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Pliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books online

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That the dial was a very ancient instrument for measuring time
appears from the 2d Book of Kings, xx. 11, and Isaiah, xxxviii. 8,
where is the first mention of it on record. It probably was invented in
Babylonia. Wern. Club.


History of Nature.


continued five Years more. Then Scipio Nasica, the Col-
league of L&nas, first divided the Hours, both of Day and
Night equally, by Water. And this Horologe he dedicated
under a Roof, in the Year of the City 595 from the Build-
ing of Rome. So long it was, that the People of Rome did
not measure out the Light.

Now let us return to the other Living Creatures : and
first, of Animals of the Land.

Coracle referred to in note at p. 256. Montfaucon, torn. iv. pi. 49.


London : George Barclay, Castle Street, Leicester Square.




1. Of Land Creatures: the Com-
mendation of Elephants : their

/ 2. When Elephants were first

3. The Docility of Elephants.

4. The Clemency of Elephants:
that they know their own
Dangers ; also of the Ferocity
of the Tiger.

5. The Understanding and Me-
mory of Elephants.

6. When Elephants were first
seen in Italy.

7. Comhats by Elephants.

8. The Manner of taking Ele-

9. The Manner how Elephants

are tamed.

10. How long an Elephant goeth
with Young, and of their

1 1. The Countries where Elephants
breed : the discord between
Elephants and Dragons.

12. The Industry and Wit of Dra-
gons and Elephants.

13. Of Dragons.

14. Serpents of prodigious Magni-
tude : of Serpents named Boae.

15. Of the Animals of Scythia, and
of the North Countries.

16. Of Lions.

17. Of Panthers.
VOL. in.


18. The Nature of the Tiger : of
Camels, and the Camelopard :
when it was first seen at Rome.

19. Of the Stag- wolf named Chaus:
and the Cephus.

20. Of the Rhinoceros.

21. Of Lynxes, Sphinges, Crocutes,
Marmosets, of Indian Oxen,
of Leucrocutes, of Eale, of the
^Ethiopian Bulls, of the Man-
tichora, the Unicorn, of the
Catoblepa, and the Basilisk.

22. Of Wolves.
3. Of Serpents.

24. Of the Ichneumon.

25. Of the Crocodile and the Hip-

26. Who shewed first at Rome the

Hippopotamus and Crocodiles.
Medicines discovered by Ani-

27. Of Animals which have shewn
certain Herbs ; the Red Deer,
Lizards, Swallows, Tortoises,
the Weasel, the Stork, the
Boar, the Snake, Panther,
Elephant, Bears, Stock-Doves,
House - Doves, Cranes, and

28. Prognostications taken from

What Cities and Nations have
been destroyed by small Crea-

Contents of the Eighth Booh.


30. Of the Hy?ena, the Crocuta,

and Mantichora : of Beavers
and Otters.

31. Of Frogs, Seals, and Stellions.

32. Of Deer, both Eed and Fal-

33 . Of the Tragelaphis : of the Cha-
meleon, and other Creatures
that change Colour.

34. Of the Tarand, the Lycaon,
and the Wolf called Thoes.
Of the Porcupine.

36. Of Bears and their Cubs.

37. The Rats of Pontus and the

Alps : of Hedgehogs.

38. Of the Leontophones, the Lynx,
Badger, and Squirrels.

39. Of Vipers, Snails, and Lizards.

40. Of Dogs.

Against the Bite of a mad Dog.
42. The Nature of Horses.


43. Of Asses. -/

44. Of Mules. ,/

45. Of Kine, Bulls, and Oxen. ^

46. Of the Bull named Apis.

47. The Nature of Flocks and their
Breeding. /

48. Different kinds of Wool and


49. Of Musmons.

50. Of Goats and their Generation.

51. Of Swine and their Nature. J

52. Of Parks and Warrens for

53. Of Beasts half Tame. J

54. Of Apes and Monkeys. -

55. Of Hares and Rabbits. -

56. Of Beasts half Savage. S

57. Of Rats and Mice : of Dormice.

58. Of Animals that Live not in
some places.

59. Of Animals hurtful to Strangers.

In sum there are in this Book, Histories and Observations 788.


Mutianus, Procilius, Verrius Flaccus, L. Piso, Cornelius Valerianus,
Cato the Censor, Fenestella, Trogus, Actius, Columella, Virgil, Varro,
Lu. Metellus Scipio, Cornelius Celsus, Nigidius, Trebius Niger, Pomponius
Mela, Manlius Sura.


