Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 36
I. IT remains for us to deal with the nature of stones, or, in other words, the prime folly in our behaviour, to be considered as such even though no reference be made to gems, amber and vessels of rock-crystal and fluorspar. For everything that we have investigated up to the present volume may be deemed to have been created for the benefit of mankind. Mountains, however, were made by Nature for herself to serve as a kind of framework for holding firmly together the inner parts of the earth, and at the same time to enable her to subdue the violence of rivers, to break the force of heavy seas and so to curb her most restless elements with the hardest material of which she is made. We quarry these mountains and haul them away for a mere whim; and yet there was a time when it seemed remarkable even to have succeeded in crossing them. Our forefathers considered the scaling of the Alps by Hannibal and later by the Cimbri to be almost unnatural. Now these selfsame Alps are quarried into marble of a thousand varieties.
Headlands are laid open to the sea, and nature is flattened. We remove the barriers created to serve as the boundaries of nations, and ships are built specially for marble. And so, over the waves of the sea, Nature's wildest element, mountain ranges are transported to and fro, and even then with greater justification than we can find for climbing to the clouds in search of vessels to keep our drinks cool, and for hollowing out rocks that almost reach the heavens, so that we may drink from ice. When we hear of the prices paid for these vessels, when we see the masses of marble that are being conveyed or hauled, we should each of us reflect, and at the same time think how much more happily many people live without them. That men should do such things, or rather endure them, for no purpose or pleasure except to lie amid spotted marbles, just as if these delights were not taken from us by the darkness of night, which is half our life's span!
II. When we think of these things we feel ourselves blushing prodigiously with shame even for the men of former times. There exist the laws passed by Claudius in his censorship forbidding dormice and other trifles too insignificant to mention to be served at dinner. But no law was ever passed forbidding us to import marble and to traverse the seas for its sake. Perhaps it may be said 'Of course not. No marbles were being imported.' That suggestion at least is untrue. In the aedileship of Marcus Scaurus there was the spectacle of 360 columns being taken to the stage of an improvised theatre that was intended to be used barely for a month, and the laws were silent. Of course, it was the official pleasures of the community for which some allowance was being made by our laws. But why should this, of all excuses, have been made? Or what route is more commonly taken by vices in their surreptitious approach than the official one? How else have ivory, gold and precious stones come to be used in private life? Or what have we left entirely to the gods? Very well; some allowance was being made for the pleasures of the community. Were not the laws silent also when the largest of those columns, which were each fully 38 feet long and of Lucullean marble, were placed in the hall of Scaurus' house?
And there was no secrecy or concealment. A sewer contractor forced Scaurus to give him security against possible damage to the drains when the columns were being hauled to the Palatine. Would it not have been more expedient, therefore, when so harmful a precedent was being set, to afford some security for our morals? The laws were still silent when these great masses of marble were dragged to a private house past the earthenware pediments of temples!
III. Nor can we suppose that Scaurus surprised with an elementary lesson in vice a community that was untutored and unable to foresee the consequences of the mischief. It was before this that during a quarrel the orator Lucius Crassus, having been the first to install, also on the Palatine, columns of foreign marble, columns which were after all merely of Hymettus marble and not more than six in number or more than 12 feet each in length, was in consequence nicknamed by Marcus Brutus the Palatine Venus. Of course these matters were disregarded because morals had already lost the battle; and when it was seen that there was no effective way of banning what had been expressly forbidden, it seemed preferable to have no laws at all rather than laws that were of no avail. These events and those that have followed them in our time will show that we are better men. For who nowadays possesses a hall equipped with such large columns? However, before we speak of marbles, I am of the opinion that we should display the merits of the men who have worked in this material. First, then, we shall make a survey of artists.
IV. The very first men to make a name as sculptors in marble were Dipoenus and Scyllis, who were born in the island of Crete while Media was still a great power and Cyrus had not yet come to the throne of Persia. Their date falls approximately in the 50th Olympiad. They made their way to Sicyon, which was for long the motherland of all such industries. The men of Sicyon had given them a contract in the name of the state for making statues of gods; but before these were finished the artists complained that they had been wronged and went away to Aetolia. Sicyon was instantly stricken with famine, barrenness and fearful affliction. When the people begged the oracle for relief, Apollo of Delphi replied that relief would come 'if Dipoenus and Scyllis completed the images of the gods.' This they were prevailed upon to do thanks to the payment of high fees and high compliments. The statues, incidentally, were those of Apollo, Diana, Hercules and Minerva, the last of which was later struck by lightning.
Before the time of Dipoenus and Scyllis there had already lived in the island of Chios a sculptor Melas, who was succeeded by his son Micciades and his grandson Archermus; and the sons of Archermus, named Bupalus and Athenis, were quite the most eminent masters of the art at the time of the poet Hipponax, who is known to have been alive in the 60th Olympiad. Now if we trace their lineage back to the time of their great-grandfather, we find that the beginnings of this art coincide in lime with the 1st Olympiad. Hipponax had a notoriously ugly face; and because of this they made impudent jokes much to the amusement of the groups of companions to whom they exhibited his likeness. This angered Hipponax, who rebuked them so violently in his mordant lampoons that he is believed by some to have driven them to hang themselves. But this is untrue because later they made several statues in neighbouring islands, for example in Delos; and to their pedestals they attached verses to the effect that 'Chios is esteemed not merely for its vines, but also for the works of the sons of Archermus.' Moreover the people of Iasos proudly display a Diana made by them. In Chios itself there is stated to be a face of Diana which is their work. It is set in a lofty posilion, and people entering the building imagine that her expression is stern, but when they leave they fancy that it has become cheerful. At Rome there are statues by them on the angles of the pediment of the temple of Apollo on the Palatine and on almost all the buildings for which the emperor Augustus of Revered Memory was responsible. There were works by their father too at Delos and in the island of Lesbos. As for Dipoenus, Ambracia, Argos and Cleonae were full of his productions.
All these artists used only white marble from the island of Paros, a stone which they proceeded to call 'lychnites,' since, according to Varro, it was quarried in galleries by the light of oil lamps. However, many whiter varieties have been discovered since their time, some indeed only recently, as is the case with the Luna quarries. As for the quarries of Paros, there is an extraordinary tradition that once, when the stone-breakers split a single block with their wedges, a likeness of Silenus was found inside.
We should not forget to mention that this art is much older than that of painting or of bronze statuary, both of which arose with Pheidias in the 83rd Olympiad, that is, about 332 years later. It is reported that Pheidias himself carved in marble and that the exceptionally beautiful Venus in Octavia's Buildings at Rome is his. What is certain is that a pupil of his was the Athenian Alcamenes, a particularly famous sculptor, several of whose works are to be seen at Athens in the temples, while outside the walls there is the celebrated statue of Venus, which in Greek is known as Aphrodite of the Gardens. Pheidias himself is said to have put the finishing touches to this. Another of his pupils was Agoracritus of Paros, who pleased him, moreover, because of his youthful good looks, and consequently Pheidias is said to have allowed him to pass as the author of several of his awn works. However that may be, the two pupils competed with each other in making a Venus, and Alcamenes won the contest, not indeed through his skill, but through the votes of his fellow-citizens, who supported their kinsman at the expense of his foreign rival. Consequently, Agoracritus is reported to have sold his statue under a proviso that it should not remain in Athens, and to have called it Nemesis. It was set up within Attica in the deme of Rhamnus, and Marcus Varro preferred it to any other statue. In the same township there is also a work by Agoracritus in the shrine of the Great Mother. That Pheidias is the most famous sculptor among all peoples who appreciate the fame of his Olympian Jupiter is beyond doubt, but in order that even those who have not seen his works may be assured that his praises are well-earned shall produce evidence that is insignificant in itself and sufficient only to prove his inventiveness. To do so, I shall not appeal to the beauty of his Olympian Jupiter or to the size of his Minerva at Athens, even though this statue, made of ivory and gold, is 26 cubits in height. But rather, I shall mention her shield, on the convex border of which he engraved a Battle of the Amazons, and on the hollow side Combats of Gods and Giants; and her sandals, on which he depicted Combats of Lapiths and Centaurs. So truly did every detail lend itself to his art. On the pedestal there is carved what is entitled in Greek the Birth of Pandora, with twenty gods assisting at the birth. Although the figure of Victory is especially remarkable, connoisseurs admire also the snake, as well as the bronze sphinx that crouches just beneath her spear. These are things which should be stated in passing with regard to an artist who has never been praised enough. At the same time, they make us realize that the grandeur of his notions was maintained even in small matters. Praxiteles is an artist whose date I have mentioned among those of the makers of bronze statues, but in the fame of his work in marble he surpassed even himself. There are works by him at Athens in the Ceramcicus; and yet superior to anything not merely by Praxiteles, but in the whole world, is the Venus, which many people have sailed to Cnidus to see. He had made two figures, which he put up for sale together. One of them was draped and for this reason was preferred by the people of Cos, who had an option on the sale, although he offered it at the same price as the other. This they considered to be the only decent and dignified course of action. The statue which they refused was purchased by the people of Cnidus and achieved an immeasurably greater reputation. Later King Nicomedes was anxious to buy it from them, promising so to discharge all the state's vast debts. The Cnidians, however, preferred to suffer anything but this, and rightly so; for with this statue Praxiteles made Cnidus a famous city. The shrine in which it stands is entirely open so as to allow the image of the goddess to be viewed from every side, and it is believed to have been made in this way with the blessing of the goddess herself. The statue is equally admirable from every angle. There is a story that a man once fell in love with it and hiding by night embraced it, and that a stain betrays this lustful act. In Cnidus there are also other marble figures by notable artists, a Father Liber by Bryaxis, a Father Liber and a Minerva by Scopas; but there is no greater proof of the excellence of Praxiteles' Venus than the fact that amidst these works it alone receives mention. To Praxiteles belongs also a Cupid, with which Cicero taunted Verres, the famous Cupid for the sake of which men visited Thespiae, and which now stands in Octavia's Rooms. To him belongs, moreover, another Cupid, which is naked, at Parium, the colony on the Sea of Marmara, a work that matches the Venus of Cnidus in its renown, as well as in the outrageous treatment which it suffered. For Alcetas, a man from Rhodes, fell in love with it and left upon it a similar mark of his passion. At Rome the works of Praxiteles are a Flora, a Triptolemus and a Ceres in the Gardens of Servilius, images of Success and Good Fortune on the Capitol, and likewise the Maenads, the so-called Thyiads and Caryatids and the Sileni in the Collection of Asinius Pollio, as well as an Apollo and a Neptune. The son of Praxiteles, Cephisodotus, inherited also his skill. His Persons Grappling at Pergamum is highly praised, being notable for the fingers, which seem genuinely to sink into living flesh rather than into dead marble. At Rome his works are the Latona in the temple of the Palatine Apollo, a Venus in the Collection of Asinius Pollio, and the Aesculapius and Diana in the temple of Juno within the Porticoes of Octavia.
These artists are rivalled in merit by Scopas. He made a Venus and a figure of Desire, which are worshipped with the most solemn rites in Samothrace. He was responsible also for the Apollo on the Palatine and the much praised Seated Vesta in the Gardens of Servilius, along with the two turning-posts on either side of her, of which there are facsimiles in the Collection of Asinius, where there is also his Girl Carrying a Sacred Basket. But most highly esteemed is his composition in the shrine built by Cn. Domitius in the Flaminian Circus. There is Neptune himself, and with him are Thetis and Achilles. There are Nereids riding on dolphins and mighty fish or on seahorses, and also Tritons, 'Phorcus' band,' swordfish and a host of other sea creatures, all by the hand of the one man, a magnificent achievement even if it had occupied his whole career. As it is, apart from the works mentioned above and those unknown to us, there is furthermore the colossal seated statue of Mars by the same artist in the temple built by Brutus Callaecus also in the Circus, as well as his naked Venus in the same place, a work that surpasses the Venus of Praxiteles and would have brought fame to any locality but Rome.
