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LET US now pass on to the other animals, and first of all to the land animals. The elephant is the largest of them all, and in intelligence approaches the nearest to man. It understands the language of its country, it obeys commands, and it remembers all the duties which it has been taught. It is sensible alike of the pleasures of love and glory, and, to a degree that is rare among men even, possesses notions of honesty, prudence, and equity; it has a religious respect also for the stars, and a veneration for the sun and the moon.1 It is said by some authors, that, at the first appearance of the new moon, herds of these animals come down from the forests of Mauritania to a river, the name of which is Amilos;2 and that they there purify themselves in solemn form by sprinkling their bodies with water; after which, having thus saluted the heavenly body, they return to the woods, carrying before them3 the young ones which are fatigued. They are supposed to have a notion, too, of the differences of religion;4 and when about to cross the sea, they cannot be prevailed upon to go on board the ship, until their keeper has promised upon oath that they shall return home again. They have been seen, too, when worn out by disease, (for even these vast masses are liable to disease,) lying on their back, and throwing the grass up into the air, as if deputing the earth to intercede for them with its prayers.5 As a proof of their extreme docility, they pay homage to the king, fall upon their knees, and offer him the crown. Those of smaller growth, which the Indians call bastards,6 are employed by them in ploughing.7

1 Cuvier remarks, that this account of its superior intelligence is exaggerated, it being no greater than that of the dog, if, indeed, equal to it. The opinion may perhaps have arisen from the dexterity with which the animal uses its trunk; but this is to be ascribed not to its own intelligence, but to the mechanical construction of the part. The Indians, from whom we may presume that Pliny derived his account, have always regarded the elephant with a kind of superstitious veneration.—B.

2 Some would read this "Amilo," and others "Annulo." Hardouin considers it the same with the river Valo, which is mentioned by Ptolemy, B. iv. c. 1, and said to have its rise in the mountains known as the Seven Brothers, and mentioned in B. v. c. 1.

3 "Præ se ferentes," probably alluding to the use which the animal makes of its trunk in seizing and carrying bodies.—B.

4 "Alienæ religionis." The meaning of this is doubtful. It may mean "differences in religion," or "religious feeling in others," or perhaps, to judge from the context, "the religious regard for their oath which others feel."

5 "Veluti tellure precibus alligata," one of the harsh metaphorical expressions occasionally occurring in Pliny, which it is very difficult to translate, and even perhaps fully to comprehend.—B.

6 "Nothi."

7 Cuvier remarks, that there are two kinds of elephants, one of which attains sixteen feet, and is chiefly known in Cochin China and Tonquin, while those that are domesticated in India are seldom more than half that height. They are supposed, however, to be only varieties of the same species. Pliny, in B. vi. c. 22, gives an account of the uses which the Indians made of the elephant, and of their different sizes, but he does not state there that it is the smaller ones only that are employed in agriculture.—B.

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