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

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killed by him in Guzerat. He stated that this variety was distinguished
from those previously known by the absence of a mane (that is, it is
maneless compared with other lions), from the sides of the neck and
shoulders, the middle line of the back of the neck being alone furnished
with long hairs, which are erect, like those of the same situation in the
Cheetah (Felis jubatd). The under surface of the neck has long loose
silky hairs, and there is a tuft at the angle of the anterior legs. Besides 1
the absence of the extensive mane, the tail is shorter than that of ordinary
lions, and is furnished at its tip with a much larger brush or tuft. Capt.
Smee thus characterises his maneless lion : " Felis Leo. LINN. var. Gooj-
ratensis. Mane of the male short, erect ; tuft at the apex of the tail very
large, black." See " Zool. Proc." 1833 ; also " Zool. Trans." vol. i. where
an excellent figure is given ; and " Penny Cyclopaedia," art. Lion. Wern.

1 Many animals possess a figure so closely resembling more than one
of another kind or family, that we cannot wonder if the ancients, with
their slender knowledge of nature, thought they really were a mixed breed,
and that newly-created species were continually springing up. Thus,
according to Pliny's theory, the Camelopardalis, or Giraffe was the off-
spring of the Camel and Panther ; the Leopard, of the latter animal and
the Lion ; and the Harte-beest (Antelope bubalus) of the Antelope and
Buffalo. But modern experience has shewn the fallacy of this opinion ;
and we now know that if a hybrid be sometimes produced, there the
power of propagation ceases. There is no proof or probability that any
permanent race has risen into existence since first individual creation pro-
ceeded from the hand of its Maker ; and in a wild condition it is ques-
tionable whether even a mongrel individual has been ever produced,
although this has sometimes happened in captivity. Wern. Club.

24 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

tear her Belly with their Claws for their exit. Aristotle
writeth otherwise: a Man whom I cannot name but with
great Honour, and whom in these matters I mean for the
most part to follow. King Alexander the Great, having an
ardent desire to know the Nature of all living Creatures,
assigned this Charge to Aristotle, a Man accomplished in all
kind of Science and Learning, and to this effect commanded
some Thousands of Men through all the Extent of Asia and
Greece to give their Attendance, including all Hunters,
Fowlers, and Fishers, that lived by those Professions. Also
all Foresters, Park-keepers, and Warreners ; all such as
had the keeping of Herds and Flocks ; of Bee- hives, Fish-
ponds, and Fowls, so that he should not be ignorant of any-
thing in any Nation. 1 By his Conference with them he com-
piled almost fifty excellent Books, " De Animalibus," (of
Living Creatures). Which being collected by me in a nar-
row Room, with the addition of some Things which he never
knew, I beseech the Readers to take in good part ; and for
the Knowledge of all Nature's Works, which that most noble
of all Kings desired so earnestly, to make a short Excursion
under my care. That Philosopher reporteth that the Lioness
at her first Litter bringeth forth five Whelps, and every Year
after fewer by one ; and when she bringeth but one she be-
cometh Barren. Her Whelps at the first are without Shape
and very Small, like Lumps of Flesh, no bigger than Weasels.
When they are six Months old they can hardly go, and for
the two first they cannot move. There are also Lions in
Europe, 2 but only between the Rivers Achelous and Nestus,

1 Aristotle is by far the most illustrious naturalist of antiquity, and
he will not suffer by comparison with the moderns. His great work,
written under such favourable circumstances, continues to this day, and
is remarkable for that in which other ancient writers are exceedingly
deficient, a philosophical digest of his subject. Wern. Club.

5 Lions are at present confined to Asia and Africa, but that they were
once found in Europe there can be no doubt. Thus it is recorded by
Herodotus ("Polym." vii. 124) that the baggage camels of the army of
Xerxes were attacked by lions in the territory of Paeonia and Crestonia,
in Thracia. The same authority, as well as that of Aristotle (" Hist.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 25

