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AELIAN: ON THE NATURE OF ANIMALS

-   BOOK 10

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 9

[1] G   The elephant is seldom in love, they say, for, as I have remarked earlier on, ** it is sober. And yet I learn of elephants experiencing the passion of love, and the tale is one to excite astonishment. And this is what I have learnt.

A man who had some knowledge of the method of hunting these animals obtained leave from the Roman Emperor and set out to hunt them in the manner of the natives of Mauretania. He tells in his narrative how he saw a young female elephant, comely as elephants can be, coupling with a young and beautiful male, while another older male (whether it was the husband or the lover of the aforesaid female) was furious as though it had been scorned. For inflamed with violent passion it rushed forward and coming up to the young and beautiful elephant, fell upon it and began to fight, like a man filled with resentment over the conduct of his wife or his mistress. And the two dashed together with such force that both damaged their tusks. And neither was victorious, but the hunters separated them by hurling missiles at them, for the animals were helpless as soon as they were deprived of their weapons. So a lovers' contest between elephant lovers, equally balanced up to the end, was there brought to a close. And Paris was being dragged along by Menelaus and was being throttled by the thong that was pressing him beneath his helmet, and the son of Atreus

' would now have haled him away and won renown unspeakable ' [Hom. Il. 3. 373] ,

had not the thong snapped, and had not the daughter of Zeus and Dione {Aphrodite} snatched him away after his most shameful and unmanly fight: and he departed, the coward, and slept with the adulteress.

[2] G   It appears that fish are not eager for sexual intercourse at the same season, but some couple in spring, others feel the urge in summer, others in the autumn, in others again the aforesaid desire is gradually kindled during the winter. The majority after giving birth once a year, cease; though I am told that the Basse gives birth twice, whereas the very name of the Red mullet (τρίγλη) proves, so they say, that it does so thrice.

[3] G   Herodotus states [3. 103] that camels have four thigh-bones in their hind-legs, and the same number also of knees, but that their genitals between their hind-legs are turned in the direction of the tail.

[4] G   Herodotus states [3. 113] that the sheep of Arabia have tails of abnormal length compared with other sheep. And the same writer informs us that there are two kinds of sheep, adding that one kind has tails so long as to measure not less than three cubits. And if one were to allow the sheep to trail their tails after them, they would be full of sores from rubbing along the ground. All that the shepherds can do is to contrive small carts which support the tails of these animals and prevent them from getting sore. But the other kind of sheep, he says, has broad tails as much as a cubit wide.

[5] G   Snails know that partridges and herons are their enemies; so they escape from them, and in places where these birds feed you would never see snails crawling about. But the snails which they call Areiones deceive and elude the aforesaid enemies by natural astuteness. Thus, they emerge from their native shells and feed without anxiety, while the birds which I mentioned swoop upon the empty shells as though they were the actual snails, but finding nothing, throw them aside as useless and go away. But the Areiones return and pass each to its own house, having eaten their fill of food and having preserved their lives by their deceptive migration.

[6] G   It seems that the Spanish Mackerel of the Euxine imitate the Persian King who spends the winter at Susa and the summer in Ecbatana. For these fish pass the winter in the Propontis as it is called, since that region is warm, but in the summer they live about Aegialus, ** because the first-named sea affords them gentle breezes.

[7] G   I am informed that when cooks who are masters of their art wish the stomachs of Red Mullets not to burst in the cooking, they kiss their mouths. And if this is done the fish are preserved whole, so they say.

[8] G   The female dolphin has breasts like a woman and suckles its young with a liberal and copious supply of milk. And they swim in a body, but separated according to age. In the front rank are ranged the young and tender, after them swim the full-grown ones. The dolphin loves its offspring and is an affectionate creature, anxious for its children, and in order to protect them, as with soldiers in line of battle, some are with the front rank, others with the second, others with the third. The young ones swim in front, after them swim the females, and the males bring up the rear while they superintend and guard closely their offspring and their wives as they swim. What, O noble Homer, would Nestor say to this - Nestor, whom you celebrate as the best tactician among all the heroes of his day ? [Cp. Hom. Il. 2. 555; 4. 293-309.]

[9] G   Some maintain that the difference between the Echis and the Echidna is one of sex and not of kind, the former being the male viper, the latter the female. Others however consider that the difference is one of kind, and that the latter belongs to one species and the former to another. And I hear some say that those who have been bitten by the Echis are seized with convulsions, whereas victims of the Echidna are not. But others assert that the bite caused by the Echidna is white, unlike that of the Echis which is livid. And Nicander says [Th. 231] that in the bite which the Echis implants traces of two fangs are visible, but more if it is an Echidna that has bitten.

[10] G   It is worth relating what men do after a successful elephant-hunt to make the creatures docile and tame. First of all they lead them away bound into a wood a little distance from the trench in which they have captured them, keeping them apart by ropes and not allowing them either to run forward or to stop and pull back. Next they fasten each beast to a very large tree at a measured distance from the next one so that they can neither spring forward nor retreat backwards to any extent through being free to leap about and work mischief. And by refusing them food and by starvation they drain away their excessive strength and power, and gradually reduce their spirit and their inflexible determination, so that they forget their hitherto indomitable fierceness and abandon their former temper. The keepers of these animals go up to them and offer them food from their hands, and the elephants under stress of need take it and do the men no harm, and already begin to wear a mild and fatigued expression. But those that are extremely powerful and full-grown, after bursting their bonds and tearing up trees with the points of their tusks and with their trunks, even smashing some by their onset and by assailing them, have with difficulty and only after a long while been tamed sometimes by starvation sometimes by pleasant food, at other times by means of goads. While these animals are being tamed their food consists of very large loaves of bread, barley, dried figs, raisins, onions, garlic, honey in large quantities, bundles of mastic branches and of palm-leaves and of ivy and any edible and familiar substance which is for that reason welcome to them.

