Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 10
I. THE next subject is the Nature of Birds. Of these the largest species, which almost belongs to the class of animals, the ostrich of Africa or Ethiopia, exceeds the height and surpasses the speed of a mounted horseman, its wings being bestowed upon it merely as an assistance in running, but otherwise it is not a flying creature and does not rise from the earth. It has talons resembling a stag's hooves, which it uses as weapons; they are cloven in two, and are useful for grasping stones which when in flight it flings with its feet against its pursuers. Its capacity for digesting the objects that it swallows down indiscriminately is remarkable, but not less so is its stupidity in thinking that it is concealed when it has hidden its neck among bushes, in spite of the great height of the rest of its body. The eggs of the ostrich are extremely remarkable for their size; some people use them as vessels, and the feathers for adorning the crests and helmets of warriors.
II. They say that Ethiopia and the Indies possess birds extremely variegated in colour and indescribable, and that Arabia has one that is famous before all others (though perhaps it is fabulous), the phoenix, the only one in the whole world and hardly ever seen. The story is that it is as large as an eagle, and has a gleam of gold round its neck and all the rest of it is purple, but the tail blue picked out with rose-coloured feathers and the throat picked out with tufts, and a feathered crest adorning its head. The first and the most detailed Roman account of it was given by Manilius, the eminent senator famed for his extreme and varied learning acquired without a teacher: he stated that nobody has ever existed that has seen one feeding, that in Arabia it is sacred to the Sun-god, that it lives 540 years, that when it is growing old it constructs a nest with sprigs of wild cinnamon and frankincense, fills it with scents and lies on it till it dies; that subsequently from its bones and marrow is born first a sort of maggot, and this grows into a chicken, and that this begins by paying due funeral rites to the former bird and carrying the whole nest down to the City of the Sun near Panchaia and depositing it upon an altar there. Manilius also states that the period of the Great Year coincides with the life of this bird, and that the same indications of the seasons and stars return again, and that this begins about noon on the day on which the sun enters the sign of the Ram, and that the year of this period had been 215, as reported by him, in the consulship of Publius Licinius and Gnaeus Cornelius. Cornelius Valerianus reports that a phoenix flew down into Egypt in the consulship of Quintus Plautius and Sextus Papinius; it was even brought to Rome in the Censorship of the Emperor Claudius, a.u.c. 800 and displayed in the Comitium, a fact attested by the Records, although nobody would doubt that this phoenix was a fabrication.
III. Of the birds known to us the eagle is the most honourable and also the strongest. Of eagles there are six kinds. The one called by the Greeks the black eagle, and also the hare-eagle is smallest in size and of outstanding strength; it is of a blackish colour. It is the only eagle that rears its own young, whereas all the others, as we shall describe, drive them away; and it is the only one that has no scream or cry. Its haunt is in the mountains. To the second kind belongs the white-rump eagle found in towns and in level country; it has a whitish tail. To the third the morphnos, which Homer also calls the dusky eagle, and some the plangos and also the duck-eagle; it is second in size and strength, and it lives in the neighbourhood of lakes. Phemonoe, who was styled Daughter of Apollo, has stated that it possesses teeth, but that it is mute and voiceless; also that it is the darkest of the eagles in colour, and has an exceptionally prominent tail. Boethus also agrees. It has a clever device for breaking tortoiseshells that it has carried off, by dropping them from a height; this accident caused the death of the poet Aeschylus, who was trying to avoid a disaster of this nature that had been foretold by the fates, as the story goes, by trustfully relying on the open sky. Next, the fourth class comprises the hawk-eagle, also called the mountain stork, which resembles a vulture in having very small wings but exceeds it in the size of its other parts, and yet is unwarlike and degenerate, as it allows a crow to flog it. It is always ravenously greedy, and keeps up a plaintive screaming. It is the only eagle that carries away the dead bodies of its prey; all the others after killing alight on the spot. This species causes the fifth kind to be called the' true eagle,' as being the genuine kind and the only pure-bred one; it is of medium size and dull reddish colour, and it is rarely seen. There remains the osprey, which has very keen eyesight, and which hovers at a great height and when it sees a fish in the sea drops on it with a swoop and cleaving the water with its breast catches it. The species that we made the third hunts round marshes for water-birds, which at once dive, till they become drowsy and exhausted, when it catches them. The duel is worth watching, the bird making for refuge on the shore, especially if there is a dense reed-bed, and the eagle driving it away from the shore with a blow of its wing; and when it is hunting its quarry in a lake, soaring and showing its shadow to the bird swimming under water away from the shore, so that the bird turns back again and comes to the surface at a place where it thinks it is least expected. This is the reason why birds swim in flocks, because several are not attacked at the same time, since they blind the enemy by splashing him with their wings. Often even the eagles themselves cannot carry the weight of their catch and are drowned with it. The sea-eagle only compels its still unfledged chicks by beating them to gaze full at the rays of the sun, and if it notices one blinking and with its eyes watering flings it out of the nest as a bastard and not true to stock, whereas one whose gaze stands firm against the light it rears. Sea-eagles have no breed of their own but are born from crossbreeding with other eagles; but the offspring of a pair of sea-eagles belongs to the osprey genus, from which spring the smaller vultures, and from these the great vultures which do not breed at all. Some people add a species of eagle which they call the bearded eagle, but which the Tuscans call an ossifrage.
IV. The three first and the fifth kinds of eagle have the stone called eagle-stone (named by some gagites) built into their nests, which is useful for many cures, and loses none of its virtue by fire. The stone in question is big with another inside it, which rattles as if in a jar when you shake it. But only those taken from a nest possess the medicinal power referred to. They build their nests in rocks and trees, and lay as many as three eggs at a time, but they shut out two chicks of the brood, and have been seen on occasion to eject even three. They drive out the other chick when they are tired of feeding it: indeed at this period nature has denied food to the parent birds themselves as a precaution, so that the young of all the wild animals should not be plundered; also during those days the birds' talons turn inward, and their feathers grow white from want of food, so that with good reason they hate their own offspring. But the chicks thrown out by these birds are received by the kindred breed, the bearded eagles, who rear them with their own. However the parent bird pursues them even when grown up, and drives them far away, doubtless because they are competitors in the chase. And apart from this a single pair of eagles in order to get enough food requires a large tract of country to hunt over; consequently they mark out districts, and do not poach on their neighbours' preserves. When they have made a catch they do not carry it off at once, but first lay it on the ground, and only fly away with it after first testing its weight. They meet their end not from old age nor sickness but from hunger, as their upper mandible grows to such a size that it is too hooked for them to be able to open it. They get busy and fly in the afternoon, but in the earlier hours of the day they perch quite idle till the market-places fill with a gathering of people. If eagles' feathers have the feathers of any other birds mixed with them, they swallow them up. It is stated that this is the only bird that is never killed by a thunderbolt; this, is why custom has deemed the eagle to be Jupiter's armour-bearer.
V. The eagle was assigned to the Roman legions as their special badge by Gaius Marius in his second consulship. Even previously it had been their first badge, with four others, wolves, minotaurs, horses and boars going in front of the respective ranks; but a few years before the custom had come in of carrying the eagles alone into action, the rest being left behind in camp. Marius discarded them altogether. Thenceforward it was noticed that there was scarcely ever a legion's winter camp without a pair of eagles being in the neighbourhood.
The first and second kinds not only carry off the smaller four-footed animals but actually do battle with stags. The eagle collects a quantity of dust by rolling in it, and perching on the stag's horns sakes it off into its eyes, striking its head with its wings, until it brings it down on to the rocks. Nor is it content with one foe: it has a fiercer battle with a great serpent, and one that is of much more doubtful issue, even though it is in the air. The serpent with mischievous greed tries to get the eagle's eggs; consequently the eagle carries it off wherever seen. The serpent fetters its wings by twining itself round them in manifold coils so closely that it falls to the ground itself with the snake.
VI. At the city of Sestos the fame of an eagle is celebrated, the story being that it was reared by a maiden and that it repaid its gratitude by bringing to her first birds and soon afterwards big game, and when finally she died it threw itself upon her lighted pyre and was burnt with her. On account of this the inhabitants made what is called a heroon in that place, which is named the Shrine of Jupiter and the Maiden, because the bird is assigned to that deity.
VII. Of vultures the black are the strongest. No one has ever reached their nests, and consequently there have actually been persons who have thought that they fly here from the opposite side of the globe. This is a mistake: they make their nests on extremely lofty crags. Their chicks indeed are often seen, usually in pairs. The most learned augur of our age, Umbricius, states that they lay thirteen eggs, but use one of them for cleaning the remaining eggs and the nest and then throw it away; but that three days before they lay the eggs they fly to some place where there will be dead bodies.
VIII. There is great question among the Roman augurs about the sanqualis and the immnsulus. Some think that the immusulus is the chick of the vulture and the sanqualis of the bearded vulture. Masurius says that the sanqualis is a bearded vulture and the immusulus an eagle's chick before its tail turns white. Some persons have asserted that they have not been seen at Rome since the time of the augur Mucius, but for my own part I think it more probable that in the general slackness that prevails they have not been recognized.
IX. Of hawks we find sixteen kinds, and among these the aegithus, which when lame in one foot is of very fortunate omen for marriage contracts and for property in cattle, and the triorchis, named from the number of its testicles, the bird to which Phemonoe gave primacy among auguries. The Roman name for it is buteo, which is also the surname of a family, assumed because one perched on an admiral's ship with good omen. The Greeks give the name of merlin to the only species that appears at every season, whereas all the others go away in winter. The varieties of hawks are distinguished by their appetite for food: some only snatch a bird off the pound, others only one fluttering round a tree, others one that perches high in the branches, others one flying in the open. Consequently even the doves know the risks that they run from hawks, and when They see one They alight, or else fly upward, safeguarding themselves by going counter to the hawk's nature. The hawks of the whole of Massaesylia lay their eggs on the ground in Cerne, an island of Africa in the Ocean, and they do not breed elsewhere, as they are accustomed to the natives of that island.
X. In the district of Thrace inland from Amphipolis men and hawks have a sort of partnership for fowling: the men put up the birds from woods and reed-beds and the hawks flying overhead drive them down again; the fowlers share the bag with the hawks. It is reported that when the birds have been put up the hawks intercept them in the air, and when it is time for a catch invite the sportsmen to take the opportunity by their screaming and their way of flying. Wolf-fish at the Maeotic Marsh act somewhat in the same way, for unless they get their share from fishermen they tear their nets when spread.
Hawks do not eat the hearts of birds. The night-hawk is called cybindis; it is rare even in forests, and cannot see very well in the daytime. It wages war to the death with the eagle, and they are often taken clinging together in each other's clutches.
