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

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an Ass be seen to die, the whole Race will very soon follow
to the very last.

CHAPTER XLIV.
Of Mules.

BETWEEN the He-Ass and a Mare a Mule is produced in
the twelfth Month : a Creature of exceeding Strength for
Labour. For breeding such Mules they choose Mares that
are not under four Years old, nor above ten. They relate
that they will drive away one another in both kinds, unless
they sucked the Milk of the Dam, when they were young, of
that kind by which they would produce. And for this Pur-
pose they remove away either the young Ass-Foals, and set
them in the dark to the Teats of the Mare, or else the young
Colts to suck of the she- Ass. For there is a Mule also that
cometh of a Horse and a female Ass : but they are unruly,
and of unconquerable Slowness : and much more if they be
far in Age. If, when a she- Ass hath conceived by an Horse,
she admit an Ass, an Abortion follows ; but it is not so if
an Horse follow an Ass. It is observed, that seven Days
after an Ass hath foaled is the best Time for another Con-
ception; and, also, that the he- Asses succeed best when
weary with Travel. That Ass is understood to be barren
which hath not conceived before she hath cast her Foal's-
teeth ; and also she which doth not conceive at the first. In
old Time they used to call those Hinuli, which were begotten
between an Horse and an Ass : and, on the other Hand,
Mules, such as were between an Ass and a Mare. Also
it is observed, that a Creature born from Beasts of two
different kinds, formeth a third Sort, resembling neither of
the Parents ; and that such as are produced in this Manner,
whatever kind of Creatures they are, are themselves barren ;
and therefore she -Mules never breed. We find in our
Chronicles, that oftentimes Mules have brought forth, but
it was always taken for a Prodigy. Theophrastus saith,



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 81

that in Cappadocia ordinarily they produce Foals ; but there
they are a distinct kind of Animal. Mules are broken of their
Kicking if they are often made to drink wine. It is found
written in what remains of many Greeks, that there has
been produced between an he-Mule and a Mare, a Creature
which the Latins call Hinnus, that is, a little Mule. Between
Mares and wild Asses that have been made tame are pro-
duced a kind of Mules, very swift in running and exceed-
ingly hard-hoofed, slender of body, of unconquered but
generous spirit. But the Mule that cometh of a wild Ass
and a female tame Ass exceeds all the rest. Wild Asses
(Onagri) are the best in Phrygia and Lycaonia. Africa
boasts of the Flesh of their Foals, which is excellent Meat ; x
and such they call Lalisiones. It appeareth in the Chronicles
of Athens, that a Mule lived eighty Years; and that when
they built the Temple in the Citadel at that Place, this old
Mule being set aside for Age, would yet accompany the
other labouring Beasts, and if any of them were ready to fall
under their Load, would relieve and encourage them accord-
ing to his power: by which the people were so much pleased,
that they made a Decree that the Corn-Merchants should
take good Care that this Mule should not be driven away
from their Cleansing-Sieves.

CHAPTER XLV.

Of Oxen*
IT is said that the Oxen of India are as high as Camels,

o *

and four Feet broad between the Horns. In our Part of the

1 ^Elian, Hunting, book iii. The Persians and Tartars hold the flesh
of the wild ass in high esteem, and hunt it in preference to all other
descriptions of game. Olearius assures us that he saw no fewer than
thirty-two wild asses slain in one day by the Schah of Persia and his
court, and their bodies were sent to the royal kitchens at Ispahan. We
know from Martial that the epicures of Rome held the flesh of the
Onager in the same estimation as we do venison :

"Cum tener est Onager, solaque lalisio matre
Pascitur : hoc infans, sed breve nomen habet."

Lib. xiii. 97. Wcrn. Club.

