For Pindar has here called Delos the daughter of the ocean, intending by this enigmatical expression to convey the idea which I have mentioned. (122) And in addition to these arguments they adduce the facts that many great and deep bays and gulfs of vast seas have been dried up, and have become land, and have so turned out no insignificant addition to the adjacent country when sown and planted, and on that soil there is still left plenty of proof of such spots having formerly been sea, in the pebbles, and shells, and other things which are commonly washed up on the sea-shore being found in them. (123) But if the sea is gradually being diminished then the earth also will be diminished; and in long revolutions of years every one of the elements will be entirely consumed and destroyed; and the whole air will be consumed, being diminished by little and little; and all things will be absorbed and dissolved into the one substance of fire.
XXIV. (124) And for the purpose of establishing the third alternative of this question they use the following argument: beyond all question that thing is destroyed all the parts of which are liable to destruction; but all the parts of the world are liable to destruction, therefore the world also is liable to destruction. (125) But we must now proceed to consider the question which we postponed till the present time. What sort of a part of the earth is that, that we may begin from this, whether it is greater or less, that is not dissolved by time? Do not the very hardest and strongest stones become hard and decayed through the weakness of their conformation (and this conformation is a sort of course of a highly strained spirit, a bond not indissoluble, but only very difficult to unloose), in consequence of which they are broken up and made fluid, so that they are dissolved first of all into a thin dust, and afterwards are wholly wasted away and destroyed? Again, if the water were never agitated by the winds, but were left immoveable for ever, would it not from inaction and tranquillity become dead? at all events it is changed by such stagnation, and becomes very foetid and foul-smelling, like an animal deprived of life. (126) And so also the corruptions of the air are plain to everyone, for it is the nature of the atmosphere to become sick and to decay, and, as one may say, in a manner to die; since what else is it which a man, who is not aiming at selecting plausible language, but only at truth, would call a plague except a death of the atmosphere, which diffuses its own disease and suffering to the destruction of everything which is endowed with life? (127) And why need I speak at great length concerning fire? for if it is deprived of nourishment it is immediately extinguished, becoming, as the poets say, tame by its own natural qualities, on which account it depends upon, and is raised up by the duration of the fuel which is supplied and kindled, but when that is expended the fire also disappears. (128) And they say that the dragons in India are exposed to the same kind of fate, for that they crawl upon the greatest of all beasts, namely elephants, and creep over their backs and the whole of their bellies, and then, if they can find a vein, they divide that and drink the blood, sucking it insatiably, with a strong breath and a vigorous noise. Meantime the elephants, though greatly drained, and though becoming gradually exhausted, hold out for some time, leaping about in their perplexity, and lashing their sides with their trunks in the hope of being able to shake off the dragons. After a time, as the vital principle is continually becoming more and more exhausted, they are no longer able to leap about, but stand trembling and quivering, and after a little more time their legs become too weak to support them, and they are thrown down and die for want of blood. And when they are fallen down those animals which were the causes of their death die with them in the following manner: (129) since the dragons have no longer any nourishment, they attempt to loosen the bonds with which they twined themselves round the elephants, wishing now to get released from them, but they are pressed down by the weight of the elephants and crushed, and much more so when the animal has become a lifeless, hard, and stone-like substance; for though they wriggle about and try every expedient in order to effect their release from the power of the animal which weighs them down, and by which they are entangled, though they have long practised themselves in every variety of wile, amid all kinds of difficulties and distresses, they at last become too weak to resist, like men who have been starved to death, or who have been caught by a wall which has suddenly fallen down upon them, and not being able even to lift up their heads they die of suffocation. If then, each of the separate parts of the world awaits utter destruction, it is plain that the world which is compounded of these can not be itself exempt from destruction. (130) We must now consider with accuracy the fourth and remaining argument. Thus they argue: if the world were eternal then the animals also would be eternal, and much more the human race, in proportion as that is more excellent than the other animals; but, on the contrary, those who take delight in investigating the mysteries of nature consider that man has only been created in the late ages of the world; for it is likely, or I should rather say it is inevitably true, that the arts co-exist with man, so as to be exactly co-eval with him, not only because methodical proceedings are appropriate to a rational nature, but also because it is not possible to live without them; (131) let us therefore examine the dates of each of these, disregarding the fables invented by the tragedians about the gods; but if man is not eternal then neither is any other animal, so that then neither are the places which receive them, the earth, or the water, or the air; from all which considerations it is plain that this world is liable to destruction.