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This webpage reproduces an article in the
Transactions
of the American Philological Association

Vol. 51 (1920), pp101‑115.

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

p101 Spontaneous Generation
and Kindred Notions in Antiquity1

By Dr. Eugene S. McCartney
Northwestern University

The doctrine of spontaneous generation, or, as it was named by Huxley, abiogenesis, originated in remote antiquity, flourished throughout ancient times and the Middle Ages, and lasted until modern times. As late as 1870 it still possessed sufficient vitality to interest the British Association for the Advancement of Science. In that year in his presidential address Huxley gave a summary of the investigations by which it was refuted.2 In view of the millennia during which the belief in abiogenesis persisted, its historical importance in connection with biology, and the association with it of names like Aristotle, Pasteur, and Huxley, it seems worth while to write in some detail the initial chapter in its history.

In historic Greek antiquity3 the existence of every species of animal the sex history of which was not known, was accounted for by spontaneous generation or some kindred notion. This theory was necessarily resorted to in the case of those insects and animals of which the female4 was supposed to be lacking, or the male,5 or both male and female,6 or which for p102other reasons did not have the power of reproduction.7 Parthenogenesis8 and hermaphroditism9 were called upon to explain the existence of more creatures than the facts warrant.

With increasing knowledge one animal after another was probably removed from the list of animals whose origin was explained by the notions under consideration; but even philosophers assigned to abiogenesis the original creation of animals, and so apparently differed from their illiterate countrymen only in restricting its scope in their own day. Whenever Aristotle and the scientific men of his time were unable to find out the facts, or to formulate a plausible theory, they simply accepted the traditional popular opinion. For example, though the advanced thinkers of his day proposed the theory that bees originate from the union of the sexes, the great scientist makes merely cursory mention of their views, and then goes on to record what must have been prevailing popular notions (G. A. 759A-B).

It is quite possible that ideas kindred to the notion of spontaneous generation may have been used by the remote ancestors of the Greeks to account for the perpetuation of the human species. Frazer, Attis, Adonis, and Osiris 80 and 220, notes that the lowest existing tribes of Central Australia are not aware that offspring are the result of the union of the sexes, and expresses the belief that such ignorance may once have been universal among mankind. There were among the Greeks some time-honored ceremonies which seem to point to a past when the true nature of parentage was unknown.10 p103At such a period may have originated the story that the mother of Attis was impregnated by an almond (Paus. VII.17.11), or, according to Arnobius (Adv. Nat. V.6), by a pomegranate. We find in Greek literature traditions hoary with age telling how man sprang from the oak tree, the ash tree, a stone, etc.,11 notions which are after all only specific forms of the very general belief in autochthonous origin.

Aristotle says that if men and quadrupeds are really 'earth-born,' they came into existence either through the formation of a scolex, 'larva,' or else from eggs (G. A. 762 B 28). He eliminates the second alternative because he saw no animals being generated spontaneously from eggs, but did see (as he thought) insects and Testacea arising from the scolex (G. A. 763 A 4).12

Aristotle takes pains to express his own views about the process of spontaneous generation (G. A. 762 A 10). He maintains that animals do not originate from putrefied matter, but rather from an admixture of rain water with matter undergoing putrefaction. The sweet elements in this combination produce the animals, while the putrefied matter is the residue of the process. This view seems to be unique.13

Since insects are so small, it is not surprising that the sex history of some of them totally eluded the observation of the ancients. After naming a few whose manner of reproduction was known to him, Aristotle continues: "Other insects14 are p104not derived from living parentage, but are generated spontaneously: some out of dew falling on leaves,15 ordinarily in springtime, but not seldom in winter when there has been a stretch of fair weather and southerly winds; others grow in decaying mud16 or dung,17 others in timber,18 green and dry; some in the hair of animals;19 some in the flesh of animals;20 and some in excrement, not only after it has been voided,21 but while it is yet within the living animal, like the helminthes or intestinal worms"22 (H. A. 551 A 1).

