Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

Cuvier’s History of the Natural Sciences

 | 
Georges Cuvier

4. The Roman World / Le monde romain

12. The Roman Empire

Texte intégral

TIBER RIVER IN ROMA. “Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus” (detail). Oil on canvas of William Turner (1839).

1When Augustus became absolute master of the Roman Empire, that state was spread from the Atlas chain to the Danube, and from the strait of Cadiz to the Euphrates, thus entirely covering the Mediterranean basin.

  • 1 [Apollonius of Tyana (fl. first century A.D., Tyana, Cappadocia), a Neo-Pythagorean who became a m (...)

2But then the speed of its growth began to diminish. To the east, its expansion was completely stopped by the Parthian empire, which had become a rival of Roman power and thus had made difficult any communication by land with India. We know of scarcely anyone but Apollonius of Tyana1 who successfully undertook such a journey.

3To the south, the progress of the Romans was also arrested; they withdrew even from Nubia and no longer ventured farther than Syene.

4Although to the north they continued to expand, it was in spite of many obstacles, and these very conquests contributed later to hastening their downfall.

5The main centers of science and letters were, in Augustus’s time, Rome and Alexandria: the one, the capital of the empire, the seat of government; the other famous for its school and the splendid gifts of the Ptolemies. A few other cities, such as Athens and Pergamum, still had some institutions devoted to learning; but after the loss of their political importance, the taste for studies there underwent a noticeable change.

6The first emperors did not establish the conditions necessary for the prospering of science and letters. Augustus encouraged only a few men of letters, and under his reign the sciences experienced no growth.

7Tiberius, his successor, although possessing wit and knowledge, had a gloomy disposition, and was so jealous that those around him avoided calling attention to themselves, even in intellectual matters.

8Caligula was an atrocious madman.

9Claudius had some knowledge of the arts and sciences, but he was so weak in character and so timorous that nothing useful came of his good intentions.

  • 2 [Nero, in full Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also called (A.D. 50-54) Nero Claudius Ca (...)
  • 3 [Lucan, see Lesson 10, note 5.]
  • 4 [Gaius Petronius Arbiter, original name Titus Petronius Niger (died A.D. 66), reputed author of th (...)

10Nero,2 wishing to be the prime poet of his time, put to death those whom he judged to be his rivals; thus perished Lucan3 and Petronius.4

  • 5 [Galba, Latin in full Servius Galba Caesar Augustus, original name Servius Sulpicius Galba (born 2 (...)
  • 6 [Otho, in full Marcus Otho Caesar Augustus, original name Marcus Salvius Otho (born A.D. 32; died (...)
  • 7 [Aulus Vitellius (born A.D. 15; died 69, Rome), Roman emperor, the last of Nero’s three short-live (...)

11Galba,5 Otho,6 and Vitellius7 reigned only a short time.

  • 8 [Vespasian, Latin in full Caesar Vespasianus Augustus, original name Titus Flavius Vespasianus (bo (...)

12Vespasian8 was the first emperor actually to favor science and letters. When he ascended the throne, scientific foundations were so derelict, scholarship so neglected, that he had no means of reviving the latter except to endow chairs and remunerate professors, an expedient that had not been used before him. Peace reappeared under his rule; it was maintained under that of Titus, and it was during this calm that Pliny’s great compilation was published.

13But soon appeared Domitian and the world was once again plunged into bloody horrors.

14So, actually, the sciences did not come to life again until the second century A.D., at which time everything took a different direction.

  • 9 [Cuvier is referring here to a contemporary French socialist, Henri de Saint-Simon, in full Claude (...)

15In Italy under the tyrant-emperors, there was a lack of personal safety and a dread of informers that led to the hiding of one’s fortune and one’s attainments, and this especially impeded the study of natural history, which, on account of the equipment required, would draw much more attention to oneself than studying the merely speculative sciences. In Egypt the condition of studies was scarcely more satisfactory: in particular, competition had lost its ardor in the establishments created by the Lagids, since these princes were no longer stimulating it. Priests, formerly the depositaries and interpreters of scholarly knowledge, no longer evinced anything but the most shameful ignorance. They still practiced their cult, but they had lost their knowledge of its symbolic meaning: all metaphysics had disappeared from it. Comparing them to the bonzes of Japan would give some idea of the degradation to which they had fallen. Strabo reports that most of them had become quacks, and that one of these priests, the one who accompanied Strabo on his journeys, talked gibberish like a St.-Simonist9 when he was explaining the fundamental principles of the ancient Egyptian religion.

16The Jews who had been established at Alexandria by Alexander himself, and the ones whom the first Ptolemies brought there in great numbers, had introduced into this country, as we have said, mystical ideas about divinity and worship. Mixed with the mystical ideas of the Christians, who were soon numerous in Egypt, these new notions directed minds towards the study of metaphysics and natural theology; and when combined with the philosophy of Plato, they gave birth to Neoplatonism, which was more sublime, according to some, than the philosophy of the Golden Age of Greece, but certainly less favorable to the development of the sciences of observation.

  • 10 [Lucian, Greek Lucianos, Latin Lucianus, or Lucinus (born c. A.D. 120, Samosata, Commagene, Syria (...)

17Most of the Peripatetics, moreover, were themselves becoming devoted to speculative works, and any who had continued to cultivate the natural sciences became the object of ridicule. Lucian10 in his satirical dialogue entitled Auction of Philosophers makes fun of “these men who know everything, who can tell you the life expectancy of a fly, the length of a flea’s jump, and the nature of the soul of oysters.” One did not even stop at mockery: in the third century, Caracalla chased the Peripatetics out of Rome, under the pretext that Aristotle, the leader of their sect, had had a hand in the poisoning of Alexander.

18These various conditions just mentioned, and perhaps others that a distance of eighteen centuries does not permit us to descry, opposed the progress of the sciences in the Roman Empire during the first two-thirds of the century when Christianity appeared. This whole time offers us no naturalist as such. One only finds historians, geographers who are almost entirely compilers, poets, agriculturists, and physicians. We are going to look over the works of each of these authors in order to extract from them that which is relative to our subject.

  • 11 [Suetonius, in full Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (born c. A.D. 69, probably Rome; died after 122), (...)

19Under the reign of Augustus, this prince himself could be cited as being interested in the natural sciences; for it appears that he planned to form collections of natural history. Suetonius11 tells us that Augustus had started to collect the so-called bones of giants that had been discovered on the island of Capri, and which were probably the fossil remains of elephants, similar to those that are still found in abundance in several areas of Italy.

  • 12 [Antonius Musa, a botanist and physician to Augustus, who in the year 23 B.C., when Augustus was s (...)
  • 13 [The banana family of plants, Musaceae, order Zingiberales, consists of two genera, Musa and Enset (...)

20Musa, physician to Augustus,12 was a quite remarkable botanist, and the name Musa sapientum, given to the banana tree, was based upon his own.13

  • 14 [Euphorbus, brother of Musa (see note 12, above) and physician to king Juba II of Numidia (see Les (...)
  • 15 [Euphorbia, large and variable genus of shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants, in the spurge family (...)
  • 16 [Claude de Saumaise, Latin Claudius Salmasius (born 15 April 1588, Semur-en-Auxois, France; died 3 (...)
  • 17 [Meleager (fl. first century B.C.), Greek poet from Gadara in Syria, who compiled the first large (...)

21Euphorbus,14 his brother, is also believed to have given his name to a plant that we still designate by his name today.15 But it would seem that this opinion is not perfectly accurate; for Saumaise16 noted that Euphorbia was named in a work by the poet Meleager,17 who lived almost a century before Musa’s brother.

  • 18 [Virgil, in full Publius Vergilius Maro (born 15 October 70 B.C., at Andes, near Mantua, Italy; di (...)
  • 19 [The Georgics, composed between 37 and 30 B.C. (the final period of the civil wars), is a superb p (...)
  • 20 [Book of Judges, Chapter 14.]
  • 21 [see Paulet (Jean-Jacques), Flore et faune de Virgile; ou, Histoire naturelle des plantes et des a (...)

