Natural History (Rackham, Jones, & Eichholz)/Book 9
I. WE have indicated the nature of the species that we have designated land animals, as living in some kind of association with men. Of the remaining kinds it is agreed that birds are the smallest. We will therefore first speak of the creatures of the seas, rivers and ponds.
There are however a considerable number of these that are larger even than land animals. The obvious cause of this is the lavish nature of liquid. Birds, which live hovering in the air, are in a different condition. But in the sea, lying so widely outspread and so yielding and productive of nutriment, because the element receives generative causes from above and is always producing offspring, a great many actual monstrosities are found, the seeds and first principles intertwining and interfolding with each other now in one way and now in another, now by the action of the wind and now by that of the waves, so ratifying the common opinion that everything born in any department of nature exists also in the sea, as well as a number of things never found elsewhere. Indeed we may realize that it contains likenesses of things and not of animals only, when we examine the grape, the sword-fish, the saw-fish, and the cucumber-fish, the last resembling a real cucumber both in colour and scent; which makes it less surprising that in cockle-shells that are so tiny there are horses' heads projecting.
II. But the largest number of animals and those of the largest size are in the Indian sea, among them whales covering three acres each, and sharks 100 ells long: in fact in those regions lobsters grow to 6 ft. long, and also eels in the river Ganges to 300 ft. The monsters in the sea are mostly to be seen about the solstices. At those periods in that part of the world there are rushing whirlwinds and rainstorms and tempests hurtling down from the mountain ridges that upturn the seas from their bottom, and roll with their waves monsters forced up from the depths in such a multitude, like the shoals of tunnies in other places, that the fleet of Alexander the Great deployed its column in line of battle to encounter them, in the same way as if an enemy force were meeting it: it was not possible to escape them in any other manner. They are not scared by shouts or noises or uproar, but only by impact, and they are only routed by a violent collision. There is an enormous peninsula in the Red Sea called Cadara, the projection of which forms a vast bay which took King Ptolemy twelve days and nights of rowing to cross, as it does not admit a breath of wind from any quarter. In this tranquil retreat particularly the creatures grow to a huge motionless bulk. The admirals of the fleets of Alexander the Great have stated that the Gedrosi who live by the river Arabis make the doorways in their houses out of the monsters' jaws and use their bones for roof-beams, many of them having been found that were 60 ft. long. Also great creatures resembling sheep come out on to the land in that country and after grazing on the roots of bushes return; and there are some with the heads of horses, asses and bulls that eat up the crops.
III. The largest animals in the Indian Ocean are the shark and the whale; the largest in the Bay of Biscay is the sperm-whale, which rears up like a vast pillar higher than a ship's rigging and belches out a sort of deluge; the largest in the Gulf of Cadiz is the tree-polypus, which spreads out such vast branches that it is believed never to have entered the Straits of Gibraltar because of this. The creatures called Wheels from their resemblance to a wheel also put in an appearance, these radiating in four spokes, with their nave terminating in two eyes, one on each side.
IV. An embassy from Lisbon sent for the purpose reported to the Emperor Tiberius that a Triton had been seen and heard playing on a shell in a certain cave, and that he had the well-known shape. The description of the Nereids also is not incorrect, except that their body is bristling with hair even in the parts where they have human shape; for a Nereid has been seen on the same coast, whose mournful song moreover when dying has been heard a long way off by the coast-dwellers; also the Governor of Gaul wrote to the late lamented Augustus that a large number of dead Nereids were to be seen on the shore. I have distinguished members of the Order of Knighthood as authorities for the statement that a man of the sea has been seen by them in the Gulf of Cadiz, with complete resemblance to a human being in every part of his body, and that he climbs on board ships during the hours of the night and the side of the vessel that he sits on is at once weighed down, and if he stays there longer actually goes below the water. During the rule of Tiberius, in an island off the coast of the province of Lyons the receding ocean tide left more than 300 monsters at the same time, of marvellous variety and size, and an equal number on the coast of Saintes, and among the rest elephants, and rams with only a white streak to resemble horns, and also many Nereids. Turranius has stated that a monster was cast ashore on the coast at Cadiz that had 24 feet of tail-end between its two fins, and also 120 teeth, the biggest 9 inches and the smallest 6 inches long. The skeleton of the monster to which Andromeda in the story was exposed was brought by Marcus Scaurus from the town of Jaffa in Judaea and shown at Rome among the rest of the marvels during his aedileship; it was 40 ft. long, the height of the ribs exceeding the elephants of India, and the spine being 1 ft. 6 inches thick.
V. Whales even penetrate into our seas. It is said that they are not seen in the Gulf of Cadiz before midwinter, but during the summer periods hide in a certain calm and spacious inlet, and take marvellous delight in breeding there; and that this is known to the killer whale, a creature that is the enemy of the other species and the appearance of which can be represented by no other description except that of an enormous mass of flesh with savage teeth. The killer whales therefore burst into their retreats and bite and mangle their calves or the females that have calved or are still in calf, and charge and pierce them like warships ramming. The whales being sluggish in bending and slow in retaliating, and burdened by their weight, and at this season also heavy with young or weakened by travail in giving birth, know only one refuge, to retreat to the deep sea and defend their safety by means of the ocean. Against this the killer whales use every effort to confront them and get in their way, and to slaughter them when cooped up in narrow straits or drive them into shallows and make them dash themselves upon rocks. To spectators these battles look as if the sea were raging against itself, as no winds are blowing in the gulf, but there are waves caused by the whales blowing and thrashing that are larger than those aroused by any whirlwinds. A killer whale was actually seen in the harbour of Ostia in battle with the Emperor Claudius; it had come at the time when he was engaged in completing the structure of the harbour, being tempted by the wreck of a cargo of hides imported from Gaul, and in glutting itself for a number of days had furrowed a hollow in the shallow bottom and had been banked up with sand by the waves so high that it was quite unable to turn round, and while it was pursuing its food which was driven forward to the shore by the waves its back projected far above the water like a capsized boat. Caesar gave orders for a barrier of nets to be stretched between the mouths of the harbour and setting out in person with the praetorian cohorts afforded a show to the Roman public, the soldiery hurling lances from the vessels against the creatures when they leapt up alongside, and we saw one of the boats sunk from being filled with water owing to a beast's snorting.
VI. Whales have their mouths in their foreheads, and consequently when swimming on the surface of the water they blow clouds of spray into the air. It is universally admitted that a very few other creatures in the sea also breathe, those whose internal organs include a lung, since it is thought that no animal is able to breathe without one. Those who hold this opinion believe that the fishes possessing gills do not alternately expire and inspire air, and that many other classes even lacking gills do notan opinion which I notice that Aristotle a held and supported by many learned researches. Nor do I pretend that I do not myself immediately accept this view of theirs since it is possible that animals may also possess other respiratory organs in place of lungs, if nature so wills, just as also many possess another fluid instead of blood. At all events who can be surprised that this life-giving breath penetrates into water if he observes that it is also given back again from the water, and that it also penetrates into the earth, that much denser element, as is proved by animals that live always in underground burrows, like moles. Undoubtedly to my mind there are additional facts that make me believe that in fact all creatures in the water breathe, owing to the condition of their own naturein the first place a sort of panting that has often been noticed in fishes during the summer heat, and another form of gasping, so to speak, in calm weather, and also the admission in regard to fishes sleeping made even by those persons who are of the opposite opinionfor how can sleep occur without breathing?and moreover the bubbles caused on the surface of the water by air rising from below, and the effect of the moon in causing the bodies even of shellfish to increase in size. Above all there is the fact that it will not be doubted that fish have the sense of hearing and smell, both of which are derived from the substance of air: scent indeed could not possibly be interpreted as anything else than an infection of the air. Consequently it is open to every person to form whatever opinion about these matters he pleases. Whales do not possess gills, nor do dolphins. These two genera breathe with a tube that passes to the lung, in the case of whales from the forehead and in the case of dolphins from the back. Also sea-calves, called seals, breathe and sleep on land, as also do tortoises, about whom more shortly.
VII. The swiftest of all animals, not only those of the sea, is the dolphin; it is swifter than a bird and darts faster than a javelin, and were not its mouth much below its snout, almost in the middle of its belly, not a single fish would escape its speed. But nature's foresight contributes delay, because they cannot seize their prey except by turning over on their backs. This fact especially shows their speed; for when spurred by hunger they have chased a fleeing fish into the lowest depths and have held their breath too long, they shoot up like arrows from a bow in order to breathe again, and leap out of the water with such force that they often fly over a ship's sails. They usually roam about in couples, husband and wife; they bear cubs after nine months, in the summer season, occasionally even twins. They suckle their young, as do whales, and even carry them about while weak from infancy; indeed they accompany them for a long time even when grown up, so great is their affection for their offspring. They grow up quickly, and are believed to reach their full size in 10 years. They live as much as 30 years, as has been ascertained by amputating the tail of a specimen for an experiment. They are in retirement for 30 days about the rising of the dog-star and hide themselves in an unknown manner, which is the more surprising in view of the fact that they cannot breathe under water. They have a habit of sallying out on to the land for an unascertained reason, and they do not die at once after touching earthin fact they die much more quickly if the gullet is closed up. The dolphin's tongue, unlike the usual structure of aquatic animals, is mobile, and is short and broad, not unlike a pig's tongue. For a voice they have a moan like that of a human being; their back is arched, and their snout turned up, owing to which all of them in a surprising manner answer to the name of 'Snubnose' and like it better than any other.
