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Let us return from this digression to the other parts of nature. The stars which are described as fixed in the heavens1, are not, as the vulgar suppose, attached each of them to different individuals2, the brighter to the rich, those that are less so to the poor, and the dim to the aged, shining according to the lot of the individual, and separately assigned to mortals; for they have neither come into existence, nor do they perish in connexion with particular persons, nor does a falling star indicate that any one is dead. We are not so closely connected with the heavens as that the shining of the stars is affected by our death3. When they are supposed to shoot or fall4, they throw out, by the force of their fire, as if from an excess of nutriment, the superabundance of the humour which they have absorbed, as we observe to take place from the oil in our lamps, when they are burning5. The nature of the celestial bodies is eternal, being interwoven, as it were, with the world, and, by this union, rendering it solid; but they exert their most powerful influence on the earth. This, notwithstanding its subtilty, may be known by the clearness and the magnitude of the effect, as we shall point out in the proper place6. The account of the circles of the heavens will be better understood when we come to speak of the earth, since they have all a reference to it; except what has been discovered respecting the Zodiac, which I shall now detail.

Anaximander the Milesian, in the 58th olympiad7, is said to have been the first who understood its obliquity, and thus opened the road to a correct knowledge of the subject8. Afterwards Cleostratus made the signs in it, first marking those of Aries and Sagittarius; Atlas had formed the sphere long before this time9. But now, leaving the further consideration of this subject, we must treat of the bodies that are situated between the earth and the heavens10.

It is certain that the star called Saturn is the highest, and therefore appears the smallest, that he passes through the largest circuit, and that he is at least thirty years in completing it11. The course of all the planets, and among others of the Sun, and the Moon, is in the contrary direction to that of the heavens12, that is towards the left, while the hea- vens are rapidly carried about to the right13. And although, by the stars constantly revolving with immense velocity, they are raised up, and hurried on to the part where they set, yet they are all forced, by a motion of their own, in an opposite direction14; and this is so ordered, lest the air, being always moved in the same direction, by the constant whirling of the heavens, should accumulate into one mass, whereas now it is divided and separated and beaten into small pieces, by the opposite motion of the different stars. Saturn is a star of a cold and rigid nature, while the orbit of Jupiter is much lower, and is carried round in twelve years15. The next star, Mars, which some persons call Hercules16, is of a fiery and burning nature, and from its nearness to the sun is carried round in little less than two years17. In consequence of the excessive heat of this star and the rigidity of Saturn, Jupiter, which is interposed between the two, is tempered by both of them, and is thus rendered salutary. The path of the Sun consists of 360 degrees; but, in order that the shadow may return to the same point of the dial18, we are obliged to add, in each year, five days and the fourth part of a day. On this account an intercalary day is given to every fifth year19, that the period of the seasons may agree with that of the Sun.

Below the Sun20 revolves the great star called Venus, wandering with an alternate motion21, and, even in its surnames, rivalling the Sun and the Moon. For when it precedes the day and rises in the morning, it receives the name of Lucifer, as if it were another sun, hastening on the day. On the contrary, when it shines in the west, it is named Vesper, as prolonging the light, and performing the office of the moon. Pythagoras, the Samian, was the first who discovered its nature22, about the 62nd olympiad, in the 222nd year of the City23. It excels all the other stars in size, and its brilliancy is so considerable, that it is the only star which produces a shadow by its rays. There has, consequently, been great interest made for its name; some have called it the star of Juno24, others of Isis, and others of the Mother of the Gods. By its influence everything in the earth is generated. For, as it rises in either direction, it sprinkles everything with its genial dew, and not only matures the productions of the earth, but stimulates all living things25. It completes the circuit of the zodiac in 348 days, never receding from the sun more than 46 degrees, according to Timæus26.

