19 May 2015

Antigonus 89–92: Corpse-born snakes and other matters

89(96)[1] This, too, is singular, that when the spinal chord of certain corpses rots, small snakes [ophis] are generated from the spine, if before death they breathe in the odour of a deadly snake. [2] We have already encountered an epigram of Archelaus, of whom I have formerly made mention, who wrote this also about marvels and says:
All things through themselves does much time seal up;
From the chord of the hollow spine of a man
Comes a terrible serpent, when the worthless body has rotted,
Which takes on a new life from this prodigy,
Dragging living being from the dead: if this is so,
It is no marvel for Cecrops to have sprouted a double form.
So we can make this [fact] rest on both common hearsay and, more esoterically, the evidence of the epigram.

90(97) Aristotle says that a living thing is generated in wax, which is held to be the smallest of all and is called 'akari'.

91(98) The river-crocodile [krokodeilos] goes from being very small to very great in size: for though its egg is no larger than that of the goose, the crocodile itself grows to seventeen cubits.

92(99)[1] Octopi [polypous] rule over crayfish [karabos], for they suffer nothing under their carapace. [2] And over octopi, the conger eels [gongros], for the octopi are unable to deal with them because of their smoothness. [3] And over the conger, the crayfish: for it does not glance off [the eel] but cuts it to pieces because of the jaggedness of its shell.

Cross-references: Not available

© R. Hardiman 2015

Image Credits
Etching by Heath (Wellcome Trust, via Wikimedia Commons)

Antigonus 84–88: Put out the fire and come eat the parents ...

84(a)(90)[1] In the snow there are shaggy worm-like creatures. [2] In Cyprus, where copper ore is smelted, a creature slightly larger than a fly is generated: the same thing happens in the furnaces at Carystus. [3] Some things die when separated from snow, others, from fire.
(b)(91) The salamander extinguishes fire.

Salamander, detail from ms. c.1270
85(92) [Aristotle] says that around the river Hypanis in the Cimmerian Bosphoros, about the summer solstice, things like wallets, larger than grapes, are carried down, from which when they break open a four-footed animal emerges which lives for one day: it is singular as a winged creature in being four-legged.

86(93) Hives come to destruction if there are no leaders or, on the contrary, there are [too] many.

87(94)[1] Land scorpions [skorpios] are killed by their children. [2] The venom-spider [phalangion], too, kills its mother and often its male parent as well, for they incubate the eggs jointly.

88(95) Things like small eruptions form in human flesh: if one pricks them, lice [phtheir] emerge; and if a person is moist, this disease can be fatal as with Alcman the lyric poet and Pherecydes the Syrian.

Cross-references: Not available

© R. Hardiman 2015

Image Credits
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. Ludwig XV 3, fol. 95v

Antigonus 78–83: Coloured flocks, androgynous eels, and other curiosities

78(84)[1] If sheep drink from the river called Psychros in the Chalcidice, by Thrace, it causes their offspring to be black. [2] And in Antandria there are two rivers, of which one makes offspring white, the other, black. [3] The Scamander is supposed to make them yellow, and because of this the Poet addressed it as “Xanthus” [i.e., 'yellow'] instead of “Scamandrus”. [4] And in Euboea, along the Histiaean boundary with Chalcis, there are two rivers, Ceron and Neleus, from which if goats drink about the time of conception, they give birth to black [offspring] if from the river Ceron and white, if from the Neleus.

So my mother drank from the Ceron and the Neleus ... what's it to you?
79(85) He [Aristotle] says that ants, when sprinkled with oregano and sulphur, abandon their anthill.

80(86) The eel is neither male nor female.

81(87) With partridges, if the female stands downwind of the male, it becomes pregnant.

82(88) The so-called starfish is so hot that whatever fish it catches hold of is at once scorched.

83(89) And the sponge has perception: if it becomes aware that someone is about to pull it off, it contracts and is a hard job to remove. The same thing happens when there is wind or a rough sea.

Cross-references: Not available

© R. Hardiman 2015

Image Credits
Valais Blackneck goat, by Quartl via Wikimedia Commons

15 March 2015

Antigonus 67–77: Bony hearts and moving horns

67(73) The genitals of the weasel [gale] are bony.

