Aristotle's History of animals. In ten books online

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disease lasts a long while, like those things which remain
a long while before they are matured ; but those that are <<

about to come to maturity have an end, and that quickly.
Such uteri, being very high up, cause a long delays. And, .

again, not being alive, it does not cause any pain by its }

movements, for the movement of the ligament which the ;J

living foDtus produces, causes pain. And the bardnesa of
tiie substance is the effect of imperfect production, for it }

is so hard that it cannot be cut oy the strdw of an axe. f

All ripe and mature things become soft^ but impetftellj
digested things are immature and hard.

4 Wherefore, many physicians, deeeifed by the resem*

V 2 i

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292 THB HI8T0KT OF AinMALS. [b. Z.

blance, say that women are aoffering from myle, if they
only aee the abdomen eleyated without dropsj, and a ces*
aation of the catamenia, when the disease has lasted for
a long while. But this is not the case, for the mvle is
a rare disease. Sometimes there will be collections of cold
and moist excrements and fluids, and sometimes of thick
ones in this part of the abdomen, if either the nature or the
habit is of this kind. For these things afford neither
pain nor heat, on account of their cold nature ; but if thej
increase, more or less, they bring no other disease after
them, but remain quiet, like some miumed thing.

6. The cessation of the catamenia takes place on account of
the ezcrementitious matter of the body bemg directed to this
point, as when women are nursing ; for they occur either not
at all, or only in small quantities. A collection of matter
from the flesh sometimes takes place between the uterus
and the stomach, which has the character of the myle,
but is not it. But it is not difficult to know the differ-
ence, by touching the uterus ; for if it is correctly placed,
and not enlarged, it is evident that the disease is not there ;
but if it is the same as when with child, it will be warm,
and cold, and dry, because all the fluids are turned inwards ;
and the os uteri will be in the samecondition as when they
are prmiant ; but if the enlargement iaof any other Und,
it wul be cold, and not dry when touched, and the os uteri
will always be the same. ,


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Translated from the Latin 0/ Schneider.

Aristotle had very likelj more authorities, whom he has
followed, or eonverted to his own purposes, than those whose
names he has given. These are, however, a few, whom he
has named, as Alcmsson of Crotona; Dionysius of Apol-
Ionia; Herodorus of Henudeum in Pontus, the father of
Bryson the sophist ; Ctesias of Cnidos ; Hwodotus of Ha- !

licamassus; Syennesis of Cyprus; Polybus; Democritus
of Abdera ; Anaxagoras of Ckzomene ; Empedocles of Si-
cily ; and if there are any more which do not just now occur {
to my memory, they are accurately enumerated in the in-
dex, with the names of the places to which they belonged.
I have said that it is probable, that Aristotle has derived in- •
formation from more authorities than he has named ; and
a reason for this conjecture is found in a passage which he
extracts, almost verbatim, from Herodotus, on the Nilotic
crocodile (Euterpe, 68). This I have shewn in a note on
the passa^, book v. ch. 27, 2* And there are many places,
both in his natural history and his other works on animals, j
where our philosopher refers to the ancient tMm of men |
who were transformed into the nature and forms of vaxious J
animals. The oldest author of sudi fables is Boeus (or {
B060, in the feminine gender, as some have coigeetnred). r
Prom this book Antoninus Literalis has extracted many {
chapters in Greek. Nicander of Colophon, and otberty
followed the example of Boeus. Among Latin writsn, (
the Metamorphoses of Ovid have always commanded aft-
tentioa. All who have read die wcnrk of AntoiiiBn^ and (


