the Elder Pliny.

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

. (page 48 of 60)
Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 48 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

useth the Brier for the same Purpose. Mutianus reporteth the
Shrewdness of this Creature as seen by himself, when, upon a
very narrow Bridge, one Goat met another coming opposite
to him from a different Direction; now because the Place was
so narrow that they could not pass each other, nor turn about,
nor yet retire backwards without seeing, considering how
long and slender the Plank was, and also because the Tor-
rent that ran beneath was rapid and dangerous, one of them
lay flat down, and so the other walked over his Back. Male
Goats are held for the best which are the most flat-nosed,
vith long Ears that are crumpled in, and with very long,

1 Capra hirtus. LINN. The Goat . Wern. Club.

92 History of Nature. [BOOK VIII.

shaggy Hair about their Shoulders. But the Mark to know
the noblest Females is, that they have two Folds hanging down
along their Body on either Side from the Neck. All have
not Horns ; but in those which are horned, a Man may know
their Age by the Increase of the Prominences : and the un-
horned she-Goats are more abundant in Milk. Arclielaus
writeth, that they breathe through the Ears, 1 and not at the
Nostrils ; and also that they are never without a Fever. And
this, perhaps, is the Cause that they have hotter Breath
than Sheep, and more eager in their Love. They say, also,
that they see by Night as well as by Day ; and therefore
they who in the Evening are able to see nothing, which
Disease we call Nyctalipia, recover their perfect Sight again
by eating the Liver of Goats. 2 In Cilicia and about the
Syrtes, People clothe themselves with the Goat's Hair, for
there they shear them. It is said that Goats, toward the
Sun-setting, cannot in their Pasture see directly one ano-
ther, but by turning Tail to Tail ; but at other Hours of the
Day they keep towards each other, among their Fellows.
They have all of them a Tuft of Hair under their Chin,
which they call Aruncus. If any one take one of them by
this Beard and draw it out of the Flock, all the rest will
stand gazing at it, as if they were astonished ; and so they
will do if any one of them chance to eat a certain Herb. 3
Their Bite is destructive to Trees. They make the Olive-
Tree barren by licking it, for which Cause they are not
sacrificed to Minerva.

1 The ancient Greeks and Romans were of opinion that goats breathed
through their ears; and even some modern naturalists entertain the
idea that the tear-pits found in the stag and fallow-deer are furnished to
enable them to breathe more freely during their long and rapid flights.
These opinions may be accounted for in some measure by the fact that
certain species of antelope have a pit or fold of skin nearly half an inch in
depth, opening externally by a small aperture immediately behind each
ear, the use of which is not clearly understood. Wern. Club.

2 Lib. xxviii. 11.

3 This herb is said to be Eryngium. See Theoph. in Fragmento de
Animalibus. Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 93

Of Swine 1 and their Natures.

THE Sexes of the Herd of Swine
are united from the Time of the
western Wind (Favonius) to the
Spring* Equinox ; and when they are
eight Months old ; and in some
Places even at the fourth Month of Mtmtf.tom.rn.

their Age up to the seventh Year. They farrow twice a Year;
they go with Young four Months. One Sow may bring at
a Farrow to the Number of twenty Pigs ; but she cannot rear
so many. Nugidius saith, that those Pigs which are farrowed
on the ten Days about the shortest Day of the Year, are
born with Teeth. They are fertile at one coupling, but be-
cause they are subject to Abortion it requires to be repeated.
The Way to prevent Abortion is to keep them asunder at
their first seeking, and before their Ears hang down. The
Males are not fertile after three Years old. Sows, when they
are feeble for Age, are rendered fertile as they lie along.
That a Sow should eat her own Pigs is not a Prodigy. A
young Pig is pure for Sacrifice five Days after it is farrowed ;
a Lamb at eight Days; and a Calf at thirty Days. But
Coruncanus denieth that Beasts which chew the Cud are
pure for Sacrifice until they have two Teeth. Swine that
have lost one Eye are not thought to live long after ; other-
wise they may continue until they are fifteen Years old, and
some to twenty. But they grow outrageous, and subject to
many other Kinds of Diseases, especially the Quinsy and
Scrofula. A Mark to show that Swine are sick is to pluck
a Bristle from the Back, and it will be found bloody at the
Root : also he will carry his Head with a Twist as he goeth.
An overfat Sow soon wanteth Milk ; and at her first Farrow
bringeth fewest Pigs. All the Kind of them love to wallow
in the Mire. They twist their Tails ; wherein this also is

