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CHAP. 30. (25.)—SCORPIONS.

In a similar manner to the spider, the land scorpion also produces maggots1 similar to eggs, and dies in a similar manner. This animal is a dangerous scourge, and has a venom like that of the serpent; with the exception that its effects are far more2 painful, as the person who is stung will linger for three days before death ensues. The sting is invariably fatal to virgins, and nearly always so to matrons. It is so to men also, in the morning, when the animal has issued from its hole in a fasting state, and has not yet happened to discharge its poison by any accidental stroke. The tail is always ready to strike, and ceases not for an instant to menace, so that no opportunity may possibly be missed. The animal strikes too with a sidelong blow, or else by turning the tail upwards. Apollodorus informs us, that the poison which they secrete is of a white colour, and he has divided them into nine classes, distinguished mostly by their colours—to very little purpose, however, for it is impossible to understand which among these it is that he has pronounced to be the least dangerous. He says, also, that some of them have a double sting, and that the males—for he asserts that they are engendered by the union of the sexes—are the most dangerous. These may easily be known, he says, by their slender form and greater length. He states, also, that they all of them have venom in the middle of the day, when they have been warmed by the heat of the sun, as, also, when they are thirsty—their thirst, indeed, can never be quenched. It is an ascertained fact, that those which have seven joints in the tail are the most3 deadly; the greater part, however, have but six.

For this pest of Africa, the southern winds have provided means of flight as well, for as the breeze bears them along, they extend their arms and ply them like so many oars in their flight; the same Apollodorus, however, asserts that there are some which really have wings.4 The Psylli, who for their own profit have been in the habit of importing the poisons of other lands among us, and have thus filled Italy with the pests which belong to other regions, have made attempts to import the flying scorpion as well, but it has been found that it cannot live further north than the latitude of Sicily. However, they5 are sometimes to be seen in Italy, but are quite harmless there; they are found, also, in many other places, the vicinity of Pharos, in Egypt, for instance. In Scythia, the scorpion is able to kill the swine even with its sting, an animal which, in general, is proof against poisons of this kind in a remarkable degree. When stung, those swine which are black die more speedily than others, and more particularly if they happen to throw themselves into the water. When a person has been stung, it is generally supposed that he may be cured by drinking the ashes of the scorpion6 mixed with wine. It is the belief also that there is nothing more baneful to the scorpion and the stellio,7 than to dip them in oil. This last animal is also dangerous to all other creatures, except those which, like itself, are destitute of blood: in figure it strongly resembles the common lizard. For the most part, also, the scorpion does no injury to any animal which is bloodless. Some writers, too, are of opinion that the scorpion devours its offspring, and that the one among the young which is the most adroit avails itself of its sole mode of escape, by placing itself on the back of the mother, and thus finding a place where it is in safety from the tail and the sting. The one that thus escapes, they say, becomes the avenger of the rest, and at last, taking advantage of its elevated position, puts its parents to death. The scorpion produces eleven at a birth.

1 Cuvier remarks, that the scorpion is viviparous; but the young are white when born, and wrapped up in an oval mass, for which reason they may easily be taken for maggots or grubs.

2 This must be understood of the scorpion of Egypt, Libya, and Syria. The sting of that of the south of Europe is not generally dangerous.

3 Cuvier seems to regard this as fanciful: he says that the instances of se ven joints are but rarely to be met with.

4 There are no winged scorpions. Cuvier thinks that he may possibly allude to the panorpis, or scorpion-fly, the abdomen of which terminates in a forceps, which resembles the tail of the scorpion.

5 Probably the panorpis.

6 See B. xxix. c. 29.

7 The starred or spotted lizard.

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    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PSYLLI
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