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BOOK IV, tr. John Clarke




You tell me you are delighted, Lucilius, my most i
esteemed of friends, with your peaceful government
of Sicily. You will continue to be delighted if you
are willing to observe the bounds of moderation, and
do not try to turn into an empire what is merely a
province. Nor do I doubt that this will be your
choice, knowing as I do that you are a stranger to
ambition, and a friend to a peaceful life of letters.
Let those who cannot bear their own company, long
for a crowd of affairs and of people ! You are on
the best of terms with yourself. It is little wonder 2
that few attain such a happy lot. We are always
laying commands upon ourselves to our own dis-
peace. We suffer at one moment from love of, at
another from weariness of, ourselves. Our unhappy
soul is now inflamed with pride, now inflated with
passion. Sometimes we relax it through indulgence,
sometimes we consume it with anxiety. The most
pitiable thing of all is that we are never alone
with ourselves. So, where such a crowd of vices 3
have to mess together, there must be continual
wrangling among them. Behave, therefore, my
dear Lucilius, as you are wont to behave. Separate
yourself as far as possible from the common
herd, and expose no side to the attack of flattery.
Flatterers are adepts in spreading a net for their



betters. However much you are on your guard, you
will be no match for them. If you allow yourself
to be caught, you will be delivering yourself up to

4 betrayal, take my word for it. Flattery has in it
the inherent charm, that even when spurned, it is
not unpleasing: often shut out, it is at the last taken
to the bosom. Flattery accepts its rejection as a
mark of attention ; even insults cannot subdue it.

What I am going to tell you may sound incredible,

5 yet it is the simple truth. Every man is most open
to danger on the side on which he is attacked.
Perhaps, indeed, that is the very reason why he
is attacked on that side. You must, therefore, lay
your account to recognise that, do what you will,
you cannot manage to be impervious to adulation.
When you have closed every loophole, it will still
wound you through your harness. One assailant
will employ his flattery secretly and sparingly ;
another, above board, openly, with an affectation of
honest sincerity, as if it were straightforward blunt-
ness, not device. Plancus, the greatest adept in the
art before Vitellius time, used to say that secret,
dissembled flattery was not to be employed. Ad-

6 vances, quoth he, are lost if they are not recog
nised. The flatterer makes most headway when he
is detected ; still more, in fact, if an open rebuke
brings the blush to his cheek. You must assume
that a public character like you will encounter many
Plancuses. It is no remedy against the inveterate
plague to refuse to be praised. I never knew a man
more shrewd in every practical matter than Crispus
Passienus, and especially in diagnosing and treating
faults of character. He often used to say that we
only put-to the door against flattery, and do not shut
it, much in the same way as in the face of a mis-


tress. If she gives it a shove, we are pleased, still
more so if she forces it open. I remember hearing 7
that distinguished man, Demetrius, remark to a
certain powerful freedman that he, too, had an easy
road to riches on the day that he made up his mind
to renounce all virtuous resolutions. Nor will I
grudge any of you, said he, the knowledge of the
art, but I will teach those who regard gain as the
one thing needful how they may attain their object.
They need not follow the doubtful fortune of the
sea, nor the competition of buying and selling : they
need not place their faith in the fickle proceeds of
the ground, nor the still more fickle fortunes of the
exchange. I will teach them a means of making
money not merely easy, but positively so merry that
the victims whom they fleece will share the fun.
Flattery shall be the means. If you have the 8
stature of the pigmy Thracian matched against
Thracian in the arena, I will swear that you are
taller than Fidus Annaeus or Apollonius Pycta. I
will say that no fellow could be more liberal than
you, nor shall I lie, since you may be considered to
have bestowed upon all whatever you have not
robbed them of.

The fact is, my dear Junior, the more open
and shameless flattery is, and the more completely
it has brazened its own features and raised the
conscious blush in those of others, the more quickly
it storms the citadel. We have now reached such
a pitch of madness that he who uses flattery
sparingly is considered niggardly. I used to tell 9
you that my brother Gallic a man whom even his
most ardent admirer cannot love according to the
measure of his deserts was a stranger to other vices,
but this he positively loathed. You might assail



him on every side. One began by paying homage
to his intellect, the greatest and worthiest of all,
which one had rather see consecrated to the service
of heaven than wasted in weak human effort ; he ran
away from one who talked thus. Or one began to
praise his thrift he was so indifferent to money that
he seemed neither to possess it nor to condemn it
he cut short the very first words of the panegyric.

10 Or, again, one would admire his bonhomie and
unaffected grace of character, which charms even
those it passes unnoticed a service to every one he
meets, which costs the author nothing. No one in the
world, I may tell you, is such a favourite with his one
chosen friend as he is with all. At the same time
so great is his natural amiability that it is free from
all savour of artifice or pretence. No one, you would
think, can refuse credit for a goodness in which all
share. At this point, too, he successfully resisted
your blandishments, leading you to exclaim that
you had found a man absolutely impregnable to
assaults of the flattery which no one ever refuses

11 to take to his bosom. You were forced to admit
that you respected his wisdom and determination
in escaping from that unavoidable plague, all the
more that you had hoped that your insinuating
words would be received with open ears because
they were true. Yet all the more he saw that he
must resist your wiles. For when truth is attacked
by falsehood, the attack always seeks the aid of
some measure of truth. Still, I would not have
the flatterer who tried his art upon my brother
displeased with his success, as if he had acted his
part ill while the other suspected some joke or

12 trick. You had not been detected, your advances
had simply been rejected. Now do you, Lucilius,


adapt yourself to this model. When any flatterer
approaches you, say to him : Do you wish to
convey a complimentary message such as passes
between magistrates duly installed in office ? Do
you think that I am prepared to return the com
pliment, and willing, therefore, to listen to your
long story ? Neither do I wish to dupe, nor can
I be duped. I should like well enough to have
the praise of people like yourself if you did not
praise the bad as well as the good.

