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12. The Coverings of Sea Animals :

the Division of them into their
several Kinds.

13. Of the Seal.

14. Of Fishes without Hair : how

they breed : and how many
Sorts there are.

15. The Names and Natures of

many Fishes.

16. Augury by Fishes, and their


17. Of the Mullet and other Fishes.

That the same Fishes are not
in request in all Places.


18. Of the Barbel, the Coracinus :

of Stockfish and Salmon.

19. Of the Exoecetus, Calamaries,

the Muraena.

20. The Division of Fishes by the

Shape of their Bodies.

21. Of Eels.

22. The Manner of taking them in

the Lake Benacus.

23. The Nature of the Muraena.

24. Of flat Fishes.

25. Of the Echeneis, and its won-

derful Nature.

26. The Variety of Fishes.

27. Of the Fish called the Lantern,

and the Sea Dragon.

28. Of Fishes wanting Blood.

29. Of the Loligo, the Sepia, the

Calamary, and Nautilus.

30. The Fish Ozsena, and Nau-

plius : also of the Lobster

31. Of Crabs, Echini: and of the

greater Sort named Echino-

32. Of wreathed Shells.

33. Of Scallops, Murex, and other


34. The Treasures of the Sea.

35. Of Pearls, how they are pro-

duced, and where : also how
they are found.

36. Of the purple Shell-fish and

the Murices.

37. How many Kinds there are of

purple Shell-fishes.

Contents of the Ninth Book.



38. How the purple Shell - fishes

are taken.

39. When Purple was first worn

in Rome.

40. The Price of purple Cloth at


41. The dyeing of the Amethyst

Colour, of the Scarlet in
Grain, and the light Scarlet

42. Of the Pinna and Pinnoteres:

also the Intelligence of Crea-
tures of the Water.

43. Of Scolopendres, Sea Foxes,

and the Fishes Glani.

44. Of the Fish called the Sea


45. Of those Things which have a

third Nature, being neither
living Creatures, nor yet
Plants; of Sea Nettles and

46. Of Hound-fishes.

47. Of such as have stony Shells :

of those that have no Sense :
of other sordid Creatures.


48. Of venomous Fishes.

49. The Diseases incident to Fishes.

50. The surprising Generation of


51. Another Discourse of their

Generation : and what Fishes
lay Eggs.

52. The Wombs of Fishes.

53. What Fishes live longest.

54. Of Oyster Pits, and who first

devised them.

55. Who first invented Ponds to

feed the Mursena in.

56. The Ponds for other Shell-

fishes, and who first used

57. Of Fishes that haunt the Land.

58. The Rats of the Nile.

59. Of the Fish called Anthias, and

how it is taken.

60. Of Sea Stars.

61. Of the Fishes Dactyli, and their

admirable Properties.

62. What Fishes entertain Amity

one with another, and which
are ever at War.

In sum, this Book containeth Histories and Observations to the Number
of 650, collected


Turanius Graccula, Trogus, Mecanas, Alfius Flavus, Cornelius Nepos,
Laberius the Writer of merry Epigrams, Fubianus, Fenestella, Mutianus,
JElius Stilo, Statins Sebosus, Melissus, Seneca, Cicero, Macer, JEmylius,
Messala Corvinus, Trebius Niger, and Nigidius.


Aristotle, King Archelaus, Callimachus, Democritus, Theophrastus,
rasyllus, Hegesidemus of Cythnos, and Alexander Polyhistor.




Of the Nature of the Inhabitants of the Water.

have pointed out the Nature of those Ani-
ma ^ s w hi c h are ca H e d Terrestrial, and which
have some Society with Men. And consi-
dering that among the others they that fly
K2OOOO* are the least, we will first treat of the Inha-
bitants of the Sea ; and of those also that live in Rivers or


Why the Sea should breed the greatest living Creatures.

THE Waters bring forth greater Abundance of living
Creatures, and these also of larger size, than the Land.
The Cause is evident, in the excessive Abundance of Mois-
ture. For the Birds, which live suspended in the Air, their
Case is otherwise. But in the Sea, which is so widely
spread abroad, so soft and proper to yield Nourishment
and increase, and receiveth the Causes of Propagation from

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 107

on high, Nature is always framing some new Creatures,
many of which are found to be monstrous Things. For
the Seeds and universal Elements are so interlaced and
iningled one with another, partly by the blowing (of the
Winds), and at other Times by the Agitation (of the Waves),
that it may truly be said, according to the vulgar Opinion,
that whatever is bred in any Part of Nature is to be found
also in the Sea ; and many more Things besides, which no-
where else are to be seen. For there truly not only exist the
Forms of Land Animals, but also of many other Things; and
there may one see also what appear like Bunches of Grapes,
Swords, and Saws; yea, and also Cucumbers, which for
Colour, Smell, and Taste, resemble those that grow on
the Land. And therefore we need the less to wonder, if in
such little Snails there are some Things standing out like
the Heads of Horses.

