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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, air3. 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 centre4, 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 stars5, separated by determinate spaces, which, on account of their motion, we call wander- ing, although, in reality, none are less so6. 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 heavens7. 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 stars8. 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, Homer9.

1 The account of the elements, of their nature, difference, and, more especially, the necessity of their being four, are fully discussed by Aristotle in various parts of his works, more particularly in his treatise De Cœlo, lib. iii. cap. 3, 4 and 5, lib. iv. cap. 5, and De Gener. et Cor. lib. ii. cap. 2, 3, 4 and 5. For a judicious summary of the opinions of Aristotle on this subject, I may refer to Stanley's History of Philosophy; Aristotle, doctrines of, p. 2. 1. 7, and to Enfield, i. 764 et seq. For the Epicurean doctrine, see Lucretius, i. 764 et seq.

2 Although the word planeta, as taken from the Greek πλανήτης, is inserted in the title of this chapter, it does not occur in any part of the text. It is not found either in Lucretius, Manilius, or Seneca, nor, I believe, was it used by any of their contemporaries, except Hyginus, p. 76. The planets were generally styled stellæ erraticæ, errantes, or vagæ, sidera palantia, as in Lucretius, ii. 1030, or simply the five stars, as in Cicero, De Nat. Deor. ii. 51, and in Seneca, Nat. Quæst. vii. 24. Pliny, by including the sun and moon, makes the number seven. Aratus calls them πέντ᾽ ἄστερες, l. 454.

3 "Aër." "Circumfusa undique est (terra) hac animabili spirabilique natura, cui nomen est aër; Græcum illud quidem, sed perceptum jam tamen usu a nobis;" Cicero, De Nat. Deor. ii. 91.

4 "universi cardine." "Revolutionis, ut aiunt, centro. Idem Plinius, hoc ipso libro, cap. 64, terram cœli cardinem esse dicit; "Alexandre, in Lem. i. 228. On this subject I may refer to Ptolemy, Magn. Const. lib. i. cap. 3, 4, 6. See also Apuleius, near the commencement of his treatise De Mundo.

5 "Sidera." The word sidus is used, in most cases, for one of the heavenly bodies generally, sometimes for what we term a constellation, a particular assemblage of them, and sometimes specially for an individual star. Manilius employs the word in all these senses, as will appear by the three following passages respectively; the first taken from the opening of his poem,
"Carmine divinas artes, et conscia fati
The second, "Hæc igitur texunt æquali sidera tractu
Ignibus in varias cœlum laqueantia formas." i. 275, 276.
The third "....pectus, fulgenti sidere clarius;"i. 356.
In the Fasti of Ovid, we have examples of the two latter of these significations:—
"Ex Ariadnæo sidere nosse potes;" v. 346.
"Et canis (Icarium dicunt) quo sidere noto
Tosta sitit tellus;" iv. 939, 940.
Lucretius appears always to employ the term in the general sense. J. Obsequens applies the word sidus to a meteor; "sidus ingens cœlo demissum," cap. 16. In a subsequent part of this book, chap. 18 et seq., our author more particularly restricts the term sidus to the planets.

6 Cicero remarks concerning them; "quæ (stellæ) falso vocantur errantes; "De Nat. Deor. ii. 51.

7 "....vices cierum alternat et noctium, quum sidera præsens occultat, illustrat absens;" Hard. in Lem. i. 230.

8 "ceteris sideribus." According to Hardouin, ubi supra, "nimium stellis errantibus." There is, however, nothing in the expression of our author which sanctions this limitation.

9 See Iliad, iii. 277, and Od. xii. 323.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Charles Simmons, The Metamorphoses of Ovid, Books XIII and XIV, 13.110
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), TALABRIGA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), THERA
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