22The Homer of the Roman Empire, Virgil,18 its greatest poet, includes in his works some natural-history facts. One finds in the fourth book of the Georgics,19 in which he writes about bees, that he believes in the spontaneous generation of these animals. This was, as we have seen, a belief throughout antiquity; and the Book of Judges gives us another example where it records that Samson found bees in the mouth of the lion he had killed.20 From picturesque epithets that Virgil often uses for the different plants that he mentions, it is possible to recognize them; we have no doubt about the gladiolus, the delphinium, a kind of lily, where one reads even the name Ajax; but his works do not otherwise hold any interest for the natural sciences: he writes nothing that adds to what was already known. However, one may consult about the scientific side of this great poet the work by Monsieur Paulet entitled The Flora and Fauna of Virgil.21

  • 22 [Ovid, Latin in full Publius Ovidius Naso (born 20 March 43 B.C., Sulmo, Roman Empire, now Sulmona (...)

23Ovid,22 not well known as a naturalist, nonetheless deserves more of our attention than the author of the Georgics. He was 27 years younger than the latter; he was born in 43 B.C. He died in A.D. 17.

  • 23 [For Ovid’s Halieuticon or Halieutica, see the edition by Richmond J. A., London: University of Lo (...)
  • 24 [Channa, a reference to fishes of the hermaphroditic genus Serranus. Of the numerous hermaphroditi (...)
  • 25 [Phycis, a Mediterranean species of the genus Gobius (perhaps G. niger) described by Aristotle (Hi (...)

24In his poem entitled Halieuticon, he speaks of completely new and very interesting things.23 We have only 134 of the 550 lines that make up this poem; but this fragment alone contains the names of 53 fishes, almost all of them easy to recognize from the author’s descriptions. Ovid describes the various means used by these animals to escape pursuit by other fishes, or escape fishermen’s nets. He writes, for example, about the ink spread by the cuttlefish in order to hide from its enemies, and how the wrasses assist each other. We have noticed that among the fishes he names Channa, which fecundates itself,24 and phycis, which builds a nest, in imitation of the birds.25 Several passages in Pliny would have been inexplicable without the verses that we have from Ovid’s little poem.

25The historians and geographers of Augustus’s century who wrote about natural history were Diodorus Siculus and Strabo.

  • 26 [Diodorus Siculus (fl. first century B.C., Agyrium, Sicily), Greek historian, the author of a univ (...)
  • 27 [Taprobane, the ancient Greek name for Sri Lanka. Arabs referred to it as Serendib and later Europ (...)
  • 28 [Medusa, in zoology, one of two principal body types occurring in members of the invertebrate anim (...)

26Diodorus was born at Argyrium in Sicily, as his surname indicates. He traveled through many states in Europe and Asia, and he settled at Rome where he wrote a Bibliotheca historica, which is a sort of world history.26 This work, written in Greek and continued up to 60 B.C., was divided into 40 books, of which only 15 have survived. The order followed is approximately the same adopted today in writing about the various countries that an author visits. The first books of his Bibliotheca are about the Orient, and are virtually the only ones that report observations of natural history. We have noted, in the description of India, the elephants of that country, and the rice, which had not as yet been discussed by any author. In Arabia, Diodorus described palm-trees, balm, and myrrh; various animals, such as the lion, the giraffe, the panther, and the ostrich; and several minerals, such as pure gold, rock crystal, and some other precious stones. The description of the Taprobane peninsula,27 which comes after that of the productions of Arabia, gives rise to much doubt in the mind. His account of how this country had been discovered seems a bit fabulous, and he is entirely on mythological ground when he attributes to the Taprobane peninsula the producing of men whose limbs are flexible in all directions because their bones are cartilaginous. These men, according to Diodorus, have a mouth with two tongues and can express themselves in two dialects at once. This absurdity is probably the result of a misunderstanding: the author must have taken literally the metaphorical tale of some traveler. Another peculiar fact reported by Diodorus might have a reasonable explanation. He says that there exists in the same peninsula an animal made like a wheel, with four mouths, four feet, and a great number of arms. Perhaps he meant by this description the animal known as the medusa, which has somewhat the shape of a mushroom held up by long feet.28

27In his account of the productions of Ethiopia, the only new information Diodorus gives is about the topaz mines. The rest is taken entirely from Agatharchides.

  • 29 [Strabo (born 64/63 B.C., Amaseia, Pontus; died after A.D. 23?), Greek geographer and historian wh (...)
  • 30 [Gaius Cornelius Gallus (born c. 70 B.C., Forum Julii, Gaul; died 26 B.C., Egypt), Roman soldier a (...)
  • 31 [Lathyrus is Ptolemy IX Soter II, Macedonian king of Egypt (reigned 116-110, 109-107, and 88-81 B. (...)

28Strabo29 wrote his works at Rome but he belongs to Greek literature: he was born at Amasia in Cappadocia in 50 B.C. and lived until the first years of Tiberius’s rule, for he cites events in A.D. 17. Several of his masters subscribed to the Peripatetic philosophy, and it is no doubt to this circumstance in his youth that we may attribute the taste for practical things that we find in his works. After coming to Rome, he traveled in Asia, West Africa, and accompanied Cornelius Gallus30 to Egypt, whose intimate friend he was. His writings bear witness to the unfortunate condition of the ancient monuments of Egypt in his time: they were scarcely less dilapidated than they are today. This destruction began with the Persian conquests, as we have already noted, and continued during domestic wars, especially under the reign of Lathyrus.31 The temples had been almost completely knocked down, and any priests remaining had sunk to the lowest degree of degradation, surviving on superstitions.

  • 32 [The first two books of Strabo’s Geography (see note 29, above), in effect, provide a definition o (...)
  • 33 [Pomponius Mela, see note 42, below.]
  • 34 [Tacitus, in full Publius, or Gaius, Cornelius Tacitus (born c. A.D. 56; died c. 120), Roman orato (...)

29The work of Strabo, entitled Geography, comprising 17 books, is of interest to naturalists and singularly remarkable for the orderliness that presided over its composition.32 And yet he seems to have been neglected by all the Latin authors who came immediately after him. Neither Pliny nor Pomponius Mela33 nor even Tacitus34 ever mention him; which fact doubtless must be attributed to the absence of the printing press, without which the spread of knowledge takes place only with the greatest tardiness. This work of Strabo’s has come down to us in its entirety, for the small lacunae we note in it seem to be the author’s own doing.

  • 35 [Crau, a flat, boulder-strewn tract lying east of the Rhône’s main channel, stretching as far nort (...)

30He begins with an examination of the astronomical and geographical systems that had been proposed up to his time; and by this short analysis we come to know in some degree several ancient writings that have been lost. Then he commences to give individual descriptions, starting with Gibraltar and following the contours of the Mediterranean up to Libya (Barbary). Each of his descriptions contains details of political history and natural history. In speaking of Narbonnese Gaul (present-day Languedoc), he describes mullets buried in mud where they can live rather a long time, and for that reason are called fossils. He also writes about the plain near Arles that is covered with pebbles, and is today called the Crau.35 Aristotle had already mentioned it in his Meteorology, and still more anciently, the phenomenon had been accounted for by so-called facts borrowed from mythology. Aeschylus, for example, said that Jupiter had dropped upon this plain a rain of stones in order to help Hercules in his battle with the Ligurians. However, the quite definite knowledge the ancients had of the Crau, and of details of other countries distant from them, proves that they made voyages not mentioned in histories, which probably had commerce for their object.

31In the description of Provence, Strabo mentions the mistral, a cold wind still dreaded in that land.

32Reaching the Alps he describes several animals found there; among them one definitely recognizes the elk, which today no longer exists except in deepest Lithuania, the north of Russia, and Sweden.

  • 36 [Lipari Islands or Eolie Islands, also called Aeolian Islands, volcanic group in the Tyrrhenian Se (...)
  • 37 [Taygetus or Taiyetos Mountains, a mountain range in the southern Peloponnese, Greece. The Taenaru (...)

