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Mythical Creatures -

Amazons
The race of Amazons or fighting women, is not yet extinct, ...

Pygmies
The antitheses of men--Dwarfs, and Giants--must not be over...

Giants
This last sentence seems almost a compendium of The History...

Early Men
On the antiquity of man it is impossible to speculate, beca...

Wild Men
Sometimes a specimen of humanity has got astray in infancy,...

Hairy Men
If, as we may conjecture from the above, the ancient Briton...

The Ouran Outan
Transition from hirsute humanity to the apes, is easy, and ...

Satyrs
He also mentions and delineates a curious Ape which closely...

The Sphynx
"The SPHYNGA or Sphinx, is of the kind of Apes, but his bre...

Apes
Sluper, who could soar to the height of delineating a Cyclo...

Animal Lore
We are indebted to Pliny for much strange animal lore--whic...

The Manticora
Of curious animals, other than Apes, depicted as having som...

The Lamia
The Lamiae are mythological--and were monsters of Africa, w...

The Centaur
This extraordinary combination of man and animal is very an...

The Gorgon
In the title-page of one edition of "The Historie of Foure-...

The Unicorn
What a curious belief was that of the Unicorn! Yet what myt...

The Rhinoceros
The true Unicorn is, of course, the Rhinoceros, and this pi...

The Gulo
Olaus Magnus thus describes the Gulo or Gulon:--"Amongst...

The Bear
As Pliny not only uses all Aristotle's matter anent Bears, ...

The Fox
By Englishmen, the Fox has been raised to the height of at ...

The Wolf
The Wolf, as a beast of prey, is invested with a terror pec...

Were-wolves
But of all extraordinary stories connected with the Wolf, i...

The Antelope
When not taken from living specimens, or skins, the arti...

The Horse
Aldrovandus gives us a curious specimen of a horse, which t...

The Mimick Dog
"The Mimicke or Getulian Dogge," is, I take it, meant fo...

The Cat
Aldrovandus gives us a picture of a curly-legged Cat, but, ...

The Lion
Of the great Cat, the Lion, the ancients give many wonderfu...

The Leontophonus The Pegasus The Crocotta
The Lion has a dreadful enemy, according to Pliny, who says...

The Leucrocotta The Eale Cattle Feeding Backwards
"There are oxen, too, like that of India, some with one hor...

Animal Medicine
We have already seen some of the wonderfully curative prope...

The Su
Topsell mentions a fearful beast called the Su. "There is a...

The Lamb-tree
As a change from this awful animal, let us examine the Plan...

The Chimaera
Aldrovandus gives us the accompanying illustration of a ...

The Harpy And Siren
The conjunction of the human form with birds is very eas...

The Barnacle Goose
Of all extraordinary beliefs, that in the Barnacle Goose, w...

Remarkable Egg
No wonder that a credulous age, which could see nothing ...

Moon Woman
One would have imagined that this Egg would be sufficien...

The Griffin
There always has been a tradition of birds being existent, ...

The Phoenix
Pliny says of the Phoenix:--"AEthiopia and India, more espe...

The Swallow
"And is the swallow gone? Who beheld it? Wh...

The Martlet And Footless Birds
Of the Martin, or, as in Heraldry it is written, Martlet, G...

Snow Birds
But we must leave warm climes, and birds of Paradise, and s...

The Swan
The ancient fable so dear, even to modern poets, that Swans...

The Alle Alle
"There is also in this Lake (the White Lake) a kind of b...

The Hoopoe And Lapwing
Whether the following bird is meant for the Hoopoe, or the ...

The Ostrich
Modern observation, and especially Ostrich farming, has ...

The Halcyon
Of this bird, the Kingfisher, Aristotle thus discourses:--"...

The Pelican
The fable of the Pelican "in her piety, vulning herself,...

The Trochilus
This bird, as described by Aristotle, and others, is of a p...

Woolly Hens
Sir John Maundeville saw in "the kingdome named Mancy, whic...

Two-headed Wild Geese
Near the land of the Cynocephali or dog-headed men, there w...

