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Title: Fishing from the Earliest Times
Author: Radcliffe, William
Language: English
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Sometime of Balliol College, Oxford

With Illustrations

_c._ 1400 B.C.]

John Murray, Albemarle Street, W.

All rights reserved

                     THE WEST INDIES, AND EUROPE._


    “_Within the streams, Pausanias saith,
      That down Cocytus valley flow,
      Girdling the grey domain of Death,
      The spectral fishes come and go;
      The ghosts of trout fly to and fro,
      Persephone, fulfil my wish,
      And grant that in the shades below
      My ghost may land the ghosts of fish!_”


Despite Francis Bacon’s dictum that “prefaces are great wastes of
time, and, though they seem to proceed of modesty, they are bravery,”
I hazard a few words as to this book, which, like Topsy, “growed, I
’spects,” from a chance request for a quotation from Homer on Fishing
with a Rod for my sister’s game-book.

It is, as far as I can discover, the first attempt to examine classical
and other ancient writers on Fishing from the standpoint of one who has
not only been a practical Pisciculturist for many years and an Angler
all his life, but has also been taught (though somewhat forgotten) his
Greek and Latin.

If my work, in the main, is necessarily based on the compilations of
others, it yet by serendipity (to adopt Horace Walpole’s mintage) has
unearthed some rare authors, who, judging from lack of mention, were
unknown to previous writers on the subject. It contains also—if I may
venture a “bravery”—several points which are apparently original.

Instances of these are:—

    (1) The definite establishment of Aristotle as our first,
  if through lack of microscope primitive, scale-reader;

    (2) The acquittal without a stain on his character of
  Plutarch from the charge, under which he has lain for
  centuries, of libelling and contemning Fishing;

    (3) The discussion by whom, Martial or Ælian, was the use
  of (_a_) the natural, or (_b_) the artificial fly first
  suggested or implied;

    (4) The examination whether the _crescens harundo_ of
  Martial was a jointed Rod, somewhat like our own;

    (5) The conclusion that the Rod was apparently never
  employed by the Ancient Assyrians or the Israelites, despite
  their long connection with Egypt, where as early as _c._ 2000
  B.C. it is depicted in actual use;

    (6) The point which, if not original, is rarely made or
  insufficiently pressed, that the Line of both the ancients
  and moderns down till the seventeenth century was a _tight_,
  as opposed to a _running_ Line.

May I, as a last “bravery,” state that apart from articles in Magazines
and Encyclopædias, I do not know, with the exception of Bates’s
_Ancient Egyptian Fishing_, of any work in English on _Fishing_, not
Fish, in ancient Egypt, Assyria, Palestine, or China, nor, with the
exception of Mainzer’s magazine article on Jewish Fishing, have I come
across one in French or German?

If any object that I have cast my net too wide and enclosed a few
things that are neither Fish nor Fishing, I must insist that as these
waters are not, as yet, adequately charted, it is well-nigh impossible
to avoid some infringement of the three miles’ territorial limit. To
drop metaphor, in the present state of archæological research, it
is notorious that no one subject can be fully investigated without
trenching here and there on allied topics. This indeed is not merely
necessary, but desirable, unless important side-lights are simply to be

Moreover, every good Waltonian prefers the discursive to the cursive
style, and would rather take part in a leisurely exploration of his
preserves than skim the surface in a manner hasty and in-_Compleat_.

Whatever the demerits of my volume, written at intervals between
war-work and illness, I do trust that of the three counts of the
indictment brought against Nicander’s _Theriaca_, “longa, incondita,
et nullius farrago fidei,” the verdict of my readers will, at any rate
as regards the last, be “Not Guilty,” for on this head I have stoutly
striven to avoid conviction.

Reference to aid from any book or person is usually set forth in my
pages; but here and at once I acknowledge with glad gratitude the
debt I owe for counsel and help to certain of my friends, whose
names I yet hesitate to state, “pour ne point leur donner une part de
responsabilité dans les fautes que je suis seul coupable d’avoir laissé

They are: Mr. A. B. Cook, Reader in Classical Archæology at Cambridge;
Dr. Bernard Grenfell, Professor of Papyrology at Oxford; Dr. A. R. S.
Kennedy, Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages at Edinburgh; the
late, alas! Dr. Leonard W. King, of the Assyrian Department of the
British Museum; Dr. S. Langdon, Professor of Assyriology at Oxford; Dr.
J. W. Mackail; Dr. A. Shewan; and last, but very far from least, Mr. H.
T. Sheringham.


    PREFACE                                                     vii
    INTRODUCTION                                                  3

                    GREEK AND ROMAN FISHING
    I.   HOMER. POSITION OF FISHERMEN                            63
    II.  HOMER. METHODS OF FISHING                               74
            TUNNY         90
             FISH                                               106
             DEITIES OF FISHING                                 116
    IX.   THE FIRST MENTION OF A FLY                            152
              FOR GOUT. ATHENÆUS                                169
              MENTION OF AN ARTIFICIAL FLY                      185
              THE PIKE IN CLASSICAL LITERATURE                  194
             COOKS. SAUCES                                      201

             OYSTERS. ARCHIMEDES                                215
              _Sargus_, THE SKATE, THE _Silurus_, AND THE
              EEL. WHAT WAS THE _Silurus?_ WILD THEORIES AS
              TO THE PROPAGATION OF EELS                        235
    XVIII. THE NINE FISH MOST HIGHLY PRIZED                     254
              OTHER ARTICLES THEN AND NOW                       285
    XXII.  THE RING OF HELEN                                    295

                           EGYPTIAN FISHING
    XXIII. “THE NILE IS EGYPT”                                  301
    XXIV.   TACKLE                                              307
    XXV.    ABSTENTION FROM FISH                                319
    XXVI.   SACRED FISH                                         327
                OF FISH THEN AND NOW. SPAWNING                  333
    XXVIII. FISHING WITH THE HAIR OF THE DEAD                   340
    XXIX.   THE RING OF POLYCRATES                              344

                           ASSYRIAN FISHING
    XXXI.   FISHING METHODS                                     355
    XXXIII. FISH-GODS. DAGON                                    363
                POACHING                                        373
    XXXVI.  FISH IN OFFERINGS, MAGIC AUGURIES                   382

                           JEWISH FISHING
               _Vivaria_                                        414
                 OR AUGURIES                                    424

                           CHINESE FISHING
                 D’HOMMES”                                      449

    INDEX                                                       470

                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

      ILLUSTRATING LIFE OF KRISHNA                    _Frontispiece_
      ANGLING, _c._ 1400 B.C.                           _Title page_
  POSEIDON, HERACLES, AND HERMES FISHING                         11
  AZTEC FISHING                                                  22
  AZTEC BOATING                                                  23
  ALASKAN HOOK WITH A WIZARD’S HEAD                              28
  BONE GORGES                                                    32
      (1) THE _Eurycantha latro_.
      (2) HOOK MADE FROM ITS LEG JOINTS                _facing_  34
  BARBED HARPOONS                                                37
  BROKEN HARPOON FROM KENT’S CAVE                                37
  FISHING NET SPUN BY SPIDERS                          _facing_  42
  FISHERMEN ON THE VASE OF PHYLAKOPI                       ”     63
  “IN AT THE DEATH”      ”                                       72
  METHODS OF FISHING, FROM ROMAN MOSAIC                          75
  MR. MINCHIN’S EXPLANATION OF _κέρας_                           83
  THE DOLPHIN AND THE BOY OF IASOS                               96
  CUTTING UP THE TUNNY                                          100
  “THE HAPPY FISHERMAN”                                         131
  THE FOWLER’S ROD                                              149
  VENUS AND CUPID ANGLING                                       168
  TORPEDO FISH                                         _facing_ 180
      (2) SON SALUTING WAYSIDE HERMES                           186
  THE NAKED FISHERMAN OF THE VATICAN                   _facing_ 201
  TWO MEN FISHING                                               220
  ARETHUSA                                                      221
  A GREEK ANGLER                                       _facing_ 235
  MYCENÆAN HOOKS                                                238
  ANGLING WITH WINE, FROM A MOSAIC AT MELOS            _facing_ 240
      FISH, FROM A COIN OF ABDERA                               273
  THE RETURN OF HELEN          ”     ”     ”     ”              296
  EGYPTIANS CARRYING A LARGE FISH                               300
  EARLY HARPOONS                                                308
  AN EGYPTIAN REEL                                     _facing_ 309
  SPEARING FISH                                            ”    309
  SENBI SPEARING FISH                                           310
      HAND-LINING                                      _facing_ 314
  A FISHING SCENE                                          ”    318
  FISHERMAN WADING WITH CREEL ROUND NECK               _facing_ 349
  MEN FISHING ASTRIDE GOATSKINS                            ”    355
  THE NET OF NINGIRSU (SO-CALLED)                          ”    358
  FISH-GOD                                                      365
  GILGAMESH CARRYING FISH                                       367
  THE DEMON OF THE SOUTH-WEST WIND                              370
  THE FIGHT BETWEEN MARDUK AND TIĀMAT                  _facing_ 392
  TOBIAS, IN _La Madonna del Pesce,_ BY RAPHAEL            ”    397
  A PRE-INCA FISHING SCENE                                      399
  ATARGATIS, FROM A COIN OF HIERAPOLIS                   426
  JONAH LEAVING        ”       ”      ”      ”     ”            442
  CHINESE ANGLING                                      _facing_ 449
  CHINESE FISHING                                          ”    458




“_And first for the Antiquity of_ Angling, _I shall not say much; but
onely this: Some say, it is as ancient as_ Deucalion’s _Floud: and
others (which I like better) say that_ Belus _(who was the inventer
of godly and vertuous Recreations) was the Inventer of it: and some
others say (for former times have had their Disquisitions about it)
that_ Seth, _one of the sons of_ Adam, _taught it to his sons, and
that by them it was derived to Posterity. Others say, that he left it
engraven on those Pillars, which hee erected to preserve the knowledge
of_ Mathematicks, Musick, _and the rest of those precious Arts, which
by God’s appointment or allowance, and his noble industry were thereby
preserved from perishing in Noah’s Floud_.”—ISAAK WALTON, The Compleat

    “_You see the way the Fisherman doth take
      To catch the Fish; what Engins doth he make?
      Behold how he ingageth all his wits,
      Also his Snares, Lines, Angles, Hooks, and Nets.
      Yet fish there be, that neither Hook, nor Line,
      Nor Snare, nor Net, nor Engin can make thine;
      They must be grop’t for, and be tickled too,
      Or they will not be catch’t, whate’er you do._”

             JOHN BUNYAN, The Pilgrim’s Progress.
                 (The Author’s Apology for his book.)

“_Elle extend ses filets, elle invente de nouveaux moyens de succès,
elle s’attache un plus grand nombre d’hommes. Elle pénètre dans les
profondeurs des abîmes, elle arrache aux angles les plus secrets, elle
poursuit jusqu’aux extrémités du globe les objets de sa constante
recherche._”—G. E. LACÈPÉDE, Hist. Nat. des poissons.

“_What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed, when he
hid himself among women, though puzzling questions are not beyond all
Conjecture._”—SIR THOMAS BROWNE, Urne-Buriall.

       *       *       *       *       *

The craft of Fishing possesses an ancestry so ancient, or according
to a Polynesian legend so literally abysmal, that for those who have
their business on the waters, deep or shallow, it is but seemly, it is
certainly of interest, to essay the tracing of its pedigree, and the
linking of the generations of its far-flung lineage.

What were, and whence came its first forbears, and of what manner and
of what matter were the original parents of its devices are questions
which should appeal to the large majority of its followers. The
_sansculottes_, however stalwart, who does not in his heart of hearts
rejoice in owning, or claiming, some genealogical garments, wherein to
hide his nakedness, is rare and abnormal.

The pedigree is like and unlike its celebrated Urquhart brother. Like
in the gaps in generations, which in his endeavour directly to deduce
his family from Adam even Sir Thomas’s ingenuity failed to bridge,
despite the prolongation when necessary of the lives of his ancestors
to ten times the allotted span. Unlike in antiquity, since it stretches
far, very far beyond “Deucalion’s Floud” and Adam’s Paradise.

Angling, despite wide ramifications, has perhaps stamped its stock more
vividly and has bred truer to original type than its elder brother
Hunting. The variance of a repeating rifle from what some hold to be
their common first sire, a sharpened pole, is larger and more marked
than that of our most up-to-date Rod.

The riddle, as in other cases of disputed succession, of identifying
the first real head of the family or the earliest begetter of the
race is rendered more complex by wide geographical dispersion. It is
possibly insoluble.

Nevertheless to this labour of love I now address myself.

The question of priority of the implement used for catching fish has
been often moot, sometimes acute, for, in Walton’s words, “former times
have had their Disquisitions about it.”

How did the earliest fisherman secure his prey? Was it by means of the
Spear, under which term I include harpoons and barbed fishing spears of
any kind, the Net, or the Line? None of these has lacked its champions,
of whom the Line has attracted the fewest, the Spear the most.

Uncertainty as to the order of precedence was not really remarkable.
We lacked even as late as the beginning of the last century both the
data as to Egyptian and Assyrian fishing, which the discovery of the
key to the hieroglyphs by Champollion and to the cuneiform by Rawlinson
has laid bare, and the data as to the fishing of the Troglodytes which
scientific examination of the caves of France and Spain has revealed.

The outlook of our forefathers was necessarily limited, indeed
monotopical. No big maps of the archæological world widened their
vision. Some sectional sketches, and these badly charted, obscured
their perspective.

The priority of the Net at one time probably enrolled the majority of
adherents. Nor can we wonder, when we realise that in the case of a
country so ancient as India we light on no method of fishing other than
Netting—and even that till the post-Vedic literature after 200 B.C.
most rarely—in Sanskrit or Pāli literature before 400 A.D.[1] Hence
came the deduction, not unnatural but illogical, since it stresses too
strongly the argument of silence or omission—_i.e._ because no specimen
or representation of a thing exists the thing itself never existed—that
the Net must have been the first implement.

And even now after many years of exploration in Mesopotamia a champion
of the Net or of the Line, if he similarly disregarded logic and
all save Assyrian remains, might not unreasonably proclaim their
antecedence to the Spear, of which no mention or representation as a
method of fishing has yet been unearthed.

In the case of Egypt the advocate either of the Spear or Net has
not as strong, certainly not so clear, a case. Although examples of
the first have been discovered in prehistoric graves, the Net finds
representation earlier than the Spear. Be this how it may, the Spear,
Net, Line, Rod flourish synchronously in the XIIth Dynasty _c._ 2000,
or according to Petrie’s chronology about 3500 B.C.

In China, unless the sentence of the quite modern _I shih chi shih_,
that in the reign of the legendary Emperor who first taught the use of
fire, “fishermen used the silk of the cocoons for their lines, a piece
of sharpened iron for their hooks, thorn-sticks for their rods, and
split grain for their bait,” be potent enough to produce a protagonist
for the priority of the Rod, the boldest advocate would shrink from
championing either the Spear or Net. The first mention _c._ 900 B.C. (I
know of none actually written before this date[2]), shows them, and the
Rod, in general and simultaneous operation.

From Crete shines out no guiding light. The _débris_ recovered from
centres of the ‘Minoan’ civilisation yields frequent and in the main
vivid pictures of fish, _e.g._ those on the Phaistos Disc (which is
considered the earliest instance of printing in Europe at any rate)
and the flying fish on glazed pottery from Knossos. But unfortunately
neither in the Annual Reports of Sir Arthur Evans to the British School
at Athens nor (he tells me) in his forthcoming book do _modi piscandi_
obtain notice.

In Greece, a champion of any single method would be sadly to seek.
The Spear, the Net, the Line, and the Rod all occur in our earliest
authority, Homer, and, curious to note, as a rule in similes. From the
fact that the Spear finds mention but once, the Net twice, and the Line
(with or without the Rod) thrice, a real enthusiast has deduced an
argument for the priority of the last two over the Spear!

This short survey forces the conclusion that we cannot fix definitely
which was the method adopted by the earliest historical fishermen.

Before proceeding on our search for further data two points should be
emphasised. First, the period covered even by the longest historical
or semi-historical record counts but as a fraction of the time since
geology and archæology prove Man to have existed on earth.

Grant, if you will, the demand of the most exacting Egyptologists or
Sumerologists, to whom a thousand years are as nothing; concede their
postulated five or six thousand years; of what account is one lustrum
of millenniums when compared with the years—not less than two million
according to some geologists[3]—which have elapsed since Man first came
on the scene?

Second, all the above nations possessed an advanced civilisation.
Neither civilisation nor fishing is a Jovelike creation, springing into
existence armed _cap-à-pie_. Both, like our friend Topsy, “growed,”
and both demanded long periods for growth and development from their
primitive origin.

In fishing these were retarded by the innate conservatism of the
followers of the cult. The psychology of the faithful is an odd blend
of dogged, perhaps unconscious, adherence to the olden ways and of an
almost Athenian curiosity about “any new thing,” which as often as not
sees itself discarded in favour of the ancient devices.

Even in this year of our Lord a cousin of mine, who Ulysses-like many
rivers has known, much tackle tested, habitually (influenced no doubt
by the recipe for the line given by Plutarch and passed on by Dame
Juliana Berners) inserts between his line and his gut some eighteen
inches of horse hair! But even in him the law of development works,
for he does not Pharisaically adhere to the strict letter of the text,
and insist that the hair comes only from the tail of a stallion or

Then, again, not less than two thousand odd years were needed for the
Rod and the Line of Ælian’s Macedonian angler to take unto themselves
a cubit or so more of length than their Egyptian predecessors.[5] The
latter may, however, have been rendered shorter than actually used from
the regard paid to artistic convention by the craftsman of Beni-Hasan.

But the connection of the line to the rod furnishes the most arresting
instance of conservatism or slow development. Progress from the
Egyptian method, which made fast the line to the top of the rod,[6]
to a “running line” took, so far as discoverable records show, no
less a period than that between _c._ 2000 B.C. and our sixteenth or
seventeenth century, _i.e._ some 3600, or (according to Petrie) over
5000, years!

The Reel, which, however rude, would appear a much more complicated
device than other conceivable methods of a running line, seems yet to
be mentioned first. The earliest description occurs in _The Art of
Angling_, by T. Barker, 1651, the first propagator of the heresy of
the salmon roe, and according to Dr. Turrell “the father of poachers.”
The earliest picture figures in his enlarged edition of 1657. The Reel
affords another instance of slow growth. Its employment except with
salmon or big pike only coincides with the beginning of the nineteenth

The development to the more subtle method of play by means of spare
line can only be conjectured.

It was obviously invented somewhere between 1496 (_The Boke of St.
Albans_, where we are expressly told to “dubbe the lyne and frette it
fast in ẏ toppe with a bowe to fasten on your lyne”) and 1651, when
Barker mentions the “wind” (which was set in a hole two feet or so from
the bottom of the rod) as a device employed by a namesake of his own,
and presumably by few beside at that time.

Walton four years later, but anticipating Barker by two as to its
employment in _salmon_ fishing, writes of the “wheele” about the
middle of the rod or nearer the hand as evidently an uncommon device,
“which is to be observed better by seeing one of them than by a large
demonstration of words.”

Focussing a perplexed eye on the picture vouchsafed by Barker in his
enlarged edition of 1657, we are impressed by the wisdom of Father
Izaak. Frankly it is not easy to discern from it what Barker’s “wind”
was intended to be or what the method of working. Apparently he had in
mind two distinct implements, a “wheele” similar to Walton’s (such
perhaps as is figured in the title page of _The Experienced Angler_
by their contemporary Venables) and a crude winder, such as survives
to-day in our sea-fishing, but intended as an attachment to a Rod.[7]

This marks a logical and likely step in evolution. It is inconceivable
that invention should have soared to a Reel without there having been
some intermediate stage between it and the “tight” line. The advantage
of extra line for emergencies must have been recognised pretty early,
and a wire ring at the top of the Rod, through which the line could
run, naturally resulted from such recognition.

The method of disposing of the “spare” line may be presumed from
survival of primitive practice. Not many years ago pike fishers in
rustic parts of England often dispensed with a reel. They either let
their spare with a cork at its end trail behind on the ground, or wound
it on a bobbin or a piece of wood, stowed away in a pocket. Nicholas
explains Walton’s (chap. v.) “running line, that is to say, when you
fish for a trout by hand at the ground” as “a line, so called, because
it runs along the ground.”

It seems impossible to fix with certainty the period at which fishing
with a running line made its first appearance. No early data exist, nor
do the few early pictures of mediæval rods indicate the presence of a
wire top ring. I had a lively hope, when I recalled its many plates and
figures, of extracting some guidance from the most important French
work of early date (1660) dealing with fishing, _Les Ruses Innocentes_,
which may be described (_mutatis mutandis_) as the counterpart of _The
Boke of St. Albans_.

The first four books are concerned with “divers methods” (of most of
which the author, _à la_ Barker, claims the invention) for the making
and the using of all kinds of nets for the capture of birds, both of
passage and indigenous, and of many kinds of animals.

The fifth confides to us “les plus beaux secrets de la pêche dans
les Rivières ou dans les Etangs.” As the secrets are concerned
almost entirely with Net fishing, little light reaches us. Both the
instructions and illustrations in chap. xxvi., _Invention pour prendre
les Brochets à la ligne volante_, show that the line after being
attached about the middle of the pole was twisted round and round till
made fast at the end of the pole, from which depended some eighteen
feet of line.[8]

Setting conjecture aside and faced by the fact that the Egyptian line
was certainly made fast at the top and that neither illustrations nor
writings (so far as I have been able to discover) indicate any other
condition, we are driven by a mass of evidence, negative though it be,
to the conclusion that the ancients[9] and the moderns down to some
date between 1496 and 1651 fished with “tight” lines.


Figured from a _lethykos_ (_c._ 550 B.C.) in the Hope Collection (Sale
Cat. No. 22). See note 2, p. 10.]

These were either fastened to the Rod whip-fashion, or possibly looped
to it. The distinction is only important in so far as a horse-hair
loop at the end of the Rod may have developed into a top ring of wire,
which must not be confused with rings fixed _along_ the Rod, which R.
Howlett, in _The Angler’s Sure Guide_, 1706, seems the first to note.

Why the Greeks or Romans should not have emancipated themselves from
the _tight_ line of Egypt and evolved the _running_ line by the mere
force of their inventive genius causes much astonishment. This grows
acute when we remember that they knew a fish whose properties and
predatory endowments furnished an ideal example of the advantages of
the _running_ line.

Of the angler fish and its methods of securing food Aristotle,
Plutarch, and Ælian are eloquent.[10] From Plutarch we learn that “the
cuttle fish useth likewise the same craft as the fishing-frog doth. His
manner is to hang down, as if it were an angle line, a certain small
string or gut from about his neck, which is of that nature that he can
let out in length a great way, when it is loose, and draw it in close
together very quickly when he listeth. Now when he perceiveth some
small fish near unto him,” he forthwith plies his nature-given tackle.

With the _tight_ line play can only be given to a fish by craft of
hand and rod. Anglers know to their sorrow that although much may be
thus accomplished, occasions too frequently arise when the most expert
handling can avail naught.

In Walton’s time the custom, as indeed it was the only present help,
in the event of a big fish being hooked was to throw the Rod into the
water and await its retrieval, if the deities of fishing so willed,
till such time as the fish by pulling it all over the water had played
himself out.

But the existence of some method of releasing line rather earlier than
Barker and Walton may perhaps be inferred from the following passage
in William Browne’s _Britannia’s Pastorals_ (Fifth Song), published

    “He, knowing it a fish of stubborn sway,
     Puls up his rod, but soft: (as having skill)
     Wherewith the hooke fast holds the fishe’s gill.
     Then all his line he freely yeeldeth him,
     Whilst furiously all up and downe doth swimme
     Th’ insnared fish....
     By this the pike, cleane wearied, underneath
     A willow lyes and pants (if fishes breathe):
     Wherewith the fisher gently puls him to him,
     And, least his haste might happen to undo him,
     Lays down his rod, then takes his line in hand,
     And by degrees getting the fish to land,
     Walkes to another poole.”

A few years suffice to span the interval between William Browne and
Barker, whereas between Theocritus and Barker a great gulf of time
yawns unbridged. Thus we have renderings of the former (Idyll XXI.) and
of other classical authors by translators (more especially when they
happen to be also anglers!) which demonstrate ignorance or ignoring of
the fixity of line and the absence of reel.

These, if not palpably anachronous, afford at any rate evidence of
incuriosity concerning facts. Their “then I gave him slack” and other
similar expressions, true enough of our present line, can be no way
applicable to the conditions of ancient Angling, unless the words
mean—and then only by strained construing—that their “slack” was given
by depression of Rod rather than by lengthening of line.

With the hook also we are confronted with a similar slowness of
development. This is so well attested that we need more than even
the authority of Butcher and Lang to establish what their slip in
translating γναμπτὰ ἂγκιστρα as _bent hooks_ in _Odyssey_ IV., 369,
and as _barbed hooks_ in _Odyssey_ XII., 332, would suggest, viz. a
synonymous form of a synchronous invention.

Since it is impossible to fix the length of time, if any, which
separates the New Stone from the Copper Age, we can make no adequate
guess as to how many generations of men and how many centuries of
time were needed to transform the bent into the barbed hook. Perhaps
Æneolithic experts can.

Extant examples from Egypt of both furnish, however, some chronological
data. If the argument from silence, or rather from non-survival in one
particular country, be not pressed unduly, these tend to prove that so
far from their being twin brethren, the birth of the bent anteceded
that of the barbed hook by at any rate the number of years which
separated the Ist from the XVIIIth Dynasty, before which the occurrence
of a barbed hook is rare.

The first implement of fishing, be it what you please, was no
split-cane Rod, nor the “town-like Net” of Oppian, but some simple
device created by the insistent necessity of procuring food. With our
primitive ancestors, as with the companions of Menelaus, often “was
hunger gnawing at their bellies,” a hunger accentuated at one period
by the retreat further into the primeval forests or at another by the
actual decrease of the animals, which had hitherto furnished the staple
of Man’s sustenance.

Fortunately other data more ancient and more authoritative than the
Egyptian or Sumerian as to priority of implement help the quest of

Blazing their trail backwards in the half-light of non-historical
forests, they hap on many a _cache_ of ancient devices in the
settlements of the New Stone Man. Pausing merely to examine these, they
cut their way through yet denser and darker timber, until eventually
they emerge at an opening wherein once stood the ultimate if scarcely
the original storehouse, whence Neolithic Man drew and in the course of
long travel bettered his materials—the dwelling place of the Old Stone

To this storehouse we too must press, tarrying only at the _caches_ to
note cursorily Neolithic betterment or invention. The dwelling place is
one of many mansions, or rather of many rude caverns dotted over Europe.

Of such are Kent’s Cave near Torquay (which from its remains of animals
may have been a mansion, or technically a “station,” as early as any),
the Kesserloch in Switzerland, the shelters, or _cavernes_, in Southern
France, of which La Madelaine in Dordogne, earliest to be discovered,
ranks still the most famous, and a score or so of stations in Spain—not
limited we now realise to its north-west corner—of which Altamira, not
far from Santander, stands out pre-eminent.

With their exploration a remoter vista has opened out in recent
years; a wholly new standpoint has been gained from which to review
the early history of the human race. A brilliant band of prehistoric
archæologists has brought together such a mass of striking materials as
to place the evolution of human art and appliances in the Quaternary
Period on a level far higher than had been previously ever suspected.
The investigations of Lartet, Cartailhac, Piette, Breuil, Obermaier,
etc., have revolutionised our knowledge of a phase of human culture
which goes so far back beyond the limits of any continuous story that
it may well be said to belong to an older world.

These sentences of Sir Arthur Evans[11] gain further emphasis from
Professor Boyd-Dawkins: “It is not too much to state that the frescoed
caves in Southern France and Northern Spain throw as much light on
the life of those times as the Egyptian tombs do on the daily life of
Egypt, or the walls of the Minoan palace on the luxury of Crete, before
the Achæan conquest.”

The picture of Palæolithic life revealed by these dwelling places
attracts from every point of view. But as our last is fish and fishing,
to fish and fishing we must stick. I shall therefore limit myself
to the caves which furnish specimens or representations of ichthyic
interest, with the one exception of “marvellous Altamira,” which,
though it unfortunately yields us no portrayals of fishing, from every
other aspect compels mention.

So astonishing was the discovery of this cave with its whole galleries
of _painted_ designs on the walls and ceilings that it required a
quarter of a century and the corroboration of repeated finds on the
French side of the Pyrenees for general recognition that these rock
paintings were of the Palæolithic age, and that features, which had
been hitherto reckoned as exclusively belonging to the New Stone Man,
can now be classed as the original property of the Man of the Old Stone
Age in the final production of his evolution.

These primeval frescoes in their most developed state (Evans, _ibid._,
tells us) show not only a consummate mastery of natural design, but
also an extraordinary technical resource. Apart from the charcoal used
in certain outlines, the chief colouring matter was red and yellow
ochre, mortars and palettes for the preparation of which have come to
light. In single animals the tints are varied from black to dark and
ruddy brown or brilliant orange, and so by fine gradations to paler
_nuances_, obtained by scraping and washing.

The greatest marvel is that such polychrome masterpieces as the bisons
standing and couchant or with limbs huddled together were executed on
the ceilings of inner vaults and galleries, where the light of day
never penetrated. Nowhere does smoke blur their outlines, probably (as
Parkyn[12] suggests) because of long oxidisation. The art of artificial
illumination had evidently progressed far. We now, indeed, know that
stone lamps, decorated in one case with the head of an ibex, already

“_Les extremes se touchent_” was here aptly exemplified, for to a very
young child was it reserved to discover the very oldest art gallery in
the world. In 1879 Señor de Santuola chanced to be digging in a cave on
his property, when he heard his little daughter cry, “Toros, toros!”
Realising quickly that this was no warning of an impending charge by
bulls, he followed her gaze to the vaulted ceiling, where his eyes
there espied “the finest expression of Palæolithic art extant.”

This little Spanish girl was the first for many, many thousands of
years to behold a collection of pictures, which demonstrate not only
the high point of excellence to which the art of the Troglodytes had
attained, but also, from the absence of perspective and of decorative
as compared with pictorial composition, indicate how long is probably
the interval and how far is the separation between them and the Men of
the Neolithic Age.

Not only in the character of their Art, which if more specialised
in subjects was superior in representative quality, but also in the
substance and in the method of fashioning their fishing and hunting
implements, the separation between the Old Stone and the New Stone Man
is very marked.

The former for their stone implements almost always used flint. They
worked it to shape merely by flaking or chipping. The latter employed
also diorite, quartzite, etc., and in addition to flaking fashioned
them by grinding and polishing.[13]

It must, I fear, be acknowledged that the _caches_ of the New Stone
Age fail to give us the help expected towards settling what was the
first implement employed. It is true that they yield hooks, nets,
net-sinkers, which may have been merely developments of Troglodyte
tackle, but, judging from the absence of any surviving Palæolithic
example, were more probably new inventions.

But neither these nor the implements of succeeding Ages furnish us with
evidence sufficient to decide the tackle first employed by the earliest
fisherman, or even by the Old Stone Man, for, as Cartailhac truly warns
us, “Ce n’est pas, comme on l’a dit à tort, le début de l’art que nous
découvrons. L’art de l’âge du renne est beaucoup trop ancien.”[14]

And here it may well be objected, if the New Stone Age does not
disclose any priority of implement, why further pursue what thus must
be the insoluble? Why, indeed, especially if it be true that their
tackle with some additional devices merely shows up as a development
and improvement of that of their predecessors, to whom in point of time
they surely stand nearer than any other known race?

The objection is pertinent. But, startling as the statement may seem,
there now exist, or have within the last century existed, races, who
_in the actual material, and in the mode of fashioning, of their
weapons_ are, in the opinion of experts, nearer akin to and resemble
more closely Palæolithic than did Neolithic man.

Speaking of the Eskimos, Cartailhac simply summarises the evidence of
many authorities, when he writes “the likenesses in the above points
are so striking that one sees in them the true descendants of the
Troglodytes of Perigord.”

Professor Boyd-Dawkins goes farther. He finds the Eskimos so intimately
connected with the Cave Men in their manners and customs, in their
art, especially in their method of representing animals, and in their
implements and weapons, that “the only possible explanation is that
they belong to the same race: that they are representatives of the
Troglodytes, protected within the Arctic circle from those causes by
which their forbears had been driven from Europe and Asia. They stand
at the present day wholly apart from other living races, and are cut
off from all by the philologer and the craniologist.”[15]

Food supply probably effected the migration of the Eskimos, or rather
of their ancestors from Europe.[16] At the close of the last ice age,
as the ice cap retreated Northwards, the reindeer followed the ice, and
the Eskimo followed the reindeer.

Of the aborigines of Tasmania Professor E. B. Tylor testifies: “If
there have remained anywhere up to modern times men, whose condition
has changed little since the early Stone Age, the Tasmanians seem such
a people. Many tribes of the late Stone Age have lasted on into modern
times, but it appears that the Tasmanians by the workmanship of their
stone implements represent rather the condition of Palæolithic man.”[17]

Sollas goes even farther: “The Tasmanians, however, though recent were
at the same time a Palæolithic or even, it has been suggested, an
Eolithic race: they thus afford us an opportunity of interpreting the
past by the present—a saving procedure in a subject where fantasy is
only too likely to play a leading part.”[18] But their usual technique
is against Eolithicism.

If these authoritative statements be accurate, can we not hazard
a shrewd conjecture from examination of the implements and of the
methods prevalent amongst the backward or uncivilised tribes closely
resembling our Cave Dwellers, as to which was probably the first
implement or method employed for catching fish? Can we, in fact, from
the data available from the Eskimos, Tasmanians, and other similar
races so reconstruct our men of Dordogne and elsewhere as to adjudge
approximately whether first in their hands at any rate was the Spear,
the Hook, or the Net?

Such a quest seems one of the incidental motives of G. de Mortillet
in _Les Origines de la Chasse et de la Pêche_, 1890, which modifies
in several particulars his earlier _Les Origines de la Pêche et de
la Navigation_, 1867. We find from his pages and those of Rau’s
_Prehistoric Fishing_ (1884), and of Parkyn’s _Prehistoric Art_ (1916),
that a comparative examination of the above races, as it ramifies,
discloses not only a close resemblance to Palæolithic Man in the
material, nature, and fashioning of their tackle, but also in their art
and method of expressing their art.

Such similarity of art, evident in the Eskimos, stands revealed by
the Bushmen of Africa (especially in the caves formerly used for
habitations by the tribes of the Madobo range) in no less obvious or
striking degree. “The nearest parallels to the finer class of rock
carvings in the Dordogne are in fact to be found among the more
ancient specimens of similar work in South Africa, while the rock
paintings of Spain find their best analogies among the Bushmen.”[19]

The Africans, it is true, perfected their engravings on the surface of
the rocks more frequently by “pecking.” But both they and Palæolithic
man make free and successful use of colours, of which the African
possesses six as against the three or four of his European brethren.
Each race depicts fish and animals so life-like as to be easily

What evidence as to priority do the Eskimo methods of to-day yield us?
Cartailhac but echoes Rau, Salomon Reinach, and Hoffmann[20] in his
assertion that the prehistoric Reindeer Age compares practically with
the actual age of the Eskimos. Their fishing spears in material, shape,
and barb resemble the Palæolithic.

Their carvings and engravings of fishing and whaling scenes on bone and
ivory show clear kinship to the Dordognese.

Hoffmann’s able study of the Eskimos not only brings out these
similarities, but also specially notes the closeness with which
they observe and the exactitude with which they render anatomical
peculiarities of fish and animals. As portrayers of the human form, on
the other hand, they must be reckoned far from expert. The caves of
France and those of Spain in general, although the _paintings_ of the
human form at Calapata and other places are far more finished and far
more frequent than the French drawings, disclose curiously the same
power and the same deficiency as characteristic of Troglodyte art.[21]

No race probably in the world depends so greatly on fishing for a
livelihood as the Eskimos. From them, if from any, we should derive
most light and leading. With them the Spear and the Hook form the
chief, and till recently probably the only, tackle. Nets, on account
of the ice, play little part. To any claim for precedence of the former
over the latter, a champion of the Net demurs on the ground of climatic
conditions, which he not unreasonably urges prevent any proper analogy
in this respect being drawn between them and our Cave Men.

Touching the similarity of the Tasmanian to the Troglodyte, Ling Roth
amplifies, especially as regards the material, etc. of the Spear,
the evidence contained in Tylor’s already quoted sentence. This in
conjunction with Captain Cook’s earlier statement that the Tasmanians,
while experts with the Spear, were ignorant of the use of a Hook, and,
according to Wentworth, of a Net, would have gone far in helping our
quest and in establishing the precedence of the Spear.

Unfortunately the evidence of Lloyd and others that these aborigines
speared fish as a pastime, coupled with the fact that while they
consumed _crustaceæ_ they abstained (probably from reasons of tabu or
totem) from eating scaled fish, sharply differentiates their _Kultur_
from that of our prehistoric fishermen “at whose bellies hunger was

From Mexico, and especially from the representations in Yucatan, I had
hoped for new factors helping to solve our problem. First, because
these had so far escaped the meticulous examination of the Madelainian,
and second, because they were the product of an ancient people, the
Mayas, who ranked fish as an important item of their diet, and pursued
fishing with the Spear and the Net.[23]

With the Aztecs, who in the thirteenth century inherited the Maya
culture, now dated as regards their architecture back to the first
three centuries A.D.,[24] the hook arrives, or rather appears. Aztec
skill in fishing stands well attested. Their artificial fishponds or
_vivaria_, and the importance which they attached to fish as a food
extract favourable comment from Cortez.[25]

In spite of the pictographs, known as the Mendoza Codex,[26] being
executed several centuries after the date I have roughly allotted
myself, _viz._ 500 A.D., I cannot resist inserting two of these on
account of their fourfold interest.

[Illustration: AZTEC FISHING.

From the _Mendoza Codex_, vol. i. pl. 61, fig. 4.]

They show first, that Mexican lads received early in their teens
education in fishing. Second, that the Aztecs were familiar with
scoop nets. Third—and this surely will go to the heart of our Food
Controller—that food was rationed. From the circles or dots we learn
that the age of one youth depicted was thirteen, and from the two
connected ovals marked with small dashes that his allowance of food
consisted of two cakes or _tortillas_ a meal. Fourth, by the symbol
before his mouth, that the father is speaking. The symbol very roughly
reminds us of the Assyrian system of signs which determine the nature
or subject of a word, as the two hundred odd fish mentioned in
Asur-bani-pal’s library at Nineveh signify.

[Illustration: AZTEC BOATING.

From the _Mendoza Codex_, vol. i. pl. 61, fig. 3.]

But Mexico as a staff in our quest of priority breaks in our hands. The
Museo Nacional a few years ago contained nothing of prehistoric fishing
interest except perhaps a notched stone sinker. Greater disappointment
still, the wealth of ancient Maya information from the monuments of
Merida yields us sometimes fish, but never fishing scenes.[27]

From ancient Peru I had hoped help, but neither the four massive tomes
of _Ancient Peruvian Art_ by A. Baessler, nor _The Fish in Peruvian
Art_ by Charles W. Mead vouchsafe it.

To the absence among the ancient Peruvians of any written language
Mead attributes the very early arrival of conventionalism in art. In
consequence of conventionalism, fish at the period reached are merely
rendered as various designs, notably that of the “interlocked fishes,”
_i.e._ a pattern of parts of two fish turned in opposite directions,
a curious example of which may be found in Mead, Plate I. fig. 9.
The mythological monster, part fish part man, in Plate II. fig. 13,
compares and contrasts with similar Assyrian representations.

The tomes of _The Necropolis of Ancon_ fail also to aid us. Among the
hundreds of objects of Inca civilization depicted, nothing piscatorial,
except some copper fishing hooks and a few spears, comes to view.[28]
Joyce, however, gives a fishing scene depicted on a pot from the
Truxillo district of the coast, which the author dates pre-Inca, or
anywhere between 200 B.C. and A.D.[29]

From his book emerge two interesting points of comparative
mythology. The first—which compares with Assyrian and other similar
legends[30]—the tradition that culture was first brought to Ecuador by
men of great stature coming from the sea, who lived by fishing with
nets; the second—which compares with the Egyptian practice—the custom
among certain primitive coast tribes of placing provisions, among which
were fish, in the graves of the dead.[31]

Other races of the world present many points of similarity to the
French cave men. The Bushmen of Africa, and the Bushmen of Australia,
_inter alios_, exemplify this. Banfield, in dealing with the drawings
or so-called frescoes of men, animals, and fish on Dunk Island,
vouches for the latter as “of talent, original and academic. Here is
the sheer beginning, the spontaneous germ of art, the labourings of a
savage soul controlled by wilful æsthetic emotions.”[32]

This review of the fishing weapons and methods of the races
cited—especially of the Eskimos and the Tasmanians, the races closest
to the Troglodytes—provides data which make for a plausible conjecture,
but none, owing to differing conditions caused by climate or custom,
which enable a definite decision as to priority of implement.

Let us return from this survey of races to the _cavernes_ and examine
their contents.[33] Their _débris_ (at times ten feet deep and seventy
long) manifests that these _stations_ served as habitations for several
generations of men.

From nearly all the French stations neighbouring the sea or rivers,
bones of fish, especially of salmon, have been recovered. These have
been identified, but not without some dissent, as belonging to the
Tunny, _Labrax lupus_, Eel, Carp, Barbel, Trout, and _Esox lucius_.

The presence of the last, our pike, in this (and again in Neolithic)
_débris_ excites our interest as evidence that the Troglodytes knew
and made use of a fish whose absence, despite its wide geographical
distribution, from all Greek and Latin literature until we reach the
time of Ausonius, Cuvier, or more strictly Valenciennes, notes with
extreme surprise.[34]

While in La Madelaine and elsewhere fish occur abundantly in the
_débris_, at some _cavernes_ in the Vézère Valley, notably Le Moustier,
they cannot be traced. Their absence coupled with the presence of
animal bones has led some archæologists to the conclusion that Le
Moustier and other stations were earlier inhabited than La Madelaine,
at a time, in fact, when according to Paul Broca, “Man hunted the
smaller animals as well as large game, but had not yet learned how to
reach the fish.”

In addition to osseous deposits, numerous ichthyic carvings and
engravings on materials and weapons present themselves. It is curious,
however, to note that (at any rate up to 1915) of all the caves and
grottoes two only, Pindal on the wall, and Niaux (the latest discovered
French cave where black is the solitary colour employed) on the floor,
furnish us with representations of fish on _wall or floor_.

[Illustration: TWO SEALS, DEAD TROUT, AND (?) EELS.

From _Le bâton de bois de renne de Montgaudier_ Museum.]

These Old Stone Men not only observed closely, but portrayed the
results of their observations with remarkable faithfulness. The reliefs
of bisons mounted in clay and the effigies of women carved in ivory,
the paintings of bisons instinct with life and movement, the figures
of two seals (engraved on a _bâton_ from Montgaudier) with a dead
trout,[35] of another seal engraved on a drilled bear’s tooth (from
Duruthy), and of an otter with a fish incised on a reindeer antler from
Laugerie-Basse,[36] evoke the lively admiration of de Mortillet and

Such is their graphic truthfulness and attention to detail that,
according to the former writer, the trout which the seals have
killed floats, as dead fish do, belly up, and is not only perfectly
characterised in general form, but is rendered with the spots on the
top of the back dotted quite accurately.[37] Not less admirable is the
bas-relief of a fish in reindeer horn from Mas d’Azil, or of another
pierced by a spear.[38]

The frequent engravings of animals and of fish prompt S. Reinach and
others to the interesting surmise that since all or most portray
creatures desired for food by hunters and fishermen, they were
executed not for amusement, “mais sont les talismans de chasseurs qui
craignent de manquer de gibier. L’objet des artistes a été d’exercer
une attraction magique sur les animaux de la même espèce. Les indigènes
de l’Australie Centrale peignent aussi sur les roches ou le sol des
figures des animaux dans le but avoué d’en favoriser par la même
raison, qui dans certaines campagnes fait qu’on évite de prononcer le
nom du loup.”[39]

After pointing out that the representations of the Reindeer epoch
“offrent un caractère analogue,” he continues, “À cette phase très
ancienne d’evolution humaine la religion (au sens moderne de ce mot)
n’existe pas encore, mais la magie joue un rôle considerable et
s’associe à toutes les formes de l’activité.”[40]

Magic, especially imitative magic, according to Frazer and others,
plays a great part in the measures taken by the rude hunter or
fisherman to secure an abundant supply of food. On the principle that
like produces like, many things are done by him or for him by his
friends in deliberate imitation of the result sought.

Confirmatory evidence from races, past and present the world over,
stands ready to call. The Point Barrow Eskimos, when following the
whale, always carry a whale-shaped amulet of stone or wood. The North
African fisherman of the present day, in obedience to an ancient Moslem
work on Magic, fashions a tin image of the fish which he desires,
inscribes it with four mystic letters, and fastens it to his line.


From E. Krause’s _Vorgeschichtliche Fischereigeräte_, fig. 345.]

If at the due season fish fail to appear, the Nootka wizard constructs
of wood[41] a fish swimming, and launches it in the direction whence
the schools generally arrive. This simulacrum, plus incantations,
compels the laggards in no time.[42]

In Cambodia, if a netsman be unsuccessful, he strips naked and
withdraws a short distance: then strolling up to the net, as if he saw
it not, he lets himself be caught in the meshes, whereupon he calls
out, “What is this? I fear I am caught.” Such procedure is believed to
attract the fish efficaciously and to ensure a good haul.[43]

Scotland not a century ago witnessed pantomimes of similar character,
according to the Rev. J. Macdonald, minister of Reay. Fishermen, when
dogged by ill luck, threw one of their number overboard and then hauled
him out of the water, exactly as if he were a fish. This Jonah-like
ruse apparently induced appetite, for “soon after trout, or sillock,
would begin to nibble.”

The comparative ethnologist detects in all these cases an attempt to
establish direct relations between the hunter or the fisher and his
quarry. Primitive man in search for food frequently seeks to establish
an impalpable but in his eyes very serviceable connection between
himself and the object of his quest by working a likeness of his
desired prey.

Such a likeness, according to the doctrine that a _simulacrum_ is
actively _en rapport_ with that which it represents, bestows on its
possessor power over the original—“l’auteur ou le possesseur d’une
image peut influencer ce qu’elle représente.”[44] The cases are simply
the commonplaces of homœpathic or imitative magic.[45]

We find that just as the savage attempts to appease the ghosts of men
he has slain, so he essays to propitiate the spirits of the animals
and fish he has killed: for this purpose elaborate ceremonies of
propitiation are widely observed.[46] Of similar character and intent
are the taboos observed by fishermen before the season opens, and the
purifications performed on returning with their booty.

Magic, exercised not so much to propitiate as to avoid offending some
power—in the following instance the element of water—originated the
rule (existent among the Eskimos fifty years ago) that forbade during
the salmon season any water being boiled in a house, because “this is
bad for the fishing.” Frazer suggests that the Commandment in Exodus
xxxiv. 26, “Not to seethe a kid in its mother’s milk,” embodies a like

From carvings, whether executed for purposes of amusement or of magic,
and from specimens found in the _débris_ of the stations, we derive our
knowledge of the earliest implements and methods employed in Perigord
and elsewhere for taking fish.

A study of these warrants, to my mind, the conclusion that only two
weapons can be traceably attributed to Palæolithic Man. First and
pre-eminent the Spear (or Harpoon with its various congeners) with
possibly adjustable flint-heads, and second, but to a far less extent,
the Gorge, or as it has been better termed, “the bait-holder.”

Of a Troglodyte Net no representation exists, no specimen survives.
The absence of an actual specimen can perhaps be explained by the
perishable nature of the fibres or wythes used for its construction.

The undeniable survival of pieces of Nets among the lake dwellers seems
somewhat to negative the explanation.[48] But these may have survived
because of the presence, while those of the Palæolithic Age may have
perished because of the absence of some preservative power in the
substance in which they were embedded.

The absence from the latter and the presence in the former _débris_ of
Net sinkers, etc., strongly, if not conclusively, corroborate Broca’s
conclusion that the Cave men of the Vézère Valley and elsewhere were
strangers to the Net.

We possess, in my opinion, no evidence of Hooks (as distinct from
Gorges) or of anything resembling Hooks _proper_—_viz._ hooks made out
of one piece, recurved, and with sharpened ends—being used by the Old
Stone Man.

De Mortillet, it is true, writing in 1867,[49] states that “hooks
belonging to the reindeer epoch have been found in the Caves of
Dordogne. Along with those of the simple form (the gorges) others were
met with of much more perfect shape.” In his later work (_op. cit._) of
1890 he contents himself with claiming the existence of a hook, but of
very primitive type, “a small piece of bone tapered at either end”—in
fact, nothing more than the Gorge.[50]

S. Reinach, again, instances “three fish-hooks,” but whittles them away
till they become “two sharp points more in the nature of a gorge.”[51]
Osborne, commenting on the numerous pigmy flints discovered in the
Tardenoisian _débris_, writes that “it would appear that a large number
of these were adapted for insertion in small harpoons, or that those
of the grooved form might even have been used as fish-hooks.”[52] With
the opinion of Christy (co-explorer with Lartet of La Madelaine) that
those pointed bone rods or gorges “may have formed part of fish-hooks,
having been tied to other bones or sticks obliquely,”[53] the evidence
in favour of the Hook practically finishes.

The case, I venture to maintain, breaks down. And this, too, in
spite of the view expressed and the evidence adduced by so eminent
an authority as Abbé H. Breuil, and in spite of the _gravure de
Fontarnaud figurant un poisson mordant_ (?)—the query is Breuil’s—_à
l’hameçon_. The _gravure_ fails to convince, chiefly because _les
hameçons_ figured do not recurve in the proper sense. They seem to be
more in the nature of _gorges_ curved back and much improved in the
course of generations.[54]

The evolution of the primitive gorge, in particular those with ends
slightly curved, into a double fish-hook was, I suggest, probably an
easy process, more especially with the discovery of the adaptability of
bronze. But these gorges can never be properly termed hooks.


1. From La Madelaine. 2. From La Madelaine, grooved for attaching the
line. 3 and 4. From Santa Cruz, California. The slight curving of 3
may be possibly the first step towards the more rounded gorge, and
eventually the bent hook.]

The function of the hook is to establish a hold by penetration, that
of a gorge by resistance—once down, _vestigia nulla retrorsum_. A
shape with some but not too great curvature[55] would increase such
resistance, one with more would possibly give the additional safeguard
of penetration.

Meditation on this duplication of functions might lead an enquiring
mind to conclude that penetration alone might suffice for what was
required. Thus farther curve might be added for this ostensible
purpose, with the result that in time the hook supersedes the gorge, to
which it is superior in several respects, not least in ease and speed
of extraction from a fish when landed.

Small bone rods tapering towards both ends, and sometimes grooved in
the middle probably for attachment of a line, form the gorges of the
Caves. Their descendants or kinsmen found all the world over vary in
shape and material. But whether fashioned of bone, or flake of flint,
or of turtle-shell, with cocoa nut used as trimmers, whether straight
or curved at the ends, the purpose and operation of one and all is the
same—to be swallowed (buried in bait) by the fish _end first_. The
tightening of the line soon alters this position into one crosswise
in the stomach or gullet. Even at the present time in some parts of
England the needle, buried in a worm when “sniggling” for eels, works
successfully in similar fashion.

It is not possible here to discuss fully the various materials and
shapes of the first Hook proper. This (according to my view) Neolithic,
certainly post-Palæolithic,[56] creation developed doubtless from the
over-education of fish, a complaint possibly as rife then as in our own

No writer, despite zealous endeavours, has succeeded in determining
which material—stone (rarely found), bone, shell, or thorn[57]—was
first employed for the purpose. On that which lay readiest would
probably be essayed the prentice hand of each particular race. To
dwellers near the shore the large supply and easy adaptability of
shells would of a surety appeal. These could be fashioned so as to be
used alone, or lashed with fibre to a piece of wood or bone so as to
form the bend, while the wood or bone constituted the shank of the

Prehistoric Man often with a limited local supply was driven to adopt
and adapt any material which could be forced into his purpose of a
hook. To this cause has been ascribed one of the most extraordinary
hooks on record. This relic, now in the Berlin Museum, of the
lacustrine dwellers is formed out of the upper mandible of an eagle,
notched down to the base.

