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

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sprung from some Evil ? Or what great Calamities that
have not followed upon the highest Joys?



BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 227

CHAPTER XLIII.
Of one twice Proscribed: of Q. Metellus, and L. Sylla.

M. FIDUSTIUS, a Senator, having been Proscribed by
Sylla, was preserved for six-and-thirty Years; but he was
afterwards Proscribed the second time : for he outlived Sylla
and continued to the time of Antony ; and it so happened
that by him he was Proscribed again, for no other reason
but because he had been so before. Fortune was pleased
that P. Ventidius alone should triumph over the Parthians :
but she had led him, while a Boy, in the Asculan triumph of
Cn. Pompeius Strabo ; although Massurius testifieth, that he
was so led in triumph twice. Cicero saith, 1 that he was at
first but a Muleteer to serve the Camp with Meal. Many
others affirm that in his Youth he was a poor Soldier, and
served as a Footman in his Caliga (or Military Foot Clothing).
Balbus Cornelius was also the Senior Consul : but he had
been judicially accused, delivered over to the Counsel of the
Judges, so that the right of the Rods 2 was on him. But this
Man was the first Roman Consul of Foreigners, arid even of
those born within the Ocean ; having attained to that Dig-
nity, which our Forefathers denied to Latium. Among the dis-
tinguished is L. Fulvius, who was Consul of the rebellious Tus-
culans ; but when he had passed over to the Romans, he was
presently by the whole People advanced to the same Honour
among them : and he was the only Man who triumphed at

1 Epist. x. 18.

2 This "right" was according to a law whose origin is disputed; but
it seems to have been ancient. According to Dalechampius' note on the
passage, no Roman citizen could be sentenced by the magistrate to the
rods, or be put to death, for any other crime than murder; and of
the latter it was necessary that he should be regularly convicted. But it
would appear that he might be condemned to exile with little ceremony.
Before the passing of this law, a Roman citizen, as well as a foreigner, if
sentenced to death, was scourged as a matter of course previous to the
execution of the higher sentence. The tendency of this law to confer
protection is seen in the instance of St. Paul, Acts of the Apostles, xvi. 37,
and xxii. 25. Wern, Club.



228 History of Nature. [Boox VII.

Rome over them whose Consul he bad been, even in the
same Year in which he was himself an Enemy in the Field.
L. Sylla was the only Man, until our time, that challenged
to himself the surname of Felix? or the Fortunate ; but the
Title was adopted from shedding the Blood of Citizens, and
by waging War against his Country. And by what argu-
ments was grounded this good Fortune of his ? That he was
able to Proscribe, and put to Death, so many thousands of
the Citizens \ O mistaken interpretation, and unhappy even
to future time ! For were not they more blessed, who then
lost their Lives, whose Death at this day we pity, than SyUa,
whom no Man living at this day doth not abhor ? More-
over, was not his end more cruel than the misery of all those
who were Proscribed by him ? for his own wretched Body
consumed itself, 2 and bred its own torment. And although
we may believe that he dissembled all this by his last Dream, 3
wherein he lay as if he were dead, upon which he gave out
this Speech, that himself alone had overcome Envy by Glory ;
yet in this one thing he confessed, that his Felicity was
defective, inasmuch as he had not Consecrated the Capitol.
Q. MetelluSy in that Funeral Oration which he made in
commendation of L. Metellns, his Father, left it written of

1 There was scarcely a title more coveted by the Romans than this of
Fortunate, for they took it to be a decisive evidence of the ability which
had led to success. Appian says that there existed in front of the Rostra
in Rome, a golden equestrian figure of Sylla, with the inscription,
" Syllse Imperat. fortunate." But from Pliny we learn that his cruelty
had caused his memory to be held in little estimation by posterity.
Wern. Club.

3 The cause of the death of Sylla is not quite certain. Appian (De
Bell. Civ. i. 105) says he died of an attack of fever ; while others inform
us that the loathsome disease called phthiriasis was the cause of his death.
Of this latter opinion were Plutarch, Pliny, and Pausanias. Went. Club.

3 Plutarch says, " Sylla tells us," in his Commentaries, " that the
Chaldaeans had predicted, that after a life of glory he would depart in the
height of his prosperity." He further acquaints us, that his son, who
died a little before Metella, appeared to him in a dream, dressed in a
mean garment, and desired him to bid adieu to his cares, and go along
with him to his mother Metella, with whom he should live at ease, and
enjoy the charms of tranquillity. Wern. Club.



BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 229

him, that he had been Pontifex, twice Consul, Dictator,
Master of the Horse, one of the Quindecimvirs deputed for
Division of Lands, and that in the first Punic War he led
many Elephants in triumph : moreover, that he had accom-
plished ten of the greatest and best Things; in seeking which
the Wise spend their whole time: for his desire was to be
among the foremost of Warriors, an excellent Orator, a very
powerful Commander (Imperator); to have the conduct of
the most important Affairs, to be in the highest place of
Honour, to be eminent for Wisdom, to he accounted a prin-
cipal Senator, to attain to great Wealth by good Means, to
leave many Children behind him, and to be the noblest per-
sonage in the City. That these perfections fell to him, and
to none but him since the Foundation of Rome, it were long
and useless now to confute : but it is abundantly answered
by one instance ; for this same Metellus became Blind in his
old Age ; having lost his Eyes in a Fire, when he would have
saved the Palladium 1 out of the Temple of Vesta: an act
worthy of being remembered ; but the event was unhappy.
In regard of which it is not proper to term him Unfortunate
(Infelix); and yet he cannot be called Fortunate (Felix).
The People of Rome granted to him a Privilege, which no
Man before him in the World was known to have: that he
should be conveyed in a Chariot to the Senate-house as often
as he went to sit at the Council: a great and elevated Pre-
rogative, but it was allowed him as a Compensation for his
Eyes.

CHAPTER XLIV.

Of anothtr Metellus.

A SON likewise of this Q. Metellus, who <*ave out those
Commendations concerning his Father, is reckoned among

1 It was one of the figments of Roman divinity, that this image of the
tutelary Pallas had existed in ancient Troy; from whence, with 2Eneas,
it had transferred the empire to the imperial city of Rome. A similar
image existed at Ephesus (Acts of the Apostles, xxix. 35), and it has
heen supposed that the fall from the sky, of at least the materials of the
image, may not have been imaginary. The descent of an aerolite was,
probably, as common in ancient times as in modern.-^ Wern. Club.



230 History of Nature. [BooK VII

the most rare examples of human Felicity ; for besides the
most honourable Dignities, and the Surname of Macedonians,
he was borne to the Funeral Pile by four Sons ; one being
the Prsetor, and the other three having been Consuls : of
which two had triumphed, and one had been Censor : which
remarkable things had happened to few. And yet in the
very flower of these Honours, as he was returning from the
Field, about Noon-day, he was seized by Catinius Labeo,
surnamed Macerio, a Tribune of the Commons, whom he by
virtue of his Censorship had expelled out of the Senate ; and
the Forum of the Capitol being empty, he took him away by
force to the Tarpeian Rock, with an intention to cast him
down headlong. A number came running about him of that
company which called him Father; but, as was unavoidable
in so sudden a case, slowly, and as if attending a Funeral ;
with the absence also of a right to make Resistance, and
repel the inviolable Authority : so that he was likely to have
Perished even for his Virtue and faithful Execution of his
Censorship, if there had not been one Tribune found, with
much difficulty, to step between and oppose himself; by
which means he was rescued, even from the utmost point of
Death. He lived afterwards by the liberality of other
Men : for all his Goods from that day forward were devoted,
from his Condemnation : as if he had not suffered Punish-
ment enough to have his Neck so writhed, as that the Blood
was squeezed out at his Ears. And truly I would reckon it
among his Calamities, that he was an Enemy to the later
Africanus, even by the Testimony of Macedonians himself.
These were his words to his Children : Go, my Sons, and
do honour to his Obsequies ; for the Funeral of a greater
Citizen ye will never see. And this he said to them, when
they had conquered Crete and the Balearic Islands, and had
worn the Diadem in triumph : being himself already entitled
Macedonians. But if we consider that only injury offered to
him, who can justly deem him happy, being exposed to the
pleasure of his Enemy, far inferior to Africanus, and so to
come to confusion ? What were all his Victories to this one
Disgrace? What Honours and Chariots did riot Fortune



BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 231

cast down by her violence, when a Censor was dragged
through the middle of the City (the only way indeed to bring
him to his Death) ; dragged to the Capitol itself, to which
he had ascended triumphant : but he never so dragged along
those Captives, for whose Spoils he triumphed. And this
Outrage was the greater in regard of the Felicity which
ensued ; considering that this Macedonians was in danger to
have lost so great an Honour as this solemn and stately
Sepulture, in which he was carried forth to his Funeral Fire
by his triumphant Children, as if he had triumphed again at
his very burial. Truly that can be no sound Felicity, which
is interrupted by any Indignity of Life, much less by so great
a one as this. To conclude, know not whether there be
more cause to glory for the modest carriage of Men, or to
grieve at the Indignity, that among so many Metelli so auda-
cious a Villany as this of Catinius was never revenged.

