Clinton G Gilroy.

The history of silk, cotton, linen, wool, and other fibrous substances: including observations on spinning, dyeing and weaving. Also an account of the pastoral life of the ancients, their social state and attainments in the domestic arts, with appendices on Pliny's Natural history; on the origin and online

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Online LibraryClinton G GilroyThe history of silk, cotton, linen, wool, and other fibrous substances: including observations on spinning, dyeing and weaving. Also an account of the pastoral life of the ancients, their social state and attainments in the domestic arts, with appendices on Pliny's Natural history; on the origin and → online text (page 44 of 44)
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the casting-net and the sean in similar termsf.

It may be observed, that rpi^ttij is used for a fisher mant,
apparently equivalent to aXt£Of§. We also find the expression
Vpanth Tixyriy meaning, " By the fisherman's artll".


The third fishing-net in Oppian's enumeration is rdyyaftov.
We find it once mentioned metaphorically, viz. by jEschylus,
who calls an inextricable calamity, Tayya/iw arTjs^f. In Schneider's
edition of Oppian we find this note, " Rete ostreis capiendis
esse annotavit Hesychius." Passow also in his Lexicon explains
it as " a small round net for catching oysters." The reference
to Hesychius is incorrect. If it was a net for catching oysters,
wliich appears very doubtful, it may have been the net used by
the Indians in the pearl-fishery**.

* Ucpl hdviiias, vol. V. p. 838, ed Steph. t L. ii. c. 14.

t Jacobs, Anthol. vol. i. p. 186, Nos. 4 and .*>.

§ Theocrit. i. 39 ; iii. 26. Il Brunck, Anal. ii. 9, No. 14.

ir Agam. 352.

** Acyei yicyacrdivris OnptieaBai T>)v KCyxjnv airov Ji/crioiai. Arriau, Indica, vol. t
p. 525, ed. Blancardi.




The inoxh, which is the fourth in Oppian's enumeration, was
the landing-net, used merely to take fislies out of the water
when they rose to the surface, or in similar circumstances to
which it was adapted. It was made with a lioop {kvkXos) fastened
to a pole, and was perhaps also provided with the means of
closing the round aperture at the top*.

Of the K^Xv/i//a we find nowhere any further mention.



These were the Greek and Latin names for the sean.
Before producing the passages in which they occur, we will
present to the reader an account of this kind of net as now
used by the fishermen on the coast of Cornwall (England) for
catching pilchards, and as described by Dr. Paris in his elegant
and pleasant Guide to Mount's Bay and Land's End\.

" At the proper season men are stationed on the cliffs to
obsei-ve by the color of tlie water where the shoals of pilchards
are to be found. The sean is carried out in a boat, and thrown
into the sea by two men with such dexterity, that in less than
four minutes the fish are inclosed. It is then either moored, or,
where the shore is sandy and shelving, it is drawn into more
shallow water. After this the fish are bailed into boats and
carried to shore. A sea7i is frec[uently three hundred fathoms
lojig, and seventeen deep. The bottom of the net is kept to
the ground by leaden weights, whilst the corks keep the top of
it floating on the surface. A sean has been known to inclose
at one time as many as twelve hundred hogsheads, amounting
to about three millions of fsh."

* See Oppian, Hal iv. 251. t Penzance, 1816, p. 91


Let this passage be compared with the following, which gives
an account of the use of the same kind of net among the
Arabs. It will then appear how extensively it is employed,
since we find it used in exactly the same way both by our own
countrymen and by tribes which we consider as ranking very
low in the scale of civilization ; and on making this comparison,
the inference will seem not unreasonable, that the ancient
Greeks and Romans, wdio in several of their colonies in the
Euxine Sea, on the coasts of Ionia, and of Spain, and in other
places, carried on the catching and curing of fish with the
greatest possible activity and to a wonderful extent, used nets of
as great a compass cis those which are here described.

" The fishery is here {i. e. at Burka, on the eastern coast of
Arabia) conducted on a grand scale, by means of nets many
hundred fathoms in length, which are carried out by boats.
The upper part is supported by small blocks of wood, formed
from the hglit and buoyant branches of the date-palm, while
the lower part is loaded wuth lead. To either extremity of this
a rope is attached, by which, when the whole of the net is laid
out, about ihirt}' or forty men drag it towards the shore. The
quantity thus secured is enormous ; and what they do not re-
quire for their own consumption is salted and carried into the
interior. AVhen, as is very generally the case, the nets are the
common property of the ichole village, they divide the prod-
uce into equal shares*."'