At Rome, indeed, the great number of works of art and again their consequent effacement from our memory, and, even more, the multitude of official functions and business activities must, after ally deter anyone from serious study, since the appreciation involved needs leisure and deep silence in our surroundings. Hence we do not know the maker even of the Venus dedicated by the emperor Vespasian [AD. 69-79] in the precincts of his temple of Peace, although it deserves to rank with the old masters. Equally there is doubt as to whether the Dying Children of Niobe in the temple of the Sosian Apollo was the work of Scopas or of Praxiteles. Similarly, we cannot tell which of the two carved the Father Janus which was dedicated in its rightful temple by Augustus after being brought here from Egypt; and now a covering of gilt has hidden its secret still more. Equally, there is a controversy about the Cupid Holding a Thunderbolt in the Hall of Octavia. Only one thing is stated with conviction, namely that the figure is that of Alcibiades the most handsome youth of that time. In the same salon there are many pleasing works of which the authors are unknown, for example, the Four Satyrs, of whom one is carrying on his shoulders Father Liber dressed in a robe and another is likewise carrying Ariadne, while a third stops a child crying and a fourth gives a drink to another child out of a mixing-bowl; and the Two Breezes, who are spreading their cloaks like sails. There is just as much dispute as to the makers of the Olympus and Pan and the Chiron With Achilles in the Voting Enclosure, even though their fame pronounces them to be so valuable that their keepers must answer for their safety with their lives.
The contemporaries and rivals of Scopas were Bryaxis, Timotheus and Leochares, whom we must discuss along with him because together with him they worked on the carvings of the Mausoleum. This is the tomb that was built by Artemisia for her husband Mausolus, the viceroy of Caria, who died in the second year of the 107th Olympiad. These artists were chiefly responsible for making the structure one of the seven wonders of the work. On the north and south sides it extends for 63 feet, but the length of the faades is less, the total length of the faades and sides being 440 feet. The building rises to a height of 25 cubits and is enclosed by 36 columns. The Greek word for the surrounding colonnade is 'pteron,' a 'wing.' The east side was carved by Scopas, the north by Bryaxis, the south by Timotheus and the west by Leochares; and before they completed their task, the queen died. However, they refused to abandon the work without finishing it, since they were already of the opinion that it would be a memorial to their own glory and that of their profession; and even today they are considered to rival each other in skill. With them was associated a fifth artist. For above the colonnade there is a pyramid as high again as the lower structure and tapering in 24 stages to the top of its peak. At the summit there is a four-horse chariot of marble, and this was made by Pythis. The addition of this chariot rounds off the whole work and brings it to a height of 140 feet. There is a Diana by Timotheus at Rome in the temple of the Palatine Apollo, a statue for which a head was made as a replacement by Avianius Evander.
The Hercules of Menestratus is greatly admired, and so too is the Hecate in the precinct behind the temple of Diana at Ephesus. In studying this statue people are warned by the sacristans to be careful of their eyes; so intense is the glare of the marble. As highly esteemed, too, are the Graces in the Propylaeum at Athens. These were the work of Socrates, who was not the same man as Socrates the painter, although some think that he was. As for the famous Myron, who is so highly praised for his bronzes, his Tipsy Old Woman at Smyrna is especially renowned.
Asinius Pollio, being an ardent enthusiast, was accordingly anxious for his collection to attract sightseers. In it are the Centaurs Carrying Nymphs by Arcesilas, the Muses of Helicon by Cleomenes, the Oceanus and Jupiter by Heniochus, the Nymphs of the Appian Water by Stephanus, the double busts of Hermes and Eros by Tauriscus (not the well-known worker in metal and ivory, but a native of Tralles), the Jupiter Patron of Strangers by Papylus, the pupil of Praxiteles, and a composition by Apollonius and Tauriseus which was brought from Rhodes, namely Zethus and Amphion, and then Dirce and the bull with its rope, all carved from the same block of stone. These two artists caused a dispute as to their parentage, declaring that their putative father was Menecrates and their real father Artemidorus. In the same galleries there is a Father Liber by Eutychides which is warmly praised, and close by the Portico of Octavia an Apollo by Philiscus of Rhodes standing in the temple of Apollo, and furthermore a Latona, a Diana, the Nine Muses, and another Apollo, which is naked. The Apollo With His Lyre in the same temple was made by Timarchides, and in the temple of Juno that stands within the Portico of Octavia the image of the goddess herself was made by Dionysius, although there is another by Polycles, while the Venus in the same place was executed by Philiscus and the other statues by Praxiteles. Polycles and Dionysius, who were the sons of Timarchides, were responsible also for the Jupiter in the adjacent temple, while in the same place the Pan and Olympus Wrestling, which is the second most famous grappling group in the world, was the work of Heliodorus, the Venus Bathing of Daedalsas, and the Venus Standing of Polycharmus. It is clear from the honour accorded to it that a work much esteemed was that of Lysias which Augustus of Revered Memory dedicated in honour of his father Octavius in a niche embellished with columns upon the arch on the Palatine. This work consists of a team of four horses with a chariot and Apollo with Diana all carved from one block of marble. In the Gardens of Servilius I find that works much admired are the Apollo by the eminent engraver Calamis, the Boxers by Dereylides, and the historian Callisthenes by Amphistratus. Beyond these men, there are not a great many more that are famous. The reputation of some, distinguished though their work may be, has been obscured by the number of artists engaged with them on a single task, because no individual monopolizes the credit nor again can several of them be named on equal terms. This is the case with the Laocoon in the palace of the emperor Titus, a work superior to any painting and any bronze. Laocoon, his children and the wonderful clasping coils of the snakes were caned from a single block in accordance with an agreed plan by those eminent craftsmen Hagesander, Polydorus and Athenodorus, all of Rhodes. Similarly, the imperial mansions on the Palatine were filled with excellent statues made by pairs of artists, Craterus and Pythodorus, Polydeuces and Hermolaus, another Pythodorus and Artemon, and individually by Aphrodisius of Tralles. The Pantheon of Agrippa was embellished by Diogenes of Athens; and among the supporting members of this temple there are Caryatids that are almost in a class of their own, and the same is true of the figures on the angles of the pediment, which are, however, not so well known because of their lofty position. A work that is without honour and stands in no temple is the Hercules, before which the Carthaginians were wont to perform human sacrifices every year. This stands at ground-level in front of the entrance to the Portico of the Nations. Formerly too there were statues of the Muses of Helicon by the temple of Prosperity, and a Roman knight, Junius Pisciculus, fell in love with one of them, according to Varro, who incidentally was an admirer of Pasiteles, a sculptor who was also the author of a treatise in five volumes on the World's Famous Masterpieces. He was a native of Magna Graecia and received Roman citizenship along with the communities of that region. The ivory Jupiter in the temple of Metellus at the approaches to the Campus Martius is his work. Once, he was at the docks, where there were wild beasts from Africa, and was making a relief of a lion, peering as he did so into the cage at his model, when it so happened that a leopard broke out of another cage and caused serious danger to this most conscientious of artists. He is said to have executed a number of but their titles are not recorded. Arcesilaus, highly praised by Varro, who states that he once possessed a work of his, namely Winged Cupids Playing with a Lioness, of whom some were holding it with cords, some were making it drink from a horn, and some were putting slippers on its feet, all the figures having been carved from one block. Varro relates also that it was Coponius who was responsible for the fourteen figures of the Nations that stand around Pompey's theatre. I find that Canachus, who was much admired as a maker of bronzes, also executed figures in marble. Nor should we forget Sauras and Batrachus, who built the temples that are enclosed by the Porticoes of Octavia. They were mere natives of Sparta. And yet, some people actually suppose that they were very rich and erected the temples at their awn expense because they hoped to be honoured by an inscription; and the story is that, although this was refused, they attained their object in another way. At any rate, on the moulded bases of the columns there are still in existence carvings of a lizard and a frog in token of their names. One of these temples is that of Jupiter, in which the subjects of the paintings and of all the other embellishments are concerned with women. For it had been intended as the temple of Juno; but, according to the tradition, the porters interchanged the cult-images when they were installing them, and this arrangement was preserved as a matter of religious scruple, in the belief that the gods themselves had allotted their dwelling-places in this way. Similarly, therefore, the embellishments in the temple of Juno are those that were destined for the temple of Jupiter.
Fame has been won in the making also of marble miniatures, namely by Myrmecides, whose Four-horse Chariot and Driver were covered by the wings of a fly, and by Callicratides, whose ants have feet and other parts too small to be discerned.
V. So much for the sculptors in marble and the artists who have achieved the greatest fame. In discussing this subject, however, I am reminded that in those times no value was attached to marble with markings. Apart from the marble of the Cyclades, sculptors worked in that of Thasos, which rivals it, and of Lesbos, which has a slightly more bluish tinge. Markings of various colours and decorations of marble in general are first mentioned by that most accurate exponent of the details of high living, Menander, and even he rarely alludes to them. Marble columns were certainly used in temples, not, however, as an embellishment, since embellishments as such were not yet appreciated, but merely because there was no way of erecting stronger columns. Thus they are a feature of the unfinished temple of Jupiter Olympius at Athens, from which Sulla brought columns to be used for temples on the Capitol. However, ordinary stone and marble were distinguished already in Homer, for he speaks of a man being struck by a piece of marble; but this is as far as he goes. He decorates even his royal palaces, however sumptuously, only with ivory, apart from metalsbronze, gold, electrum and silver. In my opinion, the first specimens of our favourite marbles with their parti-coloured markings appeared from the quarries of Chios when the people of that island were building their walls. Hence the witty remark made at the expense of this work by Cicero. It was their practice to show it as a splendid structure to all their visitors; and his remark to them was 'I should be much more amazed if you had made it of stone from Tibur.' And, heaven knows, painting would not have been valued at all, let alone so highly, had marbles enjoyed any considerable prestige.
VI. The art of cutting marble into thin slabs may possibly have been invented in Carla. The earliest instance, so far as I can discover, is that of the palace of Mausolus at Halicarnassus, the brick walls of which were decorated with marble from the island of Marmara. He died in the second year of the 107th Olympiads and in the 403rd year after the founding of Rome.
VII. The first man in Rome to cover with marble veneer whole walls in his house, which was on the Caelian Hill, was, according to Cornelius Nepos, Mamurra, a Roman Knight and a native of Formiae, who was Gaius (Julius) Caesar's chief engineer in Gaul. That such a man should have sponsored the invention is enough to make it utterly improper. For this is the Mamurra who was reviled by Catullus of Verona in his poems, the Mamurra whose house, as a matter of fact, proclaims more clearly than Catullus himself that he 'possesses all that Shaggy Gaul possessed.' Incidentally Nepos adds also that he was the first to have only marble columns in his whole house and that these were all solid columns of Carystus or Luna marble.
VIII. Marcus Lepidus, who was consul with Quintus Catulus, was the very first to lay down door-sills of Numidian marble in his house; and for this he was sharply criticized. He was consul in the 676th year after the founding of the city. This is the first indication that I can find of the importing of Numidian marble. The marble, however, was not in the form of columns or slabs, like that of Carystus mentioned above, but came in blocks to be used in the most sordid manneras door-sills! Four years after the consulship of this Lepidus came that of Lucius Lucullus, who gave his name, as is evident from the facts, to Lucullean marble. He took a great delight in this marble and introduced it to Rome, although it is in general black and all other marbles are favoured because of their markings or colours. It is found in the island of Chios and is almost the only marble to have derived its name from that of a devotee. Of these men, it was Marcus Scaurus, in my opinion, whose stage was the first structure to have marble walls, though I am not prepared to say whether these were of veneer or of solid polished blocks, as, for instance, is the case today with the walls of the temple of Jupiter the Thunderer on the Capitol. For I find no evidence of marble veneer in Italy that is as early as this.
