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of Rome. Now this Planet, in Greatness, exceedeth all the
other Stars : and so shining also, that the Beams of this Star
only cast Shadows upon the Earth. And hereupon cometh
such great Diversity of the Names thereof; for some have
called it Juno, others Isis, and others the Mother of the
Gods. By the natural Efficacy of this Star all Things are
generated on Earth. For whether she rise in the East or
West, she sprinkleth all the Earth with prolific Dew, and
not only filleth the same with Seed, but stirreth up to in-
crease the Nature of all living Creatures. This Planet goeth
through the Circle of the Zodiac in 348 Days, departing
from the Sun never above 46 Degrees, as Timceus was of
Opinion. Next unto it, but Nothing of that Bigness and
Power, is the Star Mercury, of some called Apollo : carried
along in an inferior Circle, after the like Manner, but in
a swifter Course by nine Days ; shining sometimes before the
Sun rising, at others after his setting, never farther distant
from him than 23 Degrees, as both the same Timceus and
Sosigenes teach. And therefore these two Planets have a
peculiar Consideration from others, and not common with
the rest above-named. For those are seen from the Sun
a fourth, yea, and third Part of the Sky : oftentimes also in
Opposition against the Sun. And all of them have other
greater Circuits of full Revolution, which are to be spoken
in of the Discourse of the great Year 1 .

1 The enumeration of the planets here given is on the Ptolemaic sys-
tem of astronomy, which supposes the earth to be fixed in the centre of



42 .History of Nature. [BooK II.

CHAPTER IX.
Of the Moons Nature.

BUT the Moon, being the last of all, most familiar with
the Earth, and devised by Nature for the Remedy of Dark-
ness, exceedeth the Admiration of all the rest. She with her
changing in many Shapes, hath troubled much the Minds of
Beholders, angry because that of this Star, the nearest of all,
they should be the most ignorant; growing as it doth, or
else wasting continually. One while she bended into Horns ;
another while divided in the half, and again moulded into a
rounded Figure : spotted sometime, arid soon after, on a
sudden, exceeding bright : one while large and full, and sud-
denly nothing to be seen. Sometime shining all Night long,
and at others late ere she riseth ; she also helpeth the Sun's
Light some Part of the Day; eclipsed, and yet visible in
that Eclipse. The same at the Month's End lieth hidden,
at which Time (it is supposed) she laboureth not. At one
Time she is below, and presently aloft : and that not after
one Manner, but one while reaching up to the highest Hea-
ven, and another while close to the Mountains ; now mounted
to the North, and again brought down to the South. Which
several Motions in her, the first Man that observed was
Endymion : and hence sprung the Report that he was ena-
moured of the Moon. We are not thankful, as we ought to
be, to those who by their Labour and Care have given us
Light in this Light ; but we are delighted rather (such is the
wicked Disposition of Man) to record in Chronicles, Blood-
shed and Murders: that Men's mischievous Deeds should be
known, while we are ignorant of the World itself. The
Moon being next to the Centre, and therefore of least Com-
pass, performeth the same Course in seven-and-twenty Days,
and one-third Part of a Day : which Saturn, the highest
Planet, runneth (as we said before) in thirty Years. After

their orbits ; and which, in ancient times, was commonly received without
dispute. Wern. Club.



BOOK 1 1 .] History of Nature. 43

this, remaining in conjunction with the Sun two Days, forth
she goeth, and by the thirtieth Day, at the most, returneth
to the same Point again : the Mistress, if I may so say, and
the Teacher of all Things that may be known in the Sky.
By her means are we taught that the Year ought to be
divided into twelve Months : forasmuch as the Moon over-
taketh the Sun so many Times before he returneth to the
Point where he began his Course. Likewise that she loseth
her Light (as the Rest of the Planets) by the Brightness of
the Sun when she approacheth near. For she shineth by bor-
rowing of him her Light, much like to that which we see in
the Reflexion of the Sunbeams from the Water. And here-
upon it is that she, by her more mild and imperfect Power
dissolveth, and also increaseth, so much Moisture ; x which
the Sunbeams may consume. Hence it cometh also, that
her Light is not equal in Sight, because it is only when she
is opposite to the Sun that she appeareth full : but in all
other days she sheweth no more to the Earth than she con-
ceiveth from the Sun. In Time of Conjunction, she is not
seen at all : for that whilst she is turned away, all the
Draught of Light she casteth back again from whence she
received it. That these Stars are fed with earthly Moisture,
is evident by the Moon ; which, so long as she appeareth by
the Half, never sheweth any Spots, because as yet she hath
not her full Power of Light sufficient to draw Humour
unto her. For these Spots be nothing else but the Dregs
of the Earth, caught up with other Moisture among the
Vapours. 2

1 Lucretius supposes that all animals, and all the stars, are fed by
exhalations from earth and air. Lucian also expresses the same idea. And
as Pliny was of an adverse sect to the Epicureans, and consequently did
not derive it from them, we may suppose the opinion to have been gene-
rally received. See the beginning of chapter Ixviii. Wern. Club.