1 Sus scrofa. LINN. The Uog. Wern. Club.

94 History of Nature. [BOOK VIII.

observed, that they more easily appease the Gods in Sacri-
fice, when they turn their Tails to the right rather than the
left. Swine will be fat in sixty Days ; and the rather if, be-
fore you set them up for feeding, they be kept fasting for
three Days. Of all other Animals they are the most brutish;
so that there goeth a witty saying of them, That their Life is
given them instead of Salt. 1 It is known that when Thieves
had driven away a Company of them, on hearing the Voice
'of the Swineherd they leaned all to one Side of the Vessel,
and sunk it, and then returned to their Keeper. Moreover,
the Hogs that lead the Herd are so well trained, that they
will of themselves go to the Swine Market-place, and from
thence Home again ; and the Wild ones have the Wit to
confound the Prints of their Feet, in the marshy Ground,
and to render their Flight more easy by first voiding their
Urine. 2 Sows also are spayed as Camels are ; but two Days
before, they are kept from Meat : then they hang them by
the Forelegs to make Incision into the Part; and by this
means they grow to Fat sooner. There is an Art also to
prepare the Liver of a Sow, as also of a Goose, 3 which was
the Invention of M. Apicius* by feeding them with dry
Figs, and when they have eaten till they are full, presently
to kill them with a Drink of Water, Wine, and Honey
(Mulsus). 5 There is not the Flesh of any other living Crea-
ture that affordeth more Matter for Gluttony : for there are
nearly fifty Sorts of Tastes, whereas others have but one
each. From hence came so many Books of Laws by the

1 Cicero (" De Nat. Deorum," lib. ii.) tells us that this was the saying
of Chrysippus the philosopher ; intimating that the hog lived only to be
eaten, and that his life preserved his flesh from corruption, as salt would
do. Wern. Club.

2 Lib. xxviii. 15. 3 Lib. x. 22.

4 Lib. xix. 8. He is referred to again (B. x. c. 48), and at a time when
luxury in food was carried to a higher pitch than it had ever been in the
world before, he attracted attention by his enormous excess. Athenaeus
says, that Appion the grammarian wrote a treatise on the luxury of Api-
cius (B. vii. c. 12), quoted in the Notes to Bowyer's " Lilian," p. 1010.
Wern. Club.

5 Lib. xxii. 24.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 95

Censors, prohibiting to serve up at Suppers the Belly and
Paps of a Sow; the Glands, Testicles, 1 Womb, and the Fore-
part of the Boar's Head : and yet Publius* the comic Poet,
after he obtained his Freedom, is remarked to have been
never without an Hog's Belly ; who also gave the Name of
Sumen to it. The Flesh of wild Hogs also came into great
Request; so that Cato the Censor, in his Orations, reproached
them for making Brawn. 3 And yet when they made three
Portions of the wild Boar, the Loin was served up in the
midst, under the Name of Brawn (Aprugnus). The first
Roman that brought to the Table, in Feasts, a whole Boar,
was P. Servilius Rullus, Father of that Rullus who, when
Cicero was Consul, published the Agrarian Law. So little
while ago it is since the Beginning of what is now an every-
day Occurrence. And the Thing was recorded in the Annals;
no doubt, to correct such Customs. In them one Supper
had a Mark set on it at the Beginning ; but now, two and
three Boars are eaten at one Time.

Of Parks for Beasts.

