Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/642

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PTOMAINE POISONING—PUBLICANI

as the marshes of the White Nile in about 9° N. Ptolemy’s statement that the Nile derived its waters from two streams which rose in two lakes a little south of the equator was nearer the truth than any of the theories concocted in modern times before the discovery of the Victoria and Albert Nyanza. In connexion with this subject he introduces a range of mountains running from east to west, which he calls the Mountains of the Moon, and which, however little understood by Ptolemy, may be considered to represent in a measure the fact of the alpine highlands now known to exist in the neighbourhood of the Nyanzas and in British and German East Africa (Ruwenzori, Kenya, Kilimanjaro, &c.).

In Asia, as in Africa, Ptolemy had obtained, as we have seen, a vague, sometimes valuable, often misleading, half-knowledge of extensive regions, hitherto unknown to the Mediterranean world, and especially of Chinese Asia and its capital of Sera (Singanfu). North of the route leading to this far eastern land (supposed by Ptolemy to be nearly coincident with the parallel of 40°) lay a vast region of which apparently he knew nothing, but which he vaguely assumed to extend indefinitely northwards as far as the limits of the Unknown Land. The Jaxartes, which since Alexander had been the boundary of Greek geography in this direction, was still the northern limit of all that was really known of Central Asia. Beyond that Ptolemy places many tribes, to which he could assign no definite locality, and mountain ranges which he could only place at haphazard. As to south-east Asia, in spite of his misplacement of Cattigara and the Sinae or Thinae, we must recognize in the latter name a form of China; from the Sinae being placed immediately south of the Seres, it is possible that Ptolemy was aware of the connexion between the two—the Chinese coast known only by maritime voyages, and inland China, known only by continental trade.

As to Mediterranean countries, we have seen that Ptolemy professed (in the main) to follow Marinus; the latter, in turn, largely depended on Timosthenes of Rhodes (fl. c. 260 b.c.), the admiral of Ptolemy Philadelphus, as to coasts and maritime distances. Claudius Ptolemy, however, introduced many changes in Marinus' results, some of which he has pointed out though there are doubtless many others which we have no means of detecting. For the interior of the different countries Roman roads and itineraries must have furnished both Marinus and Ptolemy with a mass of valuable materials. But neither seems to have taken full advantage of these; and the tables of the Alexandrian geographer abound with mistakes—even in countries so well known as Gaul and Spain—which might easily have been obviated by a more judicious use of such Roman authorities.

In spite of the merits of Ptolemy’s geographical work it cannot be regarded as a complete or satisfactory treatise upon the subject. It was the work of an astronomer rather than a geographer. Not only did its plan exclude all description of the countries with which it dealt, their climate, natural productions, inhabitants and peculiar features, but even its physical geography proper is treated in an irregular and perfunctory manner. While Strabo was fully alive to the importance of the rivers and mountain chains which (in his own phrase) “ geographize ” a country, Ptolemy deals with this part of his subject in so careless a manner as to be often worse than useless. In Gaul, for instance, the few notices he gives of the rivers that play so important a part in its geography are disfigured by some astounding errors; while he does not notice any of the great tributaries of the Rhine, though mentioning an obscure streamlet, otherwise unknown, because it happened to be the boundary between two Roman provinces.

Bibliography.—Ptolemy’s Geographia was printed for the first time in a Latin translation, accompanied with maps, in 1462(?), and numerous other editions followed in the latter part of the 15th and earlier half of the 16th centuries, but the Greek text did not make its appearance till 1533, when it was published at Basel in quarto, edited by Erasmus. All these early editions, however, swarm with textual errors, and are critically worthless. The same may be said of the edition of (Gr. and Lat., Leiden, 1618, typ. Elzevir), which was long the standard library edition. It contains a new set of maps drawn by Mercator, as well as a fresh series (not intended to illustrate Ptolemy) by Ortelius, the Roman Itineraries, including the Tabula peutingeriana, and much other miscellaneous matter. The first attempt at a really critical edition was made by F. G. Wilberg, and C. H. F. Grashof (4to, Essen, 1838–1845), but this only covered the first six books of the entire eight. The edition of C. F. A. Nobbe (3 vols., 18mo., Leipzig, 1843), presents the best Greek text of the whole work, and has a useful index. The best edition, so far as completed, is that published in A. F. Didot’s Bibliotheca graecorum scriptorum (Claudii Ptolemaei geographia; 2 vols., Paris, 1883 and 1901), originally edited by Carl Müller and continued by C. T. Fischer, with a Latin translation and a copious commentary, geographical as well as critical. See also. F. C. L. Sickler, Claudii Ptolemaei Germania, (Hesse Cassel, 1833); W. D. Cooley, Claudius Ptolemy and the Nile (London, 1854); J. W. McCrindle, Ancient India described by Ptolemy (Bombay, 1885), reprinted from Indian Antiquary (1884); Henry Bradley, “Ptolemy’s Geography of the British Isles,” in Archaeologia, vol. xlviii. (1885); T. G. Rylands, Geography of Ptolemy Elucidated (Dublin, 1893); and a Polish study of Ptolemy’s Germany and Sarmatia, in the Historical-Philosophical Series (2) of the Cracow University (1902), vol. xvi.  (E. H. B.; C. R. B.) 


