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- Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci - 140/159 -

your pressing request, for those things which you require of me are of such a nature that they cannot be well expressed without some lapse of time; particularly because, in order to explain the cause of so great an effect, it is necessary to describe with accuracy the nature of the place; and by this means I can afterwards easily satisfy your above-mentioned request. [Footnote 62: This passage was evidently intended as an improvement on that immediately preceding it. The purport of both is essentially the same, but the first is pitched in a key of ill-disguised annoyance which is absent from the second. I do not see how these two versions can be reconciled with the romance-theory held by Prof. Govi.]

I will pass over any description of the form of Asia Minor, or as to what seas or lands form the limits of its outline and extent, because I know that by your own diligence and carefulness in your studies you have not remained in ignorance of these matters [65]; and I will go on to describe the true form of the Taurus Mountain which is the cause of this stupendous and harmful marvel, and which will serve to advance us in our purpose [66]. This Taurus is that mountain which, with many others is said to be the ridge of Mount Caucasus; but wishing to be very clear about it, I desired to speak to some of the inhabitants of the shores of the Caspian sea, who give evidence that this must be the true Caucasus, and that though their mountains bear the same name, yet these are higher; and to confirm this in the Scythian tongue Caucasus means a very high [Footnote 68: Caucasus; Herodot Kaoxaais; Armen. Kaukaz.] peak, and in fact we have no information of there being, in the East or in the West, any mountain so high. And the proof of this is that the inhabitants of the countries to the West see the rays of the sun illuminating a great part of its summit for as much as a quarter of the longest night. And in the same way, in those countries which lie to the East.


[Footnote 73: The statements are of course founded on those of the 'inhabitants' spoken of in 1. 67.] The shadow of this ridge of the Taurus is of such a height that when, in the middle of June, the Sun is at its meridian, its shadow extends as far as the borders of Sarmatia, twelve days off; and in the middle of December it extends as far as the Hyperborean mountains, which are at a month's journey to the North [75]. And the side which faces the wind is always free from clouds and mists, because the wind which is parted in beating on the rock, closes again on the further side of that rock, and in its motion carries with it the clouds from all quarters and leaves them where it strikes. And it is always full of thunderbolts from the great quantity of clouds which accumulate there, whence the rock is all riven and full of huge debris [Footnote 77: Sudden storms are equally common on the heights of Ararat. It is hardly necessary to observe that Ararat cannot be meant here. Its summit is formed like the crater of Vesuvius. The peaks sketched on Pl. CXVI-CXVIII are probably views of the same mountain, taken from different sides. Near the solitary peak, Pl. CXVIII these three names are written _goba, arnigasar, caruda_, names most likely of different peaks. Pl. CXVI and CXVII are in the original on a single sheet folded down the middle, 30 centimetres high and 43 1/2 wide. On the reverse of one half of the sheet are notes on _peso_ and _bilancia_ (weight and balance), on the other are the 'prophecies' printed under Nos. 1293 and 1294. It is evident from the arrangement that these were written subsequently, on the space which had been left blank. These pages are facsimiled on Pl. CXVIII. In Pl. CXVI-CXVIII the size is smaller than in the original; the map of Armenia, Pl. CXVIII, is on Pl. CXIX slightly enlarged. On this map we find the following names, beginning from the right hand at the top: _pariardes mo_ (for Paryadres Mons, Arm. Parchar, now Barchal or Kolai Dagh; Trebizond is on its slope).

_Aquilone_ --North, _Antitaurus Antitaurus psis mo_ (probably meant for Thospitis = Lake Van, Arm. Dgov Vanai, Tospoi, and the Mountain range to the South); _Gordis mo_ (Mountains of Gordyaea), the birth place of the Tigris; _Oriente_ --East; _Tigris_, and then, to the left, _Eufrates_. Then, above to the left _Argeo mo_ (now Erdshigas, an extinct volcano, 12000 feet high); _Celeno mo_ (no doubt Sultan Dagh in Pisidia). Celeno is the Greek town of KeAouvat-- see Arian I, 29, I--now the ruins of Dineir); _oriente_ --East; _africo libezco_ (for libeccio--South West). In the middle of the Euphrates river on this small map we see a shaded portion surrounded by mountains, perhaps to indicate the inundation mentioned in l. 35. The affluent to the Euphrates shown as coming with many windings from the high land of 'Argeo' on the West, is the Tochma Su, which joins the main river at Malatie. I have not been able to discover any map of Armenia of the XVth or XVIth century in which the course of the Euphrates is laid down with any thing like the correctness displayed in this sketch. The best I have seen is the Catalonian Portulan of Olivez de Majorca, executed in 1584, and it is far behind Leonardo's.]. This mountain, at its base, is inhabited by a very rich population and is full of most beautiful springs and rivers, and is fertile and abounding in all good produce, particularly in those parts which face to the South. But after mounting about three miles we begin to find forests of great fir trees, and beech and other similar trees; after this, for a space of three more miles, there are meadows and vast pastures; and all the rest, as far as the beginning of the Taurus, is eternal snows which never disappear at any time, and extend to a height of about fourteen miles in all. From this beginning of the Taurus up to the height of a mile the clouds never pass away; thus we have fifteen miles, that is, a height of about five miles in a straight line; and the summit of the peaks of the Taurus are as much, or about that. There, half way up, we begin to find a scorching air and never feel a breath of wind; but nothing can live long there; there nothing is brought forth save a few birds of prey which breed in the high fissures of Taurus and descend below the clouds to seek their prey. Above the wooded hills all is bare rock, that is, from the clouds upwards; and the rock is the purest white. And it is impossible to walk to the high summit on account of the rough and perilous ascent.