Four-footed Duck
Gesner describes a four-footed duck, which he says is li...

Fish
Terrestrial and Aerial animals were far more familiar to th...

The Sea-mouse
"The Sea-Mouse makes a hole in the Earth, and lays her Eggs...

The Sea-hare
"The Sea-Hare is found to be of divers kinds in the Ocean, ...

The Sea-pig
Again we are indebted to Gesner for the drawing of thi...

The Walrus
Of the Walrus, Rosmarus, or Morse, Gesner draws, and Ola...

The Ziphius
This Voracious Animal, whose size may be imagined by compar...

The Saw Fish
"The Saw fish is also a beast of the Sea; the body is huge ...

The Orca
is probably the Thresher whale. Pliny thus describes it:--"...

The Dolphin
Pliny says:--"The Dolphin is an animal not only friendly to...

The Narwhal
generally called the Monoceros or Sea Unicorn, is thus show...

The Swamfisck
The accompanying illustration, though heading the chapte...

The Sahab
"There is also another Sea-Monster, called Sahab, which hat...

The Circhos
"There is also another Monster like to that, called Circhos...

The Remora
Of this fish Pliny writes:--"There is a very small fish tha...

The Dog-fish And Ray
Olaus Magnus writes of "The cruelty of some Fish, and th...

The Sea Dragon
Of the Ray tribe of fishes, the Sea Dragon is the most ...

The Sting Ray
Pliny mentions the Sting Ray, and ascribes to it marvellous...

Senses Of Fishes
He also tells us about the senses of fishes, and first of t...

Zoophytes
Writing on the lower phases of Marine Animal life, he says:...

Sponges
"We find three kinds of sponges mentioned; the first are th...

The Kraken
This enormous monster, peculiar to the Northern Seas, is sc...

Crayfish And Crabs
Pliny tells us that in the Indian Ocean are Crayfish four c...

The Sea-serpent
Of the antiquity of the belief in the Sea-Serpent there can...

Serpents
Of Serpents Topsell has written a "Historie," which, if not...

The Crocodile
The largest of the Saurians which we have left us, is the C...

The Basilisk And Cockatrice
Aldrovandus portrays the Basilisk with eight legs. Topse...

The Salamander
Many writers have essayed this fabled creature, but almost ...

The Toad
Toads were always considered venomous and spiteful, and the...

The Leech
The Leech has, from a very early age, been used as a means ...

The Scorpion
Of the Scorpion, Pliny says:--"This animal is a dangerous s...

The Ant
No one would credit the industrious Ant, whose ways we are ...

The Bee
The Busy Bee, too, according to Olaus Magnus, developed, in...

The Hornet
So also, up North, they seem to have had a special breed...



The Gorgon








In the title-page of one edition of "The Historie of Foure-footed
Beastes" (1607) Topsell gives this picture of the Gorgon; and he says,
respecting this curious animal, the following:--"Among the manifold and
divers sorts of Beasts which are bred in Affricke, it is thought that
the Gorgon is brought foorth in that countrey. It is a feareful and
terrible beast to behold: it hath high and thicke eie-lids, eies not
very great, but much like an Oxes or Bugils, but all fiery bloudy, which
neyther looke directly forwarde, nor yet upwards, but continuallye downe
to the earth, and therefore are called in Greeke Catobleponta. From
the crowne of their head downe to their nose, they have a long hanging
mane, which makes them to look fearefully. It eateth deadly and
poysonfull hearbs, and if at any time he see a Bull, or other creature
whereof he is afraid, he presently causeth his mane to stand upright,
and, being so lifted up, opening his lips, and gaping wide, sendeth
forth of his throat a certaine sharpe and horrible breath, which
infecteth, and poysoneth the air above his head, so that all living
creatures which draw the breath of that aire are greevously afflicted
thereby, loosing both voyce and sight, they fall into leathall and
deadly convulsions. It is bred in Hesperia and Lybia.