PTOMAINE POISONING (Gr. πτῶμα, corpse), a phrase now popularized in the sense of a certain class of food-poisoning. The word “ptomaine ” was invented by the Italian chemist Selmi for the basic substances produced in putrefaction. They belong to several classes of chemical compounds. (See Medical Jurisprudence.)


PUBERTY (Lat. pubertas, from pubes, puber, mature, adult), that period of life at which the generative organs in both sexes become functionally active (see Reproductive System). In northern countries males enter upon sexual maturity between fourteen and sixteen, sometimes not much before the eighteenth year, females between twelve and fourteen. In tropical climates puberty is much earlier. In English common law thejage of puberty is conclusively presumed to be fourteen in the male and twelve in the female. Puberty is of much ethnological interest, as being the occasion among many races for feasts and religious ceremonies. In Rome a feast was given to the family and friends: the hair of boys was cut short, a lock being thrown into the fire in honour of Apollo, and one into water as an offering to Neptune. Girls offered their dolls to Venus, and the bulla-a little locket of gold worn round children’s necks, often by boys as well as girls-was taken off and dedicated in the case of the former to Hercules or the household lares, in the case of the latter to Juno. The attainment of puberty is celebrated by savages with ceremonies some of which seem to be directly associated with totemism. The Australian rites of initiation include the raising of those scars on the bodies of clansmen or clanswomen which serve as tribal badges or actually depict the totem. Among many savage peoples lads at puberty undergo a pretence of being killed and brought to life again.


PUBLICANI, literally men employed “ in connexion with the revenue, ” (publicum, from populus, people), or possibly “ in the public service,” the name given in ancient Rome to a body of men who either hired state property or monopolies for a certain period, during which they could farm such property to their own profit, or bought of the state for a fixed sum the right to farm for a term of years the taxes due to the treasury from the public land in Italy (see Agrarian Laws) or the land held by Roman subjects in the provinces. In very 'early times the senate entrusted to officials appointed for the purpose the control of the sale of salt (Livy ii. 9); and it was a natural development from this that the state, instead of appointing officials to manage its monopolies, should let out those monopolies to individuals. A regular system was soon established by which the censor, who held office every fifth year, placed all the sources of public revenue in the hands of certain individuals or companies, who on payment of a fixed sum into the treasury, or on giving adequate security for such payment, received the right to make what profit they could out of the revenues during the five years that should elapse before the next censorship. The assignment was made to the highest bidder at a public auction held by the censor. The same system was applied to the public works, the publicanus (or company) in this case being paid a certain sum, in return for which he took entire charge of a certain department of the public works, and winning his appointment by making the lowest tender. That this system was well established at the time of the Second Punic War is assumed in Livy’s account of the various offers made by the wealthier class of citizens to relieve the exhausted treasury after the battle of Cannae. On the one hand we have companies offering a price for branches of the revenue which was calculated rather to meet the needs of the state than to ensure any profit for themselves (Livy xxiii. 49). On the other hand individuals are represented as undertaking the management of public works on the understanding that they will expect no payment until the conclusion of the war (ibid. xxiv. 18).

In very early times the publicani may have been men closely connected with the government. But since wealth was a necessary qualification for the post, and wealth at Rome became more and more confined to the commercial class. the publicani became