Selection 6 (5.13.1-15.4)

[5.13.1] Hōc locō, sī tibi vidētur, quaerī potest cūr turbō fīat. ēvenīre in flūminibus solet ut, quamdiū sine impedīmentō feruntur, simplex et rēctum illīs iter sit; ubi incurrērunt in aliquod saxum aut latus rīpae prōminēns, retorqueantur et in orbem aquās sine exitū flectant, ita ut circumlāta in sē sorbeantur et verticem efficiant. [5.13.2] sīc ventus, quamdiū nihil obstitit, vīrēs suās effundit, ubi aliquō prōmuntoriō repercussus est, aut locōrum coeuntium <angustiīs> in canālem dēvexum tenuemque coniectus, saepius in sē volūtātur, similemque illīs quās dīximus convertī aquīs facit verticem. [5.13.3] hic ventus circumāctus et eundem ambiēns locum ac sē ipsā vertīgine concitāns turbō est. quī sī pugnācior est ac diūtius volūtātus, īnflammātur et efficit quem πρηστῆρα Graecī vocant; hic est igneus turbō. sīc ferē omnia perīcula ventī ēruptī dē nūbibus prōdunt, quibus armāmenta rapiantur et tōtae nāvēs in sublīme tollantur.

[5.13.4] Etiamnunc quīdam ventī dīversōs ex sē generant et impulsum aëra in aliās quoque partēs quam in quās ipsī inclīnāvēre dispergunt. illud quoque dīcam quod mihi occurrit: quemadmodum stillicidia, quamvīs iam inclīnent sē et lābantur, nōndum tamen effēcēre lāpsum, sed ubi plūra coiēre et turba vīrēs dedit, tunc fluere et īre dīcuntur: sīc quamdiū levēs sunt aëris mōtūs agitātī plūribus locīs, nōndum ventus est; tunc esse incipit, cum omnēs illōs miscuit et in ūnum impetum contulit. spīritum ā ventō modus sēparat; vehementior enim spīritus ventus est, invicem spīritus leviter fluēns āēr.

[5.14.1] Repetam nunc quod in prīmō dīxeram, ēdī ē specū ventōs recessūque interiōre terrārum. nōn tōta solidō contextū terra in īmum usque fundātur, sed multīs partibus cava et ‘caecīs suspēnsa latebrīs,’ <aliubi aquīs plēna>, aliubi habet inānia sine ūmōre. [5.14.2] ibi etiamsī nūlla lūx discrīmen āëris mōnstrat, dicam tamen nūbēs nebulāsque in obscūrō cōnsistere. nam nē haec quidem suprā terrās, quia videntur, sunt, sed, quia sunt, videntur; illīc quoque nihilō minus ob id sunt quod nōn videntur. flūmina illīc sciās licet nostrīs paria sublābī, alia lēniter ducta, alia in cōnfragōsīs locīs praecipitandō sonantia. quid ergō? nōn illud aequē dabis esse aliquōs et sub terrā lacūs et quāsdam aquās sine exitū stāgnāre? [5.14.3] quae sī ita sunt, necesse est et illud: āëra onerārī, onerātumque incumbere et ventum prōpulsū suō concitāre. et ex illīs ergō subterrāneīs nūbibus sciēmus nūtrīrī inter obscūra flātūs, dum tantum vīrium fēcerint quantō aut terrae obstantiam auferant, aut aliquod apertum ad hōs efflātūs iter occupant, et per hanc cavernam in nostrās sēdēs efferantur. [5.14.4] illud vērō manifēstum est, magnam esse sub terrīs vim sulphuris et aliōrum nōn minus ignem alentium. per haec loca cum sē exitum quaerēns spīritus torsit, accendat flammam ipsō affrictū necesse est, deinde, flammīs lātius fūsīs, etiam sī quid ignāvī āëris erat, extenuātum movērī et viam cum fremitū vastō atque impetū quaerere. sed haec dīligentius persequar cum quaeram dē mōtibus terrae.