XI. The cuckoo seems to be made by changing its shape out of a hawk at a certain season of the year, as the rest of the hawks do not appear then, except on a very few days, and the cuckoo itself also after being seen for a moderate period of the summer is not observed afterwards. But the cuckoo is alone among the hawks in not having crooked talons, and also it is not like the other hawks in the head or in anything else but colour: it rather has the general appearance of the pigeon. Moreover a hawk will eat a cuckoo, if ever both have appeared at the same time: the cuckoo is the only one of all the birds that is killed by its own kind. And it also changes its voice. It comes out in the spring and goes into lung at the rising of the dog-star, between which dates it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, usually wood-pigeons, for the most part one egg at a time, as does no other bird; it seldom lays two. Its reason for foisting its chicks on other birds is supposed to be that it knows itself to be hated by the whole of the birds, for even the very small birds attack it; consequently it thinks that a progeny will not be secured for its race unless it has escaped notice, for which reason it makes no nest; it is a timid creature in general. Therefore the brooding hen in the nest thus cuckolded rears the changeling. The young cuckoo being by nature greedy snatches the bits of food away from the rest of the chicks, and so gets fat and attracts the mother bird to itself by its sleek appearance. She delights in its beauty and admires herself for having borne such a child, while in comparison with it she convicts her own chicks of not belonging to her, and lets them be eaten up even under her own eyes, until finally the cuckoo, now able to fly, seizes the mother bird herself as well. At this stage no sort of bird will compare with a young cuckoo for savoury flavour.
XII. Kites belong to the same genus as hawks but differ in size. It has been noticed in regard to this species. That though a most rapacious bird and always hungry it never steals any edible from the oblations at funerals nor from the altar at Olympia and not even out of the hands of the people bringing the offsprings except with a gloomy portent for the slaves performing the sacrifice. Also it seems that this bird by its manipulation of its tail taught the art of steersmanship, nature demonstrating in the sky what was required in the deep. Kites themselves also are not seen in the winter months, though not departing before the swallow; it is reported however that they suffer from gout even from midsummer onward.
XIII. The primary distinction between birds is established especially by the feet; for either they have hooked talons or claws or they are in the web-footed class like geese and water-fowl generally. If they have hooked talons they live for the most part only on flesh;
XIV. though crows eat other food as well, as if a nut is so hard that it resists their beak they fly up aloft and drop it two or more times on to rocks or roof-tiles, till it is cracked and they can break it open. The bird itself has a persistent croak that is unlucky, although some people speak well of it. It is noticed that from the rising of Arcturus to the arrival of the swallows it is rarely seen in groves and temples of Minerva and never at all elsewhere, as is the case at Athens; it is most unlucky at its breeding season, that is, after midsummer. Moreover this bird alone continues feeding its chicks for some time even when they can fly;
XV. whereas all the other birds of the same class drive their chicks out of the nests and compel them to fly, as also do ravens. These not only feed on flesh themselves too, but also drive away their chicks when strong to a considerable distance. Consequently in small villages there are not more than two pairs of ravens, and in fact in the neighbourhood of Crannon in Thessaly there is one pair permanently in each place; the parents retire to make room for their offspring.
There are certain points of difference between this bird and the one mentioned above. Ravens breed before midsummer, also they have 60 days of ill-health, principally owing to thirst, before the figs ripen in the autumn; whereas the crow is seized with sickness from that day onward.
Ravens produce broods of five at most. There is a popular belief that they lay eggs, or else mate, with the beak (and that consequently if women with child eat a raven's egg they bear the infant through the mouth, and that altogether they have a difficult delivery if raven's eggs are brought into the house); but Aristotle says that this is not true of the raven, any more indeed than it is of the ibis in Egypt, but that the billing in question (which is often noticed) is a form of kissing, like that which takes place between pigeons. Ravens seem to be the only birds that have an understanding of the meanings that they convey in auspices; for when the guests of Medus were murdered, all the ravens in the Peloponnese and Attica flew away. It is a specially bad omen when they gulp down their croak as if they were choking.
XVI. Night birds also have hooked talons, for instance the little owl, the eagle-owl and the screech-owl. All of these are dim-sighted in the daytime. The eagle-owl is a funereal bird, and is regarded as an extremely bad omen, especially at public auspices; it inhabits deserts and places that are not merely unfrequented but terrifying and inaccessible; a weird creature of the night, its cry is not a musical note but a scream. Consequently when seen in cities or by daylight in any circumstances it is a direful portent; but I know several cases of its having perched on the houses of private persons without fatal consequences. It never flies in the direction where it wants to go, but travels slantwise out of its course. In the consulship of Sextus Palpellius Hister and Lucius Pedanius an eagle-owl entered the very shrine of the Capitol, on account of which a purification of the city was held on March 7th in that year.
XVII. There is also a bird of ill-omen called the fire-bird, on account of which we find in the annals that the city has often had a ritual purification, for instance in the consulship of Lucius Cassius and Gaius Marius, in which year the appearance of an eagle-owl also occasioned a purification. What this bird was I cannot discover, and it is not recorded. Some persons give this interpretation, that the fire-bird was any bird that was seen carrying a coal from an altar or altar-table; others call it a 'spinturnix,' but I have not found anybody who professes to know what particular species of bird that is. I also notice that the bird named by the ancients 'clivia' is unidentifiedsome call it 'screech-owl,' Labeo 'warning owl'; and moreover a bird is cited in Nigidius that breaks eagles' eggs. There are besides a number of kinds described in Tuscan lore that have not been seen for generations, though it is surprising that they should have now become extinct when even kinds that are ravaged by man's greed continue plentiful.
XVIII. On the subject of the auguries of foreign races the writings of an author named Hylas are deemed to be the most learned. He states that the night-owl, eagle-owl, woodpecker, trygona and raven come out of the egg tail first, because the eggs axe turned the wrong way up by the weight of the heads and present the hinder part of the chicks' bodies to the mother to cherish.
X1X. Night-owls wage a crafty battle against other birds. When surrounded by a crowd that outnumbers them they lie on their backs and defend themselves with their feet, and bunching themselves up close are entirely protected by their beak and claws. Through a kind of natural alliance the hawk comes to their aid and takes part in the war. Nigidius relates that night-owls hibernate for 60 days every winter, and that they have nine cries.
XX. There are also small birds with hooked claws, for instance the variety of woodpeckers called Birds of Mars that are important in taking auguries. In this class are the tree-hollowing woodpeckers that climb nearly straight upright in the manner of cats, hut also the others that cling upside down, which know by the sound of the bark when they strike it that there is fodder underneath it. They are the only birds that rear their chicks in holes. There is a common belief that when wedges are driven into their holes by a shepherd the birds by applying a kind of grass make them slip out again. Trebius states that if you drive a nail or wedge with as much force as you like into a tree in which a woodpecker has a nest, when the bird perches on it it at once springs out again with a creak of the tree. Woodpeckers themselves have been of the first importance among auguries in Latium from the time of the king a who gave his name to this bird. One presage of theirs I cannot pass over. When Aelius Tubero, City Praetor, was giving judgements from the bench in the forum, a woodpecker perched on his head so fearlessly that he was able to catch it in his hand. In reply to enquiry the seers declared that disaster was portended to the empire if the bird were released, but to the praetor if it were killed. Tubero however at once tore the bird in pieces; and not long afterwards he fulfilled the portent.
XXI. Many birds in this class feed also on acorns and fruit, but those that eat only flesh do not drink, excepting the kite, and for a kite to drink counts in itself as a direful augury. The birds having talons never live in flocks, and each hunts for itself. But they almost all except the night-birds among them fly high, and the bigger ones higher. All have large wings and a small body. They walk with difficulty. They rarely perch on rocks, as the curve of their talons prohibits this.
XXII. Now let us speak about the second class, which is divided into two kinds, songbirds and plumage-birds. The former kind are distinguished by their song and the latter by their size; so the latter shall come first in order also, and among them before all the rest will come the peacock class, both because of its beauty and because of its consciousness of and pride in it. When praised it spreads out its jewelled colours directly facing the sun, because in that way they gleam more brilliantly; and at the same time by curving its tail like a shell it contrives as it were reflexions of shadow for the rest of its colours, which actually shine more brightly in the dark, and it draws together into a cluster all the eyes of its feathers, as it delights in having them looked at. Moreover when it moults its tail feathers every year with the fall of the leaves, it seeks in shame and sorrow for a place of concealment until others are born again with the spring flowers. It lives for 25 years, but it begins to shed its colours at the age of three. The authorities relate that this creature is not only ostentatious but also spiteful, just as the goose is said to be modest--since some writers have added these characteristics also in that species, though I do not accept them.
XXIII. The first person at Rome to kill a peacock for the table was the orator Hortensius, at the inaugural banquet of his priesthood. Fattening peacocks was first instituted about the time of the last pirate war by Marcus Aufidius Lurco, and he made 60,000 sesterces profit from this trade.
XXIV. Nearly equally proud and self-conscious are also our Roman night-watchmen, a breed designed by nature for the purpose of awakening mortals for their labours and interrupting sleep. They are skilled astronomers, and they mark every three-hour period in the daytime with song, go to bed with the sun, and at the fourth camp-watch recall us to our business and our labour and do not allow the sunrise to creep upon us unawares, hut herald the coming day with song, while they herald that song itself with a flapping of their wings against their sides. They lord it over their own race, and exercise royal sway in whatever household they live. This sovereignty they win by duelling with one another, seeming to understand that weapons grow upon their legs for this purpose, and often the fight only ends when they die together. If they win the palm, they at once sing a song of victory and proclaim themselves the champions, while the one defeated hides in silence and with difficulty endures servitude. Yet even the common herd struts no less proudly, with uplifted neck and combs held high, and alone of birds casts frequent glances at the sky, also rearing its curved tail aloft. Consequently even the lion, the noblest of wild animals, is afraid of the cock. Moreover some cocks are born solely for constant wars and battlesby which they have even conferred fame on their native places, Rhodes or Tanagra; the fighting cocks of Melos and Chalcidice have been awarded second honoursso that the Roman purple confers its high honour on a bird full worthy of it. These are the birds that give the Most-Favourable Omens; these birds daily control our officers of state, and shut or open to them their own homes; these send forward or hold back the Roman rods of office, and order or forbid battle formation, being the auspices of all our victories won all over the world; these hold supreme empire over the empire of the world, being as acceptable to the gods with even their inward parts and vitals as are the costliest victims. Even their later and their evening songs contain portents; for by crowing all the nights long they presaged to the Boeotians that famous victory against the Spartans, conjecture thus interpreting the sign because this bird when conquered does not crow.
XXV. Cocks when gelt stop crowing; the operation is performed in two waysby searing with a glowing iron either the loins or the bottom parts of the legs, and then smearing the wound with potter's clay. This operation makes them easier to fatten. At Pergamum every year a public show is given of cocks fighting like gladiators. It is found in the Annals that in the consulship Marcus Lepidus and Quintus Catulus, at the country house of Oalerius in the Rimini district, a farmyard cock spokethe only occasion, so far as I know, on which this has occurred.
XXVI. The goose also keeps a careful watch, as is evidenced by its defence of the Capitol during the time when our fortunes were being betrayed by the silence of the dogs; for which reason food for the geese is one of the first contracts arranged by the censors. Moreover there is the story of the goose at Aegium that fell in love with the supremely beautiful boy Amphilochus of Olenus, and also the goose that loved Glauce, the girl that played the harp for King Ptolemy, whom at the same time also a ram is said to have fallen in love with. These birds may possibly be thought also to possess the power of understanding wisdom: thus there is a story that a goose attached itself continually as a companion to the philosopher Lacydes, never leaving his side by night or day, either in public or at the baths.