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the Metamorphoses of Ovid, will easily perceive how mncli
information on the nature and hahits of animals our philo-
sopher could have derived from the verj character of the
books which had come down from the remotest antiquity
to the time of Aristotle (compare note 9, 17, 1), especially
if they bear in mind that the ancient teachers of physics
always compared the habits of animals with those of man,
and conjectured the causes and reasons of their actions,
from similar impulses in man. This may be se^n ill the
fables of JEsopf for they contain the first elements of the
doctrines of the ancients on physics and morals. We might
also offer a surmise on Eudoxus, and Scvlax, and others,
who wrote "Travels Bound the Earth/^ in which 'they
described the animals of different countries ; for 6ur philo-
sopher appeals to the testimony of both these authors,
in his work on Meteorics, and elsewhere. There is more
doubt whether Aristotle used, or could have used, the nu-
merous notices of animals, of the interior of Asia and
India, which the companions of Alexander, in his Asiatic
and Indian expeditions, brought back to Greece; which
Theophrastus, the pupil of Anstotle, and his successor in
the schools, is found to have used so well in his History of
Plants. For this I consider to be proved, that the written
notices of the companions of Alexanaer were published after
the death of the kmg, though we have no proof of the exact
year in which they were made public. Inaeed I have never
found any evidence in the History of Animals which could
lead us to suppose that Aristotle was acquainted with the
animals of the interior of Asia and India, by information
derived from the companions of Alexander ; nor have I
been able to find the slightest inibnnation fit)m which I can
form a conjecture as to either the place or time when' this
history was written: but, in order that others may institute
a more rigorous inquiry into the date and place of its
authorship, if any such have escaped my notice, I w^
place before my readers that portion of the Aristotelian
ehronology which relates to this work, from the disputation
of St. Croix, a learned French author (Examen Critique
dee Historiens d*Alexander le Ghrand« p. 608, second edi-
tion). Aristotle, therefore, at the invitation of Philip^
King of Maoedon, undertook the education of his son, Am*


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▲PFIKBIX. 205 f


ander, when he was thirteen jeara of nge, in the second !

year of the 100th Olympiad, when Phy thodotus was Archon •

of Athens. Aristotle returned to Athens in the second year |

of the 111th Olympiad, in the Archonship of Ersnetus.

He taught at Athens for thirteen jears, from whence he |

fled to Chalcis, and there he died, m the third year of the

114th Olympiad, during the Archonship of Philocles.

Tbere is, indeed, a passage in Pliny, (booh x. ch. 64, sect.

84, #n the fe(iunditv of mice,) where he says, that among

other things Aristotle has spoken in his History of Animals

Ori. 20) of the gravid foetus of the Persian mice ; but the

Ore^k exemplar contains no authority from which Pliny

, couH have derived the words which he has added : ** More

woiderful than all is the foetus of the mice, which we cannot

unhisitatinglv receive, though derived from the authority of

Ariiotle, anji the soldiers of Alexander the Great.'* In

this and in two other places he calls those toidiert whom

othrs are in the habit of calling the eampanioM of Alexander

theSreat. But there is also a passage in the Meteorics of t

, Aritotle (iii. 1), where he mentions as a recent event the '

desruction of the temple of Ephesus, bv the incendiary

Heostratus, on the day of Alexander's birth, in these words : (

'^ A it has just now happened in the burning of the temple |

of pphesus." This booK, therefore, appears to have been i

wnten at the commencement of the 106th Olympiad, and

wit it the History of Animals is very closely connected, as 1

, I kve shown in my treatise on the order of the books of

^ Plniics ; so that we may suppose that they were written in

. nerly the same Olympiad, if we regard onl^ the series of the

wcks; and no interruption occurred with which we are

uccquainted. On the other hand, in the Meteorics (iii 6),

h^pei^ of a lunar rainbow, and says that it is rarely seen,

fill then adds, ** that it has occurred but twice in more than

vi|r years.'* If we reckon these fifty years from the birth

olAnstotle, in the first year of the 09th Olympiad, that

~ 4k will M in the third or fourth year of the lllth Olya^

jji ; and from this calculation it would follow that this

^k was also written in Athens, but that the first data ia

I taken in a wider sense.

1 all this, we may easily perceive that at this day we
\ entirely ignorant of the souroea of infiannatkii collected


