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AELIAN: ON THE NATURE OF ANIMALS

-   BOOK 9

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 8

[1] G   When the lion is advanced in years and heavy with age he is quite incapable of hunting and is glad to take his ease in caves or lairs in the jungle; nor has he the spirit to attack even the weakest of animals, for he mistrusts his age and is conscious of his bodily infirmity. Whereas his offspring confident in the vigour of their youth and their natural strength go out to hunt and bring the old one with them by pushing him along. Then, when they have come half the necessary distance, they leave him behind and give themselves to the chase. And when they have obtained enough for themselves and for their father, with a magnificent and thrilling roar, even as banqueters summon a guest, so do these young children summon their aged father to the feast. And he comes softly, step by step, and almost crawling, and embraces his children, fawning upon them a little with his tongue as though he applauded their success, and attacks the meal and feasts with his sons. This is no order of Solon's to the lions: it is Nature that teaches them - Nature that ' takes no heed of laws ' [Eur. fr. 920 N] made by man. But she is a law that does not change.

[2] G   Not only when he is alive and active do birds dread the eagle, the king of birds, and cower down when he appears, but if one mixes his feathers with those of other birds, the eagle's remain entire and untainted, while the others, unable to endure the association, rot away.

[3] G   Mice, besides being prolific creatures, bring forth many offspring at a single birth; and if by some means they happen to eat salt, then they bring forth a great number and far more than is customary. And when crocodiles give birth they test the legitimate and the bastard offspring in this manner. If on being hatched a young crocodile immediately seizes something, it is henceforward reckoned among the family and is loved by its parents, is believed to be, and is counted as, one of the crocodiles. If however it remains inactive and is lazy and fails to seize some fly or gnat or earthworm or young lizard, the father tears it to pieces as a poor creature, spurious, and no kin of his. And as these creatures act, even so do eagles appear to test their legitimate offspring by the rays of the sun ** and to love them as the result of judgment and not of any feeling.

[4] G   I have heard that the asp's fangs, which one would be correct in styling ' poison-carriers,' have an exceedingly thin coating, so to say, round them, like membrane, covering them all over. So when the asp fastens its mouth on a man, they say that these membranes part and the poison is ejected, and then again they close and unite. Again, the sting of the scorpion has a kind of hollow core, so very fine as to be hardly visible. That is where they say the poison resides and is engendered, and directly the scorpion strikes, the poison shoots forward along the sting and flows out. And this opening also, through which it passes, is so fine as to be invisible to the eye. But if a man spits upon it the sting is blunted and numbed and becomes incapable of wounding.

[5] G   Even if a bitch produces a number of puppies, it is nevertheless the one that issues first from the womb and the eldest of the litter that reveals the father. At any rate it bears the closest resemblance to him in every respect, while the rest are born as chance may dictate. In this matter Nature appears to pursue reason in setting the male which sows above the female which receives.

[6] G   Here is another characteristic of Testaceans, and Crustaceans. As the moon wanes they are in the habit of somehow becoming both emptier and lighter. Among Testaceans the purple shellfish, whelks, red thorny oysters, ** and those of the same species prove my statement; among Crustaceans, edible crabs, crayfish, ** lobsters, crabs in general, ** and all their kin. It is also asserted that the young of beasts of burden born when the moon is on the wane are less capable and feebler than others, and what is more, those who have knowledge of these matters recommend that animals born in this part of the month should not be reared on the ground that they are not of good quality. Whereas animals born at the new moon, as I learn, either utter their natural sound or drop. The lion alone, as Aristotle says, ** does neither.

[7] G   (i). Aristotle asserts [HA 534 a 9 ( 4.8 )] that the basse is extremely quick of hearing, and so too are the Chromis, ** the Saupe, and the mullet. I have ascertained also that the basse knows full well that there is in fact a small stone ** in its head, and this in winter becomes intensely cold and causes it severe pain. This is why at that season of the year it warms itself ** and devises this highly effective remedy against the cold due to the stone. And the Chromis, the sea-bream, and the Maigre, I learn, do the same, for these fish also have a similar stone.

(ii). It seems that among fishes also there exist parasites. ** At any rate the Sucking-fish, as it is called, nibbles what the dolphin catches, and the dolphin is glad that he should, and willingly allows him a share. That is why the fish is exceedingly plump, like one gorged with a rich and abundant feast. And Theron in Menander's play [fr. 895 & 937 K] boasts that he has led men by the nose and used them as his manger. And Cleisophus ** covered one of his eyes with a bandage out of compliment to Philip who had lost an eye at the siege of Methone. ** Sucking-fish and dolphin are in my opinion friends and messmates, for whereas man understands flattery like other vices, brute beasts do not.

[8] G   Here again is an example of the elephant's strong affection for its young. Elephant-hunters dig trenches and these animals fall into them, and while some are captured, others are killed. You will learn from other sources how they dig these trenches, how they are shaped, how deep, and what the entrances to them are like. I however propose to reveal and demonstrate the elephant's affection. When the mother sees her young one has fallen into one of the trenches, she does not hesitate, does not waste time, but rushing up at full speed, all courage and passion, hurls herself upon the head of her child, and the pair meet one and the same end, for the young one is crushed by the mother's weight; she falls on her head ... So those who doubt whether elephants have a natural affection for their offspring are absurd.

