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

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mended, as being deprived of the full Colour ; and it is so
much the more diluted, as the Wool has been suffered to
drink it up.

The Prices of these Cloths.

THE Prices are lower, according to the Abundance of the
dyeing Material found on the Coast. But it was never known
in any Place that a Pound of the Pelagian (Colour) has ex-
ceeded five hundred Sesterces : t nor a Pound of the Buc-
cinum (Purple) cost above one hundred : which they who
sell these Things raise to an extravagant Price. But this is
far from being the End ; and Men have a Delight to trifle
with the Expense : to deceive by mixing over again, and so
double the Produce, adulterating even the Adulterations of
Nature; as to stain the Tortoise, to mix Silver with the Gold,
and so form Electrum : and by adding Brass to these, to
make the Corinthian Metal.


The Manner of Dyeing the Amethystine Colour, Scarlet, and
colour Hysginum.

IT is not enough to have robbed the precious Stone Ame-
thyst of its Name, but when they had it perfect, they must

1 3 lib. 18 shil. Id. ob.

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 163

have it drunk 1 again with the Tyrian Dye, that they might
have* it degraded with a Name compounded of both (Tyri-
amethystus), correspondent to their two-fold Luxury. Also,
after they have accomplished the (Colour) Conchylium, they
think it better prepared to pass into the Tyrian. It should
seem that these double Dyes came first from the after-
thought of the Workman, when he employed his Skill to
change what he had done and disliked. And from this is
come a Consideration, and a Desire is derived from a Fault
by those portentous Contrivances ; and the twofold Way of
Luxury is displayed, by laying one Colour upon another,
with great Labour, so as to render it what is called more
pleasant and delicate. Nay, they also mix the Dye of Land-
colours ; for what is already dyed with the Coccus, they dye
again in the Tyrian Purple, to make the Hysginum.

The Coccus is a red Grain that cometh from Galatia, as
we shall show in our Account of (Plants) of the Land ; or
else about Emerita, in Lusitania (Portugal), and that, of all
other, is most esteemed. But to sum up in one Word these
noble Colours, note this, that when this Grain is one Year
old, it maketh but a weak Tincture ; but after four Years,
the Strength of it is gone. So that, neither young nor old, is
it of any great Strength. Thus I have sufficiently treated of
those Means which both Men and Women think best fitted
to set themselves out in the best Manner.


Of the Pinna, and the Pinnoter : and the Perception of

THE Pinna 2 is also of the Class of Shell-fishes. It is pro-
duced in muddy Places, always standing nearly upright; but
never without a Companion, which they call Pinnoteres, or,
according to some, Pinnophylax. 3 This is a little Shrimp, or

' Alluding to the word " Amethyst," which resisteth drunkenness.

3 Pinna ingens and P. rotundata, LINN. Wern. Club.
3 Pinnotheres veterum and P. pisum. Wern. Club.

164 History of Nature. [BooK IX.

in some Places a Crab, an Attendant upon him for his Vic-
tuals. The Pinna gapes abroad, and showeth to the rittle
Fishes her Body within, which has no power of seeing. They
make a close Attack on it; and as their Boldness increases
with their Impunity, they enter and fill the Shell. The Sen-
tinel discerns this Opportunity, and giveth Token of it by a
gentle Pinch. She shuts her Mouth, and crusheth whatever
is within ; and then she delivers its proper Share to her
Companion. 1 This Fact causes me to be so much the more
surprised, that there are some who are of Opinion that
Creatures of the Water have no Understanding. The Tor-
pedo knoweth her own Power, while she herself is not be-
numbed. She lieth covered over and hidden in the Mud,
ready to catch those Fishes which, as they unsuspiciously
swim over her, she strikes with Numbness. There is no
Meat that in Tenderness is to be preferred to the Liver of
this Fish. Nor is the Craftiness of the Rana less than this ;
which is the same that is called the Fisher in the Sea. She
lifts up the Horns which stand erect a little before the Eyes,
so as to project above the Mud which she hath stirred up ;
and so attracts the little Fishes which gather about her,
until they come so near as to enable her to seize them. In a
similar Manner the Squatina and Rhombus lie concealed,
and stretch out their Fins, which they move about, as if they
were some little Worms; and the Fish called Raia does the
same. For the Pastinaca lieth in wait like a Thief in a
Corner, ready to pierce the Fishes that pass by with a sharp
Spine, which is his Dart. It is a Proof of the Craftiness of
this Fish, that whilst they are the most sluggish of Fishes,
they are found to have in their Belly the Mugil, which is
the swiftest of all Fishes.