VIII. The dolphin is an animal that is not only friendly to mankind but is also a lover of music, and it can he charmed by singing in harmony, but particularly by the sound of the water-organ. It is not afraid of a human being as something strange to it, but comes to meet vessels at sea and sports and gambols round them, actually trying to race them and passing them even when under full sail. In the reign of the late lamented Augustus a dolphin that had been brought into the Lucrine Lake fell marvellously in love with a certain boy, a poor man's son, who used to go from the Baiae district to school at Pozzuoli, because fairly often the lad when loitering about the place at noon called him to him by the name of Snub-nose and coaxed him with bits of the bread he had with him for the journey,I should be ashamed to tell the story were it not that it has been written about by Maecenas and Fabianus and Flavius Alfius and many others,and when the boy called to it at whatever time of day, although it was concealed in hiding used to fly to him out of the depth, eat out of his band, and let him mount on its back, sheathing as it were the prickles of its fin, and used to carry him when mounted right across the bay to Pozzuoli to school, bringing him back in similar manner, for several years, until the boy died of disease, and then it used to keep coming sorrowfully and like a mourner to the customary place, and itself also expired, quite undoubtedly from longing. Another dolphin in recent years at Hippo Diarrhytus on the coast of Africa similarly used to feed out of people's hands and allow itself to be stroked, and play with swimmers and carry them on its back. The Governor of Africa, Flavianus, smeared it all over with perfume, and the novelty of the scent apparently put it to sleep: it floated lifelessly about, holding aloof from human intercourse for some months as if it had been driven away by the insult; but afterwards it returned and was an object of wonder as before. The expense caused to their hosts by persons of official position who came to see it forced the people of Hippo to destroy it. Before these occurrences a similar story is told about a boy in the city of Iasus, with whom a dolphin was observed for a long time to be in love, and while eagerly following him to the shore when he was going away it grounded on the sand and expired; Alexander the Great made the boy head of the priesthood of Poseidon at Babylon, interpreting the dolphin's affection as a sign of the deity's favour. Hegesidemus writes that in the same city of Iasus another boy also, named Hermias, while riding across the sea in the same manner lost his life in the waves of a sudden storm, but was brought back to the shore, and the dolphin confessing itself the cause of his death did not return out to sea and expired on dry land. Theophrastus records that exactly the same thing occurred at Naupactus too. Indeed there are unlimited instances: the people of Amphulochus and Taranto tell the same stories about boys and dolphins; and these make it credible that also the skilled harpist Anon, when at sea the sailors were getting ready to kill him with the intention of stealing the money he had made, succeeded in coaxing them to let him first play a tune on his harp, and the music attracted a school of dolphins, whereupon he dived into the sea and was taken up by one of them and carried ashore at Cape Matapan.
IX. In the region of Nismes in the Province of Narbonne there is a marsh named Latera where dolphins catch fish in partnership with a human fisherman. At a regular season a countless shoal of mullet rushes out of the narrow mouth of the marsh into the sea, after watching for the turn of the tide, which makes it impossible for nets to be spread across the channelindeed the nets would be equally incapable of standing the mass of the weight even if the craft of the fish did not watch for the opportunity. For a similar reason they make straight out into the deep water produced by the neighbouring eddies, and hasten to escape from the only place suitable for setting nets. When this is observed by the fishermenand a crowd collects at the place, as they know the time, and even more because of their keenness for this sportand when the entire population from the shore shouts as loud as it can, calling for 'Snubnose' for the denouement of the show, the dolphins quickly hear their wishes if a northerly breeze carries the shout out to sea, though if the wind is in the south, against the sound, it carries it more slowly; but then too they suddenly hasten to the spot, in order to give their aid. Their line of battle comes into view, and at once deploys in the place where they are to join battle; they bar the passage on the side of the sea and drive the scared mullet into the shallows. Then the fishermen put their nets round them and lift them out of the water with forks. None the less the pace of some mullets leaps over the obstacles; but these are caught by the dolphins, which are satisfied for the time being with merely having killed them, postponing a meal till victory is won. The action is hotly contested, and the dolphins pressing on with the greatest bravery are delighted to be caught in the nets, and for fear that this itself may hasten the enemy's flight, they glide out between the boats and the nets or the swimming fishermen so gradually as not to open ways of escape; none of them try to get away by leaping out of the water, which otherwise they are very fond of doing, unless the nets are put below them. One that gets out thereupon carries on the battle in front of the rampart. When in this way the catch has been completed they tear in pieces the fish that they have killed. But as they are aware that they have had too strenuous a task for only a single day's pay they wait there till the following day, and are given a feed of bread mash dipped in wine, in addition to the fish.
X. Mucianus's account of the same kind of fishing in the Iasian Gulf differs in thisthe dolphins stand by of their own accord and without being summoned by a shout, and receive their share from the fishermen's hands, and each boat has one of the dolphins as its ally although it is in the night and by torchlight. The dolphins also have a form of public alliance of their own: when one was caught by the King of Lana and kept tied up in the harbour a great multitude of the remainder assembled, suing for compassion with an unmistakable display of grief, until the king ordered it to be released. Moreover small dolphins are always accompanied by a larger one as escort; and before now dolphins have been seen carrying a dead comrade, to prevent its body being torn in pieces by sea-monsters.
XI. The creatures called porpoises have a resemblance to dolphins (at the same time they are distinguished from them by a certain gloomy air, as they lack the sportive nature of the dolphin), but in their snouts they have a close resemblance to the maleficence of dogfish.
XII. The Indian Ocean produces turtles such size that the natives roof dwelling-houses with the expanse of a single shell, and use them as boats in sailing, especially among the islands of the Red Sea. They are caught in a number of ways, but chiefly as they rise to the surface of the sea when the weather in the morning attracts them, and float across the calm waters with the whole of their backs projecting, and this pleasure of breathing freely cheats them into self-forgetfulness so much that their hide gets dried up by the heat and they are unable to dive, and go on floating against their will, an opportune prey for their hunters. They also say that turtles come ashore at night to graze and after gorging greedily grow languid and when they have gone back in the morning doze off to sleep on the surface of the water; that this is disclosed by the noise of their snoring; and that then the natives swim quietly up to them, three men to one turtle, and two turn it over on its back while the third throws a noose over it as it lies, and so it is dragged ashore by more men hauling from the beach. Turtles are caught without any difficulty in the Phoenician Sea; and at a regular period of the year they come of their own accord into the river Eleutherus in a straggling multitude.
The turtle has no teeth, but the edges of the beak are sharp on the upper side, and the mouth closing the lower jaw like a box is so hard that they can crush stones. They live on shell-fish in the sea and on plants when they come ashore. They bear eggs like birds' eggs numbering up to 100 at a time; these they bury in the ground somewhere ashore, cover them with earth rammed down and levelled with their chests, and sleep on them at night. They hatch the young in the space of a year. Some people think that they cherish their eggs by gazing at them with their eyes; and that the females refuse to couple till the male places a wisp of straw on one as she turns away from him. The Cavemen have homed turtles with broad horns twisted inward like those of a lyre but movable, which they use as oars to aid themselves in swimming; the name for this horn is chelium; it is of tortoise shell of exceptional quality, but it is seldom seen, as the very sharp rocks frighten the Turtle-eater tribe, while the Cavemen, on whose coasts the turtles swim, worship them as sacred. There are also turtles living on land, and consequently called in works on the subject the Terrestrial species; these are found in the deserts of Africa in the region of the driest and most arid sands, and it is believed that they live on the moisture of dew. No other animal occurs there.
XIII. The practice of cutting tortoise-shell into plates and using it to decorate bedsteads and cabinets was introduced by Carvilius Pollio, a man of lavish talent and skill in if producing the utensils of luxury.
XIV. The aquatic animals have a variety of coverings. Some are covered with hide and hair, for instance seals and hippopotamuses; others with hide only, as dolphins, or with shell, as turtles, or a hard flinty exterior, as oysters and mussels, with rind, as lobsters, with rind and spines, as sea-urchins, with scales, as fishes, with rough skin which can be used for polishing wood and ivory, as skates, with soft skin, as lampreys; others with no skin at all, as polyps.
XV. The aquatic animals clad with hair are viviparousfor instance the saw-fish, the whale and the seal. The last bears its young on land; it produces afterbirth like cattle; in coupling it clings together as dogs do; it sometimes gives birth to more than two in a litter; it rears its young at the breast; it does not lead them down into the sea before the twelfth day, thereafter continually accustoming them to it. Seals are with difficulty killed unless the head is shattered. Of themselves they make a noise like lowing, whence their name 'sea-calves'; yet they are capable of training, and can be taught to salute the public with their voice and at the same time with bowing, and when called by name to reply with a harsh roar. No animal sleeps more heavily. The fins that they use in the sea also serve them on land as feet to crawl with. Their hides even when flayed from the body are said to retain a sense of the tides, and always to bristle when the tide is going out; and it is also said that the right fin possesses a soporific influence, and when placed under the head attracts sleep.
Two only of the hairless animals are viviparous, the dolphin and the viper.
XVI. There are 74 species of fishes, not including those that have a hard covering, of which there are thirty. We will speak of them severally in another place, for now we are dealing with the natures of specially remarkable species.
XVII. The tunny is of exceptional size; we are told of a specimen weighing a third of a ton and having a tail 3 ft. 4 in. broad. Fish of no less size also occur in certain rivers, the catfish in the Nile, the pike in the Rhine, the sturgeon in the Po, a fish that grows so fat from sloth that it sometimes reaches a thousand pounds; it is caught with a hook on a chain and only drawn out of the water by teams of oxen. And this monster is killed by the bite of a very small fish called the anchovy which goes for a particular vein in its throat with remarkable voracity. The catfish ranges about and goes for every living creature wherever it is, often dragging down horses when swimming. A fish very like a sea-pig is drawn out with teams of oxen, especially in the river Main in Germany, and in the Danube with weeding-hooks; an exceptionally large species with no internal framework of bones or vertebrae and very sweet flesh is recorded in the Dnieper. In the Ganges in India there is a fish called the platanista with a dolphin's beak and tail, but 24 ft. long. Statius Sebosus gives an extremely marvellous account of worms in the same river that have a pair of gills measuring 90 ft; they are deep blue in colour, and named from their appearance; he says that they are so strong that they carry off elephants coming to drink by gripping the trunk in their teeth.
XVIII. Male tunnies have no fin under the belly. In spring time they enter the Black Sea from the Mediterranean in shoals, and they do not spawn anywhere else. The name of cordyla is given to the fry, which accompany the fish when they return to the sea in autumn after spawning; in the spring they begin to be called mudfish or pelamydes (from the Greek for 'mud'), and when they have exceeded the period of one year they are called tunny. These fish are cut up into parts, and the neck and belly are counted a delicacy, and also the throat provided it is fresh, and even then it causes severe flatulence; all the rest of the tunny, with the flesh entire, is preserved in salt: these pieces are called melandrya, as resembling splinters of oak-wood. The cheapest of them are the parts next the tail, because they lack fat, and the parts most favoured are those next the throat; whereas in other fish the parts round the tail are most in use. At the pelamys stage they are divided into choice slices and cut up small into a sort of little cube.