2 The reader will, of course, accept of these remarks and explanations,
as well of the moon as of the other planets, as descriptive of the condition
of the astronomical philosophy of the day ; which it is, at least, amusing
to compare with the results of modern observation. Wern. Club.



44 History of Nature. [BooK II.

CHAPTER X.
Of Eclipses of the Sun and Moon : and of the Night 1 .

THE Eclipse of the Moon and Sun is a Thing throughout
the universal Contemplation of Nature most marvellous, and
resembling a Prodigy, and shews the Magnitude and Shadow
of these two Planets. For it is evident that the Sun is hidden
by the Intervention of the Moon ; and the Moon again by
the Opposition of the Earth : as also that the one doth equal
the other, in that the Moon, by her Interposition, bereaveth

1 The opinions of the ancients on the subject of Eclipses were two-
fold: that of the vulgar was built on the supposition that certain sorce-
rers, working by magic art, were able to draw this planet from her orbit,
even to the earth, to accomplish their nefarious purposes in inflicting
injury on particular persons or on communities. They were supposed to
have a further object in view, by compelling her to deposit on some
appropriate herbs a foam that was useful in magic arts : as we learn from
Apuleius and Lucan. Horace represents his witch Canidia as thus en-
gaged, in his 5th and 17th Epodes. Under these circumstances the moon
was supposed to labour in agony ; and the method taken to relieve her
throes, and prevent her total extinction, was by making such a clamour
that the verse or influence might not ascend to her sphere ; and by not
hearing, her dread might be relieved. Livy speaks of this clamour as an
ordinary occurrence (lib. xxvi.) ; but it does not seem to have been an
official proceeding. Another opinion was founded on the doctrines of
Divinity, and therefore formed a portion of the religion of the state : the
phenomena being regularly observed, reported, and registered by consti-
tuted officers. According to this idea, every unusual appearance in the
sky was a portent of some coming event usually of an awful nature
and which it became the priesthood to avert, by those processions, sacri-
fices, and supplications, that were appointed in the sacred books, as appro-
priate to each appearance. It was no small effort of courage, as well as
skill, in the philosophers whose names are given by Pliny, to venture to
inquire into the nature and causes of phenomena which must have
appeared inscrutable to one portion of the public, and too sacred to be
meddled with to the other. The operation of both opinions appears in
the narrative that Plutarch gives of the proceedings of Paulus Emilius,
preparatory to the battle with the Macedonians, where, while the aid of
the philosopher, Sulpitius Gallus, was used to remove their fears, his
own office of augur was not neglected to work on their superstitious
confidence. Wern. Club.



BOOK II.] History of Nature. 45

the Earth of the Sun's Rays, and the Earth again doth the
like by the Moon. Neither is the Night any Thing else but
the Shade of the Earth. The Figure of this Shadow resem-
bleth a Pyramid pointed forward, or a Top turned upside
down : namely, when it falleth upon it with its sharp End,
and goeth not beyond the Heights of the Moon ; for no other
Star is in that Manner darkened : and such a Figure as this
always endeth in a Point. And that Shadows grow to No-
thing in a great Distance, appeareth by the exceeding high
Flight of some Birds. So the Confines of these Shadows is
the utmost Bound of the Air, and the Beginning of Mther.
Above the Moon all is pure and lightsome continually. And
we in the Night see the Stars as other Lights from out of
Darkness. For these Causes also the Moon is eclipsed only
in the Night. But the Reason why the Sun and Moon are
not both in the Eclipse at set Times and Monthly, is the
Obliquity of the Zodiac, and the wandering Turnings of the
Moon (as hath been said): and because these Planets do not
always in their Motion meet just in the Points of the ecliptic
Line, that is, in the Head or Tail of the Dragon.

CHAPTER XI.
Of the Magnitude of Stars.

