The Ancient Library

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On this page: Pleias – Plemochoe – Plethron – Pliny




of Hermes by Zeus; Electro, and Taygete, of Dardanus and Lacedaemon by the same; Alcyone, of Hyrleus by Poseidon; CelomO, of Lycus and Nycteus by the same; StfrOpS or Astlrdpe, of CEnomaus by Ares; MSrdpe (i.e. the mortal), of Glaucus by Sisyphus. Out of grief, either for the fate of Atlas or for the death of their sisters, they killed themselves and were placed among the con­stellations. According to another legend, they were pursued for five years by the Giant hunter Orion (q.v.), until Zeus turned the distressed Nymphs and their pursuer into neighbouring stars. As the constella­tion of the seven stars, they made known by their rising (in the middle of May) the approach of harvest, and by their setting (at the end of October) the time for the new sowing. Their rising and setting were also looked upon as the sign of the opening and closing of the sailing season. One of the seven stars is invisible; this was explained to be Merope, who hid herself out of shame at her marriage with a mortal. The con­stellation of the Pleiades seems also to have been compared to a flight of doves (Gr. plleiadfs). Hence the Pleiades were sup­posed to be meant in the story told by flomer of the ambrosia brought to Zeus by the doves, one of which is always lost at the Planctce rocks, but is regularly replaced by a new one [Od. xii 62]. Among the Romans, the constellation was called Ver-gllice, the stars of spring.

Fleias (" a group of seven stars "). The name given by the Alexandrine critics to a group of seven tragic poets, who wrote at Alexandria under Ptolemy Philadelphus in the first half of the 3rd century b.c. Their names were : Alexander jEtolus, Phtliscus, Sosltheus, HSmerus, ^antldes, Soslphanes, and LycSphron.

PlemficWe. Literally, " an earthen vessel for water "; hence the name plSmOcMce given to the last day of the Eleusinian festival, when this kind of vessel was used for pour­ing out water. (See eleusinia.)

Pl&thrfin. (1) A measure of length among the Greeks = i of a stadium = 100 Greek feet=little more than 101 English feet, or 33 yds. 2 ft. (2) A unit of square measure, the square of 100 Greek feet, or 10,000 Greek square feet; i.e. an area of the extent of 10,226-2656 square feet, or about 1136'24 square yards, i.e. about two perches less than a rood (or quarter of an acre).

Pliny. (1) The elder, Gaius Plinius Slcundus. A Roman representative of en­cyclopaedic learning, born 23 a.d., at NSvum

Comum (Como), in Upper Italy. Although throughout his life he was almost uninter­ruptedly occupied in the service of the State, yet at the same time he carried on the most widely extended scientific studies. To these he most laboriously devoted all his leisure hours, and thus gained for him­self the reputation of the most learned man of his age. Under Claudius he served as commander of a troop of cavalry (prcefectus ate) in Germany ; under Vespasian, with whom he was in the highest favour, he held several times the office of imperial gover­nor in the provinces, and superintended the imperial finances in Italy. Finally, under Titus, he was in command of the fleet stationed at Misenum, when in 79, at the celebrated eruption of Vesuvius, his zeal for research led him to his death. For a detailed account of this event, as well as of his literary labours, we have to thank his nephew, the younger Pliny [Ep. iii 5; vi 16). Besides writings upon military, grammatical, rhetorical, and biographical subjects, he composed two greater historical works : a history of the Germanic wars in twenty books, and a history of his own time in thirty-one books. His last work was the Natural History (NMuralis Hist&ria), in thirty-seven books, which has been pre­served to us. This was dedicated to Titus, and was published in 77 ; but he was inde-fatigably engaged in amplifying it up to the time of his death. This Encyclopaedia is compiled from 20,000 notices, which he had extracted from aboxit 2,000 writings by 474 authors. Book i gives a list of contents and the names of the authors used, ii is on astronomy and physics. iii-vi, a general sketch of geography and ethno­graphy, mainly a list of names. vii-xixr natural history proper (vii, anthropology ; viii-xi, zoology of land and water animals, birds, and insects; xii-xix, botany), xx-xxxii, the pharmacology of the vegetable kingdom (xx-xxvii) and of the animal king­dom (xxviii-xxxii). xxxiii-xxxvii, minera­logy and the use of minerals in medicine and in painting, sculpture, and the engraving of gems, besides valuable notices upon the history of art. A kind of comparative geography forms the conclusion.

Considering the extent and varied char­acter of the undertaking, the haste with which the work was done, the defective technical knowledge and small critical ability of the author, it cannot be surpris­ing that it includes a large number of mis­takes and misunderstandings, and that its

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