[9] G   Seals give birth on land, but by degrees lead their cubs down to the water and give them a taste of the sea. Then they lead them back to the original place of their birth, and again bring them down to the sea, and quickly lead them out, and by doing this many times they end by making them excellent swimmers. And they easily slide into life in the sea: their instruction affords an inducement, while Nature forces them to love the haunts and the habits of their mothers.

[10] G   The eagle is a predatory bird: it feeds upon what it can rob, and eats flesh. For it seizes hares, fawns, and geese from the courtyard, and other creatures. Only the eagle which is called ' Zeus's bird ' does not touch meat: for it, grass is sufficient. And though it has never heard of Pythagoras of Samos, for all that it abstains from animal food.

[11] G   If one merely touches a Malmignatte, it kills, they say, without any violent pain. Moreover Cleopatra established that the bite of an asp is exceedingly gentle, when as Augustus was approaching she made enquiries at her banquets for a form of death that should be painless: death by the sword, she was told, entailed suffering, as was confessed by those who were wounded; death by drinking poison caused distress, for it produced convulsions and pains in the stomach; whereas death from the bite of an asp was gentle ( πρᾶος ), or to use Homer's word [Od. 11. 135] ἀβληχρός (faint, mild). And there are some creatures that kill by a belch those that only touch them, as for instance the dipsas and the toad.

[12] G   You will tell me that the fox is a creature full of guile ; this is the fox that lives on the land. But listen also to the wiles of the Fox-shark and learn the kind of things it does. Either it will not come near the hook at all, or else it swallows it and immediately turns itself inside out, reversing its body just like a garment, and in this way no doubt it gets rid of the hook.

[13] G   Men say that there are certain spells to cause love; the frog as a signal for sexual intercourse emits a certain cry to the female, like a lover singing a serenade, and this cry is called its croak, so they say. And when it attracts the female to itself they wait for the night. They cannot copulate under water, and they shun mutual embraces on land in the daytime. But when night descends they emerge with complete fearlessness and take their pleasure of one another.

Whenever frogs utter their cry more loudly and more clearly than is their wont, it signifies that rain is coming.

[14] G   I have often heard my mother say, when I was a child, that if a man touches a torpedo, his hand is seized with the affliction corresponding to its name {torpor}. And I have learnt from persons of experience that if a man touches even the net in which it has been captured his entire body is numbed. And if one throws it alive into a vessel and pours salt water upon it, and if the fish happens to be pregnant and the time of its delivery is at hand, then it gives birth. And if one pours the water in the vessel over a man's hand or foot, the hand or foot is inevitably numbed.

[15] G   Neither in the stings nor in the bites which they inflict do animals always retain the same force, but it is often augmented from some cause. For instance, if a wasp has tasted a viper's flesh its sting is fiercer; and if a fly has been near something of the same kind its bite is sharper and causes pain; the bite of an asp too is rendered quite incurable if it eats of a frog. If a healthy dog bites a man, it causes a wound and a burning pain, but if the dog is mad, the bite is deadly. A seamstress was mending a shirt that had been torn by a mad dog, when she somehow bit it with her mouth in order to stretch the shirt: she went mad and died. The bite of a human being when fasting is dangerous and hard to cure. And the Scythians are even said to mix serum from the human body with the poison that they smear upon their arrows to drug them. This serum somehow floats on the surface of the blood and they know a means of separating it (?). ** Theophrastus ** is a sufficient witness to the fact.

[16] G   When a snake sloughs its old skin (it does so at the beginning of spring), then is the time when it purges away the mist over its eyes and the dullness of its sight and what I may call the ' old age ' of its eyes; and as it sharpens either eye by rubbing fennel along the edges it rids itself of this affliction. You see, after hibernating through the winter in some dark hole, it is short-sighted. And so the gentle warmth of the fennel cleanses the creature's vision which the frosts have numbed, and makes its sight keener.

[17] G   When the Halcyon realises that it is pregnant it builds itself a nest ** to receive its brood; but it has no need of mud and a roof and houses, like the swallow which entering as an uninvited guest saddens the dawn with its twitter and even disturbs our slumbers at their sweetest; nor yet does it use its body but its beak alone as it applies itself to the aforesaid task in places away from man, weaving together and collecting the spines of the gar-fish, and by some mysterious means it binds together and encloses the fabric of its careful contriving. For some of the bones it fixes upright, others cross-wise (one would say that it was some woman skilled in weaving that was interlacing the woof with the warp), and makes the nest approximately round and bellying in shape, as though it were plaiting a weel. And when it has woven the aforesaid nest it takes it down to the sea, and there, as the waves flow gently in, the advancing surf puts the Halcyon's labour to a test. For the water encountering any part that is not watertight penetrates the nest, and the Halcyon seeing this (?), ** repairs it. But if you strike with a stone the parts which have been closely fitted, you will not pierce them. And if you try to cut them with steel, so well and truly have they been interwoven that they will not yield, any more than that linen breastplate which they say Amasis ** gave as an offering to Athena of Lindus. ** And the mouth of this weel no other creature can enter or indeed detect at all: it admits the Halcyon alone. But not even a drop of sea water could trickle in, so watertight is the nest. And there, they say, rocked on the waves the Halcyon rears its young.

[18] G   By the Nile there grows a herb, and it goes by the name of 'Wolf's-bane', ** and it is truly named. For when a wolf treads upon it he dies in convulsions. That, you see, is why those Egyptians who worship this animal prevent this herb from being introduced into their country.

