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Pliny,   Natural History

-   Book 2 ,   sections 176-248


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


  ← Previous sections (102-175)

{69.} L   [176] That the earth is at the centre of the universe is proved by irrefragable arguments, but the clearest is the equal hours of day and night at the equinox. For if the earth were not at the centre, it can be realized that it could not have the days and nights equal; and dioptrae confirm this very powerfully, since at the season of the equinox sunrise and sunset are seen on the same line, whereas sunrise at midsummer and sunset at midwinter fall on a line of their own. These things could not occur without the earth's being situated at the centre.

{70.} L   [177] But the three circles intertwined between the zones aforesaid are the cause of the differences of the seasons: the Tropic of Cancer on the side of the highest part of the zodiac to the northward of us, and opposite to it the Tropic of Capricorn towards the other pole, and also the equator that runs in the middle circuit of the zodiac.

{71.} L   The cause of the remaining facts that surprise us is found in the shape of the earth itself, which together with the waters also the same arguments prove to resemble a globe. For this is undoubtedly the cause why for us the stars of the northern region never set and their opposites of the southern region never rise, while on the contrary these northern stars are not visible to the antipodes, as the curve of the earth's globe bars our view of the tracts between. [178] Trogodyticē and Egypt which is adjacent to it do not see the Great and Little Bear, and Italy does not see Canopus and the constellation called Berenice's Hair, also the one that in the reign of the deified Augustus received the name of Caesar's Throne, constellations that are conspicuous there. And so clearly does the rising vault curve over that to observers at Alexandria Canopus appears to be elevated nearly a quarter of one sign above the earth, whereas from Rhodes it seems practically to graze the earth itself, and on the Black Sea, where the North Stars are at their highest, it is not visible at all. Also Canopus is hidden from Rhodes, and still more from Alexandria; in Arabia in November it is hidden during the first quarter of the night and shows itself in the second; at MeroŽ it appears a little in the evening at midsummer and a few days before the rising of Arcturus is seen at daybreak. [179] These phenomena are most clearly disclosed by the voyages of those at sea, the sea sloping upward in the direction of some and downward in the direction of others, and the stars that were hidden behind the curve of the ball suddenly becoming visible as it were rising out of the sea. For it is not the fact, as some have said, that the world rises up at this higher pole - or else these stars would be visible everywhere; but these stars are believed to be higher the nearer people are to them, while they seem low to those far away, and just as at present this pole seems lofty to those situated on the declivity, so when people pass across to yonder downward slope of the earth those stars rise while the ones that here were high sink, which could not happen except with the conformation of a ball.

{72.} L   [180] Consequently inhabitants of the East do not perceive evening eclipses of the sun and moon, nor do those dwelling in the West see morning eclipses, while the latter see eclipses at midday later than we do. The victory of Alexander the Great is said to have caused an eclipse of the moon at Arbela at 8 p.m. while the same eclipse in Sicily was when the moon was just rising. An eclipse of the sun that occurred on April 30 in the consulship of Vipstanus and Fonteius {59 AD } a few years ago was visible in Campania between 1 and 2 p.m. but was reported by Corbulo commanding in Armenia as observed between 4 and 5 p.m.: this was because the curve of the globe discloses and hides different phenomena for different localities. If the earth were flat, all would be visible to all alike at the same time; also the nights would not vary in length, because corresponding periods of 12 hours would be visible equally to others than those at the equator, periods that as it is do not exactly correspond in every region alike.

{73.} L   [181] Consequently also although night and day are the same thing all over the world, it is not night and day at the same time all over the world, the intervention of the globe bringing night or its revolution day. This has been discovered by many experiments - that of Hannibal's towers in Africa and Spain, and in Asia when piratical alarms prompted the precaution of watchtowers of the same sort, warning fires lit on which at noon were often ascertained to have been seen by the people farthest to the rear at 9 p.m. Alexander above mentioned had a runner named Philonides who did the 1200 stades from Sicyon to Elis in 9 hours from sunrise and took from sunrise until 9 p.m. for the return journey, although the way is downhill; this occurred repeatedly. The reason was that going his way lay with the sun but returning he was passing the sun as it met him travelling in the opposite direction. For this reason ships sailing westward beat even in the shortest day the distances they sail in the nights, because they are going with the actual sun.

{74.} L   [182] Travellers' sundials are not the same for reference everywhere, because the shadows thrown by the sun, as they alter, alter the readings at every 300 or at farthest 500 stades. Consequently in Egypt at midday on the day of the equinox the shadow of the pin or 'gnomon' measures a little more than half the length of the gnomon itself, whereas in the city of Rome the shadow is 1/9th shorter than the gnomon, at the town of Ancona 1/35th longer, and in the district of Italy called Venetia the shadow is equal to the gnomon, at the same hours.

{75.} L   [183] Similarly it is reported that at the town of Syene, 5000 stades South of Alexandria, at noon in midsummer no shadow is cast, and that in a well made for the sake of testing this the light reaches to the bottom, clearly showing that the sun is vertically above that place at the time; and this is stated in the writings of Onesicritus also to occur at the same time in India South of the river Hypasis. It is also stated that in the Trogodytes' city of Berenice, and 4820 stades away at the town of Ptolemais in the same tribe, which was founded on the shore of the Red Sea for the earliest elephant hunts, the same thing occurs 45 days before and 45 days after midsummer, and during that period of 90 days the shadows are thrown southward. [184] Again in MeroŽ - this is an inhabited island in the river Nile 5000 stades from Syene, and is the capital of the Ethiopian race - the shadows disappear twice a year, when the sun is in the 18th degree of Taurus and in the 14th of Leo. There is a mountain named Maleus in the Indian tribe of the Oretes, near which shadows are thrown southward in summer and northward in winter; the northern constellation is visible there on only 15 nights. Also in India at the well-known port of Patala the sun rises on the right and shadows fall southward. [185] It was noticed when Alexander was staying at this place that the Great and Little Bears were visible only in the early part of the night. Alexander's guide Onesicritus wrote that this constellation is not visible at the places in India where there are no shadows, and that these places are called Shadeless, and no reckoning is kept of the hours there.

