ON THE NATURE OF THE UNIVERSE
BOOK VI: METEOROLOGY AND GEOLOGY
In days of old it was from Athens  of high renown that the knowledge of cereal crops was first disseminated among suffering mankind. It was Athens that built life on a new plan and promulgated laws.  It was Athens no less that first gave to life a message of good cheer through the birth of that man,  gifted with no ordinary mind, whose unerring lips gave utterance to the whole of truth. Even now, when he is no more, the widespread and long-established fame of his divine discoveries is exalted to the very skies. 
He saw that, practically speaking, all that was wanted to meet men's vital needs was already at their disposal, and, so far as could be managed, their livelihood was assured.  He saw some men in the full enjoyment of riches and reputation, dignity and authority, and happy in the fair fame of their children. Yet, for all that, he found aching hearts in every home, racked incessantly by pangs the mind was powerless to assuage, forced to vent themselves in recalcitrant repining. He concluded that the source of this illness was the container itself,  which infected with its own malady everything that was collected outside and brought into it, however beneficial. He arrived at this conclusion partly because he perceived that the container was racked and leaky, so that it could never by any possibility be filled: partly because he saw it taint whatever it took in with the taste of its own foulness. Therefore he purged men's breasts with words of truth. He set bounds to desire and fear. He demonstrated what is the highest good,  after which we all strive, and pointed the way by which we can achieve it, keeping straight ahead along a narrow track. He revealed the element of pains inherent in the life of mortals generally, resulting whether casually or determinately from the operations of nature and prowling round in various forms. He showed by what gate it is best to sally out against each one of these evils. And he made it clear that, more often than not, it was quite needlessly that mankind stirred up stormy waves of disquietude within their breasts.
As children  in blind darkness tremble and start at everything, so we in broad daylight are oppressed at times by fears as baseless as those horrors which children imagine coming upon them in the dark. This dread and darkness of the mind cannot be dispelled by the sunbeams, the shining shafts of day, but only by an understanding of the outward form and inner workings of nature. The more reason, then, why I should weave further the argument that I have started.
I have taught  that the sky in all its zones is mortal and its substance was formed by a process of birth, and I have also elucidated most of the phenomena that occur in the heavens and that must inevitably occur. Listen now to what still remains to tell.
Since I have ventured to climb into the lofty chariot  <of the Muses, I will explain how the wrath> of the winds is roused and how it is appeased and how all disturbances of nature are allayed when their fury is spent; also the other things on earth or in the heavens that frighten men, when the balance of their minds is upset by fear, and that abase their spirits with terror of the gods and crush them cringing on the ground,  because ignorance of the causes of phenomena drives them to commit everything to the rule of the gods and to acknowledge their sovereignty. [They are in no way able to see what causes these things and they believe them to be done by the power of the gods.] For it may happen that men who have learnt the truth about the carefree  existence of the gods fall to wondering by what power the universe is kept going, especially those movements that are seen overhead in the ethereal borderland. Then the poor creatures are plunged back into their old superstitions and saddle themselves with cruel masters whom they believe to be all-powerful. All this because they do not know what can be and what cannot - how the power of each thing is limited, and its boundary-stone sticks buried deep. Therefore they are the more prone to go astray, misled by blind reasoning. Unless you vomit such notions out of your mind and banish far away all thoughts unworthy of the gods and foreign to their tranquility, then the holy beings whom you thus diminish will often do you real harm. This is not because the supreme majesty of the gods can in fact be wronged, so as to be tempted in a fit of anger to wreak a savage revenge.  No, the fault will be in you. Because you will picture the quiet ones in their untroubled peace as tossed on turbulent waves of anger, you will not approach their temples with a tranquil heart; you will not be able to admit into a breast at peace those images emanating from a holy body that bring to the minds of men their tidings of a form divine. From this you can gather what sort of life must ensue. If this is to be averted from us by true reason, there is still much to add in finely polished verse to the much that I have already delivered. I must grasp the system and phenomena of the heavens. I must sing of storms and the vivid lightning flash, their effects and the causes of their outbreak. Otherwise you may be so scared out of your wits as to map out different quarters of the sky  and speculate from which one the darting fire has come or into which other it has passed: how it has entered a closed building, and how after taking possession of it has emerged victorious. [They are not in any way able to see the causes of these doings and they believe them to be done by the power of the gods.]
For this task I invoke your aid, Calliope,  most gifted of the Muses, repose of men and delight of gods. Point out my path along the last lap to the predetermined winning-post, that by your guidance I may earn with eminent acclaim the victor's crown.
First, then, the reason why the blue expanses of heaven are shaken by thunder is the clashing of clouds soaring high in the ether, when conflicting winds cause them to collide. A thunderclap does not issue from a clear stretch of sky:  the normal source of that terrific crash and roll is the point where the advancing columns of cloud are most densely serried. Clouds cannot be composed of such dense bodies as make up stones and logs, nor of such flimsy ones as mist and drifting smoke. In the one case, they would be forced to fall like stones by the drag of their dead weight; in the other, they would be no better able than smoke to cohere or to contain icy snow and showers of hail. The noise they make above the levels of the outspread world is comparable to the intermittent clap of the awning  stretched over a large theatre, when it flaps between poles and cross-beams; or to the loud crackling, reminiscent of rending paper, that it makes when riotous winds have ripped it. You can pick out the former sound in thunder, and you hear it again when hanging clothes or flying scraps of paper are whipped and whirled by the wind and swished through the air. At other times it happens that the clouds cannot so much collide head-on as pass side by side on different courses, scraping their bodies together in a dragging movement. That is when our ears are rubbed by the dry crackling sound, long drawn out, until the clouds have drifted out of close quarters.
Here is another way in which it often seems that a violent burst of thunder has made the whole earth reel and has suddenly cracked and rent apart the ramparts of the all-embracing firmament. A swiftly gathered squall of stormy wind has thrust its way into the clouds. There, being hemmed in, its eddying swirl scoops out an ever-growing hollow walled on every side by cloud with its substance more and more condensed. Finally, the concentrated energy of the wind splits the cloud and explodes it with a nerve-shattering crash.  And no wonder, considering that a little bladder of wind, when suddenly burst, often gives out this loud a sound.
Another cause of the noise emitted by clouds is the wind blowing through them. We often see clouds scudding by profusely branched and jagged; and we all know that when a gale blows through a dense wood, the leaves rustle and the branches creak. It also happens sometimes that the impetuous power of a strong blast shears through a cloud, smashing it by a direct hit. What a gale can do up there is clearly shown by its behavior down here, where it is relatively gentle: even here on earth it bowls over tall trees and hauls them out by the roots. 
There are also waves in the clouds - waves that make a booming sound when they break heavily, just as happens in deep rivers and in the wide sea when the surf is breaking.
Another cause of thunder is when a blaze of lightning leaps from cloud to cloud. If the receiving cloud is full of water, this promptly quenches the blaze with a loud hiss like the sizzling  of red-hot iron fresh from the fiery furnace when we have plunged it straight into cold water. If, on the other hand, the receiving cloud is drier, it immediately catches fire and burns with a fierce crackling, as when a flame is swept over laurel-haired hills by a squall of wind, spreading conflagration in its impetuous advance; for nothing can compare with Apollo's Delphic  laurel in the baleful roar of crackling flames with which it is consumed.
