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OF THE FACE APPEARING WITHIN THE ORB OF THE MOON. - Plutarch, The Morals, vol. 5 
Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878). Vol. 5.
Part of: Plutarch’s Morals, 5 vols.
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OF THE FACE APPEARING WITHIN THE ORB OF THE MOON.
LAMPRIAS, APOLLONIDES, LUCIUS, PHARNACES, SYLLA, ARISTOTELES, THEON, MENELAUS.
[The beginning of this discourse is lost.]
1.These things then, said Sylla, agree with my story, and are taken thence. But I should first willingly ask, what need there is of making such a preamble against these opinions, which are at hand and in every man’s mouth, concerning the face that is seen within the orb of the moon. Why should we not, said I, being, by the difficulty there is in these discourses, forced upon those? For, as they who have long lain lingering under chronical diseases, after they have been worn out and tired with experimenting all ordinary remedies and the usual rules of living and diet, have at last recourse to lustrations and purifications, to charms and amulets fastened about the neck, and to the interpretation of dreams; so in such obscure and abstruse questions and speculations, when the common, apparent, and ordinary reasons are not satisfactory, there is a necessity of trying such as are more extravagant, and of not contemning but enchanting ourselves (as one may say) with the discourses of the ancients, and endeavoring always to find out the truth.
2. For you see at the very first blush, how impertinent his opinion is who said, that the form appearing in the moon is an accident of our sight, by its weakness giving way to her brightness, which we call the dazzling of our eyes; for he perceives not that this should rather befall our looking against the sun, whose lustre is more resplendent, and whose rays are more quick and piercing; as Empedocles also in a certain passage of his has not unpleasantly noted the difference of these two planets, saying,
The sharp-rayed sun, and gently shining moon.
For thus does he call her alluring, favorable, and harmless light. No less absurd appears the reason he afterwards gives why dull and weak eyes discern no difference of form in the moon, her orb appearing to them plain and smooth, whereas those whose sight is more acute and penetrating better descry the lineaments and more perfectly observe the impressions of a face, and more evidently distinguish its different parts. For it should, in my opinion, be quite contrary, if this were a fancy caused by the weakness of the vanquished sight; so that where the patient’s eye is weaker, the appearance would be more express and evident. Moreover, the inequality every way confutes this reason; for this face is not seen in a continuance and confused shadow, but the poet Agesianax not unelegantly describes it, saying,
For indeed dark and shady things, encompassed with others that are bright and shining, sink underneath and reciprocally rise again, being repelled by them; and in a word, they are so interlaced one within another, that they represent the figure of a face painted to the life; and there seems to have been great probability in that which was spoken against your Clearchus, my dear Aristotle. For he appears not inconveniently to be called yours, for he was intimately acquainted with the ancient Aristotle, although he perverted many of the Peripatetic doctrines.
3. Then Apollonides taking up the discourse, and asking what that opinion of Clearchus was; It would more, said I, beseem any man than you to be ignorant of this discourse, as being grounded on the very fundamental principles of geometry. For he affirms, that what we call a face, is the image and figure of the great ocean, represented in the moon as in a mirror. For the circumference of a circle, when it is reflected back,* is wont in many places to touch objects which are not seen in a direct line. And the full moon is for evenness and lustre the most beautiful and purest of all mirrors. As then you hold, that the heavenly bow appears, when the ray of light is reflected back towards the sun, in a cloud which has got a little liquid smoothness and consistence; so, said he, there is seen in the moon the surface of the sea, not in the place where it is situated, but from whence the reflection gives a sight of it by its reverberated and reflexed light, as Agesianax again says in another passage,
4. Apollonides therefore, being delighted with this, said: A singular opinion indeed is this of his, and (to speak in a word) strangely and newly invented by a man sufficiently presumptuous, but not void of learning and wit. But how, I pray, was it refuted?
First, said I, the superficies of the sea is all of a nature, the current of it being uniform and continuous; but the appearance of those black and dark spots which are seen in the face of the moon is not continued, but has certain isthmuses or partitions clear and bright, which divide and separate what is dark and shady. Whence every place being distinguished and having its own limits apart, the conjunctions of the clear with the obscure, taking a resemblance of high and low, express and represent the similitude of a figure seeming to have eyes and lips; so that we must of necessity suppose, either that there are main oceans and main seas, distinguished by isthmuses and continents of firm land, which is evidently absurd and false; or that if there is but one, it is not credible its image should appear so distracted and dissipated into pieces. And as for this, there is less danger in asking than in affirming in your presence, whether, since the habitable earth has both length and breadth, it is possible that the sight of all men, when it is reflected by the moon, should equally touch the ocean, even of those that sail and dwell in it, as do the Britons; especially since the earth, as you have maintained, has but the proportion of a point, if compared to the sphere of the moon. This therefore, said I, it is your business to observe, but the reflection of the sight against the moon belongs neither to you nor Hipparchus. And yet, my friend Lamprias, there are many naturalists, who approve not this doctrine of his touching the driving back of the sight, but affirm it to be more probable that it has a certain obedient and agreeing temperature and compactness of structure, than such beatings and repercussions as Epicurus feigned for his atoms.* Nor am I of opinion that Clearchus would have us suppose the moon to be a massy and weighty body, but a celestial and light-giving star, as you say it is, which must have the property of breaking and turning aside the sight; so that all this reflection would come to nothing. But if we are desired to receive and admit it, we shall ask why this face or image of the sea is to be seen only in the body of the moon; and not in any of the other stars? For the laws of probability require that the sight should suffer this equally in all, or else in none.
But pray, sir, said I, casting mine eyes upon Lucius, call a little to mind what was said at first by those of our party.
5. Nay rather, answered he, — lest we should seem too injurious to Pharnaces, in thus passing by the opinion of the Stoics, without opposing any thing against it, — let us make some reply to this man, who supposes the moon to be wholly a mixture of air and mild fire, and then says that, as in a calm there sometimes arises on a sudden a breeze of wind which curls and ruffles the superficies of the sea, so, the air being darkened and rendered black, there is an appearance and form of a face.
You do courteously, Lucius, said I, thus to veil and cover with specious expressions so absurd and false an opinion. But so did not our friend; but he said, as the truth is, that the Stoics disfigured and mortified the moon’s face, filling it with stains and black spots, one while invocating her by the name of Diana and Minerva, and another while making her a lump and mixture of dark air and charcoal-fire, not kindling of itself or having any light of its own, but a body hard to be judged and known, always smoking and ever burning, like to those thunders which by the poets are styled lightless and sooty. Now that a fire of coals, such as they would have that of the moon to be, cannot have any continuance nor yet so much as the least subsistence, unless it meets with some solid matter fit to maintain it, keep it in, and feed it, has, I think, far better than it is by these philosophers, been understood by those poets who in merriment affirm that Vulcan was therefore said to be lame because fire can no more go forward without wood or fuel than a cripple without a crutch. If then the moon is fire, whence has it so much air? For that region above, which is with a continual motion carried round, consists not of air, but some more excellent substance, whese nature it is to subtilize and set on fire all other things. And if it has been since engendered there, how comes it that it does not perish, being changed and transmuted by the fire into an ethereal and heavenly substance? And how can it maintain and preserve itself, cohabiting so long with the fire, as a nail always fixed and fastened in one and the same place? For being rare and diffused, as by Nature it is, it is not fitted for permanency and continuance, but for change and dissipation. Neither is it possible that it should condense and grow compact, being mixed with fire, and utterly void of water and earth, the only two elements by which the nature of the air suffers itself to be brought to a consistency and thickness. And since the swiftness and violence of motion is wont to in lame the air which is in stones, and even in lead itself, as cold as it is; much more will it that which, being in fire, is with so great an impetuosity whirled about. For they are displeased with Empedocles for making the moon a mass of air congealed after the manner of hail, included within a sphere of fire. And yet they themselves say, that the moon, being a globe of fire, contains in it much air dispersed here and there, — and this, though it has neither ruptures, concavities, nor depths (which they who affirm it to be earthly admit), but the air lies superficially on its convexity. Now this is both against the nature of permanency, and impossible to be accorded with what we see in full moons; for it should not appear separately black and dark, but either be wholly obscured and concealed or else co-illuminated, when the moon is overspread by the sun. For with us the air which is in the pits and hollows of the earth, whither the rays of the sun cannot penetrate, remains dark and lightless; but that which is spread over its exterior parts has clearness and a lightsome color. For it is by reason of its rarity easily transformed into every quality and faculty, but principally that of light and brightness, by which, being never so little touched, it incontinently changes and is illuminated. This reason therefore, as it seems greatly to help and maintain the opinion of those who thrust the air into certain deep valleys and caves in the moon, so confutes you, who mix and compose her sphere, I know not how, of air and fire. For it is not possible that there should remain any shadow or darkness in the superficies of the moon, when the sun with his brightness clears and enlightens whatsoever we can discern of her and ken with our sight.
6. Whilst I was yet speaking, Pharnaces interrupting my discourse said: See here again the usual stratagem of the Academy brought into play against us, which is to busy themselves at every turn in speaking against others, but never to afford an opportunity for reproving what they say themselves; so that those with whom they confer and dispute must always be respondents and defendants, and never plaintiffs or opponents. You shall not therefore bring me this day to give you an account of those things you charge upon the Stoics, till you have first rendered me a reason for your turning the world upside down.
