Animal Lore

We are indebted to Pliny for much strange animal lore--which, however,

will scarcely bear the fierce light of modern investigation. Thus, he

tells us of places in which certain animals are not to be found, and

narrates some very curious zoological anecdotes thereon. "It is a

remarkable fact, that nature has not only assigned different countries

to different animals, but that even in the same country it has denied

n species to certain localities. In Italy, the dormouse is found

in one part only, the Messian forest. In Lycia, the gazelle never passes

beyond the mountains which border upon Syria; nor does the wild ass in

that vicinity pass over those which divide Cappadocia from Cilicia. On

the banks of the Hellespont, the stags never pass into a strange

territory, and, about Arginussa, they never go beyond Mount Elaphus;

those upon the mountains, too, have cloven ears. In the island of

Poroselene, the weasels will not so much as cross a certain road. In

Boeotia, the moles, which were introduced at Lebadea, fly from the very

soil of that country, while in the neighbourhood, at Orchomenus, the

very same animals tear up all the fields. We have seen coverlets for

beds made of the skin of these creatures, so that our sense of religion

does not prevent us from employing these ominous animals for the

purposes of luxury.

"When hares have been brought to Ithaca, they die as soon as ever they

touch the shore, and the same is the case with rabbits, on the shores of

the island of Ebusus; while they abound in the vicinity, Spain namely,

and the Balearic isles. In Cyrene, the frogs were formerly dumb, and

this species still exists, although croaking ones were carried over

there from the Continent. At the present day, even, the frogs of the

island of Seriphos are dumb; but when they are carried to other places,

they croak; the same thing is also said to have taken place at

Sicandrus, a lake of Thessaly. In Italy, the bite of a shrew-mouse is

venomous; an animal which is not to be found in any region beyond the

Apennines. In whatever country it exists, it always dies immediately if

it goes across the rut made by a wheel. Upon Olympus, a mountain of

Macedonia, there are no wolves, nor yet in the isle of Crete. In this

island there are neither foxes nor bears, nor, indeed, any kind of

baneful animal, with the exception of the phalangium, a species of

spider. It is a thing still more remarkable, that in this island there

are no stags, except in the district of Cydon; the same is the case with

the wild boar, the woodcock, and the hedgehog."

He further tells us of animals which will injure strangers only, as also

animals which injure the natives only.

"There are certain animals which are harmless to the natives of the

country, but destroy strangers; such as the little serpents at

Tirynthus, which are said to spring out of the earth. In Syria, also,

and especially on the banks of the Euphrates, the serpents never attack

the Syrians when they are asleep, and even if they happen to bite a

native who treads upon them, their venom is not felt; but to persons of

any other country they are extremely hostile, and fiercely attack them,

causing a death attended with great torture. On this account the Syrians

never kill them. On the contrary, on Latmos, a mountain of Caria, as

Aristotle tells us, strangers are not injured by the scorpions, while

the natives are killed by them."

He also throws some curious light, unknown to modern zoologists, on the

antipathies of animals one to another. He says:--"There will be no

difficulty in perceiving that animals are possessed of other instincts

besides those previously mentioned. In fact, there are certain

antipathies, and sympathies among them, which give rise to various

affections, besides those which we have mentioned in relation to each

species, in its appropriate place. The Swan and the Eagle are always at

variance, and the Raven and the Chloreus seek each other's eggs by

night. In a similar manner, also, the Raven and the Kite are perpetually

at war with one another, the one carrying off the other's food. So,

too, there are antipathies between the Crow and the Owl, the Eagle and

the Trochilus; between the last two, if we are to believe the story,

because the latter has received the title of 'the king of birds;' the

same, again, with the Owlet and all the smaller birds.

"Again, in relation to the terrestrial animals, the Weasel is at enmity

with the Crow, the Turtle-dove with the Pyrallis, the Ichneumon with the

Wasp, and the Phalangium with other Spiders. Among aquatic animals,

there is enmity between the Duck and the Seamew, the Falcon known as the

'Harpe,' and the Hawk called the 'Triorchis.' In a similar manner, too,

the Shrew-mouse and the Heron are ever on the watch for each other's

young; and the AEgithus, so small a bird as it is, has an antipathy for

the Ass; for the latter, when scratching itself, rubs its body against

the brambles, and so crushes the bird's nest; a thing of which it stands

in such dread, that, if it only hears the voice of the Ass when it

brays, it will throw its eggs out of the nest, and the young ones,

themselves, will, sometimes, fall to the ground in their fright; hence

it is that it will fly at the Ass, and peck at its sores with its beak.

"The Fox, too, is at war with the Nisus, and Serpents with Weasels and

Swine. AEsalon is the name given to a small bird that breaks the eggs of

the Raven, and the young of which are anxiously sought by the Fox;

while, in its turn, it will peck at the young of the Fox, and even the

parent itself. As soon as the Ravens espy this, they come to its

assistance, as though against a common enemy. The Acanthis, too, lives

among the brambles; hence it is that it also has an antipathy to the

Ass, because it devours the bramble blossoms. The AEgithus and the

Anthus, too, are at such mortal enmity with each other, that it is the

common belief that their blood will not mingle; and it is for this

reason that they have the bad repute of being employed in many magical

incantations. The Thos and the Lion are at war with each other; and,

indeed, the smallest objects and the greatest, just as much.

Caterpillars will avoid a tree that is infested with Ants. The Spider,

poised in its web, will throw itself on the head of a Serpent, as it

lies stretched beneath the shade of the tree where it has built, and,

with its bite, pierce its brain; such is the shock, that the creature

will hiss from time to time, and then, seized with vertigo, coil round

and round, while it finds itself unable to take to flight, or so much as

to break the web of the spider, as it hangs suspended above; this scene

only ends with its death."