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238 History of Nature. [BooK VII.

twenty Years: at Brixelus, one that was a hundred and
twenty-five Years; at Parma, two of a hundred and thirty
Years ; at Placentia, one of a hundred and thirty-one ; at
Faventia, there was one Woman a hundred and thirty-two
Years old ; at Bonona, L. Terentius, the Son of Marcus, and
at Ariminum M. Aponius, were a hundred and fifty.
Tertulla was a hundred and thirty-seven. About Placentia
there is a Town on the Hills, named Velleiacium, in which
six Men brought a Certificate that they had lived a hundred
and ten Years ; four likewise brought one of about a hundred
Years ; one of a hundred and forty, 1 namely M. Mutius,
son of Marcus surnamed Galerius Felix. But because we
will not dwell long in a matter so commonly allowed, in the
eighth Region of Italy there were found in the Roll fifty-
four Persons of one hundred Years of Age ; fifty-seven of a
hundred and ten ; two, of a hundred and twenty-five ; four,
of a hundred and thirty ; as many that were a hundred and
thirty-five, or a hundred and thirty-seven Years ; and three
Men of a hundred and forty. Another inconstant variety in
mortal Men : Homer reporteth, that Hector and Polydamas
were born in one Night, though Men of such a different
Fortune. While C. Marius was Consul, and Crt. Carbo with
him, who had been twice before Consul, the fifth Day before
the Calends of June, M. C&cilius Ruffus and C. Licinius
Calvus were born on the same Day ; and both of them
indeed were Orators : but their fate was very different.
And this is seen daily to happen throughout the World, that
among those born in one Hour some are Kings, and others
Beggars, some Lords and others Slaves.

Various Examples of Diseases.

PUB. CORNELIUS RUFUS, who was Consul with M.
Curius, dreamed that he had Lost his Sight ; and so it proved
when he awoke. On the other Hand, Phalereus being given

1 Dr. Holland seems to have read " one hundred and fourteen."
Wern. Club.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 239

over by the Physicians for the Disease of Vomica, being
stabbed in his Breast, found a Remedy in his Enemy. Q.
Fabius Maximus, Consul, engaging in a Battle with the Nations
of the Allobroges and Averni, near the River Isara, on the
sixth Day before the Ides of August ; in which double
action he Slew of his Enemies 13,000; he was in the Contest
delivered from his Fever. This gift of Nature, truly, what-
ever is bestowed on us, is frail and uncertain : and in those
in whom it exists in the largest Measure, it is but short and
evil if we consider the whole Course of it from Beginning to
End. Because if we count our repose by Night, a Man
may be truly said to live but one half of his Life ; for that
Half of it which is spent in Sleep may be compared to Death ;
and if he cannot Sleep, it is a Punishment. Nor are the
Years of our Infancy to be reckoned, for this Age is void of
Sense; nor those of old Age, which is the punishment of a
disposition to live. What shall I speak of so many kinds of
Dangers, so many Diseases, so many Fears, so many Cares,
so many Prayers for Death, that we Pray for nothing more
frequently ? and therefore Nature knoweth not what better
thing to give a Man, than short Life. The Senses 1 become
dull, the Members grow benumbed, the Eye-sight decayeth
betimes, the Hearing followeth, then the Supporters, the
Teeth also, and the very Instruments that serve for our
Food ; and yet all this Time is counted a Part of our Life.
And therefore it is taken for a wonderful example, and that
to which we cannot find a fellow, that Xenophilus the Musi-
cian lived 105 Years, without any inconveniency in all his
Body. But all other Men, by Hercules! are vexed at certain
Hours, as no other Creatures are besides, with pestiferous
Heat and Cold in every part of their Members ; which go

1 How remarkably does this enumeration of the signs and evils of
age correspond with the more poetical representation of the same condi-
tion by Solomon, in the last chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes !
Cicero, in his " Cato," laments the ills of age as more weighty than .ZEtna ;
and others of the wisest heathens join in the lamentation ; which ceases
to surprise us when we reflect that they were destitute of a hope in the
future. Wern. Club.