Still other insects originate from vegetation,23 from p105snow,24 rain or a damp languid heat,25 from used wash water,26 foul water,27 slime of wells,28 slime of vinegar,29 wine,30 old wax,31 dried sweat,32 little sack-like objects on the river Hypanis,33 from fire,34 paper,35 damp dust,36 and books.37 A most peculiar notion is the one which attributes the origin of the cicada to the spittle of cuckoos.38 Another view for the origin of the cicada is the readily explainable one that it was born from the earth. In the days when the Greeks wore long hair, they clasped it with a golden cicada to indicate that they too were autochthonous.39

The origin of a number of insects is ascribed to the carcasses of the larger animals. It was supposed that the hornet was generated in horses40 or in mules;41 the wasp in asses42 or in horses;43 drones in mules44 or in horses;45 scarabs in p106asses46 or in horses;47 scorpions in crocodiles48 or crabs;49 and locusts in mules.50

In spite of the intimate acquaintance of the ancients with the bee, there was no creature whose sex history was more shrouded in mystery or gave rise to a more interesting series of speculations. They had no inkling of the nuptial flight of the queen.51 Although, as stated before (p102), Aristotle does notice the theory of some men that this insect originated in the natural way, he does not take it seriously. It is recorded time and again in the classical languages that bees are generated in the bodies of putrefying oxen.52 It is stated, in fact, that oxen were deliberately killed to provide a breeding place.53 If we may believe Antigonus (23), in certain places in Egypt bulls were buried with only the horns protruding, and when the carcasses had putrefied, the horns were sawed off and bees issued from the bodies. At times we find bees represented as springing from the blood of the slain animal (Verg. Geor. IV.284), or even from worms that breed in the blood (Isid. XII.8.2).

An elaborate, almost ritual-like method of generating bees is described in the Geoponica (XV.2.22‑29). Explicit directions are given for the construction of a house to confine the bull, for the method of selecting and killing the victim, and for the treatment of the carcass. If all the requirements are complied with, the house will finally be found "full of bees, p107hanging together in clusters, and nothing left of the ox but horns, bones, and hair." Herodotus, V.114, tells of the hiving of bees in the head of a decapitated man, and Servius, on Verg. Aen. I.430, notes that Ceres caused bees to spring from the body of an old dame named Melissa.

The origin of the notion of carcass-born bees has been satisfactorily explained as due to the confusion of the bee with a fly of bee-like aspect, the Eristalis tenax. This 'double' of the bee resembles it so closely in structure and habits that the similarity has confused scientists as well as the unobservant. To its habit of ovipositing and breeding in carcasses has been attributed the rise of the belief under discussion.54 The bee is cleanly. As regards the riddle of Samson (Judg. 14.8), "the seeing of a swarm of bee-like flies was a fact; the finding and eating the honey was the myth grown out of the misconceived fact."55

Another common notion as to the origin of bees was that young ones were gathered from flowers,56 a belief that was found as late as the seventeenth century.57

In the water, too, spontaneous generation was supposed to take place. Aristotle, H. A. 569 A 10‑27, proves to his own satisfaction that certain fish spring either from mud and sand, or from the foul matter that rises as a scum. The first class is illustrated by a species of mullet58 (ib. 569 A 24) and the second by little fish called 'froth' or 'foam'59 (ib. 569 A 29). These fish, called also ἀφύαι, 'not born,'60 may originate likewise from the foam thrown up by falling rain (ib. 569 B 15; Pl. IX.160), from the rain itself (Pl. XXXI.95), or from p108mud (Ael. II.22). The so‑called 'sea lungs' (πλεύμονες)61 are likewise spontaneously produced (H. A. 548 A 11).

The sex history of the eel caused the ancients as much perplexity as did that of the bee. Since eels spawn only in the depths of the sea, a fact that has not long been known, the ancients may be forgiven for not succeeding in solving the problem. Aristotle tells us that "the eel is neither male nor female and can engender nothing" (H. A. 538 A 2), "nor was an eel ever found supplied with either milt or spawn, nor are they when cut open found to have within them passages for spawn or for eggs" (ib. 570 A 16). Aristotle does not, however, content himself with negations, for he goes on to say that eels "grow spontaneously in mud and in humid ground; in fact, eels have at times been seen to emerge out of earthworms, and on other occasions have been rendered visible when the earthworms were laid open by either scraping or cutting. Such earthworms are found both in the sea and in rivers, especially where there is decayed matter; in the sea in places where seaweed abounds, and in rivers and marshes near to the edge; for it is near to the water's edge that sun-heat has its chief power and produces putrefaction"62 (H. A. 570 A 16‑23).