IX. But whoever first discovered how to cut marble and carve up luxury into many portions was a man of misplaced ingenuity. The cutting of the marble is effected apparently by iron, but actually by sand, for the saw merely presses the sand upon a very thinly traced line, and then the passage of the instrument, owing to the rapid movement to and fro, is in itself enough to cut the stone. The Ethiopian variety of this sand is the most highly esteemed; for, to make matters worse, material for cutting marble is sought from as far afield as Ethiopia; and, moreover, men go in search of it even to India, which it was once an affront to strict morality to visit even for pearls. The Indian is the next most highly praised, but the Ethiopian is finer and cuts without leaving any roughness. The Indian does not give the stone such a smooth surface. However, people engaged in polishing marble are strongly recommended to rub marble with it when it has been calcined. There is a similar fault in the Naxian sand and in that of Coptos, which is known as the Egyptian variety. These were the kinds used for cutting marble in early times. Later there was discovered an equally valuable sand from a sandbank in the Adriatic which is uncovered only at low tide. Consequently, its position is not easy to mark. Now also fraudulent craftsmen dare to cut slabs with any kind of sand from any river, a waste which very few clients perceive. For in fact the coarser the sand, the less accurate the sections it grinds, the more marble it wears away, and owing to the rough surfaces produced, the more work it leaves for those responsible for polishing the slabs. Hence the cut slabs are made thinner. Again, for polishing marble, sand from the Thebaid is suitable, as well as powder made from limestone or pumice.
X. For smoothing marble statues and also for en-paving and filing down gems the Naxian stone was for long the favourite. This is the name given to the whetstones found in the island referred to above. Later, those imported from Armenia were preferred.
XI. It is not important to mention the colours and species of marbles when they are so well known, nor is it easy to list them when they are so numerous.
For there are few places for which a characteristic marble is not found to exist. Even so, the most famous kinds have already been mentioned, along with the peoples whose names they bear, in the course of our circuit of the world. Not all of them occur in quarries, but many are found scattered also beneath the earth's surface, some indeed being very valuable, like the green Lacedaemonian, which is brighter than any other marble, or the Augustean and, more recently, the Tiberian, which were found in Egypt for the first time during the principates of Augustus and acta Tiberius respectively! From serpentine, the markings of which resemble snakeshence its namethese stones differ in that their markings are grouped differently. Those of the Augustean curl over like waves so as to form coils, while the Tiberian has scattered greyish-white spots which are not rolled into coils. Another difference is that only quite small columns made of serpentine are to be found. It has two varieties: one is soft and white, the other hard and dark. When worn as amulets, both are said to relieve headaches and snakebites. Some authorities recommend the white variety as an amulet to be worn by sufferers from delirium or a coma. But as an antidote to snakebites some praise particularly the variety of serpentine known as 'tephrias' from its ashen colour. Another stone, named from its place of origin, is the Memphis stone, which is like a gem. The method of using this is to grind it to powder and to smear it mixed with vinegar on places which need to be cauterized or lanced; thus the body is numbed and feels no severe pain. In Egypt too there is red porphyry, of which a variety mottled with white dots is known as 'leptopsephos.' The quarries supply masses of any size to be cut away. Statues of this stone were brought from Egypt to the emperor Claudius in Rome by his official agent Vitrasius Pollio, an innovation that did not meet with much approval. No one at least has since followed his example. The Egyptians also discovered in Ethiopia what is called 'basanites,' a stone which in colour and hardness resembles iron: hence the name they have given it. No large specimen of this stone has ever been found than that dedicated by the emperor Vespasian in the temple of Peace, the subject of which is the Nile, with sixteen of the river-god's children playing around him, these denoting the number of cubits reached by the river in flood at its highest desirable level. Not unlike this, we are told, is the block in the shine of Serapis at Thebes chosen for a statue of what is supposed to be Memnon; and this is said to creak every day at dawn as soon as the sun's rays reach it.
XII. Onyx marble was supposed by our old authorities to occur in the mountains of Arabia and nowhere else. Sudines, however, thought that it occurred in Carmania. At first only drinking-vessels were made of it, and then the feet of couches and the frames of chairs. Cornelius Nepos records that it was considered quite extraordinary when Publius Lentulus Spinther exhibited wine jars of onyx marble big enough to hold 9 Chian gallons, but that only five years later he himself saw columns 32 feet long. There were striking changes in the history of the stone even after this, for the four small columns placed by Cornelius Balbus in his theatre caused a sensation, whereas I have seen thirty quite large ones in the dining-room which the emperor Claudius' freedman, the notoriously powerful Callistus, built for himself. This stone is sometimes called 'alabastrites,' for it is hollowed out to be used also as unguent jars because it is said to be the best means of keeping unguents fresh. It is suitable too, when burnt, for plasters. It occurs in the neighbourhood of Thebes in Egypt and of Damascus in Syria. The latter variety is whiter than the rest, but that of Carmania is the most excellent. Next comes the Indian, and then of course there is that of Syria and the province of Asia, while the least valuable is the Cappadocian, which has no lustre whatsoever. The specimens most warmly recommended are the honey-coloured, marked with spirals, and opaque. A colour resembling that of horn, or else gleaming white, and any suggestion of a glassy look are serious faults in onyx marble.
XIII. Many people consider that for the preservation of unguents there is little to choose between onyx marble and the 'lygdinus,' which is found in Paros in pieces no larger than a dish or mixing bowl, although in earlier times it was normally imported only from Arabia. It is of an exceptionally brilliant whiteness. Two stones of a directly opposed character are also greatly esteemed. There is the coral stone found in the province of Asia in sizes not exceeding two cubits, with a white colour close to that of ivory and a certain resemblance to it in appearance. On the other hand, the stone named after Alabanda, its place of origin, although it occurs also at Miletus, is black. In appearance, however, this stone tends rather to have a reddish tinge. It can, moreover, be melted by fire and fused to serve as glass. The Thebaie stone mottled with gold spots is found in a part of Africa that has been assigned to Egypt and is naturally well adapted for use as stones on which to grind eye-salves. The granite of Syene is found in the neighbourhood of Aswan in the Thebaid and in earlier times was known as pyrrhopoecilos.
XIV. Monoliths of this granite were made by the kings, to some extent in rivalry with one another. They called them obelisks and dedicated them to the Sun-god. An obelisk is a symbolic representation of the sun's rays, and this is the meaning of the Egyptian word for it. [Tekhen = sunbeam/obelisk] The first of all the kings to undertake such a task was Mesphres [Menes?], who ruled at Heliopolis, the city of the Sun, and was commanded to do so in a dream. This very fact is inscribed on the obelisk; for those carvings and symbols that we see are Egyptian letters. Later, other kings also cut obelisks. Sesothes set up four of them in the city just mentioned, these being 48 cubits in height, while Rameses, who ruled at the time of the capture of Troy, erected one of 140 cubits. Rameses also erected another at the exit from the precinct where the palace of Mnevis once stood, and this is 120 cubits high, but abnormally thick, each side measuring 11 cubits. The completion of this work is said to have required 120,000 men. When the obelisk was about to be erected, the king feared that the scaffolding would not be strong enough for the weight, and in order to force an even greater danger upon the attention of the workmen, he himself tied his son to the pinnacle, intending that the stone should share the benefit of his deliverance at the hands of the labourers. This work was so greatly admired that when Cambyses was storming the city and the conflagration had reached the base of the obelisk, he ordered the fires to be put out, thus showing his respect for the mighty block when he had felt none for the city itself. There are also two other obelisks here, one set up by Zmarres, and the other by Phius: a both lack inscriptions and are 48 cubits in height. At Alexandria Ptolemy Philadelphus erected one of 80 cubits. This had been hewn uninscribed by King Neethebis, and it proved to be a greater achievement to carry it down the river and erect it than to have quarried it. According to some authorities, it was carried downstream by the engineer Satyrus on a raft; but according to Callixenus it was conveyed by Phoenix, who by digging a canal brought the waters of the Nile right up to the place where the obelisk lay. Two very broad ships were loaded with cubes of the same granite as that of the obelisk, each cube measuring one foot, until calculations showed that the total weight of the blocks was double that of the obelisk, since their total cubic capacity was twice as great. In this way, the ships were able to come beneath the obelisk, which was suspended by its ends from both banks of the canal. Then the blocks were unloaded and the ships, riding high, took the weight of the obelisk. It was erected on six stone baulks from the same quarries, and the deviser of the scheme received 50 talents for his services. The obelisk was once in the Arsinoeum, having been placed there by the king to whom we previously referred as a tribute to his affection for his wife and sister Arsinoe. From there, because it was in the way of the dockyards, it was moved to the market-place by a certain Maximus, a governor of Egypt, who cut off the point, intending to add a gilt pinnacle in its place, a plan which he later abandoned. There are two other obelisks at Alexandria in the precinct of the temple of Caesar near the harbour. These were cut by King Mesphres and measure 42 cubits.
Above all, there came also the difficult task of transporting ohelisks to Rome by sea. The ships used attracted much attention from sightseers. That which carried the first of two obelisks was solemnly laid up by Augustus of Revered Memory in a permanent dock at Pozzuoli to celebrate the remarkable achievement; but later it was destroyed by fire. The ship used by the Emperor Gaius for bringing a third was carefully preserved for several years by Claudius of Revered Memory, for it was the most amazing thing that had ever been seen at sea. Then caissons made of cement were erected in its hull at Pozzuoli; whereupon it was towed to Ostia and sunk there by order of the emperor, so to contribute to his harbour-works. Then there is another problem, that of providing ships that can carry obelisks up the Tiber; and the successful experiment shows that the river has just as deep a channel as the Nile. The obelisk placed by Augustus of Revered Memory in the Circus Maximus was cut by King Psemetnepserphreus, who was reigning when Pythagoras was in Egypt, and measures 85 feet and 9 inches, apart from its base, which forms part of the same stone. The obelisk in the Campus Martius, however, which is 9 feet less, was cut by Sesothis. Both have inscriptions comprising an account of natural science according to the theories of the Egyptian sages.
XV. The one in the Campus was put to use in a remarkable way by Augustus of Revered Memory so as to mark the sun's shadow and thereby the lengths of days and nights. A pavement was laid down for a distance appropriate to the height of the obelisk so that the shadow cast at noon on the shortest day of the year might exactly coincide with it. Bronze rods let into the pavement were meant to measure the shadow day by day as it gradually became shorter and then lengthened again. This device deserves to be carefully studied, and was contrived by the mathematician Novius Facundus. He placed on the pinnacle a gilt ball, at the top of which the shadow would be concentrated, for otherwise the shadow cast by the tip of the obelisk would have lacked definition. He is said to have understood the principle from observing the shadow cast by the human head. The readings thus given have for about thirty years past failed to correspond to the calendar, either because the course of the sun itself is anomalous and has been altered by some change in the behaviour of the heavens or because the whole earth has shifted slightly from its central position, a phenomenon which, I hear, has been detected also in other places. Or else earth-tremors in the city may have brought about a purely local displacement of the shaft or floods from the Tiber may have caused the mass to settle, even though the foundations are said to have been sunk to a depth equal to the height of the load they have to carry. The third obelisk in Rome stands in the Vatican Circus that was built by the emperors Gaius and Nero. It was the only one of the three that was broken during its removal. It was made by Nencoreus, the son of Sesosis; and there still exists another that belongs to him: it is 100 cubits in height and was dedicated by him to the Sun-god in accordance with an oracle after he had been stricken with blindness and had then regained his sight.
XVI. In Egypt too are the pyramids, which must be mentioned, if only cursorily. They rank as a superfluous and foolish display of wealth on the part of the kings, since it is generally recorded that their motive for building them was to avoid providing funds for their successors or for rivals who wished to plot against them, or else to keep the common folk occupied. Much vanity was shown by these kings in regard to such enterprises, and the remains of several unfinished pyramids are still in existence. There is one in the nome of Arsinoe, and there are two in that of Memphis, not far from the labyrinth, a work which also will be described. Two more stand in a position once occupied by Lake Moeris, which is merely a vast excavation, but is nevertheless recorded by the Egyptians as one of their remarkable and memorable achievements. The points of these pyramids are said to tower above the surface of the water. The other three pyramids, the fame of which has reached every part of the world, are of course visible to travellers approaching by river from any direction. They stand on a rocky hill in the desert on the African side of the river between the city of Memphis and what, as we have already explained, is known as the Delta, at a point less than 4 miles from the Nile, and 7 miles from Memphis. Close by is a village called Busiris, where there are people who are used to climbing these pyramids.
