-   BOOK 11

Translated by A.F.Scholfield (1958), with some minor alterations. Click on the G symbols to go to the Greek text of each section. Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes. There is a list of contents beneath the translation.

Book 10

[1] G   The race of the Hyperboreans and the honours there paid to Apollo are sung of by poets and are celebrated by historians, among whom is Hecataeus, not of Miletus but of Abdera. The many other matters of importance which he narrates I think there is no need for me to bring in now, and in fact I shall postpone the full recital to some other occasion, when it will be pleasanter for me and more convenient for my hearers. The only facts which this narrative invites me to relate are as follows. This god has as priests the sons of Boreas and Chione, three ** in number, brothers by birth, and six cubits in height. So when at the customary time they perform the established ritual of the aforesaid god there swoop down from what are called the Rhipaean mountains ** Swans in clouds, past numbering, and after they have circled round the temple as though they were purifying it by their flight, they descend into the precinct of the temple, an area of immense size and of surpassing beauty. Now whenever the singers sing their hymns to the god and the harpers accompany the chorus with their harmonious music, thereupon the swans also with one accord join in the chant and never once do they sing a discordant note or out of tune, but as though they had been given the key by the conductor they chant in unison with the natives who are skilled in the sacred melodies. Then when the hymn is finished the aforesaid winged choristers, so to call them, after their customary service in honour of the god and after singing and celebrating his praises all through the day, depart.

[2] G   The people of Epirus and all strangers sojourning there, beside any other sacrifice to Apollo, on one day in the year hold their chief festival in his honour with solemnity and great pomp. There is a grove dedicated to the god, and round about it a precinct, and in the enclosure are serpents, and these self-same serpents are the pets of the god. Now the priestess, who is a virgin, enters unaccompanied, bringing food for the serpents. And the people of Epirus maintain that the serpents are sprung from the Pytho at Delphi. If, as the priestess approaches, they look graciously upon her and take the food with eagerness, it is agreed that they are indicating a year of prosperity and of freedom from sickness. If however they scare her and refuse the pleasant food she offers, then the serpents are foretelling the reverse of the above, and that is what the people of Epirus expect.

[3] G   At Etna in Sicily honour is paid to a temple of Hephaestus, and there are a precinct, sacred trees, and a fire that is never extinguished, never sleeps. And about the temple and the grove there are sacred hounds which greet and fawn upon such as pass into the temple and the grove with honest hearts in seemly fashion as is their duty, as though the animals had a kindness for them and presumably recognised them. If however a man has his hands stained with crime, they bite and tear him, whereas those who only come from the bed of debauchery they simply chase away.

[4] G   The people of Hermione ** worship Demeter and sacrifice to her in splendid and impressive style; and they call her festival the ' Festival of the Earth.' At any rate I have heard that the largest cattle allow themselves to be led from the herd by the priestess to the altar of Demeter and be sacrificed. And Aristocles bears witness to my statement when he says somewhere

' Demeter, goddess of abundance, you manifest thyself both to the people of Sicily and to the sons of Erechtheus, but this among the dwellers in Hermione is judged a mighty feat: the bull of surpassing size from a herd, which not even ten men can master, this bull an aged woman, coming by herself, leads by the ear alone to this altar, and he follows as a child after its mother. Yours, indeed yours, Demeter, is the power. Show us your favour and grant that every farm in Hermione may thrive exceedingly.'

[5] G   In the country of the Daunii ** there is a temple to Athena of Ilium which is celebrated. And they say that the hounds that are kept there fawn upon any Greeks that arrive but bark at foreigners.

[6] G   And in Arcadian territory there is a shrine of Pan; Aule is the name of the place. Now any animals that take refuge there the god respects as suppliants and protects in complete safety. For wolves in pursuit are afraid to enter it and are checked at the mere sight of the place of refuge. So there is private property for these animals too to enable them to survive.

[7] G   On Curias ** when the deer (of which there are a great number and many hunters keen in pursuit of them) take refuge in the temple of Apollo there (the precinct is of very wide extent), the hounds bay at them but do not dare to approach. But the deer in a body graze undeterred and without fear and by some mysterious instinct trust to the god for their safety.

[8] G   I have mentioned somewhere earlier on ** how on the occasion of the festival at Olympia , the flies absent themselves of their own free will and, so to speak, depart along with the women to the opposite bank of the Alpheius. And in the island of Leucas there is a high promontory on which a temple of Apollo has been built, and worshippers style him Apollo of Actium. Now when the festival is about to be held there in which they make the Leap ** in honour of the god, men sacrifice an ox to the flies, and when the latter have sated themselves with the blood they disappear. Yes, but they are bribed to depart, whereas the flies at Pisa need no bribe. So the latter are superior because they do what is required out of reverence for the god and not for a reward.