In Athenaeus, VII.298C, we are told that eels entwine themselves and discharge a sort of viscous fluid from their bodies. This, it is said, lies in the mud and generates living creatures.63 Pliny, IX.160, explains that eels scrape themselves against rocks and the particles scraped off come to life.

The puzzle about the eel interested Izaak Walton. He does mention in a casual fashion the fact that some people believed in the generation of eels by sexual union, but he quotes with more confidence the views of those who hold "that they breed (as some worms do) out of the putrefaction p109of the earth, and divers other waies." Still others, he informs us, say "that Eeles are bred of a particular dew falling in the Months of May and June on the banks of some particular Ponds or Rivers (apted by Nature for that end) which in a few dayes is by the Suns heat turned into Eeles" (The Complete Angler, chap. 13).º It was supposed that shellfish in general grew spontaneously in mud, slime, sandy bottoms, and in matter that collected on piles, logs of wood, and the bottoms of ships. Among them are oysters,64 cockles, barnacles, limpets, nerites (H. A. 547 B 17‑23), hermit crabs (ib. 548 A 15), mussels, scallops, and the murex (Pl. IX.160).

Leeches and snails originate either on land or in the water (Pl. IX.162).

It is, perhaps, not strange that the theory of spontaneous generation was employed to explain the existence of the smaller creatures of the land, such as insects, and of some of the smaller inhabitants of the deep whose sex history and anatomy were unknown, but the extension of the doctrine to a number of the larger and more familiar animals does small credit to ancient powers of observation. It was believed, for instance, that a female mouse could become pregnant simply by licking salt (H. A. 580 B 32: cf. Ael. IX.3). Pliny, X.185, records not only this view, but also a far more general one: Generatio eorum lambendo constare, non coitu, dicitur. Egyptian mice have a different story, for it is said that they were created from the generative powers of the water and the earth after the waters had subsided, and that the stages of their creation might be observed (Pl. IX.179). Isidore, Orig. XII.3.1, records a view that they were born from the moisture of the earth.

There was a well-established notion in antiquity that frogs were generated from mud,65 an idea that persisted beyond the Middle Ages. We find Sir Thomas Browne writing of frogs p110that arise from putrefaction and are called temporariae because they soon die.66

There was a very common popular belief that snakes came from the marrow of the human spine,67 being formed by the melting and gathering together of its juices (Plut. Cleom. 39). We may imagine that it was a pious mortal who started the story that this treacherous animal originated from the spines of wicked men (Ael. I.51). At Tiryns certain small serpents were born from the ground (Pl. VIII.229). Serpents in Africa grew from the blood that dropped from Medusa's head as Perseus carried it over that land (Ov. Met. IV.616‑620).

The wind, too, plays a prominent part in popular beliefs. Pliny, XVI.93, tells us that animals mate and begin to conceive when Favonius starts to blow. This wind he calls genitalis spiritus mundi, 'the fecundating spirit of the world.' In view of such a statement, we are not greatly surprised to find the notion that mares conceived merely by allowing the wind to blow upon them.68 This belief was given a rationalistic interpretation by Justin, 44.3, to explain the extraordinary swiftness of the horses of Lusitania. The wind might also impregnate sheep,69 tigers,70 vultures,71 and partridges. Partridges had as a rule to be on the leeward side of the male.72 At times it was sufficient merely for the hen to smell the male or to hear his voice.73

p111 The belief in the generative powers of wind had its effect even on house-planning. One of the reasons why Vitruvius, VI.4.1,º advises not to let the library face the south or west is because the winds from these directions give birth to bookworms (Tineae) and nourish them. It was said that a heavy atmosphere begot τετράγναθα (Ael. XVII.40).

Wind eggs (hypenemia or zephyria) are formed spontaneously in birds and fowls, such as doves, hens, partridges, peacocks, geese, and χηναλώπηκες.74 Pliny (X.166; cf. 160) attributes such eggs to the lustful thoughts of the females or to dust.