XIX. Fishes of all kinds grow up exceptionally fast, especially in the Black Sea; this is due to the fresh water carried into it by a large number of rivers. The name of scomber is given to a fish whose growth in size can be noticed daily. This fish and the pelamys in company with the tunny enter the Black Sea in shoals in search of less brackish feeding-grounds, each kind with its own leaders, and first of all the mackerel, which when in the water is sulphur-coloured, though out of water it is the same colour as the other kinds. These fill the fish-ponds of Spain, the tunny not going with them.
XX. But no creature harmful to fish enters the Black Sea besides seals and small dolphins. The tunny enter it by the right bank and go out of it by the left; this is believed to occur because they can see better with the right eye, being by nature dim of sight in both eyes. In the channel of the Thracian Bosphorus joining the Sea of Marmora with the Black Sea, in the actual narrows of the channel separating Europe and Asia, there is a rock of marvellous whiteness that shines through the water from the bottom to the surface, near Chalcedon on the Asiatic side. The sudden sight of this always frightens them, and they make for the opposite promontory of Istanbul in a headlong shoal; this is the reason why that promontory has the name of the Golden Horn. Consequently all the catch is at Istanbul, and there is a great shortage at Chalcedon, owing to the 1000 yards of channel flowing in between. But they wait for a north wind to blow so as to go out of the Black Sea with the current, and are only taken a when entering the harbour of Istanbul. In winter they do not wander; wherever winter catches them, there they hibernate till the equinox. They are also frequently seen from the stern of vessels proceeding under sail, accompanying them in a remarkably charming manner for periods of several hours and for a distance of some miles, not being scared even by having a harpoon repeatedly thrown at them. Some people give the name of pilot-fish to the tunny that do this. Many pass the summer in the Sea of Marmora without entering the Black Sea; the same is the case with the sole, though the turbot does enter it. Nor does the sepia occur there, though the cattle-fish is found. Of rock-fish the sea-bream and whiting are lacking, as are some shell-fish, though oysters are plentiful; but they all winter in the Aegean. Of those entering the Black Sea the only kind that never returns is the bichia or sardineit will be convenient to use the Greek names in most cases, as different districts have called the same species by a great variety of namesbut these alone enter the Danube and float down from it by its underground channels into the Adriatic, and consequently there also they are regularly seen going down stream and never coming up from the sea. The season for catching tunny is from the rise of the Pleiades to the setting of Arcturus; during the rest of the winter time they lurk at the bottom of the water unless tempted out by a mild spell or at full moon. They get fat even to the point of bursting. The tunny's longest life is two years.
XXI. There is a small animal shaped like a scorpion, of the size of a spider. This attaches with a spike under the fin of both the tunny and the fish called sword-fish, which often exceeds the size of a dolphin, and torments them so painfully that they frequently jump out of the water into ships. This is also done on other occasions from fear of the violence of other fish, especially by mullet, which are so exceptionally swift that they sometimes leap right over ships that lie across their path.
XXII. In this department of nature also there are cases of augury; even fish have foreknowledge of events. During the Sicilian War when Augustus was walking on the shore a fish leapt out of the sea at his feet, a sign which the priests interpreted as meaning that although Sextus Pompeius was then adopting Neptune as his fatherso glorious were his naval exploitsyet those who at that time held the seas would later be beneath the feet of Caesar.
XXIII. Female fish are larger than the males. In one kind there are no males at all, as is the case with red mullet and sea-perch, for all those caught are heavy with eggs. Almost every kind with scales is gregarious. Fish are caught before sunrise; at that of hour their sight is most fallible. In the night they repose, but on bright nights they can see as well as by day. People also say that scraping the bottom helps the catch, and that consequently more are caught at the second haul than at the first. Fish are fondest of the taste of oil, but next to that they enjoy and derive nourishment from moderate falls of rain: in fact even reeds although growing in a marsh nevertheless do not grow up without rain; and besides, fishes everywhere die when kept continually in the same water, if there is no inflow.
XXIV. All fish feel a very cold winter, but most of all those that are believed to hate a stone in their head, for instance the bass, the chromis, the ombre and the phagrus. When the winter has been severe a great many are caught blind. Consequently in the winter months they lie hidden in eaves (like cases that we have recorded in the class of land-animals), particularly the hippuris and blackfish, which are not caught in winter except on a few regular days that are always the same, and also the lamprey and the orphus, the conger and perch and all rockfish. It is indeed reported that the electric ray, the plaice and the sole hide through the winters in the ground, that is, in a hole scraped out at the bottom of the sea.
XXV. Some fish again being unable to endure heat hide for 8 or 9 weeks during the heats of midsummer, for instance the grayling, the haddock and the gilt-bream. Of river fish the catfish has a stroke at the rise of the dog-star, and at other times is always made drowsy by lightning. This is thought to happen to the carp even in the sea. And beside this the whole sea is conscious of the rise of that star, as is most clearly seen in the Dardanelles, for seaweed and fishes float on the surface, and everything is turned up from the bottom.
XXVI. It is an amusing trait in the mullet that when frightened it hides its head and thinks it is entirely concealed. The same fish is so incautious in its wantonness that in Phoenicia and in the Province of Narbonne at the breeding season a male mullet from the fishponds is sent out into the sea with a long line tied to its gills through its mouth and when it is drawn back by the same line the females follow it to the shore, and again the males follow a female at the laying season.
XXVII. In old days the sturgeon was held to be the noblest of the fishes, being the only one with its scales turned towards the mouth, in the opposite direction to the one in which it swims; but now it is held in no esteem, which for my part I think surprising, as it is a fish seldom to be found. One name for it is the elops.
XXVIII. Cornelius Nepos and the mime-writer Laberius have recorded that at a later period the chief rank belonged to the bass and the haddock. The kind of bass most praised is the one called the woolly bass, from the whiteness and softness of its flesh. There are two kinds of haddockthe collyrus, which is the smaller, and the bacchus, which is only caught in deep water, and consequently is preferred to the former. But among bass those caught in a river are preferred.
XXIX. Nowadays the first place is given to the wrasse, which is the only fish that is said to chew the cud and to feed on grasses and not on other fish. It is especially common in the Carpathian Sea; it never of its own accord passes Cape Lectum in the Troad. Some wrasse were imported from there in the principate of Tiberius Claudius by one of his freedmen, Optatus, Commander of the Fleet, and were distributed and scattered about between the mouth of the Tiber and the coast of Campania, care being taken for about five years that when caught they should be put back into the sea. Subsequently they have been frequently found on the coast of Italy, though not caught there before; and thus greed has provided itself with additional dainties by cultivating fish, and has bestowed on the sea a new denizenso that nobody must be surprised that foreign birds breed at Rome. The next place belongs at all events to the liver of the lamprey that strange to say the Lake of Constance in Raetia in the Central Alps also produces to rival the marine variety.
XXX. Of other fish of a good class the red mullet stands first in popularity and also in plentifulness, though its size is moderate and it but rarely exceeds 2 lbs. in weight, nor does it grow larger when kept in preserves and fishponds. This size is only produced by the northern ocean and in its westernmost part. For the rest, there are several kinds of mullet. For it feeds on seaweed, bivalves, mud and the flesh of other fish; and it is distinguished by a double beard on the lower lip. The mullet of cheapest kind is called the mud-mullet. This variety is always accompanied by another fish named sea-bream, and it swallows down as fodder mire stirred up by the sea-bream digging. The coast mullet also is not in favour. The most approved kind have the flavour of an oyster. This variety has the name of shoe-mullet, which Fenestella thinks was given it from its colour. It spawns three times a yearat all events that is the number of times that its fry is seen. The leaders in gastronomy say that a dying mullet shows a large variety of changing colours, turning pale with a complicated modification of blushing scales, at all events if it is looked at when contained in a glass bowl. Marcus Apicius, who had a natural gift for every ingenuity of luxury, thought it specially desirable for mullets to be killed in a sauce made of their companions, garumfor this thing also has procured a designationand for fish-paste to be devised out of their liver.
XXXI. With a fish of this kind one of the proconsular body, Asinius Celer, in the principate of Gaius, issued a challengeit is not so easy to say who won the matchto all the spendthrifts by giving 8000 sesterces for a mullet. The thought of this sidetracks the mind to the consideration of the people who in their complaints about luxury used to protest that cooks were being bought at a higher price per man than a horse; but now the price of three horses is given for a cook, and the price of three cooks for a fish, and almost no human being has come to be more valued than one that is most skilful in making his master bankrupt. Licinius Mucianus has recorded the capture in the Red Sea of a mullet weighing 80 lbs.; what price would our epicures have paid for it if it had been found on the coasts near the city?
XXXII. It is also a fact of nature that different fishes hold the first rank in different placesthe blackfish in Egypt, the John Dory (also called the carpenter-fish) at Cadiz, the stockfish in the neighbourhood of Iviza, though elsewhere it is a disgusting fish, and everywhere it is unable to be cooked thoroughly unless it has been beaten with a rod; in Aquitaine the river salmon is preferred to all sea-fish.
XXXIII. Some fish have numerous gills, others single ones, others double. With the gills they discharge the water taken in by the mouth. Hardening of the scales, which are not alike in all fishes, is a sign of age. There are two lakes in Italy at the foot of the Alps, named Como and Maggiore, in which every year at the rising of the Pleiades fish are found that are remarkable for close-set and very sharp scales, shaped like shoe-nails, but they are not commonly seen for a longer period than about a month from then.
XXXIV. Arcadia also has a marvel in its climbing perch, so called because it climbs out on to the land to sleep. In the district of the river Clitorius this fish is said to have a voice and no gills; the same variety is by some people called the Adonis fish.
XXXV. The fish called the sea-mouse also comes out on to the land, as do the polypus and the lamprey; so also does a certain kind of fish in the rivers of India, and then jumps hack againfor in most cases there is an obvious purpose in getting across into marshes and lakes so as to produce their offspring safe, as in those waters there are no creatures to devour their young and the waves are less fierce. Their understanding these reasons and their observing the changes of the seasons would seem more surprising to anybody who considers what fraction of mankind is aware that the biggest catch is made when the sun is passing through the sign of the Fishes.
XXXVI. Some sea-fish are flat, for instance the turbot, the sole and the flounder, which differs from the turbot only in the posture of its bodythe turbot lies with the right side uppermost and the flounder with the left; while other sea-fish are long, as the lamprey and the conger.
