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kind, but I shall conclude this head with the history of Athenais, which is a very signal example to my present purpose. The emperor
Theodosius being about the age of one and twenty, and designing to take a wife, desired his sister Pulcheria and his friend Paulinus to search his whole empire for a woman of the most exquisite beauty and highest accomplishments. In the midst of this search, Athenais, a Grecian virgin, accidentally offered herself. Her father, who was an eminent philosopher of Athens, and had bred her up in all the learning of that place, at his death left her but a very small portion, in which also she suffered great hardships from the injustice of her two brothers. This forced her upon a journey to Constantinople, where she had a relation who represented her case to Pulcheria, in order to obtain some redress from the emperor. By this means, that religious princess became acquainted with Athenais, whom she found the most beautiful woman of her age, and educated under a long course of philosophy, in the strictest virtue, and most unspotted innocence. Pulcheria was charmed with her conversation, and immediately made her reports to the emperor, her brother Theodosius. The character she gave made such an impression on him, that he desired his sister to bring her away immediately to the lodgings of his friend Paulinus, where he found her beauty and her conversation beyond the bighest idea he had framed of them. His friend Paulinus converted her to Christianity, and gave her the name of Eudocia; after which the emperor publicly espoused her, and enjoyed all the happiness in his marriage which he promised himself from such a virtuous and learned bride. She not only forgave the injuries which her two brothers had done her, but raised them to great honours ; and by several works of learning, as well as by an exemplary life, made herself so dear to the whole empire, that she had many
statues erected to her memory, and is celebrated by the fathers of the church as the ornament of her sex.
known at that time. We now understand that she was the most virtuous, as well as the most accomplished, woman in the world.
No. 156. WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9.
-Magni formica laboris
Hor. In my last Saturday's paper I supposed a mole-hill, inhabited by pismires or ants, to be a lively image of the earth, peopled by human creatures. This supposition will not appear too forced or strained to those who are acquainted with the natural history of these little insects, in order to which I shall present my reader with the extract of a letter upon this curious subject, as it was published by the members of the French Academy, and since translated into English. I must confess I was never in my life better entertained than with this narrative, which is of undoubted credit and authority.
“In a room next to mine, which had been empty for a long time, there was upon a window a box full of earth, two foot deep, and fit to keep flowers in. That kind of parterre had been long uncultivated; and therefore it was covered with old plaster, and a great deal of rubbish that fell from the top of the house, and from the walls, which, together with the earth formerly imbibed with water, made a kind of a dry and barren soil. That place lying to the south, and out of the reach of the wind and rain, besides the neighbourhood of a granary, was a most delightful spot of ground for ants ; and therefore they had made three nests there, without doubt for the same reason that men build cities in suitable and convenient places, near springs and rivers.
Having a mind to cultivate some flowers, I took a view of that place, and removed a tulip out of the garden into that box; but casting my eyes upon the ants, continually taken up with a thousand cares, very inconsiderable with respect to us, but of the greatest importance for them, they appeared to me more worthy of my curiosity than all the flowers in the world. I quickly removed the tulip, to be the admirer and restorer of that little commonwealth. This was the only thing they wanted; for their policy, and the order
observed among them, are more perfect than those of the wisest republics; and therefore they have nothing to fear, unless a new legislator should attempt to change the form of their government.
“I made it my business to procure them all sorts of conveniences. I took out of the box everything that might be troublesome to them; and frequently visited my ants, and studied all their actions. Being used to go to bed very late, I went to see them work in a moonshiny night; and I did frequently get up in the night, to take a view of their labours. I always found some going up and down, and very busy; one would think that they never sleep. Everybody knows that ants come out of their holes in the day-time, and expose to the sun the corn which they keep under-ground in the night: those who have seen anthillocks, have easily perceived those small heaps of corn about their nests. What surprised me at first was,
ants never brought out their corn but in the night when the moon did shine, and kept it under-ground in the day-time; which was contrary to what I had seen, and saw still practised by those insects in other places. I quickly found out the reason of it: there was a pigeon-house not far from thence; pigeons and birds would have eaten their corn, if they had brought it out in the day-time: it is highly probable they knew it by experience; and I frequently found pigeons and birds in that place, when I went to it in a morning. I quickly delivered them from those robbers: I frighted the birds away with some pieces of paper tied to the end of a string over the window. As for the pigeons, I drove them away several times; and when they perceived that the place was more frequented than before, they never came to it again. What is most admirable, and what I could hardly believe, if I did not know it by experience, is, that those ants knew, some days after, that they had nothing to fear, and begun to lay out their corn in the sun. However, I perceived they were not fully convinced of being out of all danger; for they durst not bring out their provisions all at once, but by degrees, first in a small quantity and without any great order, that they might quickly carry them away in case of any misfortune, watching, and looking every way. At last, being persuaded that they had nothing
they brought out all their corn, almost every day, and in good order, and carried it in at night.