[5.15.1] Nunc mihi permitte nārrāre fābulam. Asclēpiodotus auctor est dēmissōs complūrēs ā Philippō in metallum antīquum ōlim dēstitūtum, ut explōrārent quae ūbertās eius esset, quis status, an aliquid futūrīs relīquisset vetus avāritia; dēscendisse illōs cum multō lūmine et multōs dūrātūrō diēs, deinde longā viā fatīgātōs vīdisse flūmina ingentia et conceptūs aquārum inertium vastōs, parēs nostrīs, nē compressōs quidem terrā superimminente, sed līberae laxitātis, nōn sine horrōre vīsōs. [5.15.2] cum magnā hoc lēgī voluptāte. intellēxī enim saeculum nostrum nōn novīs vitiīs sed iam inde antīquitus trāditīs labōrāre, nec nostrā aetāte prīmum avāritiam vēnās terrārum lapidumque rīmātam in tenebrīs male abstrūsa quaesīsse. illī maiōrēs nostrī, quōs celebrāmus laudibus, quibus dissimilēs esse nōs querimur, spē ductī montēs cecīdērunt, et suprā lucrum sub ruīnā stetērunt. [5.15.3] ante Philippum Macedonum rēgem fuēre quī pecūniam in altissimīs usque latebrīs sequerentur et rēctō spīritū līberōque in illōs sē dēmitterent specūs in quōs nūllum pervenīret noctium diērumque discrīmen. ā tergō lūcem relinquere quae tanta spēs fuit? quae tanta necessitās hominem ad sīdera ērēctum incurvāvit et dēfōdit, et in fundum tellūris intimae mersit, ut ērueret aurum nōn minōre perīculō quaerendum quam possidendum? [5.15.4] propter hoc cunīculōs ēgit et circā praedam lutulentam incertamque rēptāvit oblītus diērum, oblītus rērum nātūrae meliōris ā quā sē āvertit. ūllī ergō mortuō terra tam gravis est quam istīs suprā quōs avāritia ingēns terrārum pondus iniēcit, quibus abstulit caelum, quōs in īmō, ubi illud malum vīrus latitat, īnfodit? illō dēscendere ausī sunt ubi novam rērum positiōnem, terrārum pendentium habitūs ventōsque per caecum inānēs experīrentur, et aquārum nūllī fluentium horridōs fontēs, et alteram perpetuamque noctem. deinde cum ista fēcērunt īnferōs metuunt!

Selection 6 (5.13.1–15.4): How whirlwinds are created, and a digression about mining

In Book 5 Seneca surveys various types of winds and their causes. Investigation of winds (anemology) was a common topic in ancient meteorology (Taub 2003). Seneca’s account discusses the wind rose, various seasonal and regional winds, as well as Greek and Roman nomenclature of various winds. In this section, Seneca writes about how whirlwinds are created and about the ability for winds to be active inside the earth. He goes on to tell a story about an abandoned mine that led to an immense cavern replete with underground lakes and rivers. Although this book does not have the moralizing introduction found in many of the others, Seneca reinforces his ethical concerns at the close of the book with both this story of the abandoned mine and the finale (not included here), which details how mankind (ab)uses the winds for nefarious purposes, thus perverting one of nature’s gifts.

Further Reading: Williams 2012: 171–212.

[5.13.1] Tornadoes arise in a way analogous to the emergence of eddies in running water when it is obstructed.

Seneca has been discussing various types of winds, their sources, and relative strength and habits (why are they stronger at different times of the day or the year). It is at this point that he brings up whirlwinds. Lucretius also dwells on turbines in the sixth book of De Rerum Natura (which discusses meteorological events), about which M. Serres has remarked, “The book on the meteōra is the book of turbulence… It also leads to a general theory of turbulence, general because trans-elementary, and generalized to the movements of the heavens” (2018: 103–4). Seneca’s discussion contains hints that he picked up on the importance of these winds in his own reading of Lucretius (esp. 6.423-50).

quaeri potest: potest is impersonal with the complementary infinitive, quaeri (AG 456).

cur turbo fiat: indirect question (AG 574). It is not uncommon for tornadoes to hit Italy.

in fluminibus: Aristotle in his Meteorology also uses the analogy with rivers (Mete. 349a20–349a2), as does Lucretius in De Rerum Natura (1.295–97). As explained in Book 3, the Stoics believed that air can turn into water and vice versa.

ut ... sit: result clause introduced by evenire (AG 568)

illis: dative of possession (AG 373)

prominens: take with saxum.

ita ut: “in such a way that,” introducing clauses of result with the verbs sorbeantur and efficiant in the present subjunctive (AG 568).

verticem efficiant: Seneca, always interested in word-play, would relish that the word used to describe a whirlpool (vertex) can also be used to describe a whirlwind. This would help to substantiate his analogy between the movements of water and wind.

[5.13.2] Wind often rolls in on itself, just as river water does when obstructed.

