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LUCIUS APULEIUS

Pliny The Younger
The Adventure Of The Three Robbers
The Deposition

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An Uncomfortable Bed
Fear
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Introduction To Zadig The Babylonian
Jealousy
Melmoth Reconciled
Pliny The Younger
The Adventure Of The Three Robbers
The Basilisk
The Blind Of One Eye
The Combats
The Confession
The Conscript
The Deposition
The Disputes And The Audiences
The Dog And The Horse
The Enigmas
The Envious Man
The Fisherman
The Funeral Pile
The Generous
The Hermit
The Horla Or Modern Ghosts
The Invisible Eye
The Minister
The Miracle Of Zobeide
The Nail
The Necklace
The Nose
The Owl's Ear
The Robber
The Stone
The Supper
The Torture By Hope
The Waters Of Death
The Woman Beaten



Pliny The Younger








_Letter to Sura_


Our leisure furnishes me with the opportunity of learning from you, and
you with that of instructing me. Accordingly, I particularly wish to
know whether you think there exist such things as phantoms, possessing
an appearance peculiar to themselves, and a certain supernatural power,
or that mere empty delusions receive a shape from our fears. For my
part, I am led to believe in their existence, especially by what I hear
happened to Curtius Rufus. While still in humble circumstances and
obscure, he was a hanger-on in the suite of the Governor of Africa.
While pacing the colonnade one afternoon, there appeared to him a
female form of superhuman size and beauty. She informed the terrified
man that she was "Africa," and had come to foretell future events; for
that he would go to Rome, would fill offices of state there, and would
even return to that same province with the highest powers, and die in
it. All which things were fulfilled. Moreover, as he touched at
Carthage, and was disembarking from his ship, the same form is said to
have presented itself to him on the shore. It is certain that, being
seized with illness, and auguring the future from the past and
misfortune from his previous prosperity, he himself abandoned all hope
of life, though none of those about him despaired.

Is not the following story again still more appalling and not less
marvelous? I will relate it as it was received by me:

There was at Athens a mansion, spacious and commodious, but of evil
repute and dangerous to health. In the dead of night there was a noise
as of iron, and, if you listened more closely, a clanking of chains was
heard, first of all from a distance, and afterwards hard by. Presently
a specter used to appear, an ancient man sinking with emaciation and
squalor, with a long beard and bristly hair, wearing shackles on his
legs and fetters on his hands, and shaking them. Hence the inmates, by
reason of their fears, passed miserable and horrible nights in
sleeplessness. This want of sleep was followed by disease, and, their
terrors increasing, by death. For in the daytime as well, though the
apparition had departed, yet a reminiscence of it flitted before their
eyes, and their dread outlived its cause. The mansion was accordingly
deserted, and, condemned to solitude, was entirely abandoned to the
dreadful ghost. However, it was advertised, on the chance of some one,
ignorant of the fearful curse attached to it, being willing to buy or
to rent it. Athenodorus, the philosopher, came to Athens and read the
advertisement. When he had been informed of the terms, which were so
low as to appear suspicious, he made inquiries, and learned the whole
of the particulars. Yet none the less on that account, nay, all the
more readily, did he rent the house. As evening began to draw on, he
ordered a sofa to be set for himself in the front part of the house,
and called for his notebooks, writing implements, and a light. The
whole of his servants he dismissed to the interior apartments, and for
himself applied his soul, eyes, and hand to composition, that his mind
might not, from want of occupation, picture to itself the phantoms of
which he had heard, or any empty terrors. At the commencement there was
the universal silence of night. Soon the shaking of irons and the
clanking of chains was heard, yet he never raised his eyes nor
slackened his pen, but hardened his soul and deadened his ears by its
help. The noise grew and approached: now it seemed to be heard at the
door, and next inside the door. He looked round, beheld and recognized
the figure he had been told of. It was standing and signaling to him
with its finger, as though inviting him. He, in reply, made a sign with
his hand that it should wait a moment, and applied himself afresh to
his tablets and pen. Upon this the figure kept rattling its chains over
his head as he wrote. On looking round again, he saw it making the same
signal as before, and without delay took up a light and followed it. It
moved with a slow step, as though oppressed by its chains, and, after
turning into the courtyard of the house, vanished suddenly and left his
company. On being thus left to himself, he marked the spot with some
grass and leaves which he plucked. Next day he applied to the
magistrates, and urged them to have the spot in question dug up. There
were found there some bones attached to and intermingled with fetters;
the body to which they had belonged, rotted away by time and the soil,
had abandoned them thus naked and corroded to the chains. They were
collected and interred at the public expense, and the house was ever
afterwards free from the spirit, which had obtained due sepulture.

The above story I believe on the strength of those who affirm it. What
follows I am myself in a position to affirm to others. I have a
freedman, who is not without some knowledge of letters. A younger
brother of his was sleeping with him in the same bed. The latter
dreamed he saw some one sitting on the couch, who approached a pair of
scissors to his head, and even cut the hair from the crown of it. When
day dawned he was found to be cropped round the crown, and his locks
were discovered lying about. A very short time afterwards a fresh
occurrence of the same kind confirmed the truth of the former one. A
lad of mine was sleeping, in company with several others, in the pages'

apartment. There came through the windows (so he tells the story) two
figures in white tunics, who cut his hair as he lay, and departed the
way they came. In his case, too, daylight exhibited him shorn, and his
locks scattered around. Nothing remarkable followed, except, perhaps,
this, that I was not brought under accusation, as I should have been,
if Domitian (in whose reign these events happened) had lived longer.
For in his desk was found an information against me which had been
presented by Carus; from which circumstance it may be conjectured--inasmuch
as it is the custom of accused persons to let their hair grow--that the
cutting off of my slaves' hair was a sign of the danger which threatened
me being averted.

I beg, then, that you will apply your great learning to this subject.
The matter is one which deserves long and deep consideration on your
part; nor am I, for my part, undeserving of having the fruits of your
wisdom imparted to me. You may even argue on both sides (as your way
is), provided you argue more forcibly on one side than the other, so as
not to dismiss me in suspense and anxiety, when the very cause of my
consulting you has been to have my doubts put an end to.





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Previous: The Adventure Of The Three Robbers



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