That this method of fishing was practised by the Egj^ptians
from a remote antiquity appears from the remaining monu-
ments. The paintings on the tombs show persons engaged in
drawing the sean, which has floats along its upper margin and
leads along the lower borderf. An ancient Egyptian net, ob-
tained by M. Passalacqua, is preserved in the Museum at Ber-

* Lieutenant Wellsted's Travels in Arabia, vol. i. (Ornarn), pp. 186, 187.

t See Wilkinson's Mantjers and Customs of Ancient Egypt, vol. ii. p. 20, 21 ;
see also vol. iii. p. 37. One of these peiintings, copied from Wilkinson, is intro-
duced in Plate X. fig. 3. of this work. The fishennen are seen on the shore
drawing the net to land full of fishes. There are eight floats along the top, and
four leads at the bottom on each side. The water is drawn as is usual in EgJT-
tian paintings.


lin. Some of its leads and floats remain, as well as a gourd,
which assisted the floats*.

Besides the verses of Oppian, which are above quoted, wc
find another passage of the same poem [Hal. iii. 82, 83),
which mentions the following appendages to the aay^vn, viz. the
jTsfdi, the aipatpdvci, and the aKoXios Tuiyaypos. As tlic Tdjtj, ov fcct of a
sail were the ropes fastened to its lower corners, we may con-
clude that the T^fat were the ropes attached to the corners of the
sean, and used in a similar manner to fasten it to the shore and
to draw it in to the land, as is described by Ovid in the line
already quoted, —

Hos cava contento retia/une trahunt.

The <T>paipum, as the name implies, were spherical, and must
therefore have been either the floats of wood or cork at the top,
or the weights, consisting either of round stones or pieces of
lead, at the bottom. The <T«oXidj ndvaypos must have been a kind
of bag formed in the sean to receive the fishes, and thus cor-
responding to the purse or conical bag in the apKVi. The term
is illustrated by the apphcation of the equivalent epithet ayofiXa
or " angular," to hunting-nets in a passage from Brunck's Ana-
lecta, which was formerly explained, and by the epithet " cava"
in the line just quoted from Ovidt-

In the following passage Ovid mentions the use both of the
corks and of the leadst. This passage also shows that several
nets were fastened together in order to form a long sean :

Aspicis, ut summa cortex levis innatat unda,
Cum grave nexa simul retia mergat onus ?

Trist. iii. 4. 1, 12.

This use of cork and lead in fishing is also mentioned by
^han, Hist. Anim. xii. 43 ; and that of cork by Pausanias,

* Un filet de p6che a, petites mailles, et fait avec du fil de lin. Get objet, qui est
garni de ses plonibs, conserve encore Ics morceaux de bois qui ganiissaient sa par-
tie sup^rieure, ainsi que un courge qui I'aidait a sumager. — Tli6bes. Passalacqua,
Catalogue des Antiquities decouvertes en Egyptc, No. 445. p. 22.

t Observe also the use of tlie word /^vx"f in llie passage of Lucian's Timon,
quoted below.

t MoXiPimvai, J. PoUux, X. 30. § 132.



viii. 12. § I ; and by Pliny, H. N. xvi. 8. s. 13, wlieie, in reci-
ting the various uses of cork, he says it was employed " pis-
cantium traguhs." Sidonius ApoUinaris, describing his own
villa, says : —

Hinc jam spectabis, ut promoveat alnum piscator in pelagus, ut Btataria retia
suberinis corticibus exlendat. — Epist. ii. 2.

" Hence you will see how the fisherman moves forward his boat into the deep
water, that he may extend his stationary nets by means of corks."

Alciphron, in his account of a fishing excursion near the
Promontory of Phalerum, says, " The draught of fishes was
so great as almost to submerge the corks*," The earnest de-
sire of a posterity, founded on the wish for posthumous remem-
brance, which was a very strong and prevailing sentiment
among the ancients, is illustrated by the language of Electra
in the Choephoroe of ^schylus, where she entreats her father
upon this consideration to attend to her prayer, and likens his
memory to a net, which his children, like corks, would save
from disappearing : — " Do not extinguish the race of the Pe-
lopidcB. For thus you ivill live after you are dead. For a
tnan^s children are the j^reservers of his fame when dead^
and., like corks in dragging the net, they save the flaxen
string from the abyss." The use of the corks is mentioned
in several of the epigrams of the Greek Anthology, already re-
ferred to, and in the following passage of Plutarch : —

"flffTTEp Tov; Ta i'lKTva Jiatrrj/miVoiros bv ttj OuXdo-ai; (^cXXovj opd^icv eni(pepoitevovs, — De
Genio Socratis, p. 1050, ed Staph.

