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BOOK III, tr. John Clarke





I AM not unaware, my dear friend Lucilius, of the i
greatness of the edifice whose foundations I am
laying in my old age, when I resolve to survey the
universe, to unearth its motives and secrets, and to
reveal them to the knowledge of others. When shall
I ever manage to cover such a field, gather together
such widely-spread material, behold with clear vision
such profound secrets ? Old age presses hard on
the rear, upbraiding me with the years bestowed on
vain pursuits. We must ply our task all the more
vigorously, and toil must now make good the loss
of a lifetime withdrawn from its true purpose.
Night must be added to day, engagements cut 2
short, care abandoned of property that lies far away
from its owner. The mind must be wholly set free
from other thoughts, and at least at the moment of
its flight from earth must bestow itself in self-con
templation. It shall do so, and shall urge itself on,
and each day it shall measure the brief span of time
left. What has been lost shall be repaired by diligent
use of the remainder of life. The surest pledge of
virtue is repentance and amendment. I may ex- 3
claim in the words of an illustrious poet :

High is the courage that inspires me, great the work, but short
The time in which to plan.



I should say the same were I planning it in boyhood
or in youth. No period could be anything but
narrow in face of such an undertaking. As it is,
when the midday of life is past, I have entered upon

4 a task that is serious, difficult, limitless. Let me
act as people generally do in a journey those that
are late in starting make up for the delay by their
speed. I must hurry on, and without further excuse
on the score of age proceed to tackle my problem

undoubtedly a vast, possibly an insuperable, one.
My mind swells with pride when I survey the
magnitude of my undertaking and reflect how much
is unaccomplished of my plan, though not of my

5 Some writers have wasted their efforts in nar
rating the doings of foreign kings, and in telling,
as the case may be, the sufferings or the cruelties
of nations. Surely it is wiser to try to end one s
own ills than to record for a coming generation the
ills of others. How much better to make one s
theme the works of the gods than the robberies of
Philip, or Alexander, or the other conquerors who
earned their fame by the destruction of mankind !
Such men were as truly scourges of humanity as a
flood by which a whole plain has been inundated, or
a conflagration by which the greater part of its

6 living creatures has been burnt up. The historians
tell us how Hannibal crossed the Alps, how he sud
denly transferred into Italy a war rendered more
formidable by Roman disasters in Spain ; how,
when his fortunes were shattered, more determined
still, even though the fate of Carthage was sealed,
he wandered through all kingdoms, offering to be
leader against Rome, and begging for an army ;
how he never ceased even in his old age to seek


to rouse up war in every corner of the world.
He could, it was plain, endure to be without a
country, but not without a foe.

How much better is it to inquire what ought to 7
be done than what has been done, and to teach
those who have entrusted their state to fortune that
nothing she gives is stable, but that all her gifts are
more fickle than the very air ! For she cannot rest,
her delight is to match sadness with joy, and to
mingle smiles with tears. Therefore in the day of
prosperity let no man exult, in the day of adversity
let no man faint : the successions of fortune alter
nate. Why should you boast yourself? The wave 8
meantime bears you aloft on its crest ; but where it
may strand you, you cannot tell. Its end will be
of its own choice, not of yours. Or why, again, do
you despond ? You have been carried down to
the nadir ; now is the chance of rising again.
Adversity alters for the better, success for the worse.
Changes of the kind must be anticipated, not merely
in private families, which are affected by a slight
cause, but also in sovereign houses. Dynasties
rising from the gutter have ere now established
themselves above the ruling powers, while ancient 9
empires have fallen when in the very heyday of
their power. The number cannot be reckoned of
the kingdoms that have been overthrown by other
kingdoms. God now makes it His special aim to
exalt some and to overthrow others ; nor does He
let them gently down, but dashes them from their
pinnacle, so that no remnant of them is left. A
great sight it is ; we think it so only because we
are ourselves small. There are many departments K
in which the standard is not derived from the actual
size of the objects, but from our own littleness.


What, I ask, then, is the principal thing in human
life ? Not to have filled the seas with fleets, nor to
have planted the standard of the nation on the shores
of the Red Sea, nor, when land has been exhausted,
to have wandered for the injury of others over the
Ocean in quest of the unknown. Rather it is to have
grasped in mind the whole universe, and to have
gained what is the greatest of all victories, the mastery
over besetting sins. There are hosts of conquerors
who have had cities and nations under their power,
but a very few who have subdued self. What is
the principal thing ? I say again. To raise the
soul above the threats and promises of fortune ; to

11 consider nothing as worth hoping for. For what
does fortune possess worth setting your heart upon ?
Why, as often as you lapse from converse with what
is divine back to what is human, your eyes will be
blinded just like the eyes of those who have returned
from bright sunlight into gross darkness. What is
the principal thing ? To be able to endure adver
sity with joyful heart ; to bear whatever betide just
as if it were the very thing you desired to happen.
For you would have felt it your duty to desire it, had
you known that all things happen by God s decree.

12 Tears, complaints, lamentation, are rebellion. What
is the principal thing ? A heart in face of calamity
resolute and invincible ; an adversary, yea, a sworn
foe, to luxury ; neither anxious to meet nor anxious
to shun peril ; a heart that knows how to fashion
fortune to its will without waiting for her ; which
can go forth to face ill or good dauntless and un
embarrassed, paralysed neither by the tumult of the

13 one nor the glamour of the other. What is the
principal thing ? Not to admit evil counsel into the
heart, and to lift up clean hands to heaven ; to seek


for no advantage which some one must give and
some one lose in order that it may reach you ; to
pray a prayer that no one will envy for purity
of heart ; as for other blessings which are highly
esteemed by the world, even should some chance
bring them to your home, to regard them as sure to
depart by the same door by which they entered.
What is the principal thing ? To lift one s courage 14
high above all that depends upon chance ; to re
member what man is, so that whether you be
fortunate, you may know that this will not be for
long ; or whether you be unfortunate, you may be
sure you are not so if you do not think yourself so.

The principal thing is to have life on the very
lips, ready to issue when summoned. This makes a
man free, not by right of Roman citizenship, but by
right of nature. He is the true freeman who has
escaped from bondage to self. That slavery is
constant, from it there is no deliverance ; it presses
us day and night alike, without pause, without
respite. To be a slave to self is the most grievous 15
kind of slavery ; yet its fetters may easily be struck
off, if you will but cease to make large demands
upon yourself, if you will cease to seek a personal
reward for your services, and if you will set clearly
before you your nature and your time of life, even
though it be the bloom of youth ; if you will say to
yourself, Why do I rave, and pant, and sweat ?
Why do I ply the earth ? why do I haunt the forum ?
Man needs but little, nor needs that little long.

To this end it will be profitable for us to examine
the nature of the universe. In the first place we
shall rise above what is base ; in the second, we shall
set the spirit free from the body, imparting to it that
courage and elevation of which it stands in need.



16 Besides, subtlety of thought practised on the
hidden mysteries of nature will prove no less
efficacious in problems that lie more on the surface.
And nothing is more on the surface than these
salutary lessons we are taught as safeguards against
the prevailing vice and madness faults we all con
demn, but do not abandon.

1 LET us enter then on an investigation of forms
of water, and let us trace the causes that produce
them ; whether, as Ovid says :

There was a fountain silvery clear with gleaming wavelets ;

or, as Virgil says :

Whence through nine mouths with mighty roar of the mountain
The sea issues in broken waves, overspreading the fields with its
resounding flood ;

or, as I find it in your own poem, my dear Lucilius :
The stream of Elis wells up from Sicilian fountains.

