Pliny,   Natural History

-   Book 2 ,   sections 1-101

Translated by H.Rackham (1952), with some minor alterations. Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.

{1.} L   [1] The world and this - whatever other name men have chosen to designate the sky whose vaulted roof encircles the universe, is fitly believed to be a deity, eternal, immeasurable, a being that never began to exist and never will perish. What is outside it does not concern men to explore and is not within the grasp of the human mind to guess. [2] It is sacred, eternal, immeasurable, wholly within the whole, nay rather itself the whole, finite and resembling the infinite certain of all things and resembling the uncertain, holding in its embrace all things that are without and within, at once the work of nature and nature herself.

[3] That certain persons have studied, and have dared to publish, its dimensions, is mere madness; and again that others, taking or receiving occasion from the former, have taught the existence of a countless number of worlds, involving the belief in as many systems of nature, or, if a single nature embraces all the worlds, nevertheless the same number of suns, moons and other immeasurable and innumerable heavenly bodies, as already in a single world; just as if owing to our craving for some End the same problem would not always encounter us at  the termination of this process of thought, or as if, assuming it possible to attribute this infinity of nature to the artificer of the universe, that same property would not be easier to understand in a single world, especially one that is so vast a structure. [4] It is madness, downright madness, to go out of that world, and to investigate what lies outside it just as if the whole of what is within it were already clearly known; as though, forsooth, the measure of anything could be taken by him that knows not the measure of himself, or as if the mind of man could see things that the world itself does not contain.

{2.} L   [5] Its shape has the rounded appearance of a perfect sphere. This is shown first of all by the name of 'orb' which is bestowed upon it by the general consent of mankind. It is also shown by the evidence of the facts: not only does such a figure in all its parts converge upon itself; not only must it sustain itself, enclosing and holding  itself together without the need of any fastenings, and without experiencing an end or a beginning at any part of itself; not only is that shape the one best fitted for the motion with which, as will shortly appear, it must repeatedly revolve, but our eyesight also confirms this belief, because the firmament presents the aspect of a concave hemisphere equidistant in every direction, which would be impossible in the case of any other figure.

{3.} L   [6] The world thus shaped then is not at rest but eternally revolves with indescribable velocity, each revolution occupying the space of 24 hours: the rising and setting of the sun have left this not doubtful. Whether the sound of this vast mass whirling in unceasing rotation is of enormous volume and consequently beyond the capacity of our ears to perceive, for my own part I cannot easily say - any more in fact than whether this is true of the tinkling of the stars that travel round with it, revolving in their own orbits; or whether it emits a sweet harmonious music that is beyond belief charming. To us who live within it the world glides silently alike by day and night. [7] Stamped upon it are countless figures of animals and objects of all kinds - it is not the case, as has been stated by very famous authors, that its structure has an even surface of unbroken smoothness, like that which we observe in birds' eggs: this is proved by the evidence of the facts, since from seeds of all these objects, falling from the sky in countless numbers, particularly in the sea, and usually mixed together, monstrous shapes are generated; and also by the testimony of sight - in one place the figure of a bear, in another of a bull, in another a wain, in another a letter of the alphabet, the middle of the circle across the pole being more radiant.

[8] For my own part I am also influenced by the agreement of the nations. The Greeks have designated the world by a word that means 'ornament,' {kosmos} and we have given it the name of mundus because of its perfect finish and grace! As for our word caelum {'sky'}, it undoubtedly has the signification 'engraved,' as is explained by Marcus Varro. [9] Further assistance is contributed by its orderly structure, the circle called the Zodiac being marked out into the likenesses of twelve animals; and also by the uniform regularity in so many centuries of the sun's progress through these signs.

{4.} L   [10] As regards the elements also I observe that they are accepted as being four in number: topmost the element of fire, source of yonder eyes of all those blazing stars; next the vapour which the Greeks and our own nation call by the same name, air - this is the principle of life, and penetrates all the universe and is intertwined with the whole; suspended by its force in the centre of space is poised the earth, and with it the fourth element, that of the waters. [11] Thus the mutual embrace of the unlike results in an interlacing, the light substances being prevented by the heavy ones from flying up, while on the contrary the heavy substances are held from crashing down by the upward tendency of the light ones. In this way owing to an equal urge in opposite directions the elements remain stationary, each in its own place, bound together by the unresting revolution of the world itself; and with this always running back to its starting-point, the earth is the lowest and central object in the whole, and stays suspended at the pivot of the universe and also balancing the bodies to which its suspension is due; thus being alone motionless with the universe revolving round her she both hangs attached to them all and at the same time is that on which they all rest. [12] Upheld by the same vapour between earth and heaven, at definite spaces apart, hang the seven stars which owing to their motion we call 'planets,' although no stars wander less than they do. In the midst of these moves the sun, whose magnitude and power are the greatest, and who is the ruler not only of the seasons and of the lands; but even of the stars themselves and of the heaven. [13] Taking into account all that he effects, we must believe him to be the soul, or more precisely the mind, of the whole world, the supreme ruling principle and divinity of nature. He furnishes the world with light and removes darkness, he obscures and he illumines the rest of the stars, he regulates in accord with nature's precedent the changes of the seasons and the continuous rebirth of the year, he dissipates the gloom of heaven and even calms the storm-clouds of the mind of man, he lends his light to the rest of the stars also; he is glorious and pre-eminent, all-seeing and even all-hearing - this I observe that Homer the prince of literature held to be true in the case of the sun alone.