Earlier in the book Seneca wrote, “the difference between air and wind is the same as that between a lake and a river” (NQ 5.5.2). In Ep. 79, he writes to Lucilius to check out Charybdis, and his hypotheses there about the formation of that famous whirlpool parallel some aspects of this section.

vires: “strength,” “energy” > vis f. We can assume Seneca means that the wind moves in one basic direction as it “pours forth its own energy.”

aliquo promontorio: ablative of means (AG 409); promontorium echoes prominens in the river description just above. Promontories such as Sounion are notoriously windy.

locorum coeuntium <angustiis> in canalem devexum tenuemque coniectus: the subject of coniectus is still ventus; angustiis is an editorial supplement by Skutsch 1907 and helps to make sense of the clause. Take as an ablative of means, "by the narrowness of converging lands". The general picture is of a canyon or mountain pass where the winds are pressed together into a narrow channel (canalem).

similemque illis ... facit verticem: take facit verticem first, then the similem phrase: “it makes a whirlwind similar to those (whirlpools)”

converti: “to be turned around”; the verb is commonly used with metamorphoses, and, as this section comments on verbal transformation (of watery vertex to windy vertex), so the analogies start to feel more concrete. Seneca often makes water (as well as earth and fire) a cause of wind (e.g. NQ 5.10.3), and here the use of identical language parallels such a transformation.

[5.13.3] Whirlwinds formed in this way can become fiery. They are most often formed from winds coming from clouds. They are often the cause of damage at sea.

hic ventus circumactus ... ambiens ... concitans: this wind, given three participial phrases to define it, then becomes the whirlwind (turbo).

pugnacior: “more aggressive.” There is a slight personification of the whirlwind, which is also able to become inflamed (inflammatur, e.g. Ep. 82.23). If Seneca is indicating actual fire whirls, there would have to be a source of fire as well. According to the Stoic belief in the transmutation of elements, the fiery aspect of winds would be kindled by such violent movements cf. NQ 7.21.1.

πρηστῆρα Graeci vocant: prēstēr (πρηστήρ, “whirlwind,” “windstorm”) is based on verb pimprēmi (πίμπρημι) meaning “to swell (with breath)” or “to be inflamed,” “be afflicted by inflammation,” and by extension, “to burn with madness.”

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This also features as a topic in Lucretius (6.423–50) and can be traced back to the fifth-century BCE Greek philosopher Heraclitus (Diels A.14). Seneca is placing his account in dialogue with theirs and agrees in many details with Lucretius’ account. Seneca gives the Greek names of phenomena relatively often—cf. NQ 5.16.4 and following (not included here) gives the Greek names of the winds. The use of Greek by Latin authors is called “code-switching” by modern critics (see the volume devoted to this feature of Latin letters by Elder and Mullen 2019).

omnia pericula: direct object of produnt

quibus ... rapiantur ... tollantur: relative clause of characteristic (AG 535). A tornado in Dallas in October, 2019, reportedly lifted debris over 20,000 feet into the air.

armamenta: “(naval) equipment,” “ships’ tackle” (sails, ropes, cables, etc.)

[5.13.4] Some winds generate other winds blowing in different directions. The difference between wind and air can understood by analogy with water drops.

Note Seneca’s focus on definitions—spiritus vs. ventus—and how much of this book is concerned with such definitions. The accuracy of his observations hinges on having the most accurate language.

impulsum aera: direct object of dispergunt

illud: “the following,” anticipatory demonstrative further explained by the quod clause.

alias ... partes quam: quam used after alius (AG 407).

quamvis ... inclīnent ... lābantur: quamvis + subjunctive in a concessive clause (AG 527).

coiēre: > co-eo co-ire, syncopated perfect 3rd plural, –ēre for –ērunt.

turba: “the crowd” [of waterdrops]; the word is chosen because of its similarity to turbo.

vehementior ... spiritus ventus est: ventus is predicate nominative.

fluens aër: supply est.

[5.14.1] A review of the various ways winds are created.

in primo: he said this “first” at 5.4.1. Seneca tries to make clear some of the primary findings of the book, one of which leads to the digression about mining.

edi: take ventos as the accusative subject with indirect speech (dixeram) (AG 580).

recessuque interiore terrarum: Seneca believed there were large caves as well as “arteries” that would carry air inside the earth (see 3.15.1).

solido contextu: “of solid texture,” ablative of description.

caecis suspensa latebris: a part quotation of Ovid Met. 1.388 (caecis obscura latebris ... verba), where it was used to describe the difficult-to-understand words of an oracle to Deucalion and Pyrrha (after the flood that wiped out the human race).

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Is Seneca misremembering the quotation’s context or actively changing its valence? That same book of the Metamorphoses will be important when Seneca discusses the winds at 5.16.1 (where he correctly quotes Ovid Metamorphoses 1.61-66), so he may be priming his reader for more Ovid to come. In addition, he may be urging the reader to read more into the symbolic nature of winds, their hidden movements, and the meaning of his account (as Deucalion had to work to puzzle out the obscure words of the oracle). Other critics have pointed to Lucretius 1.408 (caecasque latebras), Vergil Aeneid 3.424 (Scyllam caecis cohibet spelunca latebris), or Aetna 97-8 (cavata [humus] latebris /exiles suspensa vias agit) as possible intertexts to Seneca’s line.