240 History of Nature. [ BOOK VII.

and come, not for certain Hours only, but by Day and by
Night : one while every Third, and at others every Fourth
Day and Nis;ht, even through the whole Year. And it is
some sort of Disease to die through wisdom, for Nature
hath set down certain Laws, even to Diseases ; as that the
circle of a Quartan Fever never beginneth in the shortest
Days of the Year, neither in the Months of Winter ; that
some Diseases are not incident to those that are above Sixty
Years of Age ; that others again pass away when young
People come to the Age of Puberty ; and especially this is
observed in young Women. Old People are the least liable
to take the Plague. Also there are Sicknesses that follow
particular Regions, affecting the Inhabitants generally
therein. There are some again that take hold of Servants
only ; others touch the highest Persons alone : and so from
degree to degree. But in this Place it is to be observed, that
a Pestilence beginneth in the South parts, and always goeth
toward the West; and it scarcely ever doeth otherwise,
except in Winter, and then it doth not exceed three
Months. 1


Of the Signs of Death. 12

Now let us take a View of the fatal Signs in Sickness.
In the Disease of Fury (Madness), to Laugh is such a Sign :
In the Sickness of Wisdom (Frenzy), to have a care of
the Fringes of their Garments and Bedclothes, to smoothe
them down ; the neglect of such things as would prevent
their Sleep; the apologising letting go of their Water. It

1 This remark has been already referred to c. 37, p. 221 ; and it is the
more worthy of notice, since there is reason to believe that all the epidemics
which have traversed Europe since the time when Pliny wrote have
conformed to the same rule. Wern. Club.

2 Celsus considers this subject, book ii. c. 6, and the medical nature
and treatment of insanity, book iii. c. 18. Eyfuroris morbus (madness
or mania), and sapientice cegritudine (frenzy), he seems to mean, the
former, insanity of the passions ; and the latter, insanity of the under-
standing. Wern. Club.

BOOK VI I .] History of Nature. 24 1

may also be certainly seen in the aspect of the Eyes and
Nose, as also in the manner of lying always upon the Back
supine : also by the unequal stroke of the Veins, as if an
Ant crept under it, with other Signs which Hippocrates, the
prince of Medicine, hath observed. And whilst there are
innumerable Signs that presage Death, there is not one that
can assure a Man certainly of Life and Health. For Cato 1
the Censor, writing to his Son concerning robust Health,
hath delivered from some Oracle, that Youth resembling
Age is a Sign of untimely Death. Diseases are so innu-
merable, that Pherecydes, of the Island of Syros, died of a
great quantity of Creepers 2 bursting out of his Body. Some
are never free of a Fever, as C. Meccenas. The same Man,
for three whole Years before he died, never was asleep for
a single Minute. Antipater Sidonius the Poet, once a year
during his Life was seized with an Ague-fit upon his Birth-
day only, and at last he died in such a Fit in a good
old Age.


Of such as were carried forth to their Funeral and revived


A. VIOLA, who had been Consul, came to himself when
he was on the Funeral Pile ; but because the Flame was so
Strong that he could not be got away, he was burnt alive.

1 Cato's knowledge of medical subjects may be judged of from the
specimens of miserable quackery contained in his " Treatise on Agricul-
ture." Much of it consisted of charms, in unintelligible jargon.
Wern. Club.

2 Pliny sometimes employs unusual words to express plain and com-
mon things; or he may have adopted the term to avoid what among
polite people would have excited loathing. For the same reason another
author speaks of the same creatures under the name of animalia tetra, or
foul creatures. It was the disease which afflicted Herod, Acts of the
Apostles, xii. 23 ; and in modern times Dr. Heberden records a case,
" Commentaries," c. Ixxi : but it is not certain that they are of the same
species as that which commonly attacks the human body. The fate of
Sylla, from the same cause, is referred to in the 4Md chapter of this Book.
- Wern. Clnl*.


242 History of Nature [BooK VII.

The like accident is reported to have befallen Lu. Lamia,
of Praetorian rank. That C. ^Elius Tubero, who had been
Praetor, was brought Alive again from the Funeral Fire,
Messala Rufus and many others assert. Such is the condi-
tion of Mortal Men ; and to this kind of Fortune, and such
as this, are we born : so that in the case of Man there is
no assurance, no, not even in his Death. We read in
Chronicles, that the Soul of Hermotimus Clazomenius was
accustomed to leave his Body, and wandering to a great
distance, brought him backs News of such things as could
not possibly have been known unless it had been present
there ; and all the while his Body lay half Dead. This
manner he continued, until the Cantharidae, who were his
Enemies, took his Body and burnt it to Ashes ; and by that
means disappointed his Soul when it came back again to
its Sheath. Also it is said, that the Spirit of Aristceas in
Proconnesus was seen to fly out of his Mouth in the form
of a Raven ; and many an empty Tale folio we th thereon :
for surely I take it to be no better than a Fable, which is in
like manner reported of Epimenides the Gnossian, that when
he was a Boy, and wearied with Heat and Travel, he laid
himself down in a Cave, and there slept for 57 Years. 1 At
length he awoke, as if on the very next Morning, and won-
dered at the changed face of every thing he saw. Hence in an
equal number of Days after, he grew Old, that at last he lived
to the Age of 175 Years. Women, by reason of their Sex, are
most subject to this danger, 2 by the turning of the Womb ;
which, if it be corrected, they soon recover. To this belongs
that noble Volume among the Greeks written by Heraclides,
where he writeth of a Woman that for seven Days lay as
Dead, but who in the end was restored to Life. Also Varro
reporteth, that when the twenty Men were dividing Lands

