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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index P > Pliny the Elder Quotes

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Pliny the Elder
(23 - 25 Aug 79)

Roman scholar and author whose 37 volume work, Natural History was used as an authority on scientific matters up to the Middle Ages. However, its accuracy was variable.


Science Quotes by Pliny the Elder (16 quotes)

Habet cerebrum sensus arcem; hie mentis est regimen.
The brain is the citadel of the senses; this guides the principle of thought.
— Pliny the Elder
Historia Naturalis. XI, 49, 2, 13. As cited and translated in J.K. Hoyt (ed.), The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations: English, Latin, and Modern Foreign Languages (1896), 726. Also seen translated as “Men have the brains as a kind of citadel of the senses; here is what guides the thinking principle.”
Science quotes on:  |  Brain (270)  |  Cerebrum (10)  |  Citadel (4)  |  Guide (97)  |  Principle (507)  |  Sense (770)  |  Thought (953)

Naturae vero rerum vis atque maiestas in omnibus momentis fide caret si quis modo partes eius ac non totam conplectatur animo.
The power and majesty of the nature of the universe at every turn lacks credence if one’s mind embraces parts of it only and not the whole.
— Pliny the Elder
In Pliny: Natural History (1947), Vol. 2, Book 7, 511, as translated by H. Rackham
Science quotes on:  |  Embrace (46)  |  Lack (119)  |  Majesty (21)  |  Mind (1338)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Part (222)  |  Power (746)  |  Turn (447)  |  Universe (857)  |  Whole (738)

Quam multa fieri non posse priusquam sunt facta indicantur
How many things are judged impossible before they actually occur?
— Pliny the Elder
In Pliny: Natural History (1947), Vol. 2, Book 7, 511, as translated by H. Rackham
Science quotes on:  |  Impossible (251)  |  Judge (108)  |  Occur (150)  |  Thing (1915)

Between this body [the earth] and the heavens there are suspended, in this aerial spirit, seven stars, separated by determinate spaces, which, on account of their motion, we call wandering.
— Pliny the Elder
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 19-20.
Science quotes on:  |  Account (192)  |  Aerial (10)  |  Body (537)  |  Call (769)  |  Earth (996)  |  Heaven (258)  |  Heavens (125)  |  Motion (310)  |  Planet (356)  |  Separate (143)  |  Space (500)  |  Spirit (265)  |  Star (427)  |  Stars (304)  |  Suspended (5)  |  Wander (35)

Gold is found in our own part of the world; not to mention the gold extracted from the earth in India by the ants, and in Scythia by the Griffins. Among us it is procured in three different ways; the first of which is in the shape of dust, found in running streams. … A second mode of obtaining gold is by sinking shafts or seeking among the debris of mountains …. The third method of obtaining gold surpasses the labors of the giants even: by the aid of galleries driven to a long distance, mountains are excavated by the light of torches, the duration of which forms the set times for work, the workmen never seeing the light of day for many months together.
— Pliny the Elder
In Pliny and John Bostock (trans.), The Natural History of Pliny (1857), Vol. 6, 99-101.
Science quotes on:  |  Aid (97)  |  Ant (28)  |  Debris (7)  |  Different (577)  |  Distance (161)  |  Dust (64)  |  Earth (996)  |  Excavate (4)  |  Extract (40)  |  First (1283)  |  Form (959)  |  Gallery (7)  |  Giant (67)  |  Gold (97)  |  India (16)  |  Labor (107)  |  Light (607)  |  Long (790)  |  Mention (82)  |  Method (505)  |  Month (88)  |  Mountain (185)  |  Never (1087)  |  Procure (5)  |  Run (174)  |  Running (61)  |  Seeing (142)  |  Seek (213)  |  Set (394)  |  Shaft (5)  |  Stream (81)  |  Surpass (32)  |  Time (1877)  |  Together (387)  |  Torch (12)  |  Way (1217)  |  Work (1351)  |  Workman (13)  |  World (1774)

