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On this point there is a great contest between the learned and the vulgar. We maintain, that there are men dispersed over every part of the earth, that they stand with their feet turned towards each other, that the vault of the heavens appears alike to all of them, and that they, all of them, appear to tread equally on the middle of the earth. If any one should ask, why those situated opposite to us do not fall, we directly ask in return, whether those on the opposite side do not wonder that we do not fall. But I may make a remark, that will appear plausible even to the most unlearned, that if the earth were of the figure of an unequal globe, like the seed of a pine1, still it may be inhabited in every part.

But of how little moment is this, when we have another miracle rising up to our notice! The earth itself is pendent and does not fall with us; it is doubtful whether this be from the force of the spirit which is contained in the universe2, or whether it would fall, did not nature resist, by allowing of no place where it might fall. For as the seat of fire is nowhere but in fire, nor of water except in water, nor of air except in air, so there is no situation for the earth except in itself, everything else repelling it. It is indeed wonderful that it should form a globe, when there is so much flat surface of the sea and of the plains. And this was the opinion of Dicæarchus, a peculiarly learned man, who measured the heights of mountains, under the direction of the kings, and estimated Pelion, which was the highest, at 1250 paces perpendicular, and considered this as not affecting the round figure of the globe. But this appears to me to be doubtful, as I well know that the summits of some of the Alps rise up by a long space of not less than 50,000 paces3. But what the vulgar most strenuously contend against is, to be compelled to believe that the water is forced into a rounded figure4; yet there is nothing more obvious to the sight among the phænomena of nature. For we see everywhere, that drops, when they hang down, assume the form of small globes, and when they are covered with dust, or have the down of leaves spread over them, they are observed to be completely round; and when a cup is filled, the liquid swells up in the middle. But on account of the subtile nature of the fluid and its inherent softness, the fact is more easily ascertained by our reason than by our sight. And it is even more wonderful, that if a very little fluid only be added to a cup when it is full, the superfluous quantity runs over, whereas the contrary happens if we add a solid body, even as much as would weigh 20 denarii. The reason of this is, that what is dropt in raises up the fluid at the top, while what is poured on it slides off from the projecting surface. It is from the same cause5 that the land is not visible from the body of a ship when it may be seen from the mast; and that when a vessel is receding, if any bright object be fixed to the mast, it seems gradually to descend and finally to become invisible. And the ocean, which we admit to be without limits, if it had any other figure, could it cohere and exist without falling, there being no external margin to contain it? And the same wonder still recurs, how is it that the extreme parts of the sea, although it be in the form of a globe, do not fall down? In opposition to which doctrine, the Greeks, to their great joy and glory, were the first to teach us, by their subtile geometry, that this could not happen, even if the seas were flat, and of the figure which they appear to be. For since water always runs from a higher to a lower level, and this is admitted to be essential to it, no one ever doubted that the water would accumulate on any shore, as much as its slope would allow it. It is also certain, that the lower anything is, so much the nearer is it to the centre, and that all the lines which are drawn from this point to the water which is the nearest to it, are shorter than those which reach from the beginning of the sea to its extreme parts6. Hence it follows, that all the water, from every part, tends towards the centre, and, because it has this tendency, does not fall.

1 As our author admits of the existence of antipodes, and expressly states that the earth is a perfect sphere, we may conclude that the resemblance to the cone of the pine is to be taken in a very general sense. How far the ancients entertained correct opinions respecting the globular figure of the earth, or rather, at what period this opinion became generally admitted, it is perhaps not easy to ascertain. The lines in the Georgics, i. 242, 243, which may be supposed to express the popular opinion in the time of Virgil, certainly do not convey the idea of a sphere capable of being inhabited in all its parts:
Hic vertex nobis semper sublimis; at illum
Sub pedibus Styx atra videt, manesque profundi.

2 "spiritus vis mundo inclusi."

3 ".....Alpium vertices, iongo tractu, nee breviore quinquaginta millibus passuum assurgere." To avoid the apparent improbability of the author conceiving of the Alps as 50 miles high, the commentators have, according to their usual custom, exercised their ingenuity in altering the text. See Poinsinet, i. 206, 207, and Lemaire, i. 373. But the expression does not imply that he conceived them as 50 miles in perpendicular height, but that there is a continuous ascent of 50 miles to get to the summit. This explanation of the passage is adopted by Alexandre; Lemaire, ut supra. For what is known of Dicæarchus I may refer to Hardouin, Index Auctorum, in Lemaire, i. 181.

4 "coactam in verticem aquarum quoque figuram."

5 "aqunrum nempe convexitas." Alexandre, in Lemaire, i. 374.

6 "Quam quæ ad extremum mare a primis aquis." I profess myself altogether unable to follow the author's mode of reasoning in this paragraph, or to throw any light upon it. He would appear to be arguing in favour of the actual flatness of the surface of the ocean, whereas his previous remarks prove its convexity.

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