Lastly, a noise is produced aloft among the mighty clouds by widespread crumbling of hoar-frost and crashing of hail. For mountains of storm-clouds mingled with hail are packed together by the compression of the wind and pulverized.
As for lightning,  it is caused when many seeds of fire  have been squeezed out of clouds by their collision. Just so, if stone is struck by stone or steel, a light leaps out and scatters bright sparks of fire. Thunder follows later, when our ears receive what our eyes saw flashing; for impulses always travel more slowly to the ears than to the eyes. You can test this by watching from a distance a man felling a towering tree with a two-bladed axe: it so happens that you see the blow fall before the sound of the stroke reaches your ears. In the same way we see the lightning before we are aware of the thunder, which is in fact emitted simultaneously with the flash from the same cause, being born of the same collision.
Here is another way in which the clouds paint the landscape in fleeting brilliance and the lightning is launched on its quivering flight. When wind has forced its way into a cloud and, as I explained before,  has hollowed and condensed it by eddying round, it becomes heated by its own movement. You see everything grow fiery hot with motion: the speed of a long flight even liquefies a leaden sling-bolt.  So then, when this blazing wind has burst open a black cloud, it scatters seeds of fire pushed out by the force of the sudden explosion. These cause the zig-zag flashes of flame. Then follows the noise, which affects our ears more tardily than the visual impulse strikes our eyeballs.
This happens, you must understand, when the clouds are dense and when they are piled high one above another in an amazing array. Do not be misled by the fact that to us, gazing from below, the width of the clouds is more conspicuous than the height to which they are built up. Take note when next you get an oblique view of clouds that mimic mountains wafted through the air by the wind, or on some day when all the winds are becalmed you see along a mountain range a motionless mass of clouds heaped upon clouds and weighing them down. Then you will be able to form some notion of their colossal bulk. Then you will see caverns overarched, as it seems, by beetling crags. When squally winds have filled these caverns, they protest clamorously in their cloudy prison with the roar of caged beasts.  This way and that they hurl their menacing growls through the clouds. In search of an outlet they prowl round and round. They dislodge seeds of fire from the clouds and roll together a multitude of them. Soon they are spinning a flame within a hollow furnace, till the cloud bursts and out they tumble in a dazzling flash.
Here is yet another reason why that fleeting golden glow of liquid fire leaps down upon the earth. The clouds themselves must contain a great many seeds of fire; for, when they are devoid of water, their color is mostly flame- like and sparkling. Since they must inevitably absorb many such seeds from the sunlight, it is natural that they should blush and emit a fiery glow. So, when a driving wind has concentrated and compressed them forcibly in a single spot, they release under pressure those atoms that are the cause of flame-bright flashes.
Lightning may occur also when the clouds in the sky are thinning out. When the wind gently dissipates and dissolves them in their flight, they must perforce let drop the particles that generate flashes. But at such times the flash is a quiet one, without that appalling accompaniment of crash and rumble.
What, then, of the nature and composition of thunderbolts?  We may learn from the stricken spots, branded with the mark of heat and breathing out the thick breath of sulphur. These are signs of fire, not of wind or rain. Besides, they often set fire to buildings and work their will with darting flame in the heart of the house. You must know that this rarefied fire, more than all other fires, is composed by nature of minute and mobile particles to which absolutely nothing can bar the way. So potent is a thunderbolt that it passes through shut rooms like sounds and voices.  It passes through stone and metal, and in an instant liquefies bronze and gold. It causes wine to vaporize from unbroken jars,  because its heat on arrival easily unknits and loosens all the earthenware fabric of the jar, slips nimbly in, scatters the atoms of wine and sweeps them away. This, as we see, is more than the sun's heat can accomplish in an age, though never so intense in its radiance. So much more mobile and more masterful is the force of a thunderbolt.
I will now without more ado fulfill my promise to explain to you how thunderbolts originate and how they possess such momentum that their stroke can split towers open, demolish buildings, tear out beams and rafters, uproot and fling down the monuments of the great, rob men of life, butcher cattle all around and wreak all those other forms of mischief that lie within their power.
It must be supposed that thunderbolts originate from thick and high-piled clouds. They are never really hurled from the blue, nor from clouds of slight density. This is unmistakably shown by experience. Indeed, at such times the air is so crammed with a solid mass of cloud that we fancy  all the darkness has forsaken the Underworld and come trooping from every side into the roomy vaults of Heaven. Such is the ominous night of storm-clouds that gathers overhead, out of whose gloom the visage of black dread lours down upon us, when the storm is making ready to forge its bolts. Add to this that very often out at sea a black tornado falls upon the waves, like a river of pitch  poured out of the sky, stuffed with far-shadowing gloom. With its heavy freight of fire and wind, it trails in its wake a black tempest big with thunderbolts and squalls. Even on shore men shudder at the sight and take cover under their roofs. From this we may infer what a depth of cloud is heaped above our heads. For surely the earth would not be overcast by such intensity of gloom were it not that clouds are piled on clouds up and up, till the sun is blotted out. And surely in their downfall they would not drench it in such a deluge of rain that rivers overflow and fields are drowned unless a great bulk of them were stacked up in the ether.
Here then everything is full of wind and fire, producing crashes and flashes everywhere. For I have already shown  that hollow clouds contain a great many particles of heat and necessarily acquire more from the solar rays and their calorific energy. Therefore, when the same wind that happens to accumulate them in some one particular spot has squeezed out many seeds of heat and in so doing has itself become intermingled with that fire, the imprisoned eddy spins in a cramped space and there in a glowing furnace sharpens a thunderbolt.  Two causes combine to set the whirlwind ablaze, the heat generated by its own motion and contact with the fire. Then, when the wind is well aglow and the deadly momentum of the fire has heightened, the now mature thunderbolt suddenly splits the cloud and out shoots the spurt of flame, darting its vivid blaze across the whole scene. There follows that shattering roar that sounds as though the celestial vault had burst apart and were crashing down upon our heads. A tremor lays violent hold upon the earth, and tumult rumbles through the depth of heaven; for then the whole mass of storm-cloud is rocked and shaken and crackles far and wide. After the shock follows a pelting sluicing shower. It seems as though the whole ether were transmuted into rain, and the cascade heralded a return of the universal Deluge  - such a cataract is loosed by the bursting cloud and unpent whirlwind in the wake of the crashing, darting, devastating fire.
At other times a violent squall of wind impinges externally upon a cloud already pregnant with a full-grown thunderbolt. The wind rips open the cloud, and out drops that fiery whirlwind which is what we in our traditional language term a thunderbolt. This may happen in various directions according to the direction of the liberating force.
Sometimes again a gust of wind that is fireless at the outset grows fiery in the course of a long flight before it arrives. It loses on the way certain large atoms, which cannot keep pace in piercing the air. At the same time it rakes together out of the air itself and carries along other atoms of tiny size which commingle in flight so as to form fire. It is in much the same way that a leaden sling-bolt  often grows hot in its flight through dropping many petrifactive particles and picking up fire in the air.