I do not find that any one has doubted that there are four elements. The highest of these is supposed to be fire, and hence proceed the eyes of so many glittering stars. The next is that spirit, which both the Greeks and ourselves call by the same name, air. It is by the force of this vital principle, pervading all things and mingling with all, that the earth, together with the fourth element, water, is balanced in the middle of space.
— Pliny the Elder
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 18.
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It is by the aid of iron that we construct houses, cleave rocks, and perform so many other useful offices of life. But it is with iron also that wars, murders, and robberies are effected, and this, not only hand to hand, but from a distance even, by the aid of missiles and winged weapons, now launched from engines, now hurled by the human arm, and now furnished with feathery wings. This last I regard as the most criminal artifice that has been devised by the human mind; for, as if to bring death upon man with still greater rapidity, we have given wings to iron and taught it to fly. ... Nature, in conformity with her usual benevolence, has limited the power of iron, by inflicting upon it the punishment of rust; and has thus displayed her usual foresight in rendering nothing in existence more perishable, than the substance which brings the greatest dangers upon perishable mortality.
— Pliny the Elder
Natural History of Pliny, translation (1857, 1898) by John Bostock and H. T. Riley, 205-6.
Science quotes on:  |  Aid (97)  |  Arm (81)  |  Benevolence (8)  |  Cleave (2)  |  Construct (124)  |  Criminal (19)  |  Danger (115)  |  Death (388)  |  Display (56)  |  Distance (161)  |  Effect (393)  |  Engine (98)  |  Existence (456)  |  Flight (98)  |  Fly (146)  |  Foresight (6)  |  Furnish (96)  |  Greater (288)  |  Greatest (328)  |  House (140)  |  Human (1468)  |  Human Mind (128)  |  Iron (96)  |  Last (426)  |  Launch (20)  |  Life (1795)  |  Limit (280)  |  Limited (101)  |  Man (2251)  |  Mind (1338)  |  Missile (5)  |  More (2559)  |  Mortality (15)  |  Most (1731)  |  Murder (13)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Nothing (966)  |  Office (71)  |  Other (2236)  |  Perform (121)  |  Perish (50)  |  Power (746)  |  Punishment (14)  |  Rapidity (26)  |  Regard (305)  |  Robbery (6)  |  Rock (161)  |  Rust (7)  |  Spear (6)  |  Still (613)  |  Substance (248)  |  Useful (250)  |  War (225)  |  Weapon (92)  |  Weapons (58)  |  Wing (75)

It [the earth] alone remains immoveable, whilst all things revolve round it.
— Pliny the Elder
History, 2, 11. Trans. H. Rackham, Pliny: Natural History, corrected edition (1949), Vol. 1, 177.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4108)  |  Alone (311)  |  Around (7)  |  Earth (996)  |  Geocentric (6)  |  Orbit (81)  |  Remain (349)  |  Revolution (129)  |  Revolve (25)  |  Thing (1915)

Nature crying out and speaking to country people in these words: Clown, wherefore dost thou behold the heavens? Why dost thou seek after the stars? When thou art now werry with short sleep, the nights are troublesome to thee. So I scatter little stars in the grass, and I shew them in the evening when thy labour is ended, and thou art miraculously allured to look upon them when thous passest by: Dost thou not see how a light like fire is covered when she closeth her wings, and she carrieth both night and day with her.
— Pliny the Elder
In Thomas Moffett, 'Glow-Worms', The Theater of Insects.
Science quotes on:  |  Art (657)  |  Both (493)  |  Country (251)  |  End (590)  |  Fire (189)  |  Glow-Worm (2)  |  Grass (46)  |  Heaven (258)  |  Heavens (125)  |  Labour (98)  |  Light (607)  |  Little (707)  |  Look (582)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Night (120)  |  People (1005)  |  Scattering (4)  |  See (1081)  |  Seek (213)  |  Short (197)  |  Sleep (76)  |  Speaking (119)  |  Star (427)  |  Stars (304)  |  Why (491)  |  Wing (75)  |  Word (619)

Nature’s great and wonderful power is more demonstrated in the sea than on the land.
— Pliny the Elder
As quoted in Isaac Asimov and Jason A. Shulman (eds.), Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 186. Webmaster has not yet found another source with this wording. (Can you help?)
Science quotes on:  |  Great (1574)  |  Land (115)  |  More (2559)  |  Nature (1926)  |  Oceanography (17)  |  Power (746)  |  Sea (308)  |  Wonderful (149)

Simple diet is best.
— Pliny the Elder
Louis Klopsch, Many Thoughts of Many Minds (1896), 67.
Science quotes on:  |  Best (459)  |  Diet (54)  |  Simple (406)

