-   BOOK 12


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 11 

[1] G   There is a bay at Myra in Lycia and it has a spring and there is a shrine of Apollo there, and the priest of this god scatters the flesh of calves that have been sacrificed to the god, and Sea-perch ** come swimming up in shoals and eat the flesh, as though they were guests invited to the feast. And the sacrificers are delighted, for they believe that this feasting of the fishes is a good omen for them, and they say that the god is propitious because the fish gorged themselves upon the flesh. If however the, fish cast the food ashore with their tails as though they despised it and regarded it as tainted, this is believed to signify the wrath of the god. And the fish recognise the priest's voice, and if they obey his summons they gladden those on whose behalf they have been summoned; in the opposite event they cause them grief.

[2] G   In the ancient Bambyce ** (it is now called Hierapolis since Seleucus gave it this name) there are sacred fish which swim in companies and have leaders; these are the first to eat of the food which is thrown in to them. More than all other fish do they maintain friendly relations with one another and are always at peace, either because the goddess ** inspires them with unanimity, or because being satisfied with the food that is thrown in to them, they therefore abstain from eating one another and know nothing of it.

[3] G   The Egyptians assert (though they are far from convincing me), they assert, I say, that in the days of the far-famed Bocchoris a lamb was born with eight feet and two tails, and that it spoke. They say also that this lamb had two heads and four horns. It is right to forgive Homer who bestows speech upon Xanthus the horse, [Il. 19. 404] , for Homer is a poet. And Alcman could not be censured for imitating Homer in such matters, for the first venture of Homer is a plea sufficient to justify forgiveness. But how can one pay any regard to Egyptians who exaggerate like this? However, fabulous though they be, I have related the peculiarities of this lamb.

[4] G   Here is another fact touching hawks that I remember to have heard. Before the Nile inundates Egypt and comes up over the ploughlands, hawks shed their old feathers just as the branches of trees shed their withered leaves, and grow new and beautiful plumage as trees do foliage. It seems that there are in fact several, species of hawks, and Aristophanes appears to hint as much. At any rate he says [Av. 1179]

'But we have despatched three thousand hawks, mounted archers. And each one moves forward with talons crooked - kestrel, buzzard, vulture, night-hawk, ** eagle.'

They are allotted separately to many gods. The partridge-catcher, ** they; say, and the ocypterus ** are servants of Apollo; the lämmergeier and the shearwater they assign to Athena; the dove-killer is said to be the darling of Hermes, the wide-wing, of Hera, and the buzzard, as it is called, of Artemis. To the Mother of the Gods they assign the mermnus, and to one god one bird, to another another. There are in fact a great many kinds of hawks.

[5] G   The Egyptians incur the derision at any rate of most people for worshipping and deifying various kinds of animals. But the inhabitants of Thebes, although Greeks, worship a marten, so I hear, and allege that it was the nurse of Heracles, or if it was not the nurse, yet when Alcmene was in labour and unable to bring her child to birth, the marten ran by her and loosed the bonds of her womb, so that Heracles was delivered and at once began to crawl. And those who live in Hamaxitus in the Troad worship a mouse, and that is why, according to them, they give the name of Sminthian to Apollo whom they worship, for the Aeolians and the people of the Troad still call a mouse 'sminthos', just as Aeschylus too in his Sisyphus [fr. 227 N] writes

' Nay, but what sminthos of the fields is so monstrous ? '

And in the temple of Smintheus tame mice are kept and fed at the public expense, and beneath the altar white mice have their nests, and by the tripod of Apollo there stands a mouse. And I have also heard the following mythical tale about this cult. Mice came in tens of thousands and cut off before they ripened the crops of the Aeolians and Trojans, rendering the harvest barren for the sowers. Accordingly the god at Delphi said when they enquired of him, that they must sacrifice to Apollo Smintheus ; they obeyed and freed themselves from the conspiracy of mice, and their wheat attained the normal harvest. And they add the following story. Some Cretans who owing to a disaster that befell them were sent out to found a colony, besought the Pythian Apollo to tell them of some good place where it would be advantageous to found a city. There issued from the oracle this answer: in the place where the earth-born made war upon them, there they should settle and raise a city. So they came to this place Hamaxitus and pitched their camp in order to rest; but a countless swarm of mice crept stealthily upon them, gnawed through their shield-straps and ate through their bowstrings. So they guessed that these were the ' earth-born ' referred to, and, besides, having now no means of getting weapons of defence, they settled in this spot and built a temple to Apollo Smintheus. Well, this mention of mice has led us to touch upon a matter of theology; however we are none the worse for having listened even to such tales as this.

[6] G   It seems that dolphins are mindful even of their dead and by no means abandon their fellows when they have departed this life. At any rate they get underneath their dead companion and then carry him along to the shore, confident that men will bury him, and Aristotle bears witness to this [HA 631 a 18 ( 9.47 )] . And another company of dolphins follow them by way of doing honour to, or even actually fighting to protect, the dead body, for fear lest some other great fish should rush up, seize it, and then devour it. All just men who appreciate music bury dead dolphins out of respect for their love of music. But those to whom, as they say, the Muses and the Graces are alien care nothing for dolphins. And so, beloved dolphins, you must pardon the savage nature of man, since even the people of Athens cast out the excellent Phocion ** unburied. And even Olympias lay unburied, although she was the mother of the son of Zeus, ** as she herself boasted and as he asserted. And the Egyptians after killing the Roman Pompeius, surnamed 'the Great,' who had achieved so much, who had had such distinguished victories and had celebrated three triumphs, who had saved the life of his murderer's father ** and had re-established him on the throne of Egypt, left him cast out, a headless corpse, by the sea, just as men often leave you. For this all-devouring creature man does not even spare you, but goes so far as to pickle you, and is unconscious that his action is hateful to the Muses, the daughters of Zeus.