Lastly, it may happen that fire is kindled by the sheer force of the impact when an object is hit by a wind that is itself cold and fireless. This, of course, is because the shock of the blow causes a conflux of heat atoms both from the wind itself and from the object that receives the blow. When we strike stone with steel, out leaps fire: the coldness of the steel does not prevent atoms of blazing heat from rushing together at the point of impact. In the same way an object may be set ablaze by a thunderbolt, provided that it is suitably inflammable. In any case a strong wind cannot be absolutely cold, certainly not one launched with such violence from above. If it is not already ignited en route, it must arrive at any rate warmed up by having heat mixed up in it.
As for the high speed of thunderbolts, the weight of their impact and the rapidity with which they complete their hurtling descent, these are due in the first instance to the accumulation of pent-up energy within the clouds and the momentum thus acquired. Then, when the cloud can no longer contain the mounting impetus, the energy is released and let fly with tremendous drive, like missiles discharged from powerful catapults. Add to this that the thunderbolt is composed of small, smooth atoms. Such a substance is not easily obstructed by anything. It slips and slides through the chinks in things and hence does not lose much way on account of the stoppages caused by collisions. That accounts for the impetuous onrush of its swooping flight.
Again, while all weights are always possessed of a natural downward urge, the addition of a push doubles their speed and enhances their momentum. So the thunderbolt, with its impetus and velocity thus redoubled, dashes aside whatever may block its advance and hurtles on its way.
Yet again, because it gathers momentum over a long course,  it must acquire ever greater and greater velocity, which grows as it goes, reinforcing and intensifying the energy of the impact. It sweeps up all its eddying atoms into one main current and directs them along a straight course to a single target. Possibly in its flight it may extract from the air itself certain particles whose impact inflames its own speed.
It passes through many substances without damaging or disturbing them, because its fluid fire slips through the gaps. It forces its way through many, the atoms of the thunderbolt glancing against the opposing atoms at their points of interconnection. It readily dissolves bronze and boils gold in an instant, because its component atoms, being tiny and smooth, easily worm their way in and, once in, are quick to untie every knot and loosen all cohesion.
It is in autumn that the starlit dome of heaven throughout its breadth and the whole earth are most often rocked by thunderbolts, and again when the flowery season of spring shows itself.  In cold weather there is a scarcity of fire, and in hot weather of winds, and then, too, the clouds are not so thick. So it is in weather between these extremes that the various causes of the thunderbolt all conspire. Then the year's turning tide mingles cold and heat, which are both needed to forge a thunderbolt within a cloud. Then there may be a clash of opposites, and the air tormented by fire and wind may surge in tumultuous upheaval. The vanguard of hot weather is the rear of cold. That is springtime, when there must accordingly be tussle and turmoil of opposing forces. Similarly when the retiring heat is embroiled with the advancing cold in the season we know as autumn, here again there is a conflict between summer and grim winter. These then are the year's crises. No wonder if these are the seasons of abundant thunderbolts; these are the times when seething tempests rock the sky, engaged as it is on either hand in the turmoil of a stalemate battle, on this side flames, on the other winds and water interfused.
Here then is a plain and intelligible account of the fiery thunderbolt and how it does what it does. It is a fruitless task to unroll the Etruscan  scrolls, seeking some revelation of the gods' hidden purpose. That is no way to study from which quarter the darting fire has come or into which other it has passed; how it has entered a closed building, and how after working its will it has slipped out again. That is no way to find out the damage that a thunderbolt from heaven can do. If it is really Jupiter  and the other gods who rock the flashing frame of heaven with this appalling din and hurl their fire wherever they have a mind, why do they not see to it that those who have perpetrated some abominable outrage are struck by lightning and exhale its flames from a breast transfixed, for a dire warning to mortals?  Why, instead, is some man with a conscience clear of any sin shrouded unmeriting in a sheet of flame, trapped and tangled without warning in the fiery storm from heaven? Why  do the throwers waste their strength on deserts? Are they getting their hand in and strengthening their arms? And why do they allow the Father's weapon to be blunted on the ground? Why does Jupiter himself put up with this, instead of saving it for his enemies? Why, again, does he never hurl his bolt upon the earth and let loose his thunder out of a sky that is wholly blue? Does he wait till clouds have gathered so that he can slip down into them and aim his blows at close range? Why does he launch them into the sea? What is his grudge against the waves and the liquid masses of the ocean plains? If he wants us to beware of the flying bolt, why is he loath to let us see it on its path? If on the other hand he intends the fire to strike us unawares, why does he thunder from the same quarter and so put us on our guard? Why does he herald its coming with darkness and roarings and rumblings? And how can you believe that he hurls it in several directions at once? Or dare you assert that it never happens that several strokes are let fly at the same time? In fact it does and must happen very often; just as downpours of rain occur simultaneously in many districts, so it must happen that many thunderbolts fall simultaneously. Lastly, why does he demolish the holy shrines of the gods and his own splendid abodes  with an aggressive bolt? Why does he smash masterly images of the gods and rob his own portraits of reverence with a sacrilegious stroke? Why has he a special fondness for high places, so that we see most traces of his fire on mountain tops?
From what has been said, it is easy to understand what force flings down into the sea those waterspouts  which the Greeks aptly term presteres or 'scorchers'. It sometimes happens that a sort of pillar descends into the sea as though let down from the sky. Around it the waters boil, lashed by madly blowing blasts, and woe to any ship that is embroiled in this storm.
This is sometimes brought about when an imprisoned wind fails to burst the cloud it is trying to burst but forces it downwards. So it sags down like a pillar lowered into the sea out of the sky - gradually, like something pushed from above by a fist at the end of an out-thrust arm and so protruding down into the waves. When the wind has burst this bulge, out it rushes into the sea and creates a bewildering boiling among the waves. In fact, the cloud, with its elastic structure, is forced down by a spiraling whirlwind, which descends with it. As soon as its teeming bulk has been pushed down to sea level, the wind is suddenly let loose into the water and stirs up all the sea, making it bubble and boil with a terrific roar.
It sometimes happens also that a whirling column of wind wraps itself in clouds through scraping together atoms of cloud out of the air, and mimics a prester let down out of the sky.
When a waterspout drops on dry land and there explodes, it disgorges a violent vortex of whirlwind and storm. But, since this happens in any case but seldom, and on land our view of it must often be blocked by mountains, the sight is more frequently encountered in the sea's wide prospect under an open expanse of sky.
The formation of clouds  is due to the sudden coalescence, in the upper reaches of the sky, of many flying atoms of relatively rough material, such that even a slight entanglement clasps them firmly together. The first result is the formation of separate little clouds. Then these clutch hold of one another and band together. So they grow by mutual fusion and scud before the winds, till the time comes when a raging storm arises.
Notice also what happens on towering mountain peaks. The closer they approach to the sky, the more persistently they smoke with a thick black fog of sandy cloud. This is because, when clouds are beginning to form but are still too slight to be visible to the eye, they are driven by buoyant winds against the crowning pinnacle of a mountain. Here the stage is reached in the process of accumulation at which they are sufficiently condensed to become visible, so that they are seen ascending from the summit into the clear sky. As for the prevalence of wind in these upper regions, that is proved by the evidence of our own senses when we climb high mountains.