Then Lucius smiling said: This, good sir, I am well contented to do, provided only that you will not accuse us of impiety, as Cleanthes thought that the Greeks ought to have called Aristarchus the Samian into question and condemned him of blasphemy against the Gods, as shaking the very foundations of the world, because this man, endeavoring to save the appearances, supposed that the heavens remained immovable, and that the earth moved through an oblique circle, at the same time turning about its own axis. As for us therefore, we say nothing that we take from them. But how do they, my good friend, who suppose the moon to be earth, turn the world upside down more than you, who say that the earth remains here hanging in the air, being much greater than the moon, as the mathematicians measure their magnitude by the accidents of eclipses, and by the passages of the moon through the shadow of the earth, gathering thence how great a space it takes up? For the shadow of the earth is less than itself, by reason it is cast by a greater light. And that the end of this shadow upwards is slender and pointed, they say that Homer himself was not ignorant, but plainly expressed it when he called the night θοή (that is, acute) from the sharp-pointedness of the earth’s shadow. And yet the moon in her eclipses, being caught within this point of the shadow, can scarce get out of it by going forward thrice her own bigness in length. Consider then, how many times the earth must needs be greater than the moon, if it casts a shadow, the narrowest point of which is thrice as broad as the moon. But you are perhaps afraid lest the moon should fall, if it were acknowledged to be earth; but as for the earth, Aeschylus has secured you, when he says that Atlas
If then there runs under the moon only a light air, not firm enough to bear a solid burthen, whereas under the earth there are, as Pindar says, columns and pillars of adamant for its support, therefore Pharnaces himself is out of all dread of the earth’s falling, but he pities the Ethiopians and those of Taprobane, who lie directly under the course of the moon, fearing lest so ponderous a mass should tumble upon their heads. And yet the moon has, for an help to preserve her from falling, her motion and the impetuosity of her revolution; as stones, pebbles, and other weights, put into slings, are kept from dropping out, whilst they are swung round, by the swiftness of their motion. For every body is carried according to its natural motion, unless it be diverted by some other intervening cause. Wherefore the moon does not move according to the motion of her weight, her inclination being stopped and hindered by the violence of a circular revolution. And perhaps there would be more reason to wonder, if the moon continued always immovable in the same place, as does the earth. But now the moon has a great cause to keep herself from tending hither downwards; but for the earth, which has no other motion, it is probable that it has also no other cause of its settlement but its own weight. For the earth is heavier than the moon, not only because it is greater, but also because the moon is rendered lighter by the heat and inflammation that is in it. In brief, it appears by what you say, if it is true that the moon is fire, that it stands in need of earth or some other matter, which it may rest on and cleave to, for the maintaining and nourishing of its power. For it is not possible to imagine how a fire can be preserved without some combustible matter. And you yourselves say that the earth continues firm without any basis or pedestal to support it.
Yes surely, said Pharnaces, being in its proper and natural place, the very middle and centre of the universe. For this it is to which all heavy and ponderous things do from every side naturally tend, incline, and aspire, and about which they cling and are counterpoised. But every superior region, though it may perhaps receive some earthly and weighty thing sent by violence up into it, immediately repels and casts it down again by force, or (to speak better) lets it follow its own proper inclination, by which it naturally tends downwards.
7. For the refutation of which, being willing to give Lucius time for the calling to mind his arguments, I addressed myself to Theon, and asked him which of the tragic poets it was who said that physicians
With bitter med’cines bitter choler purge.
And Theon having answered me that it was Sophocles; This, said I to him, we must of necessity permit them to do; but we are not to give ear to those philosophers who would overthrow paradoxes by assertions no less strange and paradoxical, and for the oppugning strange and extravagant opinions, devise others yet more wonderful and absurd; as these men do, who broach and introduce this doctrine of a motion tending towards the middle, in which what sort of absurdity is there not to be found? Does it not thence follow, that the earth is spherical, though we nevertheless see it to have so many lofty hills, so many deep valleys, and so great a number of inequalities? Does it not follow that there are antipodes dwelling opposite to another, sticking on every side to the earth, with their heads downwards and their heels upwards, as if they were woodworms or lizards? That we ourselves go not on the earth straight upright, but obliquely and bending aside like drunken men? That if bars and weights of a thousand talents apiece should be let fall into the hollow of the earth, they would, when they were come to the centre, stop and rest there, though nothing came against them or sustained them; and that, if peradventure they should by force pass the middle, they would of themselves return and rebound back thither again? That if one should saw off the two trunks or ends of a beam on either side of the earth, they would not be always carried downwards, but falling both from without into the earth, they would equally meet, and hide themselves together in the middle? That if a violent stream of water should run downwards into the ground, it would, when it came to the centre of the earth, which they hold to be an incorporeal point, there gather together, and turn round like a whirlpool, with a perpetual and endless suspension? Some of which positions are so absurd, that none can so much as force his imagination, though falsely, to conceive them possible. For this is indeed to make that which is above to be below; and to turn all things upside down, by making all that is as far as the middle to be downwards, and all that is beyond the middle to be upwards; so that if a man should, by the sufferance and consent of the earth, stand with his navel just against her centre, he would by this means have his feet and head both upwards; and if one, having digged through that place which is beyond the middle, should come to pull him out from thence, that part which is below would at one and the same time be drawn upwards, and that which is above, downwards. And if another should be imagined to stand the contrary way, their feet, though the one’s were opposite to the other’s, would both be and be said to be upwards.
8. Bearing then upon their shoulders, and drawing after them, I do not say a little bag or box, but a whole pack of juggler’s boxes, full of so many absurdities, with which they play the hocus-pocus in philosophy, they nevertheless accuse others of error for placing the moon, which they hold to be earth, on high, and not in the middle or centre of the world. And yet, if every heavy body inclines towards the same place, and does from all sides and with every one of its parts tend to its own centre, the earth certainly will appropriate and challenge to itself these ponderous masses — which are its parts — not because it is the centre of the universe, but rather because it is the whole; and this gathering together of heavy bodies round about it will not be a sign showing it to be the middle of the world, but an argument to prove and testify that these bodies which had been plucked from it and again return to it have a communication and conformity of nature with the earth. For as the sun draws into himself the parts of which he is composed, so the earth receives a stone as a part belonging to it, in such manner that every one of such things is in time united and incorporated with it. And if peradventure there is some other body which was not from the beginning allotted to the earth nor has been separated from it, but had its own proper and peculiar consistence and nature apart, as these men may say of the moon, what hinders but it may continue separated by itself, being kept close, compacted, and bound together by its own parts? For they do not demonstrate that the earth is the middle of the universe; and this conglomeration of heavy bodies which are here, and their coalition with the earth, show us the manner how it is probable that the parts which are assembled in the body of the moon continue also there. But as for him who drives and ranges together in one place all earthly and ponderous things, making them parts of one and the same body, I wonder that he does not attribute also the same necessity and constraint to light substances, but leaves so many conglomerations of fire separated one from another; nor can I see why he should not amass together all the stars, and think that there ought to be but one body of all those substances which fly upwards.
9. But you mathematicians, friend Apollonides, say that the sun is distant from our upper sphere infinite thousands of miles, and after him the day-star or Venus, Mercury, and other planets, which being situated under the fixed stars, and separated from one another by great intervals, make their revolutions; and in the mean time you think that the world affords not to heavy and terrestrial bodies any great and large place or distance one from another. You plainly see, it would be ridiculous, if we should deny the moon to be earth because it is not seated in the lowest region of the world, and yet affirm it to be a star, though so many thousands of miles remote from the upper firmament, as if it were plunged into some deep gulf. For she is so low before all other stars, that the measure of the distances cannot be expressed, and you mathematicians want numbers to compute and reckon it; but she in a manner touches the earth, making her revolution so near the tops of the mountains, that she seems, as Empedocles has it, to leave even the very tracks of her chariot-wheels behind her. For oftentimes she surpasses not the shadow of the earth, which is very short through the excessive greatness of the sun that shines upon it, but seems to turn so near the superficies, and (as one may say) between the arms and in the bosom of the earth, that it withholds from her the light of the sun, because she mounts that shady, earthly, and nocturnal region which is the lot and inheritance of the earth. And therefore I am of opinion, we may boldly say that the moon is within the limits and confines of the earth, seeing she is even darkened by the summits of its mountains.
10. But leaving the stars, as well erring as fixed, see what Aristarchus proves and demonstrates in his treatise of magnitudes and distances; that the distance of the sun is above eighteen times and under twenty times greater than that of the moon from us. And yet they who place the moon lowest say that her distance from us contains six and fifty of the earth’s semidiameters, that is, that she is six and fifty times as far from us as we are from the centre of the earth; which is forty thousand stadia, according to those that make their computation moderately. Therefore the sun is above forty millions and three hundred thousand stadia distant from the moon; so far is the from the sun by reason of her gravity, and so near does she approach to the earth. So that if substances are to be distinguished by places, the portion and region of the earth challenges to itself the moon, which, by reason of neighborhood and proximity, has a right to be reputed and reckoned amongst the terrestrial natures and bodies. Nor shall we, in my opinion, do amiss if, having given so vast an interval and distance to these bodies which are said to be above, we leave also to those which are below some space and room to turn them in, such as is that between the earth and the moon. For neither is he who calls only the utmost superficies of the heaven above and all the rest beneath moderate or tolerable; nor is he to be endured who confines beneath only to the earth, or rather to its centre; seeing the vast greatness of the world may afford means for the assigning farther to this lower part some such space as is necessary for motion. Now against him who holds that whatever is above the earth is immediately high and sublime, there is presently another opposition to encounter and contradict it, that whatever is beneath the sphere of the fixed stars ought to be called low and inferior.
11. In a word, how is the earth said to be the middle, and of what is it the middle? For the universe is infinite; and infiniteness having neither beginning nor end, it is convenient also that it should not have any middle; for the middle is a certain end or limit, but infiniteness is a privation of all sorts of limits. Now he that affirms the earth to be the middle, not of the universe but of the world, is certainly a pleasant man, if he does not think that the world itself is subject to the same doubts and difficulties. For the universe has not left a middle even to the very world, but this being without any certain seat or foundation, it is carried in an infinite voidness to no proper end; or if perhaps it has stopped, it has met with some other cause or stay, not according to the nature of the place. As much may be conjectured of the moon, that by the means of another soul and another Nature, or (to say better) of another difference, the earth continues firm here below, and the moon moves. Besides this, see whether they are not ignorant of a great inconvenience and error. For if it is true that all which is without the centre of the earth, however it be, is above, there will then be no part of the world below; but the earth and all that is upon it will be above; and in brief, every body that shall be placed about the centre will be above, and there will be nothing below or underneath, but one only point which has no body, which will of necessity make head against and oppose all the rest of the world’s nature, if above and beneath are naturally opposite to one another. Nor is this the only absurdity that will follow; but all heavy and ponderous bodies will also lose the cause for which they move and tend downwards hither, for there will be no body below to which they should move; and as for that which is incorporeal, it is not probable, neither will they themselves allow, that it should be so forcible as to draw and retain all things about itself. But if it is unreasonable and contrary to Nature that the whole world should be above, and that there should be nothing below but an incorporeal and indivisible term or limit, then is this, as we say, yet more reasonable, that the region above and that below being divided the one from the other, have nevertheless each of them a large and spacious room.