And yet, Lucilius, why is it necessary for you to
come down to their level, and allow them to attack
you at close quarters ? Keep a long distance between
you and them. When you desire to have genuine
praise, why should you be indebted to another for
it ? Yourself commend your own efforts. Say
thus : Though my poverty prompted another kind
of career, and tempted me to devote my talents to 13
a field which promised to application a quick return,
yet I gave myself up to liberal pursuits. I turned
aside to the unremunerative domains of poetry,
and bestowed myself upon the wholesome study of
philosophy. I have showed that seeds of virtue
are planted in every breast. I have surmounted
the difficulties of birth ; measuring my powers, not
by my lot, but by my capacity, I have reached a
position on a level with the highest. My friendship
with Gaetulicus did not sap my allegiance to the
Emperor Caius Caligula. Messalina and Narcissus,
long enemies of the State before they became
enemies of one another, were unable to overturn 14
my resolve to be true to others whom it was a
crime to love. 1 I risked my head for my loyalty.

1 The passage is evidently corrupt ; the facts with which it deals are in
part unknown.


No word was wrung from me that I could not
utter with a clear conscience. All my fears were
for my friends, none for myself, except the fear of
not proving a true friend. No womanish tears
escaped me, nor did I cling as suppliant to the
hands of any ruler. I have done nothing un
becoming a man or a good man. Rising superior

15 to dangers, ready to face all they threatened, I
thanked fortune for affording opportunity of
showing what a price I put upon honour. Such an
issue could not be lightly esteemed in my eyes.
The suspense was not of long continuance. The
weights in the scale were by no means equal
was it better for me to perish for honour s
sake or for honour to perish for my sake ? I did
not rush headlong to self-destruction, the refuge of
despair, to rescue myself from the mad rage of
the rulers. In Caius time I saw tortures and
fires of persecution. Under his reign I recog
nised at one period that the lot of humanity

16 had sunk to such a depth of misery that the
loss of one s life might be ranked among the
deeds of mercy. Yet, I did not fall upon my
sword, nor leap open-mouthed into the sea : I
would not have it seem that death was the only
service I could render for honour s sake. Add,
now, that my soul has never stooped to bribes,
amid the eager race for wealth my hand has never
reached forth to receive unjust gain. Add, too,
the thriftiness of my mode of life, the restraint
of my speech, my courtesy toward inferiors, my
respect for superiors.

After these reflections, ask yourself, my friend,
whether what you have related of yourself be true
or false. If it is true, you have a most important


witness to your character ; if false, there will be
no witness to the derision you have earned. I may 17
myself appear at present to be either seeking to
throw my net over you or trying to make you rise
to my fly. Take either supposition for true, and
begin, from the example I offer, to fear all flatterers.
Meditate on Virgil s words :

Nowhere is honour safe ;
or on Ovid s :

As far as earth extends, the savage Fury rules ;
For crime, methinks, all have conspired ;

or on this sentiment of Menander s for who has
not put forth the full strength of his indignation 18
on this topic, in abhorrence of mankind s agreement
in rushing toward vice ? All are bad livers, says
the poet, presenting himself on the stage in the
rude character of a raw countryman. He excepts
neither greybeard nor youth, neither man nor woman.
He adds to the charge that it is not individuals or
small numbers that sin, but that wickedness is now
ingrained in society all through. One must flee from
the world and return to oneself, nay, rather one must
escape from oneself. Though you and I are separated
by the sea, I will endeavour to render you some 19
service : placing my hand in yours I will guide
your doubtful steps along the more excellent way.
At this distance I will mingle my talk with yours,
that you may not feel the loneliness. We shall be
united in our noblest part the spirit. We shall
impart mutual counsel, and, as you hang upon the
lips of your monitor, I will lead you far away from
that province of yours. For I would not have you
put too implicit trust in records of the past, or
become self-satisfied as often as you reflect : I


20 have under my jurisdiction a province here which
both maintained and crushed the armies of the
mightiest states, when it was offered as a prize in
that colossal war between Carthage and Rome. It
saw the strength of four Roman generals, in other
words, of the whole empire, massed in one spot ;
it raised high the fortunes of Pompey, brought
Caesar s to their culmination ; transferred the power
of Lepidus to his rivals, and contained the fate of
all. Sicily was an eye-witness of that great spectacle

21 which showed plainly to the world how rapid the
descent from highest to lowest could be, and in how
many different ways great power might be over
thrown by fortune. For at one and the same time
it witnessed the downfall of Pompey and Lepidus
from the pinnacle of power in opposite ways ;
Pompey had to run from his enemy s army,
Lepidus from his own.