XVII. In front of them is the Sphinx, which rite deserves to be described even more than they, and yet the Egyptians have passed it over in silence. The inhabitants of the region regard it as a deity. They are of the opinion that a King Harmais is buried inside it and try to make out that it was brought to the spot: it is in fact carefully fashioned from the native rock. The face of the monstrous creature is painted with ruddle as a sign of reverence. The circumference of the head when measured across the forehead amounts to 102 feet, the length is 243 feet, and the height from the paunch to the top of the asp on its head is 61 feet.
The largest pyramid is made of stone from stone from the Arabian quarries. It is said that 360,000 men took 20 years to build it. The time taken to build all three was 88 years and 4 months. The authors who have written about them, namely Herodotus, Euhemerus, Duris of Samos, Aristagoras, Dionysius, Artemidorus, Alexander Polyhistor, Butmidas, Antisthenes, Demetrius, Demoteles and Apion, are not all agreed as to which kings were responsible for their construction, since chance, with the greatest justice, has caused those who inspired such a mighty display of vanity to be forgotten. Some of the writers mentioned record that 1600 talents were spent on radishes, garlic and onions alone. The largest pyramid covers an area of nearly 5 acres. Each of the four sides has an equal measurement from corner to corner of 783 feet; the height from ground-level to the pinnacle amounts to 725 feet, while the circumference of the pinnacle is 164 feet. As for the second pyramid, each of its sides from corner to corner totals 7574 feet. The third is smaller than those already mentioned, but on the other hand is far more splendid, with its Ethiopian stoned towering to a height of 363 feet along its sloping sides between the corners. No traces of the building operations survive. All around far and wide there is merely sand shaped like lentils, such as is found in most of Africa? The crucial problem is to know how the masonry was laid to such a great height. Some think that ramps of soda and salt were piled against the structure as it was raised; and that after its completion these were flooded and dissolved by water from the river. Others hold that bridges were built of mud bricks and that when the work was finished the bricks were allotted to individuals for building their own houses. For it is considered impossible that the Nile, flowing at a far lower level, could have flooded the site. Within the largest pyramid is a well 86 cubits deep, into which water from the river is supposed to have been brought by a channel. The method of measuring the height of the pyramids and of taking any similar measurement was devised by Thales of Miletus, the procedure being to measure the shadow at the hour at which its length is expected to be equal to the height of the body that is throwing it. Such are the wonders of the pyramids; and the last and greatest of these wonders, which forbids us to marvel at the wealth of kings, is that the smallest but most greatly admired of these pyramids was built by Rhodopis, a mere prostitute. She was once the fellow-slave and concubine of Aesop, the sage who composed the Fables; and our amazement is all the greater when we reflect that such wealth was acquired through prostitution.
XVIII. Another towering structure built by a king is also extolled, namely the one that stands on Pharos, the island that commands the harbour at Alexandria. The tower is said to have cost 800 talents. We should not fail to mention the generous spirit shown by King Ptolemy, whereby he allowed the name of the architect, Sostratus of Cnidos, to be inscribed on the very fabric of the building. It serves, in connection with the movements of ships at night, to show a beacon so as to give warning of shoals and indicate the entrance to the harbour. Similar beacons now burn brightly in several places, for instance at Ostia and Ravenna. The danger lies in the uninterrupted burning of the beacon, in case it should be mistaken for a star, the appearance of the fire from a distance being similar. The same architect is said to have been the very first to build a promenade supported on piers: this he did at Cnidos.
XIX. We must mention also the labyrinths, quite the most abnormal achievement on which man has spent his resources, but by no means a fictitious one, as might well be supposed. One still exists in Egypt, in the nome of Heracleopolis. This, the first ever to be constructed, was built, according to tradition, 3600 years ago by King Petesuchis or King Tithoes, although Herodotus attributes the whole work to the 'twelve kings,' the last of whom was Psammetichus. Various reasons are suggested for its construction. Demoteles supposes it to have been the palace of Moteris, and Lyceas the tomb of Moeris, while many writers state that it was erected as a temple to the Sun-god, and this is the general belief. Whatever the truth may be, there is no doubt that Daedalus adopted it as the model for the labyrinth built by him in Crete but that he reproduced only a hundredth part of it containing passages that wind, advance and retreat in a bewilderingly intricate manner. It is not just a narrow strip of ground comprising many miles 'walks' or 'rides,' such as we see exemplified in our tessellated floors or in the ceremonial game played by our boys in the Campus Martius but doors are let into the walls at frequent intervals to suggest deceptively the way ahead and to force the visitor to go back upon the very same tracks that he has already followed in his wanderings. This Cretan labyrinth was the next in succession after the Egyptian, and there was a third in Lemnos and a fourth in Italy, all alike being roofed with vaults of carefully worked stone. There is a feature of the Egyptian labyrinth which I for my me part find surprising, namely an entrance and columns made of Parian marble. The rest of the structure is of Aswan granite, the great blocks of which have been laid in such a way that even the lapse of centuries cannot destroy them. Their preservation has been aided by the people of Heracleopolis, who have shown remarkable respect for an achievement that they detest.
The ground-plan and the individual parts of this building cannot be fully described because it is divided among the regions or administrative districts known as nomes, of which there are 21, each having a vast hail allotted to it by name. Besides these halls, it contains temples of all the Egyptian gods; and, furthermore, Nemesis placed within the 40 shrines several pyramids, each with a height of 40 cubits and an area at the base of 4 acres. It is when he is already exhausted with walking that the visitor reaches the bewildering maze of passages. Moreover, there are rooms in lofty upper storeys reached by inclines, and porches from which flights of 90 stairs lead down to the ground. Inside are columns of imperial porphyry, images of gods, statues of kings and figures of monsters. Some of the halls are laid out in such a way that when the doors open there is a terrifying rumble of thunder within: incidentally, most of the building has to be traversed in darkness. Again, there are other massive structures outside the wall of the labyrinth: the Greek term for these is 'pteron,' or a 'wing.' Then there are other halls that have been made by digging galleries underground. The few repairs that have been made there were carried out by one man alone, Chaeremon, the eunuch of King Necthebis 500 years before the time of Alexander the Great. There is a further tradition that he used beams of acacia boiled in oil to serve as supports while square blocks of stone were being lifted into the vaults.
What has already been said must suffice for the Cretan labyrinth likewise. The Lemnian which was similar to it, was more noteworthy only in virtue of its 150 columns, the drums of which were so well balanced as they hung in the workshop that a child was able to turn them on the lathe. The architects were Zmilis, Rhoecus and Theodorus, all natives of Lemnos. There still exist remains of this labyrinth, although no traces of the Cretan or the Italian now survive. For it is appropriate to call 'Italian,' as well as 'Etruscan,' the labyrinth made by King Porsena of Etruria to serve as his tomb, with the result at the same time that even the vanity of foreign kings is surpassed by those of Italy. But since irresponsible story-telling here exceeds all bounds, I shall in describing the building make use of the very words of Marcus Varro himself: 'He is buried close to the city of Clusiuni, in a place where he has left a square monument built of squared blocks of stone, each side being 300 feet long and 50 feet high Inside this square pedestal there is a tangled labyrinth, which no one must enter without a ball of thread if he is to find his way out. On this square pedestal stand five pyramids, four at the corners and one at the centre, each of them being 75 feet broad at the base and 150 feet high. They taper in such a manner that on top of the whole group there rests a single bronze disk together with a conical cupola, from which hang bells fastened with chains: when these are set in motion by the wind, their sound carries to a great distance, as was formerly the case at Dodona. On this disk stand four more pyramids, each 100 feet high, and above these, on a single platform, five more.' The height of these last pyramids was a detail that Varro was ashamed to add to his account; but the Etruscan stories relate that it was equal to that of the whole work up to their level, insane folly as it was to have courted fame by spending for the benefit of none and to have exhausted furthermore the resources of a kingdom; and the result, after all, was more honour for the designer than for the sponsor.
XX. We read also of a hanging garden, and, more than this, of a whole hanging town, Thebes in Egypt. The kings used to lead forth their armies in full array beneath it without being detected by any of the inhabitants. Even so, this is less remarkable than would have been the ease had a river flowed through the middle of the town. If any of this had been true, Homer would certainly have mentioned it when he spoke so emphatically of the hundred gates at Thebes.
XXI. Of grandeur as conceived by the Greeks a real and remarkable example still survives, namely the Temple of Diana at Ephesus, the building of which occupied all Asia Minor for 120 years. It was built on marshy soil so that it might not be subject to earthquakes or be threatened by subsidences. On the other hand, to ensure that the foundations of so massive a building would not be laid on shifting, unstable ground, they were underpinned with a layer of closely trodden charcoal, and then with another of sheepskins with their fleeces unshorn. The length of the temple overall is 425 feet, and its breadth 225 feet. There are 127 columns, each constructed by a different king and 60 feet in height. Of these, 36 were carved with reliefs, one of them by Scopas. The architect in charge of the work was Chersiphron. The crowning marvel was his success in lifting the architraves of this massive building a into place. This he achieved by filling bags of plaited reed with sand and constructing a gently graded ramp which reached the upper surfaces of the capitals of the columns. Then, little by little, he emptied the lowest layer of bags, so that the fabric gradually settled into its right position. But the greatest difficulty was encountered with the lintel itself when he was trying to place it over the door; for this was the largest block, and it would not settle on its bed. The architect was in anguish as he debated whether suicide should be his final decision. The story goes that in the course of his reflections he became weary, and that while he slept at night he saw before him the goddess for whom the temple was being built: she was urging him to live because, as she said, she herself had laid the stone. And on the next day this was seen to be the case. The stone appeared to have been adjusted merely by dint of its own weight. The other embellishments of the building are enough to fill many volumes, since they are in no way related to natural forms.
XXII. At Cyzicus too there survives a temple; and here a small gold tube was inserted into every vertical joint of the dressed stonework by the architect, who was to place within the shrine an ivory statue of Jupiter with a marble Apollo crowning him. Consequently very fine filaments of light shine through the interstices and a gentle refreshing breeze plays on the statues. Apart from the ingenuity of the architect, the very material of his device, hidden though it may be, is appreciated as enhancing the value of the whole work.
XXIII. In the same city is the so-called Runaway Stone, which the Argonauts used as an anchor and left there. This has frequently strayed from the Presidents' House (this being the name of the place where it is kept), and so it has been fastened with lead. In this city too, close to the so-called Thracian Gate, there are seven towers that repeat with numerous reverberations any sounds that strike upon them. The Greek term for this remarkable phenomenon is 'Echo.' It is caused of course by the configuration of the landscape and generally of deep valleys; but at Cyzicus it occurs by pure chance, while at Olympia it is produced artificially in a remarkable manner within the portico known as 'The Seven Voices,' so called because the same sound re-echoes seven times. At Cyzicus, moreover, there is a large building called the Council House, the rafters of which have no iron nails and are so arranged that beams can be removed and replaced without scaffolding. This is the case also with the Sublician Bridge in Rome, where there has been a solemn ban on the use of nails ever since it was torn down with such difficulty while Horatius Cocles was defending it.