{76.} L   But according to Eratosthenes in the whole of Trogodyticē on 90 days once a year shadows fall the wrong way.

{77.} L   [186] Thus it comes about that owing to the varied lengthening of daylight the longest day covers 12 8/9 equinoctial hours at MeroŽ, but 14 hours at Alexandria, 15 in Italy, and 17 in Britain, where the light nights in summer substantiate what theory compels us to believe, that, as on summer days the sun approaches nearer to the top of the world, owing to a narrow circuit of light the underlying parts of the earth have continuous days for 6 months at a time, and continuous nights when the sun has withdrawn in the opposite direction towards winter. [187] Pytheas of Massilia writes that this occurs in the island of Thule, 6 days' voyage N. from Britain, and some declare it also to occur in the Isle of Mona, which is about 200 miles from the British town of Camalodunum.

{78.} L   This theory of shadows and the science called gnomonics was discovered by Anaximenes of Miletus, the pupil of Anaximander of whom we have spoken; he first exhibited at Sparta the time-piece they call 'Hunt-the-Shadow' {skiotherikon}.

{79.} L   [188] The actual period of a day has been differently kept by different people: the Babylonians count the period between two sunrises, the Athenians that between two sunsets, the Umbrians from midday to midday, the common people everywhere from dawn to dark, the Roman priests and the authorities who fixed the official day, and also the Egyptians and Hipparchus, the period from midnight to midnight. But it is obvious that the breaks in daylight between sunset and sunrise are smaller near the solstice than at the equinoxes, because the position of the zodiac is more slanting around its middle points but straighter near the solstice.

{80.} L   [189] We must deal next with the results connected with these heavenly causes. For it is beyond question that the Ethiopians are burnt by the heat of the heavenly body near them, and are born with a scorched appearance, with curly beard and hair, and that in the opposite region of the world the races have white frosty skins, with yellow hair that hangs straight; while the latter are fierce owing to the rigidity of their climate but the former wise because of the mobility of theirs; and their legs themselves prove that with the former the juice is called away into the upper portions of the body by the nature of heat, while with the latter it is driven down to the lower parts by falling moisture; in the latter country dangerous wild beasts are found, in the former a great variety of animals and especially of birds; but in both regions men's stature is high, owing in the former to the pressure of the fires and in the latter to the nourishing effect of the damp; [190] whereas in the middle of the earth, owing to a healthy blending of both elements, there are tracts that are fertile for all sorts of produce, and men are of medium bodily stature, with a marked blending even in the matter of complexion; customs are gentle, senses clear, intellects fertile and able to grasp the whole of nature; and they also have governments, which the outer races never have possessed, any more than they have ever been subject to the central races, being quite detached and solitary on account of the savagery of the nature that broods over those regions.

{81.} L   [191] The theory of the Babylonians deems that even earthquakes and fissures in the ground are caused by the force of the stars that is the cause of all other phenomena, but only by that of those three stars to which they assign thunderbolts; and that they occur when these are travelling with the sun or are in agreement with him, and particularly about the quadratures of the world. On this subject a remarkable and immortal inspiration is attributed (if we can believe it) to the natural philosopher Anaximander of Miletus, who is said to have warned the Spartans to be careful of their city and buildings, because an earthquake was impending; and subsequently the whole of their city collapsed, and also a large part of Mount Taygetus projecting in the shape of a ship's stern broke off and crashing down on it added to the catastrophe. Also another conjecture is attributed to Pherecydes the teacher of Pythagoras, this also inspired: he is said to have foretold to his fellow-citizens an earthquake, of which he had obtained a premonition in drawing water from a well. [192] Assuming the truth of these stories, how far pray can such men even in their lifetime be thought to differ from a god? And though these matters may be left to the estimation of individual judgment; I think it indubitable that their cause is to be attributed to the winds; for tremors of the earth never occur except when the sea is calm and the sky so till that birds are unable to soar because all the Breath that carries them has been withdrawn; and never except after wind, doubtless because then the blast has been shut up in the veins and hidden bob lows of the sky. And a trembling in the earth is not different from a thunderclap in a cloud, and a fissure is no different from when an imprisoned current of air by struggling and striving to go forth to freedom causes a flash of lightning to burst out.

{82.} L   [193] Consequently earthquakes occur in a variety of ways, and cause remarkable consequences, in some places overthrowing walls, in others drawing them down into a gaping cleft, in others thrusting up masses of rock, in others sending out rivers and sometimes even fires or hot springs, in others diverting the course of rivers. They are however preceded or accompanied by a terrible sound, that sometimes resembles a rumble, sometimes the lowing of cattle or the shouts of human beings or the clash of weapons struck together, according to the nature of the material that receives the shock and the shape of the caverns or burrows through which it passes, proceeding with smaller volume in a narrow channel but with a harsh noise in channels that bend, echoing in hard channels, bubbling in damp ones, forming waves in stagnant ones, raging against solid ones. [194] Accordingly even without any movement occurring a sound is sometimes emitted. And sometimes the earth is not shaken in a simple manner but trembles and vibrates. Also the gap sometimes remains open, showing the objects that it has sucked in, while sometimes it hides them by closing its mouth and drawing soil over it again in such a way as to leave no traces; it being usually cities that are engulfed, and a tract of farmland swallowed, although seaboard districts are most subject to earthquakes, and also mountainous regions are not free from disaster of the kind: I have ascertained that tremors have somewhat frequently occurred in the Alps and Apennines.