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either from ancient or contemporary writers, to which our
philosopher had access in composing and coinpleting a work
of such multiplied and varied information. Even if we as-
sume that they were as large as the mind of Aristotle was
great, acute, and transparent, still, for a work so various
and extensive, spread over seas, rivers, earth, and heaven,
even that mind would require some assistance from other
sources to which it might apply in constructing and building
up a system of general instruction from the materials col-
lected in different places about various animals, and frou the
observations used in describing and arranging them together
in orders, classes, genera, and species. The following wer^ the
sources Aristotle used,according to the narrative ofan uncer-
tain author quoted by Pliny (viii. 16, 17) — " Kin^ Alexetider
the Great,'* he says, " was possessed with the desire of k low-
ingthe natures of animals, and therefore delegated thej^ork
to Aristotle, a man of veiy great learning. Some thou^nds
of men in the whole region of Asia and Greece obeyed his
commands, all, namelv, who obtained their livelihood by
hunting, hawking, or fishing, or who had in their care mna-
^ries, herds, beehives, fishponds, or ariaries; so that noising
in nature might be unknown to him ; and from his examin-
ation of these, he compiled those fifty celebrated volumes,
which I have collected into one, together with those aniials
with which he was unacquainted, and I hope that they wi be
consulted by good scholars." In all this there is noting
contradictory to the mind and liberalityof Alexander, oiihe
confidence or strength of his empire. 13ut some may pifer
the story published by .£lian, in his various history jiv.
19), who, I know not on what authority, transfers the iir-
rative to Philip, the father of Alexander — ** Having Ap-
plied abundance of riches to Aristotle, he was the meanof '
many other undertakings, and especiaU v of his knowledff|)f
living creatures ; and the son ol Nichomachus compfeid .
his history by the liberal assistance of Philip ; who i o
honoured Phto andTheophrastus." If this be true, it < [.
dently refers to those seven or eight years in which A .
toile was in Macedonia presiding over the education f ,
Alexander, the son of Philip.

These abundant supplies for the studies of Aristotle ^
not at all inconsistant^ either with the Uboralitj of PI "


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▲ppsiTDix. 297

or his loTe for his son and his son's totor, nor do they sor.
pass credibilitj. The gold mines <tf Philippi supplied tho
mtmificence and liberalitjr of Philip. But tnere are difficul-
ties in the narrative wliich make ns question the credibility
of the author of this munificence. For instance, the
names of Plato and Theophrastus are mentioned ; but the
name of Theophrastus could not be so great and iUustrious,
even if it were known to the Oreeks at all, as to have at-
tracted the liberality of Philip, before the death of his master
Aristotle, whom also he succjaeded in the 8cho(4 at Athens.
I should, therefore, rather imagine that ^lian, who was
more diligent in the accuracy of his Attie dietion than his
historical fidelity, has committed some error in the name of
Philip, or in those of PUto and Theophrastos, whom he has
appended to his narrative.

The narrative of Athensus, ^ix. 898,) derived firom tiia
report of an unknown author, is very different ; he calls
the History of Animals a very expensive work, and then
adds — " There is a report that Aristotle received 800 talents
from Alexander, for writing the History of Animals"—
a sum of money which Pengonius, in his Notes on .£lian,
estimates at 1,440,000 carou. To this narrative, or, as
it may be more justly termed, rumour, is opposed tho
opinion of lo. Henr. Schulzius, in his History of Medicine*
(Leipsic, 1738, p. 358). "When I consider this matter
aright, it appears to me that the whole story is very doubt-
ful, and, for the most part, fabulous. And it can easily
be proved, that the whole revenue of Macedon, if Alexander
had paid it all to Aristotle for several years, would not
have amounted to this sum. It is impossible, therefore,
that he could have paid so much to Aristotle before the
conquest of Asia ; and after his expedition had been sue-
cessfiillv accomplished, his affection was alienated from
Aristotle, and, in order to annoy him, he liberally en-
riched other philosophers, who had done nothing to deserve
his 'patrona^. Their labours, therefore, are in vain, who
demand justice of our excellent Aristotle, even in his grave,
because he did not use such an immense sum of money in
the composition of a more veracious history.

^ I am certainly of opinion that a great deal has been made,
as usual, of a very little matter, namely, that if Aristotle


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:. \ derired my assistance in that kingdom, aU the materials

\* were protided for him while Philip was alive, and before

Alexander's expedition was undertaken, or in the first years

of the expedition. But afterwards, when Alexander had

; Het out, Aristotle returned to Athens, and was engaged in

I'l teaching: nor could he have derived any advanta^ from

1 1 the resources which Pliny mentions, and the multitude of

'i i ])ersons who were instructed to place themselves under his

, I (command, for he was not only occupied with other pursuits,

i but would have been in danger of being destroyed by the

fury of the Athenians, on the plea that he was attempting

innovations, if be had even ventured to dissect animals,

not to say men.**

In a note he adds these observations : — " Aristobulus, no
imworthy companion of Alexander in his expedition, bears
testimony, according to Plutarch, that the whole mDitary
* , chest did not contain seventy talents of coin. For the pre-

paration of so arduous an undertaking, however, the same
person says, that two hundred talents ought to have been
'' taken for mutual exchange. I remember also to have read in

l^ustathius's commentary on Homer, a very learned disqui-
sition on the scarcity of money amongst the Macedonians, at
the time of Alexander's expedition ; but I cannot lay my
hands upon the passage."