<aliubi aquis plena>: this supplement was first conjectured by Vottero 1989; it helps the passage to make sense and parallels what Seneca says at 3.16.4.

inania sine umore: “empty space free from water.” inanis can be used as a specialized term to mean the “void” for Epicureans, but the Stoics did not believe that such voids existed on earth.

[5.14.2] In certain underground caverns there can be clouds and conditions that mirror the atmospheric conditions on high.

Seneca has some fun with ideas of vision and existence, and engages in a thought experiment that is equivalent to our “if a tree falls in the wood and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

discrimen aeris: “differences of atmosphere”

dicam: “I will assert” (LS dico2 I.B.1.a), future indicative, introducing indirect speech with nubes nebulasque, the accusative subject of the infinitive consistere (AG 580).

haec: clouds and mists

sunt: “exist”

illic: underground

ob id … quod: “on account of the fact that”

scias licet: “it is possible to know that.” licet can be followed by a verb in the subjunctive (AG 527), as well as by the more normal infinitive (see LS licet I). The infinitive sublabi is in indirect speech (AG 580).

nostris paria: “equal to our [above ground rivers].” This draws upon what Seneca wrote in Book 3 and will be further explored in the following digression at 5.15.1–4.

praecipitando: gerund, ablative of means: “by their rushing speed” (AG 408).

non illud aeque dabis: “will you not grant the following as well?” (LS do II.C, “to grant [a proposition]”). Seneca displays a conversational dialectic style to prove his point. If there are subterranean rivers, surely there are subterranean lakes as well.

[5.14.3] Based upon these suppositions, hurricane-like winds must build up in underground spaces until they burst into the upper world.

necesse est et illud: illud is anticipatory, “the following is also necessary… ” and it introduces accusative and infinitive construction (AG 577).

ventum ... concitare: whereas before the accusatives were the subjects of the infinitives, here ventum is the direct object of concitare, with aëra the subject.

flatūs: accusative plural, subject of the present passive infinitive nutriri.

dum ... fecerint: dum = “until,” taking a future perfect indicative to state a future fact when there is no idea of intention or expectancy (AG 553, Note 2).

tantum virium: tantum + partitive genitive, “enough strength” (> vis f.)

quanto: “by which,” relative correlative with tantus (AG 152), introducing three result clauses with the subjunctive (auferant … occupant … efferantur).

aut ... aut: “either ... or,” indicating the possible results of the power of these wind currents.

nostras sedes: “our dwelling-places,” i.e., “the upper world”

[5.14.4] As underground waters create wind, so underground fires will stir up winds in particular ways. All of the elements exist throughout the world and influence one another.

illud: “the following”

magnam esse ... vim: “there is a large quantity” (LS vis I.B.1). magnam is placed first for emphasis.

et aliorum: “and of other substances”

cum se ... torsit: “when it has hurled itself” (LS torqueo I.B, “to fling with force,” a poetic usage).

exitum quaerens: exitum is the direct object of the present active participle quaerens. Seneca uses similar vocabulary to represent the indigestion of Thyestes after he has swallowed his own children, sine exitu luctatur et quaerit fugam (Thyestes 1042).

accendat: subjunctive with necesse est, which can be followed by the subjunctive without ut in a substantive clause of result (AG 569.2, Note 2 and LS necesse I.A.1.d).

etiam si quid ignavi aeris erat: “even if some sluggish air was present.” si quid = si aliquid, + partitive genitive; remember the rhyme, “after si, nisi, num and ne all the ali-s drop away.”

extenuatum moveri: "(it must) be put in motion, having been thinned out (by the heat).” The idea that air expands and increases in movement when heated underlies this statement.

quaeram: “investigate,” “look into”

motibus terrae: “earthquakes.” Seneca will discuss earthquakes in the following book and conclude that air is the primary cause of earthquakes (6.21.1–6.26.4).

[5.15.1] King Phillip of Macedon once sent scouts down an abandoned mine shaft and they found massive underground chambers, rivers, and reservoirs.

This story corroborates the existence of underground waters and airs and also ties Seneca’s scientific reflections to his ethical concerns. This literal journey to the Underworld (katabasis) has connections with traditional descriptions of the mythical Underworld and eschatological ideas, underscored by allusions to Vergil Aen. 6. Seneca himself envisions the Underworld in his tragedies: Hercules Furens 662–759Thyestes 152–75, and Oedipus 582–658.

mihi permitte: permitto takes the dative when meaning “permit, grant.”