But the most interesting _natural_ fish-hook known to me (found in
Goodenough Island, New Guinea) is the thick upper joint of the hind
leg of an insect, _Eurycantha latro_, furnished, however, only by the
male, who is endowed with the long, stout recurved spur, suitable for
fishing. The leg joints and therefore the hooks got from them (about
1⅝ inches long) are supplied ready made by Nature: they merely require
to be fastened to a tapered snood of twisted vegetable matter for
immediate employment.[59]

Where flints, shells, and horn were absent or, if present, were not
turned to account, an abundance of thorns with bend and point ready
made and with proved capacities of piercing and holding would attract
the notice and serve the purpose of the New Stone Man. Such later on
was the case in Babylon and Israel (in both of which countries the
primary sense of the word equalling hook seems, according to some
authorities, to have been thorn[60]), and is the case even now with our
fishermen in Essex and the Mohave Indians in Arizona.[61]

[Illustration: THE _Eurycantha latro_.


See n. 1, p. 34.]

The suggestion that the choice of material was generally prompted by
abundance or proximity of supply seems reasonable. But it must not be
pushed as far as the assumption (of which a glance at the evidence as
to material adduced by Joyce detects the absurdity) that, because gold
was very abundant in Columbia and because gold fish-hooks have been
unearthed in Cauca and elsewhere, the primitive angler of that country
employed gold as the chief constituent of his hook![62]

Nor, again, is it possible for me to dwell on the evolution or in some
countries the possible _pari passu_ development of the single into the
double hook (mentioned in England first in _The Experienc’d Angler_
of Venables, 1676), nor yet to trace the various stages by which the
simple bone or tusk hook of Wangen or Moosseedorf blossomed out into
the barbed metal hook of the Copper Age.[63]

The Spear-Harpoon and some points of reindeer horn alone remain for
consideration. Opinion is divided as to the nature and use of these
points. Some pronounce them mere arrow heads.[64]

Against this view leans the fact that, while they have been recovered
mainly from the French caves, no real proof as yet exists of
Palæolithic Man north of the Pyrenees being acquainted with the bow.
Paintings discovered in 1910 at Alpera in the south-east of Spain
show, however, men carrying and drawing bows, and arrows with barbed
points and feathered shafts, but no quivers. Northern Man, if he did
not paint, may well have employed, arrows, for hunting scenes, in which
they should figure, as at Minatada and Alpera, are wanting in France.

Other writers maintain that these points were the armatures of hunting
spears, others, arguing from their easy detachment, that they were the
heads of fish-spears or harpoons. But this contrivance seems far too
complicated for our primitive _piscator_. No writer proves conclusively
what was the exact purpose of these points, or whether, in fact, the
fish-spears or harpoons had detachable heads. E. Krause suggests that
as the earliest fish-spears were of wood, they readily lost or broke
their points when striking rocks, etc.; hence came bone and then flint

The Spear-Harpoon stands out as the one fishing weapon whose existence
is undeniable, whose employment is predominant. It is too world-wide
and too well-known to need lengthy description.

Reindeer-horn supplied in general the material of the earlier heads,
stag-horn of the later.[66] The heads tapered (like Eskimo and other
harpoon heads) to a point and were barbed (as the two accompanying
illustrations indicate) on both sides. They have sometimes toward the
lower end little eminences or knobs, and sometimes barbs provided with
incisions or grooves, which some surmise held poison.

[Illustration: BROKEN HARPOON. From Kent’s Cave.



[Illustration: DOUBLE BARBED HARPOON. _Neolithic._

From Sutz, Switzerland. Observe the hole for attaching the line.]

The Harpoon makes its appearance in the middle or (according to
Osborne) early Magdalenian deposits. Its crudest form shows a short,
straight piece of bone, deeply grooved on one face, the ridges and
notches along one edge being the only indications of what later
developed into the recurved barbed points of the typical Harpoon. These
barbs or points, retroverted in such a manner as to hold their place
in the flesh of the fish, do not suddenly appear like an inventive
mutation, but very slowly evolve as their usefulness is demonstrated by

The shaft is very rarely perforated at the base for the attachment
of a line[67]; it is cylindrical (later flat) in form adapted to the
capture of large fish in streams. The harpoons may possibly have been
projected by means of the so-called _propulseurs_ or dart throwers,
which resemble the Eskimo and Australian implements of to-day.

Amidst the clash of opinion as to the exact use and method of use of
these weapons, my conclusion, admittedly incapable of absolute proof,
holds that the Palæolithic fisher owes to the hunter the inception of
the chief weapon of his equipment, the Spear-Harpoon.

Paul Broca’s dictum[68] that Man hunted before he fished seems,
perhaps, despite Dall’s excavation of Eskimo _débris_,[69] to be borne
out by Troglodyte records both positive and negative. The Gorge or
bait-holder was employed by the hunter (according to some) even earlier
than by the fisher. Gorges have been from time immemorial and still are
in vogue in the Untersee for the capture of marine birds, as is the
case to-day with the Eskimos of Norton Sound.

From the chronicles of Rau, H. Philips, and others can be built a Table
of Generations, or the story of how the Hunting Spear begat the Fishing
Spear, which begat the Harpoon unilaterally barbed, which in turn begat
the Harpoon bilaterally barbed, until about the tenth or twentieth
generation—one is appalled at the amount of Succession Duty which such
degrees of descent would now involve!—something begat the Rod.

From this genealogical table I venture to dissent. I claim that the
hunting Spear, Protean in possibilities, was either itself the Rod,
or was, if “matre pulchra filia pulchrior” do not apply, at least the
direct parent of the primitive Rod. In the bigger hunting of our own
sorrowful day the same principle manifests itself, for the British
soldier in France often angled with his line attached to his bayoneted

Many writers have attempted, some like de Mortillet with typical
French logic, some with none, to set down the sequential development
of fishing. As the Censor has not as yet banned free expression of
piscatorial opinions, I conclude this chapter with essaying a scheme of
reconstruction of my own.

_First_ came fishing with the hand, _la pêche à la main_, which,
according to Abel Hovelacque, “_est le mode le plus élémentaire et
certainement le moins productif_.”[70] This method we may surmise was
first exercised on fish left half stranded in small pools by the action
of tides or floods, or on fish spawning in the shallow redds.[71]

As _la pêche à la main_ was the first to arrive, so was it the first
to cease from the functions of parentage or of fission, for with
“tickling,” described by Ælian as even in his day an ancient device,
further evolution of this method practically ended.[72]

_Second_ came the hunting Spear, used originally on fish lying
in pools, small of size but of depth sufficient to prevent hand
fishing, and then, later, on fish elsewhere in a river. On the
latter, especially in the case of the salmon—in Pliny’s day still
abundant in Aquitania, which comprised the Loire and many Palæolithic
_cavernes_—the weapon, even if as bident or trident it had added unto
itself a prong or two, would frequently be found ineffective, owing
to lack of prehensility. Hence came about a modification, perhaps due
either to the happy chance of a spear on which a point or thorn had
inadvertently been left, or to the inventive faculty of some Troglodyte

We later reach a Spear Harpoon with barbs on one side only, whence
“line upon line,” or rather barb upon barb, we attain unto the later
type, which had a barbed head so socketed as to come free from the
shaft (when the quarry has been struck) but made fast to the head by
a line for retrieving the fish. In due, if differing, gradation we
ultimately attain either unto the existing device of the aboriginal
Tsuŷ Hwan of Formosa, an arrow shaped like a trident shot from but
attached to a bow, or unto _le dernier cri_, our whaling Harpoon shot
from a gun.[73]

_Third_ comes fishing with a line of some sort. This was devised
doubtless by some hungry but perforce merely meditative Magdalenian
observing how dropped morsels were seized by fish in a pool, whose
depth or environment set at naught both his hand and his spear.

The problem how to reach and how to land them was eventually solved
by the method—happily christened by Sheringham, “Entanglement by
Appetite”—of fastening a gorge through or a thorn holding some kind
of bait to an animal sinew, a wythe, or a hardened thong of one of
the whip-like _algæ_. This wythe or what not in the procession of the
ages was (according to Pepys) to betaper itself into the first English
catgut line of 1667, and (according to _The Compleat Fisherman_,
London, 1724) into the first silkworm line, and eventually into
telerana and similar tenuities of our day.

“Entanglement by Appetite,” of which a primitive form exists among the
Fuegians,[74] did literally “line upon line,” almost wythe upon wythe
multiply its seed, if not quite like the sand of the sea, yet freely.
Proofs of this fecundity exist in the varying and world-wide forms of
its issue. A strong family likeness enables us roughly to divide these
descendants into two classes.

The first (A) where (to quote our leading law case) “the human element”
is absent, as in night lining, or in “trimmering,” or in its distant
and nowadays probably illegal connection, the method of live-baiting
for pike with the aid of a goose or a duck, as set forth by T. Barker
with his customary gusto.[75]

The second (B) where “the human element” is present, as in hand-lining
and in its very latest descendant, invented for “big game fishing” off
Santa Catalina, viz. a line attached to a kite, which device secures
the required “skittering” along the surface and from wave to wave of
the flying fish-bait.[76] Even this very up-to-date device is no new
invention. In the Malayan Archipelago and many Melanesian islands a
kite has long been employed, sometimes as in the Solomon group, with a
hookless bait of a spider’s web, which, as wool with eels, gets itself
firmly entangled in the small teeth of the Gar fish.[77]

Next arose, as snags and obnoxious branches in primitive days abounded,
and water bailiffs did not, the further crux, not quite unknown even
to-day, how to get the bait over the intervening obstacles which the
mere hand line was incapable of clearing, or how to obtain the length
necessary to place the bait properly before the fish.[78]

The difficulty was in time overcome by attaching the tackle, wythe,
gorge, and bait to the hunting Spear. It is at this stage I claim that
the hunting Spear with wythe, gorge, and bait so attached became, in
fact for all purposes was, the original pole, or at any rate was the
immediate sire by a more springy sapling of what in the procession of
the ages was to attain unto the “tremendous,” if at times unmastered,
“majesty” of our modern Rod.


See n. 1, p. 43.]

_Last of all_, I suggest, though the evidence is conflicting, comes
fishing by Net. If Tylor,[79] Calderwood,[80] and others are correct in
their conjectures that our primitive _piscator_, when endeavouring to
catch by hand fish half stranded or spawning in small pools, blocked
any little exit by plaited twigs—wattling, according to C. F. Keary,
was one of the earliest prehistoric industries—or stones, that they
erected in fact the world’s first barrage, then must this ascendant or
Scotch cousin of the Net take precedence of the Spear and every other
artificial device.

Of the Net’s kith and kin are there not some scores specified in the
_Onomasticon_ of Julius Pollux, or depicted in M. Dabry de Thiersant’s
_Pisciculture en Chine_? The Net was to beget a _progeniem_ to the
Angler at any rate _vitiosiorem_, and (to drag in another tag) almost
like κυμάτων ἀνήριθμον γέλασμα.

Three of this big family stand out conspicuous by their diversity.
(A) The fairy-like Net—perhaps the most interesting because the most
incredible—made by _Spiders_ and used by the Papuans.[81] (B) The
“Vimineous Weel” of Oppian. (C) The huge steel trawls, which lately
encompassed those ravening sharks of the sea, the German submarines.

How the following device should be classed, I am not sure; it is
neither Spear, nor Hook, nor Net. But it deserves to be put on record
as an ingenious and successful species of fishing, employed by the
Cretans during the War.

According to Mr. J. D. Lawson, Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge
(to whom I am indebted for the account), the natives, eager to recover
the coal that ships while coaling dropped into the sea, set out to
_fish_ for it. Since the coal could not swallow the bait, they
resolved that the bait should grip the coal. Having by means of a rude
spy-glass located the position of the mineral, they lowered from a boat
a cord to which an octopus—the larger the better—was secured. As the
fish detested the sensation of suspension, the moment he touched bottom
he clutched with all his tentacles any solid object within reach, and
while being drawn up clung to it with might and main.

By this method of inverted fishing—whether a survival of “Minoan
Culture” or an adaptation from the East, where for many centuries the
octopus has been similarly used for catching fish—much coal and much
else was retrieved from the sea.

    NOTE.—Since the above was written Th. Mainage
  has published at Paris _Les Religions de la préhistoire_.
  “Rites de Chasse” (ch. viii.) includes a section on magic
  (pp. 326-342) and on religion (pp. 342-9), both dealing with
  fishing, etc., ancient and modern. The sermon preached among
  the Hurons to the fish recalls that of St. Anthony of Padua.
  Mainage, on p. 344, fig. 188, gives an incised design from
  Laugerie-Basse, which according to him represents “Pêcheurs
  armés de filets (?).” The design is as little convincing as
  the author by his query seems convinced.


[1] See _postea_, 48 ff.

[2] The recent discovery of the inscribed bone fragments in Honan
apparently adds some six hundred years to the history, as apart from
the legends of China, for _c._ 1500 B.C. instead of _c._ 900 B.C. seems
now our starting point. See _infra_, p. 450.

[3] Cf. Dr. J. T. Jehu’s _Lectures before the Royal Society_, 1919. It
is noteworthy that whatever be the geological date of Man, the oldest
true fish, as we understand the term, seems the Shark family, which,
although extremely archaic, has but little altered. Next in seniority
comes probably the _Ceradotus_; if now “merely a living fossil” and
found only in Queensland, its form, hardly modified, corresponds with
remains found all over the world as early as from the Trias.

[4] The urination of a mare was thought to weaken her hairs. Plutarch,
_De Sol._, 24.

[5] Cf. however, _postea_, 315.

[6] Oric Bates, _Ancient Egyptian Fishing, Harvard African Studies_,
I., 1917, p. 248. With a “running line,” Leintz in U.S.A. cast April,
1921, 437 ft. 7 in.

[7] Dr. Turrell, the author of that researchful book, _Ancient Angling
Authors_, London, 1910, while of opinion that the “wheele” was in the
course of time evolved from the “wind” of the troller, differentiates
between their uses in fishing. Barker “put in a wind to turn with a
barrell, to gather up his line and loose at his pleasure: this was his
manner of trouling.” Walton’s words are, “a line of wire through which
the line may run to as great a length as is needful when (the fish is)
hook’d and for that end some use a wheele,” etc. The use of the “wind”
as described by Barker in his first edition was simply to gather up the
slack line in working the bait, “this was the manner of his trouling”;
while that of Walton’s “wheele” was to let the line go, in playing the
rushes of salmon, of which his experience seems mainly vicarious.

Sea-anglers of the present day prefer in many cases man-handling the
line to using the reel: thus the Spanish fisherman on striking a tunny
throws the whole Rod back into the boat, the crew of which seize the
line (which is of great thickness) and haul the fish in by sheer brute
force. (See _The Rod on the Rivieras_ (1911), p. 232.)

[8] With good reason the author styles his work, “Ouvrage très curieux,
utile, et récréatif pour toutes personnes qui font leur séjour à la

[9] No example of a running line has ever been produced from either
ancient literature or ancient art, but on the other hand numerous
illustrations of the tight line on vases, frescoes, mosaics, etc.,
are extant. To the examples collected by G. Lafaye in Daremberg and
Saglio, _Dict. des antiquités_, iv. 489, ff. _s.v._ ‘piscatio,’ can be
added: (_a_) Ivory relief from Sparta, seventh century B.C., published
by R. M. Dawkins in the _Annual Report of the Brit. School at Athens_,
1906-7, xiii. 100, ff., pl. 4. (_b_) Black figured _lekythos_ from
Hope Collection (Sale Cat. No. 22), published by E. M. W. Tillyard
in _Essays and Studies presented to W. Ridgeway_, Cambridge, 1913,
edited by E. C. Quiggin, p. 186, ff. with plate. (_c_) Græco-Roman
gem in A. Furtwängler, _Beschreibung der geschnittenen Steine im
Antiquarium_ (zu Berlin), Berlin, 1896, p. 257, No. 6898, pl. 51. Cf.
the same author, _Die Antiken Gemmen_, Leipzig-Berlin, 1900, i. pl.
28, 25, and pl. 36, 5; ii. 140 and 174. A. H. Smith, _Cat. of Engraved
Gems in the Brit. Museum_, London, 1888, p. 191, Nos. 1797-99, and p.
206, No. 2043. (_d_) Coins of Carteia in Spain, well represented by
A. Heiss, _Description générale des Monnaies antiques de l’Espagne_,
Paris, 1870, p. 331 f., pl. 49, 19-21. (_e_) Mosaic in Melos, see R. C.
Bosanquet in the _Jour. of Hell. Studies_, 1898, xviii. 71 ff., pl. 1.
(_f_) Silver _krater_ from Hildesheim shows Cupids with fishing rods
and tridents catching all sorts of sea-beasties. E. Pernice and F.
Winter, _Der Hildesheimer Silberfund_, Berlin, 1901, pls. 32, 33. Cf.
S. Reinach, _Répertoire de Reliefs grecs et romains_, Paris, 1909, i.
165 f. (_g_) H. B. Walters, _Cat. of Greek and Roman Lamps in the Brit.
Museum_, London, 1914, p. 79 f., No. 527, Pl. 16, p. 99 f.; No. 656,
pl. 22, p. 96, No. 635. The accompanying illustration is reproduced by
kind permission of Mr. E. M. W. Tillyard and of the University Press,

[10] Aristotle, _N.H._ ix. 37. Plutarch, _De Sol. Anim._ 27, translated
by Holland. Ælian, _N.H._ ix. 24. See Pliny, _N.H._ ix. 42.

[11] _Presidential Address to the British Association for the
Advancement of Science_ (Newcastle, 1916), pp. 6-9. Cf. M. Burkitt,
_Prehistory_, Cambridge, 1921, chs. iv-xx.

[12] E. A. Parkyn, _Prehistoric Art_, London, 1915.

[13] The Neolithic stage, some hold, is characterised by the presence
of polished stone implements and in particular the stone _axe_, which,
judging from its perforation, so as to be more effectually fastened
to a wooden handle, was probably used rather for wood than conflict.
T. Peisker, _Cambridge Mediæval History_, 1911, vol. i., has much of
interest on the domestication of this period.

[14] _Les Peintures préhistoriques de la Caverne d’Altamira, Annales du
Musée Guimet_, Paris, 1904, tome xv. p. 131.

[15] Émile de Cartailhac et H. Breuil, _La Caverne d’Altamira_, Paris,
1906, p. 145. Professor Boyd-Dawkins, _Early Man in Britain_, London,
1880, p. 233. But their technique in flaking, etc., suggests a later

[16] The route was probably by Russia, Siberia, and across the land now
cut by the Behring Straits.

[17] In H. Ling Roth’s _The Aborigines of Tasmania_, London, 1890 (see
Preface by Tylor on page vi.), “It is thus apparent that the Tasmanians
were at a somewhat less advanced stage in the art of stone implement
making than the Palæolithic men of Europe.”

[18] Cf. W. J. Sollas, _Ancient Hunters_, London, 1911, p. 70.

[19] Evans, _op. cit._, p. 9. See also an interesting essay by
Professor E. T. Hamy, _L’Anthropologie_, tome xix. p. 385 ff., on _La
Figure humaine chez le sauvage et chez l’enfant_.

[20] C. Rau, _op. cit._, Washington, 1884. Salomon Reinach, _Antiquités
Nationales_, vol. i., 1889. W. I. Hoffmann, _The Graphic Art of the
Eskimo_, Report to Smithsonian Museum, 1895, p. 751.

[21] At Cogul the sacral dance is performed by women clad from the
waist downwards in well-cut gowns, which at Alpera are supplemented by
flying sashes, and at Cueva de la Vieja reach to the bosom. Verily, we
are already a long way from Eve! Cf. Evans, _op. cit._, p. 8.

[22] Cook’s _Third Voyage_, Bk. I. ch. vi. W. C. Wentworth, _A
Statistical, etc., Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s
Land_, London, 1819, p. 115: “They have no knowledge whatever of
the art of fishing”; the only fishing was done by women diving for
shellfish. G. T. Lloyd, _Thirty-three Years in Tasmania and Victoria_,
London, 1862, pp. 50-52. Ling Roth, _op. cit._, p. 75.

[23] No Maya hook has as yet been brought to light, although this was
employed by practically all the races aboriginal or other from Alaska
to Peru.

[24] Cf. T. A. Joyce, _Mexican Archæology_, London, 1914.

[25] Montezuma’s table was provided with fish from the Gulf of Mexico
brought to the capital within twenty-four hours of capture by means
of relays of runners. Some five gods of fishing, of whom the chief
seems to have been Opochtli, were worshipped: to him was ascribed the
invention of the net and the _minacachalli_ or trident. Cf. de Sahagun,
_Histoire générale des choses de la Nouvelle Espagne_, traduite et
annotée par D. Jourdanet et Rémi Simeon, p. 36, Paris, 1880. De
Sahagun, a Franciscan, came to Mexico in 1529 and died there in 1590.
See also, C. Rau, _op. cit._, p. 214, and T. Joyce, _op. cit._, pp.
165, 221. A not uncommon practice was co-operative fishing, by which,
after a portion had been set aside for the feudal lord, the rest of the
catch was divided in fixed shares; see Joyce, p. 300.

[26] These pictographs were made by native artists shortly after
the conquest of Mexico, and were sent by the Viceroy Mendoza, with
interpretations in Aztec and Spanish, to the Emperor Charles the
Fifth. A copy of this Codex in the Bodleian was reproduced by Lord
Kingsborough in his first volume of _Antiquities of Mexico_ (1831).

[27] From a letter from the representative in Mexico of the Smithsonian
Institute, who adds: “My belief is that the Mayas used the Spear, the
Net, and the Bow and Arrow. That is all I can give you at present:
should anything else turn up, I will let you know.” In _A Study of
Maya Art_, an elaborate work by Herbert J. Spinder (_Peabody Museum
Memoirs_, Harvard University, 1913), I have failed to find any fishing
scenes or any ancient fishing implements depicted.

[28] Baessler translated by A. H. Keane (Asher & Co.), London, 1902-3.
Mead’s monograph is in the Putnam Anniversary Volume, New York, 1909.
_The Necropolis of Ancon_, by Reiss and Stübel, translated by A. H.
Keane, Berlin, 1880-87.

[29] T. A. Joyce, _South American Archæology_, London, 1912, p. 126.

[30] See _infra_, p. 371.

[31] _Indian Notes and Monographs_, published by the Heye Foundation,
New York, 1919, p. 56, show in the tombs of Cayuga fish-hooks,
harpoons, and fish-bones, “most of which objects are unique or unusual
as grave finds.”

[32] E. J. Banfield, _Confessions of a Beachcomber_, London, 1913.

[33] For descriptions of Palæolithic life, see Worthington G. Smith,
_Man the Primal Savage_, London, 1894, and J. J. Atkinson, _Primal
Law_, London, 1903. For the community assumed by the former, Atkinson
substitutes a family group.

[34] Cuvier and Valenciennes, _Hist. Nat. des Poissons_, vol. xviii.
pp. 279-80, Paris, 1846. Since in this volume the geographical
distribution of the pike, as known at the time, is set forth without
any mention of Greece, it is rather difficult to understand the
surprise of Valenciennes, who wrote the volume in question; Cuvier died
in 1832.

[35] É. Cartailhac, _La France Préhistorique_, Paris, 1889, p. 82, fig.

[36] É. Cartailhac, _Matériaux pour l’histoire de l’homme_, xiii. p.
395. The Magdalenian workmanship on bone was extraordinarily fine.
Their bone needles (according to de Mortillet) are much superior to
those of the later, even of historical times, down to the Renaissance.
The Romans never possessed needles comparable with them.

[37] G. de Mortillet, _Origines de la Chasse et de la Pêche_ (Paris,
1890), p. 222. Our learned author nods. If the seals had _killed_ the
trout, it would not have floated “belly up,” but instantly down their

[38] S. Reinach, _Répertoire de l’Art Quaternaire_ (Paris, 1913), p.
156, which is a complete summary of the various finds in excavations,
etc. See p. 88 for a seal, and p. 114 for a fine representation from
Laugerie Basse of two fish meeting.

[39] Fishermen in Malay, _while they are at sea_, studiously avoid
mentioning the names of birds or beasts: all animals are called
“cheweh,” a meaningless word, which is believed not to be understood
by the creatures (J. G. Frazer, _The Golden Bough_, second edition,
1900, vol. i. p. 460). So, too, fishermen from some villages on the
N.E. coast of Scotland never pronounce, _while at sea_, under penalty
of poor catches, certain words such as “minister,” “salmon,” “trout,”
“swine,” etc. The first, poor fellow! “que diable allait-il faire dans
cette galère?” is invariably referred to as “the man with the black
‘guyte’” (_Ibid._, p. 453).

[40] _Acad. des Sciences_, Paris, séance du 22 juin, 1903.

[41] The pictured hook is of special interest. The head, considered by
Krause that of a wizard, was intended to endow the hook with an extra
power of magic.

[42] F. Boaz, _6th Report on N.W. Tribes of Canada_, p. 45.

[43] E. Aymonier, _Cochinchene Françoise_, No. 16, p. 157, as quoted by
Frazer. _Ibid._

[44] S. Reinach, _L’Anthropologie_ (1903), p. 257.

[45] Such is the solution which Bates (_Ancient Egyptian Fishing_,
1917, p. 205) offers of the presence in the pre-dynastic Egyptian
graves of the numerous slate palettes bearing the profile of a fish or

[46] Frazer, _Golden Bough_. _Taboo_, Part ii. (London, 1911), p. 191

[47] W. H. Dall, “Social Life among the Aborigines,” _The American
Naturalist_ (1878), vol. xii. J. G. Frazer, _Folk Lore in the Old
Testament_ (London, 1918), vol. iii. p. 123.

[48] See Dr. F. Keller’s _The Lake Dwellers in Switzerland_
(translated, London, 1878, by John Edward Lee), vol. ii. pl. 136, fig.
2. This net of cord with meshes not quite three-eighths of an inch
in width was almost certainly made, it was certainly well suited,
for fishing. Another example with meshes two inches wide, probably
formed part of a hunting net. R. Munro, _The Lake Dwellings of Europe_
(London, 1890), p. 504, mentions fishing-nets from Robenhausen
and Vinetz—both belonging to the late Neolithic Age. O. Schrader,
_Reallexikon der indogermanischen Altertumskunde_ (Strassburg, 1901),
p. 242, records “remains of nets” in the Stone Age settlements of
Denmark and Sweden, which he classes as fishing nets.

[49] _Les Origines de la Pêche et de la Navigation_, Paris.

[50] An excellent monograph, with hundreds of illustrations,
by E. Krause (“Vorgeschichtliche Fischereigeräte und Neuere
Vergleichsstüche”) contained in the magazine, _Zeitschrift für
Fischerei_, xi. Band ¾ Heft (Berlin, 1904), p. 208, states that
hooks of the Stone Age are numerous, but unfortunately he does not
discriminate between the Old and New Stone Ages. Palæolithic finds
mention but once in his 176 pages.

[51] _Types de la Madelaine_, p. 222, fig. 78.

[52] H. J. Osborne, _The Men of the Stone Age_ (1915), p. 465.

[53] _Reliquiæ Aquitanicæ_ (London, 1875), ii. p. 58. Christy’s
solitary buttress for his opinion is a reference to “a Nootka Sound
fishing implement,” which is identical (according to Rau, fig. 9) with
a hook described in Mr. J. G. Swan’s _The Indians of Cape Flattery_,
as used by the Makahs solely (and successfully) for the halibut,
because “its mouth is vertical, instead of horizontal, like most fish.”
The absence of halibut from _débris_ or representations scarcely
strengthens Christy’s opinion.

[54] _L’Anthropologie_, tome xix. pp. 184-190, especially p. 187, where
the author attempts _une reconstitution hypothétique de la façon, dont
cette interprétation admise, on pourrait conçevoir la fixation de ces
“hameçons.”_ The inverted commas do not suggest confidence.

[55] If both the ends of the gorge were as much bent up as a hook,
the tendency would be for the gorge, when its points got fast, to
be rotated by the pull on the line and to assume, owing to greater
curvature, a bent-back position, which would allow of its easy
withdrawal and defeat the object—the capture of the fish. Some Santa
Cruz gorges are of an angular type, but with the points turned somewhat
down. The double hook of bronze or copper, _e.g._ of Ancient Peru,
seems to support my suggestion of gorge evolution, although, fair to
add, it was suspended from the centre.

[56] Sanchouniathon, as translated by Philo of Byblus, _ap._ Euseb.,
_Praep. Ev._ i. 10, 9, in what purports to be a Phœnician account,
would bring the invention right down to the Iron Age. “Many generations
later Agreus and Halieus sprang from the stock of Hypsouranios. They
were the discoverers of hunting and fishing, hunters and fishers being
called after them. From these in turn sprang two brothers, inventors of
iron and iron-working. One of these brothers, Chrysor, practised spells
and charms and oracles. He is Hephaistos, and he it is who invented
hook and bait and line and boat, being the first of all men to set
sail. Wherefore also they worshipped him as a god after his death, and
named him Zeus Meilíchios.”

[57] E. Krause, _op. cit._, 208, holds that the most primitive hook was
made of wood: bind a thorn or sprig crossways and your hook is to hand.

[58] H. T. Sheringham holds that both early and recent specimens
of Fijian hooks bear out this view (_Ency. Brit._, ed. xi., _s.v._
“Angling”). “The progressive order of hooks used by the Indians or
their predecessors in title in North America was, after the simple
device of attaching the bait to the end of a fibrous line, (1) a gorge,
a spike of wood or bone, sharpened at both ends and fastened at its
middle to a line; (2) a spike set obliquely in the end of a pliant
shaft; (3) a plain hook; (4) a barbed hook; (5) a barbed hook combined
with sinker and lure. This series does not exactly represent stages
of invention: the evolution may have been affected by the habits of
the different species of fish or their increasing wariness. The above
progressive order applies, I believe, on the whole all over the world,
if due allowance be made for varying conditions” (_Smithsonian Handbook
of American Indians_ (Washington), p. 460).

[59] See _Man_, Feb., 1915, “Note on the new kind of Fish-hook,” by
Henry Balfour. The illustration is reproduced by the kind permission of
Mr. H. Balfour and the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Another notable hook is one of wood about four inches long with a claw
(said to be that of a bird) attached, which Vancouver collected on
his voyage in N.W. American waters (see Ethnographical Coll. at Brit.
Mus.). The whalebone in this must not be mistaken for anything else but
a snood. For the ingenious derivation of certain hooks in some South
Sea Islands from their similarity to the bones of common fish, _e.g._
Cod and Haddock, see T. McKenny Hughes, in _Archæol. Jour._, vol. 58,
No. 230, pp. 199-213. See also J. G. Wood, _Nature’s Teaching_ (London,
1877), pp. 115-6, on the point.

[60] See _infra_, p. 357.

[61] My own Mohave Rod is of _’ihora_, the red willow of that district,
barked and straightened by an ingenious Indian method. The line is of
the prepared bast of _’ido_, another species of willow, and the hook
of barrel cactus thorn. Hooks made out of _Echinocactus wislizeni_
are better adapted for fish which do not nibble at the bait, but bolt
it hook and all; for this reason the Indians fasten the bait _below_
the hook (E. Palmer, “Fish-hooks of the Mohave Indians,” _American
Naturalist_, vol. xii. p. 403). On the north-west coast the Indians
a generation ago invariably used spruce-wood for their halibut hooks
(Rau, p. 139). Some Maori hooks are of human bone and _pawa_, with
_kiwi_ feathers.

[62] I do not think that these gold hooks were a unit of currency, as
the _lari_ of the Persian Gulf were, according to W. Ridgeway, _The
Origin of Metallic Currency_, etc. (Cambridge), 1892, p. 276.

This gold hook must not be confounded with the _silver hook_ not
infrequently employed in the remoter districts of Great Britain by
certain anglers, who in their anxiety to avoid being greeted with
Martial’s “ecce redit sporta piscator _inani_,” cross with silver the
palm of more fortunate brethren, and

    “Take with high erected comb
     The fish, or else the story, home
     And cook it.”

[63] See R. Munro’s _Lake Dwellings of Europe_, pp. 127, 499, 509.
Flinders Petrie, _Tools and Weapons_ (London, 1917), p. 37 f., has a
section on fish-hooks with good illustrations, pl. 44, figs. 61-87,
pl. 43, figs. 59, 60, 88-102. “Considering how much the Lake-dwellers
relied upon fishing, the moderate number of hooks found points to their
depending more on nets. The few copied here, 88-94, are merely rounded,
without any peculiar form.”

[64] Many of the Solutréan tanged blades and _pointes à cran_ are small
enough to suggest their use as arrowheads, and Rutot has described
tanged and barbed “arrowheads” from Palæolithic deposits in Belgium.

[65] _Op. cit._, p. 160. But why? Flint points break quicker than wood.

[66] See Julie Schlemm, _Wörterbuch zur Vorgeschichte_ (Berlin, 1908),
pp. 555-7. The immediate successors of the single spear were probably
the bident and trident. Owing to the refraction of light and other
reasons a spear is difficult of accurate direction, but the broader
surface of the trident helps to lessen the factor of error.

[67] H. J. Osborne (_op. cit._, p. 385 ff.) states that, with the
exception of one half-finished hole in a Harpoon from La Madelaine,
the side hole for the attachment of the thong to the Harpoon does
not appear in the French Magdalenian Harpoon, although in those from
Cantabria it is nearly always present. The Azilian weapon usually bears
a hole.

[68] _The Troglodytes of the Vézère Valley_, Smithsonian Report, 1872,
p. 95.

[69] In _Contributions to North American Ethnology_, 1877, i. p. 43,
Dall states that the _débris_ of the heaps show tolerably uniform
division into three stages, characterised by the food which formed
the staple of subsistence and by the weapons for obtaining as well
as the utensils for preparing the food. The stages are: 1st, The
Littoral period, represented by the _Echinus_ layer; 2nd, The Fishing
period, represented by the Fish-bone layer; 3rd, The Hunting period,
represented by the Mammalian layer. This antecedence of fishing before
hunting, if Dall be correct, was, I imagine, caused probably by local
or climatic conditions in the Arctic Circle; it is not the general rule

[70] _Les Débuts de l’humanité_, etc. (Paris, 1881), p. 69. E. Krause,
_op. cit._, p. 153, agrees.

[71] “Apes know how to get oysters thrown up on the shore, but man has
been endowed with the knowledge how to get them in and out of the sea.”
The sentiment, if not the style, of this sentence—to prove the superior
design and creation of man over the animal creation—seems not quite
unworthy of Izaak Walton’s pages.

[72] His pleasant description of “tickling” and his “viro Britanno”
must be my excuse for introducing a writer in Latin so late after my
limit of 500 A.D. as Parthenius, better known as Giannettasi, the
author of _Halieutica_, published at Naples in 1689:

    “Paulatim digitis piscator molliter alvum
     Defricat, et sensim palpando repit in ipsas
     Cæruleas branchas, subituque apprendit: et illa
     Blanditiis decepta viro fit præda Britanno.”

[73] For a similar use of bow and harpoon arrow by the Bororo tribes
in the Amazon valley, see W. A. Cork, _Through the Wilderness of
Brazil_, p. 380. Our gaff, a descendant, possibly, of the unilaterally
one-barbed spear, seems possessed of perpetual youth. The first
description of its use in Angling in England occurs, according to Mr.
Marston (_Walton and the Earlier Fishing Writers_ (1898), p. 97), in
T. Barker’s _Art of Angling_ (1651), but according to Dr. Turrell,
_op. cit._, pp. 85 and 91, only in Barker’s 2nd of 1657, “a good large
landing hook.” From the definition, however, by Blount, _Glossage_, in
1657, “_Gaffe_, an iron wherewith seamen pull great Fishes into their
ships,” its previous existence and employment at sea can be deduced.

[74] There is no hook; only a piece of whalebone or a stem of seaweed,
with a feather stuck at the end, attached to which is a running knot,
which holds the bait. As soon as the fish has swallowed feather and
bait, the women, for the men disdain fishing, draw it to the surface
and quickly seize it. Cf. Darwin, _Jour. of Researches, etc., during
the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle_ (London, 1860), ch. x, p. 213.

[75] “The principall sport to take a Pike is to take a Goose or Gander
or Duck, take one of the Pike Lines as I have showed you before; tye
the line under the left wing and over the right wing, and about the
bodie as a man weareth his belt; turne the Goose off into a Pond where
Pikes are; there is no doubt of sport with much pleasure betwixt the
Goose and the Pike. It is the greatest pleasure that a noble Gentleman
in Shropshire doth give his friends for entertainment. There is no
question among all this fishing but we shall take a brace of good

[76] For a full description of this method, see _Sport on Land and
Water_, by F. G. Griswold, privately printed (New York, 1916), and
_The Game Fishes of the World_, by C. F. Holder (London, 1913). To the
kite, which is of the ordinary 28-inch type, is allowed 700 feet of
old fishing line from off a reel; the fisherman’s line is tied to the
kite about 20 feet from the bait with a piece of cotton twine. When
a Tuna fish takes the bait the cotton line breaks, and the kite is
either reeled in or falls into the sea. The Santa Catalina fishing,
with its records of enormous Tuna, of Sword fish (the largest 463
lbs.), sometimes fighting for 14 hours, sounding 48 times, and leading
the launch for a distance of 29 miles, and of Giant Bass weighing 493
lbs., fills a British angler with envious despair, a despair which is
heightened when one reads that the regulation tackle prescribed by the
Tuna Club is, or was not long ago, a sixteen ounce Rod and a line not
over No. 24! In Mr. Zane Grey’s enthralling volume (_Tales of Fishes_
(London, 1919), p. 39) we read of a swordfish, that “when he sounded,
he had pulled thirteen hundred feet off my reel, although we were
chasing him (in a motor boat) full speed all the time”!

[77] See the excellent monograph on “Kite-Fishing,” by Henry Balfour,
in _Essays and Studies, presented to Wm. Ridgeway_ (Cambridge,
1913), p. 23, where he regards the invention as ancient and probably
proto-Malayan. This hook was usually made of wood and the claw of a
bird. Cf. _Man_, 1912, Art. 4, and case 42 in Ethnographical Collection
at the British Museum.

[78] De Mortillet, pp. 245, 249: “_De tous les engins la ligne est le
plus simple, et celui qui a du être le premier employé._” He sums up
his surview of the world from China to Peru, by “_La pêche à la ligne
est la pêche la plus repandue parmi les nations sauvages._”

[79] _Op. cit._, “The Net is known to almost all men as far as history
can tell.” But Darwin, in _The Cruise of the Beagle_, found the
Fuegians without Nets or traps of any kind. Their only methods of
fishing were with Spears, and a baited hair line without any hook.

[80] _The Life of the Salmon_, p. xv, London, 1907: “At once the most
primitive and most deadly method of catching fish, which inhabit
rivers, is the erection of built barriers and enclosures.” Plutarch (De
Sol. Anim. 26) has no doubt of the priority of the Line over the Net:
“Fishermen when perceiving that most of the fishes scorned the line and
hook as stale devices or such as can be discovered, betook themselves
to fine force and shut them up with great casting nets, like as the
Persians serve their enemies in their wars”—σαγηνεύειν—(Cf. Herodotus,
vi. 31) “to sweep the whole population off the face of a country”
(Hollands’ Trs.). W. v. Schulenburg, _Märkische_ _Fischerei_ (Berlin,
1903), s. 62, “Das Fischnetz galt also schon in der Vorgeschichtlichen
Zeit, im grauen Altertum für uralt. Mit Recht darf der Fischer sich den
ältesten Gewerben der Menschheit zuzählen.”

[81] Cf. A. E. Pratt, _Two Years among the New Guinea Cannibals_
(London, 1906), p. 266, and 3 photographs. The webs spun by the spiders
in the forests are six feet in diameter, with meshes varying from one
inch at the outside to about one-eighth at the centre. The diligence
of the creatures has been pressed into weaving fishing-nets for the
use of man by setting up, where the webs are thickest, long bamboos
bent over in a loop at the end. On this most convenient frame the
spider in a short time produces a web which resists water as readily as
does a duck’s back, and holds fish up to a pound satisfactorily. See
also Robert W. Williamson (_The Maflu Mountain People of British New
Guinea_ (London, 1912), p. 193) who differs materially from Pratt as to
the formation of the net. The illustration is reproduced by the kind
permission of _The Illustrated London News Co._



“Except to politicians, a decent definition is a help and a delight.”

Acting on this American dictum I start with two definitions, one of
Fishing and Angling, the other of Angling. The first we owe to that
past master of the art, Plato. Whether it come within the category of
“delight or help,” or whether he can endorse the verdict of Theætetus
as to its “satisfactory conclusion,” each reader must decide.

Plato, using the method of elimination and incidentally more than
three pages of print, eventually arrives at the following definition
of Fishing and Angling:[82] “Then, now you and I have come to an
understanding, not only about the name of the Angler’s art, but
about the definition of the thing itself. One half of all Art was
acquisitive: one half of the acquisitive Art was conquest or taking by
force: half of this again was hunting, and half of hunting was hunting
animals: of this again the under half was fishing, and half of fishing
was striking: a part of striking was fishing with a barb, and one half
of this again (being the kind which strikes with a hook and draws the
fish from below upwards) is the Art we have been seeking, and which
from the nature of the operation is denoted Angling or drawing up.”

_Theætetus:_ “The result has been quite satisfactorily brought out.”

In search of a more helpful definition I turn to the English
Dictionaries. The _N.E.D._ (_New English Dictionary_, Oxford) gives
Fishing—“to catch, or try to catch fish”—wide enough for all our
purpose and for most of our performances! In their definitions of
Angling, Angle, etc., the majority of dictionaries disagree, but unite
in deriving Angle from the Aryan root, ANK = to bend, and establishing
the fishing term as the cousin of the awkward angles of Euclid and of
our youth. The _N.E.D._ in its definitions of ‘Angle’ (sb.), of ‘Angle’
(vb.), of ‘Angler,’ or of ‘Angling,’ does not even agree with itself.

Thus we find:

  (A) “Angle (sb.), a fish hook: often in later use extended
      to the line, or tackle, to which it is fastened, and the
      Rod to which this is attached. See Book of St. Alban’s
      (title of ed. 2), _Treatyse perteynynge_ to _Hawkynge,
      Huntynge, and Fysshynge with an Angle_.”

  (B) “Angle (vb.), to use an angle: to fish with a hook _and

  (C) “Angler, one who fishes with a hook and _line_.”

  (D) “Angling, the action or art of fishing with a _rod_.”[83]

If A, B, C, which all differ, are accurate, D can hardly be so. Further
from A, B, C, we can deduce no correct definition of D.

Under D the _N.E.D._ imports as a necessary component part of angling
the presence of a rod, but I venture to think on insufficient grounds.
In the first quotation cited in support, “Fysshynge, callyd Anglynge
with a rodde,” the word “rodde,” if D hold good, must be redundant
or unnecessary. “Rodde” I hold to be an added word of limitation, or
description, as in “Fysshynge with an _Angle_.”

But since the dictionaries do hardly help—to some, indeed, they smack
of “the heinous crime of word-splitting”—and since the importance
(apart from etymological reasons) of possessing an accurate and
adequate definition presses, let us prostrate ourselves before
another oracle, the Law. But here too success scarcely crowns our
quest. The leading case, _Barnard_ v. _Roberts and Williams_, yields,
Delphic-like, little light or leading.[84]

The facts, briefly stated, were: Roberts and Williams laid in a private
river two fishing lines; one end of the lines attached to two pieces
of wood driven into the ground made fast the lines, the other end held
hooks baited with worms, and a stone to keep the lines under water.
“The lines were left by the men, who subsequently were found taking
two fish off the hooks, and resetting the lines, of which the keepers
deprived them. The charge (under s. 24 of the Larceny Act of 1861)
ran of unlawfully, etc., taking fish otherwise than by angling. The
Justices of Bangor refused to commit, on the ground that they were
angling, and thus under the Act were protected from damages or penalty
for such angling.”

On appeal both sides cited Izaak Walton and other authors; both quoted
the _N.E.D._—the appellant its definition of ‘Angling,’ _i.e._ fishing
with a rod, and the respondent that of ‘Angle’ (vb.), _i.e._ to fish
with hook and bait.

The three Judges, judge-like, disagreed in their reasons but agreed in
allowing the appeal, and disagreeing in their conceptions of angling
agreed in abstaining from any definition.

“In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed is king.” Mr. Justice
Phillimore was the least non-positive. He even committed himself to
the following: “He did not think that a rod must necessarily be part
of an angler’s outfit, but only a hook and line. He thought _the human
element_ must be present, and that it was not sufficient when the
tackle was set once and for all, and then left.”

It is obvious from the above that, while the dictionaries are but blind
guides, the Law (if on this occasion not exactly “a hass”) fails to
elucidate what exactly constitutes Angling.

Dr. Henry van Dyke, the author of _Little Rivers_ and other fascinating
books connected with fishing, suggests to me “Angling, the art of
fishing by hand with a hook and line, with or without a rod.” I much
prefer this to that of _N.E.D._, because of its greater accuracy and
of its inclusion of that really skilful method, hand-lining. But for
general convenience I adopt as the definition of Angling “_The action,
or art, of fishing with a Rod._”

_My Fishing from the Earliest Times_ treats of the Old Stone Men,
Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, Jews, Greeks, and Romans. The amount of
space allotted to the last two, compared with that occupied by some of
the other nations, may suggest the immortal even if apocryphal chapter
of “_Snakes in Ireland_.” “There are none.”

To any such criticisms I make answer that for nearly all our knowledge
as to the methods and tackle of fishing and varieties of fish we are
indebted to the Greeks and Romans, and in a smaller degree to the
Egyptians and Chinese.

Reasons of date, data, and dearth of paper prevent my using in this
book the material which I had collected on Indian, Persian, and
Japanese Fishing.

As regards India, while fishing by net falls well within my adopted
date (500 A.D.), that by hook and line—not necessarily Angling—gains
entrance by a short head, or a mere century.

Fish (_matsya_, apparently derived from the root _mad_ and signifying
_the inebriated_) is down to _c._ 1000 B.C. only mentioned once[85] in
the _Rigveda_, X. 68, 8. In the next period—that of the later Vedas and
Brāhmanas—fish, but not methods of capture, find frequent mention.

The Net (_jāla_) is first referred to in the _Atharvaveda_ (not
later than 800 B.C.) but not in connection with fishing, while
in the _Yajurveda_ (_c._ 800 B.C.) names for fishermen and a
hook—_baḍiša_—occur. The 139th _Jātaka_ (_c._ 400 A.D.) contains the
first allusion to fishing with a _line_ and hook.

References in Sanskrit poetry to the iron hook and bait probably
imply, though they fail to mention, the Rod. Passages in the epic
_Mahābhārata_, V. 1106 (_c._ 200 A.D.), in Kāmandaki’s aphoristic
poetry (_c._ 300-400 A.D.), in the _Pancatantra_, I. 208, “when women
see a man caught in the bonds of love, they draw him like a fish that
has followed the bait,” all suggest Angling.[86]

Fish legends, similes, stories—not always redounding to ichthyic
wisdom—meet us fairly frequently. Manu[87] is saved from the Flood by a
fish. Buddha[88] answers questions as to abstention from fish. Wondrous
fish occur: _e.g._ the _Kar_, “which knows to the scratch of a needle’s
point by how much the water in the Ocean shall increase, by how much it
is diminishing.”[89]

Stories, such as the recovery by a fish of Šakuntalā’s ring and the
consequent marriage of King Dushyanta; of Indra, the fearless slayer of
the serpent, whose death for defiling the bed of Ahalyâ was compassed
by fish;[90] of Adrikâ’s transformation into a fish and her conception
in that form of a child by King Uparicaras;[91] of _The Stupid and Two
Clever Fishes_;[92] of _The Frog and The Two Fish_,[93] all these make
pleasant if varied reading. But when we come to _methods_ of fishing,
all variety vanishes. We are confronted with a damnable monotony, a
_toujours perdrix_. It is almost Net, or Nothing.

This holds true of the piscine tales even in the _Arabian Nights_,
_e.g._ _The Fisherman and the Jinn_, and _The Fisherman and the
’Efreet_. The latter, however, possesses an unique interest: the
fisherman here, unlike his Greek and Roman poverty-stricken brethren,
became by means of his miraculous fish, “the wealthiest of the people
of his age, and his daughters continued to be the wives of princes”!

Evidence that fishing in India was of old and is now (the fishing
caste, I am told, ranks low) not highly regarded can be deduced
(_inter alia_) from its total omission in the Fourteen Sciences and
the Sixty-four Arts, which the _Vātsyặyana Kāma Sūtra_ (not later than
the third century A.D.) promulgates for the education of children from
five to sixteen. Among the requisite Sciences gymnastics, dancing, the
playing of musical glasses, sword-stick, cock quail and ram fighting,
teaching parrots and starlings to sing, all these find commendation,
but fishing none!

As with India, so with Persia ancient and modern, _toujours le
filet_! Very many of the earliest prose works in modern Persian
came through the Pahlavi from the Sanskrit. Thus the three or four
stories—occasionally but wrongly regarded as of Persian origin—about
fish and fishing which are contained in the _Anwār-i-Suhaili_[94]
can be traced to _The Fables of Bidpai_, or _The Pancatantra_,[95]
translated from the Arabic version into Persian about 550 A.D.

In modern Persian (_c._ 1000 A.D.) poetry, lines allusive to fishing
dot themselves sparsely:[96] even in them the Net bulks biggest. Hafiz
(fourteenth century), however, gives us

    “I have fallen into a Sea of Troubles, (presumably tears),
     So that my Beloved may catch me with a Hook” (a curl of hair).

A passage in Arabic furnished hope of finding Angling oases in the
desert, but when in

    “A fish whose jaw the gaff of Death had pierced,”

I found the word (_saffūd_) rendered _gaff_ given by Richardson’s
_Persian-Arabic Dictionary_ as “a roasting spit, a poker for the fire,”
my hope fled, for I quickly realised here an instance of anachronistic
translation, or the employment of fishing terms appropriate to modern
but inapplicable to ancient methods.[97]

I have come to the sad conclusion that the Persians ancient and modern
care not in general for fishing or angling, although the Gulf, from
which the ancient Sumerians garnered such splendid “harvest of the
sea,” washes their shores, and from their mountains descend “fishful”
streams. I have reached my conclusion for the following reasons:—

    (A) There is no word in the language which properly
  expresses _fish_-hook. Arabic words, which strictly mean
  _grappling_ hooks, have been adopted or adapted. In modern
  Arabic itself these words are not used for a _fish-hook_:
  bâlûgh, a foreign term, prevails.

    (B) In Persian, Arabic, and Turkish[98] the expression _to
  fish_, literally translated, equals _to hunt fish_, and
  generally describes a man who makes his living by _netting_,
  and selling fish.

    (C) There is no word for fishing-rod in Wollaston’s great
  English-Persian Dictionary.

    (D) Proverbs are usually the offspring and embodiment
  of the life and occupations of a nation. In both ancient
  and modern Persian there is, as far as I know, but one
  proverb—and that rather contemptful—allusive to fish or
  fishing. It runs, “Thou shall not make a fish thine enemy,”
  which probably signifies that no foe, however unlikely to
  injure, can be despised.

    (E) In the experiences related to me by the Rev. Dr. St.
  Clair Tisdall, and by the late Sir Frank Lascelles, Netting
  ousts Angling.

The former:[99] “’Though I have lived in Persia for many years and have
travelled through it from Sea to Sea, from the Persian Gulf to the
Caspian, I have never seen a fish-hook in a Persian’s hands. In the
districts I know best, the Net is the only weapon.”

The second, when our Minister at Teheran, on his first holiday went
a-fishing. Having caught on a likely stream before supper three or four
half-pound trout (I think), he anticipated next day pleasant sport.
With the very early morning came not Remorse, but the local Sheikh to
do his reverence and to make the customary present. “As I have heard
that His Great Excellency worked hard for a few fish last night, my
tribesmen have netted the river for the length of a parasang, and
I bring you plenty of fish.” Tableau! Hasty flight of Sir Frank to
another river, with like results!