We must reckon also with the fact that nature causes a constant stream of particles to rise up from the whole ocean, as shown when clothes hung up on the shore receive a clinging film of moisture. This suggests that the clouds may also be swollen, in no small measure, by an exhalation from the ocean's briny surge;  for its moisture is of a kindred quality.
Again, we see vaporous mists ascending from every river and from the land itself. These exudations, wafted up from the earth like breath, douse the sky with their blackness and build up high clouds by gradual coalescence. For  they encounter opposing emanations descending from above out of the heat of the starry zone of ether, which help them to condense and weave a cloudy curtain under the blue.
Lastly, it happens that atoms composing clouds and flying storm-clouds also come into this sky of ours from outside the world. I have shown  that the number of the atoms is numberless and the extent of space infinite, and I have explained with what velocity the atoms fly and how instantaneously they cover an incalculable distance. No wonder, then, if storm and darkness, louring from on high, are often so swift to envelop seas and lands with clouds, when through all the pores of ether on every side - as if through all the breathing channels in the great world all around - the atoms are provided with an outlet and an inlet.
Let me now demonstrate how rain-drops  condense high up in the clouds and fall to earth in a dripping shower. First, you will not dispute that many atoms of water rise up from every source together with the clouds themselves, and that the clouds and whatever water is in them grow concurrently, just as our bodies grow concurrently with the blood and sweat and any other fluid that exists in our limbs. The clouds also, like dangling fleeces,  absorb a lot of seawater when they are swept ny the winds over the wide sea. In the same way moisture is sucked up into the clouds out of every river.
When they are fully charged with many atoms of water amassed in many ways from all sorts of sources, the swollen clouds attempt to discharge their moisture in two ways: the force of the wind itself pushes it out, and the cloud-mass itself, under pressure of increased accumulation, crushes and squeezes from above and makes it flow out in showers. Again, when clouds are being dissipated by winds or dissolved by the descending impact of the sun's heat, they discharge a drizzle of moisture, just as wax drips freely when melting over a hot fire.
A violent downpour is occasioned when clouds are violently compressed by both forces, accumulation and the assault of wind. Long continuance and the persistency of rain occur when a great many atoms of water are in motion, moisture-laden clouds are heaped one on another and come drifting up from every side, and the whole earth exhales a vaporous steam. In this setting, when the sun's rays blazing through the murky storm strike against the droplets of the storm-cloud, then there sparkles out among the black clouds the splendor of the rainbow. 
As for the other forms of matter that originate and grow up aloft and condense in the clouds - snow, wind, hail, icy frost and the strong grip of ice that hardens waters and bridles impetuous torrents throughout their course - it is easy enough to discover and picture mentally how one and all come into being or are created, when once you have rightly grasped the properties of the elements.
Learn now the true nature of earthquakes.  First you must visualize that the earth, below as well as above ground, is everywhere full of windy caves, and bears in its bosom a multitude of lakes and pools and beetling, precipitous crags. You must also picture that under the earth's back many buried rivers with torrential force roll their waters mingled with sunken rocks. For the plain facts demand that earth should be of the same nature throughout. With these things lodged and embedded in its bowels, the earth above trembles with the shock of massive demolition when huge caverns down below have collapsed through age. Whole mountains topple down, and sudden tremors started by that violent shock ripple out far and wide. Naturally enough, when we reflect that whole buildings by the roadside are shaken and jarred by the inconsiderable weight of a wagon; the wagons also jump in the same way whenever a crack in the road jolts the iron-shod rims of the wheels on either side. It happens also, when a huge lump is dislodged from the earth by process of time and rolled into vast and roomy gulfs of water, that the wash of the water makes the earth reel and quiver, just as a pot is sometimes unable to stand firm till the water in it has stopped surging to and fro.
Again, when a concentrated wind blowing through subterranean caverns has come to a head and hurls itself with all its might against the lofty vaults, its impulsive pressure tilts back the earth away from its impact. The houses built up above on the surface - and the more so in proportion as they tower up towards the sky - lean over and bulge out perilously in the same direction, and projecting beams overhang and threaten to crash. And yet men are loath to credit that a day of doom and ultimate catastrophe awaits this mighty world,  though they see such a colossal mass of earth tilting over. But if the winds did not stop to recover their breath, then no power would check the downfall of things. As it is, winds bluster and abate alternately, now rallying to the assault, now recoiling from a repulse. So it happens that the earth more often threatens a collapse than executes it. It tilts over and then swings back and after toppling top-heavily recovers its balance. This is how all buildings totter, the top more than the middle, this in turn more than the base and the base hardly at all.
Another cause of the same tremendous quaking is this. When a sudden turbulent squall of wind, whether of external origin or generated within the earth, has rushed into the subterranean hollows, it first rages there tumultuously among the vast caverns, swirling and eddying. Then, with intensified energy, it forces its way out and, splitting open the earth from its depths, creates a stupendous chasm. This is what happened in Syrian Sidon  and at Aegium  in the Peloponnese, when these cities were demolished by such an outrush of wind and the resulting earthquake. Many another set of battlements have been laid low by mighty earthquakes on dry land, and many cities with their citizens have been engulfed in the sea. If the wind does not break out, the fury of its accumulated momentum is dissipated through a multitude of underground passages as a passing shudder that sets the earth trembling. It behaves in fact just like the cold air that penetrates our limbs and makes us shiver and shake in spite of ourselves.
So through the menaced cities men tremble with a two-edged terror. While they dread the roofs above, they are afraid that the earth may suddenly fling open her caverns below, gaping wide to reveal a yawning mouth which she will gorge in her confused state with her own wreckage. Let them go on imagining that sky and earth are both indestructible and guaranteed life everlasting. From time to time the visible presence of peril stabs them in one quarter or another with a secret goad of fear that the earth may suddenly be whisked away from under their feet into the abyss and, robbed of its foundation, the whole world in a wild chaotic welter may follow it to perdition.
A point that sometimes occasions surprise is why nature does not cause the sea to grow bigger,  considering what a huge influx of water it receives from all the rivers that flow into it from every side. Add to these the stray showers and flying rainstorms by which every sea and every land is sprinkled and soaked. Add the sea's own springs. And yet, compared to the total bulk of the ocean, all these together scarcely amount to a single drop. This makes it less remarkable that the vast ocean does not grow still vaster. Besides, a large proportion of this increase is subtracted by the heat of the sun. We see how dripping wet clothes are dried by the sun's parching rays. We see, too, that the oceans exposed to them are multitudinous and of huge extent. However small the quantity that the sun may absorb from the sea at any particular point, yet over such an expanse the total loss will be considerable.  Then, again, the winds that scour the ocean may carry off a good deal of moisture, since we often see roadways dried up by the winds in a single night and soft mud hardened to a crust. Again, I have shown that the clouds too pick up a lot of moisture drawn from the wide ocean levels and sprinkle it over all the earth when it is raining above the land and the clouds are blown along by the winds. Lastly, the earth is of a porous texture and is contiguous with the sea, encircling its shores on every side. Therefore, just as water enters the sea from the land, so it must trickle into the land out of the briny gulf. The brine is filtered out, and the main bulk of the water flows back to reassemble in full at the fountain-head. Hence it flows overground, a steady column of sweet fluid marching down the highway already hewn with liquid foot for the guidance of its waves.
