The Fifth Book/Chapter XXXVIII

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Of the temple's admirable pavement

When I had read those inscriptions, I admired the beauty of the temple, and particularly the disposition of its pavement, with which no work that is now, or has been under the cope of heaven, can justly be compared; not that of the Temple of Fortune at Praeneste in Sylla's time, or the pavement of the Greeks, called asarotum, laid by Sosistratus at Pergamus. For this here was wholly in compartments of precious stones, all in their natural colours: one of red jasper, most charmingly spotted; another of ophites; a third of porphyry; a fourth of lycophthalmy, a stone of four different colours, powdered with sparks of gold as small as atoms; a fifth of agate, streaked here and there with small milk-coloured waves; a sixth of costly chalcedony or onyx-stone; and another of green jasper, with certain red and yellowish veins. And all these were disposed in a diagonal line.

At the portico some small stones were inlaid and evenly joined on the floor, all in their native colours, to embellish the design of the figures; and they were ordered in such a manner that you would have thought some vine-leaves and branches had been carelessly strewed on the pavement; for in some places they were thick, and thin in others. That inlaying was very wonderful everywhere. Here were seen, as it were in the shade, some snails crawling on the grapes; there, little lizards running on the branches. On this side were grapes that seemed yet greenish; on another, some clusters that seemed full ripe, so like the true that they could as easily have deceived starlings and other birds as those which Zeuxis drew.

Nay, we ourselves were deceived; for where the artist seemed to have strewed the vine-branches thickest, we could not forbear walking with great strides lest we should entangle our feet, just as people go over an unequal stony place.

I then cast my eyes on the roof and walls of the temple, that were all pargetted with porphyry and mosaic work, which from the left side at the coming in most admirably represented the battle in which the good Bacchus overthrew the Indians; as followeth.