[11] G   Those who condemn all fishes without exception to silence are ignorant of their nature, because there are those that whistle and those that grunt. The gurnard grunts, so too do the Chromis and the Caprus, as Aristotle says [HA 535 b 17 ( 4.9 )] . The john dory whistles; the cuckoo ** (or ' Piper ') has a voice which resembles that of the bird whose name it bears and makes a similar sound.

[12] G   To the eye the elephant is a mass of flesh and of enormous size, but his flesh is not edible, excepting his trunk, the lips of his mouth, and the marrow of his tusks. But it seems that the fat of an elephant is detested by poisonous creatures, for if a man rubs himself with it or burns some, they flee away to a great distance.

[13] G   The variety of colour and of shape in the fauna of Arabia might well put anyone skilled in painting to the test, not only in the case of powerful and noble animals but even of the more insignificant, the locusts and the snakes; for the markings on them look like gold. The fish, which enjoy an even more richly wrought colouring, are an astonishing sight. And the oysters in the Red Sea are not without the same glamour, for they are encircled with rings of fiery hue, and to look at them you would say that with the blending of their colours they were copying the rainbow, Nature having painted parallel stripes upon them. And the pearl, so celebrated among fools and admired by women, is also a nursling of the Red Sea, and they tell a marvellous story of how it is produced when lightning flashes upon the open shells. So then these shells which are the mothers of the aforesaid pearls are sought for when the weather is fine and the sea smooth. And the seekers collect them and extract this object which delights the hearts of the luxurious. One may find a small pearl even in the largest shell and a large one in a small shell; and this one contains none, and that not more than one, and many contain a number. Some assert that as many as twenty have been attached to a single shellfish. Now the shell is the flesh, and these pearls cling to it like a thorn. But if one were to open the shell prematurely, that is before the birth-process is complete, one would find the flesh indeed, but it will not contain the object of one's quest. The pearl, it seems, is like a stone produced by petrifaction, and it is not its nature to contain or to admit even a drop of moisture. In the opinion of those who trade in pearls and those who buy them pearls that are pure white and large are the most beautiful and the most highly esteemed, and I can avow that many of those who make a livelihood by them have become wealthy. And I am also well aware that when these stones have been extracted and the shellfish have been released after giving up the aforesaid coveted object as ransom for their lives, they have gradually produced another one. If however the animal that fosters the pearl dies before the pearl is extracted, as is sometimes reported, both pearl and flesh rot away and perish. It has a naturally smooth and well-rounded contour, but if a man should want by artificial means to make round and smooth some stone not naturally so, the pearl confounds his design, for it declines to yield and develops roughnesses, thereby denouncing the plot that has been laid to secure its beauty.

[14] G   The Egyptians appear to regard the hawk as sacred to Apollo, calling the god ' Horus ' in their own language, and they regard the birds with wonder and are right in saying that they belong to the aforesaid god. For Hawks are the only birds that can face with ease and without pain the rays of the sun and are not the least dazzled; and while they fly at an immense height the divine fire does not trouble them at all. Moreover observers say that the hawk flies upside down, like a man swimming on his back, and in this way, you see, it looks at the sky and the all-surveying sun with complete freedom and without flinching. It is the bitter enemy of snakes and venomous creatures. At any rate no snake, no scorpion, nor indeed any other product of noxious matter would escape its notice. Fruits and seeds it will not touch; it delights to feed on flesh and drinks blood, and on these it feeds its young; it is also passionate in lechery. If the bone from its tibia is put beside gold it attracts and draws it to itself by some inexplicable fascination, persuading it to follow even as, they say, the stone of Heraclea ** somehow bewitches iron. The Egyptians assert that the Hawk's life extends to as much as five hundred years, and they do not convince me : I merely report what I have heard. Homer, they say, seems to hint that the hawk is beloved of the child of Zeus and Leto {Apollo} when he says [Il. 15. 237]

' And down the hills of Ida he went, like unto a swift hawk, the slayer of doves.'

[15] G   The Scarab is a creature of which there is no female, but it pours its semen into the heap ** which it rolls up. After doing this and keeping the heap warm for eight-and-twenty days, on the following day it brings forth its young. Among the Egyptians the fighting class wore a scarab engraved on their finger-rings, their ruler intimating thereby that those who fight for their country must at all costs and in every way be men, because the scarab has in it nothing of the feminine element.

[16] G   The pig in sheer gluttony does not spare even its own young; moreover if it comes across a man's body it does not refrain from eating it. That is why the Egyptians detest the animal as polluted and omnivorous. And sober men are accustomed to prefer those animals which are of a gentler nature and have some sense of restraint and reverence. At any rate the Egyptians actually worship storks, because they tend and respect their parents in old age; and these same Egyptians pay honour to vulpansers and hoopoes, because the former are fond of their offspring, and the latter show reverence to their parents. And I learn that Manetho the Egyptian, a man who attained the very summit of knowledge, says that one who has tasted of sow's milk becomes covered with leprosy and scaly eruptions. And all the peoples of Asia loathe these diseases. And the Egyptians are convinced that the sow is an abomination to the sun and the moon. Accordingly when they hold the festival of the moon they sacrifice pigs to her once a year, but at no other seasons are they willing to sacrifice them either to her or to any other god. But the Athenians sacrifice sows at the Mysteries and very properly, for they ruin the crops and frequently by trampling upon the new ears of corn break some before they are ripe and uproot others. But Eudoxus asserts that the Egyptians refrain from sacrificing sows, because when the corn has been sown they drive in herds of them, and they tread and press the seed into the soil when moist so that it may remain fertile and not be consumed by the birds.