I will now explain how it happens that flames sometimes shoot out in such a tornado through the throat of Mount Etna.  For it was no light matter when the fiery storm exerted its despotic power over the fields of Sicily. The eyes of neighboring nations were drawn towards it, when they saw the smoke and the sparks spread over every quarter of the sky. Their hearts were filled with dreadful apprehension that nature might be planning some revolutionary change.
This is a problem that calls for wide and deep contemplation and far-ranging survey. You must remember that the universe is fathomless and reflect how minute a part of the whole is one world - an infinitesimal fraction, less in proportion than one man compared to the whole earth. If you look squarely at this fact and keep it clearly before your eyes, many things will cease to strike you as miraculous. Does anyone think it a miracle if somebody catches a fever that enflames his body, or is racked throughout his frame by a painful disease? A foot suddenly begins to swell. Sometimes a stab of pain grips the teeth or pierces right into the eyes. A fiery rash  erupts and worms its way through the body, burning every part it occupies as it crawls from limb to limb. All this because there is a multiplicity of atoms, and this earth and sky of ours have plagues in plenty to generate a superabundance of disease. In just the same way we must picture this earth and sky as amply supplied out of the infinite with matter to jolt the earth with a sudden shock, to set a wild tornado racing over sea and land, to make the fires of Etna erupt and the sky burst into flame. For this too happens: the heavenly regions actually blaze; and rainstorms of abnormal intensity are similarly due to such casual concentrations of water atoms. 'But  the tumultuous burst of conflagration is too huge for such an origin.' Why, any river seems huge to one who has never seen a bigger. So does a tree or a man. The largest thing a man has seen of any sort strikes him as huge, whereas all of them together, with sky and earth and sea thrown in, are nothing to the sum total of the universe.
I will now turn to the specific question, by what means that suddenly quickened flame spouts from the stupendous furnaces of Etna. First, then, the whole interior of the mountain is hollow, honeycombed with basaltic caverns. Next, in all the caves there is air and wind, the wind being produced by disturbance of the air. When this has been thoroughly heated and in its raging has heated the surrounding rocks and earth where it comes in contact and extracted their content of fire ablaze with leaping flames, it wells up and flings itself skyward by the direct route of the gaping throat. So it scatters fire and ashes far and wide, rolling dense clouds of murky smoke and discharging boulders of staggering weight. There can be no doubting that this is the work of wind at its most tempestuous.
Furthermore, the sea dashes its waves against a great part of the roots of this mountain and sucks back the undertow. From this sea subterranean caverns penetrate all the way to the depths of its throat. It cannot be doubted that by this channel <a blend of wind and water> from the open sea is forced into the heart of the mountain. From here it spouts out, shooting up flame, volleying stones and disgorging clouds of sand. For at the very summit there are craters or 'mixing bowls', as the Sicilians call them, which we term 'throats' or 'mouths'.
There are some phenomena to which it is not enough to assign one cause: we must enumerate several, though in fact there is only one.  Suppose you were to see the lifeless body of a man lying some distance away. You would have to mention all the possible causes of his death to be sure of mentioning the right one. You could not prove that he had perished by the sword or by cold, by sickness or by poison. But we know that whatever has happened to him must fall into one category of this sort. And there are many other questions that we are obliged to answer in the same way.
The Nile, for instance, the only river in all the lands of Egypt, rises and floods the fields on the threshold of summer. The reason why it often irrigates at the height of the heat may be because in summer there are north winds blowing against its mouths - the winds that are said to be Etesian  or 'seasonal' at that time. These winds, blowing against the stream, arrest its flow. By forcing the wind upstream they raise the water-level and hold up the current's advance. There is no doubt that these breezes do run counter to the river. They blow from the cold stars of the Pole. The Nile, on the other hand, comes out of the torrid south, rising in the heart of the noonday region among races of men whose skin is burnt black. 
It is also possible that a great sand bar is heaped against the river mouths in opposition to the current when the windswept sea drives the sand shoreward. In this way the river has less freedom of egress, and the downflow of its current loses momentum.
Or again, it is possible that at this season heavier rains  fall near its source, because then the Etesian blasts from the north concentrate all the clouds in those parts. It may be assumed that, when these southward-driven clouds have massed in the noonday region, they are eventually accumulated there and squeezed against high mountains.
Lastly, it may be that a spate of water forms in the heart of the Ethiopian highlands when gleaming snows  are forced to flow down into the plains by the liquefying beams of the all-irradiating sun.
Let me now explain the nature of those lakes and such like that are called Avernian. First they owe the name Avernus to the fact that they are inimical to all birds:  when the line of their flight has brought them over such places, they rest on their oars, furl their plumy sails and tumble headlong with nerveless necks outstretched. So they fall to earth, if the lie of the land so determines, or into the water, if it be a lake of Avernus that lies outspread below them. There is such a spot near Cumae, where hills give off an acrid fume of sulfur, fed by hot springs. There is another within the walls of Athens, on the very crest of the Acropolis, by the temple of the beneficent virgin Pallas Athene, to which cawing crows never wing their bodies, no matter how the altars smoke with burnt offerings. Not that they are really in such dread of Pallas' dire displeasure, which they had brought on them by their wakeful observation, as Greek bards have sung;  but the nature of the place produces this effect spontaneously. In Syria,  too, there is said to be a spot that evidently possesses a similar property, affecting even quadrupeds: as soon as they set foot within it, the potency of the place causes them to fall down flat, as though they were suddenly sacrificed to the gods of the Underworld.
All these phenomena occur in the course of nature, and the causes from which they spring are plain to see. There is firstly no need to imagine that these places are gateways to the Underworld, or indulge in the further fancy that by this route spirits are drawn into the infernal regions by the infernal gods, as light-footed stags are commonly supposed to draw serpents from their lairs by the breath of their nostrils.  How far this is from reality you may now learn, for I am setting out to give you the true explanation.
I will begin by repeating what I have often said before, that in the earth there are atoms of every kind. Many of them, those that serve as food, have vitalizing powers; many are such as to instill disease and hasten death.  I have already shown that substances vary in their power to promote life in various living species, owing to differences in their nature and structure and their atomic shapes. Many hurtful particles enter through the ears; many noxious particles which are rough to the touch slip in through the nostrils, and not a few are to be avoided by the sense of touch or shunned by sight, or are disagreeable to taste.
Next, it is plain to see how many things in their action on human senses are intensely nauseating and harmful. Certain trees  are possessed of a shade so oppressive that they often provoke a headache in one who lies outstretched on the grass beneath them. Among the high hills of Helicon there is even a tree  with the property of killing a man by the baleful scent of its blossom. Obviously, the reason why all these grow out of the soil is because the earth contains many seeds of many things mixed together in many ways which are sifted out and then passed on.