The generative power of water, especially in the form of rain, is insisted upon time after time by the ancient writers,75 among them Lucretius, II.871‑873:

Quippe videre licet vivos existere vermes

Stercore de taetro, putorem cum sibi nacta est

Intempestivis ex imbribus umida tellus.

It is said that the salamander never appears except after rains (Pl. X.188). Pliny, IX.2, explains why many animals that live in water are larger than land animals: causa evidens umoris luxuria. Heat assists generation (H. A. 552 A 9). A combination of heat and moisture is most favorable as we see from Lucretius, VI.797 f.:

Multaque nunc etiam existunt animalia terris

Imbribus et calido solis concreta vapore.76

A very curious by-product of the theory of spontaneous generation is the belief that the intercourse of animals so created produces a different species.77 Aristotle states and illustrates this belief in H. A. 539 B 8‑12: "But whatever p112creatures are spontaneously generated, either in other animals, in the soil, or on plants, or in the parts of these, and when such are generated male and female, then from the copulation of such spontaneously generated males and females there is generated a something — a something never identical in shape with the parents,78 but a something imperfect. For instance, the issue of copulation in lice is nits;79 in flies,80 grubs; in fleas, grubs egg-like in shape; and from these issues the parent-species is never reproduced, nor is any animal produced at all, but the like nondescripts only."81 It is remarkable that this notion, now called heterogenesis or xenogenesis, was held by the first great opponent of spontaneous generation, the Italian Redi. In modern times tapeworms, bladder worms, and flukes were among the latest strongholds of the advocates of xenogenesis.82

Closely related to spontaneous generation is the belief in showers of animals. The locus classicus on this subject is, perhaps, Athenaeus, 333A-B. He describes an uninterrupted three days' rain of fish and a deluge of frogs that can be compared only to the plague of frogs in Egypt. On one occasion a rain of frogs took place at Naples (Ael. II.56). On still another occasion so many frogs fell that they caused a tribe to migrate (ib. XVII.41).a After a hailstorm at Thebes mice were seen upon the land (ib. II.56). Mice were born whenever it rained in Egypt with light drops (ib. VI.41). Plutarch, Symp. V.2.1, pokes fun at people who believe that a shower breeds snails instead of making them creep forth where they may be seen.83

p113 When we pass beyond the pagan period, we find the Christian Fathers making use of these old beliefs to defend the tenet of the virgin birth of Christ. Lactantius, Inst. I.8.7‑8, quoting Vergil, writes as follows: Quid igitur sexu opus est femineo, cum Deus, qui est omnipotens, sine usu et opera feminae possit filios procreare? Nam si minutis animalibus (i.e. apibus) id praestitit ut sibi e foliis natos et suavibus herbis ore legant (Geor. IV.200), cur existimet aliquis ipsum Deum, nisi ex permixtione sexus alterius, non posse generare?84 The Fathers called attention to the supposed facts that mares conceived from the wind (Aug. Civ. Dei, XXI.5) and that vultures were all females. They reminded their pagan critics that Perseus was virgin-born, that the phoenix was reborn sine coniuge, that Minerva sprang full-grown from the head of Zeus, Aphrodite from the sea foam, Castor and Pollux from an egg, the Myrmidons from ants, and a crop of men from the stones thrown by Deucalion and Pyrrha.85

These old beliefs had their effect likewise on St. Augustine's notions about the animals in the ark. He says that it would have been unnecessary for Noah to preserve in the ark any creatures that were born from corruption86 (Civ. Dei XV.27). He tells us likewise that as muli et mulae do not have offspring, it is not strange if they were not represented in the ark. Eustathius Africanus87 explains the text, "Let the earth bring forth," by rehearsing at length time-honored notions of spontaneous generation.

In the age of the microscope the ancient views about the origin and perpetuation of some forms of animal life seem ridiculous, yet they were shared by the learned men of antiquity, persisted throughout the Middle Ages, and may still be found among the uninformed. Within the last two hundred years we find the belief prevailing that barnacles on ships p114become geese when broken off, that certain shellfish growing on trees fall into the water and become brant geese or tree geese,88 that pickerel weed and eelgrass produce pickerel and eels,89 that the nematode worm originates from horsehairs,90 that carcasses generate maggots, etc.

