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Gesta Romanorum Vol. II (1871)/Of the World's Wonders




Pliny says that there are certain men who have the heads of dogs; who bark when they converse, and clothe themselves in the skins of animals. (104) These represent preachers, who ought to be coarsely clad, as an example to others.—Also in India there are men who possess a single eye, which is placed in the forehead. (105) They live upon the flesh of animals. These are they who have the eye of prayer.

In Africa there are women without heads, having eyes in their breasts. (106) Such are like humble men.—In the east, over against the terrestrial Paradise, are people who never eat, and whose mouth is so small that what they drink is conveyed into the stomach by means of a reed. They live upon the odour of apples and flowers; and a bad smell instantly destroys them. (107) These designate abstemious men; and to die of an ill odour is to die of sin.—There are men without a nose; their face is entirely smooth, and whatsoever they see, they think good. (108) Such are the foolish of the world.—And there are some men whose nose and lower lip is so long, that it covers all the face, while they sleep. (109) There are just men[1].—In Scythia are men with ears that completely envelope their whole body. (110). These represent such as listen to the word of God.—Some men there are who walk like cattle (111) and these are the sinful.—There are likewise people who are horned, having short noses and the feet of a goat. (112) These are the proud.—In Æthiopia are men with but one leg, whose velocity nevertheless is such, that they run down the swiftest animal. (113) These are the charitable.—In India are pygmies two cubits long; they ride upon goats, and make war against the cranes. (114) These are they who begin, well, but cease before they are perfect.—In India, there are also men who possess six hands. They are without clothes, but are extremely hairy, and dwell in rivers. (115) These are the laborious of the world.—There are men who have six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot. (116) These are the unpolluted.—Certain women there are bearded to the breast; but their heads are totally bare. (117) These represent virtuous men. In Ethiopia there are men with four eyes each. (118). These are they who fear God.—In Europe are very beautiful men; but they have a crane's head, and neck, and beak. (119) These designate judges, who ought to have long necks and beaks, in order that what the heart thinks may be long before it reach the mouth[2]. If all judges were thus we should have fewer injudicious awards.


  1. I entreat the reader to imagine why; the explanation is not worth inserting.
  2. Excellent doctrine!


Note 104.Page 379.

This allegorical race of beings is thus described in Sir John Mandevile's rare work.

"From this isle men go to another that is called Macumeran, which is a great isle and a fair; and the men and women of this country have heads like hounds; they are reasonable and worship an ox for their God. They are good men to fight, and they bear a great target, with which they cover all their body, and a spear in their hand. And if they take any man in battle they send him to their king, which is a great lord, and devout in his faith: for he hath about his neck, on a chain, three hundred great pearls, and as the papists say their Pater Noster, and other prayers, so their king saith every day three hundred prayers to his God, before he either eat or drink; and he beareth also about his neck a ruby orient, fine, and good, that is near a foot and five fingers long. For when they chuse their king, they give to him that ruby to bear in his hand, and then they lead him riding about the city, and then ever after they are subject to him, and therefore he beareth that ruby alway about his neck; for if he bear not the ruby, they would no longer hold him for their king. The great Caane of Cathay, hath much coveted this ruby; but he might never have it neither by war nor by other means. And this king is a full, true, and vertuous man, for men may go safely and surely through his land, and bear all that they will, for there is no man so hardy to let them."—Voyages and Travels, p. 95.

In the "Turkish Tales," we have also some notice of this "virtuous" people.

"The Samsards were monstrous anthropophagi, or men-eaters, who had the body of a man and the head of a dog."—Vol. ii. p. 349.

And Pliny (whom the Gest writer quotes) B. vii. c. 2, speaks of a country of India, "where there is a kind of men with heads like dogs, clad all over with the skins of wild beasts, who in lieu of speech used to bark."

Note 105.Page 379.

"And in one of these isles are men that have but one eye, and that is in the middest of their front, and they eat their flesh and fish all raw." Mandevile; and Pliny, Lib. vii. c. 2.

Note 106.Page 379.

"And in another isle are men that have no heads, and their eyes are in their shoulders, and their mouth is in their breast."—Mandevile: see also Pliny, and "Turkish Tales," Vol. ii. page 303.