1 " The pinna and the crab together dwell,
For mutual succour, in one common shell.
They both to gain a livelihood combine ;
That takes the prey, when this has given the sign.
From hence this crab, above his comrade fam'd,
By ancient Greeks was pinnatores nam'd."

OPPIAN : Halicut, lib.ii. 1. 186, et seq. Wern. Chib.

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 165

Of the Scolopendrce, Vulpes, and the Glanis.

THE Scolopendrae 1 are like those of the Land which they
call Centipedes. Wlien this Creature hath swallowed an
Hook, it vomits up its Entrails, until it hath delivered itself
of the Hook, and then it suppeth them in again. But the
Vulpes marinse, 2 in the like Danger, swallow down more
and more of the Line, until it conies to the weakest Part,
which it can easily gnaw asunder. The Fish called Glanis
is more cautious ; it bites the Back of the Hook, and does
not devour the Bait, but nibbles it away.

Of the Fish called Aries.

THE Ram 3 attacks like a Robber ; for sometimes it hides
itself under the Shade of large Ships in the salt Sea,
where it waiteth for any Man whom the Pleasure of Swim-
ming may invite within its Reach ; at other Times it
lifteth its Head above Water, to spy any small Fishing-
boats, arid then it slily swimmeth close to them, and
sinketh them.


Of those that have a third Nature, and are neither Animals
nor Plants : also of Urticce and Sponges.

I TRULY am of Opinion, that those which are neither
Animals nor Plants, but possess a third Nature, or are com-

1 The creatures referred to appear to be Holothuriae, and chiefly of
the class Cucumariae ; which, when near death, eject their entrails, but
without the power of re -absorbing them. But the name Scolopendras
more properly applies to marine worms : Nereides. Wern. Club.

3 Squalus vulpes, Lnw.Carcharias vulpus, Cuv. The Sea Fox, or
Thrasher. Wern. Club.

3 See Chap. v. p. 108. Wern. Club.

166 History of Nature. [Boox IX.

pounded of both (I mean Urticae 1 and Sponges 2 ), have yet a
Kind of Sense in them. Urticae wander about by Night, and
likewise by Night change their (Colour). Their Nature is
formed of fleshy Leafage, and on Flesh they feed. Their
Quality is to raise an itching Smart, like the Land Nettle.
Its Manner is to gather in its Body exceedingly close and
stiff; and when a little Fish swimmeth before it, it
spreadeth abroad its Branches, and thus claspeth and de-
voureth it. At other Times, as if it were withered, suffering
itself to be tossed to and fro among the Weeds, with the
Waves of the Sea, if any Fishes come in contact with it,
it seizes them, as they scratch the Itching they feel by rub-
bing themselves against the Rocks. By Night it seeks for
Pectens and Echini. When it feeleth one's Hand to touch
it, it changeth Colour, and contracteth itself. When touched,
it discharges something that causes an Itching ; and if a
little Interval is permitted after it is touched, it becomes
concealed. It is thought that its Mouth lieth in the Root,
and that it voideth its Excrements through a small Pipe

