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[I have adopted the division of the chapters from Hardouin, as given in the editions of Valpy, Lemaire, Ajasson, and Sillig.; the Roman figures, enclosed between brackets, are the numbers of the chapters in Dalechamps, De Laët, Gronovius, Holland, and Poinsinet. The titles of the chapters are nearly the same with those in Valpy, Lemaire, and Ajasson.]


The world1, and whatever that be which we otherwise call the heavens2, by the vault of which all things are enclosed, we must conceive to be a Deity3, to be eternal, without bounds, neither created, nor subject, at any time, to destruction4. To inquire what is beyond it is no concern of man, nor can the human mind form any conjecture respecting it. It is sacred, eternal, and without bounds, all in all; indeed including everything in itself; finite, yet like what is infinite; the most certain of all things, yet like what is uncertain, externally and internally embracing all things in itself; it is the work of nature, and itself constitutes nature5.

It is madness to harass the mind, as some have done, with attempts to measure the world, and to publish these attempts; or, like others, to argue from what they have made out, that there are innumerable other worlds, and that we must believe there to be so many other natures, or that, if only one nature produced the whole, there will be so many suns and so many moons, and that each of them will have immense trains of other heavenly bodies. As if the same question would not recur at every step of our inquiry, anxious as we must be to arrive at some termination; or, as if this infinity, which we ascribe to nature, the former of all things, cannot be more easily comprehended by one single formation, especially when that is so extensive. It is madness, perfect madness, to go out of this world and to search for what is beyond it, as if one who is ignorant of his own dimensions could ascertain the measure of any thing else, or as if the human mind could see what the world itself cannot contain.


That it has the form of a perfect globe we learn from the name which has been uniformly given to it, as well as from numerous natural arguments. For not only does a figure of this kind return everywhere into itself7 and sustain itself, also including itself, requiring no adjustments, not sensible of either end or beginning in any of its parts, and is best fitted for that motion, with which, as will appear hereafter, it is continually turning round; but still more, because we perceive it, by the evidence of the sight, to be, in every part, convex and central, which could not be the case were it of any other figure.


The rising and the setting of the sun clearly prove, that this globe is carried round in the space of twenty-four hours, in an eternal and never-ceasing circuit, and with in- credible swiftness8. I am not able to say, whether the sound caused by the whirling about of so great a mass be excessive, and, therefore, far beyond what our ears can perceive, nor, indeed, whether the resounding of so many stars, all carried along at the same time and revolving in their orbits, may not produce a kind of delightful harmony of incredible sweetness9. To us, who are in the interior, the world appears to glide silently along, both by day and by night.

Various circumstances in nature prove to us, that there are impressed on the heavens innumerable figures of animals and of all kinds of objects, and that its surface is not perfectly polished like the eggs of birds, as some celebrated authors assert10. For we find that the seeds of all bodies fall down from it, principally into the ocean, and, being mixed together, that a variety of monstrous forms are in this way frequently produced. And, indeed, this is evident to the eye; for, in one part, we have the figure of a wain, in another of a bear, of a bull, and of a letter11; while, in the middle of them, over our heads, there is a white circle12.

(4.) With respect to the name, I am influenced by the unanimous opinions of all nations. For what the Greeks, from its being ornamented, have termed κόσμος, we, from its perfect and complete elegance, have termed mundus. The name cœlum, no doubt, refers to its being engraven, as it were, with the stars, as Varro suggests13. In confirmation of this idea we may adduce the Zodiac14, in which are twelve figures of animals; through them it is that the sun has continued its course for so many ages.