King Juba, Polybius, Onesicritus, Isidoruv, Antipater, Aristotle, Deme-
trius the Natural Philosopher, Democritus, Theophrastus, Euanthes, Agrippa
who wrote of the Olympionicce, Hiero, King Attalus, King Philometer, Cte-
sias, Duris, Philistus, Architas, Philarchus, Amphilochus the Athenian,
Anaxipolis the Thasian, Apollodorus of Lemnos, Aristophanes the Milesian,
Antigonus the Cymcean, Agathocles of Chios, Apollonicus of Pergamus,
Aristander of Athens, Bacchus the Milesian, JBion of Soli, Chcereas the
Athenian, Diodorus ofPryenceum, Dio the Colophonian, Epigenes of Rhodes,
Evagon of Thassus, Euphranius the Athenian, Hegesias of Maronea, Men-
ander of Pryenceum, Menander also of Heraclea, Menecrates the Poet, An-
drocion who wrote of Agriculture, JEschrion who likewise wrote of that
argument, Dionysius ivho translated Mago, Diophanes who collected an Epi-
tome of Dionysius, King Archelaus, and Nicander.






Of Animals of the Land ; the Praise of Elephants, 1 and their

0.x....:> ..:x:..x"# will now pass on to treat of other living
Creatures, and first of Animals of the Land,
amon which the Elephant is the greatest,
an( ^ cometh nearest in Capacity to Men;
l f r tne y understand the Language of the
Country, they do whatever they are commanded, re-
member what Duties they are taught, and take a Pleasure
in Love and Glory ; nay, more than this, they possess
Probity, Prudence, and Equity, (rare Qualities even in
Men,) and they have also in religious Reverence the Stars,
and Veneration for the Sun and Moon. Writers report
that when the new Moon beginneth to appear bright >
Herds of them come down to a certain River named
Ainilus, in the Thickets of Mauritania, and there they
solemnly Purify themselves by dashing themselves all over

1 Elephas Indicus.Cuv. The Indian Elephant.
Elephas Africanus.Cvv. The African Elephant. Wcrn.

4 History of Nature. [BOOK VIIL

with the Water; and so having saluted the Planet, they
return again to the Woods, carrying before them their
Young Ones that are fatigued. They are thought also to
have an Understanding of Religion 1 in others ; for when they
are to pass the Seas they will not enter the Ships before they
are induced to it by an Oath of their Governors that they
shall return again; and they have been seen enfeebled by
Sickness (for as Large as they are they are subject to Sick-
ness), to lie upon their Backs, throwing up Herbs toward
Heaven, as if they had procured the Earth to pray for them.
Now for their Docility : they adore the King, they kneel and
offer Chaplets of Flowers. The lesser sort, which they call
Bastards, serve the Indians to Plough their Ground.


When Elephants were first put to Draw.

THE first time they were known to Draw at Rome was in
the Chariot of Pompey the Great, in the African Triumph.

1 The author in several places speaks of religion in animals : as of
monkeys, b. viii. c. 54, and of barn-door poultry, b. x. c. 41. The oryx
was judged to be impious, because it had been seen to display signs of dis-
regard or contempt to the moon. To understand the ground of this
opinion, it is necessary to bear in mind that the religion of the heathens
did not include or demand a spiritual attachment, or mental conformity,
to the character or commands of the object worshipped, but was merely
ritual : the latreia being an official service which was employed to allay
the anger of some divinity, which had been raised by some cause equally
remote from any feeling of a moral nature with that instituted to obviate
it. The real cultus was comprised in this ceremony, and religion was the
binding of this cultus, or worship, on those who were subject to it as
superstition included the employment of a greater amount of ceremony
than the latreia demanded ; and as this was judged to proceed from a
greater degree of fear than the cause required, it was always considered
as degrading him that manifested it. As the proper idea of religion was
supposed to be the binding of the cultus on those only who were the sub-
jects of it, it was no great extension of the same principle to suppose that
animals might be subject to the same laws as men in these respects, and
that they might have recourse to means of a similar kind to obviate
similar offences. That the elephant practised religious rites was not the

