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Part 1

This webpage reproduces part of the Introduction to
the Cynegetica and Halieutica


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Part 3

to Oppian

 p. xxiii  Zoology before Oppian

The earliest classification of animals in any detail that we possess occurs in Book II of the Περὶ Διαίτης, a treatise in the Corpus Hippocrateum, the collection of writings which pass under the name of Hippocrates. This particular treatise is assigned to the 5th century and has been by some ascribed to Herodicus of Selymbria, teacher of Hippocrates and father of Greek Medicine (cf. Suid. s. Ἱπποκράτης, Soranus, Vit. Hippocr., Tzetz. Chil. VIII.155). This classification is purely incidental and is confined moreover to animals which are eaten. The author is discussing the qualities of the flesh of various edible animals (περὶ ζῴων τῶν ἐσθιομένων ὧδε χρὴ γινώσκειν) and he divides them according to their habitat, on land, in air, in water, into the three popular genera of Beasts — or as the writer calls them Quadrupeds (τετράποδα) — Birds (ὄρνιθες), Fish (ἰχθύες). Such grouping as there is within these great divisions is based on similarity in quality of flesh — distinguished as light or heavy, firm or flaccid, and so forth. Under the first genus he distinguishes Cattle, Goats, Swine (Wild and Tame), Sheep, Asses, Horses, Dogs, Deer, Hares, Foxes, Hedgehogs. Under the second genus he specifies φάσσα (Ringdove), περιστερά (Domestic Pigeon), Partridge, Cock, Turtle-dove, Goose; then  p. xxiv ὅσα σπερμολογέει (no specific bird is mentioned but the reference would be first and foremost to the Rook, Corvus frugilegus, L., cf. A. 592 B28, Aristoph. Av. 232, 579, etc.), and lastly "the Duck (νῆσσα) and others which live in marshes or in water." Here we have traces of sub-groups based on habit or habitat. Under the third genus (Fishes) we have several such groups. He specifies (1) σκορπιός, δράκων, κόκκυξ, γλαῦκος, πέρκη, θρίσσα; (2) οἱ πετραῖοι (rock-haunting fishes), of which he mentions κίχλη, φυκίς, ἐλεφιτίς (ἀλφηστής?), κωβίος; (3) οἱ πλανῆται1 (wandering fishes), no example being named; (4) νάρκαι καὶ ῥῖναι καὶ ψῆσσαι καὶ ὅσα τοιαῦτα; (5) fishes which live in muddy and wet places — κέφαλοι, κεστραῖοι, ἐγχέλυες καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ τοιοῦτοι; (6) fishes of River and Lake (οἱ ποτάμιοι καὶ λιμναῖοι); (7) πολύποδες καὶ σηπίαι καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα; (8) τὰ κογχύλια (i.e., Ostracoderms): πίνναι, πορφύραι, λεπάδες, κήρυκες, ὄστρεα, μύες, κτένες, τελλίναι, κνίδαι, ἐχῖνοι; (9) κάραβος, μύες (μαῖαι?), καρκίνοι (ποτάμιοι καὶ θαλάσσιοι) — i.e. Crustaceans.

This enumeration, as we have said, is introduced incidentally and there are indications that the writer was familiar with more detailed classifications. For example, he uses the term Selachian (τὰ σελάχεα), although he neither defines the group nor specifies the fishes which belong to it. Again, at the end of the list he makes a series of other distinctions such as Wild and Tame (these latter again being sub-divided  p. xxv into ἑλονόμα καὶ ἀγρονόμα on the one hand and τὰ ἔνδον τρεφόμενα on the other); Carnivorous (ὠμοφάγα) and Vegetarian (ὑλοφάγα); ὀλιγοφάγα and πολυφάγα; καρποφάγα and ποηφάγα; ὀλιγοπότα and πολυπότα; and what suggests more than superficial observation, πολύαιμα, ἄναιμα, ὀλίγαιμα.