Passages have been already produced from Plutarch, Artemi-
dorus, and the Alexandrine version of Isaiah and Habakkuk,
in which the sean is mentioned by its Greek name crayrv.?, in
contradistinction^ to other kinds of nets. Also the passage
above cited from Virgil's Georgics (" pelagoque alius traiiit hu-
mida lina"), indicates the use of the sean in deep water, and
the practice of dragging it out of the water by means of ropes,
which gave origin both to its English name, the Drag-net,
and to its Latin appellations, tragula, used by Pliny {I. c),

* MiKfov Kdi TOis (pcWoii iScriae Karaaipai vfaXov rd Siktvov ifoy/cov/itvov. — Epist. 1. 1.


and tragum, which is found in the ancient Glossaries and in
Isidore of Seville*.

We find mention of the scan more especially for the capture
of the tunny and of the pclamys, which were the two prin-
cipal kinds of fish caught in the Mediterranean. Lucian speaks
of the tunny-seant, which was probably the largest net of the
kind, and he relates the circumstance of a tunny escaping from
its bag or bosom*. The scan is thrice mentioned in the Epistles
of Alciphron {I. c. and fib. i. epp. 17, 18.), and in the two lat-
ter passages, as used for catching tunnies and pelamides. We
read also of a dolphin (ScXfa) approaching the scano ; but this
might be by accident. It was not, we apprehend, employed to
catch dolphins.

In the following passage of the Odyssey (xxii. 384-387) we
have a description of the use of a sean in a small bay. having
a sandy shore at its extremity, and consequently most suitable
for the employment of this kind of net :

"Qot' i)(duai, ovaB' aXirJEj
KoiXoi' £j aiyta\6v jroXiiJj ixroaOe BaXaoaris
Acxnib) i^ipvaav iroXvufnw' ol Si t£ rairty

The poet here compares Penelope's suitors, who lie slain upon
the ground, to fishes, " which the fishermen by means of a net

* Tragum genus retis, ab eo quod trahatur nuncupatum : ipsum est et vcrricu-
lum. Verrere enim trahere est. — Orig. x\x. 5.

The Latin name verriculum occurs in a passage of V^erius Maximus, wliich
is also remarkable for a reference to the Ionian fisheries, and for the use of the
word jactus, literally, a throw, corresponding to that which the Cornish men do-
nominate, o hawl of fish.

A piscatoribus in Milesia regione verriculum trahentibus quidam jactuni emerat.
— Memor. lib. iv. cap. 1.

We introduce here an expression of Philo, in which we may remark that /?o-
Xoj ixQi<^v corresponds exactly to Jacius in Latin, and that the drawing of the net
into a circle is clearly indicated : ^o\ov i^OCxjiv n-uvraj if kdVXw cayrindcos. — Vita
Mosis, torn. ii. p. 95. ed. Mangey.

t Hayyifrj OvfvtvTiK)). — Epist. Saturn, torn. iii. p. 406. ed. Reitz.

t '0 divvos Ik jin^oi tTis aayi'ivrn iiifvyev. — Timotl, § 22. tom. i. p. 1.3C.

§ OoK In TrXijcia^ci rij aaynv^. — j^lian, H. A. xi. c. 12. In this chapter tho
same net is twice called by the common name, SUrvov.


full of holes have drawn out of the hoary sea to a hollow bay,
and all of which, deprived of the waves of the sea, are poured
upon the sands." Although the general term oUtvjv is here
used, it is evident that the net intended was the sean, or drag-

In one of the passages of Alciphron already referred to,
mention is made of the use of the sean in a similar situation.
Some persons, who are fishing in a bay for tunnies and pela-
mides, inclose nearly the whole bay with their sean, expecting
to catch a very large quantity*. This circumstance proves, that
the sean was used with the ancient Greeks, as it is with us, to
encompass a great extent of water.

We have seen that the sean supplied figures of speech no less
than the purse-net («?««), and the casting-net {ait<i,i(i\'n(XTpov). It is
applied thus in the case of persons who are ensnared by the

* Tj tray^i'if ^ovovov)(i tov k6\ttov o\ov ■KcpicXifioficv. — Epist. i. 17.

A few miscellaneous passages, which refer to the use of the sean, may be con-
veniently introduced here :

Diogenes, seeing a great number of fishes in the deep, says there is need of a
sean to catch them ; aayrivris Uricrts. — Lucian, Piscata, § 51. tom. i. p. 618, ed.

The sean is called, from its material, (rayrivaiov Xivov, in an epigram of Archias.
— Brunck, Anal. ii. 94. No. 10.

