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down, and our towers and spires shivered by the thunderbolt, we would tolerate any Edile from the Treasury or the Homeoffice, any Verres, even though he might insist upon forcing into the perpendicular the elegantly sloping columns of the Temple of Vesta, or effecting an equitable adjustment, à plomb, of the pillars and buttresses of the state.


After Britain had become a great naval power, covering the ocean with her ships of commerce and of war, we might have expected some energetic measures for protecting the adventurous mariner and his far-floated cargo, when fire and tempest simultaneously assailed them; but when great interests on shore were committed to inefficient hands, it was scarcely to be expected that great interests at sea would be better managed. If boards of longitude consisted of rear-admirals who had forgotten their Lunars, and politicians who had visited only one side of the Asses' Bridge;—if fishery boards consisted of notables who ate fish, but could not catch them ;-if trustees for manufactures had no knowledge of what was entrusted to them; and if lighthouse boards were composed of lawyers and burgh bailies, who could hardly choose a pair of spectacles-we need not wonder that the hapless seaman was allowed to perish at his mast-foot, and our hearts of oak' to be rent by the lightning, or consumed by its fires.

Under such circumstances, we ought to congratulate the public on the appearance of Mr Harris's work; or rather, perhaps, on Mr Harris's success in compelling a reluctant government to take up the subject, as a national question demanding national encouragement and support. As in all other great improvements, some previous steps had been taken for the protection of ships and buildings, and officers of scientific acquirements had pointed out the necessity of a more perfect system of protection. Even the ancients themselves, who had no knowledge of electricity, seem to have exercised some ingenuity in warding off the thunderbolt; and, though it may not be admitted by those who are accustomed to underrate their scientific achievements, we are persuaded that they not only used metallic conductors, but employed in some of their temples a more efficacious system of protection than we ourselves have yet introduced.

It is not very creditable to the scientific literature of our own country, that so little has been done in collecting and examining the notices and opinions of the ancients respecting the more

* CICERO, Orat. in Verrem. Act II. cap. li. See also this Journal, Vol. LXXVIII. p. 321, note.

remarkable phenomena of the atmosphere. Dr Watson, indeed, has gathered from Pliny, Seneca, Cæsar, and Livy, several passages descriptive of the electrical light which often tipped the masts of vessels, and the spears and lances of soldiers; but nothing worthy of notice has been gleaned respecting the destructive effects of thunderstorms, and the precautions which were taken for the protection of life and property.

In his commentaries on Virgil's sixth Eclogue, Servius,* a writer in the time of the younger Theodosius, observes that Prometheus discovered, and revealed to men the method of bringing down lightning from above, and that it was from this that he was said to have stolen fire from heaven. Among the possessors of the art he enumerates Numa, who had used it with impunity because he had employed it only in the service of the Gods; and Tullus Hostilius, who, in consequence of having made an improper use of it, was struck dead with lightning, and all his property destroyed. The mythological history of Numa, as given by Ovid in his Fasti, has some analogy with the theft of fire by Prometheus. Aided by Mercury, Prometheus is said to have stolen fire from the chariot of the sun; but, what is more interesting, the theft was effected by bringing down the celestial fire at the end of a ferula or rod. In like manner, Numa, prompted by his wife, the goddess Egeria, succeeded in obtaining the same prize; by a species of robbery perpetrated on the sylvan deities Faunus and Martius Picus. Having placed in their way cups of perfumed wine, the thoughtless Gods partook too freely of the beverage, and, when in a state of inebriety, were bound hand and foot by the Roman king. While struggling in vain to free themselves from their chains, Numa apologises for the liberty he has taken-tells them he meant to do them no harm, and hints at the condition of their deliverance—

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Quoque modo possit fulmen monstrate piari.'

To this bold request to know the method of expiating, or bringing down, or carrying off the impending lightning, Faunus gives a favourable answer :

*Deprehendit præterea rationem fulminum eliciendorum, et hominibus indicavit; unde celestem ignem dicitur esse furatus: nam quadam arte ab eodem monstratâ supernus ignis eliciebatur, qui mortalibus profuit, donec eo bene usi sunt: nam postea malo hominum usu in perniciem eorum versi sunt.'-SERVIUS in Virgil, Ecl. vi. line 42. Edit. Burman, tom. i. p. 99.

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Picus also admits their possession of the valida ars, and their willingness to communicate it. The bargain is completed-the secret is conveyed-and a day fixed for putting it in practice. Numa and his attendants assemble in state. The sun's upper limb had just touched the horizon, when Numa, with his head veiled with a white covering, lifts up his hands and demands the fulfilment of the heavenly promise.

• Dum loquitur, totum jam Sol emerserat orbem:
Et gravis etherio venit ab axe fragor.

Ter tonuit sine nube Deus, tria fulgura misit.'

The sun threw his light over the whole earth a tremendous crash was heard through the heavens. In a sky without a cloud, Jupiter sent forth three peals of thunder and three flashes of lightning. The heavens opened, and the sacred shield fell from above.

On the authority of Lucius Piso, an ancient annalist, both Livy and Pliny have given an account of the transmission to Tullus Hostilius of Numa's secret of bringing down lightning from heaven. Pliny says, that Tullus learned the art from the books of Numa, but having practised it incorrectly (parum rite) he was struck with lightning.* Pliny repeats nearly the same words in another place; but he there states also, on the authority of ancient annals, that lightning could be forced from heaven by certain sacred rites, or obtained by prayer; and he adds, that lightning had been thus evoked by Porsenna, king of the Volsci, and before his time repeatedly by Numa.t Livy makes a similar, but a fuller statement. ‡


L. Piso primo annalium auctor est, Tullum Hostilium regem ex Numæ libris eodem, quo illum sacrificio Jovem cœlo devocare conatum, quoniam parum rite quædam fecisset, fulmine ictum.'-PLIN. lib. xxviii. cap. 2.