[7] G   In Egypt they worship lions, and there is a city called after them. ** It is worth recording the peculiarities of the lions there. They have temples and very many spaces in which to roam; the flesh of oxen is supplied to them daily and it lies, stripped of bones and sinews, scattered here and there, and the lions eat to the accompaniment of song in the Egyptian language. And the theme of the song is ' Do not bewitch any of the beholders '; this singing appears, as you might say, to be a substitute for amulets. Many of the lions are deified in Egypt, and there are chambers face to face consecrated to their use. The windows of some open to the east, others to the west, making life more pleasant for them. And to preserve their health they have places for exercise, and wrestling-grounds nearby, and their adversary is a well-nourished calf. And if, after practising his skill against the calf, the lion brings it down (this takes time for he is lazy and unused to hunting), he eats his fill and goes back to his own stall.

The lion is a very fiery animal, and this is why the Egyptians connect him with Hephaestus, but, they say, he dislikes and shuns the fire from without because of the great fire within himself. And since he is of a very fiery nature, they say the lion ** is the house of the Sun, and when the sun is at its hottest and at the height of summer, they say it is approaching the lion. Moreover the inhabitants of the great city of Heliopolis keep these lions in the entrance to the temples of the god as sharing (so the Egyptians say) to some extent the lot of the gods. And further, they appear in dreams to those whom the god regards with favour and utter prophecies, and those who have committed perjury they punish not after some delay but immediately, for the god inspires them with a righteous indignation. And Empedocles maintains that if his lot translates a man into an animal, then it is best for him to transmigrate into a lion; if into a plant, then into a sweet-bay. Empedocles' words are [fr. 127, Diels Vorsok. 1.362]

'Among wild beasts they become lions that couch upon the mountains and sleep on the earth, and among trees with fair foliage sweet-bay-trees.'

But if we are (as we ought) to take into consideration the wisdom of the Egyptians who refer such manifestations to natural causes, they assign the fore-parts of this animal to fire, and the hinder parts to water. Again, Egyptian artificers in their sculpture, and the vainglorious legends of Thebes attempt, to represent the Sphinx, with her two-fold nature, as of two-fold shape, making her awe-inspiring by fusing the body of a maiden with that of a lion. And Euripides suggests this when he says [fr. 540 N.]

' And drawing her tail in beneath her lion's feet she sat down .'

And moreover they say that the lion of Nemea fell from the moon. At any rate Epimenides also has these words [fr. 2, Diels Vorsok.? 1.32] :

' For I am sprung from the fair-tressed Moon, who in a fearful shudder shook off the savage lion in Nemea, and brought him forth at the bidding of Queen Hera.'

Let us however relegate these matters to the region of myth; but the peculiarities of lions have been sufficiently dealt with both earlier on and in the present chapter.

[8] G   The Wax-moth is a creature that delights in the brilliance of fire and flies to lamps burning brightly, but falls into them owing to its momentum and is burned to death. And Aeschylus the Tragic poet mentions it in these words [fr. 288 N] :

'I greatly dread the foolish fate of the wax-moth.'

[9] G   The Wagtail ** is a winged creature weak in its hinder parts, and that is why (they say) it is incapable of building a nest of its own accord or for itself, but lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. Hence in the proverbs of country folk poor men are called ' wagtails.' The bird moves its tail-feathers, like the ceryl in the passage of Archilochus [fr. 49 D] , And Aristophanes also mentions this bird in his Amphiaraus [fr. 29 K] thus:

' Give the old man's loins a thorough shaking, as the wagtail does, and work a powerful spell.'

And in his Geras [fr. 140 K] :

' Rhythmic wagtail-gait of a belly-arching fellow.'

And Autocrates in his Tympanistae [fr. 1 K] :

' As sweet maidens, daughters of Lydia, sport and lightly leap and clap their hands in the temple of Artemis the Fair at Ephesus, now sinking down upon their haunches and again springing up, like the hopping wagtail.'

[10] G   (i). When mice die a natural death and not through any design upon them, their limbs dissolve and little by little they depart this life. That, you see, is the origin of the saying ' Like a mouse's death,' and Menander mentions it in his Thaïs [fr. 219 K ] . And men commonly say ' More talkative than a turtle-dove,' because the turtle-dove not only never stops uttering through its mouth, but they do say that it utters a great deal through its hinder parts also. And the same writer mentions this proverb in his Necklace [fr. 416 K ] . . And Demetrius in his play Sicelia [fr. 3 K] mentions that turtle-doves chatter through their rump as well.

(ii). They say that mice are exceedingly salacious, and they cite Cratinus as a witness, when he says in his Drapetides (Runaway slave-girls) [fr. 53 K] :

' Look you, from a clear sky will I blast with lightning the debauchery of that mouse Xenophon. '

And they say that the female mouse is even more madly amorous. And again from the Chorus of Epicrates [fr. 9 K] they cite these words:

' The accursed go-between fooled me completely, swearing by the Maiden, by Artemis, by Persephone, ** that the wench was a heifer, a virgin, an untamed filly - and all the time she was an absolute mousehole.'

By calling her an ' absolute mousehole ' he meant to say that she was beyond measure lecherous. And Philemon says [fr. 126 K] :

' A white mouse, when someone tries to - but I am ashamed to say the word, the confounded woman at once lets out such a yell, that it is often impossible to avoid attracting attention.'

[11] G   The Egyptians also worship a black bull which they call Onuphis. And the name of the place where it is reared let the Egyptian narratives tell us, for it is a hard name. Its hair grows the opposite way to that on other bulls; that is another of its peculiarities. It is larger, it seems, than all other bulls, even than those of Chaonia ** which the inhabitants of Thesprotia and Epirus call ' fatted,' tracing their descent from the oxen of Geryones. ** This Onuphis is fed upon lucerne.