[17] G   Elephants when withdrawn from the country to which they are accustomed, though tamed at first by captivity and hunger and after that by food and a varied diet, nevertheless do not erase from their memory the spell of the country that fostered them. At any rate the majority die of grief, and some have actually lost their sight through the floods of tears past measuring which they have shed. And they are brought on board ships by means of a bridge on either side of which boughs fresh and in full leaf have been fixed, together with other greenery that extends the whole length in order to deceive the beasts. For if the elephants see these things they imagine that they are still walking on firm ground, and this verdure does not allow the sea to be visible. But the water close to the shore from which they must sail is shallow and not deep, and the cargo-vessels are some distance out. That is why there is need of the bridge and the device of a ruse contrived with the boughs and greenery aforesaid.

[18] G   I have heard that the ram during the six months of winter lies down upon its left side, and sleeps so whenever sleep overtakes and constrains it. But after the spring equinox it rests in the reverse position and lies upon its right side. So at each equinox the ram changes its way of lying down.

[19] G   The inhabitants of Syene regard the Phagrus ** as sacred, and those who dwell in Elephantine, as it is called, the Maeotes. (This also is a species of fish.) And the reverence which both peoples pay to either kind has its origin in this: when the Nile is about to rise and overflow, these fish come swimming in advance, as though heralding the coming water, and gladden the anxious hearts of the Egyptians with fair hopes, being the first to realise the advent of the flood and foretelling it by some marvellous natural faculty. Moreover the aforesaid peoples are accustomed to add, concerning their respect for the fish, that they never eat one another.

[20] G   It seems that there are other shellfish besides in the Red Sea, whose shells are not smooth but have certain grooves and hollows in them. ** These shells have sharp lips, and when they close they fit into one another, as they make the points interlock, so that it seems as if the teeth of two saws came together. And so if they catch any fisherman swimming and bite any part of him they cut it off, even though there be a bone within the bitten part; more than that, if they bite at a joint, they cut it off at once; nor is that to be wondered at, for their bite is exceedingly sharp.

[21] G   In Egypt there are some, like the people of Ombos, who venerate crocodiles, and just as we regard the Olympian gods with awe, so do they these animals. And when, as often happens, their children are carried off by them, the people are overjoyed, while the mothers of the unfortunates are glad and go about in pride at having, I suppose, borne food and a meal for a god. But the people of Apollonopolis, a district of Tentyra, net the crocodiles, hang them up on persea-trees (these are indigenous), flog them severely, mangling them with all the blows in the world, while the creatures whimper and shed tears; finally they cut them up and eat them.

The crocodile, it seems, is pregnant for sixty days, and produces sixty eggs which it broods for as many days: it has that number of vertebrae in its spine, and they say that sixty sinews girdle its body, and it bears young ones the same number of times, and it lives for sixty years (I am reporting what the people of Egypt say and believe) ; one may reckon the teeth of this creature as sixty in number; during sixty days of every year it remains quiet in its lair and abstains from food. The crocodiles are accustomed to the people of Ombos, and those that are kept in the lakes made by the aforesaid people are obedient to their summons. And the people bring them the heads of the animals which they sacrifice - they themselves will never touch that part - and throw them in, and the crocodiles come leaping round them. The inhabitants of Apollonopolis, on the contrary, detest the crocodile, for they say that this was the shape assumed by Typhon. Others however say that this is not the reason, but that a crocodile carried off the daughter of King Psammyntus, ** a supremely good and righteous man, and therefore in memory of that disaster even posterity abhors the whole race of crocodiles.

[22] G   The Vaccaei ** (they are a western people) insult the corpses of such as die from disease as having died a cowardly and effeminate death, and dispose of them by burning; whereas those who laid down their lives in war they regard as noble, heroic, and full of valour, and them they cast to the vultures, believing this bird to be sacred. And when Romulus on the Palatine Hill, divining by the flight of twelve vultures, had received a favourable augury, following the number of the birds he decreed that the rulers of Rome should be preceded by a number of rods ** equal to that of the birds seen on that occasion. And the Egyptians believe that the vulture is sacred to Hera, and deck the head of Isis with vultures' feathers, and on the roofs of the entrances to their temples they carve the wings of vultures in relief.

I have earlier on said much concerning this bird, but not to the same effect.

[23] G   At Coptos in Egypt the natives pay homage to Isis in a variety of rituals but especially in the service and ministry rendered by women who are mourning either a husband or a son or a brother. And at Coptos there are scorpions of immense size, possessing very sharp stings, and most dangerous in their attack (for when they strike they kill instantly), and the Egyptians contrive innumerable devices for self-protection. But although the women in mourning at the temple of the goddess sleep on the floor, go about with bare feet, and all but tread on the aforesaid scorpions, yet they remain unharmed. And these same people of Coptos worship and deify the female gazelle, though they sacrifice the male. They say that the females are the pets of Isis.