Reasons both of date and data prevent my including the Japanese,
perhaps the most alert and adaptive sea-fishers in the world. As their
history before 500 A.D. must apparently be classed as legendary,
this nation eludes my chronological Net. Data on ancient fishing, if
existing, are either unknown[100] or as being derived from China find
place _postea_.[101]

I set the time limit of my book at roughly 500 A.D., so as to include
the last classical or quasi-classical piscatory poems _viz._ those of
Ausonius—notably _ad Mosellam_—in the fourth and of Sidonius in the
fifth century.

This date seems, indeed, a pre-ordained halting-place for three
reasons. First, the tackle of our day (though improved almost beyond
recognition in rod, winch, artificial bait, etc.) is merely the lineal
descendant of the Macedonian described by Ælian in the third century
A.D. Second, between Ælian and Dame Juliana’s _Boke_ no record, with
two possible exceptions, of fishing with a fly exists. Third, and more
important, we possess no real continuous link between the Angling
literature of Rome down to the fifth century and that which sprang up
after the invention of printing some thousand years later.

In the intervening centuries, it is true, books and manuscripts were
written (mainly by monks) which treated more or less of fishing, but
of Angling only incidentally.[102] They illustrate the customs of
fishermen, the natural history of fish, the making and maintaining of
_vivaria_ or fish-ponds, rather than instruct or inform on practical

The most notable would, could we trace it, be “an old MS. treatise on
fishing, found among the remains of the valuable library belonging
to the Abbey of St. Bertin, at St. Omer. A paper on this was read,
a few years before 1855, at a society of antiquaries at Arras. From
its style, the MS. was supposed to have been written about 1000 A.D.,
and to have been divided into twenty-two chapters. The author’s main
object was to prove that fishers had been singularly favoured by Divine
approbation; but appended to the MS. was a full list of all _river_
fish, the baits used for taking them, and the suitable seasons for
angling for each sort of fish.”

For the existence of this work, vanished now for over sixty years,
we have only the authority of Robert Blakey.[103] But this, if it do
pass muster with Dr. Turrell, fails to satisfy Westwood and Satchell,
who describe his book on Angling as “a slipshod and negligent work,
devoid of all utility, a farrago of quotations incorrectly given,
and of so-called original passages, the vagueness and uncertainty of
which rob them of all weight and value. Mr. Blakey’s volume, it is but
fair to add, is redeemed from utter worthlessness by the excellent
bibliographical catalogue appended to it by the _publisher_!”[104]

The _Geoponika_, whether written or redacted by Cassianus Bassus or
Cassius Dionysius, or merely translated from a treatise by an ancient
Carthaginian author, treats generally of agriculture. The twentieth
book, however, deals with fish-ponds, fishing, and baits: unlike the
Roman writers on _vivaria_, who tell us nothing as to the capture of
the fish in them, the writer gives us instructive tips on baits.

One infallible recipe in chap. xviii. for collecting the fish—on the
lines of Baiting the Swim—from its superstitious _naïveté_ compels
quotation: “Get three limpets, and having taken out the fish therein,
inscribe on the shell the words, Ἰαώ Σαβαώθ, or ‘Jehovah, Lord of
Hosts’; you will immediately see the fish come to the same place in
a surprising manner.”[105] The two Greek words formed the so-called
Gnostic formula and occur frequently on amulets, etc. The _Geoponika_
adds immediately, “this name the Ichthyophagi use.”

About the fourteenth century a poem entitled _De Vetula_, attributed
to R. de Fournival, got translated or imitated by Jean Lefevre. The
fishing portion (68 lines) awakes our interest, as it shows that “more
than six hundred years ago, and probably two hundred years before the
date of _The Boke of St. Albans_, most of the modern modes of fishing
were practised; for instance, the worm, the fly, the torch and spear,
the night line, the eel-basket and fork,” etc.

This quotation from Westwood and Satchell might cause a casual reader
to suppose that (α) from _De Vetula_, written only some two centuries
before _The Boke of St. Albans_, we gain our first information “of
these modes of fishing,” and (β) that these were “modern,” whereas
Oppian had described them all, some thirteen hundred years before _The
Boke of St. Albans_ saw light.

With the exception of de Fournival and the elusive MS. of Dom
Pichon,[106] which (written about 1420 but only rediscovered about
1853) probably stamps this monk as the first to practise artificial
hatching, the Continent produced practically nothing till the
appearance at Antwerp in 1492 of the first printed original book on
Fishing, which as regards printing precedes _The Boke of St. Albans_.

This little Flemish work by an unknown author contains twenty-six
chapters of a few lines, gives recipes for artificial baits, unguents,
and pastes, and in the last two pages notes the periods when certain
fish eat best. As its title sets out, it teaches “how one may catch
birds and fish with one’s hands, and also otherwise.”[107]

The earliest description of fishing in the English language meets us
in _The Colloquy of Aelfric_, A.D. 995, which Skeat first brought
to notice and first “Englished” in _The Oldest English Treatise on
Fishing_.[108] This takes the form of a short dialogue introduced
into the _Colloquy_ written by Aelfric, Archbishop of Canterbury,
for the purpose of teaching his pupils Latin, and therefore written
in Anglo-Saxon with a Latin translation beneath. “It is arranged as
a conversation between the master and his pupil; the latter in turns
figuring as huntsman, fisherman, falconer.”

The length of the _Colloquy_, even of the fishing portion, prevents
inclusion here, but the pupil’s objection to fishing in the sea,
“because rowing is troublesome to me,” and to going a-whaling, “because
I had rather catch a fish I can kill than one that can, with one
stroke, kill both me and my comrades,” strikes me as well taken and

A poem by Piers of Fulham, written about 1420 (the original MS.
of which can be seen at Trinity College, Cambridge) claims next
our notice. The author, judging from Hartshorne’s rendering, fully
justifies the description of him as a somewhat pessimistic angler.
He seems to have anticipated De Quincey’s “fishing is an unceasing
expectation and a perpetual disappointment.” He fully appreciated
its difficulties and disappointments, but clearly possessed some
sportsmanlike instincts, as the following, among other, verses

    “And ete the olde fishe, and leve the yonge,
     Though they moore towgh be uppon the tonge.”

A Latin book _Dialogus creaturarum optime moralizatus_ was published in
1480; a translation about 1520 styles it _The Dialogues of Creatures
Moralysed_. This very rare work, which I have found fully dealt with
from an Angler’s point of view only by Dr. Turrell, furnishes the
earliest known illustration of an angler fishing with a float.

Next in date, and last to be noticed here, comes the famous _Treatyse
of Fysshynge with an Angle_, printed at Westminster by Wynkyn de Worde
in 1496 as part of the second edition of _The Boke of St. Albans_.
Whether, as has been commonly supposed, Dame Juliana Berners wrote it,
or whether any such lady ever existed, are points of controversy, but
that _The Treatyse_ was not an immaculate conception, without parents
or ancestors, can be reasonably proved by its reference to earlier
writers on fishing, and to its “these ben the xii flies ye shall use”
being introduced as a precept of practice rather than a revelation of

If few the forbears of what some term “not only the first angling
manual in England, but also the first practical work written in any
language,” its vitality and its prolific progeny admit of no doubt.
According to Mr. A. Lang (who accounts for the startling fact by
the increased number of people able to read owing to the spread of
education) no less than ten editions of _The Boke_ were issued within
four years of publication, while Dr. Turrell limits himself to fourteen
undated editions between 1500 and 1596.

Whatever the number of the editions, the need for and the vitality of
_The Treatyse_ is demonstrated by the fact that for over a hundred
years no new work on Angling was printed in England, and between it and
_The Compleat Angler_—a space of over one hundred and fifty years—there
occur but four books on the subject.[110] To its prolific progeny, the
_Bibliotheca Piscatoria_ bears witness[111] in its catalogue of some
fifteen hundred authors and of countless books, MSS. etc.

We owe, it is said, this voluminous literature to the geographical
position of England, which lends itself very favourably to the
pursuit of all kinds of fishing. Can we, also, flatteringly add the
other factor of Lacépède’s dictum, “Il y a cette différence entre la
chasse et la pêche, que cette dernière convient aux peuples les plus

But the pursuit of fishing did not prevail in early England or
Scotland. A passage in Bede (probably used by Henry of Huntingdon),
which has, I think, escaped the many-eyed net of our fishing authors,
testifies to its absence in the former.

St. Wilfrid (born 634) on his return from Friesland, where fishing
yielded the staple of food, met with such success in his mission to the
South Saxons that he not only converted them, “with all the priests
of the Idols,” but also—“which was a great relief unto them”—taught
them the craft of fishing, of which, save eeling, they wotted naught.
Collecting under the Saint’s order eel-nets where they could, the first
adventurers _meritis sui patris Divina largitate adjuti_[112] enmeshed
three hundred fishes, which they equally divided between the poor, the
net-owners, and themselves.

The Celtæ, with some exceptions such as the scomber-catching Celtiberi,
eschewed fish, probably from religious prejudices, which owing to their
adoration of the springs, rivers, and waters prevented the eating of
their denizens.

Whatever the cause, Dion Cassius expressly comments on the abstinence
of the Caledonians, although their seas and rivers abounded with
food.[113] In time the example of the clergy and the ordinance of fast
days gradually overcame—save in the case of Eels, which still remain
to the Highlander an abomination—their obstinate antipathy. Across
St. George’s Channel the Irish two centuries ago “had little skill in
catching fish.”[114]

But when the Western Highlanders did go a-fishing, their prayers and
promises—prompted by the same principle of gratitude being a sense of
favours to come—echo the prayers and promises, _Dis mutatis_, of the
_Anthologia Palatina_.

The seas differ, but the gods precated are the same. If in the
following verses you substitute for “Christ, King of the Elements”
Poseidon, King of the Waters, for “brave Peter” ruseful Hermes, and for
“Mary fair” Aphrodite, you have the tutelary deities of fishing. The
spirit of the prayer and promise of the firstling remain unchanged.

For century after century the fishermen of the Isles have handed down
orally to generation after generation the Gaelic prayer with which they
set out to sea.[115]

    “I will cast down my hook:
     The first fish which I bring up
     In the name of Christ, King of the Elements,
     The poor man shall have for his need:
     And the King of the Fishers, the brave Peter,
     He will after it give me his blessing.
     Columba, tender in every distress,
     And Mary fair, the endowed of grace,
     Encompass ye us to the fishing bank of ocean,
     And still ye to us the crest of the waves!”

The rarity—I have not met its mention—and curious nature of a volume
published at Frankfort in 1611, even if more than a century after _The
Boke of St. Albans_, compels some reference.

_Conjecturæ Halieuticæ_ by Raphael Eglinus consists of a long
dissertation based on the strange markings of three fishes (pictured on
its title-page), two caught in Scandinavia on the same day, November
21, 1587, and the third in Pomerania on May 21, 1596. These markings,
supposedly chronological, provide their author with a basis for various
prophecies and warnings of the evils to come in Central Europe,
especially in Germany.

As neither text nor type peculiarly tempt to perusal, I have not found
it easy to disentangle the disasters or allot to each country its
individual woe. Deductions from Daniel, the patriarch Joseph, and of
course the Apocalypse enable Eglinus to establish definitely to his
own satisfaction the future advent, in one or other of the Central
Kingdoms, of Antichrist.

Nor, again, is it easy to gather whether a time-limit is set for his
appearance, or whether the prophecies apply to twentieth-century
events. Alas! also, the data do not enable me with certainty from the
very promising entries from Germany, Austria, and Bulgaria to single
out the precise potentate who best fills the bill, or closest answers
to the author’s Antichrist.[116]

Space debars from one fascinating branch of my subject—the
superstitions of Fishing. Their far-flung web enclosed the ancient
_piscator_ more firmly than his brother _venator_, or, indeed, any
class save only the “medicine men” of Rome.

Nor could their successors disentangle themselves, as witness the
recipe given above by Bassus for inscribing on the limpets’ shell
the Gnostic formula, and Mr. Westwood’s words, “There is, in fact,
more quaint and many-coloured superstition in a single page of Old
Izaak than in all the forty-five chapters of the twentieth Book of
the Geoponika. Silent are they touching mummies’ dust and dead men’s
feet—silent on the fifty other weird and ghastly imaginations of the
later anglers.”[117]

And even the modern angler, if he thoroughly examine himself, must
confess that some shred of gossamer still adheres. Does he not at
times forgo, even if he boast himself incredulous of consequence,
some act, such as stepping across a rod, lest it bring bad luck? If
particular individuals rise superior, the ordinary fisherman in our
present day still avows and still clings to superstitions or omens. Let
him in the South of Ireland be asked whither he goes, meet a woman,
or see one magpie, and all luck vanishes.[118] A dead hare (_manken_)
regarded as a devil or witch a century ago brought _piscator_ nigh unto

Women seem usually fatal to good catches; as one instance out of many
we read in Hollinshed’s _Scottish Chronicle_, that “if a woman wade
through the one fresh river in the Lewis, there shall no salmon be seen
there for a twelvemonth after.”

Superstitions of every sort and almost incredible dictate to the
ancient and to the modern fisherman what are the good and what the bad
days for plying his craft, or setting his sail. Their cousin, imitative
magic, plays no small part in deciding his bait.

But enough here of fishing superstitions. Are they not writ large
in Pliny, Oppian, Plutarch, in the _Folk Lore Records_, and larger,
geographically, in that masterpiece, _The Golden Bough_?

The most incredulous, if there were one chance in a hundred of the
operation ensuring adeptness in our craft, would willingly sacrifice in
conformity with Australian superstition the first joint of his little
finger.[120] Nor, again, if only the most moderate success resulted,
would any of us utter a belated plaint at his mother imitating her
Fijian sister and throwing, when first a-fishing after childbirth, his
navel-string into the sea, and thus “ensuring our growing into good


[82] Jowett’s _Translation_, vol. iv. p. 343. The whole passage, which
is too long for quotation, is fairly typical of Platonic methods.

[83] The _italics_ are mine.

[84] 23 Law Times, 439.

[85] In H. Grassmann’s _Wörterbuch zum Rig-Veda_, twice. One cannot
indict a whole sex for inebriety on the strength of a single passage,
but fish, despite _matsya_ being masculine in Sanskrit, are always
feminine according to the _Avesta_ (vol. v. p. 61, of _Sacred Books of
the East, Pahlavi Texts_): “Water, Earth, Plants, and Fish are female,
and never otherwise.”

[86] For help and guidance as to India I am greatly in debt to my old
Oxford friend, Dr. A. Macdonell, Boden Professor of Sanskrit, and to
his two books, _History of Sanskrit Literature_, p. 143, and Macdonell
and Keith, _Vedic Index of Names and Subjects_ (London, 1912), vol. ii.
p. 173.

[87] _The Story of the Flood in the Catapatha Brāhmana._

[88] _Sacred Books of the East_, xx. 252. Cf. x. 41.

[89] _Ibid._, xvi. 7. Cf. xxiii. 239, and v. 65.

[90] De Gubernatis, _Zoological Mythology_ (London, 1872), vol. ii.
331, f.

[91] De Gubernatis, _Zoological Mythology_ (London, 1872), vol. ii.
331, f.

[92] _The Pancatantra_, I., Story 17.

[93] _A Group of Hindoo Stories_, by an Aryan (really F. F. Arbuthnot)
(London, 1881), p. 35.

[94] Book I., Story 12 and 15. Book XI., Story 4. Here the fisherman,
when asked by the king the sex of a fish, saves the situation and
collars 2000 dinar by ejaculating the blessed word, not Mesopotamia,
but “Hermaphrodite,” which he had once overheard two students casually

[95] Sir William Jones holds that this collection of Fables “comprises
all the wisdom of Eastern nations, and was surpassed in esteem and
popularity by few works of Oriental literature.”

[96] No Quatrain of Omar Khayam sings of the craft.

[97] See _Idyll_ XX. of Theocritus, _postea_ 135, note 1, for another

[98] Modern Turkish contains (according to Dr. Tisdall) two genuine
old _Turkish_ words for fish-hook, (1) _Ôltah_, (2) _Zôngah_. This is
of great interest, for it goes far to show that the Turks, even before
leaving Central Asia, were familiar with Angling.

[99] To him, a high authority on Persia, not only from the many years
spent there but also from his great linguistic accomplishments, I am
greatly in debt for much of the foregoing.

[100] Mr. Harold Parlett, our Consul at Dairen and an authority on
Japan, writes, “I know of no books in Japanese dealing with the
_history_ of fishing, and I think it improbable that any exist, unless
in MS. It is a subject, which as far as I know, has not yet been
studied. I should advise you to dismiss ancient Japanese methods in as
few words as possible.” I follow his advice.

[101] On consulting a great Sinologist, he rapped out, “The only thing
I know or want to know of Japan is that every art, every craft, it
possesses came from China.”

[102] W. J. Turrell, _Ancient Angling Authors_ (London, 1910), p. xi.
_Ancient_, in this most researchful work, might, I venture to suggest,
be qualified by _British_, for six pages (in the Preface) suffice for
all fishing before the tenth century.

[103] _Angling Literature_ (London, 1856), p. 33.

[104] There is in existence a Byzantine MS. entitled Ψαρολόγος (lit.
“Fishbook,” _i.e._ anecdotes of fish), which K. Krumbacher, _Geschichte
der byzantinischen Litteratur_, 3rd ed. (München, 1897), p. 884, states
should be published.

[105] The result of the work done during the last twenty years by
German writers, such as W. Christ, _Geschichte des griechischen
Litteratur_, ed. 3 (München, 1898), p. 664 f.; E. Oder, in Pauly-Winowa
_Real Enc._ (Stuttgart, 1910), VII., 1221-1225; and F. Lübker,
_Reallexikon des klassischen Altertums_ (Leipzig, 1914), p. 409,
seems to show that our _Geoponika_ is a reduction, _c._ 950 A.D., by
an unknown hand of an older compilation made in the sixth century by
Cassianus Bassus. Behind him in turn are older works of the fourth
century, _viz._ the συναγωγὴ γεωργικῶν of Vindanius Anatolius in twelve
books, and the γεωργικά of the younger Didymos of Alexandreia in
fifteen books. Ultimately we get back to Cassius Dionysius of Utica,
who translated the Carthaginian Mazo’s work on agriculture (88 B.C.).

[106] See _infra_, p. 291.

[107] The date of 1492 is suggested by Mr. Alfred Denison, who
translated and issued privately twenty-five copies of _Dit Boecxken
leert hoe men mach voghelen vanghen metten handen. Ende oeck
andersins_. From the press of Mathys Van der Goes. The marriage of
Madame Van der Goes to Godfridus Bach, whose printer’s mark also
appears in the book, seems to point to 1492. See, however, M. F. A. G.
Campbell, _Annales de la Typographie Neerlandaise au xv^e siècle_ (La
Haye, 1874), p. 80, and _Bibl. Pisc._, pp. 35, 36.

[108] _The Angler’s Note-Book_, 1st series (1880), p. 76.

[109] Cf. Turrell, _op. cit._, 4. In “and with angle hookys” in Piers,
Mr. Marston, _op. cit._, 2, sees “probably the earliest known reference
to angling in English.”

[110] Cf. M. G. Watkins, _Introduction to the Treatyse, etc._ (London,
1880), p. xi.

[111] It enumerates 3158 distinct editions of 2148 different fishing
works published before 1883. The _Supplement_ issued by Mr. R. B.
Marston in 1901 gives 1200 more. Mr. Eric Parker’s delightsome and
pocket-companionable _An Angler’s Garland_, London, 1920, gives many
happy extracts from the fifteen hundred, and present-day writers.

[112] In Bede, “Et divina se innante gratia.”

[113] 76, 12. τῶν γὰρ ἰχθύων, ἀπείρων και ἁπλέτων ὒντων, οὐ γεύονται.

[114] James Logan, _The Scottish Gael_ (Inverness, 1876), vol. ii. p.
130 f.

[115] Alexander Carmichael, _Carmina Gælica_ (Edinburgh, 1900), vol. i.
p. 325.

[116] S. Bochart, _Hierozoicon_ (Leipzig, 1796), p. 868, telling of a
fish whose right ear bore the words, _There is no God, but God_, and
left, _Apostle of God_, and neck, _Mahomet_, concludes with a parody of
Virgil, _Buc._, iii. 104.

    “Die quibus in terris inscripti nomina Divum
     Nascantur pisces, et eris mihi magnus Apollo!”

A _magnus Apollo_ to graduate the claims of the different potentates
would indeed be a boon. The capture of a fish some two years ago near
Zanzibar with Arabic inscriptions—legible only by the faithful—caused
immense excitement, as possibly foretelling the speedy end of the world.

[117] _Angler’s Note-Book_, ii. p. 116.

[118] _Angler’s Note-Book_, i. 44.

[119] Dougal Graham, _Ancient and Modern Hist. of Buckhaven_ (Glasgow,
1883), vol. ii. p. 235.

[120] John F. Mann, “Notes on the Aborigines of Australia,” _Proc.
Geograph. Soc. of Australia_, i. p. 204.

[121] J. G. Frazer, _op. cit._, iii. 206-7.


“_Noster in arte labor positus, spes omnis in illa._”


Probably the earliest Greek representation connected with fishing, _c._
1500 B.C.

See n. 2, p. 63]




It is difficult to define accurately or trace separately the Lure
or the Lore of these two nations, for their methods of fishing were
practically the same or dove-tailed one into the other. Since our
authors in both languages frequently synchronise, or as in the case of
Pliny and Ælian the younger tongue antedates the elder by a century or
more, and since this book is based on no zoological system, I shall
deal with them for the most part in chronological order.

The opposite page reproduces the figures of the four fishermen from the
famous Fishermen’s Vase of Phylakopi discovered in Melos some twenty
years ago.[123] If the period assigned to this, viz. _c._ 1500 B.C.,
be accurate, it seems to be the oldest Greek representation, at any
rate in the Ægean area, depicting anything connected with fishing, and
antedates the earliest Greek author by four to nine hundred years, in
accordance with the varying ages allotted to the Homeric poems.[124]

It is to Homer, whether written by half a dozen different authors or
in half a dozen different centuries,[125] as the oldest Greek writer
extant that we naturally turn for information about fishermen and
fishing. His evidence is not only the earliest, but also the most
trustworthy, according to Athenæus. “Homer treats of the art of fishing
with greater accuracy than professional writers on the subject such as
Cæcilius, Oppian, etc.”[126]—an endorsement from the piscatorial side
of the Theocritean ἅλις πάντεσσιν Ὅμηρος.

Neither fishermen nor traders in the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ possess any
real status. While farmers, more especially pastoral farmers, occupy an
acknowledged and—next to the chiefs and warriors—the highest position,
no fisherman or trader is regarded as a representative unit of the
body, politic or social, or as a contributor to the wealth of the tribe
or state, a condition with which that of the fisherfolk in ancient
Egypt[127] and in China, both in early times and in the present day,
is elsewhere compared and contrasted.[128]

“For trader Homer knows no word.”[129] As _traders_ he represents no
Greeks, although the Taphians approximate closely (_Od._, I. 186). For
this three reasons have been assigned:—

First, the Greeks of Homer’s time with the exception of the Phæacians,
“who care not for bow or quiver, but for masts, and oars of ships, and
gallant barques, wherein rejoicing, they cross the grey sea” (_Od._,
VI. 270), hardly impress us, despite Dr. Leaf’s “The whole attitude of
both the Poems is one of maritime daring,”[130] as adventurous sailors.

They disliked long sea voyages; they shrank from spending the night on
the water; they would go thrice the distance, if they could but keep
in touch with land—and naturally enough, when we remember that for the
Homeric boat the Ægean was safe for only a few months of the year.

Their food supply made the sea a hateful necessity. “As much as a
mother is sweeter than a stepmother, so much is earth dearer than the
grey sea” might have been written as appropriately by Homer as by
Antipater centuries later.[131]

Whatever trading existed was in the hands not of the Phæacians, but of
the Phœnicians, to whose great port Sidon Homer makes reference more
than once.[132] Boldness of navigation, plus guile and gainfulness,
characterised the nation; their “tricky trading” (cf. the Levantines of
our day)[133] found frequent comment.

A comparison of them with the seamen of Elizabeth’s time shows common
traits. Both were “the first that ever burst into the silent seas,”
both committed acts of piracy, both kidnapped and enslaved freely. Lest
it be objected that the evidence of _Od._, XIV. 297 and 340 occurs in a
fictitious account by Odysseus of himself and so is itself fictitious,
let us call as witness the Hebrew prophet Joel[134]: “What have ye to
do with Me, O Tyre and Zidon? The children, also, of Judah, and the
children of Jerusalem, have ye sold unto the sons of the Grecians.”

The second reason lies in the fact that each Homeric house or each
hamlet, although perhaps not each town, apparently supplied nearly all
its own wants and was practically self-supporting.

The chief crafts existed, as Hesiod shows, but only in a rudimentary
stage; workers there were in gold, silver, bronze, wood, leather,
pottery, carpentry. Although they were not “adscripti glebæ,” the
proper pride or narrow jealousy of each settlement was strongly
averse from calling in craftsmen from outside. Only apparently those
“workers for the people,” such as “a prophet, or a healer of ills, or
a shipwright, or a godlike minstrel who can delight all by his song,”
were free to come and go, as they willed, sure of a welcome: “These are
the men who are welcome over all the wide earth.”[135]

The third reason was due to nearly all ordinary trade being effected by
barter. Payment was in kine, kind, or service. The ox, probably because
all round the most important of possessions, constituted the ordinary
measure of value: thus a female slave skilled in embroidery fetches
four oxen. Laertes gives twenty for Eurycleia, while much-wooed maidens
by gifts from their successful suitors “multiply oxen” for their

Mentes sails to Temesa with a cargo of “shining iron” to exchange for
copper.[136] Then again in _Il._, VII. 472 ff., “the flowing-haired
Achæans bought them wine thence, some for bronze and some for gleaming
iron, and some with hides, and some with whole kine, and some with
captives.” Among the fishermen of the Indian Ocean, fish-hooks, on the
same principle of importance of possession, “the most important to them
of all implements, passed as currency and in time became a true money
_larin_, just as did the hoe in China.”[137]

“The talents of gold,”[138] probably Babylonian shekels, whether
Hultsch’s heavy or W. Ridgeway’s light one, implied, according to some,
a money standard of value. But wrongly, because neither gold nor silver
came to coinage in Greece or anywhere else till long after Homer’s day.

Fishermen seem slowly to have acquired some sort of status. Ἁλιεύς, at
first meaning a seaman or one connected with the sea, in time denoted
also a fisherman. _Od._, XIX. III, characterises the well-ordered realm
of a “blameless king” as one, in which “the black earth bears wheat and
barley, and trees are laden with fruit, and sheep bring forth and fail
not, and _the sea gives store of fish_.”

Any objection that such a kingdom had no actual existence, but was only
invented to heighten the hyperbole of laudation of Penelope’s fame,
“which goes up to the wide heaven, as doth the fame of a blameless
king,” concerns us not at all, for the kingdom whether actual or
imaginary is held up as worthy of all praise and admiration. In this
our Fish and so our Fishermen have attained some, if small, constituent

The period of such attainment cannot be dated, but how and why the
status arrived I now try to trace.

Authorities differ widely as to whether the (so-called) Greeks, on
leaving Central Asia or whatever their _Urheimat_, established their
first lodgements in Europe or Asia, in Greece Proper or Asia Minor. E.
Curtius maintained that the Ionians at any rate, if not all the Greeks,
founded their earliest settlements on the coast of Asia Minor, and only
later crossed to Greece.

This view finds little favour among most Homeric scholars of the
present day,[139] who reverse the theory. They place the first
settlement of the immigrant Greeks in European Greece, whence by
peaceable permeation or otherwise they subsequently colonised the
coasts of Asia Minor and the Islands.

According to Professor K. Schneider[140] the Greeks, when swarming from
their original Aryan hive and establishing themselves on the coast of
Asia Minor and in the Islands of the Ægean Sea, carried with them and
for a long time closely preserved their original habits of life and
livelihood. Descended from generations of inland dwellers, eaters of
the flesh of wild animals, of sheep, etc., they were ignorant of marine
fish as a food. Only when the population increased more rapidly than
the crops, did they, profiting by their contact with the Phœnicians,
to whom in seamanship[141] and, according to some writers, in art[142]
they owed much, begin to realise and utilise the wealth of the harvest
to be won from the adjacent seas.[143]

Fishing, followed at first mainly by the very poor to procure a food in
low esteem, gradually found itself.

In the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ no fish appear at banquets or in the
houses of the well-to-do: only in connection with the poorest or
starving do they obtain mention.

Meleager of Gadara accounted for this fact—previously noted by
Aristotle—by the suggestion that Homer represented his characters as
abstaining from fish, because as a Syrian by descent he himself was a
total abstainer. The curious omission of fish has been held to indicate
that Homer either lived before the adoption of fish as food, or, if
not, that the social conditions and habits of diet which he delineates
are those of generations before such transition.[144]

The decision, if one be possible, lies for Homeric scholars, and not
for a mere seeker after piscatoriana. Even to such an one, however, two
alternatives seem clear.

First, if Homer did live after the transition occurred, his
descriptions of ancient times and customs unconsciously included habits
and conditions of a more modern society.[145]

Second, if he lived before such transition—a supposition, which
scarcely consists with the presence in Palæolithic _débris_ of copious
remains of fish—passages such as _Od._, XIX. 109-114, which ranks “a
sea-given store of fish” a constituent of a well-ordered realm, and
_Il._, XVI. 746, where “This man would satisfy many by searching (or
diving) for oysters,” are interpolations by later writers.

It is difficult otherwise to reconcile or explain conflicting passages.
How, for instance, can the dictum, that “Fish as a food was in the
Poems only used by the very poor or starving,” be made to harmonise
with _Il._, XVI. 746, just quoted?[146] If it be confined solely to the
_Odyssey_, a more plausible case may possibly be presented.

Another suggestion, not quite similar, yet not repugnant, is Seymour’s.
“The Poet represented the life which was familiar to himself and his
hearers. Each action, each event might be given by tradition, or might
be the product of the poet’s imagination, but the details which show
the customs of the age, and which furnish the colours of the picture,
are taken from the life of the poet’s time. His interest is centred in
the action of the story, and the introduction of unusual manners and
standard of life would only distract the attention of his hearers.”

Mackail, perhaps, concludes the whole matter. “The Homeric world is a
world imagined by Homer: it is placed in a time, evidently thought of
as far distant, though there are no exact marks of chronology any more
than there are in the Morte d’Arthur.”[147]

Homer’s close knowledge of the many devices for the capture of fish,
and his lively interest in the habits of fish quite apart from actual
fishing seem inconsistent with Schneider’s contention of Greek ichthyic

Fish, as we have seen, came gradually to be considered as much a part
of natural wealth as the fruits of the ground or herds of cattle. And
yet in all the pictures with which Hephæstus adorns the Shield of
Achilles, pictures of common ever-present objects, first of the great
phenomena of Nature—Earth, Sea, Sun, Moon, and Stars—and then of the
various events and occupations that make up the round of human life—in
all these pictures, which as a series of illustrations of early life
and manners are obviously a document of first-rate importance, no form
of sea-faring has any place. Ships of war, maritime commerce, and
fishing are alike unrepresented.[148]

No satisfactory explanation of this omission has as yet seen the light.
The design of The Shield, say some, came from an inland country, such
as Assyria. Others that Homer described some foreign work of art
fabricated by people who knew not the sea, but Helbig points out that
the omission consists with the references to ships and sea-faring
elsewhere in Homer. No commerce or occupation, which could be placed
side by side with farming in a picture of Greek life, then existed. If
Mr. Lang’s view—which possesses the pleasant property of incapacity of
either proof or disproof—that The Shield was simply an _ideal_ work of
art had been more generally borne in mind, we should have been spared
endless comment.

In his ascription of The Shield to Assyrian or Phœnician influence
Monro finds himself at variance with Sir Arthur Evans. Even if his
statement, “the recent progress of archæology has thrown so much light
on the condition of Homeric art,” be accurate and the deductions from
such recent progress be justifiable, the still more recent progress in
the same science (according to Evans) ousts the Assyrian or Phœnician
in favour of a Cretan parentage.

“It is clear that some vanguard of the Aryan Greek immigrants came into
contact with this Minoan culture at a time when it was still in its
flourishing condition. The evidence of Homer is conclusive. Arms and
armour described in the poems are those of the Minoan prime; the fabled
Shield of Achilles, like that of Herakles described by Hesiod, with its
elaborate scenes and variegated metal work, reflects the masterpieces
of the Minoan craftsmen in the full vigour of their art. Even the lyre
to which the minstrel sang was a Minoan invention.”[149]

The suggestion that both authorities are really in agreement and that
the influence at work may be traced back ultimately to the early
Assyrian, _i.e._ _Sumerian_, culture, even if Evans holds “that the
first quickening impulse came to Crete from Egypt and not from the
Oriental side,” seems, on present data, untenable.

Till twenty years ago it was generally accepted that no character of
Homer ever sailed for recreation, or fished for sport. They were far
too near the primitive life to find any joy in such pursuits. Men
scarcely ever hunted or fished for mere pleasure. These occupations
were not pastimes; they were counted as hard labour. Hunting, fishing,
and laying snares for birds in Homer and even in the classical periods
had but one aim, food.[150]

The Poet expressly mentions the hardships (ἂλγεα, _Od._, IX. 121) of
hunters in traversing forest and mountains. Nowhere does he give any
indication of _sport_ in hunting or fishing, except perhaps in the case
of the wild boar and in the delight of Artemis “taking her pastime in
the chase of boars and swift deer,”[151] where the word, παίζουσιν,
would seem surely to indicate pleasure in sport.

[Illustration: “IN AT THE DEATH.”

See n. 1, p. 73.]

But the recent discovery at Tiryns of a fresco where two ladies
are depicted standing in a car at a boar-hunt[152]—perhaps “in at
the death”—certainly makes for considerable qualification, and, if
succeeded by similar finds, for complete reversal of the non-sporting

On Circe’s Island, Odysseus strikes down “a tall antlered stag” as “he
was coming down from his pasture in the woodland to the river, for
verily the might of the Sun was sore upon him.” He bears the “huge
beast” across his neck to the black ship of his companions, who soon
devour it. This is the only mention of venison in Homer (_Od._, X. 158


[122] For several reasons I have anachronously placed this section
first instead of last.

[123] The representation, reproduced by the kind permission of the
Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, consists of four men
carrying in each hand a fish by the tail. The absence of boots and
ornaments is in keeping with their occupation. The fishes with one
exception have heads like dolphins, similar to the representation of
Poseidon with a tiny dolphin in his hand. The painting is executed in
the “black and red” style upon the usual white slip. The figures are
drawn firmly and boldly according to the conventional scheme, shoulders
to front and legs in profile; the slim proportions of the bodies are
common to many Mycenæan works. The most barbaric features of the
drawing are the absence of hands, and the monstrous eye in the middle
of the cheek. Cf. No. 80 in the _British Museum Cat. of Gems_, which
shows a man clad with the characteristic Mycenæan loin cloth carrying a
fish by a short line attached to its gullet. _Excavations at Phylakopi
in Melos_ (London, 1904), p. 123, pl. xxii.

[124] Equally famous, perhaps even more so, is the representation
of a fish found in 1882 near Vettersfelde in Lower Lausitz, but now
in Berlin. It is the shield-sign of a Scythian chief, made in gold
_repoussé_ work early in the fifth century B.C. See the publications
of A. Furtwängler, _Der Goldfund von Vettersfelde_ (Berlin, 1883), (=
_id. Kleine Schriften_ (München, 1912), I. 469 ff. pl. 18); cf. E. H.
Minns, _Scythians and Greeks_ (Cambridge, 1913), p. 236 ff. fig. 146.
Furtwängler thinks that the fish may have been meant for the _Thymus

[125] Homer, according to Sir A. Evans, “is at most sub-Mycenæan, his
age is more recent than the latest stage of anything that can be called
Minoan or Mycenæan,” _Jour. Hellenic Studies_, xxxii. (1912) 287. This
would seem to place Homer about the twelfth century.

[126] _Deipnosophistæ_, I. ch. 22.

[127] Herodotus (II. 164) describing the different grades of Egyptian
society begins with the priests and ends with the boatmen, among
whom he apparently includes the fishermen. Their humble position is
confirmed by other evidence; see _postea_ 333. In Laconia fishing was
confined to the Helots and Περίοικοι.

[128] “With the division of the people of the Empire into four distinct
classes—scholars, agriculturists, artisans, and merchants—the men and
women who followed the trade of fishing for a livelihood were placed
in an anomalous position from not being included in any of the four
classes. Thus socially ostracised to a certain extent, they clung to
themselves, forming groups or colonies of their own along the coasts
or on isolated islands. They lived in a world of their own, knowing
nothing of the affairs of their country and caring less. To this day
they do not come into direct contact with their countrymen on the
mainland.” Wei-Chung W. Yen: Fourth International Fishing Congress at
Washington, 1908. _Bulletin of Bureau of Fisheries_, No. 664, p. 376.

[129] Professor T. D. Seymour, _Life in the Homeric Age_ (London,
1907), p. 284, who might have added that Homer knows no general word
either for trade; to traders, πρηκτῆρες (_Od._, VIII. 162) come nearest
probably. From Seymour’s work, which sheds much valuable light on
Homeric pursuits, I quote and borrow frequently.

[130] See _Class. Journ._; _Chicago_, XIII. (1917), “The Leaf-Ramsay
Theory of the Trojan War,” where he uses these words in reply to Maury,
who holds that the view expounded in Leaf’s _Troy_ that the War was
an economic struggle by the Greeks for trade expansion to the fertile
lands of the Euxine and for the extinction of the tolls exacted by the
Trojans is untenable, because (_inter alia_) of their want of nautical
enterprise. In favour of Leaf there are, however, mentions (1) of a
voyage from Crete to Egypt in five days, and (2) the big νηῦς φορτὶς
εὐρεῖα twice mentioned.

[131] Cf. however, Geikie, _Love of Nature among the Romans_, p.
300. Subdivided by the waters of the Ægean into innumerable islands,
where the scattered communities could only keep in touch by boat or
ship, Greece naturally became a nursery of seamen. The descriptive
and musical epithets applied to the deep in Greek poetry show how
much its endless variety of surface and colour, its beauty and its
majesty, appealed to the Hellenic imagination. S. H. Butcher, _Harvard
Lectures_ (London, 1904), p. 49, speaks of the Greeks as “born sailors
and traders, who from the dawn of history looked upon the sea as their
natural highway.” Contrast with this Plato, _Laws_, iv. 705A, ἁλμυρὸν
καὶ πικρὸν γειτόνημα, “a bitter and brackish neighbour.”

[132] He never mentions Tyre, the later port. Evans (_Scripta Minoa_,
pp. 56, 80) and other archæologists nowadays hold that Homer’s
Φοίνικες, or “red men,” are really the “Minoans,” and are to be
distinguished from the Σιδόνιοι or Phœnicians. At what date the latter
appeared in the West Mediterranean is still a matter of controversy,
but the present trend of opinion is that they only succeeded to the
“Minoan” heritage.

[133] Cf., however, Isaiah xxiii. 8, “whose merchants are princes,
whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth.” In spite of this,
Butcher, _op. cit._, p. 45, writes: “but in Bacon’s words, the end and
purpose of their life was ‘the sabbathless pursuit of fortune.’”

[134] Chap. iii. 4-6.

[135] _Od._, XVII. 386.

[136] _Od._, I. 182 ff.

[137] W. Ridgeway, _The Origin of Metallic Currency_ (Cambridge, 1892),
27 ff.

[138] _Il._, XXIII. 269.

[139] See, however, Hogarth’s _Ionia and the East_, pp. 8, 120. A
fish, the Eel, plays an important part in the attempt to determine
the original home of the Indo-European family. See S. Feist, _Kultur,
Ausbreitung und Herkunft der Indogermanen_ (Berlin, 1913), pp. 187, 525.

[140] _Der Fischer in der antiken Litteratur_ (Aachen, 1892).

[141] While the early Greeks learned much with regard to navigation
from the Phœnicians, none of the Homeric nautical terms have been
traced to a Phœnician source, as might have been expected in view of
the large number of such terms which the English language has borrowed
from the Dutch, such as _ahoy_, _boom_, _skipper_, _sloop_, etc. The
French has taken from the English, _beaupré_, _cabine_, _paquebot_,
etc. Seymour, p. 322.

[142] “The choice of the subjects (in _The Shield of Achilles_),
especially the absence of mythological subjects, the arrangement of
the scenes in concentric bands, and the peculiar technique, all point
to oriental, _i.e._ in the main to Phœnician and Assyrian influence.
In these respects the earliest actual Greek work known to us by
description, viz. The Chest of Cypselus (_c._ 700 B.C.), consisting
of cedar wood, ivory, and gold, and richly adorned (according to
Pausanias, V. 17) with figures in relief, holds an intermediate place
between _The Shield of Achilles_ and the art of the classic period.
Hence we infer that the Shield belongs to the earlier time, when (as we
also learn from Homer) the Phœnicians were the great carriers between
the Mediterranean countries and the East” (Monro, _Il._, XVIII).
Professor Jebb (_Homer_, p. 66) ranks, in the earlier period, Phœnician
lower than Phrygian influence, but the latest writer on the subject—F.
Poulsen, _Der Orient und die frühgriechische Kunst_, Leipzig-Berlin,
1912—makes large claims for the influence of the Phœnicians in art.

[143] Under ‘Piscator’ in _Dict. des Antiquités_ Daremberg and Saglio
write: “The configuration of the country generally would naturally
induce a large part of the population to seek their livelihood in
fishing and fish.”

[144] The explanation of Athenæus (Bk. I. 16, 22 and 46) is ingenious.
Homer never represents fish or birds, or vegetables, or fruit “as being
put on the table to eat, lest to mention them would seem like praising
gluttony, thinking besides there would be a want of decorum in dwelling
on the preparation of such things, which he considered beneath the
dignity of Gods and Heroes.” The latest explanation—by Professor J. A.
Scott, _Class. Journ._; _Chicago_, 1916-17, p. 329—that “Homer looked
upon fish with great disfavour, because as a native of Asia Minor he
had been trained to regard fish as an unhealthful and distasteful food
to be eaten only as a last resort,” would attain nearer “what seems
the solution of this vexed question” (Scott’s words), if he produced
(1) data establishing Homer’s country of birth, and (2) evidence far
stronger than “Tips to Archæological Travellers” (even though these be
written by Sir Wm. Ramsay) as regards the general “unhealthfulness” of
the fish of Asia Minor.

[145] Schrader, _Reallexikon_ (Strassburg, 1901), p. 244, states
that in neither the Avesta nor the Rig-Veda is there any mention of
fishing, nor in the Aryan period were there any common names for fish,
and that throughout the Homeric age, which generally knows fishing as
an existent occupation, there still seems to be a recollection of a
time when the Greek hero ate fish just as little as he rode, wrote, or
cooked soup!

[146] It is but fair, however, to add that the Scholiast notes this
passage as the only one in the _Iliad_ where fish is mentioned as a
food, while Monro makes the ingenious comment that these oysters,
or shell fish, are to be regarded not as luxuries, but as a way of
satisfying the hunger of a crew at sea. Of oysters this is the only
mention in the Homeric Poems. As oyster shells and even unopened oyster
shells were found by Dr. Schliemann at Mycenæ, the liking for oysters
is not likely to have been lost between the Mycenæan and the Homeric
times. The remains of the Homeric (sixth) city at Troy yielded very
many cockle shells, but of cockles there seems no mention in the poems.

Numerous representations of fishes are found on Mycenæan and Cretan
works of art.

[147] J. W. Mackail, _Lectures on Greek Poetry_ (London, 1910), p. 47.

[148] Monro’s Note on _Iliad_, XVIII. 468-608.

[149] Presidential Address to the British Association, 1916.

[150] Eustathius (on _Il._, V. 487) after stating that by the Homeric
heroes fishing and fowling were very rarely employed, continues Οὐκ
ἠσαν ὑδροθῆραι παρ’ αὐτοῖς εἰ μὴ ἄρα ἐν λιμῷ.

[151] _Od._, VI. 102 ff. W. W. Merry _ad loc._ well compares Soph.
_El._, 566 ff.

[152] G. Rodenwaldt in _Tiryns_ (Athens, 1912), II. 96 ff. pls. 12 f.



Whether Homer lived before or after the adoption of fish as a food, we
find in the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ several references to fishing with
the Spear, the Net, the Hand-line, and the Rod.

It is a point of curious interest that nearly all the references, where
methods or weapons of fishing find mention, are made for the purpose
of or occur in a simile, which despite the so-called Higher Criticism
Mackail says, “In Homer reached perfection.”[153] A Homeric comparison,
like the parable of the New Testament in its very nature is intended to
throw light from the more familiar upon what is less familiar. The poet
cannot intend to illustrate the moderately familiar by what is wholly
strange. In modern writers the subjects of a simile, apart from those
drawn from nature, are sometimes modern or new; in the old they are
almost invariably drawn from some well established custom.

If so, it follows that to the Greeks of Homer’s time (as was the case
with the Egyptians before them) fishing with Spear, Net, Line, and Rod
were old and familiar devices.[154] Which of the first three—Spear,
Net, Line—ranks the oldest, has (as shown in my _Introduction_) been
long disputed and seems doubtful of definite settlement.

[Illustration: METHODS OF FISHING.]

  From Roman Mosaic at Sousse in _Revue Arch._, 1897, Pl. xi.
      The top left corner (destroyed) no doubt showed angling.
      The men in the left-hand boat are using (according to P.
      Gauckler ‘relève des nasses’) bottle-shaped baskets.

The passages referring to fishing number eight. Of the four methods of
fishing mentioned one is with Spear (_Od._, X. 124) two with the Net
(_Od._, XXII. 386; _Il._, V. 487), and one with the Rod (_Od._, XII.

A. _The Spear_ (_Od._, X. 124): “And like folk spearing fishes they
bare home their hideous meal.” This gives a very lively image, because
the companions of Odysseus, whose boats had been smashed by the thrown
rocks, are in the water, and are being speared like fish by the

B. _The Net_ (_Od._, XXII. 383 ff.): “But he” (Odysseus after the
slaughter of the suitors) “found all the sort of them fallen in their
blood in the dust, like fishes that the fishermen have drawn forth in
the meshes of the net into a hollow of the beach from out the grey sea,
and all the fish, sore longing for the salt waves, are heaped upon the
sand, and the sun shines forth and takes their life away: so now the
wooers lay heaped upon each other.”[156]

In _Iliad_, V. 487 ff.: “Only beware lest, as though entangled in the
mesh of all-ensnaring flax, ye be made unto your foemen a prey and a

C. _The Rod_ (_Od._, XII. 251 ff.): “Even, as when a fisher on some
headland[157] lets down with a long rod his baits for a snare to the
little fishes below, casting into the deep the horn of an ox of the
homestead, and as he catches each flings it writhing, so were they”
(_i.e._ the companions of Odysseus) “borne upward to the cliff” (by

D. _Line and Hook_ (_Iliad_, XXIV. 80 ff.): “And she” (Iris on her
Zeus-bidden mission) “sped to the bottom like a weight of lead, that
mounted on the horn of a field-ox goeth down, bearing death to the
ravenous fishes.”

E. _Iliad_, XVI. 406 ff.: “As when a man sits on a jutting rock and
drags a sacred fish from the sea with line and glittering hook of
bronze, so on the bright spear dragged he Thestor,” etc.[158]

F. _Odyssey_, IV. 368 f.: “Who” (the companions of Menelaus) “were ever
roaming round the isle, fishing with bent hooks, for hunger was gnawing
at their belly.”

_Odyssey_, XII. 330 f.: “They” (the companions of Odysseus) “went
wandering with barbed hooks in quest of game, as needs they must,
fishes and fowls, whatever might come to their hand, for hunger gnawed
at their belly.”[159]

The Rod finds one express mention—in passage C. Is its use implied
in passages D. and E.? The answer depends greatly on whether the
adjectives employed are really descriptive of the qualities and sizes
of the fish, or whether they are merely (as often the case in Homer)
ornamental or conventional epithets more suited for general than
particular use, or are redundant.

Our wonder, if the adjectives are really descriptive, grows by the Rod
being only specifically mentioned when “little fishes” are the prey. If
the contention of modern fishermen—the value of the rod as an implement
increases in proportion to the weight of the fish on the hook—holds
good, why does Homer cite the Rod in connection only with “little”
fishes, more especially as the prey in the simile (the companions of
Odysseus) can hardly be classed as “little”?

Four differing explanations are possible:—

1. That “little” is an ornamental or redundant adjective.

2. That ῥάβδος, which is usually translated rod, _i.e._ _fishing_-rod,
is (according to Hayman and others) not a fishing-rod, but merely a
staff, or spear, shod with horn, and that “little” signifies only fish
suitable for food, not large fish, such as dolphins, etc.

3. That the fishermen of Homer (anticipating our professional deep-sea
fishermen in Kent and the Channel Islands, who for quickness and
certainty, especially in the case of heavy fish, prefer hand-lines
to rods), limited the use of the Rod to “little,” _i.e._ not large,

4. That “little” is partly ornamental, partly intentional, because fish
caught close inshore are normally smaller than those caught farther out.

From the adjectives in passages D. and E. can we infer the use of the
Rod? Of the adjective in E., Butcher and Lang write: “It is difficult
to determine whether ἱερός in Homer does not sometimes retain its
primitive meaning of ‘strong’ (see Curtius, _Etym._, No. 614); in
certain phrases, this may perhaps be accepted, as an archaism.... On
the whole we have not felt so sure of the archaic use as to adopt it in
our translation.”

Paley, “ἱερὸς means huge, as if a favourite of or dedicated to some
sea-god.” Was it from this shade of meaning that Theocritus in his
_Fisherman’s Dream_[161] drew his conception that certain fish might be
κειμήλιον Ἀμφιτρίτας, a pet of the sea-goddess? Faesi seems to incline
to Paley’s view, but for a more general reason: ἱερὸς equalling ἄνετος
earmarks “all herds and shoals of fish, especially those in the Sea, as
consecrate to the Gods.”

Granting this, why should one fish be singled out by the epithet when
the whole “herd or shoal” is equally ἱερός? The infrequent coupling of
the adjective with ἰχθὺς suggests some less general meaning, if it mean

Athenæus[162] after trying to answer, “But what is the fish which
is called Sacred?” by citing instances where the Dolphin, Pompilus,
Chrysophrys, etc., are so designated, adds a sentence which seems
either to be the authority for, or to confirm the authority of Faesi;
“but some understand by the term ‘sacred fish’ one let go and dedicated
to the God, just as people give the same name to a consecrated ox.”

Seymour holds that “the epithet ἱερὸς as applied to a fish in _Il._,
XVI. 407, has not been satisfactorily explained from ordinary Greek
usage: instead of sacred, it seems rather to mean active, vigorous,
strong. Cf. the same epithet applied to the picket guard of the Achæans
in _Il._, X. 56.” Curtius connects the word with the Sanskrit ishirá =
vigorous. Ἱερὸς as active, agile, strong is applied to horses, spies,
mind, women, and cows.

Leaf suggests that the word, when applied to night, etc., would have
developed the meaning of _mighty_, _mysterious_, and so later on
_sacred_. If _sacred_, the epithet may have arisen out of some sort of
_tabu_ or religious feeling against eating fish, in early times often
regarded as either uncanny creatures living under water and possessed
of superhuman powers, or as divine or semi-divine.[163]

Gradually the dread of fish as creatures _tabu_ wore off, but survived
for long in a hole-and-corner way, _e.g._ the veneration of τέττιξ
ἐνάλιος, ‘the lobster,’ at Seriphos,[164] or the deification of
καρκίνοι, ‘crabs,’ in Lemnos.[165]

If ἱερὸς does mean a big, fine, vigorous fish, to most modern fishermen
a Rod would seem implied. This is strengthened by the nature of the act
to which the simile applies: ὣς ἕλκε δουρὶ φαεινῷ, as Patroclus dragged
Thestor on the bright spear from the chariot, so the fishermen dragged
the fish from the sea.