[9] G   Icarus is an island and lies in the Red Sea. ** Now there is a temple of Artemis there and quantities of wild goats and plump gazelles and hares also. If a man ask leave of the goddess to take them and then starts to hunt whatever is allowed, he does not fail in his object but succeeds and is glad of her gift. But should he fail to ask, he takes nothing and is punished in a way that others describe.

[10] G   And now, when I have mentioned the swans from the Rhipaean mountains in the country of the Hyperboreans on account of their daily and assiduous service of the son of Zeus and Leto, shall I refrain from telling of the special characteristics of the sacred bull which the Egyptians deify ? How then could I avoid being censured by history and by Nature, who made and gave this gift also to man ? But no one shall accuse me of negligence on this point (?), ** and I will describe also, as is reasonable, this system of religion.

Among the Egyptians Apis is believed to be the god whose presence is most manifest. He is born of a cow on which a flash of light from heaven has fallen and caused his engendering. The Greeks call him Epaphus and trace his descent from his mother the Argive Io, daughter of Inachus. The Egyptians however reject the story as false, and appeal to time as their witness, for they maintain that Epaphus was born late down the ages, whereas the first Apis visited mankind many, many thousands of years earlier. Herodotus [3. 28] and Aristagoras [Müller FHG 2. 98] adduce evidence and tokens of this ; but the Egyptians do not acknowledge them, for they assert that there are nine-and-twenty marks clearly to be seen on this sacred bull. But what these marks are, and how they are distributed over the body of the animal, and in what fashion the bull is, as it were, adorned with them, you may learn from another source. And the Egyptians are able to explain which of the stars each mark symbolises. And they say further that the marks indicate when the Nile will rise and the shape of the universe. But you will also see a mark (so the Egyptians assert) which suggests that darkness is older than light. And another mark explains the shape of the crescent moon to him who understands; there are besides, other mysterious signs of different import which to the eyes of the profane and those uninstructed in divine history are hard to interpret. And whenever the report gets abroad which tells the Egyptians that the god has been born, some of the sacred scribes to whom there has been handed down from father to son the science whereby they verify these marks, come to the spot where the calf has been born to the heifer beloved of god, and in accordance with the immemorial precepts of Hermes erect a house where the calf will live at any rate for the time being; it faces the rising sun and is quite large enough to take in the nurses ** of the calf, for it is essential that the calf should be at the udder for four months. And when it has been weaned, then at the rising of the new moon the sacred scribes and priests go out to meet it and moreover year by year make ready a sacred vessel for this god and transport him on board to Memphis, where he finds abodes after his heart and delightful spots to linger in and places where he may amuse himself, where he may run and roll in the dust and exercise himself, and the homes of beautiful cows, and a well and a spring that yield water for drinking, for his ministers and priests say that it is not good for him always to drink of the Nile. Moreover he is said to grow fat on this sweet water which helps to build up a mass of flesh. As for the processions which they hold and the sacred offices which they perform when the Egyptians celebrate the revelation of the new god, the dances which they execute, the feasts and the assemblies which they organise, and how every town and village is filled with joy - all this would make a long story. But the man in whose herd this divine animal was born is counted fortunate and is so, and the Egyptians regard him with admiration.

Apis, it seems, is in effect a good prophet: he to be sure never sets girls or elderly women on tripods, never fills them with some sanctified draught, but a man prays to this god, and children outside, who are playing and dancing to the music of pipes, become inspired and proclaim in time with the music the actual response of the god, so that what they say is more true than what occurred by the Sagras. **

The Egyptians liken Apis to Horus whom they believe to be the prime cause of the fertility of their crops and of every good season. That is how they come to reason about his varied colouring, seeing in it a hidden symbolical reference to the variety of the crops. And there is a story of the priests not known to all, that Menis the King of Egypt, thinking of some living animal that he might worship, elected a bull, believing it to be the finest of all animals, and at any rate following Homer in his judgment on these matters, so they say. For Homer too in his Iliad [2. 480] says

' Even as a bull stands out far foremost in the herd, for he is conspicuous amid the pasturing cattle.'

But the facts which Egyptian writers on zoology distort into legends about this animal are not to my taste.

[11] G   ' Nay, but change the theme' [Hom. Od. 8. 492] , as the phrase might go, and sing not of the horse ** nor yet of the ambush within, but of the bull Mnevis. And he, say the Egyptians, is sacred to the Sun, whereas Apis, they say, is dedicated to the Moon. And according to the Egyptians he also bears a special mark to show that he is no counterfeit, no bastard, but beloved of the aforesaid god. On these topics another shall speak, but what I wish to tell is the Egyptians' account of the test and the proof to which they put this bull to see whether he is of superior birth or not.

