the Elder Pliny.

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

. (page 36 of 60)
Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 36 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Prince of the Tragic Buskin, was dead, and the Walls of
the City were besieged by the Lacedaemonians, Liber Pater
commanded that he should be buried ; and he admonished
Lysander their King several times as he slept, to suffer his
delight to be interred. The King made diligent inquiry who

1 " The Macedonian conqueror bade spare

The house of Pindarus, when temple and tower
Went to the ground." MII/TON.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 215

lately had died in Athens : and by relation of the Citizens
soon found out who the god had signified ; and so gave them
peace for the burial.

Of Plato, Ennius, Virgil, M. Varro, and M. Cicero.

DIONYSIUS the Tyrant, born otherwise to pride and
cruelty, sent out to meet Plato, the Chief of the Wise
Men, a Ship adorned with Ribbons; and himself went out
in a Chariot with four white Horses, to receive him on the
Shore. Isocrates sold one Oration for twenty talents of Gold.
JEschines, the famous Orator of Athens, having at Rhodes
rehearsed that accusation which he had made against
Demosthenes, read also his adversary's defence, by occasion
of which he had been driven into Banishment at Rhodes ;
and when the Rhodians wondered at it he said, How much
more would you have wondered, if you had heard him de-
livering it himself! Yielding thus in his Calamity a noble
Testimony to his Adversary. The Athenians exiled Thucy-
dides their General : but after he had written his Chronicle
they called him home again, wondering at the Eloquence of
the Man whose Courage they had condemned. The Kings
of Egypt and Macedonia gave a strong Testimony how much
they honoured Mcenander the Comic Poet, in that they
sent Ambassadors for him with a Fleet ; but he won himself
greater fame by esteeming more his Studies, than the Favours
of Princes. Also the Roman Nobles have afforded Testi-
monies even to Foreigners. Hence Cn. Pompey, when he had
ended the War against Mithridates, being about to enter the
House of Posidonius, the celebrated Professor of Wisdom,
forbad the Lictor to knock at the Door according to custom :
and he to whom both the East and the West parts of the
World had submitted, laid down the lictorial Fasces at the
Gate. Cato, surnamed Censorius, when there came to Rome
that noble embassage from Athens, consisting of three, the
wisest Men among them, having heard Carneades speak,

216 History of Nature. [BooK VII.

gave his opinion presently, that those Ambassadors were to
be sent away with all speed, because, if that Man argued the
case, it would be difficult to find out the Truth. 1 What a
change is there now in Men's manners ! His decision was,
that by any means all Greeks should be expelled from Italy ;
but his nephew's Son, (Pronepos,) Cato of Utica, brought one
of their Philosophers over with him from the Tribunes of the
Soldiers, and another from the Cyprian Embassy. And it is
worthy of notice to consider how the same Language was regard-
ed by these two Catoes : for by the one it was rejected. But
let us now discern the glory of our own Countrymen. Scipio
Africanus the elder gave order that the Statue of Q. Ennius*

1 The account of Gate's conduct with the Greek ambassadors, as
given by Pliny, is very different from that by Plutarch, and, from
Cato's acknowledged love of eloquence, we may judge more correct. It
was not, therefore, the fear that eloquence would render the Romans
effeminate ; but because the peculiar eloquence of these men, with per-
haps the general tendency of Greek studies, was calculated to foster
habits of sophistry, and so confound the distinction between truth and
falsehood. Wern. Club.

2 He was emphatically the poet of the republic, and must have been
a man of sterling worth to have been so highly esteemed by the family
of Scipio, and by the censor Cato. " It was well known from a passage
in Cicero, and another in Livy, that the sepulchre of the Scipios stood
beyond the Porta Capena of Rome ; and Livy describes it as being in his
time surmounted by three statues : two of them of the Scipios, and the
third, as was believed, of the poet Ennius. But it was not until the year
A.D. 1780, that some labourers at work in a vineyard discovered a clue
which led to further excavations; and thus the tombs, after having lain
undisturbed for upwards of 2000 years, were most unexpectedly brought
to light. The original inscriptions have been removed to the Vatican."
The following is from " Roma Antica," but is also contained in Mont-
faucon's "Antiquities," and it must belong to that Scipio who is spoken of
by Pliny in the thirty-fourth chapter of this book, though our author
has erred in the application :

Hone . oino . ploirume . consentient . R .

Duonoro . optumo . fuise . viro .

Luciom . Scipione . filios . Barbati .

Consol . Censor . Aidilis . Hie . fuit .A ....

Hec . cepit . Corsica . Aleriaque . Urbe .