In D. the case, if any, for the implied use of the _Rod_ is very weak.
In this alone of all the references does lead as a weight occur. Here
we have no comparison to action such as dragging up a fine fish, but
simply to swiftness; the effect of it, the splash, makes the point
of the comparison with which Iris sped on her mission. Nor does the
adjective applied to the fish give any aid, for ὠμηστής, if it be not
redundant, signifies ‘_raw-flesh devouring_’ (rather than ‘_ravenous_’)
fish, such as shark or swordfish.[166]

But if the early Greeks and Romans only fished for the pot and not for
amusement, the question arises, why should this particular Homeric
_piscator_ “be after” swordfish or shark? Fishing, down to the early
Roman times, continued to be more of a distinct trade than was the
pursuit of animals and birds.[167] Hence the Net with quicker and surer
returns and not the Rod was the favourite weapon of the fishermen by

In F. (_Od._, IV. 369, and XII. 330) something in the nature of a line
and of a bait of some sort (though not necessarily of a rod) attached
to the bent, or barbed, hooks, must be implied. Hunger would assuredly
continue to “gnaw at their bellies,” if their only food was caught by
hooks, pure and simple, for, as Juliana Berners pithily puts it, “Ye
can not brynge an hoke into a fyssh mouth without a bayte.”

Abstention from fish, however general, did not prevail among Homer’s
sailors. Athenæus (I. 22) points out that since the hooks used could
not have been forged on the Island, and so must have been carried on
board the ships, “it is plain sailors were fond of and skilful in
catching fish.”

Basing my surmise on ὄρνιθας in _Od._, XII. 331 and on the statement of
Eustathius _ad loc._, that hooks were used for capturing _sea-birds_
as well as fish, I suggest that the baits on the hooks were either
small fishes (left possibly by the tide in some pool in the rocks), or
shellfish, or oysters. These attached to a line (with or without a rod)
and thrown into the sea were taken by both sea-fowl and fish.[168]

But all the preceding points dwarf in interest before the term κέρας
βοὸς ἀγραύλοιο, “the horn of a field ox, or ox of the homestead.”[169]
How does the horn of an ox find itself in this galley? What was its
exact use? Where and how was it employed?

Many scholars and fishermen, ancient and modern, have essayed the
problem. The reason for the use of the horn passed early out of common
knowledge and afforded matter for conjecture from Aristotle downwards.

To enumerate all the theories would necessitate a list almost as long
as Homer’s catalogue of the ships. The following, the most important,
must suffice for our purpose.

(1) Κέρας was a little pipe or collar of horn protecting the line
(which passed through it) just at its junction with the hook, and
served the same purpose as a “gimp” on a trolling line.[170] “This
precaution (according to Arnold) was taken so that the fish might not
gnaw through the line”—a precaution very similar to our use of wire
between the line and the hook, when fishing for tigerfish, tarpon,
shark, etc.[171]

A similar interpretation of the word occurred to Aristotle, who[172]
held that the lower piece of the line was fortified by a little hollow
piece of horn, lest the fish should come at the line itself and bite
it off. But the use of κέρας in the second (_Od._) passage appears to
rule out Aristotle’s and Arnold’s interpretations. The fish here are
admittedly, not _raw-flesh devouring_, which might imply size, but
_small_. Why then this elaborate contrivance as precaution against
severance of the line?

The above explanation of the use of κέρας derives strong support from
the method even now employed in the Nile.[173] The native sportsman,
as protection against its being bitten off, covers a soft woollen
line, to which is tethered a live rat, a common bait for a big Nile
fish, with a pipe or tube of maize stalk. Here the similarity ends; on
the Nile no hook is employed; the sportsman harpoons the fish while
hanging on to the rat.

(2) Κέρας, according to Paley (quoting Spitzner), was a bit of horn
fastened to the hook and plummet to disguise their appearance; this,
from being nearly the same colour as the sea, served better to deceive
the fish.

(3) Κέρας, according to Trollope and others, was the horn or tube, but
in it only the leaden weight was enclosed.

(4) Κέρας was a kind of tress, made out of the hair of a bull.
Plutarch, however, states flatly, “But this is an error.” Damm and
others insist that the word in this sense is post-Homeric, and agree
with Plutarch that these tresses, if ever used, would have been of the
hair of a horse, and not of a bull.[174]

(5) Κέρας, according to Hayman and others, was simply a prong of horn
attached to a staff to pierce and fork out the fish while feeding;
hence the preliminary baits, εἴδατα (similar to baiting a swim on the
Thames), are of course not on or attached to the horn.[175]

The epithet in C. is περιμήκης, not merely long, but very long. The
adjective, if not redundant, lends weight to Hayman’s theory of spear
as against fishing rod. Against it, however, in _Od._, X. 293, the
ῥάβδος, or wand of Circe, which thrice appears (in _Od._, X. 238, 319,
389) minus any adjective, suddenly takes unto itself περιμήκης, very
long, without apparent reason for the distinction.

(6) Mr. Minchin’s explanation is ingenious, if open to two objections.
“As to the ox horn puzzle,” he writes to me, “I feel no doubt that the
Cherithai (as the Bible calls the Kretans) cut a ring out of the horn
of an ox, and then cut a gap, thus making a crescent of horn, to the
one end of which they attached their line, which is exactly what the
black fellows (in Australia) do to-day with a pearl shell.”[176]

But against this conjecture weighs the fact that as the grain of the
horn runs from butt to point, if the hook be cut from cross-section it
would probably break, as the cross-section would be across the grain,
and so very frayable. If, however, the hook were cut from a panel
removed from the side of the horn and just where the curve comes before
the point, the substance of the hook might possibly stand.

[Illustration: MR. MINCHIN’S EXPLANATION OF κέρας.]

Anticipating and dissenting from Mr. Minchin’s explanation are Monro’s
note on _Il._, XXIV. 80 ff., and Professor Tylor’s comment in the note.
“The main difficulty in the ancient explanation of the passage is the
prominence given to the κέρας, which is spoken of as if _it_ were the
chief feature of the fisherman’s apparatus. The question naturally
suggests whether the κέρας might not be _the hook itself_, made, like
so many utensils of primitive times, from the horn of an animal.”

On this point Mr. E. B. Tylor writes to Monro as follows: “Fish-hooks
of _horn_ are in fact known in prehistoric Europe, but are scarce, and
very clumsy. After looking into the matter, I am disposed to think that
the Scholiast knew what he was about, and that the old Greeks really
used a horn guard, where the modern pike fisher only has his line
bound, to prevent the fish biting through. Such a horn guard, if used
then, would last on in use, anglers being highly conservative, and I
shall look out for it.”

Maspero,[177] however, states, “Objects in bone and horn are still
among the rarities of our museums: horn is perishable and is eagerly
devoured by certain insects, which rapidly destroy it,” with which
statement may be compared _Od._, XXI. 395, “lest the worms might have
eaten the horns” (of the bow of Odysseus).

Finally the explanation first suggested by Mr. C. E. Haskins[178] and
adopted by Dr. Leaf, that κέρας was an artificial _bait_ of horn,
appears to me as an angler and as having seen in the Pacific, but not
used, “bait fish-hooks made of shell all in one piece, of a simple
hooked form without any barb,”[179] to be perhaps the most likely
solution of our problem.

According to Mr. Haskins, κέρας means an artificial bait of horn,
probably shaped like a small fish, and hollow at all events at the
upper end, into which a μολύβδαινα (lead) was inserted to sink it. It
had hooks of χαλκός fastened to it and was used by being thrown out,
allowed to sink, and then rapidly drawn through the water to attract
the fish by its glitter and motion. The εἴδατα may either be the same
as the κέρας mentioned in the next line, or more probably ground bait
thrown in to attract fish to the spot, while the use of the present
participle, κατὰ ... βάλλων, seems to imply constant action, _i.e._ the
fisherman throwing in at intervals a handful of ground bait.

While I have not, like Mr. Haskins, “caught many trout with artificial
baits made of horn,” I can vouch that in England horn minnows still
exist and that horn spoons are even now used for pike.

We find in Homer no special variety of fishes, except eels and
dolphins. Eels are not ranked in a strict sense as fish; the words are
“both eels and fishes” (_Il._, XXI. 203, 353). Sea calves and seals
also find a place. Other fish occur in the picture of Scylla (_Od._,
XII. 95): “and there she fishes (ἰχθυάᾳ) swooping round the rock, for
dolphins or sea-dogs, or whatso greater beast she may anywhere take,
whereof the deep-voiced Amphitrite feeds countless flocks.”

Seals[180] greedily devour a corpse in the sea (_Od._, XV. 480). _Il._,
XXI. 122, 203, extend the pleasant practice to fish and eels: “around
him eels and fishes swarmed, tearing and gnawing the fat about his

It is noteworthy that in Greek and Latin literature the first fish
attaining to the dignity of a _name_ is the Eel.[181]

The sea is called ἰχθυόεις, “fishy,” or perhaps better “fishful,”
twelve times: the Hellespont only once. Plutarch (_Symp._, IV. 4) had
this probably in mind, when he wrote, “the heroes encamped by the
Hellespont used themselves to a spare diet, banishing from their tables
all superfluous delicacies to such a degree that they abstained from
fish.” Ἰχθυόεις happens but once in connection with a river, the Hyllus
(_Il._, XX. 392).

Homer seemingly applies it only where he is impressed, not by the
number of fish obvious to the eye or still remaining in, but by the
number already taken out of the water. The proportion of salt water
‘fishfuls’ to fresh water ‘fishfuls’—13 as against 1—would, if not
quite accidental, accord with the fact that the early Greeks, whatever
be the time at which they became Ichthyophagists, set no high store on
fresh-water fish.[182]


[153] _Lectures on Greek Poetry_, 67 ff. There are nearly three hundred
comparisons in Homer’s poems; but of detailed similes only some two
hundred and twenty, of which the _Odyssey_ contains but forty. Miss
Clerke (_Familiar Studies in Homer_, p. 182 ff.) shows that angling is
mentioned chiefly in similes, which may, perhaps, indicate that the
poet knew that this particular method was not practised in the days in
which his poem is placed.

[154] Among the arguments elaborated by Payne Knight and others to
prove that the _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_ were written by different authors
and dealt with far different times, one is based on the fact that
certain methods of fowling and fishing are only found in the _Odyssey_.
If this argument be pushed to its logical end, it should be easy to
prove that the ages of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, which overlapped,
were really far apart, because, while the latter mentions the familiar
use of tobacco, the former never once alludes to it.

[155] The translations from the _Odyssey_ are by Butcher and Lang
(London, 1881), and those from the _Iliad_ by Lang, Leaf, and Myers
(London, 1883).

[156] So too the Egyptians likened the men slain at the battle of
Megiddo: “Their champions lay stretched out like fishes on the ground.”
See J. H. Breasted, _Records of Egypt_ (London, 1906), vol. ii. par.

[157] Alike, and yet unlike, is

    “His rod was made out of a sturdy oak,
     His line a cable which in storms ne’er broke;
     His hook he baited with a dragon’s tail,
     And sat upon a rock, and bobbed for whale.”

[158] See Eustathius _ad loc._ The spear with which Telegonos wounded
Odysseus was tipped with the κέντρον of a Roach, according to A. G.
Pearson, _Fragments of Sophocles_ (Cambridge, 1917), vol. ii. p.
105 ff., _à propos_ of the lost Ὀδυσσεὺς ἀκανθοπλήξ. Van Leeuwen
(_Odyssey_, 2nd ed., Leyden, 1917), in his note on xi. 134-7, makes
the fish the sting-ray (_radio raiæ pastinacæ_), which from its
deadly character (cf. Pliny, _N. H._, ix. 67) is to my mind much
more probable, despite Liddell and Scott’s translation of τρυγὼν as
‘_roach_,’ the absolutely harmless Roach! Cf. Epicharmus, _Frag._
66 Kaibel, τρυγόνες τ’ ὀπισθόκεντροι, and Aristotle, _N. H._, ix.
48. Whatever the fish were, it is good to know that it too came to
an untimely death at the hands of Phorcys, because of its cannibal
propensities. See Eustathius, _Od._, p. 1676, 45, commenting on xi.
133. In _The Life of Apollonius of Tyana_, vi. 32, Philostratos says
Odysseus was wounded by the αἰχμὴ τῆς τρυγόνος. Van Leeuwen instances
among some old armour preserved at Bergum the weapon of an Indian
pirate, “which is made of the tail of the ray.”

[159] It is with something of a shock I find such careful translators
as Butcher and Lang translating γναμπτοῖσιν ἀγκίστροισιν in _Od._, IV.
369, as “_bent_,” and in _Od._, XII. 332, as “_barbed_” hooks, without
one word of explanation. These weapons differ in appearance, execution,
and date of invention. To evolve the _barbed_ from the _bent_ hook
required probably as many generations of men, and centuries of effort,
as the development of the bent hook from the primitive _gorge_. See

[160] There are of course limitations to the “pulley-hauley” of a
hand-line; with a 700 lb. Tuna a Rod may be a very present help,
a windlass even more so. The practice in vogue among the Spanish
Tunny fishers is to throw aside the Rod at the moment of hooking and
man-handle the fish with the Line.

[161] Idyll, XXI. 55.

[162] vii. 18-21.

[163] See S. Reinach, _Cultes, Mythes, et Religions_ (Paris 1908), iii.
43 ff.

[164] Ælian, N. H., xiii. 26.

[165] Hesych. _s.v._ Κάβειροι.

[166] Compare its use four times (in the _Iliad_ only) as applied to
birds of prey and to dogs; also figuratively to Achilles as “savage.”

[167] Later on it is true we do find the Roman “burgher” becoming also
an amateur angler, and gentlefolk, including ladies and children,
taking freely to the sport. _Piscator_ is generally used in reference
to those who were fishermen by trade, whereas _venator_ and _auceps_
may be likewise applied to mere lovers of hunting and fowling (H.
Blümner, _Die römischen Privataltertümer_, Munich, 1911).

[168] A gorge, almost identical with the Neolithic gorge, is used at
the present day for catching ducks on the Untersee of Holland. See

[169] _Il._, 24. 81, and _Od._, 12. 253.

[170] See Merry and Riddell on _Od._, XII. 251. Döderlein (_Il._, XXIV.
80), following the Scholiast, also gives this same explanation.

[171] T. K. Arnold, _Iliad_ (1852), 20. 80. According to Dugas-Montbel,
as quoted here, “To this little tube of horn they attached also a piece
of lead to sink the bait, and the horn, being the colour of the sea,
had also the advantage of deceiving the fish.”

[172] Plutarch, _De Sol. Anim._ 24.

[173] _The Field_, of January 2nd, 1904.

[174] Apollonius Sophista, _Lexicon Homericum_, (ed. Bekker, Berlin
1833), p. 52, was evidently aware of interpretation (1), and also, from
his words ἔνιοι δὲ τὴν τρίχα κέρας, of (4). Cf. Plutarch _de Sol. an._

[175] “The remarks of the Scholiast here (_Od._, XII. 251) citing as
authority Aristarchus perhaps illustrate fishing tackle as later known.
The Homeric tackle was far simpler, a staff shod with a native horn”

[176] In _The Confessions of a Beachcomber_, pp. 266-8 (London,
1913), the illustrations of pearl-shell fish-hooks in various stages
of completion tend to confirm this statement, while the author, Mr.
Banfield, inclines to Mr. Minchin’s theory as regards the horn of an ox.

[177] Maspero, _Egyptian Archæology_, p. 270.

[178] “On Homeric Fishing Tackle,” _Jour. of Philology_, XIX., 1891.

[179] Described by Mr. Moseley, _Notes by a Naturalist on the
Challenger_, p. 467.

[180] In Victor Bérard’s _Les Phéniciens et l’Odyssée_ (Paris, 1903),
vol. ii. p. 64 ff. (a work, compact of knowledge and of both classical
and modern research, which tracks characters and episodes in Homer to
and compares them with Egyptian and Phœnician accounts), is found a
very interesting dissertation on Proteus, the guardian of the seals
of Poseidon and foreteller of the future (_Od._, IV.). Bérard holds
that the name was simply a Greek form of the Egyptian word Prouiti,
or Prouti, which was one of the ascriptions or titles of the kings of
Egypt, as to whose knowledge of or association with magicians (who,
like Proteus, were capable of transforming themselves or other objects)
he cites alike Maspero and the Old Testament. See, however, for other
possibilities, P. Weizsäcker in Roscher, _Lex. Myth._, iii. 3172-3178,
who concludes that for us, as for Menelaos or Aristaios, Proteus the
shape-shifter is still a very slippery customer.

[181] Otto Keller, _Die Antike Tierwelt_ (Leipzig, 1913), ii. 357.

[182] See _infra_, p. 201.



The cause and circumstances of Homer’s death remain uncertain and
disputed. For them some writers hold fisherfolk responsible.

Midway between (A) the tradition that Homer took so to heart his
impotency to read—be it remembered he had been acclaimed “of mortals
far the wisest”—the riddle of the fisher boys, that he took also to bed
and shortly after died, and (B) the absolute assertion by Herodotus
the Grammarian (_Vita Homeri_) that the poet “died at Ios of disease
contracted on his arrival there, and not of grief at failing to
understand the riddle of the fishers,” lies the account of the death
given in the Ἀγὼν Ἡσιόδου καὶ Ὁμήρου, or _The Contest between Hesiod
and Homer_.[183]

_The Contest_, despite the rather laboured thrusts of the antagonists
full of curious if not connected touches, makes the funeral solemnities
of King Amphidamas the occasion and Chalcis (not Aulis or Delos) the
scene of the encounter.

Victory and prize were adjudged to Hesiod, because he “sang of Tilth
and Peace, not of War and Gore.”[184]

If left to a jury composed of or even leavened by fishers instead of
to the king, the verdict would surely have gone the other way, were it
only on the ground that while Homer affords several spirited pictures
of fishing, we search in vain all Hesiod’s genuine works for any
mention, for even any allusion to fishing.

The word _fish_ occurs only in _Works and Days_, line 277. Even if we
allow _The Shield of Heracles_ to be by Hesiod, we find but one passage
(lines 214-5) relating to fishing, and this with a Net.[185] Hesiod’s
silence on the subject surprises, for (_a_) he boasts himself the poet
of country life, (_b_) states that as a youth he fed and led his flocks
on the sides and amid the streams of Mount Helicon, and (_c_) passed
the rest of his life on the banks of the river Cephissus.[186]

Homer had previously, on consulting the Pythian Priestess as to the
country whence he sprang, received a response, which I render—

    “Thy mother’s home is Ios, where in time
     Thou’lt lie; but ’ware the young lads’ riddling rhyme.”[187]

But now let the Ἀγὼν speak. “After the contest the poet sailed unto
Ios, and there abode a long time, being already an old man. Sitting one
day on the sea-shore, he asked some lads returning from fishing,

    ‘Fishermen from Arcadia, have we aught?’

To which they made answer,

    ‘What caught we, we left; what caught we not, we carry.’[188]

Homer, however, caught not on, until he was told that the key of ‘what’
was not fish, but lice.[189]

“Remembering him of the oracle that the end of life was upon him, he
makes the epitaph for his own tomb. Arising thence, he slipped in the
mud, falling on his rib, and on the third day, so men say, died. And he
was buried in Ios.”

This is the epitaph—

    Ἐνθάδε τὴν ἱερὴν κεφαλὴν κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτει,
    Ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων κοσμήτορα, θεῖον Ὄμηρον.


    “Here Earth has hid that holy head of thine,
      Marshal of heroes, Homer the divine.”[190]

The story of Hesiod after his victory over Homer as set forth in _The
Contest_ repays telling.

He journeyed at once to Delphi to give the first fruits of his victory
as a votive offering to the Oracle—and here let us note how in early
times, certainly down to the time of Xenophon, the Greeks at important
events in their lives resorted to some such fane for guidance.[191]

Greeted from the inner shrine as one “held in honour high by the
immortal Muses,” as one “whose fame shall reach as far as is spread the
light of morn” (this use of one of Homer’s own and fairest lines[192]
was no doubt intended as the highest possible tribute to his victor),
Hesiod is then warned, “But beware of the fair grove of the Nemean
Zeus, for there lies thy fate of death.”

Alas! for the poet, who to escape the well-known temple of Nemean Zeus
in the Peloponnese hurried off to stay at Oinoë in Locris, never to
discover that there too was a place sacred to the same god and called
by the same name.

At Oinoë he abode with his hosts, until suspecting that he had
debauched their sister (Hesiod seems to have been endowed with
superhuman powers, for according to Proclus and Suidas he was a youth
twice!), they slew him and threw him into the sea. But on the third day
his body was borne back to land by dolphins. On hue and cry for the
murderers being raised the brothers seized a fishing boat and set sail
for Crete.[193] But they found not favour in the “pure eyes and perfect
witness of all-judging” Zeus, who thundered and sank them. “But the
maiden, their sister, after the rape hanged herself.” To conclude in
the words of the Ἀγών,

    “So much for Hesiod!”


[183] The Ἀγὼν is found in only a few of the editions of Hesiod. I
have followed the text of C. Goettling, 1843. The author Herodotus,
who wrote probably about 60 to 100 A.D., lived of course centuries
after Hesiod, who is generally dated some 100 to 200 years subsequent
to Homer. The account given by Suidas varies in several small details,
for instance the riddle is rendered in prose as well as in metre. He
definitely states that illness, not the riddle, was accountable for the
poet’s death.

Since writing this Note, I have come across in the Oxford _Homer_, vol.
v. (1912), edited by T. W. Allen, the Ἀγὼν, the _Life of Homer_ by
Plutarch, and by Suidas, all conveniently placed together. Mr. Allen,
in the _Jour. Hell. Studies_, XXXV. (1915), 85-99, has an elaborate
article on ‘the Date of Hesiod,’ which for astronomical and other
reasons he now fixes as 846-777 B.C.

[184] “It is difficult to understand how the author could derive from
_Works_ _and Days_ a reputation like that enjoyed by Hesiod, especially
if we remember that at Thespiæ, to which the village of Ascra, the
birthplace and early home of Hesiod, was subject, agriculture was held
degrading to a freeman” (Smith, _Dict. Gk.-Rom. Biog. and Myth._, _s.
v._ “Hesiod”).

[185] When Pausanias came to Thespiæ on his Bœotian round, the
representatives of the Corporation who owned the land told him
dogmatically that the _Works and Days_ alone came from the Master’s
hand, and showed him the _ne varietur_ copy on lead, wanting the
proœmium which we read at the head of the poem (Paus., 9. 31. 4).

[186] The passage, attributed by Euthydemus (in his _Treatise on
Pickled Fish_) to Hesiod, which mentions seven fish, does not upset
my statement, because the paternity of the work has long been deemed
spurious. Even Athenæus brands the verses as “the work of some cook,
rather than that of the great accomplished Hesiod,” and concludes from
intrinsic evidence, such as the mention of Byzantium, etc., and the
Campanians, etc., “when Hesiod was many years more ancient than any
of these places or tribes,” that they were written by Euthydemus. See
Athen., III. 84.

[187] Ἁλλὰ νέων παίδων αἴνιγμα φύλαξαι. For other epigrammata, see
_Anth. Pal._ VII. 1 to 7, and Plutarch, _de vita Homeri_, 1. 4.

[188] From _Anth. Pal._, IX. 448.

                Ἐρώτησις Ὁμήρου.
    Άνδρες ἀπ’ Ἀρκαδίης ἁλιήτορες, ἠ ῥ’ ἔχομέν τι;
                Ἀνταπόκρισις Ἀρκάδων.
    Ὄσσ’ ἔλομεν, λιπόμεσθ’, ὄσσ’ οὺχ ούχ ἕλομεν, φερόμεσθα,

which may perhaps be rendered in rhyme,

    “Fishers from Arcady, have we aught?
     Our catch, we left; we bear, what we ne’er caught!”

[189] It suggests itself to me that in the answer to the riddle there
is just possibly a play within a play, or a double latent meaning, for
the word φθεὶρ denotes not only a louse, but also a fish of the Remora
kind. Perhaps this humour is too subtle even for a class so noted for
“calliditas,” or shrewd wit, as Greek fishermen are reputed to have

[190] _Anth. Pal._, VII. 3. Κοσμήτορα I prefer to translate “marshal,”
its first meaning, rather than “adorner” adopted by Coleridge, as being
far stronger, and more fitting for a poet who had “marshalled” on his
stage of the _Iliad_ so many heroes. Herodotus states that the people
of Ios (not Homer) wrote the epitaph at a subsequent date.

[191] It was on the advice of Socrates that Xenophon consulted the
oracle at Delphi, before he set forth for the campaign in Asia, which
forms the story of his _Anabasis_. Tablets discovered in Epirus in
1877 by C. Carapanos (_see_ _Dodone et ses Ruines_, Paris, 1878) give
examples of questions addressed to the oracle at Delphi. Agis asks if
some mattresses and pillows are likely to be recovered. Another pilgrim
enquires whether the god recommends sheep-farming as an investment.

[192] _Il._, vii. 451.

[193] Plutarch’s account (_Sept. Sap. Conviv._, ch. 19) varies in many
details; notably, (1) it acquits Hesiod of seduction, (2) the brothers
of flight, (3) the maiden of hanging herself.



The _Shield of Heracles_, now rarely attributed to Hesiod the poet
nearest in time to Homer, gives us pictures, similar if more ornate in
style to those in Homer’s “The Shield of Achilles.”

_The Shield of Heracles_ would probably not have been written had not
Homer’s “Shield of Achilles” existed. It differs from the older poem in
the presentation of mythological scenes and a scene of fishing, but is
perhaps the most complete illustration from fisher life extant before

                                    “there appeared
    A sheltering haven from the untamed rage
    Of ocean. It was wrought of tin refined
    And rounded by the chisel; and it seemed
    Like to the dashing wave; and in the midst
    Full many dolphins chased the fry, and show’d
    As though they swam the waters, to and fro
    Darting tumultuous. Two of silver scale
    Panting above the wave, the fishes mute
    Gorged, that beneath them shook their quivering fins
    In brass. But on the crag a fisher sate
    Observant: in his grasp he held a net
    Like one that, poising, rises to the throw.”[194]

The painting of the harbour, of the cliffs, of the fishes tossing in
tumultuous heaps, and of the chase and capture by dolphins of their
prey, all seem to Mr. Hall but a careful elaboration of a suitable
background (as the fields, etc., in the ancient Pastorals form an
artistic background to the shepherds) for the solitary figure.

                    “But, on the crag a fisher sate
    Observant; in his grasp he held a net,
    Like one that, poising, rises to the throw.”

The occurrence here of the Dolphin, together with the part that it
played in the recovery of Hesiod’s body, makes this an appropriate
place for a brief _résumé_ of the position occupied by this fish in
Greek and Roman authors, and of the many pretty legends in which for
all time its memory is enshrined.[195]

The myth of the Dolphin—a creature of lightness and swiftness—as the
_protégé_ of the gods and the helpmate of man stands out as a purely
Hellenic conception, and contrasts sharply with that of the Tortoise,
unmoving, half-hidden, which according to Eastern belief supports the
weight of the world.

In Greek and Latin literature (exclusive of the recipes of the gourmets
or the rhapsodies of the opsophagi) no fish wins more frequent mention
or higher appreciation than the Dolphin.

And justly so, since, of a nature essentially philanthropic, it
delights to be with man, and aid man by willing services.[196] Pliny,
indeed, confesses that he could never reach the end of the stories
about their kindly acts, especially towards the young. He notes that
they found pleasure not only in the society of man, but also in music,
_præcipue hydrauli sono_, or “the organ,” the only trait, I imagine,
common to the fish and to Nero![197]

The helpfulness of the Dolphin shows itself in diverse ways, often
on vital occasions. In gratitude for the rescue of Telemachus,
Ulysses wore its effigy stamped on signet and on shield. Attracted by
Arion’s singing, it saves from the waves “the sweet musician,” and
bears him safe to Tænarum.[198] Later on, with pleasant disregard of
religious bias, it rescues the Christian Saint Callistratus from a
watery grave.[199] It acts as willing, almost as “common” carrier,
alike to gods, schoolboys, and damsels in distress. It anticipates
our meteorological office, for from the direction of its swim can be
predicted the wind of to-morrow.[200]

Its constant and practical service to fishermen meets wide attestation.
Oppian sings it: Pliny proses it: Ælian cribs, and confirms it.[201]

From the lagoon of Latera (says our Latin author) multitudes of mugils
or grey mullets at stated periods flock to the sea.[202] The moment the
migration begins, crowds collect for the sport, shout their loudest,
and summon “Simo” from the vasty deep, or rather the mouth of the

The Dolphins, formed in line of battle, swim swiftly in, cut off
all escape to sea, and drive before them the frightened fish to the
shoals.[203] While the nets are being drawn the dolphins kill, but
pause not to eat, such fish as escape the meshes. When at last the
catch is saved, then they fall to and devour the fish already killed.

Here let us note an instance of intellectual anticipation of Trade
Unionism. Well aware that their labour has yielded far more than the
regulation Trade stroke, and earned more than the Eight Hours’ wage,
they quietly await settling day—next morning—when they are paid by
being stuffed not only with fish, but also with crumbs soaked in

Thus Oppian of another fish-drive,

    “The Fishers pick the choicest of the Spoil,
     Supply their wishes and reward their Toil.”

In a story of similar fishing by Mucianus the Dolphins await neither
summons by voice as above, or signal by torch (as in Ælian, II. 8) but
“uncalled and of their own accord” present themselves ready for work.

Trades Unionism among the Dolphins is again not obscurely indicated,
_ipsis quoque inter se publica est societas_. Furthermore, close
corporations, not unlike mediæval Guilds or modern Unions, but wotting
not of “blackleg” or even “dilutee,” surely prevailed, for _suum quæque
cymba e delphinis socium habet_.[205]

Ælian’s dolphins foreshadow, it would seem, our modern principle of
co-operation, when “they draw near demanding the due reward of their
joint-undertaking.” But their organisation of labour differed from ours
in two respects.

First, the willingness and the wage for night and day shift were
identical. Second, since they were not blessed as we in the higher
civilisation of the twentieth century are by the exalted, if not
always successful conceptions of Conferences of Conciliation or
Compulsory Arbitration, a strike, occasioned either by divergence
from the strict terms of the bargain, or by gauche “handling” of the
workers—whether for it the sanction of the Ballot or an order of the
Shop Steward were a necessary preliminary my researches have not as
yet disclosed—a strike, I repeat, could not be called off, but was
irreparable, for οὐκέτι oἱ δελφῖνες ἀρηγόνες εἰσὶν ἐπ’ ἄγρην.[206]

By the Dolphins the economic weapon was evidently brought to greater
perfection than by their human brethren. The crude “down tooling”
of the Egyptian masons in the fourteenth century B.C., although
accompanied by violence such as forcing main gates, etc., was
(according to Maspero) quickly settled by the attacked Governor handing
over the keys of the granaries, whence with bags—and bellies—full
filled they meekly returned to work.

Of another ingratiating characteristic of the Dolphin, its attachment
and services to boys, instances are numerous and well attested.[207]
In truth we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,
from the autoptic gospel of the Anti-Semite Apion[208] and of the
wide-travelled Pausanias[209] to the gleanings of the industrious A.
Gellius,[210] that I can draw attention to two stories only. These
illustrate the relations existing between the Dolphin, and (_a_) the
boy of Baiæ as set forth by Pliny (IX. 8), and (_b_) the boy of Iasos
by Oppian (V. 468), Athenæus (XIII. 85), and Ælian (VI. 15).[211]

In the last two occurs the pretty tale of the fish waiting daily till
school ended to take the beloved lad for swims and larks in the sea,
but without the refinement found elsewhere of waiting every morning and
afternoon to carry him to and from school! To the spectacle in Iasian
waters of their play and of their races (“to bring the thorough-bred
and the donkey together” à la Admiral Rous, the fish must have been
crushingly handicapped!):

    “Drawn by Report to see the strange Amour
     Admiring Nations crowded to the Shore.
     Rapt with delight, surveyed their am’rous Game
     And owned the Sight superior to the Fame.”

But alas! soon was “their am’rous Game” to end.

One day the lad, tired and eager for a bathe, threw himself on his
comrade’s back, only however to impale himself on the dorsal spike and
gradually bleed to death. No sooner did the Dolphin perceive the water
tinged with blood, than “with the force of a full-sailed Rhodian ship,”
he drave straight for land, flung himself and his burden high and dry
on the strand, and there, by the side of his beloved dead, abode until
death came unto him also.

To testify that these twain “were lovely and pleasant in their lives,
and in their death they were not divided,” the citizens of Iasos
erected a monument, showing the beautiful boy astride the back of the
Dolphin, and issued coins bearing the effigies of each, which were
sought far as souvenirs by bands of pilgrims attracted thither by the
story. In such regard did the legend continue to be held that even up
to the third century B.C. the Iasians struck coins with the device of a
youth swimming beside a dolphin, which he clasps with one arm.[212]

Like Scylla, who “fishes for dolphins and whatso greater beast she
may anywhere take,” both the Thracians and Byzantines, despite the
enormous annual revenues derived by the latter from their fisheries,
caught and ate the Dolphin, and for so-doing are branded as impious
and barbarian.[213] The more ancient Byzantine coins show a cow
standing on a dolphin, which perhaps symbolises the heifer crossing the


From Coin, British Museum, Cat. Pl. 21. 7.]

The ancient literature of the East also portrays Dolphins (_Ç i
çumâras_) as the ready helpers of man, in rescuing lives, in drawing
ships, etc.[215] The inhabitants of Isle Sainte Marie, near Madagascar,
even now never harm or eat the fish, holding it as sacred, because they
believe it rendered signal service to some ancestor.[216]

Herodotus mentions a tribe living round Lake Prasias, who in dwellings
and food resemble the Wolga folk, and early Continental and English

“Platforms supplied by tall piles stand in the middle of the lake,
which are approached from the land by a narrow single stage. At first
the piles were fixed by all citizens, but since that time the custom
that has prevailed about fixing them is this, every man drives in three
for each wife he marries. Now the men all have many wives apiece, and
this is the way they live. Each has his own hut (wherein he dwells) on
one of the platforms, and each has a trap door, giving access to the
lake beneath: their wont is to tie the baby children by the foot with
a string, to save them from rolling into the water. They feed their
horses and other beasts on fish, which abound in the lake in such a
degree that a man has only to open his trap door, and let down a basket
by a rope into the water, and then wait a very short time, when he
draws it up quite full of fish.”[217]

Confirming and illustrating Herodotus’s account (I. 202) of how a
tribe dwelling on the Araxes lived on raw fish,[218] but depicting
more sharply how on fish a whole people were dependent for everything
that made up their lives, comes Arrian’s description[219] of the
Ichthyophagi of the Persian Gulf.

Denied by the barrenness of their country the ordinary sources of
subsistence, they were compelled to use fish for every purpose—food,
clothes, houses, etc. These peoples (for the Indian Ichthyophagi are
quite distinct from the Arabian) find comment by many authors—_e.g._
Strabo, Pausanias, Diodorus Siculus. Although by their diet of fish
comparatively free from disease, they were noted as short-lived.
Alexander the Great, with a view to increasing their span of existence,
forbade _all_ the Ichthyophagi an unmixed diet.

Solinus (56, 9) testifies as to their extreme swiftness in swimming:
_non secus quam marinæ beluæ nando in mari valent_. Marco Polo (III.
41) found on the coast of Arabia an interesting survival of the
Ichthyophagi. In consequence of the sterility of the soil they fed
their cattle, camels, and horses on dried fish, “which being regularly
served to them they eat without any signs of dislike. They are dried
and stored, and the beasts feed on them from year’s end to year’s end.
The cattle will also eat these fish just out of the water.”

Not dissimilar is the account given[220] some twelve centuries earlier
of the people of Stobera in India. “They clothe themselves in the
skins of very large fishes, and their cattle taste like fish and eat
extraordinary things: for they are fed upon fish, just as in Cairo the
flocks are fed on figs.”

In strong contrast with these Ichthyophagi other races abstained
entirely, not as the Egyptians and Jews partially, from fish. Of such
were the Syrians, either because they worshipped fish as gods or held
them as sacred,[221] or because (as asserted by Anaximander) of the
inhumanity, since mankind originally were born from fish, of devouring
one’s fathers and mothers.[222]

Surprising, indeed, sounds the statement of Plutarch that among total
abstainers in early times were the more religious-minded of the Greeks,
among whom later the eating of fish developed into a passionate, almost
cat-like, devotion. Invested though the abstentions, total or other,
were with divine origin or armed with divine sanction, the root reason
of all of them rested, I believe, on the terror of skin-diseases,
attributable to a fish diet.[223] Others, however, hold that the
ultimate reason of the _tabu_ lay in the uncanny nature of creatures
that can and do live under water, while we can not.

Fishermen rank higher in the time of Herodotus than in the Homeric era.
Even the oracles and soothsayers now condescend to avail themselves of
their technique and parlance for framing their answers. Thus Amphilytus
the Acarnanian encourages Pisistratus before the battle of Pallene with

    “The casting net is thrown down, and the fishing net spread wide.
     And the tunnies shall dart to and fro (therein) in the

If Pisistratus squared the Acarnanian, as effectively as the Alcmæonidæ
(his hereditary foes and the ejectors of his descendants from Athens)
absolutely bought the oracle at Delphi, words of greater light and
leading than “The Tunnies shall dart to and fro in the moonlight” might
have been vouchsafed, for Herodotus relates that Pisistratus fell
on the enemy, when they were having their _mid-day_ meal, or asleep
after it, or playing dice. To suppose that these words foretold and
were understood by Pisistratus to foretell the hour of the subsequent
capture of Athens itself presumes a power of mental suggestion, which
even Charcot would have envied.

The deliverance may possibly have been particular as regards time, but
more probably was, oracle-like, entirely general in terms and time.
The words “And the tunnies shall dart up and down in the moonlight”
merely continue the fishing analogy of the first line, and refer to the
well-known method of catching Tunnies “at the full of the moon,” when,
allured by the silvery light, they glide and race through the water,
and are easily taken.

The mention here of the Tunny makes appropriate some notice of a fish,
which looms large in nearly all our authors. Most of them dilate at
length on its multitude, migrations, habits, and size. Its economic
value as a food asset, then and now, finds ample recognition by writers
separated over two thousand years (such as Aristotle and Apostolides),
and in its current title of “The Manna of the Mediterranean.”

[Illustration: CUTTING UP THE TUNNY.

From Gerhard, _Aus. Vas._, Pl. 316, 2.]

It is curious that the first two fish, the Dolphin and Tunny, on which
I have occasion to comment because of the chronological sequence of
Hesiod and Herodotus, should have greater attention paid them and
should occupy more space in ancient writers than any other.

The reasons, however, are very dissimilar.

The Dolphin by its engaging habits of aidfulness and of comradeship—to
it scarcely anything human seems alien—evoked gratitude and liking. The
Tunny, apart from the wonder awakened by its multitudes and migrations,
compelled an economic interest from its food-producing quantities
and qualities. Rhode has excellently summarised the dissemblance:
“_Delphinus veterum cordibus atque animis se insinuavit, thynnus gulis
atque ventriculis._”[225]

The annual campaign of the Tunny fishing, lasting from May 15 to Oct.
25, was based on a regular and thorough organisation. All the boats
of a given section of the coast acted under the orders of an elected
Captain, whose word was law.

Descriptions of fishing for Tunny and Pelamyde—the name given to
the young Tunny from his habit of burying himself in the mud (πήλῳ
μύειν),[226] a derivation often attributed to Aristotle, see _H. A._,
VIII. 15, or of herding together (πέλειν ἅμα) according to Plutarch—may
be found in Aristotle, _N. H._, IV. 10, and VIII. 15, in Pliny, _H.
N._, IX. 53, in Ælian, _de nat. an._, XV. 5 and 6, and in Oppian,
_hal._, IV. 531 ff. The story by the last of the Thracians piercing
and taking myriads of mutilated Pelamydes from the mud, in which they
have for warmth ensconced themselves, merits reading if only for his
indignant burst:

    “The various Tortures of the bleeding Shoal
     Command a Pity from the stoutest Soul.”[227]

Aristophanes (_Hipp._, 313) compares Cleon to the watch posted on a
cliff or height to signal the advent of the Tunnies, a position (as
Theocritus [III. 26] and Oppian [_hal._, IV. 637] show), very similar
to that of the “Hooer” in the pilchard fishery of Cornwall at the
present day.

These look-outs were frequently artificial. Ælian, _de nat. an._, XV.
5, describes a scaffolding consisting of two fir trees between which
many cross pieces were fastened. The long ladders still used in Austria
and Italy (of which Keller gives an illustration[228]) and the Turkish
_dalian_ of the Bosporus represent the modern scaffold. Oppian (_hal._,
III. 630 ff.) and Ælian (_de nat. an._, XV. 5) note the enormous hauls
made by the fishermen when “the army” of the Tunnies set out on its
migrations, company by company.

The nets used for the capture of Tunny by the Italians (at the present
day) are fixed: made of thick cord, without leads, and sometimes as
much as 250 fathoms long, and 15 fathoms deep, thus recalling Oppian’s
“a Town of Nets.”[229] Special regard has to be paid now as of old,
in fixing their position, to the course frequented by this eminently
migratory genus in its annual passage from the Atlantic to the Black
Sea and Sea of Azov, a distance of 2800 miles and back again. The same
route is always travelled by an ever living stream of undiminished
fulness, furnishing food to millions on the Mediterranean.

To the Phœnicians and to the Spaniards of old the Tunny ranked high
as a commercial asset. The Tyrian tunny was specially prized[230];
its _salsamentum_ travelled far and wide. Rhode (p. 38) points out,
however, that this originally was designed not as a delicacy, but as
a preventive against scurvy and other diseases attendant on the long
voyages which the far-flung commerce of the Phœnicians demanded.

The older port, Sidon, got its name from its wealth of fish, which in
Phœnician was called _Sidon_,[231] while Tyrus, one of the earliest
inhabitants of the younger port, traditionally invented fishing
tackle.[232] Many Spanish towns, as their coins attest, notably those
of Gades and Carteia, owed much of their prosperity, if not their
existence, to the salt or pickled fish trade. Tunny fishing still
remains a lucrative industry in the Peninsula.[233]

Pliny bears witness to the full stream of Tunny in IX. 2, where he
tells us the multitude of the fish which met the fleet of Alexander
the Great under the command of Nearchus on one occasion was so vast,
that only by advancing in battle line, as on an enemy, was he able
to cut his way through: _non voce, non sonitu, non ictu, sed fragore
terrentur, nec nisi ruina turbantur_.[234]

Faber’s account of the watchman, of the alarm caused by throwing in
stones near the inlet through which the shoal of fish has just passed,
of the raising of the hue and cry to drive it towards the end of the
enclosure, the battering of the fish to death with oars, and of other
devices might well pass, although written in the nineteenth century,
for a description of the Tunny fishing by an author of the first

From this fishing Æschylus[235] drew his vivid image of the destruction
of the host of Xerxes at sea—an image placed with more poetic than
dramatic aptness in the mouth of the Persian messenger who paints the
battle to Atossa. “But the Greeks,” he tells her, “kept striking,
hacking us with fragments of oars and splinters of wrecks, _as if we
were Tunnies or a draft of fish_.”

The comparison strikes as all the more telling, when we remember that
one of the most killing methods of capturing the Tunny was and still
is by stabbing with pikes and poles the fish, after having driven them
into a narrow space.

Imagine the storm of applause, which that bold and glowing picture (in
but two lines!) of the common practice and of the wondrous victory must
have aroused from an audience who eight years before had either fought
at or feared for Salamis, to an author whose conspicuous gallantry both
there and at Marathon had earned for him the high honour of a place in
the great commemorative fresco in the Stoa Poikile at Athens!

Phædimus states: “The Tunny is so sensible of the equinoxes and
solstices that he teaches even men themselves without the help of
any astrological table.”[236] Further, that being dim sighted, or as
according to Æschylus “casting a squint-eye like a Tunny,” the fish
always coast the Euxine Sea on the right side and contrariwise when
they come forth—“prudently committing the care of their bodies to their
best eye!”

Again, although the fish lack knowledge of arithmetic, they are yet so
endowed that “they arrive in such a manner to the perfection of that
science,” that for mutual love and protection “they always make up
their whole fry into the form of a cube and make a solid of the whole
number consisting of six equal planes, and swim in such order as to
present an equal front in each direction.”

“The Tunny more than any other fish delights in the heat of the sun.
It will burrow for warmth in the sand in shallow waters near the
shore, or will, because it is warm, disport itself on the surface of
the sea.”[237] With this pleasure inevitably _surgit aliquid amari_,
for about the rising of the Dog-star this fish, as well as the sword
fish, became the prey of a piercing parasite, which was nicknamed the

The ordinary weights and sizes to which the Tunny attained are
uncertain. The passages in Arist., _N. H._, VIII. 30, and in Pliny, IX.
17, on account of the doubt whether the span of tail should be two or
five cubits are not authoritative. Richter records the capture in 1565
of a fish thirty-two feet long and sixteen feet thick, on whose skin a
ship of war was depicted in its entirety.[238]

The power of the skin to expand seems the only limitation of their size
and weight, for they take on fat till they burst.[239] No wonder that
for beasts of such dimensions the Celtæ used great iron hooks,[240]
which elsewhere were double.[241] But their devices met defeat by
these “Fat” (if not somnolent) “Boys” of the Sea, for _teste_ Oppian,

    “Oft on the Spikes that arm the indented Chine
     Rolling averse they sawed the trembling Line.”

The Tuna of the Canadian and Californian coasts run very heavy: one of
the former caught on _a Rod and Line_ weighed 707 lbs.


[194] Translated by C. A. Elton. In the last two lines occurs the
solitary mention by Hesiod of fishing.

[195] From the fish (in old English _daulphin_) came apparently the
title of the eldest son of the kings of France from 1349 to 1830.
According to Littré the name Dauphin, borne by the lords of the
Viennois, was the proper name _Delphinus_ (the same word as the
name of the fish), whence the province subject to them was called
_Dauphiné_. Humbert III., on ceding the province, made it a condition
that the title should be perpetuated by being borne by the eldest son
of the French king. A. Brachet, _An Etymological Dict. of the French
Language^3_ (Oxford, 1883), p. 113, states that the title—peculiar to
S. France—first appears in 1140: “the origin is obscure, though it
certainly represents the _Delphinus_.”

[196] Lucian (_Dialogues of the Sea Gods_, VIII.) offers an unexpected
explanation of this trait. On Poseidon’s commending the fish for the
rescue of Arion, the Dolphin makes answer: “You need not be surprised
to find us doing a good turn to Man: _we were men before we were

[197] Pindar (_frag._ 235 Bergk^4, 140^b, 68 ff., Schroeder) likens
himself to the dolphin,

    “Which flutes’ beloved sound
     Excites to play
     Upon the calm and placid sea.”

Pliny (Delphin edition, 1826, which I use throughout), IX. 8.
Suetonius, _Nero_ 41.

[198] Herodotus, I. 24. Pausanias, III. 25. Plutarch, _Sept. Sap.
Conviv._, 18. Cf. Lucian’s characteristic account, _op. cit._, VIII.

[199] S. Baring-Gould, _The Lives of the Saints_ (London, 1897), vol.
x. 385.

[200] Keller, _op. cit._, 347, confirms this habit of the fish, which,
I suggest, is dictated by reason of food.

[201] Oppian, _hab._ V. 425 ff.; Pliny, IX. 9; Ælian, _de nat. an._,
II. 8.

[202] The Mugil, especially Mugil _saltator_, vies with if it do not
surpass the salmon in its power of leaping. It often (according to
Oppian) jumps right over the surrounding nets. Our Dolphin a double
duty pays, in (1) driving the fish, and (2) killing the successful

[203] In Arist., _N. H._, IX. 48, the Dolphin “seems to be the swiftest
of all the _creatures_, marine or terrestrial,” but in _N. H._, IX. 37,
he credits the grey mullet as being “the swiftest of _fishes_.”

[204] Pliny, IX. 9: “Sed enixioris operæ, quam in unius diei præmium
conscii sibi opperiuntur in posterum: nec piscibus tantum sed et
intrita panis e vino satiantur.”

[205] In Lapland the “sea-swallows” render great aid in the salmon
season. For some cause these small marine birds elect to follow the
inward and outward course of the fish, and are thus infallible guides
to the fishermen, with whom they become so tame that they will light
on their fingers, and take, if not “the choicest of the spoil,” scraps
of fish. No wonder they are termed “The Luck-bringers.” See S. Wright,
_The Romance of the World’s Fisheries_ (London, 1908), p. 69.

[206] Oppian, _hal._, V. 447. In mediæval times instances of dolphins
aiding fishermen are related by Albertus Magnus, _De Animalibus_, VI.
p. 653, and by Rondolet, _Libri de piscibus marinis_, etc. (Lugduni,
1554-5), XVI. p. 471. At the present day in Lake Menzalah porpoises
shepherd the fish: the Egyptian, however, spares to his helpers
their lives, but naught else. The natives of Angola were much more
recognisant of service, as an interesting description by an old
traveller of a fish drive there evidences: “They use upon this coast to
fish with harping irons, and waite upon a great fish which cometh once
a day to feed along the shoare which is like a grampus. Hee runneth
very near the shoare, and driveth great skuls of fish before him; the
negroes runne along and strike their harping irons about him, and kill
great store of fish, and leave them in the sand till the fish hath
done feeding and then they come and gather up the fish. This fish will
many times runne himself aground, but they will presently shore him
off again, which is as much as four or five men can doe. They call him
Emboa, which is in their speech a Dogge: and will by no means hurt or
kill any of them.” _The Strange Adventures of Andrew Battell of Leigh
in Essex._ (_Haklutus Posthumus or Purchas his pilgrimes_ (ed. Glasgow,
1905-7), vol. VI. p. 404.)

[207] The evidence is collected and discussed by K. Klement, _Arion_
(Wien, 1898), pp. 1-64, and by H. Usener, _Die Sintfluthsagen_ (Bonn,
1899), pp. 138-180.

[208] _Aegyptiaca_, book v. _frag._ 6 (_Frag. hist. Gr._, III. 510 f.

[209] Pausanias, III. 25. 7, recalls that among the votive offerings at
Tænarum “is a bronze statue of the minstrel Arion. Herodotus tells his
story from hearsay, but I have actually seen the Dolphin at Poroselene
that was mauled by fishermen and testified its gratitude to the boy who
healed it. I saw that Dolphin answer to the boy’s call, and carry him
on his back when he chose to ride.”

[210] _Noctes Atticæ_, 6. 8. 1-7.

[211] For instances in classical mythology of rescues from drowning,
and of corpses brought ashore, see A. B. Cook, _Zeus_ (Cambridge,
1914), i. p. 170, and for similar hagiographical instances, see S.
Baring-Gould, _The Lives of the Saints_ (London, 1873-82), _passim_.
C. Cahier, _Caractéristiques des Saints dans l’art populaire_ (Paris,
1867), ii. 691 ff., gives an account full of interest, which is
increased by his illustrations of Saints accompanied by fish.

[212] _Brit. Mus. Cat._, pl. XXI. 7. B. V. Head, _Historia Numorum_,
620 f. (ed. 2, Oxford, 1911). In Plutarch’s (_de Sol. Anim._, 36) the
lad was thrown from the fish’s back by a terrible shower of hail and
was drowned.

[213] Oppian, _hal._, V. 521 ff.

[214] B. V. Head, _op. cit._ p. 266 ff. As an emblem of the sea the
dolphin is very general, from the rude sculpturings of Etruscan
sarcophagi, the later mural adornments at Pompeii, down to the
paintings of the walls of the Vatican by Raphael. In all, the striking
dissemblancy to the actual dolphin of natural history can be remarked
at a glance. In the case of Raphael, however, it must be remembered
that the designs are modelled on the classical decorations which were
discovered in the Baths of Titus, where the Dolphin had been with
propriety introduced as a marine symbol (Moule, _Heraldry of Fish_, p.

[215] De Gubernatis, _Zoological Mythology_ (London, 1872), ii. 336.

[216] Frazer, _Totemism and Exogamy_ (London, 1910), ii. 636. W. A.
Cork, _op. cit._, p. 96, states that the Karayás of the Amazon Valley,
although eating nearly every other fish, abstain from the Dolphin.

[217] V. 16, Rawlinson’s Translation.

[218] See also I. 200, where three Babylonian tribes exist only on fish
which they dried in the sun, brayed in a mortar, and strained through a
linen sieve.

[219] _Indica_, 26.

[220] Philostratus, _The Life of Apollonius of Tyana_, III. 48.

[221] Xenophon, _Anab._, I. 4; Cicero, _de nat. Deorum_, III. 39; Ovid,
_Fasti_, II. 473-4.