XXXVII. Consequently differences also occur in the fins, which are bestowed on fish instead of feet; none have more than four, some have three, some two, certain kinds none. In the Lago di Celano, but nowhere else, there is a fish that has eight fins to swim with. Long slippery fish like eels and congers generally have two fins, others have none, for instance, the lamprey which also has no gills. All this class use the sea as snakes do the land, propelling themselves by twisting their bodies, and they also crawl on dry land; consequently this class are also longer-lived. Some of the flat-fish too have not got fins, for example, the stingrayfor these swim merely by means of their breadthand the kinds called soft fish, such as polyps, since their feet serve them instead of fins.
XXXVIII. Eels live eight years. They can even last five or six days at a time out of water if a north wind is blowing, but not so long with a south wind. But the same fish cannot endure winter in shallow nor in rough water; consequently they are chiefly caught at the rising of the Pleiades as the rivers are then specially rough. They feed at night. They are the only fish that do not float on the surface when dead. There is a lake called Garda in the territory of Verona through which flows the river Mincio, at the outflow of which on a yearly occasion, about the month of October, when the lake is made rough evidently by the autumn star, they are massed together by the waves and rolled in such a marvellous shoal that masses of fish, a thousand in each, are found in the receptacles constructed in the river for the purpose.
XXXIX. The lamprey spawns in any month, although all other fish have fixed breeding seasons. Its eggs grow very quickly. Lampreys are commonly believed to crawl out on to dry land and to be impregnated by copulating with snakes. Aristotle gives the name of zmyrus to the male fish which generates, and says that the difference is that the lamprey is spotted and feeble whereas the zmyrus is self-coloured and hardy, and has teeth projecting outside the mouth. In Northern Gaul all lampreys have seven spots on the right jaw arranged like the constellation of the Great Bear, which are of a bright golden colour as long as the fish are alive, and are extinguished when they are deprived of life. Vedius Pollio, Knight of Rome, a member of the Privy Council under the late lamented Augustus, found in this animal a means of displaying his cruelty when he threw slaves sentenced to death into ponds of lampreysnot that the wild animals on land were not sufficient for this purpose, but because with any other kind of creature he was not able to have the spectacle of a man being torn entirely to pieces at one moment. It is stated that tasting vinegar particularly drives them mad. Their skin is very thin, whereas that of eels is rather thick, and Verrius records that it used to be used for flogging boys who were sons of citizens, and that consequently it was not the practice for them to be punished with a fine.
XL. There is a second class of flatfish that has gristle instead of a backbone, for instance rays, stingrays, skates, the electric ray, and those the Greek names for which mean 'ox,' 'sorceress,' 'eagle' and 'frog.' This group includes the squalus also, although that is not a flatfish. These Aristotle designated in Greek by the common name of selachians, giving them that name for the first time; but we cannot distinguish them as a class unless we like to call them the cartilaginea. But all such fish are carnivorous, and they feed lying on their backs, as we said in the case of dolphins; and whereas all other fish are oviparous, this kind alone with the exception of the species called the sea-frog is viviparous, like the creatures termed cetaceans.
XLI. There is a quite small fish that frequents rocks, called the sucking-fish. This is believed to make ships go more slowly by sticking to their hulls, from which it has received its name; and for this reason it also has an evil reputation for supplying a love-charm and for acting as a spell to hinder litigation in the courts, which accusations it counterbalances only by its laudable property of stopping fluxes of the womb in pregnant women and holding back the offspring till the time of birth. It is not included however among articles of diet. It is thought by some to have feet, but Aristotle denies this, adding that its limbs resemble wings.
Mucianus states that the murex is broader than the purple, and has a mouth that is not rough nor round and a beak that does not stick out into corners but shuts together on either side like a bivalve shell; and that owing to murexes clinging to the sides a ship was brought to a standstill when in full sail before the wind, carrying despatches from Periander ordering some noble youths to be castrated, and that the shell-fish that rendered this service are worshipped in the shrine of Venus at Cnidus. Trebius Niger says that it is a foot long and four inches wide, and hinders ships, and moreover that when preserved in salt it has the power of drawing out gold that has fallen into the deepest wells when it is brought near them.
XLII. The maena changes its white colour and. becomes blacker in summer. The lamprey also changes colour, being white all the rest of the time but variegated in spring. Also it is the only fish that lays its eggs in a nest, which it builds of seaweed.
XLIII. The swallow-fish flies just exactly like a bird, and so does the kite-fish. The fish on this account called the lamp-fish rises to the surface of the sea, and on calm nights gives a light with its fiery tongue which it puts out from its mouth. The fish that has got its name from its horns raises these up about 18 inches out of the sea. The sea-snake, again, when caught and placed on the sand, with marvellous rapidity digs itself a hole with its beak.
XLIV. We will now speak of the bloodless fishes. Of these there are three kinds: first those which are called soft fish, then those covered with thin rinds, and lastly those enclosed in hard shells. The soft are the cattle-fish, the sepia, the polyp and the others of that kind. They have the head between the feet and the belly, and all of them have eight little feet. In the sepia and cuttle-fish two of these feet are extremely long and rough, and by means of these they carry food to their months, and steady themselves as with anchors in a rough sea; but all the rest are feelers which they use for catching their prey.
XLV. The cuttle-fish even flies, raising itself out of the water, as also do the small scallops, like an arrow. The males of the genus sepia are variegated and darker in colour, and they are more resolute: when a female is struck with a trident they come to her assistance, whereas a female flees when a male is struck. But both sexes on perceiving they are being caught hold of pour out a dark fluid which these animals have instead of blood, so darkening the water and concealing themselves.
XLVI. There are many sorts of polyp. The land kinds are larger than the marine. They use all their arms as feet and hands, but employ the tail, which is forked and pointed, in sexual intercourse. The polyps have a tube in their back through which they pass the seawater, and they shift this now to the right side and now to the left. They swim with their head on one side, this while they are alive being hard as though blown out. Otherwise they remain adhering with a kind of suction, by means of a sort of suckers spread over their arms: throwing themselves backward they hold on so that they cannot be torn away. They do not cling to the bottom of the sea, and have less holding-power when full-grown. They alone of the soft creatures go out of the water on to dry land, provided it has a rough surface: they hate smooth surfaces. They feed on the flesh of shellfish, the shells of which they break by enfolding them with their tentacles; and consequently their lair can be detected by the shells lying in front of it. And though the polyp is in other respects deemed a stupid animal, inasmuch as it swims towards a man's hand, it has a certain kind of sense in its domestic economy: it collects everything into its home, and then after it has eaten the flesh puts out the refuse and catches the little fishes that swim up to it. It changes its colour to match its environment, and particularly when it is frightened. The notion that it gnaws its own arms is a mistake, for this is done to it by the congers; but the belief that its tails grow again, as is the case with the gecko and the lizard, is correct.
XLVII. But among outstanding marvels is the creature called the nautilus, and by others the pilot-fish. Lying on its back it comes to the surface of the sea, gradually raising itself up in such a way that by sending out all the water through a tube it so to speak unloads itself of bilge and sails easily. Afterwards it twists back its two foremost arms and spreads out between them a marvellously thin membrane, and with this serving as a sail in the breeze while it uses its other arms underneath it as oars, it steers itself with its tail between them as a rudder. So it proceeds across the deep mimicking the likeness of a fast cutter, if any alarm interrupts its voyage submerging itself by sucking in water.
XLVIII. One variety of the polypus kind is the stink-polyp, named from the disagreeable smell of its head, which causes it to be the special prey of the lamprey.
Polyps go into hiding for periods of two months. They do not live more than two years; but they always die of consumption, the females more quickly and usually as a result of bearing offspring.
We must also not pass over the facts as to the polyp ascertained when Lucius Lucullus was governor of Baetica, and published by one of his staff, Trebius Niger; he says that they are extremely greedy for shell-fish, and that these close their shells at a touch and cut off the polyp's tentacles, so retaliating by obtaining food from their would-be robber. Shell-fish do not possess sight or any other sense except consciousness of food and danger. Consequently the polyps lie in wait for the shell-fish to open, and placing a stone between the shells, not on the fish's body so that it may not be ejected by its throbbing, thus go to work at their ease, and drag out the flesh, while the shell-fish try to shut up, but in vain, as they are wedged open: so clever are even the most stupid of animals. Moreover Niger asserts that no animal is more savage in causing the death of a man in the water; for it struggles with him by coiling round him and swallows him with its sucker-cups and drags him asunder by its multiple suction, when it attacks men that have been shipwrecked or are diving. But should it be turned over, its strength gets feebler; for when polyps are lying on their backs they stretch themselves out. The rest of the facts reported by the same authority may possibly be thought to approximate to the miraculous. In the fishponds at Carteia a polyp was in the habit of getting into their uncovered tanks from the open sea and there foraging for salted fisheven the smell of which attracts all sea creatures in a surprising way, owing to which even fish-traps are smeared with themand so it brought on itself the wrath of the keepers, which owing to the persistence of the theft was beyond all bounds. Fences were erected in its way, but it used to scale these by making use of a tree, and it was only possible to catch it by means of the keen scent of hounds. These surrounded it when it was going back at night, and aroused the guards, who were astounded by its strangeness: in the first place its size was unheard of and so was its colour as well, and it was smeared with brine and had a terrible smell; who would have expected to find a polyp there, or who would recognize it in such circumstances? They felt they were pitted against something uncanny, for by its awful breath it also tormented the dogs, which it now scourged with the ends of its tentacles and now struck with its longer arms, which it used as clubs; and with difficulty they succeeded in despatching it with a number of three-pronged harpoons. They showed its head to Lucullusit was as big as a cask and held 90 gallons,--and (to use the words of Trebius himself) `its beards which one could hardly clasp round with both one's arms, knotted like clubs, 30 ft. long, with suckers or cups like basins holding three gallons, and teeth corresponding to its size. Its remains, kept as a curiosity, were found to weigh 700 lbs. Trebius also states that cuttlefish of both species of the same size have been driven ashore on that coast. In our own seas one kind is taken that measures 7 ft. in length and the other kind 3 ft. These fish also do not live more than two years.
XLIX. Mucianus has stated that he has also seen in the Dardanelles another creature resembling a ship under sail: it is a shell with a keel like a boat, and a curved stern and beaked bow. In this (he says) the nauplius, a creature like the cuttlefish, secretes itself, merely by way of sharing the game. The manner in which this takes place is twofold: in calm weather the carrier shell strikes the water by dipping its flappers like oars, but if the breezes invite, the same flappers are stretched out to serve as a rudder and the curves of the shells are spread to the breeze. The former creature delights (he continues) to carry and the latter to steer, and this pleasure penetrates two senseless things at onceunless perhaps human calamity forms part of the motive, for it is an established fact that this is a disastrous omen for mariners.