Let us inquire by what method the waters are

2 supplied ; how it is that day and night unceasingly
so many huge rivers roll down their course ; why
some are swollen by the rain of winter, some
increase in summer when all the other streams fail.
Meantime let us separate the Nile from the common
crowd ; it is a river of peculiar and unique character.
We shall give it its turn by and by. At present we
will confine our treatment to the common waters,
cold as well as hot. In regard to the latter we
must inquire whether the heat is due to natural or
artificial causes. We shall discuss other waters
too which are rendered remarkable by taste or some


special virtue. Some, for example, I may explain, 3
alleviate affections of the eyes, some, those of the
sinews, some effect complete cure of chronic maladies
given up by doctors as hopeless. Some again heal
sores, some by being drunk ease internal pain and
relieve complaints of the lungs and bowels. Some
staunch the flow of blood ; in fact their individual
uses are as varied as their taste.


ALL waters are classed as either standing or
running ; they are either gathered in one or occupy
different channels underground. Some of them are
sweet, others have pungent flavours of different
kinds, among them salt, bitter, medicinal. Belong
ing to the last class one may name sulphur, iron,
alum waters. The taste shows the quality. Waters
of different kinds have many other differences.
First there is touch, hot and cold ; then weight,
light and heavy ; then colour, pure, muddy, dark
blue, yellowish ; then wholesomeness, wholesome
and useful, or deadly or capable of petrifaction.
Some waters are thin, some thick ; some give
nourishment, others pass through the system with
out benefiting it at all ; the use of some removes


THE lie of the ground makes water either stand or
run ; on a slope it flows down, a plain keeps it
in, causing it to stagnate. Sometimes under pres
sure of air it is forced uphill ; it is then driven, it


does not flow. Surface water comes from rain ;
spring water from a natural fountain. There is,
however, nothing to prevent surface and spring
water in the same spot. This we see in Lake
Fucinus, into which the streams drain all the
rainfall of the surrounding mountains, while there
are also large springs concealed under the surface
of the lake itself. So, even when the torrents
discharge into it in winter, it preserves its appear
ance unaltered.


LET us inquire therefore, in the first place, how the
earth can contain sufficient water to maintain the
unbroken flow of the rivers, and where such a vast
quantity of water comes from. We are surprised
that the ocean is not sensible of the additional water
derived from rivers. It is no less surprising that
the earth is not sensible of the loss of all the water
that issues from it. What is it that has so filled it
up that it can from its hidden recesses furnish such
quantities and continually make good the loss as
it does ? Whatever explanation we give regarding
a river must apply also to streams and springs.

SOME are of opinion that the earth receives back
all the water it has lost. The sea, therefore, does
not get larger, because it does not assimilate the
water that runs into it, but forthwith restores it to the
earth. For the sea water returns by a secret path,


and is filtered in its passage back. 1 Being dashed
about as it passes through the endless, winding
channels in the ground, it loses its salinity, and,
purged of its bitterness in such a variety of ground
as it passes through, it eventually changes into pure,
fresh water.


SOME suppose that all the water that the earth
drinks in from rain is sent out again into the
rivers. They set down by way of proof the fact
that there are fewest rivers in the localities where
there is least frequent rain. On that account, they
say, the deserts of Ethiopia are destitute of streams,
and few springs are found in the interior of Africa,
because there is always a blazing sky and almost
perpetual summer. Therefore there are ugly
stretches of sandy waste, without tree and without
inhabitant, sprinkled at rare intervals by showers
that they immediately swallow up. On the other
hand, it is well known that there are abundant
streams and rivers in Germany and Gaul and
next to them in Italy, because they enjoy a moist
climate, and even the summer is not without


A GREAT deal can obviously be urged in reply to i
this. First of all, as a diligent digger among
my vines, I can affirm from observation that no

1 The ordinary text, as Koeller saw, is evidently wrong. It runs : " For
by a secret path the sea water enters the ground and becomes visible, and
returns stealthily, and is filtered, etc." No author can be supposed to have
written such a sentence. The restoration must be conjectural. I have
adopted what seems simplest and most in keeping with the context.


rain is ever so heavy as to wet the ground to a
depth of more than 10 feet. All the moisture is
absorbed in the upper layer of earth without getting
down to the lower ones. How, then, can rain, which
merely damps the surface, store up a supply sufficient
for rivers ? The greater part of it is carried off at
once into the sea by river-channels. But a small
portion is absorbed by the ground, and even that is

2 not retained. For the ground is either dry and
so uses up at once the water poured into it ; or else
it is saturated and throws off what of the rainfall
it does not require. This is the reason why rivers
do not rise with the first rainfall ; the thirsty ground
absorbs it all.

And then, again, how are we to explain the fact
that some rivers burst out from rocks and moun
tains ? What contribution can be made to them by
rains that are carried down over the bare crags

3 and have no earth into which to sink ? Besides,
wells sunk in the very driest localities to a depth
of 200 or 300 feet reveal rich springs of water at
a depth to which rain water does not penetrate.
One may be sure there is no rain water there nor
any gathering of moisture, but living ( = spring)
water as it is usually called. The opinion in
question is disproved by this other argument, too ;
some springs well up in the very summit of a
mountain. It is plain, therefore, that the water in
them is forced up or forms on the spot, since all
the rain water runs off.


SOME writers think there is an exact parallelism
between the external and the internal distribution


of water in the earth. On the outer surface are
huge marshes, great navigable lakes, and seas
covering immense tracts of earth and pouring over
its hollows. So in the interior of the earth there
is abundant store of fresh water, which overflows
great spaces no less than the Ocean and its gulfs
above ground ; in fact, still more extensively, as the
depth of the earth extends farther down than that
of the sea. From that supply in the deeps, there
fore, those rivers of which we have spoken issue.
And why should one be surprised that the earth is
not sensible of their withdrawal since the sea is not
sensible of their addition ?


SOME approve the following explanation : The i
earth contains, they assert, many hollow recesses
and a great quantity of air. This air, under pres
sure of the gross darkness, of necessity freezes.
Then remaining sluggish and unmoved it ceases to
circulate and turns into water. Just as on earth a
change in the density of the atmosphere produces
rain, so beneath the earth the change of density
starts a river or a stream. In the former case the
air above our heads cannot long remain sluggish
and heavy ; for sometimes it is rarefied by the sun s
heat, sometimes expanded by the wind s force.
There are, therefore, long intervals between falls 2
of rain. But underground the forces, whatever they
are, that turn air into water, are constant perpetual
darkness, everlasting cold, inert density ; they can,
therefore, supply without a break the sources of
fountain or flood. We Stoics are satisfied that the


earth is interchangeable in its elements. So all this
air that she has exhaled in her interior, since it is
not taken up by the free atmosphere, condenses and
is forthwith converted into moisture.

1 THERE you have the first cause of the origin of
underground water. You may add the more
general principle that all elements arise from all :
air comes from water, water from air ; fire from air,
air from fire. So why should not earth be formed
from water, and conversely water from earth? If
the earth is capable of transmutation into other
elements, water must be one of them, in fact, the
most suitable of them. The two things are cognate ;
both are heavy, condensed, both driven by nature
down to the very confines of the universe. Earth
is formed from water ; why not water from earth in
like manner?

But, you say, the rivers are too large to be
accounted for in this way. Well, after you have
considered the size of the rivers, just look at the

2 size of the reservoir whence they issue. Are you
surprised that a fresh supply of water is always
forthcoming for them, since they flow on for ever,
some even rushing down their channel with im
petuous haste ? Surely you might as well be
surprised, when the winds drive hither and thither
the whole atmosphere, that the supply of air does
not fail, but flows on day and night unceasingly.
And the wind, remember, is not confined to a definite
channel, as rivers are, but goes with wide sweep
over the broad expanse of heaven. You might


well, too, be surprised that after so many breakers
have spent their force, any succeeding wave is left.
The truth is, nothing is ever exhausted that returns 3
upon itself (i.e. is self-supported). All the four
elements return alternately upon one another ; what
is lost in one is conserved by passing into another.
Nature, too, weighs her parts as if with nice adjust
ment in the balance, lest their just proportion should
be disturbed and the world topple over into ruin
( = lose its equilibrium). All elements are in all.
Air not only passes into fire, but it is never without
fire. Deprive it of its heat and it will grow stiff,
stagnant, hard. Air passes into moisture, but
nevertheless contains moisture. Earth yields both 4
air and water, and is never at any time devoid of
water any more than it is of air. The mutual
transition is the easier, because there is already an
admixture of the element to which the transition
is to be made. So (i), 1 then, the earth contains
moisture, which it forces out. (2) 1 It contains air,
which the darkness of its wintry cold condenses so
as to form moisture. (3) 1 By nature, too, it has
itself the power of changing into moisture : this
power it habitually exerts.