The real founder of scientific Zoology is Aristotle (385/4‑322/1 B.C.), and for more than eighteen centuries writers on Natural History hardly did more than copy or translate his works or comment upon them. We know but little of his predecessors in this field, as Aristotle is not prone to base his statements upon authority. In his History of Animals (αἱ περὶ τὰ ζῷα ἱστορίαι) the writers referred to are Aeschylus,​2 Alcmaeon​3 of Croton, Ctesias​4 of Cnidus, Democritus,​5 Diogenes​6 of Apollonia, Herodorus​7 of Heracleia, Herodotus,​8 Homer,​9 Musaeus,​10 Polybus11 son-in‑law of Hippocrates, Simonides​12 of Ceos, Syennesis​13 of Cyprus. But in any case, so far as scientific Zoology is concerned, the opinion of Cuvier is probably not far from the truth: "Je ne pense pas au reste qu'il ait fait grand tort aux ichtyologistes qui l'ont précédé, s'il y en a eu avant lui; ceux des fragmens conservés par Athénée que l'on pourrait  p. xxvi leur attribuer, n'annoncent point qu'ils aient traité leur sujet avec méthode ou avec étendue; et tout nous fait croire que c'est sous la plume d'Aristote seulement que l'ichtyologie, comme toutes les autres branches de la zoologie, a pris pour la première fois la forme d'une véritable science" (Cuv. et Val. I p16).

The chief writings of Aristotle upon Natural History are 1. History of Animals, in ten Books. In the best MSS. there are only nine Books and Bk. X is universally regarded as spurious. Doubt has also been cast upon Bk. IX, and even upon Bk. VII, which in the MSS. follows Bk. IX and was first put in its present place by Theodorus Gaza (15th cent.). 2. On the Parts of Animals (Περὶ ζῴων μορίων), four Books. 3. On the Generation of Animals (Περὶ ζῴων γενέσεως), five Books. 4. On the Locomotion of Animals, one Book.

With regard to the achievement of Aristotle in the field of Zoology we may conveniently quote — especially as a large part of his work is concerned with Ichthyology — the words of Cuvier in the Introduction to the Histoire Naturelle de Poissons: "Ce grand homme, secondé par un grand prince [Alexander the Great], rassembla de toute part des faits, et ils parurent dans ses ouvrages si nombreux et si nouveaux, que pendant plusieurs siècles ils excitèrent la défiance de la postérité. Les personnages d'Athénée se demandent [Athen. 352D] où Aristote a pu apprendre tout ce qu'il raconte des moeurs des poissons, de leur propagation et des autres détails de leur histoire qui se passent dans les abymes les plus cachés de la mer. Athénée lui-même répond à cette question, puisqu'il nous dit [Athen. 398 ὀκτακόσια γὰρ εἰληφέναι τάλαντα  p. xxvii παρ’ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὸν Σταγιρίτην λόγος ἔχει εἰς τὴν περὶ τῶν ζῴων ἱστορίαν] qu'Alexandre donna à Aristote, pour recueillerº les matériaux de son histoire des animaux, des sommes qui montèrent à neuf [sic] cents talens, à quoi Pline [VIII.44] ajoute que le roi mit plusieurs milliers d'hommes à la disposition du philosophe, pour chasser, pêcher et observer tout ce qu'il désirait connaître.

"Ce n'est pas ici le lieu d'exposer en détail le parti qu'Aristote tira de cette munificence, d'analyser ses nombreux ouvrages d'histoire naturelle, et d'énumérer l'immense quantité de faits et de lois qu'il est parvenu à constater; nous ne nous occuperons pas même de montrer avec quel génie il jeta les bases de l'anatomie comparée, et établit dans le règne animal, et dans plusieurs de ses classes, d'après leur organisation, une distribution à laquelle les âges suivants n'ont presque rien eu à changer. C'est uniquement comme ichtyologiste que nous avons à le considérer, et dans cette branche même de la zoologie, n'eût‑il traité que celle-là, on devrait encore le reconnaître comme un homme supérieur. Il a parfaitement connu la structure générale des poissons. . . . Quant aux espèces, Aristote en connaît et en nomme jusqu'à cent dix-sept, et il entre, sur leur manière de vivre, leurs voyages, leurs amitiés et leurs haines, les ruses qu'elles emploient, leurs amours, les époques de leur frai et de leur ponte et leur fécondité, la manière de les prendre, les temps où leur chair est meilleure, dans des détails que l'on serait aujourd'hui bien embarrassé, ou de contredire ou de confirmer, tant les modernes soient loin d'avoir observé les poissons comme ce grand naturaliste paraît l'avoir fait par lui-même ou par ses correspondants.  p. xxviii Il faudrait passer plusieurs années dans les îles de l'Archipel, et y vivre avec les pêcheurs, pour être en état d'avoir une opinion à ce sujet" (Cuv. et Val. pp16 ff.).

Two examples may be quoted to illustrate the accurate observation either of Aristotle himself or of his informants: (1) the assertion (A. 538 A20; 567 A27) that the Erythrinos and the Channa (both belonging to the genus Serranus) are hermaphrodite, a fact rediscovered by Cavolini.​14 (2) The assertion (A. 565 B4) that in the Smooth Dog-fish, γαλεὸς ὁ λεῖος, the embryon is attached to the uterus by a "yolk-sac placenta," rediscovered by Johannes Müller, "Ueber d. glatten Hai d. Aristoteles (Mustelus laevis)," Abh. d. Berlin. Akad. 1840.

