Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

It has had many detractors, however; also our dual nomenclature, and they especially at that time when the ridi- designate each species by its generick culous question was agitated respect and specifick appellation. ing the preeminence of the ancients However, I was not wholly without over the moderns. Herodotus can be distrust. I suspected their indolence accused of relating prodigies only of mind and their servility of characwhen he is contemplated by the ter. They do not love much talking ; standard of oựr own institutions: and, from the hope of a good reward, but, if we visit Egypt, and view its they have the courtesy of not disancient monuments and catacombs, pleasing any one by contradiction : and consider its numerous and mag- hence, they almost naturally reply nificent remains of social organiza- yes to every question that is put to tion, we shall be convinced that He them, provided they are not interestrodotus has added nothing to the ed in it. picture of antiquity, which he has Thus forewarned, my readers will delineated.

be enabled to exercise a discretionary Such was the opinion which I judgment. formed while among the ruins of Herodotus, in the translation of M. the famous Thebes and its hundred Larcher, commerces thus upon the gates. I passed the greatest part of subject of the crocodile :the month of October there, in the “Let us now pass to the crocodile and year 1799; and I employed some

its natural qualities.-It never eats during moments of leisure in ascertaining the four most severe months of winter. the veracity of Herodotus with regard this point : but they did not compre

I interrogated my fishermen upon to his observations upon natural history. I shall confine myself, at pre- dotus is not contrary to the known

hend me. Yet, the position of Herosent, to what he has said, respecting character of reptiles. Bartram asserts, the crocodile.

I had only this opportunity of positively, the same thing of the crostudying this celebrated animal. It is

codiles or caymans of North Ameri. known that he is found no where but

ca; but, to be sure, these animals in the Thebaid and in the Upper Nile. live in a colder climate, inhabit a Not having remained long enough at

younger soil, and are enabled to find, Thebes, to corroborate all the obser

more easily, barren places, where

they may conceal themselves and deficiencies by inquiries of the fisher. remain torpid during the winter. If men of Luxor, of Carnat, and of Me. crocodiles were still to be found in dinet-Abou.

Lower Egypt, as they were in the It may be necessary to observe, that his observation would be true :

time of Herodotus, it is very probable that these sort of people, in Egypt, that portion of Egypt (especially on have more knowledge of their trade, the shores of the Pelusiack branch and and more acquaintance with the habits of aquatick animals, than their of lake Menzialeh) being covered by brethren in Europe. The occupation much colder, both from its northern

inaccessible marshes, and being also is hereditary, and descends from father to son: and their knowledge that fall during the winter. Should not

position and from the abundant rains is transmitted with accuracy; for they dread nothing so much as a

Herodotus, therefore, be considered fruitless expenditure of time and la

as speaking only of these crocodiles bour. They say, in the same sense

in the neighbourhood of the sea ? as naturalists, and almost always with

Though it has four feet, yet it is amsingular precision, such an animal is phibious. It passes the greater part of the of such a genus, and such a one is but

day in dry places, and the whole night in

the river; for the water is warmer than the a variety of this genus, They have air and the dow"

[ocr errors]

These observations are strictly power and ferocity of the crocodile. true. All crocodiles do this, unless It is no uncommon thing to meet, in some local circumstances combine to the Thebaid, countrymen who are render it impossible. They live in deprived of an arm or a leg ; and if troops, on the tops of the islands, they are asked to what accident they which are very numerous in the ri- owe their loss, they reply, this mis. vers. They never leave the spot that fortune happened to me from a crocogave them birth, èxcept to seek for dile. prey; and they return, at stated pe- "They lay their eggs upon the earth, riods, and repose, in common, upon

and hatch them there." the strand. They never believe

Aristotle says the same of the inthemselves safe. Hence, if they hear

cubation of the female of the crocothe least noise, and, above all, if they dile. The fishermen, however, assure

me that the heat of the sun alone perceive any one coming towards them, they plunge into the water, se

hatches the eggs of the crocodile. parate from each other, and swim

Should Herodotus be understood, in about at hazard.

