-   BOOK 13

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 12

[1] G   I have heard that an eagle intimated to Gordius that his son Midas ** would be king when, as he was ploughing, it flew over Gordius, and then settling upon the yoke, remained with him all day long and did not depart before he finished his ploughing at eventide when the hour for unyoking was at hand.

And when Gelon ** of Syracuse was a boy an immense wolf sprang into the schoolroom and with its teeth snatched his writing-tablet from his hands. And Gelon rose from his seat and gave chase, not being afraid of the beast but clinging valiantly to his writing-tablet. And when he got outside the schoolroom it fell and crushed the boys along with the master. It was by divine providence that Gelon was the only one to escape. And the strange thing is that the wolf did not kill a man but saved his life, for the gods did not disdain to foreshow a kingdom to one even by means of a dumb animal, and to save the other from danger that threatened.

So it is characteristic of animals to be beloved of the gods.

[2] G   This is how the people of Caria catch Sargues. When the south wind is blowing gently and sending softer breezes and when the waves are at rest and chime lightly upon the sands, then the fisherman has no need of his reed, but taking a rod of very tough juniper he fastens a cord on the end and spits a half- pickled anchovy on the hook and lets it down into the sea. And he sits in the prow of the skiff and dangles the lure, while his boy rows gently, having purposely been instructed beforehand in the art of leisurely propulsion, and makes the skiff move in the direction of the shore. And the Sargues dart up in their numbers from their native lairs and gambol around and collect about the hook. For the fish; long dead indeed but prepared for catching, draws them as it were with a spell. Presently when they are close to the shore they are easily caught, being made prisoners through their belly's greed.

[3] G   The haunts of fishes are numerous: some are found among rocks, others in sand, others again among vegetation, for you must know there is vegetation even in the sea, and some is called 'oyster-green,' some 'vines,' certain kinds 'grapes,' and others 'grass-wrack.' And it seems that the name 'cabbage' also is attached to marine vegetation, and some kinds are called 'seaweed' and some 'hair.' And some fish feed on one kind, others on another, and a fish that is accustomed to the food on which it has been reared and to which, it is, so to say, akin would never touch any other kind.

[4] G   You may hear fishermen speak also of a, fish they call Callionymus {Star-gazer}. And concerning it Aristotle says [HA 506 b 10 (2.15)] ** that it has a considerable quantity of gall stored close to the right-hand lobe of the liver, and that its liver is situated on its left side. And Menander bears witness to these statements when he says in his Messenian woman [fr. 31 ?] , I think,

' I will make you have more gall than a Star-gazer ';

and Anaxippus in his Epidicazomenus [fr. 2K] :

' If you rouse me and make all my gall boil like a Star-gazer's, you will find that I differ no whit from a sword-fish.'

There are those who assert that it is edible; most people however assert the contrary. But you will not easily discover any mention of the Star-gazer in any description of fish-banquets, although poets have been at pains to record every fish of any value; they are ** Epicharmus in his Hebe's Wedding [Kaibel CGF p. 98] , his Land and Sea [ib. 94] , and also his Muses [i6. 98] , and Mnesimachus in his Isthmian Victor [fr. 5K] ,

[5] G   The Fishing-frog ** also lays an egg, as birds do, for it is not viviparous, because its new-born young have a large, rough head, and for that reason it is incapable of taking them back when they are frightened. For their re-entry will lacerate, and injure the parent, and were they to be born alive and to emerge so, they would produce the same effect. And so they are not well adapted to producing their young alive nor are they a secure place of refuge for them. The egg of the Fishing-frog does not conform to the nature and character of an egg, for even that is rough and has scales, and you will find it hard if you touch it. 