XXIV. But this is indeed the moment for us to pass on to the wonders of our own city, to review the resources derived from the experiences of 800 years, and to show that here too in our buildings we have vanquished the world; and the frequency of this occurrence will be proved to match within a little the number of marvels that we shall describe. If we imagine the whole agglomeration of our buildings massed together and placed on one great heap, we shall see such grandeur towering above us as to make us think that some other world were being described, all concentrated in one single place. Even if we are not to include among our great achievements the Circus Maximus built by Julius Caesar, three furlongs in length and one in breadth, but with nearly three acres of buildings and seats for 250,000, should we not mention among our truly noble buildings the Basilica of Paulus, so remarkable for its columns from Phrygia, or the Forum of Augustus of Revered Memory or the Temple of Peace built by his Imperial Majesty the Emperor Vespasian, buildings the most beautiful the world has ever seen? Should we not mention also the roof of Agrippa's Ballot Office, although at Rome long before this the architect Valerius of Ostia had roofed a whole theatre for Libo's games? We admire the pyramids of kings when Julius Caesar gave 100,000,000 sesterces merely for the ground on which his forum was to be built, and Clodius, who was killed by Milo, paid 14,800,000 sesterces (if references to expenditure can impress anyone now that miserliness has become an obsession) just for the house in which he lived. This amazes me for my part just as much as the mad schemes of kings; and therefore I regard the fact that Milo himself incurred debts amounting to 70,000,000 sesterces as one of the oddest manifestations of the human character. But at that time elderly men still admired the vast dimensions of the Rampart, the substructures of the Capitol and, furthermore, the city sewers, the most noteworthy achievement of all, seeing that hills were tunnelled and Rome, as we mentioned a little earlier, became a hanging city, beneath which men travelled in boats during Marcus Agrippa's term as aedile after his consulship. Through the city there flow seven rivers meeting in one channel. These, rushing downwards like mountain torrents, are constrained to sweep away and remove everything in their path, and when they are thrust forward by an additional volume of rain water, they batter the bottom and sides of the sewers. Sometimes the backwash of the Tiber floods the sewers and makes its way along them upstream. Then the raging flood waters meet head on within the sewers, and even so the unyielding strength of the fabric resists the strain. In the streets above, massive blocks of stone are dragged along, and yet the tunnels do not cave in. They are pounded by falling buildings, which collapse of their own accord or are brought crashing to the ground by fire. The ground is shaken by earth tremors; but in spite of all, for 700 years from the time of Tarquinius Priscus, the channels have remained well-nigh impregnable. We should not fail to mention an occasion that is all the more worthy of record because the best-known historians have overlooked it. Tarquinius Priscus was carrying out the work using the common folk as his labourers, and it became doubtful whether the toil was to be more notable for its intensity or for its duration. Since the citizens were seeking to escape from their exhaustion by committing suicide wholesale, the king devised a strange remedy that was never contrived except on that one occasion. He crucified the bodies of all who had died by their own hands, leaving them to be gazed at by their fellow-citizens and also torn to pieces by beasts and birds of prey. Consequently, the sense of shame, which is so characteristic of the Romans as a nation and has so often restored a desperate situation on the battlefield, then too came to their aid; but this time it imposed upon them at the very moment when they blushed for their honour, since they felt ashamed while alive under the illusion that they would feel equally ashamed when dead. Tarquin is said to have made the tunnels large enough to allow the passage of a waggon fully loaded with hay.
The works that we have so far mentioned amount in all to little; and before we touch upon fresh topics we will show that just one marvel by itself bears comparison with them all. Our most scrupulous authorities are agreed that in the consulship of Marcus Lepidus and Quintus Catulus as fine a house as any in Rome was that of Lepidus himself; but, I swear, within 35 years the same house was not among the first hundred. Confronted by this assessment, anyone who so wishes may count the cost of the masses of marble, the paintings, the regal budgets, the cost, in fact, of a hundred houses, each of which rivalled one that had been the finest and the most highly appreciated in its time, houses that were themselves to be surpassed by countless others right up to the present day. Fires, we may be sure, are punishments inflicted upon us for our extravagance; and even so, human nature cannot be made to understand that there are things more mortal than man himself.
However, all these houses were surpassed by two. Twice have we seen the whole city girdled by imperial palaces, those of Gaius and Nero, the latter's palace, to crown all, being indeed a House of Gold. Such, doubtless, were the dwellings of those who made this empire great, who went straight from plough or hearth to conquer nations and win triumphs, whose very lands occupied a smaller space than those emperors' sitting-rooms! Indeed, one begins to reflect how small in comparison with those palaces were the building-sites formally granted by the state to invincible generals for their private houses. The highest distinction that these houses displayed was one accorded, for example, after his many services to Publius Valerius Publicola, the first of our consuls along with Lucius Brutus, and to his brother, whoalso as consulinflicted two crushing defeats on the Sabines. I refer to the additional decree which provided that the doors of their houses should be made to open outwards so that the portals could be flung open on to the public highway. This was the most notable mark of distinction in the houses even of men who had celebrated a triumph.
I shall not allow these two birds of a feather, two Gaiuses or two Neros as you please, to enjoy unchallenged even renown such as this; and so I shall show that even their madness was outdone by the resources of a private individual, Marcus Scaurus, whose aedileship may perhaps have done more than anything to undermine morality, and whose powerful ascendancy may have been a more mischievous achievement on the part of his stepfather Sulla than the killing by proscription of so many thousands of people. As aedile he constructed the greatest of all the works ever made by man, a work that surpassed not merely those erected for a limited period but even those intended to last for ever. This was his theatre, which had a stage arranged in three storeys with 360 columns; and this, if you please, in a community that had not tolerated the presence of six columns of Hymettus marble without reviling a leading citizen. The lowest storey of the stage was of marble, and the middle one of glass (an extravagance unparalleled even in later times), while the top storey was made of gilded planks. The columns of the lowest storey were, as I have stated, each 38 feet high. The bronze statues in the spaces between the columns numbered 3000, as I mentioned earlier. As for the auditorium, it accommodated 80,000; and yet that of Pompey's theatre amply meets all requirements with seats for 40,000 even though the city is so many times larger and the population so much more numerous than it was at that time. The rest of the equipment, with dresses of cloth of gold, scene paintings and other properties was on so lavish a scale that when the surplus knick-knacks that could be put to ordinary use were taken to Scaurus' villa at Tusculum and the villa itself set on fire and burnt down by the indignant servants, the loss was estimated at 30,000,000 sesterces.
Thoughts of this wasteful behaviour distract our attention and force us to leave our intended course, since with this theatre they cause us to associate another, even more frenzied, fantasy in wood. Gaius Curio, who died during the Civil War while fighting on Caesar's side, could not hope, in the entertainment which he provided in honour of his father's funeral, to outstrip Scaurus in the matter of costly embellishments. For where was he to find a stepfather like Sulla or a mother like Metella, who speculated by buying up the property of the proscribed, or a father like Marcus Scaurus, who was for so long a leader in the government and acted for Marius and his cronies as their receiver of goods plundered from the provinces? Even Scaurus himself could no longer have matched his own achievement, for since he had collected his material from all parts of the world, he gained at any rate one advantage from that fire, namely that it was impossible in the future for anyone to emulate his madness. Curio, therefore, had to use his wits and devise some ingenious scheme. It is worth our while to be acquainted with his discovery, and so to be thankful for our modern code of morality and call ourselves 'elders and betters,' reversing the usual meaning of the term. He built close to each other two very large wooden theatres, each poised and balanced on a revolving pivot. During the forenoon, a performance of a play was given in both of them and they faced in opposite directions so that the two casts should not drown each other's words. Then all of a sudden the theatres revolved (and it is agreed that after the first few days they did so with some of the spectators actually remaining in their seats), their corners met, and thus Curio provided an amphitheatre in which he produced fights between gladiators, though they were less in chancery than the Roman people itself as it was whirled around by Curio. Truly, what should first astonish one in this, the inventor or the invention, the designer or the sponsor, the fact that a man dared to plan the work, or to undertake it, or to commission it? What will prove to be more amazing than anything is the madness of a people that was bold enough to take its place in such treacherous, rickety seats. Here we have the nation that has conquered the earth, that has subdued the whole world, that distributes tribes and kingdoms, that despatches its dictates to foreign peoples, that is heaven's representative, so to speak, among mankind, swaying on a contraption and applauding its own danger! What a contempt for life this showed! What force now have our complaints of the lives lost at Cannae! What a disaster it could have been! When the earth yawns and cities are engulfed, whole communities grieve. Here the entire Roman people, as if on board two frail boats, was supported by a couple of pivots, and was entertained with the spectacle of its very self risking its life in the fighting arena, doomed, as it was, to perish at some moment or other if the framework were wrenched out of place. And the aim, after all, was merely to win favour for the speeches that Curio would make as tribune, so that he might continue to agitate the swaying voters, since on the speaker's platform he would shrink from nothing in addressing men whom he had persuaded to submit to such treatment. For, if we must confess the truth, it was the whole Roman people that struggled for its life in the arena at the funeral games held at his father's tomb. When the pivots of the theatres were worn and displaced he altered this ostentatious display of his. He kept to the shape of the amphitheatre, and on the final day gave athletic displays on the two stages as they stood back to back across the middle of the arena. Then suddenly the platforms were swept away on either side, and during the same day he brought on those of his gladiators who had won their earlier contests. And Curio was not a king nor an emperor nor, indeed, was he particularly rich, seeing that his only financial asset was the feud that had arisen between the heads of state.
But we must go on to describe marvels which are unsurpassed in virtue of their genuine value. Quintus Marcius Rex, having been ordered by the senate to repair the conduits of the Aqua Appia, the Anio, and the Tepula, drove underground passages through the mountains and brought to Rome a new water-supply called by his own name and completed within the period of his praetorship. Agrippa, moreover, as aedile added to these the Aqua Virgo, repaired the channels of the others and put them in order, and constructed 700 basins, not to speak of 500 fountains and 130 distribution-reservoirs, many of the latter being richly decorated. He erected on these works 300 bronze or marble statues and 400 marble pillars; and all of this he carried out in a year. He himself in the memoirs of his aedileship adds that in celebration games lasting for 59 days were held, and the bathing establishments were Dio Cassius, thrown open to the public free of charge, all 170 of them, a number which at Rome has now been infinitely increased. But all previous aqueducts have been surpassed by the most recent and very costly work inaugurated by the Emperor Gaius and completed by Claudius, inasmuch as the Curtian and Caerulean Springs, as well as the Anio Novus, were made to flow into Rome from the 40th milestone at such a high level as to supply water to all the seven hills of the city, the sum spent on the work amounting to 350,000,000 sesterees. If we take into careful consideration the abundant supplies of water in public buildings, baths, pools, open channels, private houses, gardens and country estates near the city; if we consider the distances traversed by the water before it arrives, the raising of arches, the tunnelling of mountains and the building of level routes across deep valleys, we shall readily admit that there has never been anything more remarkable in the whole world. One of the most remarkable achievements of the same emperor, Claudius, neglected, though it was, by his malicious successor, is, in my opinion at least, the channel that he dug through a mountain to drain the Fucine Lake. This, I need hardly say, entailed the expenditure of an indescribably large sum of money and the employment for many years of a horde of workers because, where earth formed the interior of the mountain, the water channel had to be cleared by lifting the spoil to the top of the shafts on hoists and everywhere else solid rock had to be cut away, and operations underground (and how vast they were!) had to be carried out in darkness, operations which only those who witnessed them can envisage and no human utterance can describe. Incidentally, I must forbear to mention the harbour works at Ostia, and likewise the roads driven through hills in cuttings, the moles that were built to separate the Tyrrhenian Sea from the Lucrine Lake, and all the bridges erected at such great cost. Among the many marvels of Italy itself is one for which the accomplished natural scientist Papirius Fabianus vouches, namely that marble actually grows in its quarries; and the quarrymen, moreover, assert that the scars on the mountain sides fill up of their own accord. If this is true, there is reason to hope that there will always be marble sufficient to satisfy luxury's demands.
