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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

14 is applied by Theophanes p


[Footnote

74: The first comet is mentioned by John Malala (tom. ii. p. 190, 219) and Theophanes, (p. 154;) the second by Procopius, (Persic. l. ii. 4.) Yet I strongly suspect their identity. The paleness of the sun sum Vandal. (l. ii. c. 14) is applied by Theophanes (p. 158) to a different year. Note: See Lydus de Ostentis, particularly c 15, in which the author begins to show the signification of comets according to the part of the heavens in which they appear, and what fortunes they prognosticate to the Roman empire and their Persian enemies. The chapter, however, is imperfect. (Edit. Neibuhr, p. 290.)--M.]

[Footnote 75: Seneca's viith book of Natural Questions displays, in the theory of comets, a philosophic mind. Yet should we not too candidly confound a vague prediction, a venient tempus, &c., with the merit of real discoveries.]

[Footnote 76: Astronomers may study Newton and Halley. I draw my humble science from the article Comete, in the French Encyclopedie, by M. d'Alembert.]

[Footnote 77: Whiston, the honest, pious, visionary Whiston, had fancied for the aera of Noah's flood (2242 years before Christ) a prior apparition of the same comet which drowned the earth with its tail.]

[Footnote 78: A Dissertation of Freret (Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. x. p. 357-377) affords a happy union of philosophy and erudition. The phenomenon

in the time of Ogyges was preserved by Varro, (Apud Augustin. de Civitate Dei, xxi. 8,) who quotes Castor, Dion of Naples, and Adastrus of Cyzicus--nobiles mathematici. The two subsequent periods are preserved by the Greek mythologists and the spurious books of Sibylline verses.]

[Footnote 79: Pliny (Hist. Nat. ii. 23) has transcribed the original memorial of Augustus. Mairan, in his most ingenious letters to the P. Parennin, missionary in China, removes the games and the comet of September, from the year 44 to the year 43, before the Christian aera; but I am not totally subdued by the criticism of the astronomer, (Opuscules, p. 275 )]

[Footnote 80: This last comet was visible in the month of December, 1680. Bayle, who began his Pensees sur la Comete in January, 1681, (Oeuvres, tom. iii.,) was forced to argue that a supernatural comet would have confirmed the ancients in their idolatry. Bernoulli (see his Eloge, in Fontenelle, tom. v. p. 99) was forced to allow that the tail though not the head, was a sign of the wrath of God.]

[Footnote 81: Paradise Lost was published in the year 1667; and the famous lines (l. ii. 708, &c.) which startled the licenser, may allude to the recent comet of 1664, observed by Cassini at Rome in the presence of Queen Christina, (Fontenelle, in his Eloge, tom. v. p. 338.) Had Charles II. betrayed any symptoms of curiosity or fear?]

[Footnote 8111: Compare Pingre, Histoire des Cometes.--M.]

II. The near approach of a comet may injure or destroy the globe which we inhabit; but the changes on its surface have been hitherto produced by the action of volcanoes and earthquakes. [82]


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