“There is a straight hole in every ants' nest, about half an inch deep; and then it goes down sloping into a place where they have their magazine, which I take to be a different place from that where they rest and eat. For it is highly improbable that an ant, which is a very cleanly insect, and throws out of her nest all the small remains of the corn on which she feeds, as I have observed a thousand times, would fill up her magazine and mix her corn with dirt and ordure.
“ The corn that is laid up by ants would shoot underground, if those insects did not take care to prevent it. They bite off all the buds before they lay it up; and, therefore, the corn that has lain in their nests will produce nothing. Any one may easily make this experiment, and even plainly see that there is no bud in their corn. But though the bud be bitten off, there remains another inconvenience, that corn must needs swell and rot under-ground; and therefore it could be of no use for the nourishment of ants. Those insects prevent that inconvenience by their labour and industry, and contrive the matter so, that corn will keep as dry in their nests as in our granaries.
They gather many small particles of dry earth, which they bring every day out of their holes, and place them round to heat them in the sun. Every ant brings a small particle of that earth in her pincers, lays it by the hole, and then goes and fetches another. Thus, in less than a quarter of an hour, one may see a vast number of such small particles of dry earth, heaped up round the hole. They lay their corn under-ground upon that earth, and cover it with the
They performed this work almost every day, during the heat of the sun; and though the sun went from the window about three or four o'clock in the afternoon, they did not remove their corn, and their particles of earth, because the ground was very hot, till the heat was over.
“ If any one should think that those animals should use sand, or small particles of brick or stone, rather than take so much pains about dry earth; I
such an occasion, nothing can be more proper than earth heated in the sun. Corn does not keep upon sand: besides, a grain of corn that is cut, being deprived of its bud, would be
filled with small sandy particles that could not easily come out. To which I add, that sand consists of such small particles, that an ant could not take them up one after another; and, therefore, those insects are seldom to be seen near rivers, or in a very sandy ground.
“ As for the small particles of brick or stone, the least moistness would join them together, and turn them into a kind of mastich, which those insects could not divide. Those particles, sticking together, could not come out of any ants' nest, and would spoil its symmetry.
“ When ants have brought out those particles of earth, they bring out their corn after the same manner, and place it round that earth: thus one may see two heaps surrounding their hole, one of dry earth, and the other of corn;
and then they fetch out a remainder of dry earth, on which, doubtless, their corn was laid up.
“ Those insects never go about this work but when the weather is clear, and the sun very hot. I observed, that those little animals having one day brought out their corn at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, removed it, against their usual custom, before one in the afternoon ; the sun being very hot, and sky very clear, I could perceive no reason for it. But half an hour after, the sky began to be overcast, and there fell a small rain, which the ants foresaw ; whereas the Milan almanack had foretold that there would be no rain upon that day.
“I have said before, that those ants which I did so particularly consider, fetched their corn out of a garret. I went very frequently into that garret: there was some old corn in it; and because every grain was not alike, I observed that they chose the best.
I know, by several experiments, that those little animals take great care to provide themselves with wheat when they can find it, and always pick out the best; but they can make shift without it. When they can get no wheat, they take rye, oats, millet, and even crumbs of bread, but seldom any barley, unless it be in a time of great scarcity, and when nothing else can be had.
Being willing to be more particularly informed of their forecast and industry, I put a small heap of wheat in a corner of the room where they kept: and to prevent their fetching corn out of the garret, I shut up the window, and