The largest land animal is the elephant, and it is the nearest to man in intelligence: it understands the language of its country and obeys orders, remembers duties that it has been taught, is pleased by affection and by marks of honour, nay more it possesses virtues rare even in man, honesty, wisdom, justice, also respect for the stars and reverence for the sun and moon.
— Pliny the Elder
Natural History, 8, I. Trans. H. Rackham, Pliny: Natural History (1947), Vol. 3, 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Affection (43)  |  Animal (617)  |  Country (251)  |  Duty (68)  |  Elephant (31)  |  Honesty (25)  |  Honour (56)  |  Intelligence (211)  |  Justice (39)  |  Language (293)  |  Largest (39)  |  Man (2251)  |  Mark (43)  |  Moon (237)  |  More (2559)  |  Obedience (19)  |  Obey (40)  |  Order (632)  |  Pleasure (178)  |  Possession (65)  |  Rare (89)  |  Rarity (11)  |  Remember (179)  |  Remembering (7)  |  Respect (207)  |  Reverence (28)  |  Star (427)  |  Stars (304)  |  Sun (385)  |  Teaching (188)  |  Understand (606)  |  Understanding (513)  |  Virtue (109)  |  Wisdom (221)

The most disgraceful cause of the scarcity [of remedies] is that even those who know them do not want to point them out, as if they were going to lose what they pass on to others.
— Pliny the Elder
Natural History, 25, 16. Trans. R. W. Sharples.
Science quotes on:  |  Cause (541)  |  Disgrace (12)  |  Do (1908)  |  Know (1518)  |  Knowledge (1529)  |  Lose (159)  |  Loss (110)  |  Most (1731)  |  Other (2236)  |  Pass (238)  |  Point (580)  |  Remedy (62)  |  Scarcity (2)  |  Selfishness (8)  |  Want (497)

The only certainty is that nothing is certain.
— Pliny the Elder
As quoted, without citation, in John Walker, A Fork in the Road: Answers to Daily Dilemmas from the Teachings of Jesus Christ (2005), 169.
Science quotes on:  |  Certain (550)  |  Certainty (174)  |  Nothing (966)

The sun … is a body of great size and power, the ruler, not only of the seasons and of the different climates, but also of the stars themselves and of the heavens. When we consider his operations, we must regard him as the life, or rather the mind of the universe, the chief regulator and the God of nature; he also lends his light to the other stars. He is the most illustrious and excellent, beholding all things and hearing all things.
— Pliny the Elder
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 20.
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[The Elements] are mutually bound together, the lighter being restrained by the heavier, so that they cannot fly off; while, on the contrary, from the lighter tending upwards, the heavier are so suspended, that they cannot fall down. Thus, by an equal tendency in an opposite direction, each of them remains in its appropriate place, bound together by the never-ceasing revolution of the world.
— Pliny the Elder
In The Natural History of Pliny (1855), Vol. 1, 19.
Science quotes on:  |  Appropriate (61)  |  Being (1278)  |  Bound (119)  |  Contrary (141)  |  Direction (175)  |  Down (456)  |  Element (310)  |  Fall (230)  |  Fly (146)  |  Heavier (2)  |  Lighter (2)  |  Never (1087)  |  Opposite (104)  |  Remain (349)  |  Revolution (129)  |  Suspended (5)  |  Tendency (99)  |  Together (387)  |  Upward (43)  |  Upwards (6)  |  World (1774)



Quotes by others about Pliny the Elder (1)

Enhydros is a variety of geode. The name comes from the water it contains. It is always round, smooth, and very white but will sway back and forth when moved. Inside it is a liquid just as in an egg, as Pliny, our Albertus, and others believed, and it may even drip water. Liquid bitumen, sometimes with a pleasant odor, is found enclosed in rock just as in a vase.
As translated by Mark Chance Bandy and Jean A. Bandy from the first Latin Edition of 1546 in De Natura Fossilium: (Textbook of Mineralogy) (2004), 104. Originally published by Geological Society of America as a Special Paper (1955). There are other translations with different wording.
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See also:
  • 25 Aug - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Pliny the Elder's death.
  • Natural History: A Selection, by Pliny the Elder (translated by John F. Healey). - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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