Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Herodotus on crocodiles

Herodotus, "the father of history", writing in the fifth century BC, has an interesting view on crocodiles:

"During the four winter months they eat nothing; they are four-footed, and live indifferently on land or in the water. The female lays and hatches her eggs ashore, passing the greater portion of the day on dry land, but at night retiring to the river, the water of which is warmer than the night-air and the dew. Of all known animals this is the one which from the smallest size grows to be the greatest: for the egg of the crocodile is but little bigger than that of the goose, and the young crocodile is in proportion to the egg; yet when it is full grown, the animal measures frequently seventeen cubits and even more. It has the eyes of a pig, teeth large and tusk-like, of a size proportioned to its frame; unlike any other animal, it is without a tongue; it cannot move its under-jaw, and in this respect too it is singular, being the only animal in the world which moves the upper-jaw but not the under. It has strong claws and a scaly skin, impenetrable upon the back. In the water it is blind, but on land it is very keen of sight. As it lives chiefly in the river, it has the inside of its mouth constantly covered with leeches; hence it happens that, while all the other birds and beasts avoid it, with the trochilus it lives at peace, since it owes much to that bird: for the crocodile, when he leaves the water and comes out upon the land, is in the habit of lying with his mouth wide open, facing the western breeze: at such times the trochilus goes into his mouth and devours the leeches. This benefits the crocodile, who is pleased, and takes care not to hurt the trochilus." (Translation by Rawlinson)


Blogger Eurodog said...

Where did Herodotus observe crocodiles, WW?

12:15 pm  
Blogger kinglear said...

The thing I find most interesting about crocs is that it is quite easy to keep their mouths shut. They have weak muscles to open but ferocious ones to shut. The way to wrestle a cros is hug its snout and cling on for dear life

4:09 pm  
Blogger Mopsa said...

No tongue? Well, that's shattered a number of fantasies.

3:31 am  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

Hi ED - I don't think he saw any himself - much of what he wrote was gathered from various sources, in this case, probably merchants who'd been to Egypt.

Well, KL, I hope you never find yourself in that position.

Sorry to disappoint you, Mopsa!

8:47 am  
Blogger kinglear said...

The present recession feels a bit like it.....

12:44 pm  
Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

It almost makes me want to pat a crocodile!

11:05 pm  

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