68(74) The male has more teeth than the female in both man [anthropos] and the other animals.

69(75) The heart of the horse [hippos] is bony, as is that of some cattle [bous].

70(76) Of deer [elaphos], the so-called achaïnai seem to have gall in the tail.

71(77) Fish [ichthys] do not have a windpipe: because of this, the stomach of larger fish falls forward into their mouths when they chase smaller ones.

72(78)[1] Snakes [ophis] have thirty ribs. [2] And if one pricks their eyes out, they grow back again, just like those of the swallow [chelidon].

Hmmm ... someone's counting isn't all that it might be ...

73(79) Of the fish, the parrot-wrasse [skaros] is the only one which ruminates.

74(80) The bones of the lion [leon] are so hard that when they are struck frequently they light fire.

75(81) In Phrygia there are cattle which can move their horns.

76(82) Those creatures that have feet and are viviparous have hair, those that have feet and are oviparous, scales.

77(83) In some cases, when they are sick they become grey, but when healthy grow black again.

Cross-references: available

© R. Hardiman 2015

Image Credits
Skeleton of a snake at the Natural History Museum, via Wikimedia Commons

Antigonus 60–66: Some general comments on animal behaviour and physiology

60(a)(65) [Aristotle] says that the goatherds say that when the sun turns most quickly, the goats [aix] lie down facing each other.
(b)(66) Lycus narrates something similar to this. He says that in Libya the flocks [ktene]—of which some, for the rest of the time, sleep facing one another while others sleep in whatever way they chance to lie down—on the night on which the dog-star rises, are turned towards that same star. The inhabitants use this as evidence of its rising.
Aristotle also goes through other such matters, apart from the instincts of animals concerning their way of life, using a great deal of care in the majority of his works and not using anything inconsequential in his explanation. In total, he has written nearly seventy books on these matters, and has tried to dwell more on explanation than on narrative in each. As regards my excerpt, it is sufficient for it to summarize the strange and paradoxical content of both the aforementioned and his other writings.

61(67) He says that all the land animals which have lungs breathe but that wasps [sphex] and bees [melissa] do not breathe.

62(68) Of those that have bladders, all have intestines as well, but of those that have intestines, not all have bladders.

63(69) While many animals are bloodless, on the whole they are those which have more than four feet.

64(70) Of those that have hair, all give birth to living offspring, but the reverse is not the case.

65(71) All creatures can move their lower jaw except the crocodile [krokodeilos], which can only move its upper jaw.

66(72) Among the Illyrians and in Paeonia there is a <pig> [hys] with uncloven feet; of the two-horned animals, no specimen with uncloven hoof is to be found, and <few> one-horned beasts with uncloven hoof, like the Indian ass* [Indikos onos] (this animal alone of the uncloven-footed has a knucklebone, too).

*Unicorn, or possibly rhinoceros.

Cross-references: available

© R. Hardiman 2015

06 February 2015

Solinus Books I and II

"These make yeerely sacrifice to Apollo at the Mountaine Soractee, and in performing thereof, doo in honor of the divine service friske and dawnce uppe and downe upon the burning wood without harme, the fire sparing them." [Solinus Bk. II Ch. 26].

All of Solinus Book I and Book II are now available: you can friske and dawnce to them via the links.

02 February 2015

Solinus Book I 71–80

"Milo also of Croton is reported to have doone all thinges above the reache of Mans power. Of who this is left in wryting, that with the stroke of his bare fist, he felled an Oxe starke dead, and eate him upp himselfe alone the same day that he killed him, without overcharging his stomack."
[Solinus I 76. See chapters 71–80 here]

56–59: The curious breeding habits of wolves; some animal enmities

56(61) Concerning the parturition of wolves [lykos], [Aristotle] makes a precise relation of something fabulous (though he does so as one who is conscious of this): for he says that they all give birth in a single twelve-day period of the year. The reason for this, as the story goes, is that they brought Leto from the Hyperboreans to Delos in twelve days, during which time she was in the form of a wolf.