33He speaks next of the islands of Italy and describes the island of Lipari and its volcanoes.36 Writing about Greece, he gives several indications that could help in finding the quarries where the ancients extracted their marble. He tells us that some very famous quarries existed in the vicinity of the Taygetus Mountains and near the Taenarum promontory.37

  • 38 [Saiga (Saiga tatarica), medium-sized hoofed mammal, family Bovidae (order Artiodactyla), that liv (...)

34In the description of Scythia, which comes after Greece, Strabo speaks of a quadruped that he calls the colos, and which, according to him, uses its nostrils for a water reservoir. This animal is probably the saiga-antelope,38 which has singularly rounded nostrils.

35Turning back towards the Black Sea, Strabo visited Byzantium, and described the famous fisheries there, especially the tuna and mackerel fisheries. He also points out the route followed each year by the schools of fishes that contributed to the fisheries of Byzantium: leaving the Sea of Azov through the Cimmerian Bosporus, they would head towards Sinope and approach Chalcedon; then, encountering a great white rock where they would take fright, they would cross the strait and enter the port of Byzantium.

  • 39 [Aristobulus I, also called Judas Aristobulus (died 103 B.C.), Hasmonean (Maccabean) Hellenized ki (...)

36After this description, the author writes about countries in the East where he had traveled, such as Media and India, and since these countries are farther away from home than the ones he had already spoken of, he supposes that their productions are less familiar, or more curious, and so he goes more extensively into detail about them. He repeats everything important found in the works of Nearchus, Onesicritus, Megasthenes, and Aristobulus.39 He is the first of the ancients to give us a description of sugar-cane, a reed, he says, that gives honey. He writes about cotton and silk, and thinks that the latter substance is, like the former, produced by the tree from which it is collected. This error survived until the second century A.D., Pausanias being the first to inform us that silk is the product of a caterpillar.

  • 40 [Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (born 1772, at Étampes; died 1844, Paris), was employed at the Jar (...)
  • 41 [Egyptian Expedition: Napoleon’s (born 15 August 1769, at Ajaccio on the island of Corsica; died M (...)

37Strabo’s statements about Babylonia, the Red Sea, and the part of Africa located to the south of Egypt, are, like his descriptions of India, only excerpts from earlier authors; he borrows much from Diodorus of Sicily, among others, who himself had borrowed from Agatharchides. When he writes about Egypt, it is from personal observation. He reports nothing very remarkable about the giraffe, the hartebeest, the elephant, the monkeys, the ichneumon; but his details on birds, and especially on the fishes of the Nile, are new and very interesting. He described fifteen or so of the latter clearly enough for Monsieur Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire40 to identify similar ones for almost all of them in the Nile at the time of the Egyptian Expedition.41

  • 42 [Pomponius Mela (born Tingentera, Baetica, Roman Spain; fl. A.D. 43), author of the only ancient t (...)

38At about the same time as Strabo there was another geographer, Pomponius Mela,42 who wrote a short treatise in elegant style; but this work is so brief as to be of no help to naturalists.

  • 43 [Marcus Gavius Apicius, a famous gourmet of the ancient world and wealthy Roman merchant during th (...)
  • 44 [De obsoniis et condimentis et de arte coquinaria (Victuals and seasonings and the art of cookery) (...)

39A famous gastronome, Apicius,43 produced a book that is of much more value to natural history. It is a sort of Cuisinier Royal or Cuisinière Bourgeoise, entitled De obsoniis et condimentis et de arte coquinaria.44 There were three men at Rome by the name of Apicius, and all three were extraordinary gourmands. The first lived under Sulla’s rule, the second under Augustus and Tiberius, and the third under Trajan. The second was the most famous, the prince of gourmands, who held sway over gastronomy at Rome and who is named in the works of Pliny, Juvenal, and Seneca. The aforementioned work was composed by him and he probably spent his whole life in producing it as we know it. Mankind has no memory of a person more devoted to gastronomy than he. It is said that when he heard of prawns being found in Africa that were larger than the ones he was accustomed to eat at Rome, he hired a ship expressly for going there to try them. When he arrived on shore, a large number of fishermen came to offer him the famous prawns that he had come to taste; but finding them not so nice as those in Italy, he embarked again immediately and returned to Rome. After lavishing the equivalent of two and a half million francs on his table, he found he had only about a half million left; this decay of his finances would have obliged him to forfeit some of his gastronomic activities; he could not envisage with composure such a future; he killed himself before losing his supremacy.

40His work is divided into ten books; it includes many details on the mores and domestic customs of the Romans, and is of interest to naturalists because it contains the names of plants and animals then served up at meals. The description of the manner of preparing these substances is a great help in identifying them for us. Apicius’s work would be worthy of a commentary by a naturalist.

41The first book, on preserved foods, tells us that the Romans used a lot of honey. They also made frequent use of wine, vinegar, and strong seasonings such as cumin, coriander, and even absinthe. They also used pine nuts in many of their dishes, for example, in certain sausages; and today, in many parts of Italy, they are eaten in the same way.

42The second book is on sauces and fried foods. The famous lobster sauce of our time is described therein.

43The third book treats of vegetables and the cooking of them. In order to preserve their green color, a little saltpeter [potassium nitrate] was stirred into the water.

44The fourth book is devoted to minced meats, pork sausages, and certain other preparations composed of organ meats, in particular the popular garum [a fish sauce], made from fish intestines soaked in brine.

45The fifth book is about fruits and legumes that are only eaten cooked, for example, chestnuts, beans, peas, and lentils.

46The sixth book is about birds. It describes how to boil ostrich and prepare the phoenicopterids or flamingos, cranes, parrots, and finally duck with turnips.

  • 45 [Abattis is offal: waste or by-product, the viscera and trimmings of a butchered animal removed in (...)

47The seventh book teaches the preparation of dishes composed of animal organs and other parts, such as liver, kidneys, heart, feet, neck, commonly called abattis.45

48The eighth book is on the manner of preparing game – boar, deer, goat, moufflon, hare, dormice. It contains at least 17 recipes for preparing suckling pig.

49In the ninth book are described various sea foods – squid, spiny lobster, sea urchins, oysters, torpedo [electric ray], tuna, etc.

50The tenth and last book is devoted to other fishes served on Roman tables.

  • 46 [Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (born first century A.D., Gades, Spain), Roman soldier and farm (...)

51Columella,46 too, wrote a work that contained interesting details about ancient customs and home economics, but which is completely different from Apicius’s book. It is entitled De re rustica, like the works by Varro and Cato, and is principally about agriculture. Its author discusses domestic animals. At the end of the eighth volume, about artificial fishponds, are descriptions of the rare fishes raised in them that are more detailed than Varro’s descriptions. Gardens are the subject of the tenth volume.

52Columella, who was Spanish, came to Rome during the reign of Claudius. Travel to the different parts of the Roman empire was easy at that time; people in the provinces flocked to the capital, many transactions were carried out between province and capital, and enlightened men came to live at the center of the empire. Strabo had come from Cappadocia, Diodorus from Sicily, and Columella from Spain.

  • 47 [Lucius Annaeus Seneca, byname Seneca the Younger (born c. 4 B.C., Corduba, Spain; died A.D. 65, R (...)
  • 48 [Caligula, byname of Gaius Caesar, in full Gaius Caesar Germanicus (born 31 August A.D. 12, Antium (...)
  • 49 [Agrippina the Younger (born A.D. 15, died 59), mother of the Roman emperor Nero and a powerful in (...)

53The author we are going to discuss now is also from Spain. Seneca47 was born at Cordova around A.D. 13. He studied philosophy under various masters, and ended up joining the school of the Stoics. At the time of Caligula,48 he was exiled to Corsica, and was recalled from there by Agrippina,49 who entrusted him with the education of her son Nero. He took advantage of this favorable opportunity by accumulating enormous wealth. At the age of 52, he perished at the command of his famous pupil. He left many writings on philosophy, morals, literature, and some areas of natural science. Although he is a great writer, he is reproached, and with reason, for the misuse of his imagination in changing the Latin style. In his time he was considered an outstanding natural philosopher; but we are going to see that this opinion was without foundation. He usually gets lost in his absurd explanations, and often he escapes difficulties by a play upon words.