You have still a difficulty, you say. If the causes
giving rise to rivers and fountains are constant, why
are their waters sometimes dried up ? and why do
they sometimes appear in places where they did not
exist before ? Their routes, I should reply, are often
disturbed by earthquakes ; the channel is cut off by a

1 The numerals here have no counterpart in the original.


fall of rock or earth, and the water being held back
seeks a fresh exit, which it forces with a certain
measure of violence ; or merely by the earth s vibra
tion the course is shifted from one place to another.
On the surface of the earth one may observe that
rivers that have lost their channels are first of all
dammed back, but afterwards, in lieu of the course

2 they have lost, force a new one. Theophrastus
affirms that an incident of the kind took place in the
Corycian Mount, 1 where, after a slight shock of earth
quake, a fountain burst out from a fresh source.

But some writers are of opinion that other causes
too are at work to call up water in other ways, or
to drive or turn it from its course. Mount Haemus
was once destitute of water ; but after a tribe of
the Gauls, being hard pressed by Cassander, took
refuge there, and felled the woods, an immense
supply of water appeared. No doubt the woods
had attracted it for their nourishment previously.
When they were uprooted, the moisture, ceasing to

3 be used up by their roots, overflowed. Theo
phrastus affirms that the same thing happened near

But with all respect to Theophrastus, this is not
a very likely story. Everything that is most shady
tends most to gather water. But that would not be
the case if trees drained off water. Roots draw their
nourishment from their immediate vicinity ; but the
volume of river water flows from recesses far down,
and is derived from a source deeper than roots can
penetrate. Besides, when trees are cut down, more
moisture than before is required ; the stumps suck
up a supply, not merely for life, but for new growth.

4 Theophrastus tells us, too, that round Arcadia,

1 In Cilicia.


which was a city in the island of Crete, the wells
and lakes disappeared, because the land ceased to
be tilled after the destruction of the city ; but after
it had got back its tillers, it recovered its waters
also. He sets down as the cause of the dry ness,
that the earth had got hidebound and quite hard,
and not being stirred could not transmit to the
underground reservoirs the rain that fell. But if
this is true, how comes it that we see springs in
great plenty in the most desert ground? In fact,
one finds a great deal more ground that began to
be tilled on account of the abundance of water than
that began to have an abundant supply of water
because it was tilled. You may be quite sure that
it is not mere rain water that is carried down in our
greatest rivers, navigable by large vessels from their
very source, 1 as is proved by the fact that the flow
from the fountain-head is uniform winter and summer.
Rainfall may cause a torrent, but it cannot maintain
the steady, constant flow of a full river. Rains cannot
produce, they can only enlarge and quicken, a river.


LET us, if you please, go into the matter a little
more deeply, and you will soon see that you have
no cause to put further questions, once you reach
the true origin of rivers. A river is, of course,
formed by a supply of water that is always constant.
If you ask me, therefore, how water is produced, I
will ask in my turn how air or earth is produced.
If there are four elements in nature, you are not
entitled to ask where water, one of them, comes

1 The text seems to be at fault, but the argument is quite clear.


2 from ; it is the fourth part of nature. Why, there
fore, are you surprised that so great a portion of
nature can furnish a perpetual supply of liquid from
itself? Just as the atmosphere, which is likewise a
fourth part of the universe, is the source of winds
and breezes, so is water, of streams and rivers. If
wind is atmosphere in motion, so is a river water in
motion. I have given it strength enough in saying
that it is one of the four elements. You must be
aware that what has an element as its source can
never run short.


1 WATER is, according to Thales, the most powerful
of the elements. He thinks it was the first of them,
and that all the others sprang from it. We Stoics,
too, are also of the same opinion ; or perhaps I
should rather say that we think it is the last. 1 For
we say that it is fire that lays hold upon the world
and changes all things into its own nature. We
suppose that fire eventually fades and sinks, and
that, when the fire is quenched, nothing is left in
nature save moisture, in which lies the hope of the
world that is to come. So fire is the end, moisture
the beginning, of the world. Can you wonder that
rivers may always issue from this, which was before
all things, and from which all things have been

2 formed? In the separation of the elements [at
the beginning] the moisture was reduced to a
fourth part, and was placed in such a situation that
it could furnish a sufficient supply for rivers,
streams, and fountains. The next opinion expressed

1 Le. that to which all others may be reduced : the text seems corrupt,
and the meaning is more or less conjectural. Gercke s text reads, "are also
of the same or an analogous opinion."


by Thales is a silly one. The whole earth, he says,
is upborne by water, and floats just like a boat ;
when it is spoken of as trembling, it is rolling by
the movement of the water. It is no wonder, then,
that there should be abundance of water to pour
forth in rivers, since the world is itself wholly set
in water. You should put out of court such an
antiquated, unscientific idea. There is no ground
for believing that the water comes in through the
chinks in the earth s sides, and forms bilge-water
in her centre.


THE Egyptians have recognised four elements also ;
and they then form each into two, male and female.
The atmosphere they consider male where it is
windy, female where it is cloudy and sluggish.
They call the sea manly water, every other kind of
water they call womanly. Fire they call masculine
where a flame is burning, and feminine where there
is a glow that is harmless to touch. The firmer
kinds of earth, such as boulders and crags, they call
male, reserving the term female for the parts that
are amenable to cultivation.


THERE is but one sea, which has so existed no doubt
from the beginning of things. It has sources of its
own, from which its impulses and tides are derived.
As with the raging sea, so with this gentler kind of
water, there is a vast supply 1 in secret, which no

1 All the texts give via = way. The obvious correction is vis = amount,
supply. Gercke confirms this correction.


river course can drain dry. The exact explanation
of its reserve strength has not yet been discovered.
It is only the superfluous portion of it that is

2 released. Now, there are some of these beliefs
to which we may safely subscribe ; but I hold this
further opinion. My firm conviction is that the
earth is organised by nature much after the plan of
our bodies, in which there are both veins and arteries,

3 the former blood-vessels, the latter air-vessels. In
the earth likewise there are some routes by which
water passes, and some by which air. So exactly
alike is the resemblance to our bodies in nature s
formation of the earth, that our ancestors have
spoken of veins ( = springs) of water. Again, in
our bodies there is not merely blood, but many
other kinds of moisture, some essential to life,
others tainted and somewhat thick brain in the
head, marrow in the bones, mucus, saliva, tears,
and a kind of lubricating substance that suffuses the
joints, and enables them to turn more quickly
( = synovial fluid).