[222] Very different was the behaviour of the first generation of
Man (who according to Philo’s _Translation of Sanchuniathon_, quoted
by Eusebius, _præp. ev._, I. 9, 5), “consecrated the plants shooting
out of the earth, judged them gods, worshipped them, but yet lived
upon them” (Cf. de Brosses, _Culte des Dieux Fétiches_). In Plutarch,
_Symp._, VIII. 8. 4, Nestor states that “the priests of Poseidon never
eat fish, for Poseidon is called the Generator; and the race of Hellen
sacrificed to him as the first father, imagining, as likewise did the
Syrians, that Man rose from a liquid substance, and therefore they
worship a fish as of the same production and breeding as themselves,
being in this matter more happy in their philosophy than Anaximander:
for he says that fish and men were not produced in the same substance,
but that men were first produced in fishes and, when they were grown
up and able to fend for themselves, were thrown out and so lived on
the land. Therefore, as fire devours its parents, that is the matter
out of which it was first kindled, so Anaximander, asserting that fish
were our common parents, condemneth our feeding upon them.” The belief
in the descent of man from fish exists in the present day among the
Ponapians of the Caroline Islands, and elsewhere (J. G. Frazer, _Folk
Lore in the Old Testament_ (London, 1918), i. 40). As regards the
changes in our development which make the whole world kin, Empedocles,
(Καθαρμοί, _frag._ 117, Diels) sings,

    ἤδη γάρ ποτ’ ἐγὼ γενόμην κοῦρός τε κόρη τε
    θάμνος τ’ οἰωνός τε καὶ ἔξαλος ἔλλοπος ἰχθύς.

[223] _Symposium_, VIII. 8, 3: γέγονεν ἁγνείας μἐρος ἀποχὴ ἰχθύων.
Elsewhere we read of more prosaic and practical reasons why the great
majority of the Greeks abstained from certain kinds of fish, e.g.
the fear in the case of the loach, of which the Syrian goddess was
protectress, lest she gnaw their legs, cover their bodies with sores,
and devour their livers.

[224] Herodotus, I. 62.

[225] Paulus Rhode, _Thynnorum Captura_ (Lipsiæ, 1890). Had his
exhaustive monograph come to hand earlier, this notice would have been
worthier, and much time spent on Aristotle, Oppian, etc., have been

[226] The real derivation of πηλαμύς, which was probably a pre-Hellenic
word, seems unknown: see É. Boisacq, _Dictionnaire Étymologique de la
langue grecque_ (Paris, 1913), p. 779.

[227] Their method was to let down by a rope from the boats blocks of
wood (heavily weighted with lead) to which were attached great spikes
and hooks, which on reaching the bottom were drawn to and fro, with
the result that “here gasping Heads confess the killing Smart, | There
bleeds a Tail, which quivers round the Dart.” Cf. a fragment from
Menander’s _The Fisherman_, _frag._ 12 in the _Frag. comicor. Graec._,
IV. 77, Meineke, “The muddy sea which nourishes the great Tunny.”
Sophron’s _Tunnyfisher_ seems the earliest mime, where this fish

[228] O. Keller, _Die Antike Tierwelt_, vol. ii. 388, fig. 122. This
work (published at Leipzig a year before the War) unfortunately came
into my hands only when I had practically finished my book, and thus I
have been precluded from the more copious use of the _Fische_ portion,
which I should have desired and which it would certainly have demanded.
The seventy pages dealing with fish form a compact treasure-house of
ichthyic literature, but owing perhaps to their scope lack piscatorial

[229] Faber, _Fisheries in the Adriatic_, London, 1883.

[230] According to Pollux, VI. 63.

[231] Justin, XVIII. 3, 2.

[232] Cf. Ezekiel, XXVI. 5, 14.

[233] Cf. the allusion of Cervantes: _dos cursos en la academia de la
pesca de los atunos_.

[234] Arrian (_Ind._, XXX. 1) and Strabo (XV. 12, p. 726) tell the same
story of whales in the Indian Ocean.

[235] _Persæ_, 424 ff.

[236] Plutarch, _de Sol. Anim._, ch. 29.

[237] Arist., _N. H._, VIII. 19.

[238] _Ichthyol._, II. p. 376.

[239] Pliny, _N. H._, IX. 20, on the say-so of Arist., _N. H._, VI. 16,
“pinguescunt in tantum ut dehiscant.”

[240] Ælian, _de nat. an._, XIII. 16.

[241] Oppian, _hal._, III. 285.



“Aristotle hath his Oare in every Water”

If the passage quoted in my Introduction left any doubt that Plato was
no admirer of fishing or fishermen, the following, from _The Laws_,
VII. 823 (Jowett’s translation), is conclusive proof.

“And, now, let us address young men in the form of a prayer for their
welfare: O Friends, may no desire of hunting in the sea, or of catching
the creatures in the waters, ever take possession of you, either when
you are awake, or when you are asleep, by hooks, with weels, which
latter is a very lazy contrivance, and let no desire of catching men,
or piracy by sea, enter into your souls.”

Then Plato adds: “Only the best of hunting is allowed at all, which
is carried on by men with horses, dogs, and men’s own persons,” and
is really hard exercise. “Fishing is not an occupation worthy of a
man well born or well brought up, because it demands more of address
and ruse than force, and is not for young people, like hunting, the
occasion of healthy exercise.”[242]

When expressing astonishment at the variety and extent of Aristotle’s
knowledge, one of the characters of Athenæus asks from what Proteus or
Nereus he could have found out all he writes about fishes and other
animals.[243] The curiosity of the questioner was natural. It is,
however, probable that Aristotle, from living for several years close
to the sea and from his intercourse with fishermen, had amassed a big
fund of information about fishes and other aquatic animals.

His knowledge of the Mediterranean fishes not only exceeded that of
any ancient writer, but also, if Belon, Rondolet, and Salviani be
excepted, that of any writer before Risso and Cuvier. However true may
be the criticism of Dr. Günther that Aristotle’s “ideas of specific
distinction were as vague as those of the fishermen whose nomenclature
he adopted,” the fact cannot be gainsaid that Aristotle was, and
remains, a very great Naturalist as well as a very great Biologist.

To him[244] by right belongs the distinction, which (except
incidentally in Mr. Lones’ work[245]) I have so far failed to find
attributed to him, of being the first writer to note, certainly the
first to point out, that its scales make possible a shrewd, in the case
of the _murex_ an exact, computation of the age of a fish.

If from lack of the microscope he did not in all particulars antedate,
he certainly blazed the trail for the discovery of scale-reading at
the close of the eighteenth century by the Dutch microscopist van
Leeuwenhoek[246] and its rediscovery as regards the carp in 1899 by
Hoffbauer,[247] the _Gadidæ_ and _Pleuronectidæ_ in 1900-03 by J.
Stuart Thomson,[248] and the _Salmonidæ_ about 1904 by H. W. Johnston
and others.[249]

He tells us in _The Natural History_, I. 1, that “what the feather is
in a bird, the scale is in a fish”; in III. 11,[250] that “the scales
of fish become harder and thicker, and in those which are wasting
or aging, become still harder”; in VIII. 30, that “the old fish are
distinguishable by the _size_” (note this!) “and the hardness of their

He then buttresses this discovery of annual growth of scale by another
fact resulting from his observation that “the _Murex_ lives for about
six years, and the yearly increase is indicated by a distinct interval
in the spiral convolution of the shell,”[252] or as Bohn renders the
words, “its annual increase is seen in the divisions on the helix of
its shell.”

In Leeuwenhoek we read that, in the examination by a rough self-made
microscope of the scales of a large tame carp, he counted the component
_scale-layers_ lying one above the other, “as if glued together,”
and found without exception that a new layer larger than the one
of the preceding year is added. The carp, accidentally killed when
forty years old, possessed forty such layers in each scale. He adds
pathetically—anticipating perhaps Lytton’s—

    “A Reformer, a creed by posterity learnt
     A century after its author is burnt”—

that “many people accused me of telling lies on the matter!”[253]

One cannot help being struck with acute astonishment that for over
the 2000 years between Aristotle and Leeuwenhoek we obtain, with
the exception[254] of nine words in Pliny (IX. 33), _Senectutis
indicium squamarum duritia, quæ non sunt omnibus similes_, cribbed
and condensed, as was often his wont, from Aristotle, little, if any,
addition to our knowledge of scale-reading.

The ancient authors either ignore or are ignorant of it. Nowhere, not
even in that close observer Oppian, that omnivorous reader Athenæus,
that pleasant purloiner Ælian, do we read a single line on the subject.
But our astonishment, even if we allow for absence of microscope, grows
acuter, when we are met in the three most important Ichthyologists
before the eighteenth century, Belon, Salviani, and Rondolet, with the
same silence.

And this fate of silence apparently prevails even after Leeuwenhoek’s
book; his discovery seems to have been lost or remained dormant in his
pages till a score of years ago.

Had microscopes existed in his day, we may surely surmise that
Aristotle would have perfected the system of scale-reading, and thus
have come down to posterity with his title of “The Philosopher of the
many Rings” better earned than by his foppish affection for jewellery.

In general opinion, the person most closely approaching the required
Proteus or Nereus was his pupil and sometime friend, Alexander the
Great. By placing at his disposal several thousand men to collect all
kinds of animals and fishes from all parts of the then known world, he
enabled him with the aid of the materials thus provided to produce his
famous _Natural History_.

For this identification we have not a scrap of internal evidence, but
merely the assertions of much later writers, such as Pliny, Athenæus
(who adds that Philip gave him 800 talents to finish the _History_),
and Ælian.[255]

Apart from want of intrinsic evidence, the fact that the geographical
references and the fish mentioned in his _Natural History_ nearly
all cluster round Lesbos effectually precludes the idea of Alexander
“Hagenbecking” for Aristotle.[256]

Internal evidence and reasons advanced by Professor D’Arcy
Thompson[257] indicate that nearly all the animals and fishes with
which Aristotle was practically acquainted belonged to Greece, Western
Asia, and Sappho’s Lesbos (especially of the lagoon of Pyrrha), where
he lived some four years just previous to his Macedonian trip, 343 B.C.

The fishes in his _Natural History_, mostly given without any
attempt at classification or really adequate description, number
at least one hundred and ten. He discusses in some instances the
anatomical characteristics, food, breeding habits, migrations, and
modes of capture. Of the hundred and ten only some fifty fish can be
scientifically identified; of which, all save six come from the sea.

This figure of about one hundred and ten speaks wonders for his
industry and knowledge. Even after the lapse of 1800 years separating
him from the sixteenth century, the list of Mediterranean fishes
compiled by Belon comprises but a hundred or so, and by Rondolet but
some one hundred and sixty names. Risso, writing as late as 1810,
furnishes no more than three hundred and fifteen, of which he asserts
that eighty-eight had never been previously described.

Not unnaturally, this industry and this knowledge caused our author
to be at Athens not only a stumbling-block unto the wise, but “a
very wonder unto fools,” as the comedians said, who fastened on an
occasional lapse, such as his theory that the whole race of shell fish
generate without connection.

The _Natural History_ nevertheless will always remain a monument of
extraordinary diligence and mental vigour, especially when we bear
in mind that he seemingly lacked any antiseptic preparation for the
preservation of specimens. His pre-eminence of merit is indicated
by the fact that of all the Greek and Latin authors he approximates
nearest to some idea of zoological system.

And yet this father of science and this founder of logic makes a direct
personal appeal to us as a man very human in his life and tastes.
Epicurus, “that most truthful of men,”[258] alleges that, when young,
Aristotle went the pace, and squandered his patrimony in good living
and other pleasant delights. In addition to his love for jewellery and
personal adornment we discover him as a great connoisseur of beautiful
silver, of which he bequeathed over seventy rare bowls. He ranks in
opsophagy as an epicure of the highest order.

It is curious to note that in Aristotle, who apparently was familiar
with most, if not all, of the then existent methods, no mention, as
far as I can recall, occurs of _actual_ fishing, save his story of the
fight and escape of a big _Glanis_.

He owed his knowledge largely to his intercourse with fishermen and
his close acquaintance with the fish markets—a haunting of which in
Mediterranean ports was, as in Naples it still is, productive of
a liberal education from the numerous specimens displayed and the
hundreds of vernacular names applied to them.

Contrast this with our British markets, where, despite our more
favourable wealth of sea-harvest, the kinds on sale seldom exceed a
score or so, and their vernacular names hardly reach half-a-hundred.

Granting, however, all the advantages accruing from such
acquaintance[259] with fishers and fishmongers, it needed an Aristotle
to produce a book of such keen observation and (generally) accurate
conclusions as his _Natural History_: for be it remembered that this,
when compared with the vast volume of his other works, is a mere
by-product of his industry and intellect, thrown off probably in the
few years of his banishment.

Little escaped his ken, or his pen.[260] At one moment he notes that
neither hermaphroditism nor parthenogenesis are uncommon, at the next
he deals with the senses in fish. The question whether fish do actually
_hear_ or do not _hear_, remains, _comme les pauvres_, always with
us; it remains like Etna dormant for decades, suddenly to pour forth
columns of print which lava-like scar the fair face of many a ream of

Aristotle comes down flat-footed in his verdict: fishes (we read, IV.
8) in spite of having no visible auditory organs undoubtedly do hear;
“for they are observed to run away from any loud noises like the rowing
of a galley. Indeed some people dwelling near the sea affirm that of
all living creatures the fish is the quickest of hearing.”

Space forbids my dwelling on the various theories as to whether the
undoubted effect of their being disturbed by certain noises is attained
by hearing proper, or by vibration acting on the surface part of the
fish and communicating instantly with the internal ear.

Day’s summary of the question, still regarded after thirty years
as fair and conclusive, even if attaching undue importance to the
fontanelles, is as follows. “Hearing is developed in fish, and it is
very remarkable how any diversity of opinion can exist as to their
possessing this sense. The internal auditory apparatus is placed within
the cranial cavity: its chief constituent parts are the labyrinth,
which is composed of three semi-circular canals, and a vestibule,
which latter expands into one or more sacs, where the ear bones or
otoliths are lodged. A tympanum and tympanic cavity are absent. They
possess fontanelles between the bones, forming the roof of the skull,
which being closed by very thin bones or skin permit sounds from the
surrounding water to be readily transmitted to the contiguous internal
ears. But the chief mode in which hearing is carried on must be due to
the surface of the fish being affected by vibration of the water, and
the sounds are transmitted directly to the internal ear, or else by
means of the air-bladder acting as a sounding drum.”[261]

It goes against the grain to differ with such a charmful and
theme-ful author as Sir Herbert Maxwell. But his conclusion[262] that
fish in Loch Ken were disturbed every time a shooting party half
to three-quarters of a mile away discharged their guns cannot be
reconciled with the experiments made by me in July 1918 to test the
behaviour of trout, when guns were fired, not half a mile away, but
quite close to them.

Three of us, all accustomed to watching fish, selected a narrow shallow
burn in which the trout ran from fingerlings up to fish three or four
years old. Each in turn fired the gun (an ordinary 12 bore C.F.), with
the usual shooting charge of powder and No. 5 shot. At the first two
trials only was the shot extracted, so as to eliminate any vibration
set up by its striking the opposite bank. Two of us lying hidden in the
grass observed from different spots.

The gun was fired eight feet, four feet, and three feet above the
surface of the stream, which varied in breadth from eight to ten feet,
and in depth from sixteen to nineteen inches. It was fired into the
air and into the opposite bank (struck from four to two feet above the
water) in a direct line above different fishes, lying either singly or
in shoals from five to nine inches from the bottom in small pools or
runs sixteen to nineteen inches deep. Care was taken to fire up stream,
to prevent the trout being startled by the flash of the cartridge.

In no case did the trout take the very least notice, or give any sign
of having heard the explosion or felt the concussion of the shot on the
opposite bank, composed on three occasions of alluvial soil and on two
of rock. Never once did a fish move or go down: in fact, in one of the
experiments over a single well-grown trout, the fish was rising again
to the natural fly in less than thirty seconds after the discharge of
the gun.[263]

Aristotle almost certainly learnt dissection when young. His father
belonged to the Asclepiads, an order of priest-physicians who are
believed to have practised dissection and taught it to their children.
The son’s extensive knowledge of the internal parts of mammals,
birds, and fishes probably resulted from dissections. Mr. Lones names
forty-nine animals and fishes which from the trustworthiness of the
definite information imparted were (he holds) certainly dissected. Of
these some five are fish.

To the question whether Aristotle ever dissected the human body, the
answer after examining the evidence available must, I think, be in the
negative, for three reasons. First: after describing the external parts
of the human body he states that the internal parts are less known than
those of animals, and that we must, in order to describe them, examine
the corresponding parts of animals which are most nearly related to

Second: his many mistakes—such as in the position of the heart being
above the lungs, the emptiness of the occiput, etc.—can hardly be
casual slips made by one familiar with human dissection. The passage,
however, in _Nat. Hist._, VII. 3, points distinctly to his having to
some degree dissected the _fœtus_.

But this would not conflict with the third and weightiest reason,
namely the strong repugnance felt by the Greeks to any mutilation of
the body proper and any neglect of speedy burial. The sad appeal of the
shade of the unburied Patroclus (_Il._, XXIII. 71 ff.): “Bury me with
all speed that I pass the gates of Hades. Far off the spirits banish
me, nor do the phantoms of men outworn suffer me to mingle with them
beyond the river,” the fervent desire of some of Homer’s Heroes that
funeral rites should promptly follow their death,[264] and the agony
of Antigone, all these and other instances manifest Greek sentiment.
So strong and widespread was this that human dissection would have
certainly aroused intense bitterness and probably caused the perpetual
banishment of the perpetrator. The suggestion, resting on no evidence,
that Aristotle dissected the human body _secretly_ can neither be
proved, nor disproved.

The Japanese, till recently, also refrained from dissection of the
human body. It was not till the arrival in 1873 of Professor W. Donitz
to fill the Chair of Anatomy in the newly established Academy of
Medicine in Tokyo that dissection first came to be employed. This new
era of medical science started under the happiest circumstances, for
frequent hangings, an aftermath of internal strife, provided ample
material for its prosecution.[265]


[242] Byron’s view of fishing is not favourable—as his lines in _Don
Juan_, Canto XIII. prove:

    “Angling, too, that solitary vice,
     Whatever Isaak Walton says or sings.”

He bore, possibly from failure to catch his boyish Aberdeenshire trout,
a grudge against Father Izaak,

    “The quaint, old, cruel coxcomb in his gullet
     Should have a hook, and a small trout to pull it.”

Byron closes his note with “But Anglers! No Angler can be a good man.”
Walton received many a shrewd blow, especially from his contemporary
Richard Franck, whose _Northern Memories_, with its appreciation of the
Fly and its depreciation of Izaak’s ground-bait, found less favour than
the _Compleat Angler_. His worsting of Walton at Stafford runs, “he
stop’d his argument and leaves Gesner to defend it: so huff’d a way.”
Again, “he stuffs his book with morals from Dubravius—not giving us one
precedent of his own experiments, except otherwise when he prefers the
trencher to the troling-rod! There are drones that rob the hive, yet
flatter the bees that bring them honey.”

[243] _Deipn._, VIII. 47. Rabelais would seemingly make Aristotle his
own Proteus, for Pantagruel (IV. 31) discovers him with his lantern
at the bottom of the sea spying about, examining, and writing. This
lantern has long been coupled with that of the Sea-urchin, but as a few
pages later on we find ourselves in the _Pays des Lanternois_, it is
probably a reference to a philosopher’s lamp, like that of Diogenes.

[244] _The Natural History_ (of which the text I use is Bekker’s) is
practically the only work by Aristotle discussed here. For me, being no
“Clerk” although “of Oxenford,” it is not, as—

    “For him was lever have, at his beddes heed,
     Twenty bokes, clad in black or reed,
     Of Aristotle and his philosophye,
     Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrye.”

[245] _Aristotle’s Researches in Natural Science_, by Thomas E. Lones
(1912), from whose book I borrow and to whose kind advice I owe much.
At last we have a really admirable translation of _Hist. Anim._, which
is by Prof. D’Arcy Thompson, Oxford, 1910. The notes are those of an
expert zoologist, thoroughly familiar with classical literature.

[246] _Select Works_, vol. i. p. 69. London, 1798-1801.

[247] “Die Altersbestimmung des Karpfen an seiner Schuppe,” in the _R.
Jahresber. des Schlesischen Fischerei-Vereins für 1899_.

[248] “The periodic growth of Scales in Gadidæ and Pleuronectidæ as an
Index of Age,” in the _Journal of the Marine Biolog. Assoc._ (1900-03),
VI. 373-375.

[249] _Reports of Scottish Fishery Board_, 1904, 1906, 1907.

[250] Cf. _Anim. Gen._, V. 3.

[251] δῆλοι δ’ oἱ γέροντες αὐτῶν τῷ μεγέθει τῶν λεπἰδων καἰ τῇ
σκληρότητι. Professor D’Arcy Thompson, in his translation, renders this
sentence “the age of a scaly fish may be told by the size and hardness
of the scales.” It is most probable, though not a certainty, from
contextual reasons, from Aristotle’s habit of casually harking back,
and from Pliny in his translation of it (_N. H._, IX. 33) applying it
_generally_, that this sentence applies to all fish, and not solely to
the Tunny.

[252] V. 15. ἡ γὰρ πορφύρα περὶ ἔτη ἕξ, καὶ καθ’ ἕκαστον ἐνιαυτὸν
φανερά ἐστιν ἡ αὔξησις τοῖς διαστήμασι τοῖς ἐν τῷ ὀστράκῳ τῆς ἕλικος.
The translation above is taken from Professor D’Arcy Thompson
(_ibid._), to whose kindness I owe the following reference and much
else in this chapter. Pliny, IX. 60, makes the _Murex_ live _seven_

[253] In _Epistolæ physiologicæ_ (Delft, 1719), IV. p. 401, he
describes how the _squamulæ_ or scalelets of a herring (twelve years
old) were found regularly superimposed, each year’s growth on that of
the preceding year.

[254] Athenæus, referring, however, solely to the _Murex_, “their
growth is shown by the rings on their scales,” is simply quoting from
Aristotle (as Dindorf’s text makes plain), whose term of six years he
adopts: φανερὰ δὲ τ’αὔξησις ἐκ τῆς ἐν τῷ ὀστράκωι ἕλικος (III. 37).

[255] Plin., _Nat. Hist._, VIII. 17; Athen., _Deipn._, IX. 58; Æl.,
_Var. Hist._, IV. 19.

[256] On the other hand, Abu-Shâker, an Arab writer of the thirteenth
century, makes Aristotle the material benefactor of Alexander by his
present of a box in which a number of wax figures were nailed down.
These were intended to represent the various kinds of armed forces
that Alexander was likely to encounter. Some held leaden swords curved
backwards, some spears pointed head downwards, and some bows with cut
strings. All the figures were laid face downwards in the box. Aristotle
bade his pupil never to let the key out of his possession, and taught
him to recite certain formulæ whenever he opened the box. This is only
another use of magic, for the wax, the words of power, and the position
of the figures all indicate that his foes would become prostrate and
unable to withstand Alexander. See Budge, _Life of Alexander the Great_
(one vol. _ed._), p. xvi.

[257] See D’Arcy Thompson, _Aristotle as a Biologist_, Herbert Spencer
Lecture, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1913, p. 13.

[258] Athen., VIII. 50.

[259] Cf. I. V. Carus, _Prodomus Faunæ Mediterranæ_, vol. II.,
Stuttgart, 1889-93.

[260] Of the closeness of his observation may be instanced (1) the
development by the cuttle fish during the breeding season of one of his
arms for transference to the mantle-cavity of the female—a function
of which Cuvier himself was ignorant, and which was not rediscovered
till the latter end of the last century, and (2) the method of bringing
forth of the shark—γαλεὸς λεῖος—which was forgotten, till Johannes
Müller brought it to light. See D’Arcy Thompson, _op. cit._, pp. 19-21.

[261] _British Fish: Salmonidæ_ (London, 1887), p. 19.

[262] _Memories of the Months, Fourth Series_ (London, 1914), pp. 232-3.

[263] The experiments conducted by Alfred Ronalds and recorded in his
famous _Fly-Fisher’s Entomology_, London, 1862, had similar results.

[264] “The belief, common later, that the soul of the dead was not
admitted immediately to the realm of Hades, but wandered in loneliness
on its confines until the body was either burned or buried, is clearly
expressed only in this (Patroclus) passage, while possibly in only
one other can it be assumed, in all the Homeric poems. The wish for
speedy rites sprang from a simpler cause; men did not want to have
the bodies of their friends, or of themselves, torn by wild beasts or
vultures: nor does this even begin to show that they had inherited old
beliefs with regard to the connection between the soul of the dead and
the body, which this soul had once inhabited, leading to a certain
treatment of the body. That in earlier times, and perhaps by many
Greeks of Homer’s age, the soul was thought to maintain a species of
connection with the body, and to care for it, cannot be doubted. But
caution is necessary that it may not be assumed that the Greeks, who
maintained certain customs, inherited also the beliefs on which those
customs were originally based” (Seymour, _op. cit._, p. 462).

[265] Professor G. H. Nuttall, in _Parasitology_ (1913), V. 253.



  “_Laud to the Lord, who gives to this, to that denies his wishes,
   And dooms one toil and catch the prey, another eat the fishes._”[266]

This seems the most convenient, if not quite the chronological, place
for examining the position and attributes of fishermen in the poems,
epigrams, and eclogues of Greek literature.

Of the two oldest of fisherfolk epigrams or epitaphs, the first is
attributed to Sappho, the second to Alcæus of Mitylene. In these rings
insistent the same note of hard toil and poverty, which permeates the
piscatory eclogues of Theocritus and his followers.

From Sappho “the sole woman of any age or any country who gained and
still holds an unchallenged place in the first rank of the world’s
poets”[267] comes down

    “Meniscus, mourning for his only son,
     The toil-experienced fisher Pelagon,
     Has placed upon his tomb a net and oar,
     The badges of a painful life and poor.”[268]

I cherished high hope of finding in the recently discovered Fragments
of Sappho in Part X. of the _Oxyrhynchus Papyri_, or in the articles
on them by Mr. J. M. Edmonds in the _Classical Review_ of May 1914
and June 1916, a second fisher epigram, or at any rate an allusion to
fishing. Alas! the Papyri yield some amatory, but no piscatory verses.
Apparently neither Sappho nor Alcæus make any other reference to

The verses of Alcæus stress poverty even more strongly:

    “The fisher Diotimus had at sea
     And shore the same abode of poverty—
     His trusty boat—and when his days were spent,
     Therein self-rowed, to ruthless Dis he went:
     For that which did through life his woes beguile,
     Supplied the old man with a funeral pile.”[269]

“From fragments of Greek Comedy it is evident that fishers were
among the familiar characters on the stage, and were sometimes the
protagonists.” Examination of the Old, Middle and New Comedians confirm
Dr. Hall.[270]

In Epicharmus (B.C. 540-450) the reputed founder of Comedy in Sicily;
in Sophron’s _The Fisherman and the Clown_, where the former naturally
outwits the country boor; in Plato the comedian’s _Phaon_, where he
may have ridiculed the legend of Sappho’s vain love for the Lesbian
fisherman; in _The Fishes_ by Archippus, where people were satirised
under the names of fishes spelled in the same way as their own; or (to
pass from Old to Middle Comedy) in _The Fisher-Woman_ by Antiphanes
(in the fragments of which, however, we are confronted by no Sex
problem, by no Suffragettism[271]); and (of the New Comedy authors) in
Menander’s _The Fishermen_ (where we gather from Pollux that a fisher
came on the stage fully equipped for fishing), in all these plays and
many more appear fisher folk.[272]

Archippus’ drama deserves a moment’s notice, because in imitation
of Aristophanes’ _Birds_ the poet ventured on a chorus composed
exclusively of _Fishes_. Extant fragments of the play (performed
probably in 413 B.C.) tell of war being declared by the fish against
their oppressors the Athenians, who were passionate opsophagists. The
principal condition of the Peace Points—whether _Fourteen_ or more our
data do not determine—secured the prompt delivery to the Fishes of the
head of their chief foe, Melanthios.

If the protocol of this Treaty had attracted the notice of President
Wilson, who as a constitutional historian attaches importance to the
“broadening down from precedent to precedent,” the demands of the
Allies for the immediate surrender of our arch-enemy, the Kaiser, might
have been more insistent and scarcely less successful.

And so from the first _loci classici_ of fishing in Homer we journey on
through the succeeding centuries. In nearly all we encounter fishing
and fishermen in literature or play. In the third B.C. we reach
the next _locus classicus_—“The Fisherman’s Dream,” Idyll XXI. of

“Theocritus is the creator of the literary piscatory, as he is also
of the literary bucolic.” This dictum would, I think, be rendered
more accurate by the substitution of modeller in place of creator.
Theocritus, even if we allow for Stesichorus, Epicharmus, and Sophron,
stands out the first, not to create but to gather, and by his genius
reduce to regular literary shape, the existent poems and songs
(_Volkslieder_) which formed the stock in trade of the Bucoliastæ in
Cos, Sicily, and Magna Græcia.[273]

The influence of Theocritus on fishing literature in mime, epigram,
or romance is writ large in the pages not only of Moschus, Leonidas
of Tarentum, Alciphron, Plautus, Ovid, but also of Sannazaro in the
fifteenth, of our Spenser[274] and his followers in the sixteenth and
subsequent centuries, and even of Keats.[275]

This influence shows most widely in the more abundant literary bucolic.
Virgil, for instance, admits his model in the opening lines of
_Eclogue_ IV.:

    _Sicelides Musæ, paulo maiora canamus ..._

A recent writer straightly asserts that “without Theocritus the
Bucolics (save the mark!) of Virgil could never have been conceived,
or, if conceived, would have miscarried.”[276]

Whether or not the offspring of this parentage is not too savagely
depreciated, we note with surprise that Virgil,

    “Thou that singest wheat and woodland, tilth and vineyard, hive and
           horse and herd;
     All the charm of all the Muses often flowering in a lonely word,”

a professed imitator of Theocritus, to whom fishermen were as
familiar as the waters by which they lived and figured in many of his
_Idylls_,[277] never mentions fishermen in his _Bucolics_.

His only (I believe) allusions to them—and the first is merely
incidental to an account of the primitive Arts of Man, and how fishing
as an Art came in only as the Golden Age went out—are in _Georgic_, I.
141-2, _Atque alius latum funda iam verberat amnem_ | _Alta petens,
pelagoque alius trahit humida lina_, and in the _Æneid_ (XII. 517 ff.):

    Et iuvenem exosum nequiquam bella Menœten,
    Arcada, piscosæ cui circum flumina Lernæ
    Ars fuerat, pauperque domus, nec nota potentum
    Munera, conductaque pater tellure serebat.[278]

Even in these four lines observe how insistently rings out the note of
_poverty_!—the constant characteristic, the almost invariable badge,
as we shall soon see, of every professional fisherman in Greek poems,
plays, or writers from Homer down to the later Greek Romanticists,[279]
or (as far as I know) in the epigrams from 700 B.C. to 500 A.D., of the
_Anthologia Palatina_.[280]

“The figure of the weather-beaten fisher is a favourite one in the old
poets, and we meet it constantly in Art; in Greek, and in Roman Art
especially, it was a very favourite subject.”[281]

M. Campaux, Mr. Hall, and Herr Bunsmann confirm and amplify this
sentence of Blümner’s. The thesis of Bunsmann—not easy to obtain,
although published in 1910 at Münster in Westphalia—seems within its
limited scope (he scarcely touches on the methods or craft of fishing)
perhaps the best little treatise _De Piscatorum in Græcorum atque
Romanorum litteris usu_.

He sets out to discover and formulate a list of the characteristics
most frequently attributed to fishermen. He proceeds to establish each
of the dozen selected by buttressing questions from Homer down to

Hospitality, Piety to the Gods and Dead, Shrewd (almost Pawky) Humour,
Old Age, Toil and Poverty figure most prominently. I can only notice
one or two of the passages cited in support of each characteristic, but
the evidence adduced generally carries conviction.

On the Hospitality of fishermen, poor though it were, stress is laid by
Greek and Roman writers.

Bunsmann’s citation of Petronius (_Sat._, 114) and Plutarch (_Vita
Pompeii_, 73) as witnesses to credit is, however, far from happy,
especially in the case of the former, who recounts that when the boat
had been so battered as to be a-wash “procurrere piscatores parvulis
expediti navigiis _ad prædam rapiendam_.” The lightning-like change of
the fishermen, on realising that their intended victims were ready to
defend themselves, from plunderers to helpers, and the non-denial to
the shipwrecked folk of the use of their hut for eating some sea-sodden
food, scarcely shine as exemplars of high Hospitality. No wonder the
guests dragged out a “most miserable night.”

Tyrrhenus, the old deaf fisherman in _The Ethiopian History_ (omitted
by Bunsmann), embodies a far better instance of the characteristic
Hospitality. His glad welcome and the surrender to his guests of “the
cosier part of his dwelling” betoken Nature’s gentleman.[282]

A still better instance meets us in the Greek romance of _Apollonius of
Tyre_[283] possibly an imitation of the Heliodorus idyll. The prince,
sole survivor of a shipwreck, is found, fed, clad, and afterwards
directed by an old fisherman to Pentapolis, where he wins a competition
before the king. This romance, which survives in a Latin version of the
sixth century, became in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries widely
popular and translated into most European languages. To it, as the
scenes and the characters prove, Shakespeare, or possibly Wilkins, must
have owed much of his _Pericles_.

On the question whence originated their Piety to the Gods, whether it
sprang from or was only influenced by the fact that their lives were
passed amid the unknown but ever-present and awful forces of Nature
identified with certain gods, or sprang rather from a gratitude
proportioned to future benefits, Bunsmann is discreetly non-committal.

But of outward and visible signs of such Piety the _Anthologia
Palatina_ is eloquent. Their Piety towards the dead is strikingly
attested by Hegesippus, the simplicity of whose style in his eight
epigrams in _Anth. Pal._ betokens an early date. “The fishermen brought
up from the sea in their net a half-eaten man, a most mournful relic of
some voyage. They sought not for unholy gain, but him and the fishes
too they buried under this light coat of sand.”[284]

Bunsmann furnishes two records of impiety among fishermen. The first
occurs in the well-known _Baiano procul a lacu recede_ of Martial
(_Epigr._, IV. 30), where an impious poacher in the very act of
landing his fish from the Emperor’s lake is stricken with blindness.
The second, in Athen., VII. 18, and Ælian, XV. 23, where Epopeus, a
fisherman of the island of Icarus, enraged by taking nothing but sacred
or _tabu Pompili_, turned to with his son and devoured them, only
themselves in turn to be devoured by a whale.[285]

But the _impietas_ charged from _Anth. Pal._, VI. 24, is fantastic. The
indictment has been drawn owing either to mistranslation of the passage
or inability to appreciate the rather heavy-handed humour (frequent in
the Greek and Roman writers of the time) of Lucilius, a conjectured
author of the Epigram.

Heliodorus lays down at the portals of the temple of “the Syrian
goddess” a votive offering of his fishing net worn out, not by catches
of fish, but of seaweed “from the beaches of goodly havens.” This
dedication, as fish were sacred to the goddess and in Syria were
forbidden as a food, has been imputed as an affront to the deity,
but quite incorrectly. Heliodorus in offering his net intended no
disrespect, nor offended any law of the temple. Since its sole catch
had been seaweed, his net could plead “pure from the prey of fishery.”

The point of the pleasantry is akin to the caustic defence offered
on behalf of a Jewish portrait painter, “as none of the pictures are
_likenesses_, he is guiltless of breaking the Second Commandment!”

Ovid’s pretty fancy to account for the Syrian abstention doubtless
hangs together with the Greek conception of Atargatis and Aphrodite
being one and the same. When the Giants revolted against the Gods,
Venus fleeing with Cupid reaches, but is stayed by, the Euphrates:
thither, _Palæstinæ margine aquæ_, in answer to her piteous plaints to
heaven above and earth below, two fish approach and convey mother and
child safely across the flood.[286]

    “Inde nefas ducunt genus hoc imponere mensis
       Nec violant timidi piscibus ora Syri.”
                        _Fasti_, II. 473-4.

But other books, other legends! for the same author (in _Met._, V. 331)
tells us that in the battle Venus changes herself into a fish.

Ktesias gives another account.[287] Derceto by the wiles of Aphrodite
“fell in love with a beautiful young man and was brought to bed of a
daughter: being ashamed of what she had done, she slew the young man,
exposed in the desert the child (who, fed with milk and then with
cheese by pilfering pigeons, grew up to become the famous Semiramis)
and then cast herself into the lake at Ascalon and was transformed into
a fish—whence it came to pass that at this very day the Syrians eat no
fishes, but adore them as gods” (Booth’s Trans.).

Of the instances of _calliditas_ or shrewd wit of fishermen, the story
(_supra_) of the fisher lads’ answer to Homer and the following from
Alciphron (I. 16) must suffice, although from Æsop, etc., many others
can be gleaned. The whole passage is far too long for quotation, but
the final retort of the fisher, whose request for a battered disused
boat has been selfishly refused by its owner, furnishes, according to
a German critic, “a perfect gem of the Art of the Sophist, and sounds
itself like an insoluble riddle.”

To enable the reader to form his own judgment on this particular
instance of _calliditas_, I subjoin the retort: οὐκ ᾔτησά σε ἃ ἕχεις
ἀλλ’ ἃ μὴ ἓχεις ἐπεὶ δὲ οὐ βούλει ἃ μὴ ἓχεις ἕτερον ἕχειν, ἕχε ἃ μὴ
ἓχεις, “I didn’t ask you for what you have, but for what you haven’t.
Since, however, you don’t wish another to have what you haven’t, what
you haven’t you can have!”

But apart from this and similar instances of _calliditas_, the mood of
piscatory poetry is generally serious or melancholy, and in keeping
with the surroundings; we look in vain for the sunny warmth of Sicilian
meadows, where youths pipe and sing gaily.

Like their modern brethren fishermen offered, before setting sail
or after returning safe from dangers encountered, gifts to the gods
of their craft, of whom first came Poseidon or Neptune, usually
represented with a trident[288]; second, Hermes or Mercury, the most
venerated, because of his wily cunning and ready ruses[289]; third,
Pan, a son of Mercury, who taught him all his craft,[290] and fourth,

It is with a start of surprise that one finds Priapus, far more
notorious as the god of propagation and fecundity, among the gods of
fisherfolk. Can this be accounted for by some subtle, but inverse
connection between the belief in India that the Fish was the symbol of
Fecundation, and the God of Fecundation in Greece? Some support for
this may lie in the statement of de Gubernatis, that as in the East the
fish was a phallic symbol, so now _pesce_ in the Neapolitan dialect
means the _phallus_ itself.

His lineage, either the son of Hermes, or his grandson, for among the
many putative fathers of Priapus was Pan, may account for the inclusion
of Priapus. To Priapus, arriving how he may at goddom, offerings were
more freely made than to any other except Hermes.[292]

In addition to these four flourished minor gods. Goddesses too of
Fishing (such as Artemis[293]), of rivers, of springs, and of the fish
therein found devotees. First and foremost, ranked Aphrodite or Venus:

                                                          “But she
    Came flushed from the full-flushed wave, and imperial, her foot on
          the sea,
    And the wonderful waters knew her, the winds, and the viewless ways,
    And the roses grew rosier, and bluer the sea-blue stream of the

To her, seemingly, as many offerings, as many prayers were made as to
any god.

Whether she can be identified or not with Atargatis, through Derceto
or Astarte, matters little here.[294] But the image of the goddess, as
described by Lucian,[295] “In Phœnicia, I saw the image of Derceto,
a strange sight truly! For she had the half of a woman, and from the
thighs downwards a fish’s tail,” corresponds closely with an image of
Ascalon,[296] “having the face of a woman, but all the rest of the body
a fish.”


From _Ephemeris Archélogique_, Pl. 10.]

When in addition we find this same image at Ascalon stated by Herodotus
(II. 115) to be that “of the heavenly Aphrodite,” the identification
of the Greek-Roman goddess appears, at any rate, to have gained wide
acceptance. Doubtless Horace had this,[297] or perhaps some fish-tailed
Egyptian goddess, in mind when he penned his famous comparison for an
incoherent simile: “Desinit in piscem mulier formosa superne.”

Coins of Hierapolis in Cyrrhestica often show Atargatis riding on a
lion or enthroned between two lions,[298] sometimes with the legend
ΘΕΑΣ ΣΥΡΙΑΣ, ‘of the Syrian goddess.’ Strabo (XVI. 27, p. 748) tells us
that this city worshipped the Syrian goddess Atargatis, who (_Ibid._,
p. 785) according to Ktesias the historian was called also Derceto.[299]

Another reason for abstention from fish, apart from their sacredness
to the goddess, we owe to Antipater of Tarsus.[300] Gatis, queen of
Syria, developed such a passion for fish that she issued a proclamation
forbidding their being eaten without her being invited (ἄτερ Γάτιδος).
Hence the common people thought her name was Atargatis and abstained
wholly from fish.

Mnaseas[301] assigns to her the deserved and not inappropriate fate
of being thrown into her own lake near Ascalon and devoured by
fishes.[302] But against this legend must be placed the fact that
Atargatis, in common with many Asian deities and cults translated
westward, found sanctuary and high veneration, in her case at

Theocritus in the fragment on Berenice recommends the sacrifice of a
certain fish to a goddess. “And if any man that hath his livelihood
from the salt sea, and whose nets serve him for ploughs, prays for
wealth and luck in fishing, let him sacrifice, at midnight, to this
goddess, the sacred fish that men call ‘silver white,’ for that it is
brightest of sheen of all; then let the fisher set his nets, and he
shall draw them full from the sea.”[304]

If Apollonius of Tyana had been compelled to commend a beauteous fish
for sacrifice—an act which his Pythagorean tenets forbade—he must have
plumped for the Peacock fish.

Whether he were, _teste_ Hieroclas, as great a sage, as remarkable a
worker of miracles, as potent an exorcist as JESUS of Nazareth, or
merely, in the words of Eusebius, a rank charlatan, whose magic, “if
he possessed any,” was the gift of the powers of evil with whom he
lived in league is no question to be considered here. Apollonius, at
any rate, stands out, not only as one of the most interesting and most
discussed personalities of the third century, but also as one of the
most travelled.

During his fifty odd _Wanderjahre_ many men had he known, and many
cities had he seen of Asia and Africa. In the Hyphasis river of India
there exist (we learn from his _Life by Philostratus_, III. 1) Peacock
fish (sacred to Aphrodite) to which, if colour or “silver sheen” insure
full creels, the Theocritean certainly must yield place, for “their
fins are blue, their scales beautifully dappled, their tails, which
fold or spread at will, of golden hue!”

But dominant over all other characteristics stands the inevitable and
insistent connection of fishermen with Old Age, Toil, and Poverty.
Everywhere, in every author, does this note strike loudest; nowhere,
have I come across a _young_ fisherman, except Virgil’s Menœtes.

These characteristics find their place not only in Greek and Latin
literature from and before the “sleepless chase” of Sophocles (_Ajax_,
880) to the last Romanticist,[305] but also in the statuary, pictures,
frescoes, mosaics of Greek and Roman Art. Numerous examples can be
cited from the museums of Naples, Rome, Paris, and London sustaining
the contention that all real fishermen were ever depicted old and

The fishing boys and women of the _Amorini_ at Pompeii and elsewhere
may be adduced as vitiating this statement: but these, it must be
borne in mind, are merely artistic representations of Anglers and
of dalliance, not of real fishermen toiling for their livelihood.
So, too, in the Greek representations where boys, not _Putti_ or
_Amorini_, figure as fishing, it will be found that they are helpers or
“fish-boys” of the working fisherman.[307]

The explanations why fishermen are so rendered vary. Perhaps the
truest, certainly the concisest, is Alciphron’s, τρέφει γὰρ οὐδέν’ ἡ
θάλαττα—the sea feeds no one. According to Bunsmann, fishermen are
always represented as old and poor and worn, because their delineators
desired by painting the career as blackly as possible to excite
sympathy. For this purpose old age and poverty and heavy toil, which
appeal unto all, stood ready as their most effective strokes.

According to Hall, the fisher, a common character in all Greek
literature, was in early times described with simple truth. Only later,
when imitation took the place of originality, did conventionalism
render him always as aged, pathetic, superstitious, wretchedly poor,
yet patient and content.[308]

Whatever be the reason, Greek fishermen, whether we read of them in
the Epigrams or in the fragments of lost works, all come down as old,
patient, half-starved through dint of toil by day and night, sea-worn.
Their horny hands grasp better a trident than hold the delicate
pastoral reeds. They play no tunes, they dance no dances, they sing no
songs save some rowing chant, as they tug at the oars when homeward


From P. Hartwig’s _Die griechischen Meisterschalen_, p. 57, pl. 5.]

Meniscus and Diotimus (in Sappho and Alcæus) are aged, lonely, and
miserably poor. They are not “white-limbed” like Daphnis in _The
Herdsman’s Offering_. They play no flute, nor carry the apples of Love.

So too the circumstances, the life, the recreations of the Shepherd
of the Pastoral Idyll of Theocritus are as far removed as can be from
those of the Fisherman of the Piscatory Idyll by the same author. The
_locus_ is the same. The characters dwell near each other, but how
dissimilar their lots!


[266] Burton, _Arabian Nights_.

[267] Mackail, _op. cit._, p. 92. Cf. Strabo’s naïve but curiously true
phrase about her, “a marvellous creature” (θαυμαστόν τι χρῇμα).

[268] _Anth. Pal._, VII. 505:

    τῷ γριπεῖ Πελάγωνι πατὴρ ἐπέθηκε Μενίσκος
      κύρτον καὶ κώπαν, μνᾶμα κακοξοΐας.

Translated by T. Fawkes.

[269] In _Anth. Pal._, VII. 305, this epigram is headed in the MS.
Ἀδδαίου Μιτυληναίου, which is obviously wrong, for either Μιτυληναίου
should be Μακεδόνος, or Ἀδδαίου is a mistake. Bergk assigns it
to Alcæus of Messine—probably with reason, as it is not unlike
his style, and his name is more than once confused with Alcæus of
Mitylene, the famous lyric poet. (For Alcæus of Messene, see Mackail’s
_Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology_ (London, 1890), p. 297
f.) Stadtmüller the latest editor of _Anth. Pal._ conjectures as
author Alpheus of Mitylene, but unconvincingly to Mackail and other
authorities. Translated by E. W. Peter—_The Poets and Poetry of the
Ancients_, London, 1858.

    ὁ γριπεὺς Διότιμος ὁ κύμασιν ὁλκάδα πιστὴν
      κἠν χθονὶ τὴν αὐτὴν οἶκον ἕχων πενίης, κ.τ.λ.

Cf. Etruscus Messenius, _Anth. Pal._, VII. 381, 5 f.

    ὄλβιος ὁ γριπεὺς ἰδίη καὶ πόντον ἐπέπλει
      νηΐι, καὶ ἐξ ἰδίης ἕδραμεν εἰς Ἀΐδην.

[270] For this and other passages quoted or incorporated, I am greatly
in debt to Dr. Henry Marion Hall’s _Idylls of Fishermen_, New York,
1912 and 1914, and to A. F. Campaux’s preface to his _De Ecloga
Piscatoris qualem: veteribus adumbratam absolvere sibi proposuit
Sannazarius_, Paris, 1859.

[271] And yet “the eternal feminine” question was to the fore very
early, as we see from the old oracle quoted by Herodotus, VI. 77: “But
when the female at last shall conquer the male in the battle, Conquer
and drive him forth, and glory shall gain among Argives.”

[272] Poll., _Onomasticon_, 10, 52, and 10, 45. In later literature
references, etc., to fish are countless: one of the lost plays of
Aristophanes bore, indeed, the title of _The Eel_, according to Keller,
_op. cit._, 357.

[273] This name was applied, according to Athenæus, XIV. 10, from the
peculiar poetry made by those who kept cattle.

[274] _The Faerie Queen_, especially Books I., II., III. Of the
other writers, I simply cite (A) _Piscatorie Eclogs_, 1633, and in
a lesser degree _Sicelides_, 1631, of Phineas Fletcher, perhaps the
most conspicuous writer of fisher Idylls in English, whom Izaak Walton
terms “an excellent divine, and an excellent angler, and author of
excellent Piscatory Eclogues”; (B) _Nereides or Sea Eclogues_ (of which
only one is strictly a fisher eclogue) published anonymously in 1712,
but to be followed the next year by _Dryades_, by Diaper (translator
with his fellow Fellow of Balliol of Oppian’s _Halieutica_), which
Swift commends to Stella as the earliest book of its kind in English,
a statement which has been amplified into “the only book of its kind
in any literature,” for his Muse dives to a new Arcadia set in the
coral groves of the deep sea, and thence evokes the characters of his
Eclogues—“mermen and nereids who behave exactly like the personages in
Virgil and in Sannazaro”; (C) William Browne, _Britannia’s Pastorals_
(1613-1616), in which fishing, although but incidentally introduced, is
well and truly described, notably the passage in Book I., Song 5, about
the capture of the pike; (D) Moses Browne (who endeavoured to show that
Angling comes fairly within the range of the Pastoral), the author of
the most popular of all English fishing idylls, _Angling Sports in
Nine Piscatory Eclogues_, 1729; (E) William Thompson’s _Hymn to May_
(1758); (F) John Gay, whose _Rural Sports_ (1713) is, however, more of
an angling georgic than a piscatory eclogue.

The eclogue, piscatory or other, was severely criticised by Dryden,
who complaining of its affectation that shepherds had always to be in
love, roundly stated, “This Phylissing comes from Italy”; by Pope, who
found fault with Theocritus because of his introduction of “fishers and
harvesters”; by Dr. Johnson, whose denunciation (in his essay, _The
Reason why Pastorals Delight_) of Sannazaro for his introduction into
the eclogue of the sea, which by presenting much less variety than
the land must soon exhaust the possibilities of marine imagery, and
known only to a few must always remain to the inlanders—the majority
of mankind—as unintelligible as a chart, dealt possibly the _coup de
grâce_ to the English piscatory. See Hall, _op. cit._, 183.

[275] It is indeed a far cry from Idyll XXI. to Endymion; still here,
even though it be no piscatory eclogue, the fisher Glaucus recalls his
Sicilian prototype. In Book II. 337 ff., for instance,

    “I touched no lute, I sang not, trod no measures;
     I was a lonely youth on desert shores”;

and again,

    “For I would watch all night to see unfold
     Heaven’s Gate, and Æthon snort his morning gold
     Wide o’er the swelling streams, and constantly
     My nets would be spread out.”

[276] Moses Browne in the introductory essay to his _Angling Sports in
Nine Piscatory Eclogues_ asserts that Servius allowed only seven of
Virgil’s _Bucolics_ to be pure pastorals, while Heinsius for similar
reasons rejects all but ten of Theocritus’s _Idylls_.

[277] I. 39 ff.; III. 25 f.; IX. 25 ff.; and especially in XXI.

[278] With the execrable taste of his age Sannazaro considered himself
bound to produce still paler shades of those pale shadows, the
_Eclogues_ of Virgil, just as their author, the most precedent-loving
of poets, rarely ventured to introduce an image or an incident without
the authority of some Greek original (W. M. Adams, _op. cit._, p.
45). Moses Browne (_ibid._) declares that it would have been far
better if Sannazaro had never written his “sea eclogues, for the
exercise of fishing appears so contemptible in him, that any that
writes on a subject, that seems to be of a similar aspect, must suffer

[279] They must, however, now according to the evidence of the Papyri
be dated back some three centuries, _i.e._ from the usually accepted
date of the sixth to about the third century A.D.

As regards some of the Romance writers, the Papyri are a revelation
and compel apparently much revision of dates. Thus Chariton (whom “the
critics place variously between the fifth and the ninth centuries
A.D.”) is fixed by Pap., _Fayum Towns_, as _before_ 150 A.D. Achilles
Tatius, whose allotted span, owing to his imitation of Heliodorus (who
hitherto has been dated about the end of the fourth century), was run
“about the latter half of the fifth or beginning of the sixth century,”
is now placed by Pap., _Oxyrh._, 1250, as living before 300, and thus
Heliodorus is removed up to (_c._) 250 A.D.

