Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 352: 632-633

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Pliny: Natural History


LIV. Ipsum cremare apud Romanos non fuit veteris instituti; terra condebantur. at postquam longinquis bellis obrutos erui eognovere, tunc institutum. et tamen multae familiae priscos servavere ritus, sicut in Cornelia nemo ante Sullam dictatorem traditur crematus, idque voluisse veritum talionem eruto C. Mari cadavere. [sepultus vero intellegitur quoquo modo conditus, humatus vero humo contectus.]1


LV. Post sepulturam variae2 manium ambages. omnibus a supremo die eadem quae ante primum, nec magis a morte sensus ullus aut corpori aut animae quam ante natalem—eadem enim vanitas in futurum etiam se propagat et in mortis quoque tempora ipsa sibi vitam mentitur, alias inmortalitatem animae, alias transfigurationem, alias sensum inferis dando et manes colendo deumque faciendo qui iam etiam homo esse desierit—ceu vero ullo modo spirandi ratio ceteris animalibus distet, aut non diuturniora in vita multa reperiantur quibus nemo similem divinat 189inmortalitatem. quod autem corpus animae per se? quae materia? ubi cogitatio illi? quomodo visus, auditus, aut qui tangit? quis usus ex iis3 aut quod sine iis bonum? quae deinde sedes quantave multitudo


Book VII

LIV. Cremation was not actually an old practice atCremation history of. Rome: the dead used to be buried. But cremation was instituted after it became known that the bodies of those fallen in wars abroad were dug up again. All the same many families kept on the old ritual, for instance it is recorded that nobody in the family of the Cornelii was cremated before Sulla the dictator, and that he had desired it because he was afraid of reprisals for having dug up the corpse of Gaius Marius. [But burial is understood to denote any mode of disposal of a corpse, but interment means covering up with eartha.]

LV. There are various problems concerning theBelief in after-life. spirits of the departed after burial. All men are in the same state from their last day onward as they were before their first day, and neither body nor mind possesses any sensation after death, any more than it did before birth—for the same vanity prolongs itself also into the future and fabricates for itself a life lasting even into the period of death, sometimes bestowing on the soul immortality, sometimes transfiguration, sometimes giving sensation to those below, and worshipping ghosts and making a god of one who has already ceased to be even a man—just as if man’s mode of breathing were in any way different from that of the other animals, or as if there were not many animals found of greater longevity, for which nobody prophesies a similar immortality! But what is the substance of the soul taken by itself? what is its material? where is its thought located? how does it see and hear, and with what does it touch? what use does it get from these senses, or what good can it experience without them? Next, what is the abode, or how great is the multitude,

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938