Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/460

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
456
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
defeat,[1] some are still maintaining a sturdy resistance to the flames; in one part the fiery foe is putting forth its whole strength and seems to pant with the effort, elsewhere it is dying gradually down. The stones thrown out have a different look. Some have a dirty and rugged-seeming surface, like the scoria from smelted iron. Others that have fallen pyramidably upon each other burn away as if in actual furnace. Gradually the inner substance of the stone liquefies, assumes a more intense glow, and at last pours down the slopes of the mountain, sometimes advancing to a distance of twelve Roman miles. . . . But however far the lava-flood may be carried by its own impetus, crossing, for instance, the river Simaethus and joining its banks, once cold and stiff, it is almost immovable.

(602-fin.) Once upon a time the volcano kindled into flame and spread destruction over the surrounding country. So swift was its advance that the Catinaeans had hardly begun to know the fire was on its way when it had already reached their walls. Snatching up each what they thought most precious—money, gold vessels, armour, poems—they fled for life in vain, the flames surrounded and consumed them. Two only, Amphinomus and his brother, seeing their parents too infirm to escape, lifted them on their shoulders, and with this pious burden confronted the flames. power of pity unsurpassable! The fire gave way on either side and would not assail them; they escaped with the burden which to them was more than all treasures, their father and mother. For this they are rewarded with eternal remembrance in poetry, and a special mansion in Elysium,[2]


  1. One may compare H. A. J. Munro's felicitous explanation of this passage in his 'Ætna, Revised, Emended and Explained,' p. 35, (Cambridge, 1867).
  2. The names of the little village Pampiu, near Catania—supposed to be a corruption of Campo pio—and one of Etna's lava-streams, called Fratelli pii, commemorate this ancient legend even at the present day.