Chap. XVIII.

More briefly of some others.

1. OTHER relations there are, and those in very good Authors, which though we do not positively deny, yet have they not been unquestioned by some, and at least as improbable truths have been received by others. Unto some it hath seemed incredible what Herodotus reporteth of the great Army of Xerxes, that drank whole rivers dry. And unto the Author himself it appeared wondrous strange, that they exhausted not the provision of the Countrey, rather then the waters thereof. For as he maketh the account, and Budeus de Asse correcting the mis-compute of Valla, delivereth it; if every man of the Army had had a chenix of Corn a day, that is, a sextary and half; or about two pints and a quarter, the Army had daily expended ten hundred thousand and forty Medimna's, or measures containing six Bushels. Which rightly considered, the Abderites had reason to bless the Heavens, that Xerxes eat but one meal a day; and Pythius his noble Host, might with less charge and possible provision entertain both him and his Army. And yet may all be salved, if we take it hyperbolically, as wise men receive that expression in Job, concerning Behemoth or the Elephant; Behold, he drinketh up a River and hasteth not, he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth.

2. That Annibal eat or brake through the Alps with Vinegar, may be too grossly taken, and the Author of his life annexed unto Plutarch affirmeth only, he used this artifice upon the tops of some of the highest mountains. For as it is vulgarly understood, that he cut a passage for his Army through those mighty mountains, it may seem incredible, not only in the greatness of the effect, but the quantity of the efficient and such as behold them, may think an Ocean of Vinegar too little for that effect. 'Twas a work indeed rather to be expected from earthquakes and inundations, then any corrosive waters, and much condemneth the Judgement of Xerxes, that wrought through Mount Athos with Mattocks.[1]

3. That Archimedes burnt the ships of Marcellus, with speculums of parabolical figures, at three furlongs, or as some will have it, at the distance of three miles, sounds hard unto reason, and artificial experience: and therefore justly questioned by Kircherus,2 who after long enquiry could find but one made by Manfredus Septalius that fired at fifteen paces. And therefore more probable it is, that the ships were nearer the shore, or about some thirty paces: at which distance notwithstanding the effect was very great. But whereas men conceive the ships were more easily set on flame, by reason of the pitch set about them, it seemeth no advantage. Since burning glasses will melt pitch or make it boyl, not easily set it on fire.

4. The story of the Fabii,[3] wherof three hundred and six marching against the Veientes, were all slain, and one childe alone to support the family remained; is surely not to be paralleld, nor easie to be conceived, except we can imagine, that of three hundred and six, but one had children below the service of war; that the rest were all unmarried; or the wife but of one impregnated.

5. The received story of Milo, who by daily lifting a Calf, attained an ability to carry it being a Bull, is a witty conceit, and handsomly sets forth the efficacy of Assuefaction. But surely the account had been more reasonably placed upon some person not much exceeding in strength, and such a one as without the assistance of custom could never have performed that act; which some may presume that Milo without precedent artifice or any other preparative, had strength enough to perform. For as relations declare, he was the most pancratical man of Greece, and as Galen reporteth, and Mercurialis in his Gymnasticks representeth, he was able to persist erect upon an oyled plank, and not to be removed by the force or protrusion of three men. And if that be true with Atheneus reporteth, he was little beholding to custom for this abilitie. For in the Olympick games, for the space of a furlong, he carryed an Ox of four years[4] upon his shoulders; and the same day he carried it in his belly; for as it is there delivered he eat it up himselfe. Surely he had been a proper guest at Grandgousiers feast, and might have matcht his throat that eat six pilgrims for a salad.5

6. It much disadvantageth the Panegyrick of Synesius,6 and is no small disparagement unto baldness, if it be true what is related by ælian concerning æschilus, whose bald-pate was mistaken for a rock, and so was brained[7] by a Tortoise which an æagle let fall upon it. Certainly it was a very great mistake in the perspicacity of that Animal. Some men critically disposed, would from hence confute the opinion of Copernicus, never conceiving how the motion of the earth below should not wave him from a knock perpendicularly directed from a body in the air above.

