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[10]

Phenomena akin both to these and to those in Sicily are to be seen about the Liparaean Islands and Lipara itself. The islands are seven in number, but the largest is Lipara (a colony of the Cnidians), which, Thermessa excepted, lies nearest to Sicily. It was formerly called Meligunis; and it not only commanded a fleet, but for a long time resisted the incursions of the Tyrrheni, for it held in obedience all the Liparaean Islands, as they are now called, though by some they are called the Islands of Aeolus. Furthermore, it often adorned the temple of Apollo at Delphi with dedications from the first fruits of victory. It has also a fruitful soil, and a mine of styptic earth1 that brings in revenues,2 and hot springs, and fire blasts. Between Lipara and Sicily is Thermessa, which is now called Hiera of Hephaestus;3 the whole island is rocky, desert, and fiery, and it has three fire blasts, rising from three openings which one might call craters. From the largest the flames carry up also red-hot masses, which have already choked up a considerable part of the Strait. From observation it has been believed that the flames, both here and on Aetna, are stimulated along with the winds and that when the winds cease the flames cease too. And this is not unreasonable, for the winds are begotten by the evaporations of the sea and after they have taken their beginning are fed thereby; and therefore it is not permissible for any who have any sort of insight into such matters to marvel if the fire too is kindled by a cognate fuel or disturbance. According to Polybius, one of the three craters has partially fallen in, whereas the others remain whole; and the largest has a circular rim five stadia in circuit, but it gradually contracts to a diameter of fifty feet; and the altitude of this crater above the level of the sea is a stadium, so that the crater is visible on windless days.4 But if all this is to be believed, perhaps one should also believe the mythical story about Empedocles.5 Now if the south wind is about to blow, Polybius continues, a cloud-like mist pours down all round the island, so that not even Sicily is visible in the distance; and when the north wind is about to blow, pure flames rise aloft from the aforesaid crater and louder rumblings are sent forth; but the west wind holds a middle position, so to speak, between the two; but though the two other craters are like the first in kind, they fall short in the violence of their spoutings; accordingly, both the difference in the rumblings, and the place whence the spoutings and the flames and the fiery smoke begin, signify beforehand the wind that is going to blow again three days afterward;6 at all events, certain of the men in Liparae, when the weather made sailing impossible, predicted, he says, the wind that was to blow, and they were not mistaken; from this fact, then, it is clear that that saying of the Poet which is regarded as most mythical of all was not idly spoken, but that he hinted at the truth when he called Aeolus "steward of the winds."7 However, I have already discussed these matters sufficiently.8 It is the close attention of the Poet to vivid description, one might call it, . . . for both9 are equally present in rhetorical composition and vivid description; at any rate, pleasure is common to both. But I shall return to the topic which follows that at which I digressed.

1 Styptic earth (= Latin alumen) is discussed at length by Pliny 35.52. It was not our alum, but an iron sulphate, or a mixture of an iron and an aluminium sulphate, used in dyeing and in medicine.

2 Diod. Sic. 5.10 says: "This island" (Lipara) "has the far-famed mines of styptic earth, from which the Liparaeans and Romans get great revenues."

3 i.e., "Sacred" Isle of Hephaestus. The isle is now called Vulcanello. It is supposed to be the island that rose from the sea about 183 B. C. (See Nissen, Italische Landeskunde I.251).

4 i.e., from the sea.

5 See 6. 2. 8.

6 So Pliny 3.14

7 Hom. Od. 10.21

8 1. 2. 7-18, but especially sections 15-18. Since Polybius, as well as Strabo, discussed this subject at length, the sentence "However, . . . sufficiently" might belong to the long excerpt from Polybius (cp. 1. 2. 15-18). Here follows a sentence which, as it stands in the manuscripts, is incoherent, and seems to be beyond restoration. But for the fact that it is somewhat similar to an accredited passage found elsewhere (1. 2. 17), one would hardly hesitate to regard it as a marginal note and follow Meineke in ejecting it from the text.

9 Perhaps (1) pleasure and (2) the excitement of amazement (see 1. 2. 17), as Groskurd thinks, or (1) the truthful element and (2) the mythical element (see also 1. 2. 19).

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