THE first Man of the long Robe that formed Parks for
these and other wild Animals was Fulvius Lippinus, who, in
the Territory of Tarquiny, set up an establishment to feed wild
Beasts. And it was not long before others followed his Steps,
as L. Lucullus and Q. Hortensius. Wild Sows bring forth
once a Year ; and the Boars in rutting-time are exceeding
fierce : then they fight one with another : they harden their
Sides by rubbing them against Trees, and coat their Backs
with Mud. The Sows at their farrowing are still more fierce,
as is the Case with almost every kind of Beast. Wild Boars
are not fertile before they are a Year old. The wild Boars of
India 4 have two curved Tusks of a Cubit in Length, growing

1 Lib. xxxvi. 2. ' Lib. xxxv. 17. 3 Lib. xi. 37.

4 Sus babirussa. Cuv. The Babiroussa. This animal, a species
of wild hog, is found in some of the Indian isles. Its long upper tusks,

96 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

out of their Snout ; and as many from their Forehead, like
Calves' Horns. The Hair of the wild sort is like Brass ; but
in others, black. In Arabia, Swine will not live.

Of Beasts half wild.

THERE is no Creature that mixeth so easily with the wild
kind as the Swine ; and such Hogs in old Time they called
Hybrides (half wild) ; and this Term hath been transferred to
Mankind, as in the Instance of C. Antonius, the Colleague
of Cicero in the Consulship. And not in Swine only, but
also in all other Creatures, of whatever Kind there is any
one tame, you may find also the wild of the same Kind ; and
even of Men there may be said to be so many wild Kinds.
As for the Goats, they are changed into a variety of Forms. 1
There are (Caproe) Roes, 2 (Rupicaprse) the Shamois, 3 the
wild Goat (Ibex), 4 of wonderful Swiftness, although his Head
is loaded with very large Horns like Scabbards for Swords ;
by these they poise themselves when they swing round as by
a Rope from one Rock to another ; and chiefly when they
endeavour to skip along from one Mountain to another, and
fetch a Leap to what Place they please with a rapid Spring.
Of this kind are the Oryges, 5 the only Beasts, as some say,
that have their Hair growing reversed, and turning toward
the Head. To these belong the (Damae) Does, 6 and Py-
gargi; 7 as also Strepsicerotes, 8 and many others much like.

passing through the skin of the snout, and curving round over the
forehead, so as to protect the head and eyes, render it applicable to
Pliny's description of the wild boar of India. Wern. Club.

1 Lib. vii. 2. " No animal," says Pennant, " seems so subject to
varieties (the dog excepted) as the goat." Wern. Club.

2 Caprece, Lib. xi. 37. 3 Rupicapra;, Lib. xi. 37.

4 Ibices: Capra ibex. LINN. The Ibex. Wern. Club.

5 Oryges, Lib. xi. 46, and vol. i. p. 75, note. In the 30th chapter,
the wild bulls of India are said to have their hair set backwards as well
as the oryx. Wern. Club.

6 Damce, Lib. x. 37. The African species. Wern. Club.

7 Pygargus, Lib. x. 3. 8 Strepsicerotes, Lib. xi. 37.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 97

The former sort come out of the Alps : these last are sent
from other Parts beyond the Sea.

Of Monkeys.

ALL the Kinds of Monkeys 1 approach very near to the
human Figure ; but they differ one from another in the Tail.
They possess wonderful Shrewdness ; and are said to do as
they see Hunters do before them : even to besmear them-
selves with Birdlime, and to entangle their Feet in Snares,
as if they were putting on Shoes. Mutianus saith, that they
have played at Chess; and that at first Sight they knew Nuts
made of Wax from others ; that when the Moon is in the
wane those Kinds which have Tails are sad, but the new
Moon they adore with Skipping for Joy : for the Eclipse of
Sun or Moon these and all other four-footed Creatures
greatly dread. Monkeys of all Sorts are very fond of their
Young Ones ; and those which are kept tame in Houses will
display them to every one as soon as they are born, carrying
them about : they also take Pleasure to have them dandled, as
if they understood it to imply Congratulation, and in this Way
they generally end in killing them by their Embraces. The
Nature of the Cynocephali 2 is the most savage ; as that of the
Sphinges and Satyri is the most gentle. The Callitriches 3
differ almost entirely in their Appearance : they have a
Beard on their Face, and the Forepart of their Tail is widely