7. It crosseth the Proverb, and Rome might well be built in a day; if that were true which is traditionally related by Strabo; that the great Cities Anchiale and Tarsus, were built by Sardanapalus both in one day,[8] according to the inscription of his monument, Sardanapalus Anacyndraxis filius, Anchialen & Tarsum una die edficavi, Tu autem hospes Ede, Lude, Bibe, &c. Which if strictly taken, that is, for the finishing thereof, and not only for the beginning; for an artificial or natural day, and not one of Daniels weeks,[9] that is, seven whole years; surely their hands were very heavy that wasted thirteen years in the private house of Solomon:[10] It may be wondered how forty years were spent in the erection of the Temple of Jerusalem,[11] and no less then an hundred in that famous one of Ephesus.[12] Certainly it was the greatest Architecture of one day, since that great one of six; an Art quite lost with our Mechanicks, a work not to be made out, but like the wals of Thebes, and such an Artificer as Amphion.

8. It had been a sight only second unto the Ark to have beheld the great Syracusia, or mighty Ship of Hiero, described in Atheneus; and some have thought it a very large one, wherein were to be found ten stables for horses, eight Towers, besides Fish-ponds, Gardens, Tricliniums, and many fair rooms paved with Agath, and precious Stones. But nothing was impossible unto Archimedes, the learned Contriver thereof; nor shall we question his removing the earth, when he findes an immoveable base to place his Engine upon it.

9. That the Pamphilian Sea gave way to Alexander in his intended March toward Persia, many have been apt to credit, and Josephus is willing to believe, to countenance the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea. But Strabo who writ before him delivereth another account; that the Mountain Climax adjoyning to the Pamphilian Sea, leaves a narrow passage between the Sea and it, which passage at an ebb and quiet Sea all men take; but Alexander coming in the Winter, and eagerly pursuing his affairs, would not wait for the reflux or return of the Sea; and so was fain to pass with his Army in the water, and march up to the navel in it.[13]

10. The relation of Plutarch of a youth of Sparta, that suffered a Fox concealed under his robe to tear out his bowels, before he would either by voice or countenance betray his theft; and the other of the Spartan Lad, that with the same resolution suffered a coal from the Altar to burn his arm, although defended by the Author that writes his life, is I perceive mistrusted by men of Judgment, and the Author with an aiunt, is made to salve himself. Assuredly it was a noble Nation that could afford an hint to such inventions of patience, and upon whom, if not such verities, at least such verisimilities of fortitude were placed. Were the story true, they would have made the only Disciples for Zeno, and the Stoicks, and might perhaps have been perswaded to laugh in Phaleris his Bull.[14]

11. If any man shall content his belief with the speech of Balaams Ass,[15] without a belief of that of Mahomets Camel,[16] or Livies Oxe;[17] if any man make a doubt of Giges ring in Justinus,[18] or conceives he must be a Jew that believes the Sabbatical river in Josephus.[19] If any man will say he doth not apprehend how the tayl of an African Weather out-weigheth the body of a good Calf, that is, an hundred pound, according unto Leo Africanus,[20] or desires before belief, to behold such a creature as is the Ruck in Paulus Venetus,[21] for my part I shall not be angry with his incredulity.

12. If anyone shall receive as stretcht or fabulous accounts what is delivered of Cocles, Scævola and Curtius,[22] the sphere of Archimedes,[23] the story of the Amazons, the taking of the City of Babylon, not known to some therein in three days after;[24] that the nation was deaf which dwelt at the fall of Nilus,[25] the laughing and weeping humour of Heraclitus and Democritus,[26] with many more, he shall not want some reason and the authority of Lancelotti.27