[195] Earthquakes are more frequent in autumn and spring, as is lightning. Consequently the Gallic provinces and Egypt suffer very little from them, as in the latter the summer is the cause that prevents them and in the former the winter. Similarly they are more frequent by night than in the daytime. The severest earthquakes occur in the morning and the evening, but they are frequent near dawn and in the daytime about noon. They also occur at an eclipse of the sun or moon, since then storms are lulled, but particularly when heat follows rain or rain heat.

{83.} L   [196] Sailors at sea can also anticipate an earthquake and forecast it with certainty when a sudden wave swells up without there being a wind, or a shock shakes the vessel. Even in ships posts begin to tremble just as they do in buildings, and foretell an earthquake by rattling; nay more, birds of timid kinds perch on the rigging. There is also a sign in the sky: when an earthquake is impending, either in the daytime or a little after sunset, in fine weather, it is preceded by a thin streak of cloud stretching over a wide space.

{84.} L   [197] Another sign is when the water in wells is muddier and has a somewhat foul smell, just as in wells there is also a remedy for earthquake such as frequently caves too afford, as they supply an outlet for the confined breath. This is noticed in whole towns: buildings pierced by frequent conduits for drainage are less shaken, and also among these the ones erected over vaults are much safer - as is noticed in Italy at Neapolis, the solidly built portion of the city being specially liable to collapses of this nature. The safest parts of buildings are arches, also angles of walls, and posts, which swing back into position with each alternate thrust; and walls built of clay bricks suffer less damage from being shaken. [198] There is also a great difference in the actual kind of movement, as the earth shakes in several ways; there is least danger when it quivers with a trembling rattle of the buildings, and when it rises in a swell and settles back again, with an alternating motion; also no harm is done when buildings collide and ram against each other, as the one motion counteracts the other. A waving bend and a sort of billowy fluctuation is dangerous, or when the whole movement drives in one direction. Earthquakes stop when the wind has found an outlet, or else, if they go on, they do not stop before forty days, and usually even longer, some in fact having gone on for one or two years' time.

{85.} L   [199] I find in the books of the lore of Etruria that once a vast and portentous earthquake occurred in the district of Mutina; this was during the consulship of Lucius Marcius and Sextus Julius {91 BC}. Two mountains ran together with a mighty crash, leaping forward and then retiring with flames and smoke rising between them to the sky; this took place in the daytime, and was watched from the Aemilian Way by a large crowd of knights of Rome with their retinues and passers by. The shock brought down all the country houses, and a great many animals in the buildings were killed. It was in the year before the Social War, which was perhaps more disastrous to the land of Italy than the civil wars. Our generation also experienced a not less marvellous manifestation in the last year of the Emperor Nero, as we have set forth in our history of his principate: meadows and olive trees with a public road running between then got over to the opposite sides of the road; this took place in the Marrucinian territory, on the lands of Vettius Marcellus, knight of Rome, Nero's estate-manager.

{86.} L   [200] Earthquakes are accompanied by inundations of the sea, which is presumably caused to flood the land by the same current of air, or drawn into the bosom of the earth as it subsides. The greatest earthquake in human memory occurred when Tiberius Caesar was emperor, twelve Asiatic cities being overthrown in one night; the most numerous series of shocks was during the Punic War, when reports reached Rome of fifty-seven in a single year; it was the year when a violent earthquake occurring during an action between the Carthaginian and Roman armies at Lake Trasimene was not noticed by the combatants on either side. Nor yet is the disaster a simple one, nor does the danger consist only in the earthquake itself, but equally or more in the fact that it is a portent; the city of Rome was never shaken without this being a premonition of something about to happen.

{87.} L   [201] The cause of the birth of new lands is the same, when that same breath although powerful enough to cause an upheaval of the soil has not been able to force an exit. For lands are born not only through the conveyance of soil by streams (as the Echinades Islands when heaped up from the river Achelous and the greater part of Egypt from the Nile - the crossing from the island of Pharos to the coast, if we believe Homer { Od. 4.354 }, having formerly taken twenty-four hours) or by the retirement of the sea as once took place at Circeii; such a retirement is also recorded to have occurred to a distance of 10 miles in the harbour of Ambracia, and to a distance of 5 miles at the Athenian port of Piraeus; and at Ephesus, where once the sea used to wash up to the temple of Diana. At all events if we believe Herodotus { 2.10 }, there was sea above Memphis as far as the mountains of Ethiopia and also towards the plains of Arabia, and sea round Ilium, and over the whole territory of Teuthras and where the Maeander has spread prairie-land.

{88.} L   [202] New lands are also formed in another way, and suddenly emerge in a different sea, nature as it were balancing accounts with herself and restoring in another place what an earthquake has engulfed.

{89.} L   The famous islands of Delos and Rhodes are recorded in history as having been born from the sea long ago, and subsequently smaller ones, Anaphe beyond Melos, Neae between Lemnos and the Hellespont, Halone between Lebedos and Teos, Thera and Therasia among the Cyclades in the 4th year of the 145th Olympiad {197 BC}; also in the same group Hiera, which is the same as Automate, 130 years later; and 2 stades from Hiera, Thia 110 years later, in our age, on July 8 in the year of the consulship of Marcus Junius Silanus and Lucius Balbus {19 AD}.

