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Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113).  Letters.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
XLII. To the Emperor Trajan
 
 
WHILE I was making a progress in a different part of the province, a most extensive fire broke out at Nicomedia, which not only consumed several private houses, but also two public buildings; the town-house and the temple of Isis, though they stood on contrary sides of the street. The occasion of its spreading thus far was partly owing to the violence of the wind, and partly to the indolence of the people, who, manifestly, stood idle and motionless spectators of this terrible calamity. The truth is the city was not furnished with either engines, 1 buckets, or any single instrument suitable for extinguishing fires; which I have now, however, given directions to have prepared. You will consider, Sir, whether it may not be advisable to institute a company of fire-men, consisting only of one hundred and fifty members. I will take care none but those of that business shall be admitted into it, and that the privileges granted them shall not be applied to any other purpose. As this corporate body will be restricted to so small a number of members, it will be easy to keep them under proper regulation.  1
 
Note 1. It has been generally imagined that the ancients had not the art of raising water by engines; but this passage seems to favour the contrary opinion. The word in the original is sipho, which Hesychius explains (as one of the commentators observes), “instrumentum ad jaculandas aquas adversus incendia;” “an instrument to throw up water against fires.” But there is a passage in Seneca which seems to put this matter beyond conjecture, though none of the critics upon this place have taken notice of it: “Solemus,” says he, “duabus manibus inter se junctis aquam concipere, et compressa ultrimque palma in modum siphonis exprimere” (Q. N. l. ii. 16); where we plainly see the use of this sipho was to throw up water, and consequently the Romans were acquainted with that art. The account which Pliny gives of his fountains at Tuscum is likewise another evident proof. M. [back]
 

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