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cise their new-born little ones in the Race, and teach them
to know how to fly away. They lead them to high and
craggy Rocks, and show them how to leap. And now the
Stags being past the Heat of Rut, fall eagerly to their Food.
When they find themselves to be grown very Fat, they seek
Lurking-places, confessing how incommodious their Weight
is to them. At other Times always they delight in flight ; and
stand still to look behind. But when the Hunters are come
near them, then they seek the Shelter of Flight again ; and
this they do for a Pain in their Bowels, which Parts are so
tender, that with a slight Blow they will burst within. When
they hear the barking of the Hounds they fly, but always in
the Course of the Wind, that the Scent of their Tracks may
pass away with them. They take great Delight in the Sound
of the Shepherd's Pipes, and in Song. When they erect
their Ears, they are very quick of Hearing ; when they let
them hang down, they are deaf. In other respects it is a
simple Creature, stupidly wondering at everything; inso-
much that if an Horse or an Heifer approach near, it will

1 Lib. xx. 5.

2 Lib. xxiv. 16. This plant is the Arum of Dioscorides (lib. ii.
c. 142), and must not be confounded with the Egyptian Arum. Wern.

58 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

not regard a Man that is hunting it ; or if they discover him,
they will look with Wonder at his Bow and Arrows. They
pass the Seas, swimming by Flocks, in a long Row, each
one resting his Head upon the Haunches of the one before
him ; and the foremost retireth behind by turns. This is
chiefly observed by those that pass from Cilicia to Cyprus.
They do not see the Land, but swim towards it by their
Smell. The Males possess Horns, and are the only Animals
that cast them every Year at a certain Time of the Spring :
and to that Purpose, a little before the very Day, they seek
the most secret Places. When the Horns are shed, they keep
close hidden, as being unarmed ; and this they do as if they
grudged that any one should have any Good from them. It
is denied that the Right Horn can ever be found, as being
endued with some singular Virtue as a Medicine ; and this
must be granted to be a very wonderful Thing, considering
that in Parks 1 they change them every Year; so that it is
thought they bury them in the Earth. But burn which of
them you will, the Smell of it driveth Serpents away, and
discovereth them who are subject to the Epilepsy. They
carry the Marks of their Age on their Heads ; for every
Year addeth one Branch to their Horns, until they come to
six (sexcennes), after which Time the same Number is
renewed ; so that their Age cannot be discerned any more
by the Head, but old Age is shown by their Teeth : for in
the latter Case they have few or no Teeth, and are without
Branches at the Root of the Horns ; whereas, when they
were younger they used to have them standing out in front
of the very Forehead. When they have been castrated 2 they

1 Vivariis, Lib. viii. 52. Wern. Club.

3 " The sympathy between that part of the system which regulates
the developement of the horns in the deer tribe, and the organs of gene-
ration, is very remarkable. For instance, if a stag is castrated when his
horns are in a state of perfection, they will, it is affirmed, never be shed ;
if the operation is performed when the head is bare, the horns, it is said,
will never be regenerated ; and if it is done when the secretion is actually
going on, a stunted, ill-formed permanent horn is the result, more or less
developed, according to the period at which the animal is emasculated."
See Penny Cyclopaedia : Art. " Deer." Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 59

neither cast the Horns which they had before, nor do any
new ones grow. When they first break out again, they are
like renewed Kernels of dry Skin ; then they grow with
tender Stalks into reed-like round Excrescences, feathered
all over with soft Down. So long as they are destitute of
Horns they go out to seek Food by Night ; the Horns grow
hard by the increasing Heat of the Sun ; and then they
occasionally try them against Trees ; and when they are
satisfied that they are strong, they go abroad boldly. It
has happened that some of them have been taken with green
Ivy on their Horns, inbred there since the Time when they
employed them in their tender State against some Trees.
Sometimes they are of a shining white Colour, such as was
the Hind which Q. Serforius 1 was reported to have had,
and which he persuaded the People of Spain to believe to
be his Soothsayer. This kind of Deer maintain a Fight with
Serpents : they will track them to their Holes, and by the
Strength of the Breath of their Nostrils force them out : and
therefore there is nothing so good to drive away Serpents
as the Smell of burnt Hartshorn. But against their Bite
there is an excellent Remedy from the Runnet in the Maw
of a Fawn killed in the Dam's Belly. It is generally ac-
knowledged that Stags live long ; for an hundred Years after
Alexander the Great, some were taken with golden Collars
that had been affixed to them by that Prince, but then over-
grown by the Skin through great Stoutness. This Creature
is not subject to feverish Diseases, but he is effectual to cure
it. I have known great Ladies accustomed to the Use every
Morning of eating this Venison, and thereby to have lived to
a great Age without having Fevers ; but it is thought an
established Remedy in the highest Degree if the Stag be
struck dead with one Wound only.