1 Gibbon refers to a similar story, which was widely believed, in the
fifth century of Christianity (" Decline and Fall," c. xxxiii.) ; but he seems
not to have been aware of this more ancient, and perhaps original, narra-
tive of a similar event. Wern. Club.

2 That is, of the suspension of animation, one of the symptoms of
Hysteria. Wern. Club.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 243

at Capua, there was one carried forth on his Bier who came
home again upon his Feet. Also, that the like happened at
Aquinum. Likewise, that in Rome one Corfidius, who had
married his own Aunt by the Mother's side, after his
Funeral had been set in order, revived again ; and the
Orderer of his Funeral was by him carried out to the
same. Varro also addeth some surprising things, which
are worth the rehearsal at large. There were two Brethren
of the Equestrian order, of whom the elder, named Corfidius,
happened in all appearance to die; and when his last Will
was opened, the younger Brother, who was appointed his
Heir, gave orders for his Funeral. In the meanwhile the
Man that seemed Dead, by clapping one Hand against the
other, 1 raised the Servants in the House ; and he recounted
to them that he was come from his younger Brother, who
had recommended his Daughter to him ; and, moreover, that
he had shewed to him in what place he had buried his
Gold, without the knowledge of any Man : requesting him
also to employ that Provision which he had prepared for
him about his own Funeral. As he was relating this matter,
his Brother's domestic Servants came in great haste to the
House, and brought word that their Master was dead ; and
the Gold was found in the place he had pointed out. And
truly life is full of these Divinations ; but they are not to be
compared with these, as for the most part they are mere
lies, as we will prove by one notable example : in the
Sicilian War, Gabienus, one of the bravest Officers of
CcBsars Fleet, was taken prisoner by Sex. Pompey, and by
commandment from him his Head was almost stricken off,
so that it scarcely hung to the Neck by the Skin, and in this
condition he lay all day on the Shore. When it grew
toward the Evening, and a Company were flocked about
him, with a groan and prayers he requested that Pompey
would come to him, or at least send some one of those who

1 Clapping the hands together appears to have been an ordinary
method of summoning the attendants before bells came into use for that
purpose. Wern. Club.

244 History of Nature. [ BOOK VII.

were dear to him, because he was sent back from the Lower
Regions, and had a Message to deliver to him. Then Pompey
sent several of his friends, to whom Gabienus related that
the Infernal Gods were well pleased with the Cause and
pious Dispositions of Pompey^ and therefore he should have
as good an issue of it as he could wish. Thus much, he said,
he was commanded to deliver ; and as a proof of the truth,
so soon as he had done his errand he would immediately
expire : and so it came to pass. Histories also make men-
tion of them who have appeared after they were committed
to Earth. But our purpose is to write of Nature's works,
arid not to prosecute such Prodigious Matters.

Of Sudden Deaths.

BUT among the principal things is sudden Death, which
is the greatest Felicity of Life ; many examples of which we
have, that always seem strange, although they are common,
and as we shall shew, natural. Verrius hath set forth many,
but we will make choice among them all. Besides C/iilon,
of whom we have spoken before, there died suddenly for Joy
Sophocles the Poet, and Dionysius the Tyrant of Sicily :
both of them, on Tidings brought to them that they had won
the best Prize among the Tragic Poets. Presently after the
famous battle of Cannae, a Mother died immediately on the
sight of her Son unhurt, whom by a false Message she had
heard to have been Slain. Diodorus, a Professor of Dialectic
Learning, for shame that he could not readily resolve a fri-
volous Question at the demand of Stilbo, sunk away without
recovery. Without any apparent cause some have died,
particularly two of the Ccesars ; the one a Praetor : the other
who had borne that Dignity, the Father of Ccesar the Dic-
tator : both of them in the Morning when they were putting
on their Shoes, the one at Pisa, the former at Rome.
Q. Fabius Maximus in his verv Consulship, upon the last
Day of December; in whose place Eebilus made suit to be