{5.} L   [14] For this reason I deem it a mark of human weakness to seek to discover the shape and form of God. Whoever God is - provided there is a God - and in whatever region he is, he consists wholly of sense, sight and hearing, wholly of soul, wholly of mind, wholly of himself. To believe in gods without number, and gods corresponding to men's vices as well as to their virtues, like the Goddesses of Modesty, Concord, Intelligence, Hope, Honour, Mercy and Faith - or else, as Democritus held, only two, Punishment and Reward, reaches an even greater height of folly. [15] Frail, toiling mortality, remembering its own weakness, has divided such deities into groups, so as to worship in sections, each the deity he is most in need of. Consequently different races have different names for the deities, and we find countless deities in the same races, even those of the lower world being classified into groups, and diseases and also many forms of plague, in our nervous anxiety to get them placated. [16] Because of this there is actually a Temple of Fever { Febris } consecrated by the nation on the Palatine Hill, and one of Bereavement { Orbona } at the Temple of the Lares, and an Altar of Misfortune { Fortuna Mala } on the Esquiline. For this reason we can infer a larger population of celestials than of human beings, as individuals also make an equal number of gods on their own, by adopting their own private Junos and Genii; while certain nations have animals, even some loathsome ones, for gods, and many things still more disgraceful to tell of - swearing by rotten articles of food and other things of that sort. [17] To believe even in marriages taking place between gods, without anybody all through the long ages of time being born as a result of them, and that some are always old and grey, others youths and boys, and gods with dusky complexions, winged, lame, born from eggs, living and dying on alternate days - this almost ranks with the mad fancies of children; but it passes all bounds of shamelessness to invent acts of adultery taking place between the gods themselves, followed by altercation and enmity, and the existence of deities of theft and of crime. [18] For mortal to aid mortal - this is god; and this is the road to eternal glory: by this road went our Roman chieftains, by this road now proceeds with heavenward step, escorted by his children, the greatest ruler of all time, Vespasian Augustus, coming to the succour of an exhausted world. [19] To enrol such men among the deities is the most ancient method of paying them gratitude for their benefactions. In fact the names of the other gods, and also of the stars that I have mentioned above, originated from the services of men: at all events who would not admit that it is the interpretation of men's characters that prompts them to call each other Jupiter or Mercury or other names, and that originates the nomenclature of heaven? [20] That that supreme being, whatever it be, pays heed to man's affairs is a ridiculous notion. Can we believe that it would not be defiled by so gloomy and so multifarious a duty? Can we doubt it? It is scarcely pertinent to determine which is more profitable for the human race, when some men pay no regard to the gods at all and the regard paid by others is of a shameful nature: [21] they serve as the lackeys of foreign ritual, and they carry gods on their fingers; also they pass sentence of punishment upon the monsters they worship, and devise elaborate viands for them; they subject themselves to awful tyrannies, so as to find no repose even in sleep; they do not decide on marriage or having a family or indeed anything else except by the command of sacrifices; others cheat in the very Capitol and swear false oaths by Jupiter who wields the thunderbolts - and these indeed make a profit out of their crimes, whereas the others are penalized by their religious observances.

[22] Nevertheless mortality has rendered our guesses about God even more obscure by inventing for itself a deity intermediate between these two conceptions. Everywhere in the whole world at every hour by all men's voices Fortune alone is invoked and named, alone accused, alone impeached, alone pondered, alone applauded, alone rebuked and visited with reproaches; deemed volatile and indeed by most men blind as well, wayward, inconstant, uncertain, fickle in her favours and favouring the unworthy. To her is debited all that is spent and credited all that is received, she alone fills both pages in the whole of mortals' account; and we are so much at the mercy of chance that Chance herself, by whom God is proved uncertain, takes the place of God. [23] Another set of people banishes fortune also, and attributes events to its star and to the laws of birth, holding that for all men that ever are to be God's decree has been enacted once for all, while for the rest of time leisure has been vouchsafed to Him. This belief begins to take root, and the learned and unlearned mob alike go marching on towards it at the double: [24] witness the warnings drawn from lightning, the forecasts made by oracles, the prophecies of augurs, and even inconsiderable trifles - a sneeze, a stumble - counted as omens. The deified Augustus put abroad a story that on the day on which he was almost overthrown by a mutiny in the army he had put his left boot on the wrong foot. [25] This series of instances entangles unforeseeing mortality, so that among these things but one thing is in the least certain - that nothing certain exists, and that nothing is more pitiable, or more presumptuous, than man! inasmuch as with the rest of living creatures their sole anxiety is for the means of life, in which nature's bounty of itself suffices, the one blessing indeed that is actually preferable to every other being the fact that they do not think about glory, money, ambition, and above all death.

[26] But it agrees with life's experience to believe that in these matters the gods exercise an interest in human affairs; and that punishment for wickedness, though sometimes tardy, as God is occupied in so vast a mass of things, yet is never frustrated; and that man was not born God's next of kin for the purpose of approximating to the beasts in vileness. [27] But the chief consolations for nature's imperfection in the case of man are that not even for God are all things possible - for he cannot, even if he wishes, commit suicide, the supreme boon that he has bestowed on man among all the penalties of life, nor bestow eternity on mortals or recall the deceased, nor cause a man that has lived not to have lived or one that has held high office not to have held it - and that he has no power over what is past save to forget it, and (to link our fellowship with God by means of frivolous arguments as well) that he cannot cause twice ten not to be twenty, or do many things on similar lines: which facts unquestionably demonstrate the power of nature, and prove that it is this that we mean by the word 'God.' It will not have been irrelevant to have diverged to these topics, which have already been widely disseminated because of the unceasing enquiry into the nature of God.

{6.} L   [28] Let us return from these questions to the remaining facts of nature. We have stated that the stars are attached to the firmament, not assigned to each of us in the way in which the vulgar believe, and dealt out to mortals with a degree of radiance proportionate to the lot of each, the brightest stars to the rich, the smaller ones to the poor, the dim to those who are worn out; they do not each rise with their own human being, nor indicate by their fall that someone's life is being extinguished. [29] There is no such close alliance between us and the sky that the radiance of the stars there also shares our fate of mortality. When the stars are believed to fall, what happens is that owing to their being overfed with a draught of liquid they give back the surplus with a fiery flash, just as with us also we see this occur with a stream of oil when lamps are lit. [30] But the heavenly bodies have a nature that is eternal - they interweave the world and are blended with its weft; yet their potency has a powerful influence on the earth, indeed it is owing to the effects that they produce and to their brilliance and magnitude that it has been possible for them to become known with such a degree of precision, as we shall show in the proper place. Also the system of the revolutions of the sky will be more appropriately stated when we deal with geography, since it is entirely related to the earth; only we must not postpone the discoveries that have been made as to the zodiac. [31] Tradition says that Anaximander of Miletus in the fifty-eighth Olympiad {548-545 BC} was the first person to discover the obliquity of the zodiac, that is, to open the portals of science; and that next Cleostratus explained the signs in it, beginning with the Ram and the Archer; the firmament itself having been explained long before by Atlas.

