Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 352: 632-633

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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