IT is this Reason that lifteth up Men's Minds into Hea-
ven : and as if they looked down from thence, discovereth
unto them the Magnitude of the three greatest Parts of
Nature. For the Sun's Light could not wholly be taken
away from the Earth, by the Moon coming between, if the
Earth were bigger than the Moon. But the Immensity of
the Sun is more certainly known, both by the Shadow of the
Earth and the Body of the Moon : so that it is needless to
inquire into the Magnitude thereof, either by the Proof of
Eyesight, or by Conjecture of the Mind. How immea-
surable it is, appeareth by this, that Trees which are planted
in Limits from East to West, cast Shadows equal in Propor-
tion ; although they are many Miles asunder in Length : as
if the Sun were in the Midst of them all. This appeareth



46 History of Nature. [BooK II.

also at the Time of the Equinox in all Regions of the same
Meridian, when the Sun shineth directly over Men's Heads,
and causeth no Shadow. In like Manner, the Shadows of
them that dwell northerly under the solstitial Circle, fall all
at Noontide, northward, but at Sunrising, westward ; which
could not be possible unless the Sun were far greater
than the Earth. Moreover, when he riseth, he surpasseth
in breadth the Mountain Ida, encompassing the same at
large both on the right Hand and the left, which only is
from being so far distant. The Eclipse of the Moon sheweth
also the Magnitude of the Sun, by an infallible Demon-
stration ; as his own Eclipse declareth the Littleness of the
Earth. For as there are of Shadows three Forms, and it is
evident, that if the dark material Body which casteth a Sha-
dow be equal in Bigness to the Light, then the Shadow is
fashioned like a Pillar, and hath no Point at the End : if it
be greater, it yieldeth a Shadow like a Top standing upon
the Point, so as the lower Part thereof is narrowest, and
then the Shadow likewise is of infinite length : but if the
Body be less than the Light, then is represented a pyramidal
Figure, falling out sharp-pointed in the Top ; which Manner
of Shadow appeareth in the Moon's Eclipse : it is, without
doubt, therefore, that the Sun is much larger than the
Earth, as the same is seen by the silent Proofs of Nature
itself. For why, in dividing the Times of the Year, departeth
the Sun from us in the Winter? even because by means
of the Night's length he may refresh the Earth, which
otherwise he would have burnt up : for, notwithstanding
this, he burneth it in some measure, from his excessive
Greatness.

CHAPTER XII.

The Inventions of Men in the Observation of the Heavens.

THE first Roman that published the true Reason of both
Eclipses was Sulpitius Gallus, who afterwards was Consul
with M. Marcellus: but at that Time being a Tribune, the
Day preceding that on which King Perseus was vanquished
by Paulus, he was brought by the General into open Audi-



BOOK II.] History of Nature. 47

ence before the whole Army, to foretel the Eclipse which
was about to happen : whereby he delivered the Army from
Anxiety; and presently after he compiled a Book of the
same. But among the Greeks, Thales Milesius 1 was the first
that investigated it ; who, in the fourth Year of the 48th
Olympiad did foreshew the Sun's Eclipse that happened in
the Reign of Halyattes, and in the 170th Year after the
Foundation of the City of Rome. After them, Hipparchus
compiled his " Ephemerides," containing the Course and
Aspects of both these Planets, for six hundred Years en-
suing : comprehending also the Months according to the
Reckonings of sundry Nations, the Days, the Hours, the
Situation of Places, the Aspects, and Latitudes of divers
Towns and Countries ; as the World will bear him witness :
and that no less assuredly, than if he had been privy to
Nature's Counsels. Great Persons and excellent these
were, doubtless, who, above the Reach of the Capacity of
mortal Men, found out the Reason of the Course of such
mighty Stars and divine Powers : and whereas the Mind of
Men was before at a Loss, fearing in these Eclipses of the
Stars some great Violence, or the Death of the Planets, they
secured them in that behalf : in which dreadful Fear stood
Stesickorus and Pindarus the Poets (notwithstanding their
lofty Style), and particularly at the Eclipse of the Sun, as
will appear by their Poems. As for the Moon, Mortals
imagine that at that Time by Charms she is enchanted, and
therefore help her by dissonant ringing of Basins. In this
Terror, Nicias, the General of the Athenians (as a Man igno-
rant of the Cause), feared to set sail with his Fleet out of



1 The minuteness of observation displayed by these illustrious philo-
sophers, from whom Pliny has borrowed his materials, appears to imply
the existence of instruments of no small accuracy, though we have no
account of their possessing such. Of the telescope, we have evidence that
they were ignorant.

As the account given by Pliny of ancient astronomy will be read
chiefly for its curiosity, we have no need to do more than refer to
modern treatises on the subject for correction of what is mistaken.
Wem. Club.