Let us now leave the frame of the world itself and treat the remaining bodies situated between the sky and the earth. The following points are certain: [32] (1) The star called Saturn is the highest and consequently looks the smallest and revolves in the largest orbit, returning in thirty years at the shortest to its initial station. (2) The motions of all the planets, and among them the sun and moon, follow a course contrary to that of the world, namely to the left, the world always running to the right. [33] (3) Although they are borne on by it and carried westward with an unceasing revolution of immeasurable velocity, nevertheless they travel with an opposite motion along their respective tracks. (4) Thus it comes about that the air is not massed in a dull lethargic ball by revolving in the same direction because of the eternal rotation of the world, but is scattered into separate portions by the opposite impact of the stars. [34] (5) Saturn is of a cold and frozen nature. The orbit of Jupiter is much below it and therefore revolves much faster, completing one rotation every twelve years. The third star is Mars, called by some Hercules; owing to the proximity of the sun it has a fiery glow; it revolves once in about two years, and consequently, owing to its excessive heat and Saturn's frost, Jupiter being situated between them combines the influence of each and is rendered healthy. [35] (6) Next, the sun's course is divided into 360 parts, but in order that an observation taken of the shadows that it casts may come round to the starting-point, five and a quarter days per annum are added; consequently to every fourth a year an intercalary day is added to make our chronology tally with the course of the sun.

[36] Below the sun revolves a very large star named Venus, which varies its course alternately, and whose alternative names in themselves indicate its rivalry with the sun and moon - when in advance and rising before dawn it receives the name of Lucifer, as being another sun and bringing the dawn, whereas when it shines after sunset it is named Vesper, as prolonging the daylight, or as being a deputy for the moon. [37] This property of Venus was first discovered by Pythagoras of Samos about the 42nd Olympiad, 142 years after the foundation of Rome {612 BC}. Further it surpasses all the other stars in magnitude, and is so brilliant that alone among stars it casts a shadow by its rays. Consequently there is a great competition to give it a name, some having called it Juno, others Isis, others the Mother of the Gods. [38] Its influence is the cause of the birth of all things upon earth; at both of its risings it scatters a genital dew with which it not only fills the conceptive organs of the earth but also stimulates those of all animals. It completes the circuit of the zodiac every 348 days, and according to Timaeus is never more than 46 degrees distant from the sun. [39] The star next to Venus is Mercury, by some called Apollo; it has a similar orbit, but is by no means similar in magnitude or power. It travels in a lower circle, with a revolution nine days quicker, shining sometimes before sunrise and sometimes after sunset, but according to Cidenas and Sosigenes never more than 22 degrees away from the sun. Consequently the course of these stars also is peculiar, and not shared by those above-mentioned: [40] those are often observed to be a quarter or a third of the heaven away from the sun and travelling against the sun, and they all have other larger circuits of full revolution, the specification of which belongs to the theory of the Great Years.

[41] But the wonder of everyone is vanquished by the last star, the one most familiar to the earth, and devised by nature to serve as a remedy for the shadows of darkness - the moon. By the riddle of her transformations she has racked the wits of observers, who are ashamed that the star which is nearest should be the one about which we know least - always waxing or waning, [42] and now curved into the horns of a sickle, now just halved in size, now rounded into a circle; spotted and then suddenly shining clear; vast and full-orbed, and then all of a sudden not there at all; at one time shining all night and at another rising late and for a part of the day augmenting the light of the sun, eclipsed and nevertheless visible during the eclipse, [43] invisible at the end of the month when she is not believed to be in trouble; again at one time low down and at another up aloft, and not even this in a uniform way, but sometimes raised to the sky and sometimes touching the mountain-tops, now borne up to the North and now carried down to the South. The first human being to observe all these facts about her was Endymion - which accounts for the traditional story of his love for her. We forsooth feel no gratitude towards those whose assiduous toil has given us illumination on the subject of this luminary, while owing to a curious disease of the human mind we are pleased to enshrine in history records of bloodshed and slaughter, so that persons ignorant of the facts of the world may be acquainted with the crimes of mankind.

[44] The moon then is nearest to the pole, and therefore has the smallest orbit, completing the same distance every 27⅓ days that Saturn the highest star covers, as we have said, in 30 years. Then she lingers two days in conjunction with the sun, and after the 30th day at latest sets out again on the same course - being perhaps our teacher as to all the facts that it has been possible to observe in the heavens; (1) that the year is to be divided into twelve monthly spaces, [45] because she herself that number of times follows the sun in his return to his starting point; (2) that she is governed by the sun's radiance as are the rest of the stars, as in fact she shines with a light entirely borrowed from him, like the light which we see flickering reflected in water; (3) that consequently she only causes water to evaporate with a rather gentle and imperfect force, and indeed increases its quantity, whereas the sun's rays dry it up; (4) also that the reason why she is seen to vary in her light is that she is full only when opposite to the sun, and on the remaining days shows as much light from herself to the earth as she herself conceives from the sun; [46] though (5) she is indeed invisible when in conjunction with the sun, because being turned towards him she gives back the entire draught of light to the source from which she receives it; (6) but that the stars are undoubtedly nourished by the moisture of the earth, since she is sometimes seen spotted in half her orb, clearly because she has not yet got sufficient strength to go on drinking - her spots being merely dirt from the earth taken up with the moisture; (7) but that her eclipses and those of the sun, the most marvellous and indeed portentous occurrence in the whole of our observation of nature, serve as indications of their dimensions and shadow.

{7.} L   [47] It is in fact obvious that the sun is hidden by the passage across it of the moon, and the moon by the interposition of the earth, and that they retaliate on one another, the same rays of  the sun being taken away from the earth by the moon intervening and from the moon by the earth: at the transit of the former a sudden shadow passes over the earth, and in return the shadow of the latter dims the heavenly body (the moon), and the darkness is merely the earth's shadow, but the shape of the shadow is conical, resembling a spinning-top upside down, as it impinges only with its point and does not go beyond the altitude of the moon, because no other star is obscured in the same way, and a conical figure always tapers off into a point: that shadows are made to disappear by distance is proved when birds fly to extreme heights. [48] Consequently the frontier between the moon and the other heavenly bodies is at the point where the air ends and the aether begins. All the space above the moon is clear and filled with continual light, but to us the stars are visible through the night in the same way as other lights in shadows. And these are the reasons why the moon wanes in the night-time; but both of her wanings are irregular and not monthly, because of the slant of the zodiac and the widely varying curves of the moon's course, as has been stated, the motion of the heavenly bodies not always tallying in minute fractional quantities.