Asclepiodotus: a pupil of the Stoic philosopher Posidonius (1st century BCE), probably the same Asclepiodotus who wrote about the Macedonian phalanx and battle tactics in an extant treatise called Tactics. Seneca refers to him elsewhere in the NQ (6.22.2 on earthquakes, and 2.30.1 on thunder and lightning).

auctor est: Asclepiodotus relates this story; the construction auctor est introduces indirect statement (supply esse with demissos).

Philippo: King Philip II of Macedon (reigned 359–336 BCE), father of Alexander the Great.

ut explorarent: purpose clause (AG 531)

quae ubertas eius esset: “what riches it had.” quae is the interrogative adjective with ubertas introducing an indirect question (AG 574).

quis status: i.e., what condition it was in and whether there might still be precious metals in situ.

futūrīs: "for future generations"

descendisse … multos duraturo dies: duraturo modifies lumine. They descended with numerous torches, enough to last for many days. By writing descendisse, Seneca probably wants his reader to think of Vergil’s famous “the descent to Avernus is easy” (facilis descensus Averno, Aen. 6.126).

longā viā: ablative of means (AG 409)

conceptūs ... vastōs: “vast reservoirs”

ne compressos quidem: “not even pressed.” The cavern had ceilings high enough that the waters were not touched by the earth above them. There are caves like this in Greece, such as Melissani cave in Kefalonia, which had ancient cult activity to Pan.

liberae laxitatis: “of free roominess,” i.e., with plenty of open space above (genitive of quality, AG 345).

non sine horrore visos: “seen not without a shudder.” The antecedent of visos is conceptus. There is something uncanny and sublime about the expanse of the cavern and the waters found therein; horror is used for shivering from fear, but also from awe and reverence. Setaioli remarks, “The spectacle of nature, in particular, gives [Seneca] an indefinite religious shiver” (2007: 334).

[5.15.2] Our ancestors were no better than we are. Greed has long driven mankind to engage in mining.

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Seneca says something similar at Ep. 97.1: “You are mistaken, dear Lucilius, if you think that our era is particularly culpable for self-indulgence and for neglect of high moral standards. One likes to blame such deficiencies on one’s own times, but in reality, it is not the times that are at fault but the people. No era has ever been free of blame” (trans. Graver and Long). For an informative overview of mining in antiquity, see Craddock 2016. There were large mining operations near Seneca’s hometown of Corduba, such as Munigua.

cum magnā ... voluptate: ablative of manner (AG 412); while one might expect that Seneca would derive pleasure from his physical theory being verified by the spelunkers, he turns to more ethical reflection. In Ep. 46 he writes to Lucilius about the pleasurable response he had to Lucilius’ own book and how he must reread it to offer a proper judgement—this shows that Seneca would expect his own books to be read more than once as well.

saeculum nostrum ... laborare: indirect speech introduced by intellexi; this will be paralleled by avaritiam ... quaesisse.

iam inde: “ever since,” “from then on.”

laborāre: "suffer"

nostrā aetate: ablative of time when (AG 424)

rimatam: “having probed,” or “having rummaged about in,” deponent perfect active participle > rimor, taking venas as its direct object. Avarice was mentioned earlier in the NQ as an impetus to mining (3.15.3) and Seneca will repeat the verb when musing on his findings about the natural world, “It is permitted for us to probe (rimari) these things and venture into the dark with hypotheses, not with the assurance of discovery, but with hope” (7.29.3).

in tenebrīs male abstrusa: “things poorly concealed in the darkness,” i.e., buried precious metals, all too easily found. abstrusa is accusative, direct object of quaesisse.

illi maiores nostri: “those much-discussed ancestors of ours.” ille can mean “that which is famous or well-known” (AG 297).

ceciderunt: “cut down,” used hyperbolically of mining, perhaps with the implication of murder or slaughter (see LS caedo II).

supra lucrum sub ruina: these predecessors paradoxically stand “above their profit [but] under their ruin” in the underground world of the mine. Seneca will also play with supra and sub in Book 6, when speaking about death by earthquakes: “does it make a difference whether one stone crushes me or I am overwhelmed by a mountain; whether the weight of one house topples on top of me (supra me) and I die under (sub) its high roof… ?” (NQ 6.1.9).

[5.15.3] What could be important enough to spur men to risk death in an unnatural quest for underground gold?

