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people of the place, and also of strangers. The dolphin continued to
manifest his love for this young man, and would carry him out to sea, as
far as was agreeable to his friend ; and then he would return and deposit
him on the shore. This dolphin was accustomed to make his appearance
at the time when the young man was dismissed from the gymnasium;
and their joy on meeting appeared to be mutual. This, however, at last,
met with a fatal termination ; for the boy, being tired with exercise, on
one occasion threw himself, naked as he was, on the back of the dolphin,
not observing the sharp spine on the back of the animal, as it stood erect;
and thus he pierced himself at the navel with its point : a vein being
wounded, by which he bled to death. The dolphin was not slow in dis-
covering that his friend was seriously injured partly by the difference
of weight, for he did not sit on his back in the light and active manner
he had been accustomed to, and partly by seeing the water stained
with blood ; he therefore resolved not to survive him whom he had so
affectionately loved. He ran himself, with all his might, upon the shore,
and both of them died together. A monument was raised by the people
of the city to commemorate this love between the young man and the
dolphin." And the author concludes by saying, that he had heard of other
instances of similar affection : one of which had occurred at Puteoli, in
Italy ; and which, doubtless, was the same as is mentioned by Pliny.

Aulus Gellius adds to this an instance which he had derived from
Apion, whom, as an author on the subject of wonders, we have mentioned
before (Vol. i. p. 21), and who authenticates the story by affirming that
he saw it himself: "I saw," says he, "near Dicsearchia (Puteoli), a
dolphin that had great affection for a boy, and manifested this feeling at
the sound of his voice. The fish would then swim near, and take the lad
on his back ; he would fold back the spines of his fins that he might not
hurt him, and then would carry him to the distance of two hundred
stadia, astride on his back. Rome, therefore, and all Italy, were poured
out to see this affectionate fish." It is to be regretted that the works of
Apion have perished ; but the little that remains is sufficient to show that

BOOK 1 X .] History of Nature. 1 1 7

take Meat from a Man's Hand, suffer himself to be handled,
play with them that swam in the Sea, and carry on his Back

his authority must not carry great weight, even when he professes to
have himself witnessed the occurrence. This Egyptian is also the autho-
rity for the story of Androclus and the Lion ; which he also asserts to
have occurred under his own notice. Yet, setting aside the negative
evidence derived from the silence of Pliny, who, if he had believed it,
would have found it an excellent illustration of his history of that beast,
there is one portion of it which is altogether incredible : and the doubt
arising from which must render suspicious whatever of a surprising
nature the same author anywhere reports. He says, that with the gift
of freedom, Androclus also was presented with the lion ; which he led
quietly about the city, with a slight string, collecting money at the
taverns. To enhance the wonder, the beast is represented to have been
of unusual size and ferocity ; but however well disposed such an animal
might be to recognize one from whom it had received an obligation, it is
contrary to its nature for a fierce and hitherto untamed lion to have
changed its character so far as to have been reconciled suddenly to the
noisy crowd of a city, and to have been led, only by a slight string,
crowned with flowers, without fearing or doing harm.

The narratives of the dolphin are equally contrary to nature, and
that in several particulars, in which an intelligent observer could not be
mistaken : whether that observer was Apion, whom A. Gellius charac-
terizes as being " vitio studioque ostentationis loquacior," and " sane quam
praedicandis doctrinis suis venditator : " or Mecaenas himself. Of these
errors one concerns the form of the animal, which is described as having
the mouth beneath the head, and a dorsal fin armed with sharp-pointed
spines, capable of voluntary motion : the latter, especially, not only un-
like what belongs to the dolphin, but to anything that could have been
mistaken for it. The mode of progress in the water of the real dolphin,
is also known to be such as does not admit these stories to be applied to
it. The dolphin rises to the surface for the purpose of breathing ; and
then is compelled to roll itself forward in a manner which does not
admit of its continuing to pass along the surface, even to the extent of
a few yards. But what thus appears inapplicable to the structure and
habits of the real dolphin is not exceedingly foreign to another inha-
bitant of the ocean. The common Seal (Phoca Vitulina) has on some
occasions manifested all the affectionate attachment to man which the
ancients ascribed to the dolphin. A little instruction will secure this ;
and however it might have been concealed for interested purposes, there
can be little doubt that the creatures of which these stories were related
in ancient times, had been previously trained to the actions they
[, Wern. Club.