[6] G   Octopuses naturally, with the lapse of time, attain to enormous proportions and approach cetaceans and are actually reckoned as such. At any rate I learn of an octopus at Dicaearchia in Italy which attained to a monstrous bulk and scorned and despised food from the sea and such pasturage as it provided. And so this creature actually came out on to the land and seized things there. Now it swam up through a subterranean sewer that discharged the refuse of the aforesaid city into the sea and emerged in a house on the shore where some Iberian merchants had their cargo, that is, pickled fish from that country in immense jars: it threw its tentacles round the earthenware vessels and with its grip broke them and feasted on the pickled fish. And when the merchants entered and saw the broken pieces, they realised that a large quantity of their cargo had disappeared ; and they were amazed and could not guess who had robbed them: they saw that no attempt had been made upon the doors; the roof was undamaged; the walls had not been broken through. They saw also the remains of the pickled fish that had been left behind by the uninvited guest. So they decided to have their most courageous servant armed and waiting in ambush in the house. Well, during the night the octopus crept up to its accustomed meal and clasping the vessels, as an athlete puts a strangle-hold upon his adversary with all his might gripping firmly, the robber - if I may so call the octopus - crushed the earthenware with the greatest ease. It was full moon, and the house was full of light, and everything was quite visible. But the servant was not for attacking the brute single-handed as he was afraid, moreover his adversary was too big for one man, but in the morning he informed the merchants what had happened. They could not believe their ears. Then some of them remembering how much they had lost, were for risking the danger and were eager to encounter their enemy, while others in their thirst for this singular and incredible spectacle voluntarily shut themselves up with their companions in order to help them. Later, in the evening the marauder paid his visit and made for his usual feast. Thereupon some of them closed off the conduit; others took arms against the enemy and with choppers and razors well sharpened cut the tentacles, just as vine-dressers and woodmen lop the tips of the branches of an oak. And having cut away its strength, at long last they overcame it not without considerable labour. And what was so strange was that merchants captured the fish on dry land. Mischief and craft are plainly seen to be characteristics of this creature.

[7] G   The people of India heal the wounds of elephants which they have captured in the following manner. They foment them with warm water, just as Patroclus fomented the wound of Eurypylus in our noble Homer [Il. 11. 829] , and then anoint them with butter. But if they are deep, they reduce the inflammation by applying and laying on them pigs' flesh hot and with the blood still in it. Their ophthalmia they treat by warming some cow's milk and pouring it into their eyes, and the elephants open their eyelids and are gratified just as men are, to perceive what benefit they derive. And the Indians continue the bathing until the inflammation ceases; this is evidence that the ophthalmia has been arrested. As for other diseases that afflict them, black ** wine is the cure for them. But if this medicine does not rid them of their complaint, then nothing will save them.

[8] G   An elephant belonging to a herd but which has been tamed drinks water; but an elephant that fights in war drinks wine, not however that made from grapes, for men prepare a wine from rice or from cane. And these tame elephants go out to gather flowers for themselves, for they love a sweet smell and are led to the meadows to be trained by the most fragrant scent. And an elephant using its sense of smell will pick put a flower, while the trainer, basket in hand, holds it out beneath the picker as he throws it in. Later when it has filled the basket, like a fruit-gatherer it has a bath and takes as much pleasure in the bath as the more luxurious of mankind do. Then on its return it wants the flowers, and if the keeper delays, it trumpets and refuses food until somebody brings it the flowers it has gathered. Then it picks them out of the basket with its trunk and sprinkles them along the rim of its manger, for it regards them as imparting a flavour, as it were, to its food by means of their scent. And it scatters a quantity of flowers over its stall, as it desires a fragrant sleep. It seems that Indian elephants are nine cubits high and five wide, and the largest are those they call Prasian; next to these one may reckon those from Taxila. **

[9] G   To control an Indian horse, to check him when he leaps forward and would gallop away, has not, it seems, been given to every man, but only to those who have been brought up from childhood to manage horses. For it is not the Indian custom to rule them, to bring them to order, and to direct them by means of the rein but by spiked muzzles; thus their tongue goes unpunished and the roof of their mouth untormented. Still, those who are skilled in horsemanship compel them to go round and round, returning to the same point. Now if a man would do this he requires strength of hand and a thorough understanding of horses. Those who have attained the summit of this science even try by these means to drive a chariot in circles. And it would be no contemptible achievement to make a team of four ravenous horses circle about with ease. And the chariot holds two beside the driver. But a War-elephant in what is called the tower, or even, I assure you, on its bare back, free of harness, carries as many as three armed men ... ** who hurl their weapons to left and right, and a third behind them, while a fourth holds the goad with which he controls the beast, as a helmsman or pilot of a vessel controls a ship with the rudder.