Dedet . tempestatebus . aide . mereto . j

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 217

the Poet should be set over his Tomb ; 1 to the end that this
illustrious name, or indeed the spoil that he had carried
away from a third part of the World, should be read over his
last ashes, with the title of the Poet. Divus Augustus forbad
that the Poems of Virgil should be burned, contrary to the
truth of his will ; by which means there grew more credit to
the Poet, than if himself had approved his own Verses.
Asinius Pollio was the first that set up a public Library at
Rome, raised from his portion of spoil ; and in it he placed
the image of M. Varro, even while he lived : a thing of as
great honour, in my opinion (considering that among the
multitude of learned Men he only received this Crown from a
Citizen and an excellent Orator), as that other Naval Crown
gained him, which Pompey the Great bestowed upon him

Thus interpreted :

Hunc umirn plurimi consentiunt Romae,

Bonorum optimum fuisse virum,

Lucium Scipionem, films Barbati,

Consol, Censor, .^Edilis, Hie fuit ; atque (or, apud vos,

or ad eos).

Hie cepit Corsicam, Aleriamque urbem
Dedit Tempestatibus sedem merito.

" The Roman people agree in thinking this man, Lucius Scipio, the
best of all good citizens. He was the son of Barbatus, and consul, censor,
and sedile among you. He took Corsica, and the city Aleria, and
worthily dedicated a temple to the Seasons."

This inscription was dug up in 1616, but was rejected as spurious until
the others were discovered. Africanus, the greatest of the Scipios, was
not buried in the paternal tomb, but on the shore at Liternum ; and the
inscription on his tomb is supposed to have been, " Ingrata Patria, ne
ossa quidem habes." The place is supposed to be marked by a modern
tower, which from the inscription still retains the name of " Patria."
Wem. Club.

1 " Nor think the great from their high place descend,
Who choose the Muses' favourite for a friend ;
When mighty Scipio, Rome well pleas'd could see,
With Ennius join'd, in kindest amity."

JEPHSON'S Roman Portraits.

" L'intime liaison de Scipion avec le poete Ennius, avec qui il voulut
avoir un tombeau commun, fait juger qu'il ne manquoit pas de gout
pour les belles lettres." Hist. Rom. par ROLLIN, vol. vii.

218 History of Nature. [BooK VII.

in the Pirates' War. There are innumerable Roman exam-
ples, if a Man would search them out : for this one Nation
hath brought forth more excellent Men in every kind than
all besides. But why should I be silent concerning the sacri-
fice of M. Tullius? or how shall I best declare his high
excellency? how better his praises than from the most
ample testimony of the whole body of the People in general,
and the acts only of this Consulship, chosen out of the
whole course of thy life ? Thine Eloquence was the cause
that the Tribes renounced the Agrarian Law : that is, their
own Sustenance. Through thy Persuasion they pardoned
Roscius, the Author of the Law of the Theatre; 1 they were
content to be noted by the Difference of Seat. At thy
Request the Children of the Proscribed felt ashamed to sue
for honourable Dignities ; Catiline fled from thy Ability ; it
was thou that proscribedst M. Antonius. Hail, thou who wast
the first that wast saluted by the Name of Father of thy Coun-
try! the first in the long Robe that deserved a Triumph, and
the Laurel for thy Language ! the Father indeed of Elo-
quence and of the Latin Learning : and (as the Dictator
C&sar, who was at one Time thine Enemy, hath written of
thee) hast obtained a Laurel above all other Triumphs, by how
much more Praiseworthy it is to have enlarged the Bounds
of Roman Learning than of Roman Dominion.

Of Majesty in Manners.

THOSE who, among other Gifts of the Mind, have sur-
passed the rest of Mankind in Wisdom, were on that Account
among the Romans surnamed Cati, and Corculi. Among the
Greeks, Socrates was preferred to all beside by the Oracle of
Apollo Pythius.

1 The Roscian and Julian law, of which L. Roscius Otho, tribune of
the people, was the author, which denned and regulated the order of
sitting in the public theatre ; where, before this, the people mixed indis-
criminately with the knights. The law seems to have been unpopular,
and therefore to have required frequent renewal. Martial (b. v. ep. 8),
has an amusing epigram on its enforcement by Domitian. Wern. Club.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 219

Of Authority.

AGAIN, Chilo the Lacedsemonian was of such great Reput-
ation among Men, that his Sayings were held for Oracles ;
and three Precepts of his were consecrated at Delphi, in
these Words : That each one should know himself: Set thy
Mind too much on Nothing: Debt and Law are always accom-
panied with Misery. Moreover, when he died for Joy, on
receiving Tidings that his Son was Conqueror at Olympia,
all Greece solemnised his Funeral.