XXVII. Our countrymen are wiser, who know the goose by the excellence of its liver. Stuffing the bird with food makes the liver grow to a great size, and also when it has been removed it is made larger by being soaked in milk sweetened with honey. Not without reason is it a matter of enquiry who was the discoverer of so great a boonwas it Scipio Metellus the consular, or his contemporary Marcus Seius, Knight of Rome? But it is an accepted fact that Messalinus Cotta, son of the orator Messala, invented the recipe for taking from geese the soles of the feet and grilling them and pickling them in dishes with the combs of domestic cocks; for I will award the palm scrupulously to each man's culinary achievement. A remarkable feat in the case of this bird is its coming on foot all the way to Rome from the Morini in Gaul: the geese that get tired are advanced to the front rank, and so all the rest drive them on by instinctively pressing forward in their rear.
White geese yield a second profit in their feathers. In some places they are plucked twice a year, and clothe themselves again with a feather coat. The plumage closest to the body is softer, and that from Germany is most esteemed. The geese there are a bright white, but smaller; the German word for this bird is Gans; the price of their feathers is five-command of auxiliary troops frequently get into pence per pound. And owing to this officers in trouble for having sent whole cohorts away from outpost sentry duty to capture these fowls; and luxury has advanced to such a pitch that now not even the male neck can endure to be without goose-feather bedding.
XXVIII. The part of Syria called Commagene has made another discovery, goose-fat mixed with cinnamon in a bronze bowl, covered with a quantity of snow and steeped in the icy mixture, to supply the famous medicine that is called after the tribe Commagenum.
XXIX. To the goose kind belong the sheldrake and the barnacle-goose, the latter the most sumptuous feast that Britain knows; both are rather smaller than the goose. The black grouse also makes a fine show with its gloss and its absolute blackness, with a touch of bright scarlet above the eyes. Another variety of these exceeds the size of vultures and also reproduces their colour, nor is there any bird except the ostrich that attains a greater weight of body, growing to such a size that it is actually caught motionless on the ground. They are a product of the Alps and the northern region. When kept in fishponds they lose their flavour, and obstinately hold their breath till they die. Next to these are the birds that Spain calls tardae and Greece otides, which are condemned as an article of diet, because when the marrow is drained out of their bones a disgusting smell at once follows.
XXX. The race of Pygmies have a cessation of hostilities on the departure of the cranes that, as we have said, carry on war with them. It is a vast distance, if one calculates it, over which they come from the eastern sea. They agree together when to start, and they fly high so as to see their route in front of them; they choose a leader to follow, and have some of their number stationed in turns at the end of the line to shout orders and keep the flock together with their cries. At night time they have sentries who hold a stone in their claws, which if drowsiness makes them drop it falls and convicts them of slackness, while the rest sleep with their head tucked under their wing, standing on either foot by turns; but the leader keeps a lookout with neck erect and gives warning. (The same birds when tamed are fond of play, and execute certain circles in a graceful swoop, even one bird at a time). It is certain that when they are going to fly across the Black Sea they first of all make for the straits between the two promontories of Ramsbrow and Carambis, and proceed to ballast themselves with sand; and that when they have crossed the middle of the sea they throw away the pebbles out of their claws and, when they have reached the mainland, the sand out of their throats as well. Cornelius Nepos, who died in the principate of the late lamented Augustus, when he wrote that the practice of fattening thrushes was introduced a little before his time, added that storks were more in favour than cranes, although the latter bird is now one of those most in request, whereas nobody will touch the former.
XXXI. Where exactly storks come from or where they go to has not hitherto been ascertained. There is no doubt that they come from a distance, in the same manner as do cranes, the former being winter visitors and the latter arriving in summer. When about to depart they assemble at fixed places, and forming a company, so as to prevent any of their class being left behind (unless one captured and in slavery), they withdraw as if at a date fixed in advance by law. No one has seen a band of storks departing, although it is quite clear that they are going to depart, nor do we see them arrive, but only see that they have arrived; both arrival and departure take place in the night-time, and although they fly to and fro across the country, it is thought that they have never arrived anywhere except by night. There is a place in Asia called Snakesdorp with a wide expanse of plains where cranes meet in assembly to hold a palaver, and the one that arrives last they set upon with their claws, and so they depart; it. has been noticed that they have not frequently been seen there after the first fortnight of August. Some persons declare that storks have no tongue. They are held in such high esteem for destroying snakes that in Thessaly to kill them was a capital crime, for which the legal penalty was the same as for homicide.
XXXII. Geese and swans also migrate on a similar principle, but the flight of these is seen. They travel in a pointed formation like fast galleys, so cleaving the air more easily than if they drove at it with a straight front; while in the rear the flight stretches out in a gradually widening wedge, and presents a broad surface to the drive of a following breeze. They place their necks on the birds in front of them, and when the leaders are tired they receive them to the rear. (Storks return to the same nest. They nourish their parents' old age in their turn.) A story is told about the mournful song of swans at their deatha false story as I judge on the strength of a certain number of experiences. Swans are cannibals, and eat one another's flesh.
XXXIII. But this migration of birds of passage over seas and lands does not allow us to postpone the smaller breeds as well that have a similar nature. For however much the size and strength of body of the kinds above mentioned may appear to invite them to travel, the quails always actually arrive before the cranes, though the quail is a small bird and when it has come to us remains on the ground more than it soars aloft; but they too get here by flying in the same way as the cranes; not without danger to seafarers when they have come near to land: for they often perch on the sails, and they always do this at night, and sink the vessels. Their route follows definite resting places. They do not fly in a south wind, doubtless because it is damp and rather heavy, yet they desire to be carded by the breeze, because of the weight of their bodies and their small strength (this is the reason for that mournful cry they give while flying, which is wrung from them by fatigue); consequently they fly mostly in a north wind, a landrail leading the way. The first quail approaching land is seized by a hawk; from the place where this happens they always return and try to get an escort, and the tongue-bird, eared-owl and ortolan are persuaded to make the journey with them. The tongue-bird takes its name from the very long tongue that it puts out of its beak. At the start the charm of travelling lures this bird to sail on eagerly, but in the course of the flight repentance comes to it, no doubt with the fatigue; but it does not like to return unaccompanied, and it goes on following, though never for more than one dayat the next resting place it deserts. But day after day the company find another one, left behind in a similar manner the year before. The ortolan is more persevering, and hurries on actually to complete the journey to the lands which they are seeking; consequently it rouses up the birds in the night and reminds them of their journey. The eared owl is smaller than the eagle-owl and larger than night-owls; it has projecting feathery ears, whence its namesome give it the Latin name 'axio'; moreover it is a bird that copies other kinds and is a hanger-on, and it performs a kind of dance. Like the night-owl it is caught without difficulty if one goes round it while its attention is fixed on somebody else. If a wind blowing against them begins to hold up a flight of these birds, they pick up little stones as ballast or fill their throat with sand to steady their flight. Quails are very fond of eating poison seed, on account of which our tables have condemned them; and moreover it is customary to spit at the sight of them as a charm against epilepsy, to which they arc the only living creatures that are liable besides man.
XXXIV. Swallows, the only flesh-eating bird among those that have not hooked talons, also migrate in the winter months; but they only retire to places near at hand, making for the sunny gulleys in the mountains, and they have before now been found there moulted and bare of feathers. It is said that they do not enter under the roofs of Thebes, because that city has been so often captured, nor at Bizye in Thrace on account of the crimes of Tereus. A man of knightly rank at Volterra, Caecina, who owned a racing four-in-hand, used to catch swallows and take them with him to Rome and despatch them to take the news of a win to his friends, as they returned to the same nest; they had the winning colour painted on them. Also Fabius Pictor records in his Annals that when a Roman garrison was besieged by the Ligurians a swallow taken from her nestlings was brought to him for him to indicate by knots made in a thread tied to its foot how many days later help would arrive and a sortie must be made.
XXXV. Blackbirds, thrushes and starlings also migrate in a similar way to neighbouring districts; but these do not moult their plumage, and do not go into hiding, being often seen in the places where they forage for winter food. Consequently in Germany thrushes are most often seen in winter. The turtledove goes into hiding in a truer sense, and moults its feathers. Woodpigeons also go into retreat, though in their case also it is not certain exactly where. It is a peculiarity of the starling kind that they fly in flocks and wheel round in a sort of circular ball, all making towards the centre of the flock. The swallow is the only bird that has an extremely swift and swerving flight, owing to which it is also not liable to capture by the other kinds of birds. Also the swallow is the only bird that only feeds when on the wing.
XXXVI. There is a great difference in the seasons of birds; some stay all the year round, e.g. pigeons, some for six months, e.g. swallows, some for three months, e.g. thrushes and turtledoves and those that migrate when they have reared their brood, such as woodpeckers and hoopoes.
XXXVII. Some authorities state that every year birds fly from Ethiopia to Troy and have a fight at Memnon's tomb, and consequently they call them 'Memnon's daughters.' Cremutius records having discovered that every four years they do the same things in Ethiopia round the royal palace of Memnon.
XXXVIII. The meleagridesa in Boeotia fight in a similar manner; this is a kind of hen belonging to Africa, hump-backed and with speckled plumage. This is the latest of the migratory birds admitted to the menu, because of its unpleasant pungent flavour; but the Tomb of Meleager has made it famous.
XXXIX. There is a species called birds of Seleucis for whose arrival prayers are offered to Jupiter by the migranta, inhabitants of Mount Cadmus when locusts destroy their crops; it is not known where they come from, nor where they go to when they depart, and they are never seen except when their protection is needed.
XL. Also the people of Egypt invoke their ibis to guard against the arrival of snakes, and those of Ellis invoke the god Myiacores when a swarm of flies brings plague, the flies dying as soon as a sacrifice to this god has been performed.
XLI. But in the matter of the withdrawal of birds, it is stated that even night-owls go into retreat for a few days. It is said that this kind does not exist in the island of Crete and even that if one is imported there it dies off. For this also is a remarkable point of variety established by nature: to various places she denies various species of animals as well as of crops and shrubs. For those animals not to be born there is in the ordinary course of things, but their dying off when imported there is remarkable. What is the factor adverse to the health of a single genus that is involved, or what is the jealousy of nature that is indicated? Or what frontiers are prescribed for birds? Rhodes does not possess the eagle; Italy north of the Po gives the name of Como to a lake near the Alps graced with a wooded tract to which storks do not come; and similarly jays and jackdawsa bird whose unique fondness for stealing especially silver and gold is remarkablethough swarming in enormous numbers in the adjacent region of the Insubrians, do not come within eight miles of Lake Como. It is said that Mars's woodpecker is not found in the district of Taranto. The kinds of pie called chequered pies and distinguished for their long tail, though hitherto rare, have lately begun to be seen between the Apennines and Rome; this bird has the peculiarity of moulting its feathers yearly at the time when the turnip is sown. Partridges do not fly across the frontier of Boeotia into Attica; nor does any bird fly across the temple dedicated to Achilles on the island of the Black Sea where he is buried. In the district of Fidenae near Rome storks do not hatch chicks or make nests. But a quantity of pigeons every year fly from the sea to the district of Volterra. Neither flies nor dogs enter the temple of Hercules in the Cattle-market at Rome. There are many similar facts besides, which I am continually careful to omit in my account of the several kinds, to avoid being wearisomefor example Theophrastus states that even pigeons and peacocks and ravens are not indigenous in Asia. nor croaking frogs in Cyrenaica.