The men who finally challenged the theory of spontaneous generation were confronted with vigorous opposition from doubting scientists, who, as one demonstration after another was given of the natural origin of animal life, still affirmed the validity of the old doctrine for the next lower order. In 1668 the Italian Redi made the first attack on the theory. By the simple device of protecting meat from flies by netting, he proved that maggots do not originate spontaneously. He was inclined to believe that all visible forms of life originated from life, a fact that his successors established.

The revelation of microscopic infusorial life and the discovery of oxygen with the realization of its part in sustaining life ushered in new epochs in the investigation. Pasteur was finally dragged into the discussion about 1860, and in 1864 before a brilliant audience at the Sorbonne demonstrated that the air was the source of the organisms that were developed in infusions. Soon after, the work of the physicist, Professor John Tyndall, who used optically pure air in his tests, concluded two centuries of experimental refutation of the theory of spontaneous generation.91 After these experiments the conservatives took the only position left to them, that life arises spontaneously in ultra-microscopic particles. As late as 1912, in another presidential address before the British Association for the Advancement of Science, we find the statement that we can by no means be sure that the evolution of p115non-living substance into living may not be happening still.92

It is hoped that this paper will fill out for biologists the initial chapter in the history of spontaneous generation, and, at the same time, prove of permanent value to the ever increasing number of students of folklore.93


The Author's Notes:

1 The following abbreviations are used in this article for works frequently referred to: H. A., Aristotle, Historia Animalium; G. A., Aristotle, de Generatione Animalium; Ael., Aelian, de Natura Animalium; Pl., Pliny, Naturalis Historia; Isid., Isidorus, Origines. I have used Thompson's translation of the H. A. and Platt's rendering of the G. A.

2 See the Scientific Memoirs of Thomas Henry Huxley, III, 572‑594.

3 There are two Mycenaean vases which it is not unreasonable for us to look upon as our earliest evidence of the existence of the doctrine of spontaneous generation. On them we see various animals springing into existence. For illustrations and description of the vases, see Perrot-Chipiez, Art in Primitive Greece, II, 390‑399.

4 E.g., the scarab, Ael. X.15; the tiger, Tzetz. Chil. XII.731.

5 E.g., the vulture, Ael. II.46; some species of fish, H. A. 539 A 29, Pl. IX.56. As a result of the belief that there were no males among vultures, the Egyptians made that bird an emblem of nature (Amm. XVII.4.11).

6 E.g., bees, Aug. Civ. Dei, XV.27; salamanders, eels, shellfish, Pl. X.189; certain insects and fish, H. A. 538 A 1‑3 (cf. also H. A. 539 A 29), G. A. 741 B 1; Testacea, G. A. 715 B 18; a kind of mullet, G. A. 741 B 1.

7 E.g., mules, Aug. Civ. Dei, XV.27; small fish, H. A. 569 A 30.

8 Chane, a species of sea fish, Ov. Hal. 108. See Aubert und Wimmer, "Die Parthenogenesis bei Aristoteles," Zeit. f. wiss. Zool. IX (1858), 509‑521; Georgevitch, "Parthenogenesis in Serbian Popular Tradition," Folk-Lore, 1918, 58‑65.

9 E.g., τρόχος, an unidentified animal, G. A. 757 A 5, Pl. IX.166 (but compare IX.56). For what seem to be hermaphroditic fish, see H. A. 538 A 18‑22. Hares are said to possess the characteristics of both sexes and to be able to become pregnant without the aid of the male (Archelaus, ap. Pl. VII.218).

10 See Jane Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion2, 122‑124, and Themis, 266. For a comparative study of such physiological ignorance, see E. S. Hartland, Primitive Paternity, II, 249‑286.

11 See Preller, Gr. Mythologie4, I, 78‑87, and Sikes, Anthropology of the Greeks, 25 f.

12 In order to keep this paper within reasonable limits, but scant attention is given to general theories and speculations about the original creation of animals by spontaneous generation. This material can be found in general works on Greek philosophy, and in the annotations on Lucretius, V.771‑924, where the poet formally sets forth his view of the origin of life.