  • 50 [see Seneca (Lucius Annaeus), Quaestiones naturales [translation by Clarke John; with notes on the (...)

54His Enquiries into nature is the only work of his that is of interest to us; in it he writes about physical nature and objects of natural history.50

55The first book is about igneous meteors seen in the atmosphere, halos or iridescent crowns around stars, rainbows; and all these phenomena are badly explained.

56In the second book, he accepts Anaximander’s opinion about thunder; he thinks it is the result of clouds knocking together; from this contact, according to him, comes the illumination that dazzles us, the noise we hear, and, finally, the thunderbolt, if the collision is powerful enough. He concludes from this explanation that the thunderbolt should not be regarded as an omen. And that is the best part of his meteorology.

  • 51 [This goby found buried in the mud is probably the European mudminnow, Umbra krameri, an inhabitan (...)
  • 52 [Red mullet, or red surmullet (Mullus barbatus), of the Mediterranean, one of the best known of so (...)

57Waters, springs in general, intermittent springs, are the subject of the third book. Seneca thinks to have explained the latter phenomenon by comparing it to the intermittent fever that affects humans. Writing about the goby that is found buried in mud,51 he resolves the difficulty in an even more singular manner; he writes quite solemnly that since man goes underwater, fish may certainly go underground. Whilst on the subject of these fish, he writes about those that gastronomes in Rome bring right into their dining rooms, describing, with an air of self-conceit and a great deal of imagination, the wonderful variations in color that the red mullet undergoes in dying.52 To better enjoy such a spectacle, people would place the fish in a glass vessel. Seneca rebukes the Romans for this barbarous pleasure; but from the picture he has given us, it can be seen that he had enjoyed the spectacle himself more than once. In the same book, he continues to write about water, floods, and of a final deluge that will annihilate all life.

  • 53 [Geogony, that branch of geology which relates to the theory of the earth’s formation, and especia (...)

58In the fourth book, Seneca writes about the Nile, its periodic over-flowings, and identifies the cause. He repeats the idea that I acquainted you with at the beginning of this history, that Egypt is the product of the Nile’s alluvions, and on this occasion he reviews several ancient geogonies.53

59The sixth book is on the movements of the atmosphere, or the winds.

60And the last is about comets, and the author considers them to be planets whose course we do not know because their revolution is longer, an idea that the Chaldeans had before him.

  • 54 [Medea, in Greek mythology, an enchantress who helped Jason, leader of the Argonauts, to obtain th (...)
  • 55 [Known as “Columbus’s Senecan Prophecy,” perhaps no classical text was as inspirational to the nav (...)

61If Seneca the naturalist is also the author of the tragedies known under his name, he may be paid the honor of having predicted long in advance the discovery of America, for he said in the tragedy of Medea:54 “A time will come when Thule will no longer be the farthest of known lands and when the ocean will reveal to us a new world.”55

  • 56 [Aulus Cornelius Celsus (fl. first century A.D., Rome), one of the greatest Roman medical writers, (...)

62Certain physicians distinguished themselves at Rome in the study of the natural sciences during the first century A.D., and it is their writings that provide most of the documentation about these sciences. At that time in Rome there were more Greek physicians than Latin, and the former were more esteemed than the latter. The emperors almost always had Greek physicians. Thus, Celsus56 is the only Latin physician we can cite. His treatise De re medica, in which he described with great talent a large number of diseases and medical treatments known at the time, contains some notions of natural history.

63In the time of Cicero, there lived at Rome an Asclepiad who tried to introduce the philosophy of the Atomist school.

  • 57 [Themison of Laodicea (fl. first century B.C.), a pupil of Asclepiades of Bithynia, is perhaps not (...)

64Themison,57 his pupil, founded the school of Methodists in Rome, which aimed to explain by the laws of the physical world all the phenomena of life.

  • 58 [Andromachus, Nero’s physician, like several Greek physicians before him, attempted to concoct ant (...)
  • 59 [Theriac, an antidote to snake bites; also an antidote to poison compounded of many drugs and hone (...)

65Andromachus,58 Nero’s physician, wrote a poem on theriac.59

  • 60 [Aretaeus of Cappadocia (fl. second century A.D.), Greek physician from Cappadocia who practiced i (...)

66But the most important of the physicians at this time is Aretaeus of Cappadocia,60 who lived under Nero and must have been a contemporary of Pliny: he was the next great physician of antiquity after Hippocrates; he is even that great man’s equal when it comes to the description of diseases. It is amazing that Pliny –who came shortly after him, and who was, as we have said, his contemporary– never cites him. It is even more astonishing that Galen does not mention him. These strange omissions prove the scarcity of libraries in this era, and that many illustrious men must have remained for centuries deprived of the honor due them for their genius.

  • 61 [According to Aristotle (in Historia Animalium and De Patribus Animalium; see Aristotle, The Compl (...)

67Aretaeus belonged to the Pneumatic sect, which believed in the existence of an exhalation passing from the lungs into the heart and producing all the phenomena of life. He was a good anatomist and left us a fine description of the vena cava and the vena porta. However, he erred in some respects; for he has all the veins leaving the liver, an error all the more surprising since Aristotle knew these veins and wrote that they proceed from the heart.61

  • 62 [Pedanius Dioscorides (born c. A.D. 40, Anazarbus, Cilicia; died c. 90), Greek physician and pharm (...)
  • 63 [We have been unable to identify a 1495 edition of Dioscorides; perhaps Cuvier is referring to the (...)
  • 64 [see Dioscorides, De materia medica, Venezia: Aldus Manutius, 1499, [380] unnumbered p.]

68Among the physicians of that time, Dioscorides was undoubtedly the most renowned naturalist.62 He lived under the reign of Nero and was a physician in the Roman army. He is the most thorough botanist of antiquity; he describes about six hundred plants, but of this number there are only a hundred and fifty whose species can be recognized. He may be superior in knowledge to Theophrastus, but he is quite inferior in his descriptions, and we are obliged to renounce identifying more than half of the plants he mentions. Moreover, he attributes a multitude of exaggerated and often imaginary properties to these plants. Meanwhile, Pliny copied his work in many of his own passages, and Galen praises him most highly. Up until the Renaissance – that is, for about fifteen centuries – his work was a classic in the schools of medicine. It had the honor of being printed in 1495,63 and the Turks and Moors, who had translated it, still to this day have no other books on medicine. One can even truthfully say that this work is the most widespread in Western libraries. This astonishing success perhaps comes mostly from the beautiful wood engravings with which the Venice edition is embellished;64 for these engravings permit us to recognize a great number of plants without having to study botany systematically.

69In order to comment properly on the botanical works of Dioscorides, one would have to be transported to the very soil that nourishes the plants described by this author; also, peace would have to be restored in Greece. But the result of such effort would scarcely be more than an item of curiosity; for it is more than doubtful that the writings of Dioscorides could ever teach us anything about botany.

70In the next meeting we shall examine the works of Pliny.

Notes

1 [Apollonius of Tyana (fl. first century A.D., Tyana, Cappadocia), a Neo-Pythagorean who became a mythical hero during the time of the Roman Empire. Empress Julia Domna instructed the writer Philostratus the Athenian (second or third century A.D.) to write a biography of Apollonius, and it is speculated that her motive for doing so stemmed from her desire to counteract the influence of Christianity on Roman civilization (see Philostratus, The life of Apollonius of Tyana, by Philostratus [ed. and transl. by Jones Christopher P.], Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 2005, 3 vols). The biography portrays a figure much like Christ in temperament and power and claims that Apollonius performed certain miracles. It is believed that most of the biography is based more on fiction than fact. Many of the pagans in the Roman Empire believed what was said in this work, and it kindled religious feeling in many of them. To honor and worship Apollonius, they erected shrines and other memorials.]

2 [Nero, in full Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also called (A.D. 50-54) Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus, original name Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus (born 15 December A.D. 37, at Antium, Latium; died 9 June 68, Rome), the fifth Roman emperor (A.D. 54-68), stepson and heir of the emperor Claudius. He became infamous for his personal debaucheries and extravagances and, on doubtful evidence, for his burning of Rome and persecutions of Christians.]