2 Bos Taurus. LINN. The Ox. Wern. Club.
VOL. III. G



82 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

World, those that come out of Epirus are most commended;
and they report that they were much attended to by King
Pyrrhus, who would not suffer them to breed before they
were four Years old. Therefore they were of great Size;
and so they continue in their Posterity to this Day. In the
present Day, however, they are permitted to breed when
/hey are one Year old, or at most two; which is more tole-
rable. Bulls are generative when they are four Years old ;
and one is a sufficient Companion for ten Cows through the
Year. If a Bull, after Copulation, go away toward the right
Hand, he hath gotten a male Calf; hut if to the left, a Cow
Calf. Cows are fertile at the first ; but if it chance that
they fail, the twentieth Day after they again seek their Fel-
low. In the tenth Month they calve ; and whatever cometh
before that Term is worth nothing. Some write that they
calve just upon the last Day of the tenth Month complete.
They seldom bring forth two Calves at a Time. Their Time
of Propagation continueth thirty Days from the rising of the
Dolphin to the Day before the Nones of January ; but some
propagate in Autumn. Indeed, in those Countries where the
People live on Milk, they order the Matter so, that they are
not without this Food all the Year long. Bulls do not serve
above two Cows in one Day. Oxen alone of all Animals go
backward as they feed ; and among the Garamantsb they
scarcely ever feed otherwise. Cows live riot above fifteen
Years at the most ; but the Males come to twenty. They are
in their full Strength when five Years old. It is said they will
grow fat if they are bathed with hot Water ; or if a Man slit
their Hide, and with a Reed blow Wind into their Entrails.
Oxen are not to be despised as defective, although they may
look but ill-fa vouredly ; for in the Alps those that, are least
of Body are the best for Milk. And the best labouring
Oxen are they which are yoked by the Head, and not the
Neck. In Syria they have no Dewlaps, but a Bunch stand-
ing on the Back. They of Caria also, a Country in Asia,
are ill-favoured to be seen, having between their Necks and
Shoulders a projecting Tumour ; and their Horns are loose,
as if out of Joint; and yet by Report, tbev are excellent for



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 83

Labour: but the black or white in this kind are condemned
for Work. Bulls have less and slenderer Horns than Cows
or Oxen. The Time to bring the Ox or Bull to the Yoke is
at three Years of Age ; after this it is too late, and before it
is too soon. A young Steer is soonest trained to draw, if he
be coupled with another that hath been taught already ; for
this Animal is our Companion in Labour and the Cultivation
of the Ground : and so highly regarded was the Ox by our
Forefathers, that we find it on Record that a Man was judi-
cially condemned on a given Day by the People of Rome,
because, to gratify a wanton Concubine of his, who said he
had not eaten any Tripe all the while he was in the Country,
he had killed an Ox, 1 although it was his own ; and for this
Fact he was banished, as if he had slain his own Manager of
Husbandry. There is a Majesty in the Aspect of a Bull ;
their Countenance stern, their Ears covered with stiff Hairs,
and their Horns standing as if they were ever demanding to
fight. But all his threatening appears in his Fore-feet ; be-
stirring himself now with one Foot, and then with another,
as his Anger bursts forth, flinging the Sand aloft into the Air:
and of all other Beasts he alone with such an Incitement
stirs up his Anger. We have seen them fight one another
for the Mastery ; and thus viewed to be swung round, in
their Fall to be caught up by the Horns, and to rise again :
when only lying along, to be raised from the Ground ;
and when they have run with a rapid Pace, in two-wheeled
Chariots, they have stood still suddenly, as if the Cha-
rioteers had caused them to stop. It was an Invention of
the Thessalians, with a Horse to gallop close to the Bull's
Horns, and kill it by twisting its Neck. The first that exhi-
bited this Show to the People of Rome, was Cce.sar the
Dictator. The Bull forms the most worthy and sumptuous
Offering of Reconciliation to the Gods. This Animal alone,
of all those that are long-tailed, when newly-born, hath not
the Tail of the full Measure, as others ; but it continueth to

1 According to ^Elian, B. xii. c. 34, among the Phrygians death was
the regular punishment of any one who killed his plough ox. Wern.
Club.