ALTHOUGH Sicily, then, has many wonderful sights
in and around it, I will meantime withdraw
your mind wholly from your own province, and,
passing by all questions relating to it, will direct
your thoughts to a far different scene. In your
society I will resume the inquiry postponed in my
last book, why the Nile overflows in the summer
months. Now, let me remark that the philosophers
have asserted the similarity of the Danube to the
Nile, because its source is unknown and it is
larger in summer than in winter. Both statements
are clearly false. We know for a fact that the
Danube rises in Germany. Again, though the


rise of the Danube begins in summer, it is at a
period when the Nile still remains within its
ordinary limits : the heat is then only beginning,
and the stronger sun toward the latter part of
spring is softening the snows, but it has to melt
them before the Nile begins to rise. During the
remainder of the summer the Danube actually falls
until it reaches its winter size, from which in due
course it begins its rise again. 1


BUT the increase of the Nile begins in the middle of i
the hot season, before the rise of the dog-star, and
continues till after the equinox. Nature has raised
up this noble river before the eyes of the world,
and has so ordered its inundation of the land of
Egypt that it should occur at the very time at which
the ground is most parched with heat. The earth
thus drinks the more deeply, and imbibes sufficient
to counteract the drought of the whole year. In
the part of Egypt that stretches round Ethiopia,
you must bear in mind, there is either no rain at all
or it occurs only at long intervals, and is insufficient
to give much relief to a land which ordinarily knows
nothing of water from the clouds. It is in the 2
Nile, as you are aware, that Egypt reposes all its
hopes. According to the abundance or scantiness
of its overflow is the leanness or the fatness of its
season. None of its farmers regards the sky, are
the words of your own poem. And why should
I not crack a joke with my dear poet friend, and

1 The meaning of the last clause is taken by some to be : and even falls
below it a somewhat pointless remark.


retort with a verse from his favourite Ovid ? 1 who
says :

Nor do the herbs make supplication to the rain-god Jupiter.

3 If one could only ascertain at what point in the
course of the river the rise begins, the causes of the
rise would also be discovered. As it is, the river
wanders through great deserts, spreads out into
marshes, among many scattered tribes, before it
is for the first time after its wandering, mazy course
gathered into one near Philae. Philae is a rugged
island, precipitous on all sides ; it is surrounded by
the two branches of the river before they unite to
form the one river which henceforth bears the
designation Nile. The whole city of Philae is
surrounded by the Nile, which after leaving
Ethiopia is a large rather than rapid river. 2 Next
in its course are the sandy deserts through which

4 passes the trade route to the Red Sea. 2 After
that the Nile enters the Cataracts, a spot famous
for a wonderful sight. The river rises over high
crags that are at several points jagged. The
opposing rocks break up its course and rouse its
utmost force ; as it struggles through the narrows,
swirls show the points where it conquers or is con
quered. A smooth channel had hitherto conducted
its waters without uproar. Here for the first time
they are roused, and the turbulent cataract leaps
down through the narrow passage quite unlike its

5 former self. Up to that point the stream was thick
and muddy. But once it enters the craggy gorge
it breaks into foam. Its colour is no longer the
natural one, but derived from the ground through

1 The quotation is really from Tibullus.
2 The text is very uncertain.


which it has to force its way. When at length it
has struggled through the obstructions, suddenly
deprived of support, it falls from a vast height with a
roar that resounds through all the surrounding
regions. The race planted in that savage place
was indeed unable to endure the din ; their ears
were deafened by the constant crash, and they were
therefore removed from the settlement.

Among the wonderful sights of the river I have
been told of a feat of incredible daring performed by
the inhabitants. Two of them embark in a small
boat, one steering, the other baling out the water.
Forthwith they are violently buffeted from side to side 6
by the furious waves of the rapid river, and at length
reach the narrowest channels, through which they
thread their way till they escape from the craggy
gorge. Then they are carried down along with the
whole volume of the stream, guiding all the time by
hand the rushing craft. At one moment they seem
to stand right on their head ; the spectators are in
great alarm ; one gives them up for lost, and believes
they must be sunk and overwhelmed by such a
mass of water. But finally they are shot out like an
arrow, and are discovered afloat at a point far below
where they had entered the current. The waves in
their fall do not swamp them, but pass them on to
smooth water.

The first rise of the Nile is observed near the 7
island Philae which I have just mentioned. A
short distance from it the river is divided by a
rock in the centre, which the Greeks call the
Inaccessible ("A/foro?). No foot approaches it
save that of the priestly ministers. Those cliffs first
feel the increase of the river. Then a long distance
below that two crags project, called by the natives


the veins of the Nile. A great quantity of water is
shed out by them, but yet insufficient to flood the
land of Egypt. When the date of the sacred
festival comes round, the priests throw into these
fountains a public offering, while the magistrates

8 offer gifts of gold. From this point the Nile,
obviously displaying the fresh energy it has gained,
flows onward in a channel of profound depth, but
is restrained by mountain barriers from spreading
widely beyond its banks. Only when it reaches
Memphis is it released ; and separating into
numerous channels, it roams over the champaign.

In order to regulate the supply, canals are con
structed by hand, and thus the water is distributed
over all Egypt. At first near its bank the stream is
simply divided ; by and by the waters extend till they
assume the aspect of a wide, swollen sea at rest. The
extent of the country flooded, which embraces the
whole land of Egypt to right and left, deprives the

9 current of all its force. The height of the Nile s
rise determines the expectation of growth for the
year. The farmer is never out in his reckoning ; the
fertility of the land answers unfailingly to the measure
of the river s increase. It spreads a coating of soil as
well as water over the thirsty, sandy ground. As it
comes down swollen, it deposits all its sediment in the
dry, gaping cracks, and spreads over the parched soil
all the rich mud it has brought down. It thus renders
a double service to the land first, by overflowing
it, and then by coating it with slime. And so any

10 portion that it does not reach lies waste and unsightly.
If the inundation is unduly high, it does damage.