57(62) The owl [glaux] and the crow [korone] are enemies: while the crow <steals away the eggs> of the owl by day because the owl cannot see, the owl does the same to the crow by night because the crow cannot see. So while one rules by night, the other does by day.

58(63) The ass [onos] and the aigithos, too, are at war with one another: for [the ass] comes by and scratches itself on the thorns and because of this, and whenever it brays, it throws out the eggs of the aigithos and the nestlings fall out in fright. Because of this injury, the aigithos flies at it and pecks its sores.

59(64) And the merlin [aisalon] is enemy to the fox [alopex], but the raven [korax] and the fox are friends—the raven, too, makes war on the merlin, which is why it comes to the aid of the fox when the latter is struck.

Cross-references: available

© R. Hardiman 2014

Image Credits
Turi MacCombie 'Fox Standing with Ravens' (watercolour) | R. Michelson Galleries

01 February 2015

Antigonus 53–55: The dangers of scaring a bison shitless, and other animal matters

53(58)[1] They say that the bison [monapos] is found in Paeonia on the mountain of Marsanos [=Messapium] and that it has no upper teeth, like the ox or any other two-horned beast, and in other respects is similar to the bull. [2] When it is pursued, it projects its excrement quite a distance; whenever it does this in fright, its dung burns in such a way that the hounds’ hair falls out, but if it does it free from fear, nothing suffers or is injured.

A monapos (a.k.a. bonasos, bolinthos) adopts a defensive posture ...
54(a)(58[3]) < . . . . . > if [a bull elephant [elephas]] mates with [a female] and makes it pregnant, it does not touch that one again.
(b)(59) They say that the King of Scythia had a noble mare [hippos]: he led a foal born from herself to her so that it might mate, but [the foal] was unwilling. When they led in the mare having first covered her over, he mounted her, but when she had been unveiled and he saw her face, he fled and threw himself off the cliffs.

55(60)[1] Of marine creatures, the dolphin [delphis] is the most gentle—indeed, they comport themselves passionately towards boys, as [happens] around Tarentum, Caria and many other places. [2] In Caria, when a dolphin had been captured and had received many wounds, many of them came into the harbour to its aid until the fisherman let it go.

Cross-references: available

© R. Hardiman 2015

Image Credits
Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º, f10r (via The Medieval Bestiary)

26 December 2014

Antigonus 50–52: Some habits and characteristics of octopi and bees

Mosaic from Roman house in Rimini
50(55) [1] The octopus [polypous] puts food into chambers and whenever the useful bits are used up, expels the unusable and preys on those little fish [ichthydion] which come to [feed on] the cast-offs by changing its colour close to that of the stones it happens to be nearby. [2] It does the same thing whenever it is frightened.

51(56) Now the nautilus octopus [nautilos polypous] is also unusual in what it does, for it has a shell which it turns downward on ascending so that it might more easily be propelled with it empty, but when it descends from above, it reverses it. It has webbing like a membrane between its tentacles up to a certain point and this, whenever there is a breeze, it uses as a sail, and instead of steering-oars lets down <two> of its tentacles alongside.

Bees returning to their hive
52(a)(57)[1] When bees have been fumigated and are badly affected by the smoke, it is then most of all that they eat <honey>, but for the rest of the time they use it sparingly as if storing it by as food.
[2] They smear the hive with drops from the trees as a protection against other animals. [3] When the worker bees kill [other bees], they try to do it outside: if they kill within the hive, they carry out the body. [4] The so-called ‘robber’ bees do damage if they come in unnoticed. But they seldom enter—for they are watched out for and guards are placed everywhere. [5] There are bees appointed to each of the tasks: some gather flowers, others level the combs. [6] They are disgusted both by the bad smell of food and by perfume, and go away [from the hive] to discharge their excrement. [7] And the elders work inside < . . . . . >
(b)(57) If one takes a wasp [sphex] by the legs and lets its wings buzz, he [i.e. Aristotle] says that the stingless ones fly towards it but none of those with stings do so.

Cross-references: available

© R. Hardiman 2009–2014

Image Credits
Octopus: Photograph by JoJan, via Wikimedia Commons.

Bees: Detail from a ms in the British Library (Royal 12 C XIX f45)