12. Nevertheless, supposing, if you please, that it is against Nature for earthly bodies to have any motions in heaven, let us consider leisurely and mildly — and not violently, as is done in tragedies — that this is no proof of the moon’s not being earth, but only that earth is in a place where by nature it should not be; for the fire of Mount Aetna is indeed against nature under ground, nevertheless it ceases not to be fire. And the wind contained within bottles is indeed of its own nature light and inclined to ascend, but is yet by force constrained to be there where naturally it should not be. And is not our very soul, I beseech you in the name of Jupiter, which, as yourselves say, is light, of a fiery substance, and imperceptible to sense, included within the body, which is heavy, cold, and palpable? Yet do we therefore say that the soul does not belong to the body; or that it is not a divine substance under a gross and heavy mass; or that it does not in a moment pass through heaven, earth, and sea, pierce into the flesh, nerves, and marrow, and into the humors which are the cause of a thousand passions? And even your Jupiter, such as you imagine him and depaint him to be, is he not of his own nature a great and perpetual fire? Yet now he submits, is pliable, and transformed into all things by several mutations. Take heed therefore, good sir, lest, by transferring and reducing every thing to the place assigned it by Nature, you so philosophize as to bring in a dissolution of the whole world, and put all things again into that state of enmity mentioned by Empedocles, or (to speak more properly) lest you raise up again those ancient Titans and Giants to put on arms against Nature, and endeavor to introduce again that fabulous disorder and confusion, where all that is heavy goes one way apart, and all that is light another;
as Empedocles has it. Then the earth felt no heat, nor the sea any wind; no heavy thing moved upwards, nor any light thing downwards: but the principles of all things were solitary, without any mutual love or dilection one to another, not admitting any society or mixture together; but shunning and avoiding all communication, moving separately by particular motions, as being disdainful, proud, and altogether carrying themselves in such manner as every thing does from which (as Plato says) God is absent; that is, as those bodies do in which there is neither soul nor understanding; till such time as, by Divine Providence, desire coming into Nature engendered mutual amity, Venus, and Love, — as Empedocles, Parmenides, and Hesiod have it, — to the end that changing their natural places, and reciprocally communicating their faculties, some being by necessity bound to motion, others to quiet and rest, and all tending to the better, every thing remitting a little of its power and yielding a little from its place, . . . they might make at length a harmony, accord, and society together.
13. For if there had not been any other part of the world against Nature, but every thing had been in the same place and quality it naturally ought to be, without standing in need of any change or transposition or having had any occasion for it from the beginning, I know not what the work of Divine Providence is or in what it consists, or of what Jupiter has been the father, creator, or worker. For there would not in a camp be any need of the art of ranging and ordering of battles, if every soldier of himself knew and understood his rank, place, and station, and the opportunity he ought to take and keep; nor would there be any want of gardeners or builders, if water were of itself framed to flow where it is necessary, and irrigate such plants as stand in need of watering, or if bricks, timber, and stones would of their own inclinations and natural motion range and settle themselves in due and fitting places and orders. Now if this discourse manifestly takes away Providence, and if the ordering and distinction of things that are in the world belongs to God, why should we wonder at Nature’s having been so disposed and ordained by him, that the fire should be here, and the stars there, and again the earth should be situated here below, and the moon above, lodged in a prison found out by reason, more sure and straight than that which was first ordained by Nature? For if it were of absolute necessity that all things should follow their natural instinct and move according to the motion given them by Nature, neither the Sun, Venus, nor any other planet would any more run a circular course; for light and fiery substances have by Nature their motion directly upwards. And if perhaps Nature itself receives this permutation and change by reason of the place, so that fire should here in a direct line tend upwards, but being once arrived at heaven, should turn round with the revolution of the heavens; what wonder would it be, if heavy and terrestrial bodies, being in like manner out of their natural place, were vanquished by the ambient air, and forced to take another sort of motion? For it cannot with any reason be said that heaven has by Nature the power to take away from light things the property of mounting directly upwards, and cannot likewise have the force to overcome heavy things and such as tend downwards; but that sometimes making use of this power, and sometimes of the proper nature of the things, it still orders every thing for the best.
14. But if, laying aside those servile habits and opinions to which we have enslaved ourselves, we must frankly and fearlessly deliver our judgment, it seems clear to me, that there is not any part of the universe which has a peculiar and separate rank, situation, or motion, that can simply be said to be natural to it. But when every thing exhibits and yields up itself to be moved, as is most profitable and fit for that for whose sake it was made and to which it is by Nature appointed, — suffering, doing, or being disposed, as is most expedient and meet for the safety, beauty, and power of the same, — then it appears to have its place, motion, and disposition according to Nature. As a proof of this, we may observe that man, who, if any thing in the world be so, is made and disposed according to Nature, has upwards, especially about his head, heavy and terrestrial things, and about the middle of his body such as are hot and participate of fire; of his teeth also some grow upwards and some downwards, and yet neither the one nor the other are contrary to Nature; neither is the fire which shines in his eyes according to Nature, and that which is in his heart and stomach against it; but it is in each place properly and beneficially seated. Moreover, consider the nature of all shell-fishes; and, that I may use the words of Empedocles,
And yet this crust, stone-like, hard, and heavy, as it is thus placed over their bodies, does not press and crush their natural habit, nor on the contrary does their heat fly upwards by reason of its lightness, and vanish away, but they are mingled and composed one with another, according to the nature of each one.
15. Wherefore it is also probable that the world, if it is an animal, has in many parts of its body earth, and in as many fire and water and air, not thrust and driven into it by force, but ordered and disposed by reason. For neither was the eye by its lightness forced into that part of the body where it is, nor the heart by its gravity pressed down into the breast; but both the one and the other were thus placed because it was better and more expedient. In like manner we ought not to think of the parts of the world, either that the earth settled where it is, being beaten down thither by its ponderosity; or that the sun was carried upwards by its levity, like a bottle or bladder full of wind (which, being plunged into the bottom of the water, immediately rises up again), as Metrodorus of Chios was persuaded; or that the other stars, as if they had been put into a balance, were swayed this way or that way, according to their weight or lightness, and so mounted higher or lower to the places they now possess. But reason having prevailed in the constitution of the world, the stars have, like to glittering eyes, been fixed in the firmament, as it were in the face of the universe, there to turn continually about; and the sun, having the force and vigor of the heart, sends and distributes its heat and light, like blood and spirits, throughout all; the earth and sea are in the world, as the paunch and bladder in the body of a living creature; and the moon placed between the sun and the earth, as the liver, or some other soft entrail between the heart and the belly, transmits down thither the heat of the superior bodies, and draws round about her the vapors which arise from hence, subtilizing them by way of concoction and purification. And whether its solid and terrestrial quality has any other property serving for some profitable use, is indeed unknown to us; but everywhere that which is better prevails over what is by necessity. For what probability can we draw from that which they affirm? They say, that the most subtile and luminous part of the air, by reason of its rarity, became heaven; but what was thickened and closely driven together was made into stars, of which the moon being the heaviest is compacted of the grossest and muddiest matter. And yet it is plainly to be seen, that the moon is not separated or divided from the air, but moves and makes her revolution through that which is about her, to wit, the region of the winds, and where the comets are engendered and keep their course. These bodies then were not by a natural inclination thus placed and situated as they are, but have by some other reason been so ordered and disposed.
16. These things being said, as I was giving Lucius his turn to follow and continue the discourse, — there being nothing left to be added but the demonstrations of this doctrine, — Aristotle smiling said: I am a witness, that you have directed all your contradictions and all your refutations against those who, supposing the moon to be half fire, affirm in general that all bodies do of their own accord tend either upwards or downwards; but if there is any one who holds that the stars have of their own nature a circular motion, and that they are of a substance wholly different from the four elements, you have not thought of saying any thing, so much as accidentally or by the way, against him; and therefore I am wholly unconcerned in your discourse.
Indeed, good sir, said Lucius, if you should suppose the other stars, and the whole heaven apart, to be of a pure and sincere nature, free from all change and alteration of passion, and should bring in also a circle, in which they make their motion by a perpetual revolution, you would not perhaps find any one now to contradict you, though there are in this infinite doubts and difficulties. But when the discourse descends so far as to touch the moon, it cannot maintain in her that perfection of being exempt from all passion and alteration, nor that heavenly beauty of her body. But to let pass all other inequalities and differences, the very face which appears in the body of the moon necessarily proceeds from some passion of her own substance or the mixture of another; for what is mixed suffers, because it loses its first purity, being filled by force with that which is worse. Besides, as for the slowness and dulness of her course, her feeble and inefficacious heat, by which, as Ion says,
The black grape comes not to maturity,
to what shall we attribute them but to her weakness and passion, if an eternal and celestial body can be subject to passion?
In brief, my friend Aristotle, if the moon is earth, she is a most fair and admirable thing, and excellently well adorned; but if you regard her as a star or light or a certain divine and heavenly body, I am afraid she will prove deformed and foul, and disgrace that beautiful appellation, if of all bodies, which are in heaven so numerous, she alone stands in need of light borrowed of another, and, as Parmenides has it,
Looks always backwards on the sun’s bright rays.
Our friend therefore indeed, having in a lecture of his demonstrated this proposition of Anaxagoras, that the sun communicates to the moon what brightness she has, was well esteemed for it. As for me, I will not say what I have learned of you or with you, but having taken it for granted, will pass on to the rest. It is then probable that the moon is illuminated, not like a glass or crystal, by the brightness of the sun’s rays shining through her, nor yet again, by a certain collustration and conjunction of light and brightness, as when many torches set together augment the light of one another. For so she would be no less full in her conjunction or first quarter than in her opposition, if she did not obstruct or repel the rays of the sun, but let them pass through her by reason of her rarity, or if he did by a contemperature shine upon her and kindle the light within her. For we cannot allege her declinations and aversions in the conjunction or new moon, as when it is half-moon or when she appears crescent or in the wane; but being then perpendicularly (as Democritus says) under him that illuminates her, she receives and admits the sun; so that then it is probable she should appear, and he shine through her. But this she is so far from doing, that she is not only then unseen, but also often hides the sun, as Empedocles has it:
as if the light of the sun fell not upon another star, but upon night and darkness. And as for what Posidonius says, that the depth of the moon’s body is the cause why the light of the sun cannot pierce through her to us, this is evidently refuted; for the air, which is infinite and of a far greater depth than the body of the moon, is nevertheless all over illustrated and enlightened by the rays of the sun.
It remains then that, according to the opinion of Empedocles, the light of the moon which appears to us comes from the repercussion and reflection of the sun’s beams. And for this reason it comes not to us hot and bright, as in all probability it would, if her shining proceeded either from inflammation or the commixtion of two lights. But as voices reverberated cause an echo more obscure and less express than the speech that was pronounced, and as the blows of darts and arrows, rebounding from some wall against which they are shot, are more mild and gentle;
So Titan’s lustre, smiting the moon’s orb,
yields but a faint and feeble reflection and repercussion of brightness upon us, its force being abated and weakened by the refraction.