13 Compare Lucr. II.1156, Paus. VIII.29.4.

14 From the last few words of the quotation it will be seen that Aristotle's ἔντομα ζῷα is broader than the word 'insects' in English, including apparently all segmented creatures. In some of my notes to the quotation I have included worms, since the ancient words for worms, as well as the word 'worms' in popular meaning today, include the larvae of insects.

15 E.g., caterpillars and many others, Pl. XI.112. Dew was one means by which the sky-father impregnated the earth-mother: see Cook, Zeus, I, 733. The inhabitants of Imbros still pray for dew to fertilize man, plants, and animals (Harrison, Themis, 174).

16 E.g. worms, Sext. Emp. Hyp. I.41; lice, H. A. 557 A 22.

17 E.g., grubs, H. A. 552 A 16 and 21; scarab, Suid. s.v. κάνθαρος caterpillars, Isid. XX.8.8 (cf. Pall. IV.15.4).

18 E.g., myops or horsefly, H. A. 552 A 29; worms, Ael. V.3; πιθήκη, ib. VI.26; wood fretter, Pl. XI.66; a kind of tree larva and the gadfly or breeze fly, ib. XI.113; a kind of gnat, ib. XV.80. Worms are produced from putrefying sap, ib. XVI.220.

19 E.g., animalcules, such as the clothes moth, from wool, H. A. 557 B 1 (cf. Pl. XI.115 and 117); Taeniae, from the hair of men, Pl. XI.114.

20 E.g., lice, H. A. 556 B 29; gadfly from an animalcule, ib. 551 B 21; glow worm from caterpillar, ib. 551 B 23; gnats from ascarids, ib. 551 B 27; cockchafer from grub, ib. 552 A 15; a kind of beetle from grubs, ib. 552 A 19; flies from grubs, ib. 552 A 21; gnats from grubs, ib. 552 B 5; butterflies from caterpillars, ib. 551 A 13; 'stag beetles' from grubs, ib. 551 B 18; certain winged insects from grubs, ib. 552 A 18; tapeworms, Pl. XI.113; ticks, ib. 116; a kind of beetle from caterpillars, ib. 118, Ael. IX.39. Cf.Sen. N.Q. II.31: Fulmine icta (corpora) inter paucos dies verminant.

21 E.g., grub, H. A. 552 A 16; flea, ib. 556 B 25‑57; wood fretter, Pl. XI.65; worms, Lucr. II.871‑873.

22 E.g., flatworm, round worm, ascarid, H. A. 551 A 9; tapeworms, Pl. XI.114.

23 E.g., caterpillars from cabbage, H. A. 551 A 14; ὀρσοδάκναι, plant-eating insects, from cabbage stalks, ib. 552 A 30; cabbage worm from cabbage, ib. 551 B 19; leekbane from the leek, ib. 551 B 20 (cf. Ael. IX.39), Antoninus Liberalis, 22; ticks from couch grass, H. A. 552 A 15; grubs from pulse, ib. 552 A 19; Cantharides from grain, Ael. IX.39, Pl. XVIII.152; Cantharides from flowers, Pl. XI.118; gnats from leaves, ib. XVI.29; worms from roots, ib. XVIII.151; a kind of gnat from fig trees, ib. XI.118; caterpillars from vegetation, Sext. Emp. Hyp. I.41; gall insects from wild figs, ib. See also Theophr. H.P. II.8.2‑3; III.12.6; IV.14.2; IV.14.5; IV.14.10; V.4.5; VII.5.4; VII.5.6; VIII.10.1; VIII.10.4‑5; VIII.11.2; IX.5.3.

24 Worms, i.e., the well-known snow fleas, snow worms, or glacier fleas (Poduridae), H. A. 552 B 8 (cf. Pl. XI.118); Antig. 90.