I do not find that any one has doubted that there are four elements. The highest of these is supposed to be fire, and hence proceed the eyes of so many glittering stars. The next is that spirit, which both the Greeks and ourselves call by the same name, air17. It is by the force of this vital principle, pervading all things and mingling with all, that the earth, together with the fourth element, water, is balanced in the middle of space. These are mutually bound together, the lighter being restrained by the heavier, so that they cannot fly off; while, on the contrary, from the lighter tending upwards, the heavier are so suspended, that they cannot fall down. Thus, by an equal tendency in an opposite direction, each of them remains in its appropriate place, bound together by the never-ceasing revolution of the world, which always turning on itself, the earth falls to the lowest part and is in the middle of the whole, while it remains suspended in the centre18, and, as it were, balancing this centre, in which it is suspended. So that it alone remains immoveable, whilst all things revolve round it, being connected with every other part, whilst they all rest upon it.

(6.) Between this body and the heavens there are suspended, in this aërial spirit, seven stars19, separated by determinate spaces, which, on account of their motion, we call wander- ing, although, in reality, none are less so20. The sun is carried along in the midst of these, a body of great size and power, the ruler, not only of the seasons and of the different climates, but also of the stars themselves and of the heavens21. When we consider his operations, we must regard him as the life, or rather the mind of the universe, the chief regulator and the God of nature; he also lends his light to the other stars22. He is most illustrious and excellent, beholding all things and hearing all things, which, I perceive, is ascribed to him exclusively by the prince of poets, Homer23.

CHAP. 5. (7.)—OF GOD24.

I consider it, therefore, an indication of human weakness to inquire into the figure and form of God. For whatever God be, if there be any other God25, and wherever he exists, he is all sense, all sight, all hearing, all life, all mind26, and all within himself. To believe that there are a number of Gods, derived from the virtues and vices of man27, as Chastity, Concord, Understanding, Hope, Honour, Clemency, and Fidelity; or, according to the opinion of Democritus, that there are only two, Punishment and Reward28, indicates still greater folly. Human nature, weak and frail as it is, mindful of its own infirmity, has made these divisions, so that every one might have recourse to that which he supposed himself to stand more particularly in need of29. Hence we find different names employed by different nations; the inferior deities are arranged in classes, and diseases and plagues are deified, in consequence of our anxious wish to propitiate them. It was from this cause that a temple was dedicated to Fever, at the public expense, on the Palatine Hill30, and to Orbona31, near the Temple of the Lares, and that an altar was elected to Good Fortune on the Esquiline. Hence we may understand how it comes to pass that there is a greater population of the Celestials than of human beings, since each individual makes a separate God for himself, adopting his own Juno and his own Genius32. And there are nations who make Gods of certain animals, and even certain obscene things33, which are not to be spoken of, swearing by stinking meats and such like. To suppose that marriages are contracted between the Gods, and that, during so long a period, there should have been no issue from them, that some of them should be old and always grey- headed and others young and like children, some of a dark complexion, winged, lame, produced from eggs, living and dying on alternate days, is sufficiently puerile and foolish. But it is the height of impudence to imagine, that adultery takes place between them, that they have contests and quarrels, and that there are Gods of theft and of various crimes34. To assist man is to be a God; this is the path to eternal glory. This is the path which the Roman nobles formerly pursued, and this is the path which is now pursued by the greatest ruler of our age, Vespasian Augustus, he who has come to the relief of an exhausted empire, as well as by his sons. This was the ancient mode of remunerating those who deserved it, to regard them as Gods35. For the names of all the Gods, as well as of the stars that I have mentioned above36, have been derived from their services to mankind. And with respect to Jupiter and Mercury, and the rest of the celestial nomenclature, who does not admit that they have reference to certain natural phænomena37? But it is ridiculous to suppose, that the great head of all things, whatever it be, pays any regard to human affairs38. Can we believe, or rather can there be any doubt, that it is not polluted by such a disagreeable and complicated office? It is not easy to determine which opinion would be most for the advantage of mankind, since we observe some who have no respect for the Gods, and others who carry it to a scandalous excess. They are slaves to foreign ceremonies; they carry on their fingers the Gods and the monsters whom they worship39; they condemn and they lay great stress on certain kinds of food; they impose on themselves dreadful ordinances, not even sleeping quietly. They do not marry or adopt children, or indeed do anything else, without the sanction of their sacred rites. There are others, on the contrary, who will cheat in the very Capitol, and will forswear themselves even by Jupiter Tonans40, and while these thrive in their crimes, the others torment themselves with their superstitions to no purpose.