XLII. There is another remarkable fact about songbirds; they usually change their colour and note with the season, and suddenly become differentwhich among the larger class of birds only cranes do, for these grow black in old age. The blackbird changes from black to red; and it sings in the summer, and chirps in winter, but at midsummer is silent; also the beak of yearling blackbirds, at all events the cocks, is turned to ivory colour. Thrushes are of a speckled colour round the neck in summer but self-coloured in winter.
XLIII. Nightingales pour out a ceaseless gush of song for fifteen days and nights on end when the buds of the leaves are swellinga bird not in the lowest rank remarkable. In the first place there is so loud a voice and so persistent a supply of breath in such a tiny little body; then there is the consummate knowledge of music in a single bird: the sound is given out with modulations, and now is drawn out into a long note with one continuous breath, now varied by managing the breath, now made staccato by checking it, or linked together by prolonging it, or carried on by holding it back; or it is suddenly lowered, and at times sinks into a mere murmur, loud, low, a bass, treble, with trills, with long notes, modulated when this seems goodsoprano, mezzo, baritone; and briefly all the devices in that tiny throat which human science has devised with all the elaborate mechanism of the flute, so that there can be no doubt that this sweetness was foretold by a convincing omen when it made music on the lips of the infant Stesichorus. And that no one may doubt its being a matter of science, the birds have several songs each, and not all the same but every bird songs of its own. They compete with one another, and there is clearly an animated rivalry between them; the loser often ends her life by dying, her breath giving out before her song. Other younger birds practise their music, and are given verses to imitate; the pupil listens with close attention and repeats the phrase, and the two keep silence by turns: we notice improvement in the one under instruction and a sort of criticism on the part of the instructress.
Consequently they fetch the prices that are given for slaves, and indeed larger prices than were paid for armour-bearers in old days. I know of one bird, a white one it is true, which is nearly unprecedented, that was sold for 600,000 sesterces to be given as a present to the emperor Claudius's consort Agrippina. Frequent cases have been seen before now of nightingales that have begun to sing when ordered, and have sung in answer to an organ, as there have been found persons who could reproduce the birds' song with an indistinguishable resemblance by putting water into slanting reeds and breathing into the holes or by applying some slight check with the tongue. But these exceptional and artistic trills after a fortnight gradually cease, though not in such a way that the birds could be said to be tired out or to have had enough of singing; and later on when the heat has increased their note becomes entirely different, with no modulations or variations. Their colour also changes, and finally in winter the bird itself is not seen. Their tongues do not end in a point like those of all other birds. They lay in early spring, six eggs at most.
XLIV. It is otherwise with the fig-pecker, as it changes its shape and colour at the same time; it has this name in the autumn, but afterwards is called the blackcap. Similarly also the bird known as erithacus in winter is called redstart in summer.
The hoopoe also changes its appearance, as the poet Aeschylus records; it is moreover a foul-feeding bird, noticeable for its flexible crest, which it draws together and raises up along the whole length of its head.
XLV. The wheatear indeed actually has fixed days of retirement: it goes into hiding at the rising of the dog-star and comes out after its setting, doing both on the actual days, which is surprising. Also the golden oriole, which is yellow all over, is not seen in winter but comes out about midsummer. Blackbirds are born white at Cyllene in Arcadia, but nowhere else. The ibis is black only in the neighbourhood of Pelusium, being white in all other places.
XLVI. Songbirds apart from some exceptions do not ordinarily breed before the spring equinox or after the autumn one; and their eggs laid before midsummer are doubtful, but those after midsummer are fertile.
XLVII. Kingfishers are especially remarkable for this: the seas and those who sail them know the days when they breed. The bird itself is a little larger than a sparrow, sea-blue in colour and reddish only on the underside, blended with white feathers in the neck, with a long slender beak? There is another kind of kingfisher different in size and note; this smaller kind sings in beds of rushes. A kingfisher is very rarely seen, and only at the setting of the Pleiades and about midsummer and midwinter, when it occasionally flies round a ship and at once goes away to its retreat. They breed at midwinter, on what are called 'the kingfisher days' during which the sea is calm and navigable, especially in the neighbourhood of Sicily. They make their nests a week before the shortest day, and lay a week after it. Their nests are admired for their shape, that of a ball slightly projecting with a very narrow mouth, resembling very large sponges; they cannot be cut with a knife, but break at a strong blow, like dry sea-foam; and it cannot be discovered of what are constructed: people think they are made out of the spines of fishes' prickles, for the birds live on fish. They also go up rivers. They lay five eggs at a time.
XLVIII. Gulls nest on rocks, divers also in trees. They lay at most three eggs at a time, sea-mews laying in summer and divers at the beginning of spring.
XLIX. The conformation of the kingfisher's nest reminds one of the skill of all the other birds as well; and the ingenuity of birds is in no other department, more remarkable. Swallows build with clay and strengthen the nest with straw; if ever there is a lack of clay, they wet their wings with a quantity of water and sprinkle it on the dust. The nest itself, however, they carpet with soft feathers and tufts of wool, to warm the eggs and also to prevent it from being hard for the infant chicks. They dole out food in turns among their offspring with extreme fairness. They remove the chicks' droppings with remarkable cleanliness, and teach the older ones to turn round and relieve themselves outside of the nest. There is another kind of swallow that frequents the country and the fields, which seldom nests on houses, and which makes its nest of a different shape though of the same materialentirely turned upward, with orifices projecting to a narrow opening and a capacious interior, and adapted with remarkable skill both to conceal the chicks and to give them a soft bed to lie on. In Egypt, at the Heracleotic Mouth of the Nile, they block the outflow of the river with an irremovable mole of contiguous nests almost two hundred yards long, a thing that could not be achieved by human labour. Also in Egypt near the town of Coptos there is an island sacred to Isis which they fortify with a structure to prevent its being destroyed by the same river, strengthening its point with chaff and straw when the spring days begin, going on for three days all through the nights with such industry that it is agreed that many birds actually die at the work; and this spell of duty always comes round again for them with the returning year. There is a third kind of swallows a that make holes in banks and so construct their nests in the ground. (Their chicks when burnt to ashes are a medicine for a deadly throat malady and many other diseases of the human body.) These birds do not build proper nests, and if a rise of the river threatens to reach their holes, they migrate many days in advance.
L. There is a species of titmouse that makes its nest of dry moss finished off in such a perfect ball that its entrance cannot be found. The bird called the thistle-finch weaves its nest out of flax in the same shape. One of the woodpeckers hangs by a twig at the very end of the boughs, like a ladle on a peg, so that no four-footed animal can get to it. It is indeed asserted that the witwall purposely takes its sleep while hanging suspended by the feet, because it hopes thus to be safer. Again, it is a common practice of them all carefully to choose a flooring of branches to support their nest, and to vault it over against the rain or roof it with a penthouse of thick foliage. In Arabiad a bird called cinnamolgus makes a nest of cinnamon twigs; the natives bring these birds down with arrows weighted with lead, to use them for trade. In Scythia a bird of the size of a bustard lays two eggs at a time in a hare-skin, which is always hung on the top boughs of trees. When magpies notice a person observing their nest with special attention, they transfer the eggs somewhere else. It is reported that in the case of these birds, as their claws are not adapted for grasping and carrying the eggs, this is effected in a remarkable manner: they place a sprig on the top of two eggs at a time, and solder it with glue from their belly, and placing their neck under the middle of it so as to make it balance equally on both sides, carry it off somewhere else.
LI. Nor yet are those species less cunning which, because the weight of their body forbids their soaring aloft, make their nests on the ground. The name of bee-eater is given to a bird that feeds its parents in their lair; its wings are a pale colour inside and dark-blue above, reddish at the tip. It makes its nest in a hole dug in the ground to a depth often feet.
Partridges fortify their retreat with thorn and bush in such a way as to be completely entrenched against wild animals; they heap a soft covering of dust on their eggs. and they do not sit on them at the place where they laid them but remove them somewhere else, lest their frequently resorting there should cause somebody to suspect it. Hen partridges in fact deceive even their own mates, because these in the intemperance of their lust break the hens' eggs so that they may not be kept away by sitting on them; and then the cocks owing to their desire for the hens fight duels with each other; it is said that the one who loses has to accept the advances of the victor. Trogus indeed says this also occurs occasionally with quails and farmyard cocks, but that wild partridges are promiscuously covered by tame ones, and also new-corners or cocks that have been beaten in a fight. They are also captured owing to the fighting instinct caused by the same lust, as the leader of the whole flock sallies out to battle against the fowler's decoy, and when he has been caught number two advances, and so on one after another in succession. Again about breeding time the hens are caught when they sally out against the fowlers' hen to hustle and drive her away. And in no other creature is concupiscence so active. If the hens stand facing the cocks they become pregnant by the afflatus that passes out from them, while if they open their beaks and put out their tongue at that time they are sexually excited. Even the draught of air from cocks flying over them, and often merely the sound of a cock crowing, makes them conceive. And even their affection for their brood is so conquered by desire that when a hen is quietly sitting on her eggs in hiding, if she becomes aware of a fowler's decoy hen approaching her cock she chirps him back to her and recalls him and voluntarily offers herself to his desire. Indeed they are subject to such madness that often with a blind swoop they perch on the fowler's head. If he starts to go towards a nest, the mother bird runs forward to his feet, pretending to be tired or lame, and in the middle of a run or a short flight suddenly falls as if with a broken wing or damaged feet, and then runs forward again, continually escaping him just as he is going to catch her and cheating his hope, until she leads him away in a different direction from the nests. On the other hand if the hen thus scared is free and not possessed with motherly anxiety she lies on her back in a furrow and catches hold of a clod of earth with her claws and covers herself with it.
The life of partridges is believed to extend to as much as sixteen years.
LII. Next to partridges the habits of pigeons are most noticeable for a similar reason. These possess the greatest modesty, and adultery is unknown to either sex; they do not violate the faith of wedlock, and they keep house in companyunless unmated or widowed a pigeon does not leave its nest. Also they say that the cock pigeon is domineering, and occasionally even unkind, as he is suspicious of adultery although not himself prone to it; in this state his throat is full of complaining and his beak deals savage pecks, and upon his satisfaction there follows billing and fawning with repeated twirlings of his feet during his entreaties for indulgence. Both partners have equal affection for their offspring; this also often gives occasion for chastisement, when the hen is too slack in coming home to the chicks. When she is producing a brood she receives comfort and attendance from the cock. For the chicks at first they collect saltish earth in their throat and disgorge it into their beaks, to get them into proper condition for food. It is a peculiarity of this species and of the turtledove not to raise the neck backward when drinking, and to take copious draughts like cattle.