Plutarch, describing the spider's weh, says, that its weaving is like the labor
of women at the loom, its hunting like that of fishermen with the sean. — De So-
lertia Animalium, tom. x. p. 29, ed. Reiske. He here uses the term aayrivevTrii
for a fisher with the sean. This verbal noun is regularly formed from aaynvtveiv,
which means to inclose or catch with the sean : e. g. if Hktvois oeaaynvci'iiinot. —
Herodian, iv. 9, 12.

Lucian uses the same verb in reference to the story of Vulcan inclosing Mars
and Venus in a net ; cayrjvciei tols SctixoTs. — Dialogi Deor. tom. i. p. 243. Som-
nium, tom. ii. p. 707, ed. Reitz.

Leonidas of Tarentum, in an epigram enumerating the ornaments of a lady's
toilet (Brunck, Anal. i. p. 221), mentions 6 TtXarvs rpi^cDi/ cayrivevrfip. Jacobs
(A7inot. in Aitthol. i. 2. p. 63) supposes this to mean the lady's comb ; but, judg-
ing from the known meaning of aay{]vrt and its derivatives, we may conclude that
it was the KeKpu(pa\os, or net, which inclosed and encircled the hair, like a sean.

The following verse of Manilius (lib. v. ver. 678.) is remarkable as a rare in-
stance of the adoption of the Greek word sagcna by a Latin poet : —
E.\cipitur vasta circumvallata sagena.


wicked*, who are captivated by the charms of lovet or of clo-
quencet, or who are held in bondage by superstition§. But
by far the most distinct, expressive and important of its meta-
phorical applications, was to the mode of besieging a city by
encircling it with one uninterrupted line of soldiers, or sweeping
away the entire population of a certain district by marching in
similar order across it. Of this the first example occurs in
Herodotus iii. 145 : —

Tf)i' il il'ifiov aayrivevaavTCi ol ITtpo-at Trapiiocrav EoXtiffdivn, iptifiov lovaav dvSpoJv.
" The Persians, having dragged Samos, delivered it, being now destitute of
men, to Solyson."

As we speak of dragging a pit, so the Greeks would have
spoken, in this metaphorical sense, of draggitig an island.
In the sixth book (ch. xxxi.) Herodotus particularly describes
this method of capturing the enemy. According to this account
the Persians landed on the northern side of the island. They
then took hold of one another's hands so as to form a long line,
and thus Unked together they walked across the island to the
south side, so as to hunt out all the inhabitants. The historian
here particularly mentions, that Chios, Lesbos, and Tenedos
were reduced to captivity in this manner. It is recorded by
Platoll, that Datis, in order to alarm the Athenians, against
whom he was advancing at the head of the Persian army,
spread a report that his soldiers, joining hand to hand, had

* SoyrjfEvo/iai Trpds avTuv. — Lucian, Timon, § 25. torn. 1. p. 1.38, ed. Reitz.
+ Bninck, Anal. iii. 157. No. 32. Here the sean is called by the general term
S'lKTvov, but the particular kind of net is indicated by the participle aayt]vc.v6cti.

TCivil ftaOrjrhvy
Or K6(Tfxov yXvKtOTiai Qtov ifiaavro aayiivaii,

i. e. " A disciple of those who bound the world in the sweet seans of God." —
Greg. Nazianz. ad Nemesium, torn. ii. p. 141, ed. Paris, 1630. (See Chap. Ill,
p. 53.)

§ Plutarch, evidently referring to the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, says, " The
Jews on the Sabbath sitting down on coarse blankets {in dyi/<i/<7rrotf, literally, in
ifiirta, or blankets, which had not been fulled, or cleansed by the yva(pcis), even
when the enemy were setting the ladders to scale the walls, did not rise up, but
remained, as if mclosed in one sean, namely, superstition, {(Ixrrep iv o-ayijii/^ia, tj
iaaiSaiiiovia, avvSclcfiivot)." — 0pp. tom. vi. De Superstit. p. 647, ed. Reiske.

II De Legibus, lib. iii. prope fiuem.


taken all the Eretrians captive as in a sean. The reader is
referred to the Notes of Wesseling and Valckenaer on Herod,
iii. 149 for some passages, in which subsequent Greek authors
have quoted Herodotus and Plato. We find <r.iYr,veverivat, '• to be
dragged," used in the same manner by Hehodorus*.

In addition to the passages of Isaiah and Habakkuk which
mention the drag in opposition to the casting-net ; we find three
references to the use of it in the prophecies of Ezekiel, viz. in
Ezek. xxvi. 5. 14 ; xlvii. 10. The prophet, foretelling the
destruction of Tyre, says it would become a place to dry seajis
upon, ^^vyjioi aayrjvCiv : " slccatlo sagcnarum," Vulgate Version;
"a place for the spreading of nets," Common EiigUsh Version.
The Hebrew term for a drag or sean is here nin.