84 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

grow until it reacheth down to the very Heels. And hereupon
it is, that in approving Calves for Sacrifice, those are allowed
whose Tail cometh down to the Joint of the Gambril : but if
shorter, they will not be an effectual Sacrifice. This also is
noted, that Calves brought on Men's Shoulders to the Altars
are not for the most Part accepted for Sacrifice ; nor one
that is lame ; nor can the Gods be appeased with those
Sacrifices which are foreign to them, nor with such as draw
themselves back from the Altar. Among the Prodigies that
we read of in ancient Times, we find that an Ox hath spoke ; l
and when this was announced, the Senate was accustomed to
be held in an open Place.

CHAPTER XLVI.
Of the Ox Apis.

IN Egypt, also, an Ox 2 is worshipped as a God, and they
call it Apis. 3 It was marked with a white Spot on the right
Side, like the Horns of the new Moon ; a Knob under the
Tongue, which they call Cantharus: 4 it was not lawful to

1 When a report was brought that an ox had spoken, the senate was
held in the open air. (Adams' " Rom. Antiq." p. 9.) This was against the
custom, because under ordinary circumstances the senate could only meet
in stated places at first limited to two within the city, and the temple of
Bellona without it ; afterwards the right was extended to several temples
and curiae the latter being consecrated by the augurs, but not to any
particular deity. The places and circumstances of meeting are recited
more at length in Livy, xxvi. 10 ; iii. 63 ; xxxi. 47 ; xxxiii. 22, 24 ; xxxiv.
43; xxxvi. 39; xlii. 36. Wern. Club.

2 See Herodotus, Lib. iii. 28. Wern. Club.

3 The Scarabaeus. Wern. Club.

4 ^Elian, B. xi. c. 10, gives a different account of the Egyptian ox-god
Apis ; derived, as he strongly intimates, from the best Egyptian authority,
and differing from that afforded by Herodotus and Aristagoras. According
to him it was designated by twenty-nine marks in different parts of its
body, and each one conveying some important figurative meaning : as one,
the increase of the Nile, and another, that darkness existed previously to
light. As Apis was held sacred at Memphis, so another ox was reve-
renced there under the name of Mnevis : the latter dedicated to the sun
as the former to the moon. JElian, B. xi. c. 11. Wern. Club.



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 85

suffer him to live above a certain Number of Years ; at the
end of which they drown him in a Fountain of the Priests,
and then, with Mourning, seek another, which they substi-
tute in his Place. Until they find him they mourn and
shave their Heads. But they never are long before they
meet with another : and when they have found him, he is by
the Priests brought to Memphis, where he hath two Shrines
(Delubra), which they call Thalami (Bed-chambers), which
are the Auguries of the People. For if this Ox enter into
one of them, it is a good Sign ; but if into the other, it por-
tendeth Misfortune. He gives Answers to private Persons by
taking Meat from the Hand of such as consult him. He
turned away from the Hand of Germanicus Ccesar, and not
long afterwards he died. He is kept secret for the most Part :
but when he hath got forth to the Multitude, he proceeds
with a Guard of Lictors, and a Flock of Boys accompany
him, singing a Hymn to his Honour : for he seemeth to
understand, and is pleased to be worshipped. These Com-
panies presently become beside themselves, and foretell
future Things. Once a Year there is presented to him a
Cow, which hath Marks as he hath, but differing from his ;
and it is said that always upon what Day this Cow is found,
on the same it dieth. At Memphis, there is a Place in the
Nile which, from its Figure, the Inhabitants name Phiala;
and there every Year the Egyptians drown a silver and
gold Cup on the Days in which they celebrate the Nativity
of Apis. These Days are seven in Number; and it is won-
derful, that while they last no one is hurt by Crocodiles :
but on the eighth Day, after the sixth Hour of the Day, they
return to their former Ferocity.