1 See Plutarch's Life of Sertorius. Went. Club.

60 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

Of the Tragelephus, and the Chameleon.

OF the same Kind is one that differs only in the Beard
and long Shag about the Shoulders, and which they call Tra-
gelaphon; 1 and this breedeth nowhere but about the River
Phasis. Africa is almost the only Country that breedeth no
Stags, but it produceth Chameleons; 2 although India hath
them in greater Number. In Shape and Size it resembleth
a Lizard, but it standeth higher and straighter upon its Legs.
The Sides are joined to the Belly, as in Fishes; and it hath
Spines projecting as they have ; the Snout is prominent,
not unlike a small Swine, with a very long Tail sloping away
so as to become slender at the End, winding round and
entangled like the Viper's ; the Claws are hooked, and the
Motion is slow, as in the Tortoise ; the Body is rough as
the Crocodile's ; the Eyes are in a hollow Cavity, and they
are very large, near each other, of the same Colour with the
rest of the Body : it never openeth its Mouth, and there is
no Motion in the Pupil when it looketh about, but it views
Things by moving the whole Ball of his Eye ; it liveth
aloft, gaping with its Mouth, and is the only Creature that
feedeth neither of Meat nor Drink, but hath its Nourish-
ment of Air only : about wild Fig-trees 3 it is a wild Beast,
but elsewhere harmless. But the Nature of its Colour is
more wonderful ; for every now and then it changeth it, as

1 Antelope Picta. PALLAS. The Nyl-ghau. According to Ogilby
(" Zool. Proc." 1536), the Tragelaphus, which is the same as the Hippela-
phus of Aristotle, is the Nyl-ghau ; but Cuvier, in the last edition of his
" Regne Animal," seems to consider that the Cervus Aristotelis (Cuv.), a
deer living in the north of India, is the animal alluded to. Wern. Club.

2 Chamceleo vulgaris. LINN. Book xxviii. c. 28. There is a contra-
diction in this description ; the author saying in one place, " Nunquam os
aperit," and presently afterward, " Ipse celsus hiante semper ore." The
first portion of this quotation Holland has rendered, " He is always
open-eyed, and never closeth hem." Wern. Club.

3 About the time when they offered sacrifices to Vulcan under the wild
fig-tree; that is, during the dog-days. Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 61

well in the Eyes as Tail and the whole Body : and what-
ever Colour it only toucheth, 1 the same it always assumeth,
unless it be red and white. When it is dead, it becometh
pale ; the Flesh on its Head and Jaws, and at the Junction
of the Tail, is very little; and in all the Body besides, none at
all. All its blood is in its heart, and about its Eyes ; among
the Bowels there is no Spleen. It lieth concealed all the
Winter, like the Lizards.

Of the Tarandus, the Lycaon, and the Thoes.

IN Scythia there is the Tarandus, 2 which also changeth its
Colour ; and no other Creature bearing Hair doth the same,
unless it be the Lycaon 3 of India, which, by Report, hath a
maned Neck. For the Thoes 4 (which is a Kind of Wolves

1 The most noticed peculiarity of this reptile is its change of colour ;
and the exposition of this feature in its physiology has exercised both the
ingenuity and the imagination of many observers. Whatever the true
cause may be, it has little to do with the colour of objects placed in juxta-
position, as Pliny maintains : but in a series of experiments carried on for
six months by the Editor, on a specimen in his possession, it seemed to
proceed from sensitive, though often unconscious, impressions made upon
the circulating system of the skin. While asleep, the slightest shaking
of the stalk on which it rested produced a change : and while the faint
light of a candle altered the tints, a shade thrown on particular parts
prevented the colour from extending to them. There are several species
of the chameleon, although the ancients seem to have recognised only
one. Wern. Club.

2 Cervus Tarandus. LINN. The Kein-deer. The fact that the
rein-deer is subject to great variety of colour, even in a wild state, pro-
bably gave rise to the fancy of Pliny, that he took " the colour of all
trees, shrubs, plants, flowers, and places wherein he lieth when he retireth
for fear." Wern. Club.

3 The Lycaon was doubtless a species of Hyaena, but it is not easy to
identify it ; it cannot be the Hyaena-dog, Canis Lycaon of Fischer, as
that species has no mane, and is, besides, indigenous to South Africa.
Wern. Club.