17. Sylla then, taking up the discourse, said: There is indeed a great deal of probability in all that you have spoken. But as to the strongest objection that is brought against it, has it, think you, been any way weakened by this discourse? Or has our friend quite passed it over in silence?
What opposition do you mean, said Lucius? Is it the difficulty about the moon, when one half of her appears enlightened?
The very same, answered Sylla. For there is some reason, seeing that all reflection is made by equal angles, that when the half-moon is in the midst of heaven, the light proceeding from her should not be carried upon the earth, but glance and fall beyond and on one side of it. For the sun, being placed in the horizon, touches the moon with its beams; which, being equally reflected, will therefore necessarily fall on the other bound of the horizon, and not send their light down hither; or else there will be a great distortion and difference of the angle, which is impossible.
And yet, by Jupiter, replied Lucius, this has not been forgotten or overpassed, but already spoken to. And casting his eye, as he was discoursing, upon the mathematician Menelaus; I am ashamed, said he, in your presence, dear Menelaus, to attempt the subverting and overthrowing of a mathematical position, which is supposed as a basis and foundation to the doctrine of the catoptrics concerning the causes and reasons of mirrors. And yet of necessity I must. For it neither appears of itself nor is confessed as true, that all reflections are at equal angles; but this position is first checked and contradicted in concave mirrors, when they represent the images of things, appearing at one point of sight, greater than the things themselves. And it is also disproved by double mirrors, which being inclined or turned one towards the other, so that an angle is made within, each of the glasses or plain superficies yields a double resemblance; so that there are four images from the same face, two answerable to the object without on the left side, and two others obscure and not so evident on the right side in the bottom of the mirror. Of which Plato renders the efficient cause; for he says, that a mirror being raised on the one and the other side, the sight varies the reflection, falling from one side to the other. And therefore, since of the views or visions some immediately have recourse to us, and others, sliding to opposite parts of the mirror, do again return upon us from thence, it is not possible that all reflections should be made at equal angles. Though those who closely impugn our opinion contend that, by these reflections of light from the moon upon the earth, the equality of angles is taken away, thinking this to be much more probable than the other.
Nevertheless, if we must of necessity yield and grant thus much to our dearly beloved geometry, first, this should in all likelihood befall those mirrors which are perfectly smooth and exquisitely polished; whereas the moon has many inequalities and roughnesses, so that the rays proceeding from a vast body, and carried to mighty altitudes, receive one from another and intercommunicate their lights, which, being sent to and fro and reciprocally distributed, are refracted and interlaced all manner of ways, and the counter-lights meet one another, as if they came to us from several mirrors. And then, though we should suppose these reflections on the superficies of the moon to be made at equal angles, yet it is not impossible that the rays, coming down unto us by so long an interval, may have their flexions, fractions, and delapsions, that the light being compounded may shine the more. Some also there are who prove by lineary demonstration, that many lights send a ray down by a line drawn below the line of reflection; but to make the description and delineation of it publicly, especially where there were many auditors, would not be very easy.
18. But in brief, said he, I wonder how they come thus to allege against us the half-moon, there being the same reason when she is gibbous and crescent. For if the sun enlightened the moon, as a mass of ethereal or fiery matter. he would never surely leave one hemisphere, or half of her globe always appearing dark and shadowy to sense, as it is seen to be; but how little soever he touched her superficies, it would be agreeable to reason that it should be wholly replenished and totally changed by that light of his, which by reason of its agility and swiftness so easily spreads and passes through all. For, since wine touching water only in one point, or one drop of blood falling into any liquor, dyes and colors it all with a red or purple color; and since they say, that the very air is altered and changed with light, not by any defluxions or beams intermingled, but by a sudden conversion and change made in one only point; how can they imagine that one star touching another star, and one light another light, should not be immediately mingled, nor make any thorough confusion or change, but only exteriorly illuminate that whose superficies it touches? For that circle which the sun makes by fetching a compass and turning towards the moon, — sometimes falling upon the very line that distinguishes her visible part from her invisible, and sometimes rising up directly, so that it cuts her in two and is reciprocally cut by her, causing in her, by several inclinations and habitudes of the luminous to the dark, those various forms by which she appears gibbous and crescent, — that more than any thing else demonstrates, that all this illumination of the moon is not a mixture, but only a touching; nor a conflux or gathering together of sundry lights, but only an illustration round about.
But forasmuch as she is not only enlightened herself, but also sends back hither the image of her illumination, this confirms us yet further in what we say touching her substance. For reflections and reverberations are not made upon any thing which is rare, and of thin and subtile parts; nor is it easily to be imagined how light can rebound from light, or one fire from another. But that which is to make the reverberation or reflection must be solid and firm, that a blow may be given against it and a rebounding made from it. As a proof of this, we see that the air transmits the sun, and gives him a way to pierce quite through it, not obstructing or driving back his rays; but on the contrary from wood, stones, or clothes put in the sun, there are made many reflections of light and many illuminations round about. So we see that the earth is illuminated by him, not to the very bottom, as the water, nor thoroughly and all over, as the air, through which the beams of the sun have a clear passage; but just such a circle as surrounds the moon surrounds also the earth; and as much of the earth as this circle includes, so much does the sun enlighten, the rest being left without light; for what is illuminated both in the one and in the other is little more than an hemisphere. Permit me therefore now to conclude after the manner of geometricians by proportions. If there are three things which the light of the sun approaches, the air, the moon, and the earth, and if we see that the moon is enlightened by him, not as the air, but as the earth, it is of necessity that those two things must have one and the same nature, which of one and the same cause suffer the same effects.
19. Now when all the company began highly to commend Lucius’s harangue; This is excellently well done of you, Lucius (said I to him), that you have to so fine a discourse added as fine a proportion, for you must not be defrauded of that which is your due.
Then Lucius, smiling, thus went on: I have yet a second proportion to be added to the former, by which we will clearly demonstrate that the moon altogether resembles the earth, not only because they suffer and receive the same accidents from the same cause, but because they work the same effect on the same object. For you will without difficulty, I suppose, grant me that, of all the accidents which befall the sun, there is none so like to his setting as his eclipse, especially if you but call to mind that recent conjunction which, beginning at noonday, showed us many stars in many places of the heavens, and wrought a temperature in the air like that of the twilight. But if you will not grant me this, our friend Theon here will bring us a Mimnermus, a Cydias, an Archilochus, and besides these, a Stesichorus and a Pindar, lamenting that in eclipses the world is robbed of its brightest light, and saying that night comes on in the midst of the day, and that the rays of the sun wander in the path of darkness; but above all he will produce Homer, saying that the faces of men are in eclipses seized upon by night and darkness, and the sun is quite lost out of heaven by the conjunction of the moon. And . . . it is natural that this should happen,
When one moon’s going, and another comes.
For the rest of the demonstration is, in my opinion, as certain and exactly concluding, as are the acute arguments of the mathematics. As night is the shadow of the earth, so the eclipse of the sun is the shadow of the moon, when it stands in the way of our sight. For the sun is at his setting kept from our sight by the interposition of the earth, and at his eclipse by that of the moon. Now both of these are obscurations; but that of his setting is from the earth, and that of his being eclipsed from the moon, their shadows intercepting our sight. Now the consequences of these things are easily understood. For if the effect is alike, the efficient causes are also alike; because it is of necessity that the same effects, happening in the same subjects, proceed from the same efficients. Now if the darkness in eclipses is not so profound, nor does so forcibly and entirely seize the air, as does the night, we are not to wonder at it; for the substance of the body which makes the night, and of that which causes the eclipse, is indeed the same, though their greatness is not equal. For the Egyptians, if I am not mistaken, hold that the moon is in bigness the two and seventieth part of the earth; and Anaxagoras says, she is as big as Peloponnesus. And Aristarchus shows the overthwart line or diameter of the moon to have a proportion to that of the earth which is less than if sixty were compared to nineteen, and somewhat greater than an hundred and eight compared to forty and three. Whence it happens that the earth, by reason of its greatness, wholly withdraws the sun from our sight; for it is a great obstacle and opposition, and lasts all the night. But although the moon sometimes hides all the sun, yet that eclipse continues not so long nor is so far extended, but there always appears about the circumference a certain brightness, which permits not the darkness to be black, deep, and perfectly obscure.
And Aristotle (I mean the ancient philosopher of that name) rendering the reason why there are oftener seen to happen eclipses of the moon than of the sun, among other causes alleges this, that the sun is eclipsed by the interposition of the moon, and the moon by that of the earth, which is much greater and consequently oftener opposes itself. And Posidonius thus defines this accident: The eclipse of the sun is the conjunction of the sun and moon, the shadow of which darkens our sight.* For there is no eclipse except to those whose sight the shadow of the moon intercepting hinders them from seeing the sun. Now in confessing that the shadow of the moon descends down to us, I know not what he has left himself to say. It is certainly impossible for a star to cast a shadow; for that which is not enlightened is called a shadow, and light makes no shadow, but on the contrary drives it away.
20. But what arguments, said he, were alleged after this?
The moon, answered I then, suffered the same eclipse.
You have done well, replied he, to put me in mind of it. But would you have me go on and prosecute the rest of the discourse, as if you had already supposed and granted that the moon is eclipsed, being intercepted within the shadow of the earth? Or shall I take for the subject of a declamation the making a demonstration of it, by rehearsing to you all the arguments, one after another?
Nay, by Jove, said Theon, let this be the argument of your discourse. For I indeed stand in need of some persuasion, having only heard that when these three bodies, the earth, the moon, and the sun, are in a direct line, then eclipses happen; for that either the earth takes the sun from the moon, or the moon takes him from the earth. For the sun suffers an eclipse when the moon, and the moon when the earth, is in the midst of the three; of which the one happens in the conjunction or new moon, and the other in the opposition or when the moon is full.
Then said Lucius: These are the principal points, and the summary of what is said. But in the first place, if you please, take the argument drawn from the form and figure of the shadow. For this is a cone, as it must be when a great fire or light that is spherical encompasses a mass that is also globular but less; whence it comes that, in the eclipses of the moon, the circumscriptions of the black and dark from the clear and luminous have their sections always round. For the sections given or received by one round body applied to another, which way soever they go, do by reason of the similitude always keep a circular form. Now as for the second argument, I suppose you understand that the first part which is eclipsed in the moon is always that which looks towards the east, and in the sun that which regards the west. Now the shadow of the earth moves from the east to the west, but the sun and moon from the west eastward. The experience of the appearances gives us a visible knowledge of this, nor is there need of many words to make us fully understand it; and from these suppositions the cause of the eclipse is confirmed. For, inasmuch as the sun is eclipsed by being overtaken, and the moon by meeting that which makes the eclipse, it probably or rather necessarily follows that the one is surprised behind, and the other before. For the obstruction begins on that side whence that which causes it first approaches. Now the moon comes upon the sun from the west, as striving in course with him and hastening after him; but the shadow of the earth comes from the east, as that which has a contrary motion.
