which L. Sulla could not make burn



which L. Sylla could not make burn, because

Original French:  laquelle L. Sylla ne peut oncques faire bruſler, pour ce que

Modern French:  laquelle L. Sylla ne peut oncques faire brusler, pour ce que

Sylla (Sulla) is mentioned earlier in Chapter 52 of Le Tiers Livre as among the Roman Emperors who were cremated. Pliny stated that nobody in the family of the Cornelii was cremated before Sulla the dictator, and that he had desired it because he was afraid of reprisals for having dug up the corpse of Gaius Marius


Sulla’s circus

A fight with several lions at once was first bestowed on Rome by Quintus Scaevola when consular aedile, but the first of all who exhibited a combat of 100 maned lions was Lucius Sulla, later dictator, in his praetorship [93 BC]. After Sulla, Pompey the Great showed in the Circus 600, including 315 with manes, and Caesar when dictator 400.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 3: Books 8– 11. Harris Rackham (1868–1944), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1940. 08.20. Loeb Classical Library

L. Sylla could not burn

Inter aquatilia dici debet et calamochnus, Latine adarca appellata. nascitur circa harundines tenues e spuma aquae dulcis ac marinae, ubi se miscent. vim habet causticam, ideo acopis utilis et contra perfrictionum vitia. tollit et mulierum lentigine in facie. et calami simul dici debent: phragmitis radix recens tusa luxatis medetur et spinae doloribus ex aceto inlita, Cyprii vero, qui et donax vocatur, cortex alopeciis medetur ustus et ulceribus veteratis, folia extrahendis quae infixa sint corpori et igni sacro. paniculae flos aures si intravit, exsurdat. sepiae atramento tanta vis est, ut in lucernam4 addito Aethiopas videri ablato priore lumine Anaxilaus tradat. rubeta excocta aqua potui data suum morbis medetur vel cuiuscumque ranae cinis. pulmone marino si confricetur lignum, ardere videtur adeo, ut baculum ita praeluceat.

Among water creatures ought also to be mentioned calamochnus, the Latin name of which is adarca. It collects around thin reeds from the foam forming where fresh and sea water mingle. It has a caustic property, and is therefore useful for tonic pills and to cure cold shiverings. It also removes freckles on the face of women. At the same time reeds should be spoken of. The root of phragmites, pounded fresh, cures dislocations, and applied with vinegar pains in the spine; the Cyprian reed indeed, also called donax, has a bark which when calcined cures mange and chronic ulcers, and its leaves extract things embedded in the flesh, and help erysipelas. The flower of the reed panicula causes complete deafness if it has entered the ears. The ink of the cuttle fish has so great power that Anaxilaus reports that poured into a lamp the former light utterly vanishes, and people appear as black as Ethiopians. A bramble toad thoroughly boiled in water and given to drink cures pigs’ diseases, as does the ash of any frog or toad. If wood is thoroughly rubbed with pulmo marinus it seems to be on fire, so much so that a walking-stick, so treated, throws a light forward.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 8: Books 28–32. William Henry Samuel Jones (1876–1963), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1956. 32.52. Loeb Classical Library

Sylla could not burn

Book 15, Chapter 1: That it is written in the Annals of Quintus Claudius that wood smeared with alum does not burn.

The rhetorician Antonius Julianus, besides holding forth on many other occasions, had once declaimed with marvellous charm and felicity. For such scholastic declamations generally show the characteristics of the same man and the same eloquence, but nevertheless are not every day equally happy. We friends of his therefore thronged about him on all sides and were escorting him home, when, as we were on our way up the Cispian Hill, we saw that a block of houses, built high with many stories, had caught fire, and that now all the neighbouring buildings were burning in a mighty conflagration. Then some one of Julianus’ companions said: “The income from city property is great, but the dangers are far greater. But if some remedy could be devised to prevent houses in Rome from so constantly catching fire, by Jove! I would sell my country property and buy in the city.” And Julianus replied to him in his usual happy and graceful style: “If you had read the nineteenth book of the Annals of Quintus Claudius [Quintus Claudius Quadrigarius], that excellent and faithful writer, you would surely have learned from Archelaus, a praefect of king Mithridates, by what method and by what skill you might prevent fires, so that no wooden building of yours would burn, even though caught and penetrated by the flames.”
I inquired what this marvel of Quadrigarius was. He rejoined: “In that book then I found it recorded, that when Lucius Sulla attacked the Piraeus in the land of Attica, and Archelaus, praefect of king Mithridates, was defending it against him, Sulla was unable to burn a wooden tower constructed for purposes of defence, although it had been surrounded with fire on every side, because Archelaus had smeared it with alum.” The words of Quadrigarius in that book are as follows: “When Sulla had exerted himself for a long time, he led out his troops in order to set fire to a single wooden tower which Archelaus had interposed. He came, he drew near, he put wood under it, he beat off the Greeks, he applied fire; though they tried for a considerable time, they were never able to set it on fire, so thoroughly had Archelaus covered all the wood with alum. Sulla and his soldiers were amazed at this, and failing in his attempt, the general led back his troops.”

Gelius, Aulus (130-180), Attic Nights. Volume II: Books 6-13. John Carew Rolfe, translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1927. 15.1. Loeb Classical Library

Ne peut oncques faire brusler &c.

Voiez Aulu-Gelle, l. 15 chap 1.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres de Maitre François Rabelais. Publiées sous le titre de : Faits et dits du géant Gargantua et de son fils Pantagruel, avec la Prognostication pantagrueline, l’épître de Limosin, la Crême philosophale et deux épîtres à deux vieilles de moeurs et d’humeurs différentes. Nouvelle édition, où l’on a ajouté des remarques historiques et critiques. Tome Troisieme. Jacob Le Duchat (1658–1735), editor. Amsterdam: Henri Bordesius, 1711. p. 270. Google Books


“See Aulus Gellius, l. xv. c. i.”

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), The Works of Francis Rabelais, M.D. The Third Book. Now carefully revised, and compared throughout with the late new edition of M. Le du Chat. John Ozell (d. 1743), editor. London: J. Brindley, 1737.


Voy. Aulu-Gelle, l. XV, c. 1.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres de F. Rabelais. Nouvelle edition augmentée de plusieurs extraits des chroniques admirables du puissant roi Gargantua… et accompagnée de notes explicatives…. L. Jacob (pseud. of Paul Lacroix) (1806–1884), editor. Paris: Charpentier, 1840. p. 312.

laquelle L. Sylla ne peut oncques faire brusler

Le fait est raconté par Aulu-Gelle, XV, I: «turrim ligneam defendendi gratia structam, cum ex omni latere circumplexa igni foret, ardere non quisse, quod alumine ab Archelao oblita fuisset.»

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre. Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), editor. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931. p. 373. Internet Archive


Pline, XXXV, 52; Aulu-Gelle, XV, 1 (LD/EC)

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique. Michael Andrew Screech (1926-2018), editor. Paris-Genève: Librarie Droz, 1964.

Sylla ne peut oncques faire brusler

Aulu-Gelle, XV, i.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres complètes. Mireille Huchon, editor. Paris: Gallimard, 1994. p. 511, n. 5.

laquelle L. Sylla ne peut oncques faire brusler

Anecdote rapportée par Aulu-Gelle, XV, 1. Rabelais en trouvait rappel dans le même chapitre plus hault cité de Cœlius Rhodiginus, Antiquae Lectiones, X, 10, mais les détails qu’il fournit supposent une lecture directe d’Aulu-Gelle.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique. Jean Céard, editor. Librarie Général Français, 1995. p. 472.



Posted 2 February 2013. Modified 14 April 2020.

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