1 Lib. xi. 44.

2 Cynocepnalus anubis. F. Cuv. This is the baboon, which, according
to the author of the work on Monkeys, in the " Library of Entertaining
Knowledge," was, " without a shadow of doubt," the Cynocephalus of the
ancients ; but other authorities attribute the Cynocephalus to the Derrias
or CynocepTialus hamadryis of modern zoologists. Wern. Club.

3 Colobus guereza. RUP. The Guereza. " The conjecture as to
the identity of the Guereza with the Callithrix of the ancients, is by no
means void of probability : at all events it appears to be much nearer the
truth than any other we have met with on the subject." See Natural
History of Monkeys in "Library of Entertaining Knowledge" p. 278.
Wern. Club.


98 History of Nature. [BOOK VIII.

spread. This Creature is said to live in no other Climate
but in Ethiopia, where it is produced.

Of Hares and Rabbits.

OF Hares there are many sorts. 1 On the Alps they are
white ; and it is thought that in the Winter Months they
feed on Snow ; and certainly when it is thawed, all the Year
after they are brownish red ; and this Creature is otherwise
bred up in extreme Cold. Of the Hare kind are they also
which in Spain they call (Cuniculi 2 ) Rabbits, which are ex-
ceedingly fruitful ; so that having devoured all the Corn in
the Field before Harvest in the Balearic Islands, they
brought thereby a Famine on the People. There is a very
dainty Dish at Table made of the young, either cut out of
the Dam's Belly, or taken from them when they are suck-
ing, without cleansing their Entrails : and they call it Lau-
rices. It is certain that the Inhabitants of the Balearic
Islands made a Petition to Divus Augustus Ccesar for mili-
tary Aid to destroy the great Increase of these Creatures
among them. Ferrets 3 are a favourite Resource for hunt-
ing them. They put them into their Holes, which within
the Ground have many Passages (from whence these Crea-
tures are called Cuniculi} : and when they are driven out
of their Earth they are soon taken. Archelaus writeth,
that so many Passages as the Hare hath for his Dung, so

1 Lepus timidus. LINN. The Hare. Baron Cuvier says that during
the second Punic War, Fulvius Hirpinus devised the mode of retaining
quadrupeds in parks. And that these parks were named Leporaria,
because three sorts of hares were reared in them ; the common hare, the
original Spanish rabbit, and the variegated or alpine hare, a species now
almost entirely destroyed.

The flesh of the hare was highly valued : Martial says (Xenia, 87) :

" Inter aves turdus, siquis me Judice certet,
Inter Quadrupedes gloria prima Lepus." Wern. Club.

2 Lepus cuniculus. LINN. The Rabbit. Wern. Club.

3 Musielafuro. Li-HN. The Ferret. Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 99

many Years old he is ; and certainly some have more than
others. The same Writer says, that every Hare is in posses-
sion of a double Faculty, and can breed without the Buck.
Herein Nature hath showed her Bounty, that so harmless an
Animal, and so good to eat, should produce so abundantly.
The Hare is naturally exposed to be a Prey to all ; it is the
only Creature, except the Dasypus, 1 which superfoetates ; so
that she hath one sucking her ; another within her, covered
with Hair ; another is naked ; and another scarcely well-
shaped : all in the Womb together. An Attempt has been
made to make Cloth of Hare's Fur ; but to the Touch they
are not so soft as upon the Skin ; and the Hair is soon shed,
because of its shortness.

Of Beasts half tame.

HARES are seldom rendered tame ; and yet they cannot
rightly be called wild. For many other Creatures there are
that are neither wild nor gentle, but of a middle Nature be-
tween both. Such is among Birds, Swallows, Bees; and in
the Sea, Dolphins.

Of Mice* and Dormice.