CHAPTER XLVII.
The Nature of Flocks of Sheep, 1 and their breeding.

GREAT is the Advantage from the Flock, both as regards
Sacrifices to pacify the Gods, and the use of their Fleece :

1 Ovis arics. LINN. The Sheep. Wern. Club.



86 History of Nature. [Booic VIII,

for as Men are indebted to the Ox's Labour for their Food,
so they owe the clothing of their Bodies to the Sheep. They
are fertile from two Years of Age upward to nine, and some
until they are ten Years old. The first Lambs are smaller
than the others. They go with Young about the Setting of
Arcturus, that is, from the third Day before the Ides of May
to the Setting of the Eagle, on the tenth Day before the
Calends of August. They are with Young 150 Days. If
any are conceived after that Time they prove weak. Lambs
born after that Season they called in old Time Cordos (later
Lambs). Many prefer these Winter Lambs before those that
come in Spring ; because it is much better they should be
strong before the Solstice than before the shortest Days : and
they think that this Creature only is useful by being born in
the midst of Winter. It is natural for Rams to loathe young
Lambs, and to follow after old Ewes. Himself also is better
when old, and more effective for them. To make them more
gentle, they bore his Horn through near his Ear. If his right
Testicle be tied up, he getteth Ewe Lambs : if the left, Males.
If Ewes be by themselves when it thundereth, they cast their
Lambs. The Remedy is to gather them together, that by
Company they may have help. They say that if the North
Wind blow they will conceive Males ; but if the Wind be
South, Females. Moreover, great Regard is had in this
Kind to the Mouths of the Rams : for of what Colour the
Veins be under their Tongue, 1 of the same will the Fleece be
of the Lambs; and they will be of a Variety of Colours if the
Veins were so. Also the Change of Water arid Drink maketh
them to alter their Colour. There are two principal Kinds
of Sheep; one reared within House, and the other abroad in
the Field : the first is the tenderer, but the other more deli-

1 Virgil, Georg. iii. 387, in giving directions to choose a ram, says,

"But if dark hues his tongue and palate stain,
Drive him far distant from thy spotless train,
Lest the dim blemish that the sire denied
Infect the fleece, and taint the motley child."

Wern. Club.



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 87

cate in Taste ; for those within the House feed upon Bram-
bles. The Coverings made of the Arabian Wool are the
most valuable.

CHAPTER XLVIII.
Of the Kinds of Wool and Cloths.

THE Wool of Apulia is held in the highest Estimation ;
then, that which in Italy is named the Greek Sheep's Wool,
but in other Countries is called Italian. In the third Rank
stands the Milesian Sheep. The Wool of Apulia is of a short
Staple, and is of Reputation for nothing beside Mantles.
About Tarentum and Canusium the richest of this Kind are
found : as also at Laodicea in Asia. For Whiteness there is
none better than that which groweth along the Po ; and yet
to this Day a Pound of it hath not exceeded the Price of an
hundred Sesterces. They do not shear Sheep everywhere ;
for the Custom of plucking their Fleece cont'mueth still in
some Places. There are several Sorts of Colours in Wool, so
that we are not able to give distinct Names to all that we
call Native. Black Fleeces 1 are chiefly in Spain; Pollentia,
near the Alps, has grey ; Asia is distinguished for red, and
these Wools are called Erythraese : in Boeotia the same. In
Canusia the Colour is yellow : and at Tarentum they are
brown. All Wool, in its native Grease, is used in Medicine. 2
About Istria and Liburuia the Fleece resembleth Hair rather
than Wool, and is not good to make Clothes with a high Nap ;
but serveth only for the Workman in Portugal, whose Weav-
ing in Net- work with Squares commendeth this Wool. The like
Wool is common about Piscenae, in the Province Narbonensis
(Languedoc) ; and such is found in Egypt : the Cloth made
of it, after it is worn bare, is dyed, and again will wear
during a Man's Life. The coarse, rough Wool, was in old

1 JElian says that all the sheep are black in Abydena, B. iii. c. 32 ;
and Budiana, B. xvi. c. 33. In some soils of our country the fleece has a
strong red tinge, and on the granite in the middle of Cornwall they are
more than usually white. Wern. Club.

