Pliny the Younger (A.D. 62?–c.A.D. 113). Letters.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
LXXXVIII. To Romanus
HAVE you ever seen the source of the river Clitumnus? If you have not (and I hardly think you can have seen it yet, or you would have told me), go there as soon as possible. I saw it yesterday, and I blame myself for not having seen it sooner. At the foot of a little hill, well wooded with old cypress-trees, a spring gushes out, which, breaking up into different and unequal streams, forms itself, after several windings, into a large, broad basin of water, so transparently clear that you may count the shining pebbles, and the little pieces of money thrown into it, as they lie at the bottom. From thence it is carried off not so much by the declivity of the ground as by its own weight and exuberance. A mere stream at its source, immediately, on quitting this, you find it expanded into a broad river, fit for large vessels even, allowing a free passage by each other, according as they sail with or against the stream. The current runs so strong, though the ground is level, that the large barges going down the river have no occasion to make use of their oars; while those going up find it difficult to make headway even with the assistance of oars and poles: and this alternate interchange of ease and toil, according as you turn, is exceedingly amusing when one sails up and down merely for pleasure. The banks are well covered with ash and poplar, the shape and colour of the trees being as clearly and distinctly reflected in the stream as if they were actually sunk in it. The water is cold as snow, and as white too. Near it stands an ancient and venerable temple, in which is placed the river-god Clitumnus clothed in the usual robe of state; and indeed the prophetic oracles here delivered sufficiently testify the immediate presence of that divinity. Several little chapels are scattered round, dedicated to particular gods, distinguished each by his own peculiar name and form of worship, and some of them, too, presiding over different fountains. For, besides the principal spring, which is, as it were, the parent of all the rest, there are several other lesser streams, which, taking their rise from various sources, lose themselves in the river; over which a bridge is built that separates the sacred part from that which lies open to common use. Vessels are allowed to come above this bridge, but no person is permitted to swim except below it. The Hispellates, to whom Augustus gave this place, furnish a public bath, and likewise entertain all strangers, at their own expense. Several villas, attracted by the beauty of this river, stand about on its borders. In short, every surrounding object will afford you entertainment. You may also amuse yourself with numberless inscriptions upon the pillars and walls, by different persons, celebrating the virtues of the fountain, and the divinity that presides over it. Many of them you will admire, while some will make you laugh; but I must correct myself when I say so; you are too humane, I know, to laugh upon such an occasion. Farewell.