13. If any man doubt of the strange Antiquities delivered by Historians, as of the wonderful corps of Antæus untombed a thousand years after his death by Sertorius.[28] Whether there were no deceipt in those fragments of the Ark so common to be seen in the days of Berosus;[29] whether the Pillar which Josephus beheld long ago,[30] Tertullian long after, and Bartholomeus de Saligniaco, and Borchardus long since, be the same with that of Lots wife; whether this were the hand of Paul, or that which is commonly shewn the head of Peter,[31] if any doubt, I shall not much dispute with their suspicions. If any men shall not believe the Turpentine Tree, betwixt Jerusalem and Bethlem, under which the Virgin suckled our Saviour, as she passed between those Cities; or the fig-tree of Bethany shewed to this day, whereon Zacheus ascended to behold our Saviour; I cannot tell how to enforce his belief, nor do I think it requisite to attempt it. For, as it is no reasonable proceeding to compel a religion, or think to enforce our own belief upon another, who cannot without the concurrence of Gods spirit, have any indubitable evidence of things that are obtruded. So is it also in matters of common belief; whereunto neither can we indubitably assent, without the co-operation of our sense or reason, wherein consist the principles of perswasion. For, as the habit of Faith in Divinity is an Argument of things unseen, and a stable assent unto things inevident, upon authority of the Divine Revealer: So the belief of man which depends upon humane testimony, is but a staggering assent unto the affirmative, not without some fear of the negative. And as there is required the Word of God, or infused inclination unto the one, so must the actual sensation of our senses, at least the non opposition of our reasons procure our assent and acquiescence in the other. So when Eusebius an holy Writer affirmeth[32] there grew a strange and unknown plant near the statue of Christ, erected by his Hæmorrhoidal patient in the Gospel,[33] which attaining unto the hem of his vesture, acquired a sudden faculty to cure all diseases. Although he saith he saw the statue in his days, yet hath it not found in many men so much as humane beliefe? Some believing, others opinioning, a third suspective it might be otherwise.[34] For indeed, in matters of belief the understanding assenting unto the relation, either for the authority of the person, or the probability of the object, although there may be a confidence of the one, yet if there be not a satisfaction in the other, there will arise suspensions; nor can we properly believe until some argument of reason, or of our proper sense convince or determine our dubitations.

And thus it is also in matters of certain and experimental truth: for if unto one that never heard thereof, a man should undertake to perswade the affections of the Load-stone, or that Jet and Amber attracteth straws and light bodies, there would be little Rhetorick in the authority of Aristotle, Pliny, or any other. Thus, although it be true that the string of a Lute or Viol will stir upon the stroak of an Unison or Diapazon in another of the same kinde; that Alcanna being green, will suddenly infect the nails and other parts with a durable red; that a Candle out of a Musket will pierce through an Inch-board, or an urinal force a naile through a Plank,[35] yet can few or none believe thus much with a visible experiment. Which notwithstanding fals out more happily for knowledge; for these relations leaving unsatisfaction in the Hearers, do stir up ingenuous dubiosities unto experiment, and by an exploration of all, prevent delusion in any.


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}. Ross, Arcana Microcosmi II:1.1, says that Browne's dubiety regarding Scaevola is inconsistent with his belief in St. John and St. Lawrence.

1 [Wren: "There needed not more than some few hogsheads of vinegar, for having hewed down the woods of fir growing there, and with the huge piles thereof calcined the tops of some cliffes which stood in his way: a small quantity of vinegar poured on the fired glowing rocks would make them cleave in sunder, as is manifest in calcined flints, which being often burned, and as often quencht in vinegar, will in fine turne into an impalpable powder: as is truly experimented, and is dayly manifest in the Limekilnes."

Wilkin continues: "Dr. Mc'Keever, in a paper in the 5th vol. of the Annals of Philosophy, N.S. discusses this question, and arrives at the conclusion, that, in all probability, the expansive operation of the fire on the water which had been percolating through the pores and fissures of the rocks occasioned the detachment of large portions of it by explosion, just as masses of rock are frequently detached from cliffs and precipitated into adjoining vallies by a similar physical cause. Dr. M. notices the annual disruption of icebergs in the Polar Seas, on the return of summer, as a phenomenon bearing considerable analogy to the preceding. Mr. Brayley supposes that Hannibal might have used vinegar to dissolve partially a particular mass of limestone, which might impede his passage through some narrow pass. Dr. M. suggests that he might attribute to the vinegar and fire what the latter actually effected by its action on the water, and would have effected just as well without the vinegar. But perhaps after all the only vinegar employed might be pyroligneous acid, produced from the wood by its combination, without any intention on the part of Hannibal, though its presence would very naturally have been attributed to design by the ignorant spectators of his operation, which, on this theory, may be supposed to have been conducted on a full knowledge of the effects they would produce, in the explosive removal of the obstacles which obstructed his advance."]

2 De luce et umbra.

3 [As in Livy, II l, who says that "an immature youth" was the only survivor, implying that the youth was at the battle.]

4 [Wren: "An ox of 4 yeares in Greece did not æqual one with us of 2: whereof having taken out the bowels and the heade and the hide, and the feete and all that which they call the offall, we may well thinke the four quarters, especially yf the greate bones were all taken out, could not weigh much above a 100lb weight. Now the greater wonder is how he could eate so much, then to carrye it. It is no news for men in our dayes to carry above 400 weight; but few men can eate 100 weight, excepting they had such a gyant-like bulke as he had."]

