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CHAP. 52. (51.)—DEATH.

And now to speak of the premonitory signs of death. Among these are laughter, in madness1 in cases of delirium,2 the patient carefully folding the fringe or the plaits of the bed- clothes;3 insensibility to the attempts of those who would rouse them from sleep; and involuntary discharges from the body, which it is not necessary here to particularize; but the most unequivocal signs of all, are certain appearances of the eyes and the nose, a lying posture with the face continually upwards, an irregular and feeble motion of the pulse,4 and the other symptoms, which have been observed by that prince of physicians, Hippocrates. At the same time that there are innumerable signs of death, there are none of health and safety; so much so, that Cato the Censor, when speaking to his son in relation to those who appear to be in good health, declared, as though it had been the enunciation of some oracle,5 that precocity in youth is a sign of an early death.6

The number of diseases is infinite. Pherecydes of Scyros died from vast numbers of worms issuing from his body.7 Some persons are distressed by a perpetual fever; such was the case with C. Mæcenas; during the last three years of his life, he could never get a single moment's sleep.8 Antipater of Sidon, the poet, was attacked with fever every year, and that only on his birthday; he died of it at, an advanced age.9

1 Dalechamps correctly remarks, that the laughter here referred to, is not the indication of mirth, but what has been termed the "risus Sardonicus," the "Sardonic laugh," produced by a convulsive action of the muscles of the face; Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 201.—B.

2 "Sapientitæ ægritudine." See Note 80 above.

3 Pliny probably took this notion from Celsus, who speaks of this as being a fatal symptom, B. ii. c. 6; "si manibus qui in febre, &c., in veste floccos legit, fimbriasque diducit. . . ."—B.

4 "Venarum percussa;" the ancients were not acquainted with the relation which exists between the arteries and the veins, or the appropriate functions of these parts.—B.

5 In Seneca, Contr. B. ii., we find the remark, "Suchgenius, at so early an age, bodes no long life." Apuleius, quoting from some Greek writer, says, "Odi puerulos præcoci sapientiâ." "I hate your bits of boys, with their precocious wisdom." We have a somewhat similar saying to the above passage from Seneca, "He is too wise," or "too clever to live long."

6 This remark has been confirmed by various writers, ancient and modern; it appears to depend upon an unnatural development of the cerebral and nervous system, which renders it more liable to disease, and less able to bear the impressions to which it is ordinarily exposed.—B.

7 This was probably Phthiriasis, or the "morbus pediculosus," which has been previously mentioned in this book with reference to Sulla, and of which, probably, Herod Agrippa died. Some authors state that Pherecydes put an end to his life by throwing himself from a rock at Delphi; others give other accounts of his death.

8 This circumstance is mentioned by Seneca, De Provid. c. 3.—B.

9 We have the same account of Antipater in Valerius Maximus, B. i. c. 8. He was the preceptor of Cato of Utica; Cicero makes honourable mention of him, De Oratore, B. iii. c. 50.—B.

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