the expressions which he has used, When any persons come to the

as meaning the care which the moshore which they inhabit, and remain

thers bestow upon their eggs when there a length of time (as I had the they are upon the point of being patience to do for half a day with

hatched ? I asked how long a time some friends and my guides) it causes

elapsed between the laying of the them the greatest uneasiness. They eggs and the birth of the young crocannot remain under water more

codile. They always replied a months than ten minutes at a time, and they without being able to specify the do not even wait ten minutes without

exact number of days. raising their heads so that their snout

Two enemies of the crocodile, the is level with the surface of the water.

ichneumon and the tufrinambis*, are -The nasal apertures being in the constantly employed in seeking for middle, they are thus enabled to draw its eggs, of which they are very fond. in the air, which, from the peculiar

These animals excited the gratitude organization of the parts, passes into of the ancient Egyptians, by attackthe tracheal artery, without any of the ing thus, in its very source, the reambient water. But this manner of production of an animal so fatal to breathing while swimming, fatigues Egypt. them after a while. Then they sepa

The tupinambis, which swims very rate into two troops ; the smallest well, carries on, besides, a constant go to a distance to find some beach

war with the young crocodiles, and where they may be safe ; but the

continues the pursuit of them till larger ones content themselves with they take shelter amongst larger inapproaching the slope which is pro

dividuals of their species. duced at the head of each island by

The Egyptians imagine that the the deposited sediment of the earth. tupinambis is the crocodile in its first

So much inquietude at the sight of state ; and, though they have often a single man, shows a timidity of had opportunities

of correcting themcharacter; and, in fact, the crocodile

selves in this errour, yet they perseis a fearful animal on land; but he is

vere in it; for that which approaches quite the reverse in the water. It is

to the marvellous, will never want not prudent to bathe near him. The

enthusiasts to relate it, nor the crecries of terrour that were uttered by dulous to believe it. the inhabitants of Luxor, at behold

“Of all known animals, there is not one

which becomes so great after having beefi ing a Frenchman commit the rash act, were sufficiently indicative of the

* Ouaran el bar of the Aralis : Laceria idea which they entertained of the Nilotion of ÍTasselquist.

VOL. II.

[ocr errors]

a

so little. The eggs are not much larger “ It is the only animal which has no than those of a goose, and the animals that tongue.” issue from them are in proportion to the

Yes, doubtless, which has no apeggs : but they gradually grow and reach to seventeen cubits, and even more." parent tongue. Such is the opinion

Elian relates that there was to be that would be formed from an inseen one of twenty five cubits under spection of the living animal, and Psammeticus, and another of twenty which has been given by Aristotle in six under Amasis ; and the learned two parts of his works, by Seba, Has. have determined that this measure selquist, and all travellers. But, notwas nearly equal to thirty five or withstanding, the tongue has been thirty seven feet. Prosper Alpinus, discovered by Olaus Wormius, GiIlasselquist, and Norden, speak of rard, Borrich, and Blasius. The early crocodiles that were thirty feet in anatomists of the academy of scienlength. M. Lacipierre, an officer of ces have also described it; and they health, and a member of the French suspected the accuracy of Herodotus commission in Egypt, was in posses- in consequence; but surely he may sion of teeth which had belonged to be forgiven that he did not know a crocodile of equal dimensions. Now, what after ages have discovered only we know that a crocodile, when it is by means of anatomical research. sues from the egg, is nine inches “ It does not move the under jaw, and long. It is capable, therefore, of ac- it is the only animal, also, which moves the quiring more than forty times its

upper jaw towards the under one.”

