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According to the doctrine of the Babylonians, earthquakes and clefts of the earth, and occurrences of this kind, are supposed to be produced by the influence of the stars, especially of the three to which they ascribe thunder1; and to be caused by the stars moving with the sun, or being in conjunction with it, and, more particularly, when they are in the quartile aspect2. If we are to credit the report, a most admirable and immortal spirit, as it were of a divine nature, should be ascribed to Anaximander the Milesian, who, they say, warned the Lacedæmonians to beware of their city and their houses3. For he predicted that an earthquake was at hand, when both the whole of their city was destroyed and a large portion of Mount Taygetus, which projected in the form of a ship, was broken off, and added farther ruin to the previous destruction. Another prediction is ascribed to Pherecydes, the master of Pythagoras, and this was divine; by a draught of water from a well, he foresaw and predicted that there would be an earthquake in that place4. And if these things be true, how nearly do these individuals approach to the Deity, even during their lifetime! But I leave every one to judge of these matters as he pleases. I certainly conceive the winds to be the cause of earthquakes; for the earth never trembles except when the sea is quite calm, and when the heavens are so tranquil that the birds cannot maintain their flight, all the air which should support them being withdrawn5; nor does it ever happen until after great winds, the gust being pent up, as it were, in the fissures and concealed hollows. For the trembling of the earth resembles thunder in the clouds; nor does the yawning of the earth differ from the bursting of the lightning; the enclosed air struggling and striving to escape6.

1 Saturn, Jupiter and Mars: see the 8th chapter of this book.

2 "Vel quando meant cum Sole in conjunctione cum eo, vel quando cum eo conveniunt in aspectu, maxime vero in quadrato, qui fit, qunm distant a Sole quarta mundi sive cœli parte." Hardouin in Lemaire, i. 401.

3 "Ut urbem et tecta custodirent." This anecdote is referred to by Cicero, who employs the words "ut urbem et tecta linquerent." De Divin. i. 112.

4 This anecdote is also referred to by Cicero, de Div. ii.

5 It has been observed that earthquakes, as well as other great convulsions of nature, are preceded by calms; it has also been observed that birds and animals generally exhibit certain presentiments of the event, by something peculiar in their motions or proceedings; this circumstance is mentioned by Aristotle, Meteor. ii. 8, and by Seneca, Nat. Quæst. vi. 12.

6 It is scarcely necessary to remark, that this supposed resemblance or analogy is entirely without foundation. The phænomena of earthquakes are described by Aristotle, De Mundo, cap. 4, and Meteor. ii. 7 and 8; also by Seneca in various parts of the 6th book of his Qusest. Nat.

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