[12] G   It seems that the dolphin is swifter and can leap higher than all other fish, in fact than all land animals also. At any rate it leaps even over a vessel, as Aristotle says [HA 631 a 22]; and he attempts to assign a cause for this, which is as follows. It holds its breath as divers do when under water. For, you know, divers straining the breath in their bodies, let it go like a bowstring, and with it their bodies like an arrow; and, says Aristotle, the breath compressed inside them thrusts and shoots them upwards. "

[13] G   The Physa ** is an Egyptian fish that fills one with astonishment, for it knows, they say, when the Moon is waning and when it is waxing. Moreover its liver grows or dwindles as that goddess does: at one time it is well-nourished, at another it is more shrunken.

[14] G   The Catfish is found in the Maeander and the Lycus, the rivers of Asia Minor, and in the Strymon in Europe, and resembles the European sheat-fish. It is of all fishes the most devoted to its offspring. At any rate the female after parturition ceases to pay attention to her children, like a woman who has newly given birth, whereas the male takes charge of the young things, stays by them, and wards off every attempt upon them. And he is quite capable, according to Aristotle [HA 621 b 2] , of swallowing ** a fish-hook. 

[15] G   The frog abhors and greatly dreads the water-snake. Accordingly, in return it tries to terrify and scare the water-snake by its loud croaking. The malice of the crocodile in its pursuit of men and other animals is shown by the following example. When it knows the path by which men come down to a river either to draw water or to water a horse or a camel or even to embark on a vessel, it floods the track with a quantity of water by night and filling its mouth, pours the contents on the path again and again, meaning to make it slippery and to render the capture easier for itself. For when men or animals slip they do not retain their hold on the gang-plank but fall off, whereupon the crocodile, leaping up, seizes and makes a meal of them. I have still to mention a few facts touching crocodiles. This animal is not well-disposed to every species of Egyptian plover (and there are many species, with names harsh and repulsive to the ear, and so I omit them); it is only the Clapperbill, ** as it is called, that it treats as companion and friend, for this bird is able to pick off the leeches without coming to harm.

[16] G   Democritus states that the pig and the dog bring forth many at a birth, and he assigns the cause to the fact that they have many wombs and many places for the reception of semen. Now the seed does not fill them all at a single ejaculation, but these animals copulate twice or three times in order that the continuance of the act may fill the receptacles of the seed. Mules however, he says, do not give birth, for they have not got wombs like other animals but of a different formation and quite incapable of receiving seed; for the mule is not the product: of nature but a surreptitious contrivance of the ingenuity and, so to say, adulterous daring of man. And I fancy, said Democritus, that a mare became pregnant from being by chance violated by an ass, and that men were its pupils in this deed of violence, and presently accustomed themselves to the use of the offspring. And it is especially the asses of Libya which, being very big, mount mares that have no manes, having been clipped. For those who know about the coupling of horses say that a mare in possession of the glory of her mane would never tolerate such a mate.

[17] G   Democritus says that the foetus is dropped more easily in southern countries than in northern; and this is natural because the south wind makes the bodies of pregnant females relax and expand. So as the shelter has been loosened and is no longer close-fitting, the embryo grows warm and the heat causes it to slip this way and that and to drop out with greater ease. If however there is a frost and the north wind is blowing, the embryo is congealed and is not easily moved, and is not rocked as it were by a wave, but as though it were in a waveless calm, remains firm and taut and endures until the time ordained by nature for its birth. And so in cold, according to the philosopher of Abdera, the foetus remains in its place, but in warmth it is generally ejected. For when the heat is excessive, he says that the veins and sex-organs are bound to expand.

[18] G   And the same writer says that the reason why deer grow horns is as follows. He agrees that their stomach is extremely hot, and that the veins throughout their entire body are extremely fine, while the bone containing the brain is extremely thin, like a membrane, and loose in texture, and the veins that rise from it to the crown of the head are extremely thick. The food at all events, or at any rate the most productive part of it, is distributed through the body at great speed: the fatty portion of it, he says, envelops their body on the outside, while the solid portion mounts through the veins to the brain. And this is how horns, being moistened with plentiful juices, come to sprout. The continuous flow therefore extrudes the earlier horns. And the moisture which rises and emerges from the body solidifies, the air congealing and hardening it into horns, while that which is still enclosed in the body is soft. The one portion is rendered solid by the external cold; the other remains soft owing to the internal heat. Accordingly the added growth of the new horn extrudes the older as alien, because what is within chafes and tries to push it upwards, swelling and throbbing as though it were in haste to be born and to emerge, for the juice, you see, bursting out and mounting upwards from below cannot remain stationary, but it too solidifies and is impelled against the parts above it. And the older horns are in most cases forced out by the strength of that which is within, although in some cases the animal, forced ahead by its own momentum, has broken off horns that have got entangled in branches and hinder it from running swiftly. These then drop off, but the new horns which are ready to peep out are pushed forward by nature.

[19] G   Castrated oxen, says Democritus, grow curved, thin, and long horns ; whereas those of uncastrated oxen are thick at the base, straight, and of shorter length. And he says that these have a much wider forehead than the others, for as there are many veins in that part, the bones are in consequence broader. And the growth of the horns being thicker makes that part of the animal broader; whereas castrated oxen in which the circumference at the base of the horns is but small, have a narrower forehead, says he.

[20] G   But hornless bulls, not possessing the 'honey-combed' part of the forehead (so Democritus styles it; his meaning would be ' porous '), since the entire bone is solid and does not permit the conflux of the body's juices, are unprotected and destitute of the means of self-defence. And since the veins in this bone are somewhat under-nourished, they grow thinner and feebler. The neck too is of necessity drier in hornless bulls, for the veins in it also are thinner. And that is why the veins are not so strong. But all the Arabian cows that have finely developed horns, have them (he says) because the copious influx of animal juices promotes the splendid growth of the horns. But even Arabian cows are hornless when they have the frontal bone that receives the moist secretions too solid and unreceptive of the animal juices. In a word, this influx is the cause of growth in horns, and the flow is introduced where the veins are most numerous, thickest, and as full of moisture as they can hold.