L. In the bloodless class, the langouste is protected by a fragile rind. Langoustes stay in retirement for five months in each year; and likewise crabs, which go into hiding at the same season; and both species discard their old age at the beginning of spring in the same way as snakes do, by renewing their skins. All other aquatic species swim, but langoustes float about in the manner of reptiles; if no danger threatens they go forward in a straight course with their horns, which are buttoned by their own rounded ends, stretched out at their sides, but at a moment of alarm they advance slanting sideways with their horns held erect. They use their horns in fighting one another. The langouste is the only animal whose flesh is of a yielding texture with no hardness, unless it is boiled alive its hot water. Langoustes live in rocky places, whereas crabs live on soft mud. In winter they haunt sunny shores, but in summer they retire into the dim depths of the sea. All creatures of this class suffer in winter, but get fat in autumn and spring, and more so at full moon, because the moon mellows them with its warm glow by night.
LI. The kinds of crab are the carabus, the crayfish, the spider-crab, the hermit-crab, the Heraclean crab, the lion-crab and other inferior species. The carabus differs from the other crabs by its tail; in Phoenicia it is called the horse-crab, being so swift that it is impossible to overtake it. Crabs are long-lived. They have eight feet, all curved crooked; the front foot is double in the female and single in the male. They also have two claws with denticulated nippers; the upper half of the forepart of these moves and the lower half is fixed. The right claw is the larger in every specimen. Sometimes crabs all collect together in a flock. They cannot make the mouth of the Black Sea against the current, and consequently when they are going out of it they travel round in a circle and appear to be following a beaten track. The one called the pea-crab is the smallest of the whole tribe, and consequently very liable to injury. It has the cunning to stow itself in empty bivalve shells and to shift into roomier ones as it grows bigger. When alarmed crabs can retreat backwards with equal speed. They fight duels with one another like rams; charging with horns opposed. They afford a remedy against snake-bite. It is related that when the sun is passing through the sign of Cancer the bodies of crabs also when they expire are transformed into scorpions during the drought.
The sea-urchin, which has spines instead of feet, belongs to the same genus. These creatures can only go forward by rolling over and over, and consequently they are often found with their prickles worn off. Those of them with the longest spines are called echinus cidaris, and the smallest are called cups. They have not all the same transparent colour: in the district of Torone some are born white, with a small spine. The eggs of all have a bitter taste; they are laid in clutches of five. Their mouths are in the middle of their body, on the under side. lit is said that they can forecast a rough sea and that they take the precaution of clutching stones and steadying their mobility by the weight: they do not want to wear away their spines by rolling about. When sailors see them doing this they at once secure their vessels with more anchors.
In the same family are water and land snails, that protrude out of their abode and shoot out and draw in two horns as it were. They have no eyes, and consequently explore the way in front of them with their little horns.
Sea-scallops are held to belong to the same class, which also retire into hiding at seasons of extreme cold and extreme heat; and piddocks, which shine as if with fire in dark places, even the mouth of persons eating them.
LII. We now come to the purples and the varieties of shell-fish, which have a stronger shell. The latter display in great variety nature's love of sport: they show so many differences of colour, and also of shapebeing flat, hollow, long, crescent-shaped, circular, semi-circular, humped, smooth, wrinkled, serrated, furrowed; with the crest bent into the shape of a purple, the edge projecting into a sharp point, or spread outwards, or folded inwards; and again picked out with stripes or with flowing locks or with curls, or parted in little channels or like the teeth of a comb, or corrugated like tiles, or reticulated into lattice-work, or spread out slant-wise or straight, close-packed, diffused, curled; tied up in a short knot, or linked up all down the side, or opened so as to shut with a snap, or curved so as to make a trumpet. Of this species the Venus-shell sails like a ship, and projecting its hollow portion and setting it to catch the wind goes voyaging over the surface of the water. The scallop gives a leap and soars out of the water, and it also uses its own shell as a boat.
LIII. But why do I mention these trifles when their moral corruption and luxury spring from no other source in greater abundance than from the genus shell-fish? It is true that of the whole of nature the sea is most detrimental to the stomach in a multitude of ways, with its multitude of dishes and of appetizing kinds of fish to which the profits made by those who catch them spell danger. But what proportion do these form when we consider purple and scarlet robes and pearls! It had been insufficient, forsooth, for the seas to be stowed into our gullets, were they not carded on the hands and in the ears and on the head and all over the body of women and men alike. What connexion is there between the sea and our clothing, between the waves and waters and woollen fabric? We only enter that element in a proper manner when we are naked! Granted that there is so close an alliance between it and our stomach, but what has it to do with our backs? Are we not content to feed on dangers without also being clothed with them? Is it that the rule that we get most satisfaction from luxuries costing a human life to procure holds good for the whole of our anatomy?
LIV. The first place therefore and the topmost rank among all things of price is held by pearls. These are sent chiefly by the Indian Ocean, among the huge and curious animals that we have described as coming across all those seas over that wide expanse of lands from those burning heats of the sun. And to procure them for the Indians as well, men go to the islandsand those quite few in number: the most productive is Ceylon, and also Stoidis, as we said in our circuit of the world, and also the Indian promontory of Perimula; but those round Arabia on the Persian Gulf of the Red Sea are specially praised.
The source and breeding-ground of pearls are shells not much differing from oyster-shells. These, we are told, when stimulated by the generative season of the year gape open as it were and are filled with dewy pregnancy, and subsequently when heavy are delivered, and the offspring of the shells are pearls that correspond to the quality of the dew received: if it was a pure inflow, their brilliance is conspicuous but if it was turbid, the product also becomes dirty in colour. Also if the sky is lowering (they say) the pearl is pale in colour: for it is certain that it was conceived from the sky, and that pearls have more connexion with the sky than with the sea, and derive from it a cloudy hue, or a clear one corresponding with a brilliant morning. If they are well fed in due season, the offspring also grows in size. If there is lightning, the shells shut up, and diminish in size in proportion to their abstinence from food; but if it also thunders they are frightened and shut up suddenly, producing what are called 'wind-pearls,' which are only inflated with an empty, unsubstantial show: these are the pearls' miscarriages. Indeed a healthy offspring is formed with a skin of many thicknesses, so that it may not improperly be considered as a hardening of the body; and consequently experts subject them to a cleansing process. I am surprised that though pearls rejoice so much in the actual sky, they redden and lose their whiteness in the sun, like the human body; consequently sea-pearls preserve a special brilliance, being too deeply immersed for the rays to penetrate; nevertheless even they get yellow from age and doze off with wrinkles, and the rigour that is sought after is only found in youth. Also in old age they get thick and stick to the shells, and cannot be torn out of these except by using a file. Pearls with only one surface, and round on that side but flat at the back, are consequently termed tambourine pearls; we have seen them clustering together in shells that owing to this enrichment were used for carrying round perfumes. For the rest, a large pearl is soft when in the water but gets hard as soon as it is taken out.
LV. When a shell sees a hand it shuts itself up and conceals its treasures, as it knows that it is sought for on their account; and if the hand is inserted first it cuts it off with its sharp edge, the most just penalty possiblefor it is armed with other penalties also, as for the most part it is found among rocks, while even in deep water it has sea-dogs a in attendanceyet nevertheless these do not protect it against women's ears. Some accounts say that clusters of shells like bees have one of their number, a specially large and old shell, as their leader, one marvellously skilful in taking precautions; and that these leader-shells are diligently sought for by pearl-divers, as when they are caught all the rest stray about and easily get shut up in the nets, subsequently a quantity of salt being poured over them in earthenware jars; this eats away all the flesh, and a sort of kernels in their bodies, which are pearls, fall to the bottom.
LVI. There is no doubt that pearls are worn away by use, and that lack of care makes them change their colour. Their whole value lies in their brilliance, size, roundness, smoothness and weight, qualities of such rarity that no two pearls are found that are exactly alike: this is doubtless the reason why Roman luxury has given them the name of 'unique gems,' the word not existing in Greece, and indeed among foreign races, who discovered this fact, the only name for them is margarita. There is also a great variety in their actual brilliance; it is brighter with those found in the Red Sea, whereas those found in the Indian Ocean resemble flakes of mica, though they excel others in size. The highest praise given to their colour is for them to be called alum-coloured. The longer ones also have a charm of their own. Those that end in a wider circle, tapering lengthwise in the shape of perfume-caskets, are termed 'probes.' Women glory in hanging these on their fingers and using two or three for a single-earring, and foreign names for this luxury occur, names invented by abandoned extravagance, inasmuch as when they have done this they call them 'castanets,' as if they enjoyed even the sound and the mere rattling together of the pearls; and now-a-days even poor people covet themit is a common saying that a pearl is as good as a lackey for a lady when she walks abroad! And they even use them on their feet, and fix them not only to the laces of their sandals but all over their slippers. In fact, by this time they are not content with wearing pearls unless they tread on them, and actually walk on these unique gems!
There used to be commonly found in our own sea, and more frequently on the coasts of the Thracian Bosphorus, small red gems contained in the shells called mussels. But in Acarnania there grows what is termed the sea-pen; which shows that pearls are not born in only one kind of shell, for Juba also records that the Arabs have a shell resembling a toothed comb, that bristles like a hedgehog, and has an actual pearl, resembling a hailstone, in the fleshy part; this kind of shell is not imported to Rome. And there are not found in Acamania the formerly celebrated pearls of an exceptional size and almost a marble colour. Better ones are found round Actium, but these too are small, and in sea-board Mauretania. Alexander the Encyclopaedist and Sudines think that they grow old and let their colour evaporate.
LVII. It is clear that they are of a fine substance, because no fall can break them. Also they are not always found in the middle of the flesh, but in a variety of places, and before now we have seen them even at the extreme edges, as though in the act of passing out of the shell; and in some cases we have seen four or five pearls in one shell. In weight few specimens have hitherto exceeded half an ounce by more than one scruple. It is established that small pearls of poor colour grow in Britain, since the late lamented Julius desired it to be known that the breastplate which he dedicated to Venus Genetrix in her temple was made of British pearls.