Of Beasts in the Indian Sea.

THE Indian Sea breedeth the most and biggest Animals ;
among which Whales (Balaenae) 1 are as large as four Acres of
Land ; and Pristes two hundred Cubits: and no Wonder, for

1 To avoid a confusion of references, the species of whales mentioned
by Pliny are here arranged at one view ; and, so far as the subject admits,
identified with those recognised by modern naturalists.

The term " Balaenae " appears, in its widest extension, to have been a
general name for the whole tribe ; in which also were comprised some
inhabitants of the ocean, of large size, which had nothing in common
with the proper whales but their magnitude. The Pristis, perhaps the
Basking Shark (Selachus maximus, Cuv.), and some other species, and
certainly the Tunny, when, as sometimes happens, it has attained enor-
mous growth, were anciently arranged among cetaceous fishes. But be-
sides this, the word " Balaena," or " Phalsena," was the proper name of
the animal known as the Balcenoptera musculus, or the Rorqual of
Cuvier; which they did not distinguish from B. Boops.

The creatures referred to at the end of Ch. 3, and compared to horses,
asses, and bulls, were probably Dugongs, or Sea-cows ; the Manatus and
Halichore of Cuvier, and comprised in the genus Trichecus of Linncus.
Physeter, a modern as well as ancient genus of whales, is still known on

1 08 History of Nature. [BoOK 1 X .

Locusts are there to be found of full four Cubits : and Eels
in the River Ganges of thirty Feet. But these Beasts in the
Sea are chiefly to be seen about the Solstice. For then by
the Whirlwinds, Rains, and Tempests, which rush with Vio-
lence down from the rugged Mountains, the Seas are turned
up from the very Bottom ; and thus the Billows roll and
raise these Beasts out of the deep Parts of the Ocean. For
in that Manner so great a Multitude of Tunnies were on one
occasion driven up, that the Fleet of Alexander the Great was
able to make head against them in no other Manner than by
advancing as if to contend with an Host of Enemies ; for
otherwise if they had sailed singly and asunder, there had
been no Way to escape. By no Voice, no Noise, no Blows,
but by the Crash only were they terrified ; nor are they
disturbed but by Destruction.

In the Red Sea there is a great Peninsula named Cadara,
projecting so far as to form an extensive Bay, which it took
King Ptolemceus twelve Days and Nights to row through ;
for there was not any Wind to help him. Through the
Stillness of this Place, the Beasts grow to such bigness,
that their Weight renders them not able to stir. The Com-
manders of the Fleets of Alexander the Great reported,
that the Gedrosi, a People dwelling on the River Arbis,

the west coasts of Britain, by the corresponding term " Blower." The
enormous creature cast on shore at Gades, as mentioned at the end of
Chap. 5, must have been of this genus ; and as the number of teeth
assigned to it was probably counted collectively, after the jaws were
denuded of flesh, when some also are seen in the upper jaw, it may be
supposed probable that it was Ph. macrocephalus.

The other species mentioned by Pliny belong to the genus Delphinus :
D. Orca. The Grampus. It is also the Aries or Ram of Pliny ;
from a white crescent over the eye, marked on the skin, fancifully
supposed to resemble a ram's horn.
D. DelpMs. The real Dolphin.
D. Tursio.

The Platanista of Pliny is the D. gangeticus, Cuv.
The Forcus marinus, c. 15, is probably the D. Phocana, or common


Whale oil is mentioned, B. xxxii. c. 1.
The Pristis is probably the P, antiquorum, or Sawfish. Wvrn. Club.

BOOK IX .] History of Nature. 109

used to make the Jaws of such Beasts the Doors of their
Houses ; that they form the Rafters of their Roofs with the
Bones ; and that many of them were found to be forty Cubits

In those Parts the Beasts go forth to the Land like a
Flock of Cattle, and feed upon the Roots of Plants, and
then return. There are others also which have Heads like
Horses, Asses, and Bulls ; and these eat the standing Corn.

Which are the greatest Creatures in any Ocean.