[24] G   The crocodile (I may say that I have learned these facts in addition to what has already been recounted of this animal) is naturally timid, of an evil disposition, and thoroughly villainous. It is alert to seize and plan against its victims, but it dreads all noises and is afraid even of loud shouts of men and has a violent fear of those who boldly attack it. Now the people of Egypt called Tentyrites know the best way to master the beast: the most effective way of wounding it is to strike it in the eyes or the armpits and even in the belly. Its back however, and its tail are impenetrable, for it is fortified and, so to say, armed with scaly plates which resemble hard earthenware or shells. Now the aforesaid people are so assiduous in pursuit of these creatures that the river in their district is left in profound peace by the crocodiles. So there they make bold to swim and sport in their swimming. Whereas among the people of Ombos or Coptos or Arsinoē it is not easy even to wash one's feet nor can one draw water in security; why, one cannot even walk along the river banks freely and off one's guard. But the people of Tentyra worship hawks. For that reason those who live in Coptos, wishing to annoy the Tentyrites as enemies of the crocodiles, often crucify hawks. The crocodile the people of Coptos liken to water, that is why they worship it; whereas the Tentyrites liken the hawk to fire, hence their adoration. And they adduce as evidence ... ** maintaining that fire and water cannot mingle.

Such are the marvellous tales told by the Egyptians.

[25] G   After traversing the Egyptian oasis one is confronted for seven whole days with utter desert. Beyond this live the human Dog-faces ** along the road that leads to Ethiopia. It seems that these creatures live by hunting gazelles and antelopes; further, they are black in appearance, and they have the head and teeth of a dog. And since they resemble this animal, it is very natural that I should mention them here. They are however not endowed with speech, but utter a shrill squeal. Beneath their chin hangs down a beard; we may compare it with the beards of dragons, ** and strong and very sharp nails give an edge to their hands. Their whole body is covered with hair - another respect in which they resemble dogs. They are very swift of foot and know the regions that are inaccessible: that is why they appear so hard to capture.

[26] G   The neck of a wolf is short and compressed; the animal is thus incapable of turning but always looks straight ahead. And if it wants to look back at any time, it turns its whole body. It has the sharpest sight of any animal, and indeed it can even see at night when there is no moon. Hence the name Lycophos (wolf's-light, i.e. gloaming) is applied to that season of the night in which the wolf alone has light with which Nature provides him. And I think that Homer gives the name [Il. 7. 433] ' twilight of the night,' to the time during which wolves can see to move about. And they say that the wolf is beloved of the Sun; and there are those who assert that the year is called Lycabas in honour of this animal. It is said also that Apollo takes pleasure in the wolf, and the reason which is commonly reported has reached me too. It is this : they say that the god was born after Leto had changed herself into a she-wolf. That is why Homer speaks of ' the wolf-born lord of the bow ' [Il. 4.101 ] . That is why, as I learn, at Delphi a bronze wolf is set up, in allusion to the birth-pangs of Leto. Others however deny this, maintaining that it was because a wolf gave information that offerings had been stolen from the temple and had been buried by the sacrilegious thieves. For it made its way into the temple and with its mouth pulled one of the priests by his sacred robe and drew him to the spot in which the offerings had been hidden, and then proceeded to dig the spot with its forepaws.

[27] G   There is a district in Egypt called Chūsae (it is reckoned as belonging to the province of Hermopolis, ** and though small in extent it possesses charm) and there they worship Aphrodite under the title of Urania (heavenly). They also pay homage to a cow, and this, they say, is the reason: they believe that cows are related to this goddess, because the cow feels a strong incitement to love and is more passionate than the bull. At any rate at the sound of his bellow the cow becomes excited and inflamed with a burning desire to couple. And those who are expert in these matters maintain that a cow hears a bull as much as thirty stades ** away when it is bellowing as a signal to love and mate. And in Egypt sculptors and painters represent Isis herself with the horns of a cow.

[28] G   The people of Busiris and of Abydos in Egypt and of Lycopolis dislike the blare of a trumpet on the ground that it resembles the braying of an ass. And those who attend to the cult of Serapis also hate the ass. Now Ochus the Persian ** knowing this slew Apis and deified the ass from a wish to pain the Egyptians to the utmost. And so he too paid a penalty, which all applauded, to the sacred bull, no less than Cambyses ** who was the first that dared commit this sacrilege. And the same ministers of the aforesaid Zeus {Serapis} detest the antelope as well, and for this reason: the Egyptians maintain that it voids its excrement after turning its back towards the rising sun. And the followers of Pythagoras also say this touching the ass, that it alone among animals was not born in tune, and that this accounts for its being completely deaf to the sound of the lyre. Some moreover say that it was beloved of Typhon. And in addition to the foregoing charges they would blame the ass for this also: fertility in all kinds is respected, but this animal is by nature opposed to it. At any rate it is not easy to recall any account of a she-ass giving birth to twins.