Of Sponges we find three Sorts: the first thick, exceeding
hard, and rough ; and this is called Tragos : a second, not so
thick, arid somewhat softer; and that is named Manon : the
third is fine and compact, wherewith they make Rubbers (to
cleanse with), and this is termed Achilleum. They grow all
upon Rocks, and are fed with Shell-fish, Fish, and Mud.
That they possess Understanding appeareth from this, that
when they feel that one would pluck them away, they draw
in, so as with the greater Difficulty to be pulled from the
Rock. They do the like when they are beaten with the

1 Actineae, a class of naked Zoophytes. Macrobius, in his account of
the supper given by Lentulus, on the occasion of his being inaugurated
Flamen martialis, enumerates Urtica? among the dishes. Wern. Club.

2 Pliny's opinion, that Sponges are living animals, is still held by
some eminent naturalists. Others contend that they are vegetable ; and
their natural station seems to be on that debateable line where each of
these great kingdoms verges on the other : some really animal structures
appearing disguised in vegetable forms, and vegetables with animal
appearances. Wern. Club.

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 167

Waves. That they live upon some Food is manifest by the
little Shell-fishes which are found within them. And some
say, that about Torone they take Food after they have been
plucked from the Rocks ; and that from the Roots which
are left behind, they grow again. Also, upon those Rocks
(from whence they are pulled), there is to be seen some
Appearance of Blood sticking ; and especially in those of
Africa, which breed among the Syrtes. The Manse become
very large, and also the softest, about Lycia. But they are
more soft when they grow in the very deep Water, out of the
Influence of Wind. They are rough in the Hellespont; and
dense about (the Cape) Malea. In Places exposed to the
Sun they will putrify ; and therefore the best are in deep
Gullies. They are of the same blackish Colour when they
live, as when full of Moisture. They adhere to Rocks nei-
ther by any one Part, nor yet all over ; for there are dispersed
certain hollow Pipes, four or five commonly, by which they
are supposed to receive their Food. There are more (of these
Pipes), but above they are grown together. A certain thin
Skin may be perceived to be at their Roots. It is known
that they live long. The worst Kind of them all are those
called Aplysiae, because they cannot be made clean ; in them
the Pipes are large ; and they are throughout thick and

Of the Caniculus marinus. 1

THE Divers are annoyed very much with a great Number
of Caniculi marini that come about them, and put them in
great Danger. And they say, that these Fishes have a cer-
tain Cloud growing thick over their Heads, like that of the
flat Fishes, which presseth them, and hindereth them from
retiring backward ; on which Account the Divers have with
them sharp-pointed Weapons fastened to long Poles ; for
unless they be pricked with them, they will not turn away :

1 The smaller kind of Sharks, and, perhaps, particularly the Ground-
sharks, Scymnium. Wern. Club.

168 History of Nature. [BooK IX.

by Reason (as I suppose) of the Mist before their Eyes, and
their Fear. For I never heard of any Man that found the
like Cloud or Mist (for this Term they give to this Mischief)
in the Range of living Creatures. But the Contest with
Caniculi is furious, for they snap at their Groins, their Heels,
and every Part of their Bodies that is white. The only safe
Way is to oppose them in front, and so to terrify them ; for
they are as much afraid of a Man as he is of them. Thus
within the Deep the Chance is equal ; but when the Divers
mount to the Surface of the Water, there the Danger is
double, because while he laboureth to get out of the
Water, he faileth of Means to encounter the Creature pro-
ceeding in an opposite Direction ; therefore his only recourse
is to his Comrades : for, having a Cord bound about his
Shoulders, by which they draw him up, he shaketh it with
his left Hand to give a Sign of his Danger, whilst he main-
taineth a Fight with the right, by holding with it the sharp-
pointed Spear; but otherwise they haul him up softly. When
he is come near the Ship, unless they snatch him up very
quickly, they may be sure to see him devoured before their
Face : and when they are at the point of being plucked up,
they are caught away out of their Hands, if they do not
themselves help them who are drawing them up, by gather-
ing up their Bodies together, into the form of a Ball. Some,
indeed, thrust at these Fishes with Tridents ; but it is the
Craft of this Monster to get under the Bottom of the Ship,
and so maintain the Combat in safety. And therefore all
their Care is employed to guard against this Evil.