We have authorities for saying that woodpigeons live to be thirty and in some cases forty years old, only with the single inconvenience of their clawsthis also a sign of old agewhich have to be cut to prevent damage. The cooing of all is alike and the same, composed of a phrase repeated three times and then a sigh at the close; in winter they are silent, but begin singing in spring. Nigidius thinks that a woodpigeon when sitting on her eggs under a roof will leave her nest in answer to her name. They lay after midsummer. Pigeons and turtledoves live eight years. On the other hand the sparrow, their equal in salaciousness, has a very small span of life: the cocks are said not to last longer than a year, the proof being that at the beginning of spring no black colouring is seen on their beak, which begins with summer; but the hens have a rather longer span of life. However pigeons actually possess a certain sense of vanityyou would fancy them to be conscious of their own colours and the pattern of their marking; indeed this can be inferred from their flightit is observed that they flap their wings in the sky and trace a variety of lines. During this display they expose themselves to the hawk as if fettered, folding their wings with a flapping noise that is only produced from the actual wing joints, though otherwise when flying freely they are much swifter. The highwayman hawk watches concealed in foliage, and seizes the exultant pigeon in the very act of showing off. For that reason the bird called kestrel must be classed with these; for it defends the pigeons, and scares the hawks by its natural powerfulness so much that they fly from sight and sound of it. For this reason woodpigeons have a special love for kestrels, and they say that if kestrels put in new jars with their mouths sealed up are hidden in the four corners of the dovecot the pigeons do not change their abode (a result that some people have also sought to obtain by cutting the joints of their wings with gold, the only way of making a wound that does no harm), although otherwise the pigeon is a bird much given to straying. For they have a trick of exchanging blandishments and enticing other pigeons and coming back with a larger company won by intrigue.
LIII. Moreover also they have acted as go-betweens in important affairs, when at the siege of Modena Decimus Brutus sent to the consuls' camp despatches tied to their feet; what use to Antony were his rampart and watchful besieging force, and even the barriers of nets that he stretched in the river, when the message went by air. Also pigeon-fancying is carried to insane lengths by some people: they build towers on their roofs for these birds, and tell stories of the high breeding and pedigrees of particular birds, for which there is now an old precedent: before Pompey's civil war Lucius Axius, Knight of Rome, advertised pigeons for sale at 400 denarii per braceso Marcus Varro relates. Moreover the largest birds, which are believed to be produced in Campania, have conferred fame on their native place.
LIV. The flight of these birds. prompts one to turn to the consideration of the other birds as well. All the rest of the animals have one definite and uniform mode of progression peculiar to their particular kind, but birds alone travel in a variety of ways both on land and in the air. Some walk, as crows; others hop, as sparrows and blackbirds; run, as partridges and black grouse; throw out their feet in front of them, as storks and cranes. Some spread their wings and at rare intervals let them droop and shake them; others do so more frequently, but also only the tips of the wings; others flap the whole of their sides; but there are some that fly with their wings for the greater part folded, and after giving one stroke, or others also a repeated stroke, are borne by the air: by as it were squeezing it tight between their wings, they shoot upward or horizontally or downward. Some you would think to be flung forward, or again in some cases to fall from a height and in other cases to leap upward. Only ducks and birds of the same kind soar up straight away, and move skyward from the start, and this even from water; and consequently they alone when they have fallen into the pits that we use for trapping wild animals get out again. Vultures and the heavier birds in general cannot fly upward except after a run forward or when launching from a higher eminence; they steer with their tail. Some birds turn their gaze round, others bend their necks; and some eat things they have snatched with their feet. Many do not fly without a cry, others on the contrary are always silent when in flight. They move upward, downward, slanting, sideways, straight forward, and some even with the head bent backward; consequently if several kinds are seen at the same time, they might be thought not to be travelling in the same element.
LV. The greatest flyers are the species resembling swallows called (because they lack the use of feet) and by others 'cypseli.' They build their nests on crags. These are the birds seen all over the sea, and ships never go away from land on so long or so unbroken a course that they do not have apodes flying round them. All the other kinds alight and perch, but these never rest except on the nest: they either hover or lie on a surface.
LVI. Birds' dispositions also are equally varied, especially in respect of food. Those called goat-suckers, which resemble a rather large blackbird, are night thievesfor they cannot see in the daytime. They enter the shepherds' stalls and fly to the goats' udders in order to suck their milk, which injures the udder and makes it perish, and the goats they have milked in this way gradually go blind. There is a bird called the shoveller-duck which flies up to the sea-divers and seizes their heads in its bill till it wrings their catch from them. The same bird after filling itself by swallowing shells brings them up again when digested by the warmth of the belly and so picked out from them the edible parts, discarding the shells.
LVII. Farmyard hens actually have a religious ritual: after laying an egg they begin to shiver and shake, and purify themselves by circling round, and make use of a straw as a ceremonial rod to cleanse themselves and the eggs. The smallest of birds, the goldfinches, perform their leader's orders, not only with their song but by using their feet and beak instead of hands. One bird in the Arles district, called the bull-bird although really it is small in size, imitates the bellowing of oxen. Also the bird whose Greek name is 'flower,' when driven away from feeding on grass by the arrival of horses, imitates their neighing, in this way taking its revenge.
LVIII. Above all, birds imitate the human voice, parrots indeed actually talking. India sends us this bird; its name in the vernacular is siptaces; its whole body is green, only varied by a red circlet at the neck. It greets its masters and repeats words given to it, being particularly sportive over the wine. Its head is as hard as its beak; and when it is being taught to speak it is beaten on the head with an iron rodotherwise it does not feel blows. When it alights from flight it lands on its beak, and it leans on this and so reduces its weight for the weakness of its feet.
LIX. A certain kind of magpie is less celebrated, because it does not come from a distance, but it talks more articulately. These birds get fond of uttering particular words, and not only learn them but love them, and secretly ponder them with careful reflexion, not concealing their engrossment. It is an established fact that if the difficulty of a word beats them this causes their death, and that their memory fails them unless they hear the same word repeatedly, and when they are at a loss for a word they cheer up wonderfully if in the meantime they hear it spoken. Their shape is unusual, though not beautiful: this bird has enough distinction in its power of imitating the human voice. But they say that none of them can go on learning except ones of the species that feeds on acorns, and among these those with five claws on the feet learn more easily, and not even they themselves except in the two first years of their life. All the birds in each kind that imitate human speech have exceptionally broad tongues, although this occurs in almost all species; Claudius Caesar's consort Agrippina had a thrush that mimicked what people said, which was unprecedented. At the time when I was recording these cases, the young princes a had a starling and also nightingales that were actually trained to talk Greek and Latin, and moreover practised diligently and spoke new phrases every day, in still longer sentences. Birds are taught to talk in private and where no other utterance can interrupt, with the trainer sitting by them to keep on repeating the words he wants retained, and coaxing them with morsels of food.
LX. Let us also repay due gratitude to the ravens the gratitude that is their due, evidenced also by the indignation and not only by the knowledge of the Roman nation. When Tiberius was emperor, a young raven from a brood hatched on the top of the Temple of Castor and Pollux flew down to a cobbler's shop in the vicinity, being also commended to the master of the establishment by religion. It soon picked up the habit of talking, and every morning used to fly off to the Platform that faces the forum and salute Tiberius and then Germanicus and Drusus Caesar by name, and next the Roman public passing by, afterwards returning to the shop; and it became remarkable by several years' constant performance of this function. This bird the tenant of the next cobbler's shop killed, whether because of his neighbour's competition or in a sudden outburst of anger, as he tried to make out, because some dirt had fallen on his stock of shoes from its droppings; this caused such a disturbance among the public that the man was first driven, out of the district and later actually made away with, and the bird's funeral was celebrated with a vast crowd of followers, the draped bier being carried on the shoulders of two Ethiopians and in front of it going in procession a flute-player and all kinds of wreaths right to the pyre, which had been erected on the right hand side of the Appian Road at the second milestone on the ground called Rediculus's Plain. So adequate a justification did the Roman nation consider a bird's cleverness to be for a funeral procession and for the punishment of a Roman citizen, in the city in which many leading men had had no obsequies at all, while the death of Scipio Aemilianus after he had destroyed Carthage and Numantia not been avenged by a single person. The date of this was 28 March, AD 36, in the consulship of Marcus Servilius and Gaius Cestius. At the present day also there was in the city of Rome at the time when I was publishing this book a crow belonging to a Knight of Rome, that came from Sonthern Spain, and was remarkable in the first place for its very black colour and then for uttering sentences of several words and frequently learning still more words in addition. Also there was recently a report of one Crates surnamed Monoceros in the district of Eriza in Asia hunting with the aid of ravens, to such an extent that he used to carry them down into the forests perched on the crest's of his helmet and on his shoulders; the birds used to track out and drive the game, the practice being carried to such a point that even wild ravens followed him in this way when he left the forest. Certain persons have thought it worth recording that a raven was seen during a drought dropping stones into a monumental urn in which some rain water still remained but so that the bird was unable to reach it; in this way as it was afraid to go down into the urn, the bird by piling up stones in the manner described raised the water high enough to supply itself with a drink.
LXI. Nor will I pass by the birds of Diomede. Juba calls them Plungers-birds, also reporting that they have teeth, and that their eyes are of a fiery red colour but the rest of them bright white. He states that they always have two leaders, one of whom leads the column and the other brings up the rear; that they hollow out trenches with their beaks and then roof them over with lattice and cover this with the earth that they have previously dug from the trenches and in these they hatch their eggs; that the trenches of all of them have two doors, that by which they go out to forage facing east and that by which they return west; and that when about to relieve themselves they always fly upwards and against the wind. These birds are commonly seen in only one place in the whole world, in the island which we spoke of as famous for the tomb and shrine of Diomede, off the coast of Apulia, and they resemble coots. Barbarian visitors they beset with loud screaming, and they pay deference only to Greeks, a remarkable distinction, as if paying this tribute to the race of Diomede; and every day they wash and purify the temple mentioned by filling their throats with water and wetting their wings; which is the source of the legend that the comrades of Diomede were transformed into the likeness of these birds.
LXII. In a discussion of mental faculties it must not be omitted that among birds swallows and among land animals mice are unteachable, whereas elephants execute orders and lions are yoked to chariots, and in the sea seals and ever so many kinds of fish can be tamed.
LXIII. Birds of the kinds that have long necks drink by suction, stopping now and then and so to speak pouring the water into themselves by bending their head back. Only the porphyrio drinks by beakfuls; it also eats in a peculiar way of its own, continually dipping all its food in water and then using its foot as a hand with which to bring it to its beak. The most admired variety of sultana-hen is in Commagene; this has a red beak and very long red legs.
LXIV. The long-legged plover has the same, a much smaller bird although with equally long legs. It is born in Egypt. It stands on three toes of each foot. Its food consists chiefly of flies. When brought to Italy it lives only for a few days.
LXV. All the heavier birds feed also on grain, but the scaring species on flesh only, and so among aquatic birds the cormorants, who regularly devour what the rest disgorge.
LXVI. Pelicans have a resemblance to swans, and would be thought not to differ from them at all were it not that they have a kind of second stomach in their actual throats. Into this the insatiable creature stows everything, so that its rapacity is marvellous. Afterwards when it has done plundering it gradually returns the things from this pouch into its mouth and passes them into the true stomach like a ruminant animal. These birds come to us from the extreme north of Gaul.
