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The Indian Sea2 produces turtles of such vast3 size, that with the shell of a single animal they are able to roof a habit- able cottage;4 and among the islands of the Red Sea, the navigation is mostly carried on in boats formed of these shells. They are to be caught in many ways; but they are generally taken when they have come up to the surface of the water just before midday, a season at which they experience great delight in floating on the calm surface, with the back entirely out of the water. Here the delightful sensations5 which attend a free respiration beguile them to such a degree, and render them so utterly regardless of their safety, that their shell becomes dried up by the heat of the sun, so much so, indeed, that they are unable to descend, and, having to float against their will, become an easy prey to the fishermen. It is said also, that they leave the water at night for the purpose of feeding, and eat with such avidity as to quite glut themselves: upon which, they become weary, and the moment that, on their return in the morning, they reach the sea, they fall asleep on the surface of the water. The noise of their snoring betrays them, upon which the fishermen stealthily swim towards the animals, three to each turtle; two of them, in a moment, throw it on its back, while a third slings a noose around it, as it lies face upwards, and then some more men, who are ready on shore, draw it to land.

In the Phoenician Sea they are taken without the slightest difficulty, and, at stated periods of the year, come of their own accord to the river Eleutherus,6 in immense numbers. The turtle has no teeth, but the edge of the mouth is sharp, the upper part shutting down over the lower just like the lid of a box. In the sea it lives upon shell-fish,7 and such is the strength of its jaws, that it is able to break stones even; when on shore, it feeds upon herbage. The female turtle lays eggs like those of birds, one hundred in number; these she buries on the dry land, and covering them over with earth, pats it down with her breast, and then having thus rendered it smooth, sits on them during the night. The young are hatched in the course of a year. Some persons are of opinion that they hatch their eggs by means of the eyes, by merely looking at them, and that the female refuses to have any intercourse with the male until he has placed a wisp of straw8 upon her back. The Troglodytæ have turtles with horns,9 which resemble the branches of a lyre; they are large, but moveable, and assist the animal like so many oars while swimming. The name of this fine, but rarely-found turtle, is "chelyon;"10 for the rocks, from the sharpness of their points, frighten away the Chelonophagi,11 while the Troglodytæ, whose shores these animals frequent, worship them as sacred. There are some land turtles also, the shells of which, used for the purposes of art, are thence called by the name of "chersinæ;12 they are found in the deserts of Africa, in the parts where the scorched sands are more especially destitute of water, and subsist, it is believed, upon the moisture of the dews. No other animal is to be found there.

1 We may here remark, that Pliny throughout calls these animals "testudines,"—"tortoises." It has been thought better, in the translation, in order to avoid confusion, to give them their distinctive name of "turtle."

2 This passage, down to the words "to the fishermen," is found in Agatharchides, as quoted by Photius.

3 See B. xxxii. c. 4.

4 Cuvier says that this is evidently a gross exaggeration on the part of some traveller; and Ajasson remarks, that the very largest turtle known does not exceed five feet in length, and four in breadth. In such a case, the superficies of the calapash or shell would be only from twenty to twenty-four feet, and this, be it remembered, in one of the very largest size.

5 Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. viii. c. 3, has a similar passage.

6 See B. v. c. 17.

7 Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. viii. c. 3, states to a similar effect.

8 Oppian, Halieut. B. i. 1. 522, has a passage to a somewhat similar effect. Holland's notion of the meaning of this passage is singular in the extreme. "The female fleeth from the male, and will not abide to engender, until such time as he pricke her behind, and sticke somewhat in her taile for running away from him so fast"

9 Cuvier remarks, that it is evident that the fore-feet were here taken for horns, they being in the turtle long, narrow, and pointed.

10 From the Greek χέλυον, "tortoise-shell." See B. vi. c. 34.

11 Or "turtle eaters." See B. vi. c. 28.

12 From χερσινὰι, "land turtles," or "tortoises."

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    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PHOENI´CIA
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