and these are much Stronger than those of Africa or Syria.
Lions are of two Kinds, the one Short and Compact, with
Manes more Curled ; but these are more numerous than
those which have long and plain Hair, for the latter despise
Wounds. The Males lift up the Leg when they micturate, as
Dogs do; they have a strong Breath, and their Bodies also
Smell rank. They Drink seldom, and Eat but on alternate
Days ; and if they Feed till they are Full they abstain from
Meat for three Days. In their Feeding whatever they can
Swallow without Chewing goes down whole ; and if they find
their Belly not able to receive their Greediness, they thrust
their Claws into their Throats to drag it out again, that if
they are compelled to fly they may not go away in their Ful-
ness. That they Live very long 1 is proved by this Argument,
that many of them are found Toothless. Polybius, who
accompanied (Scipio) JEmilianus, reporteth that when they
are grown Aged they will prey upon a Man, because their
Strength will not hold out to pursue Wild Beasts. Then
they lie in wait about the Cities of Africa ; and for that cause
while he was with Scipio he saw some of them Crucified,
that other Lions might be scared from doing the like Mis-
chief by fear of the same Punishment. The Lion alone of
all Wild Beasts is gentle to those that humble themselves to
him ; he spareth those that lie Prostrate ; and when he is
furious he dischargeth his Rage upon Men before he setteth
upon Women, and never preyeth upon Babes unless it be for
extreme Hunger. It is believed in Libya that they have an
Understanding of Prayers addressed to them. I have heard
as a fact of a Captive Woman of Gaetulia, who was brought
back again to her Master, that she had pacified the Violence

Anim." vi. 31 ; and viii. 33), from whom Pliny seems to have copied,
inform us that they abounded in that part of Europe which is between
the Achelous and Nessus. Nor is Europe the only part of the world
from which the lion has disappeared ; for it is no longer to be found in
Egypt, Palestine, or Syria, where it once was evidently far from uncom-
mon, as we know from the frequent allusions to it in the Holy Scriptures.

1 Aristotle, " Hist. Anim." ix. 69. Went. Club.

26 History of Nature. [ BOOK VIII.

of many Lions in the Woods by her Speech, having ventured
to say that she was a Woman, a banished one, Feeble, a
Suppliant to the noblest of all other living Creatures, the
Commander of all the rest, and unworthy that his Glory
should prey upon her. The Opinions concerning these things
are various, according to the Bias of each Person, or the
Occurrences that have happened to him. Whether Savage
Beasts are appeased by kind Words, the more especially
as also whether Serpents may be fetched out of their Holes 1
by Song, and kept under for Punishment, is true or no, Ex-
perience hath not yet determined. The Tail 2 is an Index to

1 See the account of the Psylli, book vii. chap. 2. Wern. Club.

3 It was a common opinion among the ancients that the lion lashes his
sides with his tail to stimulate himself into rage ; hence Pliny calls the
tail the index of the lion's mind. But they do not seem to have adverted
to any peculiarity in that member, to which so extraordinary a function
might, however incorrectly, be attributed. Didymus Alexandrinus ap-
pears to have been the first person who, entertaining this fancy, noticed a
prickle at the end of the tail, in his comment on the twentieth book of the
Iliad, where the lion's rage is mentioned,

" Such the lion's rage,


Lash'd by his tail his heaving sides resound ;
He calls up all his rage."

" The lion," he says, " has a black prickle on his tail, like a horn ; when
punctured with which he is still more irritated by the pain." This
prickle was by many long looked upon as a mere fiction, till the matter
was put beyond a doubt, some years since, by Professor Blumenbach,
who upon dissection discovered on the very tip of the tail of a lioness a
small dark-coloured spine, as hard as a piece of horn, and surrounded at
its base with an annular fold of skin. It is, however, only occasionally
found ; nor is it confined to the lion, for it has been discovered in the
Asiatic leopard. Mr. Wood (" Zool. Proc." 1832) remarks that it is dif-
ficult to conjecture the use of these prickles, their application as a stimulus
to anger being of course out of the question ; but he observes that it could
not be very important, for, to say nothing of their small size and envelope-
ment in the fur, the majority of individuals, in consequence of the readi-
ness with which the part is detached, are deprived of it for the remainder
of their lives. The writer of this note has had an opportunity of seeing
and feeling the prickle in the tail of a lion's cub, which was whelped in
Womb well's menagerie. Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 27

