Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 352: 404-405

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Pliny: Natural History

sidus ingens et clarum. sed maxime mirum iis erat umbras suas in nostrum caelum cadere, non in suum, solemque ab laeva oriri et in dextram occidere 88potius quam e diverso. iidem narravere latus insulae quod praetenderetur Indiae stadiorum esse ab oriente hiberno; ultra montes Hemodos Seras quoque ab ipsis aspici notos etiam commercio: patrem Rachiae commeasse eo: advenis sibi Seras1 occursare. ipsos vero excedere hominum magnitudinem, rutilis comis, caeruleis oculis, oris sono truci, nullo commercio linguae. cetera eadem quae nostri negotiatores: fluminis ulteriore ripa merces positas iuxta venalia tolli ab iis si placeat permutatio, non aliter odio iustiore luxuriae quam si perducta mens illuc usque cogitet quid et quo petatur et quare.

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Sed ne Taprobane quidem, quamvis extra orbem a natura relegata, nostris vitiis caret: aurum argentumque et ibi in pretio, marmor testudinis simile, margaritae gemmaeque in honore; multo praestantior est2 totus3 luxuriae nostra4 cumulus. ipsorum opes maiores esse dicebant, sed apud nos opulentiae

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Book VI

brilliant star, lights them by night. But what surprised them most was that their shadows fell towards our sky and not towards theirs,a and that the sun rose on the left-hand side of the observer and set towards the right instead of vice versa. They also told us that the side of their island facing towards India is 1250 miles long and lies south-east of India; that beyond the Himalayas they also face towards the country of the Chinese, who are known to them by intercourse in trade as well, the father of Rachia having travelled there, and that when they arrived there the Chinese always hastened down to the beach to meet them. That people themselves (they told us) are of more than normal height, and have flaxen hair and blue eyes, and they speak in harsh tones and use no language in dealing with travellers. The remainder of the envoys’ account agreed with the reports of our traders—that commodities were deposited on the opposite bank of a river by the side of the goods offered for sale by the natives, and they took them away if satisfied by the barter,—hatred of luxury being in no circumstances more justifiable than if the imagination travels to the Far East and reflects what is procured from there and what means of trade are employed and for what purpose.

But even Ceylon, although banished by NatureCingalese manners and customs. beyond the confines of the world, is not without the vices that belong to us: gold and silver are valued there also, and a kind of marble resembling tortoise-shell and pearls and precious stones are held in honour; in fact the whole mass of luxury is there carried to a far higher pitch than ours. They told us that there was greater wealth in their own

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938