So, too, in the earth there are several different

4 kinds of moisture. There are some kinds that
grow hard when fully formed. Hence arises all the
metalliferous soil, from which our avarice seeks
gold and silver. Then there is the kind which
turns from liquid into stone. In some localities
the earth and its moisture combine to form a
liquid like bitumen and other substances of the
same kind. There, then, we find the cause of
waters produced according to the law and will

5 of nature. But as in our bodies, so in the earth,
humours often contract taints of various kinds. A
blow, or some shock, or exhaustion of the ground,
or cold or heat injures the natural vigour. A vein


of sulphur, too, may solidify the moisture, lasting
for a longer or shorter time. Therefore, as in our
bodies, when a vein is cut, the flow of blood lasts
till the blood is exhausted or the incision in the
vein has closed up and stopped it, or until some
other cause has staunched the blood ; in like manner
in the ground, when the seams have been loosened
and laid bare, a stream or river rushes forth. The 6
way in which the water is used up depends on the
extent of the opening in the seam. At one point
its flow is checked by some obstacle ; at another it
heals up, so to speak, into a scar and chokes the
path it had made ; at another the power of trans
mutation, which we have said the earth possesses,
reaches its limit and cannot longer supply material
that may be liquefied : sometimes the exhausted
source is replenished, now by energy self-recruited,
now by a supply drawn from external sources. For I
ought to say that often dry objects placed opposite
to wet attract the moisture to them. Earth itself, 7
which easily assumes another form, often wastes
away, and is dissolved in moisture. The same
phenomenon occurs under the earth as above it in
the clouds ; becoming too dense and heavy to retain
longer its own character, solid begets liquid. There
is often a gathering of thin, scattered moisture like
dew, which from many points flows into one spot.
The dowsers call it sweat, because a kind of drop
is either squeezed out by the pressure of the ground
or raised by the heat. This slender trickle scarce
suffices to form a spring. But if the sources are
great and the gatherings great, rivers issue. Some
times they flow gently if the water merely descends
by its own weight, sometimes with violence and
loud roar if air be intermingled and eject the water.



1 ANOTHER peculiarity requires explanation : some
wells are full for six hours and dry for six alter
nately : why is this so ? It is hardly necessary to
name the rivers individually which are at certain
months broad, at certain narrow, and to give
separate causes of this, seeing I can give a common
explanation that applies to all. An ague returns
at the same hour, gout always keeps its appointment,
the custom of women, unless interrupted, observes
its stated period, birth is ready at the proper month.
In like manner waters have their intervals of recur
rence, at which to withdraw and at which to return.

2 Now, some intervals are shorter, and the more strik
ing on that account ; some are longer, but no less
certain. And what is strange in that, when you see
that the succession of events, and all nature, by decree
preserve their appointed order ? Winter has never
mistaken its time. Summer has always blazed forth
in its season. The changes of spring and autumn
have occurred according to their wont. Solstice and
equinox alike have kept their appointed days.

Beneath the earth likewise there are laws of
nature, less familiar to us, but no less fixed. Be
assured that there exists below everything that you
see above. There, too, there are antres vast, im
mense recesses, and vacant spaces, with mountains

3 overhanging on either hand. There are yawning
gulfs stretching down into the abyss, which have
often swallowed up cities that have fallen into them,
and have buried in their depths their mighty ruins.
These retreats are filled with air, for nowhere is
there a vacuum in nature ; through their ample


spaces stretch marshes over which darkness ever
broods. Animals also are produced in them, but
they are slow- paced and shapeless ; the air that
conceived them is dark and clammy, the waters are
torpid through inaction. Most of these creatures
are blind, such as moles and underground rats,
which have no sense of sight, since it is unnecessary
for them. From these depths fish are, according
to Theophrastus, dug up in certain localities.


AT this point many pleasantries will occur to you i
to apply to my incredible narrative, which you will
politely call a good story. A man will no longer
go to fish with net and hook, but with his mattock !
The next thing will be for some one to go out
hunting at sea. Now what reason is there, I ask,
why fish should not cross the land if we can
cross the sea and change our abodes ? You are
surprised at this happening. How much more
incredible are the achievements of luxury as often
as it either counterfeits or vanquishes nature ? Fish
are to be found swimming in the dining couch ; one
is caught right under the table, to be transferred
immediately to the table. A mullet is not thought 2
fresh enough unless it expires in the hand of the
banqueter. These fish are handed round enclosed
in glass jars, and their colours are observed while
they expire ; death paints many hues on them as
they draw their last struggling breath. Others are
pickled alive and killed in the sauce. These are
the people who think one is romancing who asserts
that a fish can live underground and instead of



being caught can be dug up ! How inconceivable
it would sound to them to hear that a fish swam
in sauce and was killed during dinner, but not to
be served at dinner ; that first it was long admired,
and that the eyes were feasted on it before the
gullet was !


1 SUFFER me here to lay aside my subject, and to
apply the scourge to luxury ! Commend me for
a beautiful sight, says one, to an expiring mullet.
In the death-struggle, as its life ebbs away, first a
ruddy glow, then a pallor suffuses it. How sym
metrical are the variations as it changes from tint to
tint between life and death ! Our somnolent, jaded
luxury gets a long respite by means of this. 1 It was
late in waking up to find how cruelly it had been
circumscribed in being cheated of such a pleasure !

2 Hitherto only fishermen have been able to enjoy this
grand and beauteous sight. But why should we at
the banquet be satisfied with a cooked, a lifeless fish ?
Let him expire on the very tray. We used to be
surprised at the fastidiousness of our epicures in
refusing to touch fish unless it had been caught on
the same day, when, as the saying goes, it smacked
of the briny. It used for that reason to be delivered
post haste way had to be made for the breathless

3 porters as they hurried along shouting. To what
lengths have refinements now been pushed ? A fish
killed to-day has come to be considered as already

1 The passage is almost hopelessly corrupt. The meaning of this sentence
seems to be that luxury gets some respite from the fatigues of the table by
watching the mullet s death-struggle. Ruhkopf suggests an emendation which
would give the sense : Our somnolent, jaded luxury has taken a long time to
discover this new enjoyment. That would certainly be well in keeping with
the following sentence.


stinking. " He was taken out of the water this day,
I assure you." " I cannot trust you in a matter of
such moment. I must have the evidence of my
own senses ; let the creature be brought here and
breathe out his life before my eyes." Such a pitch
of fastidiousness has the gourmands palate reached
that they will not taste a fish unless they have seen
it swimming and throbbing in the very banqueting

The more skill our jaded luxury has had placed 4
at its disposal, the more refined and elegant the
devices that in its frenzy it day by day invents ; it
spurns everything that is common. We used to
hear the remark, " Nothing can surpass a mullet
caught on the rocks " ; but now it runs, " Nothing
equals the beauty of an expiring mullet. Let me
hold in my own hands the glass vase, to see him
jump and quiver." After long and fulsome praise 5
has been lavished on him, he is taken out of his
transparent pond. Then each guest shows off his
experience of such scenes by pointing out the hues
to his fellows. " Look how the red bursts forth,
deeper than any carmine ; look at the veins he has
along his sides : see, you would think his belly was
covered with blood ; what a gleam of dark blue shot
forth just under the brow ! Now he is stretching
himself out, and sinking to a uniform pallid hue ! "
Not one of these selfish fellows would sit by a dying
friend s bedside, none of them can endure the sight
of a father s death a sight they have dearly longed
for. How few will attend the funeral of a relative ! 6
The last hour of brothers and friends is shunned by
them ; they are all in a hurry to be in at the death
of a mullet ! For he has a delicate beauty, don t
you know, that nothing can surpass. My impatience


makes me sometimes exceed the bounds of decency
and use words at random. These drivellers are
not satisfied to bring teeth, and palate, and stomach
to the revel ; they make their very eyes partners
in the gluttony.


1 BUT to return to my subject. Here is a proof I
have to give you that in the underground recesses
are concealed great quantities of water which
abound in filthy fish. Any time that the water
bursts out, it brings in its train a huge crowd of
creatures foul to sight, disgusting and noxious to
taste. At any rate, once, near the city of Hydissus
in Caria, a flood of underground water threw up to
the light of day a number of strange fishes, and all

2 who ate them died. And no wonder. Their bodies
were full of oil from their long inactivity ; they had
been fattened in the darkness without exercise, and
deprived of that light whence health is derived. A
further proof that fish may be produced in those
depths of earth is afforded by the breeding of eels
in shady places ; they also are a heavy diet through
their want of exercise, especially if a considerable
depth of mud has hidden them quite out of sight.

