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Naturalis Historia

"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."
Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 16, 2013 - 24 comments

The Philanthropist "Godman"

"For the progress of humanity, work alone is not adequate, but the work should be associated with love, compassion, right conduct, truthfulness and sympathy. Without the above qualities, selfless service cannot be performed."
On Sunday morning, Indian guru Sri Sathya Sai Baba passed away. He leaves behind a massive empire, several million mourning devotees worldwide, an extensive religious philosophy, a great deal of controversy and a legacy of large-scale philanthropic projects in India, including free hospitals and mobile medical facilities, a free university and schools, and other efforts which included supplying clean water to hundreds of rural villages. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Apr 25, 2011 - 41 comments

BULLSH*T!

BULLSHIT! Penn & Teller present their rational, libertarian bent views on diverse subjects, now available for free download on Google Video ::: profanity; creationism; alien abductions; conspiracy theories; recycling; gun control; endangered species; religion; the bible; family values; the apocalypse; signs from heaven; the occult; 12-step recovery programs; exercise v. genetics; environmentalism; hypnosis; ghosts; the war on drugs; feng shui / bottled water; college; PETA; and abstinence.
posted by crunchland on Aug 11, 2006 - 114 comments

Dry Pain-Free Freak Dance

Upon this desiccating planet, will I employ religion to increase pain threshold. Why? So I may get my freak on.
posted by mcgraw on Jan 12, 2005 - 28 comments

religious fundamentalism rears its ugly head in iraq

"It's simple. They want water. I have it, as long as they agree to get baptized," he said. [via anil]
posted by artifex on Apr 6, 2003 - 56 comments

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