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But we ought always to bear in mind, more particularly, that there are two varieties of evils that are inflicted upon the earth by the heavens. The first of these, known by us under the name of "tempests," comprehends hail-storms, hurricanes and other calamities of a similar nature; when these take place at the full moon, they come upon us with additional intensity. These tempests take their rise in certain noxious constellations, as already stated by us on several occasions, Arcturus, for instance, Orion, and the Kids.

The other evils that are thus inflicted upon us, supervene with a bright, clear sky, and amid the silence of the night, no one being sensible of them until we have perceived their effects. These dispensations are universal and of a totally different character from those previously mentioned, and have various names given to them, sometimes mildew, sometimes blast, and sometimes coal blight; but in all cases sterility is the infallible result. It is of these last that we have now to speak, entering into details which have not hitherto been treated of by any writer; and first of all we will explain the causes of them.

(29.) Independently of the moon, there are two principal causes of these calamities, which emanate more particularly from two quarters of the heavens of but limited extent. On the one hand, the Vergiliæ exercise an especial influence on our harvests, as it is with their rising that the summer begins, and with their setting, the winter; thus embracing, in the space of six months, the harvest, the vintage, and the ripening of all the vegetable productions. In addition to this, there is a circular tract in the heavens, quite visible to the human eye even, known as the Milky Way. It is the emanations from this, flowing as it were from the breast, that supply their milky1 nutriment to all branches of the vegetable world. Two constellations more particularly mark this circular tract, the Eargle in the north, and Canicula in the south; of this last, we have already made mention2 in its appropriate place. This circle traverses also Sagittarius and Gemini, and passing through the centre of the sun, cuts the equinoctial line below, the constellation of the Eagle making its appearance at the point of intersection on the one side, and Canicula on the other. Hence it is that the influences of both these constellations develope themselves upon all cultivated lands; it being at these points only that the centre of the sun is brought to correspond with that of the earth. If, then, at the moments of the rising and the setting of these constellations, the air, soft and pure, transmits these genial and milky emanations to the earth, the crops will thrive and ripen apace; but if on the other hand, the moon, as already3 mentioned, sheds her chilling dews, the bitterness thereof infuses itself into these milky secretions, and so kills the vegetation in its birth. The measure of the injury so inflicted on the earth depends, in each climate, upon the combination of the one or other of these causes; and hence it is that it is not felt in equal intensity throughout the whole earth, nor even precisely at the same moment of time. We have already4 said that the Eagle rises in Italy on the thirteenth day5 before the calends of January, and the ordinary course of Nature does not permit us before that period to reckon with any degree of certainty upon the fruits of the earth; for if the moon should happen to be in conjunction at that time, it will be a necessary consequence, that all the winter fruits, as well as the early ones, will receive injury more or less.

The life led by the ancients was rude and illiterate; still, as will be readily seen, the observations they made were not less remarkable for ingenuity than are the theories of the present day. With them there were three set periods for gathering in the produce of the earth, and it was in honour of these periods that they instituted the festive days, known as the Robigalia,6 the Floralia, and the Vinalia. The Robigalia were established by Numa in the fortieth year of his reign, and are still celebrated on the seventh day before the calends of May, as it is at this period that mildew7 mostly makes its first attacks upon the growing corn. Varro fixes this crisis at the moment at which the sun enters the tenth degree of Taurus, in accordance with the notions that prevailed in his day: but the real cause is the fact, that thirty-one8 days after the vernal equinox, according to the observations of various nations, the Dog-star sets between the seventh and fourth before the calends of May, a constellation baneful in itself, and to appease which a young dog should first be sacrificed.9 The same people also, in the year of the City 513, instituted the Floralia, a festival held upon the fourth before10 the calends of May, in accordance with the oracular injunctions of the Sibyl, to secure a favourable season for the blossoms and flowers. Varro fixes this day as the time at which the sun enters the fourteenth degree of Taurus. If there should happen to be a full moon during the four days at this period, injury to the corn and all the plants that are in blossom, will be the necessary result. The First Vinalia, which in ancient times were established on the ninth before11 the calends of May, for the purpose of tasting12 the wines, have no signification whatever in reference to the fruits of the earth, any more than the festivals already mentioned have in reference to the vine and the olive; the germination of these last not commencing, in fact, till the rising of the Vergiliæ, on the Sixth day before13 the ides of May, as already mentioned on previous occasions.14 This, again, is another period of four days, which should never be blemished by dews, as the chilling constellation of Arcturus, which sets on the following day, will be sure to nip the vegetation; stili less ought there to be a full moon at this period.

