Page images
PDF
EPUB

towards the west, with its mouth open: the trochilus entering its throat destroys the leeches; in acknowledgment for which service, it never does the trochilus injury.

LXIX. This animal, by many of the Ægyptians, is esteemed sacred "29, by others it is treated as an enemy'30. They who live near Thebes, and the lake Mæris, hold the crocodile in religious veneration : they select one, which they render tame and docile, suspending golden ornaments from its ears '3', and sometimes gems of

value;

129 Esteemed sacred.]—On this subject we have the following singular story in Maximus Tyrius. An Ægyptian woman brought up the young one of a crocodile. The Ægyptians esteemed her singularly fortunate, and revered her as the nurse of a deity. The woman had a son about the same age with the crocodile, and they grew up and played together. No harm ensued whilst the crocodile was gentle from being weak; but when it got its strength it devoured the child. The woman exulted in the death of her son, and considered his fate as blessed in the extreme, in thus becoming the victim of their domestic god. –T.

130 Treated as an enemy.]—These were the people of Ten-' tyra in particular, now called Dandera, they were famous for their intrepidity as well as art in overcoming crocodiles. For a particular account of their manner of treating them, see Pliny, book viii, chap. 25.-T.

131 Ornaments from its ears.]—This seems to suppose, that the crocodile has ears externally, nevertheless those which the Sultan sent to Louis the Fourteenth, and which the academy of sciences dissected, had none. They found in them indeed apertures of the ears placed below the eyes, but conÇealed and covered with skin, which had the appearance of

two

value; the fore feet are secured by a chain. They feed it with the flesh of the sacred victims, and with other appointed food. While it lives they treat it with unceasing attention, and when it dies, it is first embalmed, and afterwards deposited in a sacred chest. They who live in or near Elephantine, so far from considering these beasts as sacred, make them an article of food: they call them not crocodiles, but champsæ 132. The

ne of crocodiles was first imposed by the Ionians, from their resemblance to lizards so named by them, which are produced in the hedges*

name

as

LXX. Among the various methods that are used to take the crocodile '}}, I shall only relate

one

two eye-lids entirely closed. When the animal was alive, and out of the water, these lids probably opened. However this may be, it was, as may be presumed, to these membranes that the ear-sings were fixed.-Larcher.

132 Champsæ.]-The crocodile had many names, such as carmin, souchus, campsa. This last signified an ark or receptacle.- Bryant.

* This is, in fact, the guana, an animal very well known in hot climates.

133 To take the crocodile.]—The most common way of killing the crocodile is by shooting it. The ball must be directed towards the belly, where the skin is soft, and not armed with scales like the back. Yet they give an account of a method of catching them something like that which Herodotus relates. They make some animal cry at a distance from the river, and when the crocodile comes out they thrust a spear

one which most deserves attention: they fix a piece of swine's flesh, on a hook * and suffer it to float into the middle of the stream; on the banks they have a live hog, which they beat till it cries out. The crocodile hearing the noise makes towards it, and in the way encounters and devours the bait. They then draw it on shore, and the first thing they do is to fill its eyes with clay; it is thus easily manageable, which it otherwise would not be.

[ocr errors]

LXXI. The hippopotamus 134 is esteemed sacred in the district of Papremis, but in no other part

of

into his body, to which a rope is tied: they then let him go into the water to spend himself; and afterwards drawing him out, run a pole into his mouth, and jumping on his back tie his jaws together.—Pococke.

* A certain writer of the name of Caistrius affirms, that what Herodotus relates in this book of the phenix, the hippopotamus, and of the taking of the crocodile, he has borrowed word for word from Hecatæus of Miletus, and that Pollin has written a whole book of the plagiarisms of Herodotus. But by whom, says Larcher, are these charges brought? by two obscure writers only, who sought to raise their own reputation by traducing so illustrious a character. Besides, if they had been true, Plutarch, who eagerly sought every opportunity of depressing Herodotus, would not have overlooked this. See Larcher's preface to his second edition.

13+ The hippopotamus.]—It is to be observed, that the hippopotamus and crocodile were symbols of the same purport: both related to the Deluge, and however the Greeks might sometimes represent them, they were both in different places VOL. I.

DD

reverenced

of Ægypt. I shall describe its nature and properties : it is a quadruped, its feet are cloven, and

it

[ocr errors]

inveterate. It never apMaillet spe

reverenced by the ancient Ægyptians.--Bryant, who refers his reader on this subject to the Isis and Osiris of Plutarch.

The hippopotamus is generally supposed to be the behemoth of Scripture. Maillet says his skin is two fingers thick; and that it is so much the more difficult to kill it as there is only a small place in its forehead where it is vulnerable. Hasselquist classes it not with the amphibia but quadrupeds. It is an inveterate enemy to the crocodile, and kills it whereever it meets it. It never appears below the cataracts. The hide is a load for a camel : Maillet speaks of one which would have been a heavy load for four camels. He does great injury to the Ægyptians, destroying in a very short time an entire field of corn or clover. Their manner of destroying it is too curious to be omitted: they place in his way a great quantity of peas; the beast filling himself with these, it occasions an intolerable thirst. Upon these he drinks large draughts of water, and the Ægyptians afterwards find him dead on the shore, blown up as if killed with the strongest poison. Pennant relates, in his Synopsis of Animals, other and more plausible means of taking this animal. Its voice is between the roaring of a bull and the braying of an elephant. It is at first interrupted with frequent short pauses, but may be heard at a great distance. The oftener he goes on shore, the better hopes have the Ægyptians of a sufficient increase of the Nile. His food, they say, can be almost distinguished in his excrements. Pococke calls it a fish, and says that he was able to obtain little information concerning it.

The above particulars are compiled chiefly from Hasselquist, Maillet, and Pennant.

It is Hasselquist who says that the hippopotamus is never seen below the cataracts, and that therefore the inhabitants of Upper Ægypt only can be acquainted with them. But

hon

it has hoofs like an ox; the nose is short, but turned up, the teeth prominent; it resembles a horse in its mane, its tail, and its voice: it is of the size of a very large ox, and has a skin so remarkably thick, that when dried it is made into offensive weapons.

· LXXII. The Nile also produces otters, which the Ægyptians venerate, as they also do the fish called lepidotus, and the eel '35 : these are sacred to the Nile, as among the birds is one called the chenalopex 136

how can this be? Upper Ægypt is the space between Siene and Cairo; beyond this is Abyssinia. .

Since the first edition of this work, I have had the opportunity of perusing Sparman and Vaillant, both of whom make many interesting and detailed remarks on the hippopotamus; to which authors I must refer the reader for further particulars concerning this animal.

135 The eel.]-Antiphanes, and the Greek writers, who amused themselves with ridiculing the religious ceremonies of Ægypt, were doubtless ignorant of the motive which caused this particular fish to be proscribed. The Aesh of the eel, and some other fish, thickened the blood, and by checking the perspiration excited all those maladies connected with the leprosy. The priests forbade the people to eat eels, and to render their prohibition 'more effectual, they pretended to regard this fish as sacred. M. Pauw pretends that the Greeks have been in an error in placing the eel amongst the sacred fish, but I have always to say to that learned man, where are your proofs ?-Larcher.

136 Chenalopex.]-This bird in figure greatly resembles the goose, but it has all the art and cunning of the fox.-Larcher.

« PreviousContinue »