the Mind of Lions, as in Horses their Ears, for these Marks
Nature hath given to the most noble Beast ; and when the
Lion stirreth not his Tail he is quiet and gentle, as if he were
willing to be played with; but he is seldom so, for he is more
frequently angry. In the Beginning of his Anger he beateth
the Ground, when it increaseth he beateth his Sides and
Back as if to whip himself with something that would stir
up his Fury. His main Strength lieth in his Breast ; from
every Wound, whether made by his Claw or Tooth, the
Blood that floweth is Black. When their Belly is full they
become harmless. His Magnanimity is chiefly shewn in
Dangers ; not only in that he despiseth the Darts, but also
that he defendeth himself by his Terror only, and as if bear-
ing witness that he is forced to his own Defence, he riseth up
in Fury, not as at last compelled by the Peril, but as made
angry by their Folly. But this more noble Display of Courage
is shewn in that, however great may be the Strength of
Hounds and Hunters, while in the open Plains and where
he may be seen, he retireth only by degrees and with Scorn ;
but when he hath got among the Thickets and Woods then
he hurrieth away, as if the Place concealed his Shame.
When he followeth he leapeth with a Bound, which he never
useth to do in Flight. If wounded he hath a remarkable
Quickness of Observation to discern the Person who smote
him, and amidst a Multitude he runneth upon him only. As
for the Man who hath thrown a Dart at him without wound-
ing him, he striketh him down, and seizeth and shaketh him,
but doth not wound him. When the Female fighteth for her
Whelps, it is said that she fixeth her Gaze upon the Ground,
that she may not be affrighted at the Sight of the hunting
Weapons. For the rest, they are destitute of Craft and Sus-
picion ; they never look aslant, and they love not to be
looked at in that manner. It is believed that when they are
dying they bite the Earth, and in their Death shed Tears.
This Animal, so fierce as he is, is made afraid with the
running round of Cart-wheels, or empty Chariots; he is ter-
rified with the Cock's Comb, and much more with his Crow-
ing, but most of all with the Sight of Fire. The Lion is

28 History of Nature. [BooK V11I.

never Sick but of Loathing ; and then the way to cure him
is to tie to him She Apes, which with their wanton mocking
drive him to Madness, and then when he hath tasted their
Blood it acts as a Remedy. Q. Sccevola, the Son of Publius,
was the first at Rome that, in his Curule .ZEdileship, exhibited
a Fight of many Lions together; but L. Sylla, who after-
wards was Dictator, was the first of all that in his Praetor-
ship exhibited an hundred maned Lions. After him Pompey
the Great shewed 600 of them in the Circus, and among
them were 315 with Manes. Ccesar> the Dictator, exhibited
400. The taking of them formerly was a hard piece of
Work, and was commonly in Pit-falls ; but in the Reign of
Claudius a Shepherd of Gsetulia taught the manner of catch-
ing them, a thing to be regarded as almost unbeseeming the
Name of such a Beast. This Gaetulian, when a Lion violently
assailed him, threw his Military Cloak over his Eyes. This
remarkable thing was soon after practised in the Arena ; so
that a Man would hardly have believed that so much Fierce-
ness should so easily be rendered inert by this slight covering
thrown on the Head, the Creature making no resistance, but
suffering himself to be bound fast, as if all his Vigour rested
in his Eyes. The less therefore is it to be wondered at that
Lysimachus strangled a Lion, 1 when by Command of Alex-
ander he was shut up alone together with him. The first
who subdued them to the Yoke at Rome, and joined them to
his Chariot, was M. Antony. And truly it was in the Civil
War, when the Battle was still in Contest in the Plains of
Pharsalia : not without some foretoken of the times, which
by that Prodigy gave them to understand that Men of a
high Spirit should come under the Yoke of Subjection ; for
that Antony was carried in this manner, with the Comic

1 Plutarch, in the " Life of Demetrius," informs us that " Demetrius
having sent ambassadors to Lysimachus on some occasion or other, that
prince amused himself one day with shewing them the deep wounds he
had received from a lion's claws in his arms and thighs, and gave them an
account of his being shut up with that wild beast by Alexander the
Great, and of the battle he had with it." Pausanias, Seneca, and Justin,
mention this story ; but Q. Curtius doubts the truth of it.Wern. Clul.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 29

Actress Cytheris, was beyond the monstrous Spectacles of
even those calamitous times. It is reported that Hanno,
one of the noblest of the Carthaginians, was the first Man
that ventured to manage a Lion with his Hand, and to shew
him as being rendered Submissive. But he was condemned
on account of this very Circumstance, for it appeared to them
that a Man of such artful Ingenuity would be able to per-
suade to anything ; and that it was dangerous to trust their
Liberty to him, to whom even Fierceness itself had so re-
markably yielded. But there are also casual Examples of
their Clemency. Mentor, the Syracusan, met with a Lion
in Syria, which after an humble manner rolled himself in
the Way before him ; and being astonished with Fear, when
he sought to escape in every way the Wild Beast placed him-
self across his Path, and licked his Footsteps in a flattering
manner. Mentor then observed that the Lion had a Swelling
and Wound in his Foot, whereupon he gently plucked out
the Splinters of Wood, and so eased the Beast of his Pain. 1
This Fact is for a Memorial represented in a Picture at Syra-
cuse. In a similar Manner Elpis, a Samian by Nation, being
conveyed to Africa in a Ship, and having discovered near the
Shore a Lion having a threatening Gape, he fled quickly to a
Tree, and called upon Father Liber; for then is the principal
Time for Prayer, when we see no other Hope. But the Lion
stopped him not in his Flight, although it was in his Power;
and laying himself down close to the Tree, with that open
Mouth with which he had terrified the Man, he sought his
Compassion. Now the Beast having lately fed greedily, had
gotten a Bone stuck fast within his Teeth, which put him to
great Pain ; also, he was almost famished ; and he looked
up pitifully, shewing how he was punished with those very
Weapons of his, and, as if with dumb Prayers, besought his
Help. Eipis, on the other Hand, not being very forward to
commit himself to the Wild Beast, stayed the longer, while
he considered rather this miraculous Accident than other-

