the decay of morality is caused by the produce of the sea

104. But why do I mention these trivial matters when shellfish are the prime cause of the decline of morals and the adoption of an extravagant life-style? Indeed, of the whole realm of nature the sea is in many ways the most harmful to the stomach, with its great variety of dishes and tasty fish.

105. But the foregoing pale into insignificance beside the purple-fish, purple robes and pearls. As if it were not enough for the produce of the seas to be stuffed down our throats, it is also worn on the hands, in the ears, on the head and all over the body of women and men alike! What has the sea to do with clothing, the waters and waves to do with wool? The sea receives us in a proper way only when we are without clothes. There may well be a strong alliance between the sea and our stomach, but what connection is there with our backs? Are we not satisfied by feeding on dangerous things without also being clothed by them? Do we get most bodily pleasure from luxuries that cost human life?”

(Pliny the Elder in Book IX (“Creatures of the Sea”) of Natural History; pp. 134–5 in John Healy’s Natural History: A Selection.)

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