3 [Lucan, see Lesson 10, note 5.]

4 [Gaius Petronius Arbiter, original name Titus Petronius Niger (died A.D. 66), reputed author of the Satyricon, a literary portrait of Roman society of the first century A.D. (see Petronius Arbiter, The Satyricon [translated, with an introduction by Arrowsmith William], Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1959, xxiii + 218 p.)]

5 [Galba, Latin in full Servius Galba Caesar Augustus, original name Servius Sulpicius Galba (born 24 December 3 B.C.; died 15 January A.D. 69, Rome), Roman emperor for seven months (A.D. 68-69). His administration was priggishly upright, though his advisers were allegedly corrupt.]

6 [Otho, in full Marcus Otho Caesar Augustus, original name Marcus Salvius Otho (born A.D. 32; died 16 April 69, near Cremona, Venetia, Italy), Roman emperor from January to April 69.]

7 [Aulus Vitellius (born A.D. 15; died 69, Rome), Roman emperor, the last of Nero’s three short-lived successors. Aulus was the son of the emperor Claudius’ colleague as censor, Lucius Vitellius, who was also consul three times. Aulus himself became consul in A.D. 48 and proconsul in Africa (c. 61). He was appointed commander of the Lower German army in 68. In the midst of the disturbances following Nero’s death, he was proclaimed emperor by his troops (2 January 69). He marched on Italy, and on April 16 the rival emperor Otho committed suicide. Vitellius entered Rome in July, but on 1 July a commander of the eastern legions, Vespasian, had also been proclaimed emperor. After Vespasian’s troops defeated Vitellius’s forces, Vitellius considered abdication; but his Praetorian Guard forbade such a move, and, when troops loyal to Vespasian entered Rome on 20 December, Vitellius was murdered with great barbarity by his own soldiers.]

8 [Vespasian, Latin in full Caesar Vespasianus Augustus, original name Titus Flavius Vespasianus (born 17? November A.D. 9, Reate [Rieti], Latium; died 24 June 79), Roman emperor (A.D. 69-79) who, though of humble birth, became the founder of the Flavian dynasty after the civil wars that followed Nero’s death in 68. His fiscal reforms and consolidation of the empire generated political stability and a vast Roman building program.]

9 [Cuvier is referring here to a contemporary French socialist, Henri de Saint-Simon, in full Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon (born 17 October 1760, Paris; died 19 May 1825, Paris), French social theorist and one of the chief founders of Christian socialism. In his major work, Nouveau Christianisme: dialogues entre un conservateur et un novateur (first published in 1825, Paris: Bossange, VIII + 91 p.), which he left unfinished, he proclaimed a brotherhood of man that must accompany the scientific organization of industry and society (see Œuvres de Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon, Paris: Éditions Anthropos, 1966, 6 vols).]

10 [Lucian, Greek Lucianos, Latin Lucianus, or Lucinus (born c. A.D. 120, Samosata, Commagene, Syria [now Samsat, Turkey]; died after 180, Athens), ancient Greek rhetorician, pamphleteer, and satirist, probably best known for his Dialogues of the Gods and Dialogues of the Dead (see The works of Lucian of Samosata, complete with exceptions specified in the preface [tr. by Fowler Henry Watson & Fowler Francis George,] Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905, 4 vols).]

11 [Suetonius, in full Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (born c. A.D. 69, probably Rome; died after 122), Roman biographer and antiquarian whose writings include De viris illustribus (“Concerning Illustrious Men”; see Suetonius, Deeds of famous men [a bilingual edition, translated and edited by Sherwin Jr Walter K.], Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972, xvi + 206 p.), a collection of short biographies of celebrated Roman literary figures, and De vita Caesarum (Lives of the Caesars [translated with an introduction and notes by Edwards Catharine], Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, xxxvii + 392 p.) The latter book, seasoned with bits of gossip and scandal relating to the lives of the first 11 emperors, secured him lasting fame.]

12 [Antonius Musa, a botanist and physician to Augustus, who in the year 23 B.C., when Augustus was seriously ill, cured the illness with cold compresses and became immediately famous. Musa, the plant genus that includes the banana, the plantain, and numerous other species, was apparently named after him (see note 13, below).]

13 [The banana family of plants, Musaceae, order Zingiberales, consists of two genera, Musa and Ensete, with about 50 species native to Africa, Asia, and Australia. The common banana (Musa sapientum) is a subspecies of the plantain (Musa paradisiaca). Both are important food plants.]

14 [Euphorbus, brother of Musa (see note 12, above) and physician to king Juba II of Numidia (see Lesson 8, note 23), after whom the plant Euphorbia was originally named (see note 15, below).]

15 [Euphorbia, large and variable genus of shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants, in the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae), characterized by a milky sap. The genus, which contains some 1,500-1,600 species, is also commonly called spurge.]

16 [Claude de Saumaise, Latin Claudius Salmasius (born 15 April 1588, Semur-en-Auxois, France; died 3 September 1653, Spa, now in Belgium), French classical scholar who, by his scholarship and judgment, acquired great contemporary influence.]

17 [Meleager (fl. first century B.C.), Greek poet from Gadara in Syria, who compiled the first large anthology of epigrams. This was the first of the collections that made up what is known as the Greek Anthology. Meleager’s collection contained poems by 50 writers and many by himself; an introductory poem compared each writer to a flower, and the whole was entitled Stephanos (“Garland”; see Meleager, The poems of Meleager [verse translations by Whigham Peter; introduction and literal translations by Jay Peter], Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975, 126 p.) He lived in Tyre and, in old age, on the Aegean island of Cos.]

18 [Virgil, in full Publius Vergilius Maro (born 15 October 70 B.C., at Andes, near Mantua, Italy; died 19 B.C., Brundisium, Italy) was regarded by the Romans as their greatest poet, an estimation that subsequent generations have upheld; his fame rests chiefly upon his national epic poem, the Aeneid, which tells the story of Rome’s legendary founder and proclaims the Roman mission to civilize the world under divine guidance (Virgil, The Aeneid [translated into prose, with an introduction by Knight W. F. Jackson], Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1968, 366 p.) His reputation as a poet endures not only for the music and diction of his verse and for his skill in constructing an intricate work on the grand scale but because he embodied in his poetry aspects of experience and behavior of permanent significance.]

19 [The Georgics, composed between 37 and 30 B.C. (the final period of the civil wars), is a superb plea for the restoration of the traditional agricultural life of Italy (Virgil, Virgil’s Georgics [a modern English verse translation by Bovie Smith Palmer], Chicago: University of Chicago Press; London: Cambridge University Press, 1956, xxx + 112 p.) In form it is didactic, but, as Seneca later said, it was written “not to instruct farmers but to delight readers.” The practical instruction (about plowing, growing trees, tending cattle, and keeping bees) is presented with vivid insight into nature, and it is interspersed with highly wrought poetical digressions on such topics as the beauty of the Italian countryside and the joy of the farmer when all is gathered in.]

20 [Book of Judges, Chapter 14.]

21 [see Paulet (Jean-Jacques), Flore et faune de Virgile; ou, Histoire naturelle des plantes et des animaux (reptiles, insectes) les plus intéressans à connaître, et dont ce poeÌte a fait mention, Paris: Chez Madame Huzard, 1824, xxiv + 159 p.]

22 [Ovid, Latin in full Publius Ovidius Naso (born 20 March 43 B.C., Sulmo, Roman Empire, now Sulmona, Italy; died A.D. 17, Tomis, Moesia, now Constanta, Romania), Roman poet noted especially for his Ars amatoria and Metamorphoses (Ovid, The Metamorphoses [a complete new version by Gregory Horace, with decorations by Gay Zhenya], New York: Viking Press, 1958, 461 p.; Ars Amatoria Book 3 [edited with introduction and commentary by Gibson Roy K.], Cambridge (UK); New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, x + 446 p.) His verse had immense influence both by its imaginative interpretations of classical myth and as an example of supreme technical accomplishment.]

23 [For Ovid’s Halieuticon or Halieutica, see the edition by Richmond J. A., London: University of London; Athlone Press, 1962, xii + 120 p.]