XXV. As we pass from marble to the other remarkable varieties of stone, no one can doubt that it is the magnet that first of all comes to mind. For what is more strange than this stone? In what field has Nature displayed a more perverse wilfulness? She has given to rocks a voice which, as I have explained, echoes that of Man, or rather interrupts it as well. What is more impassive than the stiffness of stone? And yet we see that she has endowed the magnet with senses and hands. What is more recalcitrant than the hardness of iron? We see that she has bestowed on it feet and instincts. For iron is attracted by the magnet, and the substance that vanquishes all other things rushes into a kind of vacuum and, as it approaches the magnet, it leaps towards it and is held by it and clasped in its embrace. And so the magnet is called by the Greeks by another name, the 'iron stone,' and by some of them the 'stone of Heracles.' According to Nicander, it was called 'magnes' from the name of its discover, who found it on Mount Ida. Incidentally, it is to be found in many places, including Spain. However, the story goes that Magnes discovered the stone when the nails of his sandals and the tip of his staff stuck to it as he was pasturing his herds. Sotacus describes five kinds of magnet: an Ethiopian; another from Magnesia, which borders on Macedonia and is on the traveller's right as he makes for Volos from Boebe; a third from Hyettus in Boeotia; a fourth from the neighbourhood of Alexandria in the Troad; and a fifth from Magnesia in Asia Minor. The most important distinction is between the male and female varieties, while the next lies in their colour. Those found in the Magnesia that is close to Macedonia are red and black, whereas the Boeotian have more red than black in them. Those found in the Troad are black and female, and therefore exert no force, while the most worthless kind is that of Magnesia in Asia Minor, which is white, has no power of attracting iron and resembles pumice. It has been ascertained that, the bluer a magnet is, the better it is. The palm goes to the Ethiopian variety, which in the market is worth its weight in silver. It is found in the sandy district of Ethiopia known as Zmiris. There, too, is found the haematite magnet, which is blood-red in colour and, when ground, produces not only blood-red but also saffron-yellow powder. But haematite has not the same property of attracting iron as the magnet. The test of an Ethiopian magnet is its ability to attract another magnet to itself. All magnets, incidentally, are useful for making up eye-salves if each is used in its correct quantity, and are particularly effective in stopping acute watering of the eyes. They also cure bums when ground and calcined. Also in Ethiopia and at no great distance is another mountain, (the ore from) which on the contrary repels and rejects all iron. Both of these properties have already been discussed by me on several occasions.
XXVI. It is said that a stone from the island of Syros floats on the waves, but that it sinks when it has been broken into small pieces.
XXVII. At Assos in the Troad we find the Sarcophagus stone, which splits along a line of cleavage. It is well known that corpses buried in it are consumed within a period of forty days, except for the teeth: Mucianus vouches for the fact that mirrors, scrapers, clothes and shoes placed upon the dead bodies are turned to stone as well. There are similar stones both in Lycia and in the East; and these, when attached even to living persons, eat away their bodies.
XXVIII. However, there are stones that are gentler in their effects in that they preserve a body without consuming it, for example, the 'chernites,' which closely resembles ivory and is said to be the material of which the coin of Darius is said to have been made, and, again, a stone called 'porus,' which is similar to Parian marble in whiteness and hardness, only not so heavy. Theophrastus is our authority also for a translucent Egyptian stone said by him to be similar to Chian marble. Such a stone may have existed in his time: stones cease to be found and new ones are discovered in turn.
The stone of Assos, which has a salty taste, relieves gout if the feet are plunged into a vessel hollowed out of it. Moreover, all affections of the legs are cured in the quarries where it is hewn, whereas in all mines the legs are attacked by ailments. Belonging to the same stone is what is called the efflorescence, which is soft enough to form powder and is just as effective as the stone for certain purposes. It looks, incidentally, like reddish pumice. Combined with Cyprian wax it cures affections of the breasts, and, if mixed with pitch or resin, disperses scrofulous sores and superficial abscesses. Taken as an electuary it is also good for consumption. When blended with honey, it causes scars to form over chronic sores, reduces excrescences of flesh and dries up matter discharging from a bite when it will not yield to other treatment. In cases of gout a plaster is made of it with an admixture of bean-meal.
XXIX. Theophrastus, again, and Mucianus express the opinion that there are certain stones that give birth to other stones. Theophrastus states also that fossil ivory coloured black and white is found, that bones are produced from the earth and that stones resembling bones come to light.
In the neighbourhood of Munda in Spain, the place where Julius Caesar defeated Cn. Pompeius, occur stones containing the likeness of a palm branch, which appears whenever they are broken. There are also black stones, like that of Cape Matapan, that have come to be esteemed as much as any marble. Varro states that black stones from Africa are harder than the Italian, but that, on the other hand, the white stone of Cora is harder than that of Paros. He mentions too that Carrara stone can be cut with a saw, that Tusculan stone is split by fire and that the dark Sabine variety actually becomes bright if oil is poured on it. Varro also assures us that rotary querns have been found at Bolsena; and we find in records of miraculous occurrences that some querns have even moved of their own accord.
XXX. Nowhere are more serviceable millstones to be found than in Italy, for here they are proper stones and not lumps of rock. In certain provinces, however, they are not found at all. Some stones of this kind are quite soft and can be smoothed also with a whetstone, so that from a distance they may be mistaken for serpentine. No other stones are more durable than millstones; for, as with wood, it is characteristic of stones of one sort or another to be unable to stand rain, sun or wintry weather. Some are affected even by the moon, while others acquire a patina in course of time or lose their white colour when treated with oil.
Some people call a millstone 'pyrites,' or 'fire-stone,' because there is a great amount of fire in it. However, there is another 'pyrites' which is similar, only more porous, and yet another which resembles copper. It is claimed that in the mines near Acamas in Cyprus two kinds of pyrites are found, one having the colour of silver and the other of gold. There are several ways of roasting the mineral. Some roast it two or three times with honey until the moisture is consumed, whereas others roast it first on hot coals and then with honey. Afterwards, it is washed like copper. The varieties of pyrites are used in pharmacy for their warming, drying, dispersing and reducing effects, and also to cause indurations to discharge their matter. They are also used raw, in the form of powder, for treating scrofulous sores and boils. Some writers class as 'pyrites' yet another kind of stone that contains a great quantity of fire. Stones known as 'live stones' are extremely heavy and are indispensable to reconnaissance parties preparing a camp-site. When struck with a nail or another stone they give off a spark, and if this is caught on sulphur or else on dry fungi or leaves it produces a flame instantaneously.
XXXI. The 'ostracites,' or 'potsherd stone,' resembles a potsherd and is used instead of pumice as a depilatory. Taken as a draught it arrests bleeding and applied as an ointment with honey cures sores and pains in the breasts. 'Amiantus,' which looks carysotne like alum, is quite indestructible by fire. It affords protection against all spells, especially those of the Magi.
XXXII. Geodes receive their name in token of their earthy character, since earth is enclosed within them. They are of great use as ingredients of eye-salves and also in treating affections of the breasts and testicles.
XXXIII. The 'melitinus' stone exudes a liquid that is sweet and is like honey. When pounded and mixed with wax it cures acute catarrh, spots on the skin and sore throats, and removes sores on the eyelids; and if applied on a wool dressing it causes pains in the uterus to disappear.
XXXIV. Jet derives its name from a district and a river in Lycia known as Gages. It is said also to be washed up by the sea on the promontory of Leucolla and to be gathered at places up to a distance of a mile and a half. Jet is black, smooth, porous, light, not very different from wood, and brittle, and has an unpleasant smell when rubbed. Anything inscribed in it on earthenware is indelible. When it is burnt it gives off a smell like that of sulphur. What is remarkable is that it is ignited by water and quenched by oil. The kindling of jet drives off snakes and relieves suffocation of the uterus. Its fumes detect attempts to simulate a disabling illness or a state of virginity. Moreover, when thoroughly boiled with wine it cures toothache and, if combined with wax, scrofulous tumours. The Magi are said to make use of it in what they call divination by axes and they assert it will not burn away completely if a wish is destined to come true.
XXXV. Sponge stones are found in sponges, and therefore belong to the sea. They are sometimes called in Greek stone-solvents because they cure affections of the bladder and break up stone in it if they are taken in wine.
XXXVI. Phrygian stone is so called from the people of that name and occurs as porous lumps. After being soaked in wine it is roasted, and bellows are used to fan it until it turns red, whereupon it is quenched with sweet wine, and the process is repeated three times on each occasion. It is of use only in dyeing garments.
XXXVII. 'Schistos' and haematite are closely related. Haematite is found in mines, and when roasted reproduces the colour of red-lead. It is roasted in the same way as the Phrygian stone, except that it is not quenched with wine. It can be counterfeited, but genuine haematite is distinguished by its occurrence as red veins and by its friable character. It is extraordinarily good for bloodshot eyes, and checks excessive menstruation if it is taken as a draught. It is drunk also, with pomegranate juice added, by patients who have brought up blood. A draught of it is an effective remedy for bladder trouble; moreover, if it is taken in wine it is an antidote for snakebites. All these properties exist, but in a weaker form, in the substance known as 'schistos.' Among its varieties, the more suitable is like saffron in colour. Mixed with human milk it is a specific for filling cavities left by sores. It is also admirable for reducing protruding eyes. Such is the consensus of opinion among the most recent writers.
XXXVIII. Among the oldest authorities Sotacus records five kinds of haematite, apart from the magnet. Of these, the Ethiopian receives from him the first place, a variety which is very useful for making up eye-salves and what the Greeks call 'universal remedies,' as well as being effective for burns. The second is, according to him, known as man-tamer, black in colour and exceptionally heavy and hard: hence its name. It is found mainly in Africa and attracts silver, copper and iron. The method of testing it is to rub it on a whetstone of slate, when, if genuine, it gives off a blood-red smear. It is a capital remedy for affections of the liver. The third kind, according to Sotacus' reckoning, is the Arabian, which is similarly hard and produces scarcely any smear on a hone used with water although on occasion there is a saffron-coloured smear. The fourth kind, so he says, is known as 'liver ore' in its natural state, and as 'ruddle ore' when it is roasted. It is useful for treating burns and more useful than ruddle for any purpose. The fifth is 'schistos,' and this when taken as a draught reduces piles. Sotacus goes on to say that three drachms of any haematite pounded in oil should be swallowed on an empty stomach to counteract blood ailments. He also describes a 'schistos' different in kind from the haematite 'schistos' and known as anthracite. He states that it is a black stone found in Africa and that, when it is rubbed on a water hone, what was originally the lower end produces a black mark and the other end a saffron-coloured one. According to him, it is useful by itself for making up eye-salves.
XXXIX. Eagle stones have acquired a reputation owing to the associations aroused by the term. As I have already stated in Book X, they are found in eagles' nests. It is said that they are found in pairs, a male and a female, and that without them the eagles in question cannot produce young: hence there is only a pair of stones. There are four kinds of eagle stones. One kind found in Africa is small and soft, and carries inside it, as though in a womb, a pleasing white clay. The stone itself is liable to crumble and is considered to be female, while a kind that occurs in Arabia and is hard, coloured like an oak gall or else reddish in appearance and containing a hard stone in its hollow centre, is regarded as a male. A third kind found in Cyprus is similar in colour to those of Africa, but is larger and elongated, the shape of all other kinds being spherical. It carries inside it an agreeable kind of sand and small nodules, while the stone itself is soft enough to be crumbled merely with one's fingers. The fourth kind, known as the Taphiusian, occurs not far from the island of Leucas in Taphiusa, a district that lies to the right as one sails to Lencas from Ithaca. It is found as a white, round stone in streams. In its hollow centre is a stone known as the 'callimus,' but no trace of earthy matter. Eagle stones, wrapped in the skins of animals that have been sacrificed, are worn as amulets by women or four-footed creatures during pregnancy so as to prevent a miscarriage. They must not be removed except at the moment of delivery: otherwise, there will be a prolapse of the uterus. On the other hand, if they were not removed during delivery no birth would take place.