Bocchoris the King of Egypt ** acquired - I do not know how - a false reputation and a fictitious renown and appeared to be just in his judgments and to have his heart set on righteousness. But by nature, it seems, he was the reverse. Most of his actions I pass over at present, but this is how, from a desire to cause pain to the people of Egypt, he treated Mnevis. He set a wild bull against him. So Mnevis began to bellow and the newcomer bellowed in answer. And then the stranger rushed forward in anger intending to fall upon the bull beloved of the god, but tripped and falling against the stem of a persea-tree, broke his horn, whereupon Mnevis wounded him in the flank and killed him. Bocchoris was put to shame and the Egyptians loathed him.

But if anyone considers it highly undignified to drop from natural history into legend, he is a fool. For I am stating what the practice is with these bulls, and what then occurred, and what I hear Egyptians say ... ** a lie to them is an abomination.

[12] G   The dolphins' love of music and their eager pursuit of song have been noised abroad and spread to many quarters, and others have told of their friendliness to man, and we ourselves have discoursed upon it earlier on, ** I think. But here I shall do well to speak of their intelligence. At any rate whenever a dolphin is enclosed in a net he keeps quiet to begin with and does not think of escaping, but feasts upon the fish that have been caught with him and, as though invited to a banquet, takes his fill of them. But as soon as he realises, while being drawn along, that he is nearing the shore, he thereupon bites through the net, escapes, and is free. If however he is caught, the more kindly fishermen pass a rush through his nostrils and let him go; and the dolphin, as though he were ashamed of the evidence of his capture, never comes near a drag-net again. And Aristotle says [HA 631 a 11 ( 9.47 )] that whenever one is caught and made fast and is in the fish-box, ** Dolphins swim round the boat in numbers and leap so high and writhe like suppliants, until the fishermen feel a touch of sympathy and take pity on the prisoner and yield to the entreating creatures and release the captive to them.

[13] G   They say that the five hounds. Sannus, Podargus, Lampas, Alcimus, and Theon, kept by Daphnis the cowherd of Syracuse who suffered his well-known punishment ** at the hands of the Nymph, at the sight of their master's misfortune chose to die after he died, having previously bewailed him deeply and shed tears in abundance.

[14] G   I have earlier on spoken of the differences and the varieties in the character of elephants, and I shall now tell what a good memory too this animal has, how it can remember orders and not belie the expectation and the hope of those who entrust it with whatever it may be. For instance when Antigonus ** was besieging Megara a female elephant of the name of Nicaea was being kept along with one of the war-elephants. Now to this animal the wife of the keeper entrusted a baby which she happened to have borne a month before, speaking the Indian language, which elephants understand. And the elephant grew fond of the child and used to look after it, and liked to have it lying near, and would glance at it when it whimpered; and when it slept the elephant would scare away the flies, holding in her trunk a spray from the reeds which were thrown beside her as her fodder. And if the child was not there she would actually put her own food aside. And so the mother was obliged to give the child its fill of milk and then place it beside its guardian, otherwise Nicaea gave unmistakable signs of being annoyed and angered and even of threatening mischief. And often, if the baby started to cry, she rocked the cradle in which it lay, comforting it as nurses are in the habit of doing by the swaying -  and this, my fellow-men, was an elephant.

[15] G   I know that I have spoken appropriately of the very violent jealousy on the part of different animals - the coot, the dog, and in the third place the stork. But now I intend to speak of the anger of an elephant over an outraged marriage. Having detected the wife of its trainer and keeper in the very act of adultery, it drove one tusk through the woman and one through her lover and killed them both and left them lying amid the dishonoured coverings on the desecrated bed, so that when the trainer came he might note their sin and recognise his avenger. This happened in India, but the deed travelled from there to these shores, and I learn that in the reign of Titus, that good and noble man, the same thing occurred in Rome, but they add that the elephant there killed both the offenders and covered them with a cloak which on the arrival of its keeper it threw off and revealed the two lying side by side, while the tusk with which it had pierced them was seen to be stained with blood.

[16] G   It seems that one peculiarity of snakes is their faculty of divination. At any rate in the town of Lavinium, ** which is in Latium -  it is so named after Lavinia the daughter of Latinus at the time when he fought as an ally of Aeneas against the people called Rutuli and overcame them. And Aeneas of Troy, son of Anchises, founded the aforesaid town; and it might be, in a manner of speaking, the grandmother of Rome, because it was from Rome that Ascanius, the son of Aeneas and Creūsa the Trojan, set out to found Alba, and Rome was a colony of Alba. -  Well, there is a sacred grove in Lavinium of wide area and thickly planted, and nearby is a shrine to Hera of Argolis. And in the grove there is a vast and deep cavern, and it is the lair of a serpent. And on certain fixed days holy maidens enter the grove bearing a barley-cake in their hands and with their eyes bandaged. And divine inspiration leads them straight to the serpent's resting-place, and they move forward without stumbling and at a gentle pace just as if they saw with their eyes unveiled. And if they are virgins, the serpent accepts the food as sacred and as fit for a creature beloved of god. Otherwise the food remains untasted, because the serpent already knows and has divined their impurity. And ants crumble the cake of the deflowered maid into small pieces so that they can be carried easily, and transport them without the grove, cleansing the spot. And the inhabitants get to know what has occurred and the maidens who came in are examined, and the one who has shamed her virginity is punished in accordance with the law.