Of those Fishes that are shut within a flinty Shell; also of
those that have no Sense : and of other sordid Creatures.

THE greatest Security that Fishermen have, is to discover
the flat Fishes ; for they are never in any Place where hurt-
ful Beasts are ; which is the Cause that Divers call those
Fishes sacred.

We must confess, that Fishes enclosed in flinty Shells, as

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 169

Oysters, have no Sense. Many are of the same Nature as
Plants, as the Holothuria, 1 Pulmones, 2 and Stellae (Star-
fishes) ; and thus there is nothing that is not bred within the
Sea ; as the Creatures which in Summer Time abound within
our Inns, and vex us with their active Leap ; as also that
which lies close under the Hair of our Heads : for often the
Fishermen find a Number of these Skippers 3 settled thick
about their Baits as they draw them up. And these are
thought to infest the Fishes in their Sleep by Night in the
Sea. But some Fishes produce these Creatures within
themselves ; among which is reckoned the Chalcis. 4

Of venomous Sea-fishes.

NOR is the Sea without deadly Poisons, as in the Lepus, 5
which in the Indian Sea is so venomous when touched, that
vomiting and breaking down of the Stomach is the Conse-
quence. They which are found in our Sea are a shapeless
Lump of Flesh, in Colour only resembling the Hare. But in
the Indian Seas they are as big as the Pilum, only it is

1 A molluscous form of the Asteriadae : the Stellae, or Star-fishes,
constitute another section of the same family of Asteriadae. Wern. Club.

2 A species of Botryllus. Wern. Club.

3 This distant allusion to the parasites of the human body is still
maintained in the language of modern fishermen ; who speak of sea-lice
and sea-fleas as pestering them in their avocations, by devouring their
baits, and sometimes even devouring the flesh of the fish that has swal-
lowed the hook, if not immediately drawn up. These voracious creatures,
which are different species of the Linnean genus Oniscus, obtain an
entrance at the mouth, and devour the internal substance, leaving the
skin and scales an empty bag, or filled only by bones. Wern. Club.

4 A species of Clupea, and probably C. Sardina, Cuv. Wern. Club.

s Aplysia : a genus of Mollusks, possessing the power of exuding
from the skin a fluid of an acrid quality. The A. depilans is found on
the British shores. The head and antennae, when stretched out, bear a
resemblance in miniature to the same parts in the hare. It is only when
alarmed that they contract and become " a shapeless lump of flesh."
Wern. Club.

170 History of Nature. [BoOK IX.

harder; and they cannot be taken there alive. The Ara-
neus 1 is equally as dangerous a Creature; and inflicts Injury
with the Point of a Spine on its Back. But in no Place is
there any one more detestable than is the Dart or Ray that
projecteth upon the Tail of the Trygon, which we call Pasti-
naca; 2 which ray is five Inches long. If it be struck into
the Root of a Tree, it killeth it ; it pierces Armour like a
Dart, with the Force of Iron and the Injury of Poison.

Of the Diseases of Fishes.

WE do not hear that all Sorts of Fishes are subject to Dis-
eases, as other Beasts, and even those that are wild. But
that this or that Fish may be sick appeareth evidently from
the wasting we see in them ; whereas others of the same Sort
are taken exceedingly fat.

The wonderful Manner of their Breeding.