[280] In the _Anthologia Palatina_ there are some 3700 epigrams, etc.,
dating from 700 B.C. and ending about 1300 A.D.; none of these, as far
as I can recall, contradict the poverty note. I have chosen 500 A.D. as
being a convenient date, because it includes all Greek and Græco-Roman
writers as distinct from the Byzantine, and includes also the earlier
and better prose writers, like Heliodorus and Longus. Epigrams, it is
true, continued to be written until the fourteenth century, but there
is little, and that of no poetical account, after the tenth, when the
popular or “political” verse began, with a few exceptions, to supplant
the classical forms.

[281] H. Blümner, _Römische Privataltertümer_, p. 329. “It is
noteworthy that as Virgil omitted all mention of fishermen in his
Bucolics, his imitators have followed his example, and in consequence
in classical Latin the fisherman has no place as a pastoral character.
The hut and tackle in the Theocritean story of Asphalion was foreign to
Virgil’s conception of the province of pastoralism” (Hall, _op. cit._,
1914, p. 28).

[282] Heliod, _Æthiop._, V. 18.

[283] _De Apollonio Tyrio_, 12.

[284] VII. 276, W. R. Paton’s Translation.

[285] Cf. Pausanias, III. 21, 5: “Men fear to fish in the Lake of
Poseidon, for they think he who catches fish in it is turned into a
fish called _The Fisher_.” In I. 38, 1, we find that only the priests
were allowed to fish, because the rivers were sacred to Demeter, and
in VII. 22, 4, that the fish at Pharae were sacred to Hermes, and so

[286] In gratitude for the part played by certain fish in bringing to
the banks of the Euphrates the egg, from which came Aphrodite, Zeus
placed fishes among the stars—hence the Pisces. Diognetos of Erythrai
_ap._ Hyg., _poet. astr._, 2. 30, make these “certain fish” Venus and
Cupid. Cf. Myth. Vat., I. 86.

[287] Cf. Diod. Sic., II. 20.

[288] Some recent scholars hold that Poseidon was an early
differentiation of Zeus, and that his fish-spear was developed from
the three-pronged lightning symbol of that deity as soon as the
former became himself specialised into first a river god, and second
a sea god. From my friend Mr. A. B. Cook’s forthcoming work, _Zeus_,
vol. ii. c. 6, s. 4, I learn that the commonly supposed Trident (in
Æschylus, _Septem._, I. 31), “the fish-striking tool of the sea-god,”
is more likely in pre-classical times to have been the three-pronged
lightning symbol of the highest Deity of all, and observable not only
in Greece, but also in Asia. Against this view lies the fact that only
once in all the Greek art is Poseidon represented with an unmistakable
thunder-bolt, and this is on a silver tetradrachm of Messana about 450
B.C. The name Poseidon merely equals, it is held, ποτεί-Δας, or ‘Lord
Zeus,’ the correlative of πότνια Ἥρη, ‘Lady Hera.’

[289] See Oppian’s invocation of him in III. 9-28.

[290] _Ibid._ As Pan was worshipped as the god of animals, especially
of herds, on land, so did the fisherfolk venerate him, Πὰν ἅκτιος
(Theocr., _Id._, V. 14) or ἁλίπλαγκτος (Soph., _Aj._, 695: cf. _Anth.
Pal._, X. 10), as the god of the animals of the sea, and in especial
for his service to them in netting Typhon, whose “winds wrought havoc
to their boats, and when Auster with Sirocco breath prevailed, caused
their catches to go bad.” At Athens the god was regarded with gratitude
as a powerful benefactor, because of the aid vouchsafed in securing
naval victories (Hdt., 6. 105. Simonides _frag._ 133, Bergk).

[291] To Janus, however, the credit of being the first to teach the
art of Fishing to the Latins is assigned by Alexander Sardus, _De
Rerum Inventoribus_, II. 16. This in common with the belief that Janus
invented boats is probably a mistaken inference from the fact that the
early _as libralis_ had a head of Janus on one side and the prow of a
ship on the other (Roscher, _Lex. Myth._, II. p. 23).

[292] The description in _Anth. Pal._, X. 10, “Me, Pan, the fishermen
have placed on this holy cliff, the watcher here over the fair
anchorage of the harbour; and I take care now of the baskets and again
of the trawlers off this shore,” and in Archias (_Anth. Pal._, X. 7,
and 8) of the fishermen making an image of Priapus to be set up, just
where the sea leaves the shore, are only three of very many similar
passages. Among the Eleans Apollo was honoured as a God under the title
of _The Fish-eater_ (Athen., VIII. 36). In addition to Gods we read of
Tritons who were half-men, half-fish, and of a still more wonderful
being, an Ichthyocentaurus, whose upper body was of human form, and
lower that of a fish, while in place of the hands were horses’ hooves!

[293] The Phigaleans (in Arkadia) worshipped an old wooden image,
called Eurynome, which represented a woman to the hips, a fish below.
This curious effigy was kept bound in golden chains and was regarded by
the inhabitants as a form of Artemis: see Paus., 8. 41, 4-6. A large
Bœotian vase at Athens shows Artemis with a great fish painted on the
front of her dress, a clear indication that she was held locally to be
a goddess of fishing (M. Collignon and L. Couve, _Catalogue des Vases
Peints du Musée National d’Athènes_ (Paris, 1902), p. 108 f., No. 462;
cp. _Ib._, No. 463).

[294] It is probably the wisest course to admit that the unity of an
ancient god or goddess was a matter of _name_, rather than of _nature_.

[295] _De Dea Syr._, ii. c. 14. The authorship is a matter of doubt.
The author adds, “but the image in the holy city is all woman.”

[296] Diod. Sic., II. 1.

[297] On Greek and Italian vases, etc., women with fish bodies are
occasionally represented. Cf. Keller, _op. cit._, ii. 349.

[298] See _Brit. Mus. Cat. of Coins_, Galatia, pl. 18, 14, or B. V.
Head, _Historia Numorum^2_ (Oxford, 1911), p. 777.

[299] For Derketo, standing on a Triton, on coins of Ascalon, see G.
F. Hill, _Catalogue of The Greek Coins of Palestine_ (London, 1914),
pp. lviii. f., 130 f., Pl. XIII. 21. The dove in the right hand of the
goddess is her very usual attribute. The Triton on which she stands
expresses her marine nature. Ovid, _Met._ IV. 44:

                            “De te, Babylonia, narret,
    Derceti, quam versa squamis velantibus artus
    Stagna Palæstini credunt celebrasse figura.”

Although Roscher’s _Dict. of Myth._ does not in the long article
devoted to Isis specify her as fish-tailed, Isis is distinctly
identified with Atargatis of Bambyke in _Papyrus Oxyr._, 1380, line 100
f., ἐν βανβύκη Ἀταργάτει. Cf. also Pliny, V. 19: Ibi (Syria) prodigiosa
Atargatis, Græcis autem Derceto dicta, colitur.

[300] _De Superstitione_, Bk. IV., quoted by Athen., VIII. 37.

[301] _History of Asia_, Bk. I., quoted _ibid._ VIII. 37.

[302] According to an inscription at Smyrna, H. Dittenberger, _Sylloge
inscriptionum Græcarum_, (Lipsiæ, 1900), ii. 284 f., No. 584, a
violator of the sacred fish was forthwith punished by all sorts of
misfortunes and finally was eaten up by fish. If one of these fish
died, an offering must on the self-same day be burnt on the altar. Cf.
Newton, _Gk. Inscript._, 85.

[303] Keller, _op. cit._, 345.

[304] For discussion as to which was _the_ “sacred fish,” see Plutarch,
_de Sol. Anim._, 32, and Athen., VII. 20.

[305] To cite but one of the scores of intermediate authors as regards
poverty, Ovid, _Met._, III. 586-91,

     Pauper et ipse fuit, linoque solebat et hamis
     Decipere, et calamo salientis ducere pisces.
     Ars illi sua census erat. Cum traderet artem,
    “Accipe quas habeo, studii successor et heres,”
     Dixit, “opes.” Moriensque mihi nihil ille reliquit
     Præter aquas: unum hoc possum appellare paternum.

[306] The νέοι παῖδες in the oracles’ warning to Homer, which seem at
first sight antagonistic to the above, become in Homer’s own words of
greeting, ἅνδρες. Perhaps the employment of νέων παίδων by the Delphic
priestess may be due (1) to the fact that they were “fish-boys” proper,
(2) to an early and intelligent anticipation of the “juvenescent”
tendency, or (3) to the exigency, not unknown to sixth form
Hexameter-makers of the present, but (alas! if Oxford and Cambridge be
obeyed) not of the future day, of scansion!

[307] Cf. _Mus. Borbon._, IV. 54, or Baumeister, _Denkmäler Klass.
Altert._ (Munich, 1885), i. 552, f. 588.

[308] The happiest, perhaps _the_ only happy, fishermen are those
shown at the bottom of drinking cups, etc.! In P. Hartwig’s (_Die
griechischen Meisterschalen_ (Stuttgart-Berlin, 1893), p. 37 ff.)
collection of red-figured Greek vases representing fishermen at work,
there is an Attic _kylix_ (fifth cent. B.C.) with such a fisherman,
who (the idea ran) was only in his element, when the cup was filled
with wine. Cf. Theocritus, I. 39 ff., for another old fisherman in the
bottom of a herdsman’s cup.



But to return to our second _locus classicus_, ‘The Fisherman’s Dream’
of Theocritus.[309] The whole Idyll (XXI.), an exquisite piece of word
painting, deserves careful reading as a study of the piscatory _genre_,
but room can only be found for part of it here.[310]

“’Tis poverty alone, Diophantus, that awakens the arts; Poverty, the
very teacher of labour. Nay, not even sleep is permitted by weary cares
to men that live by toil, and if, for a little while, one closes his
eyes in the night, cares throng about him and suddenly disquiet his

“Two fishers, on a time, two old men, together lay down and slept—they
had strown the dry sea-moss for a bed in their wattled cabin, and
there they lay against the leafy wall. Beside them were strewn the
instruments of their toilsome hands, the fishing creels, the rods of
reed, the hooks, the sails bedraggled with sea-spoil, the lines, the
weels, the lobster pots woven of rushes, the seines, two oars, and an
old coble upon props. Beneath their heads was a scanty matting, their
clothes, their sailor’s caps. Here was all their toil, here all their
wealth. The threshold had never a door, nor a watch-dog; all things,
all to them seemed superfluity, for poverty was their sentinel. They
had no neighbour by them, but ever against their cabin floated up the

“The chariot of the moon had not yet reached the mid-point of her
course, but their familiar toil awakened the fishermen; from their
eyelids they cast out slumber, and roused their souls with speech.”

Asphalion, after complaining that even the nights in summer are too
long—for “already have I seen ten thousand dreams, and the dawn is not
yet”—is somewhat comforted by the thought that thus “we have time to
idle in, for what could a man find to do lying on a leafy bed beside
the waves and slumbering not? Nay, the ass is among the thorns, the
lantern in the town hall, for they say it is always sleepless.”[311]

Then he begs his friend to interpret to him the dream he has just

“As I was sleeping late, amid the labours of the salt sea, (and truly
not too full fed, for we supped early, if thou dost remember, and did
not overtax our bellies), I saw myself busy on a rock, and there I sat
and watched the fishes and kept spinning the bait with the rods.

“And one of the fishes nibbled, a fat one; for, in sleep, dogs dream of
bread, and of fish dream I.[312] Well, he was tightly hooked, and the
blood was running, and the rod I grasped was bent with his struggle.

“So with both hands I strained, and had a sore tussle for the monster.
How was I ever to land so big a fish with hooks all too slim? Then,
just to remind him he was hooked, I gently pricked him, pricked, and
slackened; and as he did not run, I took in line.[313]

“My toil was ended with the sight of my prize. I drew up a golden fish,
lo, you! a fish all plated thick with gold. Then fear took hold of me
lest he might be some fish beloved of Poseidon, or perchance some jewel
of the sea-grey Amphitrite. Gently I unhooked him, lest even the hooks
should retain some of the gold of his mouth. Then I dragged him ashore
with the ropes,[314] and swore that never again would I set foot on
sea, but abide on land and lord it over the gold.

“This was what awakened me, but for the rest set thy mind to it, my
friend, for I am in dismay about the oath I swore.”

_The Friend_: “Nay, never fear, thou art no more sworn than thou hast
found the golden fish[315] of thy vision: dreams are but lies. But if
thou wilt search these waters, wide awake and not asleep, there is some
hope in thy slumbers: seek the fish of flesh, lest thou die of famine
with all thy dreams of gold!”

The influence of Theocritus, though becoming less natural and rendered
more conventional by the pretty conceits of the later Alexandrian
period,[316] permeates the literature of Greece and Rome for many
centuries. In none, perhaps, is this influence more marked than in his
pupils Bion and Moschus, and in his younger contemporary, Leonidas of

Three fisher epigrams[317] by Leonidas suffice as evidence of this. The
realism, the pathos, the detailed treatment, the subjects, lowly folk,
all alike characterise the Sicilian.

In the first, the fisherman Diophantus on giving up his trade
dedicates, according to custom, all the relics of his calling to the
patron of his craft. The list of the implements, including a well-bent
hook, long rod, and line of horse hair, here and in an epigram by
Philippus of Thessalonica (which adds “the flint pregnant with fire,
that sets alight the tinder”), corresponds in material and order of
enumeration fairly closely with Asphalion’s in Theocritus.

Of the second I borrow a spirited translation of the last lines,

    “Yet—not Arcturus, nor the blasts that blow
     Down-rushing, swept this aged man below:
     But like a lamp long burning, and whose light
     Flickers, self-spent, and is extinguished quite,
     In a rush hut he died:—to him this grave
     (No wife, no child he had) his brother fishers gave.”[318]

The third, which should be _The Awful Warning_, if any warning avail,
to boys fishing in the middle of a burn and holding while changing
their lure a fish in their teeth (who of us has not done this?), sets a
picture of a more violent death, “for the slippery thing went wriggling
down his narrow gullet,” and choked him on the spot.

The subjoined, somewhat loose, translation is from _Blackwood’s
Magazine_, Vol. XXXVIII.[319]

    “Parmis, the son of Callignotus—he
     Who trolled for fish the margin of the sea,
     Chief of his craft, whose keen perceptive search,
     The kichlé, scarus, bait-devouring perch,
     And such as love the hollow clefts, and those
     That in the caverns of the deep repose,
     Could not escape—is dead!
                                Parmis had lured
     A Julis from its rocky haunts, secured
     Between his teeth the slippery pert, when, lo!
     It jerked into the gullet of its foe,

     Who fell beside his lines and hooks and rod,
     And the choked fisher sought his last abode.
     His dust lies here. Stranger, this humble grave
     An angler to a brother angler gave.”

Alciphron, judging from his extant letters, seems the most prolific of
the later Piscatory writers. His tribute to the veracity of Sosias,
“who is famous for the delicious sauce made of the fish which he
entices,” reads in such deadly opposition to the common but false
impression that fishermen rank next to mining engineers as the biggest
liars in the world, that it must be quoted, if only on the principle of
“An angler to a brother angler gave.”

“He is one of those who duly reverence Truth, and such an one would
never even slip into Falsehood.”

Lest as an Angler I may be accused of “slipping into Falsehood” in my
translation, I subjoin the Greek:

Ἔστι δὲ τῶν ἐπιεικῶς τὴι ἀλήθειαν τιμώντων, καὶ οὐκ ἄν ποτ’ ἐκεῖνος εἰς
ψευδηγορίαν ὀλίσθοι.[320]

Lucian’s _Dialogues of the Sea Gods_, by their confidential chat, give
witty expression to the author’s own scepticism towards mythology.
“With their imitation of the earlier poets and their amœbean form they
may be considered as connecting links between Theocritus and others of
his group and the eclogues of marine mythology, sometimes classed as
piscatory eclogues during the renaissance.”[321]

If any doubt be as to their being “links,” there can be none as to
the charm of _The Dialogues_ of (in Macaulay’s words) “the last great
master of Attic eloquence, and Attic wit,” or (he has been perhaps
equally well termed) “the first of the moderns.”

_The Fisherman_, by the same author, bears no relationship to the
Mimes, or Idylls. It takes its title from a scene in which the author
sits on a parapet of the Acropolis equipped with the rod of a Piræan
fisherman. His bait of gold and figs attracts a swarm of brilliantly
coloured fish, _Salmo Cynicus_,[322] _Flat Sole Plateship_, and other
philosophers clad in scales.

The Romances, the last prose at times instinct with the genius of
ancient Greece, bequeath us many fisherfolk. The famous pastoral
_Daphnis and Chloe_, by Longus, introduces a pretty picture and
illustrates the old contrast between the idyllic life of shepherds and
the sordid lot of their fishing neighbours.

Daphnis sits with Chloe on a hill near the sea; “while at their meal,
which, however, consisted more of kisses than of food, a fisher boat
is seen proceeding along the coast.” The crew, carrying freshly caught
fish to a rich man in the city, “dip their oars, doing what sailors
usually do to beguile their toil—the boatswain sings a sea-song, and
the rest join in chorus at stated intervals.”

As the boat reaches some hollow or crescent-shaped bay, the echo of
their song floats up. This only incites Daphnis, who understands the
echo, “to store up some of the strains in his memory that he may play
them on his pipes, but Chloe, who wots not that such things can be,
turns in pretty bewilderment to the boat, to the sea, and to the woods.”

The _Aethiopica_, by Heliodorus of Emesa, has been termed, perhaps with
exaggeration, the most elaborate picture of a piscatory kind in ancient
Greek. The influence of Theocritus is strongly suggested by the imagery
incidental to the description of the cabin, the tackle, and the boat,
as well as by the delineation of the character of Tyrrhenus, aged,
sea-worn, wretchedly poor, yet content with his lot and hospitable to
the stranger.[323]

Agathias gives us one of the very few, perhaps the only, fisher epigram
with a love motive. “A fisherman was employed in catching fish. Him did
a damsel of property see, and was affected in her heart with desire,
and made him the partner of her bed. But he, after a life of poverty,
took on himself the swell of all kinds of high bearing, and Fortune
with a smile was standing by, and said to Venus,—‘This is not your
contest, but mine.’”[324]

Lastly it is of interest to note that one of the few Greek poetesses
concerned herself with a love-tale of the sea. Hedyle, who came of a
poetic stock (for she was daughter of Moschine the iambist and mother
of Hedylus the epigrammatist), penned a poem on Glaucus’ love for
Scylla. In it she told how the love-sick swain would repair to the
cavern of his mistress—

    “Bearing a gift of love, a mazy shell,
     Fresh from the Erythrean rock, and with it too
     The offspring, yet unfledged, of Alcyon,
     To win the obdurate maid. He gave in vain.
     Even the lone Siren on the neighbouring isle
     Pitied the lover’s tears.”[325]


[309] Although the Papyrists have as yet unearthed only some six lines
of a _new_ poem by Theocritus (discovered by Mr. M. Johnson, and as yet
unpublished), in _Pap. Oxyrhynchus_, XIII. No. 1618, we find parts of
_Id._, V., VII., and XV.

[310] Translated by Andrew Lang, 1889. The question whether Leonidas
of Tarentum was, and Theocritus was not, the author of this Idyll
is exhaustively treated by R. J. Cholmeley, _Theocritus_, pp. 54,
55. Whatever conclusion be reached, constant are the references in
those Idylls whose authenticity is undoubted to fish and fishing;
even in his familiar comparisons Theocritus thinks of the sea. Mr.
Lang writes, “There is nothing in Wordsworth more real, more full
of the incommunicable sense of Nature, rounding and softening the
toilsome days of the aged and poor, than the Theocritean poem of _The
Fisherman’s Dream_. It is as true to Nature as the statue of the naked
fisherman in the Vatican.”

[311] The meaning is as follows: Asphalion is complaining of
wakefulness, and he compares his condition to two things; to a donkey
in a furze-bush (as we might say), and to the light of the town-hall,
whose sacred flame was perpetual (Snow).

[312] Mr. Lang adopts the reading ἄρτον, bread; Ahrens substitutes
ἄρκτον, bear, which seems to fit the context far better, as it keeps
up the whole spirit of, “I dreamed of large-sized fish, and a lively
fight, just as a sleeping dog dreams of chasing _bears_.” Cf.
Tennyson’s _Locksley Hall_—

    “Like a dog he hunts in dreams,”

and his _Lucretius_—

                            “As the dog
    With inward yelp and restless forefoot plies
    His function of the woodland,”

passages alike inspired by the lines in which Lucretius (iv. 991 f.)
proves that waking instincts are reflected in dreams—

    “venantumque canes in molli sæpe quiete
     jactant crura tamen subito.”

[313] This is but one instance of anachronistic translation, or the
use of terms, which, if true of our modern line, are inapplicable to
ancient angling, for if, as I have shown in the Introduction, all
ancient angling was with a _tight_ line, the operation translated as
“I took in line” should rather be rendered “I tightened on him.” The
alternation of easing and tightening is a well-known device. It is a
question of the degree of strain involved. If you want to keep a big
fish quiet in a confined space or in difficult circumstances, you can
generally do so by keeping a very light strain on him, so that, though
the line is never absolutely slack, he hardly knows that he is hooked
and is often landed without the angler having to yield a foot of his
line. Thus the roach-fisher without a reel sometimes lands a 4 lb.
chub or bream with a foot link of single hair, entirely by this method
of _suaviter in modo_. There seems no particular reason why Asphalion
should not have been cognisant of these secrets, which three lines in
James Thomson’s _The Seasons_, although the fight is, I admit, with a
running line, fairly disclose.

                                “With yielding hand
    That feels him still, yet to his furious course
    Gives way, you, now retiring, following now
    Across the stream, exhaust his idle rage.”

[314] To a practical angler this passage is not clear. How is it
possible, after you have taken out the hook (the only apparent
method of holding the big fish), to fasten round him ropes and drag
him ashore, unless he were beached high and dry? Of this we have no
evidence beyond ἀνείλκυσα, if used here in its nautical sense “to haul
up high and dry.” The readings suggested by Wordsworth and others
are numerous, but none seem quite satisfactory, even those preferred
by J. M. Edmonds, _The Greek Bucolic Poets_, London, 1912, and R.
J. Cholmeley, _op. cit._ Perhaps the least improbable text is that
given by E. Hiller (Leipzig, 1881), καὶ τὸν μὲν πίστευσα καλῶς ἒχεν
ἠπειρώταν, “and I really believed that I had him fairly landed.” This
has the positive merit of sticking close to the manuscript reading, and
the negative merit of refusing to admit the absurd ‘ropes.’

[315] Callimachus, whom Theocritus probably knew at Alexandria, calls
the “chrysophrys” sacred—

    “Or shall I rather say the _gold-browed_ fish,
     That sacred fish?”

See Athen., VII. 20.

[316] “Theocritus gives nature, not behind the footlights, but beneath
the truthful blaze of Sicily’s sunlit sky. For it was here that the
first vibrations of this spontaneous note were heard in their original
purity, before art could distort them with allegory, or echo weaken
them with imitation. This is all the more remarkable from the contrast
which it offers to what Kingsley calls the ‘artificial jingle’ of the
Alexandrian school. Simplicity, honesty, truth, and beauty recommend
Theocritus as a genuine artist. His imitators, as compared with their
model, were like—

    ‘Those many jackdaw-rhymers, who with vain
     Chattering contend against the Chian Bard,’

as he himself describes (_Id._, VII. 47) Homer’s imitators.” Against
this verdict by H. Snow on the Alexandrians must be set the more
truthful appreciation of their work by Mackail, _op. cit._, pp.
178-207, especially p. 184: “They are called artificial poets, as
though all poetry were not artificial, and the greatest poetry were not
the poetry of the most consummate artifice.”

[317] _Anth. Pal._, VI. 4; VII. 295; VII. 504. While the last two
in the MS. are headed Λεωνίδου Ταραντίνου, and τοῦ αὐτοῦ, the first
is simply Λεωνίδου. Hence this has sometimes been thought to be by
Leonidas of Alexandria, but Professor Mackail informs me that all three
epigrams are by the Tarentine, both by evidence of style, and because
all three come in groups of epigrams taken from the Anthology of

[318] The following translation by Mr. Andrew Lang is truer:

    ”Theris the Old, the waves that harvested
      More keen than birds that labour in the sea.
    With spear and net, by shore and rocky bed,
      Not with the well-manned galley laboured he;
    Him not the star of storms, nor sudden sweep
      Of wind with all his years hath smitten and bent,
    But in his hut of reeds he fell asleep,
      As fades a lamp when all the oil is spent:
    This tomb nor wife nor children raised, but we
      His fellow-toilers, fishers of the sea.”

[319] In line 5 πρώτης, which makes nonsense, should certainly be
corrected to πλωτῆς.

[320] Bk. I. 18.

[321] See Hall, _op. cit._ p. 22 (1914), and _ibid._, p. 35 (1912).
Lucian, although a Syrian (to which nation fish was from the earliest
times a forbidden food), frequently shows himself very conversant
with fishes and avails himself of their characteristics: _e.g._
Menelaus, after witnessing some of the “turns” of that celebrated
“lightning-change artist,” Proteus, exclaims frankly, “there must
be some fraud!” The artist pooh-poohs him and bids him consider the
everyday miracle of invisibility wrought by the Polypus, who having
“selected his rock and having attached himself by means of his suckers,
assimilates himself to it, changing his colour to match that of the
rock. Thus there is no contrast of colour to betray his presence:
he looks just like a stone” (_Dialogues of the Sea Gods_, iv. 1-3,
Fowler’s _Translation_).

[322] Such in Fowler’s Translation, V. 48, is the rendering of κύων,
which is quite wrong for two reasons. _First_, κύων is almost certainly
our dog-fish or its cousin. Cf. Aristotle, _N. H._, VI. 118. _Second_,
the salmon is not found in Greek waters, and so could not be fished for
from the Acropolis. Cf. _infra_, Chapter XIII.

[323] Heliod., _Æthiop._, 5, 18. Cf. Hall, _op. cit._, 1914.

[324] _Anth. Pal._, IX. 442. Trs. from the _Greek Anthology as selected
for Westminster, Eton, etc._

[325] Athen., VII., 48.



After Theocritus we reach the period which chronologically might
perhaps be termed that of the Roman writers, although our two greatest
authorities on Fish Lure and Lore wrote in Greek, some three to four
centuries after Plautus (_c._ 254-184 B.C.) had produced his _Rudens_.

This, the first Latin play, I believe, introducing fishermen on the
stage, re-echoes the Greek note of poverty and misery. In Act II.,
Sc. 2, Trachalio asks, “Shellfish-gatherers, and hook-fishers, hungry
race of men, how fare ye?” and receives the answer, “Just as befits
fishermen; with hunger, thirst, and expectation.” The wretchedness of
their calling is made further manifest in Act II., Sc. 1.

Descriptions of fishermen are found in Latin adaptations of Greek
plays. The Latin mimes, as did the Greek, often display fishermen
as characters. The Latin references to actual fishing not only far
outnumber the Greek, but also, unlike the Greek, which are almost
solely concerned with sea fishing, frequently treat of river and lake
fishing. Plautus, Cicero, Horace, Ovid,[326] Juvenal, Tibullus, Pliny
the Elder and the Younger, Martial, and Ausonius, by no means conclude
the list of our Roman authors.

It may be fairly asked, why I omit any special notice of so valuable
and voluminous work as the _Natural History_ of Pliny the Elder.

My reasons are three. First, my book contains numberless references to
or quotations from it. Second, none of its thirty-seven Books presents
any controversial questions of angling interest—such as “Where is to be
found the first mention of the Rod, or Fly?”—questions which demand for
Martial and Ælian a full discussion. Third, my notice of Aristotle, on
the principle that the greater includes the less, renders any lengthy
comment on Pliny almost superfluous.

The _Natural History_ of the latter, at any rate as far as fish and
fishing are concerned, for the most part repeats the _Natural History_
of the former, except in such instances as the caudal losses caused
by the enmity between the _Lupus_ and the _Mugil_, and between the
_Conger_ and the _Muræna_, where it exactly reverses Aristotle’s

These and other instances, in addition to his words (IX. 88), “Nigidius
auctor est,” and (X. 19) “Nigidius tradit,” led J. G. Schneider[328]
to conclude that it is open to grave doubt, whether Pliny ever read
Aristotle at all in the original Greek. The probabilities, indeed,
point to his having used for his _Natural History_ the translation into
Latin of Aristotle, which Nigidius Figulus, a friend of Cicero’s and
(according to Gellius) next to Varro the most learned of the Romans,
published with additions apparently of his own.[329]

 In Pliny the Younger, and Martial
(perhaps Ovid in a lesser degree) one finds what among our classical
writers seems the nearest approach to our English sportsman, delighting
in his own place, however small, in the country, and in country
pursuits. These writers, in spite of living half the year or more in
Rome, fall within our conception of country sportsmen.

Most of the others seem more intent on bringing the scent of the hay
before the footlights than on making us realise any real joy of
fishing. They resemble more the week-enders of a fishing syndicate than
the country gentleman living on his place or river.

Pliny the Younger possesses, in addition to his appreciation of the
various joys of country life, a passionate yet exquisite feeling for
beauty of scenery, especially for that round Lake Como, to which his
letters recur again and again.

I cannot, however, conceive him much of a hunter, despite the abundant
game which the Apennine or Laurentine coverts harboured, or much of a
_piscator_, despite his notices of fishing on his favourite lake. A
letter (_Epist._, I. 6) to Tacitus, who had apparently been chaffing
him as a sportsman, frankly admits that although he has killed three
boars his chief pleasure in the chase consists of sitting quietly
beside the nets, to which the game was driven, wrapt in contemplation
or jotting down on his tablets the ideas which the solitude and silence
demanded by the sport were wont to produce.

As a fisherman he took his pleasure, if not sadly, for the most part
vicariously. He joyed more, if I read him aright, in watching from one
or other of his villas the boatmen toiling with their nets and lines
than in a day’s fishing, an impression which seems confirmed by his
appreciation of the joy of being able to angle from bed!

Thus we read in _Epist._, IX. 7: “On the shores of Como I have several
villas, but two occupy me most ... That one feels no wave; this one
breaks them. From that, you may look down upon the fishermen below;
while from this, you may yourself fish, and lower your hook from your
bedroom—almost from your very bed—just as from a little boat.”[330]

If the site of the present Villa Pliniana is that of the ancient Villa,
as from Pliny’s description[331] of the close proximity of the spring
(which even now preserves the unusual characteristics specified in his
letter) we may safely conclude, the feat of throwing your hook from
your bedroom is obviously of the easiest.

The mediæval writer, Paolo Giovio, dwells at length on the enormous
fish to be seen 350 years ago in the depths of Lake Como, and states
that trout of 100 lbs. and over were no uncommon objects.[332]

What a prospect of joyous, easeful sport is opened here! No tedious
travel of days or weeks to Norway, Canada, or New Zealand; no
sleepless roughing it under tent or shack; no diet of canned food; no
being “bitten off in chunks” by mosquito or black fly. Think of it,
O Angler of high hope, but of sore disappointment—of hard toil and
weary waiting! Think of it! To wake, after sound slumber, in one’s own
comfortable room: to seize the ready rod, and with one dexterous cast,
“almost from your very bed,” to be fast in a hundred-pound trout!

    “Than which no more in deed, or dream!”

Martial’s abiding love for his birthplace on the picturesque banks
of the River Salo in Spain (the delights of which in _Ep._, XII. 18,
and I. 49, he paints with happy enthusiasm to Rome-tied Juvenal and
to Licinianus) probably accounts for Angling being mentioned more
appreciatively by him than by any other Latin poet.

Angling was one of the favourite amusements of men like Martial, a
yeoman (if I may differ from Prof. Mackail[333])—to judge from the
frequent references made to his own farm—or at any rate a close
observer of the class, which in _Ep._ I. 55, he so well describes:

    “Hoc petit, esse sui nec magni ruris arator,
      Sordidaque in parvis otia rebus amat.”

For in this same epigram and many others the poet is fain

      “Ante focum plenas explicuisse plagas,
    Et piscem tremula salientem ducere seta.”

To him these rank among the chief delights of country life, which life
he, though an admirable _flâneur_, places higher than all else.

He ends his vivid sketch of it with the passionate burst—“Let not the
man who loves not this life, love me, and let him go on with his city
life—white as his own toga!”[334]

Martial’s charming picture of a Roman homestead, of its life,
live-stock, of its pursuits, and of its fishing,[335] contrasts vividly
with his fawning eulogies of Emperors, and his savage satire on foes.
It must be confessed, however, that some of his prettiest appreciations
of country life were written in or about the large villas with which
his rich patrons had studded, too closely to be really rural, Baiæ and
the Bay of Naples.

His pleasure in this part of the coast was increased by the nearness of
the baths of Baiæ, and the Lacus Lucrinus, the home of the famous Roman

These oysters held, I think, the highest place in Martial’s gastronomic
affections. Constant his references to them, frequent his assertions or
assumptions that they excelled all other.[336] His well known lament
for a beautiful little slave girl, who died when only six, employs as a
term of highest praise _Concha Lucrini delicatior stagni_, rendered by
Paley “more delicate” (in complexion) “than the mother-of-pearl in the
shell of the Lucrine oyster.”[337]

Others hold that _concha_ is meant for the oyster itself. One author,
basing himself on the varying praises of the particular beauties
of the child, rhapsodises thus: “Oysters[338] so tender, so juicy,
so succulent, so delicious, that the poet could find no fitter
comparison for a charming young girl!” But in the words of Jeffrey of
the _Edinburgh Review_, “_This will never do._” To twist the verse
into a comparison of pleasure derived from the sense of taste rather
than of beauty from the sense of sight passes the inadmissible, and
unless Martial could eat, or in Charles Lamb’s word on a gift of game,
“incorporate” the pretty child, reaches the ludicrous.

Martial shows up as a sportsman. Proud of a good day, he knows—and
tells us—what it is to be “blank” (“ecce redit sporta piscator inani,”
_Ep._, X. 37, 17). That he is no “River Hog” and quite eligible for
some select club on the Test or Itchen appears from his throwing
back into his native river any mullet which looked less than three

The interest attaching to his Epigrams lies not only in the evidence
they afford of his and his friends’ love for things piscatorial, but
also in the probability that in them we meet with the first recorded
mention of (_a_) a Jointed Rod, and (_b_) Fishing with a Fly. The
former claim turns on the couplet,

    “Aut crescente levis traheretur harundine præda,
      Pinguis et implicitas virga teneret aves.”
                                       _Ep._, IX., 54, 3.

For _levis_ there are two other, though less well supported, readings,
viz. _vadis_ and _velis_. Is _harundo_ (literally a ‘reed,’ then a
‘rod,’ but used impartially to describe both the weapon of the fowler
and of the fisher) in these lines a fowler’s reed, or a fisher’s rod?
The answer, if indeed any be possible, depends on the precise meaning
to be attached to _crescente_, having regard to the context and the
whole epigram.

_Crescente_, which some dictionaries, ignoring its use in a similar
connection in Silius Italicus, VII. 674-77, “sublimem calamo sequitur
crescente volucrem,” render _jointed_, can only here, I suggest, be
properly translated by _lengthening_, or _increasing_. But whether this
process of increasing was effected by real joints cannot be clearly

In his solitary note on _crescente_ Valpy (Delphin edition, 1823)
vouchsafes the bald and not informative comment: “Vero mihi videtur
intelligenda esse virga quæ crescat in locis palustribus.”

The following explanation is interesting, but to my mind indecisive,
even though it claims the authority of “the old commentators.”[340]
_Crescente_—“L’oiseleur caché sous un arbre rappelait les oiseaux en
imitant leur chant: puis, quand les oiseaux étaient sur l’arbre, il
allongeait le roseau enduit de glu, qu’il tenait à la main et les
oiseaux venaient s’y prendre. Le poëte dit que le roseau _croissait_,
parcequ’à mesure que l’oiseleur se hissait sur ses pieds, la baguette
engluée semblait croître en effet. Telle est la manière dont les
commentateurs anciens interprètent ce distique.”

Much again depends on whether we read _vadis_ (shallows) or
_levis_ (swift); _vadis_ would incline the balance heavily, but
not absolutely, to the rod, not to the reed. We get no help from
Friedländer, who contents himself with a mere reference to Martial,
_Ep._, XIV. 218, quoted below.

Paley is of doubtful or little avail. He holds that _harundo_ means
the fowler’s reed. The implement was so contrived that a smaller
reed, tipped with birdlime (_viscum_),[341] made from the cherries
of the mistletoe, was suddenly protruded (perhaps blown) through a
thicker reed against a bird on its perch, and that to this lengthening
_crescente_ refers. Cf. _Ep._, XIV. 218.

    “Non tantum calamis, sed cantu fallitur ales,
      Callida dum tacita crescit harundo manu.”

The fowler attracted the attention of the bird as he approached it, by
imitating its note.[342]

Propertius refers to fowling (_Vertumnus_, V. 2, 33), and in Petronius
(_Sat._, 109, 7) we find “volucres, quas _textis_ harundinibus peritus
artifex tetigit.”[343] _Textis_ here, which Mr. Heseltine renders
‘jointed,’ would seem to show Paley’s suggestion, that the first cane
was hollow, while the second was “protruded” through it, to be wrong.

Rich explains this method of fowling as follows. The sportsman first
hung the cage with his call bird on the bough of a tree, under which,
or at some convenient distance from it, he contrived to conceal
himself. When a bird, attracted by the singing of its companion,
perched on the branches, he quietly inserted his rod amongst the
boughs until it reached his prey, which stuck to the lime and was thus
drawn to the ground. When the tree was very high, the rod was made in
separate _joints_, like our fishing rod, so that he could lengthen it
out until it reached the object of his pursuit, whence it is termed
_crescens_ or _texta_.

If the example given by Rich (from a terra-cotta lamp) be faithfully
rendered, the joints in the rod are easily discernible.[344]

[Illustration: THE FOWLER.

From _Brit. Mus. Cat. of Lamps_, Pl. 24, Fig. 686.]

But all question as to the existence of a jointed fowling rod is now
settled past peradventure by Pl. 24, Fig. 686, in the _Brit. Mus. Cat.
of Gr. and Rom. Lamps_, 1914. This shows an animal dressed in a hooded
cloak, holding in his right hand a length of fowling rod, and in his
left two spare lengths, trying to reach a tree on which sits a bird.
Mr. Walters, the editor of the catalogue, kindly informs me that Fig.
686 can no longer be regarded as that of _The Fox and the Grapes_.
Similar lamps shown in S. Loeschcke’s recent _Lampen aus Vindonissa_,
_e.g._ Pl. 12, No. 473, confirm the evidence of the Brit. Mus. lamp in
every detail.

Not a few editors, on the other hand, retain _vadis_ in Martial’s
epigram, instead of _levis_, as evidently did Hay, the Scotch poet, in
translating the couplet,

    “Could I a trout, now, with my angle get,
     Or cover a young partridge with my net.”

Much can be said for the view that line three applies to _fishing_. So
much, indeed, that were it not for one, apparently fatal, omission, we
might confidently proclaim _the first definite mention of a jointed
rod_. To this omission, conclusive to my mind of the meaning of
_harundo_, I have so far found no allusion.

Let us suppose that the first line of the couplet does refer to
_fishing_. The poet would like to give some birds or fish, or both, to
his friend Carus, but bewails his inability to send anything better
than some chickens. He does explain fully why he cannot send birds, but
he omits entirely any reason, or even any hint, as to what prevents him
sending fish. We are not allowed to imagine that the weather was too
bad, for the whistling ploughman imitating the magpie in his call, the
starlings, the linnets, all negative that.

The whole epigram seems to refer to fowling. The application, even if
_vadis_ for _levis_ be adopted, would not necessarily be altered. Are
there not wild duck and snipe to be caught in the shallows (_vadis_) as
well as fish, and probably by other means than birdlime, though with
the use of a rod?

If _levis_, or even _vadis_ be read, two arguments lean heavily against
_harundo_ being the _fisher’s_ Rod. The first, in a poem dealing
entirely with birds this somewhat obscure reference to fish would be
extremely abrupt; the second, the line following “harundine præda”
runs, “Pinguis _et_” (not “aut” as before) “implicitas virga teneret
aves,” “_and_ (not or) the sticky reed-line,” etc.

Save for this omission and the trend of the whole context, a strong
argument might be easily advanced for _fishing_ in the apparent
redundancy of _harundo_ and _virga_. But these two words may refer to
two different weapons of capture, or, what is more probable, to two
different ways of catching _birds_—the first, by a long reed with a
noose, and the second by a branch with birdlime.[345]

To conclude, whether _harundo_ here be a weapon for capture of birds or
of fish, it is now established beyond any doubt or contradiction that
there was used in and probably long before Martial’s time[346] a _Reed
Rod_, capable of extension, either by protruding a smaller cane through
a larger one, or else, perhaps, by an action somewhat similar to a
chimney-sweep’s, with jointed rods fastened together in the hand, when
prolonging his brush.

If such a Reed Rod was found of service to the fowler for reaching a
bird on a high branch, is it not extremely probable, is it not almost
certain, that in spite of no express mention of such use the fisherman
also employed a similar jointed rod for the purpose—common alike to his
primitive predecessor and his more advanced successor—of getting the
bait over any obstacles which lay between him and the water, and for
increasing both the reach of his arm and the length of his throw?[347]

Whether the Rod of the _piscator_ was similar to that of the
_aucupator_ or not, we do find these two pursuits, with but one verb
for both, coupled in two of Tibullus’s beautiful lines on Hope (II. 6,
23). His Hope is very reminiscent of St. Paul’s Charity or Love, which
“beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth
all things. Love never faileth.”

    “Hæc laqueo volucres, hæc captat harundine pisces
      Cum tenues hamos abdidit ante cibus.”

“’Tis Hope, that taketh birds with the Snare, fish with the Rod with
fine Hooks well hidden in the bait.”


[326] Ovid has, I believe, more piscatory passages than any other poet,
except professional writers, such as Oppian. His ten years’ banishment
to Tomi at the mouth of the Danube and on the shores of the fishful
Euxine no doubt added to his love and his mention of Fishing.

[327] Arist., _N. H._, IX. 13., Pliny, IX. 88. Hardouin suggests that
Pliny may have learned this fact from the works of Nigidius Figulus.

[328] Cf. J. G. Schneider, _Petri Artedi Synonymia Piscium_, etc.,
Lipsiæ, 1789. This work is an excellent example of the learning and
industry of this most versatile editor and commentator: in nearly all
points that are matters of doubt or dispute I have followed him.

[329] _Ibid._, p. 76.

[330] Cf. Martial, _Epist._, X. 30, 17,

    “Nec saeta longo quærit in mari prædam
     Sed e cubili lectuloque iactatam
     Spectatus alte lineam trahit piscis.”

[331] _Epist._, V. 7.

[332] P. Lund, _The Lake of Como_ (London, 1910), p. 23, refers to P.
Giovio, _De Piscibus Romanis_, c. 38.

[333] _Latin Literature_ (1906), p. 193. “Martial’s gift for occasional
verse just enabled him to live up three pair of stairs in the city:
in later years he could just afford a tiny country house among the
Sabine hills.” This three-pair-back theory seems a bit strained, for he
often speaks of his _Nomentanus ager_, a small farm at Nomentum, which
yielded excellent wine. Cf. _Ep._, II. 38; VI. 43; XIII. 119. He owned,
in addition to a house in Rome, apparently another small place at Tibur
(IV. 80); so his complaints of being a “pauper” must be understood only
in a relative sense. Thither he goes chiefly, he delicately insinuates,
for the pleasure of seeing Ovid, who was his neighbour there. Cf. also
VII. 93.

[334] The client had to be at his patron’s house in the morning and
attend him, there or anywhere, all day if necessary. It was an act
of disrespect to appear before his patron without donning the toga.
Cf. Juvenal, VII. 142, and VIII. 49; also I. 96 and 119, and X. 45,
and Martial, _Ep._, X. 10. In prose the most caustic description of
the client-and-patron institution may be found in Lucian, _Nigrinus_,
20-26. In _Ep._, XII. 18, to poor Juvenal dancing attendance in Rome
on his patron and sweating in the requisite toga he recounts the many
delights of his home in Spain: among them “ignota est toga,” a blazing
fire of oak cut from the adjoining coppice, and lastly the _venator_
or keeper, whose attractions in lines 22-3 do not appeal to the modern
sportsman. I draw attention to these lines, because they reflect quite
casually, but quite clearly, the decadent vices of the age: remember,
they are not quotations from some obscure, if obscene, versifier, but
were written (and published!) by the second poet to the first poet
of that generation. It has been pointed out that in the epigrams of
Martial with which Juvenal is connected some obscenity usually creeps
in. Cf. _Ep._, VII. 91.

[335] _Ep._, III. 58, 26,

    “Sed tendit avidis rete subdolum turdis
     Tremulave captum linea trahit piscem”.

[336] Cf. _Ep._ VI. 11, 5, and III. 60, 3, and XII. 48, 4.

[337] _Ep._, V. 37, 3.

[338] Pliny (XXXII., 21) and other writers show that epicures, then as
now, were divided as to which was the best oyster. Mucianus awards the
palm over all the other oysters to those from Cyzicus: “Cyzicena majora
Lucrinis, dulciora Britannicis, suaviora Medulis, acriora Lepticis,
pleniora Lucensibus, sicciora Coryphantenis, teneriora Istricis,
candidiora Circeiensibus,” but Pliny in “Sed his neque dulciora neque
teneriora esse ulla, compertum est,” evidently plumps for those of
Circeii in Latium. The British oysters came chiefly from Rutupiæ (in
Kent), now Richborough, not far from our Whitstable of oyster fame. The
castle and camps of Rutupiæ and Regulbum were built by the Romans to
command and secure the entrance to the Thames by the arm of the sea,
which then separated Kent from the Isle of Thanet. These oysters find
mention in Juvenal (IV. 141), “Rutupinoque edita fundo Ostrea callebat
primo deprendere morsu.” Dalecampius says of them, “Præstantissima
nutriunt.” Our modern rule that no oyster should be eaten in a month
whose name lacks an _r_ probably descends from the Mediæval

    “Mensibus _erra_tis vos ostrea manducatis.”

[339] _Ep._, X. 37, 7 and 8,

    “Ad sua captivum quam saxa remittere mullum,
      Visus erit libris qui minor esse tribus.”

This is an attempt to show how large and plentiful the mullets were
in Spain, and is just hospitable swagger, for Pliny, _N. H._, IX. 30,
states that a mullet rarely exceeded two pounds.

[340] Nisard edition of Martial, Paris, 1865.

[341] Cf. Virgil, _Geor._, I. 139. Also Oppian, _Cyneg._, I. 65 f.,
where, as tools of the fowler, are specified, “long cords, and moist
honey-coloured birdlime, and reeds which tread their track through the
air.” Cf. also Ovid, _Met._, XV. 477, “nec volucrem viscata fallite

[342] _Cantu_ seems to refer more naturally to the song of the call
bird (Oppian, _hal._, IV. 120 ff.), rather than to that of the fowler,
but cf. Cato (the poet of the third century A.D.), in _Disticha_, I.
27, “Fistula dulce canit volucrem dum decipit auceps”; and _Tibullus_,
II. 5, 31, “Fistula cui semper decrescit harundinis ordo.” In addition
to catching birds by rods and birdlime, a common practice according to
Aristophanes was to confine doves, etc., with limbs tied up or with
eyes covered, in a net, and thus allure other doves, etc., to the
snare. _Illex_ was the technical name for the decoy bird. For this
purpose use was made both of kindred and of hostile species, such as
the owl and falcon. The latter was also trained to catch the bird,
which had been decoyed within its reach. Cf. Martial, _Ep._, XIV. 218.
Aristophanes, _Aves_, 1082 f.

    Τὰς περιστεράς θ’ ὁμοίως ξυλλαβὼν εἵρξας ἕχει
    κἀπαναγκάζει παλεύειν δεδεμένας ἐν δικτύῳ.

_Ibid._, 526 ff., trans. B. H. Kennedy:

              “And the cunning fowlers for you set
    Snare and springs, twig, trap, gin, cage, and net.”

Plautus. _Asin._, I. 3, 67 f.:

              “Ædis nobis area est, auceps sum ego,
    Esca est meretrix, lectus illex est, amatores aves.”

[343] Cf. Petronius, _Sat._, 40, 6, and Bion, _Id._, 4, 5.

[344] A. Rich, _Dict. of Rom. and Gk. Antiquities_, London, 1874,
_s.v._ ‘Arundo.’ I have been unable to trace this lamp in either Birch
or Passeri. Daremberg and Saglio, _op. cit._, seem to collect most
of the information on the subject, _s.v._ ‘Venatio,’ V. p. 694. The
above and other methods of _aucupium_, “bird-catching,” prevail to a
devastating extent in Italy at the present day.

[345] The best reeds for fowling purposes (_harundo aucupatoria_) came
from Panormus, those for fishing (_harundo piscatoria_) from Abaris in
Lower Egypt. Pliny, XVI. 66. For a legal decision as to the selling,
etc., of reeds, see _Digesta Justiniani_, VII. 1, 9, 5.

[346] Possibly in the time of Aristophanes,

    πᾶς τις ἐφ’ ὑμῖν ὀρνιθευτὴς
    ἵστησι βρόχους, παγίδας, ῥάβδους, κ.τ.λ.
                                   _Aves_, 526 f.

In the seventh century B.C. the Chinese mention the _Ch’ih Kan_ or the
“glutinous line for catching birds.” _Cf._ Apuleius, _Met._, XI. 8.

[347] The epitaph in _Corpus Inscript. Lat._, ii. 2335, is of interest:

              d. {M.} Quintus Marius Optatus
    heu iuvenis tumulo qualis iacet a[bditus isto,]
    qui pisces iaculo capiebat missile dextra,
    aucupium calamo præter studiosus agebat ...

Cf. _Carm. Lat. Epig._, no. 412.



The first mention of fishing with a fly occurs apparently in Martial’s
lines, “Namque quis nescit, | Avidum vorata decipi scarum _musca_?”
which have been translated:—

    “Who has not seen the scarus rise,
     Decoyed, and killed by fraudful flies?”[348]

These lines are of surpassing interest. In them we may possess the very
first mention of a fishing fly, whether natural or artificial, in all
the records written or depicted of the whole world.

If the reference be to an artificial fly, it certainly antedates by
some two centuries the passage of Ælian (XV. 1), which has hitherto
been universally acclaimed the first mention of such a fly. If on the
other hand the reference be to a natural fly, it antedates by the same
period of time the first mention of the natural fly, or rather winged
insect (κώνωψ), to be found also in Ælian (XIV. 22).

And here, pray, observe the cold calm of the classical commentator!
This passage, which, as I have said, may be the very first historical
document testifying to the use of the fly, the very first tiny
beginning of the immense literature consecrated to the fly, the very
first starting point in the fly fisher’s journey of sore travail to
farther knowledge, this passage so pregnant of possibilities and so
provocative of comment, has never, I believe, been suggested by any
editor as possibly the _locus classicus_ of fly fishing, far prior to
the generally adopted passage of Ælian.

Even if we make great allowance for the wrath of the literary angler
at the careless indifference with which these lines appear from his
standpoint to be treated, the comments by the editors of Martial must
be classed, in other respects also, as unsatisfactory and jejune.

Paley and Stone, for instance, confine themselves to telling us that
“scarus is some unknown but highly prized fish, which was caught by an
inferior one used as bait.” That is all! nothing more! Their “unknown”
stamps their indifference, or ichthyic ignorance.[349] Further, they
never even hint that in this passage commentators have suggested two
readings, _musco_—‘moss,’ and _musca_—‘fly.’ They simply adopt _musco_
without hinting at any difficulty arising from such adoption.

Friedländer adopts _musca_. His only note consists of, “Vorato—musco
wollte Brodæus lesen wegen der von Athenæus, VII., p. 319 f., aus
Aristoteles angeführten Stelle[350] ...”

The majority of editors[351] prefer, and probably rightly, the reading
_musca_ for many reasons, the chief being that all the manuscripts
of Martial without a single exception give _musca_. The upholders of
_musco_, in their endeavour to enforce that mere conjecture by quoting
from Athenæus, “The _Scarus_ flourishes on his food of seaweed,”[352]
and supporting it by Pliny,[353] “The _Scarus_ is said to be the
only fish that ruminates and is herbivorous” (and here note that
as Pliny—like Athenæus—was taking his information from Arist., _N.
H._, VIII. 2, he should have translated φυκίοις by _algis_, not by
_herbis_), make the mistake of translating φυκίον by _muscus_. They
ignore, moreover, Oppian, II. 649, φέρβονται δ’ ἢ χλωρὸν ἁλὸς μνίον,
κ.τ.λ. Φυκίον is, while _muscus_ is not and never has been, _algæ_ or
true seaweed; _muscus_ is ‘moss.’[354]

Nor do these Olympian editors, who sit beside their proof-sheets, and
whose notes are ever hurled far below them in the valley, condescend to
explain to us poor gropers after light how moss to a sea-fish like the
_Scarus_ can be of value as food.