3 So then the earth contains not only veins of water
by the union of which rivers may be formed, but
also streams of very great size. In some cases their
channel is concealed throughout, until they are
swallowed up in some cavern ; others of them well
up in the bottom of some lake. Everybody knows
that some marshes have no bottom. What is the
point of my argument ? It shows plainly that
mighty rivers have here unending supplies whose


limits are incalculable, just as is the duration of
rivers and fountains themselves.


FOR the variety of taste in water there are four i
causes. The first is the kind of soil through which
it flows. The second also depends on the soil when
the water arises from transmutation of it. The
third is from air which has been transformed into
water. The fourth comes from some taint which
water often contracts when injuriously affected by
foreign bodies. These causes impart to water, first, 2
variety of taste, then medicinal power, its heavy
pestilential smell, its lightness and heaviness, its
heat and its excessive astringency. It is affected by
its passage through ground full of sulphur, or nitre
( = saltpetre), or bitumen. If the water is tainted in
this way, the drinking of it endangers life. This is
the explanation of a passage in Ovid :

The Ciconians have a river a draught of whose waters turns into

The bowels ; which mantles in marble all that it touches.

The river in question has medicinal properties, its 3
mud being of the kind that glues together and
hardens the bodies it encounters. Just as the dust
at Puteoli becomes stone if it touches water, so,
contrariwise, if the water of this river touches a
solid body, it adheres and gets firmly affixed to it.
This is the reason why objects thrown into the
same lake 1 are constantly found to be turned to
stone when they are taken out. This occurs at
several places in Italy ; you may put into the water

1 The allusion is not quite evident.


a twig or bough and a few days after you can

4 take out a stone. The mud surrounds the object
and gradually coats it over. This will seem the
less surprising if you have remarked that the Albula,
and, generally speaking, all water charged with
sulphur, deposit a coating of it on the banks of their
channels and streams. Some one or other of the
foregoing causes accounts for the peculiarities of
those lakes, whereof who tastes with the lips, in the
words of the same poet,

Goes raving mad or endures a sleep of wondrous depth.

5 The effect is like that of strong drink, only more
violent. Drunkenness is madness until its effects pass
off; with a weight like lead it bears down its victim
into sleep. In the like manner the strong infusion
of sulphur in this water contains a sort of poison
that is more potent owing to the noxious atmosphere,
and either goads the mind to madness or weighs
it down in deep sleep. The river in Lyncestis
likewise possesses this baleful power :

For whoso with intemperate lips has drained a draught,
Staggers as if having drunk deep of wine undiluted.


THERE are certain caves a glance down into which
has cost people their life. So swift is their destruc
tive power that it kills in flight the birds that cross
them. That is the kind of air and the kind of
place from which waters of death escape. If the
infection of the air and place is less severe, the
damage is less fatal too, merely affecting the sinews
like men overpowered by intoxication. I am not


at all surprised that place and air infect water and
render it similar in character to the tract through
which and from which it proceeds. Similarly, milk
shows the taste of the cow s fodder, the quality
of the wine comes out even in the vinegar it yields.
There is, in fact, nothing that does not bear marks
of its origin in the same way.


THERE is another species of water which we Stoics
are satisfied must be coeval with the world. If the
latter has existed from all eternity, so must it too.
If the world has had some beginning, then the
water was assigned its place at the creation. You
want to know what kind of water I mean ? I mean
the Ocean and all its seas that wash the continents
of the earth. Some philosophers are convinced
that the rivers likewise whose nature is inexplicable,
date from the creation of the world ; such are the
mighty rivers Danube and Nile, too remarkable to
be supposed by any possibility to have the same
origin as other rivers.


SUCH is the division of various kinds of water,
as it presents itself to some minds. After that come
waters of the sky, which the clouds pour down from
the upper regions. Of terrestrial waters, they say,
there are some that overflow, so to speak, and
creep along the surface ; others are concealed under
ground. I have already explained all these.



SEVERAL explanations are given of the temperature
of water. Sometimes it is hot, sometimes it boils
so fiercely that it cannot be used until it has given
off its steam in the open, or is tempered by
mixing cold water with it. Empedocles is of
opinion that as there are fires concealed in many
places beneath the earth, water is heated when they
happen to lie beneath the ground through which it
has to flow. Let me use an illustration. We are in
the habit of constructing serpentines, 1 and cylinders,
and vessels of several other designs in which thin
copper pipes are laid in descending spiral coils. The
object is to make the water meet the same fire over
and over again, and flow through a space sufficient for
heating it up ; so, entering as cold it comes out hot.
Empedocles supposes something of the same kind
to take place underground. People who have their
baths heated without fire may well believe that he
is right. In this case air from the heated furnace
is introduced. The air glides along the passages,
warming up the walls and vessels of the bathroom
just as if fire had been directly applied. In short,
all the cold water in these instances is changed into
hot by merely passing through a heated medium ;
and inasmuch as it is conveyed in an enclosure
there is no evaporation to impart a flavour to it. 2
Others, again, suppose that the water contracts heat
by issuing from or passing through ground charged
with sulphur ; the heat is imparted by the properties

1 The technical name is "worm."
2 There is considerable doubt regarding the correct text and meaning.


of the material, to which also smell and taste bear
witness. All substances, I may say in general terms,
tend to reproduce the qualities of the medium by
which they have been warmed. If you are surprised
at sulphur warming water, you have only to pour
water over quicklime ; it will at once evolve heat.


SOME waters are fatal, although they give no in- i
dication of this either by smell or taste. In
Arcadia, near Nonacris, the river called by the
people there the Styx lures strangers to ruin, as
its appearance and smell rouse no suspicion. This
is like the drugs of accomplished poisoners, which
cannot be detected save by their fatal effects. The
water I mentioned a little above brings destruction
with amazing swiftness, and allows no opportunity
of applying a remedy. It hardens immediately it is 2
drunk, and, much like chalk under the influence of
water, it sets and binds fast the bowels. There is
a poisonous water in Thessaly, near Tempe, shunned
by all cattle and wild beasts. It comes out through
seams of iron and copper, and contains the power
of softening the very hardest material. It does
not nourish any trees either, and it kills grass.
Certain rivers possess a peculiar and strange
power. Some there are whose draught dyes whole
flocks of sheep. Within a short time those that
were black have white fleeces ; in other cases those
that came white go away black. This is what two
rivers in Boeotia do, one of which from its effect is
called Melas (Blackwater). Both the rivers issue
from the same lake, to go on their opposite


3 missions. So, too, in Macedonia, Theophrastus
asserts there is a river to which shepherds who
desire to turn their sheep white bring them. If
the sheep drink it for any length of time, their
colour changes as if they had been dyed. But if
those people want a dark wool, they have a dyer
ready at hand who charges nothing ; they have
merely to drive the same flock to the river Peneus.
I have recent authorities for the statement that
there is a river in Galatia that has the same
power of changing the colour in all animals,
while in Cappadocia there is one which if drunk
changes the colour of horses but not of any
other animal ; their skin is dappled with white

4 It is well known that there are lakes whose
waters bear up those who cannot swim. There
used to be a pool in Sicily, there still is one
in Syria, in which brickbats float, and no objects
thrown in, however heavy, will sink. The cause
of it is obvious. Weigh any object and com
pare it with water while they are equal bulk for
bulk. If the water is the heavier, it will bear the
object that is lighter than itself, and will raise it
above its surface to a height proportionate to its
lightness ; objects heavier than the water will sink

5 in it. But if the weight of water and of the object
compared with it in respect of weight be equal,
the object will neither go to the bottom nor yet
will it stick up ; it will just be in equipoise with the
water. It will float, it is true, but almost submerged
and without any part projecting. The differences
in weight give the reason why some logs float
almost entirely above water, while some sink to
their centre, and some go down until they are in


equipoise with the water. For it always holds good
that, when the weights of the two are equal, neither
yields to the other ; but objects heavier than water
sink, those lighter are upborne.

