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Pliny,   Natural History

-   Book 36 ,   sections 101-204


Translated by D.E.Eichholz (1962), with some minor alterations. Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.


  ← Previous sections (1-100)

{24.} L   [101] But this is indeed the moment for us to pass on to the wonders of our own city, to review the resources derived from the experiences of 800 years, and to show that here too in our buildings we have vanquished the world; and the frequency of this occurrence will be proved to match within a little the number of marvels that we shall describe. If we imagine the whole agglomeration of our buildings massed together and placed on one great heap, we shall see such grandeur towering above us as to make us think that some other world were being described, all concentrated in one single place. [102] Even if we are not to include among our great achievements the Circus Maximus built by Julius Caesar, three stades in length and one in breadth, but with four iugera of buildings and seats for 250,000, should we not mention among our truly noble buildings the Basilica of Paulus, so remarkable for its columns from Phrygia, or the Forum of the deified Augustus or the Temple of Peace built by the Emperor Vespasian Augustus , buildings the most beautiful the world has ever seen? Should we not mention also the roof of Agrippa's Ballot Office, although at Rome long before this the architect Valerius of Ostia had roofed a whole theatre for Libo's games {63 BC}? [103] We admire the pyramids of kings when Julius Caesar gave 100,000,000 sesterces merely for the ground on which his forum was to be built {54 BC}, and Clodius, who was killed by Milo {52 BC}, paid 14,800,000 sesterces (if references to expenditure can impress anyone now that miserliness has become an obsession) just for the house in which he lived. [104] This amazes me for my part just as much as the mad schemes of kings; and therefore I regard the fact that Milo himself incurred debts amounting to 70,000,000 sesterces as one of the oddest manifestations of the human character. But at that time elderly men still admired the vast dimensions of the Rampart { Agger }, the substructures of the Capitol and, furthermore, the city sewers, the most noteworthy achievement of all, seeing that hills were tunnelled and Rome, as we mentioned a little earlier, became a hanging city, beneath which men travelled in boats during Marcus Agrippa's term as aedile after his consulship {33 BC}. [105] Through the city there flow seven rivers meeting in one channel. These, rushing downwards like mountain torrents, are constrained to sweep away and remove everything in their path, and when they are thrust forward by an additional volume of rain water, they batter the bottom and sides of the sewers. Sometimes the backwash of the Tiber floods the sewers and makes its way along them upstream. Then the raging flood waters meet head on within the sewers, and even so the unyielding strength of the fabric resists the strain. [106] In the streets above, massive blocks of stone are dragged along, and yet the tunnels do not cave in. They are pounded by falling buildings, which collapse of their own accord or are brought crashing to the ground by fire. The ground is shaken by earth tremors; but in spite of all, for 700 years from the time of Tarquinius Priscus {616-579 BC}, the channels have remained well-nigh impregnable. We should not fail to mention an occasion that is all the more worthy of record because the best-known historians have overlooked it. [107] Tarquinius Priscus was carrying out the work using the common folk as his labourers, and it became doubtful whether the toil was to be more notable for its intensity or for its duration. Since the citizens were seeking to escape from their exhaustion by committing suicide wholesale, the king devised a strange remedy that was never contrived except on that one occasion. He crucified the bodies of all who had died by their own hands, leaving them to be gazed at by their fellow-citizens and also torn to pieces by beasts and birds of prey. [108] Consequently, the sense of shame, which is so characteristic of the Romans as a nation and has so often restored a desperate situation on the battlefield, then too came to their aid; but this time it imposed upon them at the very moment when they blushed for their honour, since they felt ashamed while alive under the illusion that they would feel equally ashamed when dead. Tarquinius is said to have made the tunnels large enough to allow the passage of a waggon fully loaded with hay.

[109] The works that we have so far mentioned amount in all to little; and before we touch upon fresh topics we will show that just one marvel by itself bears comparison with them all. Our most scrupulous authorities are agreed that in the consulship of Marcus Lepidus and Quintus Catulus {78 BC} as fine a house as any in Rome was that of Lepidus himself; but, I swear, within 35 years the same house was not among the first hundred. [110] Confronted by this assessment, anyone who so wishes may count the cost of the masses of marble, the paintings, the regal budgets, the cost, in fact, of a hundred houses, each of which rivalled one that had been the finest and the most highly appreciated in its time, houses that were themselves to be surpassed by countless others right up to the present day. Fires, we may be sure, are punishments inflicted upon us for our extravagance; and even so, human nature cannot be made to understand that there are things more mortal than man himself.

[111] However, all these houses were surpassed by two. Twice have we seen the whole city girdled by imperial palaces, those of Gaius and Nero, the latter's palace, to crown all, being indeed a House of Gold. Such, doubtless, were the dwellings of those who made this empire great, who went straight from plough or hearth to conquer nations and win triumphs, whose very lands occupied a smaller space than those emperors' sitting-rooms! [112] Indeed, one begins to reflect how small in comparison with those palaces were the building-sites formally granted by the state to invincible generals for their private houses. The highest distinction that these houses displayed was one accorded, for example, after his many services to Publius Valerius Publicola, the first of our consuls along with Lucius Brutus {509 BC}, and to his brother, who also as consul inflicted two crushing defeats on the Sabines. I refer to the additional decree which provided that the doors of their houses should be made to open outwards so that the portals could be flung open on to the public highway. This was the most notable mark of distinction in the houses even of men who had celebrated a triumph.

[113] I shall not allow these two birds of a feather, two Gaiuses or two Neros as you please, to enjoy unchallenged even renown such as this; and so I shall show that even their madness was outdone by the resources of a private individual, Marcus Scaurus, whose aedileship {58 BC} may perhaps have done more than anything to undermine morality, and whose powerful ascendancy may have been a more mischievous achievement on the part of his stepfather Sulla than the killing by proscription of so many thousands of people. [114] As aedile he constructed the greatest of all the works ever made by man, a work that surpassed not merely those erected for a limited period but even those intended to last for ever. This was his theatre, which had a stage arranged in three storeys with 360 columns; and this, if you please, in a community that had not tolerated the presence of six columns of Hymettus marble without reviling a leading citizen. The lowest storey of the stage was of marble, and the middle one of glass (an extravagance unparalleled even in later times), while the top storey was made of gilded planks. The columns of the lowest storey were, as I have stated, each 38 feet high. [115] The bronze statues in the spaces between the columns numbered 3,000, as I mentioned earlier. As for the auditorium, it accommodated 80,000; and yet that of the Theatre of Pompey amply meets all requirements with seats for 40,000 even though the city is so many times larger and the population so much more numerous than it was at that time. The rest of the equipment, with dresses of cloth of gold, scene paintings and other properties was on so lavish a scale that when the surplus knick-knacks that could be put to ordinary use were taken to Scaurus' villa at Tusculum and the villa itself set on fire and burnt down by the indignant servants, the loss was estimated at 30,000,000 sesterces.