[203] Before our time also among the Aeolian Islands near Italy, as well as near Crete, there emerged from the sea one island 2½ miles long, with hot springs, and another in the 3rd year of Olympiad 163 {126 BC} in the bay of Etruria, this one burning with a violent blast of air; and it is recorded that a great quantity of fish were floating round it, and that people who ate of them immediately expired. So also the Pithecusae Islands are said to have risen in the bay of Campania, and later one among them, Mount Epopos, is said to have suddenly shot up a great flame and then to have been levelled with the surface of the plain. In the same plain also a town was sucked down into the depths, and another earthquake caused a swamp to emerge, and another overturned mountains and threw up the island of Prochyta.

{90.} L   [204] For another way also in which nature has made islands is when she tore Sicily away from Italy, Cyprus from Syria, Euboea from Boeotia, Atalantes and Macrias from Euboea, Besbicus from Bithynia, Leucosia from the Sirens' Cape.

{91.} L   Again she has taken islands away from the sea and joined them to the land - Antissa to Lesbos, Zephyrius to Halicarnassus, Aethusa to Myndus, Dromiscos and Pernes to Miletus, Narthecusa to Cape Parthenius. Hybanda, once an Ionian island, is now 25 miles distant from the sea, Ephesus has Syrie as part of the mainland, and its neighbour Magnesia the Derasides and Sapphonia. Epidaurus and Oricum have ceased to be islands.

{92.} L   [205] Cases of land entirely stolen away by the first of all (if we accept Plato's story { Tim. 24 E }), the vast area covered by the Atlantic, and next, in the inland seas also, the areas that we see submerged at the present day, Acarnania covered by the Ambracian Gulf, Achaea by the Gulf of Corinth, Europe and Asia by the Propontis and the Black Sea. Also the sea has made the channels of Leucas, Antirrhium, the Hellespont and the two Bospori.

{93.} L   And to pass over bays and marshes, the earth is eaten up by herself. She has devoured the highest mountain in Caria, Cibotus, together with the town of that name, Sipylus in Magnesia, and previously the very celebrated city in the same place that used to be called Tantalis, the territories of Galene and Galame in Phoenicia with the cities themselves, and the loftiest mountain range in Ethiopia, Phegium - just as if the coasts also did not treacherously encroach!

{94.} L   [206] The Black Sea has stolen Pyrra and Antissa in the neighbourhood of Lake Maeotis, the Gulf of Corinth Helice and Bura, traces of which are visible at the bottom of the water. The sea suddenly snatched away more than 30 miles together with most of the human beings from the Island of Ceos, and half the city of Tyndaris in Sicily, and all the gap in the coast of Italy, and similarly Eleusis in Boeotia.

{95.} L   For let earthquakes not be mentioned, and every case where at least the tombs of cities survive, and at the same time let us tell of the marvels of the earth rather than the crimes of nature. And, I will swear, not even the heavenly phenomena could have been more difficult to recount: [207] the wealth of mines so varied, so opulent, so prolific, brought to the surface in so many ages, although every day all over the world so much devastation is wrought by fires, collapse of buildings, shipwrecks, wars, frauds, and so great is the consumption of luxury and of the multitudes of mankind; such a variety of patterned gems, such many-coloured markings in stones, and among them the brilliance of a certain stone a that only allows actual daylight to penetrate through it; the profusion of medicinal springs; the flames of fire flickering up in so many places, unceasing for so many centuries; the lethal breaths either emitted from chasms or due to the mere formation of the ground, in some places fatal only to birds, as in the region of Soracte near Rome, [208] in others to all living creatures except man, and sometimes to man also, as in the territory of Sinuessa and of Puteoli - the places called breathing holes, or by other people jaws of hell - ditches that exhale a deadly breath; also the place near the Temple of Mephitis at Ampsanctus in the Hirpinian district, on entering which people die; likewise the hole at Hierapolis in Asia, harmless only to the priest of the Great Mother; elsewhere prophetic caves, those intoxicated by whose exhalations foretell the future, as at the very famous oracle at Delphi. In these matters what other explanation could any mortal man adduce save that they are caused by the divine power of that nature which is diffused throughout the universe, repeatedly bursting out in different ways?

{96.} L   [209] In some places, the earth trembles when trodden on - for instance in the Gabii district not from the city of Rome about 200 acres shake when horsemen gallop over them, and similarly in the Reate district. Certain islands are always afloat, as in the districts of Caecubus and of Reate mentioned above and Mutina and Statonia, and in Lake Vadimo, the dense wood near the springs of Cutilia which is never to be seen in the same place by day and by night, the islands in Lydia named the Reed Islands {Calaminae} which are not only driven by the winds, but can be punted in any direction at pleasure with poles, and so served to rescue a number of the citizens in the Mithridatic War. There are also small islands at Nymphaeum called the Dancing Islands, because they move to the foot-beats of persons keeping time with the chanting of a choral song. On the great lake of Tarquinii in Italy two islands float about carrying woods, their outline as the winds drive them forward now forming the shape of a triangle and now of a circle, but never a square.

{97.} L   [210] Paphos possesses a famous shrine of Venus on a certain court in which rain does not fall, and the same in the case round an image of Minerva at the town of Nea in the Troad; in the same town also sacrifices left over do not go bad.