The river possesses this wonderful character
istic : while all other rivers wash away and exhaust
land, the Nile, though so much larger than the


rest, far from eating away or rubbing off soil,
actually adds to its vigour ; it contains very little
that injuriously affects the soil, 1 for by the mud
it brings down, it soaks and binds the sands.
Egypt, in fact, owes to the river not merely the
fertility of the soil, but also the soil itself. It is n
a beautiful sight when the Nile has spread itself
over all the fields. The plains are hidden, the
valleys have disappeared ; only the towns stand out
like islands. In the interior of the country there is
no communication except by boat. The people are
overjoyed the more, the less they can see of their
country. Even when the river has resumed its
normal course, it discharges into the sea by seven
mouths, any one of them itself a sea. Moreover, it
sends out many less famous arms toward either bank.
And then when we look at the monsters it rears,
they are equal to those of ocean in size, and
no less formidable. One may judge indeed of the 12
greatness of the river from the hugeness of the
animals for whose sustenance it provides food in
abundance, and for whose free movements it
affords room. Balbillus, a most excellent man who
has distinguished himself in every walk of letters,
has recorded that during his own government of
Egypt he himself saw in the largest mouth of the
Nile, the Heracleotic, the strange sight of what
may be called a pitched battle between dolphins,
coming up from the sea, and crocodiles meeting
them in front from the river. The crocodiles 13
were in the event vanquished by the inoffensive
animals with harmless bite. It happened on this
wise : The upper part of the crocodile s body is
hard, and cannot be pierced by the teeth even of

1 Or, its least service is that it tempers the soil.


larger animals ; but the lower part is soft and
tender. The dolphins dived in the fight and
wounded the belly of the crocodiles with the pro
jecting spikes they carry on their back ; then driv
ing home the stroke, they fairly cut up the enemy.

14 When a number of the crocodiles had been opened
out in this fashion, the remainder, to adopt military
language, wheeled their line and retreated. The
battle was not to the strong, the fleeing creature
successfully resisted the daring, the most daring fled
before the timid ! Nor is it by any peculiar virtue
of stock or blood that the islanders from Tentyra
beat the crocodiles, but merely through pluck and
contempt of them. They take the offensive against
them, and as the crocodiles try to escape they lasso
them and drag them ashore. At the same time
many of the hunters lose their lives through lack of
nerve in the chase.

Theophrastus assures us that the Nile has at

15 times brought down sea water. It is a well-
established fact that for two successive years, the
tenth and eleventh of the reign of Cleopatra,
there was no rise in the river. People say that
this was an intimation of the impending fall of
its two rulers. For as a matter of fact, the rule
of Antony and Cleopatra did fall. At an earlier
period the Nile did not rise for nine whole years,
according to the statement of Callimachus.

16 But I must now go on to inquire into the ex
planations of the occurrence of the rise of the Nile
in summer ; and I will begin with the most ancient
of them. Anaxagoras asserts that the snow melting
on the peaks of Ethiopia is constantly running
down to the Nile. All antiquity shared the same
view, which is recorded by Aeschylus, Sophocles,


and Euripides. But many proofs make it plain that 17
it is a mistaken one. First of all, the blackened
complexion of the people shows that Ethiopia is
exceedingly hot. So do the habits of the Trog
lodytes (cave-dwellers), who for coolness have under
ground houses. The rocks glow with heat as if a
fire had been applied, and that, not only at mid-day,
but even toward nightfall. The dusty ground is so
hot that no foot of man can endure it. Silver is
unsoldered. 1 The joints of statues are melted. No
coating of plated metal will stick on. The south ig
wind, too, coming from that tract of country, is the
hottest of all winds. None of the animals that go
to earth in winter ever hibernates there. Even in
midwinter the serpent is seen above ground in the
open. At Alexandria, too, which lies far north of
this excessive heat, snow does not fall ; but the upper
regions have not even rain.

How then, I ask, could a district exposed to
such broiling heat receive a snowfall sufficient to
last through a whole summer ? No doubt some of 19
the mountains in Ethiopia, as well as elsewhere,
intercept snow ; but there can never be a greater
fall than in the Alps, or the peaks of Thrace,
or the Caucasus. It is in spring, however, or
early summer, that the rivers that flow from the
European mountains are swollen ; subsequently
during winter time they decrease. The reason,
of course, is that the rains in spring wash off so
much of the snow, and the first heat of summer
soon scatters the remnants. Neither the Rhine,
nor the Rhone, nor the Danube, nor yet the Caystrus
is liable to the catastrophe of an overflow in winter;
their increase is in summer, though in those northern

1 Some render is dissolved and gives off its lead. "


peaks where they rise the snow lies very deep.

20 The Phasis, too, and the Dnieper would swell
during summer if snows had the power of rais
ing the rivers high in spite of the heat of that
season. Besides, if this were the cause of the
flooding of the Nile, its stream would be fullest in
early summer ; for that is the period when the snow is
deepest and least impaired, and when from its soft
ness the thaw is quickest. The Nile, however, has
a regular increase to its stream during four months.