As regards the classification of animals we can here notice only the main outlines of Aristotle's system. All animals are distributed into two groups: I. ἔναιμα, blooded animals [= Vertebrates]. II. ἄναιμα, bloodless animals [= Invertebrates].

Group I, ἔναιμα, is subdivided into:

(a) ζῳοτοκοῦντα ἐν αὑτοῖς [= Mammals].

(b) ὄρνιθες [Birds].

(c) τετράποδα ἢ ἄποδα ᾠοτοκοῦντα [Reptiles and Amphibia].

(d) ἰχθύες [Fishes].

Group II, ἄναιμα, is subdivided into:

(a) μαλάκια [Cephalopods].

(b) μαλακόστρακα [Crustaceans].

(c) ἔντομα [Insects, Arachnidae, Worms].

(d) ὀστρακόδερμα [Mussels, Sea-snails, Ascidia, Holothuria, Actinia, Sponges].

 p. xxix  Theophrastus of Eresos (circ. 372‑287), the successor of Aristotle as head of the Peripatetic school, wrote Περὶ ζῴων (Athen. 387B), Περὶ τῶν δακέτων καὶ βλητικῶν (Athen. 314C), Περὶ τῶν μεταβαλλόντων τὰς χρόας (Athen. 317F), Περὶ τῶν φωλευόντων (Athen. 314B, etc.), Περὶ τῶν ἐν τῷ ξηρῷ διαιτωμένων (Athen. 312B: διατριβόντων 317F), Περὶ τῶν κατὰ τόπους διαφορῶν (Athen. 317F), which are known to us only by quotations.

Aristophanes of Byzantium (circ. 257‑180 B.C.) made an Epitome of Aristotle's History of Animals, which was used by Aelian (circ. A.D. 200) and Suidas (circ. A.D. 950) and is perhaps identical with the pseudo-Aristotelian ζωικά (Athen. 319D, etc.). This Epitome was extracted by Sopatros of Apameia (4th cent. A.D.), cf. Phot. Bibl. 104 B26 ὁ δὲ ἐνδέκατος ἔχει τὴν συναγωγὴν . . . ἀλλὰ μὴν καὶ ἐκ τῶν Ἀριστοφάνους τοῦ γραμματικοῦ περὶ ζῴων βιβλίου πρώτου καὶ δευτέρου. Extracts were also made from the Epitome for Constantine VII (Porphyrogennetos), Emperor A.D. 912‑959 [ed. Spuridion Lambros, Suppl. Aristot. I Berlin 1885].