5 In Rabelais. [Grandgousier ate the tripes of 367,014 beeves in Rabelais I.4; Gargantua ate six pilgrims (who later escaped), I.38]

6 Who writ in praise of baldness. [That, by going bald and hatless, men would so inure their heads to the elements as to make them nearly impenetrable.]

7 [The OED cites the use of "brain" as a verb in this sense as early as 1382: (Wyclif Isa. lxvi. 3), "That sleth a beste, as that brayne a dogge."]

8 [Strabo XIV.5.9. Wren: "A single fortress, as that of Babell, is called a city. Genesis. xi, 4. In imitation whereof, built by Nimrod, the first Assyrian Monarch, it is possible that Sardanapalus, the last Monarch, but withall the greatest in power, and purse, and people, might easily raise such a fortresse in a daye, having first brought all the materials in place, and if one, he might as well have built ten in several places. Now these cityes were about 400 miles distant, Tarsus on the bank of Sinus, Issicus in Cilicia, and Anchiala on the bank of the Euxine Sea in Pontus, both border townes, dividing Natolia on the lesser Asia from the greater Asia, and were the 2 frontire townes of the Assyrian Monarchie, and were built for the ostentation of his vast spreading dominions, and both in a day raised for ostentation of his Power."]

9 [Dan. 9:24 ff: "24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."]

10 [1 Kings 7:1]

11 [Seven years, according to 1 Kings 6:37-38: "In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of the Lord laid, in the month Zif: And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which [is] the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it", although Solomon reigned for forty. Considering the massive foundations that remain, it would have been a wonder if it had been built in forty years, let alone seven.]

12 [According to Pliny, xxxvi.95 it took 120 years to finish the temple of Diana at Ephesus.]

13 [Strabo XIV.3.9..]

14 [A large bronze bull in which Phalaris boiled or burned people, or possibly in which he did not burn or boil people, or not completely; see Diodorus Siculus, IX.19 and Lucian's Pharsalis I.11.]

15 [Numbers 22:30]

16 [In bar-Hebræus; the camel apparently whispered in Mahomet's ear.]

17 [In Rome, XXVIII.11, and at Privernum, XXVII.11; but it should be noted that these were not regular events but bad omens accompanied by other strange signs and events.]

18 [Not in Justinus, but Cicero, De Officiis 3.38 retells the story from Plato, Republic II of a ring that gave its wearer the ability to be invisible, with the typically Hellenic result that he used it to ravish the queen and take over the country.]

19 [In the Jewish Wars, VII.5.1: "He then saw a river as he went along, of such a nature as deserves to be recorded in history; it runs in the middle between Arcea, belonging to Agrippa's kingdom, and Raphanea. It hath somewhat very peculiar in it; for when it runs, its current is strong, and has plenty of water; after which its springs fail for six days together, and leave its channel dry, as any one may see; after which days it runs on the seventh day as it did before, and as though it had undergone no change at all; it hath also been observed to keep this order perpetually and exactly; whence it is that they call it the Sabbatic River that name being taken from the sacred seventh day among the Jews", to which Whiston notes: "Since in these latter ages this Sabbatic River, once so famous, which, by Josephus's account here, ran every seventh day, and rested on six, but according to Pliny, Nat. Hist. 31. II, ran perpetually on six days, and rested every seventh, (though it no way appears by either of their accounts that the seventh day of this river was the Jewish seventh day or sabbath,) is quite vanished, I shall add no more about it: only see Dr. Hudson's note. In Varenius's Geography, i, 17, the reader will find several instances of such periodical fountains and. rivers, though none of their periods were that of a just week as of old this appears to have been." Pliny's account is to be found in Book XXXI.24 Wilkin comments: "All the Jewish rabbinical authorities adopt the [account of Pliny] as the fact, in opposition to Josephus, whose account is so singular, that several of his commentators have not hesitated to assert transposition to have occurred in his text, producing the error in question. Our poetical Walton {in Chapter I} alludes to this marvellous river, but he has adopted the proposed correction, citing Josephus as his authority, but giving the Plinian version of the story, doubtless thinking it most fit that the river should allow the angler to repose on Sunday and afford him, during the six other days, 'choice recreation.'" Wilkin goes on to propose that the story is "perfectly intelligible": "Mills had been at work during the week, keeping up a head of water which had rushed along with a velocity (as Josephus describes it) sufficient to carry with it stones and fragments of rocks. On sabbath-day the miller 'shut down', and let all the water run through, by which the river was laid almost dry. What should hinder, in these days of hypothesis, our adopting so ready and satisfactory a solution?" What, indeed, except that a river of such paltry flow is not a good candidate for milling; and that if it were used, faute de mieux, for such purposes, surely the millers would not allow all the potential milling water to run out in one day, forcing them, no doubt, to save up til mid-week to resume their operations; and that, finally, if it were used there would still be flow, since wheels don't turn simply by looking at the water. Perhaps, to fit Josephus' version, we should rather postulate: the water was saved up until a quantity had been dammed sufficient to turn the mill-wheels, whereupon it was released and did its work, one day a week.]

