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 Having mentioned what Megasthenes and other writers relate of the hunters and the beasts of prey, we must add the following particulars. Nearchus is surprised at the multitude and the noxious nature of the tribe of reptiles. They retreat from the plains to the settlements, which are not covered with water at the period of inundations, and fill the houses. For this reason the inhabitants raise their beds at some height from the ground, and are sometimes compelled to abandon their dwellings, when they are infested by great multitudes of these animals; and, if a great proportion of these multitudes were not destroyed by the waters, the country would be a desert. Both the minuteness of some animals and the excessive magnitude of others are causes of danger; the former, because it is difficult to guard against their attacks; the latter, on account of their strength, for snakes are to be seen of sixteen cubits in length. Charmers go about the country, and are supposed to cure wounds made by serpents. This seems to comprise nearly their whole art of medicine, for disease is not frequent among them, which is owing to their frugal manner of life, and to the absence of wine; whenever diseases do occur, they are treated by the Sophistæ (or wise men). Aristobulus says, that he saw no animals of these pretended magnitudes, except a snake, which was nine cubits and a span in length. And I myself saw one in Egypt, nearly of the same size, which was brought from India. He says also, that he saw many serpents of a much inferior size, and asps and large scorpions. None of these, however, are so noxious as the slender small serpents, a span long, which are found concealed in tents, in vessels, and in hedges. Persons wounded by them bleed from every pore, suffering great pain, and die, unless they have immediate assistance; but this assistance is easily obtained, by means of the virtues of the Indian roots and drugs. Few crocodiles, he says, are found in the Indus, and these are harmless, but most of the other animals, except the hippopotamus, are the same as those found in the Nile; but Onesicritus says that this animal also is found there. According to Aristobulus, none of the sea fish ascend the Nile from the sea, except the shad,1 the grey mullet,2 and dolphin, on account of the crocodiles; but great numbers ascend the Indus. Small craw-fish3 go up as far as the mountains,4 and the larger as far as the confluence of the Indus and the Acesines. So much then on the subject of the wild animals of India. We shall return to Megasthenes, and resume our account where we digressed.
4 In the text, μέχοͅι ὄοͅους, ‘to a mountain.’ Coraÿ changes the last word to the name of a people, οὔοͅων, but Strabo does not appear to have been acquainted with them; Groskurd, to ὀρῶν. The translation adopts this correction, with the addition of the article, which, as Kramer observes, is wanting if we fallow Groskurd.
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