[116] Thoughts of this wasteful behaviour distract our attention and force us to leave our intended course, since with this theatre they cause us to associate another, even more frenzied, fantasy in wood. Gaius Curio, who died during the Civil War while fighting on Caesar's side, could not hope, in the entertainment which he provided in honour of his father's funeral, to outstrip Scaurus in the matter of costly embellishments. For where was he to find a stepfather like Sulla or a mother like Metella, who speculated by buying up the property of the proscribed, or a father like Marcus Scaurus, who was for so long a leader in the government and acted for Marius and his cronies as their receiver of goods plundered from the provinces? Even Scaurus himself could no longer have matched his own achievement, for since he had collected his material from all parts of the world, he gained at any rate one advantage from that fire, namely that it was impossible in the future for anyone to emulate his madness. [117] Curio, therefore, had to use his wits and devise some ingenious scheme. It is worth our while to be acquainted with his discovery, and so to be thankful for our modern code of morality and call ourselves 'elders and betters,' reversing the usual meaning of the term. He built close to each other two very large wooden theatres, each poised and balanced on a revolving pivot. During the forenoon, a performance of a play was given in both of them and they faced in opposite directions so that the two casts should not drown each other's words. Then all of a sudden the theatres revolved (and it is agreed that after the first few days they did so with some of the spectators actually remaining in their seats), their corners met, and thus Curio provided an amphitheatre in which he produced fights between gladiators, though they were less at risk than the Roman people itself as it was whirled around by Curio. [118] Truly, what should first astonish one in this, the inventor or the invention, the designer or the sponsor, the fact that a man dared to plan the work, or to undertake it, or to commission it? What will prove to be more amazing than anything is the madness of a people that was bold enough to take its place in such treacherous, rickety seats. Here we have the nation that has conquered the earth, that has subdued the whole world, that distributes tribes and kingdoms, that despatches its dictates to foreign peoples, that is heaven's representative, so to speak, among mankind, swaying on a contraption and applauding its own danger! [119] What a contempt for life this showed! What force now have our complaints of the lives lost at Cannae! What a disaster it could have been! When the earth yawns and cities are engulfed, whole communities grieve. Here the entire Roman people, as if on board two frail boats, was supported by a couple of pivots, and was entertained with the spectacle of its very self risking its life in the fighting arena, doomed, as it was, to perish at some moment or other if the framework were wrenched out of place. [120] And the aim, after all, was merely to win favour for the speeches that Curio would make as tribune {50 BC} , so that he might continue to agitate the swaying voters, since on the speaker's platform he would shrink from nothing in addressing men whom he had persuaded to submit to such treatment. For, if we must confess the truth, it was the whole Roman people that struggled for its life in the arena at the funeral games held at his father's tomb. When the pivots of the theatres were worn and displaced he altered this ostentatious display of his. He kept to the shape of the amphitheatre, and on the final day gave athletic displays on the two stages as they stood back to back across the middle of the arena. Then suddenly the platforms were swept away on either side, and during the same day he brought on those of his gladiators who had won their earlier contests. And Curio was not a king nor an emperor nor, indeed, was he particularly rich, seeing that his only financial asset was the feud that had arisen between the heads of state.

[121] But we must go on to describe marvels which are unsurpassed in virtue of their genuine value. Quintus Marcius Rex, having been ordered by the senate to repair the conduits of the day Aqua Appia, the Anio, and the Tepula, drove underground passages through the mountains and brought to Rome a new water-supply called by his own name and completed within the period of his praetorship {144/3 BC}. Agrippa, moreover, as aedile added to these the Aqua Virgo, repaired the channels of the others and put them in order, and constructed 700 basins, not to speak of 500 fountains and 130 distribution-reservoirs, many of the latter being richly decorated. He erected on these works 300 bronze or marble statues and 400 marble pillars; and all of this he carried out in a year. He himself in the memoirs of his aedileship adds that in celebration games lasting for 59 days were held, and the bathing establishments were thrown open to the public free of charge, all 170 of them, a number which at Rome has now been infinitely increased. [122] But all previous aqueducts have been surpassed by the most recent and very costly work inaugurated by the Emperor Gaius and completed by Claudius, inasmuch as the Curtian and Caerulean Springs, as well as the Anio Novus, were made to flow into Rome from the 40th milestone at such a high level as to supply water to all the seven hills of the city, the sum spent on the work amounting to 350,000,000 sesterces. [123] If we take into careful consideration the abundant supplies of water in public buildings, baths, pools, open channels, private houses, gardens and country estates near the city; if we consider the distances traversed by the water before it arrives, the raising of arches, the tunnelling of mountains and the building of level routes across deep valleys, we shall readily admit that there has never been anything more remarkable in the whole world. [124] One of the most remarkable achievements of the same emperor, Claudius, neglected, though it was, by his malicious successor, is, in my opinion at least, the channel that he dug through a mountain to drain the Fucine Lake. This, I need hardly say, entailed the expenditure of an indescribably large sum of money and the employment for many years of a horde of workers because, where earth formed the interior of the mountain, the water channel had to be cleared by lifting the spoil to the top of the shafts on hoists and everywhere else solid rock had to be cut away, and operations underground (and how vast they were!) had to be carried out in darkness, operations which only those who witnessed them can envisage and no human utterance can describe. [125] Incidentally, I must forbear to mention the harbour works at Ostia, and likewise the roads driven through hills in cuttings, the moles that were built to separate the Tyrrhenian Sea from the Lucrine Lake, and all the bridges erected at such great cost. Among the many marvels of Italy itself is one for which the accomplished natural scientist Papirius Fabianus vouches, namely that marble actually grows in its quarries; and the quarrymen, moreover, assert that the scars on the mountain sides fill up of their own accord. If this is true, there is reason to hope that there will always be marble sufficient to satisfy luxury's demands.