{98.} L   [211] Near the town of Harpasa in Asia stands a jagged rock that can be moved with one finger, but that also resists a push made with the whole body. On the peninsula of the Tauri in the state of Parasinum there is some earth which heals all wounds. But in the neighbourhood of Assos in the Troad a stone is produced that causes all bodies to waste away; it is called the Flesh-eater. There are two mountains near the river Indus, the nature of one of which is to hold all iron and that of the other to reject it; consequently if a man has nails in his shoes, on one of the mountains at each step he is unable to tear his foot away from the ground and on the other he cannot set it down on the ground. It is recorded that at Locri and Croton there has never been a plague or earthquake, and that in Lycia an earthquake is always followed by forty days' fine weather. Corn sown in the Arpi district does not come up, and at Mucian Altars in the district of Veii and at Tusculum and in the Ciminian Forest there are places where stakes driven into the ground cannot be pulled out. Hay grown in the Crustumerium district is noxious on the spot but healthy when conveyed elsewhere.

{99.} L   [212] About the nature of bodies of water a great deal has been said. But the rise and fall of  the tides of the sea is extremely mysterious, at all events in its irregularity; however the cause lies in the sun and moon. Between two risings of the moon there are two high and two low tides every 24 hours, the tide first swelling as the world moves upward with the moon, then falling as it slopes from the midday summit of the sky towards sunset, and again coming in as after sunset the world goes below the earth to the lowest parts of the heaven and approaches the regions opposite to the meridian, and from that point sucking back until it rises again; [213] and never flowing back at the same time as the day before, just as if gasping for breath as the greedy star draws the seas with it at a draught and constantly rises from another point than the day before; yet returning at equal intervals and in every six hours, not of each day or night or place but equinoctial hours, so that the tidal periods are not equal by the space of ordinary hours whenever the tides occupy larger measures of either diurnal or nocturnal hours, and only equal everywhere at the equinox. [214] It is a vast and illuminating proof, and one of even divine utterance, that those are dull of wit who deny that the same stars pass below the earth and rise up again, and that they present a similar appearance to the lands and indeed to the whole of nature in the same processes of rising and setting, the course or other operation of a star being manifest beneath the earth in just the same way as when it is travelling past our eyes.

[215] Moreover, the lunar difference is manifold, and to begin with, its period is seven days: inasmuch as the tides, which are moderate from new moon to half-moon, therefrom rise higher and at full moon are at their maximum; after that they relax, at the seventh day being equal to what they were at first; and they increase again when the moon divides on the other side, at the union of the moon with the sun being equal to what they were at full moon. When the moon is northward and retiring further from the earth the tides are gentler than when she has swerved towards the south and exerts her force at a nearer angle. At every eighth year the tides are brought back at the hundredth circuit of the moon to the beginnings of their motion and to corresponding stages of increase. They make all these increases owing to the yearly influences of the sun, swelling most at the two equinoxes and more at the autumn than the spring one, but empty at midwinter and more so at midsummer. [216] Nevertheless this does not occur at the exact points of time I have specified, but a few days after, just as it is not at full or new moon but afterwards, and not immediately when the world shows or hides the moon or slopes it in the middle quarter, but about two equinoctial hours later, the effect of all the occurrences in the sky reaching the earth more slowly than the sight of them, as is the case with lightning, thunder and thunderbolts.

[217] But all the tides cover and lay bare greater spaces in the ocean than in the rest of the sea, whether because it is more furious when moved in its entirety than when in part, or because the open extent feels the force of the star when it marches untrammelled with more effect, whereas narrow spaces hinder the force, which is the reason why neither lakes nor rivers have tides like the ocean ( Pytheas of Massilia states that north of Britain the tides rise 120 ft. ) [218] But also the more inland seas are shut in by land like the water in a harbour; yet a more untrammelled expanse is subject to the tidal sway, inasmuch as there are several instances of people making the crossing from Italy to Utica in two days in a calm sea and with no wind in the sails when a strong tide was running. But these motions are observed more round the coasts than in the deep sea, since in the body too the extremities are more sensitive to the pulse of the veins, that is of the breath. But in most estuaries owing to the different risings of the stars in each region the tides occur irregularly, varying in time though not in method, as for instance in the Syrtes.

{100.} L   [219] And nevertheless some tides have a special nature, for instance the channel at Tauromenium that ebbs and flows more frequently, and the one at Euboea that has seven tides in twenty-four hours. The tide at Euboea stops three times a month, on the seventh, eighth and ninth day after the new moon. At Gades the spring nearest the shrine of Hercules, which is enclosed like a well, sometimes rises and sinks with the ocean and sometimes does both at the contrary periods; a second spring in the same place agrees with the motions of the ocean.

There is a town on the banks of the Baetis whose wells sink when the tide rises and rise when it falls, remaining stationary in the intervening periods. At Hispalis there is one well in the actual town that has the same nature, though all the others are as usual. The Black Sea always flows out into the Propontis - the tide never sets inward into the Black Sea.

{101.} L   [220] All seas excrete refuse at high tide, some also periodically. In the neighbourhood of Messana and Mylae scum resembling dung is spat out on to the shore, which is the origin of the story that this is the place where the Oxen of the Sun are stalled. To this (so that I may leave out nothing that is within my knowledge) Aristotle adds that no animal dies except when the tide is ebbing. This has been widely noticed in the Gallic Ocean, and has been found to hold good at all events in the case of man.

{102.} L   [221] This is the source of the true conjecture that the moon is rightly believed to be the star of the breath, and that it is this star that saturates the earth and fills bodies by its approach and empties them by its departure; and that consequently shells increase in size as the moon waxes, and that its breath is specially felt by bloodless creatures, but also the blood even of human beings increases and diminishes with its light; and that also leaves and herbage (as will be stated in the proper place) are sensitive to it, the same force penetrating into all things.