The third argument is taken from the time and greatness of the eclipses. For the moon, if she is eclipsed when she is on high in her apogee (or at her farthest distance from the earth), continues but a little while in her defect or want of light; but when she suffers the same accident being low and in her perigee (or near the earth), she is very much oppressed, and slowly gets out of the shadow; and yet, when she is low, she moves swifter, and when high, slower. But the cause of the difference is in the shadow, which is, like pyramids, broadest at the bottom or basis; and, growing still narrower by little and little, terminates in a sharp point at the top. Whence it comes, that when she is low, she is embarrassed within greater circles, traversing the bottom of the shadow and what is most obscure and dark; but when she is high, being through the narrowness of the shadow (as it were) but in a shallow puddle, by which she is sullied, she immediately gets out again. I omit what was said particularly about the bases and disposition of parts, for these admit of a rational explanation, so far as this is possible; but I return to the subject properly before us, which has its foundation in our senses. For we see that fire shines forth and appears brighter out of a dark and shady place, through the thickness of the caliginous air, which admits no effluxions or diffusions of the fire’s virtue, but keeps in and contains its substance within itself. Or rather, — if this is a passion of the senses, — as hot things, when near to cold ones, are felt to be hotter, and pleasures immediately after pains are found more vehement, so things that are bright appear better when they are near to such as are obscure, the imagination being more strained and extended by means of different passions. But there seems to be a greater appearance of probability in the first reason. For in the sun, all the nature of fire not only loses its faculty of illuminating, but is also rendered duller and more unapt to burn, because the heat of the sun dissipates and scatters all its force.
If it were then true that the moon, being, as the Stoics say, a muddy and troubled star, has a weak and duskish fire, it would be meet that she should suffer none of these accidents which she is now seen to suffer, but altogether the contrary; to wit, that she should be seen when she is hidden, and absconded when she appears; that is, she should be concealed all the rest of the time, being obscured by the environing air, and again shine forth and become apparent and manifest for six months together, and afterwards disappear again five months, entering into the shadow of the earth. For of four hundred and sixty-five revolutions of ecliptic full moons, four hundred and four are of six months’ duration, and the rest of five. The moon then should all this time appear shining in the shadow; but on the contrary we see, that in the shadow she is eclipsed and loses her light, and recovers it again after she is escaped and got forth of the shadow. Nay, she appears often in the daytime, so that she is rather any thing else than a fiery and starry body.
21. As soon as Lucius had said these things, Pharnaces and Apollonides ran both together upon him, to oppugn and refute his discourse; and then Apollonides giving him way, Pharnaces said: This it is that principally shows the moon to be a star and of a fiery nature, that in her eclipses she is not wholly obscured and disappearing, but shows herself with a certain coal-resembling color, terrible to the sight, yet such as is proper to her.
As for Apollonides, he insisted much in opposition to the word shadow, saying, that the mathematicians always give that name to the place which is not enlightened, and that heaven admits no shadow.
To this I thus answered: This instance is rather alleged obstinately against the name, than naturally or mathematically against the thing. For if one will not call the place obfuscated by the opposition of the earth a shadow, but a place deprived of light, yet be it what it will, you must of necessity confess that the moon being there becomes obscure; and every way, said I, it is a folly to deny that the shadow of the earth reaches thither from whence the shadow of the moon, falling upon our sight here on earth, causes the eclipse of the sun. And therefore I now address myself to you, Pharnaces; for this coal-like and burnt color of the moon, which you affirm to be proper to her, belongs to a body that has thickness and depth. For there is not wont to remain any relic, mark, or print of flame in a body that is rare, nor can a coal be made where there is not a solid body which may receive into it the heat of the fire; as Homer himself shows in a certain passage, where he says,
For the coal seems not properly a fire, but a body enkindled and altered by the fire, which stays and remains in a solid firmly rooted mass; and whereas flames are the setting on fire and fluxions of a nutriment and matter, which is of a rare substance, and by reason of its weakness quickly dissolved and consumed; so that there could not be any more evident and plain argument to demonstrate that the moon is solid and earthly, than if her proper color were that of a coal. But it is not so, my friend Pharnaces; but in her eclipses she diversely changes her colors, which the mathematicians, determining with respect to the time and hour, thus distinguish. If she is eclipsed in the evening, she appears horribly black until the middle of the fourth hour of the night; if about midnight, she sends forth this reddish and fire-resembling color, and after the middle of the eighth hour, the redness disappears; and finally, if about the dawning of the morning, she takes a blue or grayish color; which is the cause why she is by the poets, and particularly by Empedocles, called Glaucopis.
Since then they clearly see that the moon changes into so many colors in the shadow, they do ill to attribute to her only that of a burning coal, which may be said to be less proper to her than any other, being only a small remnant and semblance of light, appearing and shining through a shadow, her own proper color being black and earthy. And since that here below, red and purple garments, and rivers and lakes, which receive the rays of the sun, cause neighboring shady places to take the same appearances of colors and to be illuminated by them, casting and sending back by reason of reflections several rebated splendors; what wonder is it if a copious flux of shadow, falling as it were into an immense celestial sea of light, not steady and quiet, but agitated by innumerable stars, and besides admitting several mixtures and mutations in itself, takes from the moon the impression sometimes of one color, sometimes of another, and sends them hither to us? For it is not to be denied but that a star of fire cannot appear in a shadow black, gray, or violet; but there are seen upon hills, plains, and seas, several various resemblances of colors, caused by the reflection of the sun, which are the very tinctures that brightness mixed with shadows and mists, as if it were with painters’ colors, brings upon them. And as for the tincture or colors of the sea, Homer has indeed in some sort endeavored to name and express them, when he sometimes terms the sea violet-colored or red as wine, at other times the waves purple, and again the sea blue, and the calm white. As for the diversities of tinctures and colors appearing upon the earth, he has, I suppose, omitted them, because they are in number infinite. Now it is not probable that the moon has but one superficies all plain and even, as the sea; but rather that of its nature it principally resembles the earth, of which old Socrates in Plato seemed to mythologize at his pleasure; whether it were, that under covert and enigmatical speeches he meant it of the moon, or whether he spake it of some other. For it is neither incredible nor wonderful, if the moon, having in herself nothing corrupt or muddy, but enjoying a pure and clear light from heaven, and being full of heat, not of a burning and furious fire, but of such as is mild and harmless, has in her places admirably fair and pleasant, resplendent mountains, purple-colored cinctures or zones, and store of gold and silver, not dispersed here and there within her bowels, but flourishing in great abundance on the superficies of her plains, or spread all over her smooth hills and mountains.
And if the sight of all these things comes to us through a shadow, sometimes in one manner and sometimes in another, by reason of the diversity and different change of the ambient air, the moon does not therefore lose the venerable persuasion that is had of her, or the reputation of divinity; being esteemed by men a heavenly earth, or rather (as the Stoics say) a troubled, thick, and dreggish fire. For even the fire itself is honored with barbarian honors among the Assyrians and Medes, who through fear serve and adore such things as are hurtful, hallowing them even above such things as are of themselves indeed holy and honorable. But the very name of the earth is truly dear and venerable to every Greek, and there is through all Greece a custom received of adoring and revering it, as much as any of the Gods. And we are very far from thinking that the moon, which we hold to be a heavenly earth, is a body without soul and spirit, exempt and deprived of all that is to be offered to the Gods. For both by law we yield her recompenses and thanksgivings, for that we receive of her and by nature we adore what we acknowledge to be of a more excellent virtue and a more honorable power; and therefore we do not think that we offend in supposing the moon to be earth.
Now as to the face which appears in her, as this earth on which we are has in it many great sinuosities and valleys, so it is probable that the moon also lies open, and is cleft with many deep caves and ruptures, in which there is water or very obscure air, to the bottom of which the sun cannot reach or penetrate, but failing there, sends back a dissipated reflection to us here below.
22. Here Apollonides, taking up the discourse, said: Tell me then, I beseech you, good sir, even by the moon herself, do you think it possible that there should be there shadows of caves and chinks, and that the sight of them should come even to our eyes? Or do you not regard what will come of it? And must I tell you what it is? But hearken to me, although you are not ignorant of it. The diameter of the moon, according to that bigness which appears to us when she is in her mean and ordinary distances, is twelve digits, and every one of these black and shady spots is above half a digit, that is above the four and twentieth part of the diameter. Now if we suppose the circumference of the moon to be only thirty thousand stadia; and the diameter according to that supposition to be ten thousand, every one of these shadowy marks within her will not be less than five hundred stadia. Consider then, first, whether there can possibly be in the moon such great gaps and such inequalities as may make such a shadow? And then how is it possible that, being so great, they are not seen by us?
At this I, smiling upon him, said: You have done me a pleasure, dear Apollonides, in having found out such a demonstration by which you will prove that you and I shall be bigger than those giant sons of Aloeus,* — not indeed every hour of the day, but principally morning and evening, — if indeed you think that, when the sun makes our shadows so long, he suggests to our minds this goodly argument; if that which is shadowed is great, that which shadows must of necessity be yet excessively greater. I know well that neither you nor I have ever been in Lemnos; yet we have often heard that Iambic verse, so frequent in every one’s mouth:
Mount Athos’ shade shall hide the Lemnian cow.
For the shadow of that mountain falls, as it seems, on the image of a brazen heifer which is in Lemnos, extending itself in length over the sea not less than seven hundred stadia. . . . The mountain which makes the shadow causes it, because the distance of the light renders the shadow of bodies manifoldly greater than the bodies themselves. Consider then here, that when the moon is in the full, and shows us the form of a visage most expressly, by reason of the profundity of the shadow, it is then that she is most remote from the sun; for it is the distance of the light that makes the shadow bigger, and not the greatness of the inequalities which are on the superficies of the moon. And you moreover see, that the brightness of the sun’s beams suffers not the tops of the mountains to be discerned in open day; but on the contrary, the deep hollow and shadowy parts appear from afar. It is not therefore any way absurd or strange, if we cannot so exactly see how the illumination of the moon and her reception of the sunbeams take place, while yet the conjunction of things that are obscure and dark to such as are clear and shining is by reason of this diversity apparent to our sight.