On the fourth before15 the nones of June, the Eagle rises again in the evening, a critical day for the olives and vines in blossom, if there should happen to be a full moon. For my part, I am of opinion that the eighth16 before the calends of July, the day of the summer solstice, must be a critical day, for a similar reason; and that the rising of the Dog-star, twenty-three days after the summer solstice, must be so too, in case the moon is then in conjunction; for the excessive heat is productive of injurious effects, and the grape becomes prematurely ripened, shrivelled, and tough. Again, if there is a full noon on the fourth before17 the nones of July, when Canicula rises to the people of Egypt, or at least on the sixteenth before18 the calends of August, when it rises in Italy, it is productive of injurious results. The same is the case, too, from the thirteenth day before19 the calends of August, when the Eagle sets, to the tenth before20 the calends of that month. The Second Vinalia, which are celebrated on the fourteenth21 before the calends of September, bear no reference to these influences. Varro fixes them at; the period at which the Lyre begins its morning setting, and says that this indicates the beginning of autumn, the day having been set apart for the purpose of propitiating the weather: at the present day, however, it is observed that the Lyre sets on the sixth before22 the ides of August.

Within these periods there are exerted the sterilizing influences of the heavens, though I am far from denying that they may be considerably modified by the nature of the locality according as it is cold or hot. Still, however, it is sufficient for me to have demonstrated the theory; the modifications of its results depending, in a great degree, upon attentive observation. It is beyond all question too, that either one of these two causes will be always productive of its own peculiar effects, the full moon, I mean, or else the moon's conjunction. And here it suggests itself how greatly we ought to admire the bounteous provisions made for us by Nature; for, in the first place, these calamitous results cannot by any possibility befall us every year, in consequence of the fixed revolutions of the stars; nor indeed, when they do happen, beyond a few nights in the year, and it may be easily known beforehand which nights those are likely to be. In order, too, that we might not have to apprehend these injuries to vegetation in all the months, Nature has so ordained that the times of the moon's conjunction in summer, and of the full moon in winter, with the exception of two days only at those respective periods, are well ascertained, and that there is no danger to be apprehended on any but the nights of summer, and those nights the shortest of all; in the day-time, on the other hand, there is nothing to fear. And then, besides, these phænomena may be so easily understood, that the ant even, that most diminutive of insects, takes its rest during the moon's conjunction, but toils on, and that during the night as well, when the moon is at the full; the bird, too, called the "parra"23 disappears upon the day on which Sirius rises, and never reappears until that star has set; while the witwall,24 on the other hand, makes its appearance on the day of the summer solstice. The moon, however, is productive of no noxious effects at either of these periods, except when the nights are clear, and every movement of the air is lulled; for so long as clouds prevail, or the wind is blowing, the night dews never fall. And then, besides, there are certain remedies to counteract these noxious influences.

1 An onomatic prejudice, as Fée says, solely founded on the peculiarity of the name.

2 In the preceding Chapter.

3 In the preceding Chapter.

4 In B. xvi. c. 42.

5 Twentieth of December.

6 Or festival in honour of Robigo, the Goddess of mildew, on the twenty-fifth of April. See Ovid's Fasti, B. iv. 1. 907, et seq.

7 "Nineteen" is the proper number.

8 Robigo.

9 "Et cui præoccidere caniculam necesse est." The real meaning of this passage would seem to be,—"Before which, as a matter of course, Canicula must set." But if so, Pliny is in error, for Canicula, or Procyon, sets heliacally after the Dog-star, though it rises before it. Hardouin observes, that it is abundantly proved from the ancient writers that it was the custom to sacrifice a puppy to Sirius, or the Dog-star, at the Robigalia. As Tittré justly remarks, it would almost appear that Pliny intended, by his ambiguous language, to lead his readers into error.

10 Twenty-eighth of April. The festival of Flora.

11 Twenty-third of April. This was the first, or Urban Vinalia: the second, or Rustic Vinalia, were held on the nineteenth of August.

12 The same as the Greek πιθόιγια, or "opening of the Casks."

13 Tenth of May.

14 In B. xvi. c. 42, and in c. 66 of this Book.

15 Second of June.

16 Twenty-fourth of June.

17 Fourth of July.

18 Seventeenth of July.

19 Twentieth of July.

20 Twenty-third of July.

21 Nineteenth of August.

22 Eighth of August.

23 See B. x. c. 45, and c. 50. The popinjay, lapwing, and tit-mouse have been suggested.

24 Virio. See B. x. c. 45.

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