[10] G   The hunting of leopards seems to be a Moorish practice. The people build a stone structure, and it resembles a kind of cage: this is the first part of the ambush; and the second part is this: inside they fasten a piece of meat that has gone bad and smells, by a longish cord and set up a flimsy door made of plaited reeds of some kind, and, through them the smell of the aforesaid meat is exhaled and spreads abroad. The animals notice it, being for some reason fond of ill-smelling objects, because the scent from them assails them whether they are on mountain tops or in a ravine or even in a glen. Then when the leopard encounters the smell it gets excited and in its excessive desire comes rushing to the feast it loves : it is drawn to it as though by some spell. Then it dashes at the door, knocks it down, and fastens upon the fatal meal - fatal, because on to the aforesaid cord there has been woven a noose most dexterously contrived, and as the meat is being eaten this is dislodged and encircles the gluttonous leopard. So it is caught and pays the penalty for its ravenous belly and its foul feasting, the poor wretch.

[11] G   Hares are caught by foxes more often than not through an artifice, for the fox is a master of trickery and knows many a ruse. For instance, when by night it comes upon the track of a hare and has scented the animal, it steals upon it softly and with noiseless tread, and holds its breath, and finding it in its form, attempts to seize it, supposing it to be free of fear and anxiety. But the hare is not a luxurious creature and does not sleep carefree, but directly it is aware of the fox's approach it leaps from its bed and is off. And it speeds on its way with all haste: but the fox follows in its track and continues its pursuit. And the hare after covering a great distance, under the impression that it has won and is not likely to be caught, plunges into a thicket and is glad to rest. But the fox is after it and will not allow it to remain still, but once again rouses it and stimulates it to run again. Then a second course no shorter than the first is gone through, and the hare again longs to rest, but the fox is upon it and by shaking the thicket contrives to keep it from sleeping. And again it darts out, but the fox is hard after it. But when it is driven into running course after course without intermission, and want of sleep ensues, the hare gives up and the fox overtakes it and seizes it, having caught it not indeed by speed but by length of time and by craft.

Anyhow the account, by starting with the running of the hare, has got too far ahead; the remainder it will be more appropriate to relate in the sequel. But I will return to the point at which I was diverted. ** It seems that the reason why it distributes its young and rears them in different spots is as follows. The hare is deeply devoted to its offspring and dreads both the designs of huntsmen and the attacks of foxes; and it has no less a horror of the attacks of birds, and even more so of the cry of ravens and of eagles. For there is no treaty of peace between these birds and it. And it conceals itself in some leafy bush or deep corn-field or protects itself behind some other enforced and unassailable shelter.

[12] G   I have heard from one who is a hunter and a good man besides, the kind that would not tell a lie, a story which I believe to be true and shall therefore relate. For he used to maintain that even the male hare does in fact give birth and produce offspring and endure the birth-pangs and partake of both sexes. And he told me how it bears and rears its young ones, and how it brings perhaps two or three to birth; and he bore witness to this too, and then as the finishing touch to the whole story added the following. A male hare had been caught in a half-dead state, and its belly was enlarged, being pregnant. Now he admitted that it had been cut open and that its womb, containing three leverets, had been discovered. These, he said, which so far were undisturbed, were taken out and lay there like lifeless flesh, When however they were warmed by the sun and had spent some time slowly acquiring a little heat, they came to themselves and revived, and one of them, I suppose, stirred and looked up and presently put out its tongue as well and opened its mouth in its craving for nourishment. Accordingly some milk was brought, as was proper for such young creatures, and little by little they were reared up, to furnish (in my opinion) an astonishing proof of their birth by a male. I cannot prevail upon myself to doubt the story, the reason being that the narrator's tongue was a stranger to falsehoods and exaggeration.

[13] G   It seems that the hare knows about winds and seasons, for it is a sagacious creature... During the winter it makes its bed in sunny spots, for it obviously likes to be warm and hates the cold. But in summertime it prefers a northern aspect, wishing to be cool. Its nostrils, like a sundial, mark the variation of the seasons. The hare does not close its eyes when sleeping: this advantage over other animals it alone enjoys and its eyelids are never overcome by slumber. They say that it sleeps with its body alone while it continues to see with its eyes. (I am only writing what experienced hunters say.) Its time for feeding is at night, which may be because it desires unfamiliar food, though I should say that it was for the sake of exercise, in order that, while refraining from sleep all this time and full of activity, it may improve its speed. But, it greatly likes to return to its home and loves every spot with which it is familiar. That, you see, is why it is generally caught, because it cannot endure to abandon its native haunts.