{25.} L   [126] As we pass from marble to the other remarkable varieties of stone, no one can doubt that it is the magnet that first of all comes to mind. For what is more strange than this stone? In what field has Nature displayed a more perverse wilfulness? She has given to rocks a voice which, as I have explained, echoes that of man, or rather interrupts it as well. What is more impassive than the stiffness of stone? And yet we see that she has endowed the magnet with senses and hands. What is more recalcitrant than the hardness of iron? [127] We see that she has bestowed on it feet and instincts. For iron is attracted by the magnet, and the substance that vanquishes all other things rushes into a kind of vacuum and, as it approaches the magnet, it leaps towards it and is held by it and clasped in its embrace. And so the magnet is called by the Greeks by another name, the 'iron stone,' and by some of them the 'stone of Heracles.' According to Nicander, it was called 'magnes' from the name of its discover, who found it on Mount Ida. Incidentally, it is to be found in many places, including Spain. However, the story goes that Magnes discovered the stone when the nails of his sandals and the tip of his staff stuck to it as he was pasturing his herds. Sotacus describes five kinds of magnet: [128] an Ethiopian; another from Magnesia, which borders on Macedonia and is on the traveller's right as he makes for Iolcus from Boebe; a third from Hyettus in Boeotia; a fourth from the neighbourhood of Alexandria in the Troad; and a fifth from Magnesia in Asia Minor. The most important distinction is between the male and female varieties, while the next lies in their colour. Those found in the Magnesia that is close to Macedonia are red and black, whereas the Boeotian have more red than black in them. Those found in the Troad are black and female, and therefore exert no force, while the most worthless kind is that of Magnesia in Asia Minor, which is white, has no power of attracting iron and resembles pumice. It has been ascertained that, the bluer a magnet is, the better it is. The palm goes to the Ethiopian variety, which in the market is worth its weight in silver. [129] It is found in the sandy district of Ethiopia known as Zmiris. There, too, is found the haematite magnet, which is blood-red in colour and, when ground, produces not only blood-red but also saffron-yellow powder. But haematite has not the same property of attracting iron as the magnet. The test of an Ethiopian magnet is its ability to attract another magnet to itself. [130] All magnets, incidentally, are useful for making up eye-salves if each is used in its correct quantity, and are particularly effective in stopping acute watering of the eyes. They also cure burns when ground and calcined. Also in Ethiopia and at no great distance is another mountain, (the ore from) which on the contrary repels and rejects all iron. Both of these properties have already been discussed by me on several occasions.

{26.} L   It is said that a stone from the island of Syros floats on the waves, but that it sinks when it has been broken into small pieces.

{27.} L   [131] At Assos in the Troad we find the Sarcophagus stone, which splits along a line of cleavage. It is well known that corpses buried in it are consumed within a period of forty days, except for the teeth: Mucianus vouches for the fact that mirrors, scrapers, clothes and shoes placed upon the dead bodies are turned to stone as well. There are similar stones both in Lycia and in the East; and these, when attached even to living persons, eat away their bodies.

{28.} L   [132] However, there are stones that are gentler in their effects in that they preserve a body without consuming it, for example, the 'chernites,' which closely resembles ivory and is said to be the material of which the coffin of Darius is said to have been made, and, again, a stone called 'porus,' which is similar to Parian marble in whiteness and hardness, only not so heavy. Theophrastus is our authority also for a translucent Egyptian stone said by him to be similar to Chian marble. Such a stone may have existed in his time: stones cease to be found and new ones are discovered in turn.

The stone of Assos, which has a salty taste, relieves gout if the feet are plunged into a vessel hollowed out of it. Moreover, all affections of the legs are cured in the quarries where it is hewn, whereas in all mines the legs are attacked by ailments. [133] Belonging to the same stone is what is called the efflorescence, which is soft enough to form powder and is just as effective as the stone for certain purposes. It looks, incidentally, like reddish pumice. Combined with Cyprian wax it cures affections of the breasts, and, if mixed with pitch or resin, disperses scrofulous sores and superficial abscesses. Taken as an electuary it is also good for consumption. When blended with honey, it causes scars to form over chronic sores, reduces excrescences of flesh and dries up matter discharging from a bite when it will not yield to other treatment. In cases of gout a plaster is made of it with an admixture of bean-meal.

{29.} L   [134] Theophrastus, again, and Mucianus express the opinion that there are certain stones that give birth to other stones. Theophrastus states also that fossil ivory coloured black and white is found, that bones are produced from the earth and that stones resembling bones come to light.

In the neighbourhood of Munda in Spain, the place where Julius Caesar defeated Cn. Pompeius {45 BC}, occur stones containing the likeness of a palm branch, which appears whenever they are broken. There are also black stones, like that of Taenarum, that have come to be esteemed as much as any marble. [135] Varro states that black stones from Africa are harder than the Italian, but that, on the other hand, the white stone of Cora is harder than that of Paros. He mentions too that the stone of Luna can be cut with a saw, that Tusculan stone is split by fire and that the dark Sabine variety actually becomes bright if oil is poured on it. Varro also assures us that rotary querns have been found at Volsinii; and we find in records of miraculous occurrences that some querns have even moved of their own accord.

{30.} L   [136] Nowhere are more serviceable millstones to be found than in Italy, for here they are proper stones and not lumps of rock. In certain provinces, however, they are not found at all. Some stones of this kind are quite soft and can be smoothed also with a whetstone, so that from a distance they may be mistaken for serpentine. No other stones are more durable than millstones; for, as with wood, it is characteristic of stones of one sort or another to be unable to stand rain, sun or wintry weather. Some are affected even by the moon, while others acquire a patina in course of time or lose their white colour when treated with oil.