{8.} L   [49] This theory leads mortal minds upward to heaven, and discloses to their observation from that height, as it were, the greatness of the three greatest parts of the universe; clearly it would not be possible for the whole of the sun to be eclipsed from the earth by the passage of the moon between them if the earth were larger than the moon. The vast size of the sun will be shown with the more certainty from the two bodies, so that there is no need to investigate its size by the evidence of the eyes and by logical inference, [50] arguing that it is immeasurably large for the following reasons: (1) the shadow that it throws of rows of trees along the balks of fields are at equal distances apart for ever so many miles, just as if over the whole space the sun were in the centre; (2) during the equinoxes it reaches the vertical simultaneously for all the inhabitants of the southern region; (3) the shadows of the people living round the Tropic of Cancer fall northward at midday but westward at sunrise, which could not happen unless the sun were much larger than the earth; (4) when it is rising its breadth exceeds Mount Ida, overlapping it widely right and left - and that though it is separated from it by so great a distance.

[51] The eclipse of the moon supplies indubitable proof of the size of the sun, just as the sun itself when it suffers eclipse proves the smallness of the earth. For shadows are of three shapes, and it is clear that, if the solid object that throws a shadow is equal in area to the shaft of light, the shadow projected is shaped like a pillar and is of infinite length, but if the solid body is larger than the light, the shadow has the shape of an upright spinning-top, so that it is narrowest at the bottom, and infinite in length as in the former case, while if the solid is smaller than the light the result is the figure of a cone narrowing down to end in a point, and this is the nature of the shadow observed during an eclipse of the moon; hence it is proved without any further possibility of doubt remaining that the sun exceeds the earth's size. [52] Indeed, this is also proved by the silent testimony of nature herself; for why in the division of the turns of the year does the winter sun retire, so as to refresh the earth with the darkness of the nights? when otherwise it would unquestionably scorch up the earth, and even as it is does so in a certain part, so great is its magnitude.

{9.} L   [53] The first person indeed of Roman nationality who published an explanation of both kinds of eclipse was Sulpicius Gallus - the colleague in the consulship of Marcus Marcellus {166 BC}, but at the time military tribune - who delivered the army from fear when on the day before the defeat of King Perseus by Paulus he was brought before an assembly by the commander-in chief to foretell an eclipse; and later also by writing a treatise. The original discovery was made in Greece by Thales of Miletus, who in the fourth year of the 48th Olympiad {585/4 BC} foretold the eclipse of the sun that occurred in the reign of Alyattes, in the 170th year after the foundation of Rome. After their time the courses of both stars for 600 years were prophesied by Hipparchus, whose work embraced the calendar of the nations and the situations of places and aspects of the peoples - his method being, on the evidence of his contemporaries none other than full partnership in the designs of nature. [54] O mighty heroes, of loftier than mortal estate, who have discovered the law of those great divinities and released the miserable mind of man from fear, mortality dreading as it did in eclipses of the stars crimes or death of some sort (those sublime singers, the bards Stesichorus and Pindar, clearly felt this fear owing to an eclipse of the sun), or in the dying of the moon inferring that she was poisoned and consequently coming to her aid with a noisy clattering of cymbals (this alarm caused the Atheman general Nicias, in his ignorance of the cause, to be afraid to lead his fleet out of harbour, so destroying the Athenians' resources: all hail to your genius, ye that interpret the heavens and grasp the facts of nature, discoverers of a theory whereby you have vanquished gods and men! for who beholding these truths and the regularity of the stars' periods of trouble [55] (for so it has pleased you to call them), would not forgive his own destiny for the generation of mortals?

Now I will briefly and summarily touch on facts that are admitted about the same matters, giving an account of them only at necessary points and in a cursory manner, because such theorizing does not form part of the task that I have set in hand, and also it is less surprising that explanations cannot be produced for all the facts than that agreement has been reached on some of them.

{10.} L   [56] It is certain that eclipses recur in cycles of 223 months - eclipses of the sun only when the moon is in her last or first phase (this is called their 'conjunction'), eclipses of the moon only at full moon - and always within the period of their last occurrence; but that yearly at fixed days and hours eclipses of either star occur below the earth, and that even when they occur above the earth they are not visible everywhere, sometimes owing to clouds, more often because the earth's globe stands in the way of the world's curvature. [57] Less than 200 years ago the penetration of Hipparchus discovered that an eclipse of the moon also sometimes occurs four months after the one before and an eclipse of the sun six months, and that the latter when above earth is hidden twice in thirty days, but that this eclipse is visible to different nations, and - the most remarkable features of this remarkable occurrence - that when it comes about that the moon is obscured by the shadow of the earth, this sometimes happens to it from the west side and sometimes from the east; and he also discovered for what exact reason, although the shadow causing the eclipse must from sunrise onward be below the earth, it happened once in the past that the moon was eclipsed in the west while both luminaries were visible above the earth. For the eclipse of both sun and moon within 15 days of each other has occurred even in our time, in the year of the third consulship of the elder Emperor Vespasian and the second consulship of the younger {71 AD}.

{11.} L   [58] It is unquestionable that the moon's horns are always turned away from the sun, and that when waxing she faces east and when waning west; and that the moon shines 47 minutes longer daily from the day after new moon to full and 47 minutes less daily to her wane, while within 14 degrees of the sun she is always invisible. This fact proves that the planets are of greater magnitude than the moon, since these occasionally become visible even on reaching 7 degrees' distance; but their altitude makes them appear smaller, just as the sun's radiance makes the fixed stars invisible in daytime, although they are shining as much as in the night, which becomes manifest at a solar eclipse and also when the star is reflected in a very deep well.