{103.} L   [222] Consequently liquid is dried by the heat of the sun, and we are taught that this is the male star, which scorches and sucks up everything; and that in this way the flavour of salt is boiled into the wide expanse of the sea, either because the sweet and liquid, which is easily attracted by fiery force, is drawn out of it, but all the harsher and denser portion is left (this being why in a calm sea the water at a depth is sweeter than that at the top, this being the truer explanation of its harsh flavour, rather than because the sea is the cease1ess perspiration of the land), or because a great deal of warmth from the dry is mixed with it, or because the nature of the earth stains the waters as if they were drugged. One instance is that when Dionysius the tyrant of Sicily was expelled from that position, he encountered the portent that on one day the sea-water in the harbour became fresh water.

{104.} L   [223] The moon on the contrary is said to be a feminine and soft star, and to disengage moisture at night and attract, not remove it. The proof given for this is that the moon by her aspect melts the bodies of wild animals that have been killed and causes them to putrefy, and that when people are fast asleep she recalls the torpor and collects it into the head, and thaws ice, and unstiffens everything with moistening breath: thus (it is said) nature's alternations are held in balance, and there is always a supply, some of the stars drawing the elements together while others scatter them. But the nutriment of the moon is stated to be contained in bodies of fresh water as that of the sun is in seawater.

{105.} L   [224] According to the account of Fabianus, the deepest sea has a depth of nearly two miles. Others report an immense depth of water (called the Black Sea Deeps) off the coast of the Coraxi tribe on the Black Sea, about 37 miles from land, where soundings have never reached bottom.

{106.} L   This is rendered more remarkable by springs of fresh water bubbling out as if from pipes on the seashore. In fact the nature of water also is not deficient in marvels. Patches of fresh water float on the surface of the sea, being doubtless lighter. Consequently also seawater being of a heavier nature gives more support to objects floating upon it. But some fresh waters too float on the surface of others; cases are the river carried on the surface of the Fucine Lake, the Addua on the Larian Lake, the Ticinus on Lake Verbannus, the Mincius on Lake Benacus, the Ollius on Lake Sebinnus, the Rhone on Lake Lemannus (the last north of the Alps, but all the rest in Italy), after a passing visit that covers many miles carrying out their own waters only and no larger quantity than they introduced. This has also been stated in the case of the river Orontes in Syria and many others. [225] But some rivers so hate the sea that they actually flow underneath the bottom of it, for instance the spring Arethusa at Syracuse, in which things emerge that have been thrown into the Alpheus which flows through Olympia and reaches the coast in the Peloponnese. Instances of rivers that flow under ground and come to the surface again are the Lycus in Asia, the Erasinus in the Argolid and the Tigris in Mesopotamia; and objects thrown into the Spring of Aesculapius at Athens are given back again in Phaleron Harbour. Also a river that goes underground in the Plain of Atinas comes out 20 miles further on, as also does the Timavus in the district of Aquileia. [226] In Lake Asphaltis in Judaea, which produces bitumen, nothing can sink, and also in the Aretissa in Greater Armenia; the latter indeed is a nitrous lake that supports fish. A lake near the town of Manduria in the Sallentine district is full to the brim, and is not reduced when water is drawn out of it nor increased when water is poured into it. In the river of the Cicones and in the Veline Lake of Picenum, wood thrown into the water gets covered with a film of stone, and in the river Surius in Colchis this goes so far that the stone in most cases is covered with bark still lasting. Similarly in the river Silerus beyond Surrentum not only twigs but also leaves immersed in the river become petrified, though apart from this its water is healthy to drink. Rock forms in the outlet of the marsh at Reate, and olive trees and green bushes grow in the Red Sea.

[227] But the nature of a great many springs is of remarkably high temperature, and this is found even on the ridges of the Alps, and actually in the sea, for instance in the Gulf of Baiae between Italy and the Island of Aenaria, and in the river Liris and many others. In fact fresh water may be drawn from the sea in a great many places, as at the Chelidonian Islands and at Aradus and in the Gulf of Gades. Green grass grows in the hot springs of Patavium, frogs in those of Pisa, fishes at Vetulonia in Etruria near the sea. A river in the district of Casinum called the Bubbling Water is cold, and is fuller in summer; water voles are born in it, as they are in the Stymphalis of Arcadia. [228] The Fountain of Jupiter at Dodona, though it is cold and puts out torches dipped in it, sets them alight if they are brought near to it when they are out. The same spring always stops flowing at noon, on account of which it is called the Wait-a-bit; later it rises again and towards midnight flows abundantly, thereafter gradually ceasing again. A cold spring in Illyria sets fire to clothes spread out above it. The swamp of Jupiter Ammon is cold by day and hot at night. A spring in the Trogodytes' territory called the Fountain of the Sun is sweet and very cold at midday, but then gradually warming, towards the middle of the night it becomes spoilt owing to its heat and bitter taste. [229] The source of the Po always dries up at midday in summer as if taking a siesta. A spring on the island of Tenedos after midsummer always overflows from 9 to 12 p.m.; and the spring Inopus on the island of Delos sinks or rises in the same way as the Nile and at the same times. On a small island in the sea at the mouth of the river Timavus there are hot springs that grow larger and smaller with the rise and fall of the tide. In the Pitinum district across the Apennines the river Novanus is always hot at midsummer and dried up at midwinter. [230] In the district of Falerii all the water makes oxen that drink it white. The river Melas in Boeotia makes sheep black, the Cephisus flowing from the same lake makes them white, the Peneus again makes them black, and the river Xanthus at Ilium red, which gives the river its name. Mares pastured on the plains watered by the river Astaces on the Black Sea suckle their foals with black milk. The spring called Neminie in the district of Reate rises now in one place and now in another, indicating a change in the price of corn. A spring in the harbour at Brundisium always supplies pure water for mariners. The slightly acid spring called Lyncestis makes men tipsy, like wine; the same occurs in Paphlagonia and in the territory of Cales.