[137] Some people call a millstone 'pyrites,' or 'fire-stone,' because there is a great amount of fire in it. However, there is another 'pyrites' which is similar, only more porous, and yet another which resembles copper. It is claimed that in the mines near Acamas in Cyprus two kinds of pyrites are found, one having the colour of silver and the other of gold. There are several ways of roasting the mineral. Some roast it two or three times with honey until the moisture is consumed, whereas others roast it first on hot coals and then with honey. Afterwards, it is washed like copper. The varieties of pyrites are used in pharmacy for their warming, drying, dispersing and reducing effects, and also to cause indurations to discharge their matter. They are also used raw, in the form of powder, for treating scrofulous sores and boils. [138] Some writers class as 'pyrites' yet another kind of stone that contains a great quantity of fire. Stones known as 'live stones' are extremely heavy and are indispensable to reconnaissance parties preparing a camp-site. When struck with a nail or another stone they give off a spark, and if this is caught on sulphur or else on dry fungi or leaves it produces a flame instantaneously.

{31.} L   [139] The 'ostracites,' or 'potsherd stone,' resembles a potsherd and is used instead of pumice as a depilatory. Taken as a draught it arrests bleeding and applied as an ointment with honey cures sores and pains in the breasts. 'Amiantus,' which looks like alum, is quite indestructible by fire. It affords protection against all spells, especially those of the Magi.

{32.} L   [140] Geodes receive their name in token of their earthy character, since earth is enclosed within them. They are of great use as ingredients of eye-salves and also in treating affections of the breasts and testicles.

{33.} L   The 'melitinus' stone exudes a liquid that is sweet and is like honey. When pounded and mixed with wax it cures acute catarrh, spots on the skin and sore throats, and removes sores on the eyelids; and if applied on a wool dressing it causes pains in the uterus to disappear.

{34.} L   [141] Jet derives its name from a district and a river in Lycia known as Gages. It is said also to be washed up by the sea on the promontory of Leucolla and to be gathered at places up to a distance of a mile and a half. Jet is black, smooth, porous, light, not very different from wood, and brittle, and has an unpleasant smell when rubbed. Anything inscribed in it on earthenware is indelible. When it is burnt it gives off a smell like that of sulphur. What is remarkable is that it is ignited by water and quenched by oil. [142] The kindling of jet drives off snakes and relieves suffocation of the uterus. Its fumes detect attempts to simulate a disabling illness or a state of virginity. Moreover, when thoroughly boiled with wine it cures toothache and, if combined with wax, scrofulous tumours. The Magi are said to make use of it in what they call 'divination by axes' and they assert it will not burn away completely if a wish is destined to come true.

{35.} L   [143] Sponge stones are found in sponges, and therefore belong to the sea. They are sometimes called in Greek stone-solvents because they cure affections of the bladder and break up stone in it if they are taken in wine.

{36.} L   Phrygian stone is so called from the people of that name and occurs as porous lumps. After being soaked in wine it is roasted, and bellows are used to fan it until it turns red, whereupon it is quenched with sweet wine, and the process is repeated three times on each occasion. It is of use only in dyeing garments.

{37.} L   [144] 'Schistos' and haematite are closely related. Haematite is found in mines, and when roasted reproduces the colour of red-lead. It is roasted in the same way as the Phrygian stone, except that it is not quenched with wine. It can be counterfeited, but genuine haematite is distinguished by its occurrence as red veins and by its friable character. [145] It is extraordinarily good for bloodshot eyes, and checks excessive menstruation if it is taken as a draught. It is drunk also, with pomegranate juice added, by patients who have brought up blood. A draught of it is an effective remedy for bladder trouble; moreover, if it is taken in wine it is an antidote for snakebites. All these properties exist, but in a weaker form, in the substance known as 'schistos.' Among its varieties, the more suitable is like saffron in colour. Mixed with human milk it is a specific for filling cavities left by sores. It is also admirable for reducing protruding eyes. Such is the consensus of opinion among the most recent writers.

{38.} L   [146] Among the oldest authorities Sotacus records five kinds of haematite, apart from the magnet. Of these, the Ethiopian receives from him the first place, a variety which is very useful for making up eye-salves and what the Greeks call 'universal remedies,' as well as being effective for burns. The second is, according to him, known as man-tamer, black in colour and exceptionally heavy and hard: hence its name. It is found mainly in Africa and attracts silver, copper and iron. [147] The method of testing it is to rub it on a whetstone of slate, when, if genuine, it gives off a blood-red smear. It is a capital remedy for affections of the liver. The third kind, according to Sotacus' reckoning, is the Arabian, which is similarly hard and produces scarcely any smear on a hone used with water although on occasion there is a saffron-coloured smear. The fourth kind, so he says, is known as 'liver ore' in its natural state, and as 'ruddle ore' when it is roasted. It is useful for treating burns and more useful than ruddle for any purpose. The fifth is 'schistos,' and this when taken as a draught reduces piles. [148] Sotacus goes on to say that three drachmas of any haematite pounded in oil should be swallowed on an empty stomach to counteract blood ailments. He also describes a 'schistos' different in kind from the haematite 'schistos' and known as anthracite. He states that it is a black stone found in Africa and that, when it is rubbed on a water hone, what was originally the lower end produces a black mark and the other end a saffron-coloured one. According to him, it is useful by itself for making up eye-salves.

{39.} L   [149] Eagle stones have acquired a reputation owing to the associations aroused by the term. As I have already stated in the tenth book { 10.12 }, they are found in eagles' nests. It is said that they are found in pairs, a male and a female, and that without them the eagles in question cannot produce young: hence there is only a pair of stones. There are four kinds of eagle stones. One kind found in Africa is small and soft, and carries inside it, as though in a womb, a pleasing white clay. The stone itself is liable to crumble and is considered to be female, while a kind that occurs in Arabia and is hard, coloured like an oak gall or else reddish in appearance and containing a hard stone in its hollow centre, is regarded as a male. [150] A third kind found in Cyprus is similar in colour to those of Africa, but is larger and elongated, the shape of all other kinds being spherical. It carries inside it an agreeable kind of sand and small nodules, while the stone itself is soft enough to be crumbled merely with one's fingers. The fourth kind, known as the Taphiusian, occurs not far from the island of Leucas in Taphiusa, a district that lies to the right as one sails to Leucas from Ithaca. It is found as a white, round stone in streams. In its hollow centre is a stone known as the 'callimus,' but no trace of earthy matter. [151] Eagle stones, wrapped in the skins of animals that have been sacrificed, are worn as amulets by women or four-footed creatures during pregnancy so as to prevent a miscarriage. They must not be removed except at the moment of delivery: otherwise, there will be a prolapse of the uterus. On the other hand, if they were not removed during delivery no birth would take place.