{12.} L   [59] The three planets whose positions we have stated to be above the sun travel with the sun when they set and are never more than 11 degrees separate from the sun at dawn when they rise. Afterwards they retire from contact with his rays, and make their morning or 'first' stations in a triangle 120 degrees away, and subsequently their evening risings opposite 180 degrees away, and again approaching from the other side, make their evening or 'second' stations 120 degrees away, till the sun overtaking them at 12 degrees obscures them - this is called their evening setting. [60] The planet Mars being nearer feels the sun's rays even from its quadrature, at an angle of 90 degrees, which has given to his motion after each rising the name of 'first' or 'second ninety-degree.' At the same time Mars remains stationary in the signs of the zodiac for periods of six months (otherwise having a two-month period), whereas Jupiter and Saturn spend less than four months in each station. [61] The two lower planets ( Mercury and Venus ) are similarly obscured at their evening conjunction, and when left by the sun make their morning rising the same number of degrees away, and from the further limits of their distance follow the sun and when they have overtaken him are hidden in their morning setting and pass away. Then they rise in the evening at the same distance apart, as far as the limits we have stated. From these they pass backward to the sun, and disappear in their evening setting. The planet Venus actually makes two stations, morning and evening, after each rise, from the furthest limits of her distance. Mercury's stations have too short a period to be perceptible.

{13.} L   [62] This is the system of the shining and occultation of the planets: it is more complicated from their motion and involves many remarkable facts, inasmuch as they change their magnitude and their colours, and both approach the North and retire towards the South, and suddenly are seen closer to the earth or to the sky. And although our account of these matters will differ in many points from that of our predecessors, we confess that credit for these points also must be given to those who first demonstrated the methods of investigating them: only nobody must abandon the hope that the generations are constantly making progress.

[63] All these occurrences are due to a plurality of causes. The first is the factor of the circles which in the case of the stars the Greeks designate apsides or arcs (it will be necessary to employ Greek terms). Each planet has its own circle, and these are not the same as those of the firmament, since the earth between the two vertices, named in Greek poles, is the centre of the sky, and also of the zodiac, which is situated on a slant between the poles. [All these facts are always established beyond doubt by the method of compasses.] Therefore the special arc of each is drawn from a different centre, and consequently they have different orbits and dissimilar motions, because the inner arcs must necessarily be shorter.

[64] It follows that the points of the arcs highest above the centre of the earth are: in the case of Saturn in Scorpio, in that of Jupiter in Virgo, of Mars in Leo, of the sun in the Gemini, of Venus in Sagittarius, of Mercury in Capricorn, of the moon in Taurus, at the middle of each, and the points lowest and nearest to the centre of the earth are opposite. The result of this is that they appear to move slower and to be smaller when they are travelling at the highest point of their circuit, but to be larger and travel faster when they have come nearer to the earth, not because they actually accelerate or reduce their natural motions, which are fixed and individual to them, but because lines drawn from the top of the arc to the centre necessarily converge like the spokes of a wheel, and the same motion at one time is perceived as faster and at another slower according to its distance from the centre.

[65] Another reason of their elevations is because they have the points of their arcs highest from their centre in different signs - Saturn in the 20th degree of Libra, Jupiter in the 15th of Cancer, Mars in the 28th of Capricorn, the sun in the 29th of the Aries, Venus in the 27th of Pisces, Mercury in the 15th of Virgo, the moon in the 4th of Taurus.

A third explanation of their altitudes is explained by the dimensions of the firmament, not that of a circle, the eye judging them to rise or to sink through the depth of the air.

[66] Linked with this is the cause of the latitudes of the zodiac and of its obliquity. The stars we have mentioned travel through the zodiac, and the only habitable part of the earth is what lies beneath it - all the other parts towards the poles are frost-bound. Only the planet Venus goes two degrees outside the zodiac; this is understood to be the reason that causes some animals to be born even in the desert places of the world. The moon also wanders through the whole of its breadth, but without going at all outside it. The planet Mercury diverges very widely from these, but without wandering over more than 6 of the 12 degrees of latitude of the zodiac, and these 6 not uniformly but two in the middle of the zodiac, four above it and two below it. [67] Then the sun travels unevenly in the middle of the zodiac between the two halves with a wavy serpentine course, the planet Mars over 4 degrees in the middle, Jupiter one in the middle and two above it, Saturn two like the sun. This will be the principle of the latitudes of the planets when setting towards the South or rising towards the North. Most people have supposed that with this system agrees also the third mentioned above, that of their rising from the earth to the sky, and that this ascent also is made simultaneously; but this is a mistake. To refute them it is necessary to develop an extremely abstruse argument that embraces all the causes mentioned.

[68] It is agreed that the planets are nearest to the earth in both altitude and latitude at their evening setting, and that their morning risings occur at the beginning of both altitude and latitude, while their stations occur in the middle sections of the altitudes, called 'ecliptics.' It is similarly admitted that their velocity increases as long as they are in the neighbourhood of the earth and decreases when they withdraw from it to a height: this theory is specially supported by the apogees of the moon. It is equally undoubted that the three higher ones moreover increase their motion in their morning risings and diminish it from their first (morning) stations to their second (evening) stations. [69] In view of these facts it will be evident that the latitudes are ascended from their morning rising, because in that state their acceleration first begins to diminish, but in their first stations their altitude also is ascended, since then the numbers first begin to be reduced and the stars begin to recede. The reason for this must especially be given. When struck in the degree that we stated and by a triangular ray of the sun they are prevented from pursuing a straight course, and are lifted upward by the fiery force. [70] This cannot be directly perceived by our sight, and therefore they are thought to be stationary, which has given rise to the term 'station.' Then the violent force of the same ray advances and compels them by the impact of the heat to retire. This occurs much more at their evening rising, when they are driven out to the top of their apsides by the full opposing force of the sun, and appear very small because they are at the distance of their greatest altitude and are moving with their smallest velocity - which is proportionately smaller when this occurs in the highest signs of their apsides. [71] From their evening rise their altitude is descended with a velocity now decelerating less and less, but not accelerating before their second stations, when their altitude also is descended, the ray passing above them from the other side and pressing them down again to the earth with the same force as that with which it had raised them to the sky from the former triangle. So much difference does it make whether the rays come from below or from above, and the same things occur far more in the evening setting.