24 [Channa, a reference to fishes of the hermaphroditic genus Serranus. Of the numerous hermaphroditic fishes in the Mediterranean (most of which belong to the families Serranidae, Sparidae, and Centracanthidae), the most likely one referred to by Ovid is Serranus cabrilla (which still bears the vernacular name channos; see Lejeune (P. J.), Boveroux (M.) & Voss (J.),“Observation du comportement reproducteur de Serranus scriba Linné (Pisces, Serranidae), poisson hermaphrodite synchrone”, Cybium, 1980, serie 3, vol. 10, pp. 73-80).]

25 [Phycis, a Mediterranean species of the genus Gobius (perhaps G. niger) described by Aristotle (Historia animalium, bk 8, chap. 30) as the only marine fish that constructs a nest and deposits its spawn therein. Long considered a fable, the behavior was confirmed by the Venetian naturalist Giuseppe Olivi (1792) who added that the male digs a hole in the mud, lines it with various seaweeds, and guards the female during the act of oviposition, continuing to protect the fry well after the eggs hatch (see Magnhagen (Carin), “Conflicting demands in gobies: When to eat, reproduce, and avoid predators”, in Huntingford (Felicity A.) & Torricelli (Patrizia) (editors), Behavioural Ecology of Fishes, vol. 11, Philadelphia: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1993, pp. 79-104).]

26 [Diodorus Siculus (fl. first century B.C., Agyrium, Sicily), Greek historian, the author of a universal history called Bibliotheca historica, who lived in the time of Julius Caesar and Augustus (Sacks (Kenneth S.), Diodorus Siculus and the First Century, Princeton (New Jersey): Princeton University Press, 1990, xi + 242 p.) His own statements make it clear that he traveled in Egypt during 60-57 B.C. and spent several years in Rome. The latest event mentioned by him belongs to the year 21 B.C. His history consisted of 40 books and was divided into three parts (see Diodorus Siculus, Diodorus “On Egypt”: Bibliotheca historica, Book I [translated from the ancient Greek by Murphy Edwin], London; Jefferson (North Carolina): McFarland, 1985, xiv + 178 p.; “The antiquities of Asia”: Bibliotheca historica, Book II [translated by Murphy Edwin], New Brunswick: New Transaction Publishers, 1989, xvii + 130 p.) The first treats of the mythic history of the non-Hellenic and Hellenic tribes to the destruction of Troy; the second ends with Alexander’s death; and the third continues the history as far as the beginning of Caesar’s Gallic War. The Bibliotheca, invaluable where no other continuous historical source has survived, supplies to some extent the loss of the works of earlier authors, from which it was compiled. Diodorus does not always quote his authorities, but in the books that have survived his most important sources for Greek history were certainly Ephorus (for 480-340 B.C.) and Hieronymus of Cardia (for 323-302).]

27 [Taprobane, the ancient Greek name for Sri Lanka. Arabs referred to it as Serendib and later European mapmakers called it Ceylon, a name still used occasionally for trade purposes. It officially became Sri Lanka in 1972.]

28 [Medusa, in zoology, one of two principal body types occurring in members of the invertebrate animal phylum Cnidaria. It is the typical form of the jellyfish. The medusoid body is bell –or umbrella-shaped. Hanging downward from the center is a stalk-like structure, the manubrium, bearing the mouth at its tip. The mouth opens into the main body cavity, or enteron, which connects with radial canals extending to the outer rim of the bell. The medusa is a free-swimming form; it moves by rhythmic muscular contractions of the bell, providing a slow propulsive action against the water. The other principal body type of the adult cnidarian is the polyp, a stalked, sessile (attached) form.]

29 [Strabo (born 64/63 B.C., Amaseia, Pontus; died after A.D. 23?), Greek geographer and historian whose Geography is the only extant work covering the whole range of peoples and countries known to both Greeks and Romans during the reign of Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14). Its numerous quotations from technical literature, moreover, provide a remarkable account of the state of Greek geographical science, as well as of the history of the countries it surveys (see note 32, below; Strabo, The geography of Strabo [with an English translation by Jones Horace Leonard. Based in part upon the unfinished version of Sterrett John Robert Sitlington], New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1917, 8 vols).]

30 [Gaius Cornelius Gallus (born c. 70 B.C., Forum Julii, Gaul; died 26 B.C., Egypt), Roman soldier and poet, famous for four books of poems to his mistress “Lycoris” (the actress Volumnia, stage name Cytheris), which, in ancient opinion, made him the first of the four greatest Roman elegiac poets (see Becker (Wilhelm Adolf), Gallus; or, Roman scenes of the time of Augustus [with notes and excursuses illustrative of the manners and customs of the Romans, by Professor Becker Wilhelm Adolf, translated by the Rev. Metcalfe Frederick], 3rd ed., New York: D. Appleton, 1866, xxi + 535 p.)]

31 [Lathyrus is Ptolemy IX Soter II, Macedonian king of Egypt (reigned 116-110, 109-107, and 88-81 B.C.); see Lesson 9, note 59, above.]

32 [The first two books of Strabo’s Geography (see note 29, above), in effect, provide a definition of the aims and methods of geography by criticizing earlier works and authors (Strabo, The geography of Strabo [with an English translation by Jones Horace Leonard. Based in part upon the unfinished version of Sterrett John Robert Sitlington], New York: Putnam’s Sons, 1917, 8 vols). In books III to VI, Strabo described successively Iberia, Gaul, and Italy, for which his main sources were Polybius and Posidonius, both of whom had visited these countries; in addition, Artemidorus, a Greek geographer born around 140 B.C. and author of a book describing a voyage around the inhabited Earth, provided him with a description of the coasts and thus of the shape and size of countries. Book VII was based on the same authorities and described the Danube Basin and the European coasts of the Black Sea. Writing about Greece, in books VIII to X, he still relied upon Artemidorus, but the bulk of his information was taken from two commentators of Homer –Apollodorus of Athens (second century B.C.) and Demetrius of Scepsis (born around 205 B.C.)– for Strabo placed great emphasis on identifying the cities named in the Greek epic the Iliad. Books XI to XIV describe the Asian shores of the Black Sea, the Caucasus, northern Iran, and Asia Minor. Here Strabo made the greatest use of his own observations. India and Persia (Book XV) were described according to information given by the historians of the campaigns of Alexander the Great (356 to 323 B.C.), whereas his descriptions of Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine, and the Red Sea (Book XVI) were based on the accounts of the expeditions sent out by Mark Antony (about 83 to 30 B.C.) and by the emperor Augustus, as well as on chapters on ethnography in Posidonius and on the book of a Red Sea voyage taken by the Greek historian and geographer Agatharchides (second century B.C.). Strabo’s own memories of Egypt, supplemented by the writings of Posidonius and Artemidorus, provided material for the substance of Book XVII, which dealt with the African shores of the Mediterranean Sea and with Mauretania.]

33 [Pomponius Mela, see note 42, below.]

34 [Tacitus, in full Publius, or Gaius, Cornelius Tacitus (born c. A.D. 56; died c. 120), Roman orator and public official, probably the greatest historian and one of the greatest prose stylists who wrote in the Latin language. Among his works are the Germania, describing the Germanic tribes, the Historiae (Histories), concerning the Roman Empire from A.D. 69 to 96, and the later Annals, dealing with the empire in the period from A.D. 14 to 68 (see Tacitus (Cornelius), The complete works of Tacitus: The annals. The history. The life of Cnaeus Julius Agricola. Germany and its tribes. A dialogue on oratory [transl. from the Latin by Church Alfred John and Brodribb William Jackson; ed. and intro by Hadas Moses], New York: The Modern library, 1942, xxv + 773 p.)]

35 [Crau, a flat, boulder-strewn tract lying east of the Rhône’s main channel, stretching as far north as the Alpilles, a westward prong of the Alps.]

36 [Lipari Islands or Eolie Islands, also called Aeolian Islands, volcanic group in the Tyrrhenian Sea (of the Mediterranean) offthe north coast of Sicily, Italy. The group, administered as part of Messina province, consists of seven major islands and several islets, with a total land area of 34 square miles (88 sq km), lying in a general “Y” shape, the base of the “Y” being the westernmost island, Alicudi, the northern tip Stromboli, and the southern tip Vulcano. The other major islands are Lipari, Salina, Filicudi, and Panarea.]