[29] G   Here is another peculiarity of the ibis which I have learnt from Egyptian narratives. When it buries its neck and head beneath its breast-feathers, it imitates the shape of the heart. Of its special hostility to creatures injurious to man and to crops I think I have already spoken earlier on. ** The birds couple with their mouth and beget offspring in that way. And the Egyptians say, though I for one am not easily persuaded, yet they say that those who see to the embalming of animals and who are experts at it, agree that the entrails of the ibis measure ninety-six cubits. I have heard further that its stride when walking measures a cubit. And when the moon is in eclipse it closes its eyes until the goddess shines out again. It is said to be beloved of Hermes the father of speech because its appearance resembles the nature of speech: thus, the black wing-feathers might be compared to speech suppressed and turned inwards, the white to speech brought out, now audible, the servant and the messenger of what is within, so to say. Now I have already mentioned that the bird lives to a very great age. And Apion states that it is immortal and adduces the priests of Hermopolis as witnesses to prove it. Yet even he considers that this is very far from the truth, and to me it would seem to be an absolute falsehood. The ibis is a very hot-blooded creature, at any rate it is an exceedingly voracious and foul feeder if it really does eat snakes and and scorpions. And yet some things it digests without difficulty, while others it easily expels in its excrement. And very rarely would one see a sick Ibis, yet it thrusts its beak down in every place, caring nothing for any filth and treading upon it in the hope of tracking down something even there. And yet when it turns to rest it first of all washes itself and purges. It makes its nest in the top of date-palms in order to escape the cats, for this animal cannot easily clamber and crawl up a date-palm as it is constantly impeded and thrown off by the protuberances on the stem.

[30] G   It occurs to me now to mention the following additional facts relating to baboons. If a baboon finds some edible object with a shell on it (I mean almonds, acorns, nuts) it strips the shell off and cleans it out, after first breaking it most intelligently, and it knows that the contents are good to eat but that the outside is to be thrown away. And it will drink wine, and if boiled or cooked meat is served to it, it will eat its fill; and it likes well-seasoned food, but food boiled without any care it dislikes. If it wears clothes, it is careful of them; and it does everything else that I have described above. If you put it while still tiny to a woman's breast, it will suck the milk like a baby.

[31] G   They say that the asp to which the Egyptians have given the name Thermūthis is sacred, and the people of the country worship it, and bind it, as though it was a royal headdress, about the statues of Isis. And they deny that it was born to destroy or injure man, but when they maintain that it does not touch virtuous people but kills evildoers they are romancing. If however this is so, then Justice would value this asp beyond all things, for taking vengeance on her behalf and for its piercing sight. Others add that Isis sends it against the worst transgressors. And the Egyptians assert that the Thermūthis alone among asps is immortal, and they reckon sixteen different species and varieties. And in their temples, as they say, they build dens and burrows like shrines in every corner and make homes for the Thermūthes, and at intervals they provide them with calves' fat to eat.

[32] G   Those who know about birds say that the bird Acanthus ** derives its name from the acanthus which provides it with food. And its voice is wonderfully harmonious and tuneful. And Aristotle says [HA 610 a 6 (9.1)] that if one pours the blood of the Acanthus and of the Aegithus, as it is called, into the same vessel and wants to mix them, the two kinds will not mix and unite into a single compound. They say that the Acanthus is sacred to the gods who escort and conduct men on a journey.

[33] G   I have stated earlier on that the turtle-dove is continent ** and does not, from a desire for some strange and alien bed, consort with any other mate than the one it originally joined. And I learn from those who enquire minutely into such matters that white turtle-doves are often to be seen. These, they say, are sacred to Aphrodite and Demeter, while the other kind is sacred to the Fates and the Erinyes.

[34] G   Even white swallows have been seen at times, according to Alexander of Myndus. A swallow made its nest in the tent of Alexander the son of Pyrrhus ** and then indicated that, whatever the somewhat discreditable expedition on which he was setting out, it would be ineffectual. And a swallow which made its nest in the tent of Antiochus ** hinted obscurely at the future in store for him. For he went up against the Medes and never returned to Syria but threw himself over a precipice. He too therefore embarked on no prosperous affair. And when Dionysius ** first left his citadel, the swallows which had their nests there withdrew at the same time and foretold his return. The swallow is held sacred to the Gods of the Household and to Aphrodite, for she also is one of them.

[35] G   When partridges are sitting on their eggs they screen them with branches and other thick leafage in order to keep out the dews and showers and every kind of damp. For if their eggs get soaked, unless the mother bird is quickly on the spot to warm them again, they become sterile. Partridges lay as many as fifteen eggs at a sitting. Theophrastus says somewhere [fr. 182] that a double heart is to be seen in the partridges of Paphlagonia. Other sources tells us that the partridge is the darling of the daughter of Zeus and Leto. **

[36] G   I have indeed spoken earlier on about swans, but I shall now relate what I did not mention then. Aristotle says [HA 615 b 4 ( 9.12 )] that a flock of swans was once seen in the Libyan Sea, and that a melody was heard proceeding from them as from a choir singing in unison; and very sweet it was, although mournful and calculated to move the hearers to pity. And some of the birds, he says, when the music was ended were seen to have died. It seems that the swan is devoted to springs and pools and meres and to all spots where waters meet and abound. At any rate that is where those learned in these things say that the bird meditates its music.

[37] G   If an owl accompanies and stays beside a man who has set out on some business, they say it is no good omen. Witness the case of Pyrrhus of Epirus who set out for Argos by night: this bird met him as he was on horseback and bearing his lance erect. Whereupon it perched upon the lance and would not leave him: it was no safe lancer-guard that the bird I named afforded him. At any rate Pyrrhus reached Argos and met the most inglorious death in the world. ** That is why I think that Homer knowing full well that the owl was nowhere a favourable omen, says [Il. 10. 274] that Athena sent a heron from the rivers to the comrades ** of Diomedes when they went off to spy upon the Trojans' camp - a heron, not an owl, even though it appears to be her favourite. And that the country about Troy is moist and well-watered Homer can bear witness in the lines that precede the Battle at the Wall [Il. 12. 18 ] .

[38] G   (i). The octopus is the terror of the crayfish. At any rate if they chance to be caught in one and the same net, the crayfish dies on the spot.