This is the theory of the higher stars; that of the rest is more difficult and has been explained by nobody before ourselves.

{14.} L   [72] First therefore let us state the reason why Venus never departs more than 46 degrees and Mercury never more than 23 degrees from the sun, and why they often retire and return towards the sun within those limits. As situated below the sun both have arcs that are the opposite of those of the other planets, and as much of their circle is below the earth as that of the planets mentioned before is above it; and they cannot be further from it than they are because the curve of their arcs does not allow greater elongation there; consequently the edges of their arcs put a limit on a similar principle for each, and compensate for the dimensions of their longitude by the enlargement of their latitude. [73] But, it will be objected, why do they not reach 46 and 23 degrees always? As a matter of fact they do, but the explanation escapes the theorists. For it is manifest that even their arcs alter, because they never cross the sun; accordingly when the edges have fallen on one side or the other into the actual degree of the sun, then the stars also are understood to have reached their longest distances, but when the edges are short of that, they themselves too are compelled to return with proportionately greater velocity, since with each of them that is always the extreme limit.

[74] This also explains the contrary principle of their motions. For the higher planets travel most quickly in their evening setting, whereas these travel most slowly, and the former are farthest from the earth when their pace is slowest but the latter are highest when their pace is quickest - the reason being that with the latter the circumference of the circle accelerates their pace in the same manner as proximity to the centre does in the case of the former; the former begin to decelerate from their morning setting, but the latter to accelerate. The former travel backward from their morning to their evening station, the planet Venus from her evening to her morning station. [75] But she begins to climb her latitude after her morning rise, but after her morning station to ascend her altitude and follow the sun, being swiftest and highest at her morning setting; whereas she begins to descend in latitude and decelerate after her evening rising, and to turn back and simultaneously to descend in altitude after her evening station; on the other hand the planet Mercury begins to climb in both ways after his morning rising, but after his evening rising to descend in latitude, and following the sun at an interval of 15 degrees he stands motionless for almost four days. [76] Afterwards he descends from his altitude and proceeds back from his evening setting to his morning rise. And only this planet and the moon set in as many days as they have risen in; Venus ascends in 15 times as many days as she sets in, while Saturn and Jupiter descend in twice as many, and Mars in actually four times as many. So great is the variety of nature; but the reason is evident - bodies that strain up into the heat of the sun also have difficulty in descending.

{15.} L   [77] Many more facts can be produced about these mysteries of nature and the laws that she obeys - for example, in the case of the planet Mars (whose course it is very difficult to observe) that it never makes its station with Jupiter at an angle of 120, and very seldom with Jupiter separated 60 (which amounts to ⅙th of the celestial sphere), and never makes its rises simultaneously with Jupiter except in two signs only, Cancer and Leo, whereas the planet Mercury rarely makes its evening rises in Pisces, and most frequently in Virgo, its morning rises in Libra, and also its morning rises in Aquarius, very rarely in Leo; it does not make its return in Taurus and in Gemini, and not below the 25th degree in Cancer; [78] Gemini is the only sign in which the moon makes conjunction with the sun twice, Sagittarius the only one in which she does not meet him at all, Aries the only one in which the old moon and the new moon are visible on the same day or night (and this too it has happened to few mortals to see, hence Lynceus's reputation for keen sight); the longest period of invisibility for the planets Saturn and Mars is 170 days, for Jupiter 36 days; the shortest periods for all these are 10 days less; Venus's period is 69 days or at shortest 52, Mercury's 13 or at longest 17.

{16.} L   [79] The colours of the planets vary with their altitudes, inasmuch as they are assimilated to the stars into whose atmosphere they come in rising, and the circuit of another's path modifies their colour in either direction as they approach, a colder circuit to pallor, a hotter one to redness, a windy one to a leaden colour, the sun and the intersection of its orbit with theirs, and also the extremities of their paths, changing them to black darkness. It is true that each has its own special hue - Saturn white, Jupiter transparent, Mars fiery, Lucifer bright white, Vesper glaring, Mercury radiant, the moon soft, the sun when rising glowing and afterwards radiant; with these being causally connected also the appearance of the fixed stars. [80] For at one time there is a dense crowd of stars in the sky round the circle of the half-moon, a fine night giving them a gentle radiance, but at another time they are scarce, so that we wonder at their flight, when the full moon hides them or when the rays of the sun or the planets above-mentioned dim our sight. But the moon herself also is undoubtedly sensitive to the variations of the strength of impact of the rays of the sun, as moreover the curve of the earth dulls their impact, except when the impact of the rays meets at a right angle. And so the moon is at half in the sun's quadrature, and curved in a hollow circle in its trinal aspect, but waxes to full at the sun's opposition, and then waning exhibits the same configurations at corresponding intervals, on the same principle as the three planets above the sun.

{17.} L   [81] The sun itself has four differences, as there are two equinoxes, in spring and autumn, when  it coincides with the centre of the earth at the eighth degree of Aries and Libra, and two changes of its course, in the eighth degree of Capricorn at midwinter when the days begin to lengthen and in the same degree of Cancer at the summer solstice. The variation is due to the slant of the zodiac, as at every moment an equal part of the firmament is above and below the earth; but the planets that follow a straight path at their rising keep their light for a longer tract and those that follow a slanting path pass in a swifter period.

{18.} L   [82] Most men are not acquainted with a truth known to the founders of the science from their arduous study of the heavens, that what when they fall to earth are termed thunderbolts are the fires of the three upper planets, particularly those of Jupiter, which is in the middle position - possibly because it voids in this way the charge of excessive moisture from the upper circle ( of Saturn ) and of excessive heat from the circle below ( of Mars ); and that this is the origin of the myth that thunderbolts are the javelins hurled by Jupiter. Consequently heavenly fire is spit forth by the planet as crackling charcoal flies from a burning log, bringing prophecies with it, as even the part of himself that he discards does not cease to function in its divine tasks. And this is accompanied by a very great disturbance of the air, because moisture collected causes an overflow, or because it is disturbed by the birth-pangs so to speak of the planet in travail.

