by George Knowles
If you have ever done research into ancient history then you will no doubt have seem references to some of the old time masters of academia, the writers, poets and artists whose knowledge, wisdom and foresight have inspired so many. Those whose works live on, collected on shelves in dusty old museums, where they continue to be referenced by historians and others. But have you ever wondered who these old masters are? Here is my attempt to find out about some of them:
Gaius Plinius Secundus was better known
as “Pliny the Elder” and was a Roman historian and scientific encyclopedist.
Many of his works have been lost to history, but his main work the
“Historia Naturalis” (Natural History) remains almost complete. In
it Pliny states that he has covered 20,000 subjects of importance drawn from
selected writers of his time, to whose observations he added many of his own. Botany, agriculture and horticulture appear to have been of
particular interest to him. To him
the world consisted of four elements: earth,
air, fire and water, he also considered that the lighter substances were
prevented from rising by the weight of the heavier ones, perhaps the earliest
theory of gravity. On astrology he
recorded that seven stars surrounded the earth:
the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
He also considered the Moon to be larger than the Earth since it obscured
the Sun during an eclipse. Of his
other works only a few fragments remain, such as a biography of Pomponius
Secundus, a history of Rome, a study of the Roman campaigns in Germany, and a
book on hurling the lance.
Pliny was born in Como a commune in northern Italy in AD 23. He was descended from a prosperous family and educated, completing his studies in Rome. At the age of 23 he began a military career serving in Germany, rising to the rank of cavalry commander. While there he made the acquaintance of Vespasian who would later become Emperor of Rome, (Titus Flavius Vespasianus - AD 9-79, became the Roman emperor in AD 69-79 as successor to Aulus Vitellius. Vespasian restored order to the empire and set an example for simple living. He built the Coliseum a place where gladiators fought in combat and the arena for Christian martyrdom. It was completed in AD 80. He also founded the Flavian dynasty).
Returning to Rome, Pliny is thought to have
studied law while living in semiretirement, studying and writing until the end
of Nero's reign. In AD 69 when
Vespasian was made emperor, Pliny took up various public offices such as the
procurator of Spain. In AD 79 Pliny
was in command of a fleet of ships in the Bay of Naples, when a volcano on Mt.
Vesuvius erupted. Curious about
this natural phenomenon he went ashore to ascertain its cause and to reassure
the terrified citizens, but was overcome by poisonous fumes and died on August
24 - AD 79.
His “Historia Naturalis” (Natural
History) is divided into 37 books and was probably completed in AD 77. In
the preface to the book, which he dedicated to Titus (most probably Vespasian),
Pliny justifies the title as a study of "the nature of things that is
life". He adopted a plain
writing style and took especial care to name his sources, more than 100 of which
are mentioned. Book I is in fact a summary of the remaining 36 books, listing
the authors and sometimes the titles of the books (many of which are now lost)
from which he derived his material. The
series is devoted to a great variety of subjects such as: cosmology, astronomy, geography, zoology, botany, agriculture,
medicine and mineralogy etc. He
also recorded many of the Latin synonyms of Greek plant names, making most of
the plants mentioned in earlier Greek writings identifiable.
The Natural History properly
begins with Book II, which is devoted to cosmology and astronomy. Here
as elsewhere he demonstrates the extent of his reading, especially of Greek
texts. By the same token however, he was sometimes careless in
translating details with the result that he distorted the meaning of many
technical and mathematical passages. Books
III through VI are on the physical and historical geography of the ancient
world, in which he paid a deal of attention to major cities, some of which no
Books VII through XI are a study of
zoology, beginning with humans (VII), then mammals and reptiles (VIII), fishes
and other marine animals (IX), birds (X), and insects (XI). Pliny derived most of the biological data from
Aristotle, while his own contributions were concerned with legendary animals and
unsupported folklore. In Books XII
through XIX he works on botany, in which he came closest to making a genuine
contribution to science. Although
he drew heavily upon Theophrastus, he reported some independent observations,
particularly those made during his travels in Germany. He
is one of the chief sources of modern knowledge of Roman gardens, early
botanical writings and the introduction into Italy of new horticultural and
The book XVIII is about agriculture and
is especially important for agricultural techniques such as crop rotation, farm
management, and the names of vegetables and other crop plants.
In one article he describes an old ox-driven grain harvester
in Gaul, which was long regarded by scholars as imaginary, however it was
confirmed by the discovery in southern Belgium in 1958 of a 2nd-century stone
relief depicting such an implement.
Books XX through XXXII focus on medicine
and drugs. His random comments on
diet and on the commercial sources and prices of the ingredients of costly
drugs, provides valuable evidence relevant to contemporary Roman life during his
time. The subjects of Books XXXIII
through XXXVII include minerals, the precious stones and the metals used by
Roman craftsmen. In describing
their uses he referred to famous artists and their creations, also to Roman
architectural styles and technology.
Pliny's influence on academia is based
on his ability to assemble in a methodical fashion a number of previously
unrelated facts, his perceptiveness in recognizing details ignored by others,
and his readable stories with which he linked together both factual and
fictional data. Along with his
unsupported claims, fables and exaggerations, his belief in magic and
superstition never the less helped to shape scientific and medical theory
through future centuries. Perhaps
the most important of the methods advocated by him was his doctrine of
signatures. The resemblance between the external appearance of a plant,
animal or mineral and the outward symptoms of a disease, were thought to
indicate the therapeutic usefulness of the plant.
With the decline of the ancient world
and the loss of many Greek texts on which he had so heavily depended, his
Natural History became a substitute for general education. In the European Middle Ages many of the larger libraries
possessed copies of the work; these and many abridged versions ensured Pliny's
place in the history of literature. At
the time his authority was unchallenged partly due to a lack of more reliable
information and partly because his assertions were not and in many cases could
not be tested.
It wasn’t until 1492 in Ferrara,
Italy, that his theories were brought into question when Niccolò Leoniceno
published a treatise on the errors of Pliny.
Thereafter his influence diminished, as more writers questioned his
statements. By the end of the 17th
century his Natural History had been rejected by many of the leading
scientists. Up to that time
however, his influence especially on non-scientific writers was undiminished, he
was for example almost certainly known to William Shakespeare and John Milton. Although
his work was never again accepted as an authority in science, his “Historia
Naturalis” remains as one of the greatest literary monuments of classical
antiquity. Today it is still of value and referenced by those who wish an
honest résumé of 1st-century Rome.
Yet to be posted.
Best Wishes and Blessed Be.
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Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek
Mythology) / Esbats &
Full Moons / Links
to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft
Resources / What's a spell? /
Circle Casting and
Sacred Space / Pentagram
- Pentacle / Marks
of a Witch / The Witches
Power / The Witches Hat
esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders and Elders)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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