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With reference to serpents, it is generally known, that they assume the colour of the soil in which they conceal themselves. The different species of them are innumerable. The cerastes1 has little horns, often four in number, projecting from the body, by the movement of which it attracts birds, while the rest of its body lies concealed.2 The amphisbæna3 has two heads,4 that is to say, it has a second one at the tail, as though one mouth were too little for the discharge of all its venom. Some serpents have scales, some a mottled skin, and they are all possessed of a deadly poison. The jaculus5 darts from the branches of trees; and it is not only to our feet that the serpent is formidable, for these fly through the air even, just as though they were hurled from an engine.6 The neck of the asp7 puffs out,8 and there is no remedy whatever against its sting, except the instant excision of the affected part.9 This reptile, which is thus deadly, is possessed of this one sense, or rather affection; the male and the female are generally found together,10 and the one cannot live without the other; hence it is that, if one of them happens to be killed, the other takes incredible pains to avenge its death. It follows the slayer of its mate, and will single him out among ever such a large number of people, by a sort of instinctive knowledge; with this object it overcomes all difficulties, travels any distance, and is only to be avoided by the intervention of rivers or an accelerated flight. It is really difficult to decide, whether Nature has altogether been more liberal of good or of evil. First of all, however, she has given to this pest but weak powers of sight, and has placed the eyes, not in the front of the head, so that it may see straight before it, but in the temples, so that it is more frequently put in motion by the approach of the footstep than through the sight. (24.) The ichneumon, too, is its enemy11 to the very death.

1 The cerastes, or horned serpent, is mentioned by Lucan, in his description of serpents, Pharsalia, B. ix. 1. 716. One of the Scholiasts on Lucan relates a story that when Helen was eloping with Paris, she trod on the back of a cerastes, and broke it; from which circumstance, the whole race moved with a crooked course.

2 Cuvier has observed this animal burying itself in the sand, and has seen the motion of its horns, but does not credit its alleged power of attracting birds; Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 412.—B.

3 The ampbisbæna is mentioned by Lucan, B. ix. 1. 719. "The dangerous amphisbæna, that moves on at either of its heads."

4 The account of the two heads is obviously incorrect; the idea has arisen from the two extremities being nearly of the same size and appearance. It has been supposed, that there were certain serpents, with the power of moving with equal facility in both directions; and that the name, αμφίσβαινα, was derived from this circumstance.—B.

5 Lucan mentions the jaculus, B. ix. 1. 720, and 1. 822. In the last passage he says: "Behold! afar, around the trunk of a barren tree, a fierce serpent-Africa calls it the jaculus-wreathes itself, and then darts forth, and through the head and pierced temples of Paulus it takes its flight: nothing does venom there affect, death seizes him through the wound. It was then understood how slowly fly the stones which the sling hurls, how sluggishly whizzes the flight of the Scythian arrow."

6 There is an account of the jaculus, or, as it is called in Greek, ᾿ακοντίας, in Ælian, Anim. Nat. B. vi. c. 18; it is mentioned by Galen, Theriaca, c. 8.—B.

7 In B. ix. 1. 701, Lucan says: "Here the gore (of the Gorgon Medusa) which first from the sand lifted a head, raised the drowsy asp with its puffed-out neck." The whole of this passage in Lucan is well worth the attention of those desirous to know something of the serpent-lore of the ancients.

8 Cuvier says, that Geoffroi St. Hilaire has identified this animal with the Coluber haje of Linnæus, which has, from the earliest ages, been known as a native of Egypt, and where it still exists. Its two most remarkable characteristics are those here referred to; the puffing out of the neck when enraged, and its capacity of being tamed, or, as it is styled, enchanted. This last has been taken advantage of by the jugglers of that country from the most remote antiquity, as appears from the writings of Moses, and something of a similar nature is still practised. They remove the poison fangs, so as to render the animal harmless, and by certain sounds render it obedient to their call. It appears, also, that by pressing on the upper part of the spine, the animal is rendered paralytic, and may be said to be changed into a rod; this fact was witnessed by St. Hilaire. The asp is described by Aristotle, and is frequently mentioned by Ælian. Galen speaks of its deadly poison, in his Theriaca, c. 8. See Ajasson, vol. vi. pp. 437—9; Lemaire, vol. iii. pp. 414, 415.—B. Pliny mentions, however, in B. xxiii. c. 27, that the bite of the asp may be cured with vinegar.

9 Both Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. viii. c. 29, and Ælian, ubi supra, speak of the extreme virulence of the poison of the asp, and Cuvier remarks that the haje, and the haga, which are species of the asp, are among the most formidable of the serpent tribe.—B.

10 The method of attracting this serpent, by imitating the voice of the female, proves that there is some foundation for this statement.—B.

11 The ichneumon of the ancients, the "Viverra ichneumon" of Linnæus, is still common in Egypt, and renders essential service by destroying the eggs of serpents. With respect to what is here said of its covering its body with mud, to protect itself against the asp, the fact appears to be, that in searching for the eggs, which are deposited in the mud, its body becomes more or less covered with that substance, and may possibly in this way be less exposed to the attacks of the asp. The contest of the asp and the ichneumon is mentioned by Ælian, B. iii. c. 22.—B.

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