{19.} L   [83] Many people have also tried to discover the distances of the planets from the earth, and have given out that the distance of the sun from the moon is 19 times that of the moon itself from the earth. The penetrating genius of Pythagoras, however, inferred that the distance of the moon from the earth was 15,750 miles, and that of the sun from the moon twice that figure, and of the sun from the twelve signs of the Zodiac three times. Our fellow-countryman Sulpicius Gallus also held this view.

{20.} L   [84] But occasionally Pythagoras draws on the theory of music, and designates the distance between the earth and the moon as a whole tone, that between the moon and Mercury a semitone, between Mercury and Venus the same, between her and the sun a tone and a half, between the sun and Mars a tone (the same as the distance between the earth and the moon), between Mars and Jupiter half a tone, between Jupiter and Saturn half a tone, between Saturn and the zodiac a tone and a half: the seven tones thus producing the so-called diapason, a universal harmony; in this Saturn moves in the Dorian mode, Jupiter in the Phrygian, and similarly with the other planets - a refinement more entertaining than convincing.

{21.} L   [85] A stade is equivalent to 125 Roman paces, that is 625 feet. Posidonius holds that mists and winds and clouds reach to a height of not less than 5 miles from the earth, but that from that point the air is clear and liquid and perfectly luminous, but that the distance between the cloudy air and the moon is 250,000 miles and between the moon and the sun 625,000 miles, it being due to this distance that the sun's vast magnitude does not burn up the earth. The majority of writers, however, have stated that the clouds rise to a height of 111 miles. These figures are really unascertained and impossible to disentangle, but it is proper to put them forward became they have been put forward already, although they are matters in which the method of geometrical inference, which never misleads, is the only method that it is possible not to reject, were anybody desirous of pursuing such questions more deeply, and with the intention of establishing not precise measurement (for to aspire to that would mark an almost insane absorption in study) but merely a conjectural calculation. [86] For since it appears from the sun's revolution that the circle through which its orb travels extends nearly 366 degrees, and since the diameter of a circle always measures a little less than ⅓ + 1/21 of the circumference, it appears that, as half the circle is subtracted by the interposition of the earth at the centre, the measure of the sun's altitude comprises about 1/6; of this conjecturally estimated immense space of the solar circle round the earth, and the moon's altitude 1/12, since the moon runs in a circuit that is much shorter than the sun's; so that it comes between the sun and the earth. [87] It is marvellous to what length the depravity of man's intellect will go when lured on by some trifling success, in the way in which reason furnishes impudence with its opportunity in the case of the calculations above stated. And when they have dared to guess the distances of the sun from the earth they apply the same figures to the sky, on the ground that the sun is at its centre, with the consequence that they have at their finger's ends the dimensions of the world also. For they argue that the circumference of a circle is 22/7 times its diameter, as though the measure of the heavens were merely regulated from a plumb-line! [88] The Egyptian calculation published by Petosiris and Nechepsos infers that one degree of the lunar circle measures (as has been said) just over 4⅛ miles at the least, one degree of the widest circle, Saturn's, twice that size, and one of the sun's circle, which we stated to be in the middle, the mean between the other two. This computation is a most shameful business, since the addition of the distance of the zodiac itself to the circle of Saturn produces a multiple that is even beyond reckoning.

{22.} L   [89] A few facts about the world remain. There are also stars that suddenly come to birth in the heaven itself; of these there are several kinds. The Greeks call them 'comets,' in our language 'long-haired stars,' because they have a blood-red shock of what looks like shaggy hair at their top. The Greeks also give the name of 'bearded stars' to those from whose lower part spreads a mane resembling a long beard. 'Javelin-stars' quiver like a dart; these are a very terrible portent. To this class belongs the comet about which Titus Imperator Caesar in his 5th consulship {76 AD} wrote an account in his famous poem, that being its latest appearance down to the present day. The same stars when shorter and sloping to a point have been called 'Daggers'; these are the palest of all in colour, and have a gleam like the flash of a sword, and no rays, which even the Quoit-star, which resembles its name in appearance but is in colour like amber, emits in scattered form from its edge. [90] The 'Tub-star' presents the shape of a cask, with a smoky light all round it. The 'Horned star' has the shape of a horn, like the one that appeared when Greece fought the decisive battle of Salamis. The 'Torch-star' resembles glowing torches, the 'Horse-star horses' manes in very rapid motion and revolving in a circle. There also occurs a shining comet whose silvery tresses glow so brightly that it is scarcely possible to look at it, and which displays within it a shape in the likeness of a man's countenance. There also occur 'Goat comets,' enringed with a sort of cloud resembling tufts of hair. Once hitherto it has happened that a 'Mane-shaped' comet changed into a spear; this was in the 108th Olympiad, AUC 408 {346 BC}. The shortest period of visibility on record for a comet is 7 days, the longest 80.

{23.} L   [91] Some comets move, like the planets, but others are fixed and stationary, almost all of them towards the due North, not in any particular part of it, though chiefly in the luminous region called the Milky Way. Aristotle also records that several may be seen at the same time - a fact not observed by anyone else, as far as I am aware - and that this signifies severe winds or heat. Comets also occur in the winter months and at the south pole, but comets in the south have no rays. A terrible comet was seen by the people of Ethiopia and Egypt, to which Typhon the king of that period gave his name; it had a fiery appearance and was twisted like a coil, and it was very grim to behold: it was not really a star so much as what might be called a ball of fire. [92] Planets and all other stars also occasionally have spreading hair. But sometimes there is a comet in the western sky, usually a terrifying star and not easily expiated: for instance, during the civil disorder in the consulship of Octavius {87 BC}, and again during the war between Pompey and Caesar, or in our day about the time of the poisoning which secured the bequest of the empire by Claudius Caesar to Domitius Nero, and thereafter during Nero's principate shining almost continuously and with a terrible glare. People think that it matters in what direction a comet darts, what star's strength it borrows, what shapes it resembles, and in what places it shines; [93] that if it resembles a pair of flutes. It is a portent for the art of music, in the private parts of the constellations it portends immorality, if it forms an equilateral triangle or a rectangular quadrilateral in relation to certain positions of the fixed stars, it portends men of genius and a revival of learning, in the head of the Northern or the Southern Serpent it brings poisonings.