LXVII. We have been told of strange kinds birds in the Hereynian Forest of Germany whose feathers shine like fires at nighttime; but in the other forests nothing noteworthy occurs beyond the notoriety caused by remoteness. The most celebrated water-bird in Parthian Seleucia and in Asia is the phalaris-duck, the most celebrated bird in Colchis the pheasantit droops and raises its two feathered earsand in the Numidian part of Africa the Numidic fowl all of these are now found in Italy.
LXVIII. Apicius, the most gluttonous gorger of all spendthrifts, established the view that the flamingo's tongue has a specially fine flavour. The francolin of Ionia is extremely famous. Normally it is vocal, though when caught it keeps silent. It was once considered one of the rare birds, but now it also occurs in Gaul and Spain. It is even caught in the neighbourhood of the Alps, where also cormorants occur, a bird specially belonging to the Balearic Islands, as the chough, black with a yellow beak, and the particularly tasty willow-grouse belong to the Alps. The latter gets its name of 'hare-foot' from its feet which are tufted like a hare's, though the rest of it is bright white; it is the size of a pigeon. Outside that region it is not easy to keep it, as it does not grow tame in its habits and very quickly loses flesh. There is also another bird with the same name that only differs from quails in size, yellow-coloured, very acceptable for the table. Egnatius Calvinus, Governor of the Alps, has stated that also the ibis, which properly belongs to Egypt, has been seen by him in that region.
LXIX. There also came into Italy during the battles of the civil war round Bedriacum north of the Po the `new birds' for so they are still calledwhich are like thrushes in appearance and a little smaller than pigeons in size, and which have an agreeable flavour. The Balearic Islands send the porphyrio, an even more splendid bird than the one mentioned above. In those islands the buzzard of the hawk family is also in repute for the table, and the vipio as wellthat is their name for the smaller crane.
LXX. The pegasus bird with a horse's head and the griffin with ears and a terrible hooked beakthe former said to be found in Scythia and the latter in Ethiopia judge to be fabulous; and for my own part I think the same about the bearded eagled attested by a number of people, a bird larger than an eagle, having curved horns on the temples, in colour a rusty red, except that its head is purple-red. Nor should the sirens obtain credit, although Dinon the father of the celebrated authority Clitarchus declares that they exist in India and that they charm people with their song and then when they are sunk in a heavy sleep tear them in pieces. Anybody who would believe that sort of thing would also assuredly not deny that snakes by licking the ears of the augur Melampus gave him the power to understand the language of birds, or the story handed down by Democritus, who mentions birds from a mixture of whose blood a snake is born, whoever eats which will understand the conversations of birds, and the things that he records about one crested lark in particular, as even without these stories life is involved in enormous uncertainty with respect to auguries. Homer mentions a kind of bird called the scops; many people speak of its comic dancing movements when it is watching for its prey, but I cannot easily grasp these in my mind, nor are the birds themselves now known. Consequently a discussion of admitted facts will be more profitable.
LXXI. The people of Delos began the practice of fattening hens, which has given rise to the pestilential fashion of gorging fat poultry basted with its own gravy. I find this first singled out in the old interdicts dealing with feasts as early as the law of the consul Gaius Fannius eleven before the Third Panic War, prohibiting the serving of any bird course beside a single hen that had not been fatteneda provision that was subsequently renewed and went on through all our sumptuary legislation. And a way round so as to evade them was discovered, that of feeding male chickens also with foodstuffs soaked in milk, a method that makes them esteemed as much more acceptable. As for hens, they are not all chosen for fattening, and not unless they have fat skin on the neck. Subsequently came elaborate methods of dressing fowls, so as to display the haunches, so as to split them along the back, so as to make them fill the dishes by spreading them out from one foot. Even the Parthians bestowed their fashions on our cooks. And nevertheless with all this showing off, no entire dish finds favour, only the haunch or in other cases the breast being esteemed.
LXXII. Aviaries with cages containing all kinds of birds were first set up by Marcus Laenius Strabo of the Order of Knighthood at Brindisi. From him began our practice of imprisoning within bars living creatures to which Nature had assigned the open sky. Nevertheless the most remarkable instance in this record is the dish belonging to the tragic actor Clodius Aesop, rated at the value of 100,000 sesterces, in which he served birds that sang some particular song or talked with human speech, which he acquired at the price of 6000 sesterces apiece, led by no other attraction except the desire to indulge in a sort of cannibalism in eating these birds, and not even showing any respect for that lavish fortune of his, even though won by his voicein fact a worthy father of a son whom we have spoken of as swallowing pearls, though not so much so as to make me wish to give a true decision in the competition in baseness between the two, unless in so far as it is a smaller thing to have dined on the most bounteous resources of Nature than on the tongues of men.
LXXIII. The reproductive system of birds appears to be simple, although even this possesses marvels of its own, since even four-footed creatures produce eggschamaeleons and lizards and those we have specified among aquatic species, and also snakes. But among feathered creatures those that have hooked talons are unfertile. Of these only the lesser kestrel produces more than four eggs at a time. Nature has bestowed on the bird kind the attribute that the species among them that are shy are more prolific than the brave ones; only ostriches, hens and partridges bear very numerous broods. Birds have two methods of coupling, the hen sitting on the ground as in the case of the domestic fowl or standing up as in the case of the crane.
LXXIV. The eggs are in some cases white, as with the dove and partridge, in others pale-coloured, as with waterfowl, in others spotted, as those of the guinea-hen, in others of a red colour, as in the case of the pheasant and the lesser kestrel. The inside of every bird's egg is of two colours; in that of the aquatic birds there is more yellow than white, and that yellow is brighter than with the other species. Fishes' eggs are of one colour, which contains no bright white. Birds' eggs are made easily breakable by heat, snakes' eggs are made flexible by cold, and fishes' eggs are softened by liquid. Aquatic species have round eggs, but almost all others oval-shaped ones. They are laid with their roundest part in front, the shell of whatever portions they emerge with being soft but becoming hard immediately after the process. Long-shaped eggs are thought by Horace to have a more agreeable flavour. Eggs of a rounder formation produce a hen chicken and the rest a cock. The navel in eggs is at the top end, projecting like a speck in the shell.
Some birds mate in any season, for instance the domestic fowl, and lay, except in the two midwinter months. Of these kinds the young hens lay more eggs than the old, but smaller ones, and in the same brood those laid first and last are the smallest. But they are so fertile that some even lay eggs sixty times, some lay daily, some twice daily, some so much that they die of exhaustion. Adria birds are most highly spoken of. Pigeons lay ten times a year, some even eleven times, while in Egypt they even lay in a midwinter month. Swallows and blackbirds and woodpigeons and turtledoves lay twice a year, all other birds as a rule only once. Thrushes build their nests of mud in an almost continuous mass on the tops of trees, and breed in retirement. The eggs grow to full size in the uterus in ten days from pairing, but in the case of the domestic fowl and the pigeon, if the hen is disturbed by having a feather torn out or by some similar damage, it takes longer. In all eggs the middle of the yolk contains a small drop of a sort of blood, which people think is the heart of birds, supposing that the heart is the first part that is produced in every body: in an egg undoubtedly this drop beats and throbs. The animal itself is formed out of the white of the egg, but its food is in the yolk. In all cases at the beginning the head is larger than the whole body, and the eyes, which are pressed together, are larger than the head. As the chick grows in size the white turns to the middle and the yolk spreads round it. If on the twentieth day the egg be moved, the voice of the chick already alive is heard inside the shell. At the same time it begins to grow feathers, its posture being such that it has its head above its right foot but its right wing above its head. The yolk gradually disappears. All birds are born feet first, the opposite way to the remaining animals. Some domestic hens lay all their eggs in pairs, and according to Cornelius Celsus occasionally hatch twin chicks, one larger than the other; though some assert that twin chicks are never hatched out. They lay down a rule that the hen should not be required to sit on more than 25 eggs at a time. Hens begin to lay at midwinter, and breed best before the spring equinox: chickens born after midsummer do not attain the proper size, and the later they are hatched the more they fall short of it.
LXXV. It pays best for eggs to be sat on within ten days of laying; older or fresher ones are infertile. An odd number should be put under the hen. If three days after they began to be sat on the top of the eggs held in the tips of the fingers against the light shows a transparent colour of a single hue, the eggs are judged to be barren, and others should be substituted for them. They may also be tested in water: an empty egg floats, and consequently people prefer eggs that sink, that is, are full, to put under the hens. But they warn against their being tested by shaking, on the ground that if the vital veins are displaced the eggs are sterile. The ninth's day after a new moon is assigned for starting a hen's sitting, as eggs begun earlier do not hatch out. The chicks are hatched more quickly when the days are warm, and consequently eggs will hatch out in 18 days in summer but 24 in winter. If it thunders while the hen is sitting the eggs die, and if she hears the cry of a hawk they go bad. A remedy against thunder is an iron nail placed under the straw in which the eggs lie, or some earth from the plough. In some cases Nature hatches of her own accord even without the hen sitting, as on the dunghills of Egypt. We find a clever story about a certain toper at Syracuse, that he used to go on drinking for as long a time as it would take for eggs covered with earth to produce a hatch.
LXXVI. Moreover eggs can be hatched even by a human being. Julia Augusta in her early womanhood was with child with Tiberius Caesar by Nero, and being specially eager to a bear a baby of the male sex she employed the following method of prognostication used by girlsshe cherished an egg in her bosom and when she had to lay it aside passed it to a nurse under the folds of their dresses, so that the warmth might not be interrupted; and it is said that her prognostication came true. It was perhaps from this that the method was lately invented of placing eggs in chaff in a warm place and cherishing them with a moderate fire, with somebody to keep turning them over, with the result that all the live brood breaks the shell at once on a fixed day. It is recorded that a certain poultry-keeper had a scientific method of telling which egg was from which hen. It is related also that when a hen has died the cocks of the farmyard have been seen taking on her duties in turn and generally behaving in the manner of a broody hen, and abstaining from crowing. Above all things is the behaviour of a hen when ducks' eggs have been put under her and have hatched outfirst her surprise when she does not quite recognize her brood, then her puzzled sobs as she anxiously calls them to her, and finally her lamentations round the margin of the pond when the chicks under the guidance of instinct take to the water.
LXXVII. Marks of good breeding in hens are an upstanding comb, which is occasionally double, black feathers, red beak, and uneven claws, sometimes one lying actually across the four others. Fowls with yellow beak and feet seem not to be unblemished for purposes of religion, and black ones for the mystery rites. Even the dwarf variety is not sterile in the case of the domestic fowl, which is not the case in any other breeds of birds, though with the dwarf fowl reliability in laying is unusual, and sitting on the eggs is harmful to the hen.
LXXVIII. But the worst enemy of every kind is the pip, and especially between the time of harvest and vintage. The cure is in hunger, and they must lie in smoke, at all events if it be produced from bay-leaves or savin, a feather being inserted right through the nostrils and shifted daily; diet garlic mixed with spelt, either steeped in water in which an owl has been dipped or else boiled with white vine seed, and certain other substances.