THE largest Creature in the Indian Sea is the Pristis and
Balsena (Whale). In the Ocean of Gaul the largest is the
Physeter, which lifteth itself up in the Manner of an immense
Pillar, higher than the Sails of Ships ; and spouteth forth
almost a Flood. In the Ocean of Gades there is a Tree 1
spreading abroad with mighty Arms, to such an extent that it
is believed to be the Cause why that Arm of the Sea is never
entered. There are to be seen also what from their Shape
are called Wheels, distinguished by four Rays ; with their
two Eyes closing over the Naves on each Side.


Of the Forms of Tritons, Nereids, and Sea- Elephants *
WHEN Tiberius was Sovereign, an Embassy of the Inha-

1 This and the wheel may be referred to some large species of coral,
and asterias, or sea-star ; which report had magnified enormously. But
the former is thought by Dr. Hamilton to be the Kraken of Pontop-
pidan : perhaps a species of Medusa, or Cuttle-fish, of which a wonderful
figure is given by Denys Montford, where one of these creatures is seen
capturing a Chinese junk. Wern. Club-

2 Of the existence of these beings, as they are represented by the
poets, the people of that day had as little doubt as of the god whose
attendants they were supposed to be. The stories told in this chapter
were probably due to some deception practised on the credulity or fear of
the neighbourhood by some skilful swimmers. That some species of Seal

1 10 History of Nature. [BooK IX.

bitants of Ulyssipon 1 was sent to inform him, that there was
seen and heard within a certain Cave a Triton, sounding a
Shell; and that he was known by his Form. And it is not
false that there is such a Creature as a Nereid; only their
Body is rough with Scales, even in those Parts where they
possess the human Form. For such a Female Being was
beheld on the same Shore ; and the neighbouring Inha-
bitants heard its Moaning from a Distance when it was
dying. Also, a Governor of Gaul, under .Divus Augustus,
wrote, that many of these Nereids were seen dead upon the
Shore. I possess Authors, illustrious in the Equestrian
Order, who testify that in the Ocean near Gades they saw a
Sea-man, in the whole Body perfectly resembling a Man :
that in the Night Season he would come aboard their Boats;
and on whatever Part he sat, he weighed it down ; so that if
he continued there any long Time he would even sink it.
When Tiberius was Sovereign, in an Island opposite the
Coast of the Province of Lugdunensis, the Sea, when it
ebbed, left upon the Sands, at one Time, above three hun-
dred Beasts, of a wonderful Variety and Bigness. And
there were no fewer found upon the Coast of the Santones.
And among the Rest there were Elephants and Rams, with
Horns like those (of the Land), except that they were
white: and many Nereids also. Turanius hath reported,
that a Beast was cast upon the Shore at Gades, of which the
Breadth of the two Fins forming the Ends of the Tail was
sixteen Cubits ; it had 120 Teeth, of which the biggest
were nine Inches in Measure, and the least half a Foot.
M. Scaurus, among other wonderful Things in his

(Phoca) has been seen, so closely resembling the human figure as to ob-
tain the name of Merman, has, even in modern times, been confidently
asserted. But the evidence has failed in proportion to the progress of
inquiry ; and the opinion of naturalists of the present age appears to be,
that the casual and hasty appearance of the young of the Walrus, before
it has obtained its tusks, has been the cause of this mistaken idea. The
same creature, in its adult growth, was, beyond doubt, the sea-elephant of
the ancients. Wern. Club.

1 The modern Lisbon. Wern. Club.

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 1 1 1

ship, showed the Bones of that Beast to which Andromeda 1 is
said to have been exposed ; and which were brought to Rome
from Joppe, a Town in Judaea : in Length they were forty
Feet, and in Height they exceeded the Ribs of the Indian
Elephant ; the Bone of the Spine was a Foot-and-half thick.

Of Balance and Orcce.

BALJEN^E come even into our Seas also. They say that
in the Ocean about Gades, they are not seen before Mid-
winter ; for at their set Times they lie close in a certain calm
and large Bay, where they wonderfully delight to show
themselves. The Orcae know this ; they are a Beast that
are a deadly Enemy to the others ; and their Likeness can-
not be represented by any other Figure than that of a
mighty Lump of Flesh, armed with terrible Teeth. These
break into those secret Retreats, and bite and tear the young
Calves, or those newly born, with the old ones that are
great with Young; they also pierce into them, like Ships of
War attacking with their Prows. The Balaenge (Whales)
that cannot turn aside, and are helpless to resist, being
unwieldy by reason of their own Weight, being then heavy
with Young, or weak with the Pains of Parturition, know
no other Means of Safety but to escape into the Deep, and
so defend themselves by the Aid of the whole Ocean. On
the other Side, the Orcae endeavour to lie between them and
the Way of Escape, and kill them among the Straits and
ragged Rocks, to drive them upon the Shallows, or force
them upon the Stones. When these Combats are seen, the

1 See B. v. c. 13, vol. ii. p. 67. When it became an object of political
importance to occupy and amuse the public attention by subjects alien to
the affairs of government, every thing which could minister to the curio-
sity of the people was sought for in the wide range of the Roman empire,
and brought to the city ; where the credulity of the populace was equal
to its ignorance. The supposed relics of this monster may have been the
fossil bones of some gigantic animal : or perhaps nothing more than the
bones of a whale. Wern. Clnb.