21 If one may believe Thales, the Etesian winds
hinder the descent of the Nile and check its course
by driving the sea against its mouths. It is thus
beaten back, and returns upon itself. Its rise is not
the result of increase : it simply stops through being
prevented from discharging, and presently, wherever
it can, it bursts out into forbidden ground. Euthy-
menes of Marseilles bears corroborative testimony :
I have, he says, gone a voyage in the Atlantic
Sea. It causes an increase in the Nile as long as
the Etesian winds observe their season. For at
that period the sea is cast up by pressure of the

22 winds. When the winds have fallen, the sea is at
rest, and supplies less energy to the Nile in its
descent. Further, the taste of that sea is fresh, and
its denizens resemble those of the Nile. Now, if the
Etesian winds, as alleged, stir up the Nile, why, I
should like to know, does its rise begin before them
and last after them ? Moreover, it does not rise
higher in proportion to the violence of their blast.
Nor does it swell and fall according as they blow
furiously or gently. All which would happen if it
derived from them the strength of its increase.

23 Then, again, the Etesian winds beat on the shore of
Egypt, and the Nile comes down in their teeth :


whereas, if its rise is to be traced to them, the river
ought to come from the same quarter as they do.
Furthermore, if it flowed out of the sea, its waters
would be clear and dark blue, not muddy, as they are.
Add to this that Euthymenes evidence is refuted
by a whole crowd of witnesses. At such a time when
foreign parts were all unknown, there was oppor
tunity for falsehood : people like Euthymenes had
scope for giving currency to travellers myths. But
nowadays the whole coast of the sea beyond
Gibraltar is visited by trading vessels : none of the
traders tell us that the Nile rises there, or that the sea
in the Atlantic tastes differently from what it does
elsewhere. The very nature of the sea forbids 24
belief in the story that it is fresh : the freshest water
is always lightest, and as such attracted by the sun
in evaporation : the residuum, sea, must be salt.
Besides, why, on this theory, does the Nile not rise
in winter ? The sea may be raised at that season
by storms too, which are considerably greater than
the Etesians ; the latter are comparatively moderate
in their force. Besides if the source were derived
from the Atlantic Ocean, Egypt would be flooded
all at once ; but, as a matter of fact, the increase is
very gradual.

Oenopides of Chios has another explanation : he 25
says that in winter heat is stored up under the
ground ; that is why caves are then warm, and the
water in wells is less cold. The veins of water are
dried up by this internal heat, he thinks. In other
countries rivers swell through rain : but the Nile,
being aided by no rainfall, dwindles during the
rainy season of winter, and by and by increases in
summer, a season at which the interior of the earth
is cold, and the frost returns to the springs. Now, 2 6


if that were true, rivers in general would increase in
summer, and all wells would then have greater
abundance of water. Besides, it is not true that
there is an increase in the heat underground in
winter. Water and caves and wells are warm at
that season because they do not admit the frosty air
from without. Thus, they do not possess heat, they
merely exclude cold. For the same reason they
are chilly in summer, because the air heated by the
sun is drawn off to a distance, and does not pene
trate to them.

27 The next account is that of Diogenes of Apollonia.
It runs thus : The sun attracts moisture ; the earth
drained of it replenishes its supply in part from the
sea, in part from other water. Now, it is impos
sible that one land should be dry and another over
flowing with moisture. The whole earth is full of
perforations, and there are paths of intercommunica
tion from part to part. From time to time the dry
parts draw upon the moist. Had not the earth
some source of supply, it would ere this have been
completely drained of its moisture. Well, then, the
sun attracts the waves. The localities most affected

28 are the southern. 1 When the earth is parched, it
draws to it more moisture. Just as in a lamp the
oil flows to the point where it is consumed, so the
water inclines toward the place to which the over
powering heat of the burning earth draws it. But
where, it may be asked, is it drawn from ? Of
course, it must be from those northern regions of
eternal winter, where there is a superabundance of

29 it. This is why a swift current sets from the Black
Sea toward the Lower Sea, without interruption,
and not, as in the case of other seas, with alternate

1 The text is uncertain ; the general meaning is, however, plain.


flow and ebb of tide ; there is always a descending
flood in the one direction. Unless this took place,
and these routes supplied the means whereby what
is lacking may be bestowed on each land, and what
is superfluous may be given off, the whole earth
would ere now have been either drained or flooded.
Now, one would like to ask Diogenes, seeing the 30
deep and all streams are in intercommunication, why
the rivers are not everywhere larger in summer.
Egypt, he will perhaps tell me, is more baked by
the sun, and therefore the Nile rises higher from
the extra supply it draws ; but in the other coun
tries, too, the rivers receive some addition. Another
question seeing that every land attracts moisture
from other regions, and a greater supply in propor
tion to its heat, why is any part of the world without
moisture? Another why is the Nile fresh if its
water comes from the sea? No river has a fresher
and sweeter taste.


I SHOULD be somewhat too bold if I were to assure
you as on oath that hail is formed in the sky much
in the way ice is with us, only that in the former
case a whole cloud is frozen. So I may regard
myself as a witness only in the second degree one
of those who say not that they have actually seen
but have been informed. Or, I may, for once, do as
the chroniclers do. After lying at large to their
heart s content, they fix on some one point for which
they refuse to vouch, adding : Evidence of this
will be found in the authorities. So, if you do
not believe me, Posidonius will vouchsafe to you
his authority both for the statement I have made,



and for one that I am going to make. He will assure
you, as confidently as if he had witnessed the pro
cess of formation, that hail is formed from a cloud
that is charged with rain, and has already turned
into moisture. You can discover without a tutor
why the hail is round if you observe that drops of

3 all kinds tend to become globular. This is seen,
for example, in looking-glasses, which gather mois
ture from the breath, as well as in cups, and any
other smooth surface bedewed with it. So, too,
in the leaves of grass or trees, any drops that
adhere take a circular form.