[21] G   A love of man is another characteristic of animals. At any rate an eagle fostered a baby. And I want to tell the whole story so that I may have evidence of my proposition. When Seuēchorus was king of Babylon the Chaldaeans foretold that the son born of his daughter would wrest the kingdom from his grandfather. This made him afraid and (if I may be allowed the small jest) he played Acrisius ** to his daughter : he put the strictest of watches upon her. For all that, since fate was cleverer than the king of Babylon, the girl became a mother, being pregnant by some obscure man. So the guards from fear of the King hurled the infant from the citadel, for that was where the aforesaid girl was imprisoned. Now an eagle which saw with its piercing eye the child while still falling, before it was dashed to the earth, flew beneath it, flung its back under it, and conveyed it to some garden and set it down with the utmost care. But when the keeper of the place saw the pretty baby he fell in love with it and nursed it; and it was called Gilgamos ** and became king of Babylon.

If anyone regards this as a legend, I, after testing it to the best of my ability, concur in the verdict. I have heard however that Achaemenes the Persian; from whom the Persian aristocracy are descended; was nursed by an eagle.

[22] G   In Crete there is a temple to Artemis Rhoccaea, ** as she is called. The dogs there go raving mad. So when they are afflicted with this disease they hurl themselves head foremost from the promontory into the sea.

[23] G   In the country of Elam ** there is a shrine to Anaïtis ** and there are tame lions there which welcome and fawn upon those on their way to the shrine. And if you call them while you are eating they come like guests invited to a meal, and after taking whatever you offer, they depart in a modest and becoming manner.

[24] G   In the Red Sea, so they say, there is a fish, and its name is the ' Water-Phoenix.' It has black stripes, and between them it is speckled with dark blue dots.

[25] G   The Horse-mackerel in the Red Sea is the same length as that which occurs in our sea: its body is encircled with stripes like gold which extend from the gills to the tail, and a silvery stripe parts them in two. Its mouth is open and the lower jaw projects beyond the upper; its eyes are green and are surrounded by lids of a golden colour.

The fish called Charax is another product of the same sea. It has fins, and the lateral ones are like gold in appearance, and so are all its dorsal fins. On the lower part of its body are rings of purple, but the tail, believe me, is golden, while purple dots colour beautifully the centre of its eyes.

The Archer, ** which occurs in the same sea, resembles the sea-urchin in appearance and has hard, long prickles.

[26] G   The Porcupines of Libya administer a sharp prick to those who touch them and even cause severe pains. Even when dead their bristles can give a nasty stab, so they say.

[27] G   There is also a monkey ** in the Red Sea; it is not a fish but a cartilaginous creature, and not large at that. And this sea-monkey resembles the land-monkey in colour, and its face is ape-like. But the rest of its body is protected by a sheath, not like a fish but resembling that of a tortoise. It is also somewhat flat-nosed, as the land-monkey is. But the rest of its body is a flat shape like the torpedo, so that one might say that it was a bird with outspread wings; at any rate when swimming it looks like a bird in flight. But it differs from the land-monkey in this way : it is speckled, and the flat parts on the nape of the neck are red, and so are the gills. It has a large mouth at the extremity of its face, and in this respect also the fish bears a natural resemblance to the shape of the land-monkey.

[28] G   During the summer the nightingale assumes a different colour and alters its note, for its song is not resonant and varied but different from its song in spring. The blackbird sings in summertime, but in winter it utters a chattering and confused sound, and changing its colour like a garment, from being black appears light brown. And the thrush in winter appears somewhat speckled, whereas in summer it displays a mottled neck. The following fish too change their colour, various wrasses (ciclae, cossypki, and phycides), and sprats. And jackals, according to Aristotle [HA 630. a 15 ( 9.44 )] , are hairless throughout the summer but in winter have thick coats.

[29] G   At Bubastus in Egypt there is a pool and it fosters an immense multitude of Nile Perch, and these are tame and the gentlest of fish. People throw in morsels of bread to them, and they leap up, each trying to jump quicker than the other, and pick out the food that is being thrown in. This fish is also found in rivers, for instance in the Cydnus in Cilicia; but there it is small. And the reason is that a stream which is clear, pure, and cold besides (for such is the Cydnus) does not afford it plentiful nourishment, for the fish prefers turbid water full of mud, and fattens on it. But the Pyramus and the Sarus breed larger kinds; these also are rivers of Cilicia. And it must be the same fish that are bred in the Syrian Orontes, but the largest of all are bred in the river Ptolemaeus ** and in the lake of Apamea. ** 

[30] G   Tame fishes which answer to a call and gladly accept food are to be found and are kept in many places, in Epirus for instance, at the town ... ** formerly called Stephanepolis, in the temple of Fortune {Tychē} in the cisterns on either side of the ascent; at Helorus too in Sicily which was once a Syracusan fortress; and at the shrine of Zeus of Labranda ** in a spring of transparent water. And there fish have golden necklaces and earrings also of gold. The shrine of this Zeus is 70 stades ** distant from the city of Mylasa. A sword is attached to the side of the statue, and the god is worshipped under the name of 'Zeus of Caria' and 'God of War', for the Carians were the first to think of making a trade of war and to serve as soldiers for pay, to fit arm-straps to their shields, and to fix plumes on their helmets. And they were called 'Carians' after Car the son of Creta and Zeus, and Zeus received the title of Labrandeus because he sent down furious {labros} and heavy rainstorms. And in Chios in what is called 'The Old Men's Harbour' there are multitudes of tame fish, which the inhabitants of Chios keep to solace the declining years of the very aged. And in the country that lies between the Euphrates and the Tigris there is a spring which is celebrated as being transparent to the bottom and as sending forth bright, clear water, which as it brims over becomes the river Aborras. ** And the people of the country attach a sacred story to the name, which is as follows. After her marriage with Zeus Hera bathed herself there, so the Syrians say, and to this day the spot exhales a fragrance, and all the air round about is permeated with it. And there tame fishes gambol in shoals.