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 245

Consul for a very few Hours. 1 Also, C. Vulcatius Guryes, a
Senator : all of them in such sound and perfect Health, that
they expected to live Long. Q. JEmilius Lepidus, even as he
was going out of his Bed-chamber, hit his great Toe against
the Door-post and died from it. C. Aufidius was going
out of his House, on his way to the Senate, and stumbled
with his Foot in the Comitium. The Ambassador of the
Rhodians also, who had to the great admiration of all that
were present pleaded their cause before the Senate, in the
very entry of the Counsel-house, as he was going out, fell
down Dead. Cn. Bcebius Pamphilus, who had been Praetor,
died suddenly as he was asking a Boy what it was o'clock.
A. Pompeius, so soon as he had worshipped the Gods in the
Capitol ; M. Juventius Talva, the Consul, as he was sacri-
ficing ; Cams Servilius Pansa, as he stood at a Shop in the
Forum, at the second Hour of the Day, leaning on his
Brother, P. Pansa ; Bcebius, the Judge, as he was adjourning
an Appearance in the Court ; M. Terentius Corax, while he
was writing Letters in the Foruin ; no longer since than last
Year a Knight of Rome, as he was talking in the Ear of one
who had been Consul, before the Ivory Statue of Apollo,
which is in the Forum of Augustus : but above all others,
C. Julius, a Physician, as he was dressing an Eye with
Ointment, and drawing the Surgical Instrument along the
Eye ; also L. Manlius Torquatus, a Consular Man, when at
Supper he reached for a Cake ; L. Durius Valla, a Phy-
sician, while he was drinking a Draught of honeyed Drink ;
Appius Savfoius, being come out of the Bath, as he was
drinking honeyed Drink, and supping an Egg ; P. Quin-
tius Scapula, as he was at Supper with Aquiilius Gallus ;
Decimus Saufeim, a Scribe, as he sat at Dinner in his own
House ; Cornelius Gallus, who had been Praetor, and T.
JEtherius a Roman Knight, died in the very act of Venus.
The like befell in our Days to two of the Equestrian order,
with the same pantomimic Jester Mithycus, who was in
those days of surpassing Beauty. But M. OJilius Hilarus,

1 Until the year was accomplished : an honour which otherwise he
was not likely ever to attain. Wern. Club.

246 History of Nature. [BooK VII.

an Actor in Comedies, as is reported by ancient Writers,
died with the most laboured security of Death : for after he
had afforded much Pleasure to the People on his Birth-day
he held a Feast ; and when the Supper was set forth, he
called for some hot Drink in a Basin : and casting his Eye
on the Mask that he had worn that day, he took off the
Chaplet from his Head, and set it on it ; in this habit he
became cold before any Man perceived it, until he that
reclined next to him put him in mind that his Drink was
growing cold. These are examples of happy Deaths. But,
on the other hand, there is a very great number of those that
are miserable. L. Domitius, descended from a noble Family,
being vanquished by Ccesar near Massilia, and taken pri-
soner at Corsinium by the same Ccesar, for very irksomeness
of Life poisoned himself; but after he had drunk the
Poison he did all he could to save his life. We find in the
Public Acts, that when Felix, one of the Red-coloured
Chariot- drivers, was carried out to be burnt, one of those
who favoured him threw himself into his Funeral Fire. A
frivolous matter it is to speak of; but they of the other side,
that this act should not be ascribed to the honour of the
Artist abovenamed, gave it out, that this Friend of his did it
only because his Head was intoxicated with the strong smell
of the Odours. Not long before this M. Lepidus, 1 descended
from a most noble Family, who (as is above said) died
through Grief, was by the violence of the Flame cast off from
the Funeral Pile ; and as, because of the extreme Heat, no
one could come near to lay him again on the place, he was
burnt naked on a pile of dry Vine Cuttings, near the former.

Of Burial.

To burn the Bodies 2 of the Dead was not an ancient
Custom among the Romans ; but they Buried them in the

1 The cause of his death is mentioned in the 36th chapter of this
book. Wern. Club.

3 The practice of burning the dead is of high antiquity, and as such is

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 247

Earth. But after they understood that the Bodies of the
Men slain in the distant Wars were taken up out of the Earth
again, it was appointed to Burn them. And yet many Fami-
lies kept still to the old Customs: as in the House of the
Cornelii no one is reported to have been burnt before L.
Sylla, the Dictator. And he willed it through dread that he
should be so served as he had done by C. Marius, whose
Corpse he had caused to be digged up. (In Latin) he is said
to be Sepultus, who is bestowed in any way ; but Humatus
sigriifieth that he is covered with the Earth.