LVIII. I have seen Lollia Paulina, who became the consort of Gaius, not at some considerable or solemn ceremonial celebration but actually at an ordinary betrothal banquet, covered with emeralds and pearls interlaced alternately and shining all over her head, hair, ears, neck and fingers, the sum total amounting to the value of 40,000,000 sesterces, she herself being ready at a moment's notice to give documentary proof of her title to them; nor had they been presents from an extravagant emperor, but ancestral possessions, acquired in fact with the spoil of the provinces. This is the final outcome of plunder, it was for this that Marcus Lollius disgraced himself by taking gifts from kings in the whole of the East, and was cut out of his list of friends by Gaius Caesar son of Augustus and drank poisonthat his granddaughter should be on show in the lamplight covered with 40,000,000 sesterces! Now let some one reckon up on one side of the account how much Curius or Fabricius carried in their triumphs, and picture to himself the spoils they displayed, and on the other side Lollia, a single little lady reclining at the Emperor's sideand would he not think it better that they should have been dragged from their chariots than have won their victories with this result? Nor are these the topmost instances of luxury. There have been two pearls that were the largest in the whole of history; both were owned by Cleopatra, the last of the Queens of Egyptthey had come down to her through the hands of the Kings of the East. When Antony was gorging daily at recherch banquets, she with a pride at once lofty and insolent, queenly wanton as she was, poured contempt on all his pomp and splendour, and when he asked what additional magnificence could be contrived, replied that she would spend 10,000,000 sesterces on a single banquet. Antony was eager to learn how it could be done, although he thought it was impossible. Consequently bets were made, and on the next day, when the matter was to be decided, she set before Antony a banquet that was indeed splendid, so that the day might not be wasted, but of the kind served every dayAntony laughing and expostulating at its niggardliness. But she vowed it was a mere additional douceur, and that the banquet would round off the account and her own dinner alone would cost 10,000,000 sesterces, and she ordered the second course to be served. In accordance with previous instructions the servants placed in front of her only a single vessel containing vinegar, the strong rough quality of which can melt pearls. She was at the moment wearing in her ears that remarkable and truly unique work of nature. Antony was full of curiosity to see what in the world she was going to do. She took one earring off and dropped the pearl in the vinegar, and when it was melted swallowed it. Lucius Plancus, who was umpiring the wager, placed his hand on the other pearl when she was preparing to destroy it also in a similar way, and declared that Antony had lost the battlean ominous remark that came true. With this goes the story that, when that queen who had won on this important issue was captured, the second of this pair of pearls was cut in two pieces, so that half a helping of the jewel might be in each of the ears of Venus in the Pantheon at Rome.
LIX. They will not carry off this trophy, and will be robbed even of the record for luxury! A predecessor had done this at Rome in the case of pearls of great value, Clodius, the son of the tragic actor Aesopus, who had left him his heir in a vast estate; so that Antony cannot take too much pride in his triumvirate when compared with one who was virtually an actor, and who had indeed been led on to this display not by any wagerwhich would make it more royalbut to discover by experiment, for the honour of his palate, what is the exact flavour of pearls; and when they proved marvellously acceptable, in order not to keep the knowledge to himself he gave his guests also a choice pearl apiece to swallow.
Fenestella records that they came into common use at Rome after the reduction of Alexandria under our sway, but that small and cheap pearls first came in about the period of Sulla which is clearly a mistake, as Aelius Stilo states that the distinctive name was given to large pearls just at the time of the wars of Jugurtha.
LX. And nevertheless this article is an almost everlasting piece of propertyit passes to its owner's heir, it is offered for public sale like some landed estate; whereas every hour of use wears away robes of scarlet and purple, which the same mother, luxury, has made almost as costly as pearls.
Purples live seven years at most. They stay in hiding like the murex for 30 days at the time of the rising of the dog-star. They collect into shoals in springtime, and their rubbing together causes them to discharge a sort of waxy viscous slime. The murex also does this in a similar manner, but it has the famous flower of purple, sought after for dyeing robes, in the middle of its throat: here there is a white vein of very scanty fluid from which that precious dye, suffused with a dark rose colour, is drained, but the rest of the body produces nothing. People strive to catch this fish alive, because it discharges this juice with its life; and from the larger purples they get the juice by stripping off the shell, but they crush the smaller ones alive with the shell, as that is the only way to make them disgorge the juice. The best Asiatic purple is at Tyre, the best African is at Meninx and on the Gaetulian coast of the Ocean, the best European in the district of Sparta. The official rods and axes of Rome clear a path, and it also marks the honourable estate of boyhood; it distinguishes the senate from the knighthood, it is called in to secure the favour of the gods; and it adds radiance to every garment, while in a triumphal robe it is blended with gold. Consequently even the mad lust for the purple may be excused; but what is the cause of the prices paid for purple-shells, which have an unhealthy odour when used for dye and a gloomy tinge in their radiance resembling an angry sea?
The purple's tongue is an inch long; when feeding it uses it for piercing a hole in the other kinds of shell-fish, so hard is its point. These fish die in fresh water and wherever a river discharges into the sea, but otherwise when caught they live as much as seven weeks on their own slime. All shellfish grow with extreme rapidity, especially the purple-fish; they reach their size in a year.
LXI. But if having come to this point our exposition were to pass over elsewhere, luxury would undoubtedly believe itself defrauded and would find us guilty of remissness. For this reason we will pursue the subject of manufactures as well, so that just as the principle of foodstuffs is learnt in food, so everybody who takes pleasure in the class of things in question may be well-informed on the subject of that which is the prize of their mode of life. Shellfish supplying purple dyes and scarletsthe material of these is the same but it is differently blended--are of two kinds: the whelk is a smaller shell resembling the one that gives out the sound of a trumpet, whence the reason of its name, by means of the round mouth incised in its edge; the other is called the purple, with a channelled beak jutting out and the side of the channel tube-shaped inwards, through which the tongue can shoot out; moreover it is prickly all round, with about seven spikes forming a ring, which are not found in the whelk, though both shells have as many rings as they are years old. The trumpet-shell clings only to rocks and can be gathered round crags.
Another name used for the purple is 'pelagia.' There are several kinds, distinguished by food and the ground they live on. The mud-purple feeds on rotting slime and the seaweed-purple on seaweed, both being of a very common quality. A better kind is the reef-purple, collected on the reefs of the sea, though this also is lighter and softer as well. The pebble-purple is named after a pebble in the sea, and is remarkably suitable for purple dyes; and far the best for these is the melting-purple, that is, one fed on a varying kind of mud. Purples are taken in a sort of little lobster-pot of fine ply thrown into deep water. These contain bait, cockles that close with a snap, as we observe that mussels do. These when half-killed but put back into the sea gape greedily as they revive and attract the purples, which go for them with outstretched tongues. But the cockles when pricked by their spike shut up and nip the creatures nibbling them. So the purples hang suspended because of their greed and are lifted out of the water.
LXII. It is most profitable for them to be taken after the rising of the dog-star or before springtime, since when they have waxed themselves over with slime, they have their juices fluid. But this fact is not known to the dyers' factories, although it is of primary importance. Subsequently the vein of which we spoke is removed, and to this salt has to be added, about a pint for every hundred pounds; three days is the proper time for it to be steeped (as the fresher the salt the stronger it is), and it should be heated in a leaden pot, and with 50 lbs. of dye to every six gallons of water kept at a uniform and moderate temperature by a pipe brought from a furnace some way off. This will cause it gradually to deposit the portions of flesh which are bound to have adhered to the veins, and after about nine days the cauldron is strained and a fleece that has been washed clean is dipped for a trial, and the liquid is heated up until fair confidence is achieved. A ruddy colour is inferior to a blackish one. The fleece is allowed to soak for five hours and after it has been carded is clipped again, until it soaks up all the juice. The whelk by itself is not approved of, as it does not make a fast dye; it is blended in a moderate degree with sea-purple and it gives to its excessively dark hue that hard and brilliant scarlet which is in demand; when their forces are thus mingled, the one is enlivened, or deadened as the case may be, by the other. The total amount of dye-stuffs required for 1,000 lbs. of fleece is 200 lbs. of whelk and l11 lbs. of sea-purple; so is produced that remarkable amethyst colour. For Tyrian purple the wool is first soaked with sea-purple for a preliminary pale dressing, and then completely transformed with whelk dye. Its highest glory consists in the colour of congealed blood, blackish at first glance but gleaming when held up to the light; this is the origin of Homer's phrase, 'blood of purple hue.'
LXIII. I notice that the use of purple at Rome dates from the earliest times, but that Romulus used it only for a cloak; as it is fairly certain that the first of the kings to use the bordered robe and broader purple stripe was Tullus Hostilius, after the conquest of the Etruscans. Cornelius Nepos, who died in the principate of the late lamented Augustus, says: 'In my young days the violet purple dye was the vogue, a pound of which sold at 100 denarii; and not much later the red purple of Taranto. This was followed by the double-dyed Tyrian purple, which it was impossible to buy for 1000 denarii per pound. This was first used in a bordered robe by Publius Lentulus Spinther, curule aedile, but met with disapproval, though who does not use this purple for covering dining-couches now-a-days?' Spinther was aedile in the consulship of Cicero, 63 BC. Stuff dipped twice over used at that time to be termed 'double-dyed,' and was regarded as a lavish extravagance, but now almost all the more agreeable purple stuffs are dyed in this way.
LXIV. In a purple-dyed dress the rest of the process is the same except that trumpet-shell dye is not used, and in addition the juice is diluted with water and with human urine in equal quantities; and only half the amount of dye is used. This produces that much admired paleness, avoiding deep colouration, and the more diluted the more the fleeces are stinted.
The prices for dyestuff vary in cheapness with the productivity of the coasts, but those who buy them at an enormous price should know that deep-sea purple nowhere exceeds 50 sesterces and trumpet-shell 100 sesterces per 100 lbs.