[14] G   The hare when pursued by hounds and horsemen runs, if it is a denizen of the plains, swifter than the Mountain hare, as its body is small and slim. Hence it is not unnatural for it to be nimble. At any rate to begin with it leaps and bounds from the earth and slips through thickets and across marshy ground with ease, and wherever the grass is deep it escapes without difficulty. And just as they say that the tail of the lion can rouse and stimulate it, so it is with the ears of the Hare: they are signals for speed and excite it to run. At any rate it lays them back and uses them as goads to prevent it from lagging and hesitating. But its course is not uniform and straight, but it turns aside now right now left and doubles this way and that, bewildering and deluding the hounds. And in whatever direction it wants to swerve in its course, it droops one ear to that avenue of escape, as though it were steering its course therewith. It does not however squander its powers, but observes the pace of its pursuer; and if he is tardy, it does not put forth its whole strength but keeps itself in check somewhat, enough to outrun the hound but not enough to exhaust itself by intense speed. For it knows that it can run faster and realises that this is not the moment for it to over-exert itself. If however the hound is very swift, then the hare runs as fast as its feet can carry it. And when at length it has got far ahead and has left hunters, hounds, and horsemen a long way behind, it races up some high hill and sitting up on its hind legs surveys as from a watch-tower the efforts of its pursuers and, as I think, laughs at them for being feebler than itself. Then emboldened by the advantage it has gained, like one who has achieved peace and calm, it is glad to rest and lies down to sleep.

The Mountain hares, however, are not so swift as those that live in the plains, unless indeed the former also have plain-land lying below into which they can descend and run about. Though their home is on a mountain they exercise themselves in the plain, often running about with the hares there. The usual thing when they are pursued in the plain is for them to start up and to lie hid by turns, but since they are constantly forced out, not one escapes. ** But when they are on the point of being caught they change suddenly their direction over the plain and dart uphill into the mountains, speeding of course to their native haunts, their proper domain; and in this way they escape and are gone, reaching unexpected safety, for horses and hounds dislike going up mountains, since their feet give out and are very quickly worn down, while hounds suffer even worse, their paws being fleshy and having nothing to resist the rocks, as horses have their hooves. The hare on the contrary has naturally hairy paws and is quite content with rough ground.

All hares that live among thickets and bushes are sluggish runners and slow to flee, for such animals have grown plump and from sloth are not habituated to running and are quite incapable of going a long distance from their thickets. The method of hunting them is as follows. To begin with these hares slip through the little bushes of which the foliage is not a solid mass, but where it is denser they naturally leap over them as they cannot get beneath them. But other bushes grow in a solid mass with their branches interlaced. So where the bushes are of this nature the hare is constantly obliged to do this, and since the weight of its body does not dispose it to be good at jumping, it very soon tires and gives up. At first the hounds are baffled and lose the track, for owing to the thickness of the wood they fail to see the quarry; but they too leap over the bushes and are led by the scent. Finally however they catch sight of it and are after it, never pausing for a moment, whereas the hare exhausted by the continual leaping gives up and so is caught.

Hares run up steep, high ground with the utmost ease, for their hind legs are longer than the front ones. They run down less easily, for the shortness of their front legs is a handicap to them.

[15] G   There is also another kind of hare, small by nature, and it never grows larger. It is called a rabbit {cuniculus}. I am no inventor of names, which is the reason why in this account I preserve the original name given to it by the Iberians of the west in whose country the Rabbit is produced in great numbers. Its colour compared with that of hares is dark; it has a small tail, but in other respects it is like them. A further difference is in the size of its head, for it is smaller and curiously scant of flesh and shorter. But it is more lustful than the hare ... ** which cause it to go raving mad when it goes after the female. [The stag also has a bone in its heart, and someone else shall make it his business to discover what purpose it serves.] **

[16] G   The pursuit of the tunny is commonly designated as ' big fishing ' by the people of Italy and Sicily, and the places in which they are in the habit of storing their huge nets and other fishing gear are called ' big-fishing tackle stores,' for they wish henceforward to segregate the huge tunny into the class of ' big fishes.' And I learn that the Celts and the people of Massilia and all those in Liguria catch tunny with hooks; but these must be made of iron and of great size and stout. So much then for tunnies in addition to what I have already said earlier on.