3 B. xxix. c. 22.



88 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

Time highly commended for Tapestry ; for even Homer wit-
nesseth, 1 that the Ancients used it. But this Tapestry is
adorned with Colours in Gallia (France), after one Manner,
and among the Parthians after another. Wool of itself,
driven together into a Felt, serveth to make Garments with :
and if Vinegar is added to it, such Cloth is proof against
Steel ; and more than that, it will check the Force of Fire.
And the last cleansing of it, when it is taken out of the Cal-
drons of those that dress it, serveth to stuff Mattresses : 2 an
Invention, as I suppose, which came first out of Gaul ; for
certainly it is at this Day distinguished by Gallic Names. But
I am not able easily to say at what Time this Workmanship
began : for in old Time Men made their Beds of Straw, as
now in the Camp they use hairy Rugs (Gausape). Our
Mantles (Amphimalia), shagged without and within, were
invented within my Father's Memory; and also these downy
Aprons (Ventralia) : for the Tunic of the Latus Clavus,
woven in the Manner of the Gausape or hairy Rug, is now
first begun. Black Fleeces will take no other Colour. We
will speak of the dyeing of other Wools in their proper
Places ; 3 where we shall treat of Shell-fishes, and the Nature
of Herbs. M. Varro writeth, that in the Temple of Sangus
there continued to the Time when he wrote the Wool that
Tanaquil, who is also called Caia Ccec'ilia, spun ; together
with her Distaff and Spindle; and, also, in the Chapel of
Fortune, the royal Robe made by her in Wave-work, which
Servius Tullius used to wear. And hence came the Custom,
that when Maidens were married there attended upon them
a Distaff dressed, and also a Spindle with Flax. She was

1 Odyss. iv. 427 :

" Beneath an ample portico they spread
The downy fleece to form the slumberous bed ;
And o'er soft palls of purple grain, unfold
Rich tapestry, stiff with interwoven gold."

Wern. Club.

- "Tomente," or "tormente," to stuff mattresses, or for ropes of
engines. Wern. Club.

3 Lib. ix. 36, ct seq., and Lib. xxi. 8.



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 89

the first that made the Tunic that is woven right through, 1
such as young Persons (Tyrones) and newly-married Ladies
put on with the pure Toga. The waved Garment was, from
the Beginning, among the most esteemed ; and from thence
came the branched Works. Fenestella writeth, that in the
later Time of Augustus C&sar they began to use shorn
Gowns, as also with a curled Nap. The Robes called
Crebrse Papaveratse 2 (wrought thick with Flower -work,
resembling Poppies, or pressed smooth) are of greater Anti-
quity ; for even in the Time of Lucilius the Poet, Torquatus
was noted for wearing them. The Praetextse had their Origin
among the Etruscans. The Trabese I find worn by Kings.
In Homer s Time 3 they used painted Garments : and from
thence came the triumphant Robes. The Phrygians invented
that which is wrought with a Needle : and so they are called
Phrygiones. And in Asia, King Attains invented the work-
ing of Gold into the same ; and from him such Cloths are
called Attalica. Babylon was much celebrated for the weav-
ing of Cloth of various Colours into a Picture, and Cloths so
wrought were called Babylonica. To weave with many
twisted Threads was the Invention of Alexandria, and these
were named Polymita ; but Gallia invented the Method of
dividing the Work into Shields or Escutcheons. Metellus

1 The reader will be reminded of the garment of our Lord, woven
without a seam. (Gospel by St. John, c. xix. v. 23.) The Babylonish gar-
ments of beautiful interwoven colours were of high antiquity, since they
proved too great a temptation to the virtue of Achan at the time of
Joshua's invasion of Palestine. (Joshua, c. vii.) The painted garments
referred to were as the name imports ; for among the Chinese the arts
are preserved without change from times of remote antiquity, and in
their own representations of them, the liquid colours are laid on the tex-
ture in the manner of drawing, with a brush. Wern. Club.

