Pliny the Elder

1st-century Roman military commander and writer

Gaius Plinius Secundus (2379), better known as Pliny the Elder, was an ancient author and natural philosopher of some importance who wrote Naturalis Historia.

Indeed, what is there that does not appear marvelous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time? How many things, too, are looked upon as quite impossible until they have actually been effected?
Naturalis historiae

Quotes edit

  • Fortes Fortuna iuvat.
    • Fortune favours the brave.
    • Attributed by Pliny the Younger to his uncle during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in which the Elder died
    • Quoted in Pliny (1927) [c.100 CE]. "LXV, to Tacitus" (in English) (eBook). Letters of Pliny. translated by William Melmoth. Hoboken, NJ: Bibliobytes. pp. p. 48. ISBN 0585049971. "Here he stopped to consider whether he should turn back again; to which the pilot advising him, "Fortune", said he, "favours the brave; steer to where Pomponianus is."" 
    • Commonly quoted as "Fortune favours the bold".

Naturalis Historia edit

  • In comparing various authors with one another, I have discovered that some of the gravest and latest writers have transcribed, word for word, from former works, without making acknowledgment.
    • Book I, Dedication, sec. 22.
  • The world, and whatever that be which we call the heavens, by the vault of which all things are enclosed, we must conceive to be a deity, to be eternal, without bounds, neither created nor subject at any time to destruction. To inquire what is beyond it is no concern of man; nor can the human mind form any conjecture concerning it.
    • Book II, sec. 1.
  • The only certainty is that nothing is certain. (Fuller version: This series of instances entangles unforeseeing mortality, so that among these things but one thing is in the least certain—that nothing certain exists, and that nothing is more pitiable, or more presnmptuous, than man! In Latin: Quae singula inprovidam mortalitatem involvunt, solum ut inter ista vel certu(m) sit nihil esse certi nec quicquam miserius homine aut superbius. Some sources have "certu", others "certum".)
    • Book II, sec. 5.
  • It is ridiculous to suppose that the great head of things, whatever it be, pays any regard to human affairs.
    • Book II, sec. 20.
  • Everything is soothed by oil, and this is the reason why divers send out small quantities of it from their mouths, because it smooths every part which is rough.
    • Book II, sec. 234.
  • Haec est Italia diis sacra
    • This is Italy, land sacred to the Gods.
    • Book III, sec. 46.
  • It is far from easy to determine whether she [Nature] has proved to man a kind parent or a merciless stepmother.
    • Book VII, sec. 1.
  • Man alone at the very moment of his birth, cast naked upon the naked earth, does she [Nature] abandon to cries and lamentations.
    • Book VII, sec. 2.
  • To laugh, if but for an instant only, has never been granted to man before the fortieth day from his birth, and then it is looked upon as a miracle of precocity.
    • Book VII, sec. 2.
  • Man is the only one that knows nothing, that can learn nothing without being taught. He can neither speak nor walk nor eat, and in short he can do nothing at the prompting of nature only, but weep.
    • Book VII, sec. 4.
  • With man, most of his misfortunes are occasioned by man.
    • Book VII, sec. 5.
  • Indeed, what is there that does not appear marvelous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time? How many things, too, are looked upon as quite impossible until they have actually been effected?
    • Book VII, sec. 6.
  • The human features and countenance, although composed of but some ten parts or little more, are so fashioned that among so many thousands of men there are no two in existence who cannot be distinguished from one another.
    • Book VII, sec. 8.
  • All men possess in their bodies a poison which acts upon serpents; and the human saliva, it is said, makes them take to flight, as though they had been touched with boiling water. The same substance, it is said, destroys them the moment it enters their throat.
    • Book VII, sec. 15.
  • It has been observed that the height of a man from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot is equal to the distance between the tips of the middle fingers of the two hands when extended in a straight line.
    • Book VII, sec. 77.
  • ruinis inminentibus musculi praemigrant...
    • When a building is about to fall down, all the mice desert it.
    • Book VIII, sec. 103.
  • Bears when first born are shapeless masses of white flesh a little larger than mice, their claws alone being prominent. The mother then licks them gradually into proper shape.
    • Book VIII, sec. 126.
  • It is asserted that the dogs keep running when they drink at the Nile, for fear of becoming a prey to the voracity of the crocodile.
    • Book VIII, sec. 148.
  • It has become quite a common proverb that in wine there is truth.
    • Book XIV, sec. 141.
  • Cincinnatus was ploughing his four jugera of land upon the Vaticanian Hill,—the same that are still known as the Quintian Meadows,—when the messenger brought him the dictatorship, finding him, the tradition says, stripped to the work.
    • Book XVIII, sec. 20.
  • The agricultural population, says Cato, produces the bravest men, the most valiant soldiers, and a class of citizens the least given of all to evil designs…. A bad bargain is always a ground for repentance.
    • Book XVIII, sec. 26.
  • Always act in such a way as to secure the love of your neighbour.
    • Book XVIII, sec. 44.
  • It is a maxim universally agreed upon in agriculture, that nothing must be done too late; and again, that everything must be done at its proper season; while there is a third precept which reminds us that opportunities lost can never be regained.
    • Book XVIII, sec. 44.
  • The bird of passage known to us as the cuckoo.
    • Book XVIII, sec. 249.
  • Let not things, because they are common, enjoy for that the less share of our consideration.
    • Book XIX, sec. 59.
  • Why is it that we entertain the belief that for every purpose odd numbers are the most effectual?
    • Book XXVIII, sec. 23.
  • The best plan is, as the common proverb has it, to profit by the folly of others.
    • Book XVIII, sec. 31.
  • Cum grano salis.
    • Translation: With a grain of salt.
    • Book XXIII, sec. 8.
  • Absentes tinnitu aurium præsentire sermones de se receptum est.
    • It is generally admitted that the absent are warned by a ringing in the ears, when they are being talked about.
    • Book XXVIII, sec. 5.
  • It was a custom with Apelles, to which he most tenaciously adhered, never to let any day pass, however busy he might be, without exercising himself by tracing some outline or other,—a practice which has now passed into a proverb. It was also a practice with him, when he had completed a work, to exhibit it to the view of the passers-by in his studio, while he himself, concealed behind the picture, would listen to the criticisms…. Under these circumstances, they say that he was censured by a shoemaker for having represented the shoes with one latchet too few. The next day, the shoemaker, quite proud at seeing the former error corrected, thanks to his advice, began to criticise the leg; upon which Apelles, full of indignation, popped his head out and reminded him that a shoemaker should give no opinion beyond the shoes, —a piece of advice which has equally passed into a proverbial saying.
    • Book XXXV, sec. 84.

Quotes about Pliny edit

External links edit

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