Of a divine Spirit.

AMONG Women, in the Sibyl 1 there was a divine Spirit,
and a certain very noble Companionship with celestial
Beings. Of Men, among the Greeks, Melampus; and among
the Romans, Martins.

Of Nasica.

SCIPIO NASICA was judged once hy the sworn Senate to
be the best Man from the Beginning of Time : but the same
Man is remarked to have twice suffered a Repulse by the
People in his white Robe. And to conclude, it was not per-
mitted him to die in his own Country; no more, by Hercules,
than it was that Socrates, pronounced the wisest Man by
Apollo, should die out of Bonds.

Of Modesty*

SULPITIA, Daughter of Paterculus and Wife to Fulvius
Flaccus, by the Sentence in general of the Matrons was pro-

1 The Sibyls will be referred to in the 34th book. Wern. Club.
a It was an ancient law, " Ut Matronis de via decederetur, nihil obscceni
presentibus iis vel diceretur vel fieret, neve quis nudum se ab iis conspici

220 History of Nature. [ BOOK VII.

nounced the most modest ; and was elected out of a hundred
principal Matrons to dedicate the Image of Venus, according
to the Sybilline Books. Claudia, likewise was, by a religious
Experiment (proved to be such), by bringing the Mother of
the Gods to Rome.

Of Piety. 1

TRULY, in all Parts of the World, there have been found
infinite Examples of Piety ; but one Example of this occurred
at Rome, to which none beside can be compared. There
was a young Woman of humble Condition among the com-
mon People, and therefore of no account, who lately had been
in Childbed, and whose Mother was shut up in Prison for
some great Offence ; and when this Daughter obtained leave
to have Access to her Mother, and constantly by the Jailer
was narrowly searched, that she might not bring to her any
Food, she was at last detected suckling her with the Milk
of her Breasts. On account of this astonishing circum-
stance the Life of the Mother was granted to the Piety of
the Daughter, and both of them had continued Sustenance
allowed them ; and the Place where this happened was con-
secrated to this Deity (Piety} : so that when C. Quintius and
M. Acilius were Consuls, the Temple of Piety was built, in
the very Place where this Prison stood, and where now
standeth the Theatre ofMarcellus. The Father of the Gracchi

pateretur, alioquin criminis capitalis reus haberetur." That they should
give way to matrons, that no obscenity should either be spoken or done in
their presence ; and that no man should suffer himself to be within sight
of them naked : if otherwise, he should be held guilty of a capital crime.
Wern. Club.

1 In the language of the ancients, piety is not to be understood as
having a reference to God, but only as expressing the law of social kind-
ness among the relations of blood or marriage. It proceeds only from
revelation that the latter is made to be a duty flowing from the former ;
and hence, while among Heathens the most vicious of mankind in his
general character might also be among the most pious, among Christians
no such anomalies can exist. Wern. Club.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 221

having taken two Serpents within his House, received an
Answer (from the Soothsayers), that if he would himself live
the female Snake must be killed. Truly then, said he, rather
kill the male ; for Cornelia is young, and may have more
Children. This was in order to spare his Wife's Life, in
consideration of the Good she might do to the Common-
wealth. And so it fell out soon after. M. Lepidas so en-
tirely loved his wife Apuleia, that he died when she was
divorced from him. P. Rutilius was laid by from some
slight Illness, but hearing of his Brother's Repulse in his
Request for the Consulship, died immediately. P. Catienus
Philotimus so loved his Master (Patronus), that though he
was made his Heir to all that he had, yet he cast himself into
his funeral Fire.


Of the Excellency of many Arts, as Astrology, Grammar,
and Geometry.

IN the Knowledge of various Arts a great Number of
Men have excelled ; but we will only take the Flower of
them, and touch them lightly. In Astrology, Berosus was
eminent ; to whom the Athenians, for his divine Predictions,
caused a Statue with a golden Tongue to be erected in the
public Gymnasium. In Grammar, Apollodorus was distin-
guished; and therefore he was highly honoured by the Am-
phitryons of Greece. In Medicine, Hippocrates 1 excelled ;
and having foretold a Pestilence that was approaching from
Illyria, to cure it he sent his Disciples to the surrounding
Cities. In Recompense of which good Desert, Greece de-
creed for him the like Honours as to Hercules. For the same
Science, King Ptolemy gave to Cleombrotus of Cea, at the
sacred Megalensian Rites, a hundred Talents, especially for
curing King Antiochus. Critobulus likewise acquired great
Fame for drawing an Arrow out of King Philip's Eye, and