[17] G   Those who are in the habit of fishing round the Tyrrhenian islands, ** as they are called, hunt a gigantic fish which they call the Aulopias, and it is worthwhile to describe its characteristics. In the matter of size the largest Aulopias yields to the largest Tunnies, but if matched against them it would take the prize for strength and courage. True, the Tunny also is a powerful species of fish, but after its first onset against its adversary and vigorous opponent ** it forgoes its strength, and as its blood congeals, it very soon surrenders and is then caught. The Aulopias on the contrary carries on the struggle for a long time when it is attacked with vigour, and withstands the fisherman as it would an adversary, and on most occasions gets the better of him by gathering itself together, bowing its head, and thrusting down into the depths; it has a forceful jaw and a powerful neck and is exceedingly strong. But when it is captured it is a most beautiful sight: it has wide open eyes, round and large, such eyes as Homer sings of in oxen. ** And the jaw, though powerful, as I remarked, contributes to its beauty. Its back is like the colour of the deepest lapis lazuli, its belly underneath is white. A stripe of a golden hue starts at the head and descending to the region of the tail ends in a circle.

I wish to speak also of the artifices employed in hunting it which I remember to have heard. The fishermen previously select spots from a large area where they suppose the Aulopiae to be congregating and after catching a number of Crow-fish ** in their bag-nets ** they anchor their boat and maintain a continuous din; the Crow-fish they make fast in a noose and let out on a line. Meanwhile the Aulopiae hearing the din and observing the bait, come swimming up from all sides and congregate and circle about the boat. And the din and the quantity of food have such a soothing effect upon them that, even though men reach out their hands, they remain and submit to the human touch because, as I judge, they are slaves to food, and in fact, as their pursuers maintain, because their strength gives them confidence. There are also tame ones among them which the fishermen recognize as their benefactors and comrades, so with them they maintain a truce. And other strange fishes follow them like leaders, and these aliens, as one might call them, the men hunt and kill, but the tame fish, which may be likened to decoy-doves, they do not hunt but spare, nor would any prudent fisherman ever be reduced to such straits as to catch a tame Aulopias deliberately, for if by some mischance one happens to be caught it brings trouble. The fish is captured either by being pierced with a hook or by being mortally wounded.

We see bird-catchers also abstaining from killing birds that decoy others, whether for sale or for the table. There are other methods besides of catching these fish.

[18] G   In the royal residences in India where the greatest of the kings of that country lives, there are so many objects for admiration that neither Memnon's city of Susa with all its extravagance, nor the magnificence of Ecbatana is to be compared with them. (These places appear to be the pride of Persia, if there is to be any comparison between the two countries.) The remaining splendours it is not the purpose of this narrative to detail; but in the parks tame peacocks and pheasants are kept, and they live in the cultivated shrubs to which the royal gardeners pay due attention. Moreover there are shady groves and herbage growing among them, and the boughs are interwoven by the woodman's art. And what is more remarkable about the climate of the country, the actual trees are of the evergreen type, and their leaves never grow old and fall: some of them are indigenous, others have been imported from abroad after careful consideration. And these, the olive alone excepted, are an ornament to the place and enhance its beauty. India does not bear the olive of its own accord, nor if it comes from elsewhere, does it foster its growth. 

Well, there are other birds besides, free and unfettered, which come of their own accord and make their beds and resting-places in these trees. There too parrots are kept and crowd around the king. But no Indian eats a parrot; in spite of their great numbers, the reason being that the Brahmins regard them as sacred and even place them above all other birds. And they add that they are justified in so doing, for the parrot is the only bird that gives the most convincing imitation of human speech. There are also in these royal domains beautiful lakes, the work of man's hands, which contain fish of immense size and tame. And nobody hunts them, only the king's sons during their childhood; and in calm waters, quite free from danger, they fish and sport and even learn the art of sailing as well.