{40.} L   [152] There is also the stone of Samos, found in the island of that name, the earth from which we have already had occasion to praise. The stone is useful as a gold polish, while in pharmacy, if it is mixed with milk in the manner described above, it is good for ophthalmic ulcers and chronic watering of the eyes. When taken as a draught it also counteracts stomach ailments, relieves giddiness and corrects disturbances of the mind. Some doctors hold that it can be administered with benefit in cases of epilepsy and strangury. Moreover, it is mixed with other ingredients in embrocations to relieve fatigue. The test of its genuineness is based upon its weight and white colour. Worn as an amulet, it is claimed to prevent a miscarriage.

{41.} L   [153] The Arabian stone, which resembles ivory, can, if calcined, be suitably used as a tooth powder. But, in particular, it cures piles if combined with lint or placed on a linen dressing locally applied.

{42.} L   [154] We must not forget to discuss also the characteristics of pumice. This name, of course, is given to the hollowed rocks in the buildings called by the Greeks 'Homes of the Muses', where such rocks hang from the ceilings so as to create an artificial imitation of a cave. But as for the pumice which is used as a depilatory for women, and nowadays also for men, and moreover, as Catullus reminds us, for books, the finest quality occurs in Melos, Nisyros, and the Aeolian Islands. [155] The test of its quality is that it should be white, very light in weight, extremely porous and dry, and easy to grind, without being sandy when rubbed. In pharmacy it has a reducing and drying effect. It is calcined three times in a fire of pure charcoal and quenched the same number of times in white wine. It is then washed like cadmea, and having been dried is stored in a place as free from damp as possible. The powder is used mostly for eye-salves, [156] since it gently cleanses ophthalmic ulcers and heals them, and removes the scars. Incidentally, some pharmacists, after calcining the pumice three times, prefer to let it cool rather than quench it, and then to pound it mixed with wine. It is added also to poultices, and is then most useful for treating sores on the head or the private parts. Tooth powders, too, are prepared from it. Theophrastus assures us that topers competing in drinking contests first take a dose of the powder, but states that they run a grave risk unless they fill themselves with wine at a single draught. He adds that the cooling properties of pumice are so powerful that new wine stops bubbling when pumice is added to it.

{43.} L   [157] Our authorities have been interested also in stones used for making mortars; and I do not mean merely mortars used for pounding drugs or grinding pigments. Among such stones, they give the first place to the Etesian and the second to that of the Thebaid which I have already cited as the 'pyrrhopoecilos' { 36.63 }, or 'the stone with the red spots,' and some people call 'psaros,' 'the speckled stone'.

The third place they award to the touchstone of rock resembling hail, or for medical purposes to one of siliceous slate. For this latter stone yields nothing from its own substance. Stones which produce a smear are considered to be useful for making up eye-salves: hence the Ethiopian is most highly valued for this purpose. [158] The stone of Taenarum, the Phoenician stone and haematite are said to be good for preparing prescriptions that contain saffron. But mortars made of another stone from Taenarum, a black marble, or of Parian marble are not so useful to doctors, so we are told, better ones being made of onyx marble from Egypt or of white serpentine. For there is such a species of serpentine, and vessels and boxes also are made of it.

{44.} L   [159] In the island of Siphnos there is a stone that is hollowed out and turned on the lathe so as to form cooking utensils or tableware; and this I myself know to be the case also with the green stone of Comum in Italy. The Siphnian stone, however, has a peculiarity of its own in that when thoroughly heated with oil it becomes black and hard, whereas naturally it is very soft. Such are the diverse properties to be found in one substance. Incidentally, exceptional instances of soft stones occur beyond the Alps. In the province of Belgic Gaul a white stone is said to be cut with a saw, just like wood, only even more easily, so as to serve as ordinary roof tiles and as rain tiles or, if so desired, as the kind of roofing known as 'peacock-style.'

{45.} L   [160] These stones, then, can be cut with a saw. However, the specular stone (for even this substance ranks as a stone) has a far more amenable character which allows it to be split into plates as thin as may be wished. Formerly it was produced only in Hither Spain, and even then not in the whole of the province, but merely within an area of a hundred miles around the city of Segobriga. Nowadays supplies come too from Cyprus, Cappadocia, Sicily and, a recent discovery, from Africa. However, all these kinds are inferior to that of Spain: Cappadocia produces the largest pieces, but they lack transparency. [161] Moreover, in the region of Bononia in Italy small streaks occur tightly embedded within hard rock; and yet they are large enough for their essential similarity to the rest to be unmistakable. In Spain the specular stone is dug at a great depth by means of shafts; and it is found too just beneath the surface enclosed in rock, in which case it has to be torn away or cut out; but for the most part its formation allows it to be dug, since it occurs in isolation as rough blocks. No piece exceeding five feet in length has hitherto been discovered. It is palpably obvious that we have here a liquid which, like rock-crystal, has been frozen and petrified by an exhalation in the earth, because when wild animals fall down the shafts just mentioned the marrow in their bones after a single winter takes on the appearance of this self-same stone. [162] On occasion a black variety of the stone is also found, but it is the bright kind, notoriously soft though it may be, that has a remarkable property of withstanding the effects of hot and cold weather. Moreover, provided that it escapes abuse, it does not deteriorate, although this is apt to happen even with blocks of many varieties of stone. A further use has been devised for the specular stone in the shape of the shavings and flakes strewn on the surface of the Circus Maximus during the Games to produce an attractively bright effect.

{46.} L   [163] During Nero's principate there was discovered in Cappadocia a stone as hard as marble, white and, even where deep-yellow veins occurred, translucent. In token of its appearance it was called 'phengites' or the 'Luminary Stone.' Of this stone Nero rebuilt the temple of Fortuna, known as the shrine of Sejanus, but originally consecrated by King Servius Tullius {578-535 BC} and incorporated by Nero in his Golden House. Thanks to this stone, in the daytime it was as light as day in the temple, even when the doors were shut; but the effect was not that of windows of specular stone, since the light was, so to speak, trapped within rather than allowed to penetrate from without. According to Juba, there exists in Arabia too a stone that is transparent like glass, and is used as window panes.