I must confess that I am not influenced by this anno*
tation« nor does tiie whole of this controversy appear to me
to have been properly conducted. For the greatest doubt
prevails as to the number of talents which Alexander is said
3 to have paid to Aristotle, to help him in his task; and tibe

report only rests on the authority of a writer who lived
; centuries after the death of Alexander. To refute this

1. is useless labour, both because its origin is obscure, and

also because a sum of mone^ set down in figures might
be easily corrupted by transcribers. But the testimony^ of
Aristobulus will rive little or no assistance to the opinion
of the learned, if we adopt that which is most probable^
namely, tiiat Philip, or his son Alexander, gave lu^ge sums
of money to Aristotle, to enable him to pursue his studies
in Natural^ History, while he lived in Macedon, and was
employed in the education of Alexander. The question
abcnit the date when Aristotle arranged and published


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the materials and notes be had collected is quite distinct,
and I do not think that it can be precisely ascertained at
the present time. The conjecture I have nazarded (light
enough, I must confess) does not saj much in favour of the
story of abundant treasures supplied by Philip, or Alex-
ander, to our philosopher, for tne composition of his Na-
tural History. But these persons form a very poor esti*
mate of the study and labour bestowed by Aristotle upon
the History of Animals, who imagine that our philosopner
had only access to such books as now remain, forgetting
those of which time has robbed us.

Most of all we must regret his Zttix&f which appears to
have given a more accurate description of animals, and his
dmrofiaxik, which further contained notices of their internal
structure, and was illustrated by drawings to which he often
refers in his Natural History, as well as in his works on the
parts and the ^neration of animals. It will scarcely be
possible to fix with any accuracy on the number of books he
employed, after the great carelessness of librarians, and the
many facilities for error in copyists, arising from the method
of notation by letters. Antigonus Cairstius, in his sixty-
sixth chapter, increases the number or volumes given by
Pb'nv, for he writes seventy ; and if the titles of tfo books,
as they are given by Diogenes Laertius and Athemeus, are
compared with those published, the number of books re-
lating to Animal History to which he may have had access
are readily estimated, even should every book of every work
be reckoned as a separate book, and the list compared with
the number given hj Pliny.

In the memory of our fathers and grandfathers (for, alas I
at the present time few trouble themselves with the worka
of the ancients) there were many who blamed Aristotle for
these works, both for his manner of treating the sulgects and
his narratives of the lives and habits of animals, and vexed
them with questions and disputations.

Ihese objections will be better answered, when we
come to those passages of the History. It may, however,
be of some general avaQ to put a stop to these objections,
which were urged against bs manner of teadiing; and t
ho]^ to be able to point out some peculiar souroes from
which Aristotle appears to have derived the asore difficult


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parts of bis Historj, and those which were obnoxious to

Amongst other foolish and trifling questions with which
some Grammarian, in the Deipnosoplustso of Athenous, (viii
p. 852,) has endeavoured not onlj to impugn, but even de-
stroy our philosopher's credibility, is the following: — "I do
not much admire the diligence of Aristotle, though others
praise him so highly. At what time, I should like to know,
or from what Proteus or Nereus ascending from the deep,
to give him information, did he learn what the fishes were
doing there, and in what manner they slept and took their
food ; for he writes things of this kind, which are only ' the
miracles of fools,' as the comic poet says."