[231] It is accredited by the Mucianus who was three times consul that the water flowing from a spring in the temple of Father Liber on the island of Andros always has the flavour of wine on January 5th: the day is called God's Gift Day. To drink of the Styx near Nonacris in Arcadia causes death on the spot, although the river is not peculiar in smell or colour; similarly three springs on Mount Liberosus in the territory of the Tauri irremediably but painlessly cause death. In the territory of Carrina in Spain there are two adjacent springs of which one rejects all objects and the other sucks them down; another in the same nation makes all the fish in it look of a golden colour, although except when in that water there is nothing peculiar about them. [232] In the district by the Larian Lake a copious spring always swells up and sinks back again every hour. A hot spring on the island of Cydonea off Lesbos flows only in the springtime. Lake Sannaus in Asia is dyed by the wormwood springing up round it. In the cave of Apollo of Claros at Colophon there is a pool a draught from which causes marvellous oracular utterances to be produced, though the life of the drinkers is shortened. Even our generation has seen rivers flow backward at Nero's last moments, as we have recorded in our history of that Emperor.

[233] Again everybody is aware that all springs are colder in summer than in winter, as well as of the following miracles of nature that bronze and lead sink when in mass form, but float when flattened out into sheets; that among objects of the same weight some float, and others sink; that heavy bodies are more easily moved in water; that stone from Scyros in however large a mass floats, and the same stone broken into small pieces sinks; that bodies recently dead sink to the bottom but rise when they begin to swell; that empty vessels cannot be drawn out of the water more easily than full ones; that rain water is more useful than other water for salt-works, and that fresh water has to be mixed with sea water for the salt to he deposited; that sea water freezes more slowly, and boils more quickly; [234] that the sea is warmer in winter and salted in autumn; that all sea water is made smooth by oil, and so divers sprinkle oil from their mouth because it calms the rough element and carries light down with them; that on the high sea no snow falls; that though all water travels downward, springs leap upwards, and springs rise even at the roots of Etna, which is so hot that it belches out sands in a ball of flame over a space of 50 to 100 miles at a time. {107.} L   [235] (For we must also report some marvels connected with fire, the fourth element of nature, but first those arising from water.)

{108.} L   In Samosata the capital of Commagene there is a marsh that produces an inflammable mud called mineral pitch. When this touches anything solid it sticks to it; also when people touch it, it actually follows them as they try to get away from it. By these means they defended the city walls when attacked by Lucullus: the troops kept getting burnt by their own weapons. Water merely makes it burn more fiercely; experiments have shown that it can only be put out by earth.

{109.} L   Naphtha is of a similar nature - this is the name of a substance that flows out like liquid bitumen in the neighbourhood of Babylon and the territory of the Astaceni in Parthia. Naphtha has a close affinity with fire, which leaps to it at once when it sees it in any direction. This is how Medea in the legend burnt her rival, whose wreath caught fire after she had gone up to the altar to offer sacrifice.

{110.} L   [236] But among mountain marvels - Etna always glows at night, and supplies its fires with fuel sufficient for a vast period, though in winter cloaked with snow and covering its output of ashes with hoar frost. Nor does nature's wrath employ Mount Etna only to threaten the lands with conflagration. Mount Chimaera in the country of Phaselis is on fire, and indeed burns with a flame that does not die by day or night; Ctesias of Cnidos states that water increases its fire but earth or dung puts it out. Also the Mountains of Hephaestus in Lycia flare up when touched with a flaming torch, and so violently that even the stones of the rivers and the sands actually under water glow; and rain only serves to feed this fire. They say that if somebody lights a stick at it and draws a furrow with the stick, streams of fire follow it. [237] At Cophantum in Bactria a coil of flame blazes in the night, and the same in Media and in Sittacene the frontier of Persia: indeed at the White Tower at Susa it does so from fifteen smoke-holes, from the largest in the daytime also. The Babylonian Plain sends a blaze out of a sort of fishpool an acre in extent; also near Mount Hesperius in Ethiopia the plains shine at night like stars. Likewise in the territory of Megalopolis: for if that agreeable crater of Nymphaeum, which does not scorch the foliage of the thick wood above it and though near a cold stream is always glowing hot, ceases to flow, it portends horrors to its neighbours in the town of Apollonia, as Theopompus has recorded. It is augmented by rain, and sends forth asphalt to mingle with that unappetizing stream, which even without this is more liquid than ordinary asphalt. But who would be surprised by these things? [238] During the Social War, Hiera and Lipara among the Aeolian Islands near Italy burnt in mid sea for several days, as did the sea itself, till a deputation from the senate performed a propitiatory ceremony. Nevertheless the largest volcanic blaze is that of the ridge in Ethiopia called the Gods' Carriage {Theon Ochema}, which discharges flames that glow with truly solar heat.

In so many places and by so many fires does nature burn the countries of the earth.