[31] G   Even the gods do not disdain to know the characteristics of animals. At any rate I learn that Eurysthenes and Procles, the sons of Aristodemus, son of Aristomachus, son of Cleodas, son of Hyllus the son of Heracles, wishing to wed, went to Delphi to ask the god with whom, whether Greek or barbarian, they should ally themselves in order to appear as having made a prosperous and wise marriage. And the god answered: Go back to Sparta, returning by the way you came, and wherever the fiercest animal carrying the gentlest meets you, there plight your troth; for that will be better for you. So they obeyed and arrived in the territory of Cleonae ** where a wolf met them carrying a lamb which it had snatched from a flock. So they reckoned that the oracle meant these animals, and they took the daughters of Thersander, son of Cleonymus, a man of good repute, to wife.

Now if the gods know what animal is the gentlest and what the fiercest, it is not unfitting that we too, should know their natures.

[32] G   The land of India bears a great number and variety of creatures. And some are evidence of its beneficent and wonderful fertility, others are not to be envied nor such as one can commend or desire. Something about those that are profitable or are luxuries of great price I have already said; more shall be, god willing, said hereafter. But for the present I intend to describe how the earth shows the pain with which it bears snakes. Many and various are the snakes it bears ... ** Now these snakes are injurious to man and all other animals. But the same land produces herbs that counteract their bites, and the natives have experience and knowledge of them, and have observed which drug is an antidote to which snake, and come to one another's aid with all possible speed in their effort to arrest the very violent and rapid spread of the poison throughout the body. And the country produces these drugs in generous abundance to help when needed. But any snake that kills a man, so the Indians say (and they cite numerous witnesses from Libya and the inhabitants of Egyptian Thebes), can no longer descend and creep into its own home: the earth declines to receive it, but casts it out like an exile from its own bosom. Thenceforward it moves around, a vagabond and wanderer, living in distress beneath the open sky throughout summer and winter; none of its mates goes near it any more, nor do those which it has begotten recognise their sire. Such is the punishment for manslaughter which Nature has shown to befall even dumb animals [it is by divine providence], as my memory tells me. This is said for the instruction of persons of understanding.

[33] G   Dogs are less useful at keeping watch than geese, as the Romans discovered. At any rate the Celts were at war with them, and had thrust them back with overwhelming force and were in the city itself; indeed they had captured Rome, except for the hill of the Capitol, for that was not easy for them to scale. For all the spots which seemed open to assault by stratagem had been prepared for defence. It was the time at which Marcus Manlius, the consul, was guarding the aforesaid height as entrusted to him. (It was he, you remember, who garlanded his son for his gallant conduct, but put him to death for deserting his post.) But when the Celts observed that the place was inaccessible to them on every side, they decided to wait for the dead of night and then fall upon the Romans when fast asleep; and they hoped to scale the rock where it was unguarded and unprotected, since the Romans were confident that the Gauls would not attack from that quarter. And as a result Manlius himself and the Citadel of Jupiter would have been captured with the utmost ignominy, had not some geese chanced to be there. For dogs fall silent when food is thrown to them, but it is a peculiarity of geese to cackle and make a din when things are thrown to them to eat. And so with their cries they roused Manlius and the guards sleeping around him. This is the reason why up to the present day dogs at Rome annually pay the penalty of death in memory of their ancient treachery, but on stated days a goose is honoured by being borne along on a litter in great state.  

[34] G   It would not be out of place to mention these further facts touching animals. The Scythians for want of fire-wood cook with the bones of any animal that they sacrifice. Among the Phrygians any man who kills a ploughing ox is punished with death. The Sagaraeans ** every year hold camel races in honour of the goddess Athena, and their camels are good at racing and very swift. The Saracori keep asses, not to carry burdens nor to grind corn but to ride in war, and mounted on them they brave the dangers of battle, just as the Greeks do on horseback. And any ass of theirs that appears to be more given to braying than others they offer as a sacrifice to the God of War. Clearchus, the Peripatetic philosopher; states that the inhabitants of Argos are the only people in the Peloponnese who refuse to kill a snake. And these same people, if a dog comes near the market-place on the days which they call Arneid, kill it. In Thessaly a man about to marry, when offering the wedding sacrifice, brings in a war-horse bitted and even fully equipped with all its gear; then when he has completed the sacrifice and poured the libation, he leads the horse by the rein and hands it to his bride. The significance of this the Thessalians must explain. The people of Tenedos keep a cow that is in calf for Dionysus the Man-slayer, and as soon as it has calved they tend it as though it were a woman in child-bed. But they put buskins on the newly born calf and then sacrifice it. But the man who dealt it the blow with the axe is pelted with stones by the populace and flees until he reaches the sea. The people of Eretria sacrifice maimed animals to Artemis at Amarynthus. **

[35] G   I have learnt in addition to what I have already said that the dogs of Xanthippus, ** son of Ariphron, were devoted to their master, for when the people of Athens were emigrating on to their ships at the time when the Persians lit the flames of their great war against Greece, and the oracles declared that it was better for the Athenians to abandon their country and to embark upon their triremes, not even the dogs of Xanthippus were left behind, but emigrated along with him, and after swimming across to Salamis died. The story is narrated by Aristotle ** and Philochorus.

[36] G   The river Crathis ** has water that turns things white. At all events sheep and cattle and every four-footed herd that drink of it, according to the account given by Theophrastus, ** from being black or red turn white. And in Euboea almost all oxen are born white, hence poets used to call Euboea ' white-kined. ** 

[37] G   A cockerel of the name of Centaurus fell in love with the cup-bearer of a king (the king was Nicomedes ** of Bithynia); Philo tells the story. And a jackdaw also fell in love with a handsome boy. I learn also that some bees are amorous, although the majority are more restrained.  