LXV. But every end leads to fresh starts, and men make a sport of spending, and like doubling their sports by combining them and re-adulterating nature's adulterations, for instance staining tortoiseshells, alloying gold with silver to produce amber-metal ware, and adding copper to these to make Corinthian ware. It is not enough to have stolen for a dye the name of a gem, 'sober-stone,' but when finished it is made drunk again with Tyrian dye, so as to produce from the combination an outlandish name and a twofold luxury at one time; and when they have made shell-dye, they think it an improvement for it to pass into Tyrian. Repentance must have discovered this first, the artificer altering a product that he disapproved of; but reason sprang up next, and a defect was turned into a success by marvellous inventions, and a double path pointed out for luxury, so that one colour might be concealed by another, being pronounced to be made sweeter and softer by this process; and also a method to blend minerals, and dye with Tyrian a fabric already dyed with scarlet, to produce colour. The kermes, a red kernel of Galatia, as we shall say when dealing with the products of the earth, or else in the neighbourhood of Merida in Lusitania, is most approved. But, to finish off these famous dyes at once, the kernel when a year old has a viscous juice, and also after it is four years old the juice tends to disappear, so that it lacks strength both when fresh and when getting old.
We have amply dealt with the method whereby the beauty of men and women alike believes that it is rendered most abundant.
LXVI. The genus shell-fish also includes the fan-mussel. It occurs in marshy places, always in an upright position, and never without a companion which is called the pea-crab, or by others the sea-pen-protector: this is a small shrimp, elsewhere called a crab, its attendant at the feast. The sea-pen opens, presenting the dark inside of its body to the tiny fishes; these at once dart forward, and when their courage has grown by license, they fill up the sea-pen. Her marker having watched for this moment gives her a signal with a gentle nip. She by shutting up kills whatever she has enclosed, and bestows a share on her partner.
LXVII. This makes me all the more surprised that some people have held the view that aquatic animals possess no senses. The torpedo knows her power, and does not herself possess the torpor she inflicts; she hides by plunging into the mud, and snaps up any fish that have received a shock while swimming carelessly above her. No tender morsel is preferred to the liver of this fish. The sea-frog called the angler-fish is equally cunning: it stirs up the mud and puts out the little horns that project under its eyes, drawing them back when little fishes frisk towards them till they come near enough for it to spring upon them. In a similar manner the skate and the turbot while in hiding put out their fins and wave them about to look like worms, and so also do the fish called rays. For the stingray acts as a freebooter, from its hiding place transfixing fish passing by with its sting, which is its weapon; there are proofs of this cunning, because these fish, though the slowest there are, are found with mullet, the swiftest of all fish, in their belly.
The scolopendra, which resembles the land animal called the centipede, when it has swallowed a hook vomits up the whole of its inwards until it succeeds in disgorging it, and then sucks them back again. Sea-foxes on the other hand in a similar emergency gulp down more of the line till they reach its weak part where they may easily gnaw it off. The fish called the catfish more cautiously nibbles at hooks from behind and strips them of the bait without swallowing them.
The sea-ram goes around like a brigand, and now hides in the shadow of the larger vessels riding at anchor and waits in case somebody may be tempted by the pleasure of a swim, now raises its head out of the water and watches for fishermen's boats, and secretly swimming up to them sinks them.
LXVIII. For my own part I hold the view that even those creatures which have not got the nature of either animals or plants, but some third nature derived from both, possess sense-perceptionI mean jellyfish and sponges.
Jellyfish roam about and change their place by night. These have the nature of a fleshy leaf, and they feed on flesh. The itch they cause has a biting power, just like that of the land nettle. Consequently this creature draws itself in as stiffly as possible and when a little fish swims in front of it spreads out its leaf and enfolding it devours it. In other cases it looks as if it were withering up, and allows itself to be tossed about by the waves like seaweed, and attacks any fish that touch it as they try to scrape away the itch by rubbing against a rock. The same creature by night hunts for scallops and sea-urchins. When it feels a hand approach it, it changes colour and draws itself together. When touched it sends out a burning sting, and if there is a moment's interval hides. It is reported to have mouths in its root and to evacuate its excretions by a narrow tube through its topmost parts.
LXIX. We are informed that there are three kinds of sponge: a thick and very hard and rough one is called goat-thorn sponge, a less thick and softer one loose-sponge, and a thin one of close texture, used for making paintbrushes, Achilles sponge. They all grow on rocks, and feed on shells, fish and mud. These creatures manifestly possess intelligence, because when they are aware of a sponge-gatherer they contract and make it much more difficult to detach them. They do the same when much beaten by the waves. The tiny shells found inside them clearly show that they live by eating food. It is said that in the neighbourhood of Torone they can be fed on these shell-fish even after they have been pulled off the rocks, and that fresh sponges grow again on the rocks from the roots left there; also the colour of blood remains on them, especially on the African ones that grow on the sandbanks. Very large but very soft thin sponges grow round Lycia, though those in deep and calm water are softer; the rough kind grows in the Dardanelles, and the close-textured round Cape Malea. Sponges decay in sunny places, and consequently the best are found in deep pools. Live sponges have the same blackish colour as sponges in use have when wet. They do not cling to the rock with a particular part nor with their entire surface, for they have certain empty tubes, about four or five in number, running through them, through which it is believed that they take their food. They also have other tubes, but these are closed at the upper end; and it is understood that there is a sort of thin skin on the under side of their roots. It is established that they live a long time. The worst of all the species of sponge is one called in Greek the dirty sponge, because it cannot be cleaned; it contains large tubes, and the rest of it is of a very close texture.
LXX. The number of dog-fish specially swarming round sponges beset the men that dive for them with grave danger. These persons also report that a sort of 'cloud' thickens above their headsthis a live creature resembling flatfishpressing them down and preventing them from getting back, and that because of this they have very sharp spikes attached to cords, because the 'clouds' will not withdraw unless stabbed through in this waythis story being the result, as I believe, of darkness and fear; for nobody has ever heard of any such creature in the list of animals as the 'cloud' or 'fog,' which is the name the divers give to this plague. Divers have fierce fights with the dog-fish; these attack their loins and heels and all the white parts of the body. The one safety lies in going for them and frightening them by taking the offensive; for a dog-fish is as much afraid of a man as a man is of it, and so they are on equal terms in deep water. When they come to the surface, then the man is in critical danger, as the policy of taking the offensive is not available while he is trying to get out of the water, and his only safety Is in his comrades. These haul on the rope tied to his shoulders; this, as he carries on the duel, he shakes with his left hand to give a signal of danger, while his right hand grasps his dagger and is occupied in fighting. Most of the time they haul gently, but when he gets near the boat, unless with a quick heave they suddenly snatch him out of the water, they have to look on while he is made away with. And often when divers have already begun to be hauled up they are snatched out of their comrades' hands, unless they have themselves supplemented the aid of those hauling by curling up into a ball. Others of the crew of course thrust out harpoons, but the vast beast is crafty enough to go under the vessel and so carry on the battle in safety. Consequently divers devote their whole attention to keeping a watch against this disaster; the most reliable token of safety is to have seen some flatfish, which are never found where these noxious creatures areon account of which divers call them the holy fish.
LXXI. It must be agreed that creatures enclosed in a flinty shell, such as oysters, have no senses. Many have the same nature as a bush, for instance the sea-cucumber, the sea-lung, the starfish. And to no such an extent is it the case that everything grows in the sea, that even the creatures found in inns in summertimethose that plague us with a quick jump or those that hide chiefly in the hairoccur there, and are often drawn out of the water clustering round the bait; and their irritation is thought to disturb the sleep of fish in the sea at night. Indeed on some kinds of fish these vermin actually breed as parasites; the herring is believed to be one of these.
LXXII. Nor are there wanting dire poisons, as in the sea-hare which in the Indian Ocean infects even by its touch, immediately causing vomiting and laxity of the stomach, and in our own seas the shapeless lump resembling a hare in colour only, whereas the Indian variety is also like a hare in size and in fur, only its fur is harder; and there it is never taken alive. An equally pestiferous creature is the weaver, which wounds with the sharp point of its dorsal fin. But there is nothing in the world more execrable than the sting projecting above the tail of the stingray which our people call the parsnip-fish; it is five inches long, and kills trees when driven into the root, and penetrates armour like a missile, with the force of steel and with deadly poison.
LXXIII. We are not told that the various kinds of fish suffer from endemic diseases, as do all other even wild animals; but that individuals among them are liable to illness is proved by the emaciated condition of some fish contrasted with the extreme fatness of others. of the same kind when caught.
LXXIV. The curiosity and wonder of mankind does not allow us to postpone the consideration of these animals' method of reproduction. Fish couple by rubbing their bellies together so quickly as to escape the sight; dolphins and the rest of the large marine species couple in a similar manner, but with rather longer contact. At the coupling season the female fish pursues the male, nudging his belly with her nose, but directly after the eggs are born the males similarly pursue the females and eat their eggs. Copulation is not enough in itself to cause the birth of offspring, unless when the eggs are laid the males swim to and fro sprinkling them with life-giving milk. This is not achieved with all the eggs in so great a multitudeotherwise the seas and marshes would be completely filled, since the uterus of a single fish holds a countless number of eggs.
Fishes' eggs in the sea grow in size, some with extreme rapidity, for instance those of the murena, some a little more slowly. Flat fish not possessing a tail, and sting-ray and tortoises, cover the female in mating, polyps couple by attaching a single feeler to the female's nostrils, the two varieties of cuttle-fish with their tongues, linking their arms together and swimming in opposite directions; they also spawn through the mouth. But polyps couple with their head turned towards the ground, all the other soft fishes with their backs--for instance sea-dogs, and also langoustes and prawns; crabs with their mouth. Frogs cover the female, the male grasping her shoulder-blades with his forefeet and her buttocks with his hind feet. They spawn very small lumps of dark flesh that are called tadpoles, possessing only eyes and a tail; but soon feet are formed by the tail dividing into two hind legs. And strange to say, after six months of life they melt invisibly back into mud, and again in the waters of springtime are reborn what they were before, equally owing to some hidden principle of nature, as it occurs every year. Also mussels and scallops are produced by spontaneous generation in sandy waters; fish with harder shells, like the two varieties of purple-fish, are generated by a sticky juice like saliva, as gnats are by moisture turning sour; the anchovy by sea-foam growing warm when rain gets into it; but fish protected by a flinty covering, like oysters, are generated by rotting mud, or by the foam round ships that stay moored for some time, and especially round stakes fixed in the ground, and timber. It has recently been discovered in oyster-beds that a fertilizing moisture flows out of these fish like milk. Eels rub against rocks and the scrapings come to life; this is their only way of breeding. Different kinds of fish do not mate together, except the skate and the ray, the cross between which is like a ray in front, and bears in Greece a name derived from the names of both parents.