1 The remarkable observation at the end of the 50th chapter, which
appears to be confirmed by the course of the most formidable epidemics of
modern times, will account for this skill in this most eminent physician

222 History of Nature. [BooK VII.

so curing the Wound that the Sight remained, and only a
Blemish of the Mouth remained. But Asclepiades the Pru-
sian surpassed all others, having founded a new Sect ; he
rejected the Ambassadors and large Promises offered by
King Mithridates; discovered a Method to make Wine medi-
cinable for the Sick ; and recovered a Man to his former
state of Health, who was carried forth to be buried : and
chiefly he attained to the greatest Name for the Engagement
made against Fortune, that he would not be reputed a Phy-
sician if he ever were known to be in any way diseased. And
he was Conqueror ; for when he was very aged he fell down
over the Stairs, and was killed. A high Testimony for Know-
ledge in Geometry and the making of Engines was given by
M. Marcellus to Archimedes, who in the storming of Syra-
cuse gave express Command concerning him alone, that no
Violence should be done to him ; but military Imprudence
disappointed the Order. Ctesiphon of Gnosos is much praised
for having wonderfully erected the Temple of Diana at
Ephesus. Philon, likewise, was highly esteemed for making
the Arsenal at Athens, which was able to receive a thousand
Ships ; and Ctesibius for a Method of forming Wind Instru-
ments, and the Discovery of Engines to draw Water : Dino-

of antiquity, who had the benefit of access to the long series of records of
the family of the Asclepiadae, and whose public spirit was equal to his
abilities and opportunities. Wern. Club.

Medal of Hippocrates, from an engraving in Dr. Mead's Harveyan Oration, 1723.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 223

crates, also, for devising the Model of Alexandria in Egypt,
when Alexander founded it. To conclude, this great Com-
mander (Imperator) forbade, by Edict, that any Man should
paint him but Apelles: that any one should carve his Statue
besides Pyrgoteles : and that any one except Lysippus
should cast his Image in Brass. In which Arts many have


Surprising Works of Artificers. 1

KING Attains offered by Competition, for one Picture by
Aristides the Theban Painter, a hundred Talents. Ccesar
the Dictator bought for eight Talents two Pictures, the
Medea and Ajax of Timomachus, which he meant to conse-
crate in the Temple of Venus Genetrix. King Candaulas
bought of Butarchus a Picture of the Destruction of the
Magnetes, of no great Size, and weighed it in an equal Scale
with Gold. King Demetrius, surnarned Expugnator, forbore
to set Rhodes on Fire, because he would not burn a Picture by
Protogenes t which was placed in that part of the Wall which
he attacked. Praxiteles was ennobled on account of a marble
Statue, the Gnidian Venus, remarkable particularly for the
mad Love of a certain young Man ; which Statue was so
esteemed by King Nicomedes, that he endeavoured to obtain
it in full Payment of a large Debt they owed him. The
Jupiter Olympius still aifordeth daily Testimony to Phydias.
{Jupiter} Capitolinus, and Diana of Ephesus yield Testimony
to Mentor : and the Instruments of this Art were consecrated
by them in their Temples.


Of Bondsmen. 2
I HAVE never obtained the Knowledge to this Day of a

1 The subject of statues and paintings is more fully treated of in the
34th and 35th books. Wern. Club.

a The money which Marc Antony paid for a couple of boys is given
in the 12th chapter of this book. Wern. Club.

224 History of Nature. [BooK VII.

Man born a Slave who was valued so high as Daphnis, the
Grammarian, was : for Cn. Pisauretisis sold him for 300,700
Sesterces to M. Scaurus, Prince of the City. In this our Age
Stage-players have gone beyond this Price, and that not a
little ; but they had bought their Freedom. And no Wonder,
for it is reported that the Actor Roscius in former Time had
yearly earned 500,000 Sesterces. Unless any one may desire
in this Place to hear of the Treasurer of the Armenian War,
a little while before carried on on account of Tyridates t and
who was made free by Nero for 120,000 Sesterces. But, by
Hercules, it was the War that cost so much, and not the Man.
Like as Sutorius Priscus gave to Sejanus 3500 Sesterces for
Pcezon, one of his Eunuchs : but this was more for Lust than
for his Beauty. But he executed this infamous Bargain at a
Time when the City was in Sorrow, and no Man had any
Leisure to utter a Word in reproach.

The Excellency of Nations.