4 The Theus, or Thos, was in all probability some species nearly
allied to the Jackal, Canis Aureus, LINN. It is mentioned by Oppian,
on lib. x. 74. Hunting, b. iv. Wern. Club.

62 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

somewhat longer than the others, and differing in being
shorter legged, swift in leaping, living by Chace, without
doing any Harm to Man, change their Habit, not their
Colour ; through the Winter being Shaggy, but in Summer
naked. The Tarandus is as big as an Ox, with a Head not un-
like a Stag's, but greater; the Horns branched, cloven-hoofed,
and the Hair as deep as in the Bear. The Hide of his Back
is so hard, that they make Breast- plates of it. He taketh
the Colour of all Trees, Shrubs, Plants, Flowers, and Places
in which he lieth when he retireth for Fear ; and therefore
he is seldom caught ; but when he likes to be in his own
Colour, he resembleth an Ass. It is strange that the bare
Body should alter into so many Colours ; but more strange
that the Hair also should so change.

Of the Hystrix.

THE Hystrix 1 is produced in India and Africa, and is a
kind of Hedgehog. The Spines of the Hystrix are longer
than those of the Hedgehog ; and when he stretcheth his Skin
he shooteth them from him ; when the Hounds press hard
upon him, he fixeth them in their Mouths, and darteth them
at them when farther off. In the Winter Months he lieth
hid, as it is the Nature of many Beasts to do, and the Bears
above the rest.

Of Bears 2 and their Young.

THEY couple in the beginning of Winter, and not after
the common Manner of four-footed Beasts, but lying both

1 Hystrix cristata. LINN. The Porcupine. Aristotle merely glances
at the power which this animal was thought to possess of shooting its
quills to a distance at its enemies. But Pliny here dwells upon it with
his usual love of the marvellous : and JSlian, Oppian, and Claudian have
repeated the tale with exaggerations. Wern. Club.

3 Ursus Arctos. LINN. The Brown Bear. Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 63

along, and embracing one another : then they go apart into
Caves, where thirty Days after they produce their Cubs,
commonly five at a Time. These are a Lump of white un-
formed Flesh, 1 little bigger than Rats, without Eyes, and
without Hair; only the Claws are put forth. This Lump,
by licking, they fashion by little and little ; and nothing is
more rare than to see a she-Bear bringing forth her Young :
and this is one Cause why the male Bears lie hid for
forty Days, and the Female for four Months. If they have
no Caves, they build themselves Cabins of Wood, by ga-
thering together Boughs and Bushes, in order to be im-
pervious to Rain ; and they strew soft Leaves upon the
Floor. For the first fourteen Days they sleep so soundly,
that they cannot possibly be awaked, even with Wounds. In
this state of Drowsiness they grow exceedingly Fat. This
their Grease 2 is a good Medicine for those that shed their
Hair. These (fourteen) Days being past, they sit up, and
live by sucking their fore Feet. Their young Cubs, when
stiff with Cold, they cherish by pressing to their Bosom,
much as Birds do that sit upon their Eggs. A wonderful
Thing is told, and believed by Theophrastus, that if Bears'
Flesh 3 be taken during those Days, and cooked, and then
kept safe, it will grow. At this Time there doth not appear
any Token [of Excrement] of Meat that they have eaten ;
and very little Moisture is found within their Belly. Of
Blood some few small Drops lie about the Heart only, 4 and
none at all in the whole Body besides. When Spring is
come, they quit their Den ; and at that Time the Males are
exceedingly fat : but the Reason of this cannot be readily
rendered : for, as we said before, they had no more than

1 In proof of the errors of this account, young bears have been
extracted from the mother after she has been killed ; and they have been
found to have their parts as distinct as other animals. Wern. Club.

2 Lib. xxviii. 11. It is also a famous prescription for the same pur-
pose in the present day. Wern. Club.

3 Theophrastus (de Odoribus), from whom Pliny borrows this, does
not speak of bears'^/Zes^, but bears' grease; but this does not diminish the
wonder. Wern. Club.

