Aelian, Historical Miscellany

LCL 486: 26-27

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1. Δεινοὶ κατὰ κοιλίαν εἰσὶν οἱ πολύποδες καὶ πᾶν ὁτιοῦν φαγεῖν ἄμαχοι. πολλάκις οὖν οὐδὲ ἀλλήλων ἀπέχονται, ἀλλὰ τῷ μείζονι ὁ βραχύτερος ἁλοὺς καὶ ἐμπεσὼν τοῖς ἀνδρειοτέροις θηράτροις τοῖς καλουμένοις τοῦ ἰχθύος πλοκάμοις, εἶτα αὐτῷ γίνεται δεῖπνον. ἐλλοχῶσι δὲ οἱ πολύποδες καὶ τοὺς ἰχθῦς τὸν τρόπον τοῦτον· ὑπὸ ταῖς πέτραις κάθηνται καὶ ἑαυτοὺς εἰς τὴν ἐκείνων μεταμορφοῦσι χροιὰν καὶ τοῦτο εἶναι δοκοῦσιν ὅπερ οὖν καὶ πεφύκασιν αἱ πέτραι. οἱ τοίνυν ἰχθῦς προσνέουσιν οἱονεὶ τῇ πέτρᾳ τοῖς πολύποσιν, οἱ δὲ ἀφυλάκτους ὄντας αὐτοὺς περιβάλλουσι ταῖς ἐξ ἑαυτῶν ἄρκυσι ταῖς πλεκτάναις.

2. Ὑφαντικὴν καὶ ὑφαίνειν,1 [καὶ]2 δῶρα Ἐργάνης δαίμονος, οὔτε ἴσασιν αἱ φάλαγγες οὔτε εἰδέναι βούλονται. ἢ τί ποτ᾿ ἂν καὶ χρήσαιτο τῷ τοιῷδε ἐσθήματι τὸ τοιοῦτον θηρίον; τὸ δὲ ἄρα <***>3 πάγη καὶ οἱονεὶ κύρτος ἐστὶ τοῖς ἐμπίπτουσι. καὶ ἡ μὲν ἀρκυωρεῖ πάνυ σφόδρα ἀτρεμοῦσα, καὶ ἔοικεν ἀκινήτῳ· καὶ τὸ μὲν

  • 1καὶ ὑφαίνειν fortasse delenda
  • 2del. Bernhardy
  • 3lacunam statuit Her.: <ἀράχνιον> Slothouwer

Book 1

Book One

1. Octopuses have remarkable stomachs and are unsurpassed in their ability to eat anything. Frequently they even attack each other: a small one is caught by a larger one, falling into its more powerful clutches, the so-called tentacles of the fish, and then becomes a meal for it. Octopuses also ambush fish in the following way: they sit under the rocks and change their colour to match and so they appear to be indistinguishable from the rocks. The fish then swim towards the octopuses, as if they were the rocks, and are caught off their guard; the octopuses entangle them in their own form of net, their tentacles.1

2. Spiders neither know nor wish to know the art and practice of weaving, the gifts of the goddess Ergane.2 To what use would an animal of this kind put such clothing? Its web would seem to be a trap, a kind of snare for objects that fall into it. The spider watches the net, keeping quite still and looking motionless; the object falls in, whatever it

  • 1Chapters 1–15 of this book are untypical, because they all deal with a single basic idea, the intelligence of animals, and fail to offer the variety of theme appropriate to a miscellany such as the V.H.
  • 2Ergane was the cult title of Athena as patron deity of crafts, especially weaving. The opening sentence is contradicted by Aelian in N.A. 6.57.
DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aelian-historical_miscellany.1997