[19] G   If a bird of the household falls into a vessel of wine and is drowned, they say that neither the wine nor any of the inmates of the house suffers any harm; whereas if it sinks in water, it causes the water to smell, and diffuses a foul odour in the surrounding air. But if a gecko falls into wine and is drowned, it does no harm. If however it falls into oil and dies, it makes the oil smell nasty, and on anyone who tastes it lice at once break out.

[20] G   It is clear that the burning of a stag's horn expels snakes. And Aristotle asserts [Mir. 481 a 27] that the stone ** which occurs in the river Pontus (it is in the territory of the Sinti and Maedi) ** if burnt also chases away snakes. Moreover he describes the nature of the stone as follows. If you pour some water upon it, it lights; and if when burning you hope to kindle it into a bigger blaze by fanning it, it goes out. They say that as it burns it gives off a smell more oppressive than bitumen. And Nicander [Ther. 45] agrees with this.

[21] G   The island of Pharos (what I am about to tell you is reported by the Egyptians) was once infested with a great variety of snakes. But when Thonis the Egyptian King took under his charge Helen the daughter of Zeus (because Menelaus entrusted her to him while he was wandering through Upper Egypt and Ethiopia), he fell in love with her, and when he attempted to force her to lie with him, the story goes that the daughter of Zeus repeated the whole tale to the wife of Thonis (Polydamna was her name), and she on her side, anxious lest this foreigner should prove more beautiful than she, removed Helen to the safety of Pharos and gave her a herb disliked by the snakes there; so as soon as they were aware of this, the snakes went underground. But Helen planted the herb and in time it flourished and produced seed disagreeable to the snakes, and in Pharos such creatures have never recurred. Experts in these matters say that this herb is called Helenion. **

[22] G   Starfishes are marine creatures, and they too have a soft shell, but are the enemies of oysters, for they feed on them. And their method of assailing the oysters is as follows. The latter frequently open for coolness' sake and anyhow in order to feed themselves on whatever comes their way. Accordingly the starfishes insert one of their limbs between the shells and take their fill of the flesh, the oysters being precluded from closing again. So much then for this characteristic of starfishes.

[23] G   Poets and the compilers of ancient legends, among whom is Hecataeus the chronicler, may sing of the Hydra of Lerna, one of the Labours of Heracles; and Homer may sing of the Chimaera with its three heads [Il. 6.181; 16. 328] , the monster of Lycia kept by Amisodarus the Lycian king for the destruction of many, of varied nature, and absolutely invincible. Now these seem to have been relegated to the region of myths. The Amphisbaena however is a snake with two heads, one at the top and one in the direction of the tail. When it advances, as need for a forward movement impels it, it leaves one end behind to serve as tail, while the other it uses as a head. Then again if it wants to move backwards, it uses the two heads in exactly the opposite manner from what it did before. **

[24] G   There is, it seems, a species of frog which bears the name of 'Angler', and is so called from what it does. It possesses baits above its eyes : one might describe them as elongated eyelashes, and at the end of each one is attached a small sphere. The fish is aware that nature has equipped it and even stimulated it to attract other fish by these means. Accordingly it hides itself in spots where the mud is thicker and the slime deeper, and extends the aforesaid hairs without moving. Now the tiniest fishes swim up to these eyelashes, imagining that the round, swinging objects at the end are edible; meanwhile the Angler lies in wait, never stirring, and when the little fishes are near to him, he withdraws the hairs towards himself (they are drawn in by some secret and invisible means), and the little fishes, whose gluttony has brought them close up, provide a meal for the aforesaid frog.

[25] G   The Crayfish is the enemy of the octopus. The reason is this: when the octopus throws its tentacles round it, it cares nothing for the spines that spring from the back of the crayfish, but wraps itself round and throttles it till it suffocates. This the crayfish knows full well, and makes its escape. The nature of the crayfish is as follows. When it has nothing to fear, this fish moves in a forward direction, turning its feelers ** to either side, in order that the water encountering it as it swims may not thrust them back and hinder its advance. But if it is trying to escape, it goes backwards, relaxing its feelers completely, in order that, like one rowing with oars and moving lightly like a boat, it may withdraw to a great distance. If crayfish fight with one another they raise their feelers, fall upon each other like rams, and butt their foreheads together. But a struggle between a moray and a crayfish I have described earlier on. ** '

[26] G   They say that the dewy water-mint and the agnus-castus are a potent means of expelling snakes. The latter, you know, is strewn by the women of Attica on their pallets at the Thesmophoria. And it appears that the agnus-castus is offensive to noxious creatures, and at the same time represses sexual appetite; from this fact it appears to derive its name. And the same noxious creatures have a dread of the herb known as rosemary frankincense.

[27] G   From Theophrastus [HP 9. 18. 2] I learn the following. This great man mentions a certain herb and calls it by the name of 'Female-killer'; ** and if one puts it on a scorpion's back and lets it lie, the creature immediately shrivels. But the same writer says that it revives if you sprinkle some white hellebore upon it. Now I am in favour of Female- killer, but not at all of white hellebore. The reason is that I detest scorpions but love mankind. Callimachus [fr. 100 f. 48 P] relates how a tree that goes by the name of yew grows in Trachis, and if creeping things go near and touch it at all they die.

[28] G   It is generally believed that the flesh of the pig is sweeter than all others. And the fact is quite clearly proved by experiment. Whenever it eats a salamander, the pig itself is unaffected, but kills those who taste its flesh.