[38] G   Every painter and every sculptor who devotes himself and has been trained to the practice of his art figures the Sphinx as winged. And I have heard that on Clazomenae ** there was a sow with wings, and it ravaged the territory of Clazomenae. And Artemon records this in his Annals of Clazomenae. That is why there is a spot named and celebrated as ' The Place of the Winged Sow,' ** and it is famous. But if anyone regards this as a myth, let him do so; for my part I am not sorry to have mentioned what has been related and what has not escaped my notice touching an animal.

[39] G   Halia, the daughter of Sybaris, was entering a grove of Artemis (the grove was in Phrygia) when a divine serpent appeared to her - it was of immense size - and lay with her. And from this union sprang the Ophiogeneis {snake-born} of the first generation.

[40] G   At Delphi they pay honour to a wolf, in Samos to a sheep, in Ambracia to a lioness; and it is not irrelevant to our present study to set out the reasons for this honour in each case. At Delphi it was a wolf that tracked down some sacred gold that had been pillaged and buried on Parnassus. So too for the Samians it was a sheep that discovered some stolen gold; for that reason Mandrobūlus of Samos ** dedicated a sheep to Hera. The first story is recorded by Polemon, the second by Aristotle. ** And the people of Ambracia since the day when a lioness tore their tyrant Phaylus ** to pieces, do honour to this animal as the instrument of their liberation. And Miltiades buried in Cerameicus the mares which had won three Olympic victories; Euagoras the Spartan also gave his horses which had won at Olympia a magnificent funeral.

[41] G   At its rising from wells the Ganges, the river of India, is 20 fathoms deep and 80 stades ** wide, for it is still flowing with its own native waters unmixed with any other. But as it flows on and other rivers fall into it and join their water with it, it reaches a depth of 60 fathoms, and widens and overflows to an extent of four hundred stades ** . And it contains islands larger than Lesbos and Cyrnus, ** and breeds monstrous fishes, and from their fat men manufacture oil. There are also in the river turtles whose shell is as large as a jar holding as much as 20 amphorae. ** And it fosters two kinds of crocodiles; Some of them are perfectly harmless, but others eat flesh with the utmost voracity and ruthlessness, and on the end of their snout they have an excrescence like a horn. ** These the people employ as agents for punishing criminals, for those who are detected in the most flagrant acts are thrown to the crocodiles, and there is no need of a public executioner.

[42] G   Those who are skilled in sea-fishing let down as bait for Parrot Wrasses coriander and chopped leeks, so says Leonidas; and these herbs are successful as bait and afford an easy capture. For the Parrot Wrasse, as though bewitched by spices, swims up to them. And the leaves of beet capture the Red mullet, for the fish delights in this vegetable, and with its aid the fish is caught and enslaved with the utmost ease.

[43] G   There are, they say, four different methods of fishing : with nets, with a pole, with a weel, and with a hook. Netting fish brings wealth, and may be compared to the capture of a camp and the taking of prisoners; it requires a variety of gear, for instance rope, fishing-line white and black, cord made from galingale, corks, lead, pine timber, thongs, sumach, a stone, papyrus, horns, a six-oared ship, a windlass with handles, a cottane, ** a drum, iron, timber, and pitch. And there fall into the nets fish of different kinds, varied droves in their multitude.

Fishing with a pole is the most manly form and needs a hunter of very great strength. He must have a straight pole of pine-wood, ropes of esparto, and firesticks of thoroughly sappy pine. He also needs a small boat and vigorous oarsmen with strong arms.

Fishing with a weel is a pursuit that calls for much craft and deep design, and seems highly unbecoming to free men. The essentials are club-rushes unsoaked, withies, a large stone, anchors, sea-weed, leaves of rushes and cypress, corks, pieces of wood, a bait, and a small skiff.

Fishing with a hook is the most accomplished form and the most suitable for free men. One needs horse-hair, ** white, black, red, and grey in colour. If the hairs are dyed, men select only those coloured blue-grey and sea-purple; for all the rest, they say, are bad. Men also use the straight bristles of wild boars and flax ** also, and a quantity of bronze and lead, cords of esparto, feathers, ** especially white, black, and particoloured. And anglers also use crimson and sea-purple wool, corks, and pieces of wood. Iron and other materials are needed; among them reeds of straight growth and unsoaked, club-rushes that have been soaked, stalks of fennel rubbed smooth, a fishing-rod of cornel-wood, the horns and hide of a goat. ** Some fish are caught by one device, others by another, and the various methods of catching them I have already described.

[44] G   These two accounts from India and Libya show a difference. The Indian shall relate the practice in his country, and the Libyan shall relate what he knows. So their two accounts are as follows.

In India if a full-grown elephant is captured he is hard to tame and his craving for freedom makes him thirst for blood, and if you make him fast with ropes his anger is inflamed all the more and he will not stand being a slave and a prisoner. But the Indians blandish him with food and try to mollify him with a variety of attractive baits, offering him what will fill his stomach and assuage his passion. Yet he is displeased with them and takes no notice of them. So what device do the Indians adopt to meet this ? They introduce native music and charm the elephants with a musical instrument that is in common use; it is called scindapsus. ** And the elephant lends an ear and is pacified; his rage is softened, and his passion is subdued and allayed, and little by little he begins to notice his food. Then he is freed from his bonds but remains captivated by the music, and eats his food with the eagerness of a man faring sumptuously : for in his love for the music he will no longer run away.

But the mares of Libya (for we must listen to the second account as well) are equally captivated by the sound of the pipe. They become gentle and tame and cease to prance and be skittish, and follow the herdsman wherever the music leads them ; and if he stands still, so do they. But if he plays his pipe with greater vigour, tears of pleasure stream from their eyes. Now the herdsmen of the mares hollow a stick of rose-laurel, fashion it into a pipe, and blow into it, and thereby charm the aforesaid animals. And Euripides speaks of some ' marriage songs of shepherds ' [Alc. 577]; this is the pipe-music which throws mares into an amorous frenzy and makes horses mad with desire to couple. This in fact is how the mating of horses is brought about, and the pipe-music seems to provide a marriage song.