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 5

But long before this it is said that Father Liber did the
same in his Triumph for having Conquered India. Prod-
lius denieth that, coupled as they were, two in one Yoke,
they could possibly have entered in at the Gates of Rome in
Pompey's Triumph. In the Show of Gladiators, which Ger-
manicus Ccssar exhibited, the Elephants were seen to show
some disorderly Motions, after a manner of Dancing. It was
a common thing to fling Weapons through the Air, so that
the Winds had no power against them ; to flourish and meet
together in Fight like Gladiators, and to make Sport in a
Pyrrhic Dance ; and afterwards to go on Ropes ; to carry
(four together 1 ) one of them laid at ease in a Litter, re-
sembling the manner of Women newly brought to Bed ; and
some of them would enter a Dining-place where the Tables
were full of Guests, and pass among them with their foot-
opinion of Pliny only, but appears to have been common in ancient times.
^Elian, whose " History of the Peculiar Nature of Animals " is chiefly
valuable for containing everything on the subject that floated on the sur-
face of popular observation, says, " At the first appearance of the new
moon I have heard that elephants leave the woods under the influence of
a certain natural and inexpressible intelligence, bearing with them
branches which they have plucked from the trees, which they bear
aloft and wave to and fro as they cast their looks upward, as if offering
some divine intercession to the goddess to be propitious and gracious to
them." B. iv. c. x. " They also worship the rising sun by lifting up their
trunks, like hands, to meet his rays, and on this account they are dear to
the god ; and of this fact Ptolemy Philopator is an excellent and un-
doubted witness." B. vii. c. 14. The reference of the author to this sove-
reign is built on a remarkable dream which he had on the occasion of
having offered the unusual sacrifice of four elephants on occasion of a
victory. The solemn ceremonies of the elephant on occasion of the death
of those of their own kind are referred to in the same work, b. v. c. 49.
Their adoration of the king was the result of discipline, b. xiii. c. 22 ; and
they also formed his night-watch, when perhaps he had learned to dis-
trust the fidelity of his guards. Wern. Club.

1 If the elephants walked two and two, as they probably did when
thus carrying their companion, there must have been two ropes placed
in parallel lines. JElian, " De Animalibus," gives a most amusing account
of the performances of the elephants of Germanicus in the theatre ; but I
do not remember that he mentions this feat. A like exploit is, however,
mentioned by Seneca, Suetonius, and others. Wern. Club.

6 . History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

steps so equally ordered that they would not touch any of
the Company as they were Drinking.

The Docility of Elephants.

IT is certain that there was one Elephant who was of a
slower Capacity than the others, so that he was often
beaten with Stripes because he did not Learn that which was
Taught him ; and he was found Studying those Lessons by
Night, which he had not succeeded in Learning by Day. 1
But one of the greatest Wonders was, that they could mount
up against a Rope; and, more wonderful, that they should
slide down again with their Faces downward. Mutianus,
who had been thrice Consul, reporteth that one of them had
Learned to make the Greek Letters, and was accustomed to
Write in that Language thus: This have I myself written,
and have dedicated the Celtic spoils. Also himself saw at
Puteoli, when some Elephants that had been brought
thither were forced to go forth out of the Vessel in which
they had come, but being affrighted at the extent of the way
from the Ship to the Land, to deceive themselves so that
the way might not seem too long, they went backward with
their Tails to the Land. They know that the Riches for
which Men lie in wait for them consisteth only in their
Arms, which Juba calleth their Horns ; but which Herodotus,
who wrote long before him, and custom, hath better termed
Teeth. And therefore when they are fallen off, either from
Age, or by some Accident, the Elephants themselves hide
them in the Ground. And this is the only Ivory ; for all the
rest, and the Teeth themselves so far as they are covered
within the Flesh, is no better than common Bone. And yet
of late for scarcity Men have taken up to cut the Bones into
Plates. For it is rare to procure Teeth of any bigness except
from India ; since all the rest in our part of the World hath

1 Plutarch, " De Solert. Anim." tells us of an elephant who practised
bis parts by moonlight of his own accord. Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 7

been employed in Luxuries. You may know young Ele-
phants by the Whiteness of their Teeth, and these Beasts
have a special care over them. They spare the Point of one
of them, lest it should be blunt when they come to Fight ;
and the other they use ordinarily, either to dig up Roots or
to throw down Banks. When they are compassed round
with Hunters, they set in the foremost rank those which
have the least Teeth, that their price may not be thought
worth the hazard of Battle. But afterwards, when they are
weary, they break them by driving them into the Trees, and
so ransom themselves by the prey.


The Clemency of Elephants ; their Knowledge of their own
Dangers ; also the Fierceness of the Tiyer.