48 History of Nature. [Boo* II.

the Harbour, and thus greatly distressed the State of his
Country. Be ye prosperous, then, for your excellency,
O noble Interpreters of the Heavens ! capable of Nature's
Works, and the Devisers of that Reason whereby ye have
subdued both Gods and Men. For who is he that, seeing
these Things, and the ordinary Labours (since that this Term
is now taken up) of the Stars, would not bear with his own
Infirmity, and excuse this Necessity of being born to die ?
Now, for this present, I will briefly and summarily touch
those principal Points which are acknowledged concerning
the said Eclipses, having lightly rendered a Reason thereof in
the proper Places : for neither doth such proving and argu-
ing of these Matters belong properly to our purposed Work ;
neither is it less Wonder to be able to yield the Reasons and
Causes of all Things than to be constant in some.

CHAPTER XIII.
Of Eclipses.

IT is certain, that all Eclipses in 222 Months have their
Revolutions, and return to their former Points : as also that
the Sun's Eclipse never happeneth but either in the last of
the old, or first of the new, Moon ; which they call the Con-
junction : and that the Moon is never eclipsed but in the
full, and always somewhat anticipateth the former Eclipse.
Moreover, that every Year both Planets are eclipsed at cer-
tain Days and Hours under the Earth. Neither be these
Eclipses seen in all Places when they are above the Earth,
by Reason sometimes of cloudy Weather, but more often, for
that the Globe of the Earth hindereth the Sight of the Con-
vexity of the Heaven. Within these two hundred Years it
was found out by the Sagacity of Hipparchus, that the Moon
sometime was eclipsed twice in five Months' Space, and the
Sun likewise in seven. Also that the Sun and Moon twice
in thirty Days were darkened above the Earth : though this
was not seen equally in all Quarters, but by Men in divers
Places : and that which is most surprising in this Wonder,
is, that when it is agreed that the Moon's Light is dimmed



BOOK II.] History of Nature. 49

by the Shadow of the Earth, at one Time this Eclipse hap-
peneth in the West, and at another in the East : as also, by
what Reason it happeneth, that seeing after the Sun is up,
that Shadow which hideth the Light of the Moon must
needs be under the Earth : it fell out once, that the Moon
was eclipsed in the West, and both Planets were seen at once
above the Ground. For that in twelve Days both these
Lights were missing, and neither Sun nor Moon were seen : it
happened in our Time, when both the Vespasians (Emperors)
were Consuls, the Father the third Time, and the Son the
second.

CHAPTER XIV.
Of the Moons Motion.

IT is clear that the Moon, always in her increasing, hath
her Horns turned from the Sun toward the East : but in her
decrease, contrariwise westward ; and also that she shineth
(the first Day of her Appearance) three quarters and the
twenty-fourth Part of one Hour, and so riseth in Proportion
the second Day forward unto the full : likewise decreasing in
the same Manner to the Change. She is also always hidden
in the Change within fourteen Degrees of the Sun. By
which Argument we collect, that the Magnitude of the other
Planets is greater than that of the Moon, because they ap-
pear when they be but seven Degrees off. But the Cause
why they shew less, is their Altitude : like the fixed Stars,
which by Reason of the Sun's Brightness are not seen in
the Daytime : whereas, indeed, they shine as well by Day as
Night: and that is manifestly proved by Eclipses of the Sun,
and by exceeding deep Pits 1 , for so they are to be seen by
Daylight.

1 In the absence or imperfection of optical instruments, this expedient
was necessarily resorted to, for the purpose here stated ; but the improve-
ment of the telescope has superseded this contrivance. There was for-
merly, at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, a well of this kind, a
hundred feet in depth, with a winding staircase of stone leading to the
bottom ; it is now arched over. Wern. Club.

D



50 History of Nature. [Boox II.



CHAPTER XV.

General Rules concerning the Motions and Lights of other

Planets.

