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The statements which Ovid has made as to the instincts of fish, in the work1 of his known as the "Halieuticon,"2 appear to me truly marvellous. The scarus,3 for instance, when enclosed in the wicker kype, makes no effort to escape with its head, nor does it attempt to thrust its muzzle between the oziers; but turning its tail towards them, it enlarges the orifices with repeated blows therefrom, and so makes its escape backwards. Should,4 too, another scarus, from without, chance to see it thus struggling within the kype, it will take the tail of the other in its mouth, and so aid it in its efforts to escape. The lupus,5 again, when surrounded with the net, furrows6 the sand with its tail, and so conceals itself, until the net has passed over it. The muræna,7 trusting in the slippery smoothness8 of its rounded back, boldly faces the meshes of the net, and by repeatedly wriggling its body, makes its escape. The polyp9 makes for the hooks, and, without swallowing the bait, clasps it with its feelers; nor does it quit its hold until it has eaten off the bait, or perceives itself being drawn out of the water by the rod.

The mullet,10 too, is aware11 that within the bait there is a hook concealed, and is on its guard against the ambush; still however, so great is its voracity, that it beats the hook with its tail, and strikes away from it the bait. The lupus,12 again, shows less foresight and address, but repentance at its imprudence arms it with mighty strength; for, when caught by the hook, it flounders from side to side, and so widens the wound, till at last the insidious hook falls from its mouth. The muræna13 not only swallows the hook, but catches at the line with its teeth, and so gnaws it asunder. The anthias,14 Ovid says, the moment it finds itself caught by the hook, turns its body with its back downwards, upon which there is a sharp knife-like fin, and so cuts the line asunder.

According to Licinius Macer, the muræna is of the female sex only, and is impregnated by serpents, as already15 mentioned; and hence it is that the fishermen, to entice it from its retreat, and catch it, make a hissing noise in imitation of the hissing of a serpent. He states, also, that by frequently beating the water it is made to grow fat, that a blow with a stout stick will not kill it, but that a touch with a stalk of fennel- giant16 is instantly fatal. That in the case of this animal, the life is centred in the tail, there can be no doubt, as also that it dies immediately on that part of the body being struck; while, on the other hand, there is considerable difficulty in killing it with a blow upon the head. Persons who have come in contact with the razor-fish17 smell of iron.18 The hardest of all fishes, beyond a doubt, is that known as the "orbis:"19 it is spherical, destitute20 of scales, and all head.21

1 Of this work, begun by Ovid during his banishment in Pontus, and probably never completed, only a fragment of one hundred and thirty-two lines has come down to us. Pliny again makes reference to it, in the last Chapter of the present Book.

2 Or "Treatise on Fishes."

3 See B. ix. c. 69, and B. xi. c. 61.

4 Quoted from the Halieuticon.

5 The wolf fish. The Perca labrax of Linnæus. See B. ix. cc. 24, 28, 74, 79, and B. x. c. 89.

6 From the Halieuticon of Ovid.

7 See B. ix. cc. 14, 35, 39, 48, 74, 79, 81.

8 From the Halieuticon.

9 From the Halieuticon.

10 See B. ix. cc. 21, 26, 67.

11 From the Halieuticon.

12 From the Halieuticon. See Note 31 above, if indeed the same fish is meant. See also B. xxxi. c. 44, and the Note.

13 From the Halieuticon.

14 See B. ix. c. 85.

15 In B. ix. c. 39. Aristotle, however, as there stated, was not of the same opinion.

16 See B. xx. c. 98.

17 "Novacula piscis." Pliny is the only ancient author that mentions this fish. There are numerous varieties of it, among which the best known are the Coryphæna novacula of Linnæus, the Rason of the Mediterranean, highly esteemed as an article of food, and the Coryphæna pentedactyle of Bloch, identical with the Hemiptéronote à cinq taches, of Lacépède.

18 An absurdity, owing, no doubt, to its name.

19 Or "globe-fish." The Mola, orbis marinus, or sun-fish of modern Natural History, the Lune de mer, or poisson-lune of the French. Though the skin is harsh and tough, there is no firmness in its flesh, which is of a gluey consistency.

20 In reality it has scales, but they are almost imperceptible, from their minuteness.

21 Or rather, as Dalechamps observes, "all belly."

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