Similarly circumstanced, but by no means equal in size and in power, next to it, is the star Mercury, by some called Apollo27; it is carried in a lower orbit, and moves in a course which is quicker by nine days, shining sometimes before the rising of the sun, and at other times after its setting, but never going farther from it than 23 degrees28, as we learn from Timæus and Sosigenes29. The nature of these two stars is peculiar, and is not the same with those mentioned above, for those are seen to recede from the sun through one-third or one-fourth part of the heavens, and are often seen opposite to it. They have also other larger circuits, in which they make their complete revolutions, as will be described in the account of the great year30.

(9.) But the Moon31, which is the last of the stars, and the one the most connected with the earth, the remedy provided by nature for darkness, excels all the others in its admirable qualities. By the variety of appearances which it assumes, it puzzles the observers, mortified that they should be the most ignorant concerning that star which is the nearest to them. She is always either waxing or waning; sometimes her disc is curved into horns, sometimes it is divided into two equal portions, and at other times it is swelled out into a full orb; sometimes she appears spotted32 and suddenly becomes very bright; she appears very large with her full orb and suddenly becomes invisible; now continuing during all the night, now rising late, and now aiding the light of the sun during a part of the day; becoming eclipsed and yet being visible while she is eclipsed; concealing herself at the end of the month and yet not supposed to be eclipsed33. Sometimes she is low down, sometimes she is high up, and that not according to one uniform course, being at one time raised up to the heavens, at other times almost contiguous to the mountains; now elevated in the north, now depressed in the south; all which circumstances having been noticed by Endymion, a report was spread about, that he was in love with the moon34. We are not indeed sufficiently grateful to those, who, with so much labour and care, have enlightened us with this light35; while, so diseased is the human mind, that we take pleasure in writing the annals of blood and slaughter, in order that the crimes of men may be made known to those who are ignorant of the constitution of the world itself.

Being nearest to the axis36, and therefore having the smallest orbit, the Moon passes in twenty-seven days and the one-third part of a day37, through the same space for which Saturn, the highest of the planets, as was stated above, requires thirty years. After remaining for two days in conjunction with the sun, on the thirtieth day she again very slowly emerges to pursue her accustomed course38. I know not whether she ought not to be considered as our instructress in everything that can be known respecting the heavens; as that the year is divided into the twelve divisions of the months, since she follows the sun for the same number of times, until he returns to the commencement of his course; and that her brightness, as well as that of the other stars, is regulated by that of the sun, if indeed they all of them shine by light borrowed from him, such as we see floating about, when it is reflected from the surface of water. On this account it is that she dissolves so much moisture, by a gentle and less perfect force, and adds to the quantity of that which the rays of the sun con- sume39. On this account she appears with an unequal light, because being full only when she is in opposition, on all the remaining days she shows only so much of herself to the earth as she receives light from the sun40. She is not seen in conjunction, because, at that time, she sends back the whole stream of light to the source whence she has derived it. That the stars generally are nourished by the terrestrial moisture is evident, because, when the moon is only half visible she is sometimes seen spotted, her power of absorbing moisture not having been powerful enough; for the spots are nothing else than the dregs of the earth drawn up along with the moisture41. (10.) But her eclipses and those of the sun, the most wonderful of all the phænomena of nature, and which are like prodigies, serve to indicate the magnitude of these bodies and the shadow42 which they cast.

1 "affixa mundo." The peculiar use of the word mundus in this passage is worthy of remark, in connexion with note1, ch. 1. page 13.

2 We have many references in Pliny to the influence of the stars upon the earth and its inhabitants, constituting what was formerly regarded as so important a science, judicial astrology. Ptolemy has drawn up a regular code of it in his "Centum dicta," or "Centiloquiums." We have a highly interesting account of the supposed science, its origin, progress, and general principles, in Whewell's History of the Inductive Sciences, p. 293 et seq. I may also refer to the same work for a sketch of the history of astronomy among the Greeks and the other nations of antiquity.

3 There are certain metaphorical expressions, which have originated from this opinion, adopted by the moderns; "his star is set;" "the star of his fortune," &c.

4 Ovid, when he compares Phaëton to a falling star, remarks, concerning this meteor,—
"Etsi non cecidit, potuit ceeidisse videri." Metam. ii. 322.

