In these interminable lockdown days it is easy to get sick of walking the same streets over and over again. Of course there is always Google Earth, although I always suspect I may not always be looking at wha tI think I am. I thought I would travel in the footsteps of my blog namesake, Pliny the Younger, to the small lake 'called Vadimon'. According to Wikipedia its waters have now almost evaporated - 'the lake is almost completely underground and fed by sulphurous springs that pour milky waters into it'. But is there anything really still to see? Google Maps does show a small blue circle but Google Earth doesn't seem to allow you any closer than the image above (photograph taken in 2011). I think the 'lake' is to the right of the road, somewhere in that field.
Pliny begins his letter by observing that one doesn't have to travel far to see natural wonders, sometimes they are practically on our doorstep. It is a point always worth bearing in mind, although I think I've seen all there is to see within a short Covid-restricted walk from our home. He then describes 'one of these curiosities', a lake
'perfectly circular in form, like a wheel lying on the ground; there is not the least curve or projection of the shore, but all is regular, even and just as if it had been hollowed and cut out by the hand of art. The water is of a clear sky-blue, though with somewhat of a greenish tinge; its smell is sulphurous, and its flavour has medicinal properties, and is deemed of great efficacy in all fractures of the limbs, which it is supposed to heal. Though of but moderate extent, yet the winds have a great effect upon it, throwing it into violent agitation. No vessels are suffered to sail here, as its waters are held sacred; but several floating islands swim about it, covered with reeds and rushes, and with whatever other plants the surrounding marshy ground and the edge itself of the lake produce in greater abundance.'
Pliny then explains how these islands sometimes move in a cluster and sometimes get dispersed, seeming to race each other. Grazing sheep from the surrounding fields board the islands, seemingly oblivious to the fact they have left dry land. The lake empties into a river which,'after running a little way, sinks underground, and, if anything is thrown in, it brings it up again where the stream emerges.' He signs off the letter by saying: 'I have given you this account because I imagined it would not be less new, nor less agreeable, to you than it was to me; as I know you take the same pleasure as myself in contemplating the works of nature.'