(ii). There is a river at Thurii called the Lusias, of which the water is of the purest and is absolutely transparent in its flow, and yet it produces fish of a deep black hue.

[39] G   They say that there is a leopard called the Ampelus, like the plant {grape-vine}, and that its nature is peculiar compared with other leopards ; and I have heard that it has no tail. If it is seen by women it afflicts them with an unexpected ailment.

[40] G   In Scythia there are asses with horns, and these horns hold water from the river of Arcadia known as the Styx; all other vessels the water cuts through, even though they be made of iron. Now one of these horns, they say, was brought by Sopater ** to Alexander of Macedon, and I learn that he in his admiration set up the horn as a votive offering to the Pythian god at Delphi, with this inscription beneath it:

' In thine honour, O God of Healing, Alexander of Macedon set up this horn from a Scythian ass, a marvellous piece, which was not subdued by the untainted stream of the Lūsean ** Styx but withstood the strength of its water.'

It was Demeter who caused this water to well up in the neighbourhood of Pheneus, and the reason for it I have stated elsewhere. **

[41] G   Augeas of Eleusis gave Eupolis, the writer of comedies, a hound of fine appearance, a Molossian, which Eupolis named after the donor. Now Augeas the hound, pampered in its feeding and influenced by long association with its master, came to love him. On one occasion a young fellow-slave of the name of Ephialtes stole some plays of Eupolis, and the theft did not pass unnoticed, for the hound saw him, fell upon him, and, biting him mercilessly, killed him. Some time afterwards Eupolis ended his days in Aegina and was buried there, and the hound, howling and lamenting after the manner of dogs, let himself pine away through grief and starvation and, disgusted with life, died soon after on the grave of the master that had fed it. And in memory of the sad event the place is named Hound's Dirge.

[42] G   They say that there is a species of deadly ant, and that it goes by the name of Laërtes. The name has also been applied to certain kinds of wasp. This is what Telephus the grammarian from Pergamum in Mysia says.

[43] G   All through the hottest summer the Nile in flood gives the fields of Egypt the appearance of a calm stretch of open sea, and over what was till then ploughland there the Egyptians fish and sail in boats manufactured against that season and against this visitation by the river. Later the river retreats and returns to within its naturally proper limits, while the fish bereft of their sire and abandoned by the flood-water are left behind, nurtured in the thick slime to provide a meal for the farmers. This then, though the expression is somewhat violent, is the Egyptian fish-harvest.

[44] G   There are, it seems, many species of cicada, and those who are skilled in these matters enumerate them and report their names. Thus, the Ashen one is so called from its colour; whence the Membrax got its name I do not know; and Chirper, it appears, is the name for a cicada; and I have heard tell of the Long-tail and the Shriller and the Prickly one. Well, these are all the kinds of cicada of which I remember having heard the names, but if anyone has got to know more than those that I have mentioned, he must tell them.

[45] G   Here are further facts relating to dogs which I have heard. Puppies are born blind, and when they emerge from their mother's womb they cannot see. For the first fortnight they are afflicted in this way, that is for as many nights as the moon does not appear, but after that the dog has the sharpest sight of any animal. And it is held in honour by the Egyptians, for they have named a district ** after it, and they assert that the reason for this is twofold : first, when Isis was seeking everywhere for Osiris, ** Dogs led the way and tried both to help her to trace his son and also to keep off the wild beasts. And the second reason is this, that at the same time that the Dog-star rises (the story goes that it was the dog of Orion), the Nile also in a sense rises, coming up to water the land of Egypt, and pours over the plough-lands. And so the Egyptians pay honour to the dog for bringing and summoning this fertilising water.

[46] G   There is a fish that goes by the name of Oxyrhynchus, ** and it appears to derive its name from its face and from the shape of it. The Nile breeds the aforesaid fish; and after it too ** a district is named, where, I believe, this same fish is held in veneration. Should the inhabitants catch a fish on a hook they will never eat it for fear lest the aforesaid fish, which they regard as sacred and to be worshipped, may have chanced to impale itself on the hook. And whenever fish are netted, they search the nets in case this famous fish has fallen in without their noticing it. And they would rather catch nothing at all than have the largest catch which included this fish. And the people who live round about maintain that it was born from the wounds of Osiris. They identify Osiris with the Nile.

[47] G   The Ichneumon is both male and female in the same individual, partaking of both sexes, and Nature has enabled each single same animal both to procreate and to give birth. Those that are worsted in a fight are degraded into the less honoured class, for the victors, mount the vanquished and inseminate them. And the latter carry with them as prize of their defeat endurance of birth-pangs and motherhood for fatherhood. The Ichneumon is most hateful to man's deadliest enemies, the asp and the crocodile: I have earlier on described how they war with each other. ** Ichneumons are said to be sacred to Leto and the Goddesses of Birth, and the people of Heracleopolis worship them, so they say.