LXXIX. Pigeons go through a special ceremony of kissing before mating. They usually lay two eggs at a time, nature so regulating as to make some produce larger chicks and others more numerous. The woodpigeon and the turtledove lay at most three eggs at a time, and never more than twice in a spring, and keeping a rule that, if the former lay goes bad, even although they lay three eggs they never rear more than two chicks; the third egg, which is unfertile, they call a wind-egg. The hen woodpigeon sits from noon till the next morning and the cock the rest of the time. Pigeons always lay a male and a female egg, the male first and the female a day later. In this species both birds sit, the cock in the daytime and the hen at night. They hatch in about three weeks, and they lay four days after mating. In summer indeed they sometimes produce three pairs of chickens every two months, for they hatch on the 17th day and breed immediately; consequently eggs are often found among the chickens, and some are beginning to fly just when others are breaking the egg. Then the chicks themselves begin laying when five months old. However in the absence of a cock hen birds actually mate with one another indifferently, and produce unfertile eggs from which nothing is produced, which the Greeks call wind-eggs.
The peahen begins to lay when three months of old. In the first year it lays one egg or a second one, but in the following year four or five at a time, and in the remaining years twelve at a time, but not more, with intervals of two or three days between the eggs, and three times in the year, provided that the eggs are put under farmyard hens to sit on. The male peacock breaks the eggs, out, of desire for the female sitting on them; consequently the hen bird lays at night, and in hiding or when perching on a high placeand unless the eggs are caught on a bed of straw they are broken. One cock can serve five hens, and when there have been only one or two hens for each cock their fertility is spoiled by its salaciousness. The chickens are hatched in 27 days or at latest on the 29th.
Geese mate in the water; they lay in spring, or if they mated in midwinter, after midsummer; they lay nearly 40 eggs, twice in a year if the hens turn the first brood out of the nest, otherwise sixteen eggs at the most and seven at the fewest. If somebody removes the eggs, they go on laying till they burst. They do not turn strange eggs out of the nest. It pays best to put nine or eleven eggs for them to sit on. The hens sit only 30 days at a time, or if the days are rather warm, 25. The touch of a nettle is fatal to goslings, and not less so is their greediness, sometimes owing to their excessive gorging and sometimes owing to their own violence, when they have caught hold of a root in their beak and in their repeated attempts to tear it off break their own necks before they succeed. A nettle-root put under their straw after they have lain in it is a cure for nettle-sting.
There are three kinds of heron, the white, the speckled and the dark. These birds suffer pain, in mating, indeed the cocks give loud screams and even shed blood from their eyes; and the broody hens lay their eggs with equal difficulty. The eagle sits on her eggs for thirty days at a time, and so do the larger birds for the most part, but the smaller ones, for instance the kite and hawk, sit for twenty days. A kite's brood usually numbers two chicks, never more than three, that of the bird called the merlin as many as four, and the raven's occasionally even five; they sit for the same number of days. The hen crow is fed by the cock while sitting. The magpie's brood numbers nine, the blackcap's over twenty and always an odd number, and no other bird has a larger brood: so much more prolific are the small species. A swallow's first chicks are blind, as are those of almost all species that have a comparatively large brood.
LXXX. Unfertile eggs, which we have designated wind-eggs, are conceived by the hen birds mating together in a pretence of sexual intercourse, or else from dust, and not only by hen pigeons but also by farmyard hens, partridges, peahens, geese and ducks. But these eggs are sterile, and of smaller size and less agreeable flavour, and more watery. Some people think they are actually generated by the wind, for which reason they are also called Zephyr's eggs; but wind-eggs are only produced in spring, when the hens have left off sitting: another name for them is addle-eggs. When steeped in vinegar eggs become so much softer that they can be passed through rings. It pays best to keep them in bean meal, or else chaff in winter and bran in summer; it is believed that keeping them in salt drains them quite empty.
LXXXI. The only viviparous creature that flies is the bat, which actually has membranes like wings; it is also the only flyer that nourishes its young with milk, bringing them to its teats. It bears twins, and flits about with its children in its arms, carrying them with it. The bat is mid to have a single hipbone. Gnats are its favourite fodder.
LXXXII. On the other hand among land animals, the snake is oviparous; we have not yet described this species. Snakes mate by embracing, intertwining so closely that they could be taken to be a single animal with two heads. The male viper inserts its head into the female viper's mouth, and the female is so enraptured with pleasure that she gnaws it off. The viper is the only land animal that bears eggs inside it; they are of one colour and soft like fishes' roe. After two days she hatches the young inside her uterus, and then bears them at the rate of one a day, to the number of about twenty; the consequence is that the remaining ones get so tired of the delay that they burst open their mother's sides, so committing matricide. All the other kinds of snakes incubate their eggs in a clutch on the ground, and hatch out the young in the following year. Crocodiles take turns to incubate, male and female. But let us give an account of the mode of reproduction of the remaining land animals as well.
LXXXIII. Man is the only viviparous biped. Man is the only animal with which mating for the first time is followed by repugnance, which is doubtless an augury of life as sprung from regrettable source. All the other animals have fixed seasons of the year for mating, but man, as has been said, mates at every hour of the day and night. All the others experience satiety in coupling, but with man this is almost entirely absent. Claudius Caesar's consort Messalina, thinking that this would be a truly regal triumph, selected for a competition in it a certain maid who was the most notorious of the professional prostitutes, and beat her in a twenty-four hours' match, with a score of twenty-five. In the human race the males have devised every out-of-the-way form of sexual indulgence, crimes against nature, but the females have invented abortion. How much more guilty are we in this department than the wild animals! Hesiod has stated that men have stronger sexual appetites in winter and women in summer.
Species with the genital organs behind them, elephants, camels, tigers, lynxes, the rhinoceros the lion, the hairy-footed and the common rabbit couple back to back. Camels even make for deserts or else places certain to be secret, and one is not allowed to interrupt them without disaster; the coupling lasts a whole day, and this is the case with these alone of all animals. With the solid-hooved species in the quadruped class the males are excited by scenting the female. Also dogs, seals and wolves turn away in the middle of coupling and still remain coupled against their will. Among the above-mentioned species, of hares the females usually cover first, but with all the others the males; but bears, as was said, couple, like human beings, lying down, hedgehogs both standing up and embracing each other, eats with the male standing and the female lying beneath it, foxes lying down on their sides and the female embracing the male. Cows and does resent the violence of the bulls and stags, and consequently walk forward in pairing. Stags pass across to other hinds and return to the former ones alternately. Lizards like the creatures without feet practise intercourse by intertwining.
All animals are less fertile the larger they are in bulk. Elephants, camels and horses produce off-spring one at a time, but the thistle-finch, the smallest of birds, twelve at a time. Those that produce most young bear them most quickly; the larger the animal, the longer it takes to be shaped in the womb; the more long-lived ones are cared for longer by the mother. Also animals are not of an age suitable for procreation while they are still growing. Solidhoofed animals bear one child at a time, those with cloven hooves also bear two, but those whose feet are divided into separate toes also produce a larger number. But whereas all those above bear their offspring fully formed, these produce them unfinishedin this class being lionesses and bears; and a fox bears its young in an even more unfinished state than the species above-mentioned, and it is rare to see one in the act of giving birth. Afterwards all these species warm their offspring and shape them by licking them. Their litters number four at the most. Dogs, wolves, panthers and jackals bear their young blind.
There are several kinds of dogs. The Spartan hounds breed when both sexes are seven months old; the bitches carry for 60 days, and 63 at most. The bitches of the other breeds are willing to couple, even when six months old. They all conceive from a single coupling. Those that are bred from before the proper time have puppies that stay blind longer, and all of them for the same number of days. They are believed to raise the leg in making water when about six months old; this is a sign of fully matured strength. Bitches relieve themselves sitting. The most prolific have litters of twelve, but usually they have five or six, and sometimes only one: this is considered portentous, as are litters that are all males or all females. Male puppies are born first in each litter, whereas in all other animals the sexes come in turns. Bitches couple five months after their last litter. The Spartan hounds have litters of eight. The males of that breed are marked by keenness for work. Spartan dog hounds live ten years, bitches twelve; all the other breeds live fifteen years, some times even twenty. But they do not breed all their lives, ceasing usually at the age of twelve.
The cat and the mongoose resemble dogs in other respects, but their length of life is ten years. Rabbits breed in every month of the year, and superfetate, as do hares; after giving birth they pair again at once. They conceive although still suckling their previous litter, but the young are blind. Elephants, as we have said, bear one young one at a time, of the size of a three months old calf. Camels carry their young twelve months; they begin breeding at the age of three, in the spring, and mate again a year after giving birth. Mares on the other hand are believed not to be profitably sired till three years old, and not before a year after their last foaling; when they are unwilling, compulsion is used. It is believed that she-asses conceive quite easily even a week after delivery. It is said that mares' manes ought to be clipped to make them submit to allow coupling with asses, as having long manes makes them proud and high-spirited. Mares are the only animals that after coupling run in a northerly or southerly direction according as they have conceived a male or a female foal. Immediately afterwards they change the colour of their coat for a deeper red or a darker hue of whatever their colour is: this marks their ceasing to be able to couple, even if willing to do so. Some are not hindered from work by foaling, and are in foal without its being known. We find it on record that a mare in foal belonging to a Thessalian named Echecratides won a race at Olympia. It is stated by exceptionally careful authorities that horses, dogs and swine like mating in the morning, but that the females make approaches in the afternoon; that mares that have been broken are in heat 60 days sooner than those running with the herd; that swine only foam at the mouth when mating; that when a boar-pig has heard a sow in heat grunting it refuses food to the point of losing flesh entirely unless it ]s admitted to her, while sows get so fierce that they will gore a human being, especially one wearing white clothes. This madness can be reduced by sprinkling the organs with vinegar. It is believed that desire for mating is also stimulated by articles of diet, for instance rocket in the case of a man and onions in the case of cattle. It is a remarkable fact that wild species when domesticated refuse to breed, for instance wild geese, and wild boars and stags do so reluctantly and only if they have been reared from infancy. Female animals refuse intercourse when pregnant, except the mare and the sow; but only the common rabbit and the hairy-footed rabbit allow superfetation.
LXXXIV. All viviparous species produce their young head foremost, the embryo turning round shortly before delivery, but otherwise lying stretched at length in the womb. Four-footed species are carried with the legs stretched out to full length and folded against their own belly, but the human embryo curled up in a ball, with the nostrils placed between the two knees. It is thought that moon calves, about which we have spoken before, are produced when a woman has conceived not from a male but from herself alone, and that they do not come alive because they are not produced from two parents, and they possess the self-nourishing vitality that belongs to plants and frees. Of all the species bearing fully developed offspring pigs alone have litters that are numerous as well as developed, for it is against the nature of those with solid or cloven hoofs to produce several young.
LXXXV. The most prolific of all animals whatever is the mouseone hesitates to state its fertility, even though on the authority of Aristotle and the troops of Alexander the Great. It is stated that with it impregnation takes place by licking and not by coupling. There is a record of 120 being born from a single mother, and in Persia of mice already pregnant being found in the parent's womb; and it is believed that they are made pregnant by tasting salt. Accordingly it ceases to be surprising how so large an army of field-mice ravages the crops; and in the case of field-mice it is also hitherto unknown exactly how this vast multitude is suddenly destroyed: for they are never found dead, and nobody exists who ever dug up a mouse in a field in winter. Vast numbers thus appear in the Troad, and they have by now banished the inhabitants from that country. They appear during droughts. It is also related that when a mouse is going to die a worm grows in its head. The mice in Egypt have hard hair like hedgehogs, and also they walk on two feet, as also do the Alpine mice.When animals of a different kind pair, the union is only fertile when the two species have the same period of gestation. There is a popular belief that of the oviparous quadrupeds the lizard bears through the mouth, but this is denied by Aristotle. Lizards do not hatch their eggs, but forget where they laid them, as this animal has no memory; and consequently the young ones break the shell without assistance.
