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FOLLOWING the proper order of things, we have now arrived at the culminating point of the wonders manifested to us by the operations of Nature. And even at the very outset, we find spontaneously presented to us an incomparable illustration of her mysterious powers: so much so, in fact, that beyond it we feel ourselves bound to forbear extending our enquiries, there being nothing to be found either equal or analogous to an element in which Nature quite triumphs over herself, and that, too, in such numberless ways. For what is there more unruly than the sea, with its winds, its tornadoes, and its tempests? And yet in what department of her works has Nature been more seconded by the ingenuity of man, than in this, by his inventions of sails and of oars? In addition to this, we are struck with the ineffable might displayed by the Ocean's tides, as they constantly ebb and flow, and so regulate the currents of the sea as though they were the waters of one vast river.

And yet all these forces, though acting in unison, and impelling in the same direction, a single fish, and that of a very diminutive size—the fish known as the "echeneïs"1—possesses the power of counteracting. Winds may blow and storms may rage, and yet the echeneïs controls their fury, restrains their mighty force, and bids ships stand still in their career; a result which no cables, no anchors, from their ponderousness quite incapable of being weighed, could ever have produced! A fish bridles the impetuous violence of the deep, and subdues the frantic rage of the universe—and all this by no effort of its own, no act of resistance on its part, no act at all, in fact, but that of adhering to the bark! Trifling as this object would appear, it suffices to counteract all these forces combined, and to forbid the ship to pass onward in its way! Fleets, armed for war, pile up towers and bulwarks on their decks, in order that, upon the deep even, men may fight from behind ramparts as it were. But alas for human vanity!— when their prows, beaked as they are with brass and with iron,2 and armed for the onset, can thus be arrested and rivetted to the spot by a little fish, no more than some half foot in length!

At the battle of Actium, it is said, a fish of this kind stopped the prætorian ship3 of Antonius in its course, at the moment that he was hastening from ship to ship to encourage and exhort his men, and so compelled him to leave it and go on board another. Hence it was, that the fleet of Cæsar gained the advantage4 in the onset, and charged with a redoubled impetuosity. In our own time, too, one of these fish arrested the ship of the Emperor5 Caius in its course, when he was returning from Astura to Antium:6 and thus, as the result proved, did an insignificant fish give presage of great events; for no sooner had the emperor returned to Rome than he was pierced by the weapons of his own soldiers. Nor did this sudden stoppage of the ship long remain a mystery, the cause being perceived upon finding that, out of the whole fleet, the emperor's five-banked galley was the only one that was making no way. The moment this was discovered, some of the sailors plunged into the sea, and, on making search about the ship's sides, they found an echeneïs adhering to the rudder. Upon its being shown to the emperor, he strongly expressed his indignation that such an obstacle as this should have impeded his progress, and have rendered powerless the hearty endeavours of some four hundred men. One thing, too, it is well known, more particularly surprised7 him, how it was possible that the fish, while adhering to the ship, should arrest its progress, and yet should have no such power when brought on board.

According to the persons who examined it on that occasion, and who have seen it since, the echeneïs bears a strong resemblance to a large slug.8 The various opinions entertained respecting it we have already9 noticed, when speaking of it in the Natural History of Fishes. There is no doubt, too, that all fish of this kind are possessed of a similar power; witness, for example, the well-known instance of the shells10 which are still preserved and consecrated in the Temple of Venus at Cnidos, and which, we are bound to believe, once gave such striking evidence of the possession of similar properties. Some of our own authors have given this fish the Latin name of "mora."11 It is a singular thing, but among the Greeks we find writers who state that, worn as an amulet, the echeneïs has the property,12 as already mentioned, of preventing miscarriage, and of reducing procidence of the uterus, and so permitting the fœtus to reach maturity: while others, again, assert that, if it is preserved in salt and worn as an amulet, it will facilitate parturition; a fact to which it is indebted for another name which it bears, "odinolytes."13 Be all this as it may, considering this most remarkable fact of a ship being thus stopped in its course, who can entertain a doubt as to the possibility of any manifestation of her power by Nature, or as to the effectual operation of the remedies which she has centred in her spontaneous productions?

1 The Echeneis remora of Linnæus. See B. ix. c. 41.

2 He alludes to the "rostra," or metal beaks, with which the prows of the ships of war were furnished.

3 An absurd tradition, no doubt, invented, probably, to palliate the disgrace of his defeat.

4 From the delay caused by the stoppage of the prætorian ship.

5 Caligula.

6 For Astura and Antium, see B. iii. c. 9.

7 And well it might surprise him. If there was any foundation at all for the story, there can be little doubt that a trick was played for the purpose of imposing upon Caligula's superstitious credulity, and that the rowers as well as the diving sailors were privy to it.

8 "Limax." A singular comparison, apparently.

9 In B. ix. c. 41.

10 See B. ix. c. 41, where he is speaking of a murex, a fish which bears no such affinity to the remora as to warrant our author's expression, "Idem valere omnia ea genera."

11 Properly meaning "delay." "Remora" is another reading, and perhaps a better one, as the word is found in Plautus.

12 In B. ix. c. 41.

13 From λύειν τὰς ὠδίνας, "to release from the pains of childbirth."

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