25 Caterpillars, Theophr. H.P. IV.16; Pl. XVII.229 (cf. ib. XI.115).

26 Pl. XI.115.

27 Conopes, Sext. Emp. Hyp. I.41.

28 Ascarids, H. A. 551 B 27; 552 A 12‑14.

29 The vinegar fly (Oinopota cellaris), H. A. 552 B 5 (cf. G. A. 721 A 10; Geopon. VI.14.4; Pl. IX.160).

30 Ephemera, Ael. II.4; Bibiones, Isid. XII.8.16; a species of flea, Sext. Emp. Hyp. I.41.

31 Acari, 'mites,' H. A. 557 B 7.

32 Bugs, ib. 556 B 27.

33 Ephemera, H. A. 552 B 17, Pl. XI.120. Cf. Ael. V.43, Arist. ap. Cic. Tusc. I.39.94.

34 A winged insect, H. A. 552 B 10, G. A. 737 A 1, Pl. XI.119, Ael. II.2, Ov. Fast. VI.292, Antig. 90, Sext. Emp. Hyp. I.41.

35 Pl. XI.117.

36 Pl. XI.115; cf. XI.117.

37 H. A. 557 B 8.

38 Isid. XII.8.10, cf. Pl. XI.95.

39 Schol. on Ar. Nub. 984; cf. Eustathius Africanus, Bas. Hex. IX.2 (XXX.959C Migne).

40 Ov. Met. XV.368; Pl. XI.70; Pl. ap. Serv. ad Georg. IV.286; Isid. XII.8.2 and 4.

41 Serv. ad Aen. I.435.

42 Pl. ap. Serv. ad Georg. IV.286; Serv. ad Aen. I.435; Isid. XII.8.2.

43 Ael. I.28; Plut. Cleom. 39; Nic. Ther. 741; Orig. contra Cels. IV.57; Antig. 23; Sext. Emp. Hyp. I.41; Suid. s.v. ἵππος; Varro, R. R. III.16.4; Pl. XI.70; Serv. ad Aen. I.435.

44 Pl. ap. Serv. ad Georg. IV.286; Isid. XII.8.2.

45 Serv. ad Aen. I.435.

46 Plut. Cleom. 39; Pl. XI.70; Orig. contra Cels. IV.57; Sext. Emp. Hyp. I.41.

47 Isid. XII.4.3.

48 Antig. 23.

49 Isid. XII.4.3.

50 Ib. XII.4.3‑4.

51 See G. A. 759 B 23, and Pl. XI.46; also Royds, Beasts, Birds, and Bees of Virgil, 82.

52 It seems superfluous to give references. Many citations can be found in Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. Biene, and in Thes. Ling. Lat., s.v. apis. For a fuller list of references see W. Robert-Tornow, De apium mellisque apud veteres significatione et symbolica et mythologica (Berlin, 1893), 19‑29. See also A. E. Shipley, "The 'Bugonia' Myth," Journ. of Phil. XXXIV, 97‑105, and A. B. Cook, "The Bee in Greek Mythology," J.H.S. XV, 1‑24.

53 Verg. Geor. IV.531‑558. Cf. Ov. Fast. I.376‑380, Pl. XI.70, Liban. Bov. Laud. VIII.273 Foerster.

54 C. R. Osten Sacken, "The so‑called Bugonia of the Ancients," Smithsonian Report, 1893, 487‑500.

55 Ib. 495.

56 H. A. 553 A 17‑24 (cf. Verg. Geor. IV.200‑201); Pl. XI.46; Col. R. R. IX.2.4; Salv. Gub. Dei, IV.43.

57 Royds, op. cit. 85.

58 Cf. 'sea hare,' Ael. II.45.

59 Compare the tradition that Aphrodite was 'foam-born.'

60 Platt, commenting on H. A. 569 A 29, notes that young fry, especially those of the atherine or sand smelt, are called nonnati in the Adriatic, nonnats at Marseilles.

61 Theophrastus, de Sign. 40, speaks of them as οἱ πνεύμονες οἱ θαλάττιοι; Pliny, XVII.359, calls them pulmones marini. On lungfish, see Schmucker, Meaning of Evolution, 176‑177.

62 Thompson's translation.

63 Cf. Opp. Hal. I.516.

64 Aristotle gives his proof for this in G. A. 763 A 26‑34.

65 Ov. Met. XV.375; Sext. Emp. Hyp. I.41. See also Pl. IX.72.

66 Sir Thomas Browne's Works, I, 289 Bohn.

67 Ov. Met. XV.390º (cf. Pl. IX.159); Sext. Emp. Hyp. I.41.

68 Varro, R. R. II.1.19; Verg. Geor. III.273‑275; Sil. III.379‑383; Pl. VIII.166; VIII.189; XVI.93; Col. R. R. VI.27.4; Aug. Civ. Dei, XXI.5. This fiction may go as far back as the mares of Erichthonius (Il. XX.223), but see Leaf's note ad loc. Cf. also Il. XVI.150.