[29] G   In what respect the Euphrates, which flows between Parthia and Syria, is superior to other rivers I will explain some other time; but what the Parthians and Syrians know about it, and what is relevant to the present discourse, that I will now tell. Near to the spot where the river first rises certain snakes breed which are deadly enemies to men, not however to the natives who have been brought up in their midst, but to strangers who have no connexion whatever with them. And they even punish visitors with death.

[30] G   The lion when walking does not move straight forward, nor does he allow his footprints to appear plain and simple, but at one point he moves forward, at another he goes back, then he holds on his course, and then again starts in the opposite direction. Next he goes to and fro, effacing his tracks so as to prevent ** hunters from following his path and easily discovering the lair where he takes his rest and lives with his cubs. These habits of the lion are Nature's special gifts.

[31] G   Consider what makes a good shepherd. Now the herdsman loves both his sheep and his goats, but he abhors the hiccups. This affliction often befalls man, and a surfeit induces hiccups in sheep and goats also. Accordingly herdsmen plant round the pens of the aforesaid animals a certain herb which counters this complaint, and the herb protects them against it. And those who have had experience maintain that this herb is beneficial to man also in the same affliction. **

[32] G   Those whose business it is to gather henbane and the juice of Silphium ** dig trenches round the plants and stir the roots a little; they do not however pull them up with their hands, but capture or buy some bird and fasten one leg to the herb. And as the bird flutters it pulls up the herb. Both are serviceable to man's needs. But if a man has not these means to pull them up, then the treasure which he fancies he has found so happily and in answer to his needs is of no service.

[33] G   This is not the occasion for mentioning all the benefits that accrue from wormwood, how it eases the windpipe and even cleanses the lungs. But to a troublesome creature it is certainly an enemy: it destroys intestinal worm. This creature grows and grows and becomes a monster bred in the intestines, and is reckoned among the diseases of mankind, and what is more, among those which are hardest to cure and which will not yield to any mortal treatment. Hippys is sufficient witness to this. The account given by the historian of Rhegium is as follows. A woman suffered from an intestinal worm, and the cleverest doctors despaired of curing her. Accordingly she went to Epidaurus and prayed the god ** that she might be rid of the complaint that was lodged in her. The god was not at hand. The attendants of the temple however made her lie down in the place where the god was in the habit of healing his petitioners. And the woman lay quiet as she was bid; and the ministers of the god addressed themselves to her cure : they severed her head from the neck, and one of them inserted his hand and drew out the worm, which was a monstrous creature. But to adjust the head and to restore it to its former setting, this they always failed to do. Well, the god arrived and was enraged with the ministers for undertaking a task beyond their skill, and himself with the irresistible power of a god restored the head to the body and raised the stranger up again. For my part, O King Asclepius, of all gods the kindliest to man, I do not set wormwood against your skill (heaven forbid I should be so insensate!), but in considering wormwood I was reminded of your beneficent action and of your astounding powers of healing. And there is no need to doubt that this herb also is a gift from you.

[34] G   The Argonaut also is one of the polyps and has one shell. Now it rises to the surface by turning its shell upside down to prevent it from taking in salt water and being thrust down again. And when it is on top of the waves, if the weather is calm and the winds are at rest, it turns its shell (which floats like a boat) on its back, and letting down two tentacles, one on either side, with a gentle motion rows and propels its natural vessel. And if there is a wind it extends still further what up till now were oars, using them as rudders, and raises other tentacles between which there is a web of most delicate texture, and this it spreads and turns into a sail. And in this way it navigates so long as it has nothing to fear. If however it is afraid of some of the larger and stronger fish, it submerges and fills its shell and sinks with the weight of water, and by disappearing escapes from its enemy. Then when it has peace again it rises and resumes its sailing. It is from these activities that it derives its name.

[35] G   They say that men have explored the sea to a depth of 300 fathoms, but not as yet beyond that. Whether there are fishes and animals swimming at an even greater depth, or whether even to them these regions are inaccessible, although the gods of the sea and also the overlord of the moist world have their allotted dwelling there - these are matters into which I shall not enquire too closely, and no one else informs us.

[36] G   There is, it seems, a fish of the species mullet which is accustomed to live and to feed among rocks, and is yellow in appearance. There are two names for it in common use, for some call it 'Adonis', others 'Exocoetus'. ** For, you see, when the waves are lulled in places where the water is calm and smooth, it runs aground, borne forward by the force of the wave, and spreading itself upon the rocks, sleeps a deep and tranquil sleep. And it is well aware that there is peace between it and all other creatures, though it dreads all birds that are or are reputed to be nurslings of the sea. And so if one appears, the fish leaps up and dances as nature has taught it with movements that, one might say, baffle description, until it jumps off the rock, falls into the sea, and is safe. People like to call it ' Adonis ' because it loves both land and sea, and those who first gave it this name were hinting (so I think) at the son of Cinyras ** whose life was divided between two goddesses; one who loved him was beneath the earth, the other above.

[37] G   A twig of one tree will grow on the stock of another to which it often bears no relation. And Theophrastus, who has traced the cause of this in a thoroughly scientific way, explains the cause [CP 2.17. 5 & 8]: small birds eat the blossoms of trees and then as they sit upon the trees void their excrement. And so the seed dropping into hollows and cracks and cavities, and being watered by the rains of heaven, produces the same wood as that from which it sprang. Thus you will see a fig-tree on an olive-tree, and the same with other trees.