Now heavy and light do not refer to our judg- 6
ment of weight, but are relative to the medium
by which an object is to be supported. So when
water is heavier than the human body or than a
stone, it does not allow the inferior weight to sink.
So it comes to pass that in some lakes even stones
will not go to the bottom ; I mean hard solid
stones. There are many light pumice stones,
of which in Lydia whole islands that float are
composed. Theophrastus is my authority for
the statement. I have myself seen a floating
island in the lake near Cutiliae. Another is
carried about in the Vadimonian Lake, another
in the lake by Statonia. The island at Cutiliae 7
contains trees and grows grass, and yet it is
borne up by the water, and is wafted now in this
direction, now in that, not merely by wind, but
even by a mere air. So light the breath that moves
it that night and day it never remains stationary
in one spot. There are two reasons for it : first,
there is the weight of the water, which is medicated
and therefore heavy ; and then there is the portable
material of the island itself, which contains no solid
body, although it supports trees. Perhaps in the first 8
instance the thick liquid laid hold upon and made
fast light trunks and boughs scattered over the
surface of the lake. So also whatever rocks are
in the island, you will find porous and hollow. They
resemble those formed of moisture that has hardened
especially near the banks of medicinal springs ; in
such cases the scourings of the spring coalesce and


the foam is solidified. It is necessarily light, being
formed by concretions of windy, empty material.

9 There are other peculiarities attaching to waters
of different kinds, of which no explanation can be
offered. For example, why should Nile water make
women more fruitful ? So effective is it in this
respect that in some instances wombs shut up in
prolonged barrenness have relaxed so as to render
conception possible. Or why should certain waters
in Lycia prevent miscarriage, being sought after by
ladies who are subject to this frailty ? For my own
part I set these down among vulgar errors. It is
firmly believed by people that certain waters, whether
applied outwardly or taken inwardly, affect the body
with scab, certain with leprosy and foul blotches
over the skin. Water gathered from dew, they say,

10 has this fault. Wouldn t any one suppose that water
that turns into ice is the heaviest of all ? The
truth is just the opposite of this. The change takes
place in the thinnest water, which for that very
reason is most easily congealed by the cold. The
origin of the stone that resembles ice is plain from
the very name used for it by the Greeks. They apply
the term crystal (/cpva-raXXo?) equally to the transparent
stone and to the ice from which the stone is supposed
to be formed. Rain water, which contains very little
solid matter, once it is frozen becomes more and
more condensed through the persistence of the longer
cold until all the air is expelled, and it is compressed
to the last degree ; then what was once moisture is
changed into stone.



SOME rivers rise in summer like the Nile, of which i
I will give an account later on. Theophrastus
makes himself responsible for the statement that
in Pontus likewise certain rivers rise in the summer
season. Four different causes are assigned for this.
First, the earth is at that period most readily
changed into moisture. Second, there are in the
remote districts heavier rains, the water from which,
finding its way by secret channels, comes unnoticed
to swell the volume of the rivers. A third ex
planation is that the estuary is exposed to more
frequent winds, and is lashed by the sea waves ; the
river is checked and seems to increase because it
cannot discharge freely. The fourth reason connects 2
itself with the heavenly bodies. These bodies by
their more severe pressure during certain months
drain the rivers ; when they retire to a greater
distance, the waste and drain are less. What was
previously lost now accrues by way of increase.
Certain rivers fall visibly into some grotto or other,
and thus are withdrawn from sight ; some are
gradually wasted and disappear. They return,
however, at some distance off and recover their
name and course. The reason is plain enough. 3
There is vacant space underground. All liquid
naturally is carried to the lower level and to the
unoccupied space. The rivers received into these
recesses have run their course there in secret. But
as soon as any solid obstacle blocks the way, they
burst through the part that offers the slightest
obstruction to their escape and regain their channel
above ground.


So when Lycus has been swallowed up by the yawning earth,
He comes forth far thence, and is born from another source.
So is now drunk up, now gliding with silent stream,
Is restored to its Argolic waves the mighty Erasinus.

4 In the East as well as the West this happens. The
Tigris is absorbed by the earth and after long
absence reappears at a point far removed, but un
doubtedly the same river. Some fountains cast
out their scourings at a fixed period ; the fountain
Arethuse does so every fifth summer during the
Olympic festival. Thence comes the belief that
the Alpheus makes its way right from Achaia
to Sicily, stealing under sea by secret sluice, and
reappearing only when it reaches the coast at
Syracuse. On that account, during the days on
which the Olympic festival is taking place, the dung
of the victims offered in sacrifice being thrown into
the stream of the river (Alpheus) turns up in

5 quantity away in Sicily. You have yourself told
the story, my dear Lucilius, in your own poem, and
so has Virgil, who says in his address to Arethuse :

So when thou glid st beneath Sicilian seas,

Never may sea nymph mingle bitter salt waves with thine.

In the Carian Chersonese there is a fountain of
the Rhodians which at long intervals sends up
from its depths certain foul excretions of mud, until

6 it is set free of them by being cleaned out. At
certain places wells throw up not merely mud but
also leaves, and bits of crockery and any other
filthy things that have accumulated in them. The
sea does the same everywhere, its nature being to
drive ashore all filthy impurities. In the neighbour
hood of Messana and Mylae as it boils and tosses
in storms it throws up on the beach something


actually like ordure, which has a vile smell too.
Whence comes the fable that the oxen of the sun
are stalled in that neighbourhood. In certain cases
of this kind it is difficult to reach the true explana
tion, especially when the time of the occurrence
in question has not actually been observed and is
therefore doubtful. But though the immediate and 7
special cause cannot be discovered, there is a general
one worth mentioning ; all waters when standing
and enclosed tend to throw off impurities. In water
that has a current the impurities cannot settle, as
they are carried down and expelled by the mere
force of the stream. The waters which do not
throw off foreign bodies that settle in them always
boil more or less. As for the sea, it drags from
its lowest depths dead bodies, refuse of vegetation,
and all kinds of wreckage, and purges itself of them,
not merely when its billows rage in a storm but
likewise in its calm and peaceful moments.


THE occasion reminds me of a wider question, i
When the fated day of deluge comes, after what
fashion will the earth for the most part be over
whelmed by the waves ? Will it be by the strength
of Ocean and the rise of the outer sea against us ?
Or will the rain descend uninterruptedly, and will
summer be cut out of the year while persistent
winter bursts its clouds and pours down endless
masses of water ? Or will earth herself open new 2
reservoirs and shed forth rivers more abundantly ?
Or will a single cause be insufficient to produce
such a catastrophe, and all the methods conspire


together, the rains descending and the river floods
rising, and the seas hurrying in hot haste from their
place all agencies in concert bent upon the one
aim, the destruction of the human race ? The last
is the truth. Nature finds no difficulties in com
passing her ends, especially when she hastens to
make an end of herself. At the creation of things
she economises her efforts, putting forth her energy
in small imperceptible increase : for destruction she

3 comes with sudden and irresistible might. How
long a time is needed to bring the embryo child
to the birth ! How great the toil called for in
rearing the tender infant ! How careful the nurture
through which the frail body is at length brought
to manhood ! But how insignificant the effort
needed to undo it all ! Cities take centuries to
establish : an hour brings their ruin. Ages rear
the forest : a moment turns it to ashes. To
its stability and vigour this universe of things
calls for great and constant protection ; quickly and

4 suddenly dissolution comes. Deviation by nature
from her established order in the world suffices for
the destruction of the race.

