Pliny's Naturalis Historia

Some extracts from Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia

  • Ranis sui generis vox .
    Frogs have a special kind of voice.
    Ranae quoque rubetae, quarum et in terra et in umore vita, plurimis refertae medicaminibus.
    Also the bramble frog, which is amphibious in its habit, is replete with a number of drugs.
  • Insecta, ut intellegi possit, non videntur habere nervos nec ossa nec spinas nec cartilaginem nec pinguia nec carnes, habent autem oculos praeterque e sensibus et tactum atque gustatum, aliqua et odoratum, pauca et auditum.
    Insects, so far as is perceptible, do not appear to possess sinews or bones, or spines or cartilage or fat or flesh. But they possess eyes and also of the other senses taste and touch, and some have smell as well, and a few hearing also.
  • Sed inter omnia ea principatus apibus. But among all these species the chief place belongs to the bees.
    Ratio operis mire divisi: statio ad portas more castrorum, quies in matutinum, donec una excitet gemino aut triplici bombo ut bucino aliquo. tunc universae provolant.

    Their work is marvellously mapped out in the following manner. A guard is posted at the gates, after the manner of a camp. They sleep until dawn, until one bee wakes them up with a double or triple buzz as a sort of bugle call. Then they fly forth in a body. Aliae flores adgerunt pedibus, alia aquam ore guttasque lanugine totius corporis.
    Some bring home flowers in their feet and others water in their mouth, and drops clinging to the down all over their body. Aculeum apibus dedit natura, ventri consertum ad unum ictum.
    Nature has given bees a sting attached to the stomach, designed for a single blow.

Canum plura genera. Scrutatur vestigia atque persequitur. There are several kinds of dogs. A dog traces and follows footprints.

  • Serpentes, cum occasio est, vinum praecipue adpetunt, cum alioqui exiguo indigeant potu.
    Snakes are specially fond of wine when they have the chance, though otherwise they need little drink. Sibilo omnis fugat serpentes.
    It routs all snakes with its hiss. Aliis vis malo est. Its effect on other animals is disastrous.
  • Animae leonis virus grave, ursi pestilens.
    Lion's breath contains a severe poison and the bear's is pestilential.
  • Maximum est elephans proximumque humanis sensibus:
    The largest land animal is the elephant, and it is the nearest to man in intelligence: durissimum dorso tergus, ventri molle,
    the hide of the back is extremely hard, but that of the belly is soft,
    elephans citra nares ore ipso sternumento similem elidit sonum, per nares autem tubarum raucitati.
    the elephant squeezes out a sound like a sneeze from its actual mouth, not through the nostrils, but through the nostrils it emits a harsh trumpet sound.
    Mandunt ore, spirant et bibunt odoranturque haut inproprie appellata manu.
    They eat with the mouth, but they breathe and drink and smell with the organ not unsuitably called their hand.
    Germanici Caesaris munere gladiatorio quosdam etiam inconditos meatus edidere saltantium modo. At the gladiatorial show given by Germanicus Caesar some even performed clumsy movements in figures, like dancers. mirum et adversis quidem funibus subire, sed maxime regredi, utique pronis.
    It is surprising that they can even climb ropes, but especially that they can come down them again.