[38] G   The Sea-sheep and the Hēpatus ** as it is named, and what fishermen are accustomed to call the Prepon ** have their lairs in the recesses of the sea. They are of enormous size to look at but sluggish swimmers, and range to and fro around their lairs, and so it comes about that they never abandon their hiding-places. But they lie in wait for fish of weaker species that swim past. The hake too may be reckoned as belonging to this class. More than any other fish does it dread the rising of the Dog-star.

[39] G   It seems that the family of Blister-beetles ** is produced in fields of wheat and on poplar-trees and on fig-trees also, as Aristotle says [HA 552 b 1 (5.19)]; and caterpillars are produced among peas, and certain spiders among bitter vetch, and the Leek-cutter, ** as it is called, among leeks. And in the cabbage is born a kind of worm which derives its name from its habitat. At any rate it is called the Cabbage-caterpillar. ** The apple-tree also produces a creature ** which frequently destroys the fruit of this tree, although it may help women who are still of an age to bear children to conceive. How this happens another shall tell.

[40] G   It seems that every creature knows in which. part of its body its strength resides, and this gives it confidence, for when attacking it employs it as a weapon, when in danger as a means of defence. For instance, the swordfish defends itself with its snout as with a sword; hence its name; and the sting-ray with its sting, and the moray with its teeth, and well it may, because it has a double row of them.

[41] G   The domestic mouse is a timorous and feeble creature and is scared by noise and trembles at the squeak of a marten. ** Field-mice also are timorous, whereas the Sea-mice ** are bolder than the domestic animal. Though their body is small their courage is irresistible, and this they derive from two weapons, their tough skin and their powerful teeth. And they fight even with fish of greater bulk and with the most skilled fishermen.

[42] G   The Tunny is aware of the changes of the seasons and knows precisely when the solstices occur and has no need whatsoever of persons skilled in celestial matters. For in whatever place the beginning of winter overtakes these fish, there they are glad to remain at rest without stirring, and there they stay until the coming of the equinox. Aristotle bears witness to this [HA 599 b 9 ( 8.15 )] . And that they see with one eye and not with the other is admitted by Aeschylus when he says [fr. 308 N]

' Casting his left eye askance like a tunny.'

And they pass into the Euxine, keeping the land on their right, on which side in fact they look out. Contrariwise when issuing from the Euxine they swim along the opposite shore and hug the land, taking the utmost precaution to safeguard their life by means of the eye which sees.

[43] G   The first shell of the common crab splits and, just as snakes slough their ' old age,' so do these creatures put off their shell. And directly they perceive that it is coming away from their flesh they move frantically in every direction in their search for more food, in order that they may become inflated by the additional bulk and so break off their shell. And when they have contrived to slip out of it and are free, they lie on the sand exhausted like dead bodies. But their growing shell causes them anxiety while it is still rather pliable and tender. Gradually however they gather themselves together and come to life, as it were, and begin by eating sand. ** But as long as their outer covering consists of membrane, for so long are they timid and utterly lacking in courage. When however the membrane begins to harden and to assume the nature of a shell, then they cast aside their fears, and the protection of their covering and their full suit of armour, as you might call it, gives them the same confidence as a shield would.

[44] G   The race of men known as Troglodytes is famous, and derives its name from its manner of living. Snakes are afraid of them, the reason being that the men eat them.

Snakes when engaged in coupling emit a most offensive odour.

[45] G   If a field, or if trees with fruit upon them are close by the sea, farmers often find that in summer octopuses and Osmyluses ** have emerged from the waves, have crept up the trunks, have enveloped the branches, and are plucking the fruit. So when they have caught them they punish them. And as recompense for what the aforesaid fish have reaped they provide the owners of the pillaged fruit with a feast.

[46] G   ' Migrants ' is the name for marine creatures that are clever at knowing the transition of the seasons. At any rate at the beginning of winter they escape from the frosts and remain at rest and are glad by so remaining to keep warm, sharing their warmth in brotherly fashion. Then in the spring they begin to swim greater distances and feed not only upon what comes their way but on what they have sought for and tracked down.

[47] G   If one crushes Sea-urchins while still alive within their shells and with their spines protruding and then throws one bit here and another there into the sea and leaves them, they come together again and join up: they recognise their related fragments, and attaching themselves grow together. And it is by some marvellous and peculiar force of Nature that they become whole again.

[48] G   With a view to increasing the offspring of their animals their keepers and herdsmen at the mating season take handfuls of salt and of sodium carbonate and rub the genitals of their female asses and goats and mares. These substances produce in the animals a greater appetite for sexual intercourse. Others rub their parts with pepper and honey; others again with sodium carbonate and nettle-seed. And some have in fact applied Cretan alexanders and sodium carbonate. And from the consequent irritation the females of a herd cannot contain themselves but go mad after the males.

[49] G   There is not one of the largest Cetaceans that comes near the shore or the beach or ' leprous ' (that is, rocky) spots or into shallow water: they live in the deeps. The largest of them are the sea-lion, the Hammer-headed Shark, the sea-leopard, the great whales, ** the Pristis, and the fish called Maltha. This last monster is a terrible antagonist and invincible. The Ram-fish ** also is a creature to be dreaded and is dangerous, even if it emerges at a distance, owing to the upheaval in the sea and the wave which it creates. The Sea-hyena too is no auspicious sight for seafarers. As to sharks, I have spoken above of their different kinds and of their strength.