Of the Soul, or the Manes. 1

AFTER Sepulture there is very great Obscurity regarding
the Manes ; but this is generally held, that in whatever Con-
familiarly spoken of by Homer. That it was more ancient among the
Romans than is represented by Pliny appears from Ovid ; who (" Fasti,"
c. 4) speaks of its having been practised on the body of Remus, the bro-
ther of Romulus. The same is also negatively proved by Numa, who
ordered that his body should not be burned ; and by the laws of the
Twelve Tables, regulations were instituted concerning it : chiefly to pre-
vent extravagant expense in the ceremony. The general fashion of
burning, in preference to interment, succeeded to the example set by
Sylla ; after whose day it was practised even by people of inferior orders :
but neither burning nor burial were allowed by law within the bounds
of the city. An ordinance of Numa forbade that a woman who died in
childbirth should be buried, until the child was taken from her ; and the
usual ceremonies were to be omitted when the person had been killed by
lightning. Wern. Club.

1 " Manes " was a general term expressive of the souls of men after
they were separated from the body. They were supposed to be arranged
in classes, according to their moral condition : for which see a note,
vol. i. p. 24. But however situated, a kind of deityship was supposed to
attach itself to them : and hence they were addressed as Dii Manes.
Such was the popular opinion, as referred to by Virgil, Ovid, and other
writers who reflected the public mind ; but it was scarcely an article of
faith among philosophers and the higher classes, whose opinions fluctuated
according to circumstances. As a motive to moral obligation and respon-
sibility it was exceedingly feeble.

Pliny's observation, " that in whatever condition they were before

248 History of Nature. [ BOOK VI I .

dition they were before they were born, in the same they
remain when they are dead. For neither Body nor Soul
hath any more Sense after Death than they had before the
Day of Birth. But the Vanity of Men extendeth itself even
into the future, and in the very Time of Death fiattereth
itself with a Life after this. For some attribute Immortality
to the Soul ; others devise a Transfiguration ; some again

they were born, in the same they remain after they are dead," may be
understood as referring to the Pythagorean doctrine of Transmigration ;
which was the most plausible account .of the disposition of the intelligent
principle that the Heathens could reach to, before Light and Immor-
tality were revealed in the Gospel; but by the almost contemptuous
silence with which he passes it over in his argument, it appears that he
did not feel disposed to credit it. With regard to the station of the
manes, Plato supposes that impure spirits wander about among sepulchres
and monuments. Homer represents Elpenor as prevented from rest
until the funeral rites were paid ; and a commonly received doctrine was,
that there were days sacred to Dis and Proserpine, on which the whole of
the secret and deep places of the world were thrown open, and the disem-
bodied spirits were permitted to revisit the light. Varro supposes that
this occurs three times in the year : on the feast of Vulcanalia, tenth of
the Calends of September, or 23d of August ; on the 3d of the Nones of
October, the Fontinalia, October 13 ; and the 6th of the Ides of November,
or 8th of that month.

According to the doctrine of the Jewish Rabbis, derived, no doubt,
from ancient Oriental sources, " during the first twelve months after
death the souls of righteous men descend and ascend again " (Talmud, tr.
Sabbath) : which Rabbi Joseph Albo, in the " Book of Principles," c. xxxi.,
explains by saying, that the soul does not directly and at once become
divested of those corporeal attachments to which it is accustomed, but
lingers about them until by habit it becomes weaned from them, and
assimilated to the new condition on which it has entered.

The gloomy views which even the more virtuous of the ancient Hea-
thens took of an invisible world is shewn by Homer's representations in
the " Odyssey," b. xi. ; and by so much of Etrurian learning as, from
their paintings and other representations, have descended to us. With so
much distaste of a wearisome life on the one hand (in which even Homer
joins, b. xvii.), and on the other the dim prospect of the dreary regions
below, we can scarcely wonder if even the virtuous Pliny should choose
rather to lie down in ashes without the prospect of living again. The
greater portion of his argument, however, is founded on his ignorance :
his questions, then so doubtful, are such as now even a child may answer.
Wern. Club.

BOOK VII.] History of Nature. 249

bestow Sense on those who are in the Lower Regions ; and
they do Honour to the Manes, making a God of him who

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 38 of 60)