Thayer's Note: See additional references in Mair's footnote to Oppian, Cyneg. 323.

69 Ael. VII.27. If copulation takes place when the north wind is blowing, males are apt to be produced; if the south wind is blowing, females (G. A. 766 B 34).

70 See allusion in Claud. Rapt. Pros. III.265‑266; Opp. Cyneg. III.353.

71 Ael. II.46; Plut. Mor. 286 A-B; Arist. de Mir. Ausc. 835 A 1; Horapollo, Hieroglyphica, I.11; Dionysius, Ὀρνιθιακά, 1.5; Phile, de Animalium Proprietate, 3; Amm. XVII.4.4; Tzetz. Chil. XII.732‑734; Euseb. Praep. Evang. III.12; Isid. XII.7.12.

72 H. A. 541 A 27; 560 B 13; Ael. XVII.15; Antig. 87; Pl. X.102.

73 H. A. 541 A 27; G. A. 751 A 13; Varro, R. R. III.11.4; Pl. X.102; Ath. 389E.

74 H. A. 539 A 31; G. A. 730 A 4; 741 A 18; 749 A 36; 750 B 3; 751 A 10, et passim; Soph. frag. 477 Jebb; Ath. I.57C;º Col. R. R. VI.27.4; Isid. XII.7.81; Varro, R. R. II.1.19. See also Kock, Com. Att. Frag. I, 435, frag. 185‑186; I, 605, frag. 19; II, 216, frag. 6; III, 31, frag. 104.

75 E.g., in the case of the ἀφύη, Pl. XXXI.95; a tiny fish, H. A. 569 A 13‑18; eels, ib. 570 A 10; cicadas, Eustathius Africanus, Bas. Hex. IX.2 (XXX.595C Migne).

76 See also Ov. Met. I.430 f., Pl. XVIII.151.

77 Cf. G. A. 715 B 2‑15.

78 For instance, butterflies were supposed to originate from caterpillars, H. A. 551 A 13 (cf. Ath. VIII.352F).

79 Lice, fleas, and bugs produce nits, H. A. 556 B 22 (cf. G. A. 732 B 10‑14, 758 B 7‑28, Pl. X.189‑190).

80 Cf. G. A. 721 A 8, 723 B 5.

81 Cf. H. A. 556 B , Ath. VIII.352F, Pl. X.190. In the Iliad, XIX.25‑27 flies enter wounds and beget maggots.

82 See Scientific Memoirs of Thomas Henry Huxley, III, 577 f.

83 For modern instances of rains of small toads and fishworms, see Journ. of Am. Folk-Lore, XXXI, 10.

84 Cf. Rufinus, Comm. in Symb. Apost. 74 (Migne, XXI, 350).

85 Migne, l.c.

86 After the great flood of classical tradition, all forms of life below man were restored by spontaneous generation (Ov. Met. I.416‑437; cf. Mela, I.9).

87 Bas. Hex. IX.2 (XXX.959C Migne).

88 Brand's Popular Antiquities, 779.

89 Schmucker, op. cit. 159‑160.

90 Journ. of Am. Folk-Lore, XXXI, 9.

91 For a readily accessible summary of the history of the experimentation which led to the overthrow of the hypothesis of the ancients, see John Tyndall, "Spontaneous Generation," Pop. Sc. Monthly, XII (1878), 476‑488; 591‑604. See also W. A. Locy, Biology and its Makers, 277‑293.

92 Schaefer, "The Nature, Origin and Maintenance of Life," Science, XXXVI, 297.

93 To keep the paper within reasonable limits, I have refrained from discussing the spontaneous generation of plants. Many illustrations of it can be found in Theophr. H.P.


Thayer's Note:

a One batracian is as good as another, surely:

There was a young princess of Rhodes

Whose chambers were invaded by toads;

It made her so jalous

She departed the palace

In search of other abodes.


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