Most fishermen will tell you that fresh-water fish do eat moss; that
they themselves have seen them in the act of eating such moss on the
Thames; that roach in especial are particularly fond of this moss,
which is used in summer months as a bait with great success; this moss
they call by various names, ‘silk weed,’ ‘flannel weed,’ ‘blanket
weed,’ and ‘crow-silk.’ Now all these so-called mosses are not mosses
at all, but belong to the family _Confervæ_, which are fresh-water
green _algæ_: so even in rivers we find that moss is not used as

That not only the _Scari_ but other fish, _e.g._ the _Melanuri_, feed
on seaweed and that they are taken by baits composed of seaweed, many
writers besides Athenæus and Pliny duly record. Theocritus (_Id._, XXI.
10) speaks of “baits of seaweed.” Oppian,[356] describing the manner
of catching the _salpæ_ by baiting a place with stones covered with
seaweed, states that when the fish have gathered round this in numbers,
“then prepares he (the fisher) the snare of the weel.” Ælian[357]
asserts that among the marine plants, on which he says fish feed, are
Βρύα ... καὶ φυκία ἄλλα, the difference between which seems according
to Aristotle merely one of size.

If a poll of writers on Fishing and of practical Pisciculturists were
taken to-day, a large majority would vote that sea-fish do not eat
seaweed, but feed on the _larvæ_, and other minute insects in or on
the various _algæ_ or seaweeds. But against this opinion is arrayed
the authority of Darwin and Wallace, who state that various species
of _Scarus_ do browse, and do graze on seaweed, and some of them
exclusively on coral.[358]

The _Skaros_ (according to Aristotle) was the only fish which seemed
to ruminate,[359] whose food was seaweed,[360] and teeth, set in deep
saw-edged jaws, were not sharp and interlocking, like those of all
other fish, but resembled those of a parrot, as its beak resembled that
of a parrot.[361]

From the _seeming_ to ruminate of Aristotle we reach in later writers
like Oppian, I. 134 ff., and Ovid, _Hal._, 119, the positive assertion
that the scarus _did_ ruminate.[362]

Is it not possible, if a mere angler may hazard a suggestion
on scientific points, that the belief of modern writers and
pisciculturists is not far out, and that while some of the _Scari_ do
browse and graze exclusively on coral, and some sometimes on seaweed,
they do this to obtain _as food_ only the minute _larvæ_, which their
so-called rumination helps them to separate from the seaweed or

A second very practical argument against the reading _musco_ suggests
itself. Let us allow that some sea fish do eat not only _algæ_ but
moss: even then, why should our _Scarus_ “be deceived” by the small
amount possible of attachment to a little hook, of seaweed or moss or
their _larvæ_? This is infinitesimal when compared with the greater
masses, giving immeasurably ampler supply of _larvæ_, growing in the

Were it not for the incitement or excitement caused by the fly’s
movements or novelty, hardly a salmon, I venture to think, would
rise to a fly; but to our _scarus_, since _algæ_ and moss (_if_ the
latter exist in the sea of sufficient length) are familiar growths
and constantly set in motion by the action of the water, both these
incitements are surely lacking.

Even if neither of these arguments carries weight, the objection
brought forward by Gilbert appears to me to put the reading _musco_
out of court: “Suppose Martial knew what Athenæus and others state as
regards this peculiar habit of the scarus, surely this was not the
place, where the _Scarus_ is introduced only as a representative of all
fish, to air his knowledge—least of all in words such as ‘quis nescit.’”

In conclusion, if _musca_ be the right reading, we can, I think,
definitely assert:

A. That this passage contains the very earliest mention of a _fly_
being used for the taking of fish:

B. That from Martial’s employment of it as an illustration, and from
his not drawing attention to the novelty or oddness of such use,
and especially from the words “quis nescit,” which imply a general
knowledge, fly fishing had been long invented, and was a method common
among anglers:

C. That this solitary passage is inconclusive as to whether the fly was
simply a natural one attached to a hook, and used perhaps as now in
dapping,[364] or an artificial one.

To my mind, however, the scale dips deeply in favour of the artificial
fly for the following reasons.

1. The trend and purpose of the whole passage, especially when we note
carefully the preceding verse and a half, “_Odi dolosas munerum et
malas artes._ | _Imitantur hamos dona_,” is to inveigh against fraudful
gifts, typical of which fraudful flies are singled out—in fact, against
all presents which are not what they appear. Mr. A. B. Cook writes: “I
quite agree with your view that the passage gains much, if all three
lines are made to refer to an artificial fly with a hook concealed in
it. Indeed, that is pretty obviously the meaning.”

2. The difficulty which the ancients would have experienced in
impaling, etc., on one of their hooks a natural fly would have been
greater than dressing an artificial one. The smallest hook in the
Greek-Roman Collection at the British Museum (found at Amathus in
Cyprus 1894) measures over ¼ in. breadth at the bend.[365] If we allow
that owing to oxidation the metal may have coarsened and swollen, the
task of impaling, and further of fastening a natural fly securely
enough to withstand the buffets of even wavelets of the sea (for N.B.
the _Scarus_ is marine) must verily have demanded τὸν δημιοεργόν, “a
craftsman of the people, welcome over all the wide earth.”[366]

For these reasons the _kudos_ of the first mention of an artificial fly
belongs, in my opinion, to Martial rather than to Ælian.


[348] _Ep._, V. 18, 7 f.

[349] See _infra_, p. 155, note 6.

[350] See _infra_, p. 155, note 5.

[351] Schneidewin, Ed. I., 1842, and Ed. II., 1852, reads _musca_,
as does Lindsay, 1903. Paley and Stone (1888) _musco_; W. Gilbert
(Leipzig, 1886 and 1896) reads _musca_, and in his _apparatus criticus_
remarks “vorat_a_ d. sc. musc_a_ cum libris Scrin. Schn. Glb.—vorat_o_
d. sc. musc_o_ Brodæus Schn.”

[352] VII. 113. χαίρει δὲ (_sc._ ὁ σκάρος) τῇ τῶν φυκίων τροφῇ διὸ καὶ
τούτοις θηρεύεται, κ.τ.λ. Athenæus mentions Aristotle as his source.

The references by ichthyologists to the bait used for catching the
_Scarus_ seem infrequent: I at least have only come across the
following. “The fishing requires some experience: fishermen allege
that there is necessary _un individu vivant pour amorcer les autres_,
yet here we call to mind what Ælian and Oppian say as to the great
number of fish attracted by following a female attached to the line.”
See Cuvier and Valenciennes, _H. N. des Poissons_, vol. XIV., p. 150,
Paris, 1839.

[353] IX. 29. Scarus solus piscium dicitur ruminare herbisque vesci,
non aliis piscibus. See also Oppian, II. 645-650.

[354] _The Oxford Dict._ gives, “_Alga_, a seaweed: in plural, one of
the great divisions of the Cryptogamic plants including seaweeds, and
kindred fresh-water plants, and a few ærial species,” and “_Moss_, any
of the small herbaceous Cryptogamous plants constituting the class
Musci, some of which form the characteristic vegetation of bogs, while
others grow in crowded masses covering the surface of the ground,
stones, trees, etc.” As “applied to seaweed rare”, I might venture to
add either poetical, as in Tennyson’s _Mermaid_, “in hueless moss under
the sea,” or loose and unscientific.

[355] Compare J. Britten and R. Holland, _Dict. of English Plant
Names_ (London, 1884), III. 576. Wright in his _Dialect Dictionary_,
“Crow-silk, Confervæ, and other Algæ, especially _C. rivularis_.”

[356] Oppian, III. 421. Τῆμος ὲπεντύνει κύυρτου δόλον. These were traps
of wickerwork, resembling our lobster pots or weels, in which the fish
were caught as they flocked to suck at the seaweed, with which the
stones (placed inside the traps to sink them) were covered. Cf. Ælian,
XII. 43, who states that for this sort of fishing fishermen made use of
φύκους θαλασσίου.

[357] _N. H._, XIII., 3. Cf. also _ibid._, I, 2.

[358] _Voyage of the Beagle_, ch. 20: “Two species of fish of the genus
scarus, which are common here (Keeling Island), exclusively feed on
coral.” Sir R. Owen, “The anterior teeth are soldered together and
adapted to the habits and exigences of a tribe of fishes which browse
on the lithophytes, that clothe the bottom of the sea, just as ruminant
quadrupeds crop the herbage of the dry land.”

[359] _N. H._, II. 17: μόνος ἰχθὺς δοκεῖ μηρυκάζειν. Cf., however, _N.
H._, IX. 50.

[360] VIII. 2, 13.

[361] Arist., _N. H._, II. 13. Pliny, XI. 61. “Piscium omnibus (dentes)
serrati, præter scarum: huic uni aquatilium plani.”

[362] In VII. 113, we again find Athenæus misrepresenting Aristotle.

[363] “This idea of rumination,” according to Mr. Lones, _op. cit._,
p. 237, “by the parrot wrasse (Scarus cretensis), which is clearly the
Skaros of the Ancients, probably arose from its grazing or cropping
off marine plants, and grinding them down, assisted by its having a
strongly walled stomach” (cf. the functions of the gizzard of a fowl)
with which, out of the myriads of fishes, the _scarus_ and his tribe
alone are endowed. On p. 162, “The stomach of a skaros is without a
cæcum, and appears to be of far simpler form than that of most fishes.”

A trout often appears to ruminate, working its jaws quietly for a
considerable time—perhaps this is merely to settle its last mouthful
comfortably and to its liking. According to Banfield, in Dunk and
other islands off Northern Australia, a fish, very similar to only
even more brilliant in hues than the _Pseudoscarus rivulatus_, is able
by the strength of its teeth (some sixty or seventy, set incisorlike)
to pull from the rocks limpets (its chief food), which when steadfast
can resist a pulling force of nearly 2000 times their own weight! It
swallows molluscs and cockles whole, and by its wonderful gizzard
grinds them fine. See _Confessions of a Beachcomber_ (London, 1913), p.

[364] “Dapping,” to which I miss allusion even in Dr. Turrell’s
excellent _Ancient Angling Authors_, is so often regarded as a more
or less modern method that, even at the risk of a portentous note,
I must record my reasons for differing _in toto_ from this view.
Walton certainly employed it in the seventeenth century. Pursuing the
device further back, it is distinctly enjoined in the earliest fishing
treatise in English, the earlier version of _The Boke of St. Albans_
(_i.e._ a MS. of about 1450 printed from a MS. in the possession of A.
Denison, Esq., with Preface and Glossary by T. Satchell, London, 1883),
and seems, although not clearly described, surely specified as follows:
In “How many maner of Anglynges that ther bene ... The IIIIth with a
mener for the troute with owte plumbe or floote the same maner of Roche
and Darse with a lyne of I or II herys batyd with a flye. The Vth is
with a dubbed hooke for the troute and graylyng....” This passage draws
a decided distinction between baiting with a fly and a dubbed hook, or
artificial fly. But no lead (plumbe) or float was to be used, therefore
the method intended seems without doubt “dapping,” which warrants, to
my mind, the assumption that this device is as old as the earliest
instructions in English. This older form of the Treatise seems, it is
true, to have differed slightly from the version used for _The Boke
of St. Albans_ in 1496. T. Satchell held that they both had a common
origin in the “bokes of credence,” which are mentioned in the latter,
and may, he suggests, have been French, but of this I am doubtful,
principally because the French and English traditions appear to me to
have marked points of difference.

[365] The two smallest perfect hooks scale about No. 10 and No. 11
respectively in the old, and 5 and 4 in the new numbering. They are
considerably smaller than the Kahun (XII Dynasty) hook, which Petrie
believes to be the smallest known in ancient Egypt. Cf. his _Tools and
Weapons_ (London, 1917), p. 37 f. But the Kahun hooks scale Nos. 9 and
6 respectively.

[366] _Od._, XVII. 383 and 386.



From the wealth of copious yet conflicting accounts of this famous fish
in Greek and Roman writers, a large monograph might be produced.[367] I
restrict myself to a short notice of the acclimatisation of the fish,
and of the controversies on its value, as (A) a Dainty, and (B) a Diet.

The original habitat of the _Scarus_ was in the seas off Asia Minor,
especially in the Carpathian Sea. During the Augustan age it was rarely
taken in Italian waters, and then only when driven thither by storms.
Thus Horace complains that neither Lucrine oysters nor _Rhombi_ come
his way,

                      “aut scari,
    Si quos Eois intonata fluctibus
    Hiems ad hoc vertat mare.”
                     (_Ep._, II. 50 ff.)

Pliny (IX. 29), after attributing to the _Scarus_ the unique
characteristic of being herbivorous and _never_ feeding on other
fish and asserting that of its own accord it never passes from the
Carpathian Sea beyond Cape Troas, goes on to tell us that in the time
of Tiberius (or Octavius, according to Macrobius) vast quantities at
the Emperor’s command were collected by an Admiral of the Fleet and
planted along the Ostian and Campanian shores.

Careful protection by land and sea rendered poaching almost impossible.
For the period of five years any _scarus_ caught in the nets had,
under heavy penalties, to be returned straightway to the water. The
enforcement of these wise regulations effected such mighty thriving of
the fish, that “postea frequentes inveniuntur Italiæ in litore, non
antea ibi capti; admovitque sibi gula sapores piscibus satis et novum
incolam mari dedit.”

This operation commands our comment, not merely on account of its big
success, but because it is the earliest and (as far as I can discover)
the only instance in all ancient literature, certainly in Greek and
Latin, of the acclimatisation of _fish_ (not eggs) in the sea, and on a
large scale.

I do not include, though I do not forget, the large lucrative planting
of oysters in the Lucrine lake by Sergius Orata centuries before.[368]
Later on we shall read of the Romans carrying eggs, naturally
fertilised, from one water to another, and of the Chinese[369]
transporting vast quantities of similar eggs considerable distances.

But their methods and operations differed from the Emperor’s. Pliny
expressly states that the Admiral planted fish, not eggs of fish, in
the sea, not in fresh water, and in a new habitat hundreds of miles
from the old.

To this planting or involuntary colonisation, Petronius—seemingly,
despite controversy, the “Elegantiæ Arbiter,” or the not altogether
Admirable Crichton, of Tacitus—probably alludes:

                          “ultimus ab oris
    Attractus scarus atque arata Syrtis
    Si quid naufragio dedit, probatur.”[370]

Poets and _gourmets_ have vied in singing the praises of the fish
as the daintiest of dishes—“according to the Greeks to do justice
to its flesh was not easy: to speak of its trail, as it deserved,
was impossible, and to throw away even its excrement was a sin.”
Confirmatory of Badham reads the pronouncement of _magnus ille et
subtilis helluo_, “that great and exquisite gourmet” Archestratus,
who from the grandiloquence and gravity of his Epic was evidently of
opinion _omne cum fidibus helluoni_![371]

Epicharmus the comedian in his _Hebe’s Wedding_ (_frag._ 54, Kaibel),

     καὶ σκάους, τῶν οὐδὲ τὸ σκᾶρ θέμιτον ἐκβαλεῖν θεοῖς,[372]

    “Not even their trail is it lawful for the gods to throw away,”

summarises the wild infatuation of the Greeks for the _scarus_, while
from Ennius[373] some centuries later is extorted,

    “Quid scarus? præterii cerebrum Jovis pæne supremi:
     Nestoris ad patriam his capitur magnusque bonusque.”

Although Pliny (IX. 29) definitely asserts “Nunc scaro datur
principatus,” we find Martial within a few years dismissing the fish as
of poor flavour—its only redeeming point the trail, which is excellent,

    “Hic scarus, æquoreis qui venit obesus ab undis,
      Visceribus bonus est, cetera vile sapit.”
                                        (XIII. 84).[374]

In the curious and rare _Ichtyophagia_ (the omission of the second
‘h’ of the theta may be a printer’s error) by the learned Doctor
Ludovicus Nonnius, published at Antwerp in 1616—a treasure-house from
which I quote much and take more—an attempt is made to explain these
diametrically opposed estimates. Nonnius asserts that as among the
common herd only those fish which have fat flesh find favour or yield
good flavour, and as the _Scarus_ possesses a drier and more flaky
flesh, “a plebis illis palatis spernebatur.”

This deals a nasty knock to poor Martial, who plumed himself on his
taste as a gourmet, acquired (he fails to add) at the banquets and
entertainments of his patrician friends or wealthy patrons.

Medical controversy, rarely absent, as to wholesomeness for once
hardly exists. Galen, Diphilus, Xenocrates all agree as to the
_Scarus_, although the last warns us that it is “hard to pass off in
perspiration!” (δυσδιαφόρητος).[375] Galen pronounces fish who haunt
the rocks the most wholesome[376]: of these, the _Scarus_ is by far the
best. Diphilus the Siphnian on the whole agrees, but condemns it as
dangerous when fresh (!) because it hunts and feeds on the poisonous
sea-hare and so frequently causes cholera morbus.[377]

But according to Ælian, IX. 51, the Mullet (τρίγλη) was held by the
initiates of the Eleusinian Mysteries in the greatest honour, for one
or other of two curious reasons: the first, because it brings forth its
young thrice a year[378], and second, because it eats the sea-hare, who
bears death to man.[379]

Nonnius (p. 81) informs us that the followers of Pythagoras were
forbidden to eat the _Scarus_ because it was τρυγηφάγος, _i.e._ an
eater of grain or grapes, whence or how obtained he vouchsafes not to
inform us.[380] It is of interest to read in Faber (_op. cit._, p. 27)
that the common seal (_Phoca vitulina_) is believed at the present
time to go ashore in the Ombla Valley in quest of _grapes_ during the
vintage, and is also said to commit great havoc in the vineyards of
Sardinia and Sicily!

But for once Nonnius naps! Although, according to tradition,
Pythagoras proscribed all fish, three kinds only are expressly and by
name forbidden (in Symbols 18, 19, 60), _viz._ the _Melanurus_, the
_Erythinius_, and the _Sepia_; nothing is said about the _Scarus_.

I presume that the error arose from Nonnius confusing a passage in
Plutarch (_Symp._, VIII. 8, 3.) where _à propos_ of Pythagoras,
τρυγηφάγος is associated with the _Scarus_, but in exactly the opposite
sense, “for we can _not_ call the Mullet corn-destroying, or the
_Scarus_ grape-eating,” etc.

Again our Nonnius! By a passage from Pliny, XXXII. 3, he attempts to
clear the _Scarus_ and throw the blame for cholera on the Mullet.

But Pliny distinctly states that alone of all _animals_ the fish called
the Mullet, when he can annex no other food, eats the sea-hare without
fatal consequences, after which he “tenerescit tantum et ingratior[381]
viliorque fit.” These Mullet, sold by fraudulent fishermen as _Scari_,
caused the indictment of Diphilus. Rondolet bears witness that near
Massilia similar sales took place “ab imperitis piscatoribus,” but
surely “too skilled” would be the better epithet. It is but fair to add
that Athen., VIII. 51, asserts that the _Scarus_ also eats the sea-hare.

For this long discursus, the repute of the _Scarus_, the disputes of
epicures and of doctors whether it be a dainty, or a sound diet, and
the exclusive properties attributed to it by Greek and Roman writers
must be my excuse.

Summarising these last, we find that the _Scarus_, in addition to being
the most passionate in his love[382], _alone of all fishes_,

(A) Is not a cannibal, but a vegetarian (Pliny, IX. 29). Oppian claims
for the _mugil_—grey mullet—that it is the only non-carnivorous fish
(II. 642-3). Couch gives as his considered opinion, “_Mugil capito_ is
the _only_ fish of which I am able to express my belief that it usually
selects for its food nothing that has life.” Modern authorities have
established that the _scarus_ feeds on molluscs also.

(B) Seems to ruminate or does ruminate.[383]

(C) Belongs to,

                          “The only kind that dare
    To form shrill sounds, and strike the trembling air.”[384]

(D) Sleeps at night.[385]

    “Scarus _alone_ their faded eyelids close
     In grateful intervals of soft repose.”
                             (Oppian, II. 661 ff.)

But Aristotle (and, of course, Pliny) hold that most, perhaps all, fish
do sleep, even if their eyelids are not closed: at any rate Tunnies
and all flatfish do, while Pliny (X. 97) goes as far as asserting that
“Dolphins and whales can be heard to snore!”

(E) Has plain, not sharp or jagged, teeth.[386]

(F) Never deserts his fellow fish. If he have swallowed a bait, his
friends flock around him and liberate him by biting the line in two. If
he be caught in trap or weel, they approaching very delicately give the
prisoner the choice of (_a_) gripping with his teeth a tail “by which
he is dragged through the mesh of twigs,” or (_b_) of pushing through
his own tail, which they (outside) seize, and pull him through the weel
_backwards_—thus avoiding damage from the twigs to the eyes of the

This devotion to his imprisoned fellow was turned to good account by
fishermen. Fastening a hook in the jaw of and trailing a net behind
a female _scarus_ (preferably alive) they secured large catches by
dropping the lead, which reversed the net and enmeshed the would-be
rescuers. With the seed of the coriander _Scari_ are taken “with a

Ælian (I. 4) concludes a similar story, probably purloined from Oppian,
for he was an adept in picking up unconsidered and unacknowledged
trifles, with, “These things do they, as men do: but to do
loving-kindness are _they_ born, not taught”; which demonstrates that
the invaluable _Scarus_ provides men, not only with a menu, but also a

If we cannot absolutely claim for Martial the first mention of the
jointed Fishing Rod and the natural or artificial Fly, we are safe
in acclaiming him the author of the first notice, “Fishing strictly
prohibited,” or “Chasse défendue,” in his

    “Baiano procul a lacu recede,
     Piscator: fuge, ne nocens recedas.”
                               (IV. 30.)

This epigram furnishes Bunsmann with one of the only three acts of
_Impietas_ which he can allege against the blameless race of fishermen.
Martial here solemnly warns a fellow craftsman against fishing in the
lake of Baiæ, because (1) the fish there are sacred to the Emperor
Domitian, (2) a previous intruder was smitten blind in the very act of
landing his fish, so that—and here comes a touch of the true angler—“he
could not _see_ his spoil.”

The pretty compliment, veiled in the words “sacred fish,” ranks
Domitian as a god, because, as at many temples of the gods fish were
held sacred, so at his Baian abode the fish had been shown by divine
action to be sacred. But the fulsome bluntness of “than whom in the
whole world there is none mightier” mars the effect. Lest, however,
his friend might think that “Not twice in this world shall the Gods do
thus,” or deem the superhuman sanction played out, Martial adjures him
to throw to the fish some plain hookless food, and “dum potes, innocens

These Baian fish were evidently not as sophisticated or as
discriminating as their neighbours, the _Melanuri_, which greedily
snatch food thrown into the sea, but to any bit whatsoever containing a
hook they approach neither delicately, nor at all.[389]

In case some reader, fired by the fame of Theocritus or Martial,
imagine an easy affluence by writing Fisher Eclogues or Fisher
Epigrams, I refer him to Martial’s other warning, where he states that
a written copy of one of his books could be bought for about fourpence
halfpenny (considerably cheaper than a printed one now) and that with a
profit to the bookseller![390]

The seeming _naïveté_ of Martial’s appeal to a buyer and of his
recommendation that the book, which describes presents, would be for a
man like himself not too flush of coin, an admirable present to send at
the Saturnalia, incites me to give the whole, if fishless, passage.

The hint of how to get rid of their surplus stock or “remainders” at
Christmas may avail our present poetasters in these days of economy
and war taxes. “The whole collection of _Xenia_” (distichs describing
certain kinds of viands so-called) “in this thin book will cost you
four sesterces to buy. Is four too much? You _may_ get it (in a cheaper
form) for two, and even that will leave a profit to the bookseller.
This book itself, which describes presents, may be sent as a present at
the Saturnalia, if you have not much money to spare, like myself.”

Manuscript books at Rome cost even less than printed books do now. This
seeming inconsistency was effected by a large number of slaves writing
rapidly at the dictation of one person, and so multiplying copies very
cheaply and easily.

By such means, no doubt, was published _Acta Diurna_, the fly sheet
or daily newspaper of Rome. Composed originally of the reports of
lawsuits, births, deaths, marriages, and the almost equally numerous
divorces, it came to contain in the time of Julius Cæsar the debates
and _Acta_ of the Senate, and later the news collected and conveyed by
constant couriers from all parts of the Empire.[391]


From the _Real Museo Borbonico_, vol. iv. pl. 4.]


[367] “Il est peu de poissons et même d’animaux qui aient été, pour les
premiers peuples civilisés de l’Europe, l’objet de plus de recherches,
d’attention, et d’éloges que le Scare” (Lacépède). On the family of the
_Labridæ_ (of which the _Scarus_ forms a genus) the same author asserts
that Nature has not conferred either strength or power, but they have
received as their share of her favours, agreeable proportions, great
activity of fin, and adornment with all the colours of the rainbow.
Of the two cousins of the _Scarus_, the _Turdus_ and the _Julis_, his
eulogy can not be omitted: “Le feu du diamant, du rubis, de la topaz,
de l’émeraude, du saphir, de l’améthyste, du grenat scintille sur
leures écailles polies: et brille sur leure surface en gouttes, en
croissants, en raies, en bandes, en anneaux, en ceintures, en zones, en
ondes; il se mêle à l’éclat de l’or et d’argent qui y resplendit sur de
grandes places, les teintes obscures, les aires pâles, et pour ainsi
dire décolorées.” Nicander of Thyatira (_cp._ Athen. 7, 113) states
that there were two kinds of _Scarus_, one αἰόλος of many diverse
colours, the other ὀνίας of a dull grey tint.

[368] Pliny, IX. 79.

[369] See J. B. Du Halde, _Description géographique ... de l’Empire de
la Chine_.... (Paris, 1735), vol. i. p. 36.

[370] Petron., _Sat._, 93, 2.

[371] Archestratus is constantly quoted and always praised by Athenæus
as “excellent,” “experienced,” etc. Archestratus the Syracusan in
his work—variously termed “Gastronomy,” “Hedypathy,” “Deipnology,”
“Cookery”—begins his epic poem, “Here to all Greece I open wisdom’s
store”! (Yonge’s trans.). From delivering his precepts in the style and
with the gravity of the old gnomic poets, Archestratus was dubbed “the
Hesiod or Theognis of opsophagists.” The comic poets have many a gibe
at him, _e.g._ Dionysius of Sinope sums up the author of _Gastronomy_,
τὰ πολλὰ δ’ ἠγνόηκε, κοὐδὲ ἒν λέγει (_Thesmophorus_, _frag._ I. 26,
Meineke)! Before publishing this work, the author travelled far and
wide to make himself master of every dish that could be served at
table. Known to us almost entirely as a supreme _bon vivant_, and as
the earliest (except Terpsion) and certainly greatest _Mrs. Glasse_ of
the Greeks, his accuracy of description of the various fishes used for
the table was so consistent, that we find even so high an authority
as Aristotle making use of it in his Natural History. Archestratus in
his travels concerned himself not at all as to the manners or morals
of the countries visited, “as it is impossible to change these,” and
held little or no intercourse with any but those, _e.g. chefs_, who
could advance the pleasures of taste. Whatever the cause, whether too
many sauces or too little nutritive food, he was so small and lean that
the scales are supposed to have returned his weight as not even one
obol! (Cf. Hayward, _The Art of Dining_). Hayward himself must have
appreciated the limitation of guests, which Archestratus imposes for a
proper dinner

    “I write these precepts for immortal Greece,
    That round a table delicately spread,
    Or three, or four, may sit in choice repast
    Or five at most. Who otherwise shall dine,
    Are like a troop marauding for their prey.”
                                   (I. Disraeli’s trans.)

The sentiment, if not the number, coincides with the Latin
proverb—“Septem convivium, novem convicium.”

[372] I follow Wilamowitz in σκᾶρ for σκῶρ, the usual reading, partly
because Epicharmus being a Dorian would use the Doric form, partly
because being a comedian he is probably playing on the words σκᾶρ and

[373] _Hedyphagetica_ (_frag._ 529, Baehrens). Suidas states that the
Persians termed an exquisite dish Διὸς ἐγκέφαλον.

[374] Another reading is _adesus_. Cf. Xenocrates, _de Alimento ex
Aquatilibus_, c. 14, of the _scarus_, which was fresh-caught and not
_vivarium_-kept, being πολλοῖς ἐγκάτοις εὔστομος.

[375] See Liddell and Scott.

[376] VI. 718 (Kühn).

[377] Athen., VIII. 51.

[378] Cf. Oppian, I. 590.

[379] Ælian, XVI. 19, writes that these sea-hares were so poisonous,
that if a man touched one thrown up on the shore with his hand, he
shortly died, unless medicine was at once administered. So poisonous
indeed are they, that “if you touch them with but your walking stick,
there is the same danger which contact with a lizard evokes,” which in
II. 5 is described τέθνηκεν ὁ κύριος τῆς λύγου! Nero, to “mak siccar”
(like Kirkpatrick with the Red Comyn), employed the sea-hare as a
dainty for friends whose deaths he earnestly desired. Cf. Philostratus,
_Life of Apollonius of Tyana_, VI. 32.

[380] Nonnius, always the alert defender of his favourite fish,
ingeniously suggests that the _scarus_ of Pythagoras was not our famous
_scarus_, because as this fish, even during the Augustan period, was
extremely rare in Italian waters, there seems little necessity for its
being banned by the “Hyperborean Apollo of the Crotoniates” in B.C.
540-510. Numa, apparently influenced by Pythagorean precepts, forbade
(according to Cassius Hemina, Pliny, XXXII. 10) all scaleless fish
being offered to the gods. Festus, p. 253, a. 20, however, states that
in such offerings it was allowable to present all fish with scales,
except the _Scarus_, which was sacrificiable, and most acceptable to
the god of the peasants, Hercules, whose “swinish gluttony | Crams and
blasphemes his feeder.” For _squaram_, Müller suggests _scarum_, while
Lindsay prints _squatum_, the skate.

[381] Mayhoff would read _inertior_.

[382] Ælian, I. 2.

[383] Aristotle and Pliny, _supra_; Oppian, I. 135-7; Ælian, II. 54.

[384] Aristotle (according to Athen., VIII. 3) states that the
_scarus_ and sea-hog are the only fishes that have any kind of voice,
but in reality he (IV. 9) mentions five others, among which is the
cuckoo-fish, who “whistle and grunt” (see Pliny, XI. 112; Oppian, I.
134-5). Athenæus errs, for Aristotle (_N. H._, IV. 9, 8) asserts that
the Dolphin when out of the water “groans and cries”; while Pliny (IX.
7) says of the Dolphin, “Pro voce gemitus humano similis.” Aristotle
expressly differentiates between the five mentioned fish and the
Dolphin—for the former possess no lungs, windpipe, or pharynx, and so
can produce no voice, only “sound,” while “the dolphin has a _voice_
and therefore utters vocal and vowel sounds, for it is furnished with a
lung and a windpipe.”

[385] Someone may throw at me the sentence of Seleucus of Tarsus,
who in the only English translation of Athenæus (by C. D. Yonge) is
made to say (VII. 113), “The Scarus is the only fish which _never_
sleeps.” If Yonge had been faithful to the text (Schweighäuser’s)
which he expressly states he had adopted, he would have omitted the
οὐ, because it is in brackets and the editor expressly puts against
it the note “Deest vulgo negativa particula,” and his accompanying
Latin translation is “unum hunc ex omnibus piscibus dormire.” Kaibel
(Leipzig, 1887) also brackets the οὐ, while Dindorf (1827) has no οὐ,
bracketed or other.

[386] Aristotle, _N. H._, II. 13; Pliny, XI. 61. Another instance
of the carelessness of Athenæus—induced perhaps by his omnivorous
reading—is to be found in the first line of VII. 113, “The Scarus,
Aristotle says, has sharp or jagged teeth,” whereas a reference to _N.
H._, II. 13, discloses that all fish _except_ the _scarus_ have sharp
or jagged teeth, a statement which is confirmed by Rondolet.

[387] Cf. Opp., IV. 40-64; Pliny, XXXII. 5; and Ovid, _Hal._, 9 ff.

[388] Ælian, _N. H._, 12, 42.

[389] Pliny, XXXII. 8.

[390] _Ep._, 3, 13.

[391] Cf. Suetonius, _Augustus_, c. 83.



Our next two authors, Plutarch (a little later than Martial) and Oppian
(_c._ 170 A.D.), both wrote in Greek.

Plutarch for centuries has been misrepresented and maligned as an
opponent and contemptuous disdainer of fishing, but quite inaccurately.
I am not of the class of writers who invest Nero with a halo, or
canonise Clytæmnestra. I am no Knight of the Round Table on a quest to
redeem lost characters, but I feel it a duty and a pleasure on behalf
of Plutarch to fling down the glove and challenge his traducers to a
duel _à outrance_.

Modern English writers,

      “to the listening earth
    Repeat the story,”

but not, like the Moon, the story of “the birth” of their error.
Inevitably in their pages crop up Burton’s words, “Plutarch, in his
book _De Sol. Anim._, speaks against all fishing as a filthy, base,
illiberal employment, having neither wit nor perspicacity in it, nor
worth the labour.”[392]

Holland translates the passage, “for the cowardice, blockishness,
stupidity, want of shifts and means in fishes, either offensive or
defensive, causes the taking of them to be dishonest, discommendable,
unlovely, and illiberal.” I subjoin the Greek so that each reader may
make his choice of or a translation of his own.[393]

These words do, it is true, occur in Plutarch’s _de Sol. Anim._, 9.
But the chapter merely gives a fanciful report of an imaginary debate
before a jury empanelled to determine whether land or water animals
are the more crafty. The words embody, not the opinion, matured or
other, of the author, but one of the charges in the opening speech of
Aristotimus, who appears on behalf of the superior sagacity of the
terrestrials as against the aquatics.

From a sentence in the mouth of a special pleader Plutarch has been
branded for centuries, at any rate since the time of Burton’s book
(1621), as the foe of fishing and the maligner of the craft. And with
as much reason you might make Plato responsible for an opinion alien to
his nature but advanced by one of his dialecticians, or saddle Father
Izaak with some heresy of Venator’s.

An attempt to account for so learned and on the whole so fair an author
as Burton being led into a charge, the inaccuracy of which even cursory
perusal of chapter nine evinces, may, if fishless, yet interest some
of my readers. One of the blemishes ascribed to the _Anatomy_ is the
burdening of the text with too profuse quotations, ransacked from not
only classical and patristic writers, but also (literally) from “Jews,
Turks, and Infidels.”

Making full allowance for Burton’s encyclopædic knowledge, whence,
and how, were these all amassed? Hearne, the Oxford historian, helps
towards an answer in his statement that Mr. John Rouse, of Bodley’s
Library, for many years provided his friend of Christ Church with
choice books and quotations. Is it too much to surmise that the
passages “provided” by the helpful service of Rouse[394]—a trait
fortunately still characteristic of his Bodley successors—included the
sentence of damnation, which, even if verified, was, from being torn
out of its context, certainly misunderstood and ill-digested?

One ought to be chary of attributing motives, much more so reasons;
but the only apparent reason for the numerous repetitions of Burton’s
slander must have been the line of least resistance or least exercise,
which deterred writer after writer from taking the trouble to consult
the original context and thus discovering by whom and how the words
were spoken. I have so far failed to find a single defender of Plutarch
on this count or any plea for reversal of a verdict based on evidence
wrongfully accepted.[395]

Indignation at the injustice of the charge waxes all the hotter, when
one remembers that the person indicted is the very self-same Plutarch
who stands out as our authority for much unique lore on fish, fishing,
and tackle. He, and no other, consoles the victims of an Emperor’s
decree of banishment by pointing out the happiness of their lot in
being far removed from the intrigues, the vices, the dust, the noise
of Rome to a fair Ægean island, where the sea breaks peacefully on the
rocks below, and—an additional assuagement—“where there is plenty of
fishing to be had!”

Could a man who contemned and denounced fishing so vigorously put into
the mouth even of the pleader for the superior craftiness of fish,
unless he himself had angled and possessed the true angling spirit,
the following sentences, as true and as useful to-day as when written
nineteen centuries ago?

“For the first and foremost, the cane of which the angle Rod is made,
fishers wish not to have big and thick, and yet they need such an
one as is tough and strong, for to pluck and hold the fishes, which
commonly do mightily fling and struggle when they be caught, but they
choose rather that which is small and slimmer, for fear lest if it
catch a broad shadow, it might move the doubt and suspicion that is
naturally in fishes.”

“Moreover, the line they make not with many water knots” (happy
anglers!), “but desire to have it as plain and even as possibly may
be, without any roughness, for that this giveth as it were some
denuntiation unto them of fraud and deceit. They take order likewise
that the hairs which reach to the hook should seem as white as possibly
they can devise, for the whiter they be the less are they seen in the
water for their conformity and likeness in colour to it.”[396]

We anglers seem of a verity “nae gleg at the uptak.” After some 1650
years we find John Whitney, in the preface to _The Genteel Recreation:
or the Pleasure of Angling_, ascribing with modesty as to personal
prowess, but quiet pride as to discovery, his success very largely to
the use of “fine Tackling” which in the poem (!) he further, if in
barbarous verse, enforces,

    “Fineness in Angling’s th’ Anglers nearest Rule:
     For Prudence must still regulate in all.”[397]

The sentence in his Preface is apposite to many a Preface, whether in
prose or verse. “As to the verse there is fault and folly enough, but
grant Poetical License, if in pleasing nobody I have pleased myself,
and that’s all the reward I desire,” for alas! to many of us writers
self-pleasing must be the sole reward of our desert, if not of _our_

Misrepresentation as a despiser of fishing and fishermen has clutched
another victim, Dr. Johnson, of all people! As Plutarch has been
branded for an opinion not his own, so Johnson has been held guilty
of the famous libel—“A worm at one end and a fool at the other.”
The popular belief is all false. According to Boswell, he was very
appreciative—an attitude not always Johnsonian—of Walton’s work.

Again, it was no other than he[398] who urged Moses Browne to bring
out in 1750 a new edition—the fifth and last was published in 1676—of
_The Compleat Angler_, of which his criticism, “a mighty pretty book,”
hardly indicates contempt for its subject, or author, whose life he
once meant writing.

On Voltaire also the Worm-Fool libel has also been saddled, but
wrongly. To another Frenchman, Martial Guyet, it has been attributed,
but not convincingly.

In _Notes and Queries_, 3rd series, X. 472, can be found the lines:

    “Messieurs, je suis pêcheur, et pêcheur de la ligne,
     J’en fait ici l’aveu. Ce cas semble peu digne
     De vos graves esprits: car on l’a dit souvent
     La ligne, avec sa canne, c’est un long instrument
     Dont le plus mince bout tient un petit reptile,
     Et dont l’autre est tenu par un grand imbécile!”

“These lines were written by Guyet, who if he were Martial Guyet died
nearly one hundred years before the great lexicographer was born.”[399]
Even before Guyet the libel seems to have become hackneyed, “_car on
l’a dit souvent_.”

Plutarch’s works figure so frequently in these pages that I will not
here specially dwell on or quote from them, except “once more the tale
to tell” of Antony and Cleopatra’s fishing as given in his _Life of
Antony_, 29, 2.

Antony (who “fishes, drinks, and wastes the lamps of night in revel”),
when with Cleopatra on the Nile had, of course, if Beaumont and
Fletcher’s lines hold, not been half as successful as his mistress:

    “She was used to take delight, with her fair hand
     To angle in the Nile, where the glad fish,
     As if they knew who ’twas sought to deceive them,
     Contended to be taken.”[400]

To shine in her eyes, he secretly commanded his diver to attach fish to
his hook. Cleopatra, becoming aware of the trick, signalled her diver
to go down (or as some others relate, bribed Antony’s own servants) to
affix to his hook, a _salted_ fish (τάριχος). This he promptly struck
and hauled out mid laughter and ridicule. “Leave,” cried Cleopatra,
“leave the fishing rod to us; your game is Cities, Provinces, and

Shakespeare makes Cleopatra’s diver attach the salted fish:

    “_Cleo_: Give me mine angle, we’ll to the river: there,
             My music playing far off, I will betray
             Tawny finn’d fishes; my bended hook shall pierce
             Their slimy jaws, and as I draw them up,
             I’ll think them every one an Antony,
             And say ‘Ah, ha! you’re caught.’

    “_Charmian_:                        ’Twas merry when
             You wager’d on your angling; when your diver
             Did hang a salt-fish on his hook, which he
             With fervency drew up.

    “_Cleo_:                      That time!—O times!—
             I laughed him out of patience, and that night
             I laugh’d him into patience; and next morn,
             Ere the ninth hour, I drunk him to his bed.”

We owe most of our knowledge as to the technical methods, the varying
minutiæ, and the numerous materials employed by the Greeks and Latins
in Fishing and Angling, to Oppian, to Ælian, Pliny the Elder, and

“Bearing somewhat the same relationship to Eclogues of Fishermen that
Virgil’s Georgics do to those of Shepherds, were the Greek verse
treatises on fish and fishing. No fewer than six didactic Epics of the
sort were composed, but only that of Oppian is extant in complete
form.[402] It is written in hexameter, and combines material based on
observations with much extraordinary information gathered from floating
material. In the last part of the treatise, the accounts given of the
methods of capturing fish by men on various coasts lend a few pictures
akin to independent Idylls.”

“Most of the poem, however, is very like Pliny’s _Natural History_, put
into verse. These didactic poems, as a whole, have little relationship
with the Piscatory Eclogue, other than that implied in the fact that
they are written in verse and tell much about the practices of fishers.”

This grudging estimate of Oppian by Mr. Hall contrasts strangely with
the terms of highest eulogy which authors of all ages have bestowed
on him. Scaliger calls him “a divine and incomparable poet.” Sir
Thomas Browne bewails with wonder that “Oppian’s elegant lines are so
much neglected: surely we hereby reject one of the best epic poets.”
Scaliger remarks that no author makes more frequent use than Oppian of
similes, which he praises warmly for their strength and beauty, for
their brilliancy and effect.

In my humble opinion they occur far too frequently and regularly. If
we do not come across one at least in every hundred lines, the effect
is agreeable disappointment. The subjects of comparison, moreover, are
conventional and limited.

But Oppian’s poems were held in the very highest favour, not only
by our stingy stepmother, Posterity, but by his contemporaries. The
Emperor (whether he were Antoninus—of all the Emperors[403] perhaps the
keenest fisherman—Caracalla, or Severus is not clear, as Oppian’s exact
date is still unsettled[404]), on hearing the author recite his verses
revoked the decree of banishment on Oppian’s father (to Malta), and
paid the poet a golden _stater_, or more than a guinea a verse.[405]

With this very liberal payment by piece or verse-work may be contrasted
the treatment meted out to the great Persian poet Firdausi by the
Emperor Mahmud.

The most romantic of the versions of the story makes the latter promise
a _miskal_ (or something less than ¼ oz.) for every couplet of the
former’s epic, _Shah Nameh_. On the poem’s arrival at Court, joy
reigned till discovery that it contained some 60,000 couplets.

Aghast at the amount, Mahmud or his Chancellor of Exchequer took
advantage of some ambiguity in the terms and, despite the protests of
Firdausi that the largesse was promised in _gold_, made payment in
_silver_. It chanced that the treasure arrived while the author was in
the public baths at Tús; furious at the fraud, he gave 20,000 to the
bathkeeper, 20,000 to the refreshment seller, and 20,000 to the camel
driver who had brought the bags of bullion.

Many years after, the Emperor, either repenting him of his broken word
or moved by reports of the great poverty in which the poet had long
lived, dispatched the sum in _gold_, or, as some say, indigo. Alas! as
the convoy entered Tús by the Rudbar gate, by that of the Razan was
Firdausi being borne to his grave.[406]

At the death of Oppian in his thirtieth year, the citizens of his
native place in Cilicia erected a statue to his memory. It bore the
most laudatory of inscriptions, of which the last two lines have been
Englished—“All” (_i.e._ preceding poets)

    “All the inspired him their chief allowed
     And all to him their humbler laurels bowed,”
—to which halting and involved translation we at least neither bow
laurels nor doff hats.

The _Halieutica_ is divided into five books. The first two treat of
the natural history of fishes, the other three of the art of fishing.
Despite this proportion of space, fish rather than fishermen are the
heroes of the scenes. The work displays considerable knowledge of
zoology, coupled with absurd fables, which are adduced as grave matters
of fact.

In the fulness with which he enumerates the various kinds of fish,
and methods of fishing, the technique, the weapons, the materials
appropriate to each, Oppian stands pre-eminent among our authors. Nor
need we wonder at this fullness of treatment. He was wedded heart and
soul to all pertaining to fish, or fishing, which he calls the “lovely

The kinds of fish mentioned by this “poeta doctissimus”[407] number,
according to Bishop Hieronymus, one hundred and fifty-three. This
figure is verified by Ritter, who adds that “Pliny’s long list contains
only twenty-three more, _i.e._ one hundred and seventy-six in all,” a
total which hardly warrants the naturalist’s triumphal outburst, “In
the sea and in the ocean, vast as it is, there exists by Hercules!
nothing that is unknown to us, and a truly marvellous feat it is that
we are best acquainted with those things which Nature has concealed in
the deep.”[408]

From the only English translation of the _Halieutica_ (made in 1722
by Diaper and Jones, Fellows of Balliol) I take a few passages
illustrating the character and methods of Oppianic fishing.[409]

The latter at once arrest our attention by their modernity. They
are practically ours. Apostolides in his work describing fishing in
modern Greece states that “les quatre engins d’Oppien, les filets, les
hameçons, les harpons et les nasses,” with the addition of “les claies
de roseau, d’importation romaine sans doute,” are the weapons of Hellas
in the present day. The tricks of Oppian prevail in the Peloponnese:
to-day, as nearly two millenniums back, the _Scarus_ and the Mullet are
caught by using the female as decoy.

The procedure of taking the Octopus (which Aristotle pictures for us in
IV. 8), “when clinging so tightly to the rocks that it cannot be pulled
off, but remains attached, even when the knife is employed to sever it:
and yet if one employ fleabane (κόνυζα) to the creature, it drops off
at once,” remains the same in Greece to-day. Apostolides writes (p.
50), “Comme on voit, non seulement le procédé de pêche aux poulpes a
persisté jusqu’à nos jours, mais la plante (Conyse) qu’on emploie à cet
effet porte encore le même nom.”

But as Canning called into existence a new world to redress the balance
of power in the old, so too the Attic fisherman to dislodge the Octopus
has, Raleigh-like, imported to the aid of his old herb, American

The devices for fishing, which in Oppian, I. 54-5, are—

    “The slender-woven Net, Viminious Weel,[411]
     The Taper Angle, Line and Barbed Steel
     Are all the Tools his constant Toil employs,
     On arms like this, the Fishing Swain relies,”

are amplified in III. 73 ff. in number and detail.

    “y those who curious have their art defined,
     Four sorts of fishers are distinct assigned.
     The first in Hooks delight: here some prepare
     The Angle’s Taper Length, and Twisted hair.
     Others the tougher threads of flax entwine,
     But firmer hands sustain the sturdy Line.
     A third prevails by more compendious ways,
     While numerous Hooks one common Line displays.”

We then pass to fishing by Nets, _Mazy Weel_, and Spears or Tridents.
A spirited passage, spoilt in the translation by superfluous verbiage,
sings of nocturnal fishing with spears and an attracting light. The
method probably obtained the world over, certainly in China, Rome, and
Greece, where Plato (_Soph._, 220 D.) classes it under the heading
πυρευτική next to Angling. In Scotland it prevailed extensively, if
illegally, as _Burning the Water_, or _Leistering_, a Norse term, and
practice which Thor himself did not disdain. A passage from a lost
comedy—_The Trident_—perhaps by Philippides, shows a fisher armed with
a three-pronged fork and horn-lantern off a-Tunnying.[412]

The lines ring as true to-day as when Oppian[413] penned them.

    “Erected torches blaze around the Boat,
     And dart their pitchy Rays ...
     Admiring shoals the gaudy flames surround,
     And meet the triple spear’s descending wound,”

while if fishing were legally permitted only to those who came up to
his ideal of what an angler _should_ be (III. 29-31),

    “First be the Fisher’s limbs compact and sound,
     With solid flesh, and well braced sinews bound,
     Let due proportion every part commend,
     Nor Leanness shrink too much, or Fat distend,”

rents the world over would speedily abate, and many a river would know
its tenant no more.

For reading “at lairge” Oppian is admirable. At one moment you are
enjoying a vivid and passably accurate account (III. 149 ff.) of how
the Cramp or Torpedo Fish (νάρκη), like Brer Fox, lies low in the sand
and the mud, but on a sudden “ejects his poisoned charms” with such
effect that soon

    “On every joint an Icy Stiffness steals,
     The flowing spirit binds and blood congeals.”[414]

A fish stupefied by the shock is likened (II. 81 ff.) unto a man who in
dreams tries to escape from the threatening phantoms, only to find his
knees bound and his limbs incapable of flight.

At another moment our poet (in I. 217 ff.) is reproving the incredulity
of those who doubt the fact that a sucker fish can stop a ship under
full sail, by sticking to its keel![415]

The peculiar powers of the Torpedo Fish command some comment. Ancient
authors galore, to whom, in the absence of the more powerful electric
Eel of Central America, the νάρκη must have appeared an amazing
creature, have written and differed about it. Aristotle had early noted
that it caught its prey by means of a stupefying apparatus in its
mouth, or rather at the back of its head. Claudian asks (_Carm. Min.
Corp._, XLIV. (XLVI.) 1 f.):

    “Quis non indomitam miræ Torpedinis artem
     Audiit et merito signatas nomine vires?”


Note the small well in centre for sauces.

See n. 2, p. 181.]

Plato compares Socrates to the fish from his capability of electrifying
his audience in the strict, but not in the corrupt present-day sense of
the word, as some writers imagine. The comparison to the fish in _Meno_
80A illustrates the benumbing effect of the Socratic method on the
thought and talk (τὴν ψυχὴν καὶ τὸ στόμα ναρκῶ) of Meno (and others),
so that he was μεστὸς ἀπορίας, and reduced to silence (οὐκ ἔχω ὅ τι

If limited to the electric fire which flashed from his eyes, the
comparison is complimentary to the philosopher, but, if applied to
the whole face, is, even if true, quite the reverse. The thirty odd
busts still extant of Socrates hand down to us an ugly, flat face with
pig’s-eyes, all characteristic of the _Torpedo narke_.[416]

Ælian (IX. 14) indulges in wondrous stories gleaned from his mother
and _viris peritis_ of the permeation of the electric shock. Did one
but touch the net in which the fish was taken, lo! he was cramp-bound.
If some enquiring observer placed a pregnant torpedo in a vase of
sea-water, his fate, did but a drop fall on leg or arm, was similar,
but the fish, even though this virtue had gone out of her, in due
season became a mother!

According to Mr. Lones, Oppian, Ælian, to whom (V. 37) we owe the
specific for immunity when handling the fish, _viz._ “the liquor of
Cyrene,” Theophrastus, all exaggerate the powers of the Torpedo.

A most interesting account is given in Athenæus (VII. 95), who avers
that the shock was not produced by all parts of the fish’s body, but by
certain parts only, and that Diphilus of Laodicea had proved this by a
long series of experiments.[417] According to Galen and Dioscorides the
shock, whence or however obtained, relieved chronic headache, while a
contemporary of the latter recommends a person suffering from gout in
the feet to stand “bare-legged” on the shore, and apply the Torpedo.

As the German and Austrian watering places are still under a cloud,
we may yet see on the shores of Italy bands of gouty and passionate
pilgrims standing bare-legged, awaiting the cure of the νάρκη!

