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Chapter LXXXVI.

Immediately after this, as if doing his utmost to reduce the human race to a still lower position, and to bring them to the level of the irrational animals, and desiring to omit not a single circumstance related of the latter which manifests their greatness, he declares that “in certain individuals among the irrational creation there exists the power of sorcery;” so that even in this particular men cannot specially pride themselves, nor wish to arrogate a superiority over irrational creatures.  And the following are his words:  “If, however, men entertain lofty notions because of their possessing the power of sorcery, yet even in that respect are serpents and eagles their superiors in wisdom; for they are acquainted with many prophylactics against persons and diseases, and also with the virtues of certain stones which help to preserve their young.  If men, however, fall in with these, they think that they have gained a wonderful possession.”  Now, in the first place, I know not why he should designate as sorcery the knowledge of natural prophylactics displayed by animals,—whether that knowledge be the result of experience, or of some natural power of apprehension;40254025    φυσικήν τινα κατάληψιν. for the term “sorcery” has by usage been assigned to something else.  Perhaps, indeed, he wishes quietly, as an Epicurean, to censure the entire use of such arts, as resting only on the professions of sorcerers.  However, let it be granted him that men do pride themselves greatly upon the knowledge of such arts, whether they are sorcerers or not:  how can serpents be in this respect wiser than men, when they make use of the well-known fennel40264026    τῷ μαράθρῳ. to sharpen their power of vision and to produce rapidity of movement, having obtained this natural power not from the exercise of reflection, but from the constitution of their body,40274027    ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ κατασκευῆς. while men do not, like serpents, arrive at such knowledge merely by nature, but partly by experiment, partly by reason, and sometimes by reflection and knowledge?  So, if eagles, too, in order to preserve their young in the nest, carry thither the eagle-stone40284028    [The ἀετίτης.  See Pliny, N. H., x. 4.] when they have discovered it, how does it appear that they are wise, and more intelligent than men, who find out by the exercise of their reflective powers and of their understanding what has been bestowed by nature upon eagles as a gift?


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