IN what Manner they breed, the Inquiry and Wonder of
Mankind will not suffer me to put off to another Oppor-
tunity. Fishes couple by the rubbing of their Bellies one
against another ; which they perform with such Celerity as
to deceive the Sight. Dolphins and other Whales have no
other Way, but they are somewhat slower. The Female
Fish, in the Time of coupling, followeth the Male, striking
his Belly with her Snout. In the like Manner, about
Spawning Time, the Males follow the Female, devouring
their Spawn. But this coupling of theirs is not sufficient of

1 Trachinus viper a, Cuv. Wern. Club.

2 Ch. xxiv. JElian makes the destructive property of the spine of the
Fire-flair the subject of several chapters ; but if he or our author had
had recourse to experiment, they might have soon ascertained the error
of the popular opinion. It is capable, however, of inflicting serious lace-
ration, when the tail is twisted about an object ; and the creature is well
aware of the way to render it a formidable weapon. Wern. Club.

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 171

itself to accomplish Fecundity, unless when the Eggs are
cast; both Male and Female between them, by turning it
over, sprinkle it with a vital Power. But in such a Multi-
tude of Eggs this living Power doth not fall on all of
them ; for if it did, all Seas and Lakes would be full of
Fishes : for there is not one of these Females but conceiveth
an inconceivable Number.


More concerning the Generation of Fishes, and which of them
produce Eggs.

THE Eggs of Fishes grow in the Sea, some of them ex-
ceedingly soon, as those of the Muraenee : others are some-
what later. Flat Fishes, 1 which have no Tails and sharp
Prickles, when they couple, come over one another, like
Tortoises. The Polypi fasten one of their Strings to the Nose
of the Female. The Sepiae and Loligo with their Tongues,
clasp one another with their Arms, and swim one contrary
to the other: they also produce their Eggs from the Mouth.
But the Polypi couple with their Heads downwards to the
Ground. The other soft Animals couple, Back to Back, as
Dogs. This is the Case with Locustae, Squillee, Cancri, at the
Mouth. Frogs lie on one another : the Male with the Fore-
feet clasping the Arms of the Female, and with the Hind-
feet the Haunches. They bring forth very small Bits of
black Flesh, which they call Tadpoles, only distinguished
by having Eyes and a Tail. Soon after their Feet are
framed, and their Tail is divided into hinder Parts. It is
wonderful that, after they have lived six Months, they are
dissolved into Slime, no Man seeth how; and afterward with
the Rains in the Spring, they are restored to their former
State, as they were first shaped, by an unknown Way of
Proceeding, although it happeneth in this Way every Year,.
Mussels and Pectens also, are produced of themselves by
Nature in the Sands : those which are of a harder Crust, as

1 Pleuronectidae. Wern. Club.

172 History of Nature. [BoOK IX.

the Murex and Purpura, from a viscous Mucillage : so also
Gnats proceed from a Sourness of the Water; as the Apuae 1
from the Froth of the Sea, when it grows warm, and is
mixed with a Shower. They that are covered with a stony
Shell, as Oysters, are bred from the putrified Mud, or out of
the Froth that hath stood long about Ships, or Posts fixed in
the Water, and especially if they are formed of Holly- wood.
It hath been lately discovered in Oyster Banks, that there
passeth from them a fertile Liquid resembling Milk. Eels 2
rub themselves against Stones, and those Scrapings come to
Life ; and they have no other Generation. Fishes of different
Kinds do not mix their Breed with another, except the
Squatina and the Raia ; from them there is produced a Fish
which in the Forepart resembleth a Raia, and in Greek hath
a Name compounded of both. 3 Some Fishes breed both on
Land and in the Sea, according to the Warmth of the
Year. In the Spring, Pectens, Limaces (Slugs), Hirundines
(Leeches), are produced ; but in the corresponding Time of
Autumn they turn to nothing. Among Fishes the Lupus and
Trichias breed twice a Year, and also all that keep among
Rocks. The Mulius thrice, as also the Chalcis ; the Cypri-
nus six Times; the Scorpense 4 and Sargi twice, namely, in
Spring and Autumn. Of flat Fishes, the Squatina only
twice ; in the Autumn, and at the Setting of the Stars Ver-
giliae. The greatest Number of Fishes spawn in the three

1 Minute fishes seen swimming at the surface of the sea, and therefore
sapiently supposed to have sprung, by spontaneous generation, from the
froth. If any particular species is intended, it is probably Motella glauca.
YARRELL'S "British Fishes" Wern. Club.