{111.} L   [239] Moreover, as this one element has a fertile principle that engenders itself and grows out of the smallest sparks, what must be expected to happen in future among all these funeral pyres of the earth? What is the natural principle that pastures a most voracious appetite on the whole world while itself unimpaired? Add thereto the innumerable stars and the mighty sun, add the fires of man's making and also those implanted in the nature of stone and of timber rubbing against itself, and again the fire of clouds, and the sources of thunderbolts - and doubtless all marvels will be surpassed by the fact that there has ever been a single day on which there has not been a universal conflagration, when also hollow mirrors facing the sun's rays set things alight more easily than any other fire. [240] What of the countless small but natural eruptions of fire? In the river Nymphaeus a flame comes out of a rock that is kindled by rain; also one comes out at the Scantian Springs, not a strong one, it is true, as it passes away, and not lasting long on any substance which it touches - an ash tree shading this fiery spring is everlastingly green; one comes out in the district of Mutina on the days appointed as sacred to Vulcan. It is found in the authorities that in the fields lying under Aricia if charcoal is dropped on the ground, the earth is set on fire; that in the Sabine and Sidicine district a stone flames up when oiled; that in the Sallentine town of Egnatia, if wood is put on a certain sacred rock, a flame at once shoots up; that ashes on the altar of Juno at Lacinium, which stands in the open air, remains motionless when stormy winds sweep over it in every direction. [241] Moreover, it is recorded that sudden fires arise both in pools of water and in bodies, even human bodies: Valerius Antias tells that the whole of Lake Trasimene once was on fire; that when Servius Tullius was a boy a flame flashed out from his head while he was asleep; and that a similar flame burnt on Lucius Marcius in Spain when he was making a speech after the death of the Scipios and exhorting the soldiers to revenge. Later we shall give more instances, and more in detail; for at the present we are displaying a sort of medley of marvels of all the elements. But leaving the interpretation of nature our mind hastens to lead the reader's attention by the hand on a tour of the whole world.

{112.} L   [242] Our own portion of the earth, which is my subject, swims as it were in the ocean by which, as we have said, it is surrounded; its longest extent is from East to West, i.e. from India to the Pillars consecrated to Hercules at Gades, a distance of 8,568 miles according to Artemidorus, but 9,818 according to Isidorus. Artemidorus adds in addition from Gades round the Holy Promontory to Cape Artabrum the longest projection of the coast of Spain, 890 miles. [243] The measurement runs by a double route; from the river Ganges and its mouth where it flows into the Eastern Ocean, through India and Parthyene to the Syrian city Myriandrus situated on the Gulf of Issus 5,215, from there by the shortest sea-route to the Island of Cyprus, from Patara in Lycia to Rhodes, to the island of Astypalaea in the Carpathian Sea, to Taenarus in Laconia, Lilybaeum in Sicily, Caralis in Sardinia, 213, thence to Gades 1,250, the total distance from the Eastern Sea making 8,568. [244] Another route, which is more certain, extends mainly overland from the Ganges to the river Euphrates 5,169, thence to Mazaca in Cappadocia 244, thence through Phrygia and Caria to Ephesus 499, from Ephesus across the Aegean Sea to Delos 200, to the Isthmus 202½, thence by land and [the Laconian Sea and] the Gulf of Corinth to Patrae in the Peloponnese 102, to Leucas 87½, to Corcyra ditto, to Acroceraunia 82½, to Brundisium 87, to Rome 360, across the Alps to the village of Scingomagus 518, through Gaul to the Pyrenees at Illiberis 456, to the Ocean and the coast of Spain 832, across to Gades 7½, which figures by Artemidorus's calculation make 8,995 miles.

[245] But the breadth of the earth from the south point to the north is calculated by Isidorus as less by about one half, 5,462 miles, showing how much the heat has abstracted on one side and the cold on the other. As a matter of fact I do not think that there is this reduction in the earth, or that it is not the shape of a globe, but that the uninhabitable parts on either side have not been explored. This measurement runs from the coast of the Ethiopic Ocean, where habitation just begins, to MeroŽ 705 miles, thence to Alexandria, 1,250, Rhodes 584, Cnidus 86, Cos 25, Samos 100, Chios 94, Mitylene 65, Tenedos 49, Cape Sigeum 12, Bosphorus 312, Cape Carambis 350, mouth of Lake Maeotis 312, mouth of the Tanais 266,a route that by cutting down the crossings can be shortened. [246] From the mouth of the Tanais to the Canopic mouth of the Nile the most careful authorities have made the distance 2,110 miles. Artemidorus thought that the regions beyond had not been explored, though admitting that the tribes of the Sarmatae dwell round the Tanais to the northward. Isidorus added 1,250 miles right on to Thule, which is a purely conjectural estimate. I understand that the territory of the Sarmatae is known to an extent not less than the limit just stated. And from another aspect, how large is the space bound to be that is large enough to hold innumerable races that are continually migrating? This makes me think that there is an uninhabitable region beyond of much wider extent; for I am informed that beyond Germany also there are vast islands that were discovered not long ago.

[247] These are the facts that I consider worth recording in regard to the earth's length and breadth. Its total circumference was given by Eratosthenes (an expert in every refinement of learning, but on this point assuredly an outstanding authority - I notice that he is universally accepted) as 252,000 stades, a measurement that by Roman reckoning makes 31,500 miles - an audacious venture, but achieved by such subtle reasoning that one is ashamed to be sceptical. Hipparchus, who in his refutation of Eratosthenes and also in all the rest of his researches is remarkable, adds a little less than 26,000 stades.

[248] Dionysodorus (for I will not withhold this outstanding instance of Greek folly) has a different creed. He belonged to Melos, and was a celebrated geometrician; his old age came to its end in his native place; his female relations who were his heirs escorted his obsequies. It is said that while these women on the following days were carrying out the due rites they found in the tomb a letter signed with his name and addressed to those on earth, which stated that he had passed from his tomb to the bottom of the earth and that it was a distance of 42,000 stades. Geometricians were forthcoming who construed this to mean that the letter had been sent from the centre of the earth's globe, which was the longest space downward from the surface and was also the centre of the sphere. From this the calculation followed that led them to pronounce the circumference of the globe to be 252,000 stades.

{113.} L   To this measurement the principle of uniformity, which leads to the conclusion that the nature of things is self-consistent, adds 12,000 stades, making the earth the 1/96th part of the whole world.

Book 3



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