Much has been written for and original length. What Herodotus says of the size of the egg, is also nished that it should have been so

against this position ; but I am asto. perfectly correct. “ It has the eyes of a hog, the teeth are

long questioned. The crocodile is, in projecting, and of a size in proportion to fact, the only known animal, whose that of the body."

upper jaw (between the parts of Pere Fenillée [Observ. tom. 3, p. which the skull is to be found) moves 373] says of the crocodile of St. Do towards the inferiour one, whieh has mingo, that it has the eyes of a hog; scarcely any motion at all. Herodotus, which, doubtless, implies that the however, could not establish this discrocodile has a small prominent eye, tinction. He had, under his eyes, the upper part of which is covered living crocodiles, and he was fully and almost hidden. Its under eye-lid justified in speaking, as he has spomoves in an upward direction. As, ken, of the motion of their jaws. according to the relation of Swam

“ The claws of the crocodile are very merdam, the pupil of the eye is capa. strong, and the skin on the back is so coble of contraction, like that of the cat,

vered with scales, as to be impenetrable.”

It is impossible, in fact, to peneand of becoming perpendicularly long, some learned individuals, and without using iron weapons : leaden

trate the armour of the crocodile, especially M. Camus, who saw a liv- bullets flatten on his sides, but do not ing crocodile at Paris in 1772, have found that its eyes have more resem

enter, unless they happen to strike

him near the ears. blance to those of a cat than of a pig.

“ It cannot see when in the water; but I shall simply observe, that this is a when above the surface its sight is very quality, which it possesses in com- exact." mon with many nocturnal animals, The first proposition can only as also being furnished with a mem- mean that he sees less perfectly under brana nictitans.

water ; but the second is strictly With regard to its teeth, every one true. Procopius has verified this fact. is acquainted with them; and besides, He often endeavoured to approach M. Lacepede, in his interesting arti- near enough to crocodiles to shoot at le of the Crocodile, may be consulted. them, but the moment he was per

a

a

ceived they fled and disappeared. I It has not yet been discovered what have repeated the same observations is the bird which performs this good at the isle of Thebes and at that of office for the crocodile, except by Hermuntis.

ridiculous stories, which have been The moment the crocodiles per- invented by way of explanation. ceived me, I saw them slowly turn Blanchard, among others, in the themselves and make towards the Memoirs de l'Academie des Inscrifi. river. At first, they proceeded with tions, attributes to it (doubtless from caution, and with a measured pace; a false interpretation of an expression

; but, arrived within a certain distance, of Scaliger's) thorns on the back and they leaped, all at once, into the wa- at the end of the wings; and he deter. I approached the beach which scribes it as a busy servant who enthey had quitted, and from the im- deavours to put the crocodile to sleep pression of their feet on the sand, the by a gentle tickling. Can it have been largest among them had leaped at thought that the invention of this least eight feet.

fable would increase the veracity of I am also informed that crocodiles Herodotus ? hear at a great distance. My conduc

Marmol, who knows as little upon tors, who were not ignorant of this, this subject as Blanchard, says that it recommended me to preserve the is a white bird, of the size of a thrush. strictest silence, as the only means of approaching near to them.

The greater part of translators have “ As it lives in the water, it has its

made it a wren, by giving a meaning, throat filled with leeches. All animals, too absolute, to a passage in Pliny every beast, avoids it; it lives in amity respecting the trochilus ; but this with nothing but the trochilus, from errour has been removed by M. whom it receives most important services. Larcher, who justly observes that It keeps its mouth open, the trochilus

the wren is a wood bird, which dwells enters and eats up all the leeches. The crocodile feels so much pleasure in being in dry places and hedges. thus relieved, that he never commits any Aldrovandus, who lived before all outrage upon his deliverer."

