, saying that he was called Strabo;
and that during the Carthaginian War he was accustomed to
stand upon Lilybseum, a Promontory of Sicily, and discover
the Fleet coming out of the Harbour of Carthage ; he was
also able to tell even the Number of the Ships. Collier ates
made Emmets, and other equally small Creatures, out of
Ivory, so that other Men could not discern the Parts of their
Bodies. A certain Myrmecides was excellent in that kind of
Workmanship ; who of the same Material carved a Chariot
with four Wheels, which a Fly might cover with her Wings.
Also he made a Ship that a little Bee might hide with her
Wings. 1

Of Hearing.

OF Hearing there is one Example which is wonderful :
that the Battle in which Sybaris was destroyed was heard at
Olympia on the very same Day it was fought. For the Cim-

1 Peculiarities of eyesight are also recorded in ancient authors. The
Emperor Tiberius was able to see better than other men by night ; and
contrary to the usual habit, best when he first opened his eyes from sleep.
Such was also the case with the philosopher Cardan. Fabricius ab Aqua-
pendente knew a man who could see well by night, but not by day ; and
the Editor was acquainted with two brothers, whose vision was of this
kind ; and it may be accounted for by the fact, that they were destitute of
eyebrows, and had very little eyelashes. Wern. Club.

206 History of Nature. [BoOK VII.

brian Victories and the Report of the Victory over the Per-
sians made at Rome by the Castors, on the same Day that it
was achieved, were Visions and the Presages of Divine

Examples of Patience.

MANY are the Calamities incident to Mankind, which
have afforded innumerable Trials of Patience, in suffering
Pains of the Body. The most illustrious among Women is
the Example of Leana the Courtesan, who, when she was
tortured, did not betray Harmodius and Aristogiton, who
slew the Tyrant. Among Men is the Example of Anaxar-
chus, who, being tortured for a like Cause, bit off his Tongue
with his Teeth, and spat his only Hope of Discovery into the
Face of the Tyrant.

Examples of Memory. 1

MEMORY is the greatest Gift of Nature, and most neces-
sary of all others for Life ; it is hard to say who deserved the

1 The orator Hortensius was famous for an extensive and accurate
memory ; which Cicero speaks of with admiration. It is said of him,
that once sitting at a place where things were exposed to public sale for a
whole day, he recited in order all the things that had been sold, their
price, and the names of the buyers ; and it was afterwards found that he
was minutely correct. Cicero, comparing him with Lucullus, says, that
Hortensius's memory was greater for words, and that of Lucullus for
things, an important distinction, for it is commonly found that those who
best remember the one, are deficient in the other. Seneca had a remark-
able memory for words ; so that he was able to repeat two thousand names
in the order they were pronounced. The art of memory, to which some
moderns have made great pretensions, is very ancient ; and it was much
in use in the middle ages. But it applies to words rather than things ;
and it requires to be studied as an individual object, and not as means to
an end. Wern. Club.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 207

chief honour therein, considering how many have excelled
in its Glory. King Cyrus called every Soldier in his Army
by his own Name. L. Scipio could do the like by all the
Citizens of Rome. Cineas, Ambassador of King Pyrrhus,
the next Day after he came to Rome, saluted by Name the
Senate and Equestrian Order. Mithridates, the King of two-
and-twenty Nations of different Languages, ministered Justice
to them in that Number of Tongues : and when he made a
Speech in the public Assembly respectively to every Nation, he
performed it without an Interpreter. A certain Charmidas^
a Grecian, rehearsed as if he was reading whatever any Man
would call for out of any of the Volumes in the Libraries.
At length the Practice of this was reduced into an Art of
Memory, which was invented by Simonides Melicus, and
afterwards brought to Perfection by Metrodorus Scepsius; by
which a Man might learn to rehearse the same Words of any
Discourse after once hearing. And yet there is nothing in
Man so frail ; for it is injured by Diseases, Accidents, and by
Fear, sometimes in part, and at other Times entirely. One
who was struck with a Stone forgot his Letters only. Ano-
ther, by a Fall from the Roof of a very high House, lost
the Remembrance of his own Mother, his near Relations,
and Neighbours. Another when sick forgot his own Ser-
vants ; and Messala Corvinus, the Orator, forgot even his
own Name. 2 So also it often endeavoureth to lose itself, even
while the Body is otherwise quiet and in Health. But let
Sleep creep upon us, and it reckoneth, as an empty Mind
inquireth, what place it is in.