1 18 History of Nature. [BOOK IX.

those who placed themselves on it. But being anointed
with Unguent by Flavianus the Proconsul of Africa, the
Creature (as it should seem) being rendered sleepy by this
new Smell, and floating about as if had been half dead,
avoided Intercourse with Man for several Months, as if it
had been driven away by some Injury. But after a Time he
returned to the same surprising Practice. But the Wrongs
that some great Persons were the cause of, in their Enter-
tainment, as they came to see this Sight, caused the Men of
Hippo to kill the Dolphin.

Long before this the like is reported concerning a Boy in
the City of Jassus, where a Dolphin was observed for a long
Time to express Love to a Boy ; but while he eagerly fol-
lowed the Lad to the Shore as he was going away, he threw
himself upon the Sand, and died. Alexander the Great
appointed this Boy to be the Priest of Neptune at Babylon :
interpreting the Love of this Dolphin as a Sign of the special
Favour of that god to him.

Egesidemus writeth, that in the same City of Jassus there
was another Boy named Hermias, who having used in the same
Manner to ride upon a Dolphin over the Sea, was in a sud-
den Storm drowned in the Waves, and was brought back by
the Dolphin ; who, confessing that he was the Cause of his
Death, did not return into the Sea, but died on the dry Land.

The like happened at Naupactum, by the Report of Theo-
phrastus. But there is no End of such Examples ; for the
Amphilochi and Tarentini relate the same concerning Boys
and Dolphins ; which Instances induce us also to believe
that Arioti, who was a skilful Player on the Harp, when the
Sailors were preparing to kill him, by throwing him into the
Sea, and so intercept all his Gains, by conciliating them,
obtained the Favour that he might first be permitted to sing-
to his Harp ; and a number of Dolphins having flocked
about him in consequence of his Music, when they threw
him into the Sea, he was received by one of them, and
carried to the Shore of Tsenarus.

In the Province of Narbonensis, and in the Territory of
Nsemausium, there is a Pond called Laterra, where Men and

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 119

Dolphins fish in company : for at one certain Time a very
great Abundance of Mullets, 1 taking the Advantage of a
Change of the Tide at the narrow Passages of the Pond,
break forth into the Sea ; and because of that Violence no
Nets can be spread out against them by any Means strong
enough to bear their huge Weight with that of the Stream of
Water, if Skill were not employed at the proper Time. In
like Manner the Mullets immediately urge on to the Deep,
which they do very soon, as the Channel is near ; and they
make all Haste to pass the only Place that is convenient for
spreading the Nets. The Fishermen being aware of this,
and all the neighbouring People (for a Multitude of People
come thither, knowing when the fishing Time is come ; and
the rather as they are eager to see the pleasant Sport), shout
as loud as they can from the Shore, and so call Simo to
partake of the Sight. The Dolphins soon hear what they
would have ; and the better if the North Winds blow and
carry the Sound : for a South Wind more slowly bears it in
the opposite Direction. But before one would be aware of
it, the Dolphins fly thither to assist in the Fishing. The
Squadrons of those Dolphins quickly take their Station, and
are presently arranged in the Place where the Battle is dis-
posed, to oppose themselves, and keep them from the Deep;
and so urge them, terrified as they are, into the Shallows.
Then the Fishermen enclose them with Nets, which they prop
up with forked Sticks ; yet notwithstanding this, the Mullets
are so active that they will leap over them. But these are
caught by the Dolphins, who, contenting themselves for
the present to kill only, put off the Time of feeding until
they have achieved the Victory. And now the Work of the
Battle is hot, for the Dolphins are very eager, and take Plea-
sure to be enclosed within the Nets; but lest this should
drive the Enemies to flight, they pass so gently between
the Boats and Nets, or the Men there swimming, that it
cannot be seen where they get out. And although at other

1 See chapter xvii. The habits here ascribed to this fish, and the
necessity of staking up the nets when it is enclosed in it, are well known
at the present time. See YABRELL'S British Fishes. Wern. Club.

120 History of Nature. [BooK IX.

Times they take great Delight in leaping, yet none endea-
vour to get forth by that Means, except where the Nets
lie under them ; but no sooner are they out, than a Contest
begins before the Bulwark ; and so the Capture being
accomplished, the Dolphins tear to Pieces those they have
killed. But conscious to themselves that their Labour hath
earned a richer Reward than what belongs to one Day, they
conceal themselves until the next; and are not contented
with Fish only, but wait to receive Crumbs of Bread soaked
in Wine. Mutianus maketh mention of some Things of a
similar Kind of Fishing in the Bay of Jassus ; but they differ
in this, that the Dolphins come of their own accord, without
calling, take their Part of the Prize from the Fishermen's
Hands; and every Boat hath a Dolphin attending upon it as
a Companion, although it is by Night, and with Torchlight.
Also Dolphins have a public Society among themselves;
for a King of Caria having taken a Dolphin, and kept him con-
fined in the Harbour, a great Multitude of the others resorted
thither, and by Signs of Mourning, evident to be understood,
craved Mercy for the Prisoner : until the King had given
Command to set him at Liberty. Also the little ones are
always accompanied with some larger one, as a Keeper.
And they have been seen to carry one of their Companions
when he is dead, that he might not be torn by Beasts.