IT is a wonder in most Animals that they know why they
are Hunted ; and through the whole they understand what
to guard against. If an Elephant chance to meet a Man
wandering simply out of his way in the Wilderness, it is said
that he will mildly and peaceably set him in the right way
again. But if he perceive a Man's footstep before he dis-
covers the Man, he will tremble for fear of being entrapped ;
he will stay from the Scent, look about him every way, and
puff for very anger. Neither will he tread upon the Track, but
dig it out and give it to the next (Elephant), and he again to
him that followeth, in the way of a Message, to the furthest
rank behind. Then the whole Herd wheels round and re-
turns backward, putting themselves in Battle Array : so long
continueth that strong Smell of Men's Feet through them
all, notwithstanding for the most part they have not naked
Feet, So the Tigress also, though fierce to other wild
Beasts, and disregarding the footsteps of the Elephant
itself, if she happen to catch sight of a Man is said im-
mediately to convey away her Whelps. How cometh
she to this knowledge of a Man ? Where did she ever see
him before whom she thus feareth ? For surely such Forests

8 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

are very little frequented by Men. They may indeed well
wonder at the novelty of their Tracks, bat how know they
that they are to be feared ? Nay, what should be the reason
that they dread even to see a Man, being so much superior
in Strength, Size, and Swiftness ? Certainly herein is the
wonderful work of Nature, and her mighty Power ; that the
greatest and fiercest of wild Beasts, which have never seen
that which they ought to fear, yet immediately understand
why the same is to be dreaded.

The Understanding and Memory of Elephants.

ELEPHANTS march always in Troops. The oldest of them
leadeth the Company, and the next to him in age cometh
behind with the conduct of the Rear. When they are to pass
over a River, they put the Smallest foremost, lest if the
Larger should enter first they would dig up the Channel, and
so make the Torrent to become deeper. writeth,
that King Antiochus had two Elephants which he used in
his Wars, and were famous for their Surnames, which they
knew well. And truly Cato, when he named in his Annals
the Commanders (Imperators), hath recorded that the (Ele-
phant) which fought most bravely in the Punic Contest was
named Surus, and that one of his Teeth was lost. When
Antiochus would have sounded the passage of a River (by
putting the Elephants before), Ajax refused, although at all
times he was the leader of the Troop. On this it was pro-
nounced that the Elephant which would pass should be the
Chief; and Patroclus having ventured, as a reward there
was presented to him a rich set of Silver Trappings (a thing
in which they take very great Delight) ; and besides this,
he was made the Sovereign of the others. But the other,
which was distinguished (by his Abstaining from Food) pre-
ferred Death to the Shame : for they are wonderfully
Bashful, so that if one of them be overcome he will fly from
the voice of the Conqueror, and put forward Earth arid Ver-

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 9

vain. 1 Through Modesty they never associate in Love except
in secret : the Male at five Years of Age, and the Female at
ten Years old. And this they do every third Year, 2 and they
continue therein five Days in the Year (as they say) and not
more, for upon the sixth Day they Wash themselves over in
the River ; and before this they do not return to the Herd.
They know no adulterous change ; neither are there any
Battles among them about their Females, as among other
Animals to their great injury. And this is not for want of
strong Affection ; for it is reported of an Elephant that he
was enamoured of a certain Woman in Egypt who sold Gar-
lands of Flowers. And lest any one should think that she
was an ordinary maiden that was beloved, she was greatly
admired by Aristophanes, the excellent Grammarian. There
was another so full of Love to a Youth in the Army of Ptolo-
mceus, that if he did not see him every Day he would abstain
from his Meat. Juba likewise reporteth of an Elephant that
loved a Woman who sold Perfumes. All these shewed their
Love by the tokens of Joy at the sight of the object of their
regard, by their rude Blandishments, and by preserving the
Gifts which the People gave them, and laying them in their
Bosoms. Nor is Love so much to be wondered at where the
Memory is so good. For the same Juba saith, that an Ele-
phant acknowledged a Man in his old Age, and after many
Years, who in his youth had been his Governor. He
affirmeth also that they have a certain Divine Instinct of
Justice : for when King Bacchus had appointed to be re-
venged on thirty Elephants, which he had caused to be
bound to Stakes, and had set the same number to run upon
them, appointing also Men to urge them to rush forward ;
yet they were riot able to cause them to become the Ministers
of another's Cruelty.

1 The greatest sign of victory in old time was for the vanquished to
offer a plant to the conqueror, which signified that he surrendered all the
interests he had in earth, and even the rite of burial. See Lib. viii. c. 5.
-Wern. Club.

3 Some copies read two years. Wern. Club.

10 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.


When Elephants were first seen in Italy.