23. But this, said I, seems rather to refute and check the reflection and reverberation which is said to rebound from the moon; because those who are within retorted rays do not only see that which is enlightened, but also that which enlightens. For when, at the resulting of light from water upon a wall, the sight falls upon the place which is thus illuminated by the reflection, the eye there beholds three things, to wit, the ray or light that is driven back, the water which makes the reflection, and the sun himself, whose light, falling on the superficies of the water, is repulsed and sent back. This being confessed, as what is evidently seen, it is required of those who say that the earth is enlightened from the moon by the reflections of the sun’s rays upon it, that they show us by night the sun appearing upon the superficies of the moon, in the same manner as he may be seen by day appearing in the water on which he shines when there is the said reflection of his beams. But since the sun does not so appear, they thence infer that the moon receives her illumination by some other means, and not by reflection; and if there is no reflection, the moon then is not earth.
What answer then is to be made them, said Apollonides? For the argument of this objection against reflection is common also to us.
It is indeed, answered I, in some sort common, and in some sort not. But first consider the comparison, how perversely and against the stream they take it. For the water is here below on the earth, and the moon there above in heaven. So that the reflected and reverberated rays make the form of their angles quite opposite one to the other, the one having their point upwards towards the superficies of the moon, and the other downwards toward the earth. Let them not then require that from every form of mirror, nor that from every distance and remoteness, there should be a like and semblable reflection; for so doing, they would repugn notorious and apparent evidence. And as for those who hold the moon to be a body not smooth, even, and subtile as the water, but solid, massy, and terrestrial, I cannot conceive why they should require to see the image of the sun in her as in a glass. For neither does milk itself render such peculiar images, nor cause reflection of the sight, by reason of the inequality and ruggedness of its parts. How then is it possible that the moon should send back the sight from her superficies, as mirrors do that are more polished? And if in these also there is any scratch, filth, or dulness on their superficies whence the reflected sight is wont to receive a form, they are dimmed, and although the mirrors may be seen, they yield no counterlight. He then who requires that either the sun should appear in the moon, or else the moon should not reflect the sun’s light to us, might as well require that the eye be the sun, the sight light, and man heaven. For it is probable, that the reflection of the sun’s beams which is made upon the moon does, by reason of their vehemence and great brightness, rebound with a stroke upon us. But our sight being weak and slender, what wonder is it, if it neither give such a stroke as may rebound, or if it rebounds, that it does not maintain its continuity, but is broken and fails, as not having such abundance of light that it should not disgregate and be dissipated within those inequalities and asperities? For it is not impossible, that the reflection upon water or other sorts of mirrors, being yet strong, powerful, and near its origin, should from thence return upon the eye; but though there may perhaps from the moon be some glimmerings, yet they still will be weak and obscure, and will fail in the way, by reason of so long a distance. For otherwise hollow and concave mirrors send back the reverberated and reflected rays stronger than they came, so that they frequently burn and set on fire; and those that are convex and embossed like a bowl, because they beat them not back on all sides, render them dark and feeble. You see for certain, when two rainbows appear together in the heaven, one cloud comprehending another, that the rainbow which outwardly environs the other yields dim colors, and such as are not sufficiently distinguished and expressed, because the exterior cloud, being more remote, makes not a strong and forcible reflection. And what needs there any more to be said, seeing that the very light of the sun, reverberated and sent back by the moon, loses all its heat; and of his brightness, there comes to us with much ado but a small remainder, and that very languishing and weak? Is it then possible, that our sight, turning the same course, should bring back any part of the solar image from the moon? I for my part think it is not. But consider, I said, yourselves, that if our sight were in one and the same manner affected and disposed towards the water and towards the moon, the full moon would of necessity represent to us the images of the earth, plants, men, and stars, as is done by the water and all other sorts of mirrors. And if there is no such reflection of our sight as to bring us back these images, either by reason of our said sight’s weakness, or through the rugged inequality of the moon’s superficies, let us no longer require that it should rebound against the sun.
24. We have then, said I, related, as far as our memory would carry it away, whatever was there said. It is now time to desire Sylla, or rather to exact of him, that he would make us his narration, as being on such condition admitted to hear all this discourse. If you think good therefore, let us give over walking, and sitting down on these seats, make him a quiet and settled audience.
Every one approved this motion. And therefore, when we had seated ourselves, Theon thus began: I am indeed, O Lamprias, as desirous as any of you can be to hear what shall be said; but I would gladly first understand something concerning those who are said to dwell in the moon; not whether there are any persons inhabiting it, but whether it is impossible there should be any; for if it is not possible for the moon to be inhabited, it is also unreasonable to say that she is earth; otherwise she would have been created in vain and to no end, not bearing any fruits, not affording a place for the birth or education of any men, for which causes and ends this earth wherein we live was made and created, being (as Plato says) our nurse and true guardian, producing and distinguishing the day from the night. Now you know, that of this matter many things have been said, as well merrily and in jest as seriously and in earnest. For of those who dwell under the moon, it is said that she hangs over their heads, as if they were so many Tantaluses; and on the contrary, of those who inhabit her, that being tied and bound to her, like a sort of Ixions, they are with violence turned and whirled about. Nor is the moon indeed moved by one only motion, but is, as they were wont to call her, Trivia, or Three-wayed; performing her course together according to length, breadth, and depth in the Zodiac; the first of which motions mathematicians call a direct revolution, the second volutation, or an oblique winding and wheeling in and out; and the third (I know not why) an inequality; although they see that she has no motion uniform, settled, and certain, in all her circuits and reversions. Wherefore it is not greatly to be admired, if through violence of her motion there sometime fell a lion from her into Peloponnesus, but it is rather to be wondered, that we do not daily see ten thousand falls of men and women and shocks of other animals tumbling down thence with their heels upwards on our heads; for it would be a mockery to dispute about their habitation there, if they can have there neither birth nor existence. For seeing the Egyptians and the Troglodytes, over whose heads the sun directly stands only one moment of one day in the solstice, and then presently retires, can hardly escape being burnt, by reason of the air’s excessive dryness; is it credible that those who are in the moon can bear every year twelve solstices, the sun being once a month just in their zenith, when the moon is full? As for winds, clouds, and showers, without which the plants can neither come up nor, when they are come up, be preserved, it cannot be so much as imagined there should be any, where the ambient air is so hot, dry, and subtile; since even here below, the tops of mountains never feel those hard and bitter winters, but the air, being there pure and clear, without any agitation, by reason of its lightness, avoids all that thickness and concretion which is amongst us; unless, by Jupiter, we will say that, as Minerva instilled nectar and ambrosia into the mouth of Achilles, when he received no other food, so the moon, which both is called and indeed is Minerva, nourishes men, producing for them and sending them every day ambrosia, with which, as old Pherecydes was wont to say, the Gods themselves are fed. For as touching that Indian root, which, as Megasthenes says, some people in those parts, who neither eat nor drink, but have pure mouths, burn and smoke, living on the smell of its perfume; whence should they have any of it there, the moon not being watered or refreshed with rain?
25. When Theon had spoken these things; You have very dexterously and gently, said I to him, by this facetiousness of yours smoothed as it were the brow, and taken off the chagrin and sourness of this discourse; which encourages and emboldens us to return an answer, since, however we may chance to fail, we expect not any severe or rigorous chastisement. For, to speak the truth, they who are extremely offended with these things and wholly discredit them, not being willing mildly to consider what probability and possibility there may be in them, are not much less in fault than those that are too excessively persuaded of them. First then, I say, it is not necessary that the moon must have been made in vain and to no end or purpose, if there are not men who dwell in it; for we see that this very earth here is not all cultivated or inhabited, but that only a small part of it, like so many promontories or demiislands arising out of the deep, engenders, brings forth, and breeds plants and animals; the rest being through excessive cold or heat wholly desert and barren, or (which is indeed the greatest share of it) covered and plunged under the vast ocean. But you, who are always so great a lover and admirer of Aristarchus, give no ear to Crates when he reads in Homer,
And yet those parts are far from having been made in vain. For the sea exhales and breathes out mild vapors; and the snow, leisurely melting from the cold and uninhabited regions, sends forth and spreads over all our countries those gentle breezes which qualify the scorching heat of summer; and in the midst, as Plato says, is placed the faithful guardian and operator of night and day. There is then nothing to hinder but that the moon may be without living creatures, and yet give reflections to the light that is diffused about her, and afford a receptacle to the rays of the stars, which have their confluence and temperature in her, for to digest the evaporation rising from the earth and moderate the over-violent and fiery heat of the sun. And attributing much to ancient fame, we will say that she is styled Diana, as being a virgin and fruitless, but otherwise greatly salutary, helpful, and profitable to the world. Moreover, of all that has been said, my friend Theon, there is nothing which shows it impossible for the moon to be inhabited. For her turning about, being gentle, mild, and calm, dulcifies and polishes the ambient air, and distributes it in so good order about her, that there is no occasion to fear the falling or slipping out of those who live in her. And as to the diversity and multiplicity of her motion, it proceeds not from any inequality, error, or uncertainty, but the astrologers show in this an admirable order and course, enclosing her within circles, which are turned by other circles; some supposing that she herself stirs not, others making her always move equally, smoothly, and with the same swiftness. For it is these ascensions of divers circles, with their turnings and habitudes, one towards another and with respect to us, which most exactly make those heights, depths, and depressions, that appear to us in her motion, and her digressions in latitude, all joined with the ordinary revolution she makes in longitude. As to the great heat and continual inflammation of the sun, you will cease to fear it, if first to the eleven estival conjunctions you oppose the full moons, and then to the excesses the continuity of change which permits them not to last long, reducing them to a proper and peculiar temperature, and taking from them both what is over much; for the middle, or what is between them, it is probable, has a season most like to the spring. And, moreover, the sun sends his beams to us through a gross and troubled air, and casts on us an heat fed by exhalation; whereas the air, being there subtile and transparent, dissipates and disperses his lustre, which has no nourishment nor body on which it may settle. Trees and fruits are here nourished by showers; but elsewhere, as in the higher countries with you about Thebes and Syene, the earth drinking in not aerial but earth-bred water, and being assisted with refreshing winds and dew, will not (such is the virtue and temperature of the soil) yield the first place for fertility to the best watered land in the world. And the same sorts of trees which in our country, having suffered a long and sharp winter, bring forth abundance of good fruit, are in Africa and with you in Egypt soon offended with cold and very fearful of the winter. And the provinces of Gedrosia and Troglodytis, which lie near the ocean sea, being by reason of drought barren and without any trees, there grow nevertheless in the adjacent sea trees of a wonderful height and bigness, and green even to the very bottom; some of which they call olivetrees, others laurels, and others the hair of Isis. And those plants which are named anacampserotes, being hanged up after they are plucked out of the ground, not only live, but — which is more — bud and put forth green leaves. Some seeds are sown in winter; and others in the heat of summer, like sesame and millet. And thyme or centaury, if it is sown in a rich and fat earth, and there well drenched and watered, degenerates from its natural quality and all its virtue, because it loves dryness and thrives in its own proper natural soil. Others cannot bear so much as the least dew, of which kind are the most part of the Arabian plants, and if they are but once wet, they wither, fade, and die. What wonder is it then, if there grow in the moon roots, seeds, and plants which have no need of rains or winter colds, and are appropriated to a dry and subtile air, such as is that of summer? And why may it not be probable that the moon sends forth warm winds, and that her shaking and agitation, as she moves, is accompanied by comfortable breezes, fine dews, and gentle moistures, which are everywhere dispersed to furnish nutriment for the verdant plants? — seeing she is not of her temperature ardent or parched with drought, but rather soft, moist, and engendering all humidity. For there come not from her to us any effects of dryness, but many of a feminine moisture and softness, such as are the growing of plants, the putrefaction of flesh, the changing and flatness of wines, the tenderness and rotting of wood, and the easy deliveries of child-bearing women. But because I am afraid of irritating again and provoking Pharnaces — who all this while speaks not a word — if I should allege the flowing and ebbing of the great ocean (as they themselves say), and the increasings of the friths and straits, which swell and rise by the moon augmenting the moisture; therefore I will rather turn myself to you, my friend Theon. For you, interpreting this verse of the poet Alcman,
tell us, that in this place he calls the air Jupiter, which, being moistened by the moon, is by Nature changed into dew. For she seems, my good friend, to be of a nature almost wholly contrary to the sun, not only in that she is wonted to moisten, dissolve, and soften what he thickens, dries, and hardens; but moreover, in that she allays and cools his heat, when it lights upon her and is mingled with her.
