Henry Peacham (1638) The Valley of Varietie, Chapter VI, pp. 49-53.

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Of that Fire which perpetually burneth in ancient Monuments.

There was found in the Territorie1 of Patavium in Italy, in the memorie of our Fathers, a very ancient Monument, wherein were two Urnes, a greater and a lesse, both made of Earth, the bigger contained the lesse; now in the lesser was found, a Lampe burning betweene two Viols, the one whereof was Gold, the other Silver, and either full of a most pure liquor; by the benefit of which, it was supposed to have burned many yeares.2 Surely the most learned, comming to the Monument, affirmed the same to be that Perpetuall Fire, invented by the wonderfull industry of the ancient Philosophers, which would indure so many yeares. In which opinion they were confirmed, by Verses written in either Urne, which seemed to be of great Antiquitie, by their vaine.

These were in the bigger Urne:

Plutoni sacrum munus, ne attingite fures;
Ignotum est vobis, hoc quod in orbe latet.
Namque elementa gravi, clausit digesta labore,
Vase sub hoc modico, Maximus Olibius:
Adsit fæcundo, custos tibi copia cornu,
Ne pretium tanti, depereat laticis.

These were read in the lesser:

Abite hinc peßimi fures,
Vos, qui voltis vestris cum oculis emißißius;
Abite hinc, vestro cum Mercurio petasato, caduceatoque
Maximus, maximo donum Plutoni hoc
Sacrum facit.

The like Ludovicus Vives (upon the twentie one booke of Saint Augustine, De Civitate Dei) reports in his time, to have beene found in ancient Graves, which by inscription had burned there, above fifteen hundred yeares.3 Moreover, Saint Augustine himselfe, in the said booke affirmeth, That in the Temple of Venus, was a Lampe that never went out; which hee supposeth to have beene done, either by Art Magicall, or by the industrie of some man, who had put Lapidem Asbestum, or the unquenchable burning stone within the said Lampe.

Concerning this Lampe, found burning in Graves, I wonder; First, how by the helpe of Art (for they say this Oyle is made of Gold) Gold may be resolved into a fattie substance? Secondly, how the flame should endure so many yeares? Thirdly, how within the ground, all Aire being excluded? And for a certaine, in our Age, in the time of Pope Paul the third, the Grave of Tullia, Cicero's Daughter was found,4 wherein was the like Lampe burning, but assoone as the Ayre came to it, it presently went out: this Lampe had there burned, one thousand five hundred yeares. The like also was found with us at Yorke, in the Monument, either of Severus the Emperour, or some other of the Ancients there buried.5 See Master Camden in his Britannia.


1. In Athreste villula agri Patavini.

2. Bernardini Scardeo, lib. I. Antiq. Patavin. in fine.

3. In commentary on 21, chap. 6; "In my fathers time there was a tombe found, wherein there burned a lampe which by the inscription of the tomb, had been lighted therein, the space of one thousand five hundred years and more. Being touched, it fell all to dust."

4. Pancirol. in libr: rerum deperditarum.

5. Some say Constantius. [The passage, in Holland's translation (p. 703 of the 1637 edition): "An hundred yeeres or thereabout after the death of Severus, Fl. Valerius Constantius sirnamed Chlorus, an Emperour surpassing in all vertue and Christian piety, who came hether When the Gods, as the Panegyrist saith, called him now to the inmost entry and doore of the earth, ended his life also in this City and was deified, as we may see by ancient Coines. And albeit Florilegus recordeth, that his Tombe was found in Wales, as I have said; yet men of credite have enformed me, that in our fathers remembrance, when Abbaies were suppressed and pulled downe, in a certaine Vault or crowdes or a little Chappell under the ground wherein Constantius was supposed to have beene buried, there was found a Lampe burning: for, Lazius writeth, that in ancient time they preserved light in Sepulchres, by resolving gold artificially into a liquid and fatty substance, which should continue burning a long time and for many ages together."]

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