So when that day of fate comes, many causes will
be at work in fulfilling its decrees ; and as some, in
cluding Fabianus, think, such a change will not come
without a shock to the whole universe. In the first
instance there will be excessive rainfall, a dull leaden
sky with never a glimpse of the sun. The clouds
will be unbroken, the gathering moisture will cause
thick darkness, and there will be no winds to lick

5 it up. Hence the crops will be diseased, the grain
ere it be grown will wither without fruit. All tillage
of man s hand will be ruined ; marsh grass will
spring up over all the plains. Presently the stronger

xxvii THE DELUGE 145

plants feel the strain ; their roots are loosened, and
the pollard elms fall forward, carrying their vines
with them. All shrubs lose their hold on the soil,
which has become soft and flabby. Soon the ground
is so saturated that it can support neither grain nor
fruitful pasture. The stress of famine is felt, and
recourse is had to the ancient sustenance of berries.
The fruit is shaken from ilex and oak, and any
other tree that has been able to keep its ground by
the support of the clefts of the rocks in the moun
tains. Roofs are sodden and rickety ; the rain has 6
penetrated to the depths, and the foundations sink.
The ground is all a marsh. It is vain to seek
supports to the tottering houses ; every foundation
is set on slippery ground, and in the muddy soil
nothing is firm. After the storm-clouds have more
and more densely massed, and the accumulated
snows of centuries have melted, a cataract sweeps
down from the lofty mountains carrying before it
the woods now insecure in their place, tearing off
boulders from their fastenings, and whirling them
down in fierce career. It washes off the country 7
houses, and takes down with it flocks of sheep
among the debris. The smaller hamlets it carries
off as it passes, but at length it leaves its course
and rushes in fury upon the larger homesteads.
It draws in its career whole cities, inhabitants, and
buildings all mixed together : people know not
whether to complain of a catastrophe or a shipwreck.
So utterly crushed are they and at the same time
submerged by its coming.

By and by, as it advances, the cataract is
swollen by the absorption of other torrents, and in
devastating course roams through the whole plain.
Finally, it holds universal sway ; it has earned a



title by the widespread destruction of the world

8 which it carries as its burthen. The rivers, too,
originally large, have been so hurried down by the
storms that they have left their channels. The
Rhone, the Rhine, the Danube, even when confined
within their banks, have an impetuous torrent.
What, suppose you, are they now that they have
overflowed and made themselves new banks, and,
cutting through the soil have all wandered from
their wonted course ? With what headlong rush
they roll down ! The Rhine overspreads the plains,
but the wideness of the space causes no slackening
of its energy ; it pours its waters in full force over
the whole extent as if it were rushing through a

9 gorge. The Danube no longer washes the base, or
even the middle, of the mountains ; it lashes the
very summits, bearing down with it the mountain
sides it has flooded, the crags it has overturned,
the beetling promontories through whole provinces ;
it undermines their foundations, and carries them far
off from the mainland. And, after all, the river finds
no exit for it had closed up every passage against
itself but returns in a circuit, and envelops in one
vast whirlpool the huge expanse of lands and cities.

Meantime the rains continue, the sky becomes
still more threatening, and thus, for long, disaster
is heaped upon disaster. What was once cloud

10 is now profound night, and that, too, dread and
terrible, with gleams of lurid light between. For
frequent flashes show, and squalls disturb the sea.
Then for the first time, feeling the increase from
the rivers, and too narrow to contain itself, the
main advances its shores. Its own bounds cannot
contain it, and yet the torrents from land prevent
its escape, and drive back its waves. Still, the


greater part of the torrents detained by their
narrow mouth recoil in pools, reducing the fields to
the aspect of a continuous lake. Now everything,
far as the eye can reach, is a waste of waters.
Every hill is hidden in the abyss, everywhere is n
fathomless depth of water. Only in the highest
mountain tops are there shallows. To these
heights men have fled with wives and children,
and have driven up their cattle. All intercourse
and communication have been cut off among the
wretched survivors; for all the lower ground has
been filled by the waves. The remnants of the
human race cling to every lofty peak. Brought
to the last shift, they have this one solace, that
apprehension has passed into stupor. Astonishment
so fills them that there is no room for fear. Even 12
grief finds no place ; for it loses its force in one
whose wretchedness has passed beyond perception
of suffering. So there are only mountain tops that
appear like islands above the water, and increase the
number of the scattered Cyclades, as that accom
plished poet finely says ; with an exaltation of lan
guage too in keeping with his theme, he exclaims :

All was sea ; to the sea there was no shore.

It is a pity he reduced that burst of genius and his
splendid subject to childish twaddle by adding :

The wolf has to swim among the sheep, the wave carries tawny

There is too little seriousness in making sport in 13
this way when the earth has been swallowed up.
He expressed a fine thought and caught a vivid
picture of the utter confusion when he said :

Through the open plains the rivers wander at their will,
. . . The towers totter and sink beneath the flood.


That was splendid, if he had not minded what the
wolf and the sheep were doing. Could anything,
in fact, swim amid such deluge and destruction ?
Was not every hoof drowned in the same torrent
as carried it off? You conceived a worthy image,
Ovid, when all the world was overwhelmed, and the
sky itself descended upon earth. Keep it up. You
will know what it ought to be if you reflect that the
whole world was afloat. Now we must return to
our discussion.


THERE is a section of philosophers who hold that
while the earth may be greatly harassed by exces
sive rains, it cannot be overwhelmed by them. By
a mighty blow this mighty earth must be smitten.
Rain will spoil the crops, hail will knock off the
fruit ; but the rivers will only be swollen above their
banks, and will subside again. Some, again, are
satisfied that the cause of the widespread destruction
will be derived from the movements of the sea.
The great shipwreck of the world cannot, they
think, arise from injury by cataract, river, or rain.
I am willing to grant that when that day of
destruction is at hand, and Heaven is resolved to
create a new race of men, the rain will pour down
incessantly, and there will be no limit to the floods,
the north and other dry winds will cease to blow ;
the south will bring up in plenty clouds and rain
and stream.

But hitherto only damage has been inflicted.
The crops are laid low, and to the grief of the farmer,
All hope of increase is abandoned ; the toil of the long year is
wasted and vain.

xxvin RAIN RIVER SEA 149

But for our purpose the earth must be more
than damaged, it must be submerged. In fact, the
disasters described are merely the prelude to
destruction. After that, the seas swell far beyond
their wonted bounds, sending out their waves far
above the farthest high-water mark of the most vio
lent tempest. The winds will urge them on from the 3
rear, rolling up huge billows that will break far inland
out of sight of the highest shore. In course of time
the shore will thus be shifted forward, the deep will
be established in a realm that is not its own ; the
mischief will come nearer, and from its new base
the tide will issue still from the deepest recesses
of the main. For just like atmosphere and ether,
this element, sea, has a large reserve, and in
its depth is far more copious than appears to the
eye. This reserve, moved by fate, not merely by
tides for tides are but the agency of fate raises
and drives before it a gulf of vast extent. Then in 4
wondrous wise it rears its crest, and overtops all man s
refuges of safety. Nor do the waters find this a
hard task, since, if the heights were calculated, it
would be found that the sea mounts from an eleva
tion equal to that of earth. The surface of the sea
is of uniform level ; for the earth itself as a whole is
uniformly level. Hollows and plains are everywhere
below the general level.

But the whole globe is as a matter of fact formed
into a regular sphere, while in part of it is the sea,
which unites to form the unity of a single ball. But
just as when one looks out across a plain, the 5
ground that sinks gradually deceives the eye, so
we are not aware of the sea s curvatures, and all
that is visible is a plain. But being on a level with
the earth, the sea does not require to raise itself to


any great height in order to overflow. In order to
overtop what is on a level with it, it need make only
a slight rise. Besides, the flow of it does not pro
ceed from the shore where it is lower, but from mid
ocean where the heap in question stands. Therefore,

6 as the tide at the equinox soon after the conjunction
of moon and sun rises to a height greater than at
any other time of year ; in like manner this one
that is sent out to seize upon the earth must exceed
in violence the highest of ordinary tides, and bear
a far greater volume of water ; nor does it begin
to ebb until it has swollen above the peaks of the
mountains that are its objective. Some localities
have at present a tide that runs up inland for a
hundred miles in ordinary course harmlessly. It
flows up to its normal limit and then ebbs again.