The only passage of the New Testament wliich makes
express mention of the sean, is Matt. xiii. 47, 48 : " The king-
dom of heaven is like unto a net (<ray')i")) that was cast into the
sea, and gathered of every kind ; which, when it was full, they
drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels,
but cast the bad away." The casting-net, which can only
inclose part of a very small shoal, would not have been adapted
to the object of this parable. But we perceive the allusion
intended by it to the great quantity and variety of fishes of
every kind which are brought to the shore of the bay (aJymXdi/)
by the use of the drag. The Vulgate here retains the Greek
word, translating sagena as in the above-cited passages of
Habakkuk and Ezekiel. In John xxi. 6. 8. 11, the use of the
sean is evidently intended to be described, although it is called
four times by the common term vUtvov, which denoted either a
sean, or a net of any other kind. It is in this passage trans-
lated rete in the Latin Vulgate.

The Greek cayt^r) having been adopted under the form sagena
in the Latin Vulgate, this was changed into rezne by the Anglo-
Saxonst, and their descendants, have still further abridged it
into sean. In the south of England this word is also pro-
nounced and spelt seine, as it is in French. "We find in Bede's

* Lib. vii. p. 304. ed. Commelini.
t See Caedmon, p. 75. ed. Junii.


Ecclesiastical History* a curious passage on the introduction of
this kind of net into England. He says, " the people had as
yet only learnt to catch eels with nets. Wilfrid caused them to
collect together all their eel-nets, and to use them as a scan for
catching fishes of all kinds."


Reticulus or Reticulum.


In the ancient Glossaries we find TvpyaOoi translated Reticuliis
and Rcticuhwi : it meant, therefore, a small net. It was not
a name for nets in general, nor did it denote any kind of hunt-
ing-net or fishing-net, although the net indicated by this term
might be used occasionally for catching animals as well as for
other purposes. It was used, for example, in an island on the
coast of India to catch tortoises, being set at the mouths of the
caverns, which were the resort of those creaturest. But the
same term is applied to the nets which were used to carry
pebbles and stones intended to be thrown from military engincst ;
and a similar contrivance was in common use for carrying
loaves of bread §. Hence it is manifest that the yvpyaOoi was
often much hke the nets in which the Jewish boys in our streets
carry lemons, being inclosed at the mouth by a running string
or noose. We may therefore translate yt'py^of, "a bag-net," as
it was made in the form of a bag. " To blow into a bag-net,"
Ei£ yiipya9o» (pvaav^ bccame a proverb, meaning to labor in vain.
But this bag was often of much smaller dimensions, and of
much finer materials, than in the instances already mentioned.
From a passage of iEneas Tacticus (p. 54. ed. Orcll.) wc may

* Page 294, ed. Wilkins.

t 'Ev il Toirp rj i/fia(t> Kat yipyadois airai iSiw Xtvtiovatv, airt iiKTVuiv KaOievrct ai-
Tovs -rcpl Tu <rr6fiaTa rcbv vpopi.'xiiiv. — Arrian, Per. Maris Eryth. p. 151. ed. Blan-

t AthentEUs, lib. v. § 4.3. p. 208, ed. Casaub.

§ YipyaOov' axcvo; k^cktoi', iv tS ffaWovat tov aprov ol dpTOK6isoi, — Hesych>
Reticulum panis. — Hor. Sat. i. 1. 47.


infer that it was sometimes not larger than a purse for the
pocket. Hence Aristotle* properly appUes the term yvpyaOoi to
the small spherical or oval bag in which spiders deposit their
eggs. Among the luxurious habits of the Sicihan praetor Yerres,
it is recorded, that he had a small and very fine hnen net, filled
with rose-leaves, "which ever and anon he gave his noset."
This net was, no doubt, called yvpyaQos in Greek.

* Anim. Hist. v. 27. Compare Apollodonis, Frag. xi. p. 454, ed. Heyne.
t Reticulum ad nares sibi admovebat, tenuissimo lino, minutis maculis, plennm
roeae. — Cic. in Verr. ii. 5. 11


N. C, State College


Online LibraryClinton G GilroyThe history of silk, cotton, linen, wool, and other fibrous substances: including observations on spinning, dyeing and weaving. Also an account of the pastoral life of the ancients, their social state and attainments in the domestic arts, with appendices on Pliny's Natural history; on the origin and → online text (page 44 of 44)