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CHAP. 39. (14).—IRON ORES.

Next to copper we must give an account of the metal known as iron, at the same time the most useful and the most fatal instrument in the hand of mankind. For by the aid of iron we lay open the ground, we plant trees, we prepare our vineyard-trees,1 and we force our vines each year to resume their youthful state, by cutting away their decayed branches. It is by the aid of iron that we construct houses, cleave rocks, and perform so many other useful offices of life. But it is with iron also that wars, murders, and robberies are effected, and this, not only hand to hand, but from a distance even, by the aid of missiles and winged weapons, now launched from engines, now hurled by the human arm, and now furnished with feathery wings. This last I regard as the most criminal artifice that has been devised by the human mind; for, as if to bring death upon man with still greater rapidity, we have given wings to iron and taught it to fly.2 Let us there- fore acquit Nature of a charge that here belongs to man himself.3

Indeed there have been some instances in which it has been proved that iron might be solely used for innocent purposes. In the treaty which Porsena granted to the Roman people, after the expulsion of the kings, we find it expressly stipulated, that iron shall be only employed for the cultivation of the fields; and our oldest authors inform us, that in those days it was considered unsafe to write with an iron pen.4 There is an edict extant, published in the third consulship of Pompeius Magnus, during the tumults that ensued upon the death of Clodius, prohibiting any weapon from being retained in the City.

1 " Arbusta:" trees on which vines were trained. See B. xvii. c. 35.

2 Holland has the following Note upon this passage: "O Pliny, what wouldst thou say, if thou didst see and hear the pistols, muskets, culverines, and cannons in these days." Vol. II. p. 513.—B.

3 The charge that death is always the work of Nature.—B.

4 Or "stylus."

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