back

Pliny,   Natural History

-   Book 36 ,   sections 1-100


Translated by D.E.Eichholz (1962), with some minor alterations. Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.


  ← Book 35

{1.} L   [1] 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. [2] Our forefathers considered the scaling of the Alps by Hannibal and later by the Cimbri to be almost unnatural. Now these self-same 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. [3] 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!

{2.} L   [4] 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. [5] 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 {58 BC} 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? [6] 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!

{3.} L   [7] 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. [8] 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.

{4.} L   [9] 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 {580-577 BC}. 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. [10] 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.

[11] 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 {540-537 BC}. Now if we trace their lineage back to the time of their great-grandfather, we find that the beginnings of this art coincide in time with the 1st Olympiad {776 BC}. [12] 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. [13] In Chios itself there is stated to be a face of Diana which is their work. It is set in a lofty position, 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 deified emperor Augustus was responsible. There were works by their father too at Delos and in the island of Lesbos. [14] 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.

[15] 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 {448-445 BC}, 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. [16] 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. [17] 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. [18] 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, I 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. [19] 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. 

[20] 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 Cerameicus; 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. [21] 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. [22] 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 Propontis, 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. [23] 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. [24] 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.

[25] These artists are rivalled in merit by Scopas. He made a Venus and a figure of Desire {Pothos}, 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 {Canephoros}. [26] 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.

[27] 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 all, 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 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. [28] 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. [29] 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 {Saepta}, even though their fame pronounces them to be so valuable that their keepers must answer for their safety with their lives.

[30] 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 {351 BC}. 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 façades is less, the total length of the façades 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.' [31] 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. [32] 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.

[33] 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), [34] 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. [35] 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. [36] It is clear from the honour accorded to it that a work much esteemed was that of Lysias which the deified  Augustus 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 Dercylides, and the historian Callisthenes by Amphistratus. [37] 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 monopolises 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 carved from a single block in accordance with an agreed plan by those eminent craftsmen Hagesander, Polydorus and Athenodorus, all of Rhodes. [38] 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. [39] 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 {Felicitas}, 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'. [40] 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 works but their titles are not recorded. [41] 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 Pompeius' theatre. [42] 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 own 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. [43] 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.

{5.} L   [44] 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. [45] 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 Olympian Jupiter 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, [46] 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 metals - bronze, 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.

{6.} L   [47] The art of cutting marble into thin slabs may possibly have been invented in Caria. 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 Olympiad {351 BC} and in the 403rd year after the founding of Rome.

{7.} L   [48] 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.

{8.} L   [49] 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 {78 BC}. 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 manner as door-sills! Four years after the consulship of this Lepidus came that of Lucius Lucullus {74 BC}, 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. [50] 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.

{9.} L   [51] 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. [52] 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. [53] 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.

{10.} L   [54] For smoothing marble statues and also for engraving 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.

{11.} L   [55] 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 Tiberius respectively. From serpentine, the markings of which resemble snakes - hence its name - these 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. [56] 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. [57] 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. [58] 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 larger 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.

{12.} L   [59] 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 a Chian metretēs, but that only five years later he himself saw columns 32 feet long. [60] 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 {13 BC}, 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. [61] 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.

{13.} L   [62] 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. [63] The Thebaic 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'.

{14.} L   [64] 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. The first of all the kings to undertake such a task was Mesphres, 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. [65] 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. [66] 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. [67] There are also two other obelisks here, one set up by Zmarres, and the other by Phius: both lack inscriptions and are 48 cubits in height. At Alexandria Ptolemy Philadelphus {285-246 BC} erected one of 80 cubits. This had been hewn uninscribed by King Necthebis, 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. [68] 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. [69] 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 obelisks to Rome by sea. The ships used attracted much attention from sightseers. [70] That which carried the first of two obelisks was solemnly laid up by the deified Augustus in a permanent dock at Puteoli, 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 the deified Claudius, 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 Puteoli; 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. [71] The obelisk placed by the deified Augustus 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.

{15.} L   [72] The one in the Campus was put to use in a remarkable way by the deified Augustus 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. [73] 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. [74] 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.

{16.} L   [75] 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. [76] 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.

{17.} L    [77] 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.

[78] 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. [79] 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 7 iugera. [80] 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. [81] 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. [82] The method of measuring the height of the pyramids and of taking any similar measurement was devised by Thales of Miletus {c. 585 BC}, 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.

{18.} L   [83] 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 Cnidus, 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 Cnidus.

{19.} L   [84] 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 { 2.148 } 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. [85] 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 of '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. [86] 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.

[87] 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 hall 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 6 arurae. It is when he is already exhausted with walking that the visitor reaches the bewildering maze of passages. [88] 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. [89] 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.

[90] 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. [91] 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 Clusium, 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. [92] 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. [93] 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.

{20.} L   [94] 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 case 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 { Iliad_9.381 }.

{21.} L   [95] 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. [96] The crowning marvel was his success in lifting the architraves of this massive building 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. [97] 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.

{22.} L   [98] 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.

{23.} L   [99] 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 {prytaneion} - 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.' [100] 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 {bouleuterion}, 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.

Following sections (101-204)



Attalus' home page   |   21.10.19   |   Any comments?