Note 107.Page 380.

"In the utmost marshes of India, eastward, about the source and head of the river Ganges, there is a nation called the Astomes, for they have no mouths: all hairie over the whole bodie, yet clothed with the soft cotton and downe that come from the leaves of trees; they live only by the aire, and smelling to sweet odours, which they draw in at their nose thrills. No meat nor drink they take, onely pleasant savours from divers and sundrie roots, flowers, and wild fruits, growing in the woods they entertaine; and those they use to carry about with them when they take any farre journey, because they would not misse their smelling. And yet if the scent be any thing strong and stinking, they are soone therewith overcome, and die withal."—P. Holland's Transl. of Pliny's Nat. Hist.

To this account Sir John Mandevile adds, that they are not reasonable, but as wild as beasts."—p. 124. He calls the place of their residence Pitan.

Note 108.Page 380.

"And in another isle are men that have flat faces without noses, and without eyes—but they have two small round holes instead of eyes, and they have flat mouths without lips."—Mand.

Note 109.Page 380.

"And in another isle are foul men, that have their lips about their mouth so great, that when they sleep in the sun they cover all their face with their lips."—Mand.

Note 110.Page 380.

"And in another isle are wild men with hanging ears, who have feet like a horse," &c.—Mand. "And some again that with their ears cover their whole bodie."—Pliny, lib. vii. c. 2.

Note 111.Page 380.

"And in another isle are men that go upon their hands and feet like beasts, and are all rough, and will leap upon a tree like cats or apes."—Mand.

Note 112.Page 380.

"And there is in that wilderness many wild men with horns on their heads, very hideous, and they speak not."—Mand.

Note 113.Page 381.

"In Ethiope such men as have but one foot, and they go so fast that it is a great marvel; and that is a large foot, for the shadow thereof covereth the body from the sun, or rain, when they lie upon their backs; and when their children are first born, they look like russet, but when they wax old, they be all black."—Mand.

Pliny calls these people Sciopodes.

Note 114.Page 381.

"Higher in the countrey, and above these, even in the edge and skirts of the mountaines, the Pygmæi Spythamei are reported to bee: called they are so, for that they are but a cubite or three shaftments (or spannes) high, that is to say, three times nine inches. The clime wherin they dwell is very wholesome, the aire healthie, and ever like to the temperature of the spring; by reason that the mountaines are on the north side of them, and beare off all cold blasts. And these pretie people, Homer also hath reported to be much troubled and annoied by cranes. The speech goeth, that in the spring time they set out all of them in battel array, mounted upon the back of rammes and goats, armed with bowes and arrowes, and so downe to the sea-side they march, where they make foul worke among the egges and young cranelings newly hatched, which they destroy without all pitie. Thus for three moneths this their journey and expedition continueth, and then they make an end of their valiant service; for otherwise if they should continue any longer, they were never able to withstand the new flights of this foule, growne to some strength and bignesse. As for their houses and cottages, made they are of clay or mud, fouls feathers, and birds egge shells. Howbeit Aristotle writeth, that these Pygmæans live in hollow caves and holes under the ground."—Holland's Pliny.

Addison has written a Latin poem upon this subject, and Dr. Beattie has translated it into very elegant English verse.

Notes 115 and 116.Page 381.

"And in another isle are men that go ever on their hands marvellously, and they have on every foot eight toes."—Mand.

Note 117.Page 381.

"In this country . . . . women shave their heads, and not men."—Mand.

Note 118.Page 381.

"The region above Sirbithim, where the mountaines doe end, is reported to have upon the sea-coast certaine Æthiopians called Nisicastes and Nisites, that is to say, men with three or four eies apeece; not for that they are so eied indeed, but because they are excellent archers."—Pliny, Nat. Hist. lib. vi. c. 30.

Note 119.Page 381.

"He and his subjects are not like us, men without heads: they have heads like those of birds; and their voice so exactly resembles the voice of birds, that, when any one of them arrives in our island, we take him for a water-fowl and eat him, . . . . with all the several sauces with which men are wont to eat wild-fowl."—Turkish Tales, vol. ii. p. 364.