[Footnote: 1337. On comparing this commencement of a letter l. 1-2 with that in l. 3 and 4 of No. 1336 it is quite evident that both refer to the same event. (Compare also No. 1337 l. 10-l2 and 17 with No. 1336 l. 23, 24 and 32.) But the text No. 1336, including the fragment l. 3-4, was obviously written later than the draft here reproduced. The _Diodario_ is not directly addressed--the person addressed indeed is not known--and it seems to me highly probable that it was written to some other patron and friend whose name and position are not mentioned.]

Having often made you, by my letters, acquainted with the things which have happened, I think I ought not to be silent as to the events of the last few days, which--[2]...

Having several times--

Having many times rejoiced with you by letters over your prosperous fortunes, I know now that, as a friend you will be sad with me over the miserable state in which I find myself; and this is, that during the last few days I have been in so much trouble, fear, peril and loss, besides the miseries of the people here, that we have been envious of the dead; and certainly I do not believe that since the elements by their separation reduced the vast chaos to order, they have ever combined their force and fury to do so much mischief to man. As far as regards us here, what we have seen and gone through is such that I could not imagine that things could ever rise to such an amount of mischief, as we experienced in the space of ten hours. In the first place we were assailed and attacked by the violence and fury of the winds [10]; to this was added the falling of great mountains of snow which filled up all this valley, thus destroying a great part of our city [Footnote 11: _Della nostra citta_ (Leonardo first wrote _di questa citta_). From this we may infer that he had at some time lived in the place in question wherever it might be.]. And not content with this the tempest sent a sudden flood of water to submerge all the low part of this city [12]; added to which there came a sudden rain, or rather a ruinous torrent and flood of water, sand, mud, and stones, entangled with roots, and stems and fragments of various trees; and every kind of thing flying through the air fell upon us; finally a great fire broke out, not brought by the wind, but carried as it would seem, by ten thousand devils, which completely burnt up all this neighbourhood and it has not yet ceased. And those few who remain unhurt are in such dejection and such terror that they hardly have courage to speak to each other, as if they were stunned. Having abandoned all our business, we stay here together in the ruins of some churches, men and women mingled together, small and great [Footnote 17: _Certe ruine di chiese_. Either of Armenian churches or of Mosques, which it was not unusual to speak of as churches.

_Maschi e femmini insieme unite_, implies an infringement of the usually strict rule of the separation of the sexes.], just like herds of goats. The neighbours out of pity succoured us with victuals, and they had previously been our enemies. And if

[Footnote 18: _I vicini, nostri nimici_. The town must then have stood quite close to the frontier of the country. Compare 1336. L. 7. _vicini ai nostri confini_. Dr. M. JORDAN has already published lines 4-13 (see _Das Malerbuch, Leipzig_, 1873, p. 90:--his reading differs from mine) under the title of "Description of a landscape near Lake Como". We do in fact find, among other loose sheets in the Codex Atlanticus, certain texts referring to valleys of the Alps (see Nos. 1030, 1031 and note p. 237) and in the arrangement of the loose sheets, of which the Codex Atlanticus has been formed, these happen to be placed close to this text. The compiler stuck both on the same folio sheet; and if this is not the reason for Dr. JORDAN'S choosing such a title (Description &c.) I cannot imagine what it can have been. It is, at any rate, a merely hypothetical statement. The designation of the population of the country round a city as "the enemy" (_nemici_) is hardly appropriate to Italy in the time of Leonardo.]

it had not been for certain people who succoured us with victuals, all would have died of hunger. Now you see the state we are in. And all these evils are as nothing compared with those which are promised to us shortly.

I know that as a friend you will grieve for my misfortunes, as I, in former letters have shown my joy at your prosperity ...

Notes about events observed abroad (1338-1339).



I have seen motions of the air so furious that they have carried, mixed up in their course, the largest trees of the forest and whole roofs of great palaces, and I have seen the same fury bore a hole with a whirling movement digging out a gravel pit, and carrying gravel, sand and water more than half a mile through the air.

[Footnote: The first sixteen lines of this passage which treat of

Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci - 140/159

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