This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
1 Pliny has previously denominated the Scythians "Anthropophagi;" and in B. iv. c. 26, and B. vi. c. 20, he employs the word as the proper name of one of the Scythian tribes.—B.
2 See B. iii. c. 9.
3 See B. xxxvi. c. 5.
4 There can be no doubt, that cannibalism has existed at all times, and that it now exists in some of the Asiatic and Polynesian islands; but we must differ from Pliny in his opinion respecting the near connection between human sacrifices and cannibalism; the first was strictly a religious rite, the other was the result of very different causes; perhaps, in some cases, the want of food; but, in most instances, a much less pardonable motive.—B, Still, however, if nations go so far as to sacrifice human beings, there is an equal chance that a religious impulse may prompt them to taste the flesh; and when once this has been done, there is no telling how soon it may be repeated, and that too for the gratification of the palate. According to Macrobius, human sacrifices were offered at Rome, down to the time of Brutus, who, on the establishment of the Republic, abolished them. We read, however, in other authorities, that in 116, B.C. , two Gauls, a male and a female, were sacrificed by the priests in one of the streets of Rome, shortly after which such practices were forbidden by the senate, except in those cases in which they had been ordered by the Sibylline books. Still we read, in the time of Augustus, of one hundred knights being sacrificed by his orders, at Perusia, and of a similar immolation in the time of the emperor Aurelian, A.D. 270. These, however, were all exceptional cases, and do not imply a custom of offering human sacrifices.
5 Pliny, in describing the Riphæan mountains, B. iv. c. 26, calls them "gelida Aquilonis conceptacula," "the cold asylum of the northern blasts;" but we do not find the cavern mentioned in this or any other passage. The name here employed has been supposed to be derived from the Greek words,γης κλειθρον, signifying the limit or boundary of the earth.—B. "Specuque ejus dicto," most probably means "the place called its cave," and not the "cave which I have described," as Dr. B. seems to have thought.
6 They are merely enumerated among other tribes of Scythians, inhabiting the country beyond the Palus Mæotis. See B. iv. c. 26, and B. vi. c. 19.—B.
7 The figures of the Gryphons or Griffins are found not uncommonly on the friezes and walls at Pompeii. In the East, where there were no safe places of deposit for money, it was the custom to bury it in the earth; hence, for the purpose of scaring depredators, the story was carefully circulated that hidden treasures were guarded by serpents and dragons. There can be little doubt that these stories, on arriving in the western world, combined with the knowledge of the existence of gold in the Uralian chain and other mountains of the East, gave rise to the stories of the Griffins and the Arimaspi. It has been suggested that the Arimaspi were no other than the modern Tsheremis, who dwelt on the left bank of the Middle Volga, in the governments of Kasan, Simbirsk, and Saratov, not far from the gold districts of the Uralian range.
8 It has been conjectured, that these fabulous tales of the combats of the Arimaspi with the Griffins, were invented by the neighbouring tribes of the Issedonæ or Essedones, who were anxious to throw a mystery over the origin of the gold, that they might preserve the traffic in their own hands. The Altai Mountains, in the north of Asia, contain many gold mines, which are still worked, as well as traces of former workings. The representation of an animal, somewhat similar to the Griffin, has been found among the sculptures of Persepolis, and is conceived to have had some allegorical allusion to the religion of the ancient inhabitants of the place. Ælian, Hist. Anim. B. iv. c. 27, gives an account of the Griffin, and its contests with the Indians, for the gold, similar to that here given.—B.
9 We have an account of the Arimaspi, and of Aristeas, in Herodotus, B. iv. cc. 13, 15, and 27. Most of the wonderful tales related in this Chapter may be found in Aulus Gellius, B. ix. c. 4. We have an account, also, of the Arimaspi in Solinus, very nearly in the words of Pliny. We have some valuable remarks by Cuvier, on the account given by Pliny of the Arimaspi and the Griffins, and on the source from which it appears to have originated, in Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 16, and Ajasson, vol. vi. pp. 164, 165.—B.
10 The modern Himalaya range.
11 Aulus Gellius relates this, among other wonderful tales, which are contained in his Chapter "On the Miraculous Wonders of Barbarous Nations," B. ix. c. 4. He cites, among his authorities, Aristeas and Isigonus, whom he designates as "writers of no mean authority."—B.