[50] G   Sea-calves ** are marine animals, and on headlands and projecting rocks they utter a kind of ominous cry and a very deep roar. And moreover whoever hears this sound, for him there is no escape, but he dies soon after.

The Whale too comes out of the sea and warms itself in the sun. But seals emerge for choice when it is dark, although they do in fact sleep on shore at midday. Homer knew this, and in the Odyssey [4. 400] he has represented Menelaus explaining to Telemachus and Pisistratus this habit they have of resting, when he was telling them of what happened at Pharos and of the sea-god Proteus and of the prophecy which was uttered by the aforesaid Proteus.

[51] G   I have spoken above ** of the Red Mullet, but what I did not mention then I will now. At Eleusis it is held in honour by the initiated, and of this honour two accounts are given. Some say, it is because it gives birth three times in a year; others, because it eats the sea-hare, which is deadly to man.

I shall perhaps recur to the Red Mullet.

[52] G   Squids, Flying Gurnards, ** and Flying-fish when scared fly and leap out of the sea. Squids leap furthest with the aid of their fins and rise high and are borne along together in flocks like birds. Flying-fish wing their flight at a lower level. The Flying Gurnards however move at so little distance above the surface of the sea, that you can hardly tell that they are not swimming but flying.

[53] G   It seems that fishes roam and wander about, some in masses, like troops of animals or bands of hoplites marching in ranks or in lines; others advance in an orderly column; others again you would say were in companies. Others are numbered off by tens and swim together in that formation; there are even some that swim in couples, while there are others that remain at home in their lairs and spend their lives there.

[54] G   I have ascertained that skilled herdsmen when wishing to fatten their animals, remove their horns. And when they wish to stimulate their he-goats to couple, they rub perfume on their nostrils ; they even anoint their chins as well. On the other hand they restrain an excessive appetite by tying a cord round the middle of the animals' tails. And Aristotle asserts [HA 604 b 30] that mares miscarry if for some length of time they smell an extinguished lamp-wick. I have heard also of this device to stop house-dogs from running away: they measure the length of their tail with a rod, smear the rod with butter, and then give it to the dog to lick. And the dogs remain at home, they say, as though they were fastened up.

[55] G   Here is another peculiarity of dogs. They will not bark if one approaches them holding the tail of a marten; but after cutting off the said tail of the captured marten, one must let it go alive. And a donkey will not bray if you suspend a stone from its tail, so they say.

[56] G   In the season of summer when the sun's blaze is at its strongest elephants smear one another with thick slime: this affords them coolness and is more agreeable to the aforesaid animals than a home beneath a cave or embowered in trees and branches. They are good at tracking by scent and have a very keen sense of smell. At any rate on the march one precedes another, and the leader (they move in single file) takes note of the grass at his feet, and when he realises from the brushing that men have passed that way, he pulls up the grass and gives it to the elephant behind him to smell, and he in turn to the one behind him. And this exchange, as you might call it, goes through the whole herd, until it comes to the one who is bringing up the rear, when he trumpets loudly. Whereupon like soldiers at a signal they turn aside to vales and thickets in the mountains or to low-lying marshes or even to level country where the bushes are dense. But at all costs they avoid land which is trodden by men, for man is a creature whom they suspect as their worst enemy. And when their feeding-grounds fail some of them dig up roots and eat them, while others go off in search of fodder. And the elephant that is the first to find what he is seeking turns back and calls his fellows and leads them to his lucky discovery.

[57] G   In the severest winter when the sea is stormy and the winds are blowing fierce and strong, Fish dread their native and beloved sea. And some of them heap up sand with their fins and so covered keep themselves warm, while others slip beneath some rock and are glad to rest sheltered from the cold. Others again hasten down to the recesses of the sea and there below in the depths avoid the agitation from above. For, men say, the fury of the waves does not at that depth swell and batter them as it does above. But at the beginning of spring when the sky grows bright and plants begin to put forth their leaves and the fields to wave with their natural herbage, the fish observing that the sea is smooth and calm, mount up and leap about and swim close to the shore as though they were returning from a long journey.

[58] G   These, it seems, are the three creatures which from the smallest beginnings grow to the largest size: among aquatic animals the crocodile, among birds the ostrich, and among quadrupeds the elephant. And Juba relates that his father possessed an elephant of a great age that was descended from remote ancestors; and that Ptolemy Philadelphus had an Ethiopian elephant which had lived for many years and partly from its association with men and partly from its training had become exceedingly docile and gentle. He also tells of an elephant from India which belonged to Seleucus Nicator, and he says moreover that it survived down to the supremacy of the Antiochi. **

[59] G   All fish that have a river or some lake near to their native sea, when they are about to spawn swim out of the salt water, choosing in preference to the waves water that is calm and not at all upheaved and lashed by gales. For the tranquillity of river and lake is well adapted to receive their offspring and to preserve their young from harm and from attack, both for other reasons and especially because of the absence or paucity of savage creatures. And lakes and rivers normally enjoy this freedom. That is the reason why the Euxine abounds in such a quantity of fish: it has not learnt to foster monsters. If it does breed the seal and dolphins, they are of the smallest, but from all other pests the fishes here are protected.

[60] G   Pipefishes are slender, and having no womb to contain their foetus they are unable to endure the growth of their young within their bodies, but burst open; and in this way they do not give birth to, but eject, their offspring.