IN the Class of those which are neither tame nor wild,
many have arranged the Mice that haunt our Houses : a
Creature not to be despised in considering public Prodigies.
By gnawing the silver Shields 3 at Lavinium, they portended
the Marsian War. To Carlo the Imperator, by eating the
Bandages which he used in fastening his Shoes, at Clusium,

1 It is not possible to determine what animal Pliny intended by the
term Dasypus: some have supposed the word to be no more than an
epithet for a species of Lepus, all of which are soft-footed. See B. x. c. 62.
-Wern. Club.

8 Mm musculus. LINN. The common Mouse. Wern. Club.

3 Cicero mentions this circumstance, "De Divin." Lib. i. and Lib. ii.
Wern. Club.

100 History of Nature. [BooK VIII.

they prognosticated his Death. There are many kinds of
them in the Country of Cyrerie : some with a broad Fore-
head, others with a sharp-pointed ; and some with sharp
Bristles, like Hedgehogs. Theophrastus reporteth, that they
drove away the Inhabitants of the Island Gyaros, and
gnawed even the Iron : a Thing which it seems their
Nature to do ; for among the Chalybes they eat the Iron in
the Smiths' Workshops ; and, indeed, in Gold Mines 1 on
this Account they cut open their Bowels, and so they always
find their stolen Goods again : such Delight this Creature
taketh in thieving. We read in the Chronicles, that when
Annibal besieged Casilinum, a Mouse (Murem) was sold
for two hundred Sesterces ; and the Man who bought it
lived, but he that sold it died for Hunger. If white ones
abound, it presageth Prosperity. Our Annals are full of
Instances, that when Rats (Sorices) are heard to squeak
the Auspices are broken off. Nigidius saith, that Rats also
lie hid in Winter, like Dormice 2 (Glires). By the Laws of
the Censors, and principally by an Act of M. Scaurus, in his
Consulship, it was provided that these should be kept away
from Suppers in no other Manner than were Shell-fish, or
Birds brought from foreign Countries. The Dormouse is a
half- wild Creature ; and he who first contrived to keep
Boars in Parks, also fed these Animals in Tubs. In which
Practice it hath been observed, that these little Creatures
will not associate unless they were Inhabitants of the same
Wood ; and if there be mingled among them any Strangers,
such as had some River or Mountain between the Places
where they were bred, they kill one another with fighting.

1 Livy tells us, Lib. xxviii. 23, that at Cumse mice gnawed some gold
in the temple of Jupiter ; and again, Lib. xxx. 2, that at Antium some
mice gnawed a golden crown. Wern. Club.

2 Myoxus glis. Cuv. An animal as big as a rat, and not to be con-
founded with the little English creature of the same name : the M. Avel-
lanarius of Cuvier. The Romans regarded dormice as a great delicacy,
rearing them in enclosures, and lodging them in earthen jars of a peculiar
form ; and fattening them with worms and chestnuts. B. xxxvi. c. 2.
The writers on agriculture speak of the rearing of these creatures as they
do of any other country work. Wern. Club.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 101

They feed with distinguished Piety their Parents, when
they are feeble with Age. They renew their Age by sleeping
all the Winter; for they lie close and snug all the while.
But when the Summer is come, they grow young again.
The Fieldmice (Nitelae) likewise take similar Rest.

What Creatures are not to be found in certain Places.

IT is wonderful that Nature hath not only assigned diffe-
rent Creatures to different Countries, but also in one Region
hath denied some to certain Situations. In the Forest of
Moesia in Italy, these Dormice are found only in one Part.
In Lycia, Roebucks 1 never pass the Mountains that border
on the Syrians ; nor do the wild Asses that Mountain which
divideth Cappadocia from Cilicia. Within Hellespont the
Stags never wander away into the Borders of other Coun-
tries ; and those which are about Arginussa do not pass be-
yond the Mountain Elatus; which may be known by the
Fact, that all upon that Mountain have their Ears divided.
In the Island Poroselenum, the Weazels do not cross over
the Highway. And about Lebadia in Bceotia, those Moles
which are brought thither from other Parts fly from the
very Soil ; although near by, in Orchomenus, they under-
mine all the Corn-fields ; and I have seen all the Bed-
clothing made of their Skins. In this Manner, even Religion
will not prevent our seeking Pleasures out of the Portents
themselves. The strange Hares that are brought to Ithaca
are found dead about the very Banks of the Sea. In the
Island Ebusus there are no Rabbits ; but in Spain and in the
Balearic Islands they abound. Frogs were mute in Cyrenae ;
but those which were brought thither from the Continent