[45] G   Sufficient proof that dolphins love song and the music of pipes is supplied by Arion of Methymna in his statue on Taenarum and the inscription written upon it. The inscription runs :

' Sent by the immortals this mount saved Arion son of Cydeus from the Sicilian main.'

And Arion wrote a hymn of thanks to Poseidon that bears witness to the dolphins' love of music and is a kind of payment of the reward due to them also for having saved his life. 

This is the hymn.

' Highest of the gods, lord of the sea, Poseidon of the golden trident, earth-shaker in the swelling brine, around you the finny monsters in a ring swim and dance, with nimble movements of their feet leaping lightly, snub-nosed hounds with bristling neck, swift runners, music-loving dolphins, sea-nurslings of the Nereïd maids divine, whom Amphitrite bore, even they that carried me, a wanderer on the Sicilian main, to the headland of Taenarum in Pelops' land, mounting me upon their humped backs as they clove the furrow of Nereus' plain, a path untrodden, when deceitful men had cast me from their Sea-faring hollow-ship into the purple swell of ocean. **

So to the characteristics of dolphins mentioned earlier on I think we may add a love of music.

[46] G   There is an Etruscan story current which says that the wild boars and the stags in that country are caught by using nets and hounds, as is the usual manner of hunting, but that music plays a part, and even the larger part, in the struggle. And how this happens I will now relate. They set the nets and other hunting gear that ensnare the animals in a circle, and a man proficient on the pipes stands there and tries his utmost to play a rather soft time, avoiding any shriller note, but playing the sweetest melodies possible. The quiet and the stillness easily carry the sound abroad; and the music streams up to the heights and into ravines and thickets in a word into every lair and resting-place of these animals. Now at first when the sound penetrates to their ears it strikes them with terror and fills them with dread, and then an unalloyed and irresistible delight in the music takes hold of them, and they are so beguiled as to forget about their offspring and their homes. And yet wild beasts do not care to wander away from their native haunts. But little by little these creatures in Etruria are attracted as though by some persuasive spell, and beneath the wizardry of the music they come and fall into the snares, overpowered by the melody.

[47] G   The Anthias, if wounded while it is being captured, is a most pitiful sight, and as it dies seems to be mourning for itself and to be somehow imploring, like men who have fallen among pitiless and most bloodthirsty brigands. For some of these fish in their attempt to escape get entangled in the nets, and as they try to leap out of the ambush are caught by the harpoon. Others which contrive to escape this death, spring out on to the shore, hitherto the fishes' enemy, preferring, and gladly so, death without the aid of the sword.

Book 13


(1)    Evidently not the ' Great Sea-perch ' ( 5.18 ) , but Thompson declines to identify it.    

(2)    On the east border of Syria some 12 mi from the Euphrates. Renamed by Seleucus Nicator (c. 358 - 280 B.C.) in honour of the goddess Astarte.    

(3)    Atargatis, Astarte.    

(4)    Or 'Hawk-owl.'    

(5)    Perhaps ' Sparrow-hawk,' Gossen § 182.    

(6)    Perhaps ' Lesser Hen-harrier,' ib.    

(7)    Phocion, distinguished. Athenian general and statesman, 4th century B.C., opposed Demosthenes in advocating peace with Philip of Macedon. Later was wrongly suspected of treachery and put to death, 318 B.C.    

(8)    Alexander the Great.    

(9)    Ptolemy XII 'Auletes', took refuge in Rome from his rebellious subjects, where he was befriended by Pompey who aided his restoration, 55 B.C. His son Ptolemy XIII succeeded him (51), and it was at the instigation of his council that Pompey was murdered on landing in Egypt (48).    

(10)    Leontopolis, in the Delta of Egypt.    

(11)    The sign Leo in the zodiac,    

(12)    So Thompson renders; but L-S 'dabchick, Podiceps ruficollis.'    

(13)    The go-between is humorously depicted as not knowing that ' the Maiden ' and ' Persephone ' are one and the same person.    

(14)    Coastal district in the north of Epirus.    

(15)    A monster possessing three heads (or bodies) and living in Spain. The capture of his oxen was the tenth Labour of Heracles.    

(16)    Not certainly identified; perhaps the Globe-fish.    

(17)    Aristotle says συνδάκνων διαφθείρει τά ἄγκιστρα.    

(18)    Another name for the τροχίλος, the Egyptian plover. above, 3. 11; 8. 25.    

(19)    King Acrisius for the same reason immured his daughter Danaē in a brazen tower, where she was visited by Zeus in a shower of gold and gave birth to Perseus.    

(20)    The legendary (or semi-legendary) hero of the Gilgamesh Epic. See M. Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, pp. 469, 524.    

(21)    Rhocca, a settlement a little way south of Methymna at the western end of Crete.    

(22)    A part of Susiana, at the north end of the Persian Gulf.    

(23)    Perhaps a Babylonian goddess, identified by the Greeks sometimes with Athena, at other times with Aphrodite, most commonly with Artemis.    

(24)    The Globe- or Porcupine-fish.    

(25)    Thompson [Gk. fishes, s.v. πίθηκος] takes this to be ' a fanciful description of Malthe, a ... relation of the ... Fishing-frog.'    

(26)    This is Aelian's name for a canal, begun in the 14th century B.C. and intended to afford a passage for ships from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. It linked the Nile with the Bitter Lakes, turned south, and again linked them with the Red Sea. After silting up it was cleared by order of Darius. It had to be dug again in the time of the Ptolemies, but by the 8th century A.D. had ceased to be navigable. See Hdt. 2. 158, Diod. Sic. 1. 33, Strabo 17. 1. 25.    