2 Lib. xix. 1, and Lib. xx. 9.

3 Iliad, iii. 125, where Iris finds Helen weaving at the loom:

" Here in the palace, at her loom she found ;
The golden web her own sad story crown'd.
The Trojan wars she weav'd (herself the prize),
And the dire triumphs of her fatal eyes."

Wern. Club.



90 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

Scipio, among the Crimes alleged against Capita, accused
him that the Babylonian Hangings of his Dining-room cost
800,000 Sesterces ; and such-like of late stood Prince Nero
in 400,000,000 Sesterces. 1 The Praetextse of Servim Tullius,
with which he covered the Image of Fortune which he had
dedicated, remained sound to the death of Seianus. And it
was a Wonder that they neither fell from the Image nor
were Moth-eaten in 560 Years. We have in our Day seen
the Sheep's Fleeces while they are alive, dyed with Purple,
with Scarlet in Grain, and from the Shell- fish, by the
means of certain Barks, a Foot and a half long, dipped
in those Colours ; as if Luxury should make Wool to grow
of those Colours. For the Sheep itself, she is known to be
of the best Breed if she be short-legged, and well wooled
under the Belly ; for such as are naked there, they called
Apicae, and condemned. In Syria, Sheep have Tails a Cubit
long, and they bear most Wool there. It is thought to be
too early to castrate Lambs before they are five Months old.

CHAPTER XLIX.
Of the Musmon*

THERE is in Spain, but especially in Corsica, a Kind of
Musmones, not altogether unlike Sheep, having a Shag
more like the Hair of Goats than the Fleece of Sheep. That
Kind which is produced between them and the Sheep they
called in old Time Umbri. This Creature hath a very tender
Head, and therefore in feeding it is to be forced to stand
with its Tail to the Sun. Of all living Creatures, those that
bear Wool are the most foolish ; for if one of them be drawn
by the Horn, all the rest will follow, though otherwise they

1 Quadragies, vel quadrengenties sestertio. Wern. Club.

3 Most naturalists look to the Mouflon, or Musmon, of Corsica (Ovis
musimon), as the wild type of the sheep, and some regard this to be the
origin of the European breeds ; but the reasons upon which this is as-
sumed appear very problematical. The domestic breeds of sheep are
most probably the descendants of a race subjected from the beginning to
man, and no longer in an independent state. Wern. Club.



BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 91

were afraid to go that Way. The Length of their Life is ten
Years ; but in Ethiopia, thirteen. In the same Country, Goats
also live eleven Years ; whereas in the rest of the World, for
the most Part, they live only eight. Both Sorts become
fertile in four Opportunities.

CHAPTER L.
Of Goats 1 and their Breeding.

GOATS bring forth four Kids, but not often. They go
with Young five Months, like Ewes. She-Goats become
barren with Fatness. When three Years old they are not so
good to breed ; and when they are older, not beyond four
Years of Age. They begin at the seventh Month, even while
they snck their Dams. Both Sexes are more useful if they
have no Horns. The first Time in the Day that the she-
Goats go with the Male is void : the second is more fertile,
and so forward. They conceive in the Month of November,
so that they may bring Kids in March, when Shrubs begin
to bud ; and this is sometimes when they are a Year old, but
always at two Years; and when three, they are not utterly
decayed : for they are fertile for eight Years. In cold Wea-
ther they are liable to Abortion. The she-Goat, when her
Eyes are overspread with Opacity, pricketh them with the
Point of a Rush, and so letteth them bleed : but the Buck



Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 47 of 60)