THE first Time that Elephants were seen in Italy was
during the War of King Pyrrhus ; and they were called by
the Name of Lucce Boves, or Lucan Oxen, because they were
seen in the Lucan Country ; in the four hundred and seventy-
second Year of the City. But in Rome it was seven Years
after this before they were seen, and then in a Triumph. But
in the Year 502, a Number of them were seen, being taken
from the Carthaginians in the Victory of L. Metellus Pontifex
in Sicily. 142 were conveyed over on Rafts, which were laid
upon Rows of great Tuns placed close one by another. Ver-
rius saith that they fought in the Circus, and were killed with
Darts, for want of better Counsel ; for they were neither
willing to feed them, 1 nor to bestow them upon Kings. L. Piso
saith they were only brought out into the Circus ; and to
make them contemptible, they were driven round it by cer-
tain hired Fellows, having for that purpose Spears simply
headed with Iron. But what became of them afterward,
those Authors make no mention ; but they are of opinion,
that they were not killed.

Their Combats.

MUCH renowned is the Contest of one Roman with an
Elephant, when Annibal forced our Captives to skirmish one
against another. For the only Roman that remained, he
matched with an Elephant, having covenanted with him,

1 The Romans might well shrink from the expense of supporting 142
elephants, when, as we are informed, the quantity of food required for the
daily consumption of a full-grown elephant is not less than 200 pounds of
aliment of all sorts. The elephant of Louis XIV. had daily 80 pounds
of bread, 12 pints of wine, and a large quantity of vegetable soup, with
bread and rice ; this was exclusive of grass, and what he got from visi-
tors. Wcrn. Club.

BOOK VIIL] History of Nature. 1 1

that if he could kill the Beast, he should be dismissed. So
this Prisoner entered into single Fight with the Elephant,
and to the great Grief of the Carthaginians, slew him. An-
nibal, considering that the Report of this Combat would
cause these Beasts to be little regarded, sent after him some
Light Horsemen to kill him upon the Way. Their Trunk
(Proboscis) may be easily cut off; as appeared by Experience
in the Battles of Pyrrhus. Fenestella writeth, that the first
Fight of them in Rome was in the Circus, when Claudius
Pulcker was Curule jEdile, and M. Antonius and A. Post-
humius were Consuls, in the six hundred and fiftieth Year
of the City. Also 20 Years after, when the Luculli were
Curule .ZEdiles, they fought against Bulls. Also in the
second Consulship of Cn. Pompeius, at the Dedication of the
Temple to Venus Victoress, 20 of them, or as some write, 17,
fought in the Circus. The Gaetulians threw Darts against
them. But one Elephant did Wonders : for when his Feet
were pierced through with Darts, he crept upon his Knees
among the Companies, where he caught from them their
Shields, and flung them aloft, which, as they fell, turned
round as if by Art, and not as if thrown with Violence by
the Beasts in their Anger, to the great Pleasure of the Be-
holders. And as strange a Thing was seen in another of
them, who was killed with one Stroke ; for the Dart was
driven under the Eye, and pierced to the vital Parts of the
Head. Whereupon all the rest endeavoured to burst away,
not without a great disturbance among the People, although
fenced round with Iron Bars. And for this Cause, Ccesar
the Dictator, when afterwards he was about to exhibit the
like Show, cast a Ditch round about the Arena ; which Prince
Nero removed to make room for the Knights. But those
Elephants of Pompey being past all Hope of escaping, in a
Manner that cannot be expressed seemed to supplicate the
Multitude, craving their Mercy, with grievous Lamentations
bewailing their Condition ; so that the People's Hearts
melted, and with Tears in their Eyes, they rose up all at
once, without Regard to the Imperator, or Respect to his
magnificent Display, and imprecated on Pompey these severe

12 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

Misfortunes which soon after ensued accordingly. Again,
Ccesar the Dictator, in his third Consulship, exhibited ano-
ther Fight of them ; 20 against 500 Footmen ; and a second
Time 20 more, having Turrets with 60 Defendants to the
same ; and he opposed against them the same Number as
the former of Footmen, and as many Horse. After this,
Claudius and JVero, the Princes, brought them forth one by
one, by way of finishing the Show of Gladiators. This
Animal is reported to be so gentle to all that are not so
strong as himself, that if he meet a Flock of Cattle, he will
with the Hand remove any that cometh in his Way, for Fear
he should crush them without being aware of it. And they
never do any Hurt unless provoked. They always walk in
Troops, and are less disposed to wandering alone than any
other Animals. If they are environed with Horsemen, they
take into the midst of the Troop the feeble, weary, or wounded ;
and as if they were under the Direction of a General, or with
the Guidance of Reason, they succeed one another in their

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 40 of 60)