1 Carneades, according to Cicero and Quintilian.

2 A sudden loss of memory on a particular subject is common, though
unaccountable. We are told that Curio, the orator, was much given to
this ; so that, offering to divide a subject into three heads, he would forget
one of them, or perhaps make four. He was to plead on behalf of Sextus
Naevius, opposed to Cicero, who was on the side of Titania Corta ; when
he suddenly forgot the whole cause, and ascribed the fact to the witchcraft
of Titania. Wern. Club.


History of Nature.


Julius Ccesar and Augustus.

The Praise of C. Julius Ccesar.

FOR Vigour of Spirit I judge that C. Ccesar, the Dictator,
was the most excellent. I speak not now of his Courage
and Constancy, nor of his lofty Understanding of all Things
under the Expanse of Heaven ; but of that proper Strength
and Quickness of his, as active as the very Fire. We have
heard it reported of him, that he was accustomed to write
and read at one Time, to dictate and hear. He would dic-
tate Letters of the utmost Importance to four Secretaries at
once : and when he was free from other Business, he would
dictate seven Letters at one Time. The same Man fought
fifty Battles with Banners displayed : in which Point he
alone exceeded M. Marcellus, who fought thirty-nine Battles.
For, besides his Victories in the Civil Wars, he slew in Battle
1,192,000 of his Enemies ; but this, for my own Part, I hold
no special Glory of his, considering the great Injury so in-
flicted on Mankind : and this, indeed, he hath himself con-
fessed, by avoiding to set down the Slaughter that occurred
during the Civil Wars. Pompey the Great deserveth honour
more justly for taking from the Pirates 846 Sail of Ships.
But what is proper and peculiar to Ccesar, besides what is
said above, was his remarkable Clemency, in which he so far
surpassed all others, that he himself regretted it. The Example
of his Magnanimity was such, that nothing besides can be com-

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 209

pared to it. For to reckon up the Spectacles exhibited, with
the lavish Expense, with the Magnificence in this Portion of
his Works, is to lend a countenance to Luxury. But herein
appeared the true and incomparable Loftiness of his un-
conquered Mind, that when at the Battle of Pharsalia, the
Writing-case containing the Letters of Pompey was taken,
as also those of Scipio at Thapsus, he burnt them all with
the utmost Fidelity, without having read them.


The Praise of Pompey the Great.

To relate all the Titles, Victories, and Triumphs of Pompey
the Great, wherein he was equal in the splendour of his
Exploits not only to Alexander the Great, 1 but even almost
to Hercules and Liber Pater, would redound, not to the
Honour only of that one Man, but also to the Grandeur of
the Roman Empire. In the first place then, after he had
recovered Sicily, from whence his first rising was as a follower
of Sylla in the cause of the Republic, he appeared auspiciously

1 It is clear from various ancient authorities, that it was the ambition
of Pompey to imitate and be compared to Alexander; and it was with this
view that the title of Great was highly acceptable to him. It was per-
haps to humour this foible, and through it to secure him the more effec-
tually to his party, that Sylla was accustomed to pay him extraordinary
personal honours : returning his salutation of Imperator with the same
title, rising from his seat to salute him when Pompey dismounted from
his horse, and uncovering his head at the same time. Daleschampiiis.
In honour of Pompey 's having restored the sovereignty of the sea, the
reverse of a Roman denarius bears the figure of a Dolphin and Eagle,
separated by a Sceptre, with the inscription, Magn. Procos. Wern. Club.