CHAPTER XLV.

Of Divus Augustus. 1

ALSO, in Divus Augustus, whom all the World declare th
to be in this rank of fortunate Men, if we diligently consider
all things, we perceive great Changes of the Human lot
Driven by his Uncle from the Generalship of the Horse,
and, notwithstanding his Petition, seeing Lepidus preferred
to that place, he laboured under the reproach of the Pro-
scription ; and for being one of the Triumvirate, united with
the most wicked Citizens ; and this with a less than equal
share (of the Roman Empire), for Antony obtained the
greatest Portion. He was Sick at the Battle of Philippi ;
his flight; and while still Sick, for three Days his lying
hidden in a Marsh ; so that (as Agrippa and Meccenas con-
fess), he grew into a kind of Dropsy, and his Sides were
distended with Water under the Skin ; his Shipwreck in

1 It is a proof of the imperfect manner in which history has been gene-
rally treated, that Suetonius has written the life of Augustus Caesar
without the mention of a great part of these particulars, and of none of
them in the point of view here given. Wern. Club.



232 History of Nature. [ BOOK VII.

Sicily, and there likewise he was glad to remain concealed in
a Cave : then he was put to flight at Sea, and when the whole
power of his Enemies was hard on him, he hesought Pro-
culeius to put him to Death ; how he was perplexed by the
Contentions at Perusium ; the anxiety he was in at the
Battle of Actium, and for the issue of the Pannonian War ;
for the fall of a Bridge ; so many Mutinies among his Sol-
diers ; so many dangerous Diseases of his Body ; the sus-
pected Allegiance of Marcellus ; the shame of Banishing
Agrippa ; his Life so many times attempted by secret Plots ;
the suspected Deaths of his Children ; the sad Afflictions
thereby ; and not altogether for his Childless condition : the
Adultery of his Daughter, and her Contrivances for taking
his Life away made known to the World ; the reproachful
Retreat of Nero, his Wife's Son ; another Adultery com-
mitted by one of his Nieces : above all this, so many united
Evils, as the want of Pay for his Soldiers ; the Rebellion of
lllyricum ; the Mustering of Slaves; the Scarcity of Young
Men ; a Pestilence in the City ; Famine and Drought through
Italy ; a deliberate Resolution of Dying, having to that end
Fasted four Days and Nights, and in that time received into
his Body the greater part of his own Death. Besides these
things, the Slaughter of Variuss Forces, and the foul stain
of his Honour; the putting away of Posthumus Agrippa
after his Adoption, and the desire that he had for him after
his Banishment; then the Suspicion that he conceived of
Fabius, and the disclosing of his Secrets ; and again his
Opinions concerning his Wife and Tiberius, which surpassed
all his other Cares. To conclude, that God, of whom I do
not know whether he rather obtained Heaven than deserved
it, left behind him for his Heir the Son of his Enemy.

CHAPTER XLVI.
Whom the Gods Judge the most Happy.

I CANNOT pass over in this Discourse the Oracles of Del-
phos, delivered from the God to chastise the Folly of Men.
Two of them are these : That Phedius, who but a while



Boo K V 1 1 .] History of Nature. 233

before Died for his Country, was the most Happy. Again,
being consulted by Gyges, the most sumptuous King in all
the Earth, the answer was, that Aylaus Psophidius was the
more Happy. This Aglaus was a Man somewhat advanced
in Years, dwelling in a very narrow corner of Arcadia,
where he had a little Estate, which himself cultivated ; and
it was sufficient with its yearly Produce to Support him
plentifully ; out of it he never went : so that (as appeared by
his course of Life,) as he coveted very little, so he expe-
rienced as little Trouble while he Lived.



CHAPTER XLV1I.

Whom, while Living, they ordered to be Worshipped
as a God. 1

BY the appointment of the same Oracle, arid by the
approbation of Jupiter , the Sovereign of the Gods, Euthymus
the Wrestler, who always was Conqueror at Olympia, except
once, was Consecrated a God while he lived, and knew of it ;
he was born at Locri, in Italy, where one Statue of his, as
also another at Olympia, were both on one Day struck with
Lightning : which I see CaUimachus wondered at, as if
nothing else were worthy of Admiration ; and gave order
that he should be Sacrificed to, as to a God : which was per-
formed accordingly, both while he Lived and after he was
Dead. A thing that I wonder at more than at any thing
else : that the Gods should have been pleased with such
a thing.