the modern literati, has approached This passage is one which has ex- the nearest to truth, when he conjecercised the ingenuity of commenta- tures, from several passages of Ariiors more than any other. Some have stotle and Atheneus that the trochidenied the fact altogether ; but it is lus is the coureur, an aquatick bird, certain, that they are wrong in thus very quick in running, having long impeaching the veracity of this his- legs and a straight and slender beak torian. I took every pains possible to Salerno endeavours to support this ascertain the fact that there is a opinion by new proofs. small bird, which, flying constantly Lastly, the trochilus has been disfrom beach to beach, and continually covered in modern times. Father occupied in seeking for its food, en.. Sicard, one of the missionaries sent ters sometimes into the throat of the to the Levant, notices it under its crocodile when it is asleep, and eats Arabian name of Sag-sag. It is to be the insects that are there sucking its lamented that he did not indicate to blood, and not leeches, in the strict what species this individual belongs. acceptation of the word, such as M. There is no bird so frequent on the Larcher uses it in his translation. shores of the river as the trochilus. There are no leeches in the Nile; Hasselquist has described it under but there is a vast number of gnats the name of charadrius ægyptius. It is engendered on its surface, which are a distinct species, though very simia great torment to the crocodile, by lar to the small plover of Europe. inserting their proboscis into the Aristotle and Atheneus are both orifices of the glands, which are very perfectly right in saying that it runs numerous in its tongue and palate. very quick, and that it goes, in calm

[ocr errors]

weather, to seek its food in the impressions which they attributed water.

to the males, had a head much “ All beasts and animals fly from the stronger, but shorter than the others. crocodile."

On this occasion they boasted much The common heron, on the con

of the superiority of the males over trary, seems to be fond of it: at least, the females ; adding, that the males he seeks the neighbourhood of the knew very well how to make themcrocodile; bu kes care to have

selves obeyed, by biting the females, the river between hiin and his friend,

or striking them severely with their doubtless, from motives of safety.--- tails. Wherever herons are seen, there can

“Some of the Egyptians consider the be no doubt of crocodiles being found crocodiles as sacred animals. The inhaon the other bank. Į recollect that bitants of Thebes, for example, have a the presence of these birds directed great veneration for them. The sacred cro. us, on the 21st October, 1799, to a codile is nourished with the flesh of victroop of fifteen crocodiles, which long as it lives, it is taken the greatest care

tims, and with other prescribed food. As were reposing quietly upon land, and

of; when it dies, they embalm it, and dewhom we threw into confusion by a posit it in a sacred chest." cannon ball which our vessel fired Many mummies of crocodiles were upon them : the herons were not found in the catacombs where the alarmed, but continued to watch. people of the city of Thebes were They keep thus very near the croco. buried. I myself found two: M. Pug. diles to avail themselves of the ter- net, one of the most able of the me. rour which they create in the river, dical men belonging to the army of and to be ready to seize the fish the east, found also, a very fine one: which their presence causes to fly in and, lastly, the grottos of Heletia were every direction.

filled with the bones of large crocoThe pelican has the same instinct: diles that had been embalmed. I have but he does not confine himself to also brought, from the same places this sole fishing, nor does he persist and from the burial grounds of Memwith the same perseverance as the phis, the figures of crocodiles modelheron.

led in porcelain, and in baked earth. " When the crocodile reposes upon “ The inhabitants of the environs of land, he has the habit, almost always, of Thebes, select a crocodile, which they turning towards the side whence the wind

rear and instruct with such care, that it blows, and of keeping his mouth open.” will suffer itself to be touched by the hand.

This is a fact which I have fre. They adorn it with ear-rings, made of quently verified, both at the isle of gold or stone.” Thebes and Hermuntes. I have been There is not a single circumstance, able to observe, very distinctly, upon even down to so minute a one as this, the moist sand, the traces of two which I have not had an opportunity troops of crocodiles which my ap- of verifying. Having lad occasion for proach had driven away ; almost all the head of one of my crocodile of them had their throats directed mummies, I drew it forth from its towards the northwest. Some of bandages, and I had the satisfaction them had been lying on their sides, of perceiving, from the apertures in and the impression of their half its ears, that they had been perforated opened jaws was very visible on the to hang ear-rings in them. sand.

I have thus commented upon every My guides availed themselves of paragraph of Herodotus respecting these circumstances to make me ob- ibe crocodile, and I have done it serve the difference between the without prejudice. I may be suspeci; males and females. I thought, in- ed of admiring this great man, and I decd, that I could observe that the am willing to confess that I do.

« PredošláPokračovať »