Again, when a night lamp,  newly extinguished, assails the nostrils with its pungent reek, an epileptic prone to fits of foaming and falling is overcome with drowsiness. The heavy scent of beaver musk makes a woman droop in slumber and the bright embroidery slip from her dainty hands, if she smells it at the time of menstruation. And there are many other things that enervate and slacken the limbs throughout the body and unsettle the vital spirit in its inmost recesses.
Again, if you loiter too long in a hot bath after a heavy meal, how easily it often happens that you collapse in the middle of the bathtub of steaming water. How easily the drowsy fume and scent of charcoal  passes into the brain, unless we have taken water beforehand. When parching fever has gripped the limbs, then the scent of wine is like a knock-out blow.
In the earth itself you often see sulfur generated and bitumen congealing with its vile stink. When men are following veins of gold and silver, groping with their picks in the bowels of the earth, what fumes are emitted from the pits of Scapte Hyle!  What malignant breath is exhaled by gold mines! How it acts upon men's features and complexions! Have you not seen or heard how speedily men die and how their vital forces fail when they are driven by dire necessity  to endure such work? All these vapors, then, are given off by the earth and blown out into the open, into the unconfined spaces of the air.
So also these Avernian places must send up an effluence deadly to birds on the wing. As this rises from the earth into the winds, it poisons a certain tract of air. No sooner has a bird winged its way into this tract than it is caught and halted by the invisible venom. Down it tumbles in a sheer fall on the very course in which the vapor rises. Once it has fallen there, the action of the same vapor expels the remnants of life from all its limbs. The first reaction, of course, is a sort of vertigo.  Then, when they have fallen into the very fountain-head of the poison, they can do nothing there but cough up life itself, enveloped as they are in a cloud of the deadly stuff.
It also happens sometimes that this force and vapor from Avernus dispels all the air that lies between the birds and the earth, so that this space is left almost void. When their flight has brought them straight into such a place, the upthrust of their pinions is forthwith lamed and baffled, and all the efforts of either wing are nullified. Since they can no longer support themselves by resting on their wings, nature of course compels them to drop to earth by their own weight. Lying in the midst of almost total vacuity, they dissipate their vital spirits through all the pores of the body.
Let us now consider why it is that well water is warmer in winter and cooler in summer. This happens because in summer the earth opens up its pores with the warmth and any particles it may contain of its own heat are dispersed into the air. The more the earth is drained of heat, the colder grows the water embedded in it. Conversely, when all the earth is compressed by cold and contracts and virtually congeals, it naturally happens that in contracting it squeezes out any heat it may contain into the wells.
It is said that next to the temple of Egyptian Ammon  there is a spring that is cold through the daylight hours but warm at night. By this spring men are unduly impressed. Some suppose that it heats up from the sun's ardor below the earth, when night has shrouded the lands in dreadful darkness. This theory is very wide of the mark. When water cannot be warmed from above by the sun's touch on its naked body, for all the blazing incandescence of the light raised above us, how can the same sun bake through the solid substance of earth from beneath so as to drench the same water with its boiling heat? Why, the sun with its fiery rays can scarcely gain admission for its heat into a shuttered house. What then is the explanation? Evidently the earth surrounding the spring is of looser texture than other earth, and there are many particles of fire near the body of water. When the dewy waves of night flow over the earth, the soil is immediately chilled through and condensed. So it happens that, as if it were squeezed in the hand, it forces out into the spring all the particles of fire it contains; and it is these that make the water warm to touch and steamy. Then, when the risen sun has loosened and relaxed the earth with the interpenetrating heat of its rays, the atoms of fire return to their former positions and all the warmth of the water passes into the earth. That is why the spring is cool by daylight. Besides, the spring-water exposed to the impact of sunbeams is rarefied at daybreak by the pulsating radiance. This causes it to lose all the particles of heat it possesses, just as water often loses its content of ice, melting and dissolving its bondage.
There is also a certain cold spring  such that a piece of tow placed above it is normally quick to catch fire and burst into flame. Similarly, a torch floating in its waters is set alight and blazes wherever the breezes drift it. The reason obviously is this. There are in the water a great many atoms of heat; and particles of fire must rise out of the depths of the earth all the way through the spring and so escape by exhalation into the air. There are not, however, so many of them as to heat the spring. Besides they are forcibly impelled to burst out suddenly through the water disconnected and unite on the surface. We may compare that spring of fresh water at Aradus,  which wells up in the sea and dispels the salty waves that surround it, and those many other places where the sea provides a welcome to thirsty mariners by spouting out fresh water amongst the salt. So in this spring the fiery atoms may well up and spout out. When they cluster together on the tow or cling to the body of the torch, they readily catch fire there and then, because tow and the swimming torches also contain many seeds of fire. You must have noticed, again, how a newly extinguished wick, when you bring it near to a night-burning lamp, catches light before it has touched the flame. A torch behaves in the same way. And many things besides are kindled at a distance by mere contact with heat before they are actually dipped in the fire. This, then, is what we must picture as happening also in this spring.
At this point, I will set out to explain what law of nature causes iron to be attracted by that stone which the Greeks call from its place of origin magnet,  because it occurs in the territory of the Magnesians.  Men look upon this stone as miraculous. They are amazed to see it form a chain of little rings hanging from it. Sometimes you may see as many as five or more in pendent succession swaying in the light puffs of air; one hangs from another, clinging to it underneath, and one derives from another the cohesive force of the stone. Such is the permeative power of this force.
In matters of this sort it is necessary to establish a number of facts before you can offer an explanation of them. This may mean approaching the problem by a very roundabout route. For this reason I beg you to lend me your ears and your mind with particular attentiveness.
In the first place, it must be a fact that all visible objects emit a perpetual stream and shower of particles that strike upon the eyes and provoke sight.  From certain objects there also flows a perpetual stream of odor, as coolness flows from rivers, heat from the sun, and from the ocean waves a spray that eats away walls round the seashore. Sounds of every sort are surging incessantly through the air. When we walk by the seaside, a salty tang of brine commonly enters our mouth; when we watch a draught of wormwood being mixed in our presence, a bitter effluence touches us. So from every object flows a multiform stream of matter, rippling out in all directions. The stream must flow without rest or intermission, since our senses are perpetually alert and everything is always liable to be seen or smelt or to provoke sensation by sound.
Let me now re-emphasize, what is made crystal clear in my first book, the extreme looseness of the structure of all objects.  A knowledge of this fact is relevant to many problems. In tackling the problem with which I am now confronted, it is especially necessary to establish that there is no perceptible object that does not consist of a mixture of matter and vacuity. In the first place, we find that in caves the rocky roofs sweat moisture and drip with trickling drops. Similarly in our own bodies sweat oozes from every surface; hairs grow on the chin and on every limb and member; food is diffused through every vein, building and sustaining the most outlying parts right down to the tiny nails. So also, when we hold full drinking vessels, we feel that cold and heat pass through bronze and through gold and silver. The stone partitions of houses are pervious to voices  and to scent and cold and the heat of fire, which penetrates also through hard iron. Even the cuirass of the sky that encloses us is not proof against the invasion of tempest and pestilence from without. Storms that are born of earth are duly allayed by absorption into the sky; and those of celestial origin into the earth. In short, there is nothing in existence that does not have a porous texture.