XL. There is also the stone of Samos, found in the island of that name, the earth from which we have already had occasion to praise. The stone is useful as a gold polish, while in pharmacy, if it is mixed with milk in the manner described above, it is good for ophthalmic ulcers and chronic watering of the eyes. When taken as a draught it also counteracts stomach ailments, relieves giddiness and corrects disturbances of the mind. Some doctors hold that it can be administered with benefit in cases of epilepsy and strangury. Moreover, it is mixed with other ingredients in embrocations to relieve fatigue. The test of its genuineness is based upon its weight and white colour. Worn as an amulet, it is claimed to prevent a miscarriage.
XLI. The Arabian stone, which resembles ivory, can, if calcined, be suitably used as a tooth powder. But, in particular, it cures piles if combined with lint or placed on a linen dressing locally applied.
XLII. We must not forget to discuss also the Pumice. characteristics of pumice. This name, of course, is given to the hollowed rocks in the buildings called by the Greeks Homes of the Muses, where such rocks hang from the ceilings so as to create an artificial imitation of a cave. But as for the pumice which is used as a depilatory for women, and nowadays also for men, and moreover, as Catullus reminds us, for books, the finest quality occurs in Melos, Nisyros, and the Aeolian Islands. The test of its quality is that it should be white, very light in weight, extremely porous and dry, and easy to grind, without being sandy when rubbed. In pharmacy it has a reducing and drying effect. It is calcined three times in a fire of pure charcoal and quenched the same number of times in white wine. It is then washed like cadmea, and having been dried is stored in a place as free from damp as possible. The powder is used mostly for eye-salves, since it gently cleanses ophthalmic ulcers and heals them, and removes the scars. Incidentally, some pharmacists, after calcining the pumice three times, prefer to let it cool rather than quench it, and then to pound it mixed with wine. It is added also to poultices, and is then most useful for treating sores on the head or the private parts. Tooth powders, too, are prepared from it. Theophrastus assures us that topers competing in drinking contests first take a dose of the powder, but states that they run a grave risk unless they fill themselves with wine at a single draught. He adds that the cooling properties of pumice are so powerful that new wine stops bubbling when pumice is added to it.
XLIII. Our authorities have been interested also in stones used for making mortars; and I do not mean merely mortars used for pounding drugs or grinding pigments. Among such stones, they give the first place to the Etesian and the second to that of the Thebaid which I have already cited as the 'pyrrhopoecilos,' or 'the stone with the red spots,' and some people call 'psaros,' 'the speckled stone'.
The third place they award to the touchstone of rock resembling hail, or for medical purposes to one of siliceous slate. For this latter stone yields nothing from its own substance. Stones which produce a smear are considered to be useful for making up eye-salves: hence the Ethiopian is most highly valued for this purpose. The stone of Cape Matapan, the Phoenician stone and haematite are said to be good for preparing prescriptions that contain saffron. But mortars made of another stone from Cape Matapan, a black marble, or of Parian marble are not so useful to doctors, so we are told, better ones being made of onyx marble from Egypt or of white serpentine. For there is such a species of serpentine, and vessels and boxes also are made of it.
XLIV. In the island of Siphnos there is a stone that is hollowed out and turned on the lathe so as to form cooking utensils or tableware; and this I myself know to be the case also with the green stone of Como in Italy. The Siphnian stone, however, has a peculiarity of its own in that when thoroughly heated with oil it becomes black and hard, whereas naturally it is very soft. Such are the divers properties to be found in one substance. Incidentally, exceptional instances of soft stones occur beyond the Alps. In the province of Belgic Gaul a white stone is said to be cut with a saw, just like wood, only even more easily, so as to serve as ordinary roof tiles and as rain tiles or, if so desired, as the kind of roofing known as 'peacock-style.'
XLV. These stones, then, can be cut with a saw. However, the specular stone (for even this substance ranks as a stone) has a far more amenable character which allows it to be split into plates as thin as may be wished. Formerly it was produced only in Hither Spain, and even then not in the whole of the province, but merely within an area of a hundred miles around the city of Priego. Nowadays supplies come too from Cyprus, Cappadocia, Sicily and, a recent discovery, from Africa. However, all these kinds are inferior to that of Spain: Cappadocia produces the largest pieces, but they lack transparency. Moreover, in the region of Bologna in Italy small streaks occur tightly embedded within hard rock; and yet they are large enough for their essential similarity to the rest to be unmistakable. In Spain the specular stone is dug at a great depth by means of shafts; and it is found too just beneath the surface enclosed in rock, in which case it has to be torn away or cut out; but for the most part its formation allows it to be dug, since it occurs in isolation as rough blocks. No piece exceeding five feet in length has hitherto been discovered. It is palpably obvious that we have here a liquid which, like rock-crystal, has been frozen and petrified by an exhalation in the earth, because when wild animals fall down the shafts just mentioned the marrow in their bones after a single winter takes on the appearance of this selfsame stone. On occasion a black variety of the stone is also found, but it is the bright kind, notoriously soft though it may be, that has a remarkable property of withstanding the effects of hot and cold weather. Moreover, provided that it escapes abuse, it does not deteriorate, although this is apt to happen even with blocks of many varieties of stone. A further use has been devised for the specular stone in the shape of the shavings and flakes strewn on the surface of the Circus Maximus during the Games to produce an attractively bright effect.
XLVI. During Nero's principate there was discovered in Cappadocia a stone as hard as marble, white and, even where deep-yellow veins occurred, translucent. In token of its appearance it was called 'phengites' or the 'Luminary Stone.' Of this stone Nero rebuilt the temple of Fortune, known as the shrine of Sejanus, but originally consecrated by King Servius Tullius and incorporated by Nero in his Golden House. Thanks to this stone, in the daytime it was as light as day in the temple, even when the doors were shut; but the effect was not that of windows of specular stone, since the light was, so to speak, trapped within rather than allowed to penetrate from without. According to Juba, there exists in Arabia too a stone that is transparent like glass, and is used as window panes.
XLVII. It is now high time to pass on to stones used in industry, and first of all to whetstones intended for sharpening iron. Of these there are many varieties. Cretan whetstones for long enjoyed the highest reputation, the second place being held by the Laconian from Mount Taygetus. Both kinds need to be lubricated with oil. Among those used with water the Naxiau came first in merit, and then the Armenian, both of which were mentioned earlier. Cilician whetstones are effective if used with oil and water mixed, and those of Arsinoee if used with water alone. In Italy too there have been discovered whetstones which, when used with water, extract a sharp edge and operate most keenly, as well as beyond the Alps, where they are known as 'passernices.' The fourth method of operation is that adopted for the hones which are so useful in barbers' shopslubrication by means of human saliva from Hither Spain are outstanding in this class.
XLVIII. Of the numerous stones that remain to rap. be considered, tufa is unsuitable for building construction because of its short life and its softness. However, some localities, for example Carthage in Africa have no other stone to offer. It is eaten away by evaporation from the sea, rubbed by wind. and lashed and scarred by rain. But the Carthaginians are careful to protect their house walls by coating them with pitch; for lime plaster is another thing that erodes tufa. Hence the witty remark that people there treat their buildings with pitch and their wine with lime, since that is how they temper their new wine. Other soft varieties are found near Rome in the neighbourhood of Fidenae and Alba. In Umbria and Venetia, moreover, there is a white stone that can be cut with a toothed saw. These stones, besides being easy to work, can also bear a heavy load, provided that they are under cover. When exposed to spray, frost or rime they break up into slabs, nor do they show much resistance to sea breezes. Travertine is split by heat, although it stands up to all other forces.
XLIX. The best silexa is the black variety, although in certain localities it is the red that is best, and in several places even the white, as in the Anician quarries round Lake Bolsena near Trachina or, again, in the neighbourhood of Statonia, the stone from these two places being immune even to fire. The same two varieties are, moreover, used for sculpture on monuments, where they offer the added advantage of remaining untouched by the ravages of time. Of these stones are made the moulds in which bronze implements are cast. There is also a green stone that strongly resists fire, but it is nowhere plentiful and, where it is found, occurs in pieces and not in a mass. Of the remaining varieties, the pale silex can only occasionally be used for rough walling, while the rounded kind stands up to hard abuse, but is unreliable for building purposes unless it is bonded with large quantities of mortar. The silex found in rivers is no more reliable, always giving the impression of being thoroughly damp.
L. When stone is of doubtful quality the remedy is to quarry it in the summer and to lay it only after it has been subjected to weathering for at least two years. Those stones of this class that have been damaged by such treatment may be more profitably incorporated in masonry lying below ground-level, while those that have withstood weathering can be safely exposed even to the sky.
LI. The Greeks build house-walls, as though they were using brick, of hard stone or silex dressed to a uniform thickness. When they follow this procedure the style of masonry is what they call 'isodomos,' or 'masonry with equal courses.' When the courses laid are of varying thickness the style is known as 'pseudisodomosi' a spurious variety of the former. A third style is the 'emplectos' or 'interwoven,' in which only the faces are dressed, the rest of the material being laid at random. It is essential that joints should be made to alternate in such a way that the middle of a stone covers the vertical joint in the course last laid. This should be done even in the core of the wall if circumstances permit, and failing this, at least on the faces. When the core of the wall is packed with rubble, the style is 'diatonieos,' 'with single stones stretching from face to face.' 'Network masonry,' which is very commonly used in buildings at Rome, is liable to crack. All masonry should be laid to rule and level, and should be absolutely perpendicular when tested with a plummet.
LII. Cisterns should be made of five parts of clean, coarse sand to two of the hottest possible quicklime, together with pieces of silex each weighing not more than a pound. The floor and walls built of this material should all alike be beaten with iron bars. It is better to build cisterns in pairs so that impurities may settle in the first, and water pass through a filter purified into the adjoining one.
LIII. As for lime, Cato the censor disapproves of preparing it from variegated limestone, for white limestone produces a better quality. Lime made from a hard stone is more effective for walling, while that made from porous limestone is more suitable for plastering. Lime manufactured from silex is condemned for both purposes. Again, it is more serviceable if it is produced from quarried stone than from stones collected on the banks of rivers. A superior kind is made from stones used for querns, for they have a certain unctuous character. Lime possesses one remarkable quality: once it has been burnt, its heat is increased by water.
LIV. Of sand, there are three varieties: there is quarry sand, to which has to be added one-quarter of its weight in lime; and river or alternatively sea sand, to which must be added one-third. If one-third of crushed potsherds also is added, the material will be improved. No quarry sand is found from the Apennines as far as the Po, nor does it occur overseas.
LV. The chief reason for the collapse of buildings in Rome is the purloining of lime, as the result of which the rough stones are laid on each other without any proper mortar. It is also a fact that the slurry improves with keeping. In the old building laws is to be found a regulation that no contractor is to use a slurry that is less than three years old. Consequently, old plaster work was never disfigured by cracks. Stucco never possesses the required brilliance unless three coats of sand mortar and two of marble stucco are laid on. Buildings exposed to damp or erected in a locality where they may be affected by moisture from the sea may with profit be given an undercoat of plaster made from pounded potsherds. In Greece sand mortar for plaster work is, furthermore, worked up in a trough with wooden poles before it is spread. The test for ascertaining that marble stucco has been worked to the correct consistency is that it should no longer stick to the trowel, while in whitewashing the test is that the slaked lime should stick like glue. Slaking should always be carried out when the lime is in lumps. At Elis there is a temple of Minerva in which, it is said, Panaenus, the brother of Pheidias, applied plaster that had been worked with milk and saffron. The result is that even today, if one wets one's thumb with saliva and rubs it on the plaster, the latter still gives off the smell and taste of saffron.
LVI. As for columns, identical ones appear to increase in thickness merely by being placed more closely together. There are four kinds of columns. Columns the height of which is six times their lower diameter are the so-called Doric. Those in which the height is nine times the lower diameter are the Ionic; and those in which it is seven times the Tuscan. Corinthian columns have the same proportions as the Ionic except that the height of the Corinthian capitals equals the lower diameter, so that they appear to be more slender than the Ionic, where the height of the capital is a third of the lower diameter. In ancient times a proportion observed was that the breadth of a temple should be three times the height of the columns. It was in the earlier temple of Diana at Ephesus that columns were for the first time mounted on moulded bases and crowned with capitals, and it was decided that the lower diameter of the columns should be one-eighth of their height, that the height of the moulded bases should be one-half of the lower diameter and that the lower diameter should exceed the upper diameter by a seventh. Another kind of column is that known as the Attic, which is quadrangular and equilateral.