The only place in the whole world where a comet is the object of worship is a temple at Rome. The deified Augustus had deemed this comet very propitious to himself; as it had appeared at the beginning of his rule, at some games which, not long after the decease of his father Caesar, as a member of the college founded by him he was celebrating in honour of Venus Genetrix. [94] In fact he made public the joy that it gave him in these words: 'On the very days of my Games a comet was visible for seven days in the northern part of the sky. It was rising about an hour before sunset, and was a bright star, visible from all lands. The common people believed that this star signified the soul of Caesar received among the spirits of the immortal gods, and on this account the emblem of a star was added to the bust of Caesar that we shortly afterwards dedicated in the forum.' This was his public utterance, but privately he rejoiced because he interpreted the comet as having been born for his own sake and as containing his own birth within it; and, to confess the truth, it did have a health-giving influence over the world.

Some persons think that even comets are everlasting, and travel in a special circuit of their own, but are not visible except when the sun leaves them; there are others, however, who hold that they spring into existence out of chance moisture and fiery force, and consequently are dissolved.

{24.} L   [95] Hipparchus before-mentioned, who can never be sufficiently praised, no one having done more to prove that man is related to the stars and that our souls are a part of heaven, detected a new star that came into existence during his lifetime; the movement of this star in its line of radiance led him to wonder whether this was a frequent occurrence, whether the stars that we think to be fixed are also in motion; and consequently he did a bold thing, that would be reprehensible even for God - he dared to schedule the stars for posterity, and tick off the heavenly bodies by name in a list, devising machinery by means of which to indicate their several positions and magnitudes, in order that from that time onward it might be possible easily to discern not only whether stars perish and are born, but whether some are in transit and in motion, and also whether they increase and decrease in magnitude - thus bequeathing the heavens as a legacy to all mankind, supposing anybody had been found to claim that inheritance!

{25.} L   [96] There are also meteoric lights that are only seen when falling, for instance one that ran across the sky at midday in full view of the public when Germanicus Caesar was giving a gladiatorial show. Of these there are two kinds: one sort are called lampades, which means torches, the other bolides (missiles),that is the sort that appeared at the time of the disasters of Mutina. The difference between them is that 'torches' make long tracks, with their front part glowing, whereas a 'bolis' glows throughout its length, and traces a longer path.

{26.} L   Other similar meteoric lights are 'beams.' in Greek dokoi, for example one that appeared when the Spartans were defeated at sea and lost the empire of Greece. [97] There also occurs a yawning of the actual sky, called chasma, {27.} L   and also something that looks like blood, and a fire that falls from it to the earth - the most alarming possible cause of terror to mankind; as happened in the third year of the 107th Olympiad {349 BC}, when King Philip was throwing Greece into disturbance. My own view is that these occurrences take place at fixed dates owing to natural forces, like all other events, and not, as most people think, from the variety of causes invented by the cleverness of human intellects; it is true that they were the harbingers of enormous misfortunes, but I hold that those did not happen because the marvellous occurrences took place but that these took place because the misfortunes were going to occur, only the reason for their occurrence is concealed by their rarity, and consequently is not understood as are the risings and setting of the planets described above and many other phenomena.

{28.} L   [98] Stars are also seen throughout the daytime in company with the sun, usually actually surrounding the sun's orb like wreaths made of ears of corn and rings of changing colour - for instance, when Augustus Caesar in early manhood entered the city after the death of his father to assume his mighty surname. Similar haloes occur round the moon and round the principal fixed stars.

{29.} L   A bow appeared round the sun in the consulship of Lucius Opimius and Quintus Fabius {121 BC}, a hoop in that of Gaius Porcius and Manius Acilius {114 BC}, and a red ring in that of Lucius Julius and Publius Rutilius {90 BC}.

{30.} L   Portentous and protracted eclipses of the sun occur, such as the one after the murder of Caesar the dictator and during the war with Antonius which caused almost a whole year's continuous gloom.

{31.} L   [99] Again, several suns are seen at once, neither above nor below the real sun but at an angle with it, never alongside of nor opposite to the earth, and not at night but either at sunrise or at sunset. It is also reported that once several suns were seen at midday at the Bosphorus, and that these lasted from dawn till sunset. In former times three suns have often been seen at once, for example in the consulships of Spurius Postumius and Quintus Mucius {174 BC}, of Quintus Marcius and Marcus Porcius {118 BC}, of Marcus Antonius and Publius Dolabella {44 BC}, and of Marcus Lepidus and Lucius Plancus {42 BC}; and our generation saw this during the principate of the deified Claudius, in his consulship, when Cornelius Orfitus was his colleague {51 AD}. It is not stated that more than three suns at a time have ever been seen hitherto.

{32.} L   Also three moons have appeared at once, for instance in the consulship of Gnaeus Domitius and Gaius Fannius {122 BC}.

{33.} L   [100] A light from the sky by night, the phenomenon usually called 'night-suns,' was seen in the consulship of Gaius Caecilius and Gnaeus Papirius {113 BC} and often on other occasions causing apparent daylight in the night.

{34.} L   In the consulship of Lucius Valerius and Gaius Marius {86 BC} a burning shield scattering sparks ran across the sky at sunset from west to east.

{35.} L   In the consulship of Gnaeus Octavius and Gaius Scribonius {76 BC} a spark was seen to fall from a star and increase in size as it approached the earth, and after becoming as large as the moon it diffused a sort of cloudy daylight, and then returning to the sky changed into a torch; this is the only record of this occurring. It was seen by the proconsul Silanus and his suite.

{36.} L   Also stars appear to shoot to and fro; and this invariably portends the rise of a fierce hurricane from the same quarter.

{37.} L    [101] Stars also come into existence at sea on land. I have seen a radiance of star-like appearance clinging to the javelins of soldiers on sentry duty at night in front of the rampart; and on a voyage stars alight on the yards and other parts of the ship, with a sound resembling a voice, hopping from perch to perch in the manner of birds. These when they come singly are disastrously heavy and wreck ships, and if they fall into the hold burn them up. If there are two of them, they denote safety and portend a successful voyage; and their approach is said to put to flight the terrible star called Helena: for this reason they are called Castor and Pollux, and people pray to them as gods for aid at sea. They also shine round men's heads at evening time; this is a great portent. All these things admit of no certain explanation; they are hidden away in the grandeur of nature.

Following sections (102-175)

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