Add to this that not all the particles thrown off by objects are identical in their effect  on the senses or on particular substances. The sun bakes and dries out the earth; but it melts ice, and its rays cause deep drifts of snow on the high hills to thaw.  Wax, too, is liquefied by exposure to its heat. Similarly, fire liquefies bronze and melts gold; but it shrivels skins and flesh and makes them shrink. Water hardens iron coming fresh from the fire; but it softens skins and flesh that heat has hardened. To bearded goats wild olive is as delicious as if it were redolent of ambrosia and steeped in authentic nectar; yet to man there is no plant growing whose foliage is more unpalatable.  Pigs fight shy of marjoram and shrink from perfume in general; what seems to us on occasion a welcome restorative is dire poison to their bristly bodies. On the other hand filth that nauseates and revolts us is evidently delectable to pigs, so that they are never weary of wallowing  in it from head to tail.
There is one more point that clearly ought to be made before I embark on the matter in hand. The innumerable pores that exist in different objects must be possessed of mutually dissimilar  natures, each having its own peculiarities and its own system of passageways. In living creatures, for instance, there are various senses, each of which affords an entry for its own specific object.  We see that sound penetrates into one organ of sense, the savor of juices into another, the smells of an odor into a third. It is evident too that one thing seeps through stone, another through wood, another through gold, while yet another leaks through silver or glass. One medium is pervious to sight, another to heat. The same medium is traversed by different elements at different speeds.  This, of course, results inevitably from the great diversity, to which we have just alluded, in the nature of their internal passageways, due to differences in the nature and texture of substances.
So much by way of preface, to posit and establish the necessary premises for our argument. On this basis it will be easy to elucidate the problem and lay bare the whole cause of the attraction of iron. First, this stone must emit a dense stream or emanation of atoms, which dispels by a process of bombardment all the air that lies between the stone and the iron. When this space is emptied and a large tract in the middle is left void, then atoms of the iron all tangled together immediately slide and tumble into the vacuum. The consequence is that the ring itself follows and so moves in with its whole mass. No other substance is so rigidly held together by the intertanglement of its elemental atoms as cold iron, that stubborn and benumbing metal. No cause for wonder, then - indeed this could be inferred from the atomic structure - if a cluster of particles from the iron cannot drop into the void without the whole ring following. This it does, and continues to follow till it actually reaches the stone and clings to it by invisible ties. This happens in any direction in which there is a vacuum, whether the immediately adjoining particles move into it sideways or upwards. Of course they cannot rise up into the air of their own accord; but they are impelled by blows from other quarters.
The process is facilitated and the movement helped out by a contributory cause: as soon as the air in front of the ring is rarefied and the space fairly well emptied and evacuated, it thereupon happens that all the air situated at the back of the ring pushes and shoves it forward from behind. For objects are always being pelted by the surrounding air; but in this case it happens that the iron is pushed by the pelting because in one direction there is a vacuum ready to receive it. This air of which I am speaking creeps nimbly in through the many porosities in the iron and comes up against its tiny particles so as to push and drive it along as sails and ship are driven by the wind.
Again, all objects must contain air within their bodies, since all are of loose texture and all are encompassed and bounded by air. Accordingly the air that lies hidden in the core of the iron is perpetually surging to and fro in a restless motion. By this means, no doubt, it keeps on battering the ring and unsettling it from within. And by the same means the ring is, of course, kept moving in the same direction in which it has once launched itself by its plunge into the vacuum.
It also happens at times that iron moves away from this stone; its tendency is to flee and to pursue by turns. I have even seen Samothracian  rings of gilded iron dance and iron filings rage madly inside bronze cups when this magnet stone was put under them. So eager, it seemed, was the iron to run from the stone. The reason why the interposition of bronze causes such a turmoil is doubtless this. After the effluence of the bronze has first taken possession of the open passageways in the iron and occupied them, along comes the effluence of the magnet and finds everything full in the iron and so has no way of passing through as before. It is therefore compelled to pelt and batter the texture of the iron with its stream. In this way it spews away from itself the iron and through the bronze it drives away what otherwise it normally attracts.
There is no need to be surprised that the effluence from this stone has no power to impart a similar motion  to other substances besides iron. Some are held fast by their weight, for instance, gold. Others cannot be moved anywhere, because their loose texture allows the effluence to pass through intact; a clear example of this class is wood. Iron, which by its nature lies midway between the two, needs only the addition of some particles of bronze and then it yields to the current from the Magnesian stones.
These phenomena are not so different from others that I cannot find plenty of parallels to adduce, in which a unique relation exists between two substances. First, you see that stones are held together only by mortar. Wood, on the other hand, can be joined only by means of bulls' glue; and then it more often happens that cracks in boards gape open through a flaw in the wood than that the bovine bonds relax their grip. The juices of the vine will mix with spring water when ponderous pitch and buoyant olive oil refuse. The crimson dye of the murex  combines only with wool, and that so firmly that it can never be parted: not though you should labor with Neptune's flood to restore it; not though all the ocean with all its waves wished to cleanse it. Again, is there not one thing  only that will alloy gold to gold? Is not bronze soldered to bronze by nothing but tin? How many other examples might be found! But to what purpose? There is no need for you to follow such a roundabout route to your goal, nor for me to expend such labor on the point. Better to sum up a long argument in a few brief words. When the textures of two substances are mutually contrary, so that hollows in the one correspond to full sections in the other and vice versa, then connection between them is most perfect. It is even possible for some things to be coupled together, as though interlinked by rings  and hooks. And such, it would rather seem, is the linkage between iron and magnet.
I will now explain the nature of diseases  and the source from which the sickly power of pestilence is able to breathe a sudden death-dealing plague upon the tribes of men and herds of beasts.  In the first place, I have shown  above that there are certain atoms of many substances that are vital to us, and that on the other hand there must be countless others flying about that are a cause of disease and death. When these, by some chance, have accumulated and upset the balance of the atmosphere, the air becomes infected. This crop of pestilence and plague either comes in through the sky from outside, like clouds and mists, or very often springs from the earth itself when it has been rotted by drenching  with unseasonable rains and pelting with sunbeams.
You should note also how unaccustomed climates and waters  affect those who venture far from home and country because of the wide range of variation in things. For what are we to say is the difference between the climate that prevails among the Britons and that of Egypt, where the celestial axis is tilted askew, or between Pontus  and Cadiz and right on to the land where the skins of men are burnt black?  As we see these four regions mutually distinguished by the four winds and quarters of the sky, so their inhabitants are markedly distinct in complexion and features and in their susceptibility to particular diseases. There is elephantiasis,  for instance, which is bred in the heart of Egypt on the banks of the Nile and nowhere else. In Attica the feet are attacked; in Achaia it is the eyes that suffer.  To other members and organs other regions are adverse. This is brought about by variations in the air.