20 [A "wether" is a ram (usually a gelded ram). Wren: "What weights Leo Africanus meanes is doubtfull. Some have been brought hither, that being fatted, could scarcely carye their tayles: though I know not, why nature, that hung such a weight behind, should not enable the creature to drag itt after him by the strength of his backe, as the stag to carye as great a weight on his heade only."]

21 [In Book 8 of the Travels of Marco Polo; the roc is by some supposed to be the condor, a native of America. Wren: "Surely the ruc was but one, like the phoenix, but revives not like the phoenix."]

22 [All in Livy. Cocles, in an "act of daring more famous than credible" leapt fully armed into the Tiber after holding a bridge over it against an invading army, first with two others, then by himself, for long enough to enable the Romans to destroy the bridge, halting the invaders. Scævola has already been met briefly in Book IV, Chapter 5; according to Livy, he burnt off his hand to impress the Etruscans; Curtius threw himself (and his horse) into a yawning chasm that had opened up in the forum, in order to sacrifice to the gods that in which the strength of Rome lay, in order to secure the eternal existence of the Roman republic. It is not recorded, at least in Livy, whether the chasm closed; but there is no such chasm at the present day (although the "Lacus Curtius" is still marked in the forum). Nor, we might add, is there a Roman republic.]

23 [Planetarium.]

24 [Aristotle, Politics 1276a, with, as Browne might say, an aiunt.]

25 [For instance, Pliny VI.181 (or englished by Holland).]

26 [In Seneca, On Tranquility, XV.2; Juvenal X.33.]

27 Farfalloni Historici. [Secondo Lancellotti (1636) Farfalloni degli antichi historici.]

28 [In Plutarch; the body was wonderful not only because it had survived a thousand years, but because it was sixty cubits long.]

29 [See Josephus Ant. Jud.]

30 [Ant. Jud. I.xi.4, to which Whiston adds a note: "This pillar of salt was, we see here, standing in the days of Josephus, and he had seen it. That it was standing then is also attested by Clement of Rome, contemporary with Josephus; as also that it was so in the next century, is attested by Irenaeus, with the addition of an hypothesis, how it came to last so long, with all its members entire. — Whether the account that some modern travelers give be true, that it is still standing, I do not know. Its remote situation, at the most southern point of the Sea of Sodom, in the wild and dangerous deserts of Arabia, makes it exceeding difficult for inquisitive travelers to examine the place; and for common reports of country people, at a distance, they are not very satisfactory." The reference to "Tertullian" is to a spurious work. Brocardus was prevented from seeing it by "the wild and dangerous deserts" as well as by beasts and dangerous inhabitants. Tourists are shown a rock known as "Lot's wife" in Israel to this day.]

31 [Paul is buried under the church of San Paolo fuori le Mura, the site of his beheading; Peter under the high altar of Saint Peter's.]

32 [In his Ecclesiastical History, Book VII, chapter viii]

33 [Matthew 9:20]

34 [Wren: Why may we not beleeve that there was such a plant at the foote of that statue upon the report of the ecclesiastick story, publisht in the third ecumenical council at Ephesus, as wel as the statue itselfe upon the report of of Eusebius at the first Ecumenical Council in Nice: who sayes he saw the Statue, but repeates the storye of the plant out of Africanus, who lived within the 200th yeare of Christ: and out of Tertullian, who lived within 120 yeares after this miracle was wrought upon the hæmorroidall that erected the statue. For though the plant lived not till his time, yet it was as fresh in memorye in the church as when it first grewe.]

35 [Diapason: an octave; Alcanna: henna; a urinal is a glass container used for collecting urine samples.]

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