Greed caused men to give up their natural posture and inclinations. Love of gold will lead to death, either morally and figuratively or literally (quite likely given the cramped and dangerous conditions of ancient mining).

ante: “even before” Phillip II of Macedon, whose mining activities in the fourth century BCE were mentioned just above.

fuere qui ... sequerentur: “there were those who followed,” relative clause of characteristic in secondary sequence (AG 535).

recto spiritu liberoque: "with upright and freeborn spirit.” This is said ironically. Seneca is playing with the discrepancy between humans who are born to look upon the heavens and have “upright” spirits, yet go underground into darkness and engage in sordid labor for immoral ends.

nullum ... discrimen: the subject of perveniret.

a tergo lucem relinquere quae tanta spes fuit?: the compressed thought could be expanded as follows: quae spes [eis] fuit tanta [ut vellent] a tergo lucem relinquere? “What hope did [they] possess [that was] so great [that they were willing] to leave daylight behind?” a tergo is used by Seneca in a katabasis in his play Hercules Furens: “a faint glimmer of the remaining light is at your back” (tenuis relictae lucis a tergo nitor, 669).

quae tanta necessitas: nominative subject in parallel with quae tanta spes of previous sentence.

ut erueret aurum: purpose clause (AG 531). In the preface of the work (3.praef.1), Seneca wrote of the positive impulse to “unearth” (eruere) the causes of nature; now we see the way such an action can be corrupted by greed (see Selection 1).

non minore periculo quaerendum quam possidendum: “(gold, which) must be searched for with no less danger than it must be possessed,” i.e., “no less dangerous to seach for than it is to possess.” The gerundives quaerendum and possidendum modify aurum. The paraprosdokian of possidendum puts substantial weight on that word. Mining was a paradigmatically dangerous activity, often assigned to slaves. Lucretius remarks on the dangers of mining and the gases that could harm miners (6.808–15). For Seneca, those who possess too much gold are also in a (morally) dangerous position.

[5.15.4] For sordid gain these men experience the horrors of that underground world, worse than death itself.

cuniculos egit: “has sunk shafts” into the earth. cuniculos agere is normal Latin for digging any kind of underground passage. Such holes are known as “rabbits” (cuniculi), says the Roman agricultural writer Varro, because of the burrowing behavior of those animals (Rust. 3.12.6).

lutulentum: “muddy,” with the added connotation of “vile,” “sordid.”

oblitus dierum: verbs of forgetting take the genitive (AG 350).

rerum naturae melioris: “of the better nature of things”

gravis terra est: these men have buried themselves, and the weight of earth above them is heavy as can be. It was common to write sit tibi terra levis on graves. Note the curse that Theseus pronounces over Phaedra at the end of Seneca’s Phaedra: “may the earth lie heavy on her impious head” (gravisque tellus impio capiti incubet, 1280).

illud malum virus: “that evil poison,” referring to gold. Greed is also compared to a poison (virus suum) at Ira. 3.8.1.

illo: “to that place,” further defined by the ubi clause.

novam rerum positionem: “a strange order of things”

terrarum pendentium habitus: this could refer to stalactites as well as the enormous mass of earth above these miners. habitus = “form (with emphasis on visual aspect)” (OLD habitus 5).

ventosque … inanes: a Vergilian phrase from his book about the Underworld and the punishment of sinners, “they are hung up in the lifeless winds” (panduntur inanes…ad ventos, Aen. 6.740-1). The atmosphere of Seneca’s account is heavily influenced by Vergil’s conception of the Underworld.

aquarum nulli fluentium horridos fontes: nulli is dative of reference (AG 376). The waters of the Underworld are a common feature in katabases.

deinde cum ista fecerunt inferos metuunt!: Seneca sarcastically comments that people who have already traveled to the “Underworld” actually fear death. He has similar criticism in Ep. 122.3 for those who live at night rather than during the day: “Do these men fear death, having buried themselves alive?” (et hi mortem timent, in quam se vivi condiderunt?).

turbō (turben) turbinis m.: whirlwind

ēveniō ēvenīre ēvēnī ēventus: happen, turn out

quamdiū or quam diū: as long as

impedīmentum impedīmentī n.: impediment, hindrance

simplex –icis: artless, naïve, lacking guile

incurrō –ere –currī (–cucurrī) –cursus: attack, run into

prōmineō –minēre — —: to be prominent, overhang

retorqueō –torquēre –torsī –tortum: to bend back, to twist back

exitus exitūs m.: exit, way out; death

flectō flectere flēxī flexus: to bend

circumferō –ferre –tulī –lātus: to bear round; pass around

sorbeō –ēre –uī: to suck in, drink in, swallow

vertex verticis m.: whirlpool, whirlwind, vortex. 