Let us suppose, then, that some atmosphere that chances to be uncongenial to us is set in motion. The baleful air begins to creep. Like mist and cloud it glides and, wherever it comes, it sows disorder and change. When at length it makes its way into our region, it contaminates the atmosphere there, making it conformable to itself and unfriendly to us. So, without warning, this new plague and pestilence either falls upon the water or settles right on the growing wheat or on other human food or pasturage of animals; or else it remains suspended in the air itself so that, when we inhale the polluted atmosphere, we cannot help sucking in the sickness right into our bodies. It is in much the same way that a plague often falls on cattle or a distemper on bleating sheep already enfeebled. It makes no odds whether it is we who move into unpropitious regions and change the atmospheric garment that enwraps us or whether nature brings to us a tainted atmosphere, or something else to which we are unaccustomed, to menace us with the advent of the unfamiliar.
Of this nature  was the fatal tide of pestilence that once laid waste the Athenian  fields, turning the highways into deserts and draining the city of citizens. From its well-spring in the heart of Egypt it traversed a wide expanse of air and the swimming plains of the sea and swooped at length upon all the people of Pandion.  Then they began to surrender, battalions at a time, to sickness and death. First they would find their heads enflamed with feverish heat and their eyes bright with a bloodshot flush. Then the throat would turn black and sweat internally with blood; the pathway of the voice became blocked and constricted by ulcers; the tongue, the mind's interpreter, enfeebled by pain, grew troublesome to move and rough to touch and began to ooze blood. Then, when the sickness passing down the throat had filled the victim's chest and flowed into his sad heart -then indeed all the bolts of life began to shake. The breath coming through his mouth began to roll out a foul odor like the stench that rises from corpses thrown out to rot. The vigor of the mind as a whole and all the body began to wilt, now on the very threshold of death. The intolerable sufferings were unremittingly attended by the torture of anxiety and wailing mixed with groaning. The sufferers were shaken night and day by incessant retching that convulsed every limb and sinew and broke them down, exhausting the already exhausted.
You would not observe any excessive heat in the surface regions of the body; rather, it felt tepid to the touch of the hands. At the same time the whole body reddened, as though branded with ulcers. It looked as though every limb were inflamed with a spreading fire of erysipelas.  But the inner parts of the victims were ablaze to the very bones. A flame was blazing in their stomach as though in a furnace. It was no good applying anything, however light and flimsy, to their limbs, except continual cooling and ventilation. Some of the sufferers would immerse their fevered limbs in chilly streams, flinging their bodies naked into the waves. Many hurled themselves headlong down from a height into the water of a well, their mouths gaping wide before they got there. The quenchless parching thirst in which their bodies were immersed made a thorough drenching no more satisfying than a few drops of water.
There was never any easing of the suffering. The body lay exhausted. Medicine muttered, too scared to speak out. But still those staring eyes, ablaze with fever, rolled and tossed and never closed in sleep.
Then many signs of death began to appear: the mind delirious with agony and terror; the brow contracted; the features wrung with madness and energy; the ears tortured by incessant noises; the breath coming in short gasps, or heavy and labored: a glistening stream of sweat trickling down the neck; a thin phlegm in little drops, tinged with yellow and tasting of salt, painfully ejected from the throat by a hoarse cough. The sinews of the hands began to twitch, the limbs to tremble, and from the feet a persistent chill spread very gradually upwards. Then the last hour drew on, heralded by pinched nostrils, the tip of the nose narrowed to a point, hollow eyes, sunken temples, skin cold and hard to the physician's touch, forehead bulging and distended. After this it was not long before the limbs stiffened in death. About the eighth kindling, or the ninth, of the sun's daily torch they gave up the ghost.
If the victim, as might happen, stopped short of this fatal extremity, before long by way of loathsome ulcers and a black torrent pouring from the bowels he was overtaken nonetheless by decay and death. Or else, in many cases, he was seized by a flow of putrid blood through choked nostrils accompanied by a violent headache, and through this channel all the strength of his body ebbed away.
If he survived this malignant stream of foul blood, the disease had still to make its way into his joints and sinews and right into the genital organs. Some in their overwhelming dread of death  saved their lives by having their male organ cut off with a blade. Others stayed alive after a fashion minus hands and feet or with the loss of their eyesight: so completely were they mastered by the dire dread of death. There were even some who fell a prey to total forgetfulness, so that they could no longer recognize themselves.
While many corpses lay unburied  on the ground, heaped one upon another, yet carrion birds and beasts of prey either kept well away from them, repelled by the disgusting stench, or having tasted were stricken with a speedy death. In those days scarcely a bird was to be seen, nor did the sad species of wild beasts emerge from the forests. Most of them were stricken with the plague and died. In particular, man's strong and trusty animals the dogs lay stretched in every street, battling vainly for the life that was dragged out of their limbs by the power of the pestilence. 
Lonely funerals were raced without a mourner to the grave. No reliable remedy was found for general application. The treatment that had allowed one to draw the breath of life into this throat and remain a spectator of the starry vault proved in other cases a minister of death.
One especially distressing symptom was this: as soon as a man saw himself enmeshed in the malady, he lost heart and lay in despair as though under sentence of death. In expectation of death, he gave up his life there and then.
Without a pause the contagion of the insatiable pestilence laid hold of victim after victim, as though they had been fleecy sheep or horned cattle, and this was one of the main factors that heaped death on death. Those whose excessive love of life and dread of death made them shrink from tending their own sick were punished before long by slaughtering Neglect  with a death as painful as it was disgraceful, unbefriended and destitute of aid. Those, on the other hand, who stood by the deathbed were overcome by contagion and the exertions imposed on them by their sense of honor and the appealing voice of the exhausted with its intrusive note of fretfulness. This, then, was the fate that overtook the finest characters.
<...> and  upon each other, struggling to bury the vast crowd of their dead. Then back they would go, exhausted with tears and lamentation. Many were driven by sorrow to the sick-bed. The times were such that not a soul could be found untouched by death or sickness or mourning.
Meanwhile shepherd and herdsman and the sturdy pilot of the curved plough were among the victims. Within the cottage, body lay heaped on body, consigned to death by poverty  and pestilence together. Sometimes you might see the lifeless bodies of parents stretched above lifeless children, or children in turn gasping out their lives above the corpses of their prostrate parents. To no small extent did the affliction flood in from the countryside into the city by the concentration there of the plague- stricken peasantry from every district,  who crowded land and lodgings. Here, all the more because of the stifling heat, death piled high his heaps of victims. Along the roadside by the drinking fountains sprawled the bodies, prostrated and bowled over by thirst, of multitudes in whom the breath of life had been cut off by the excessive sweetness of the water. Exposed in streets and public places you might see many a wasted frame with limbs half dead begrimed with filth and huddled under rags, dying in squalor with nothing to cover the bones but skin, well-nigh buried already in loathsome sores and dirt. Every hallowed shrine of the gods had been tenanted by death with lifeless bodies - yes, all the temples of the Heavenly Ones, which their overseers had filled with guests, were left occupied by crowds of corpses.  In this hour reverence and worship of the gods carried little weight: they were banished by the immediacy of suffering.
The mode of burial that had hitherto always been in vogue was no longer practiced in the city. The whole nation was beside itself with terror. Each in turn, when he suffered bereavement, put away his own dead hastily, as time allowed. Many unpleasant expedients were inspired by poverty and the suddenness of the event. Men would fling their blood-relatives amid violent outcry on the pyres built for others and set torches under them. Often they shed much blood in these disputes rather than abandon their dead.