LXXXVI. We have it from many authorities that a snake may be born from the spinal marrow of a human being. For a number of animals spring from some hidden and secret source, even in the quadruped class, for instance salamanders, a creature shaped like a lizard, covered with spots, never appearing except in great rains and disappearing in fine weather. It is so chilly that it puts out fire by its contact, in the same way as ice does. It vomits from its mouth a milky slaver, one touch of which on any part of the human body causes all the hair to drop off, and the portion touched changes its colour and breaks out in a tetter.
LXXXVII. Consequently some creatures are born from parents that themselves were not born and were without any similar origin, like the ones mentioned above and all those that are produced by the spring and a fixed season of the year. Some of these are infertile, for instance the salamander, and in these there is no male or female, as also there is no sex in eels and all the species that are neither viviparous nor oviparous; also oysters and the other creatures clinging to the bottom of shallow water or to rocks are neuters. But self-generated creatures if divided into males and females do produce an offspring by coupling, but it is imperfect and unlike the parent and not productive in its turn: for instance flies produce maggots. This is shown more clearly by the nature of the creatures called insects, all of which are difficult to describe and must be discussed in a work devoted specially to them. Consequently the psychology of the before said creatures, and the remainder of the discussion, must be appended.
LXXXVIII. Among the senses, that of touch in man ranks before all the other species, and taste next; but in the remaining senses he is surpassed by many other creatures. Eagles have clearer sight, vultures a keener sense of smell, moles acuter hearingalthough they are buried in the earth, so dense and deaf an element of nature, and although moreover all sound travels upward, they can overhear people talking, and it is actually said that if you speak about them they understand and run away. Among men, when one is first of all denied hearing he also is robbed of the power of talking, and there are no persons deaf from birth who are not also dumb. The sea-oyster probably has no sense of hearing; but it is said that the razor-shell dives at a sound: consequently people fishing make a practice of silence.
LXXXIX. Fish indeed have no auditory organs or passages, but nevertheless it is obvious that is they hear, inasmuch as it can be observed that in some fishponds wild fish have a habit of flocking together to be fed at the sound of clapping, and in the Emperor's aquarium the various kinds of fish come in answer to their names, or in some cases individual fish. Consequently it is also stated that the mullet, the wolf-fish, the stork-fish and the chromis hear very clearly, and therefore live in shallow water.
XC. It is clearly obvious that fish possess a sense of smell, as they are not all attracted by the same food, and they smell a thing before they seize it. Some fish even when hiding in caves are driven out by a fisherman who smears the mouth of the crag with brine used in picklingthey run away as it were from the recognition of their own dead body; and they also flock together from the deep water to certain smells, for instance a burnt cuttlefish or polyp, which are thrown into wicker creels for this purpose. Indeed the stench of a ship's bilge makes them flee far away, but most of all the blood of fishes. The polyp cannot be dragged away from the bait; but when a sprig of marjoram is brought near to it, it at once darts away from the scent. Purple-fish also can be caught by means of things with a foul smell. As to the rest of the animal class who could have any doubt? Snakes are driven away by the stench of burnt stag's horn, but especially by that of styrax-tree gum; the scent of marjoram or lime or sulphur kills ants. Gnats seek for sour things and are not attracted by sweet things.
All creatures have the sense of touch, even those that have none of the others; it is possessed even by molluscs, and also, among land animals, by worms.
XCI. I am inclined to believe that all possess the sense of taste also; for why are different species attracted by different flavours? In the matter of taste nature's handicraft is outstanding: some creatures catch their prey with their teeth, others with their claws, others snatch their food with the curve of the beak, others root it up with the flat of the beak, others dig it out with the point; some suck it in, others lick it, sup it up, chew it, gulp it down. Nor is there less variety in the service rendered by their feet, in snatching, tearing asunder, holding, squeezing, hanging, or incessantly scratching the earth.
XCII. Wild goats and quails, the most peaceful of creatures, grow fat, as we have said, on poisons, but snakes batten on eggs, serpents having a remarkably skilful trickthey either gulp the eggs down whole, if their throats have grown large enough to hold them, and then break them inside them by rolling themselves up in a coil, and so cough out the bits of eggshell, or if they are young snakes as yet of too tender an age, they catch hold of the eggs in the ring of their coil and squeeze them so gradually and forcibly that part is cut off as if with a knife from the remainder which is held in their folds and then they stick it in. In a like manner they swallow birds whole and then with a heave bring up again the feathers and the bones.
XCIII. Scorpions live on earth. Snakes are specially fond of wine when they have the chance, though otherwise they need little drink; they also need very little food, and almost none at all when they are kept shut up; just as do spiders also, which otherwise live by suction. Consequently no venomous creature dies of hunger or thirst; for they have neither heat nor blood, nor yet sweat, which increases appetite by its natural salt. All in this class are more deadly if they have eaten their own kind before they attack somebody. The class of dog-headed apes and orang-utans stores food in the recesses of the jawbones, and then gradually takes it out from there with its hands to chew itand what with ants is an annual ceremony is for these a daily or hourly practice. The only animal with toes that lives on grass is the hare; solid-hooved animals live on grass and corn, and among animals with cloven feet the pig eats all kinds of fodder and also roots. Rolling on the ground is peculiar to animals with solid hooves. All species with serrated teeth are carnivorous. Bears also eat grain, leaves, grapes and fruits and bees, and even crabs and ants. Wolves, as we have said, when hungry even eat earth. Cattle grow fat with drinking, and consequently salt is specially suitable for them. So also do beasts of burden, although they also fatten on corn and grass; in fact they eat in proportion to what they have drunk. Beside the ruminants already mentioned, of forest animals stags ruminate when they are kept by us; but they all ruminate lying down in preference to standing, and in winter more than in summer, for a period of about seven months. The mice of Pontus also remasticate their food in a similar manner.
XCIV. In drinking, animals with serrated teeth lap, and so does our common mouse, though it really belongs to another class; those with teeth that touch suck for instance horses and cattle; bears do neither, but gulp water as well as food in bites. In Africa the greater part of the wild animals do not drink at all in summer, owing to lack of rains for which reason Libyan mice in captivity die if given drink. The perpetually dry parts of Africa produce the antelope, which owing to the nature of the region goes without drink in quite a remarkable fashion, for the assistance of thirsty people, as the Gaetulian brigands rely on their help to keep going, bladders containing extremely healthy liquid being found in their body.
In Africa also leopards crouch in the thick foliage of the trees and hidden by their boughs leap down on to animals passing by, and stalk their prey from the perches of birds. Then how silently and with what a light tread do cats creep up to birds! how stealthily they watch their chance to leap out on tiny mice! They scrape up the earth to bury their droppings, realizing that the smell of these gives them away.
XCV. Consequently it is easily manifest that there are also certain senses other than those mentioned above.
For animals have certain kinds of warfare and of friendships, and the feelings that result from them besides the various facts that we have stated about each species in their places. There are quarrels between swans and eagles; between the raven and the golden oriole when searching for one another's eggs by night; similarly between the raven and the kite when the former snatches the latter's food before he can get it; between crows and owls, the eagle and the gold-crestif we can believe it, as the eagle is called the king of birds; between owls and the other smaller birds; again birds with land animalsthe weasel and the crow, the turtle-dove and the pyrallis, ichneumon-flies and spiders; the water-birds brenthos and gull and goshawk and buzzard; shrew-mice and herons lying in wait for each other's young; that very tiny bird the titmouse with the ass, which by rubbing itself against thorns for the sake of scratching dislodges the nests of the titmouse, which is so scared that when it merely hears the sound of an ass braying it throws its eggs out of the nest, and the chicks themselves in fear fall out, and consequently the bird flies at the ass and hollows out its sores with its beak; foxes and kites; snakes and weasels and pigs. There is a small bird called the aesalon that breaks a raven's eggs, whose chicks are preyed upon by foxes, and it retaliates by pecking the fox-cubs and the vixen herself; when the ravens see this they come to their aid against the aesalon as against a common foe. Also the gold-finch lives in thorn-bushes and consequently it also hates asses that devour the flowers of the thorn; but the yellow wagtail hates the titmouse so bitterly that people believe that their blood will not mix, and consequently they give it a bad name as used for many poisons. The thos and the lion quarrel. Also the smallest animals quarrel as much as the largest: a tree infested with ants is hollowed out by caterpillars; a spider swings by a thread on to the head of a snake stretched out beneath the shade of its tree, and nips its brain with its jaws so violently that it at once gives a hiss and whirls giddily round, but cannot even break the thread by which the spider hangs, much less get away, and there is no end to it before its death.
XCVI. On the other hand friendships occur between peacocks and pigeons, turtle-doves and parrots, blackbirds and turtle-doves, the crow and the little heron in a joint enmity against the fox kind and the goshawk and kite against the buzzard. Why, are there not signs of affection even in snakes, the most hostile kind of animals? we have mentioned the story that Arcady tells about the snake that saved his master's life and recognized him by his voice. Let us place to the credit of Phylarchus a marvellous tale about an asp: he relates that in Egypt, when it used to come regularly to be fed at someone's table, it was delivered of young ones, and that its hosts' son was killed by one of these; and that when the mother came back for its usual meal it realized the young one's guilt and killed it, and never came back to the house again afterwards.
XCVII. The question of sleep does not involve any obscure conjecture. It is clear that among land animals all those that close the eyes sleep. That also water animals sleep at all events a little is held even by those who doubt about the other kinds; they do not infer this from the eyes, as these creatures have no eyelids, but merely by their quietness: they are seen reposing as if sunk in slumber, and only moving their tails, and waking up in alarm at any disturbance. It is affirmed with more confidence about tunny-fish, because they sleep close to banks or rocks; while flatfish sleep in shallow water, so that they are often taken out by hand. Dolphins and whales, in fact, are heard actually snoring. That insects also sleep is shown by their silence, and by their not even being roused by having lights brought near them.
XCVIII. Man when born is beset by sleep for some months, and then day by day his waking period gets longer. An infant begins to dream at once, for it wakes up in a fright, and also imitates sucking. But some children never dream, and with these we find instances in which their dreaming contrary to their usual habit was a sign of approaching death. Here an important topic invites us and one fully supplied with arguments on both sideswhether there are certain cases of foreknowledge present in the mind during repose, and what causes them, or whether it is a matter of chance like most things. If the question be argued by instances, these would doubtless be found to be equal on both sides. It is practically agreed that dreams occurring directly after drinking wine and eating food, and those that come in dozing off to sleep a second time, are false; but sleep is really nothing but the retirement of the mind into its innermost self. It is manifest that, beside human beings, horses, dogs, oxen, sheep and goats dream; it is consequently believed that, dreams also occur in all viviparous species. As to the oviparous creatures it is uncertain, but it is certain that they sleep.
But let us also pass to insects, for these remain creatures of immeasurably minute structure.