Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 353: 548-549

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Pliny: Natural History

qui trecentos occidit Lacedaemonios. ipse convolneratus captus semel per cavernam lautumiarum evasit angustias volpium aditus secutus. iterum captus sopitis custodibus somno ad ignem advolutus lora cum corpore exussit. tertium capto Lacedaemonii pectus dissecuere viventi, hirsutumque cor repertum est.

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LXXI. In corde summo pinguitudo quaedam est laetis extis. non semper autem in parte extorum habitum est; L. Postumio L. f. Albino rege sacrorum post cxxvi Olympiadem, cum rex Pyrrhus ex Italia decessisset, cor in extis haruspices inspicere coeperunt. Caesari dictatori, quo die primum veste purpurea processit atque in sella aurea sedit, sacrificanti in extis defuit; unde quaestio magna de divinatione argumentantibus, potueritne sine illo viscere hostia 187vivere an ad tempus amiserit. negatur cremari posse in iis qui cardiaco morbo obierint, negatur et veneno1 interemptis; certe exstat oratio Vitelli qua Gnaeum Pisonem eius sceleris coarguit hoc usus argumento, palamque testatus non potuisse ob venenum cor Germanici Caesaris cremari. contra genere morbi defensus est Piso.

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Book XI

Aristomenes who killed three hundred Spartans. He himself when severely wounded and taken prisoner for the first time escaped through a cave from confinement in the quarries by following the routes by which foxes got in. He was again taken prisoner, but when his guards were fast asleep he rolled to the fire and burnt off his thongs, burning his body in the process. He was taken a third time, and the Spartans cut him open alive and his heart was found to be shaggy.

LXXI. In victims whose organs are propitiousThe heart in divination. there is a certain fatness on the top of the heart. But the heart was not always considered as one of the significant organs; it was after the 126th Olympiad, when Lucius Postumius Albinus, son of Lucius, was King of Sacrifices, after King Pyrrhus had evacuated Italy,a that the augurs began to inspect the heart among the organs. On the day when Caesar as dictator first went in procession dressed in purple and took his seat on a golden throne, when he performed a sacrifice the heart was lacking among the organs; and this gave rise to much debate among the students of divination, as to whether the victim had been able to live without that organ or had lost it at the time. It is stated that at the cremation of persons who have died of heart disease the heart cannot be burnt, and the same is said of persons that have been killed by poison; undoubtedly there is extant a speech of Vitellius that employs this argument to prove Gnaeus Piso guilty of poisoning,b and explicitly uses the evidence that it had been impossible to cremate the heart of Germanicus Caesar on account of poison. In reply Piso’s defence was based on the nature of the disease.

  • a275 b.c.
  • bIn a.d. 19.
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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938