Those then who think the moon to be a fiery and burning body are in an error; and in like manner those who would have all such things to be necessary for the generation, life, food, and entertainment of the animals dwelling there as are requisite to those that are here below, consider not the vast diversity and inequality there is in Nature; in which there are found greater varieties and differences between animals and animals, than there are between animals and other subjects that are not animated. There are surely not in the world any men of such pure mouths that they feed only on smells. . . . But that power of Nature which Ammonius himself has shown us, and which Hesiod has obscurely signified in these words,
Nor how great virtue is in asphodels and mallows,*
Epimenides has made plain to us in effect, teaching us that Nature sustains a living creature with very little food, and that, provided it has but the quantity of an olive, it stands in need of no other nourishment. Now, if any, those surely who dwell within the moon should be active, light, and easy to be nourished with any thing whatsoever; since they affirm that the moon herself, as also the sun, which is a fiery animal, and manifoldly greater than the earth, is nourished and maintained by the moistures that come from the earth, as are also all the other stars, whose number is in a manner infinite; such light and slender animals do they assign to the upper region, and with so small necessaries do they think them contented and satisfied. But we neither see these things, nor consider that a quite different region, nature, and temperature is accommodated to those lunar men.
As therefore, if we were unable to come near and touch the sea, but could only see it at a distance, and had heard that its water is brackish, salt, and undrinkable, any one who should tell us that there are in its depths many and great animals of various forms and shapes, and that it is full of great and monstrous beasts who make the same use of the water as we do of the air, would be thought only to relate a parcel of strange and uncreditable stories, newly found out and invented for delight and amusement; in the same manner we seem to be affected and disposed towards the moon, not believing that there are any who inhabit it. And I am of opinion, that they themselves do much more wonder, when they behold the earth, — which is, as it were, the dregs and mud of the universe, appearing to them through moist and foggy clouds and mists, a little place, a low, abject, and immovable thing without any brightness or light whatever, — how this pitiful inconsiderable thing should be able to produce, nourish, and maintain animals that have motion, respiration, and heat. And if peradventure they had ever heard these verses of Homer,
they would certainly think them to have been written of this place where we live, and that here is hell and Tartarus, and that the earth which is equally distant from heaven and hell is only the moon.
26. I had not well ended my discourse, when Sylla interrupting me said: Forbear Lamprias, and put a stop to your discourse, lest running (as they say) the vessel of your story on ground, you confound and spoil all the play, which has at present another scene and disposition. I myself therefore shall be the actor, but shall, before I enter upon my part, make known to you the poet or author; beginning, if there is nothing to hinder, with that of Homer,
An isle Ogygia lies in Ocean’s arms,‡
distant about five days’ sail westward from Britain; and before it there are three others, of an equal distance from one another and also from that, bearing north-west, where the sun sets in summer. In one of these the barbarians feign that Saturn is detained prisoner by Jupiter, who, as his son, having the guard or keeping of those islands and the adjacent sea, named the Saturnian, has his seat a little below; and that the continent, by which the great sea is circularly environed, is distant from Ogygia about five thousand stadia, but from the others not so far, men using to row thither in galleys, the sea being there low and ebb, and difficult to be passed by great vessels because of the mud brought thither by a multitude of rivers, which, coming from the mainland, discharge themselves into it, and raise there great bars and shelves that choke up the river and render it hardly navigable; whence anciently there arose an opinion of its being frozen. Moreover, the coasts of this continent lying on the sea are inhabited by the Greeks about a bay not much smaller than the Maeotic, the mouth of which lies in a direct line over against that of the Caspian Sea. These name and esteem themselves the inhabitants of the firm land, calling all us others islanders, as dwelling in a land encompassed round about and washed by the sea. And they think that those who heretofore came thither with Hercules and were left there by him, mixing themselves with the people of Saturn, raised up again the Greek nation, which was well near extinguished, brought under and supplanted by the language, laws, and manners of the barbarians, and made it again flourish and recover its pristine vigor. And therefore in that place they give the first honor to Hercules, and the second to Saturn. Now when the star of Saturn, by us called Phaenon and by them Nycturus, comes to the sign of Taurus, as it does once in the time of thirty years, they, having been a long time preparing what is necessary for a solemn sacrifice and a long voyage or navigation, send forth those on whom the lots fall to row in that vast sea, and make their abode for a great while in foreign countries. These men then, being embarked and departed, meet with different adventures, some in one manner, others in another. Now such as have in safety passed the danger of the sea go first ashore in those opposite islands, which are inhabited by the Greeks, where they see that the sun is scarce hidden one full hour during the space of thirty days, and that this is their night, of which the darkness is but small, as having a twilight from the going down of the sun not unlike the dawning of the day; that having continued there ninety days, during which they are highly caressed and honored, as being reputed and termed holy men, they are afterwards conducted by the winds, and transported into the isle of Saturn, where there are no other inhabitants but themselves and such as have been sent thither before them. For though it is lawful for them, after they have served Saturn thirty years, to return home to their own countries and houses, yet most of them choose rather to remain quietly there; some, because they are already accustomed to the place; others, because without any labor and trouble they have abundance of all things, as well for the offering of sacrifices and holding festival solemnities, as to support the ordinary expenses of those who are perpetually conversant in the study of learning and philosophy. For they affirm the nature of the island and the mildness of the air which environs it to be admirable; and that there have been some persons who, intending to depart thence, have been hindered by the Divinity or Genius of the place showing himself to them, as to his familiar friends and acquaintance, not only in dreams and exterior signs, but also visibly appearing to them by the means of familiar spirits discoursing and conversing with them. For they say, that Saturn himself is personally there, lying asleep in the deep cave of an hollow rock, shining like fine gold, Jupiter having prepared sleep instead of fetters and shackles to keep him from stirring; but that there are on the top of this rock certain birds, which fly down and carry him ambrosia; that the whole island is filled with an admirable fragrancy and perfume, which is spread all over it, arising from this cave, as from an odoriferous fountain; that these Daemons serve and minister to Saturn, having been his courtiers and nearest attendants when he held the empire and exercised regal authority over men and Gods; and that having the science of divining future occurrences, they of themselves foretell many things; but the greatest and of the highest importance, when they return from assisting Saturn, and reveal his dreams; for whatever Jupiter premeditates, Saturn dreams; but his awakenings are Titanical passions or perturbations of the soul in him, which sleep altogether controls, in order that the royal and divine nature may be pure and incontaminate in itself.
This stranger then, having been brought thither, and there serving the God in repose and at his ease, attained to as great skill in astrology as it is possible for any one to do that has made the greatest progress in geometry; as for the rest of philosophy, having given himself to that which is called natural, he was seized with an extraordinary desire and longing to visit and see the great island; for so they call the continent inhabited by us. After therefore his thirty years were passed and his successors arrived, having taken leave of all his relations and friends, he put to sea, in other respects soberly and moderately equipped, but having good store of voyage-provision in vessels of gold. Now one day would not suffice to relate unto you in particular what adventures befell him, how many nations he visited, through how many countries he passed, how he searched into sacred writings, and was initiated in all holy confraternities and religious societies, as he himself recounted it to us, exactly particularizing every thing. But give ear, I pray you, to what concerns the present dispute. For he continued no small time at Carthage, a city not a little also esteemed by us, where he found certain sacred skins of parchment, which had been secretly conveyed thither when the old town was sacked, and had there long lain hidden under ground. Now he told me that, of all the Gods which appear to us in heaven, we ought chiefly to honor the Moon, and earnestly exhorted me to be diligent in venerating of her, as having the principal influence and dominion over our life.
27. At these things when I was amazed, and entreated him to declare and explain them a little more fully to me, he said: The Greeks, O Sylla, deliver many things concerning the Gods, but they are not always in the right. For first, when they tell us that there is a Ceres and a Proserpine, they say well; but not so well, when they put them both in one and the same place. For one, to wit Ceres, is on the earth, and the lady and mistress of all earthly things. The other, to wit Proserpine, is in the moon, and the mistress of all lunar things; and she is called both Cora and Persephone; Persephone, as being a bringer of light and brightness, and Cora, because the apple of the eye, in which the image of him who looks into it is represented, as the brightness of the sun appears in the moon, is by the Greeks called ϰόϱη. And as to what they say concerning the wandering about of Ceres and Proserpine, and their mutual seeking of one another, there is in it somewhat of truth, for they long after each other, being separated, and often embrace in shadow. And that Cora is sometimes in heaven and light, and sometimes in darkness and night, is not untrue; only there is some error in the computation of the time. For we see her not six whole months, but every sixth month, caught in the shadow by the earth, as by her mother; and this rarely happens within five months, because it is impossible she should forsake Pluto (Hades), being herself the bound or limit of Hades; which Homer also covertly but not unelegantly signified, when he said,
for he has there placed the end and boundary of the earth, where the shadow ceases and goes no farther. Now into that place no wicked or impure person can have access. But good folks, being after their decease carried thither, lead there indeed an easy and quiet, but yet not a blessed and divine life, till the second death.