This is the way in which I would demonstrate the faculty of divination in serpents.

[17] G   Now Homer says [Il. 20. 131] ' but gods are hard to endure when seen clear to view.' And so even a serpent which is honoured by the most sacred rites has in it something of the divine, and to look upon it is not profitable. And what I mean is this. In Metelis, ** a town of Egypt, there is a sacred serpent in a tower, and it receives honours and has ministers and servants, and before it are set a table and a bowl. So every day they pour barley into this bowl and soak it in honey and milk and then depart, returning on the following day to find the bowl empty. Now the eldest servant felt a keen desire to set eyes upon the serpent, and coming by himself performed the usual duties and withdrew. And the serpent mounted on the table and feasted. And this busybody in opening the doors (he had closed them as was the custom) made a loud noise. The serpent was indignant and retired, while the man who had seen the creature whom he wished to see, to his own undoing, went out of his mind, told what he had witnessed, and confessed his impious deed, became dumb, and shortly afterwards fell down dead.

[18] G   Here are further peculiarities of animals. The Peacock in order to escape the influence of the evil eye seeks out a root of flax as a kind of natural amulet and carries it about packed under one wing. And it is said that if a horse suffers from a retention of urine, and a maiden strikes him across the face with the girdle she is wearing, he immediately urinates copiously and is relieved of his pain. And when a mare shows an altogether frenzied desire to go a-horsing it is easy to arrest her, according to Aristotle [HA 572 b 7 ( 6.18 )] , if one clips the mane on her neck. For she feels shame and is no longer skittish and drops her wantonness and her constant frisking and is downcast at her disgrace. And Sophocles, you remember, in his drama of Tyro hints at this. Tyro is represented as speaking, and this is what she says [fr. 659 P] :

' But it is my lot to grieve for my hair, even as a filly which seized by cowherds in the stables has had the yellow harvest reaped from her neck with ruthless hand; and haled to the meadow to drink of the stream, beholds the mirrored image of her reflexion with the hair cropped beneath the shears to her dishonour. Alas! even a pitiless heart would pity her, cowering in her shame, to see how wild are her grief and her tears for her lost hair.'

[19] G   When a house is on the verge of ruin the mice in it, and the martens also, forestall its collapse and emigrate. This, you know, is what they say happened at Helice, ** for when the people of Helice treated so impiously the Ionians who had come to them, and murdered them at their altar, then it was ( in the words of Homer [Od. 12. 394] ) that' the gods showed forth wonders among them.' For five days before Helice disappeared all the mice and martens and snakes and centipedes and beetles and every other creature of that kind in the town left in a body by the road that leads to Cerynea. ** And the people of Helice seeing this happening were filled with amazement, but were unable to guess the reason. But after the aforesaid creatures had departed, an earthquake occurred in the night; the town collapsed ; an immense wave poured over it, and Helice disappeared, while ten Lacedaemonian vessels which happened to be at anchor close by were destroyed together with the city I speak of.

Justice at the same time uses animals as her ministers to punish impious men. Witness the case of Pantacles the Lacedaemonian ** who, after preventing some of the artists of Dionysus ** who were on their way to Cythera from passing through Sparta, later, when seated upon the ephor's throne, was torn to pieces by dogs.

[20] G   Adranus is a town in Sicily, ** according to Nymphodorus, and in this town there is a temple to Adranus, a local divinity. And they say that he is there in very presence. And all that Nymphodorus tells of him besides, and how he shows himself and how kindly and favourable he is to his suppliants, we shall learn some other time. But now I shall give the following facts. There are sacred hounds and they are his servants and ministers; they surpass Molossians in beauty and in size as well, and there are not less than a thousand of them. Now in the daytime they welcome and fawn upon visitors to the shrine and the grove, whether they be strangers or natives. But at night they act as escorts and leaders, and with great kindness conduct those who are already drunk and staggering along the road, guiding each one to his own house, while those who indulge in tipsy frolics they punish as they deserve, for they leap upon them and rip their clothes to pieces and chasten them to that extent. But those who are bent on highway robbery they tear most savagely.

[21] G   There is, it seems, a marine snail which is born in the Red Sea and of great beauty and very large. Its shell is purple and its spiral has been decorated and made gay by Nature. ** You would say you were looking at a garland subtly woven of flowers of varied hue, green and golden and vermilion, the colours alternating at equal intervals.