Of Tursiones.

The Creatures which are called Tursiones, are much like
the Dolphins; but they differ in having a more gloomy As-
pect : for they are not so playful ; but especially in having
Snouts like little Dogs when they snarl.

Of Sea- Tortoises, and how they are taken.

THERE are Tortoises in the Indian Sea so great that the
Natives cover the Cottages in which they dwell with the Shell

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 1 2 1

of a single one of them. And among the Islands, principally
in the Red Sea, they use them for Boats.

Many Ways the Fishermen have to catch them ; but
especially as in the Mornings, when the Weather is still,
they float on the open Sea with their Backs high above the
calm Surface; and then the Pleasure of breathing freely so
entirely deceives them into Forgetful ness, that their Crust
becomes dried with the Sun's Heat, and they cannot dive,
but are forced againt their Wills to float, and so are exposed
as a Prize to those that hunt them. Some say that they go
out in the oNight to feed; arid with eating greedily, grow
weary ; so that in the Morning, when they are returning
again, they fall asleep on the Surface of the Water ; and then
they utter such a Snoring as to be easily taken. But three
Men must swim to every one of them : two of them to turn
him upon his Back, and the third to throw a Cord about
him as he lieth with his Belly upward ; and then is he
hauled by many to the Land. In the Phoenician Sea they
are taken with very little Difficulty; for at a certain Time
of the Year they resort of themselves, in great Multitudes, to
the River Eleutherus.

The Tortoise hath no Teeth, but the Borders of his Snout
are sharp ; the upper part shutting close upon the under,
like a Box. In the Sea they live on Shellfish, for their
Mouths are so hard that they crush Stones. They go to
Land, where, among the Herbage, they lay Eggs resembling
the Eggs of Birds, to the number of a hundred. They hide
them in the Ground at some Distance from the Water, cover
them with Earth, beat it hard down and smooth it with their
Breast, and by Night sit upon them : the Young are pro-
duced in the Course of a Year. Some suppose that the look-
ing upon their Eggs with their Eyes serveth also to hatch
them. The Female flieth from the Male until he places some
Stick upon her as she turns away.

The Trogloditse possess some that carry Horns, like the
broad Horns fastened to the Lyre, but movable, with which
in swimming they help themselves as with an Oar. And
this Kind of Tortoise is called Celtium : of remarkable Big-

122 History of Nature. [BOOK IX.

ness, but rare ; for the exceeding sharp Rocks terrify the
Chelonophagi. But the Trogloditae, to whom these Tortoises
swim, worship them as sacred.

There are also Land-Tortoises, which, on Account of the
Works that are made of them, are called Cheisinae; they are
found in the Deserts of Africa, and principally in that part
which is gloomy from the dry Sands ; and they are believed to
live upon the moist Dew. And, in Truth, no other living
Creature is found there.

Who first set on Foot the cleaving of Tortoise- Shells.

THE first Man that invented the cutting of the Shells of
Tortoises into thin Plates, and with them to cover Beds, and
Cupboards, was Carbilius Pollio? who was very ingenious
and inventive in the Instruments of Luxury.

The Arrangement of Water Animals into their several Kinds.

THE Coverings of Creatures that live in the Water are of
many Sorts ; for some are clothed with a Skin and Hair, as
Seals and Hippopotami. Others have only a bare Skin,

1 On this passage Mr. Bruce remarks, that the Romans seem to have
been ignorant of the art, as practised by the Arabians and Egyptians, of
separating the laminae by fire placed inside the empty shell. Martial
says, " Beds were inlaid with it ; " and the immense use made of it by the
Romans is shown by what Velleius Paterculus says, " that when Alex-
andria was taken by Julius Caesar, the warehouses were so full of it, that
he proposed making it a principal ornament of his triumph." See
B. xxxii. c. 4. The comparison which Pliny makes (c. 10) of the size of
the shell of a tortoise to a cymba or boat, ^Elian refers to a scapha, the
origin of the English word "skiff"; and he represents it as capable of
holding ten medimni, or sixty bushels : in another place (B. xii. c. 41) he
compares it to a barrel that would hold twenty amphorae, or one hundred
and eighty gallons. Each shell (B. x. c, 17) is said to be fifteen cubits
in size ; which, not to exceed the bounds of probability, must be under-
stood as square cubits. He says that the Land-Tortoises of India were
fat and sweet, and those of the sea, bitter. Wern. Club.