[19] G   In the Ionian sea off Leucatas ** and in the waters round Aetium (the country there they call Epirus) mullet abound, swimming, so to say, in companies and vast multitudes. These fish are hunted, and in a most astounding manner. The method is as follows. The local fishermen watch for a moonless night and after supper pair off and launch a skiff while there is neither wave nor swell but the sea is calm, and then row forward quietly by slow degrees. One of the men gently agitates the water with his oar, propelling the boat step by step, so to speak, while the other propped on his elbow weighs down his end of the boat, depressing it until the gunwale is nearly at the water-level. And the mullet and others of their kind, ** either because they enjoy the night or because they delight in the calm, quit their holes and lairs, swim up, and show the tip of their head above the water and are so occupied in swimming to the surface that they draw near to the shore. So the fishermen; observing this, begin to sail, and the rush of the boat starts a gentle ripple. Therefore the fish in fleeing from the shore turn and owing to their numbers jostle one another into the portion of the boat sloping toward them, and once inside are caught.

[20] G   Sea-monsters of excessive bulk and of prodigious size swim in mid-ocean, and are at times struck by lightning. Besides these there are others of the same kind that come close to the shore, and their name is Trochus {wheel}. ** These swim in droves, especially on the right side of Thracian Athos and in the bays as one sails from Sigeum, and one may encounter them along the mainland opposite, close to what is called the Tomb of Artachaeēs ** and the isthmus of Acanthus where the canal which the Persian King cut through Athos is to be seen, And they say that these monsters which they call Trochus are timid, though they expose their crest and spines of enormous length so that they are often seen above the water. But at the sound of oars they revolve and contract and plunge as deep as they can go. It is from this, you see, that they derive their name. And again they uncoil and with a rolling motion swim up to the surface. 

[21] G   Concerning Tritons, while fishermen assert that they have no clear account or positive proof of their existence, yet there is a report very widely circulated of certain monsters in the sea, of human shape from the head down to the waist. And Demostratus in his treatise on fishing says that at Tanagra he has seen a Triton in pickle. It was, he says, in most respects as portrayed in statues and pictures, but its head had been so marred by time and was so far from distinct that it was not easy to make it out or recognize it.    'And when I touched it ** there fell from it rough scales, quite hard and resistant. And a member of the Council, one of those chosen by lot to regulate the affairs of Greece and entrusted with the government for a single year, intending to test and prove the nature of what he saw, removed a small piece of the skin and burnt it in the fire; whereupon a noisome smell from the burning object thrown into the flames assailed the nostrils of the bystanders. But,' he says, 'we were unable to guess whether the creature was born on land or in the sea. The experiment however cost him dear, for shortly afterwards he lost his life while crossing a small, narrow strait in a short, six-oared ferry-boat. And the inhabitants of Tanagra maintained,' so he says, 'that this befell him because he profaned the Triton, and they declared that when he was taken lifeless from the sea he disgorged a fluid which smelt like the hide of the Triton at the time when the man cast it into the fire and burnt it.'

As to the quarter from which the Triton strayed and how he came to be cast ashore here, the inhabitants of Tanagra and Demostratus must explain. In view of these facts I bow to the god, and a witness of such authority claims our belief; and Apollo of Didyma ** must be a sufficient guarantee to every man of sound mind and strong intelligence. At any rate he says that the Triton is a creature of the sea, and his words are

' A child of Poseidon, portent of the waters, a clear-voiced Triton, encountered as he swam the rush of a hollow vessel.'

If then the omniscient god says that Tritons do exist, we should entertain no doubts on the subject.

[22] G   When the Indian King sets forth to administer justice, an elephant first bows down before him: it has been taught to do so and remembers perfectly and obeys. (At its side stands the man who teaches it to remember its instruction by a stroke from his goad and by some words in his native speech, which thanks to a mysterious gift of nature peculiar to this animal the elephant can understand.) Moreover it executes some warlike motion, as though it would show that it recollects this part of its teaching also. Four and twenty elephants take it in turn to stand sentry over the King, just like the other guards, and are taught to keep watch and not to fall asleep: for this lesson also they are taught by Indian skill. And Hecataeus of Miletus says that Amphiaraus, the son of Oicles, went to sleep during his watch and suffered the fate which he describes. ** These animals however are wakeful and are not overcome by sleep; they are the most trustworthy of the guards there, at any rate next to human beings.