28. But what is that, O Sylla? said I. Ask me not, he replied, for I am of myself going to declare it to you. The common opinion, which most persons hold, is that man is a compound subject, and this they have reason to believe. But they are mistaken in thinking him to be compounded of two parts only. For they imagine that the understanding is a part of the soul, but they err in this no less than those who make the soul to be a part of the body; for the understanding as far exceeds the soul, as the soul is better and diviner than the body. Now this composition of the soul with the understanding makes reason; and with the body, passion; of which the one is the beginning or principle of pleasure and pain, and the other of virtue and vice. Of those three parts conjoined and compacted together, the earth has given the body, the moon the soul, and the sun the understanding to the generation of man, . . . as therefore brightness to the moon. Now of the deaths we die, the one makes man two of three, and the other one of two. And the former indeed is in the region and jurisdiction of Ceres, whence the name given to her mysteries (τελεᾶν) resembles that given to death (τελευτᾶν). The Athenians also heretofore called the deceased sacred to Ceres. As for the other death, it is in the moon, or region of Proserpine. And as with the one the terrestrial, so with the other the celestial Mercury doth dwell. This suddenly and with force and violence plucks the soul from the body; but Proserpine mildly and in a long time disjoins the understanding from the soul. And for this reason is she called Μονογενής, that is, only begotten, or rather, begetting one alone; for the better part of man becomes alone when it is separated by her. Now both the one and the other happens thus according to Nature. It is ordained by Fate that every soul, whether with or without understanding, when gone out of the body, should wander for a time, though not all for the same, in the region lying between the earth and the moon. For those that have been unjust and dissolute suffer there the punishments due to their offences; but the good and virtuous are there detained till they are purified, and have by expiation purged out of them all the infections they might have contracted from the contagion of the body, as if from foul breath, living in the mildest part of the air, called the meadows of Pluto, where they must remain for a certain perfixed and appointed time. And then, as if they were returning from a wandering pilgrimage or long exile into their country, they have a taste of joy, such as they principally receive who are initiated in sacred mysteries, mixed with trouble, admiration, and each one’s proper and peculiar hope. For the moon drives and chases out many souls which already long after it. And some who are already come thither, and yet take pleasure in things below, are seen descending down as it were into an abyss. But those that are got on high, and are there securely seated, first go about as victors, crowned with garlands called the wings of constancy, because in their lives they restrained the unreasonable and passible part of their soul, rendering it subject and obedient to the curb of reason. Secondly, they are like to the rays of the sun in appearance, and like to fire in their soul, which is borne aloft by the clear air which is about the moon, — like fire here on the earth, — from which they gather strength and solidity, as iron and steel do by their being tempered and plunged in water. For that which was hitherto rare and loose is compacted and made firm, and becomes bright and transparent; so that it is nourished with the least exhalation in the world. And this is what Heraclitus meant, when he said that the souls in Pluto’s region have their smell exceeding quick.
29. Now they first see the moon’s greatness, beauty, and nature, which is not simple nor unmixed, but a composition as it were of earth and star. For as the earth mixed with wind and moisture becomes soft, and as the blood tempered with the flesh gives it sense; so they say that the moon, being mingled with an ethereal quintessence even to the very bottom, is animated, becomes fruitful, and generative, and is equally counterpoised with ponderosity and lightness. For even the world itself, being composed of some things naturally moving upwards and others by nature tending downwards, is exempt from all local motion or change of place. These things also Xenocrates seems by a certain divine reasoning to have understood, having taken his first light from Plato. For Plato it was who first affirmed that every star is compounded of fire and earth, by the means of certain intermediate natures given in proportion; forasmuch as nothing can be an object of human sense which has not in some proportion a mixture of earth and light. Now Xenocrates says that the stars and the sun are composed of fire and the first or primitive solid; the moon of the second solid and its own peculiar air; and the earth, of water, fire, and the third solid. For neither is the solid alone by itself, nor the rare alone by itself, capable or susceptible of a soul. And let thus much suffice for the substance of the moon.
Now as to her breadth and magnitude, it is not such as the geometricians deliver, but manifoldly greater. And she seldom measures the shadow of the earth by her greatness, not because she is small, but because she adds to her motion by heat, that she may quickly pass the shady place, carrying with her the souls of the blessed, which make haste and cry. For when they are in the shadow, they can no longer hear the harmony of the heavenly bodies. And withal, the souls of the damned are from below presented to them, lamenting and wailing through this shadow. Wherefore also in eclipses, many are wont to ring vessels of brass, and to make a noise and clattering to be heard by these souls. Moreover, that which is called the face of the moon affrights them when they draw near it, seeming to them a dreadful and terrible sight; whereas indeed it is not so. But as our earth has deep and great bays, one here running between Hercules’s pillars into the land to us, and others without, as the Caspian, and those about the Red Sea; so in the moon also there are hollows and great depths. Now of these, the greatest they call the gulf of Hecate, where the souls punish or are punished according to the evils they suffered or did whilst they were Daemons. The two others are long passages, through which the soul must go sometimes to that part of the moon which is towards heaven, and sometimes to that which is towards earth. Now that part of the moon which is towards heaven is called the Elysian fields; and that which is towards the earth, the fields of Proserpine that is opposite to the earth.
30. The Daemons do not always stay in the moon, but sometimes descend down here below, to have the care and superintendency of oracles. They are assistant also, and join in celebrating the sublimest ceremonies, having their eye upon misdeeds, which they punish, and preserving the good as well in perils of war as of the sea. And if in the performance of this charge they commit any fault, either through anger, envy, or any unjust grace or favor, they smart for it; for they are again thrust down to the earth, and tied to human bodies. Now those who were about Saturn said, that themselves were some of the better of these Daemons; as were formerly those that were heretofore in Crete called Dactyli Idaei, the Corybantes in Phrygia, and the Trophoniades in Lebadea, a city of Boeotia, and infinite others in several places of the habitable earth, whose names, temples, and honors continue to this day. But the powers of some fail, being by a most happy change translated to another place; which translations some obtain sooner, others later, when the understanding comes to be separated from the soul; which separation is made by the love and desire to enjoy the image of the sun, in which and by which shines that divine, desirable, and happy beauty, which every other nature differently longs after and seeks, one after one manner, another after another. For the moon herself continually turns, through the desire she has to be joined with him. But the nature of the soul remains in the moon, retaining only some prints and dreams of life. And of this I think it to have been well and truly said,
The soul, like to a dream, flies quick away;*
which it does not immediately, as soon as it is separated from the body, but afterwards, when it is alone and divided from the understanding. And of all that Homer ever writ, there is not any passage more divine than that in which, speaking of those who are departed this life, he says,
For every one of us is neither courage, nor fear, nor desire, — no more than flesh or humors, — but the part by which we think and understand. And the soul being moulded and formed by the understanding, and itself moulding and forming the body, by embracing it on every side, receives from it an impression and form; so that although it be separated both from the understanding and the body, it nevertheless so retains still its figure and semblance for a long time, that it may with good right be called its image.
And of these souls (as I have already said) the moon is the element, because souls resolve into her, as the bodies of the deceased do into earth. Those indeed who have been virtuous and honest, living a quiet and philosophical life without embroiling themselves in troublesome affairs, are quickly resolved; because being left by the understanding, and no longer using corporeal passions, they incontinently vanish away. But the souls of the ambitious and such as have been busied in negotiations, of the amorous and such as have been addicted to corporeal pleasures, as also of the angry and revengeful, calling to mind the things they did in their lives, as dreams in their sleep, walk wandering about here and there, like that of Endymion; because their inconstancy and their being over-subject to passions transports them, and draws them out of the moon to another generation, not letting them rest, but alluring them and calling them away. For there is nothing small, staid, constant, and accordant, after that being forsaken by the understanding, they come to be seized by corporeal passions. And of such souls, destitute of reason and suffering themselves to be carried away by the proud violence of passion, were bred the Tityi and Typhons; and particularly that Typhon who, having by force and violence seized the city of Delphi, overturned the sanctuary of the oracle there. Nevertheless, after a long tract of time the moon receives those souls and recomposes them; and the sun inspiring again and sowing understanding in them, the moon receives them by its vital power, and makes them new souls; and the earth in the third place gives them a body. For she gives nothing . . . after death of all that she takes to generation. And the sun takes nothing, but reassembles and receives again the understanding which he gave. But the moon gives and receives, joins and disjoins, unites and separates, according to divers faculties and powers; of which the one is named Ilithyia or Lucina (to wit, that which joins), and the other Artemis or Diana (to wit, that which separates and divides). And of the three fatal Goddesses or Parcae, she which is called Atropos is placed in the sun, and gives the principle of generation; and Clotho, being lodged in the moon, is she who joins, mingles, and unites; and the last, named Lachesis, is on the earth, where she adds her helping hand, and with her does Fortune very much participate. For that which is without a soul is weak in itself and liable to be affected by others. The understanding is sovereign over all the rest, and cannot be made to suffer by any. Now the soul is a certain middle thing mixed of them both; as the moon was by God made and created a composition and mixture of things high and low, having the same proportion to the sun as the earth has to her.
This (said Sylla) is what I understood from this guest of mine, who was a stranger and a traveller; and this he said he learned from the Daemons who served and ministered to Saturn. And you, O Lamprias, may take my relation in such part as you please.
[* ]See the account of various ancient doctrines of vision and the reflection of light in the treatise on the Opinions of Philosophers, Book IV. Chapters 13 and 14. The idea that vision was caused by something proceeding from the eye to the object is especially to be noticed. (G.)
[* ]The text in this passage is defective, and the sense chiefly conjectural. (G.)
[* ]Aesch. Prom. 349.
[* ]Here again the text is defective, and the sense conjectural. (G.)
[* ]Il. IX. 212.
[* ]Otus and Ephialtes.
[* ]See Il. XIV. 246. The second of these verses is not found in the present text of the Iliad, but was probably defended by Crates against Aristarchus. (G.)
[* ]Hesiod, Works and Days, 41.
[* ]Il. XX. 65.
[† ]Il. VIII. 16.
[‡ ]Odyss. VII. 244.
[* ]Odyss. IV. 563.
[* ]Odyss. XI. 221.
[† ]Odyss. XI. 601.