[22] G   Nature, they say, has caused the dolphin to be in perpetual motion, and for the dolphin motion ends with the end of life. At any rate when in need of sleep it rises and floats up to the surface so that its whole body is visible, and then goes to sleep. Even the dolphin is not unsleeping or devoid of a share of the god of sleep. At all events when it does sleep it sinks into the depths until it touches the bottom, and when it reaches it, it wakes on the impact with the floor of the sea and rises again. And again when overcome by sleep and subdued by the god, down it sinks, and again when roused by the impact as before, up it floats: and it does this time after time, being half-way between repose and activity, and yet never once does it lapse into complete immobility.

[23] G   In the Red Sea there occurs a flat-fish shaped like the sole, so they say. Its scales are not very rough to the touch; its colour is golden, and from head-tip to tail it is marked with black lines. One might describe them as tense strings, which is the reason why the fish itself is called the ' Harper.' **  Its mouth is compressed and is a deep black and is enclosed in a saffron-coloured ring; its head is variegated, gleaming like gold and with black lines. It has fins like gold, but its tail is black except at the tip, and that is the purest white. And other kinds of Harper are said to occur: some are purple all over, with golden lines at intervals. They have rings the colour of gilliflowers on their head: one descends from below the eyes down to the gills, another extends from behind the eyes half-way down the head, and another encircles the neck like a necklace.

[24] G   The Leopard-fish is native to the Red Sea, according to those who have seen it, and in its colour and circular markings resembles the leopard of the mountains.

The Oxyrhynchus, which occurs there, has an elongated mouth, eyes like gold, and white eyelids. There are pale markings on its back, but the fins on either side are black, while the dorsal fins are white. Its tail is oblong in shape and its colour is green, and a streak of gold bisects it.

[25] G   Ptolemy the Second, also called Philadelphus, was presented with a young elephant, and it was brought up where the Greek language was used, and understood those who spoke it. Up to the time of this particular animal it was believed that elephants only understood the language spoken by the Indians.

[26] G   It seems that among brute beasts also Nature has put the male above the female. At any rate the male dragon has the crest and the beard; and the cock too has the comb and the wattles; and the stag has the horns, the lion the mane, the male cicada the voice.

[27] G   The war between the Achaeans and Trojans was caused, they say, by Helen the daughter of Zeus; the war of the Persians against the Greeks was caused by Atossa the wife of Darius who had conceived a desire to obtain Athenian women for her service; ** and the long war in Greece ** was due to the proclamation directed against the people of Megara. The people of Magnesia ** and of Ephesus were roused to war by a locust; the people of Chaonia ** and of Moesia by a dove; and the people of Thebes in Egypt are said to have made war against the Romans because of a dog. **

[28] G   There is a story that Pythochares the piper repelled an attack of wolves by playing a loud and noble strain on his pipe. And a swarm of flies drove out the people of Megara, wasps the people of Phaselis, ** and centipedes the people of Rhoeteium. **

[29] G   They say that the sheep of Pontus have no gall-bladder, whereas those on the isle of Naxos have two.

[30] G   The Bee-eater appears to be more dutiful than the stork, for this reason: it does not wait for its parents to grow old before it starts to feed them, but does so directly it grows its quill-feathers.

[31] G   Here is another characteristic of animals and a good one. The gods take thought for them, neither looking down upon them nor reckoning them of small account. For although destitute of reasoning power, at any rate they possess understanding and knowledge proportionate to their needs. And I will explain how they are beloved of the gods, not by many examples taken from a multitude but by a sufficient number.

A cavalry officer of the name of Lenaeus owned a horse of fine appearance, very fleet of foot and of dauntless spirit; in displays it was good at running the course it had been taught; in war itself it was capable of endurance; and was quite excellent both in pursuit, when occasion arose, and in retreat, where necessity called for it. And in consequence of all this the horse was a valued possession, and the owner was accounted most fortunate by his fellow cavalrymen. Now the horse, with the excellent qualities I have described, in consequence of a blow which it received in its right eye was incapacitated for seeing. Accordingly Lenaeus seeing all his hopes anchored upon the condition of his noble horse (the cavalry shield covered the left eye which alone could see), went to the temple of Serapis bringing a patient of a most unusual kind - his horse, and, as though he were pleading for a brother or a son, implored the god for the horse's sake to have compassion on his suppliant, especially as it had done no wrong. For men, he said, may bring misfortune upon themselves either by some impious act or some blasphemous speech. ' But what sacrilege,' he exclaimed, ' or what murder has a horse committed, and how and by what means has it blasphemed? ' And he called the god to witness that he himself had never wronged any man, and for this reason he implored the god to relieve his comrade-in-arms and friend of its blindness. And the god, although so mighty, did not neglect or scorn to heal the dumb beast, and therefore took pity both on the sick animal and on the man who besought him on its behalf, and prescribed a cure, not by fomenting the eye but by warming it with vapour baths at midday in the temple precinct. So this was done and the eye of the horse was restored. And Lenaeus sacrificed thank-offerings and donations for its recovery, while the horse pranced and snorted and seemed larger and more beautiful and was full of joy, and speeding to the altar moved so proudly, and as it rolled in front of the steps was seen to be giving thanks with all its might to the god who had healed it.