[48] G   To Lycaon King of Emathia was born a son of the name of Macedon, after whom the country has thenceforward been called, no longer preserving its ancient name. Now his son was a vigorous youth of remarkable beauty and his name was Pindus. Other sons he had besides, but they were foolish in spirit and not robust of body, and so in course of time growing jealous of the valour and the general good fortune of their brother, they slew him; but it was to their own undoing, and they paid the penalty as was right. For Pindus realising that his brothers were plotting against him, left his father's kingdom and lived in the country. And besides being vigorous in other respects he was also a great hunter. And on one occasion he was pursuing some fawns, and they fled as fast as their legs could carry them, while he rode at full speed in pursuit, leaving his fellow huntsmen far behind. But the fawns entered a hollow and very deep ravine, escaped out of their pursuer's sight, and disappeared. Accordingly Pindus leapt from his horse and fastened it by the rein to one of the trees hard by and was just about to investigate the ravine and to search for the fawns, when he heard a voice which said ' Touch not the fawns! ' And so after looking all round and seeing nothing, he was in fear of the voice, thinking that it proceeded from some mightier agency. And then he departed taking his horse with him. But on the following day he came unaccompanied, but remembering the voice that had fallen on his ears and being afraid, he did not enter the ravine. And while he was taking council with himself and was perplexed as to who it was that the day before had checked his pursuit of the quarry, and while he was looking about, as was natural, for shepherds on the hills or other hunters, he beheld a monstrous serpent trailing most of its body behind but with the neck, which was small compared with the rest of the body, held aloft. (Neck and head together exceeded in size that of a full-grown man.) The sight filled him with terror. Pindus however did not take to flight, but pulled himself together and by his adroitness tricked the serpent, for he brought forward the birds which he happened to have caught and offered them as friendly gifts and as a ransom for his own life. And the serpent mollified presumably and bewitched, as you might say, by the gifts, departed. This pleased the youth and thereafter, being a good man, he used to bring payment for the saving of his life to the serpent, giving freely the first fruits of the chase, whether beast or bird from the hills. And this bestowal of gifts had the most fruitful results for Pindus, and his fortune began to prosper and grew every day more impressive, for whether it was beasts of the forest or whether it was birds, with all of them his hunting was successful. Accordingly he enjoyed abundance; moreover his fame spread abroad, of how he fearlessly attacked and captured wild beasts. His figure was tall and such as to cause astonishment by reason of the bulk of his body and of his splendid condition also. And it was clear that his beauty inflamed and kindled the hearts of all women with desire for him: all who were widowed would throng his doors like people crazed, while those who were married to husbands and whom custom confined indoors were enslaved by the fame of Pindus's beauty and would rather have been his wife than become goddesses. As to the men, most of them admired and loved him; only his brothers hated him. And once when he was hunting by himself they lay in wait for him, and the hunting- ground was near a river, and the three set upon him as he had none to help him and smote him with their swords. Whereupon he cried aloud. His cry was heard by his companion the serpent. (This creature is keen of hearing and has very sharp eyes.) And so it emerged from its lair and coiling round the miscreants killed them by choking them to death. But the snake continued to mount guard until the youth's relations, who were anxious for him, arrived and found him lying dead. But though they made lamentation for him they did not dare to attend to the dead body for fear of its guardian. The serpent however realising by some mysterious instinct that it was keeping them away, departed at a very leisurely pace, leaving Pindus to receive the last kind service from his family. And so he was buried with great pomp, and the river which was close by the scene of murder was called Pindus after the dead man and the tomb over him. It is then a characteristic of animals to render thanks to their benefactors, as I have stated earlier on, and especially on this occasion.

[49] G   Particularly in Clarus do the inhabitants and all Greeks pay honour to the son of Zeus and Leto. ** And so the land there is untrodden by poisonous creatures and is also highly obnoxious to them. The god wills it so, and the creatures in any case dread him, since the god can not only save life but is also the begetter of Asclepius, man's saviour and champion against diseases. Moreover Nicander also bears witness to what I say, and his words are:

' No viper, nor harmful spiders, nor deep-wounding scorpion dwell in the groves of Clarus, for Apollo veiled its deep grotto with ash-trees and purged its grassy floor of noxious creatures ' [Nic.fr. 31 ] .

[50] G   I have heard it said that in Eryx, where of course the famous temple of Aphrodite is (the pigeons there and their peculiarities I mentioned earlier on), ** there is a store of gold, an immense store of silver, necklaces, and finger-rings of great price; and that dread of the goddess renders them safe from robbers and untouched; and that men in ancient times always regarded the aforesaid goddess and her treasures with veneration and awe. But I learn that Hamilcar the Carthaginian ** looted these objects, melted down the silver and gold, and then distributed an infamous largesse to his troops. And for these deeds he suffered the most painful and grievous torments and was punished with crucifixion, while all his accomplices and partners in that unholy sacrilege died violent and terrible deaths. And his native land which till then was so prosperous and which was reputed enviable above most lands, after these sacred objects had been imported, was reduced to slavery. ** But impressive though these facts are they have no bearing on my present object, but what is relevant to this discourse shall now be told.

On every day throughout the whole year the people of Eryx and strangers too sacrifice to the goddess. And the largest of the altars is in the open air, and upon it many sacrifices are offered, and all day long and into the night the fire is kept burning. The dawn begins to brighten, and still the altar shows no trace of embers, no ashes, no fragments of half-burnt logs, but is covered with dew and fresh grass which comes up again every night. And the sacrificial victims from every herd come up and stand beside the altar of their own accord; it is the goddess in the first place that leads them on, and in the second place it is the ability to pay, and the wish, on the part of the sacrificer. At any rate should you desire to sacrifice a sheep, lo and behold, there is a sheep standing at the altar, and you must begin the ceremonial washing. But if you are a man of substance and wish to sacrifice one cow or even more than one, then the herdsman will not mulct you by charging too much, nor will you disappoint him, ** for the goddess sees that the sale-prices are just, and if you pay fairly you will win her favour. If however you want to buy at a cheaper rate than is proper, you will pay down your money in vain - the animal departs and you are unable to sacrifice.