quamdiū or quam diū: as long as

obstō obstāre obstitī obstātum: stand in the way, to constitute a boundary to 5.13.2

prōmuntorium –iī n.: mountain–ridge

repercutiō –ere –cussī –cussus: to rebound, throw back, reflect

coeō coīre coīvī/coiī coitus: to come together, combine, unite

angustiae –ārum f.: difficulty, tight spot, distress

canālis –is m.: canal; passage

dēvexus –a –um: sloping, steep

tenuis tenue: thin

coniciō –icere –iēcī –iectus: to throw/pile/put together

volūtō volūtāre volūtāvī volūtātus: to roll, turn, twist, tumble

vertex verticis m.: whirlpool, whirlwind, vortex. 

circumagō circumagere circumēgī circumactum: to take someone out of his/her way 5.13.3

ambiō ambīre ambiī ambītum: to go around, encircle, surround

vertīgō –inis f.: a turning round, whirling, dizziness

concitō concitāre concitāvī concitātus: to put in quick motion, rouse, incite, agitate

turbō (turben) turbinis m.: whirlwind

pugnāx –ācis: war–like

volūtō volūtāre volūtāvī volūtātus: to roll, turn, twist, tumble

īnflammō īnflammāre īnflammāvī īnflammātus: to ignite, set on fire

πρηστήρ = prēster –ēris m.: whirlwind, windstorm

Graecus (Grāius) –a –um: Greek, of Greece

igneus –a –um: fiery

turbō (turben) turbinis m.: whirlwind

ērumpō ērumpere ērūpī ēruptus: burst forth, break out

nūbēs nūbis f.: cloud, mist

armāmenta –ōrum n.: implements, tackle, equipment of a ship. 

sublīmis sublīme: elevated lofty heroic noble

etiamnum or etiamnunc: yet, till now, even at this time 5.13.4

dīversus -a -um: different, diverse, opposite, contrary, conflicting

generō generāre generāvī generātus: to beget, produce, create

impellō impellere impulī impulsum: strike, force, compel

inclīnō inclīnāre inclīnāvī inclīnātus: to bend, incline, turn, divert, drive back

dispergō –ere –spersī –spersus: to scatter, disperse, disperse

stīllicidium –iī n.: drip, dripping

inclīnō inclīnāre inclīnāvī inclīnātus: to bend, incline, turn, divert, drive back

lābor labī lapsus sum: to slip, pass, flow, sink, fall, pass, sink

lāpsus –ūs m.: fall, flight, slipping, slide

coeō coīre coīvō/coiī coitus: to come together, combine, unite

quamdiū or quam diū: as long as

mōtus mōtūs m.: movement, earthquake (esp with terrae), motion

sēparō sēparāre sēparāvī sēparātum: to separate

vehemēns –ntis: violent

invicem : alternately

specus –ūs m./f.: cave 5.14.1

recessus –ūs m.: recess

interior –ius: inner, secret, deeper

solidus –a –um: dense, firm, solid

contextus –ūs m.: connection, coherence

īmus –a –um: deepest, last

fundō fundāre fundāvī fundātus: to lay the foundation, found, establish, fix

cavus –a –um: hollow

suspendō suspendere suspendī suspēnsum: to hang

latebra –ae f.: hiding-place, retreat

alibī: elsewhere

inānis inānis ināne: empty, void

ūmor –oris m.: moisture, liquid

etiamsī: even if, although 5.14.2

discrīmen discriminis n.: interval, distance, separation, difference

mōnstrō mōnstrāre mōnstrāvī mōnstrātus: to show, point out

nūbēs nūbis f.: cloud, mist

nebula –ae f.: mist

obscūrus –a –um: dark, secret, obscure

nē…quidem: not even

illic: there, in that place

nihilum/nīlum nihilī/nīlī n.: nothing

liceō licēre licuī: to be for sale

sublābor –lāpsus sum: to slip or glide beneath

lēnis –e: gentle, kind, mild

confragōsus –a –um: broken, rough, uneven

praecipitō praecipitāre praecipitāvī praecipitātus: to throw down

lacus lacūs m.: lake, pond, reservoir

exitus exitūs m.: exit, way out; death

stāgnō –āre –āvī –ātus: to become a pool, stagnate, cover

onerō onerāre onerāvī onerātus: to load, burden, fill, oppress 5.14.3

incumbō –ere –cubuī –cubitus: to lean, press, fall on, burden, oppress

prōpulsus –ūs m. (only in abl. sing.): propulsion 

concitō concitāre concitāvī concitātus: to put in quick motion, rouse, incite, agitate

