Sunday, April 30, 2017



Pliny, Natural History 7.1.1-5 (tr. Horace Rackham):
[1] The first place will rightly be assigned to man, for whose sake great Nature appears to have created all other things—though she asks a cruel price for all her generous gifts, making it hardly possible to judge whether she has been more a kind parent to man or more a harsh stepmother.
[2] First of all, man alone of all animals she drapes with borrowed resources. On all the rest in various wise she bestows coverings—shells, bark, spines, hides, fur, bristles, hair, down, feathers, scales, fleeces; even the trunks of trees she has protected against cold and heat by bark, sometimes in two layers: but man alone on the day of his birth she casts away naked on the naked ground, to burst at once into wailing and weeping, and none other among all the animals is more prone to tears, and that immediately at the very beginning of life; whereas, I vow, the much-talked-of smile of infancy even at the earliest is bestowed on no child less than six weeks old.
[3] This initiation into the light is followed by a period of bondage such as befalls not even the animals bred in our midst, fettering all his limbs; and thus when successfully born he lies with hands and feet in shackles, weeping—the animal that is to lord it over all the rest, and he initiates his life with punishment because of one fault only, the offence of being born. Alas the madness of those who think that from these beginnings they were bred to proud estate!
[4] His earliest promise of strength and first grant of time makes him like a four-footed animal. When does man begin to walk? when to speak? when is his mouth firm enough to take food? how long does his skull throb, a mark of his being the weakest among all animals? Then his diseases, and all the cures contrived against his ills—these cures also subsequently defeated by new disorders! And the fact that all other creatures are aware of their own nature, some using speed, others swift flight, others swimming, whereas man alone knows nothing save by education—neither how to speak nor how to walk nor how to eat; in short the only thing he can do by natural instinct is to weep! Consequently there have been many who believed that it were best not to be born, or to be put away as soon as possible.
[5] On man alone of living creatures is bestowed grief, on him alone luxury, and that in countless forms and reaching every separate part of his frame; he alone has ambition, avarice, immeasurable appetite for life, superstition, anxiety about burial and even about what will happen after he is no more. No creature's life is more precarious, none has a greater lust for all enjoyments, a more confused timidity, a fiercer rage. In fine, all other living creatures pass their time worthily among their own species: we see them herd together and stand firm against other kinds of animals—fierce lions do not fight among themselves, the serpent's bite attacks not serpents, even the monsters of the sea and the fishes are only cruel against different species; whereas to man, I vow, most of his evils come from his fellow-man.

[1] principium iure tribuetur homini, cuius causa videtur cuncta alia genuisse natura magna, saeva mercede contra tanta sua munera, ut non sit satis aestimare, parens melior homini an tristior noverca fuerit.
[2] ante omnia unum animantium cunctorum alienis velat opibus, ceteris varie tegimenta tribuit, testas, cortices, spinas, coria, villos, saetas, pilos, plumam, pinnas, squamas, vellera; truncos etiam arboresque cortice, interdum gemino, a frigoribus et calore tutata est: hominem tantum nudum et in nuda humo natali die abicit ad vagitus statim et ploratum, nullumque tot animalium aliud pronius ad lacrimas, et has protinus vitae principio; at Hercule risus praecox ille et celerrimus ante XL diem nulli datur.
[3] ab hoc lucis rudimento quae ne feras quidem inter nos genitas vincula excipiunt et omnium membrorum nexus; itaque feliciter natus iacet manibus pedibusque devinctis flens, animal ceteris imperaturum, et a suppliciis vitam auspicatur unam tantum ob culpam, quia natum est. heu dementiam ab his initiis existimantium ad superbiam se genitos!
[4] prima roboris spes primumque temporis munus quadripedi similem facit. quando homini incessus! quando vox! quando firmum cibis os! quam diu palpitans vertex, summae inter cuncta animalia inbecillitatis indicium! iam morbi, totque medicinae contra mala excogitatae, et hae quoque subinde novitatibus victae! et cetera sentire naturam suam. alia pernicitatem usurpare, alia praepetes volatus, alia nare: hominem nihil scire nisi doctrina, non fari, non ingredi, non vesci, breviterque non aliud naturae sponte quam flere! itaque multi extitere qui non nasci optimum censerent aut quam ocissime aboleri.
[5] uni animantium luctus est datus, uni luxuria et quidem innumerabilibus modis ac per singula membra, uni ambitio, uni avaritia, uni inmensa vivendi cupido, uni superstitio, uni sepulturae cura atque etiam post se de futuro. nulli vita fragilior, nulli rerum omnium libido maior, nulli pavor confusior, nulli rabies acrior. denique cetera animantia in suo genere probe degunt: congregari videmus et stare contra dissimilia—leonum feritas inter se non dimicat, serpentium morsus non petit serpentis, ne maris quidem beluae ac pisces nisi in diversa genera saeviunt: at Hercule homini plurima ex homine sunt mala.
I corrected "who to eat" to "how to eat" in section 4. The mistake persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.

Commentary in Mary Beagon, The Elder Pliny on the Human Animal: Natural History, Book 7 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), pp. 108-116.


<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?