IT will be scarcely questioned, that of all Nations in the
World, the Romans 1 are the most excellent for every Virtue ;
but to determine who was the happiest Man is above the
reach of human Understanding, considering that some fix

1 The Komans were a haughty people; and they had much to be
proud of: for we have no records of a nation that ever understood the
arts of government or war better than they. But of what is properly
denominated science they knew little ; and the Chevalier Bunsen re-
marks, that they did not reverence or recognise human rights in any
nation beside their own. The love of knowledge and truth for their own
sakes was altogether unknown among them, and they never conferred
benefit except for their own advantage. Their calculating self-love made
them, essentially, beneficial rulers ; but they manifested no esteem for their
subjects ; and we may add, that the most probable motive which actuated
Plutarch in writing his " Lives," and especially for arranging them in
parallels, was to shew covertly that men, as great in all respects as any
Romans, had lived in Greece. Germanicus is judged to have been an
exception to this Roman constitution of mind ; and probably there were
others of lower rank ; but they are to be regarded as simply the exceptions

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 225

their highest Advantage in one Thing, others in another; 1
and every one rneasureth it according to his several Dispo-
sition : but if we wish to form a correct Judgment, throwing
aside all the Ambition of Fortune, it may be concluded, that
there is not a Man in the World to be accounted happy. Arid,
therefore, Fortune dealeth liberally and indulgently with any
one, if he may justly be called not unhappy ; because if there
be no other Things, yet surely a Man may be ever in Fear
lest Fortune should grow tired of him : but let him admit
this Fear, and there can be no solid Happiness. What
should I say, moreover, to this ? that no Man is at all Times
wise? I wish that this were false, and not, in the Judgment
of most Men, a Poet's Word only. But such is the Folly of
mortal Men, that they are very ingenious in deceiving them-
selves : so that they reckon after the Custom of the Thra-
cians, who, by Stones marked with different Colours, which
they cast into an Urn, institute the Trial of every Day ; and
at their last Day they separate these Stones one from an-
other and count them : and thus give Judgment concerning

to the general rule. It is in the spirit of Pliny's remark that Martial
begins his Epigram to Trajan, lib. xii. ep. 8 :

" Terrarum Dea, gentiumque Roma,
Cui par est nihil, et nihil secundum."

Goddess of lands and nations, Rome,

Nothing to which can equal come,

And nothing second. Wern. Club.

1 The reader is referred to the fourth epistle of Pope's " Essay on
Man," for a more extended and poetical developement of this sentiment.

The sentiments in the latter part of this chapter are re-echoed in the
Book of Ecclesiastes by Solomon ; where he employs the advantages
arising from his high situation and consummate wisdom in seeking to
discover whether, on merely human principles, there was any such thing
as human happiness in the world. The result was the same as is expressed
by Pliny, but with the advantage on the side of the Hebrew sage, that
he was able to find in his more elevated principles a security of which
Pliny was altogether ignorant. The value of the Life and Immortality
which have been brought to light by the Gospel, can best be estimated
when we see the gloom which occupied the mind of even such a man as
Pliny without it. The highest happiness detailed in the next chapter
(xli.) is much below the aspiration of every Christian. Wern. Club.

226 History of Nature. [BooK VII.

each one. But what if the Day, flattered with a white Stone,
have in it the Beginning of some Misfortune ? How many a
Man hath entered upon Empires, which have turned to their
Affliction ? How many have lost their Goods, and at last
have been brought to utter Ruin ? Certainly these are good
Things if a Man could enjoy them fully for one Hour. But
thus stands the Case, that one Day is the Judge of another,
and the last Day judgeth all ; and therefore there is no
trust to be placed in them. To say nothing of this : that our
good Fortunes are not equal to our bad even in Number ;
nor is any one Joy to be weighed against the least of our
Sorrows. Alas for our empty and imprudent Diligence !
We reckon our Days by Number, whereas we should esti-
mate them by Weight.

Of the highest Happiness.

LAMPIDO, a Lacedaemonian Lady, is the only Woman that
ever was known to have been the Daughter of a King, a
King's Wife, and the Mother of a King. Also, Pherenice
alone was the Daughter, Sister, and Mother of them that won
the Victory at the Olympian Games. In one Family of the
Curiones there were three Orators, one after another, by
descent from Father to Son. The Family of the Fabii alone
afforded three Presidents of the Senate in succession, who
were M. Fabius Ambustus, Fabius Rullianus the Son, and
Q. Fabius Gurges the Nephew.

Examples of Change of Fortune.

WE have innumerable other examples of the variety of
Fortune : for what great Joys did she ever give, but such as

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 36 of 60)