previous next


There is in the province of Gallia Narbonensis and in the territory of Nemausus1 a lake known by the name of Latera,2 where dolphins fish in company with men. At the narrow outlet3 of this lake, at stated seasons of the year innumerable multitudes of mullets make their way into the sea, taking advantage of the turn of the tide; hence it is that it is quite impossible to employ nets sufficiently strong to bear so vast a weight, even though the fish had not the instinctive shrewdness to watch their opportunity. By a similar instinct the fish immediately make with all speed towards the deep water which is found in a gulf in that vicinity, and hasten to escape from the only spot that is at all convenient for spreading the nets. As soon as ever the fishermen perceive this, all the people—for great multitudes resort thither, being well aware of the proper time, and especially desirous of sharing in the amusement—shout as loud as they can, and summon Simo to the scene of action. The dolphins very quickly understand that they are in requisition, as a north-east wind speedily carries the sound to their retreats, though a south one would somewhat retard it by carrying it in an opposite direction. Even then however, sooner than you could have possibly supposed, there are the dolphins, in all readiness to assist. They are seen approaching in all haste in battle array, and, imme- diately taking up their position when the engagement is about to take place, they cut off all escape to the open sea, and drive the terrified fish into shallow water. The fishermen then throw their nets, holding them up at the sides with forks, though the mullets with inconceivable agility instantly leap over them;4 while the dolphins, on the other hand, are waiting in readiness to receive them, and content themselves for the present with killing them only, postponing all thoughts of eating till after they have secured the victory. The battle waxes hot apace, and the dolphins, pressing on with the greatest vigour, readily allow themselves to be enclosed in the nets; but in order that the fact of their being thus enclosed may not urge the enemy to find additional means of flight, they glide along so stealthily among the boats and nets, or else the swimmers, as not to leave them any opening for escape. By leaping, which at other times is their most favourite amusement, not one among them attempts to make its escape, unless, indeed, the nets are purposely lowered for it; and the instant that it has come out it continues the battle, as it were, up to the very ramparts. At last, when the capture is now completed, they devour those among the fish which they have killed;5 but being well aware that they have given too active an assistance to be repaid with only one day's reward, they take care to wait there till the following day, when they are filled not only with fish, but bread crumbs soaked in wine as well.

1 Now Nismes. See B. iii. c. 5.

2 Still known as the Lake of Lattes, in the department of Narbonne. Cuvier says that the mullet-fishing is still carried on in this lake, which is on the shores of Languedoc, and refers to D'Astruc's Memoirs on the Natural History of that province. The dolphins, however, he says, no longer take part in the sport; and he observes that the same story is told by Ælian, B. ii. c. 8, and Albertus Magnus, De Anim. B. xxiv., with reference to other places. Oppian, in his Halieutica, B. v., makes Eubœa the scene of these adventures, while Albertus Magnus speaks of the shores of Italy. Rondelet, in his Book on Fishes, says that it used to take place on the coasts of Spain, near Palamos. Cuvier suggests, with Belon and D'Astruc, that the story arose from the fact that the dolphins, while pursuing the shoals of mullets, sometimes drove them into the creeks and salt-water lakes on the coast; a fact which has been sometimes found to cause the fish to be caught in greater abundance.

3 Dalechamps tells us that the people of Montpellier call this outlet "La Crau," and that it is in the vicinity of Mangueil.

4 Were it not for the word "nihilominus" here, it would look as if the meaning were, that although the ends of the nets are hoisted up, the fish are so active that they jump over the side, and thus get enclosed. By the use of that word, however, it would seem to mean, that although the sides are hoisted up, the fish are so nimble, that they clear the nets altogether.

5 "Quos interemere." Pintianus suggests "æquo interim jure"— "with equal rights," instead of these words, and Pelicier does not disapprove of the suggestion; for Ælian states, in B. ii. c. 8, Hist. Anim., that the dolphins used to share the fish equally with the fishermen of Eubœa. But, as Hardouin says, the words "quos interemere" have reference to the statement above, that "they content themselves for the present with killing them only." And besides, if the fishermen gave them an equal share, it is not likely that they would give them still more of the fish on the following day.

Creative Commons License
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.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (4 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: