This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
1 It is not accurately known what fish was meant by the ancients, under the name of "balæna." According to some writers, it is considered to be the same with what we call the "grampus."
2 A space, as Hardouin remarks, greater than that occupied by some towns, the "jugerum" being 240 feet long, and 120 broad. The vast size of great fishes was a favourite subject with some of the ancient writers, and their accounts were eagerly copied by some of the early fathers. Bochart has collected these various accounts in his work on Animals, B. i. c. 7. In the "Arabian Nights" also, we find accounts of huge fishes in the eastern seas, so large as to be taken for islands. The existence of the sea-serpent is still a question in dispute; and a whale of large size, is a formidable obstacle in the way of a ship of even the largest burthen.
3 As Hardouin remarks, we can learn neither from the works of Pliny, nor yet of Ælian, what fish the pristis really was. From Nonius Marcellus, c. 13, we find that it was a very long fish of large size, but narrow body. Hardouin says that it was a fish of the cetaceous kind, found in the Indian seas, which, in his time, was known by some as the "vivella," with a long bony muzzle serrated on either side, evidently meaning the sawfish. Pristis was a favourite name given by the Romans to their ships. In the boat-race described by Virgil in the Æneid, B. v., one of the boats is so called.
4 Cuvier remarks, that he himself had often seen the "langouste," or large lobster, as much as four feet in length, and the "homard," usually a smaller kind, of an equal size. The length, however, given by Pliny would make six or eight feet, according to the length of the cubit.
5 Cuvier says, that it is an exaggeration by travellers, which there is nothing in nature at all to justify. Probably, however, some animals of the genus boa, or python, or large water-snakes may have given rise to the story.
6 On the southern coast of Arabia.
7 Ptolemy Philadelphus.
8 See B. vi. c. 23, 25. Strabo, in his fifteenth Book, tells the same story of the Ichthyophagi, situate between the Carmani and the Oritæ. Dalechamps suggests that the Gedrosi mentioned this in relation to the Ichthyophagi, who were probably their neighbours.
9 Also called the Cophetes. See B. vi. c. 25. The commander of Alexander's fleet more especially alluded to, is probably Nearchus, who wrote an account of his voyage, to which Pliny has previously made allusion in B. vi. and which is followed by Strabo, in B. xv., and by Arrian, in his "Indica."
10 Hardouin remarks, that the Basques of his day were in the habit of fencing their gardens with the ribs of the whale, which sometimes exceeded twenty feet in length; and Cuvier says, that at the present time, the jaw-bone of the whale is used in Norway for the purpose of making beams or posts for buildings.
11 Onesicritus, quoted by Strabo, B. xv., says., that in the vicinity of Taprobane, or Ceylon, there were animals which had an amphibious life, some of which resembled oxen, some horses, and various other land animals. Cuvier is of opinion, that not improbably tie "Trichecum manatum" and the "Trichecum dugong" of Linnæus are alluded to, which are herbivorous animals, though nearly allied to the cetacea, and which are in the habit of coming to pasture on the grass or sea-weed they may chance to find on the shore.
12 It is remarked by Cuvier, that there is no resemblance whatever between the domesticated animals and any of the cetacea; but that the imagination of the vulgar has pictured to itself these supposed resemblances, by the aid of a lively imagination.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.