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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Most Perfect Works of Nature
By Pliny the Elder (23–79 A.D.)
Peroration to the ‘Natural History’: Translation of John Bostock and Henry Thomas Riley

HAVING now treated of all the works of Nature, it will be as well to take a sort of comparative view of her several productions, as well as of the countries which supply them. Throughout the whole earth, then, and wherever the vault of heaven extends, there is no country so beautiful, or which for the productions of nature merits so high a rank, as Italy, that ruler and second parent of the world; recommended as she is by her men, her women, her generals, her soldiers, her slaves, her superiority in the arts, and the illustrious examples of genius which she has produced. Her situation, too, is equally in her favor: the salubrity and mildness of her climate; the easy access which she offers to all nations; her coasts indented with so many harbors; the propitious breezes, too, that always prevail on her shores;—advantages, all of them due to her situation, lying as she does midway between the East and the West, and extended in the most favorable of all positions. Add to this the abundant supply of her waters, the salubrity of her groves, the repeated intersections of her mountain ranges, the comparative innocuousness of her wild animals, the fertility of her soil, and the singular richness of her pastures.  1
  Whatever there is that the life of man ought not to feel in want of, is nowhere to be found in greater perfection than here; the cereals, for example, wine, oil, wool, flax, tissues, and oxen. As to horses, there are none I find preferred to those of Italy for the course; while for mines of gold, silver, copper, and iron, so long as it was deemed lawful to work them, Italy was held inferior to no country whatsoever. At the present day, teeming as she is with these treasures, she contents herself with lavishing upon us, as the whole of her bounties, her various liquids, and the numerous flavors yielded by her cereals and her fruits.  2
  Next to Italy, if we except the fabulous regions of India, I would rank Spain, for my own part; those districts at least that lie in the vicinity of the sea. She is parched and sterile in one part, it is true; but where she is at all productive, she yields the cereals in abundance, oil, wine, horses, and metals of every kind. In all these respects, Gaul is her equal, no doubt; but Spain, on the other hand, outdoes the Gallic provinces in her spartium and her specular stone, in the products of her desert tracts, in her pigments that minister to our luxuries, in the ardor displayed by her people in laborious employments, in the perfect training of her slaves, in the robustness of body of her men, and in their general resoluteness of character.  3
  As to the productions themselves, the greatest value of all, among the products of the sea, is attached to pearls; of objects that lie upon the surface of the earth, it is crystals that are most highly esteemed; and of those derived from the interior, adamas, smaragdus, precious stones, and murrhine, are the things upon which the highest value is placed. The most costly things that are matured by the earth are the kermes-berry and laser; that are gathered from trees,—nard and Seric tissues; that are derived from the trunks of trees,—logs of citrus-wood; that are produced by shrubs,—cinnamon, cassia, and amomum; that are yielded by the juices of trees or of shrubs,—amber, opobalsamum, myrrh, and frankincense; that are found in the roots of trees,—the perfumes derived from costus. The most valuable products furnished by living animals on land are the teeth of elephants; by animals in the sea, tortoise-shell; by the coverings of animals, the skins which the Seres dye, and the substance gathered from the hair of the she-goats of Arabia, which we have spoken of under the name of “ladanum”; by creatures that are common to both land and sea, the purple of the murex. With reference to the birds, beyond plumes for warriors’ helmets, and the grease that is derived from the geese of Commagene, I find no remarkable product mentioned. We must not omit, too, to observe that gold, for which there is such a mania with all mankind, hardly holds the tenth rank as an object of value, and silver, with which we purchase gold, hardly the twentieth!  4
  Hail to thee, Nature, thou parent of all things! and do thou deign to show thy favor unto me, who, alone of all the citizens of Rome, have in thy every department thus made known thy praise.  5

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