What is harder than rock, what softer than water ?

Yet the hard rock is hollowed by drops of the soft water ;

or, as another poet tells us :

The drip by its fall hollows the stone :

4 and this hollow is itself round. Whence it is
evident that its shape resembles this drip which
hollows it out, sculpturing the spot to its own
form and character. Besides, the hail, even were
it not of this shape, might be rounded in its
fall, and worn equally on all sides into globular
form as it is again and again whirled round in
its descent through the space of thick air it
traverses. Snow, on the contrary, cannot be affected
thus, because it is not so solid, being indeed
very much scattered, and falling from no great
height. It has its source in the neighbourhood of
the earth, and its descent is of no great distance
through the air, but starts from a point quite close

5 by. Why should I not allow myself the same licence
as Anaxagoras in differing from my authorities ?
Nowhere can equality of rights be claimed with
more propriety than among the philosophers. Hail

in HAIL 179

is simply ice held suspended in mid-air ; snow is a
floating congealed mass of the nature of hoar-frost.
I have already said that the difference between
water and dew is reproduced in the difference of
hoar-frost and ice, and, in like manner, in that
between snow and hail.


I MIGHT take leave of the question here, holding i
that I had finished it. But I will give you good
measure, and, having begun to trouble you with
my speculations, I will discuss everything con
nected with the topic. One of the cognate ques
tions is, why in winter there is snow but no
hail, while in spring, after the worst of the cold
is over, there are falls of hail. For let me be
deceived for your benefit, though I may say I am
fully persuaded of the truth of what I am about
to affirm. I lend always a credulous ear to these
trivial falsehoods ; perhaps they deserve to be
punished by having one s mouth stopped, but they 2
hardly call for the putting out of one s eyes ! In
winter the atmosphere is stiff, and is therefore not
as yet capable of being converted into water, but
only into snow, to which the atmosphere is more
akin. But when spring begins, a greater variation
of the atmosphere ensues, and, the sky being warmer,
the drops are larger. Therefore, as our poet Virgil

says :

When rain-charged spring descends,

there is a more violent change in the atmosphere,
which everywhere opens up and relaxes through the
action of the mere warmth. For this reason the
clouds that are carried to earth are heavy and large 3


rather than lasting. Winter rain is thin and per
sistent. The fall often occurs in the form of small,
fine rain, with an admixture of snow. We call it
a snowy day when the cold is intense and the sky
leaden. Besides, when the north wind doth blow,
producing its characteristic sky, there may be fine
rain. With south wind the rain is more persistent,
and the drops heavier.

1 ONE position held by the philosophers of my sect
I neither venture to adopt on account of its seeming
weakness, nor yet can I pass it by without mention.
Where can be the harm of suggesting even an
improbable explanation when one has such an
indulgent judge ? If we are to apply a test like the
pyx to every argument, we shall soon cease to
advance any hypothesis at all and be reduced to
dumbness. There are very few statements that
pass unchallenged. All the rest have to assert
their rights before they can win their case. Well,
the assertion of the Stoics is, that all the ice-bound
region about Scythia and Pontus and the northern
quarter is released from its chain in spring ; then the
frozen rivers resume their course, then the mountains
melt the snows in which they have been buried.
It is quite conceivable, therefore, that cool airs arise
from this and mingle with the atmosphere of spring.

2 They add a proof which I have never tested nor
have any intention of testing. You, too, I fancy,
however anxious you may be to ascertain the truth,
will be cautious about making such a trial of snow.
The feet are said to suffer less pain when one treads
on hard, solid snow than if the snow were slushy


and half melted. Well, then, if the Stoics do not
lie, all the currents of air wafted from those northern
parts, when the snow has now been dislodged and
the ice is breaking up, condense and bind the
atmosphere of the southern region which is already
becoming warm and moist. So what was going to
be rain becomes, through the violence done by the
cold, hail instead.


I CANNOT refrain from trotting out all the silly i
fancies of our Stoic friends. The assertion in
question is that there are some people skilled in
observing the clouds who foretell when a hail
shower is coming on. They gather this just from
experience by marking the colour of the clouds
and noting which was on previous occasions followed
by hail. It seems incredible that at Cleonae there
were hail-guards (^aXafo^uXa^e?) appointed by the
state to look out for the approach of hail. When
they had given the signal that the hail was close at
hand, what do you think ? that people ran off to get
their overcoats or cloaks ? Nay, they each offered 2
sacrifice as fast as they could, one a lamb, another
a chicken. Forthwith, those clouds after getting
a little taste of blood drew off in another direction.
You smile ! There is something to make you smile
more broadly. If one had not a lamb or kid by,
one laid hands upon oneself to an extent that could
be done without serious damage. You must not think
the clouds greedy or cruel ; one merely pricked one s
finger with a well-sharpened style and made atone
ment with this blood. The hail as invariably turned
away from his little plot as from the estate of the


man who had prevailed upon it through the offering
of greater victims.