Extat annalium memoria, sacris quibusdam, et precationibus, vel cogi fulmina, vel impetrari. Vetus fama Etruriæ est, impetratum Volscinios urbem, agris depopulatis subeunte monstro, quod vocavere Voltam. Evocatum et a Porsenna suo rege. Et ante eum a Numa sæpius hoc factitatum, in primo annalium suorum tradit L. Piso, gravis auctor, quod imitatum parum rite Tullum Hostilium ictum fulmine.-PLIN. Hist. Nat. lib. ii. cap. 54.

‡ Ipsum regem (Tullum Hostilium) tradunt, volventem commentarios

It is evident, from various passages in ancient authors, that sovereigns who were ambitious of receiving divine honours, attempted to deceive their subjects by pretending to bring down lightning from heaven. According to Ovid and Dionysius Halicarnassus, Romulus, the eleventh king of Alba, invented a method of counterfeiting thunder and lightning. According to Eusebius, he effected this deception by making his soldiers strike their bucklers with their swords. The gods, however, were affronted at this usurpation of their weapons, and Romulus fell by a stroke of lightning.

• Fulmineo periit imitator fulminis ictu.'

'He mock'd the lightning, and by lightning fell.'

Salmoneus, king of Elis, is said to have imitated thunder by driving his chariot over a bridge of brass, and to have darted burning torches on every side, in imitation of lightning ; and, as a punishment of his impiety, Jupiter slew him by a thunderbolt. Eustathius, in his commentaries on the Odyssey, regards Salmoneus as a philosopher who was killed while carrying on experiments for the purpose of bringing down or imitating lightning; and M. Salverte believes that the king of Elis was actually bringing down lightning from the clouds, and that the process he employed was the coactive one referred to by Pliny. According to Dion Cassius and John of Antioch, Caligula employed a machine for imitating thunder and lightning, and for that purpose discharged a stone upwards to the sky during the time of a thunderstorm.

The earliest indication of a method of protecting houses from lightning, is referred to by Columella.* He distinctly states that Tarchon, who was the disciple of the magician Tages, and the founder of the Theurgy of the Etruscans, protected his house by surrounding it with white vines.


Utque Jovis magni prohiberet fulmina Tarchon,
Sæpe suas sedes percinxit vitibus albis.'

With the same view, the Temple of Apollo was surrounded

Numæ, quum ibi quædam occulta sollemnia sacrificia Jovi Elicio facta invenisset, operatum his sacris se abdidisse: sed non rite initum aut curatum id sacrum esse: nec solum nullam ei oblatam celestium speciem, sed ira Jovis, sollicitati prava religione, fulmine ictum cum domo conflagrasse. Liv. lib. i. cap. 31.1

*De Re Rusticâ, lib. x.


with laurels, which were supposed to have the property of keeping off lightning; and in Hindostan, fat or succulent plants were planted round houses, in order to defend them from lightning. M. Salverte† ridicules these methods as inefficacious, and considers them as put forward by their authors, in order to conceal the true method which they possessed of protecting their temples and dwellings from the effects of lightning; but we are disposed to take a different view of the subject. If the trees which surround a house or a temple are sufficiently high, there can be no doubt that they will exercise a protective power not inferior to a regular system of conductors; but even if the temple exceeds them in height, they will operate as so many points or conductors in discharging silently the free electricity of the atmosphere. If a house covered with succulent creepers were struck with lightning, we are persuaded that the electricity would be carried off by the conducting juices of the plant, and would not force its way into the walls of the building.

Pliny informs us, that in consequence of all the high towers between Terracina and the Temple of Feronia having been destroyed by lightning, the inhabitants ceased to build them in times of war. He states also that the lightning never descends into the ground deeper than five feet; and that, on this account, timid persons either seek for shelter in deep caverns, or cover their houses with the skins of seals, the only marine animal which the lightning does not strike!‡

Without referring to the practices in Esthonia, of placing two knives upon a window to turn away the lightning-of putting a piece of iron into nests where eggs are hatching; or to a practice in the fifteenth century, of protecting ships by fixing a drawn sword on the mast, we may adduce the historical fact mentioned by Ktesias, that iron collected in a particular manner, and shaped like a sword or pointed rod, had the property, when stuck in the ground, of turning away clouds, hail, and lightning. Ktesias informs us, that he saw the experiment per

* It is a curious fact that Pliny mentions the laurel as the only earthly production which lightning does not strike. Ex iis quæ terra gignuntur lauri fruticem non icit.'-PLIN. Hist. Nat. lib. ii. cap. 56. † Des Sciences Occultes, tom. ii. p. 151.

Ideo pavidi altiores specus tutissimos putant; aut tabernacula e pellibus belluarum quas vitulos apellant: quoniam hoc solum animal ex marinis non percutiat-PLIN. Hist. Nat. lib. i. cap. 56. See also Josephus, Antiq. Jud. lib. iii. cap. vi. § 4, ad fin.

KTESIAS in Indic. apud Photium, Bibl. Cod. lxxii., quoted by Sul


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