BOOK I X .] History of Nature. 1 23

as the Dolphins ; a Bark, as Tortoises ; the Hardness of
Flint, as Oysters and Cockles ; Crusts, as Crayfishes
(Locustae) ; Crusts and Spines, as Sea-eggs (Echini) ; Scales,
as Fishes ; or a rough Skin, as the Skate (Squatina) ; which
is used to polish Wood and Ivory. Some have a soft Skin,
as Muraenae ; others none, as the Polypus.

Of the Sea- Calf. *

THOSE which are clothed with Hair, as the Pristis,
Balaena, and Sea-Calf, bring forth their Young alive. The
latter calveth on dry Land, in the Manner of Cattle; and
returneth Secundines. The Female adheres to the Male, in
the Manner of Dogs : she never produceth more than two at
a Birth ; and she suckles her Young at her Paps. She doth
not bring them to the Sea before the twelfth Day, and then
she accustometh them to it frequently. It is difficult to kill
them unless the Head is crushed. They utter a Lowing in
their Sleep, from whence they are called Calves. Never-
theless they learn what is taught them ; and they salute the
People at the same Time with the Voice and Look ; the
Sound being a rude Murmuring. If called by their Name,
they answer. No living Creature sleepeth more soundly
than they. The Fins they use to swim with in the Sea serve
them to creep along with instead of Feet when on Land. It
is said that their Skins, after they are stripped from their
Bodies, retain a Sensibility of the Seas; for as the Water
ebbeth they become rugged. Moreover, their right Fins are
thought to have a soporific Power, and to produce Sleep, if
laid under one's Head.

1 Sea-Calf. Phoca VituUna.Lm^.Wern. Club.

124 History of Nature. [BooK IX.


Of Fishes 1 that are without Hair, how they breed; and how
many Sorts of them.

OF the Creatures that want Hair, two only bring forth
their Young alive : the Dolphin and the Viper. Of Fishes
there are seventy-four Kinds ; besides those that are covered
with Crusts, of which there are thirty Sorts. Of every one in
particular we will speak elsewhere : but now we are to treat
of the Nature of the principal.

Of the Names and Natures of many Fishes.

THE Tunnies'' are exceeding large Fishes: we have found
some to have weighed fifteen Talents, and the breadth of the
Tail to be two Cubits and a Span. In some Rivers, also, there
are Fish scarcely of less size : as the Silurus 3 in the Nile ; the
Esox 4 in the Rhine; the Attilus 5 in the Po; which groweth so

1 The reader may consult a note in the Wernerian edition of Kay's
" Wisdom of God in Creation," p. 9 ; where, however, there is only an
approximation to the real number : to which should be added, that the
fossil species of animals and vegetables, already classified, amounted, in
1846, to about 10,000. Wern. Club.

2 Scomber ihynnus. LINN. Thynnus vulgaris. Cuv. See, con-
cerning this fish, B. xxxii. c. 1 1. The Ancients were not at all particular
in the discrimination of species ; and, therefore, what were formerly sup-
posed to be the different stages of growth of the Tunny, are now known
as different species. In confirmation of the enormous size to which the
Tunny sometimes attains, Ruysch records an instance of one taken near
Cadiz that was thirty-two feet in length. The preparation of Tunny
(Athenseus says, of the larger sort) is referred to by Martial (B. iii.
Ep. 60) as high and rank food : " Teque juvant gerres, et pelle melandrya
cana." Wern. Club.

3 Silurus glanis. Cuv. and LINN. Silurus and Glanis are sometimes
regarded by the Ancients as synonymous, sometimes as distinct. The
Shilbe is also a fish of the Nile, of the same family. The voracity of the
Silurus Glanis gave rise to a proverb : " Piscem pisci prcedam csse^ at
Siluro omnes : " Every fish preys on some other one, but the Silurus on
all. Wormius. Wern. Club.

