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A deputation of persons from Olisipo,1 that had been sent for the purpose, brought word to the Emperor Tiberius that a triton had been both seen and heard in a certain cavern, blowing a conch-shell,2 and of the form under which they are usually represented. Nor yet is the figure generally attributed to the nereids3 at all a fiction; only in them, the portion of the body that resembles the human figure is still rough all over with scales. For one of these creatures was seen upon the same shores, and as it died, its plaintive murmurs were heard even by the inhabitants at a distance. The legatus of Gaul,4 too, wrote word to the late Emperor Augustus that a considerable number of nereids had been found dead upon the sea-shore. I have, too, some distinguished informants of equestrian rank, who state that they themselves once saw in the ocean of Gades a sea-man,5 which bore in every part of his body a perfect resemblance to a human being, and that during the night he would climb up into ships; upon which the side of the vessel where he seated himself would instantly sink downward, and if he remained there any considerable time, even go under water.

In the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, a subsidence of the ocean left exposed on the shores of an island which faces the province of Lugdunum6 as many as three hundred animals or more, all at once, quite marvellous for their varied shapes and enormous size, and no less a number upon the shores of the Santones;7 among the rest there were elephants8 and rams, which last, however, had only a white spot to represent horns. Turranius has also left accounts of several nereids, and he speaks of a monster9 that was thrown up on the shore at Gades, the distance between the two fins at the end of the tail of which was sixteen cubits, and its teeth one hundred and twenty in number; the largest being nine, and the smallest six inches in length.

M. Scaurus, in his ædileship, exhibited at Rome, among other wonderful things, the bones of the monster to which Andromeda was said to have been exposed, and which he had brought from Joppa, a city of Judæa. These bones exceeded forty feet in length, and the ribs were higher than those of the Indian elephant, while the back-bone was a foot and a half10 in thickness.

1 Lisbon. See B. iv. c. 35.

2 One of the Scholiasts on Homer says, that before the discovery of the brazen trumpet by the Tyrrhenians, the conch-shell was in general use for that purpose. Hardouin, with considerable credulity, remarks here, that it is no fable, that the nereids and tritons had a human face; and says that no less than fifteen instances, ancient and modern, had been adduced, in proof that such was the fact. He says that this was the belief of Scaliger, and quotes the book of Aldrovandus on Monsters, p. 36. But, as Cuvier remarks, it is impossible to explain these stories of nereids and tritons, on any other grounds than the fraudulent pretences of those who have exhibited them, or asserted that they have seen them. "It was only last year," he says, "that all London was resorting to see a wonderful sight in what is commonly called a mermaid. I myself had the opportunity of examining a very similar object: it was the body of a child, in the mouth of which they had introduced the jaws of a sparus [probably our "gilthead]," while for the legs was substituted the body of a lizard. The body of the London mermaid," he says, "was that of an ape, and a fish attached to it supplied the place of the hind legs."

3 Primarily the nereids were sea-nymphs, the daughters of Nereus and Doris. Dalechamps informs us, that Alexander ab Alexandro states that he once saw a nereid that had been thrown ashore on the coasts of the Peloponnesus, that Trapezuntius saw one as it was swimming, and that Draconetus Bonifacius, the Neapolitan, saw a triton that had been preserved in honey, and which many had seen when taken alive on the coast of Epirus. We may here remark, that the triton is the same as our "merman," and the nereid is our "mermaid."

4 Of Gallia Lugdunensis, namely. The legatus was also called "rector," and "proprætor."

5 Or "mer-man," as we call it. Dalechamps, in his note, with all the credulity of his time, states that a similar sea-man had been captured, it was said, in the preceding age in Norway, and that another had been seen in Poland, dressed like a bishop, in the year 1531. Juvenal, in his 14th Satire, makes mention of the "monsters of the ocean, and the youths of the sea."

6 See B. iv. c. 31, 32.

7 See B. iv. c. 33.

8 Dalechamps says that this elephant is the same as the "rosmarus" of Olaus Magnus, B. xxxii. c. 11. It is remarked by Cuvier, that cetaceous animals have at all times received the names of those belonging to the land. The sea-ram, he thinks, may have been the great dolphin, which is called the "bootskopf," and which has above the eye a white spot, curved in nearly a similar manner to the horn of a ram. The "elephant," again, he suggests, may have been the Trichechus rosmarus of Linnæus, or the morse, which has large tusks projecting from its mouth, similar to those of the elephant. This animal, however, as he says, is confined to the northern seas, and does not appear ever to have come so far south as our coasts. Juba and Pausanias, however, speak of these horns of the sea-ram as being really teeth or tusks.

9 Judging from the account of it here given, and especially in relation to the teeth, Cuvier is inclined to think that the cachelot whale, the Physeter macrocephalus of Linnæus, is the animal here alludedto.

10 Solinus, generally a faithful mimic of Pliny, makes the measure only half a foot. Cuvier says that there can be little doubt that the bones represented to have been those of the monster to which Andromeda was exposed, were the bones, and more especially the lower jaws, of the whale. Ajasson certainly appears to have mistaken the sense of this passage. He says that it must not be supposed that Pliny means the identical bones of the animal which was about to devour Andromeda, but of one of the animals of that kind; and he exercises his wit at the expense of those who would construe the passage differently, in saying that these bones ought to have been sent to those who show in their collections such articles as the knife with which Cain slew Abel. Now, there can be no doubt that these bones were not those of the monster which the poets tell us was about to devour Andromeda; but the Romans certainly supposed that they were, and Pliny evidently thought so too, for in B. v. c. 14, he speaks of the chains by which she was fastened to the rock, at Joppa, as still to be seen there. M. Æmilius Scaurus, the younger, is here referred to.

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