[61] G   It is said that the traces and indications of the bites of the asp are far from evident or easy to detect. And the reason for this is, I learn, as follows. The asp's poison is exceedingly sharp and spreads very rapidly. So when the asp fastens on a man the poison does not remain on the surface but penetrates to the inner passages of the body and disappears from view and from the skin before one's eyes, and presses inwards. That, you see, is why the manner of Cleopatra's death was by no means easily recognised by Octavian's companions, but only after a time when two punctures, hard to detect and discover, were observed, and through them was revealed the riddle of her death. Besides, marks of the asp's trail were visible, and they were clear to persons acquainted with the movements of these creatures.

[62] G   When Pompeius Rufus was aedile of the Romans at the Panathenaea ** a medicine-man, one of those who keep snakes for show, amid a crowd of his fellow-practitioners applied an asp to his arm in order to demonstrate his skill, and was bitten. Thereupon he sucked out the poison with his mouth. He failed however to swallow some water afterwards, there being none at hand although he had got some ready (the vessel had been upset by an act of treachery), and as he had not washed off the poison and thoroughly rinsed his mouth he passed away after, I believe, two days without suffering any pain, though the poison had little by little reduced his gums and his mouth to putrescence.

[63] G   When spring is at its height and the earth is putting forth her blossoms, animals are filled with an amorous impulse and bethink them of wedlock, and all that dwell in mountain or sea or that fly in the air desire to embrace one another. Among the fishes there are some that rub off their eggs, massed and clinging together, on the sand; others as they swim spawn a great quantity of eggs, most of which are swallowed by those that swim in the rear. ** In fact the males lead the way and scatter milt, and the females that follow, open-mouthed and quite insatiable, swallow it. This is their method of coupling. I have explained above how some fishes actually live with the females and look after them as though they were their wives, ** and that even among the various kinds of fishes the fires of a sort of jealousy ** break forth.

[64] G   Aristotle [HA 590 a 18 ( 8.2 )] , and Democritus before him [Diels Vorsok. 1. 295; 2. 126] , and third in order Theophrastus [CP 6. 10. 2] assert that fish are not nourished by salt water but by the fresh water that is mingled with the sea. And since this seems almost incredible, the son of Nicomachus, ** wishing to confirm the statement by actual practice, says that in every sea there is some drinkable water, and that it can be proved in this way. If one makes a thin, hollow vessel of wax and lets it down empty into the sea, having attached it so that it can be hauled up, after a night and a day it is, when drawn up, full of fresh and drinkable water. And Empedocles of Agrigentum asserts [fr. 66 Diels PPF] that there is some fresh water in the sea, not indeed perceptible to all, though it does nourish fishes. And this sweetening of the water in the brine he says is due to natural causes, which you may learn from his writings.

[65] G   It is said that those who have been initiated into the Mysteries of the two goddesses ** will not touch dog-fish, for (they say) it is no clean food, since it gives birth through its mouth. Some however maintain that it does not do so, but that when its young have been frightened by attempts on their life, it swallows and hides them away, and that when the scare has passed, it again ejects them alive. And these same initiates would not taste of a Red Mullet, nor would the priestess of Hera at Argos. The reasons for this I know that I have explained above somewhere. **

[66] G   I have not forgotten that I have in a previous passage ** told of the mating of viper and moray and how they couple, the moray emerging from the sea, the viper from its den. But what I did not tell, I now will. When the viper intends to couple with the moray, in order to appear gentle as befits a bridegroom, he disgorges and throws up his poison, and then with a soft hissing sound, as though raising a kind of pre-nuptial wedding chant, summons his bride. And when they have together completed their amorous revels, the fish makes for the waves and the sea, while the snake gulps down his poison again and goes back to his native haunts.

Book 10



FOOTNOTES



(1)   See 2.26.    

(2)   See Thompson, Gk. fishes, s.v. σπόνδυλος, O. Keller, Ant. Tierwelt 2. 561.    

(3)   At 11. 37 κάραβοι are included among Testacea.    

(4)   Καρκίνος is the generic term for crabs of all kinds, πάγουρος the common or edible crab.    

(5)   Not in any extant work; fr. 236 (Rose, p. 254).    

(6)   Perhaps identical with σκίαινα, Maigre; Thompson, Gk. fishes, s.v. σκίαινα.    

(7)   The otolith.    

(8)   See 9. 57.    

(9)   In the Greek sense of 'hangers-on'.    

(10)   See Ath. 6. 248 D, and Ael. frr. 107, 108.    

(11)   On the north-west coast of the Thermaic gulf; Philip II after a prolonged siege, 352 B.C.    

(12)   The text is corrupt and the translation conjectural; cp. [Arist.] Mirab. 845 a 5. Post's conjecture might be rendered ' which is a secretion that comes when they agitate the blood.'    

(13)   Not in any extant work.    

(14)   Cp. Ar. HA 616 a 19-32 ( 9.14 ) and Thompson's notes.    

(15)   Lacuna; the translation is conjectural.    

(16)   King of Egypt, 6th century B.C. See Hdt. 2. 182.    

(17)   Town on the east coast of Rhodes.    

(18)   Aconite.    

(19)   The ' Thracian stone,' Θράκιος λίθος, is perhaps quicklime.    

(20)   It is the river Strymon which flows through that part of Paeonia inhabited by the Sinti and Maedi.    

(21)   Elecampane, Inula helenium; cp. Diosc. 1. 27.    

(22)   See Gow-Scholfield on Nic. Th. 372.    

(23)   Lit. ' horns.'    

(24)   See 1. 32.    