4 Esox lucius. LJNN. Pike. Wern. Club.

4 Accipemeo huso. Liny. Erroneously supposed to be peculiar to
the Po. Wern. Club.

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 125

fat by its Sluggishness, as sometimes to reach the weight of
a thousand Pounds ; and being taken with a Hook fastened
to a Chain, cannot be drawn out of the River but with Yokes
of Oxen. And yet there is a very little Fish called Clupea, 1
that killeth him ; for through a great Desire after a certain
Vein within his Throat, he biteth it, and so despatched! him.

The Silurus is a great Robber, and devoureth every
Animal ; often dragging under the Water the Horses as they
swim; especially in the Mrenus, 2 a River of Germany, near

Also, in the Danube is taken the Mario, 3 a Fish much
like the Sea-Pig (Porpoise) ; and in the Borysthenes, men-
tion is made of a Fish of large size, with no Bones or Spines
interspersed, and the Flesh very sweet.

In the Ganges of India there are Fishes with a Snout
and Tail like a Dolphin, fifteen Cubits long, and which they
call Platanistae. And Statins Sebosus reporteth as strange a
Thing besides : that in the same River there are Worms or
Serpents with double Gills, 4 sixty Cubits long, of Colour blue,
and from that Colour they take their Name (Cyonoeides).
He saith, moreover, that they are so strong, as when the
Elephants come to drink, to catch hold with their Teeth by
their Trunks, and drag them under Water.

The male Tunnies have no Fins under the Belly. In the

1 Ray supposes this to be the Shad, Clupea alosa, LINN. ; but it is not
capable of the action here ascribed to it. Wern. Club.

2 A river of Germany. Daleschampius notes on this passage, that in
Pliny's time no river in Germany was called Moenus : it is a modern
appellation, though now generally acknowledged. An alteration must,
therefore, have been made in the text, and Rondeletius proposes to read,
" in Rheno :" in the Rhine. Wern. Club.

3 No fish has been found of this name ; and it has been supposed that
the word ought to be read " major : " that is, a greater fish than the
last-named, and much like the Porcus marinus, a kind of Shark. Wern.

4 Daleschampius observes that Solinus quotes Sebosus in a different
manner from Pliny : " that their colour is blue, from whence they take
their name : their length six cubits, and they have two arms so strong
that when elephants come to drink they seize them with their bite, and
with their hand draff them under water." Wern. Club.

1 26 History of Nature. [Boon I X .

Spring-time they enter into the Pontus from the great Sea,
in Troops ; for in no other Sea do they bring forth their
Young. Their Young, which accompany their Dams back
into the Sea in the Autumn, are called Cordylae. Afterwards
they begin to call them Pelamydes, 1 and Limosce, from the
Mud : and when they are above one Year old, they are called
Tunnies. These Tunnies are cut into Portions ; the Neck,
Belly, and the Throat being commended for Meat : but
only when they are fresh, and even then they will rise on a
Man's Stomach. The other Parts being full of good Meat,
are laid in Salt. They are called Melandrya, and when cut
in Slices, are exceedingly like to Oak Boards. The worst
Pieces of these are those nearest the Tail, because they are
not fat : the best is that which is toward the Throat: but in
other Fishes the Tail-piece (is in greatest request), as being
the most exercised. Pelamides are divided into Parcels,
which are named Apolecti; but when they are separated
into Sorts, named Cybii.

All Kinds of Fishes grow with remarkable Rapidity to
their full Size, and especially in the Pontus : the Reason is,
because a number of Rivers bring fresh Water into it. There
is one called Amia, 2 which groweth so fast, that a Man may
perceive it from Day to Day. These Fishes, together with
the Tunnies and the Pelamides, enter in great Schuls into
the Pontus, for the sweeter Food they find there ; each
Company with its own Leader: and before them all, the
Mackerels lead the Way ; which, while they are in the
Water, have a Colour of Brimstone ; but out of it they are
like the rest. The Mackerels 3 fill the Fish-markets in Spain,
when the Tunnies do not find their Way into their Seas.
But into the Pontus there enter no Beasts that injure
Fishes, unless it be Seals and little Dolphins. The Tunnies
enter along the right Bank, and pass out by the left. And

1 Pelamys vulgaris, CTJVIER; who says, that Cordyla is the young state
of the Pelarays; and Limosa only another name for it. A further
account of these fishes of the Tunny kind, B. xxxii. c. 1 1 . Wern. Club.

3 Sarda vulgaris. Cuv. Wern. Club.

3 Scomber scombrus. LINN, and Cuv. Wern. Club.

BOOK IX-] History of Nature. ] 27

this is thought to happen because they see better with their
right eye ; and yet neither of them by Nature is dull. Within
the Channel of the Thracian Bosphorus, by which the Pro-

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 50 of 60)