Clearchus of Soli (3rd cent. B.C.) wrote Περὶ ἐνύδρων (Athen. 332B, cf. 317C). Nicander of Colophon (b. circ. 200 B.C.) wrote the extant Theriaca and Alexipharmaca, the former on the bites of venomous animals and their remedies, the latter on antidotes to poison. Tryphon of Alexandria (1st cent. B.C.) wrote Περὶ ζῴων (Suid. s. Τρύφων, Athen. 324F). Dorion (for whom see Athen. 337B, M. Wellmann, Hermes 23 [1888]) wrote, in 1st cent. B.C., Περὶ ἰχθύων, frequently cited by Athenaeus. Juba II, king of Mauretania, after the death of his father in 46 B.C., was brought a prisoner (Plut. Caes. 55 Ἰόβας  p. xxx υἱὸς ὢν ἐκείνου κομιδῇ νήπιος ἐν τῷ θριάμβῳ παρήχθη, μακαριωτάτην ἁλοὺς ἅλωσιν, ἐκ βαρβάρου καὶ Νομάδος Ἑλλήσιν τοῖς πολυμαθεστάτοις ἐναρίθμιος γενέσθαι συγγραφεῦσι) to Rome, where he remained till his restoration by Octavian in 30 B.C. One of the most erudite men of his time (Plut. Sert. 9 ἱστορικωτάτου βασιλέων; Athen. 83B ἄνδρα πολυμαθέστατον; Plin. V.16 studiorum claritate memorabilior etiam quam regno), he wrote on Assyria, Arabia, and Africa — his work on the latter supplying information on the Elephant (Plin. VIII.7, 14, 35; Plut. Mor. 972B; Ael. IX.58), the Lion (Ael. VII.23), the Crocotta (Plin. VIII.107) etc., cf. M. Wellmann, Hermes 27 (1892) "Iuba eine Quelle d. Aelian." About the same date Metrodorus of Byzantium and his son Leonidas (Athen. 13C, cf. M. Wellmann, Hermes 30 [1895] "Leonidas von Byzanz u. Demostratos") and Demostratus wrote on Fishes (Ael. N. A. epilog.). Alexander of Myndos (first half of 1st cent. A.D., cf. M. Wellmann, Hermes 26 [1891], 51 [1916]) wrote Περὶ ζῴων (Athen. 392C, Bk. II being on Birds, περὶ πτηνῶν, Athen. 388D etc.), based mainly on Aristophanes' Epitome of the H. A. of Aristotle, as well as a Θηριακός and a Θαυμασίων συναγωγή (Phot. Bibl. p145B Bekker λέγει δὲ περί τε ζῴων καὶ φυτῶν καὶ χωρῶν τινῶν καὶ ποταμῶν καὶ κρηνῶν καὶ βοτανῶν καὶ τῶν τοιούτων). He made use of Leonidas of Byzantium and Juba, and was one of the sources of Aelian, Dionysius De avibus, and Plut. De sollert. animalium. Pamphilos of Alexandria (middle of 1st cent. A.D.) was the author of a lexicon Περὶ γλωσσῶν ἤτοι λέξεων, in ninety-five books. This lexicon, which was at once a glossary and an encyclopaedia of general information, was excerpted in the reign of Hadrian  p. xxxi first by Julius Vestinus and then by Diogenianus of Heracleia — the work of the latter being the basis of the extant lexicon of Hesychius. The zoological matter in Pamphilus was utilized by Aelian, Athenaeus, etc.; cf. M. Wellmann, Hermes 51 (1916). Plutarch of Chaeroneia (circ. A.D. 46‑120) wrote De Sollertia animalium (Πότερα τῶν ζῴων φρονιμώτερα, τὰ χερσαῖα ἢ τὰ ἔνυδρα) and Bruta ratione uti (Περὶ τοῦ τὰ ἄλογα λόγῳ χρῆσθαι).

More or less contemporary with Oppian (i.e., the author of the Halieutica) was Julius Polydeuces (Pollux) of Naucratis in Egypt, whose extant Ὀνομαστικόν (ten books), dedicated to Commodus, Emperor 180‑192, contains a good deal of zoological information. Somewhat later Claudius Aelianus of Praeneste (circ. A.D. 170‑235) wrote De natura animalium (Περὶ ζῴων) in seventeen books and Varia historia (Ποικίλη ἱστορία) in fourteen books. Lastly we may mention here, although we know on his own authority that he was a little later than the author of the Halieutica (Athen. 13B τὸν ὀλίγῳ πρὸ ἡμῶν γενόμενον Ὀππιανὸν τὸν Κίλικα), Athenaeus of Naucratis, whose Δειπνοσοφισταί, in fifteen books, contains an immense amount of undigested information. His zoological information is probably largely based on the Lexicon of Pamphilus and thus indirectly on Alexander of Myndos.

M. Wellmann, who has discussed the sources of Aelian, Oppian, etc., in a series of articles in Hermes (23 [1888], 26 [1891], 27 [1892], 30 [1895], 51 [1916]) regards Leonidas of Byzantium and Alexander of Myndos as the chief sources of the Halieutica. The close agreement in many passages of Aelian and Oppian he attributes to the use of  p. xxxii common sources, not to direct borrowing of the one from the other.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 This should correspond to Aristotle's ῥυάδες or πελάγιοι but there is a curious discrepancy as to the quality of their flesh: Περὶ Δ. οἱ δὲ πλανῆται καὶ κυματόπληγες . . . στερεωτέρην τὴν σάρκα ἔχουσιν, i.e. than οἱ πετραῖοι, but A. 598 A8 αἱ σάρκες συνεστᾶσι μᾶλλον τῶν τοιούτων ἰχθύων [i.e. τῶν προσγεῖων], τῶν δὲ πελαγίων ὑγραί εἰσι καὶ κεχυμέναι.

2 633 A19.

3 492 A14; 581 A16.

4 501 A25; 523 A26; 606 A8.

5 623 A32.

6 511 B30; 512 B12.

7 563 A7; 615 A9.

8 523 A17; 579 B2.

9 513 B27; 519 A18; 574 B34; 575 B5; 578 B1; 597 A6; 606 A20; 615 B9; 618 B25; 629 B22.

10 563 A18.

11 512 B12.

12 542 B7.

13 511 B23; 512 B12.

14 Memoria sulla generazione dei pesci e dei granchi, Naples, 1787.

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