7 But when the time of deluge comes, the tide,
freed from all restraint, will set no limit to its
advance. In what way? you say. Just in the
same way as the great conflagration is destined
to take place. Both will take place when God
has seen fit to end the old order, and bring in a
better. Fire and water are lords of the earth.
From these it took its rise, and in these it will
find its grave. So when a new creation of the
world has been resolved upon by Heaven, the sea
will be let loose on us from above ; or it may be
the raging fire, if another variety of destruction
is Heaven s will.


SOME suppose that in the final catastrophe the earth,
too, will be shaken, and through clefts in the ground
will uncover sources of fresh rivers which will flow


forth from their full source in larger volume. Berosus,
the translator of [the records of] Belus, affirms that
the whole issue is brought about by the course of
the planets. So positive is he on the point that he
assigns a definite date both for the conflagration
and the deluge. All that the earth inherits will, he
assures us, be consigned to flame when the planets,
which now move in different orbits, all assemble
in Cancer, so arranged in one row that a straight
line may pass through their spheres. When the
same gathering takes place in Capricorn, then we
are in danger of the deluge. Midsummer is at
present brought round by the former, midwinter by
the latter. They are zodiacal signs of great power 2
seeing that they are the determining influences in
the two great changes of the year. I should myself
quite admit causes of the kind. The destruction of
the world will not be determined by a single reason.
But I should like to apply in this connection as
well, a principle which we Stoics adopt in regard to
a conflagration of the universe. Whether the world
is a soul, or a body under the government of nature,
like trees and crops, it embraces in its constitution
all that it is destined to experience actively or
passively from its beginning right on to its end ;
it resembles a human being, all whose capacities are
wrapped up in the embryo before birth. Ere the 3
child has seen the light the principle of beard and
grey hairs is innate. Albeit small and hidden, all
the features of the whole body and of every
succeeding period of life are there. In like manner
the creation of the world embraces sun and moon,
stars with their successive phases, and the birth of
all sentient life ; and no less the methods of change
in all earthly things. Among the latter is flood,


which comes by a law of nature just as winter and

4 summer do. So, that catastrophe will not be pro
duced simply by rain, but rain will contribute : nor
by inroads of the sea, but these inroads will con
tribute : nor by earthquake, but earthquake will
contribute. All elements will aid nature, that
nature s decrees may be executed. The chief cause
of its inundation will be furnished by the earth
herself, which, as has been already said, is subject
to transmutation, and may dissolve in moisture.

5 Therefore, there will one day come an end to all
human life and interests. The elements of the
earth must all be dissolved or utterly destroyed in
order that they all may be created anew in inno
cence, and that no remnant may be left to tutor men
in vice. There will be more moisture then than
there ever was before. At present the elements
are all carefully adjusted to the parts they have
to fulfil. To destroy the equipoise in which the
balance stands, there must be some addition to one
or other of them. The addition will be to moisture.
It has, at present, power to surround, but not to
overwhelm the earth. Any addition to it must of
necessity overflow into ground that does not now
belong to it. 1 So the earth as the weaker is bound
to yield to sea which has gathered unnatural strength.
So it will begin to rot, then to be loosened and con-

6 verted into moisture, and to waste away by the
continuous drain. Rivers will then issue forth
beneath mountains, shaking them to the foundations
by their fury ; then they will flow on in silence
without a breath of air. The soil will everywhere
give forth water ; the tops of mountains will pour it
out, just as disease corrupts what is sound, and an

1 The text is uncertain, but the meaning fairly obvious.


ulcer taints its whole vicinity. The nearer the
part is to the soil that is being liquefied, the more
quickly will it be washed off, dissolved, and finally
carried away. The rock will everywhere gape in
fissures, and the fresh supplies of water will leap
down into the gulfs, and unite in forming one great
sea. There will be no Adriatic any longer, no strait
in the Sicilian Sea, no Charybdis, no Scylla. All 7
the fabulous dangers will be swallowed up in the
new sea ; the existing Ocean which surrounds the
fringes of the earth will come into the centre.

Nor will this be all. As if this were not enough,
winter will seize upon months that are not his,
summer will be stopped, the heat of every heavenly
body that dries up earth s moisture will be quenched
and cease. All these names will be obliterated
Caspian and Red Sea, Ambracian and Cretan Gulfs,
the Pontus and the Propontis. All distinctions will
disappear. All will be mixed up which nature 8
has now arranged in its several parts. Nor will walls
and battlements afford protection to any. Temples
will not save their worshippers, nor citadels their
refugees. The wave will anticipate the fugitives,
and sweep them down from their very strong
hold. Some enemies will hasten from the west,
others from the east. A single day will see the
burial of all mankind. All that the long forbearance
of fortune has produced, all that has been reared to
eminence, all that is famous and all that is beautiful,
great thrones, great nations all will descend into
the one abyss, will be overthrown in one hour.



1 NATURE, as I have said, finds no task hard, and
especially one resolved upon from the beginning,
to which she does not come of a sudden, but of
which long warning has been given. From the
world s first morning, when out of shapeless uni
formity it assumed this form it wears, nature s decree
had fixed the day when all earthly things should be
overflowed. Nay, from of old the seas have prac
tised their strength for this purpose, lest at any time
destruction as a strange work might be found diffi
cult to compass. Do you not see how the breaker
dashes against the beach as if it wished to leave its
element ? Do you not see how the tide sometimes
crosses its bounds and instals the sea in possession

2 of the land ? Do you not see how unceasing is the
war it wages against its barriers ? But what special
apprehension need there be of the sea, the place
where you see such turmoil, and of the rivers that
burst forth in such fury ? Where has nature not
placed water ? She can attack us on all sides the
moment she chooses. I can give my own word of
honour for it that water meets us as we turn up the
soil ; every time our avarice sends us down a mine,
or any other motive induces us to sink a shaft deep
in the earth, the end of the excavation is always a
rush of water.

3 Remember, too, that there are huge lakes
hidden deep in the earth, great quantities of sea
stored up, and many rivers that glide through the
unseen depths. On all sides, therefore, will be


causes of deluge ; for some waters flow in beneath
the earth and others flow round it. Though long
restrained they will at last prevail, and will join
stream to stream and pool to marsh. The sea will
fill up the mouth of every fountain, and will open
it out to wider extent. Just as the bowels drain 4-
the body in the draught, or as the strength goes off
into perspiration, so the earth will dissolve, and
though other causes are inactive, it will find within
itself a flood in which to sink. All the great forces
will thus, I should suppose, combine. Nor will de
struction tarry. The harmony is assailed and broken
when once the world has relaxed aught of its needed
care. At once, from all sides, open and hidden,
above and beneath, will rush the influx of waters.
There is nothing like the letting loose of the sea s 5
full force, for violence and ungovernable fury ; it
rises in rebellion and spurns every restraint. It will
make full use of its permitted liberty ; as its nature
prompts, what it rends and surrounds it will soon fill
up. Just as fire that breaks out at different points will
speedily unite the flames and make one grand blaze,
so the overflowing seas will join forces in an instant.
But the waves will not enjoy their unrestrained 6
liberty for ever. When the destruction of the human
race is consummated, and when wild beasts, whose
nature men had come to share, have been consigned
together to a like fate, the earth will once more
drink up the waters. Nature will force the sea to
stay its course, and to expend its rage within its
wonted bounds. Ocean will be banished from our
abodes into his own secret dwelling-place. The
ancient order of things will be recalled. Every 7
living creature will be created afresh. The earth
will receive a new man ignorant of sin, born under


happier stars. But they, too, will retain their inno
cence only while they are new. Vice quickly creeps
in ; virtue is difficult to find ; she requires ruler and
guide. But vice can be acquired even without a

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