5 Manilius supposes that comets are produced and rendered luminous by an operation very similar to the one described in the text; i. 815 et seq. Seneca, in the commencement of his Nat. Quæst., and in other parts of the same treatise, refers to this subject. His remarks may be worth perusing by those who are curious to learn the hypotheses of the ancients on subjects of natural science. We may remark, that Seneca's opinions are, on many points, more correct than our author's.

6 The author probably refers to that part of his work in which he treats on agriculture, particularly to the 17th and 18th books.

7 The æra of the Olympiads commenced in the year 776 before Christ; each olympiad consists of 4 years; the 58th olympiad will therefore include the interval 548 to 544 B.C. The 21st vol. of the "Universal History" consists entirely of a "chronological table," and we have a useful table of the same kind in Brewster's Encycl., article "Chronology."

8 "rerum fores aperuisse....traditur." An account of the astronomy of Anaximander is contained in Brewster's Encycl., article "Astronomy," p. 587, and in the article "Anaximander" in the supplement to the same work by Scott of Aberdeen. I may remark, that these two accounts do not quite agree in their estimate of his merits; the latter author considers his opinions more correct. We have also an account of Anaximander in Stanley, pt. 2. p. 1 et seq., and in Enfield, i. 154 et seq.

9 In the translation of Ajasson, ii. 261–7, we have some valuable observations by Marcus, respecting the origin and progress of astronomy among the Greeks, and the share which the individuals mentioned in the text respectively had in its advancement; also some interesting remarks on the history of Atlas. Diodorus Siculus says, that "he was the first that discovered the knowledge of the sphere; whence arose the common opinion, that he carried the world upon his shoulders." Booth's trans. p. 115.

10 "nune relicto mundi ipsius corpore, reliqua inter cœlum terrasque tractentur." I have already had occasion to remark upon the various modes in which the author uses the word mundius; by cœlum, in this passage, he means the body or region beyond the planets, which is conceived to contain the fixed stars. Sphœra, in the preceding sentence, may be supposed to mean the celestial globe.

11 "ac trigesimo anno ad brevissima sedis suæ principia regredi;" I confess myself unable to offer any literal explanation of this passage; nor do the remarks of the commentators appear to me satisfactory; see Hardouin and Alexandre in Lemaire, ii. 241, 2. It is translated by Ajasson "en trente ans il reviens à l'espace minime d'où il est parti." The period of the sidereal revolutions of the planets, as stated by Mrs. Somerville, in her "Mechanism of the Heavens," and by Sir J. Herschel, in his "Treatise on Astronomy," are respectively as follows:—

Somerville, p. 358.Herschel, p. 416.

12 "'mundo;' hoc est, cælo inerrantium stellarum." Hardouin, in Lemaire, ii. 242.

13 Our author supposes, that the spectator has his face directed towards the south, as is the case with the modern observers. We are, however, informed by Hardouin, that this was not the uniform practice among the ancients; see the remarks of Alexandre in Lemaire, ii. 242, and of Marcus in Ajasson, ii. 269.

14 The constant revolution refers to the apparent daily motion; the opposite direction to their annual course through the zodiac. Ptolemy gives an account of this double motion in his Magna Constructio, i. 7.

15 For the exact period, according to Somerville and Herschel, see note3, p. 27.

16 Aristotle informs us, that Mars was also called Hercules or Pyrosis; De Mundo, cap. ii. p. 602. See also Apuleius, De Mundo, § 710. Hyginus is said by Hardouin to give the name of Hercules to the planet Mars, but this appears to be an inaccuracy; he describes the planet under its ordinary appellation; lib. ii. p. 62; and ii. 78, 9.

17 Cicero, speaking of the period of Mars, says, "Quatuor et viginti mensibus, sex, ut opinor, diebus minus;" De Nat. Deor. For the exact period, see note3, p. 27.

18 "Sed ut observatio umbrarum ejus redeat ad notas." According to the interpretation ot Hardouin, "Ad easdem lineas in solari horologio." Lemaire, ii. 243.