37 [Taygetus or Taiyetos Mountains, a mountain range in the southern Peloponnese, Greece. The Taenarum (or Tainaron) promontory is Cape Matapan, the southern tip of the Peloponnese between the gulfs of Laconia and Messenia.]

38 [Saiga (Saiga tatarica), medium-sized hoofed mammal, family Bovidae (order Artiodactyla), that lives in herds in treeless steppe country. Once common from Poland to western Mongolia, it was greatly reduced by hunting and no longer exists in Eastern Europe. It was given complete protection by the Russian government in 1919 and since then has increased in numbers in Siberia. The most outstanding feature of the saiga is its swollen snout with downward-directed nostrils. The snout may serve to warm and moisten inhaled air, or it may be related to the animal’s keen sense of smell.]

39 [Aristobulus I, also called Judas Aristobulus (died 103 B.C.), Hasmonean (Maccabean) Hellenized king of Judaea (104-103 B.C.). The son of Hyrcanus I, he broke his late father’s will and seized the throne from his mother and jailed or killed his brothers. According to the historian Flavius Josephus, Aristobulus conquered the Ituraeans of Lebanon and forcibly converted them to Judaism. He was the first of his house to adopt the title of king (basileus).]

40 [Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (born 1772, at Étampes; died 1844, Paris), was employed at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris as assistant attendant and demonstrator. In 1793, he was appointed professor of zoology at the Muséum and after the nomination of Lacepède to the chair of reptiles and fishes, he was made attendant of mammals and birds. From 1798-1799, he took part in the scientific expedition to Egypt with Napoleon Bonaparte’s army (see note 41, below), bringing large collections back to France, including fishes from the Red Sea and the Nile, and in particular the bichir (polypteÌre), the discovery of which alone would have justified the expedition (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (Étienne), “Histoire naturelle et description anatomique d’un nouveau genre de poisson du Nil, nommé polyptère”, Annales du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, vol. 1, 1802, pp. 57-68). In 1808, he was put in charge of a mission to Portugal, again bringing collections back to France, mostly from the Museum of Ajuda in Lisbon (Bauchot (Marie-Louise), Daget (Jacques) & Bauchot (Roland), “Ichthyology in France in the beginning of the 19th century: the Histoire Naturelle des Poissons of Cuvier (1769-1832) and Valenciennes (1794-1865)”, in Pietsch (Theodore W.) & Anderson Jr (William D.) (eds), “Collection Building in Ichthyology and Herpetology”, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Special Publication, n ° 3, 1997, pp. 27-80).]

41 [Egyptian Expedition: Napoleon’s (born 15 August 1769, at Ajaccio on the island of Corsica; died May 1821 on the island of St. Helena) expedition to and short-lived conquest of Egypt in 1798 was the culmination of eighteenth-century interest in the East. The expedition was accompanied by a team of scholars who recorded the ancient and contemporary country, issuing in 1809-1828 the Description de l’Égypte, the most comprehensive study to be made before the decipherment of the hieroglyphic script. The Rosetta Stone, which bears a decree of Ptolemy V Epiphanes (see Lesson 9, note 47) in hieroglyphs, demotic, and Greek, was discovered during the expedition and was ceded to the British after the French capitulation; it became the property of the British Museum in London. This document greatly assisted the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics, accomplished by Jean-François Champollion (born 23 December 1790, Figeac, France; died 4 March 1832, Paris; French historian and linguist who founded scientific Egyptology; see Lesson 2, note 27) in 1822.]

42 [Pomponius Mela (born Tingentera, Baetica, Roman Spain; fl. A.D. 43), author of the only ancient treatise on geography in classical Latin, De situ orbis (“A Description of the World”), also known as De chorographia (“Concerning Chorography”; see Mela (Pomponius), Pomponius Mela’s description of the world [translated with an introduction by Romer Frank E.], Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998, ix + 165 p.) Written about A.D. 43 or 44, it remained influential until the beginning of the age of exploration, 13 centuries later. Though probably intended for the general reader, Mela’s geography was cited by Pliny the Elder in his encyclopedia of natural science as an important authority (Pliny (the elder), Natural History [ed. by Rackman H. with an English translation], Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press; London: W. Heinemann, 1940, 10 vols).]

43 [Marcus Gavius Apicius, a famous gourmet of the ancient world and wealthy Roman merchant during the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14-37). His colossal banquets eventually drove him to bankruptcy and suicide, but he is thought by some to have left behind a cookbook so prized that it has been preserved, in numerous editions, down to the twentieth century (but see note 44, below; Apicius, Cookery and dining in imperial Rome [a bibliography, critical review, and translation of the ancient book known as Apicius de re coquinaria, now for the first time rendered into English by Vehling Joseph Dommers, with a dictionary of technical terms, many notes, facsimiles of originals, and views and sketches of ancient culinary objects made by the author; with an introduction by Starr Frederick], New York: Dover Publications, 1977, xv + 301 p.)]

44 [De obsoniis et condimentis et de arte coquinaria (Victuals and seasonings and the art of cookery): a collection of Roman cookery recipes, usually thought to have been compiled in the late fourth or early fifth century A.D. and written in a language that is in many ways closer to Vulgar than to Classical Latin. In the earliest printed editions it was given the overall title De re coquinaria (“On the Subject of Cooking”), and was attributed to an otherwise unknown “Caelius Apicius,” an invention based on the fact that one of the two manuscripts is headed with the words “API CAE.” The name Apicius had long been associated with excessive love of food, apparently from the habits of an early bearer of the name. The most famous individual given this name because of his reputation as a gourmet was Marcus Gavius Apicius, who is sometimes mistakenly asserted to be the author of the book (see Apicius, Cookery and dining in imperial Rome, op. cit.)]

45 [Abattis is offal: waste or by-product, the viscera and trimmings of a butchered animal removed in dressing.]

46 [Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (born first century A.D., Gades, Spain), Roman soldier and farmer who wrote extensively on agriculture and kindred subjects in the hope of arousing a love for farming and a simple life. He became in early life a tribune of the legion stationed in Syria, but neither an army career nor the law attracted him, and he took up farming in Italy. The De re rustica, in 12 books, his second and fuller treatment of farming and country life, has survived, as has De arboribus (“On Trees”), which was part of an earlier work (see Columella (Lucius Junius Moderatus), On agriculture [“De re rustica” with a recension of the text and an English translation by Ash Harrison Boyd, Forster E. S. & Heffner Edward H.], Cambridge (Mass.), Harvard University Press, 1941-1955, 3 vols). Both are written in a lucid, nontechnical style (see also Columella (Lucius Junius Moderatus), Of husbandry [in twelve books, with his book concerning trees; translated into English, with several illustrations from Pliny, Cato, Varro, Palladius, and other ancient and modern authors], London: printed for A. Millar, 1745, xiv + [14] + 600 + [8] p.) which is an English translation of De re rustica and De arboribus.]

47 [Lucius Annaeus Seneca, byname Seneca the Younger (born c. 4 B.C., Corduba, Spain; died A.D. 65, Rome), Roman philosopher, statesman, orator, and tragedian. He was Rome’s leading intellectual figure in the mid-first century A.D. and was virtual ruler with his friends of the Roman world between 54 and 62 during the first phase of the emperor Nero’s reign.]

48 [Caligula, byname of Gaius Caesar, in full Gaius Caesar Germanicus (born 31 August A.D. 12, Antium, Latium; died 24 January 41, Rome), Roman emperor from 37 to 41, in succession to Tiberius, who effected the transfer of the last legion that had been under a senatorial proconsul (in Africa) to an imperial legate, thus completing the emperor’s monopoly of army command. Accounts of his reign by ancient historians are so biased against him that the truth is almost impossible to disentangle.]

49 [Agrippina the Younger (born A.D. 15, died 59), mother of the Roman emperor Nero and a powerful influence on him during the early years of his reign (54-68).]