(27)    Apamea was an important town in the Valley of the Orontes. Schol. on Opp. Cyn. 2. 120 gives the name of the lake as Meliboea.    

(28)    Cassope, suggested by H., was a town in Epirus, a few miles north of the Ambracian gulf; but it is not known to have been called Stephanepolis, nor is any town of this name recorded elsewhere.    

(29)    Labranda and Mylasa, towns in Caria.    

(30)    About 7½ miles.    

(31)    The Aborras (or Chaborras, the form preferred by some) is a large river with many tributaries, and itself becomes a tributary of the Euphrates.    

(32)    Town some 7 or 8 miles south-west of Corinth.    

(33)    Reading ἄπιστον, tentatively suggested by Gow, we might render ' and what is omitted -would be incredible to the uninformed '; or following Post, ' and what is omitted is of course absolutely infinite.'    

(34)    If these are to be identified with Strabo's Sacarauli (Ptolemy's Sacaraucae) they were a tribe living on the east side of the Caspian. If the word means 'dweller by the River Sagaris' they were a Sarmatian tribe between the Caspian and the sea of Azov. Herodotus ( 1. 125;   7. 85 ) mentions Sagartians among the nomads of Persia.   The Saracori seem to be otherwise unknown.    

(35)    Village on the west coast of Euboea, between 2 and 3 miles from Eretria.    

(36)    Father of Pericles, commanded the Athenian fleet in the Persian war.    

(37)    The story does not appear in any extant writing of Aristotle; fr. 354 (Rose, p. 420). Plutarch (Them. 10) says there was but one dog, and it died, exhausted by its long swim.    

(38)    In Bruttian territory.    

(39)    Not in any extant work.    

(40)    But the word ἀργιβόειος is known only from this passage.

(41)    Nicomedes was the name of three Bithynian: kings. Athenaeus ( 13. 606B ) gives the name of the cup-bearer as Secundus.    

(42)    Island some 20 miles west from Smyrna.    

(43)    The fore-part of a winged boar is represented on some of the coins of Clazomenae, see Brit. Mus. Cat. of Coins; Ionia; pl. iii. 18, pl. vii. 2.    

(44)    A mythical character whose name passed into a proverb. He was said to have dedicated to Hera a golden ram one year, a silver the next, a bronze the third, thereafter nothing. Hence the saying ἐπὶ τὰ Μανδροβούλου χωρεῖ τὸ πρᾶγμα,' things get steadily worse.' See Leutsch, Paroem. Gr. 2. 114.    

(45)    Not in any extant work; fr. 525 (Rose, p. 520).    

(46)    Antoninus Liberalis (4) gives the name as Phalaecus; his date is unknown.    

(47)    Nearly 9 miles.    

(48)    Just over 44 miles.

(49)    The Greek name for Corsica.    

(50)    The ἀμφορεύς contained nearly 9 gallons. This turtle may be the Trionyx gangeticus.    

(51)    The Gavialis gangeticus is said to be harmless and to have a ' horn ' at the end of its snout; the other , flesh-eating kind is the Crocodilus palustris. Gossen would therefore transpose καὶ ἔχουσιν ... ὡς κέρας after ἤκιστα βλάπτει. See BE 11. 1947, Gadow, Amphibia and Reptiles, 452 (Camb. Nat. Hist. 8).    

(52)    κοττάνη is so far unexplained; it may be conjectured to have been some piece of machinery.    

(53)    For fishing-line; see 15.10.    

(54)    τέρμινθος : ' a flax-like plant from which the Athenians made fishing lines ' (L-S).    

(55)    The purpose of feathers and wool is not explicitly stated until we reach 15. 1, where fishing with an artificial fly is first mentioned. See also 15.10.    

(56)    Used in fishing for Sargues, 1.23.    

(57)    A four-stringed musical instrument.    

(58)    The poem is apocryphal and is the work of some writer of dithyrambs perhaps of the late 5th century B.C. See H. W. Smyth, Gk. melic poets, pp. 15, 205.    


12.1 Sacred fish at Myra
12.2 Sacred fish at Hierapolis
12.3 A monstrous Lamb
12.4 The hawk : various species
12.5 The Marten and Alcmena. The mouse worshipped in the Troad
12.6 The dolphin and its dead
12.7 The lion in Egypt. The Sphinx. The Nemean lion
12.8 The Wax-moth
12.9 The Wagtail
12.10 Two proverbs. The mouse, its character
12.11 Onuphis, the sacred bull
12.12 The dolphin
12.13 The 'Physa' fish
12.14 The Catfish
12.15 Frog and Water-snake. The crocodile and the Clapperbill
12.16 Democritus on the fecundity of certain animals. The Libyan ass
12.17 Democritus on the effects of climate on the animal foetus
12.18 Democritus on the horns of deer
12.19 Democritus on the growth of horns in oxen
12.20 Democritus on hornless bulls
12.21 Eagle saves the baby Gilgamos
12.22 Dogs at Rhocca
12.23 Tame lions in Elam
12.24 The Water -phoenix
12.25 The Horse-mackerel. The 'Charax'. The Archer fish
12.26 The Porcupine
12.27 The Red Sea monkey fish
12.28 Change of colour in birds and fishes
12.29 The Nile Perch
12.30 Tame fish of various lands
12.31 The sons of Aristodemus and the Delphic Oracle
12.32 The snakes of India
12.33 The Geese of the Capitol
12.34 Various customs relating to animals
12.35 The dogs Of Xanthippus
12.36 The river Crathis
12.37 Birds in love with human beings
12.38 A winged Sow
12.39 The Snake-born
12.40 Honours paid to Animals
12.41 The Ganges and its turtles and crocodiles
12.42 The Parrot Wrasse
12.43 Four methods of fishing
12.44 Music and the elephant and the Libyan Mare
12.45 Arion and the dolphins
12.46 Music as a means of capturing Animals
12.47 The 'Anthias' fish

Attalus' home page   |   21.10.19   |   Any comments?