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P. Cornelius Rufus,1 who was consul with M. Curio, lost his sight while he was asleep and dreaming that that accident had befallen him. On the other hand, Jason, of Pheræ, when he was labouring under an abscess and had been given up by the physicians, determined to end his life in battle, where he received a wound in the chest, and found, at the hands of the enemy, a remedy for his disease.2 Q. Fabius Maximus,3 the consul, having engaged in battle with the Allobroges and the Arverni, at the river Isara, on the sixth day before the ides of August, and having slain there one hundred and thirty thousand of the enemy, found himself cured, during the engage. ment, of a quartan fever.

This gift of life, which is bestowed upon us by nature, is extremely uncertain and frail, whatever portion of it may be allotted to us. The measure is, indeed, but scanty and brief, even when it is the largest, if we only reflect upon the extent of eternity. And then, besides, if we take into account our sleep during the night, we can only be properly said to live half the period of our life; seeing that just one half of it is passed, either in a state resembling death, or else of bodily suffering, if we are unable to sleep. Added to this, we ought not to reckon the years of infancy, during which we are not sensible of our existence, nor yet the years of old age, which is prolonged only for the punishment of those who arrive at it. There are so many kinds of dangers, so many diseases, so many apprehensions, so many cares, we so often invoke death, that really there is nothing that is so often the object of our wishes. Nature has, in reality, bestowed no greater blessing on man than the shortness of life. The senses become dull, the limbs torpid, the sight, the hearing, the legs, the teeth, and the organs of digestion, all of them die before us, and yet we reckon this state as a part of our life. The solitary instance of Xenophilus, the musician,4 who lived one hundred and five years without any infirmity of body, must be regarded then as a kind of miracle; for, by Hercules! all other men are subject, at certain fixed periods, to recurring and deadly attacks by heat or cold, in every part of the body, a thing that is not the case with other animals; and these attacks, too, return not only at regular hours, but on certain days and certain nights—sometimes the third day, sometimes the fourth, sometimes every day throughout the year.

And then, too, there is another kind of fatal disease, that which is produced by over-exertion of the mental faculties.5 Nature has appointed certain laws as well for our maladies; quartan fevers never commence at the winter solstice, nor yet during the winter months; some diseases never attack us after the sixtieth year; some again disappear at the age of puberty, especially in females;6 while aged persons are but seldom affected by the plague. There are some diseases which attack whole nations; others prevail among classes; some among slaves,7 others among the higher ranks, and others among other classes of society. It has been remarked, in reference to this subject, that the plague always takes a course from the south towards the west,8 and scarcely ever in an opposite direction; it never appears in the winter, or lasts longer than three months.

1 Consul A.U.C. 463; he is generally called Rufinus.—B.

2 This anecdote is mentioned by Cicero, De Nat. Deor. B. iii. c. 28, and by Valerius Maximus, B. i. c. 8.—B. He was tyrant of Pheræ and Tagus in Thessaly, and was finally assassinated.

3 He was consul A.U.C. 633; in consequence of the victories which he obtained over the Allobroges, he obtained the agnomen of "Allobrogicus."—B.

4 Valerius Maximus, B. viii. c. 13, refers to the great age of Xenophilus, but designates him "Pythagoræus;" he says that he obtained his information respecting him from Aristoxenus, the musician, which may have led to an inaccuracy on the part of Pliny. Poinsinet endeavours to reconcile the discrepancy, by the circumstance, that music formed a prominent part of the Pythagorean discipline.—B.

5 "Per sapientiam mori." Many conjectures have been formed respecting the meaning of this passage, which is obscure. Attempts have been made to amend the reading of the text, but; as it appears, without success; see the notes of Hardouin, Ajasson, and others, Lemaire, vol. iii. pp. 197, 8.—B. It is pretty clear, however, that Pliny here refers to what, in the next Chapter, he calls "sapientiæ ægritudo," the malady by the Greeks called "phrenesis," and by us "frenzy," which attacks the seat of wisdom, the understanding. Many pages have been written upon the meaning of this passage, obvious as it seems to be.

6 The same doctrine is advanced in B. xxviii., which treats of medicine, sec, c. 10.—B.

7 Among the ancients, all the manufactures and mechanical arts were carried on by slaves; they were, consequently, subjected to the same kinds of morbid causes which are found, in modern times, to be so detrimental to certain descriptions of workmen.—B.

8 Our own experience has taught us the truth of this observation in the case of the cholera; and the great plague of 1348, which is thought to have swept off one-third of mankind, is supposed to have travelled to Europe from the vicinity of the Ganges.

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