Not but what these very things themselves do also afford some signs of great importance to wise men, for, guiding their conjectures by them, they predict calms and storms of wind, and fine weather, and tempests. (48) Do you not see that porticoes which embellish the cities? the greater part of these look towards the south, in order that those who walk under them may be warm in the winter, and may be cool in the summer.

There is also another thing which does not happen through the intention of Him who made it, and what is this? the shadows which fall from the feet indicate the hours to our experience. (49) And again, fire is a most important work of nature, but the consequence of fire is smoke, and nevertheless even this too at times is of some service. At all events in the heat, in the middle of the day, when the fire is rendered invisible by the brilliancy of the beams of the sun, the approach of enemies is indicated by the smoke, (50) and the principle which causes the rainbow is also the same which, in some degree, regulates eclipses.

For eclipses are a natural consequence of the rules which regulate the divine natures of the sun and moon; and they are indications either of the impending death of some king, or of the destruction of some city, as Pindar also has told us in enigmatical terms, alluding to such events as the consequences of the omens which I have now been Mentioning.{3}{this theory of the eclipses of the sun and other natural prodigies being prophetic of events on earth, is expressed by Virgil in a passage of the most exquisite beauty in reference to Caesar’s death, Georg. 1.462 (as it is translated by Dryden)–“The unerring sun by certain signs declares / What the late eve or early morn prepares, / And when the south projects a stormy day, / And when the clearing north will puff the clouds away. / The sun reveals the secrets of the sky, / And who dares give the source of light the lie? / The change of empires often he declares, / Fierce tumults, hidden treasons, open wars. / He first the fate of Caesar did foretell, / And pitied Rome, when Rome in Caesar fell, / In iron clouds concealed the public light, / And impious mortals feared eternal night. / Nor was the fact foretold by him alone, / Nature herself stood forth and seconded the sun. / Earth, air, and seas with prodigies were signed, / And birds obscene and howling dogs divined; / What rocks did Aetna’s bellowing mouth expire / From her torn entrails! and what floods of fire. / What clanks were heard in German skies afar / Of arms and armies rushing to the war. / Dire earthquakes rent the solid Alps below, / And from their summits shook the eternal snow. / Pale spectres in the close of night were seen, / And voices heard of more than mortal men. / In silent groves dumb sheep and oxen spoke, / And streams ran backward and their beds forsook; / The yawning earth disclosed the abyss of hell, / The weeping statues did the wars foretell, / And holy sweat from brazen idols fell. / Then rising in his might, the king of floods / Rushed through the forests, tore the lofty woods, / And rolling onwards, with a sweepy sway / Bore houses, lands, and labouring hinds away. / Blood sprang from wells, wolves howled in turns by night, / And boding victims did the priests affright. / Such peals of thunder never poured from high, / Nor forky lightnings flashed from such a sullen sky; / Red meteors ran across the ethereal space, / Stars disappeared and comets took their place. / For this the Emathian plains once more were strewed / With Roman bodies, and just heaven thought good / To fatten twice those fields with Roman blood.”} (51) And the circle of the Milky Way partakes of the same natural essences with the other stars; but merely the fact that it is hard to account for, is no reason that those who are accustomed to investigate the principles of nature should shrink from examining into it; for the discovery of those things is most beneficial, and the investigation of them is intrinsically most delightful for its own sake, to those who are fond of learning.