210 History of Nature. [BooK VII.

fortunate. Having also wholly subdued Africa, and brought
it under obedience, he was brought back in a Triumphal
Chariot, with the name of Great, by reason of the Pillage
there captured, being then only a Roman Knight : a thing
that was never seen before. Immediately passing into the
West, and having brought under obedience 876 Towns,
between the Alps and the borders of Spain, he erected
Trophies on the Pyrenees, with the inscription of his Victory ;
and with more nobleness of Mind, said nothing concerning
Sertorius. And after the Civil War was put an end to
(which drew after it all Foreign matters), this Roman Knight
triumphed the second time : being so many times a General
(Imperator), before he was a Soldier (Miles). Afterward
he was sent out on an Expedition to all the Seas, and then
into the East parts : From whence he returned with more
Titles to his Country, after the manner of those who win
Victories at the Sacred Games. 1 Neither, indeed, are those
Crowned, but they Crown their Native Countries; and
so Pompey gave as a Tribute to the City these honours
which he dedicated to Minerva* out of (mojiubiis) his own
share of the Spoils, with an inscription in this manner :
CN. POMPEIUS the Great, Imperator, having finished the
War of Thirty Years: having discomfited, put to flight, slain,
received to submission, 2,183,000 Men : sunk or taken 846
Ships : brought under his authority Towns and Castles to the
number 0/1538 : subdued the Lands from the Lake Mceotis
to the Red Sea, hath dedicated of right this Vow to MINERVA.
This is the Summary of his Services in the East. But of the
Triumph which he led on the Third Day before the Calends
of October, when M. Messala and M. Piso were Consuls,
the Title ran thus : When he had freed the Sea-coast from
Pirates, had restored to the People of Rome the Sovereignty
of the Sea, he hath triumphed for Asia ; Pontus, Armenia,
Paphlagonia, Cappadocia, Cilicia, Syria, the Scythians, Jews,
and the Albani ; the Island Iberia, Crete, the Bastarni ;
and above these, over the Kings Mithridates and Tigranes.
But the greatest Glory of all in him was this, (as himself

1 Olympia, Nemsea, Pythia, Isthmia. 2 Or Victory.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 21 1

said in an Assembly, when he discoursed of his own Ex-
ploits) : that whereas Asia, when he received it, was the
remotest Province of his Country, he left it in the centre.
If a man would set Ccesar on the other side against him,
and review his actions, who of the two seemed greater,
he might indeed reckon up the whole World, which would
amount to an infinite matter.

The praise of the First Cato.

MANY Men have differently excelled in various other
kinds of virtues. But Cato, 1 the First of the Porcian House,
was thought to have been the most excellent in three
things which are in the highest degree commendable in
Man. He was the best Orator; the best General ; and the
best Senator. And yet, in my opinion, all these excellencies
shone out more brightly, although he was not first, in Scipio
JEmilianus : To say nothing besides of the absence of the
Hatred of so many Men, which Cato laboured under. But
if you seek for one especial thing in Cato, this is, that he
was judicially called to his answer Forty-four times, and
never was there a Man accused oftener than he ; yet he was
always acquitted.


Of Valour.
IT is a very extensive inquiry, to discover in whom the

1 This Cato appears to have been more successful in obtaining the
esteem than the love of the people ; and, indeed, from the evidence of his
"Treatise on Agriculture," he appears to have been a niggardly and
shrewd master, whom no one could defraud, and who was ready to
secure every advantage in a bargain. He recommends, with the same
indifference, the sale of an ox that was past labour, his rusty iron, and
sickly or worn-out slave.

Narratur et prisci Catonis,

Saepe mero caluisse Virtus. Wern. Club.

212 History of Nature. [BOOK VII.

greatest degree of hardy Courage existed ; and more espe-
cially if we admit the fabulous tales of Poets. Q. Ennius
had in greatest admiration T. Ccecilius Teucer, and his
brother; and in regard of those Two he added to the others
the Sixth Book of his Annals. But L. Siccius Dentatus, a
Tribune of the Commons, not long after the Banishment of
the Kings, when Sp. Tarpeius and A. JEternius were Con-
suls, by most Voices surpasseth in this kind, having Fought
120 Battles; having been Conqueror in Eight Combats with
a Challenge ; being marked with 45 Scars on the front
of his Body, and none behind. Also he won the Spoils of
33 Enemies; he had been presented with 18 Spears; 25
trappings for Horses ; 83 Chains ; 160 Bracelets ; 26
Crowns, of which 14 were Civic, eight of Gold : three
Mural ; and one Obsidional ; together with a Pension from
the Treasury ; and ten Captives with twenty Oxen ; and
thus he followed nine Imperators, who chiefly by his means
triumphed. Besides these things, he accused in open court
before the body of the People, which I suppose was the
worthiest act he ever did, T. Romulius, one of the lead-
ing Generals (who had been a Consul) and convicted him for
his ill management of his military command. Scarcely
inferior to these were the exploits of Manlius Capitolinus, if
he had not forfeited them again with such an end of his life. 1
Before he was seventeen years of age, he had gained two
spoils of his Enemies. He was the first Roman Knight that
received a Mural Crown; with six Civic Crowns ; 37 Dona-
tions; and he carried the Scars in the forepart of his Body
of 33 Wounds. He rescued P. Servilius, Master of the
Horse, and (in the rescue) was himself wounded in the Arm