4 Lib, xi. 38.

64 History of Nature. [BOOK VIII.

that fortnight's Sleep to fatten them with. Being now
gotten abroad, the first Thing is to devour a certain Herb
named Aron, 1 to loosen their Intestines, which otherwise
were grown together ; and they prepare their Mouths and
Teeth with the young Shoots of Brambles. They are subject
many Times to Dimness of Sight, for which Cause especially
they seek after Honeycombs, that the Bees might settle on
them, and with their Stings make them bleed about the
Mouth, and by that means relieve the Heaviness which
troubleth their Eyes. Bears are as weak in the Head as
Lions are strong in that part ; and therefore when they are
chased hard, and ready to cast themselves headlong from a
Rock, they cover their Heads with their Paws, as with
Hands, and so throw themselves down. And often in the
Arena they are deprived of Life with a Blow on the Ear with a
Man's Fist. In Spain it is believed, that in their Brain there
is a poisonous Quality ; and if it be taken in Drink, it driveth
Men into a kind of Madness, as if they were Bears : in proof
of which, when they are killed in the Shows, they burn the
Heads. They also walk erect on their two hind Feet : they
creep down from a Tree backward : when they fight with
Bulls their Manner is to hang with all their Feet about their
Mouth and Horns, and so with the Weight of their Bodies
weary them. There is not a living Creature more crafty, and
at the same time foolish in its Viciousness. It is recorded in
the Annals, that when M. Piso and M. Messala were Con-
suls, Domitius ^E?wbarbus 9 Curule .ZEdile, on the fourteenth
Day before the Calends of October, exhibited one hundred
Numidian Bears in the Circus, and as many ^Ethiopian Hun-
ters. And I wonder that the Chronicle nameth Numidian,
since it is known that Bears are not produced in Africa. 2

1 Lib. viii. 32, p. 57.

2 Lib. viii. 58. The existence of bears in Africa has been a subject of
dispute in modern times, and even Cuvier seems to have entertained
doubts as to their being found in that vast continent. But Ehrenberg
(Symbolce Physical) says he has hunted the bear in Abyssinia, and adds,
that " Forskal has brought tidings of an indigenous African bear." Wern.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 65


Of the Rats of Pontus, and the Alps ; also of Hedgehogs.

THE Rats of Pontus, 1 those at least which are white,
come not abroad in the Winter : they have a most exquisite
Taste in their Feeding; but I wonder how the Authors that
have written this, should be able to know it. Those of the
Alps, 2 also, which are as big as Badgers, 3 lie concealed during
Winter ; but they are provided with Victuals before-hand,
which they gather together and carry into their Holes. And
some say, that when the Male or Female, by turns, is laden
with a Bundle of Herbs, as much as it can grasp within the
four Legs, it lieth upon the Back, and then the other taketh
hold by the Tail with its Mouth, and draweth it into the
Cave : and hence it is that at that Time their Backs are
bare. The like of these live also in Egypt; 4 and in the same
Manner they sit upon their Buttocks, 5 and go by Starts on
their two hind Feet, using their Fore Feet instead of Hands.

Hedgehogs 6 also prepare their Provisions for Winter.
They roll themselves upon Apples that lie on the Ground,
and which thus become fixed on their Spines ; and one more
besides they take in their Mouth, and so carry them into
hollow Trees. By their stopping one or other of the Holes
of their Shelter, Men know when the Wind will change
from North to South. When they perceive some one hunt-
ing them, they draw their Mouth and Feet close together,
with all their lower Part, where they have a thin and soft
Down, and so roll themselves into the Shape of a Ball

1 Mustela erminea. LINN. The Ermine Weasel. The Ponticus
Mus is supposed to be the Ermine, or some nearly allied species. Wern.

2 Mus Marmota. LINN. The Marmot. The Alpinus Mus is pro-
bably identical with the Marmot. Wern. Club.

3 Lib. viii. 38.

4 Dipus Sagitta. SWAIN. The Gerbo. That the Egyptian Mus of
Pliny is the Gerbo, or Jerboa, there can be no doubt. Wern. Club.

5 Lib. x. 65.

6 Erinaceus Europaus. LINN. The Hedgehog. Wern. Club.


66 History of Nature. [ BoOK VIII.

that they cannot be laid hold of but by their Spines. In the
last Extremity 1 they let their Water go; and this Fluid hath
a poisonous Quality to rot their Skin and Spine, for which
they know that they are chased and taken. And therefore
it is a point of Skill not to hunt them before it is ascertained
that they have let their Urine go, and then their Skin is
very good ; but otherwise it is rotten and weak : all the
Spines falling off as being putrified, even though they should
escape and continue alive. And this is the Cause that they
never drench themselves with this Mischief except in the
last Hope, for they cannot endure the Smell of their own
Poison, and they do what they can to spare themselves,
reserving it for the utmost time of Extremity, so that they are
ready to be taken before they do it. The Ball into which this
Creature forms itself is compelled to open by sprinkling it
with warm Water, and then by hanging it up by one of its hind
Feet ; it then dies with Famine and Suspension ; for otherwise
it is not possible to kill them and save their Skin. Many do
not hesitate to say, that this Animal contributes no good to
human Life, except those Spines ; and that the soft Fleece of
Wool that Sheep bear without them would have been be-
stowed upon Mankind in vain: for with this Skin 2 Garments
are polished. Fraud hath gotten great Gain by the Mono-
poly of this Commodity ; although there hath not been any
one Evil against which there have been more frequent Acts
of the Senate ; and almost every Prince hath been troubled
concerning it with grievous Complaints out of the Provinces.