[32] G   A husbandman was digging a trench in a vineyard in order to plant some fine, choice cutting, when he brought down his mattock upon a sacred asp that had its lair below the soil and was far from hostile to man, and without knowing it cut the snake in half. And as he was breaking up the soil he caught sight of the tail involved in the sand, while the severed portion from the belly upwards to the neck was still crawling and covered with gore from the cut. He was horror-struck, went out of his mind, and passed into a state of real madness of the most acute description. By day he lost control of himself and of his reason; moreover at night he was in a state of frenzy, and would leap out of bed saying that the asp was pursuing him, and as though he was on the point of being bitten would utter the most horrifying cries and shout for help. He would even say that he saw the form of the snake which he had slain, angrily threatening him; at times he avowed that he had been bitten, and it was evident from his groans that he was in pain. So when his affliction had lasted for some time, his relations took him as a suppliant to the temple of Serapis and implored the god to remove and abolish the phantom of the aforesaid asp. Well, the god took pity on the man and cured him. But I have described how the asp had not to wait for its revenge, and a very sufficient revenge too.

[33] G   The King of Egypt was presented with a peacock from India, the largest and most magnificent of its kind. He was unwilling to keep it along with the common flock as a household pet or for eating, but attached it to the temple of Zeus Protector of the City, judging the aforesaid bird to be an offering worthy of the god. This bird a dissolute youth of considerable wealth longed to capture and to make a meal of, for he habitually indulged his appetite on any and every pretext, and in his extravagant gluttony and depravity he regarded variety of food and what had been acquired by dangerous means and what had been purchased at the cost of immense trouble as an accession to his pleasure. Accordingly he offered one of the attendants on the god a substantial bribe to commit sacrilege, and promised him a further sum besides. And the man elated by a vain hope went to the spot where he knew the bird lodged and tried to lay hands on it and bring it to his rich patron. But the bird he did not see: what he did see was a huge asp reared up in anger against him. At first he was afraid and made off, but when the dissolute man insisted and urged him on, the attendant went to get the peacock. But the bird sprang up out of reach and raising itself lightly through the air on its wings, settled not upon one of the sacred trees nor upon any other lofty and high spot but upon the centre of the temple, and surveyed them with an unflinching eye as though to show that it was too clever for their designs and that it was not to be caught. Accordingly since the attendant had accomplished nothing, the dissolute man demanded the money, which he had already given, back again; but the other refused, saying that he had carried out his orders but was unable to steal what belonged to the gods. As was natural, a quarrel arose over the affair and presently there was shouting, and many people heard the noise. Next, the chief priest arrived and enquired what was the reason of this wrangling in the temple, and the men began to accuse one another. And the rich man, outraged by threats, blasphemy, and abuse, took his departure, and after swallowing the bone of another bird was in pain and died in agonies, while the wicked attendant was punished by the governor of the city for sacrilege. As for the bird, it was not seen either alive or dead, but the story goes that after living for a hundred years it disappeared.

[34] G   The following story too is like the above and concurs with it. One Cissus by name, a devoted servant of Serapis, was the victim of a plot on the part of a woman whom he had once loved and later married: he ate some eggs of a snake, which caused him pain; he was in a grievous state and in danger of death. But he prayed to the god, who bade him buy a live moray and thrust his hand into the creature's tank. Cissus obeyed and thrust in his hand. And the moray fastened on and clung to him, but when it was pulled off it pulled away the sickness from the young man at the same time. It was because this moray was a minister of the god's healing power that the tale reached my hearing.

[35] G   And this same god in the days of Nero cured Chrysermus who was vomiting blood and already beginning to waste away, by means of a draught of bull's blood. And I mention these facts because animals are so dearly beloved by the gods that their lives are saved by them, and when the gods desire, they save others. It was this god {Serapis} who when Basilis the Cretan fell into a wasting disease, rid him of this terrible complaint by causing him to eat the flesh of an ass. And the result was in accordance with the name of the beast, for the god said that this treatment and remedy would be of assistance to him.

On these topics enough has been said.

[36] G   Here are further peculiarities of animals. Mares are believed to be most suitable for drawing chariots. And I learn that trainers assert that horses delight in being washed and anointed. And Semonides in his iambics [fr. 7. 57 D] says that horses were even rubbed with perfume. And the Persians, since the battle which Cyrus fought in Lydia, ** keep camels together with their horses, and attempt by so doing to rid horses of the fear which camels inspire in them.

