previous next


I look upon the birds as fabulous which are called "pegasi," and are said to have a horse's head; as also the griffons, with long ears and a hooked beak. The former are said to be natives of Scythia,1 the latter of Æthiopia. The same is my opinion, also, as to the tragopan;2 many writers, however, assert that it is larger than the eagle, has curved horns on the temples, and a plumage of iron colour, with the exception of the head, which is purple. Nor yet do the sirens3 obtain any greater credit with me, although Dinon, the father of Clearchus, a celebrated writer, asserts that they exist in India, and that they charm men by their song, and, having first lulled them to sleep, tear them to pieces. The person, however, who may think fit to believe in these tales, may probably not refuse to believe also that dragons licked the ears of Melampodes, and bestowed upon him the power of understanding the language of birds; as also what Democritus says, when he gives the names of certain birds, by the mixture of whose blood a serpent is produced, the person who eats of which will be able to understand the language of birds; as well as the statements which the same writer makes relative to one bird in particular, known as the "galerita,"4—indeed, the science of augury is already too much involved in embarrassing questions, without these fanciful reveries.

There is a kind of bird spoken of by Homer as the "scops:"5 but I cannot very easily comprehend the grotesque movements which many persons have attributed to it, when the fowler is laying snares for it; nor, indeed, is it a bird that is any longer known to exist. It will be better, therefore, to confine my relation to those the existence of which is generally admitted.

1 Scythia and Ethiopia ought to be transposed here, as the griffons were said to be monsters that guarded the gold in the mountains of Scythia, the Uralian chain, probably.

2 Literally, the "goat Pan." Cuvier thinks that the bird here alluded to actually existed, and identifies it with the napaul, or horned pheasant of Buffon, the penelope satyra of Gmell, a bird of the north of India, and which answers the description here given by Pliny.

3 See Ovid, Met. B. v. 1. 553.

4 A kind of crested lark.

5 The Strix scops, probably, of Linn. See the Odyssey, B. v. 1. 66.

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