1 The reader will here be reminded of the well-known story of An-
drocles, or Androdus, and the lion, told by Aulus Gellius and JElian.
Wern. Club.

30 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

wise greatly feared. At the last he came down from the
Tree and plucked out the Bone, while the Lion held his
Mouth open, and composed himself to his Conveniency : in
recompense of which Service, it is said, that so long as this
Ship lay on that Coast, the Lion furnished him with a good
Quantity of Food by Hunting. And on this account Elpis
dedicated a Temple in Samos to Liber Pater; which from
this Circumstance the Greeks called jt.s^v6rog A/ovutfou (of
Gaping Dionysius}.' 1 Can we feel surprised after this, that
Wild Beasts should know the Footsteps of Men, 2 when even
they have recourse to him alone for Hope of Succour? And
why did they not go to other Creatures? or who taught
them that the Hand of Man was ahle to cure them ? unless
this be the Reason, that perhaps the Power of many Evils
forceth even savage Beasts to seek out all means of Help.

Of Panthers.

DEMETRIUS the Natural Philosopher also maketh
mention of as memorable a Case as the former, concerning a
Panther; which was desirous to meet with a Man, and
therefore lay in the Middle of an Highway, and suddenly
appeared to the Father of a certain Philinus, a Student of
Philosophy. The Man, through Fear, began to go back
again, but the Wild Beast kept rolling itself about him, very
plainly fawning upon him, and tossing itself so piteously,

1 Holland has chosen to add, " or ^ar^os vuov AIOVVO-OV, the Chapel of
Dionysius the Saviour ;" not because there are such words in the text,
but because Gesner, whose edition of Pliny he appears to have used, not
understanding the purport of Pliny's words, has proposed to substitute
the latter, which he supposed to be a more intelligible reading. But in
no MS. of Pliny is any support afforded to this criticism of Gesner ; and
the conclusion of ch. xlviii. b. 7, of ^Elian, is a sufficient proof of the accu-
racy of the present text, as the story there given is an explanation of its
meaning. Wern. Club.

2 Pliny had before remarked (Book viii. chap. 5), that the elephant
could recognise the footstep of a man. Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 31

that its Grief might be seen even in a Panther. She had but
lately produced Young, and her Whelps were fallen into a
Pit at a Distance off. The first Point of Pity that the Man
shewed was not to be afraid ; and the next, to direct his
Regard to her ; and so following her in the Way whither she
drew him by his Garment, which she gently held with her
Claws, as he understood the Occasion of her Sorrow, and the
Reward of his Courtesy, he drew forth her little ones ; which
done, she and her Whelps, leaping for Joy, accompanied him,
and directed him all the Way to beyond the Wilderness.
So that it easily could be discerned that she was thankful
to him, and that they mutually acknowledged each other:
a rare Example to be found even amongst Men. This Story
gives great Credit to that which Democritus reporteth : That
Thoas, in Arcadia, was preserved by a Dragon. This Thoas,
when a Child, had loved this Dragon exceedingly well, and
nourished him ; but being in some dread of the Serpent's
Nature, and fearing his Magnitude, he had carried him into
the Deserts ; wherein being environed by the Stratagems of
Thieves, when he cried out, the Dragon, knowing his voice,
came forth and rescued him. As for the Things reported
concerning Infants cast forth to perish, and sustained by the
Milk of Wild Beasts, like Romulus and Remus, our Founders,
by a She-Wolf, in my Opinion they are to be attributed more
to the Greatness of their Destinies than to the Nature of those
Wild Beasts. Panthers and Tigers are almost the only Beasts
seen with a Variety of Spots ; for other Beasts have each one
a proper Colour of their own, according to their Kind. A
black Kind of Lion is found in Syria only. The Ground of
the Panther's Skin is White, 1 with little black Spots like