I will not follow the rest of his argument, which relates
to terrestrial and winged animals ; for the aquatic, and espe*
eially the marine creatures, seem to offer the greatest oppor-
tunity for questioning the fidelity of his narrative. In the
first place, then, we may observe, tliat of all mankind the
Greeks were amongst the greatest eaters of fish, at least
after the heroic and Homeric ages; for Homer is never
found to mention fish at the suppers and festivals of his
heroes. So that I should not wonder if the frequent and
repeated industrv and observation of fishermen, following
their labours both in rivers and seas, to adorn the tables (»
their fellow citizens, supplied ample and varied information
to learned men who were engaged in the investigation of
natural objects. By the same means they mi^ht learn
from hunters the haunts and dispositions of wud beasts,
and those of domesticated animals from husbandmen.
The whole life and labour of such men was devoted to the
uses, advantages, and food of man ; and their observations
would be particularly directed to those animals which could
assist in soaring the labours of mankind, or whose flesh or
other parts were required for food or mediciae. Their par-
turition and its |>roper time, the number of their young, the
manner of bringing them up, their nutriment, the pastures
and fi>odof the parents, and the proper time for hunting them,
were observed with the greatest accuracy. And if any
diseases arising from the weather, their fooid, or their drink
impended over them, and threatened their production or the
lib of the wild cattle, at it m peculiar or common enemy


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AITIX3TZ. 801*

laid in wait for the ufe of one or all, it could not easilj'
escape their obserration ; and from these circumstances we
may manifestly derive the origin of those fables and narra-
tives in which tbe opinions of animals are compared with
the life and manner of human bein^, such as the simple
minds of hunters, fishers, and rustics could comprehend.
In these books of natural history we find traces of many
stories of this kind which it is unnecessary here to point

In the aquatic and marine orders of animals there is, be*
sides these sources of information, the diligent investigi^on
instituted by certain writers throughout the seas and rivers
of Greece, at a time when every useful fish, and marine and
river animals of this class, mollusca, shell fish, and worms
formed part of. their food. The time and manner of their
coition, parturition, pregnancy, and life, the nature of their
food, places and manner of taking finh, tbe times in which
they were not accessible, the faults and diseases of aquatic
animals, were minutely described. The twentieth chapter
of the eighth book of our History is on this subject, where
the food and diseases of aquatic animals are described, and
particular notice is taken of their use as food, besides the
observations on the manners of quadrupeds.

It is very evident that the life of one man would hardly
BuiBce for the observation of all these facts even in a single
class of animals ; but, as I have said, there were writers
before the time of Aristotle who provided for the tastes and
tables of these fish-eating Greeks a most exquisite apparatus
from the rivers and seas of Ghreece, especially in Sicily, which
has been remarkable for its wealth ever since the reigns of
GteXo and Hiero, and had surpassed the rest of Greece not
only in its knowledge of nature, but in the art of poetry.

There is a passage in Plato's ** Gorffias," (sect. 156, p. 246,
ed. Heind.) where mention is made of '^ Mith»cus, the author
of a work on Sicilian cookery, and Sarambus, the publican.
One furnished the best of food, the othir the best of wine.'* j*

That the art of choosing and preparing food for the table \

was treated of in this lx>ok we m§j conclude from tiie use
of the word ^/o^wfa, which the weeki especiaUy used to
signify the kinds of fish used for food. A passage firom
this book on the manner of cooking the fish called ^ — ~~ *'


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quoted by Athemras, wbo inakeB tbe title of this book
i^fOfrvrtx^^ yii. p. 282, and xii. j>. 506.

We cannot accurateh' asoertam the age of Mithscos. The
most ancient author of such a book that we can call to mind
18 EpichannuB, a Sicilian poet and physician, from whose
fragments, collected by Atheneus, we may certainly con-
dude he was acquainted with the nature of aquatic animals.

To this class we may, in the first place, refer those pas-
sages which are extracted from the drama called the Mar-
riage of Hebe, or the Muses, and not only teach us the
nature of fishes, but also the manner of procuring and cook-
ing them. A learned writer in the " Literary Ephemeris" of
Jena, 1810, (Noe. 156^ 157,) attempted to coUect aU these
and reduce them to order. There remain, howerer, many
more passages which the conjectures of the most learned
could nardly amend or explam, from the corruption of the
text by librarians and the Tariebr of Sicilian names. And
before the time of Epicharmus, Ananius, an lambio poet»
nearly contemporary with Hipponactus, an Ionian poet, com-
posed^ among other poems, a similar work on cooking fish,

Online LibraryAristotleAristotle's History of animals. In ten books → online text (page 29 of 39)