{47.} L   [164] It is now high time to pass on to stones used in industry, and first of all to whetstones intended for sharpening iron. Of these there are many varieties. Cretan whetstones for long enjoyed the highest reputation, the second place being held by the Laconian from Mount Taygetus. Both kinds need to be lubricated with oil. Among those used with water the Naxian came first in merit, and then the Armenian, both of which were mentioned earlier. Cilician whetstones are effective if used with oil and water mixed, and those of Arsinoe if used with water alone. [165] In Italy too there have been discovered whetstones which, when used with water, extract a sharp edge and operate most keenly, as well as beyond the Alps, where they are known as 'passernices.' The fourth method of operation is that adopted for the hones which are so useful in barbers' shops - lubrication by means of human saliva. The Laminitanian hones from Hither Spain are outstanding in this class.

{48.} L   [166] Of the numerous stones that remain to be considered, tufa is unsuitable for building construction because of its short life and its softness. However, some localities, for example Carthage in Africa have no other stone to offer. It is eaten away by evaporation from the sea, rubbed by wind. and lashed and scarred by rain. But the Carthaginians are careful to protect their house walls by coating them with pitch; for lime plaster is another thing that erodes tufa. Hence the witty remark that people there treat their buildings with pitch and their wine with lime, since that is how they temper their new wine. [167] Other soft varieties are found near Rome in the neighbourhood of Fidenae and Alba. In Umbria and Venetia, moreover, there is a white stone that can be cut with a toothed saw. These stones, besides being easy to work, can also bear a heavy load, provided that they are under cover. When exposed to spray, frost or rime they break up into slabs, nor do they show much resistance to sea breezes. Travertine is split by heat, although it stands up to all other forces.

{49.} L   [168] The best silex is the black variety, although in certain localities it is the red that is best, and in several places even the white, as in the Anician quarries round the Lake of Vulsinii near Tarquinii or, again, in the neighbourhood of Statonia, the stone from these two places being immune even to fire. The same two varieties are, moreover, used for sculpture on monuments, where they offer the added advantage of remaining untouched by the ravages of time. Of these stones are made the moulds in which bronze implements are cast. [169] There is also a green stone that strongly resists fire, but it is nowhere plentiful and, where it is found, occurs in pieces and not in a mass. Of the remaining varieties, the pale silex can only occasionally be used for rough walling, while the rounded kind stands up to hard abuse, but is unreliable for building purposes unless it is bonded with large quantities of mortar. The silex found in rivers is no more reliable, always giving the impression of being thoroughly damp.

{50.} L   [170] When stone is of doubtful quality the remedy is to quarry it in the summer and to lay it only after it has been subjected to weathering for at least two years. Those stones of this class that have been damaged by such treatment may be more profitably incorporated in masonry lying below ground-level, while those that have withstood weathering can be safely exposed even to the sky.

{51.} L   [171] The Greeks build house-walls, as though they were using brick, of hard stone or silex dressed to a uniform thickness. When they follow this procedure the style of masonry is what they call 'isodomos,' or 'masonry with equal courses.' When the courses laid are of varying thickness the style is known as 'pseudisodomos' a spurious variety of the former. A third style is the 'emplectos' or 'interwoven,' in which only the faces are dressed, the rest of the material being laid at random. [172] It is essential that joints should be made to alternate in such a way that the middle of a stone covers the vertical joint in the course last laid. This should be done even in the core of the wall if circumstances permit, and failing this, at least on the faces. When the core of the wall is packed with rubble, the style is 'diatonicos,' 'with single stones stretching from face to face.' 'Network masonry,' which is very commonly used in buildings at Rome, is liable to crack. All masonry should be laid to rule and level, and should be absolutely perpendicular when tested with a plummet.

{52.} L   [173] Cisterns should be made of five parts of clean, coarse sand to two of the hottest possible quicklime, together with pieces of silex each weighing not more than a pound. The floor and walls built of this material should all alike be beaten with iron bars. It is better to build cisterns in pairs so that impurities may settle in the first, and water pass through a filter purified into the adjoining one.

{53.} L   [174] As for lime, Cato the censor disapproves of preparing it from variegated limestone, for white limestone produces a better quality. Lime made from a hard stone is more effective for walling, while that made from porous limestone is more suitable for plastering. Lime manufactured from silex is condemned for both purposes. Again, it is more serviceable if it is produced from quarried stone than from stones collected on the banks of rivers. A superior kind is made from stones used for querns, for they have a certain unctuous character. Lime possesses one remarkable quality: once it has been burnt, its heat is increased by water.

{54.} L   [175] Of sand, there are three varieties: there is quarry sand, to which has to be added one-quarter of its weight in lime; and river or alternatively sea sand, to which must be added one-third. If one-third of crushed potsherds also is added, the material will be improved. No quarry sand is found from the Apennines as far as the Po, nor does it occur overseas.

{55.} L   [176] The chief reason for the collapse of buildings in Rome is the purloining of lime, as the result of which the rough stones are laid on each other without any proper mortar. It is also a fact that the slurry improves with keeping. In the old building laws is to be found a regulation that no contractor is to use a slurry that is less than three years old. Consequently, old plaster work was never disfigured by cracks. Stucco never possesses the required brilliance unless three coats of sand mortar and two of marble stucco are laid on. Buildings exposed to damp or erected in a locality where they may be affected by moisture from the sea may with profit be given an undercoat of plaster made from pounded potsherds. [177] In Greece sand mortar for plaster work is, furthermore, worked up in a trough with wooden poles before it is spread. The test for ascertaining that marble stucco has been worked to the correct consistency is that it should no longer stick to the trowel, while in whitewashing the test is that the slaked lime should stick like glue. Slaking should always be carried out when the lime is in lumps. At Elis there is a temple of Minerva in which, it is said, Panaenus, the brother of Pheidias, applied plaster that had been worked with milk and saffron. The result is that even today, if one wets one's thumb with saliva and rubs it on the plaster, the latter still gives off the smell and taste of saffron.