Some creatures are born at a fixed season of the year, water species as well as those on land: scallops of and slugs and leeches in the spring; these also pass away at a fixed season. Among fish the wolf-fish and the sardine breed twice a year, and so do all the rock-fish; some breed three times, for instance the herring; carp six times; sea-scorpions and twice, in spring and autumn: of the flat fish only the skate twice, in the autumn and at the setting of the Pleiades; most fish in the three months of April, May and June; the stockfish in the autumn, the aargus, the torpedo and the squalus at the season of the equinox; soft fish in the spring; the cuttlefish in all the monthsits eggs stick together with an inky gum like a bunch of grapes, and the male directs his breath upon them, otherwise they are barren. Polyps mate in winter and lay eggs in spring that cluster in a twisting coil; and they are so prolific that when they are killed the cavity of their head will not hold the multitude of eggs that they carried in it when pregnant. They lay them after seven weeks, many of them perishing because of their number. Langoustes rind the rest of the species with rather thin shells deposit their eggs underneath them and so hatch them; the female polyp now sits on the eggs and now forms a closed cavern with her tentacles intertwined in a lattice. The sepia lays on land among reeds or wherever there is seaweed growing, and hatches after a fortnight. The cuttlefish produces its eggs in deep water clustered together like those of the sepia. The purple-fish, the murex and their kind spawn in spring. Sea-urchins have eggs at the full moons in winter, and snails are born in the winter time.
LXXV. The electric ray is found having broods numbering eighty; also it produces exceedingly small eggs inside it, shifting them to another part of the womb and emitting them there; and similarly all the species that we have designated cartilaginous: thus it comes about that these are the only fish kinds that are both viviparous and oviparous. With the catfish alone of all species the male guards the eggs, often for as long as 50 days at a time, to prevent their being eaten by other fish. The females of all the other species spawn in thee days if a male has touched them.
LXXVI. The horn-fish or garfish is the only fish so prolific that its matrix is ruptured when it spawns; after spawning the wound grows together, which is said to happen in the case of blindworms also. The sea-mouse digs a trench in the ground to lay its eggs in and covers it again with earth, and a month later digs the earth up again and opens the trench and leads its brood into the water.
LXXVII. The red mullet and the sea-perch are said to have wombs. The species called by the Greeks hoop-fish is said to practise self-impregnation. The offspring of all aquatic animals are blind at birth.
LXXVIII. There has recently been sent to us a remarkable case of longevity in fishes. In Campania not far from Naples, there is a country house named Posilipo; Annaeus Seneca writes that in Caesar's fishponds on this property a fish thrown in by Polio Vedius had died after reaching the age of 60, while two others of the same breed that were of the same age were even then living. The mention of fishponds reminds me to say a little more on this topic before leaving the subject of aquatic animals.
LXXIX. Oyster ponds were first invented by Sergius Orata on the Gulf of Baiae, in the time of the orator Lucius Crassus, before the Marsian war his motive was not greed but avarice, and he made a great profit out of his practical ingenuity, as he was the first inventor of shower-bathshe used to fit out country houses in this way and then sell them. He was the first to adjudge the best flavour to Lucrine oystersbecause the same kinds of fish are of better quality In different places, for example wolf-fish in the Tiber between the two bridges, turbot at Ravenna, lamprey in Sicily, sturgeon at Rhodes, and other kinds likewisenot to carry out this census of the larder to its conclusion. The coasts of Britain were not yet in service when Orata used to advertise the fame of the products of the Lago Lucrino; but subsequently it was deemed worth while to send to the end of Italy, to Brindisi, for oysters, and to prevent a quarrel between the two delicacies the plan has lately been devised of feeding away in the Lago Lucrino the hunger caused by the long porterage from Brindisi.
LXXX. In the same period the elder Licinius Murena invented fishponds for all the other sorts of fish, and his example was subsequently followed by the celebrated record of Philip and Hortensius. Lucullus had built a channel that cost more than a country house, by actually cutting through a mountain near Naples and letting in the sea; this was why Pompey the Great used to call him 'Xerxes in Roman dress.' After his decease the fish from this pond sold for 4,000,000 sesterces.
LXXXI. The first person to devise a separate pond for lampreys was Gaius Hirrius, who added to the triumphal banquets of Caesar lampreys to the number of 6000as a loan, because he would not exchange them for money or for any other commodity. His less than moderate country estate was sold by its fishponds for 4,000,000 sesterces. Subsequently affection for individual fishes came into fashion. At Baculo in the Baiae district the pleader Hortensius had a fishpond containing a lamprey which he fell so deeply in love with that he is believed to have wept when it expired. At the same country house Drusus's wife Antonia adorned her favourite lamprey with earrings, and its reputation made some people extremely eager to visit Baculo.
LXXXII. Ponds for keeping snails were first made by Fulvius Lippinus in the Trachina district a little before the civil war fought with Pompey the Great; indeed he kept the different kinds of snails separate, with different compartments for the white snails that grow in the Rieti territory and for the Illyrian variety distinguished for size, the African for fecundity and the Solitane for breed. Moreover he devised a method of fattening them with new wine boiled down and spelt and other kinds of fodder, so that gastronomy was enriched even by fattened oysters; and according to Marcus Varro this ostentatious science was carried to such lengths that a single snail-shell was large enough to hold 80 quarts.
LXXXIII. Moreover some wonderful kinds of fish are reported by Theophrastus. He says that (1) where the rivers debouch around the water-meadows of Babylon a certain fish stays in caverns that contain springs and goes out from them to feed, walking with its fins by means of a repeated movement of the tail, and guards against being caught by taking refuge in its caves and remaining in them facing towards the opening, and that these fishes' heads resemble a sea-frog's and the rest of its parts a goby's, though the gills are the same as in other fish. (2) In the neighbourhood of Heraclea and Cromna and in many parts of the Black Sea there is one kind that frequents the water at the edge of rivers and makes itself caverns in the ground and lives in these, and also in the shore of tidal rivers when left dry by the tide; and consequently they are only dug up when the movement of their bodies shows that they are alive. (3) In the same neighbourhood of Heraclea at the outflow of the river Lycus fishes are born from eggs left in the mud that seek their fodder by flapping with their little gills, and this makes them not need moisture, which is the reason why eels also live comparatively long when taken out of the water, while eggs mature in a dry place, for instance tortoise's eggs. (4) In the same region of the Black Sea the fish most frequently caught in the ice is the goby, which is only made to reveal the movement of life by the heat of the saucepan. These accounts indeed, however marvellous, do nevertheless embody a certain principle. The same authority reports that in Paphlagonia earth-fish extremely acceptable for food are dug out of deep trenches in places where there is no overflow from streams; and after himself expressing surprise at their being propagated without coupling, he gives the view that at all events they have a supply of moisture in them similar to that in wellsbut as if fish were found in any wells! Whatever the fact is as to this, it certainly makes the life of moles, an underground animal, less remarkable, unless perhaps these fishes also possess the nature of earth-worms.
LXXXIV. But credibility is given to all these statements by the flooding of the Nile, with a marvel that surpasses them all: this is that, when the river withdraws its covering, water-mice are found with the work of generative water and earth uncompletedthey are already alive in a part of their body, but the most recently formed part of their structure is still of earth.
LXXXV. Nor is it proper to omit the stories about the anthias fish that I notice to have won general acceptance. We have mentioned the Swallow Islands, situated off a promontory of Mt. Taurus in the rocky sea of Asia; this fish is frequent there, and is quickly caught, in one variety. A fisherman sails out a certain distance in a small boat, wearing clothes that match the boat in colour, and at the same time for several days running, and throws out bait; but if any alteration whatever be made, the prey suspects a trick and avoids the thing that has frightened it. When this has been done a number of times, at last one anthias is tempted by familiarity to try to get the bait. This one is marked down with careful attention as a foundation for hope and as a decoy for a catch; and it is not difficult to mark it, as for several days only this one ventures to come close. At last it finds others as well, and gradually enlarging its company finally brings shoals too big to count, as by this time all the oldest fish have got used to recognizing the fisherman and snatching the bait out of his hand. Then he throws a hook fixed in the bait a little beyond his fingers, and catches or rather rushes them one by one, snatching them with a short jerk away from the shadow of the boat so that the others may not notice it, while another man in the boat receives the catch in some rags so that no flapping or noise may drive away the others. It pays to know the decoy fish for this purpose, so that he may not be caught, as thenceforward the shoal will swim away. There is a story that a disaffected partner in a fishery lay in wait for the leader fish, which was very well known, and caught it, with malicious intent; Mucianus adds that it was recognized in the market by the partner who was being victimized, and that proceedings for damage were instituted and a verdict given for the prosecution with damages as assessed. Moreover it is said that when these fishes see one of their number hooked they cut the line with the sawlike prickles that they have on their back, while the one held by the line draws it taut so as to enable it to be severed. With the satgus kind however the captive itself rubs the line against the rocks.
LXXXVI. Besides these eases I observe that authors renowned for their wisdom express surprise at there being a star in the sea: that is the shape of the fish which has rather little, flesh inside it but a rather hard rind outside. They say that this fish contains such fiery heat that it scorches all the things it touches in the sea, and digests all food immediately. I cannot readily say by what experiments this has been ascertained, and I should consider a fact that there is daily opportunity of experiencing to be much more worth recording.
LXXXVII. The class shellfish includes the piddock, named finger-mussel from its resemblance to a human fingernail. It is the nature of these fish to shine in darkness with a bright light when other light is removed, and in proportion to their amount of moisture to glitter both in the mouth of persons masticating them and in their hands, and even on the floor and on their clothes when drops fall from them, making it clear beyond all doubt that their juice possesses a property that we should marvel at even in a solid object.
LXXXVIII. There are also remarkable facts as to their quarrels and their friendship. Violent animosity rages between the mullet and the wolf-fish, and between the conger and the lamprey, which gnaw each other's tails. The langouste is so terrified of the polyp that it dies if it merely sees one near to it, and so does the conger if it sees a langouste; while on the other hand congers tear a polyp to pieces. Nigidius states that the wolf-fish gnaws at the tail of the mullet, although they are friendly together in certain months, but that all the mullets with their tails amputated in this way continue to live. But on the other hand instances of friendship, in addition to the creatures whose alliance we have mentioned, are the whale and the sea-mouse: because the whale's eyes are overburdened with the excessively heavy weight of its brows the seamouse swims in front of it and points out the shallows dangerous to its bulky size, so acting as a substitute for eyes.
There will follow an account of the natures of birds.