Among these discordant opinions mankind have discovered for themselves a kind of intermediate deity, by which our scepticism concerning God is still increased. For all over the world, in all places, and at all times, Fortune is the only god whom every one invokes; she alone is spoken of, she alone is accused and is supposed to be guilty; she alone is in our thoughts, is praised and blamed, and is loaded with reproaches; wavering as she is, conceived by the generality of mankind to be blind, wandering, inconstant, uncertain, variable, and often favouring the unworthy. To her are referred all our losses and all our gains, and in casting up the accounts of mortals she alone balances the two pages of our sheet41. We are so much in the power of chance, that change itself is considered as a God, and the existence of God becomes doubtful.

But there are others who reject this principle and assign events to the influence of the stars42, and to the laws of our nativity; they suppose that God, once for all, issues his decrees and never afterwards interferes. This opinion begins to gain ground, and both the learned and the unlearned vulgar are falling into it. Hence we have the admonitions of thunder, the warnings of oracles, the predictions of soothsayers, and things too trifling to be mentioned, as sneezing and stumbling with the feet reckoned among omens43. The late Emperor Augustus44 relates, that he put the left shoe on the wrong foot, the day when he was near being assaulted by his soldiers45. And such things as these so embarrass improvident mortals, that among all of them this alone is certain, that there is nothing certain, and that there is nothing more proud or more wretched than man. For other animals have no care but to provide for their subsistence, for which the spontaneous kindness of nature is all-sufficient; and this one circumstance renders their lot more especially preferable, that they never think about glory, or money, or ambition, and, above all, that they never reflect on death.

The belief, however, that on these points the Gods superintend human affairs is useful to us, as well as that the punishment of crimes, although sometimes tardy, from the Deity being occupied with such a mass of business, is never entirely remitted, and that the human race was not made the next in rank to himself, in order that they might be degraded like brutes. And indeed this constitutes the great comfort in this imperfect state of man, that even the Deity cannot do everything. For he cannot procure death for himself, even if he wished it, which, so numerous are the evils of life, has been granted to man as our chief good. Nor can he make mortals immortal, or recall to life those who are dead; nor can he effect, that he who has once lived shall not have lived, or that he who has enjoyed honours shall not have enjoyed them; nor has he any influence over past events but to cause them to be forgotten. And, if we illustrate the nature of our connexion with God by a less serious argument, he cannot make twice ten not to be twenty, and many other things of this kind. By these considerations the power of Nature is clearly proved, and is shown to be what we call God. It is not foreign to the subject to have digressed into these matters, familiar as they are to every one, from the continual discussions that take place respecting God46.


Let us return from this digression to the other parts of nature. The stars which are described as fixed in the heavens47, are not, as the vulgar suppose, attached each of them to different individuals48, the brighter to the rich, those that are less so to the poor, and the dim to the aged, shining according to the lot of the individual, and separately assigned to mortals; for they have neither come into existence, nor do they perish in connexion with particular persons, nor does a falling star indicate that any one is dead. We are not so closely connected with the heavens as that the shining of the stars is affected by our death49. When they are supposed to shoot or fall50, they throw out, by the force of their fire, as if from an excess of nutriment, the superabundance of the humour which they have absorbed, as we observe to take place from the oil in our lamps, when they are burning51. The nature of the celestial bodies is eternal, being interwoven, as it were, with the world, and, by this union, rendering it solid; but they exert their most powerful influence on the earth. This, notwithstanding its subtilty, may be known by the clearness and the magnitude of the effect, as we shall point out in the proper place52. The account of the circles of the heavens will be better understood when we come to speak of the earth, since they have all a reference to it; except what has been discovered respecting the Zodiac, which I shall now detail.