1 Marcus Manlius was the means of preserving the Capitol when it was
nearly taken by the Gauls ; from which exploit he obtained the surname
of Capitolinus. Becoming afterwards a warm supporter of the popular
party against the patrician order, he was accused of aiming at the kingly
power, and condemned to death. According to Livy (lib. vi.) "the
tribunes cast him down from the Tarpeian rock ; thus the same spot, in
the case of one man, became a monument of distinguished glory and of
the cruellest punishment." Wern. Club.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 213

and Thigh. Above all other actions, he alone saved the
Capitol, and thereby the whole State, from the Gauls: if he
had not saved it for his own Kingdom ! In these examples
there is indeed much of courage, but yet Fortune hath had the
greater share ; and in my judgment no one may justly prefer
any Man before M. Sergius, although Catiline, his Nephew's
Son, discredited his Name. In the second Year of his Service
he lost his Right Hand ; and in two Services he was wounded
three and twenty times : by which means he had little use
of either his Hands or Feet. But although thus disabled
as a Soldier, he went many a Time after to the Wars,
attended only by one Slave. Twice he was taken Prisoner
by Hannibal (for he did not serve against ordinary Enemies),
and twice he escaped from his bonds, although for twenty
Months he was every Day kept Bound with Chains or
Shackles. Four times he fought with his Left Hand only,
until two Horses were killed under him. He made himself
a Right Hand of Iron, and he fought with it fastened to his
Arm. He delivered Cremona from Siege, and saved Pla-
centia. In Gallia, he took twelve Camps of the Enemies:
All which Exploits appear from that Oration of his which he
made in his Praetorship, when his Colleagues repelled him
from the solemn Sacrifices because he was maimed. 1 What
heaps of Crowns would he have built up if he had been
matched with any other Enemy ! For it is very important,
in our estimate of Courage, to consider in what Time the
Persons lived. For what Civic Crowns yielded either Trebia
and Ticinus, or Thrasymenus? what Crown could have been
gained at Cannae, where the best service of Courage was to
have made an escape ? Others, truly, have vanquished Men ;
but Sergius conquered Fortune herself.

1 The ancients were cautious not to admit a mutilated person to the
celebration of sacred rites, observing that such a defect was to be regarded
as a thing of ill-omen ; and that, if the victim must be perfect, how much
more does it become the priest to be so ! How careful the Jews were
commanded to be in this respect, appears from the Law of Moses,
Levit. xx. xxi. Wern. Club.

214 History of Nature. [BooK VII,


Of Ingenuities, or the Commendations of some Men for their


WHO is able to make a muster of them that have been
excellent in Ingenuity through so many kinds of Sciences,
and such a variety of Works and Things? Unless perhaps
we agree that Homer, the Greek Prophet, excelled all others,
considering either the subject matter or the happy fortune
of his Work. And therefore Alexander the Great (for in so
proud a decision I shall cite the Judgment of the highest,
and of those that are beyond Envy), having found among
the Spoils of Darius, king of the Persians, his Casket of
sweet Ointments, which was richly embellished with Gold,
Pearls, and precious Stones ; when his friends shewed him
many uses to which the Cabinet might be put, considering
that Alexander, as a Soldier engaged in War, and soiled with
its service, was disgusted with those Unguents : By Hercules,
he said, let it be devoted to the care of Homer's Books, that
the most precious Work of the Human Mind should be pre-
served in the richest of all Caskets. The same Prince, when
he took Thebes, commanded that the Dwelling-house and
Family of the Poet Pindar* should be spared. He refounded
the native place (Patria) of Aristotle the Philosopher; and
so mingled a kind Testimony for one who threw light on
all things in the World. Apollo, at Delphi, revealed the
murderers of Archilochus the Poet. When Sophocles, the

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 35 of 60)