{56.} L   [178] As for columns, identical ones appear to increase in thickness merely by being placed more closely together. There are four kinds of columns. Columns the height of which is six times their lower diameter are the so-called Doric. Those in which the height is nine times the lower diameter are the Ionic; and those in which it is seven times the Tuscan. Corinthian columns have the same proportions as the Ionic except that the height of the Corinthian capitals equals the lower diameter, so that they appear to be more slender than the Ionic, where the height of the capital is a third of the lower diameter. [179] In ancient times a proportion observed was that the breadth of a temple should be three times the height of the columns. It was in the earlier Temple of Artemis at Ephesus that columns were for the first time mounted on moulded bases and crowned with capitals, and it was decided that the lower diameter of the columns should be one-eighth of their height, that the height of the moulded bases should be one-half of the lower diameter and that the lower diameter should exceed the upper diameter by a seventh. Another kind of column is that known as the Attic, which is quadrangular and equilateral.

{57.} L   [180] Lime is commonly used also in pharmacy, preferably when freshly calcined and unslaked. It has caustic, dispersive and drawing effects, and checks an onset of ulcers which shows signs of spreading quickly. It brings about the formation of scars when it is mixed as a liniment with vinegar and rose oil and is later blended with wax and rose oil. It is a cure also for dislocations when applied with liquid resin or pork fat mixed with honey, and the same mixture, moreover, cures scrofulous sores.

{58.} L   [181] Maltha is prepared from freshly calcined lime, a lump of which is slaked in wine and then pounded together with pork fat and figs, both of which are softening agents. Maltha is the most adhesive of substances and grows harder than stone. Anything that is treated with it is first thoroughly rubbed with olive oil.

{59.} L   [182] There is an affinity between lime and gypsum, a substance of which there are several varieties. For it can be produced from a heated mineral, as in Syria and Thurii; it can be dug from the earth, as in Cyprus and Perrhaebia. There is also that of Tymphaea, which is stripped from the earth's surface. The mineral that is heated ought to be like onyx marble or crystalline limestone. In Syria the hardest stones possible are selected for the purpose and are heated along with cow dung so that the burning may be accelerated. However, it has been discovered that the best kind is prepared from specular stone or from stone that flakes in the same way. [183] Gypsum, when moistened, should be used instantly, since it coheres with great rapidity. However, there is nothing to prevent it from being pounded and reduced again to a fine powder. Gypsum is a serviceable whitewash and is used with pleasing effect for making moulded figures and festoons in architecture. A famous story carries with it something of a warning: we are told that Gaius Proculeius, a man who could rest assured of his close friendship with the Emperor Augustus, committed suicide by swallowing gypsum when he was suffering from severe pains in the stomach.

{60.} L   [184] Paved floors originated among the Greeks and were skilfully embellished with a kind of paint-work until this was superseded by mosaics. In this latter field the most famous exponent was Sosus, who at Pergamum laid the floor of what is known in Greek as 'the Unswept Room' because, by means of small cubes tinted in various shades, he represented on the floor refuse from the dinner table and other sweepings, making them appear as if they had been left there. A remarkable detail in the picture is a dove, which is drinking and casts the shadow of its head on the water, while others are sunning and preening themselves on the brim of a large drinking vessel.

{61.} L   [185] The original paved floors, in my belief, were those now known to us as 'foreign' and 'indoor' floors. In Italy these were beaten with staves: at any rate, this is what the name itself may imply. At Rome the first floor with a diamond pattern was constructed in the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus after the beginning of the Third Punic War {149 BC}; but tessellated pavements had already become common and extremely popular before the Cimbrian War {113-101 BC}, as is shown by the famous verse from Lucilius:
  With paver's skill and wavy inset stones.  

{62.} L   [186] Open-air flooring was an invention of the Greeks, who roof their houses in this way, an easy method to use in regions with a warm climate, but unreliable wherever there is heavy rainfall and frost. It is essential that two sets of joists should be laid across each other, and that their ends should be nailed down to avoid warping. To fresh rubble should be added a third of its weight in pounded potsherds; and then the rubble, mixed with two-fifths of its weight in lime, should be rammed down to a thickness of one foot. [187] After this, a final coat 4 inches thick must be applied to the rubble and large square stones not less than 1 inches thick laid on it. A fall of 1 inches in 10 feet should be maintained and the surface carefully polished with grindstones. It is considered impracticable to lay the wood floor with oak planks, because they warp; and, furthermore, it is thought advisable to spread a layer of fern or straw below the rubble so that the worst effects of the quicklime may not reach the planks. It is essential also to lay a foundation of round pebbles under the rubble. Tiled floors with a herring-bone pattern are constructed in a similar fashion.

{63.} L   [188] There is still one kind of floor that we must not fail to mention, namely the Graecanicum or 'Greek style.' The ground is well rammed and rubble or a layer of pounded potsherds laid on it. Then charcoal is trodden into a compact mass, and on top of this is spread a mixture of coarse sand, lime and ashes to a thickness of 6 inches. This is carefully finished to rule and level, and has the appearance of earth. But if it is smoothed with a grindstone it will pass for a black stone floor.

{64.} L   [189] Mosaics came into use as early as Sulla's regime. At all events, there exists even today one made of very small cubes which he installed in the Temple of Fortune at Praeneste. After that, ordinary tessellated floors were driven from the ground level and found a new home in vaulted ceilings, being now made of glass. Here too we have a recent invention. At any rate, Agrippa, in the Baths that he built at Rome, painted the terracotta work of the hot rooms in encaustic and decorated the rest with whitewash, although he would certainly have built vaults of glass if such a device had already been invented or else had been extended from the walls of a stage, such as that of Scaurus which we have described, to vaulted ceilings. And so we must now proceed to explain also the nature of glass.

{65.} L   [190] That part of Syria which is known as Phoenicia and borders on Judaea contains a swamp called Candebia amid the lower slopes of Mount Carmel. This is supposed to be the source of the River Belus, which after traversing a distance of 5 miles flows into the sea near the colony of Ptolemais. Its current is sluggish and its waters are unwholesome to drink, although they are regarded as holy for ritual purposes. The river is muddy and flows in a deep channel, revealing its sands only when the tide ebbs. For it is not until they have been tossed by the waves and cleansed of impurities that they glisten. [191] Moreover, it is only at that moment, when they are thought to be affected by the sharp, astringent properties of the brine, that they become fit for use. The beach stretches for not more than half a mile, and yet for many centuries the production of glass depended on this area alone. There is a story that once a ship belonging to some traders in natural soda put in here and that they scattered along the shore to prepare a meal. Since, however, no stones suitable for supporting their cauldrons were forthcoming, they rested them on lumps of soda from their cargo. When these became heated and were completely mingled with the sand on the beach a strange translucent liquid flowed forth in streams; and this, it is said, was the origin of glass.