Anaximander the Milesian, in the 58th olympiad53, is said to have been the first who understood its obliquity, and thus opened the road to a correct knowledge of the subject54. Afterwards Cleostratus made the signs in it, first marking those of Aries and Sagittarius; Atlas had formed the sphere long before this time55. But now, leaving the further consideration of this subject, we must treat of the bodies that are situated between the earth and the heavens56.

It is certain that the star called Saturn is the highest, and therefore appears the smallest, that he passes through the largest circuit, and that he is at least thirty years in completing it57. The course of all the planets, and among others of the Sun, and the Moon, is in the contrary direction to that of the heavens58, that is towards the left, while the hea- vens are rapidly carried about to the right59. And although, by the stars constantly revolving with immense velocity, they are raised up, and hurried on to the part where they set, yet they are all forced, by a motion of their own, in an opposite direction60; and this is so ordered, lest the air, being always moved in the same direction, by the constant whirling of the heavens, should accumulate into one mass, whereas now it is divided and separated and beaten into small pieces, by the opposite motion of the different stars. Saturn is a star of a cold and rigid nature, while the orbit of Jupiter is much lower, and is carried round in twelve years61. The next star, Mars, which some persons call Hercules62, is of a fiery and burning nature, and from its nearness to the sun is carried round in little less than two years63. In consequence of the excessive heat of this star and the rigidity of Saturn, Jupiter, which is interposed between the two, is tempered by both of them, and is thus rendered salutary. The path of the Sun consists of 360 degrees; but, in order that the shadow may return to the same point of the dial64, we are obliged to add, in each year, five days and the fourth part of a day. On this account an intercalary day is given to every fifth year65, that the period of the seasons may agree with that of the Sun.

Below the Sun66 revolves the great star called Venus, wandering with an alternate motion67, and, even in its surnames, rivalling the Sun and the Moon. For when it precedes the day and rises in the morning, it receives the name of Lucifer, as if it were another sun, hastening on the day. On the contrary, when it shines in the west, it is named Vesper, as prolonging the light, and performing the office of the moon. Pythagoras, the Samian, was the first who discovered its nature68, about the 62nd olympiad, in the 222nd year of the City69. It excels all the other stars in size, and its brilliancy is so considerable, that it is the only star which produces a shadow by its rays. There has, consequently, been great interest made for its name; some have called it the star of Juno70, others of Isis, and others of the Mother of the Gods. By its influence everything in the earth is generated. For, as it rises in either direction, it sprinkles everything with its genial dew, and not only matures the productions of the earth, but stimulates all living things71. It completes the circuit of the zodiac in 348 days, never receding from the sun more than 46 degrees, according to Timæus72.

Similarly circumstanced, but by no means equal in size and in power, next to it, is the star Mercury, by some called Apollo73; it is carried in a lower orbit, and moves in a course which is quicker by nine days, shining sometimes before the rising of the sun, and at other times after its setting, but never going farther from it than 23 degrees74, as we learn from Timæus and Sosigenes75. The nature of these two stars is peculiar, and is not the same with those mentioned above, for those are seen to recede from the sun through one-third or one-fourth part of the heavens, and are often seen opposite to it. They have also other larger circuits, in which they make their complete revolutions, as will be described in the account of the great year76.

(9.) But the Moon77, which is the last of the stars, and the one the most connected with the earth, the remedy provided by nature for darkness, excels all the others in its admirable qualities. By the variety of appearances which it assumes, it puzzles the observers, mortified that they should be the most ignorant concerning that star which is the nearest to them. She is always either waxing or waning; sometimes her disc is curved into horns, sometimes it is divided into two equal portions, and at other times it is swelled out into a full orb; sometimes she appears spotted

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