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[5arg] A statement from the works of Aristotle, that snow-water is a very bad thing to drink; and that ice is formed from snow. 1


IN the hottest season of the year with some companions and friends of mine who were students of [p. 363] eloquence or of philosophy, I had withdrawn to the country-place of a rich friend at Tibur. There was with us a good man of the Peripatetic school, well trained and especially devoted to Aristotle. When we drank a good deal of water made of melted snow, he tried to restrain us and rather severely scolded us. He cited us the authority of famous physicians and in particular of the philosopher Aristotle, a man skilled in all human knowledge, who declared that snow-water was indeed helpful to grain and trees, but was a very unwholesome drink for human beings, and that it gradually produced wasting diseases in the body, which made their appearance only after a long time.

This counsel he gave us repeatedly in a spirit of prudence and goodwill. But when the drinking of snow-water went on without interruption, from the library of Tibur, which at that time was in the temple of Hercules and was well supplied with books, he drew out a volume of Aristotle and brought it to us, saying: “At least believe the words of this wisest of men and cease to ruin your health.”

In that book it was written 2 that water from snow was very bad to drink, as was also that water which was more solidly and completely congealed, which the Greeks call κρύσταλλος, or “clear ice”; and the following reason was there given for this: “That when water is hardened by the cold air and congeals, it necessarily follows that evaporation takes place and that a kind of very thin vapour, so to speak, is forced from it and comes out of it. But its lightest part,” he said, “is that which is evaporated; what remains is heavier and less clean and wholesome, [p. 365] and this part, beaten upon by the throbbing of the air, takes on the form and colour of white foam. But that some more wholesome part is forced out and evaporated from the snow is shown by the fact that it becomes less than it was before it congealed.”

I have taken a few of Aristotle's own words from that book, and I quote them: “Why is the water made from snow or ice unwholesome? Because from all water that is frozen the lightest and thinnest part evaporates. And the proof of this is that when it melts after being frozen, its volume is less than before. But since the most wholesome part is gone, it necessarily follows that what is left is less wholesome.” After I read this, we decided to pay honour to the learned Aristotle. And so I for my part immediately declared war upon snow and swore hatred against it,1 while the others made truces with it on various terms.

1 This is not what Aristotle said, but that water formed from ice was unwholesome, see § 5 and 9. See crit. note 1, p. 362.

2 Frag. 214, Rose.

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