12 In B. iv. c. 26, and B. vi. c. 29.
13 One of the pleasures promised to the Gothic warriors, in the paradise of Odin, was to drink out of the skulls of their enemies.—B.
14 The variety of the human species to which the term Albino has been applied, from the whiteness of their hair and skin, is supposed by Cuvier to be more frequently found in the close valleys of mountainous districts, and may therefore have been very often met with in Albania, which is composed of valleys in the Caucasian range.—B.
15 "Tertio die;" literally, "on the third day." In reckoning the time between two periods, the Romans included both of those periods in the computation, whereas we include but one of them.
16 In countries where serpents abound, there have been, at all times, jugglers, who profess to have a supernatural power, by which they are rendered insensible to the poison of these animals. This is the case with the Egyptians, and some of the oriental nations. They remove the poison-fang from the serpent, and in this way render it perfectly harmless. Some of the feats which were performed by the magicians in the court of Pharaoh, seem still to be practised in Egypt; by pressing upon the upper part of the spine, the animal is rendered rigid, while on removing the pressure, the animal is restored to its original state. These jugglers were also in the habit, much to the surprise of the ignorant spectators, of sucking the poison from the wounds produced by the bite of the serpent, which they accompanied by various ceremonies and incantations: but it is a well-known fact, that this may be done with perfect safety, in reference to poisons of all kinds, provided there be no breach in the cuticle of the mouth or lips.—B.
17 See B. xxviii. c. 7. The best account, probably, of the Psylli, is that found in Lucan's Pharsalia, B. ix. c. 890, et. seq.
18 This custom is referred to by Lucan, in his account of the Psylli, B. ix. 1. 890, et seq.; and by Ælian, Hist. Anim. B. i. e. 57, and B. xvi. c. 27, 28.—B.
19 Herodotus, B. iv. c. 173, gives a somewhat different account; see also Aulus Gellius, B. xvi. c. 11, who follows the narrative of Herodotus. Gellius also gives an account of the Marsi, which is similar to that of Pliny.—B.
20 It is scarcely necessary to remark, that this alleged effect of the human saliva is without foundation. The saliva of a person who has fasted for some time, is still, in this country, a popular remedy for ophthalmia. It contains a greater proportion of saline matter than saliva under ordinary circumstances.—B.
21 The Nasamones have been enumerated among the inhabitants of the northern part of Africa, near the Greater Syrtis, v. 5. See also Herodotus, B. ii. c. 32, and B. vi. c. 172 and 190.—B.
22 Certain individuals are occasionally met with, whose generative organs exhibit an unusual formation, so as to give the idea of their uniting both sexes in the same person; and there are instances, where parts peculiar to both sexes actually appear to exist, but always in an imperfect or rudimentary state; all beyond this is undoubtedly fabulous. See Todd's Cyclop. of Anat. in loco.—B.
23 There are, at the present day, individuals among the negroes, who profess to have the power of enchantment, which, however, appears to consist in their possessing the knowledge of various poisons, which they not unfrequently administer, and by these means obtain great influence over the minds of the people.—B.
24 This power of the eye is referred to by Virgil, Eel. iii. 1. 103: "What eye is it that has fascinated my tender lambs?" The evil eye is still an article of belief in Egypt and in some parts of the East. Witchcraft, in various forms, was greatly credited in the most enlightened parts of Europe, not more than two centuries ago, and is not yet excluded from the vulgar creed.—B.
25 It is well known that nothing of this kind was ever observed in any human eye, nor have we any method of accounting for the origin of this singular notion.—B. Brand, in his Popular Antiquities, says that he has no doubt whatever that the common expression "no one can say 'black is my eye"' [or rather "black is the white of my eye"]—meaning that no one can justly speak ill of me, was derived from the notion of the An- chanting, or bewitching, eye. He quotes from Reginald Scott's "Discovery of Witchcraft:" "Many writers agree with Virgil and Theocritus in the effect of bewitching eyes, affirming ' that in Scythia there are women called the Bythiæ, having two balls, or rather blacks, in the apples of their eyes.' These, forsooth, with their angry looks, do bewitch and hurt, not only young lambs, but young children." See Brand's Popular Antiquities, vol. iii. pp. 44–46. See also Ennemoser's Hist. of Magic, vol. ii. pp. 160, 161. Bohn's Editions.