1 It was scarcely more reasonable to worship a man after he was dead
than during his life ; and yet Pliny must have joined in the worship of
Augustus and Julius Caesar, and have been conscious, as appears from
several places of his writings, that the greatest gods of his country had
formerly been living men. The egregious vanity of desiring to be sup-
posed a god was felt by Alexander the Great, to whose application for
recognition in this character the Lacedaemonians replied by an edict, that
" If Alexander wished to be a god, he might be a god." Pliny lived to
see the brother of his patron Titus, Domitian, exemplify the absurdity of
which he complains ; for it appears that the latter emperor was more than
ordinarily fond of this assumption of divinity. Wem. Club.



234 History of Nature. [BooK VII.



CHAPTER XLVIII.
Of the longest Extent of Life.

THE extent and duration of Man's Life are rendered
uncertain, not only by the Situation of Places, but also from
Examples, and the peculiar lot of his Nativity. Hesiod,
the first Writer who has treated on this Subject, in his Fabu-
lous Discourse (as I regard it), embracing many things about
the Age of Man, saith that a Crow lives nine times as long
as we ; the Stags four times as long as the Crow ; and the
Ravens thrice as long as they. And his other remarks about
the Nymphs and the Phoenix are still more Fabulous. Ana-
creon the Poet, assigneth to Arganthonius, King of the
Tartessi, 150 Years : and to Cyniras, King of the Cypri, ten
Years longer : to JEgimius, 200. Theopompus affirmeth, that
Epimenides, the Gnossian, died when he was 157 Years old.
Hellanicus hath Written, that among the Epii, in ^Etolia,
there are some who continue full 200 Years : and with him
agreeth Damastes ; adding also, that there was one Pic-
tor eus among them, a Man of exceeding Stature, and very
Strong, who lived even to 300 Years. Ephorus saith, that
the Kings of Arcadia usually lived to 300 Years. Alexander
Cornelius writeth of one Dando in Illyrica, who lived 500
Years. Xenophon in his " Periplus," maketh mention of a
King of a People upon the Sea-coasts, who lived 600 Years :
and as if he had not lied enough already, he saith, that his
Son came to 800. All these strange reports proceed from
ignorance of the times past, for some reckoned the Summer
for one Year, and the Winter for another. Others reckoned
every Quarter for a Year, as the Arcadians, whose Year was
but three Months. Some, as the Egyptians, count every
change of the Moon for a Year ; and therefore some of them
are reported to have lived 1000 Years. But to pass to
things acknowledged as true, it is almost certain, that Argan-
thonius, King of Calais, reigned 80 Years ; and it is supposed
that he was 40 Years old when he began to Reign. It is
undoubted, that Masanissa reigned 60 Years ; and also that



BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 235

Gorgias the Sicilian lived 108 Years. Q. Fabius Maximus
continued Augur for 63 Years. M. Perpenna, and of late,
L. Volusius Saturninus, out-lived all those Senators who
had sat in Council with them when they were Consuls.
Perpenna left but seven of those Senators alive whom he
had chosen in his Censorship ; and he lived himself 98
Years. Where, by the way, one thing cometh to my Mind
worth the noting : that there was one Space of five Years,
and never but one, in which not one Senator died ; and that
was from the time that Flaccus and Albinus the Censors
finished their Lustrum, to the comma: in of the next Censors ;
which was from the Year after the Foundation of the City,
579. M. Valerius Cor vinus \ived 100 Years complete; and
between his first Consulate and his sixth, were 46 Years.
He took his Seat on the Curule Chair 21 Times ; and no
Man ever besides him so often. Metellus the Pontifex lived
full as long as he.

To come now to Women : Lima the Wife of Rutilius
lived more than 97 Years. Statilia, a noble Lady, in the
Time of Claudius the Prince, was 99 Years of Age : Cicero's
Wife, Terentia, was 103 Years old : Clodia, Wife to Osilius,
saw 115 Years ; and she had 15 Children. Luceia, a Comic
Actress, appeared on the Stage for 100 Years. Galeria
Copiola, a Mimic Actress, was brought again upon the
Stage when C?i. Pompeius and Q. Sulpitius were Consuls, at
the solemn Plays vowed for the Health of Divus Augustus,
when she was in the J04th Year of her Age : the first Time
that she entered on the Stage was 91 Years before, when
she was brought thither by M. Pompotiius, ^Edile of the
Commons, in the Year that C. Marius and Cn. Carbo were
Consuls ; and once again Pornpey the Great, at the dedica-
tion of his great Theatre, returned the old Woman to the
Stage for the wonder of the thing. Also Asconius Pcedi-
anus writeth, that Samula lived 110 Years; and therefore I
wonder the less that Stephanio (who was the first of the
Long Robe who appointed Dancing) danced in both the
Secular Games, as well those that were set out by Divus
Augustus, as those which Claudius Ccesar exhibited in his