1 12 History of Nature. [BooK IX.

Sea appeareth as if it were angry with itself; for although
there are no Winds in the Bay, yet the Waves are so great
from their panting, and the Blows, as no Whirlwinds are able
to raise. In the Harbour of Ostia, also, one of these Orcae was
seen, and was assailed by Claudius the Prince. It had come
when he was making the Harbour, enticed by the Shipwreck
of Beasts' Hides that were brought from Gaul, on which for
several Days the Creature had been glutting itself; and so
it had made a Channel in the Bottom of the Shallows, which
was so narrowed in by the Action of the Waves, that it be-
came too narrow for the Creature to turn round ; but while
it still goeth after this Gluttony, being thrown by the Bil-
lows upon the Shore, its back appeared high above the
Water, like the Bottom of a Ship turned upside down.
Ccesar commanded Nets and Cords with many Folds to be
spread along the Mouth of the Harbour, and himself, accom-
panied with the Prsetorian Cohorts, exhibited it for a Show to
the People of Rome; the Soldiers being brought together,
darted their Spears from the Ships, one of which I myself
saw sunk, as it became filled with the Waves that this Beast
spouted up. Balsenae have Openings in their Forehead ; and
so as they swim on the Surface of the Water, they blow up
aloft Showers of Rain.

Whether or no Fish breathe or sleep.

ALL Writers allow that a very few other Fishes in the
Sea, which among other inward Bowels have a Lung,
breathe ; for without the latter Organ no Animal is thought
to draw breath* And they who are of this Opinion suppose,
likewise, that no Fishes having Gills draw in and return
their Breath by turns ; nor many other Kinds besides, al-
though they are without Gills : of which Opinion, I see, was
Aristotle; and he supported the Doctrine by many profound
Researches. But I must not conceal that 1 do not entirely agree
with this Opinion ; for, if Nature be so disposed, other internal
Organs are able to carry on the Function of Breathing in

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 1 13

the Place of Lungs, just as in many Creatures another Kind
of Humour is in the Place of Blood. And who would wonder
that this vital Breath should penetrate within the Waters,
considering that he seeth how it is returned from them ; and
that it penetrateth even into the Earth, which is the grossest
Part of Nature, we perceive by the Example of the Crea-
tures, as the Moles, which live, although always buried in
the Ground. I have effectual Reasons to lead me to believe,
that all Things in the Waters breathe, each one after its
Nature. First, I have often observed in Fishes an evident
Action of breathing in the Heat of Summer; and also that
they gape when the Weather is calm ; and they also who
believe the contrary, confess that Fishes sleep. 1 For what
Place is there for Sleep without Breathing ? Moreover,
whence those Bubbles which are breathed from under
Water? and the increase of the Bodies of Shell-fishes by the
Influence the Moon ? But above all, Fishes possess the
power of Hearing and Smelling, 2 and no doubt both these
Senses are from the Matter of Air : for it can be understood
that Smell is nothing but the Air infected. However, let
every one think as he pleases on these Points. Neither
Whales, called Balaense, nor Dolphins, have any Gills. Both
these Kinds breathe through Passages which reach down to
the Lungs: from the Forehead in the Balsens, and in the
Dolphins, from the Back. Also the Sea-calves, which they
call Phoca:, breathe and sleep on the Land. So do Tortoises,
of which more by and by.

Of Dolphins.

THE swiftest of all living Creatures, not of the Sea only,
is the Dolphin ; more rapid than a Bird, swifter than an
Arrow ; and but that its Mouth is far beneath its Snout,
(being almost in the middle of its Belly), not a Fish could
escape from its rapid Pursuit. But Nature in its Providence

1 See B. x. c. 75. 2 13. x. c. 70.

VOL. in. i

1 14 History of Nature. [BooK IX.

