Lucretius Today Podcast Episode 089 – Unusual Geological Phenomena – Springs That Change From Hot to Cold And Back Again

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Welcome to Episode Eighty-Nine of Lucretius Today. I am your host Cassius, and together with my panelists from the forum, we’ll walk you through the six books of Lucretius’ poem, and discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book, “Epicurus and His Philosophy” by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt. For anyone who is not familiar with our podcast, please visit where you will find our goals and our ground rules. If you have any questions about those, please be sure to contact us at the forum for more information.

In this Episode 89 we will read approximately Latin lines 830-917 as we discuss the hot and cold springs and similar phenomena.

Now let’s join Martin reading today’s text.

Browne 1743

[830] Or else, sometimes, the force and rising blasts of these Averni dispel the air that lies between the birds and the earth, and the intermediate space becomes a void. Here, when birds are carried by their flight, they immediately flutter in the air, they clap their wings in vain, their pinions flag, and when they can no longer bear them up, nature must drive them down upon the earth with all their weight; and as they, helpless, in the vacuum lie, they breathe their soul abroad through every pore.

[840] The water in some wells, we find, is cold in summer, because the earth is rarefied by the sun’s heat, and by that means the seeds of fire it contains within break freely out into the Air: And therefore the more the earth is affected by the heat, the colder the water will be that is enclosed within. But when the earth is contracted with the cold, when its surface grows close, and its pores are stopped, this restraint hinders the heat from flying out; it is then squeezed together into the wells, and the water becomes hot.

[848] There is a fountain, near the temple of Jupiter Ammon, that is cold in the day, and hot by night. Men strangely wonder at the quality of this spring, and imagine that when the night has spread her dreadful darkness over the world the water is warmed by the violent heat of the sun through the body of earth. But this reason is far from being true; for if the sun, striking upon the open body of water, is not able to warm even the surface of it, when it receives the force of his descending rays with all their heat, how can he warm the water, and infuse his heat through so thick a body as the Earth; especially since he is scarce able, with his scorching beams, to pierce through the walls of our houses?

[861] What then is the reason? Doubtless this: because the Earth, near this fountain, is more rare and spongy then it is in other places, and contains within it many seeds of fire near the body of the water itself. Here, when the night has spread the world with dewy shades, the earth below grows initially cold, and is contracted; by this means it is compressed, as with your hand, and squeezes out those seeds of fire into the spring, which make the water warm to feel and taste. But when the sun has driven away the night with his bright rays, and with his heat has rarefied the Earth, and made it loose, these seeds of fire return into their former place, and all the heat that warmed the spring retires within the earth again, and so the fountain in the day is cold.

[874] Besides, the water in the day is strongly moved by the sun’s rays, and by his trembling streams of heat grows rare, and so lets out the seeds of fire it held by night; just as by the heat it shakes off seeds of cold, and melts the ice, and loosens all its bonds.

[879] There is likewise a cold spring over which if you place tow or flax it immediately takes fire and is all in a blaze. A torch, newly extinguished, in the same manner, gently drawn over the surface, is lighted by this water, and flames out at every breath of air. And no wonder, for there are many seeds of fire in the water itself, and many must needs rise out of the earth, and ascend through all the fountain, and flow abroad, and make their way into the air, but yet they are not so hot as to set the spring on fire.

[890] Besides, the innate force of these seeds, dispersed through the water, compels them to move upwards, and to unite upon the surface; as we see sometimes a fountain of sweet water bubble up in the middle of the sea, and beat off the salt waves that are about it. The sea affords many of these springs that bring a seasonable relief to the thirsty mariners by throwing out streams of fresh water among the salt. The seeds of fire may in the same manner break through the water of this fountain, and flow out into the tow. Here, when they unite and stick to the body of the torch, they immediately fall into a flame; for flax and tow contain many seeds of fire within which make them easily disposed to burn.

[900] Have you not observed, when you hold a candle newly extinguished to another that is lighted it catches fire before it touches the flame? A torch likewise, by that same rule, will do the same; and many other things will take fire at a distance, before the flame reaches them. And this you may imagine is the case of the fountain above-mentioned.

[906] And now I shall begin to show by what power of nature it is that the stone (which the Greeks call a magnet, from the country that produces it, for it is found in the region of the Magnetes) has the virtue to attract iron. Men are amazed at the qualities of this stone, for it will make a chain of several little rings of iron, without a link between, to hang together entirely from itself. You may sometimes see five or more hanging straight down, and play in the gentle air, as they stick close and depend at the bottom one upon another; the ring that follows feels the attraction and power of the stone from that above it. So strongly is the virtue of the magnet communicated to the several rings; it acts with so great a force.

[917] In inquiries of this nature many things are to be first proved before we can fix upon the true cause; we must trace the subject through many long and intricate difficulties; and therefore I beg you will hear me with a willing mind, and with the closest attention.

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