19 This is an example of the mode of computation which we meet with among the ancients, where, in speaking of the period of a revolution, both the time preceding and that following the interval are included.

20 The division of the planets into superior and inferior was not known to Aristotle, De Mundo, cap. ii. p. 602, to Plato, Timæus, p. 318, 319, or the older Greek astronomers. It was first made by the Egyptians, and was transferred from them to the Romans. It is one of the points in which our author differs from Aristotle. See the remarks of Marcus in Ajasson, ii. 242 et seq. Marcus notices the various points which prove the deficiency of Pliny's knowledge of astronomy; he particularizes the four following :—his ignorance of the true situation of the constellations; his erroneous opinion respecting the cause of the seasons; his account of the phases of the moon, and of the position of the cardinal points. He appears not to have been aware, that certain astronomical phænomena undergo a regular progression, but supposed that they remained, at the time when he wrote, in the same state as in the age of Hipparchus or the original observers. Columella, when treating on these subjects, describes the phænomena according to the ancient calculation, but he informs us, that he adopts it, because it was the one in popular use, and better known by the farmers (De Re Rust. ix. 14), while Pliny appears not to have been aware of the inaccuracy.

21 "Modo solem antegrediens, modo subsequens." Hardouin in Lemaire, ii. 243.

22 It was not known to the earlier writers that Lucifer and Vesper were the same star, differently situated with respect to the Sun. Playfair remarks, that Venus is the only planet mentioned in the sacred writings, and in the most ancient poets, such as Hesiod and Homer; Outlines, ii. 156.

23 There has been much discussion among the commentators respecting the correctness of the figures in the text; according to the sera of the olympiads, the date referred to will be between the years 750 and 754 B.C.; the foundation of Rome is commonly referred to the year 753 B.C. See the remarks of Marcus in Ajasson, ii. 278, 9.

24 Aristotle informs us, that it was called either Phosphorus, Juno, or Venus; De Mundo, cap. 2. t. i. p. 602. See also Hyginus, Poet. Astr. lib. iii. p. 76, 7; and Apuleius, De Mundo, § 710.

25 It will be scarcely necessary to refer the reader to the well-known commencement of Lucretius's poem for the illustration of this passage; it is remarkable that Pliny does not refer to this writer.

26 The periodical revolution of Venus is 224ċ7 days, see note3, p. 27. Its greatest elongation is 47°1′; Somerville, § 641. p. 391.

27 According to Aristotle, this planet had the three appellations of Stilbon, Mercury, and Apollo; De Mundo, cap. 2. p. 602; see also Apuleius, De Mundo, § 710. Cicero inverts the order of the planets; he places Mercury next to Mars, and says of Venus, that it is "infima quinque errantium, terræque proxima;" De Nat. Deor. ii. 53. Aristotle places the stars in the same order, ubi supra, and he is followed in this by Apuleius, ubi supra; this appears to have been the case with the Stoics generally; see Enfield's Phil. i. 339.

28 For the periodical revolution of Mercury see note3, p. 27. Its greatest elongation, according to Playfair, p. 160, is 28 °. Mrs. Somerville, p. 386, states it to be 28°8′. Ptolemy supposed it to be 26ċ5 degrees; Almagest, ix. 7. We learn from Hardouin, Lemaire, i. 246, that there is considerable variation in the MSS. with respect to the greatest elongation of Mercury.

29 Sosigenes was an Egyptian mathematician and astronomer, who is said to have assisted Cæsar in the formation of his Kalendar, as our author informs us in a subsequent part of his work, xviii. 25; see also Aikin, Gen. Biog., in loco; Enfield's Phil. ii. 96; Whewell, p. 210; and Hardouin's "Index Auctorum," in Lemaire, i. 213.

30 Concerning the "magnus annus" Cicero remarks, "efficitur cum solis et lunæ et quinque errantium ad eandem inter se comparationem, confectis omnibus spatiis, est facta conversio." De Nat. Deor. ii. 51. See the remarks of Marcus in Ajasson, ii. 281–3.

