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Some of them move about in the manner of planets1, others remain stationary. They are almost all of them seen towards the north2, not indeed in any particular portion of it, but generally in that white part of it which has obtained the name of the Milky Way. Aristotle informs us that several of them are to be seen at the same time3, but this, as far as I know, has not been observed by any one else; also that they prognosticate high winds and great heat4. They are also visible in the winter months, and about the south pole, but they have no rays proceeding from them. There was a dreadful one observed by the Æthiopians and the Egyptians, to which Typhon, a king of that period, gave his own name; it had a fiery appearance, and was twisted like a spiral; its aspect was hideous, nor was it like a star, but rather like a knot of fire5. Sometimes there are hairs attached to the planets and the other stars. Comets are never seen in the western part of the heavens. It is generally regarded as a terrific star, and one not easily expiated; as was the case with the civil commotions in the consulship of Octavius, and also in the war of Pompey and Cæsar6. And in our own age, about the time when Claudius Cæsar was poisoned and left the Empire to Domitius Nero, and afterwards, while the latter was Emperor7, there was one which was almost constantly seen and was very frightful. It is thought important to notice towards what part it darts its beams, or from what star it receives its influence, what it resembles, and in what places it shines. If it resembles a flute, it portends some- thing unfavourable respecting music; if it appears in the parts of the signs referred to the secret members, something respecting lewdness of manners; something respecting wit and learning, if they form a triangular or quadrangular figure with the position of some of the fixed stars; and that some one will be poisoned, if they appear in the head of either the northern or the southern serpent.

Rome is the only place in the whole world where there is a temple dedicated to a comet; it was thought by the late Emperor Augustus to be auspicious to him, from its appearing during the games which he was celebrating in honour of Venus Genetrix, not long after the death of his father Cæsar, in the College which was founded by him8. He expressed his joy in these terms: "During the very time of these games of mine, a hairy star was seen during seven days, in the part of the heavens which is under the Great Bear. It rose about the eleventh hour of the day9, was very bright, and was conspicuous in all parts of the earth. The common people supposed the star to indicate, that the soul of Cæsar was admitted among the immortal Gods; under which designation it was that the star was placed on the bust which was lately consecrated in the forum10." This is what he proclaimed in public, but, in secret, he rejoiced at this auspicious omen, interpreting it as produced for himself; and, to confess the truth, it really proved a salutary omen for the world at large11.

Some persons suppose that these stars are permanent, and that they move through their proper orbits, but that they are only visible when they recede from the sun. Others suppose that they are produced by an accidental vapour together with the force of fire, and that, from this circumstance, they are liable to be dissipated12.

1 "errantium modo;" this may mean, that they move in orbits like those of the planets and exhibit the same phænomena, or simply that they change their situation with respect to the fixed stars.

2 Seneca remarks on this point, "Placet igitur nostris (Stoicis) cometas ....denso aëri creari. Ideo circa Septemtrionem frequentissime apparent, quia illic plurimi est aëris frigor." Qusest. Nat. i. 7. Aristotle, on the contrary, remarks that comets are less frequently produced in the northern part of the heavens; Meteor. lib. i. cap. 6. p. 535.

3 Ubi supra.

4 See Aristotle, ut supra, p. 537.

5 "Videtur is non cometes fuisse, sed meteorus quidam ignis;" Alexandre in Lemaire, i. 296.

6 Virgil, Geor. i. 488 et seq., Manilius, i. 904 et seq., and Lucan, i. 526 et seq., all speak of the comets and meteors that were observed previous to the civil wars between Pompey and Cæsar. In reference to the existence of a comet about the time of Julius Cæsar, Playfair remarks, that Halley supposed the great comet of 1680 to have been the same that appeared in the year 44 A.C., and again in Justinian's time, 521 P.C., and also in 1106; Elem. Nat. Phil. ii. 197, 198. See Ptolemy's Cent. Dict. no. 100, for the opinion, that comets presented an omen especially unfavourable to kings. To this opinion the following passage in the Paradise Lost obviously refers; "And with fear of change perplexes monarchs."

7 Seneca refers to the four comets that were seen, after the death of Cæsar, in the time of Augustus, of Claudius, and of Nero; Quæst. Nat. i. 7. Suetonius mentions the comet which appeared previous to the death of Claudius, cap. 46, and Tacitus that before the death of Nero, Ann. xiv. 22.

8 "A Julio Cæsare. Is enim paulo ante obitum collegium his ludis faciendis instituerat, confecto Veneris templo; "Hardouin in Lemaire, i. 299. Jul. Obsequens refers to a "stella crinita," which appeared during the celebration of these games, cap. 128.

9 "Hoc est, hora fere integra ante solis occasum;" Hardouin in Lemaire, i. 299.

10 All these circumstances are detailed by Suetonius, in Julio, § 88.p. 178.

11 "terris."

12 Seneca remarks, "...quidam nullos esse cometas existimant, sed species illorum per repercussionem vicinorum siderum,....Quidam aiunt esse quidem, sed habere cursus suos et post certa lustra in conspectum mortalium exire." He concludes by observing, "Veniet tempus, quo ista quæ nune latent, in lucem dies extrahat, et longioris diei diligentia;" Nat. Quæst. lib. 7. § 19. p. 807.

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