2 The manner in which this fish is propagated was long a matter of
doubt, from the very obscure developement of the ova in the ovaries ; but
it has been rendered certain that in their mode of increase they do not
differ from other fishes. The author makes several references to the
opinion, which was prevalent in his day, that creatures might spring into
existence by the spontaneous influences of heat and moisture ; but from
the days of the illustrious Harvey, every claim of this sort for particular
instances has been successfully controverted. Wern. Club.

3 Bhinobatis. Wern. Club.

4 Scorpena scropha and Sc. porcus, Cuv. Wern. Club.

BOOK IX.] History of Nature. 1 73

Months, April, May, and June : Salpae in Autumn : the
Sargi, Torpedo, and Squali, about the Equinox : soft Fishes
in the Spring : and the Sepia in every Month. The Spawn
of this Fish, which hangeth together like a Cluster of
Grapes, by Means of the Glue of the Ink, the Male follows
with its Breath, for otherwise it is barren. The Polypi
couple in Winter, and produce the Eggs in Spring ; being
curled like the Tendrils of a Vine ; and that in such Plenty,
that when they are killed they are not able to receive the
Multitude of Eggs in the Concavities of their Head which
they bare when they 'were pregnant. They hatch them in
fifty Days, but many of them perish from their great Num-
ber. The Locustae and the rest with thinner Shells, lay Egg
over Egg, and so brood upon them. The female Polypus
one while sitteth on her Eggs, at other Times shuts up the
Cavity (where she hath laid them), with her Arms enfolded
across, one over another. The Sepia layeth also on the
Land among the Reeds, or else where she can find Seaweeds
growing, and by the fifteenth Day it is hatched. The Loligo
layeth Eggs in the deep Water, which hang close together
as those of the Sepiae. The Purpurse, the Murex, and such
like, lay in the Spring. The Echini are with Egg at the Full-
Moons in the Winter : and the Cochleae are bred in the
Winter also. The Torpedo is found to have fourscore Young
at once, and she hatcheth her soft Eggs within her Body,
shifting them from one Place of the Womb to another, and
then excludes them. In a similar Manner do all they which
are called Cartilaginous. By which it cometh to pass, that
Fish alone both conceive Eggs, and bring forth a living-
Creature. The Male Silurus, of all others, keepeth the Eggs
after they are deposited, many Times for fifty Days, that
they may not be devoured by others. Other Females hatch
in three Days, if the Male touch them. The Acus or Be-
lone 1 is the only Fish which has such an Abundance of
Eggs that their Womb gapeth when they lay them : but

1 Syngnathus acus, LINN. For the marsupial habits of this fish, see
Yarrell's " British Fishes." Pliny could not have imagined that it is the
male which hatches the eggs in his caudal pouches. Wern. Club.

174 History of Nature. [BooK IX.

after they are produced the Womb uniteth again : a Thing
usual (as they say) in Blind Serpents. The Mus marinus 1
diggeth a Furrow within the Ground, and there layeth her
Eggs, which she covereth with Earth ; and so lets them
alone for thirty Days, when she openeth the Place again,
and leadeth her Young to the Water.

Of Fishes' Wombs.

THE Erythrini and Change have Wombs. The Fish
which in Greek is called Trochos 2 is thought to get itself with
Young. The Young of all Creatures of the Water, at first,
are without Sight.

Of the exceeding long Life of Fishes.

IT is not long since that we heard of one memorable
Example, which proved the long Life of Fishes. Pausi-

Online Librarythe Elder PlinyPliny's Natural history. In thirty-seven books → online text (page 54 of 60)