LVII. Lime is commonly used also in pharmacy, preferably when freshly calcined and unslaked. It has caustic, dispersive and drawing effects, and checks an onset of ulcers which shows signs of spreading quickly. It brings about the formation of scars when it is mixed as a liniment with vinegar and rose oil and is later blended with wax and rose oil. It is a cure also for dislocations when applied with liquid resin or pork fat mixed with honey, and the same mixture, moreover, cures scrofulous sores.
LVIII. Maltha is prepared from freshly calcined lime, a lump of which is slaked in wine and then pounded together with pork fat and figs, both of which are softening agents. Maltha is the most adhesive of substances and grows harder than stone. Anything that is treated with it is first thoroughly rubbed with olive oil.
LIX. There is an affinity between lime and gypsum, a substance of which there are several varieties. For it can be produced from a heated mineral, as in Syria and Thurii; it can be dug from the earth, as in Cyprus and Perrhaebia. There is also that of Tymphaea, which is stripped from the earth's surface. The mineral that is heated ought to be like onyx marble or crystalline limestone. In Syria the hardest stones possible are selected for the purpose and are heated along with cow dung so that the burning may be accelerated. However, it has been discovered that the best kind is prepared from specular stone a or from stone that flakes in the same way. Gypsum, when moistened, should be used instantly, since it coheres with great rapidity. However, there is nothing to prevent it from being pounded and reduced again to a fine powder. Gypsum is a serviceable whitewash and is used with pleasing effect for making moulded figures and festoons in architecture. A famous story carries with it something of a warning: we are told that Caius Proculeius, a man who could rest assured of his close friendship with the Emperor Augustus, committed suicide by swallowing gypsum when he was suffering from severe pains in the stomach.
LX. Paved floors originated among the Greeks and were skilfully embellished with a kind of paint-work until this was superseded by mosaics. In this latter field the most famous exponent was Sosus, who at Pergamum laid the floor of what is known in Greek as 'the Unswept Room' because, by means of small cubes tinted in various shades, he represented on the floor refuse from the dinner table and other sweepings, making them appear as if they had been left there. A remarkable detail in the picture is a dove, which is drinking and casts the shadow of its head on the water, while others are sunning and preening themselves on the brim of a large drinking vessel.
LXI. The original paved floors, in my belief, were those now known to us as 'foreign' and 'indoor' floors. In Italy these were beaten with staves: at any rate, this is what the name itself may imply. At Rome the first floor with a diamond pattern was constructed in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus after the beginning of the Third Punic War; but tessellated pavements had already become common and extremely popular before the Cimbrian War, as is shown by the famous verse from Lucilius:
With paviour's skill and wavy inset stones.
LXII. Open-air flooring was an invention of the Greeks, who roof their houses in this way, an easy method to use in regions with a warm climate, but unreliable wherever there is heavy rainfall and frost. It is essential that two sets of joists should be laid across each other, and that their ends should be nailed down to avoid warping. To fresh rubble should be added a third of its weight in pounded potsherds; and then the rubble, mixed with two-fifths of its weight in lime, should be rammed down to a thickness of one foot. After this, a final coat 4 inches thick must be applied to the rubble and large square stones not less than 1 inches thick laid on it. A fall of 1 inches in 10 feet should be maintained and the surface carefully polished with grindstones. It is considered impracticable to lay the wood floor with oak planks, because they warp; and, furthermore, it is thought advisable to spread a layer of fern or straw below the rubble so that the worst effects of the quicklime may not reach the planks. It is essential also to lay a foundation of round pebbles under the rubble. Tiled floors with a herring-bone pattern are constructed in a similar fashion.
LXIII. There is still one kind of floor that we must not fail to mention, namely the Graecanicum or 'Greek style.' The ground is well rammed and rubble or a layer of pounded potsherds laid on it. Then charcoal is trodden into a compact mass, and on top of this is spread a mixture of coarse sand, lime and ashes to a thickness of 6 inches. This is carefully finished to rule and level, and has the appearance of earth. But if it is smoothed with a grindstone it will pass for a black stone floor.
LXIV. Mosaics came into use as early as Sulla's regime. At all events, there exists even today one made of very small cubes which he installed in the temple of Fortune at Palestrina. After that, ordinary tessellated floors were driven from the ground level and found a new home in vaulted ceilings, being now made of glass. Here too we have a recent invention. At any rate, Agrippa, in the baths that he built at Rome, painted the terracotta work of the hot rooms in encaustic and decorated the rest with whitewash, although he would certainly have built vaults of glass if such a device had already been invented or else had been extended from the walls of a stage, such as that of Scaurus which we have described, to vaulted ceilings. And so we must now proceed to explain also the nature of glass.
LXV. That part of Syria which is known as Phoenicia and borders on Judea contains a swamp called Candebia amid the lower slopes of Mount Carmel. This is supposed to be the source of the River Belus, which after traversing a distance of 5 miles flows into the sea near the colony of Ptolemais. Its current is sluggish and its waters are unwholesome to drink, although they are regarded as holy for ritual purposes. The river is muddy and flows in a deep channel, revealing its sands only when the tide ebbs. For it is not until they have been tossed by the waves and cleansed of impurities that they glisten. Moreover, it is only at that moment, when they are thought to be affected by the sharp, astringent properties of the brine, that they become fit for use. The beach stretches for not more than half a mile, and yet for many centuries the production of glass depended on this area alone. There is a story that once a ship belonging to some traders in natural soda put in here and that they scattered along the shore to prepare a meal. Since, however, no stones suitable for supporting their cauldrons were forthcoming, they rested them on lumps of soda from their cargo. When these became heated and were completely mingled with the sand on the beach a strange translucent liquid flowed forth in streams; and this, it is said, was the origin of glass.
LXVI. Next, as was to be expected, Man's inventive skill was no longer content to mix only soda with the sand. He began to introduce the magnet stone also, since there is a belief that it attracts to itself molten glass no less than iron. Similarly, lustrous stones of many kinds came to be burnt with the melt and, then again, shells and quarry sand. Authorities state that in India glass is made also of broken rock-crystal and that for this reason no glass can compare with that of India. To resume, a fire of light, dry wood is used for preparing the melt, to which are added copper and soda, preferably Egyptian soda. Glass, like copper, is smelted in a series of furnaces, and dull black lumps are formed. Molten glass is everywhere so sharp that, before there is the least sensation, it cuts to the bone any part of the body on which it splutters. After being reduced to lumps, the glass is again fused in the workshop and is tinted. Some of it is shaped by blowing, some machined on a lathe and some chased like silver. Sidon was once famous for its glassworks, since, apart from other achievements, glass mirrors were invented there.
This was the old method of producing glass. Now, however, in Italy too a white sand which forms in the River Volturno is found along 6 miles of the seashore between Cuma and Literno. Wherever it is softest, it is taken to be ground in a mortar or mill. Then it is mixed with three parts of soda, either by weight or by measure, and after being fused is taken in its molten state to other furnaces. There it forms a lump known in Greek as 'sand-soda.' This is again melted and forms pure glass, and is indeed a lump of clear colourless glass. Nowadays sand is similarly blended also in the Gallic and Spanish provinces. There is a story that in the reign of Tiberius there was invented a method of blending glass so as to render it flexible. The artist's workshop was completely destroyed for fear that the value of metals such as copper, silver and gold would otherwise be lowered. Such is the story, which, however, has for a long period been current through frequent repetition rather than authentic. But this is of little consequence, seeing that in Nero's principate there was discovered a technique of glass-making that resulted in two quite small cups of the kind then known as 'petroti' or 'stoneware' fetching a sum of 6000 sesterces.
LXVII. In our classification of glass we include also 'obsian' ware, so named from its resemblance to the stone found by Obsius in Ethiopia. This stone is very dark in colour and sometimes translucent, but has a cloudier appearance than glass, so that when it is used for mirrors attached to walls it reflects shadows rather than images. Gems are frequently made of it, and we have seen also the solid obsidian statues of Augustus of Revered Memory, for the substance can yield pieces bulky enough for this purpose. Augustus himself dedicated as a curiosity four elephants of obsidian in the temple of Concord, while the Emperor Tiberius for his part restored to the cult of the Sun-god at Heliopolis an obsidian statue of Menelaus which he found included in a legacy from one Scius who had been governor of Egypt. This statue proves that the origin of the stone, which is nowadays misrepresented because of its similarity to the glass, is of an earlier date. Xenocrates records that obsidian is found in India, in Italy within the territory of the Samnites and in Spain near the shores of the Atlantic. There is also the artificial 'obsian' glass which is used as a material for tableware, this being produced by a colouring process, as is also the case with a completely red, opaque glass called in Greek blood-red ware. There is, furthermore, opaque white glass and others that reproduce the appearance of fluorspar, blue sapphires or lapis lazuli, and, indeed, glass exists in any colour. There is no other material nowadays that is more pliable or more adaptable, even to painting. However, the most highly valued glass is colourless and transparent, as closely as possible resembling rock-crystal. But although for making drinking vessels the use of glass has indeed ousted metals such as gold and silver, it cannot bear heat unless cold fluid is first poured into it; and yet glass globes containing water become so hot when they face the sun that they can set clothes on fire. Pieces of broken glass can, when heated to a moderate temperature, be stuck together, but that is all. They can never again be completely melted except into globules separate from each other, as happens in the making of the glass pebbles that are sometimes nicknamed 'eyeballs' and in some cases have a variety of colours arranged in several different patterns. Glass, when boiled with sulphur, coalesces into the consistency of stone.
LXVIII. And now that we have described everything that depends upon Man's talent for making Art reproduce Nature, we cannot help marvelling that there is almost nothing that is not brought to a finished state by means of fire. Fire takes this or that sand, and melts it, according to the locality, into glass, silver, cinnabar, lead of one kind or another, pigments or drugs. It is fire that smelts ore into copper, fire that produces iron and also tempers it, fire that purifies gold, fire that burns the stone which causes the blocks in buildings to cohere. There are other substances that may be profitably burnt several times; and the same substance can produce something different after a first, a second or a third firing. Even charcoal itself begins to acquire its special property only after it has been fired and quenched: when we presume it to be dead it is growing in vitality. Fire is a vast, unruly element, and one which causes us to doubt whether it is more a destructive or a creative force.
LXIX. Fire even by itself has a curative power. It is well established that epidemics caused by an eclipse of the sun are alleviated in many ways by the lighting of bonfires. Empedocles and Hippocrates have proved this in various passages of their writings. 'For abdominal cramp or bruises,' states Marcus Varro, and I quote his very words, 'your hearth should be your medicine chest. Drink lye made from its ashes, and you will be cured. One can see how gladiators after a combat are helped by drinking this. Moreover, anthrax, a disease which, as I have mentioned, lately carried off two ex-consuls, may be cured by means of oak charcoal ground and mixed with honey. So true is it that there is some benefit to be found even in substances that are utterly rejected and have ceased to have any true existence, as we see here and now with charcoal and ashes.
LXX. I must not forget to mention one instance of a hearth that is famous in Roman literature. It is said that during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus [616-579 BC] there suddenly emerged from the ashes on his hearth a male genital organ [see Dion. of Hal. IV.2,1 and Plutarch De Fortuna Romanorum 10], and that a captive girl who was sitting there, Ocresia, a maidservant of Queen Tanaquil, rose from there in a state of pregnancy. According to the story, this was how Servius Tullius, who succeeded to the throne, came to be born. Afterwards, and likewise in the king's house, it is said that flames blazed round the child's head as he slept, and that he was therefore believed to be then of the god who protected the household. Hence, we are told, he first founded the Festival of the Crossroads in honour of the gods who protect the community.