(25)   One of several names for aconite; see Nic. Al. 36 ff.    

(26)   The sense is clear, but the text is faulty.    

(27)   The herb (whose name Aelian does not disclose) is Alyssum or madwort; cp. Plut. Mor. 2. 648A.    

(28)   Ὀπός, the common term for juice of silphium, cannot be right here, unless Aelian attaches some other meaning to the word.    

(29)   There was a famous temple of Asclepius 5 miles west of Epidaurus in Argolis.    

(30)   That is, 'sleeping out of the water.' The fish has not been identified.    

(31)   Adonis was the son of Cinyras by his daughter Myrrha. Aphrodite concealed the baby in a chest which she entrusted to Persephone. On Persephone's declining to give the child back Zeus ordained that he should spend one half of each year with either goddess.    

(32)   Unidentified; not the same as the Hepatus of 15. 11.    

(33)   Unidentified.    

(34)   See D. W. Thompson's note on Arist. l.c. (Eng. tr.).    

(35)   ? ' leaf-maggot' (Hort on Thphr. HP 7. 5. 4); ' Probably milliped ' (L-S). The Hylemyia antiqua (order Anthomyidae) may attack the bulb of leeks,    

(36)   The larvae or caterpillar of the large white butterfly, Pieris rapae, injure cabbages, turnips, radishes, etc.    

(37)   The caterpillar of the Codling moth, Oarpocapsa pomonella L.    

(38)   With us it would be ' the mew of a cat.'    

(39)   Oppian (Hal. 1. 174) speaks of μυῶν χαλεπὸν γένος as ' confident in their tough hide and close-set teeth,' and as 'contending with men, though not so very large.' This is probably the turtle, whose sharp but toothless jaws can inflict a savage bite. See Thompson, Gk. fishes, s.v. μῦς, II, p. 167.    

(40)   πρώτης . . . ψάμμου   ' verba corrupta,' H.; but cp. Opp. Hal. 1. 96, ψάμμον ἐρεπτόμενοι καί ὅσ' ἐν ψαμάθοισι φύονται.    

(41)   See 5. 44.    

(42)   The only animals in the list that have been certainly identified.    

(43)   See below, 15. 2 note.    

(44)   Generally taken to mean ' Seals,' bat the description that follows points rather to the Walrus; and so Gossen ( 215) understands the word.    

(45)   See 2. 41.    

(46)   See Thompson, Gk. fishes, p. 287.    

(47)   Seleucus Nicator reigned 312-280 B.C.; Antiochus I, 280-261 B.C.    

(48)   Παναθήναια is used as an equivalent for the Roman Quinquatrus, a festival held in March.   Pompeius was Consul in 88 B.C. and a colleague of Sulla.    

(49)   Cp. Hdt. 2. 93.    

(50)   See 1. 14.    

(51)   See 1. 25.    

(52)   Aristotle.    

(53)   Demeter and Persephone, in whose honour the Eleusinian mysteries were celebrated.    

(54)   See ch. 51.    

(55)   See 1.50.    




CONTENTS OF THIS BOOK

9.1 The lion in old age
9.2 The eagle's feathers
9.3 The mouse. The crocodile and its young
9.4 The asp, its fangs. The scorpion, its sting
9.5 Puppies
9.6 The Moon, its influence on Shellfish and Animals
9.7 (i) The Basse and its otolith (ii) Fishes and their 'parasites'
9.8 The elephant and its young
9.9 The Seal
9.10 The eagle
9.11 The Malmignatte and the asp, their bites
9.12 The Fox-shark
9.13 Frogs and their mating
9.14 The Torpedo
9.15 The stings and bites of various creatures
9.16 The snake and its eyesight
9.17 The Halcyon and its nest
9.18 The herb wolf's-bane
9.19 Dead bodies in wine, in oil
9.20 The 'Thracian stone'
9.21 Helen of Troy and snakes in Pharos
9.22 Starfish and Oysters
9.23 The Amphisbaena
9.24 The Fishing-frog
9.25 Crayfish and octopus
9.26 Snakes and certain herbs
9.27 The Aconite
9.28 Flesh of the pig
9.29 Snakes at the source of the Euphrates
9.30 The lion's tracks
9.31 Hiccups and its cure
9.32 Henbane, how gathered
9.33 Intestinal Worm
9.34 The Argonaut
9.35 The depths of the Sea
9.36 The 'Adonis' fish
9.37 Grafting of trees
9.38 The Sea-sheep, and other fish
9.39 Insects, etc., born in plants
9.40 Animals know where their strength lies
9.41 The mouse. The 'Sea-mouse '
9.42 The Tunny
9.43 The common crab
9.44 Troglodytes and snakes
9.45 The octopus and fruit-trees
9.46 The migration of fishes
9.47 The Sea-urchin
9.48 Sexual stimulants for animals
9.49 The largest of the Cetaceans
9.50 The Sea-calf. The Whale. The Seal
9.51 The Red mullet
9.52 Flying fish
9.53 Fish moving in formation
9.54 Various treatments for domestic animals
9.55 How to silence dogs and Donkeys
9.56 The elephant
9.57 Fish in winter
9.58 Longevity of the elephant
9.59 Sea-fish spawn in fresh water
9.60 The Pipe-fish
9.61 The asp, its bite
9.62 Death of a Snake-charmer
9.63 Fishes and their mating
9.64 Fresh water in the sea
9.65 Initiates abstain from certain fish
9.66 Mating of viper and Moray



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