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Among the ancients, the acipenser1 was esteemed the most noble fish of all; it is the only one that has the scales turned towards the head, and in a contrary direction to that in which it swims. At the present day, however, it is held in no esteem, which I am the more surprised at, it being so very rarely found. Some writers call this fish the elops.

1 Cuvier says, that the peculiarity in the scales here mentioned is not found in any fish; but that the sturgeon genus has, in place of scales, laminæ disposed in longitudinal lines in such a way, that the one does not lap over the other, as is the case with fish in general. It was this fact, misstated probably, that gave rise to the story; and it is most likely this that has led Rondelet, and most of the modern naturalists, to look upon the acipenser as the common sturgeon, and to give that name to the sturgeon genus. Athenæus reckons it among the cartilaginous fishes, and in the family of the squali; but Pliny here speaks of it as very rare, and Martial and Cicero say the same, which cannot be so accurately said of the sturgeon. Archestratus, in Athenæus, speaks of it as small, having a sharp-pointed muzzle, and of triangular shape, and tells us that a very inferior one was valued at 1000 Attic drachmæ. The sturgeon, on the other hand, is often ten or twelve feet in length. The acipenser was not always in vogue with the Romans, but when it was, it was most highly esteemed; and according to Athenæus, B. vii., and Sammonicus Severus, as quoted by Macrobius, B. ii. c. 12, it was brought to table by servants crowned with flowers and preceded by a piper. All these circumstances lead Cuvier to be of opinion that under this name is meant a kind of small sturgeon with a sharp muzzle, greatly esteemed by the Russians, and by them known as the sterlet, the Acipenser Ruthenus of Linnæus, the Acipenser Pygmæus of Pallas. It is found in the Black Sea, and in the rivers that fall into it; and has been carried with success to Lake Ladoga, as also Lake Meler, in Sweden. This is the smallest and most delicate of the sturgeon genus, and Professor Pallas says that they are sold at St. Petersburgh at "insane prices," when more than two feet in length. it is not improbable that it was found in the rivers of Asia Minor, and thence carried to Rome occasionally. Pliny, indeed, B. xxxiii. c. 11, says that it is not a stranger to Italy; if so, it would seem to be different from the "elops," of which Ovid says, Halieut. 1. 96, "and the precious elops, unknown in our waters," though he also says of the "acipenser," in 1. 132, "and thou, acipenser, famed in distant waters." Still, however, Cuvier says, the use of names was not so accurate among the ancients, but what that of "acipenser" may have been given to the sturgeon in general; and this may have given rise to the present assertions of Pliny. Oppian, in Athenæus, B. vii., says, like Pliny, that the elops was the same as the acipenser, and we find no characteristics given of the elops to make us conclude that the two were not synonymous. Indeed, we find that Varro, De Re Rustica, B. ii. c. 6, and Pliny in c. 54 of the present Book, speak of the elops as being most excellent at Rhodes, while we find Archestratus in Athenæus, B. vii., speaking of the same as being the locality of the acipenser; and Columella, B. viii. c. 16, and Ælian, B. viii. c. 28, place it in the Pamphylian Sea, which is not far distant from Rhodes. Pliny, B. xxxii. c. 11, states, that the palm of fine flavour was by many accorded to the elops; while Matron Parodus, in Athenæus, calls it the "most noble of all fishes, food worthy of the gods." From the immense sums that were given for it, as we learn from Varro, quoted by Nonius Marcellus, it was called the "multum munus," or "multinummus," the "much-money fish." Ælian says, B. viii. c. 28, that the fishermen who were fortunate enough to take an elops, were in the habit of crowning themselves and their vessel with garlands, and announcing it, on entering harbour, by the sound of the trumpet. Professor Pallas, in his work on the Russian Zoography, takes the elops to be a kind of sturgeon, more spiny than the rest, which is represented by Marsigli under the name of "Huso sextus." He does not, however, give his reason for fixing on this as the elops of the ancients. It has been also suggested that the elops was the same as the sword-fish.

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