subterrāneus –a –um : underground, subterranean

nūbēs nūbis f.: cloud, mist

nūtriō –īre –īvī (–iī) –ītus: to nourish

obscūrus –a –um: dark, secret, obscure

flātus –ūs m.: blowing; wind; blast

quantō: by how much, by as much as, according as

obstantia –ae f.: a resistance, hinderance, obstruction

efflō efflāre efflāvī efflātus: to blow or breathe out

caverna –ae f.: hollow; cavern

efferō –āre: to make wild, make savage; not to be confused with effero-efferre

manifēstus –a –um: clear, manifest 5.14.4

sulphur (sulphur) –uris n.: sulfur, brimstone

exitus exitūs m.: exit, way out; death

torqueō torquēre torsī tortum: to twist

accendō accendere accendī accēnsus: to kindle, set on fire

affrictus –ūs m.: friction, rubbing on

ignāvus –a –um: sluggish, inactive, idle; cowardly

extenuō –āre –āvī –ātum: to make small, reduce, rarefy. 

fremitus –ūs m.: murmuring

vāstus –a –um: empty; vast

dīligēns –ntis: careful

persequor persequī persecūtus sum: to follow persistently, chase after, prosecute

mōtus mōtūs m.: movement, earthquake (esp with terrae), motion

Asclēpiodotus –ī m.: Asclepiodotus (name) 5.15.1

dēmittō dēmittere dēmīsī dēmissum: to send down, drop

complūrēs complūrium: many, several

Philippus –ī m.: Phillip

metallum –ī n.: metal, mine

dēstituō dēstituere dēstituī dēstitūtum : set down, rob of, leave destitute of (+ abl.)

explōrō explōrāre explōrāvī explōrātus: to explore, investigate

ūbertās –ātis f.: richness, abundance

status statūs m.: position

futūrus –a –um: about to be; future

avāritia avāritiae f.: greed

dūrō dūrāre dūrāvī dūrātus: to endure, hold out, harden

fatīgō fatīgāre fatīgāvī fatīgātus: to tire, wear out

conceptus –ūs m.: cistern, basin, reservoir

iners –ertis: unskilled, lazy

vāstus –a –um: empty; vast

nē…quidem: not even

comprimō comprimere compressī compressum: to press together, check, curb

superimmineō –ēre: to overhang

laxitās –ātis f.: roominess, width, freedom to move

horror –ōris m.: dread, terror, horror

antīquitus: from ancient times 5.15.2

avāritia avāritiae f.: greed

vēna vēnae f.: vein, channel

rīmor –ārī –ātus sum: to lay open, cleave, probe, to search

abstrūdō –ere –trūsī –trūsus: to push or thrust off

dissimilis dissimile: dissimilar

lucrum lucrī n.: gain, profit

ruīna ruīnae f.: collapse

Philippus –ī m.: Phillip 5.15.3

Macedō –ōnis m.: a Macedonian; (plural) the people of Macedonia

latebra –ae f.: hiding-place, retreat

dēmittō dēmittere dēmīsī dēmissum: to send down, drop

specus –ūs m./f.: cave

discrīmen discriminis n.: interval, distance, separation, difference

ērigō ērigere ērēxī ērēctus: to raise, rise, set up, excite, encourage

incurvō incurvāre incurvāvī incurvātus: to bend, curve

dēfodiō –ere –fōdī –fossus: to dig down into, excavate

fundus fundī m.: foundation

intimus –a –um: innermost, deepest

mergō –ere mersī mersus: sink, bury, overwhelm

ēruō ēruere ēruī ērutus: to tear out, dig up, bring to light

possideō –ēre –sēdī –sessus: to hold, possess

cunīculus –ī m.: a passage under ground, a hole, pit, mine 5.15.4

lutulentus –a –um: muddy, filthy

incertus –a –um: uncertain

rēptō rēptāre rēptāvī rēptātum: to crawl

oblīvīscor oblīvīscī oblītus sum: to forget

melior melius: better

āvertō avertere avertī aversus: turn away, divert

mortuus –a –um: dead

avāritia avāritiae f.: greed

iniciō –ere –iēcī –iectum: to throw, cast, hurl in

īmus –a –um: deepest, last

malum malī n.: evil, calamity

vīrus –ī n.: bodily fluid, secretion

latitō –āre: to be concealed, lurk

īnfodiō –ere –fōdī –fossus: to dig in; bury

positiō positiōnis f. : position, location

pendeō pendēre pependī: to hang

habitus habitūs m.: condition, state, character

inānis inānis ināne: empty, void

horridus –a –um: rough, uncouth

inferī –ōrum m.: the dead

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