Of the Leontophonos, Lynx, Meles, Sciurus.

THERE are two other kinds of Animals whose Urine
worketh remarkable Effects. We have undertaken to call

1 This strange assertion, in which Pliny has been followed by his
numerous plagiarists, and amongst them by Buffon, appears at least to be
unsupported by later observation, and is probably a mere fiction. Wcrn.

2 Or, rather, instead of teazels that shearmen use.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 67

the small one Leontophonos ; l and it is bred in no Country
but where the Lion is produced ; and such is its Violence,
that the Lion, before whom all other Creatures tremble,
dieth immediately if he taste of it. And therefore they that
chase wild Beasts burn the Body of this Animal, and sprin-
kle the Powder on the Pieces of other Flesh, as Flour is
dusted over Meat in cooking, by way of Bait ; and thus with
the Ashes of his Enemy they kill him, so adverse to his
Nature is this Pest ! No Wonder, therefore, if the Lion
hate it, and so soon as he spieth it he crusheth it, and so
killeth it without setting Tooth to its Body. The Leon-
tophonos, for its part, is also prepared to sprinkle him with
its Urine, knowing that this is a deadly Poison to the

In those Countries where the Lynxes breed, 2 their Mois-
ture, after it is made, congealeth and hardeneth into precious
Stones resembling Carbuncles, shining of the Colour of Fire,
and called Lyncurium. 3 And on this Account many have
written, that Amber is formed after the same Manner. The
Lynxes know thus much, and for Envy understand to cover
their Urine with Earth ; and so it hardeneth the more

1 The Leontophonos is a name invented by Pliny himself, and the
creature meant by it altogether unknown. Wern. Club.

2 Lib. viii. 19.

3 Lib. xxxvii. 2, 3, 10. TheLyncuria have been thought to be fossil
Belenmites. The ancients had a legend that these substances came from
the Lynx, and they called them Lapides Lyncis, as well as Lyncuria.
Those which were found in Mount Ida were called Idcei dactyli, or Idaean
fingers, from their supposed resemblance to those members. It is, how-
ever, by no means clear, that the ancients intended to describe Belemnites
under these appellations. Ovid, Met. xv. 413, says :

" India when conquer'd, on the conquering god
For planted vines the sharp-eyed lynx bestow'd,
Whose moisture, shed before it touches earth,
Congeals in air, and gives the gems their birth."

The different accounts of Pliny, indeed, are by no means uniform,
and seem rather to refer to several kinds of gems. Theophrastus also
describes them as gems of a very solid texture, on which seals were
engraved. Wern. Club.

68 History of Nature. [BOOK VIII.

The Badger 1 (Meles) hath another sort of Craft when
under the Influence of Fear; for they will so draw in their
Breath as to distend their Skin, and thus repel the biting of
the Dogs and the Blow of the Hunters.

Squirrels 2 also foresee a Change of Weather ; and they
shut up their Holes on that Side from which the Wind is
about to blow, and open the Doors on the other Side. More-
over, they possess a broad bushy Tail with which to cover
their whole Body. Thus some Creatures provide Food
against Winter, and others are fed with Sleep only.

Of the Viper, Snails, and Lizards.

OF Serpents it is said, that the Viper 3 alone lieth hid in
the Ground; whereas the rest keep within Hollows of Trees
or Rocks ; and otherwise they endure Hunger a whole Year,
provided they be kept from extreme Cold. All the Time of
their Retreat they sleep, and are without Poison. 4

In like manner do Snails ; 5 and not only in the Winter,
but in Summer again, adhering so closely to Rocks, that
although by Force they are plucked off and turned upward,
still they will not come out of their Shell. In the Balearic
Islands there are some called Cavaticae, which never creep
out of the Holes in the Ground ; neither do they live on any
Herb, but they hang together like Clusters of Grapes. Ano-
ther Sort there is of them, but not so common; which hide
themselves within the Cover of their Shell, which sticks fast
to them : these lie always buried in the Ground, and were in

1 Meles vulgaris. DESMAREST. The Badger. Wern. Club.

2 Sciurus vulgaris. LINN. The Squirrel. Wern. Club.

3 Coluber Berus. LINN. The Common Viper. Wern. Club.

4 " The Viper, like the other reptiles, seeks a secret and secure place

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 45 of 60)