[23] G   Now in the course of examining and investigating these subjects and what bears upon them, to the utmost limit, with all the zeal that I could command, I have ascertained that the Scolopendra is a sea-monster, and of sea-monsters it is the biggest, and if cast up on the shore no one would have the courage to look at it. And those who are expert in marine matters say that they have seen them floating and that they extend the whole of their head above the sea, exposing hairs of immense length protruding from their nostrils, and that the tail is flat and resembles that of a crayfish. And at times the rest of their body is to be seen floating on the surface, and its bulk is comparable to a full-sized trireme. And they swim with numerous feet in line on either side as though they were rowing themselves (though the expression is somewhat harsh) with thole-pins hung alongside. So those who have experience in these matters say that the surge responds with a gentle murmur, and their statement convinces me.

[24] G   Xenophon has also the following remarks touching hounds [Cyn. 4. 9 ] . You should take them to the mountains frequently, but less frequently on to fields. For the beaten tracks on cultivated lands injure and mislead them. And the same writer says that it is better to take them on to rough ground, and points out the additional advantage of so doing: that by exercising their bodies their legs gain in strength and ability to jump. He also says [ib. 5. 1] that in winter the hare's scent is perceptible for a long time because of the length of the nights, but in summer this is so no more, for the opposite reason. The meaning of 'the opposite' is clear from what has been said above.

[25] G   The Indians value horses and elephants as animals serviceable under arms and in warfare; and they value them very highly. At any rate they bring to the King trusses of hay which they throw into the mangers, and fodder which they show to be fresh and undamaged. And if it is so, the King thanks them; if it is not, he punishes the keepers of the elephants and the grooms most severely. But he does not reject even other and smaller animals but accepts the following also when brought to him as presents. For the Indians do not disparage any animal whether tame or wild. For example, those of his subjects who hold high office bring him presents of cranes, geese, hens, ducks, turtle-doves, francolins also, partridges, spindaluses ** (this bird resembles the francolin), and even smaller birds than the aforementioned, the bocealis, ** beccaficos, and what are called ortolans. And they uncover their gifts and display them, to prove how thoroughly plump they are. They bring also a wealth of fattened stags, of antelopes, ** of gazelles,, and one-horned asses, ** which I have mentioned somewhere earlier on, and different kinds of fish also.

[26] G   There is also a cicada that lives in the sea, and the largest one is like a small crayfish, though neither its horns nor its stings are as long as those of the crayfish. The Sea-cicada is of a darker hue than the crayfish, and when caught appears to squeak. From beneath its eyes there grow small wings, and these also resemble those of the Land-cicada. But few people eat it, since they regard it as sacred. And I have heard that the inhabitants of Seriphus even bury any that is dead when caught; if however a live one falls into their nets, they do not keep it but return it to the sea. And they even mourn for these creatures when dead and assert that; they are the darlings of Perseus the son of Zeus.

[27] G   The Hyena fish ** has the same name as the land-hyena. Now if you put its right-hand fin under a man asleep, you will give him a considerable shock. For he will see fearful sights, forms and apparitions, dreams too, sinister and unwelcome. Further, if you cut off the tail of a live Horse-mackerel and let the fish go again in the sea, and then attach the aforesaid tail to a mare in foal, she will presently drop her foetus and will miscarry. 

Again, if a youth wants to keep his chin hairless for as long as possible, the blood of a tunny rubbed on renders him beardless. And the torpedo and the jelly-fish have the same effect, for if their flesh is dissolved in vinegar and rubbed on the cheeks, they say that it banishes hair. What have those contrivers of evil from Tarentum and Etruria to say to this, men who after experimenting with pitch have discovered that artifice whereby they differentiate men and turn them into women ?

[28] G   Of all fishes the gilt-head is the most timid. When the season of neap-tides coincides with Arcturus, ** the sea recedes from the beach and the sand is left bare and vessels frequently stand high and dry for want of water. Accordingly the inhabitants take branches of poplar-trees, green and in leaf, and after sharpening them like stakes, fix them in the sand and withdraw. Later the returning tide draws in a countless multitude of the aforesaid fishes; again it ebbs, leaving a great number of gilt-heads in shallow water wherever low-lying or hollow spots may be found, and the fish cower beneath the branches and remain still. For they are terrified by the branches when the oncoming wind stirs and shakes them, and neither quiver nor dart about. It is quite easy, you might say, for anyone who sets upon the mob of timorous fish to capture and strike them. At any rate it is not only skilled fishermen that can catch them, but any inexperienced person who chances to be at hand, even children and women.

Book 14


(1)    Mythical King of Phrygia.    

(2)    Gelon, c. 540-478 B.C., became tyrant of Syracuse in 485.    