[37] G   Fishes that have no scales are called ' cartilaginous ': for example, the moray, the conger-eel, the torpedo, the sting-ray, the horned-ray, the dogfish ; ' cetaceans ', the dolphin, the whale, the seal; these are the only aquatic creatures that are viviparous. &  ' Cephalopod mollusca ' is the name given to those that have no bones: for example, the octopus, the cuttlefish, the squid, the sea-anemone; these have no blood and no intestines.   ' Crustacea,' lobsters, prawns, crabs of all kinds; ** these slough their ' old age.'   ' Testacea,' oysters, purple shellfish, whelks, trumpet-shells, ** sea-urchins, crayfish.   ' Saw-toothed ' animals are the wolf, the dog, the lion, the leopard; these, you know, are carnivorous. Incisor-teeth in both jaws are found in man, horses, and asses, and these creatures have fat. Animals whose upper and lower teeth meet evenly are the ox, the sheep, the goat. Animals with projecting teeth, the wild boar, the blind-rat; the elephant, I maintain, has horns, not teeth. Insects, the wasp, the bee; these are even said to have no lungs.   ' Amphibians,' the hippopotamus, the otter, the beaver, the crocodile. Scaley creatures, the lizard, the salamander, the tortoise, the crocodile, the snake; and these also, with the exception of the tortoise and the crocodile, slough their ' old age.'   Animals with uncloven hoofs, the horse, the ass; cloven-hoofed animals, the ox, the stag, the goat, the sheep, the pig. Creatures with toes, men and dogs. Web-footed and flat-nailed creatures, the swan, the goose. Creatures with crooked talons, hawks and eagles. I have mentioned elsewhere the distinguishing marks of other animals.

[38] G   It seems that the Egyptian Goose also is devoted to its offspring and behaves as partridges do. For it also rolls on the ground in front of its young and affords its pursuer the hope of catching it; meantime the chicks make their escape. And when they are some distance away, the parent also takes wing and is off.

[39] G   The Egyptians say that the hawk while alive and active is beloved of the gods, and when it has departed this life and shed its body and become a disembodied spirit, it prophesies and sends dreams. And the Egyptians say that a hawk with three legs once appeared among them, and believers accept the statement as sound.

[40] G   The partridges of Paphlagonia have two hearts, according to Theophrastus [fr. 182 ] . And Theopompus says that hares in Bisaltia have each of them a double liver. And Apion says - unless he is romancing - that the stags in certain districts have four kidneys. And the same writer states that in the time of Atothis ** son of Menis there appeared a crane with two heads, and that there was prosperity in Egypt; and in the reign of another King there appeared a bird with four heads, and the Nile overflowed as never before and the fruits were abundant and the crops flourished marvellously. Nicocreon of Cyprus possessed a deer with four horns; this he gave as an offering at Delphi and wrote beneath it:

' It was your doing, O son of Leto, mighty archer, that Nicocreon captured this four-horned deer.'

Moreover there were even sheep with four horns and with three horns in the temple of Zeus, the Guardian of the City. And I myself have seen a sacred ox with five feet which was an offering to this god in the great city of Alexandria, in the far-famed grove of the god, where the persea-trees close-planted afforded the loveliest shade and coolness. And there was a calf with the colour of wax, and it had a foot attached to its shoulder which was superfluous for walking although it was perfectly formed. True, these phenomena appear far from conformity to nature, but I have reported what I myself have seen and heard.

Book 12


(1)    Or rather two, Calais and Zetes.    

(2)    A fabulous range of mountains from which the north wind was supposed to issue; beyond them lived the Hyperboreans.    

(3)    Town on the south-east coast of Argolis.    

(4)    A people in the north-west of Apulia.    

(5)    Promontory on the south coast of Cyprus.    

(6)    See 5.17.    

(7)    Strabo (10. 452) relates that at the annual festival a criminal, to whom a number of live birds were attached in order to break his fall (or ' leap'), was thrown into the sea, was then picked up by boatmen and taken from the country.    

(8)    Or rather at the northern end of the Persian Gulf. The more usual spelling is 'Ichara.'    

(9)    The text is defective and the translation conjectural.    

(10)    The ' nurses' are the cows which supply the Apis-calf with milk.    

(11)    A river (no longer identifiable) in Bruttium which was the scene of a battle between the Locrians and the people of Croton at some date during the 6th century B.C. The Locrians with the aid of the Dioscuri defeated a force more than ten times their number. The news of the victory reached Sparta on the very same day, and was received with incredulity. See Suidas, ἀληθέστερα κτλ., Smith, Dict. Geogr. 2. 873.    