26 Some of the commentators have supposed, that Pliny, or Phylarchus, from whom he borrows, was misled by the ambiguity of the Greek term ἵππος, which signifies either a horse, or a tremulous motion of the eye. But, even admitting this to be the case, the wonder is scarcely diminished; for we have the double pupil in one eye, while this supposed tremulous motion is confined to the other.—B.
27 In all ages, it has been a prevalent superstition, that those endowed with magical qualities will not sink in water, encouraged, no doubt, by the cunning of those who might wish to make the charge a means of wreaking their vengeance. If they sank, they were to be deemed innocent, but were drowned; if, on the other hand they floated, they were deemed guilty, and handed over to the strong arm of the law. In reference to this usage, Brand says ("Popular Antiquities," vol. iii.), "Swimming a witch was another kind of popular ordeal. By this method she was handled not less indecently than cruelly: for she was stripped naked and cross bound, the right thumb to the left toe, and the left thumb to the right toe. In this state she was cast into a pond or river, in which, if guilty, it was thought impossible for her to sink."
28 This is probably the meaning of the word "tabem" here; though it may possibly signify "rottenness," or "putrefaction."
29 This remark is not contained in any of the works of Cicero now extant.—B.
30 Cuvier observes, that these people probably exercise some deception, analogous to that practised by a Spaniard, who exhibited himself in Paris, and professed to be incombustible, but who, eventually, was the dupe of his own quackery, and paid the penalty with his life. It would appear, that the Hirpi were not confined to one district, but dispersed over different parts of Italy. See the note of Heyne, on the prayer of Aruns, Æn. B. xi. 1. 785, et seq.-B.
31 Plutarch relates these supposed facts in his life of Pyrrhus; this statement may be considered analogous to what has been recorded in modern times, respecting the efficacy of the royal touch in curing certain diseases, especially what has been termed the "King's evil."—B.
32 Horace, Odes, B. i. O. 22, characterises the Hydaspes, a river of India, by the title of "fabulosus."—B.
33 See B. viii. c. 40.
34 Ælian, Hist. Anim. B. xvi. c. 11, and B. xvii. c. 26, refers to the large size of many of the animals of India; and in B. iv. c. 19, he especially describes the size and fierceness of the Indian dog.—B.
35 The Ficus religiosa of Linnæus, the branches of which have the property of taking root when they are bent down to the ground, and of forming new stems, which again produce other branches, that may be bent down in the same way, so as to cover an indefinite space.—B. More popularly known as the "banyan tree." See B. xii. c. 11.
36 The bambos arundinacea, or bamboo cane, is a reed or plant of the gramineous kind, which frequently grows to the height of the tallest trees. The stem is hollow, and the parts of it between the joints are used by the natives to form their canoes. We have an account of them in Herodotus, B. iii. c. 98.—B. See also B. xvi. c. 65 of this work.
37 It does not appear that the stature of the Indians exceeds that of the inhabitants of the temperate zones.—B.
38 Some practices very similar to these exist in certain parts of India, by the Fakirs, a peculiar class of devotees, and are regarded either in the light of religious ceremonies, or of modes of performing penance.—B.
39 Henderson states, in his "Biblical Researches," that there is a race of people found in the Caucasus, and known as the Ingusch, and that it is their belief that a race of dæmons exists, which assume the appearance of armed men, and have the feet inverted.
40 Cuvier remarks, that these wonderful tales are generally related of the inhabitants of mountainous districts, as being less known and less accessible to travellers.—B.
41 This account probably originated in a species of monkey, with a projecting muzzle, called, from this circumstance, "cynocephalus," or the "Dog's head." This account of the cynocephali is repeated by Aulus Gellius, B. ix. c. 4.—B. The cynocephalus is generally considered to be the baboon.
42 So called, ἀπὸ τοῦ μονοῦ κώλου, "from having but one leg." It is not improbable that these stories were first told of these nations from the resemblance of their names to the Greek words having these significations.
43 We have no method of explaining the origin of this story. It is to be regretted, that Pliny should have adopted so many ridiculous fables, on the doubtful authority of Ctesias.—B.
45 Or "dwellers in caves."
46 It has been conjectured, that this account may have originated in the dwarfish stature and short necks of the northern tribes, according to the usual exaggerated statements of the ancient travellers. Aulus Gellius also repeats this fable, B. ix. c. 4.—B.
47 These are the great apes, which are found in some of the Oriental islands; this name was given them from their salacious disposition, which, it would seem, they have manifested in reference to even the human species. We have an account of the Satyrs in Ælian, Hist. Anim. B. xvi. c. 21.—B.