hath afforded an Hinderance ; for unless they turn upright
upon their Back, they cannot lay hold ; from whence chiefly
appeareth their Swiftness. For when the Dolphins are
urged by Hunger to pursue a Fish that flies before them
down to the very Bottom, and hold their Breath for a long
Time, to take Breath again they dart aloft as if they were
shot out of a Bow; and with such Force do they spring up,
that many Times they pass over the Sails of Ships. They
act almost as if they were united in Marriage. They pro-
duce their young ones in the tenth Month, in the Summer-
time ; and sometimes they have two at once. They suckle
them at their Teats, as the (Whales) Balaens do ; and so
long as their little ones are feeble from Youth, they carry them
about ; so that even when they are become of full size they bear
them Company through their great Affection to their Young.
Young Dolphins come very speedily to their Growth; for in
ten Years they are thought to have come to their full Big-
ness ; but they live thirty Years, as hath been known by the
Trial of cutting a Mark in their Tail. They lie close for the
Space of thirty Days, about the Rising of the Dog-star; con-
cealing themselves in some unknown Manner, which is the
more wonderful if they cannot breathe under Water. They
are accustomed to spring forth to the Land from some un-
certain Cause ; and as soon as they touch the dry Ground
they die : and so much the sooner because their Pipe is
closed. Their Tongue is movable, contrary to the Nature of
other Creatures living in the Waters ; it is also short and
broad, not much unlike that of a Swine. Their Voice resem-
bleth the Moaning of a Man ; they are Saddle-backed, and
the Snout is flat. And this is the Cause that all of them, in
a wonderful Manner, acknowledge the Name Simo, and like
to be so called. The Dolphin is not only a friendly Creature
to Man, but also to the Art of Music: it is delighted with
Harmony in Song, but especially with the Sound of the
Water Instrument. Of Man it is not afraid as of a Stranger;
but meeteth their Ships, playeth as if in Joy, enters into
Competition, and out-goeth them, although they carry full

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. \ 15

When Divus Augustus was Sovereign, a Dolphin in the
Lake Lucrinus loved with wonderful Affection a Boy who
was the Son of a poor Man ; and who, using to go every Day
to a Grammar-School from Baianum to Puteoli, was accus-
tomed about Noon to loiter and call the Dolphin by the
Name of Simo ; and many Times he would give him Frag-
ments of Bread, which for that Purpose he brought with him.
I should be reluctant to relate this, but that Meccenas, Fabi-
anus, Flavins Alfius, and many others, have committed the
Matter to Record. At whatever Time of the Day this Boy
called him, however hidden and concealed, he would hasten
from his Retreat ; and being fed from his Hand, he gently
offered him his Back to mount upon, lowering down the
Spines of his Fins, as into a Sheath. And when on his Back
he carried him over the broad Sea as far as Puteoli to
School ; in the same Manner conveying him back again for
many Years. But when the Boy fell sick and died, the
Dolphin frequented at Intervals the accustomed Place, as
one that was sadly distressed ; at last (in a Manner that no
one could doubt) he also died from Regret. 1

1 The works of ancient naturalists abound in stories concerning the
Dolphin and its friendliness to the human race ; and from circumstances
which the Editor has been made acquainted with, it would appear that on
some occasions slight signs of recognition have been occasionally mani-
fested between at least some species of cetaceous animals and voyagers.
There is reason to believe, however, that these approaches to intimacy
have been directed rather to the ship than the sailors, and that the crea-
ture has mistaken the vessel for one of its own kind. It must be allowed
that nothing similar to the circumstances ascribed to this creature by
Pliny, JElian, and the Greek writers quoted by Aulus Gellius, has been
seen in modern times; but the multitude of witnesses, and the alleged
publicity of some of these occurrences, may be regarded as warrants that
something at least unusual had occurred at the time referred to. It may
serve in eliciting the truth, if we compare the narratives of these ancient
authors with one another, and with the well-known habits and appear-
ance of the Dolphin (Delphinus Delphis). .ZElian's account of a circum-
stance exceedingly similar to this of Pliny, is, with a slight abridgment,
thus (B. vi. c. 15) : "The celebrated instance of affection which a Dol-
phin at Jasos (in Caria) expressed for a beautiful boy must not be passed
over in silence. The gymnasium of the people of Jasos overlooks the

1 16 History of Nature. [BooK IX.

Another Dolphin, not many Years since, upon the Coast
of Africa, near to Hippo Diarrhytus, in like Manner would

sea ; and after the races were over, it was the custom of the young men
to go to the shore and bathe. On one occasion when they were indulging
themselves in swimming, a dolphin was attracted with the most vehement
love to one of these youths, who was remarkably beautiful. When first
the creature approached him he was not a little afraid ; but as the fami-
liarity increased the young man became so conciliated, that he learned to
regard him with kindness and friendship. They played together, and
contended in swimming ; and the boy would sit on his back, and be car-
ried about as on a horse. The sight soon attracted the attention of the

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 49 of 60)