1 Antelope dorcas. PALLAS. The Gazelle. This animal is generally
supposed to be the Dorcas of the ancients ; but there are those who
would rather identify it with either the Antelope Arabica, Hemp, et
Ehren.; or the Antelope subgutturosa, Guldenst. Wern. Club.

102 History of Nature. [BoOK VIII.

were vocal ; and this kind still continueth there. Even now
in the Island Seriphos they are silent ; but if the same are
carried to other Places, they sing. And they say that the
like happeneth in a Lake of Thessaly named Sicendus. In
Italy the Bite of the Shrew-mouse 1 (Mus araneus) is venom-
ous ; but beyond the Apennines there are no more such to
be found. In whatever Country they are, if they cross over
the Track of a Cart-wheel, they die. In Olympus, a Moun-
tain of Macedonia, there are no Wolves ; nor in the Island
of Crete. And there also are no Foxes nor Bears; and in
one Word, no hurtful Creature, except the Phalangiurn, 2 a
kind of Spider, of which we will speak more in its proper
Place. It is more surprising that in the same Island there are
no Deer, except only in the Region of the Cydoniates : no
wild Boars likewise, nor the Attagen, or Hedgehogs. To
conclude, in Africa there are no wild Boars, no Stags, no
Roes, nor Bears.


What Creatures are hurtful to Strangers.

SOME Creatures there are which do no Harm to the Na-
tives of the Country, but kill all Strangers : such as some
small Serpents in Tirinthe, which are supposed to be pro-
duced out of the Earth. So, in Syria, there are Snakes,
especially along the Banks of the Euphrates, that do not
touch the Syrians while l}ing asleep; and even if a Native
treads upon them and receives a Bite, he does not receive
any Hurt ; but to the People of any other Nation they are

1 Sorex araneus. LINN. The Shrew. Among the ancients the
Shrew-mouse had a very bad reputation. Thus Aristotle declares that
its bite is dangerous to horses and other beasts of burden ; and that it is
more dangerous if the Shrew-mouse be with young. The bite, he says,
causes boils, and these burst, if the Shrew-mouse be pregnant when she
inflicts the wound ; but if she be not, they do not burst. " Hist. Anim."
Lib. viii. 24. Wern. Club.

2 Lib. xi. 24 ; and Lib. xxix. 4.

BOOK VIII.] History of Nature. 103

very dangerous : so that they will eagerly assail and kill
them with extreme Pain. And therefore it is that the
Syrians do not destroy them. On the other Hand, Aristotle
reporteth, 1 that in Latmos, a Mountain of Caria, the Scor-
pions will do no Harm to Strangers, but they will sting to
Death the Inhabitants of the Country.

Now let us proceed to speak of the Kinds of other living
Creatures, besides those of the Land.

1 "Hist. Anim." Lib. viii. 39. Wern. Club.




1. The Nature of Creatures of the


2. The Reason why Creatures of

the Sea are of all others the

3. The monstrous Beasts of the

Indian Sea.

4. The greatest Fishes in every

Part of the Ocean.

5. Of Tritons, Nereids, and Sea-

Elephants : their Forms.

6. Of Whales (called Balaenae) and


7. Whether Fishes breathe or


8. Of Dolphins and their won-

derful Properties.

9. Of the Tursions.

10. Of Tortoises, and how they are


1 1 . Who first devised to separate the

Tortoise-shells into Leaves.

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 48 of 60)