50 [see Seneca (Lucius Annaeus), Quaestiones naturales [translation by Clarke John; with notes on the treatise by Sir Geikie Archibald], London: Macmillan, 1910, liv + 368 p. and Motto (Anna Lydia), Guide to the thought of Lucius Annaeus Seneca, in the extant prose works: Epistulae morales, the Dialogi, De Beneficiis, De Clementia, and Quaestiones naturales, Amsterdam: A. M. Hakkert, 1970, xxiv + 237 p.]

51 [This goby found buried in the mud is probably the European mudminnow, Umbra krameri, an inhabitant of swamps and overgrown ponds and streams of eastern Europe, where in deoxygenated waters it will often thrive when all other fishes would have died (see Valenciennes (Achille), “Du genre Ombre (Umbra)”, in Cuvier (Georges) & Valenciennes (Achille), Histoire Naturelle des Poissons, Paris; Strasbourg: F. G. Levrault, vol. 19, 1847, pp. 538-544, pl. 590; Wheeler (Alwyne C.), Key to the Fishes of Northern Europe. A Guide to the Identification of More Than 350 Species [illustrated by Stebbing Peter, maps drawn by Fraser Rodney F.], London: Frederick Warne, 1978, xix + 380 p.)]

52 [Red mullet, or red surmullet (Mullus barbatus), of the Mediterranean, one of the best known of some 50 species of goatfishes (elongate marine fishes of the family Mullidae, order Perciformes), and one of the most highly prized food fishes of the ancient Romans. Very similar is another European species, Mullus surmuletus.]

53 [Geogony, that branch of geology which relates to the theory of the earth’s formation, and especially to the earlier stages of its development, and to its relations as a member of the solar system.]

54 [Medea, in Greek mythology, an enchantress who helped Jason, leader of the Argonauts, to obtain the Golden Fleece from her father, King Aeetes of Colchis. She was perhaps a goddess and had the gift of prophecy. She married Jason and used her magic powers and advice to help him. When Seneca wrote his Medea, there were already two famous versions of the Jason and Medea legend, the tragedy of Euripides and the later account of Jason, Medea, and the Argonauts by Apollonius of Rhodes (born early third century B.C., died after 246 B.C., an epic poet, scholar, and director of the Library of Alexandria) (see Seneca (Lucius Annaeus), Medea [with an introduction, text, translation and commentary by Hine Harry M.], Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 2000, 218 p.)]

55 [Known as “Columbus’s Senecan Prophecy,” perhaps no classical text was as inspirational to the navigators in the age of discovery as this:
Time shall in fine out breake
When Ocean wave shall open every Realme
The wandering World at will shall open lye,
And Thyphis will some newe founde Land Survay
Some travelers shall the Countries farre escrye,
Beyond small Thule, known farthest to this day.
(Seneca, Medea, lines 375-379, translated by John Studley, 1581; see Clay (Diskin), “Columbus’ Senecan Prophecy”, American Journal of Philology, vol. 113, no 4, 1992, pp. 617-620).]

56 [Aulus Cornelius Celsus (fl. first century A.D., Rome), one of the greatest Roman medical writers, author of an encyclopedia dealing with agriculture, military art, rhetoric, philosophy, law, and medicine, of which only the medical portion has survived. His De re medica or De medicina, now considered one of the finest medical classics, was largely ignored by contemporaries (Celsus (Aulus Cornelius), De medicina [with an English translation by Spencer W. G.], London: W. Heinemann Ltd; Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 1935-1938, 3 vols). It was discovered by Pope Nicholas V (1397-1455) and was among the first medical works to be published (Celsus (Aulus Cornelius), Cornelii Celsi De medicina liber incipit, Florentiae: Nicolao [Laurentii] impressus, 1478, [392] unnumbered p.) after the introduction of the printing press.]

57 [Themison of Laodicea (fl. first century B.C.), a pupil of Asclepiades of Bithynia, is perhaps not the founder, but among a number of individuals associated with Methodism. In their dealings with medicine, the Methodists paid attention (in contrast to the Dogmatists and Empiricists) to the disease alone as opposed to the situation of the individual patient, i.e., his medical history and personal situation. Thus, the disease alone dictates treatment (see Neuburger (Max), “An Historical Survey of the Concept of Nature from a Medical Viewpoint”, Isis, vol. 35, n ° 1, 1944, pp. 16-28).]

58 [Andromachus, Nero’s physician, like several Greek physicians before him, attempted to concoct anti-poisons by mixing small amounts of various toxic substances, which taken over a period of time was supposed to make one immune to their fatal effects. Under the name “Theriacum,” his potion was described in pharmacopoeias for centuries up through the European Renaissance.]

59 [Theriac, an antidote to snake bites; also an antidote to poison compounded of many drugs and honey (see note 58, above).]

60 [Aretaeus of Cappadocia (fl. second century A.D.), Greek physician from Cappadocia who practiced in Rome and Alexandria, led a revival of Hippocrates’s teachings, and is thought to have ranked second only to the father of medicine himself in the application of keen observation and ethics to the art. In principle he adhered to the pneumatic school of medicine, which believed that health was maintained by “vital air,” or pneuma. Pneumatists felt that an imbalance of the four humors – blood, phlegm, choler (yellow bile), and melancholy (black bile) – disturbed the pneuma, a condition indicated by an abnormal pulse. In practice, however, Aretaeus was an eclectic physician, since he utilized the methods of several different schools.]

61 [According to Aristotle (in Historia Animalium and De Patribus Animalium; see Aristotle, The Complete Works of Aristotle [The revised Oxford translation, edited by Barnes Jonathan], Princeton (New Jersey): Princeton University Press, 1984, 2 vols) the heart has three chambers, and there are two significant vessels connected to it: the vena cava and the aorta; he does not mention the valves. The right chamber has the hottest blood and the most abundant blood; the left chamber has the coldest blood and the least abundant; finally the middle chamber has the purest and thinnest blood in the body and a medium quantity. He believed the heart to be the starting point of the veins (see Cole (Francis Joseph), A History of Comparative Anatomy, from Aristotle to the Eighteenth Century, London: Macmillan and Co Ltd, 1949, viii + 524 p.; Lonie (Iain Malcolm), “The paradoxical text ‘On the heart,’ Part I”, Medical History, vol. 17, 1973, pp. 1-15; French (Roger Kenneth), “The thorax in history, 1. From ancient times to Aristotle”, Thorax, vol. 33, 1978, pp. 10-18).]

62 [Pedanius Dioscorides (born c. A.D. 40, Anazarbus, Cilicia; died c. 90), Greek physician and pharmacologist whose work De materia medica (or Greek herbal) was the foremost classical source of modern botanical terminology and the leading pharmacological text for sixteen centuries. His travels as a surgeon with the armies of the Roman emperor Nero provided him an opportunity to study the features, distribution, and medicinal properties of many plants and minerals. Written in five books around the year 77, this work deals with approximately 1,000 simple drugs. Although the work may be considered little more than a drug collector’s manual by modern standards, the original Greek manuscript, which was copied in at least seven other languages, describes most drugs used in medical practice until modern times and served as the primary text of pharmacology until the end of the 15th century (see Dioscorides, The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides [illustrated by a Byzantine, A.D. 512; englished by John Goodyer, A.D. 1655; ed. and first printed, A.D. 1933, by Gunther Robert T.; with three hundred and ninety-six illustrations], Oxford: Printed by J. Johnson for the author at the University Press, 1934, ix + 701 p.)]

63 [We have been unable to identify a 1495 edition of Dioscorides; perhaps Cuvier is referring to the earliest printing of this book in 1478, published by Johannes de Medemblick at Colle (Tuscany) and edited with commentary by Petrus de Abano].

64 [see Dioscorides, De materia medica, Venezia: Aldus Manutius, 1499, [380] unnumbered p.]

Table des illustrations

Légende TIBER RIVER IN ROMA. “Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus” (detail). Oil on canvas of William Turner (1839).
URL http://books.openedition.org/mnhn/docannexe/image/3775/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,1M

© Publications scientifiques du Muséum, 2012

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540