"The Poets have a fiction that the Gorgones were the Daughters of
Medusa and Phorcynis, and are called Steingo, and by Hesiodus,
Stheno, and Eyryale inhabiting the Gorgadion Ilands in the
AEthiopick Ocean, over against the gardens of Hesperia. Medusa is
said to have the haires of his head to be living Serpentes, against whom
Perseus fought, and cut off his hed, for which cause he was placed in
heaven on the North side of the Zodiacke above the Waggon, and on the
left hand holding the Gorgons head. The truth is that there were
certaine Amazonian women in Affricke divers from the Scythians,
against whom Perseus made warre, and the captaine of those women was
called Medusa, whom Perseus overthrew, and cut off her head, and
from thence came the Poet's fiction describing Snakes growing out of it
as is aforesaid. These Gorgons are bred in that countrey, and have
such haire about their heads, as not onely exceedeth all other beastes,
but also poysoneth, when he standeth upright. Pliny calleth this beast
Catablepon,[29] because it continually looketh downwards, and saith
all the parts of it are but smal excepting the head, which is very
heavy, and exceedeth the proportion of his body, which is never lifted
up, but all living creatures die that see his eies.

"By which there ariseth a question whether the poison which he sendeth
foorth, proceede from his breath, or from his eyes. Whereupon it is more
probable, that like the Cockatrice, he killeth by seeing, than by the
breath of his mouth, which is not competible to any other beasts in the
world. Besides, when the Souldiers of Marius followed Iugurtha,
they saw one of these Gorgons, and, supposing it was some sheepe,
bending the head continually to the earth, and moving slowly, they set
upon him with their swords, whereat the Beast, disdaining, suddenly
discovered his eies, setting his haire upright, at the sight whereof the
Souldiers fel downe dead.

"Marius, hearing thereof, sent other souldiers to kill the beaste, but
they likewise died, as the former. At last the inhabitantes of the
countrey, tolde the Captaine the poyson of this beast's nature, and that
if he were not killed upon a Sodayne, with onely the sight of his eies
he sent death into his hunters: then did the Captaine lay an ambush of
souldiers for him, who slew him sodainely with their speares, and
brought him to the Emperour, whereupon Marius sent his skinne to Rome,
which was hung up in the Temple of Hercules, wherein the people were
feasted after the triumphes; by which it is apparent that they kill with
their eies, and not with their breath....

"But to omit these fables, it is certaine that sharp poisoned sightes
are called Gorgon Blepen, and therefore we will followe the Authoritie
of Pliny and Athenaeus. It is a beast set all over with scales like a
Dragon, having no haire except on his head, great teeth like Swine,
having wings to flie, and hands to handle, in stature betwixt a Bull and
a Calfe.

"There be Ilandes called Gorgonies, wherein these monster-Gorgons
were bredde, and unto the daies of Pliny, the people of that countrey
retained some part of their prodigious nature. It is reported by
Xenophon, that Hanno, King of Carthage, ranged with his armie in
that region, and founde there, certaine women of incredible swiftenesse
and perniscitie of foote. Whereof he tooke two onely of all that
appeared in sight, which had such roughe and sharp bodies, as never
before were seene. Wherefore, when they were dead, he hung up their
skinnes in the Temple of Juno, for a monument of their straunge
natures, which remained there untill the destruction of Carthage. By
the consideration of this beast, there appeareth one manifest argument
of the Creator's devine wisdome and providence, who hath turned the eies
of this beaste downeward to the earth, as it were thereby burying his
poyson from the hurt of man; and shaddowing them with rough, long and
strong haire, that their poysoned beames should not reflect upwards,
untill the beast were provoked by feare or danger, the heavines of his
head being like a clogge to restraine the liberty of his poysonfull
nature, but what other partes, vertues or vices, are contained in the
compasse of this monster, God onely knoweth, who, peradventure, hath
permitted it to live uppon the face of the earth, for no other cause but
to be a punishment and scourge unto mankind; and an evident example of
his owne wrathfull power to everlasting destruction. And this much may
serve for a description of this beast, untill by God's providence, more
can be known thereof."





Next: The Unicorn

Previous: The Centaur



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