Taprobana,[34] under the name of the “land of the Antipodes,” was long looked upon as another world: the age and 32 the arms of Alexander the Great were the first to give satisfactory proof that it 대구오피 was an island. Onesicritus, the commander of his fleet, has informed us that the elephants of this island are larger, and better adapted for warfare than those of India; and from Megasthenes we learn that it is divided by a river, and that their country is more productive of gold and pearls of great size than even India. Eratosthenes has also given the dimensions of this island, as being seven thousand stadia in length, and five thousand in breadth: he states also that there are no cities, but villages to the number of seven hundred. It begins at the Eastern sea, and lies extended opposite to India, east and west. In former times when the navigation was confined to vessels constructed of papyrus with the tackle peculiar to the Nile, this island was supposed to be twenty days’ sail from the country of the Prasii,[35] but the distance has been estimated at no more than seven days’ sail,[36] reckoned at the speed which can be attained by vessels of our construction. The sea that lies between the island and the mainland is full of shallows, not more than six paces in depth; but in certain channels it is of such extraordinary depth, that no anchor has ever found a bottom. For this reason it is that the vessels are constructed with prows at either end; so that there may be no necessity for tacking while navigating these extremely narrow channels. The tonnage of these vessels is three thousand amphoræ. In traversing their seas, the people of Taprobana take no observations of the stars, and indeed the Great Bear is not visible to them; but they carry birds out to sea, which they let go from time to time, and so follow their course as they make for the land. They devote only four months in the year to the pursuits of navigation, and are 33 particularly careful not to trust themselves on the sea during the next hundred days after our summer solstice, for in those seas it is at that time the middle of winter.

So much we learn from the ancient writers; it has fallen to our lot, however, to obtain a still more accurate knowledge of these people; for, during the reign of the Emperor Claudius, an embassy came from even this distant island to Rome. The circumstances under which this took place were as follows: Annius Plocamus had farmed from the treasury the revenues arising from the Red Sea. A certain freedman of his, while sailing around Arabia, was carried away by a gale from the north beyond the coast of Carmania. In the course of fifteen days he had drifted to Hippuros, a port of Taprobana, where he was most kindly and most hospitably received by the king; and having, after a study of six months, become well acquainted with the language, was enabled to answer all his enquiries relative to the Romans and their emperor. But of all that he heard, the king was more particularly struck with surprise at our rigid notions of justice, on ascertaining that among the coins found on the captive, the denarii were all of equal weight, although the different figures on them plainly showed that they had been struck in the reigns of several emperors. By this circumstance especially, the king was prompted to form an alliance with the Romans, and accordingly sent to Rome an embassy, consisting of four persons, the chief of whom was Rachias.[37]

From these persons we learned that in Taprobana there are five hundred towns, and that there is a harbor that lies facing the south, and adjoining the city of Palæsimundus, the most famous city in the isle, the king’s place of residence, and containing a population of two hundred thousand. They also informed us that in the interior there is a lake called Megisba, three hundred and seventy-five miles in circumference, 34 and containing islands which are fertile, though for pasturage only. In this lake they informed us two rivers take their rise, one of which, called Palæsimundus, flows into the harbor near the 대구오피 city of that name, by three channels, the narrowest of which is five stadia in width, the largest fifteen: while the other, Cydara by name, takes a direction northward, towards the Indian coast. We learned also that the nearest point of the Indian coast is a promontory known as Coliacum,[38] distant from the island four days’ sail, and that midway between them lies the island of the Sun. They stated also that those seas are of a deep green tint; besides which, there are numerous trees growing at the bottom, so much so, that the rudders of the vessels frequently break off portions of their foliage.[39] They were as much astonished at the constellations which are visible to us, the Great Bear and the Pleiades,[40] as though they had now beheld a new expanse of the heavens; and they declared that in their country the moon can only be seen above the horizon[41] from the eighth to its sixteenth day. They also stated that Canopus, a large bright star, gives light to them by night. But what surprised them more than anything else, was that the shadow of their bodies was thrown towards our hemisphere.[42] They also informed us that the side of their island which lies opposite to India is ten thousand stadia in length, and runs in a southeasterly direction—that beyond the Emodian Mountains they 35 look towards[43] the Seræ, whose acquaintance they had also made in the pursuits of commerce; that the father of Rachias had frequently visited their country, and that the Seræ always came to meet them on their arrival. These people, they said, exceeded the ordinary human height, had flaxen hair, and blue eyes, and made an uncouth sort of noise by way of talking, having no language of their own for the purpose of communicating their thoughts. The rest of their information relative to the Seræ was of a similar nature to that communicated by our merchants. It was to the effect that the merchandise on sale was left by them upon the opposite bank of a river on their coast, and it was then removed by the natives, if they thought proper to deal on terms of exchange. On no grounds ought luxury with greater reason to be detested by us, than if we only transport our thoughts to these scenes, and then reflect, what are its demands, to what distant spots it sends in order to satisfy them, and for how mean and how unworthy an end!