THOSE three Planets which we say are above the Sun,
are hidden when they go their Course with him. They rise
in the Morning, and never depart farther than eleven De-
grees. Afterwards meeting with his Rays, they are covered :
and in their triple Aspect retrograde, they make their Morn-
ing Stations 120 Degrees off, which are called the first : and
by and by, in a contrary Aspect, 180 Degrees off, they rise
in the Evening, and appear as Evening Stars. In like Sort
approaching from another Side within 120 Degrees, they
make their evening Station, which also they call the second,
until he overtake them within twelve Degrees ; and so hide
them : and these are called the Evening Settings. The
Planet Mars, as he is nearer to the Sun, feeleth the Sun-
beams by a quadrant Aspect, from ninety Degrees : where-
upon that Motion took the Name called the first and second
Nonagenary, from both Risings. The same Planet keepeth
this stationary Residence six Months in the Signs : whereas
otherwise, of his own Nature, he would do it but two Months.
But the other Planets in both Stations continue not four
Months each. The other two inferior Planets are hidden
after the same Manner in the evening Conjunction : and
leaving the Sun in as many Degrees, they make their morn-
ing Rising : and from the farthest Bounds of their Distance,
they follow after the Sun : and after they have once over-
taken him, they set again in the Morning, and so outgo
him. And by and by keeping the same Distance, in the
Evening they rise again unto the same Limits which we
named before, from whence they return to the Sun, and by
the evening Setting they be hidden. The Star Venus like-
wise maketh two Stations, according to the two Manners of
her Appearance, Morning and Evening, when she is in far-
thest Bounds of her Distance. But Mercury keepeth his
Stations so small awhile, that they cannot be observed. This



BOOK II.] History of Nature. 5 1

is the Order, as well of the Appearances of the Planets as of
their Occultations and their mere Motion, enfolded within
many strange Wonders. For they change their Magnitudes
and Colours, and sometimes they approach to the North,
sometimes they go back toward the South, and, all on a sud-
den, they appear one while nearer to the Earth, and another
while to the Heaven : wherein, if we shall deliver many
Points otherwise than former Writers, yet we confess, that
for these Matters we are beholden unto them, who first made
Demonstration of seeking out the Ways thereto : and there-
fore let no Man despair of profiting and going forward in
Knowledge from Age to Age. For, these strange Motions
fall out upon many Causes. The first is by Reason of those
Circles in the Stars, which the Greeks call Absides : for we
are compelled to use the Greek Terms. Each one of the
Planets hath a particular Circle by itself, and these different
from those of the starry Heaven : because the Earth from
those two Points which they call Poles, is the Centre of the
Heaven, as also of the Zodiac, situated obliquely between
them. All which Things are certainly known to be so be-
yond Question by the Compass. And therefore from every
Centre there arise their own Absides, and so they have
diverse Circuits and different Motions, because of necessity
the interior Absides must be shorter.

CHAPTER XVI.

Why the same Planets seem sometimes higher, and sometimes

lower.

THE highest Absides, therefore, from the Centre of the
Earth are of Saturn, in the Sign Scorpio : of Jupiter in
Virgo : of Mars in Leo : of the Sun in Gemini : of Venus in
Sagittarius: of Mercury in Capricorn: and in the Middle of
the said Signs : and contrariwise the said Planets in the
same Degrees of the opposite Signs are lowest and nearest
to the Centre of the Earth. So it happeneth that they seem
to move more slowly when they go their highest Circuit : not
for that natural Motions do either hasten or slacken, which



52 History of Nature. [Boon. ii.

be certain and several to every one, but because the Lines
which are drawn from the Top of the Absis must needs
approach each other about the Centre, as the Spokes in
Wheels : and the same Motion, by Reason of the Nearness
of the Centre, seemeth in one Place greater, in another less.
The other Cause of their Sublimities is, for that in other
Signs they have the Absides elevated highest from the
Centre of their own eccentric Circles. Thus Saturn is in the
greatest Height in the 20th Degree of Libra, Jupiter in the
15th of Cancer, Mars in the 28th of Capricorn, the Sun in
the 29th of Aries, Venus in the 1 6th of Pisces, Mercury in
the 15th of Virgo, and the Moon in the 4th of Taurus. The
third Reason of their Altitude is not taken from their Circles,
but understood by the Convexity of the Sky, for that these
Planets seem to the Eye, as they rise and fall, to mount up
or settle downward through the air. To this is united an-
other Cause also, which is, the Zodiac Obliquity and Latitude
of the Planets, in Regard of the Ecliptic : for through it the
Stars which we called wandering do take their Course.
Neither is there any Place inhabited upon Earth, but that
which lieth under it. For all the Rest without the Poles are
desert. Only the Planet Venus goeth beyond the Circle of
the Zodiac, two Degrees : which is supposed to be the effi-
cient Cause, that certain living Creatures are bred even in
the desert Parts of the World. The Moon likewise rangeth
throughout all the Breadth of it, but never goeth out of it.
Next after these the Star Mercury hath the largest Scope
in the Zodiac, but yet so, as of twelve Degrees (for that is the



Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 4 of 60)