So much then for this peculiarity of animals at Eryx in addition to those which I have mentioned earlier on.

Book 11



FOOTNOTES


(1)   See 8.17.    

(2)   Town on the coast of Paphlagonia.    

(3)   A kind of Gurnard.    

(4)   The magnet.    

(5)   Of dung.    

(6)   Thompson (Gk. fishes, p. 274) points out that φάγρος here cannot be the Sea-bream of 9. 7 (i).    

(7)   Aelian is describing the Tridacna, gigas or its kin ; see Thompson, Gk. fishes, s.v. κόγχη.    

(8)   Psammenitus (if this is the King to whom Aelian is referring) was King of Egypt for six months in 526 B.C.    

(9)   If Βακκαΐοι is correctly rendered ' Vaccaei,' they were a tribe in the NW of Spain.    

(10)   Latin fasces, a bundle consisting of rods and an axe, carried by the Lictors.    

(11)   The sense required to complete the last clause appears to be ' They account for their hostility by pointing out that, etc.'    

(12)   Gossen ( 238) regards the Κυνοπρόσωπος as the ' Mandrill,' a kind of baboon, native of W Africa.    

(13)   The δράκων in Nic. Th. 438 ff. is a large snake.    

(14)   North-west corner of the Nile delta.    

(15)   Over 3 miles.    

(16)   The name of Artaxerxes III before he became King of Persia, 359 B.C. He conquered Egypt and in 338 was poisoned by Bagoas.    

(17)   Cambyses, King of Persia, outraged the Egyptians by his cruelty and his insults to their religion. He died from a wound caused by his own sword; cp. Hdt. 3. 64.    

(18)   See 1.38 (iv); 2.38.    

(19)   Linnet or perhaps Siskin; identical with the Acanthis of Arist. HA l.c.; and Aegithus has been taken to mean the same, though ' Blue Tit ' is more probable.    

(20)   The Ring-dove is so described in 3.44.    

(21)   Alexander II became King of Epirus, 272 B.C.; he expelled Antigonus Gonatas from Macedonia, but was in turn expelled from Macedonia and Epirus by the son of Antigonus.    

(22)   Antiochus VII, King of Syria, defeated by the Parthians (τοὺς Μήδους), 128 B.C.    

(23)   Dionysius the elder, tyrant of Syracuse, who lived c. 430-367 B.C.; he made Ortygia into a fortress where he took refuge during a revolt which he subsequently quelled.    

(24)   Artemis.    

(25)   He was struck by a tile thrown by a woman from a house- top.    

(26)   Odysseus alone accompanied Diomedes.    

(27)   Writer of burlesques, lived at Alexandria.    

(28)   Lusi, a town in northern Arcadia.    

(29)   In no surviving work.    

(30)   Cynopolis, close to Oxyrhynchus.    

(31)   Osiris was the husband of Isis; he was murdered by his brother Typhon. Plut. de Is. el Os. 356F tells how Osiris, mistaking Nephthys for her sister Isis, begat upon her Anubis. Isis sought for ' his son ' to help in her search for the body of Osiris.    

(32)   That is, 'sharp-snouted.'    

(33)   That is, like the dog in 10.45. Oxyrhynchus lay on the W side of the Nile between lat. 28 and 29; Cynopolis lay on the opposite bank.    

(34)   See 3.22 and 8.25.    

(35)   Apollo.    

(36)   See 4.2.    

(37)   Defeated at Himera and killed, 480 B.C.; see Hdt. 7.165-7.    

(38)   This is entirely false.    

(39)   By attempting to bargain.    




CONTENTS OF THIS BOOK

10.1 An elephant's jealousy
10.2 Mating season for fishes
10.3 Anatomy of the camel
10.4 The sheep of Arabia
10.5 The 'Areion' snail
10.6 The Spanish Mackerel
10.7 Cooking a Red mullet
10.8 The dolphin and its young
10.9 The viper
10.10 Taming an elephant
10.11 Vocal fishes
10.12 The fiesh of the elephant
10.13 Fauna of Arabia. The Pearl
10.14 The hawk
10.15 The Scarab
10.16 The pig in Egypt
10.17 The elephant's love of home
10.18 The Ram
10.19 The 'Phagrus' and the 'Maeotes'
10.20 A Red Sea Shellfish
10.21 The crocodile, worshipped at Ombos, killed at Apollinopolis
10.22 The Vulture
10.23 The scorpions of Coptos
10.24 The crocodile, killed at Tentyra, worshipped at Coptos
10.25 The Dog-faces
10.26 The wolf, beloved of Apollo ; reveals sacrilege
10.27 The cow and Aphrodite
10.28 The ass and the Antelope, hated in Egypt
10.29 The Ibis
10.30 The Baboon
10.31 The 'Thermuthis' asp
10.32 The Linnet
10.33 The Turtle-dove
10.34 The swallow as omen
10.35 The partridge
10.36 The swan
10.37 The owl, an evil omen
10.38 Octopus and Crayfish. Black fishes
10.39 The 'Ampelus' leopard
10.40 The Horned ass of Scythia
10.41 Eupolis and his dog
10.42 The 'Laertes' ant and wasp
10.43 Fish in the Wile mud
10.44 The Cicada : various kinds
10.45 The dog honoured in Egypt
10.46 The 'Oxyrhynchus' fish
10.47 The Ichneumon
10.48 The story of Pindus and a serpent
10.49 Clarus free from noxious creatures
10.50 The worship of Aphrodite at Eryx



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