But yet Taprobana even, isolated as it is by nature from the rest of the world, is not exempt from our vices. Gold and silver are held in esteem even there. They have a marble which resembles tortoise-shell in appearance; this, as well as their pearls and precious stones, is highly valued; all our luxuries in fact, those even of the most exquisite nature, are there carried to the very highest pitch. They asserted that their wealth was much greater than ours, but admitted that we knew better than they how to obtain real enjoyment from opulence.

In this island no slavery exists; they do not prolong their sleep to day-break, nor do they sleep during any part of the day; their buildings 대구오피 are only of a moderate height from the ground; the price of corn is always the same; they have no courts of law and no litigation. Hercules is the deity whom 36 they worship; and their king is chosen by the people, an aged man always, distinguished for his mild and clement disposition, and without children. If after he has been elected king, he happens to become the father of children, his abdication is the consequence; this is done that there may be no danger of the sovereign power becoming hereditary. Thirty advisers are provided for him by the people, and it is only by the advice of the majority of them that any man is condemned to capital punishment. Even then, the person so condemned has a right of appealing to the people, in which case a jury consisting of seventy persons is appointed. Should these acquit the accused, the thirty counsellors are no longer held in any estimation, but are visited with the greatest disgrace. The king wears the costume of Father Liber,[44] while the rest of the people dress like the natives of Arabia. If the king is found guilty of any offence, he is condemned to death; but no one slays him; all turn their backs upon him, and refuse to hold any communication or even discourse with him. Their festivals are celebrated with the chase, the most valued sports being the pursuit of the tiger and the elephant. The lands are carefully tilled; the vine is not cultivated there, but of other fruits there is great abundance. They take great delight in fishing, and especially in catching turtles; beneath the shells of which whole families find an abode, of such vast size are they to be found. These people look upon a hundred years as a comparatively short life. So much have we learned respecting Taprobana.

37
Book III.
MAN, HIS BIRTH AND HIS ORGANIZATION.
CHAPTER I.
MAN.
Remarkable as is the present state of the world, and of the countries, nations, seas, islands, and cities which it contains, the nature of the animated beings which exist upon it, is hardly in any degree less worthy of our contemplation than its other features; if, indeed, the human mind is able to embrace the whole of so diversified a subject. Our first attention is justly due to Man, for whose sake all other things appear to have been produced by Nature; though, on the other hand, with so great and so severe penalties for the enjoyment of her bounteous gifts, that it is far from easy to determine, whether she has proved to him a kind parent, or a merciless step-mother.

In the first place, she obliges him alone, of all animated beings, to clothe himself with the spoils of the others; while, to all the rest, she has given various kinds of coverings, such as shells, crusts, spines, hides, fur, bristles, hair, down, feathers, scales, and fleeces. The very trunks of the trees even, she has protected against the effects of heat and cold by a bark, which is, in some cases, twofold. Man alone, at the very moment of his birth cast naked upon the naked earth, she abandons to cries, to lamentations, and, a thing that is the case with no other animal whatever, to tears: this, too, from the very moment that he enters upon existence. But as for 38 laughter, why, by Hercules!—to laugh, if but for an instant only, has never been granted to man before the fortieth day from his birth, and even then it is looked upon as a miracle of precocity. Introduced thus to the light, man has fetters and swathings instantly put upon all his limbs,[45] a thing that falls to the lot of none of the brutes even that are born among us. Born to such singular good fortune, there on his back lies the animal which is destined to command all the others, fast bound hand and foot, and weeping aloud! such being the penalty which he has to pay on beginning life, and that for the sole fault of having been born. Alas! for the folly of those who can think after such a beginning as this, that they have been born for the display of vanity!

The earliest presage of future strength, the earliest bounty of time, confers upon him naught but the resemblance to a quadruped.[46] How soon does man gain the power of walking? How soon does he gain the faculty of speech? How soon is his mouth fitted for mastication? How long are the pulsations of the crown of his head to proclaim him the weakest of all animated beings? And then, the diseases to which he is subject, the numerous remedies which he is obliged to devise against his maladies, and those thwarted every now and then by new forms and features of disease. While other animals have an instinctive knowledge of their natural powers; some, of their swiftness of pace, some of their rapidity of flight, and some again of their power of swimming; man is the only one that knows nothing, that can learn nothing without being taught; he can neither speak, nor walk, nor eat—in short, 39 he can do nothing, at the prompting of nature only, but weep. For this it is, that many have been of opinion, that it were better not to have been born, or if born, to have been annihilated at the earliest possible moment.