1 There seems much uncertainty and confusion in Pliny's description
of the Panther and Leopard, which, probably, he means by the terms
Panthera and Pardvs ; indeed, modern naturalists are not at all agreed as
to the best mode of distinguishing these animals. Cuvier considers the
v vK$K*. ts of the ancients to be the modern Panther (Felis Pardus. LINN.).
He does not notice the Panther, o vnvfa* of Aristotle, " Hist. Anim." vi. 35 ;
and, indeed, this animal is supposed by many not to be of the leopard
kind. Wcrn. Club.

32 History of Nature. [Boox VII t.

Eyes. It is said that all Quadrupeds are wonderfully enticed
by the Smell of Panthers ; but their Sternness of Counte-
nance carrieth Terror with it, and therefore they hide their
Heads, and when they have attracted other Beasts within
reach by their sweet Smell, they fly upon and seize them.
Some report that they have a Mark on their Shoulder resem-
bling the Moon, growing to the full and decreasing into
Horns as she doth. In all this Race of Wild Beasts, now they
call the Males Varise and Pardi ; and there is great Abun-
dance of them in Africa and Syria. Some distinguish be-
tween Leopards and Panthers, by the Panthers being white ;
and as yet I know no other Difference between them. There
was an old Act of the Senate, forbidding that any Panthers
of Africa should be brought into Italy. Against this Edict,
Cn. Aufidius, a Tribune of the People, produced a Bill to the
People, which permitted, that for the sake of the Circensian
Games, they might be brought over. Scaurus was the first
who in his ^Edileship exhibited of different Sorts 150(Variae)
in all. After him, Pompey the Great brought out 410 ; Divus
Augustus, 420; who also in the Year that Q. Tubero and
Fabius Maximus were Consuls, on the fourth Day before the
Nones of May, at the Dedication of the Theatre ofMarcellus,
was the first of all those that shewed at Rome a tame Tiger
in a Cage ; but .Divus Claudius shewed four at once.


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

TIGERS are produced in Hyrcania 1 and India. This
Animal is dreadful for Swiftness, and most of all this is seen
when it is taken : for her Litter, of which there is always a

1 Fells Tigris. LINN. The Royal Tiger. Some have supposed that
this species was but little known to the ancients ; but we think with no
sufficient grounds. The numerous passages in which the word tigris
occurs in Greek and Latin authors, leave little room for doubting their
knowledge of the animal ; and Hyrcania, with which it is so frequently
associated by the latter, is a locality well suited to what we know of its


History of Nature.


great Number, by one that lieth in wait, is snatched away
upon a very swift Horse ; and they are shifted at Intervals
from one fresh Horse to another. But when the Tigress finds
her Den empty (for the male Tiger hath no Care of the Young),
she runneth headlong after her young Ones, following the
Tracks by their Scent. The Man who hath seized them,
perceiving the Tigress approaching by the Noise she maketh,
throws down one of her Whelps; up she taketh it in her

From the Pavement of the Temple of Fortune at Palestrina. Montf. torn. iv. pi. 60.

Mouth, and back she runneth towards her Den, the swifter
for the Burden that she carryeth ; and presently again she
followeth the Pursuit, and so forward and back until they
are embarked in the Boat, and then she rageth with Fury on
the Shore.

Camels are pastured in the East among other Cattle.
There are two Kinds of them, the Bactrian and the Arabian ;
which differ in that the Bactrian Camels have two Hunches
on their Backs, 1 and the other only one ; 2 but they have an-

geographical distribution. See the article Tigers, in the " Penny Cyclo-
paedia," where the subject is fully treated, and numerous passages from
the Classics adduced in proof of the acquaiutance of the ancients with this
animal. Wern. Club.

1 Camelus Bactrianus. LINN. Wern. Club.

3 Camelus Dromedarius. LINN. The Arabian Camel. Wern. Club.


34 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

other on their Breast, whereon they rest when they lie down.
Both sorts are without the upper Row of Teeth, like Oxen.
In those Countries they all serve to carry Burdens like
labouring Horses ; and they are even rode like Horses in
Battles. Their Swiftness is comparable to that of Horses ;
but they differ one from another in this, as they do also in
Strength. The Camel in his Travelling will not go further
than his ordinary Journey, neither will he carry more than
his accustomed Load. Naturally they hate Horses. 1 They

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 42 of 60)