236 History of Nature. [Boon VII.

fourth Consulship ; considering that between the one and
the other there were but 63 Years ; and yet Stephanio lived
for a considerable Time after. Mutianus witnesseth, that in
Tempsis, which is the Crest of the Mountain Tmolus, People
lived 150 Years. At that Age, T. Fullonius, of Bononia,
entered his Name in the Census at the Time that Claudius
Ccesar held the Registry ; and that he was so old indeed,
appeared by comparing together several Registries that he
had before made, as also by circumstances that had occurred
in his Lifetime ; for the Emperor took care in that way to
find out the Truth. 1

CHAPTER XLIX.
Of Differences in, the Nativities.

THIS Point would require the Advice of the Science of
the Stars ; for Epigenes saith, that it is not possible for a
Man to live a hundred and twenty-two Years ; and Berosus
is of opinion, that one cannot pass an hundred and seven-
teen. That Calculation holdeth good which Petosiris and
Necepsos have delivered, and which they call Tetartemorion,
from a portion of three Signs ; according to which account it

1 The length of life detailed in the Mosaic records was unknown to
the Greeks, who had only retained an obscure traditionary remembrance
of it, and of the great stature and strength with which it was supposed to
be accompanied. But that Pliny's mode of interpreting it, by a peculiar
method of explaining the length of the year, will not apply to the narra-
tive in the Book of Genesis, appears from the fact that the same history
records the reduction of the length of human life, by sudden transitions,
to at last threescore and ten years, which we are compelled to measure
by the same scale as the former.

As a general summary of the duration of life in historical times, the
" History of Life and Death," by Lord Bacon, may be consulted. Fuller
mentions James Sands, of Horborne in Staffordshire, who lived 140
years, and his wife 120. The Countess of Desmond, known to Sir W
Rawleigh, lived to about 140 years, and had new teeth three several
times. Thomas Parr was born in 1483 ; married at the age of eighty,
and in the space of thirty-two years had only two children. At the age
of 120 he had another child, and died aged 150 years. Wern. Club.



BOOK VI!.] History of Nature. 237

i8 evident, that in the Tract of Italy, Men may reach to a
hundred and twenty-six Years. They denied that a Man
could possibly pass the ascendant Space of 90 Degrees
(which they call Anaphoras) ; and that even these are cut
short, either by the encounter of malevolent Planets, or by
the radiations of them or the Sun. Again, the Sect of Ascle-
piades 1 affirm, that the appointed Length of Life proceedeth
from the Stars ; but concerning the utmost term, it is uncer-
tain. But they say, that the longer Ages are Rare, because
the greatest Number by far have their Nativity at the
marked Moments of the Hours of the Moon, or of Days
according to the Number of Seven or Nine (which are
Daily and Nightly observed) : by the gradual declining Law
of the Years, called Climacteric, 2 and such as are so Born
scarcely exceed the fifty-fourth Year. But here, first, the
Uncertainty of the Art itself declaret.li how doubtful this
matter is. To this are added the Observations and Instances
of the very recent Census, which within the Space of four
Years, the Imperators, Caesars, Vespasian?, Father and
Son, Censors, have accomplished. And here we need not
search every Cupboard, we will only set down the examples
of the middle part, between the Apennine and the Po. At
Parma, three Men were found of the Age of a hundred and

1 In book xxvi. c. 3, Pliny gives a more precise, and not very com-
plimentary, account of this physician. Wern. Club.

2 A large portion of the physiological learning of ancient physicians
consisted in the arithmetical calculation of types and periods of vital and
diseased actipns ; in connexion with which they also arranged the motions
of the celestial bodies and their influences. It thus became necessary,
that he who was a physician in the modern meaning of the word should
also be able to interpret the stars, and to apply mathematical reasoning
to the laws of health and disease. The calculation of climacterical
years, and the ultimate duration of human life, were thus decided by a
combination of intricate mathematical probabilities. These climacteric
years were formed on the multiplication of the number seven by the
unit numbers, and at them the most important of the periodic changes
of the body were accomplished. The highest number thus multiplied
formed the grand climacteric, after which the changes produced a retro-
gression towards feebleness and decay ; the danger of which was ever
greatest at the climacterics. See bookii. c. 52. Wcrn. Club.



Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 37 of 60)