48 We may suppose that this description is taken from some incorrect account of a large kind of ape; but it seems impossible to refer it to any particular species.—B.
49 "Sparrow," or "ostrich-footed;" it does not appear that the commentators have attempted to explain this passage; may we not conjecture that it refers to the Chinese? With respect to the word employed, it has been generally derived from στρο̂υθος, "a sparrow;" Dalechamps, how- ever, as it would appear, with much plausibility, thinks that it is derived from "struthio," the ostrich.-B. It is not improbable, however, that these were so called, from the resemblance of their gait to that of a sparrow, as they would be unable to step out, and be obliged to jump from place to place.
50 Or "wandering tribes."
51 On this subject see B. vi. c. 20. It is clear that either silk or cotton is here alluded to.
52 In Eastern stories we find not uncommonly, wonderful effects attributed to the smell of the apple. See the Arabian Nights, passim
53 Cuvier remarks, that these accounts of the Struthopodes, the Scyritæ, and the Atomi, are not capable of any explanation, being mere fables.—B.
55 He alludes to the wars between the Cranes and the Pygmies in the Iliad, B. iii. 1. 3–6. Their story is also referred to by Ovid and Juvenal.
56 On the subject of the Pygmies, Cuvier remarks, "I am not surprised at finding the Pygmies in the works of Homer; but to find them in Pliny, I am surprised, indeed."—B.
58 Of course, there is no truth in this statement; there are, no doubt, various circumstances in these countries favourable to longevity; but these are more than counter-balanced by certain peculiarities in their mode of life, and by the fatal epidemics to which they are occasionally subject.—B.
59 Pliny, in B. xxix. c. 38, speaks of the use of vipers' flesh as an article of diet, and gives some minute directions for its preparation. It was supposed to be peculiarly nutritive and restorative, and it has been prescribed for the same purpose by modern physicians. There is a medal in existence, probably struck by the Emperor Commodus, in order to commemorate the benefit which he was supposed to have derived from the use of the flesh of vipers.—B.
60 See B. ii. c. 75.
61 The cubitus and the palmus of the Romans, estimated, respectively, at about one foot and-a-half and three inches; this would make the height of these people eight feet.—B.
63 There appears to be no foundation for this statement.—B.
64 See B. vi. c. 35.
65 In many of the warmer climates, where the locusts are of large size and in great abundance, they are occasionally used as food; but we have no reason to believe that they constitute the sole, or even the principal article of the food of any tribe or people.—B.
66 In warm climates, the females arrive at maturity considerably earlier than in the more temperate regions, but the age here mentioned is an ex- aggeration. The female also, in such climates, ceases to bear at an earlier age, probably before the fortieth year.—B.
67 This is the Island of Ceylon, of which Pliny has given an account in the last Book, c. 24.
68 Such unnatural unions may have taken place occasionally, but nothing has ever been produced from them.—B.
69 This is a still greater exaggeration than that mentioned above, in Note 95.—B.
70 Cuvier remarks that this story must have been originally told with re- ference to the race of large apes. He says, however, that some men have the "os coccygis" greatly prolonged, and mentions a painter of celebrity in Paris who had this malformation. "But from this to an actual tail," says he, "the distance is very great." In these times we have the (perhaps doubtful) account by M. de Couret, of the Niam Niams, a race in Abyssinia or Nubia, with tails at least two inches in length. Few will fail to recollect Lord Monboddo's theory, that mankind originally had tails, but wore them off in lapse of time by climbing up the trees.
71 As far as there is any truth in this account, it must refer to certain kinds of apes: but with respect to the size' of the ears, it is, of course, greatly exaggerated.—B.
72 Or Cophes, see B. vi. c. 25.
73 There are many tribes who live on the sea-coast, and who inhabit a barren country, with a bad climate, whose diet is almost confined to fish and who feed their cattle on it. This is the case in some parts of Iceland, and even, to a certain extent, among the people of the Hebrides.—B.
74 Or dog's-headed ape, the baboon: see B. vi. c. 35, and Note 70, p. 130.
75 Perhaps these appearances may be referred to effects of what is termed "mirage," a phenomenon which is described by travellers in different parts of the torrid zone.—B. And in the temperate regions as well; Switzerland and the Hartz mountains, for instance.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.