1 CERTAIN writers seek for a rational explanation of
this practice. One school, adopting the only line
that comports with philosophy, deny the possibility
of making any bargain with hail and buying off
storms by paltry presents, true, though it be, that
gifts overcome even gods. Others affirm their
suspicion that blood itself contains a virtue potent
enough to avert and repel a cloud. But how, I ask,
should a drop or two of blood possess a virtue to
reach on high and influence the clouds ? Is it not
much easier to say, the whole thing is a parcel of

2 lies ? But Cleonae was strict in dealing with its
warders who had received charge of looking out
beforehand for the storm, if it happened that
through their neglect the vineyards had been beaten
down or the crops laid. And among ourselves, too,
at Rome the laws of the Twelve Tables introduce
safeguards against the blighting of a neighbour s
crops by charms. Antiquity as yet untutored enter
tained the belief that rain could be attracted or
repelled by incantations. The impossibility of such
fancies is so evident that one need not enter a

.school of philosophy in order to be taught how to
disprove them.


I SHALL add one more remark which you will be
very glad, I am sure, to approve and applaud. It
is asserted that snow is formed in the part of the


atmosphere near the earth. This layer has more
heat than any other, and that for three reasons.
One is that all evaporation from the earth, contain
ing as it does much dry, glowing matter, is always
the hotter, the more recently it has left the ground.
The second is that the sun s rays are reflected from
the ground and return upon themselves. Their
reflection heats up the parts next the ground, which
thus have more warmth from getting the sun s heat
twice. The third reason is that the upper regions
are more subject to wind ; but all places that are
sunk are less wind-swept.


To the foregoing Democritus explanation falls to be
added. Every body receives heat more quickly and
retains it longer in proportion to its solidity. For
example, if three vessels, of copper, glass, and silver
respectively, are set in the sun, the heat will
penetrate the copper one soonest and will remain
in it longest. The reason why Democritus is of
this opinion may also be added. In the bodies,
he says, that are harder, more compact, and dense,
the openings must of necessity be smaller than in
others, and in each of the openings the film of
air must be thinner. It follows that just as smaller
baths and smaller cylinders are heated more rapidly
than others, so these concealed apertures, so small
as to elude the eye, both feel the heat more quickly,
and by reason of this same smallness of calibre
give back more slowly the heat they have received.


THIS long preamble leads up to the point we are
now examining. All air is the denser the nearer
it is to the earth. In water and other liquids the
dregs are always at the bottom ; in like manner
in the atmosphere the thickest portions settle down
to the lowest part nearest the earth. But it has
already been proved that all things, in proportion
as they are denser and more compact in their con
sistency, guard more faithfully the heat they have
received. On the other hand, the more exalted
the air is, and the farther it is withdrawn from the
pollutions of earth, the less contaminated and the
more pure it is ; and so it does not retain the sun s
rays, but transmits them as if through a vacuum ;
hence it is less warmed by them.


1 BUT contrariwise, certain persons assert that moun
tain peaks ought to be warmer in the degree in
which they are nearer the sun. Such people seem
to me, however, to be astray in supposing that the
Apennines and the Alps and other mountains
famed for their exceeding height are so greatly
elevated that their size should enable them to feel
in any special way the sun s proximity. No doubt
those are lofty heights so long as the standard of
comparison is ourselves. But when one regards
the size of the universe, the lowness of them all
becomes evident. Compared with one another,

2 mountains are surpassed or surpass in height. But


nothing on earth is elevated so high that even the
greatest of objects should be any 1 appreciable
portion in comparison with the whole universe.
Were this not so, we should not be in the habit
of saying that the whole earth is a ball. The
distinctive mark of a ball is a certain uniform
rotundity, much the same as the uniformity seen in
a football or cricket ball. 2 The seams and chinks
constitute no great objection to the ball being
described as symmetrical on all sides. As in a 3
playing ball, those spaces do not in any way prevent
the appearance of roundness, no more, in the earth
at large regarded as a sphere, do lofty mountains,
whose height is lost in a comparison with the whole
world. A person who says that a higher mountain
ought to be warmer from receiving the sun s rays
at a shorter distance, may just as well say that a
taller man should be heated sooner than a dwarf,
and his head sooner than his feet ! But any one who 4
will take the trouble to judge the universe by its
proper standard, and who will reflect that this earth
occupies but a single point in space, will not fail
to perceive that nothing on earth can be of such
eminence as to be more sensible than others of
the influence of the heavenly bodies, as if it had
approached their neighbourhood. Those mountains
at which we gaze up, their summits weighed down
with eternal snows, are none the less but low and
humble. While it is true that a mountain is nearer
the sun than is plain or valley, yet it is in the same
sense as javelin is spoken of as thicker than javelin,
tree as larger than tree, mountain than mountain.

1 The argument seems to require ulla = any, instead of nulla no.

2 The specific references are not contained in the Latin words ; the modern
counterpart of the Roman games of ball serves, however, to bring out the
meaning of the illustration.


5 Accordingly to that mode of speech of yours, one
tree must be said to be nearer the sky than another ;
which is false, because among puny objects there
cannot exist great differences except while they are
compared with one another. When one comes
to compare such objects with the mighty frame of
things, it is immaterial how much the one is bigger
than the other, because the very small things, how
ever great the differences among them, are quite
dwarfed by comparison with the universe.