(3)    Aristotle only says that its gall-bladder is close to the liver and very large in relation to the size of the fish. See fr. 286 (Rose, p. 307).    

(4)    The passage is corrupt and the translation gives what may be the general sense.    

(5)    More commonly called 'Angler' ; see above, 9.24. It has a huge, broad, flat head but a very thin body. Of the three filaments projecting from its head the front one alone is movable and tipped with a lappet : this is the ' lure' (δέλεαρ) of 9.24. The ' account of its reproduction and of its egg is quite untrue' (Thompson). See Enc. Brit, (11th ed.), art. ' Angler.'    

(6)    I.e. dark red.    

(7)    City in the extreme north-west of India.    

(8)    Lacuna. The context demands: ' two in front who ...'    

(9)    Perhaps something has been lost at the beginning of the chapter.    

(10)    The strange syntax of this sentence and the fact that the words ' not one escapes ' are contradicted in the sequel suggest that the sentence is an interpolation.    

(11)    The Greek is corrupt. Accepting Post's conjecture, render: ' It is by nature incontinent throughout the year. '    

(12)    The sentence, is out of place here.

(13)    The ' Aeoliae Insulae ' (modern Lipari isl.) off the coast of Sicily.    

(14)    I.e. the fisherman.    

(15)    βοῶπις is a frequent epithet of Hera in Homer's Iliad.    

(16)    Not certainly identified, but may be Ghromis eastanea; not identical with the Danubian fish of 14.23 and 14.26.    

(17)    See A. W. Mair, Oppian &c. (Loeb Cl. Lib.), pp. xl ff.    

(18)    Promontory at the south end of the island of Leucas.    

(19)    κἑφαλος and κεατρεύς both signify the Grey Mullet; see Thompson, Gk. fishes, s.vv.    

(20)    E. de Saint-Benis, Vocabulaire des animaux marins in latin s.v. Rota.:: ' monstre indéterminé ... le fabuleux et le réel s'embrouillent ... dans les descriptions de Pline [9. 8] et d'Elien. '    

(21)    Persian general who superintended the construction of Xerxes's canal through the promontory of Athos; see Hdt, 7. 117. His 'Tomb' has not been certainly identified.    

(22)    Aelian was never out of Italy : he is quoting the words of Demostratus.    

(23)    In the territory of Miletus; it was also known as Branchidae.    

(24)    The allusion has not been explained.    

(25)    Unidentified.    

(26)    Unidentified.    

(27)    βούβαλις and ὅρυξ both signify antelope; but ὅρυξ may stand for the four-horned species mentioned in NA 15. 14.    

(28)    See 10.40    

(29)    Unidentified.    

(30)    The phrase ὤρα Ἀρκτούρῳ σύνδρομος is borrowed from Plato, Legg. 8. 844 D [figs and grapes are not to be gathered] πρὶν ἐλθεῖν τὴν ὤραν τὴν τοῦ τρυγᾶν Ἀρκτούρῳ σύνδρομον. The morning rising of Arcturus in the region of Rome was on Sept. 20, the evening rising on Feb. 27. Aelian appears to think that Arcturus has some effect upon the tides, but does not tell us which date we are to understand.    


13.1 Gordius and an eagle. Gelon and a wolf
13.2 The Sargue
13.3 Fishes, their haunts and their food
13.4 The Star-gazer fish
13.5 The Fishing-frog
13.6 A monstrous octopus
13.7 Remedies for sick elephants
13.8 The elephant and its love of flowers
13.9 The Indian horse. The War elephant
13.10 Leopard-hunting in Mauretania
13.11 Fox and hare. The hare and its young
13.12 The male hare
13.13 The hare, its habits
13.14 The hare of the plains, the hare of the mountains. Hare and hounds
13.15 The Rabbit
13.16 Fishing for Tunny
13.17 The 'Aulopias' fish, how caught
13.18 The royal parks of India and their birds. The Parrot
13.19 Fishing for mullet
13.20 The 'Trochus', a sea-monster
13.21 The Triton
13.22 The elephant as bodyguard
13.23 The 'Scolopendra' of the sea
13.24 Xenophon on hounds
13.25 Animals presented to the Indian King
13.26 The Cicada of the sea
13.27 The Hyena fish. Depilatories
13.28 The Gilthead

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