(12)    The Wooden horse whereby the Greeks gained entry into Troy. See Verg. Am. 2. 13-267.    

(13)    Perhaps 9th century B.C.    

(14)    The text is defective. The sense of the missing words was perhaps ' This is no mere idle tale, for, etc.'    

(15)    See 2. 6.    

(16)    Or ' tub ' into which the caught fish are thrown.    

(17)    See Ael. VH 10. 18. Daphnis was beloved by a Nymph and vowed to be faithful to her or to lose his sight. He was seduced by a King's daughter and suffered the penalty.    

(18)    Antigonus Gonatas, vice-gerent of Demetrius II, King of Macedon, fought against Pyrrhus, besieged and recovered Megara, perhaps in 270 B.C. See W. W. Tarn, Ant. Gon. 286.    

(19)    Aelian has confused 'Lavinium' and 'Lanuvium'; see Prop. 4. 8. 5 ff.    

(20)    Town in the north-west of the Delta.    

(21)    In Achaia, about 1½ miles from the Gulf of Corinth. In 373 B.C. delegates from Ionia came to beg for the statue of Poseidon in Helice or at least for a plan of his temple and altar, and at the very altar they were murdered by the people of Helice. In the same year the town was destroyed by an earthquake. See Frazer on Paus. 8. 24. 6.    

(22)    Hill-town, a short distance south of Helice.    

(23)    Pantacles is named as Ephor for the year 407 B.C. in two interpolated passages of Xenophon, Hell. 1.3.1 and 2.3.10.    

(24)    Actors and musicians.    

(25)    On the south-west slopes of Mt Etna.    

(26)    This is the Mitra papalis, Gossen § 20.    

(27)    A species of Chaetodont, a brightly-coloured fish inhabiting coral-reefs.    

(28)    See Hdt. 3. 134.    

(29)    Pericles in 432 B.C. attempted to stop Megara from trading in the Aegean, and so starve it into surrender. This was a contributory cause of the Peloponnesian war.    

(30)    Magnesia on the river Maeander rivalled Ephesus in importance, but was destroyed by the Ephesians in the middle of the 7th century B.C. The reference to a locust has not been explained.    

(31)    The Chaones were a powerful tribe in Epirus. The ' dove ' may conceal a reference to the oracle at Dodona, whose priestesses were called ' doves ' ; cp. Hdt. 2. 57. But of a war between the Chaones and their northern neighbours the Illyrians nothing is known. Moesia lay some hundreds of miles north of Epirus, beyond Mt Haemus.    

(32)    Nothing is known of this.    

(33)    Town on the east coast of Lycia.    

(34)    Town north-east of Troy on the Hellespont.    

(35)    He defeated Croesus, King of Lydia, 546 B.C.    

(36)    See 9.6, note.    

(37)    Κήρυξ and στρόμβοε appear to be synonyms for ' whelk,' and both were used as conchs or trumpets.    

(38)    Atothis (or Ath-) was the second king of the First Dynasty, fl. c. 3140 B.C. ; he built the palace at Memphis.    


11.1 Swans and the worship of Apollo
11.2 Serpents sacred to Apollo in Epirus
11.3 Dogs sacred to Hephaestus at Etna
11.4 The worship of Demeter at Hermione
11.5 Dogs sacred to Athena in Daunia
11.6 A refuge for hunted animals in Arcadia
11.7 A refuge for hunted deer in Cyprus
11.8 Flies avoid the festival of Apollo
11.9 Hunting on Ichara
11.10 Apis, the sacred bull of the Egyptians
11.11 Mnevis, the sacred bull of the Egyptians, and King Bocchoris
11.12 The dolphin
11.13 The hounds of Daphnis
11.14 The elephant as nurse
11.15 An elephant punishes adultery
11.16 The serpent of Lavinium
11.17 A sacred serpent and the penalty of inquisitiveness
11.18 Safeguards and remedies for animals
11.19 Animals give warning of impending disaster. Earthquake at Helice
11.20 Sacred hounds in the temple of Adranus
11.21 A Red Sea Snail
11.22 The dolphin in perpetual motion
11.23 The Harper fish
11.24 The leopard fish. The 'Oxyrhynchus' fish
11.25 Ptolemy II and his elephant
11.26 The Male superior to the Female
11.27 Small causes of great wars
11.28 Victor and vanquished
11.29 The sheep of Pontus and Naxos
11.30 The Bee-eater
11.31 Serapis restores a horse's eye
11.32 A sacred asp and its slayer
11.33 A sacred Peacock
11.34 A victim of poisoning saved by Serapis
11.35 Cures wrought by Serapis
11.36 The horse
11.37 Various genera of the animal world
11.38 The Egyptian Goose
11.39 The hawk
11.40 Freaks of Nature

Attalus' home page   |   21.10.19   |   Any comments?