BUT to return to my main theme ; for the reasons
which I have detailed, most authorities are satisfied
that snow is formed in the part of the atmosphere
which is in the vicinity of the earth. It is less
compacted than hail because congealed through
less intense cold. For the air near us has at
once too much cold to allow its passage into water
and rain, and at the same time too little to get
hardened into hail. Through this moderate but
not too intense cold the water is massed and turns
into snow.


i WHY, I fancy I hear you say, do you pursue so
laboriously those frivolous explanations of yours,
by which no one is made either more accomplished
or more virtuous ? You tell us all about the
formation of snow ; it would be far more to the
point that we should be told why it is a


wrong thing for snow to be bought. 1 I see you
wish to drag me into a dispute with luxury, a
quarrel of daily occurrence that never leads to any
tangible result. Let us withal brace ourselves for
the struggle ; even if luxury win the day, it must
find us fighting and resisting to the death.

Well then ! do you suppose that the examination
of nature, irrelevant as it may appear, makes no
contribution to the object you have at heart ? When 2
we inquire how snow is formed, telling that its
character resembles hoar-frost, containing more air
than water, do you not think that it is a reproach
upon the epicures ? If it is a scandalous thing to
buy water, they are still worse, for they do not
get even water [but chiefly air] for their money.
Let us, I say, inquire rather how snow is formed
than how it is preserved. The means of pre
servation have already been discovered ; not
content with racking wines of vintage, arranging
them by flavour and age, we have devised means
of compressing snow to overcome the power of
summer, and of protecting it by the coolness of
the icehouses from the hotness of the season.
And what have we accomplished by all our anxious 3
efforts ? The privilege of buying water that we
might have got for nothing ! We are vexed that
we cannot buy air and sunlight, and that the
atmosphere all around streams in easily and un-
bought upon the fastidious and the rich. How
badly nature treats us in leaving anything that is
common property ! Upon this other element,
water, which nature has allowed to flow for the
free use of mankind, and which she has given the

1 I.e. the moral turpitude of sinking into such debased luxury as to require
snow should be set forth rather than mere theories of the formation of snow ;
the ethical should take precedence of the physical.


whole world to drink, this that she has shed forth
with lavish prodigality for the service alike of man
and of beasts and birds and the very laziest of the
animal creation upon this, luxury, with ill-conceived

4 ingenuity, has managed to put a price. In fact,
nothing can please luxury unless it is expensive.
Water was the one thing that used to bring down
the rich to the level of the common herd, in which
the wealthy could not surpass the very poorest.
Those who found their riches a burden have devised
a plan whereby water should become a luxury.

How it has come about that no running water
should be thought cool enough, I will now explain.
As long as the stomach is healthy and is able to
relish wholesome food, with which it is satisfied and
not overloaded, it is quite content with the natural

5 stimulants. But when through daily indigestion it
suffers from the heat not of the season but of its
own indulgence, when habitual drunkenness has
taken firm hold on the organs of life, and turns into
bile which parches the intestines, then it becomes
necessary to seek out some means of quenching the
internal heat. Water merely inflames it, the disease
is aggravated by the remedies. Therefore, for
this purpose they use snow for drink, not only in
summer, but even in the depths of winter. The
cause can be no other than the internal complaint.
Digestion is spoiled through indulgence ; respite is
never given it in which to rest. Breakfast is
heaped upon a supper prolonged till daylight.
While the revellers are literally bursting with the
lavishness and variety of the courses, heavy
drinking plunges them still deeper in the mire.

6 Then the continuous excess causes heartburn
from the food previously consumed, and inflames


the constant craving for some new stimulant. So,
though they protect the banqueting hall with
draperies and windows, and seek by roaring fires
to banish winter s colds, none the less the lan
guishing appetite, exhausted by its own heat,
yearns for something new to revive it. Just as we
sprinkle cold water on people who have lost con
sciousness through a fainting fit, in order to bring
them back to their senses ; so the internal organs,
numbed through excess, are past feeling, unless
they are smitten by the parching, as it were, of
more violent cold. Hence it is, I say, that not 7
content even with snow, they call for ice, as if the
stimulant were the more certain from its solidity,
and melt it with repeated douches of water. The
ice, too, is not taken from the surface, but, that it
may have greater virtue and more lasting cold, it
is dug out of the depths of the pile. Thus it is
not even of uniform price ; but water actually
has its hawkers and alas the day ! a varying
price. The Lacedaemonians once banished the
perfumers from their city, ordering them to quit
the country with all speed, because they were
wasting the oil supply. What would they have 8
done, I wonder, if they had seen cold stores for
preserving snow and such an army of beasts
employed in carting water, whose colour and
flavour are often all spoiled by the straw in which
it is kept ?

Good heavens ! how easy a thing it is to
quench the thirst of health ! But what feeling can
jaws retain that are deadened and numbed by
scalding food ? These epicures can have nothing
cold enough, neither can they have anything hot
enough. Mushrooms taken from the fire and hastily 9


dipped in their special sauce are crammed down
the throat almost boiling, and the heat has to be
allayed by draughts chilled in snow. One may see,
I tell you, slender youths, rigged out in cloaks and
mufflers, pale and sickly, not merely sipping the
snow, but actually eating it, throwing little pieces
of it into their glasses to prevent them from getting
warm during the intervals of drinking. Do you
10 call that honest thirst ? It is fever, the more acute
too as it cannot be detected by the pulse or the
wonted heat that overspreads the skin. The very
heart is dried up by that incurable malady, luxury,
whose habitual weakness and unsteadiness are
turned into endurance and obstinacy. Don t you
know that habit dulls the force of everything ? The
snow in which you are now, so to speak, swimming l
has through custom and the daily slavery of the
stomach come to occupy the place of water. You
must now search for something colder still ; for a
stimulant that is habitual is no stimulant at all.

1 Which you now use in your baths.


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