{66.} L   [192] Next, as was to be expected, man's inventive skill was no longer content to mix only soda with the sand. He began to introduce the magnet stone also, since there is a belief that it attracts to itself molten glass no less than iron. Similarly, lustrous stones of many kinds came to be burnt with the melt and, then again, shells and quarry sand. Authorities state that in India glass is made also of broken rock-crystal and that for this reason no glass can compare with that of India. [193] To resume, a fire of light, dry wood is used for preparing the melt, to which are added copper and soda, preferably Egyptian soda. Glass, like copper, is smelted in a series of furnaces, and dull black lumps are formed. Molten glass is everywhere so sharp that, before there is the least sensation, it cuts to the bone any part of the body on which it splutters. After being reduced to lumps, the glass is again fused in the workshop and is tinted. Some of it is shaped by blowing, some machined on a lathe and some chased like silver. Sidon was once famous for its glassworks, since, apart from other achievements, glass mirrors were invented there.

[194] This was the old method of producing glass. Now, however, in Italy too a white sand which forms in the River Volturno is found along 6 miles of the seashore between Cumae and Liternum. Wherever it is softest, it is taken to be ground in a mortar or mill. Then it is mixed with three parts of soda, either by weight or by measure, and after being fused is taken in its molten state to other furnaces. There it forms a lump known in Greek as 'sand-soda.' This is again melted and forms pure glass, and is indeed a lump of clear colourless glass. Nowadays sand is similarly blended also in the Gallic and Spanish provinces. [195] There is a story that in the reign of Tiberius there was invented a method of blending glass so as to render it flexible. The artist's workshop was completely destroyed for fear that the value of metals such as copper, silver and gold would otherwise be lowered. Such is the story, which, however, has for a long period been current through frequent repetition rather than authentic. But this is of little consequence, seeing that in Nero's principate there was discovered a technique of glass-making that resulted in two quite small cups of the kind then known as 'petroti' or 'stoneware' fetching a sum of 6,000 sesterces.

{67.} L   [196] In our classification of glass we include also 'obsian' ware, so named from its resemblance to the stone found by Obsius in Ethiopia. This stone is very dark in colour and sometimes translucent, but has a cloudier appearance than glass, so that when it is used for mirrors attached to walls it reflects shadows rather than images. Gems are frequently made of it, and we have seen also the solid obsidian statues of the deified Augustus, for the substance can yield pieces bulky enough for this purpose. Augustus himself dedicated as a curiosity four elephants of obsidian in the temple of Concord, [197] while the Emperor Tiberius for his part restored to the cult of the Sun-god at Heliopolis an obsidian statue of Menelaus which he found included in a legacy from one Seius who had been governor of Egypt. This statue proves that the origin of the stone, which is nowadays misrepresented because of its similarity to the glass, is of an earlier date. Xenocrates records that obsidian is found in India, in Italy within the territory of the Samnites and in Spain near the shores of the Atlantic. [198] There is also the artificial 'obsian' glass which is used as a material for tableware, this being produced by a colouring process, as is also the case with a completely red, opaquely glass called in Greek blood-red ware. There is, furthermore, opaque white glass and others that reproduce the appearance of fluorspar, blue sapphires or lapis lazuli, and, indeed, glass exists in any colour. There is no other material nowadays that is more pliable or more adaptable, even to painting. However, the most highly valued glass is colourless and transparent, as closely as possible resembling rock-crystal. [199] But although for making drinking vessels the use of glass has indeed ousted metals such as gold and silver, it cannot bear heat unless cold fluid is first poured into it; and yet glass globes containing water become so hot when they face the sun that they can set clothes on fire. Pieces of broken glass can, when heated to a moderate temperature, be stuck together, but that is all. They can never again be completely melted except into globules separate from each other, as happens in the making of the glass pebbles that are sometimes nicknamed 'eyeballs' and in some cases have a variety of colours arranged in several different patterns. Glass, when boiled with sulphur, coalesces into the consistency of stone.

{68.} L   [200] And now that we have described everything that depends upon man's talent for making art reproduce nature, we cannot help marvelling that there is almost nothing that is not brought to a finished state by means of fire. Fire takes this or that sand, and melts it, according to the locality, into glass, silver, cinnabar, lead of one kind or another, pigments or drugs. It is fire that smelts ore into copper, fire that produces iron and also tempers it, fire that purifies gold, fire that burns the stone which causes the blocks in buildings to cohere. [201] There are other substances that may be profitably burnt several times; and the same substance can produce something different after a first, a second or a third firing. Even charcoal itself begins to acquire its special property only after it has been fired and quenched: when we presume it to be dead it is growing in vitality. Fire is a vast, unruly element, and one which causes us to doubt whether it is more a destructive or a creative force.

{69.} L   [202] Fire even by itself has a curative power. It is well established that epidemics caused by an eclipse of the sun are alleviated in many ways by the lighting of bonfires. Empedocles and Hippocrates have proved this in various passages of their writings. 'For abdominal cramp or bruises,' states Marcus Varro, and I quote his very words, 'your hearth should be your medicine chest. [203] Drink lye made from its ashes, and you will be cured. One can see how gladiators after a combat are helped by drinking this.' Moreover, anthrax {carbunculus}, a disease which, as I have mentioned { 26.5 }, lately carried off two ex-consuls, may be cured by means of oak charcoal ground and mixed with honey. So true is it that there is some benefit to be found even in substances that are utterly rejected and have ceased to have any true existence, as we see here and now with charcoal and ashes.

{70.} L   [204] I must not forget to mention one instance of a hearth that is famous in Roman literature. It is said that during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus {616-579 BC} there suddenly emerged from the ashes on his hearth a male genital organ, and that a captive girl who was sitting there, Ocresia, a maidservant of Queen Tanaquil, rose from there in a state of pregnancy. According to the story, this was how Servius Tullius, who succeeded to the throne, came to be born. Afterwards, and likewise in the king's house, it is said that flames blazed round the child's head as he slept, and that he was therefore believed to be the son of the Lar, the god who protected the household. Hence, we are told, he first founded the Festival of Compitalia in honour of the Lares.

Book 37



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