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1 "Ferunt." With regard to this verb, Cuvier remarks, that it is equivocal; and that it is very possible that the writer intends to say, not that India and Æthiopia produce these marvellous birds, but that the people of those countries report or relate marvellous stories touching those birds. It is clear that he does not believe in the existence of the phœnix.
2 Cuvier remarks, that all these relations are neither more nor less than so many absurd fables or pure allegories, but that the description given is exactly that of a bird which does exist, the golden pheasant, namely. The description given is probably taken from the pretended phœnix that Pliny mentions as having been brought to Rome in the reign of Claudius, It is not improbable, he thinks, that this may have been a golden pheasant, brought from the interior of Asia, when the pursuits of commerce had as yet hardly extended so far, and to which those who showed it gave, most probably, the name of the phœnix. Ajasson is of opinion, that under the story of the phœnix an allegory was concealed, and thinks it may not improbably have been employed to pourtray the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Bailly, Hist. de l'Astronomie, thinks that it bore reference to the great canicular year of the Egyptians.
3 Borrowed from Herodotus, B. ii. c. 73.
4 The MSS. vary considerably as to the number. Some make it 540 years, others 511, others 40, and others 560.
5 Mentioned also, B. vii. c. 57,
6 532 years, according to Hardouin. Bailly says: "The first men who studied the heavens remarked that the revolution of the sun brought back the seasons in the same order. They thought that they observed that certain variations of the temperature depended upon the aspect of the moon, and attached different prognostics to the rising and setting of the stars, persuading themselves that the vicissitudes of things here below had regulated periods, like the movements of the heavenly bodies. From this arose the impression, that the same aspect, the same arrangement of all the stars, that had prevailed at the commencement of the world, would also attend its destruction; and that the period of this long revolution was the predestined duration of the life of nature. Another impression was the idea that the world would only perish at this epoch to be born again, and for the same order of things to recommence with the same series of celestial phenomena. Some fixed this universal renovation at the conjunction of all the planets, others at the return of the stars to the same point of the ecliptic; others, uniting these two kinds of revolutions, marked the term of the du- ration of all things at the moment at which the planets and the stars would return to the same primitive situation with regard to the ecliptic, or in other words, they conceived an immense period, which would include one or more complete revolutions of each of the planets. All these periods were called the 'great year,' or the 'great revolution.'" Histoire de l'Astronomie Ancienne.
7 A.U.C. 657.
8 A.U.C. 789.
9 A public place in the Forum, where the comitia curiata were held, and certain offences tried and punished.
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