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The balæna1 penetrates to our seas even. It is said that they are not to be seen in the ocean of Gades before the winter solstice, and that at periodical seasons they retire and conceal themselves in some calm capacious bay, in which they take a delight in bringing forth. This fact, however, is known to the orca,2 an animal which is peculiarly hostile to the balæna, and the form of which cannot be in any way adequately described, but as an enormous mass of flesh armed with teeth. This animal attacks the balænain its places of retirement, and with its teeth tears its young, or else attacks the females which have just brought forth, and, indeed, while they are still pregnant: and as they rush upon them, it pierces them just as though they had been attacked by the beak of a Liburnian3 galley. The female balænæ, devoid of all flexibility, without energy to defend themselves, and over-burdened by their own weight, weakened, too, by gestation, or else the pains of recent parturition, are well aware that their only resource is to take to flight in the open sea and to range over the whole face of the ocean; while the orcæ, on the other hand, do all in their power to meet them in their flight, throw themselves in their way, and kill them either cooped up in a narrow passage, or else drive them on a shoal, or dash them to pieces against the rocks. When these battles are witnessed, it appears just as though the sea were infuriate against itself; not a breath of wind is there to be felt in the bay, and yet the waves by their pantings and their repeated blows are heaved aloft in a way which no whirlwind could effect.

An orca has been seen even in the port of Ostia, where it was attacked by the Emperor Claudius. It was while he was constructing the harbour4 there that this orca came, attracted by some hides which, having been brought from Gaul, had happened to fall overboard5 there. By feeding upon these for several days it had quite glutted itself, having made for itself a, channel in the shoaly water. Here, however, the sand was thrown up by the action of the wind to such an extent, that the creature found it quite impossible to turn round; and while in the act of pursuing its prey, it was propelled by the waves towards the shore, so that its back came to be perceived above the level of the water, very much resembling in appearance the keel of a vessel turned bottom upwards. Upon this, Cæsar ordered a great number of nets to be extended at the mouth of the harbour, from shore to shore, while he himself went there with the prætorian cohorts, and so afforded a spectacle to the Roman people; for boats assailed the monster, while the soldiers on board showered lances upon it. I myself saw one of the boats6 sunk by the water which the animal, as it respired, showered down upon it.

1 As already mentioned, there is considerable doubt what fish of the whale species is meant under this name. Cuvier says, that even at the present day whales are occasionally found in the Mediterranean, and says that there is the head of one in the Museum of Natural History, that was thrown ashore at Martigues. He also observes, that in the year 1829, one had been cast upon the coasts of Languedoc. Ajasson suggests, that not improbably whales once frequented the Mediterranean in great numbers, but that as commerce increased, they gradually retreated to the open ocean.

2 Rondelet, B xvi. c. 13, says that this animal was called "espaular" by the people of Saintonge. Cuvier is of opinion, also, that it is the same animal, which is also known by the name of "bootskopf," the Delphinus orca of Linnæus. (See N. 28.) This cetaceous animal, he says, is a most dangerous enemy to the whale, which it boldly attacks, devouring its tongue, which is of a tender quality and enormous size. He thinks, however, that the orca taken at the port of Ostia was no other than a cachelot.

3 The Liburna, or Liburnica, was usually a bireme, or two-oared galley, with the mast in the middle, though sometimes of larger bulk. From the description given of these by Varro, as quoted by Aulus Gellius, B. xvii. c. 3, they seem, as it has been remarked, somewhat similar to the light Indian massooliah boats, which are used to cross the serf in Madras roads. Pliny tells us, in B. xvi. c. 17, that the material of which they were constructed was pine timber, as free from resin as it could possibly be obtained. The beak of these vessels was of great comparative weight, and its sharpness is evidently alluded to in the present passage, as also in B. x. c. 32. The term "Liburna" was adopted from the assistance rendered to Augustus by the Liburni at the battle of Actium.

4 These works were completed by Nero the successor of Claudius, and consisted of a new and more capacious harbour on the right arm of the Tiber. It was afterwards enlarged and improved by Trajan. This harbour was simply called "Portus Romanus," or "Porbus Augusti;" and around it there sprang up a town known as "Portus," the inhabitants of which were called "Portuenses."

5 "Naufragiis tergorum." This may probably mean a shipwreck, in which some hides had fallen into the sea.

6 It is remarked by Rezzonico, that Palermus, in the account of this story given by him in B. i. c. 1, has mistaken Pliny's meaning, and evidently thinks that "unum" refers to the soldiers, and not the boats en- gaged in the attack.

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