31 For the various appellations which the moon has received in the ancient and modern languages, and their relation to each other, the reader is referred to the learned remarks of Marcus in Ajasson, ii. 283–5.

32 Marcus conceives that the epithet maculosa does not refer to what are called the spots on the moon, but to the circumstance of the edge of the disc being not illuminated when it is near the full; Ajasson, ii. 286. But, from the way in which the word is employed at the end of the chapter, and from the explanation which is given of the cause of the "maculæ," I think it ought to be referred to the spotted appearance of the face of the moon.

33 "Quum laborare non creditur." It was a vulgar notion among the ancients, that when the moon is eclipsed, she is suffering from the influence of magicians and enchanters, who are endeavouring to draw her down to the earth, in order to aid them in their superstitious ceremonies. It was conceived that she might be relieved from her sufferings by loud noises of various kinds which should drown the songs of the magicians. Allusion is frequently made to this custom by the ancient poets, as Virgil, Æn. i. 742, Manilius, i. 227, and Juvenal, vi. 444; and the language has been transferred to the moderns, as in Beattie's Minstrel, ii. 47, "To ease of fancied pangs the labouring moon."

34 We have some interesting remarks by Marcus respecting Endymion, and also on the share which Solon and Thales had in correcting the lunar observations; Ajasson, ii. 288–290.

35 "Lucem nobis aperuere in hac luce."

36 "Cardo."

37 Astronomers describe two different revolutions or periods of the moon; the synodical and the sidereal. The synodical marks the time in which the moon passes from one conjunction with the sun to the next conjunction, or other similar position with respect to the sun. The sidereal period is the time in which the moon returns to the same position with respect to the stars, or in which it makes a complete revolution round the earth. These numbers are, for the synodical period, 29d 12h 44m 287s, and for the sidereal, 27d 7h 43m 11ċ5s; Herschel, pp. 213, 224.

38 Our author, as Marcus remarks, "a compté par nombres ronds;" Ajasson, ii. 291; the correct number may be found in the preceding note.

39 It was a general opinion among the ancients, and one which was entertained until lately by many of the moderns, that the moon possessed the power of evaporating the water of the ocean. This opinion appears to have been derived, at least in part, from the effect which the moon produces on the tides.

40 "quantum ex sole ipsa concipiat;" from this passage, taken singly, it might be concluded, that the author supposed the quantity of light received by the moon to differ at different times; but the succeeding sentence seems to prove that this is not the case; see the remarks of Alexandre in Lemaire, ii. 249. Marcus, however, takes a different view of the subject; Ajasson, ii. 291, 292. He had previously pointed out Pliny's opinion respecting the phases of the moon, as one of the circumstances which indicate his ignorance of astronomy, ut supra, ii. 245, 246.

41 This doctrine is maintained by Seneca, Quæst. Nat. lib. ii. § 5. p. 701, 702. From the allusion which is made to it by Anacreon, in his 19th ode, we may presume that it was the current opinion among the ancients.

42 I may remark, that Poinsinet, in this passage, substitutes "umbra" for "umbræque," contrary to the authority of all the MSS., merely because it accords better with his ideas of correct reasoning. Although it may be of little consequence in this particular sentence, yet, as such liberties are not unfrequently taken, I think it necessary to state my opinion, that this mode of proceeding is never to be admitted, and that it has proved a source of serious injury to classical literature. In this account of the astronomical phenomena, as well as in all the other scientific dissertations that occur in our author, my aim has been to transfer into our language the exact sense of the original, without addition or correction. Our object in reading Pliny is not to acquire a knowledge of natural philosophy, which might be better learned from the commonest elementary work of the present day, but to ascertain what were the opinions of the learned on such subjects when Pliny wrote. I make this remark, because I have seldom if ever perused a translation of any classical author, where, on scientific topics, the translator has not endeavoured, more or less, to correct the mistakes of the original, and to adapt his translation to the state of modern science.

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