Complaints of gout are rife, even among our fish-affecting
epigrammatists. From Hedylus, a singer rather of wine than of fish, we
trace the lineage of the disease, “of Bacchus the limb-loosener, and
of Venus the limb-loosener, is sprung a daughter, a limb-loosener, the

As to spawning, every author from Herodotus down to Izaak Walton has
evolved various but mostly inaccurate theories. Oppian (I. 479 ff.)
lays down that, as the passion of Love overcomes fish, the bodies of
the male and female meet in the water and “exude mingled slime,” which
swallowed by the female produces conception. To this (I. 554 ff.)
he allows an exception in the case of the _murænæ_. These mate with
land serpents, “who for a time lay aside their venom”: a monstrous
connection which finds affirmation by Sostratus[419] and by Pliny.[420]

The touching charm of the passage[421] about the _Naucrates ductor_ or
pilot fish (whence its name of ἡγητήρ), which for some reason in more
modern times has transferred its affection and services from the whale
to the shark, compels quotation:

    “Bold in the front the little pilot glides,
     Averts each danger, every motion guides;
     With grateful joy the willing whales attend,
     Observe the leader and revere the friend;
     True to the little chief obsequious roll,
     And soothe in friendship’s charms their savage soul.
     Between the distant eyeballs of the whale
     The watchful pilot waves his faithful tail,
     With signs expressive points the doubtful way,
     The bulky tyrants doubt not to obey,
     Implicit trust repose in him alone,
     And hear and see with senses not their own;
     To him the important reins of life resign,
     And every self-preserving care decline.”[422]

Some of Oppian’s best bits contain animated portraits of sea-fights.
The combatants are as intensely personified as Homer’s Greeks and
Trojans in their hand-to-hand fight on the banks of the Scamander. But
unlike the Heroes, the belligerents of Oppian pull each other to pieces
without any responsibility on their part, or shock to moral sense on

    “Unwise we blame the rage of warring fish
     Who urged by hunger _must_ supply the wish;
     While cruel man, to whom his ready food
     Kind Earth affords, yet thirsts for human blood.”

In proportion as fish, which according to the earliest authors was
despised or disregarded, grew in favour with the Greeks, the frequency
of its mention in Greek literature increased apace.

The _Deipnosophistæ_ by Athenæus, to which belongs the distinction
of being one of the earliest collections of _Ana_, is a curious sort
of philosophers’ feast. It quotes from nearly every writer on nearly
every topic; it discusses almost every conceivable subject, especially
gastronomy. It weighs the qualities of all things edible. Comments on
fish, taken from plays, histories, treatises, etc., are plentifully, if
incongruously, scattered.[423]

Everything goes in this work; grammatical problems are mixed up with
gastronomic; the discursiveness of Athenæus races from grave to gay,
grim death to any story, however apparently disconnected.

His tale of the _Pinna_ (III. 46), a bivalve shellfish, and the
Pinnothere (a small crab who inhabits the shell of the _Pinna_)
resembles many of the fables current among the West Indian negroes as
regards the cleverness of the Crab. As soon as the small fish, on which
the _Pinna_ subsists, have swum within the shell side, the Pinnothere
nips the _Pinna_ as a signal to him to close his shell and secure them.

Plutarch (_De Sol. Anim._, 30) shows that the habit was not entirely
altruistic, for “this being done, they feed together upon the common
prey.” From the _Pinna_ which haunts the bottom of the sea. From the
_Pinna_ which haunts the bottom of the sea came ”the most transparent
pearls, very pure and very large.”[424]

The enormous industry of Athenæus, who (VIII. 15) speaking of the
materials he had amassed for this one book, casually states that he
himself “had read and made extracts from 800 plays of the Middle Comedy
_alone_,” and in it cites nearly 800 authors, and over 1200 separate
books, has undoubtedly preserved to us many valuable passages of the
ample literature and numerous plays in which fishermen once figured.
My many quotations from and references to his _Deipnosophistæ_ make it
unnecessary to deal with this author[425] at greater length.


[392] _The Anatomy of Melancholy_ (London, 1806), I. 406. If Burton,
“that universal plunderer” has cribbed from Dame Juliana Berners her
eloquent eulogy on the secondary pleasures of angling, this book, in
turn, till its resurrection in the eighteenth century was ruthlessly
pillaged without acknowledgment. Warton, _Milton_, 2nd edition, p. 94,
suggests that Milton seems to have borrowed the subject of _L’Allegro_
and _Il Penseroso_, together with some thoughts and expressions, from a
poem prefixed to the book, while a writer in _The Angler’s Note Book_,
March 31, 1880, believes that “Walton probably drew the inspiration
of his Angler’s song from the wonderful storehouse of this quaint and
original author.”

[393] τὸ γὰρ ἀγεννὲς καὶ ἀμήχανον ὅλως καὶ ἀπάνουργον αὐτῶν αἰσχρὸν
καὶ ἄζηλον καὶ ἀνελεύθερον τὴν ἄγραν πεποίηκε. Holland’s _Translation_,
published in 1657, if only on account of its quaint turns is preferable
to another published in the last century.

[394] Milton wrote (1646) a Latin Ode on sending a book to the
Bodleian, in which he addresses Roüsius as,

    “Aeternorum operum custos fidelis
     Quæstorque gazæ nobilioris.”

[395] Two years after this was written, I find that Mr. G. W. Bethune
in his edition of _The Complete Angler_ (New York, 1891), p. 6, notes
the Aristotimus point, but goes no farther in defence of Plutarch.

[396] _De Sol. Anim._, 24. (Holland’s Translation.)

[397] London, 1700. Dr. Turrell, _op. cit._, p. 157, believes Whitney
to have been the first to recommend the use of _the floating fly_—not
for the purpose of circumventing the wily trout, but to prevent the fly
being gobbled by the minnows.

[398] Cf. R. B. Marston, _Walton and some Earlier Writers on Angling_,
1894, an informative and yet delightful volume.

[399] As to the various Guyets, see 6th series, III. 87, 5th series, V.
352, and Lawrence B. Philip’s _Dict. of Biog. Reference_, which gives
“Martial Guyet, French poet and translator, 17th century.”

[400] _The False One_, Act I., Scene 2.

[401] Shakespeare, _Antony and Cleopatra_, Act II. Sc. 5. Weigall,
_The Life and Times of Cleopatra_, pp. 245-6, makes the _locus_ the
_harbour of Alexandria_, not the Nile, and the _modus_, _Antony’s_
diver affixing fresh fish to his hook. Cleopatra, guessing Antony’s
ruse, assembled next day a party of notables to applaud the angler, but
instructed a slave to dive from the other side of the vessel and the
instant the hook touched the water attach to it a pickled Pontic fish.
Cleopatram “ridentem dicere verum quid vetat?”

[402] A century or so before Oppian, Demostratus, a Roman Senator,
wrote also Ἁλιευτικά—a work on Fishing of twenty books—which, although
often quoted by ancient writers, is now not extant. From the extracts
given by Ælian (XIII. 21, XV. 4 and 19) we gather that Demostratus,
who wrote in Greek, had even more than a Greek love of the marvellous
and cared nothing for the sober scientific study of his subject. It is
noteworthy that an alternative title of his work was λόγοι ἁλιευτικοί,
or, say, Fishing Yarns.

[403] Suetonius, _Augustus_, c. 83, classes fishing as one of
Octavian’s chief relaxations.

[404] W. Christ, _Geschichte der griechischen Litteratur_, ed. 3
(München, 1898), p. 629, decides for Marcus Aurelius.

[405] As there are 3506 hexameters, the reward was over 3506 guineas
sterling, which, without allowing for the increase in value of money
between the second century and the twentieth, contrasts remarkably
with the fourpence halfpenny a volume of Martial. According to Suidas,
however, Oppian received from the Emperor 20,000 _staters_, which
would be a far larger reward than Octavia bestowed on Virgil for his
_Æneid_. It has been suggested that this largesse was not paid on all
the verses of the _Halieutica_, but only on those in which Oppian
records the prowess and sport of the Emperor in “The Virginia Water”
of the Cæsars—where we learn from Eutropius (VII. 14) that Nero fished
with golden nets drawn by purple ropes. If so the total would be a mere
fraction of either the 3506 guineas or of the 16,000 guineas. Great
doubt exists as to whether or not there were two poets named Oppian;
and if there were, to which does the anonymous Greek _Life_ of Oppian
refer, and which of the two was the author of _Ixeutica_, for possibly
it was to the author of this poem that the Imperial payment of gold was
made. See W. H. Drummond’s paper in Royal Irish Academy, 1818. Also A.
Ausfeld, _De Oppiano et scriptis sub eius nomine traditis_, Gotha, 1876.

[406] Cf. Prof. E. Browne, _Literary History of Persia_, vol. II., pp.
128-138, and Sir Gore Ouseley’s _Biographies of Persian Poets_, for the
various Firdausi versions.

[407] “De quibus Oppianus Cilix est, poeta doctissimus, 153 esse genera
piscium, quæ omnia capta sunt ab Apostolis, et nihil remansit incaptum,
dum et nobiles et ignobiles, divites et pauperes, et omne genus hominum
de mari hujus sæculi extrahitur ad salutem.” _Comment. in Ezechiel._
Cf. Ritter, _op. cit._, p. 376.

[408] _N. H._, XXXII. 53.

[409] The great objection to this translation, owing probably to the
difficulty of expressing—certainly of compressing—the “intractable”
subject matter in the rhymed verse adopted by the translators, is
its weary verbiage: for instance, one passage of three lines in the
translation needs twelve, and another of nine needs thirty! Diaper was
the author of _Nereides, or Sea-Eclogues_.

[410] N. C. Apostolides, _La Pêche en Grèce_ (Athènes, 1907), p. 31.
The selection of Aristotle as the prototype of philosophical inveighers
against Tobacco by Thomas Corneille (Act I., Sc. 1, of _Le Festin de

    “Quoi qu’en dise Aristote, et sa digne cabale,
     Le tabac est divin, il n’est rien qui l’égale,”

is hardly happy, for, as the weed nicotine only reached Europe some
nineteen centuries after the philosopher’s death, his “_dise_” equals

[411] With δόναξ and κύρτος, cf. the πλεκτὸν ὕφασμα in Archestratus
(_frag._ xv. 6). See pp. 147 and 176 ff. of Paulus Brandt’s _Parodorum
epicorum Græcorum et Archestrati Reliquiæ_, Leipzig, 1888. Brandt
argues that the expression describes a _nassa, qua retis loco
piscatores utebantur_, and on the analogy of the Dalmatian fishermen
(cf. Brehm, _Thierleben_, IV., vol. II. p. 533) who, when the sea is
not quite calm, drop from the bow of the boat pebbles dipped in oil to
make smooth the surface, and so more easily detect the fish, explains
δονεῖν ψήφους in _Frag._ XV. line 8. Although Archestratus’s statement
that the fish are not to be seen (oὐd’ ἐσιδεῖν ὄσσοισιν), except by
those who resort to the πλεκτὸν ὕφασμα, and εἰώθασι δονεῖν ψήφους,
gives some colour to Brandt’s ingenious identification, the lack of any
mention of the essential factor in such a calming operation, the oil,
seems to rule it out.

[412] IV. 640. Cf. Oppian, _cyneg._, 4, 140 ff. for a similar

[413] This method, originating from the curiosity of fish and their
desire (in Shelley’s words) “to worship the delusive flame,” is
especially successful in rivers at the spawning season. In the Rhodian
Laws—a code for the government of mariners and fishermen originally
promulgated by Tiberius—occurs a special proviso, _re_ fishing by means
of torches, forbidding fishermen to display lights at sea, lest thereby
they should deceive other vessels. It has been suggested, prettily, but
I fear not practically, that leistering was learnt from the hunting
habit and natural endowments of the Halcyon or Kingfisher; just as to
the brilliancy of its colours and splendour of its flash the fish are
attracted, so to the brightness of the torches and the shimmer of their
rays come the salmon, etc.

[414] Cicero, _de Nat. deor._, II. 50, 127.

[415] Perhaps the best prose description of the power of the Echineis
is to be found in Cassiodorus, _Var._, I. 35. Pliny, XXXII. 1, solemnly
asserts that the death of the Emperor Caligula was presaged by a
_Remora_ stopping his great galley, alone out of all the accompanying
fleet, on his voyage to Antium. Not only did the _Remora_ stop a
ship, but according to Pliny, it could, from its power of checking
the natural actions of the body under excitement, hasten or stay an
_accouchement_ as well as a lawsuit: hence plaintiffs seldom ventured
into the fish market, because the mere sight of a _Remora_ at such a
juncture was most inauspicious! (Pliny, IX. 41, and XXXII. 1). Cf.
Aristotle, _H. A._, 2. 14, “καὶ χρῶνταί τινες αὐτῷ πρὸς δίκας καὶ
φίλτρα.” For an explanation of the myth of the _Remora_, see V. W.
Ekman, “On Dead Water,” in the _Reports of Nansen’s Polar Expedition_,
Christiania, 1904.

[416] For a profoundly interesting study of the extant portrait-busts
of Socrates, see A. Hekler, _Greek and Roman Portraits_ (London, 1912),
p. xi. f., with plates 19, 20, 21.

[417] The Torpedo was one of the food fishes of the ancients, and is
represented with other fish on several of the Campanian-ware fish
plates to be seen at the British Museum, _e.g. Cat. Vases_, vol. iv.,
p. 121, F. 268, which shows the small well in the centre of the plate
used for fish sauce.

[418] _Anth. Pal._, XI. 414.

[419] Athen., VII. 90.

[420] _N. H._, XXXII. 6.

[421] Oppian, V. 66 ff.

[422] Cf. Pliny, IX. 68; Ælian, II. 13; Plutarch, _De Sol. Anim._, 31.
With this pilot fish must be mentioned that other, so famous in New
Zealand waters, “Pelorus Jack.” A cetacean of the Dolphin tribe, he
regularly met the coastal steamers between Wellington and Nelson. The
old Maori chief, Kipa Hemi, claimed that this fish, _Kai Kai-a-waro_,
was not only the embodiment of his tribal _Mana_ and his family
guardian angel, but had guided his ancestor eleven generations before
in his exploring of Cook Sound, etc.

[423] See W. Smith, _Dict. Gk.-Rom. Biog. and Myth._, _s.v._ ‘Athenæus.’

[424] Athen., III. 46. From Faber, _op. cit._, p. 94, we learn that
“the pinnotherus finds refuse in the shells of living bivalves, living
on the small animalculæ contained in the constant stream of water,
which flows in and out of these molluscs. The fancy of the ancients has
attributed the status existing between the two species as arising from
a friendly alliance, protection and board afforded on the one hand, and
watching against and warning of the approach of an enemy on the other.
These observations descend from so early a date that we find the pinna
and the crab among the Egyptian hieroglyphs, bearing the interpretation
of the duty of paterfamilias to provide for his offspring.”

[425] The rendering of passages from Athenæus (_Deipn._) and from Pliny
(_N. H._) are usually Bohn’s.



    “They knew ’e stole; ’e knew they knowed;
      They did not tell, or make a fuss,
    But winked at Ælian down the road,
      And ’e winked back—the same as us!”[426]

Ælian (170-230 A.D.), who, though born in Italy and brought up in
the Latin tongue, acquired so complete a command of Greek that he
could speak it as well as an Athenian gentleman (hence his sobriquet
μελίγλωττος), composed his works in Greek.

His _Natural History_[427] soon became a standard work on Zoology,
although in arrangement it is very defective: for instance, he skips
from elephants (XI. 15) to dragons in the very next chapter, and from
the livers of mice in II. 56 to the uses of oxen in II. 57. This
treatment of things, ποικίλα ποικίλως, is asserted by the author to be
intentional, so as to avoid boring the reader. For his part he avows
that he prefers observing the habits of animals and fish, listening to
the nightingale, or studying the migration of cranes, to heaping up


From a Greek vase in Vienna. R. Schneider, _Arch. epig. Mitth._, iii.,
Pl. 3.]

Whether as a Naturalist Ælian possesses any value, whether his work
is “scrappy and gossiping, and largely collected from older and more
logical writers,”[429] or “from the industry displayed, despite
deficiency in arrangement, a valuable collection in Natural History,”
to us fishermen matters little, for unto him has been ascribed the
great glory of being the first author of all ages and of all countries
specifically to mention and roughly describe an Artificial Fly.

And not only is he the first, but also (with possibly one exception)
the only author during fourteen hundred years, who makes any reference
to any such fly.[430] From Ælian until the _Treatyse of Fysshynge with
an Angle_ we find no mention of, or allusion to, the Artificial Fly,
but that it was well known as a method of angling is easily deduced
from the authoress’s abrupt introduction of the subject, “There ben the
xij flies or dubbes with which ye shall angle.”[431]

The usually accurate _Bibliotheca Piscatoria_ of Westwood and Satchell
states under heading of ‘Ælian,’ that Stephen Oliver (Mr. Chatto), in
his _Scenes and Recollections of Fly Fishing_, _first_ pointed out this
remarkable passage. Now the first edition of Oliver’s book is dated
1834; so, if the _Bibliotheca Piscatoria_ be correct, Ælian’s statement
apparently remained unknown to Anglers for nearly eighteen centuries.

I purposely set out a translation of the whole passage in Ælian, XV.
1, because short extracts are usually given, and because these vary
greatly on a very important point. I adopt with some alterations the
translation by Mr. O. Lambert in his _Angling Literature in England_

“I have heard of a Macedonian way of catching fish, and it is this:
between Bercea and Thessalonica runs a river called the Astræus, and in
it there are fish with speckled skins; what the natives of the country
call them you had better ask the Macedonians. These fish feed on a fly
peculiar to the country, which hovers on the river. It is not like
flies found elsewhere, nor does it resemble a wasp in appearance, nor
in shape would one justly describe it as a midge or a bee, yet it has
something of each of these. In boldness it is like a fly, in size you
might call it a midge, it imitates the colour of a wasp, and it hums
like a bee. The natives generally call it the _Hippouros_.

“These flies seek their food over the river, but do not escape the
observation of the fish swimming below. When then the fish observes
a fly on the surface, it swims quietly up, afraid to stir the water
above, lest it should scare away its prey; then coming up by its
shadow, it opens its mouth gently and gulps down the fly, like a
wolf carrying off a sheep from the fold or an eagle a goose from the
farmyard; having done this it goes below the rippling water.

“Now though the fishermen know of this, they do not use these flies at
all for bait for fish; for if a man’s hand touch them, they lose their
natural colour, their wings wither, and they become unfit food for the
fish. For this reason they have nothing to do with them, hating them
for their bad character; but they have planned a snare for the fish,
and get the better of them by their fisherman’s craft.

“They fasten red (crimson red) wool round a hook, and fix on to the
wool two feathers which grow under a cock’s wattles, and which in
colour are like wax. Their rod is six feet long, and their line is the
same length. Then they throw their snare, and the fish, attracted and
maddened by the colour, comes straight at it, thinking from the pretty
sight to get a dainty mouthful; when, however, it opens its jaws, it is
caught by the hook and enjoys a bitter repast, a captive.”

The lines which describe the making up of the fly—τῷ ἀγκίστρῳ
περιβάλλουσιν ἒριον φοινικοῦν, ἤρμοσταί τε τῷ ἐρίῳ δύο πτερὰ
ἀλεκτρυόνος ὑπὸ τοῖς καλλαίοις πεφυκότα καὶ κηρῷ τὴν χρόαν
προσεικασμένα[432]—are translated in Westwood and Satchell’s _Bibl.
Pisc._, and by Mr. Lambert quite differently.

In the _Bibl. Pisc._:

“Round the hook they twist scarlet wool, and two wings are secured on
this wool from the feathers which grow under the wattles of a cock,
brought up to the proper colour with wax.”

In Lambert:

“They fasten red wool round a hook and fit on the wool two feathers
which grow under a cock’s wattles, and which in colour are like wax.”

It is asserted in the _Bibl. Pisc._ that the whole passage is therein
“for the first time, accurately, translated,” but this proud boast
must take a back seat, for Mr. Lambert translates with far nearer
accuracy. One grave error springs from mistranslation in the former of
προσεικασμένα as “brought up to,” instead of “like,” a meaning very
common in Greek writers of the second and third century.

But, apart from the question which of the two be the better rendering,
no doubt whatever can exist which of the flies described would be found
the better, if not the only, killer. Application of wax to the hackles
of a cock would certainly cause the fibre to stick together, entirely
destroy their free play in the water, and render them useless as wings.

This passage, ever since its rediscovery by Oliver in 1834, has been
acclaimed by most writers on Fishing as (A) being the first instance
in literature, or for that matter in art, of the Artificial Fly, and
as (B) ascribing to the Macedonians the credit of a “new invention” in

It is undoubtedly the first and only express mention of a specially
made-up Artificial Fly down to 500 A.D., and probably even down to
Dame Juliana’s Book (_c._ 1500). But I suggest and believe that this
passage is intended, not as a description of a “new invention,” or of a
striking departure from old methods of Angling. It merely instances the
Macedonian’s adaptability to his environment, and his imitative skill
in dressing from his wools and feathers a fly to resemble as closely
as possible the natural fly on which the fish were feeding, a practice
very common among anglers of the present day.

So far from the Artificial Fly being a “new invention,” it seems to me
to have been for a long time in more or less regular use. The materials
necessary or employed for dressing flies are set forth in two other
places by Ælian in this same work. The Macedonian fly is described at
length and in special detail, probably because it marked an advance in
making up a fly.

I have not been able so far to find the passages in Bk. III. 43, and
Bk. XV. 10, mentioned (except in Blümner’s general list of fishing
weapons under “_Fischfang_”[433]) or alluded to in connection with
fly-making, much less brought into the prominence which their special
pertinence of a surety deserves and demands.

This omission may be due to previous writers being content with the
authority and researches of Oliver and of Westwood and Satchell, and on
the line of least exertion not pursuing the subject any further even
in the pages of Ælian himself. If they had so pursued, they would have
discovered in the first passage in Bk. XII. 43, which is separated by
only three books, and in the second passage in Bk. XV. 10, which is
separated by only nine chapters from the _locus classicus_ in Bk. XV.
1, strong reasons for qualifying their statement as to the Macedonian

In Bk. XII. 43, Fishing is divided into four kinds—by Nets, Spears,
Weels, and Hooks; that by hooks (ἀγκιστρεία) is adjudged “the most
skilful, and the most becoming for free men,” that by Weels (κυρτεία)
the least so. In each class Ælian carefully enumerates the articles
necessary or generally used.

The list of those necessary for fishing with hooks, or Angling,
recounts “natural horse-hair, white, and black, and flame-coloured, and
half-grey; but of the dyed hair, they select only those that are grey,
or of true sea-purple, for the rest, they say, are pretty poor. They
use, too, the straight bristles of swine, and thread, and much copper
and lead, and cords.” Now follow the important words—“and feathers,
chiefly white, or black, or various. They use two wools, red and

Further requirements are “corks, and wood, and iron, and of things
they need, are reeds well-grown, and nets, and soaked rushes, a shaved
wand, and a dog-wood Rod, and the horns and hide of a she-goat.” The
equipment is as ample as amazing. What use, in the name of every
fishing Deity, unless the author is referring to Oppian’s method, did
the _Angler_ make of the “horns and hide of a she-goat”?

Ælian concludes with ἄλλος δὲ ἄλλῳ τούτων ἰχθὺς αἱρεῖται, which
antedates the tale of the millionaire, who, reproached with having
brought a thousand times too many flies, ejaculated, “with some of
these, if I can’t get a salmon, maybe I’ll strike a sucker”!

In XV. 10, which deals with the capture of pelamyde or young tunny
fish, one of the crew sitting at the stern lets down on either side of
the ship lines with hooks. On each hook he ties a bait (perhaps not a
bait in our modern technical sense, but rather a lure) wrapped in wool
of Laconian red, and to each hook attaches the feather of a seamew.[435]

Let us set aside, because of Ælian’s haphazard method of arrangement,
any argument which might otherwise fairly be adduced from the following
facts. (A) He expressly sets forth in XII. 43 (three books before he
mentions the Macedonian device) _red and other wools and feathers_ as
part of the _ordinary tackle_ of an Angler—most probably in river or
lake, for here, unlike XV. 10, where the prey is a sea-fish, we have no
mention of a ship, oars, etc. (B) When he does mention the Macedonian
device, he does not announce it in any way as a new invention or a
striking departure from the old methods of fishing, but quite simply,
in the words: “I have heard of the Macedonian way of fishing, and it is

Setting aside, I repeat, any arguments thus to be deduced, we are face
to face with the hard and curious fact, that in all three passages the
materials, out of which the lures are constructed, _are the same_; they
are wools of various colours, and feathers taken from birds, in XV. 1,
from a cock, in XV. 10, from a seamew.

Any assertion or suggestion that these wools and feathers were
used, and are specially stated to have been used for tying only the
Macedonian fly, and that this special statement of such uses is meant
expressly to differentiate the Macedonian from all other ways of
fishing, and thus constitutes the first mention of an Artificial Fly, I
counter by a couple of queries.

Why in XII. 43, and XV. 10, are these self-same wools and feathers
set out among the necessary ordinary requisite tackle of a fisherman,
if they were not used for dressing a fly, perhaps more primitive but
still Artificial? And, if they were not so used, to what other fishing
purpose can they be fairly applied?

Again, let us for a moment grant that the Macedonian device was the
absolutely new invention or the striking departure from all preceding
angling methods, which, had artificial flies not previously been
well known, it most certainly would have been. In this case, surely
Ælian, meticulous in his examination and classification of the tackle,
etc., needed for each of the four stated kinds of fishing, would have
employed, when about to tell of this invention, words calling more
instant attention to and far worthier of this great revolution than the
simple, “I have heard of the Macedonian way of fishing, and it is this”!

As supporting my contention, a further point must be noted. In the list
of tackle in XII. 43, wools and feathers are mentioned in a general
manner, but in XV. 1, their use is particularised and elaborated.
Similarly in the first passage the making and material of Rods are
given, but in the second (and here only) the particular length of rod
is stated.

It is on these passages (XII. 43, and XV. 10) and on their natural
implication, that I chiefly found my conclusion that (A) the practice
of making up and fishing with some kind of artificial fly had been in
more or less general use for a long time previous to the Macedonian
device, and (B) that the device is quoted merely as an instance of a
special, local, and improved adaptation of such usage—in a word as _le
dernier cri_ in flies![436]

If in Martial (_Ep._, V. 18. 8) _musco_, not _musca_, should be read,
then to Ælian would belong the credit of being the first to mention not
only the use of the artificial fly, but also the use of the natural fly.

In XIV. 22, we read of the _Thymalus_ (a kind of grayling), which alone
of all fishes gives out after capture no fishy smell, but rather so
fragrant an odour that one would almost swear that in his hand he held
a freshly gathered bunch of thyme (“that herb so beloved by bees”),
instead of a fish. Ælian then lays down that, while it is easy to catch
this fish in nets, it is impossible to do so with a hook baited with
_anything_ except the κώνωψ, _i.e._ the gnat, or more probably from
the vivid description by one who has evidently suffered, the mosquito,
“that horrid insect, a foe to man, both day and night, alike with his
bite and his buzz.”[437]

Here then, in XIV. 22, we get, if the conjecture _musco_ should be held
to deprive Martial of his priority, the first mention of angling with a
_natural_ fly.

The difficulty, obvious at once to the practical angler, of how the
ancients (or even the moderns with all the elaborate perfections of
Redditch) could manufacture a hook little enough to impale a mosquito
did not escape Aldrovandi.[438] But the κώνωψ, said to spring from
the σκώληκες, _i.e._, _larvæ_ found in the sediment of vinegar, was
apparently even smaller than his brother mosquito, the ἐμπίς.[439]

As only with great care, and even then only on very fine wire, can the
smallest modern hook, No. 000, be coaxed to impale a big gnat, the
problem before the Ancients of impaling with a hook one, and this not
even the largest, of the mosquito tribe seems insoluble. But perhaps
Ælian’s κώνωψ (as probably also his ἵππουρος) was far larger than its
descendant of the present day, or perhaps our author has substituted by
mistake the mosquito for some larger but similar gnat.


[426] After Kipling.

[427] Περὶ Ζώων ἰδιότητος.

[428] See Smith’s _Dict. Gk. and Rom. Biog. and Myth._, _s.v._ ‘Ælian.’

[429] Perizonius has proved that Ælian transferred large portions of
the _Deipnosophistæ_ of Athenæus to his _Varia Historia_, a robbery
which must have been committed almost in the lifetime of the pillaged
author: that Ælian extended such transference to his _Natural History_
also, his story of the _Pinna_, and others would seemingly demonstrate.
Sir J. E. Sandys, _A History of Classical Scholarship_, ed. 2
(Cambridge, 1906), i. 336, goes so far as to say: “He is the author of
seventeen books _On Animals_, mainly borrowed from Alexander of Myndos
(first century A.D.).”

[430] Dr. W. J. Turrell, _op. cit._, XI., states that a Latin poem
written by Richard de Fournival, about the thirteenth century, alludes
incidentally to fishing, and from this it appears that the _fly_ and
the worm were among the lures then used by anglers, but does not state
expressly whether Fournival’s fly was natural or artificial.

[431] Cf. H. Mayer, _Sport with Rod and Line_, Barnet and Phillips, New

[432] Jacobs adopts κηρῷ, instead of Gesner’s χρυσῷ, chiefly because it
is written thus quite clearly in the Codex Augustanus. It also seems to
fit the context better.

[433] _Die römischen Privataltertümer_ (Munich, 1911), pp. 529-30.

[434] Καὶ πτεροῖς, μάλιστα μὲν λευκοῖς καὶ μέλασιν καὶ ποικίλοις.
Χρῶνταί γε μὴν oἱ ἁλιεῖς καὶ φοινικοῖς ἐρίοις καὶ ἁλουργέσι, κ.τ.λ.

[435] καὶ πτερὸν λάρου ἑκάστῳ ἀγκίστρῳ προσήρτηται.

[436] If Sandys (_antea_, 185, note 4) be right about Ælian’s work
being “mainly borrowed from Alexander of Myndos,” first century A.D.,
the artificial fly was probably well known in Martial’s time.

[437] πονηρῷ μὲν ζῴῳ καὶ μεθ’ ἡμέραν καὶ νύκτωρ ἀνθρώποις ἐχθρῷ καὶ
δακεῖν καὶ βοῆσαι.

[438] For size of hooks, see _antea_, p. 157 and note 1.

[439] Cf. Arist., _N. H._, V. 19. The σκώληξ of Aristotle is an
immature product of generation which grows and finally becomes a pupa,
or (so Aristotle believed) an egg giving birth to the perfect animal.



Ausonius (_c._ 310-_c._ 393 A.D.) is practically the last Latin
writer within my time-limit (A.D. 500) who has allusions of interest
to Fishing. In the fifth century, however, Sidonius, whose fishing
and hunting interest apparently equalled his diocesan—_his_ ‘Nolo
Episcopari’ was, if fruitless, at once exceptional and genuine, for the
see of Clermont had to be forced on his acceptance—tells us in a letter
and in his poems of the catching of fish, especially by night lines in
a lake on his wife’s property in the Auvergne.[440]

The tenth Idyll of Ausonius (“Ad Mosellam,” a great favourite with
Izaak Walton), ranks, according to Mackail, “the writer not merely as
the last or all but last of Latin, but also as the first of French
poets.” It demands mention, quite apart from the vividness of its
pictures, because it is the only fisher poem of any length in classical
Latin, and because in it occurs the first mention of the _Salar_ and
the _Fario_.

Of the _Salmo_ Pliny three hundred years previously was the first to
speak.[441] The Greeks knew not the Salmon: at any rate, no opsophagist
or other author notices the fish. Their silence is natural; the high
temperature of the water forbids its frequenting the Mediterranean or
its inflowing rivers.[442]

The length of the whole poem (483 lines) prevents entire quotation,
although the touch and movement all through display fully the instinct
and feeling for sport.

Pictures of the scenery along the banks of the Moselle are followed
by the enumeration and characterisation of the fish in its waters
rendered after the manner of the didactic epic. The poem furnishes a
lively description of the fishermen of the Moselle, made from actual
observation. Men in boats drag nets in midstream; men watch the corks
of little nets in shallower water; men perched on banks or on rocks
armed with rods scan the floats bobbing on the water, or jerk in the
prey. But we search for fly-fishing in vain.

“And now, where the bank gives easy access, a host of spoilers are
searching all the waters.[443] Alas! poor fish, ill sheltered by thine
inmost stream! One of them trails his wet lines far out in mid-river,
and sweeps off the shoals caught in his knotty seine; where the stream
glides with placid course, another spreads his drag-nets buoyed on
their cork-floats.

“A third, leaning over the waters beneath the rock, lowers the arching
top of his supple rod, as he casts the hooks sheathed in deadly baits.
The unwary rovers of the deep rush on them with gaping mouth—too late,
their wide jaws feel through and through the stings of the hidden
barb—they writhe—the surface tells the tale, and the rod ducks to the
jerky twitch of the quivering horse-hair. Enough—with one whizzing
stroke the boy snatches his prey slant-wise from the water; the blow
vibrates on the breeze, as when a lash snaps in the air with a crack,
and the wind whistles to the shock.

“The finny captives bound on the dry rocks, in terror at the sunlight’s
deadly rays; the force which stood to them in their native stream
languishes under our sky, and wastes their life in struggles to
respire.[444] Now, only a dull throb shudders through the feeble frame,
the sluggish tail flaps in the last throes, the jaws gape, but the
breath which they inhale returns from the gills in the gaspings of
death: as, when a breeze fans the fires of the forge, the linen valve
of the bellows plays against its beechen sides, now opening, and now
shutting, to admit or to confine the wind.

“Some fish have I seen who, in the last agony, gathered their forces,
sprang aloft, and plunged head foremost into the river beneath,
regaining the waters for which they had ceased to hope. Impatient of
this loss, the thoughtless boy dashes in after them from above and
strikes out in wild pursuit. Even thus Glaucus of Anthedon, the old man
of the Bœotian Sea, when, after tasting Circe’s deadly herbs, he ate of
the grass which dying fish had nibbled,[445] passes, a strange denizen,
into the Carpathian deep. Armed with hook and net, a fisherman in the
depths of that realm whose upper waters he had been wont to plunder,
Glaucus glided along, the pirate of those helpless tribes.”

Whether the _Salar_ and the _Fario_ of the Idyll are, or are not,
identical with the burn trout or salmon trout of modern days affords a
problem for ichthyologists, not for me.

Ausonius is the first to mention not only the _Salar_ and _Fario_[446]
but also our Pike—_Esox Lucius_.[447]

    “Lucius obscuras ulva cænoque lacunas
     Obsidet; hic nullos mensarum lectus ad usus
     Fervet fumosis olido nidore popinis,”

which Badham has loosely translated:

    “The wary luce, midst wrack and rushes hid,
     The scourge and terror of the scaly brood,
     Unknown at friendship’s hospitable board,
     Smokes midst the smoking tavern’s coarsest food.”

The striking silence as to a fish so far-spread in his habitat and so
notable in his habits as _Esox lucius_ in all preceding Greek and Latin
literature must excuse a semi-excursus.

Cuvier writes: “We are necessarily astonished that the Ancients have
left us no document, so to speak, on a fish so abundant in Europe as
the Pike ... a fish which the Greeks must have known. The word _Esox_
occurs only once (Pliny, IX. 17) as an example of a large fish[448]
comparable to the Tunny in form. In spite of Hardouin, I do not see
that _Esox_ of the Rhine is the Pike, or believe with Ducange that it
is the Salmon. The name _Luccio_ or _Luzzo_, by which we still call the
Pike in this country, gives force to the supposition that the Latins of
the time of Ausonius called it _Lucius_.”[449]

The astonishment at the absence of all reference to the Pike would be
greatly increased, if the authors, or really Valenciennes, had lived to
read later writers. Parkyn (_op. cit._, p. 131) cites the fish among
those represented by the craftsmen of both Palæolithic and Neolithic
Art in the caves of France and Spain. G. de Mortillet (_op. cit._, p.
220) claims that the remains of Pike in the Palæolithic age occur not
infrequently. F. Keller (_op. cit._, vol. I. 537, 544) notes their
presence in Neolithic finds at Moosseedorf, etc. Meek, _Migration
of Fish_, p. 18 (London, 1917), states that the Pike “occupied the
European region in Oligocene and Miocene times, and that the remains of
Pike are found in the Pleistocene of Breslau.”

Attempts have been made to explain the absence of this fish previous to
Ausonius by identifying _Esox lucius_ with (A) the _Oxyrhynchus_, and
(B) the _Lupus_. These seem to me unsuccessful.[450]

Petrus Bellonius among the early writers upholds the first
identification. In his _Observations de Plusieurs Singularitëz_, Book
II. ch. 32 (published 1553), “Le fleuve du Nil nourrit plusieurs autres
poissons, lesquelz toutes fois ie ne veul specifier en ce lieu, sinon
entăt que le Brochet y est frequent, et que nous avons difficulté
de luy trouver une appellation antique, ie veul mŏstrer qu’il fut
ancieňement appellé Oxyrynchus.”

His effort breaks down for three reasons. First, Ælian says that the
_Oxyrhynchus_,—a fish supposed to have sprung from the blood of the
dead Osiris, or to be the _impiscation_ (if the word may be coined)
of Osiris—although caught in the Nile (X. 46, 1, 12.), dwells mainly,
or according to Plutarch, _de Iside et Osiride_, 7, altogether in the
sea, whereas our _Esox_ cannot endure sea-water. Second, the sharp
pointed form of beak (whence the name) cannot possibly represent
the broad goose-like mouthpiece of our Pike. Third, the size of the
_Oxyrhynchus_, often 8 cubits or 12 feet in length,[451] proscribes the

Against the identification suggested by Franciscus Philadelphus
of _Esox lucius_ with _Lupus_ two reasons lean heavily: (A) the
etymological impossibility of λύκος (because of the wolflike nature of
the Pike[452]) changing into Lucius, and (B) the _Lupus_ is _always_ in
Greek called λάβραξ, never λύκος.[453]

The story of how the _Lupus_ comes to his death by the Prawn can be
read in Oppian[454] and in Ælian.[455] The fish, ever voracious, takes
the prawns into his mouth by the thousand; these, unable to resist or
retreat, jump about and puncture his throat and jaws so seriously that
he soon dies of poison and suffocation.

Pliny (IX. 17), it has been claimed, under the word _Esox_ intends
our _Esox lucius_; but Cuvier maintains, and rightly, that his _Esox_
signifies some very large fish, perhaps a Tunny.

Sulpicius Severus, a presbyter who lived in Aquitania (_c._ 365-425
A.D.) and penned an enthusiastic _Life of S. Martin of Tour_,[456]
writes: “ad primum jactum reti permodico immanem Esocem extraxit.” It
is not for me to discuss or decry this amazing statement of a very
small net holding this monstrous _Esox_. But as the growth of a Pike
under the most favourable circumstances is probably not more than 2
lbs. a year for twelve years when usually it lessens materially, I do
suggest that the adjective _immanem_ is hardly applicable (unless St.
Martin’s biographer, perhaps also a fisherman, has lapsed unconsciously
into a “fish story”) to a fish of about 20 or 30 lbs., and so would
seem to confirm Cuvier.[457]

Pike, Carp, and Grayling were not apparently indigenous in England.
They were introduced from the Continent at some undetermined date by
one of the earlier religious orders for the better keeping of Fast
Days, which as enjoined by the Church, even in Queen Elizabeth’s time,
amounted to no less than 145 in number.[458]

The Pike, though known in the thirteenth century, was very scarce. Its
price (as fixed by Edward I.) doubled that of the salmon, and exceeded
ten times over that of either the turbot or cod. Even as late as the
Reformation a large pike fetched as much as a February lamb, and a very
small pickerel more than a fat capon. This ratio of prices recalls the
rebuke administered by Cato the Censor to those prodigal Romans who
were willing to pay more for a dish of fish than for a whole ox.

In view of the necessity for fish on the fast days, which claimed
nearly half the year, the situation of twenty Sees (two Archbishoprics
and eighteen Bishoprics) out of twenty-seven on what were then salmon
rivers can hardly have been a geographical accident.

The Carp must also have been a scarce fish in Tudor England. Dame
Juliana Berners writes, “Ther be fewe in Englande.” Holinshed, _à
propos_ of its scarcity in the Thames, states, “It is not long since
that kind of fish is brought over into England.” Leonard Mascall,
however, in his _Book of Fishinge_ (1596), credits a Mr. Mascall of
Plumstead in Essex with the introduction of carp.

A hackneyed couplet, frequently quoted for the purpose of establishing
the date at which carp and pike were introduced, but so full of
mistakes as to be worthless, runs thus:

    “Turkies, Carps, Hops, Pickerell, and Beer,
     Came into England all in one year.”

Since another version brackets “Reformation, hops, bays, and beer,” the
year intended is obviously 1532.

A Pike, or rather the head of a fish so-called, served at supper is
said to have caused the end of Theodoric the Goth. In it he imagined
he saw the face and head of Symmachus, whom he had just put to death;
straightway he became so terror-stricken that within three days he had
joined his victim.



[440] _Ep._, II. 2; _Carmina_, XIX. and XXI. Fortunately for Sidonius,
Clermont was in the Auvergne, so he could be at once _piscator_ and

[441] IX. 32. “In Aquitania salmo fluvialis marinis omnibus prefertur.”
To make this clear _piscibus_ should be understood after _omnibus_. The
salmon is the fish most frequently found in the débris of the French
caves, many of which are in Aquitania, so Palæolithic and Plinian man
at any rate ate tooth to tooth in their preference. See Introduction.
It is somewhat amazing, considering their opsophagy and the excellence
of the fish, that down to 500 A.D. no Greek, and no Latin writer,
except Pliny, Ausonius, and Sidonius, _Ep._ II. 2, mentions the
_Salmonidæ_. I cannot forgo Ausonius’s epithet—mouth-filling yet
appropriate—for us, who dwell in “this blessed Isle, this England,”
_Aquilonigenasque Britannos_.

[442] Salmon appear but infrequently in representations, but Plate 8
in C. W. King’s _Roman Antiquities at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire_,
London, 1879, shows in colours a mosaic dedicated to the god Nodons
by Flavius Senilis, an officer in command of the fleet stationed off
the Severn: this mosaic includes a number of _salmon_. King, _ib._
Plate 13, 2, is a diadem of beaten bronze representing a fisherman
with a pointed cap in the act of hooking with undoubtedly a _tight_
line a fine salmon: cf. A. B. Cook’s discussion of these finds in
_Folk-Lore_, 1906, XVI. 37 ff. Nodons was in fact, like Nuada, a fish
god, indeed a Celtic understudy for Neptune. If salmon figure little
in representations, they bulk large in laws, and in commissariats for
campaigns, _e.g._ 3000 dried salmon were ordered by Edw. II. in his war
with Bruce.

[443] From Professor R. C. Jebbs’ _Translation_, p. 176 (line 240 ff.).

[444] Cf. Plutarch, _Symp._, IV. 4. “The place where we live is to
fish no less than Hell: for no sooner come they unto it, but dead they
immediately be.” Holland’s _Translation_.

[445] For the story of Glaucus, see Æsch., _Frag._ 28; Paus., IX. 22, 6
and 7; Virgil, _Æn._, VI. 36; and Athen., VII. 47, 8. Ausonius follows
the version according to which Glaucus had been metamorphosed by Circe,
and then on tasting the herb regained his human form as the “Old Man of
the Sea.” Ovid, _Met._, XIII. 898 ff.

[446] _Mosella_, 88. “Purpureisque Salar stellatus tergora guttis,” and
_ibid._, 129 f., “Qui necdum Salmo, necdum Salar, ambiguusque Amborum
medio, sario, intercepte sub ævo.”

[447] _Mosella_, 122 ff. Polemius Silvius, _Index Dierum Festorum_,
more than half a century later, seems the second—such is the
infrequency of mention.

[448] C. Mayhoff here prints J. Hardouin’s conjecture _isox_, which was
based on Hesychius’ gloss, ἴσοξ ἰχθὺς ποιὸς κητώδης.

[449] Cuvier and Valenciennes _Histoire Naturelle des Poissons_, vol.
XVIII., pp. 279-80 (Paris, 1846). See Introduction. If the Pike be late
in literature, in heraldry it makes amends, for there is no earlier
example of fish borne in English heraldry than is afforded by the
Pike in the arms of the family of Lucy, or Lucius—a play on words not
confined to heraldry but to be found in Shakespeare, Puttenham, and
others. See Moule, _op. cit._, p. 49.

[450] For the attempt to identify the _Esox_ with the _Huso_ made by
a French writer, _apud Vincentium_, XVII. 53, and with the Salmon by
other writers, see J. G. Schneider, _op. cit._, pp. 24 and 126.

[451] Ælian, _N. H._, XVII. 32.

[452] The epigram on Pope Lucius III. (1181 to 1185 A.D.), who was
banished from Rome for his tyranny and exactions, is, both as a
comparison and a contrast, apt.

    “Lucius est piscis rex atque tyrannus aquarum:
      A quo discordat Lucius iste parum.
    Devorat ille homines, his piscibus insidiatur:
      Esurit hic semper, ille aliquando satur.
    Amborum vitam si laus æquata notaret,
      Plus rationis habet qui ratione caret.”

[453] Athen., VII. 86; “The λάβραξ has his name from his voracity,
λαβρότης” (cf. Opp., II. 130). It is said also in shrewdness he is
superior to other fish, being very ingenious in devising means to save
himself, wherefore Aristophanes the comedian writes:

    “Labrax, the wisest of all fish that be.”

[454] _Op. cit._ II. 127 ff.

[455] _Op. cit._ I. 30.

[456] _De Virtute B. Martini_, III. 13.

[457] The biggest Pike ever caught in the United Kingdom seems to be
the 72-pounder mentioned by Colonel Thornton in his “Sporting Tour.”
Walton’s ring-decorated fish (see Gesner), three hundred years or so
old, was no doubt heavier, if it were genuine. At any rate a Pike of
40-50 lbs. is very exceptional.

[458] The value of the herring (_Clupea harengus_) was unknown to
the Greeks and Romans, and so remained generally till the Middle
Ages. “Ignorance, presumably of the real nature of the Cetaceans
betrayed our forefathers into breaking Lent, for under the impression
that the whale, porpoise, and seal were fish, they ate them on fast
days. High prices, moreover, were paid for such meats, and porpoise
pudding was a dish of State as late as the sixteenth century” (P.
Robinson, _Fisheries Exhibition Literature_, Pt. III. p. 42). Some
laxity may, I think, be pardoned, for the very name “porpoise” (in
Guernsey _pourpeis_)—derived apparently from _porc-peis_ (_porcum_ +
_piscem_)—implies that the creature was regarded as a “pig-fish.”



Leaving now the Lore of fishing among the Greeks and Romans, let us
turn, before examining the nature and number of their Lures, to their
estimation of Fish as a food.

We found, it will be remembered, that the Homeric poems make no mention
of fish being served at a banquet of the heroes, or even appearing on
the tables of people of position. Only poor or starving folk ate fish.
Although fish became later an insensate luxury, the Greeks at first
apparently abstained from all fish caught in fresh water, except the
eels of Lake Copaïs, then as now far-famed.[459]

This abstention from fresh-water fish originated (according to
Plutarch) in the belief that every spring and every stream was sacred
to some god or nymph, to catch whose property or progeny—the fish in
them—would be an act of impiety.[460] This sounds like a laboured
explanation of a fact really due to other causes. One of these is
brought out clearly in Geikie. When noticing the difference which
existed between the Greek and the Roman interest in and feeling for
the sea, he, or rather Professor Mackail, attributes it largely to a
question of food supply.[461]

Greece proper, from its comparative sterility and poverty of water,
was very limited in its capacity to grow crops or rear herds. It
compulsorily fell back largely on fish. And principally sea-fish,
because of their superior palatability, and because of the inadequacy,
owing to scarcity of lakes and perennial rivers, of fresh-water fish.

Whatever be the cause of the early abstention, three points arouse our
interest. (A) The passages in Greek writers (previous to Ælian) that
describe angling in _Greek fresh_ waters, reach but a scant half-dozen,
while those that depict fishing in such waters—sacred lakes, temple
stew-ponds, and eeling in Lake Copaïs excepted—can probably be reckoned
on both hands.[462]

(B) The _Palatine Anthology_ (at least in the period from 700 B.C.
to 500 A.D.) contains no reference (as far as I know) to aught but

(C) The Greek comedians, Athenæus, the Greek opsophagic authors all
almost always reserve their appreciations for food from ἰχθυόεις πόντος.

The statement that the Romans abstained, like the Maeatæ or Celts[463]
of North Britain, from fresh-water fish from similar, or any motives,
cannot be established. It goes far beyond the evidence at our command,
although some aversion may be possibly deduced from Ovid (_Fast._,
VI. 173 f.), and as regards shellfish from Varro. Unlike the Greeks,
however, they certainly in a very short period became great consumers
of fish from the Tiber, the Po, the Italian Lakes, and afterwards from
the Danube, Rhine, etc., but in their estimation, as in that of the
Greeks, fish from the sea ever held the higher place.[464]

If cost be a true criterion, this preference for salt-water fish
continued as late as the fourth century. In Diocletian’s Edict, 301
A.D., fixing the price of food, etc., throughout the Empire, the
maximum allowed for best quality sea-fish was nearly double that of
best quality river-fish.[465]

In both Greece and Rome fish became luxuries of the most expensive
kind. Seas and rivers were scoured far and wide. No price was thought
too extravagant for a mullet, a sturgeon, or a turbot; three mullets of
historical celebrity even fetched in Rome the almost incredible sum of

In spite of many laws and decrees made at Athens and at Rome (where
the Censor often interfered[467] in cases of extravagance in dress,
living, etc.) the prices, owing to the ingenuity of the sellers and the
wild competition of the buyers, rose constantly higher. The plaint of
Cato the Censor that things could not be well with a community, where
“a fish fetched more than a bull,” was uttered in and of a generation,
which in comparison with its successors looks frugal, even niggardly.

Pliny records (_N. H._, IX. 31) “octo milibus nummum unum mullum
mercatum fuisse”—one mullet equalled £64, or the price of nine bulls!
He also says (_N. H._, IX. 30) that mullets were plentiful and cheap
when under 2 lb., “a weight they rarely exceeded.” Martial (_Ep._, XIV.
97) confirms this in his “Do not dishonour your gold serving-dish by a
small mullet: none less than two pounds is worthy of it.” In proportion
as they exceeded this, they grew in value.

One would imagine that Nature had fallen in with the caprice of the
Romans, for the fish seems to have grown larger in the decline of the
Empire, as if to humour the extravagance of this degenerate people.
Horace thought he had pretty well stigmatised the frantic folly of his
glutton by a mullet of 3 lbs. (_Sat._, II. 2, 33); but the next reign
furnished one of 4½ lbs., which presented to and sold at auction by the
Emperor Tiberius was bought by Octavius for £40 (Seneca, _Ep._, XCV.
42), while in Juvenal, IV. 15 f., we have one of 6 lbs.[468]

How long the passion for these big mullets lasted it is impossible to
tell, but Macrobius, speaking with indignation of one purchased by
Asinius Celer in the reign of Claudius for £56 (in Pliny, _N. H._,
IX. 31, I find the price was £64!), declares that in his time (fifth
century A.D.) such mad prices had vanished.

Alongside of Pliny’s caustic comment[469] that the price of a
victorious Triumph equalled that of a cook, or a fish, can be set the
lament of the Greek comedians that for some fish one had to pay ἴσον
ἲσῳ, _i.e._ for weight avoirdupois you handed over a similar weight
in money or, as Mayor neatly renders it, “£ for lb.” This gibe at the
public mania sprang from bitter personal experience. At Rome, too, we
read “of those who sell rare fish for their weight in money.”

Does not Martial’s savage outburst on a glutton who had sold a slave
for £10 to procure a dinner, which was not really a good one because
nearly all the money was spent on a _mullet_—

                    “Non est hic, improbe, non est
    Piscis: homo est; hominem, Calliodore, comes,”

apply with greater force to “the men-eaters” who purchased mullets for
£40 or £60 each?[470]

Juvenal’s scathing invective on Crispinus—who had bought a mullet of 6
lbs. for £48—runs:

    “What! _you_, Crispinus, brought to Rome erewhile,
     Lapt in the rushes of your native Nile,
     Buy scales at such a price! You might, I guess,
     Have bought the fisherman himself for less;
     Bought, in some countries, manors at this rate,
     And, in Apulia, an immense estate.”[471]

The folly of the Roman nobles and millionaires did not exhaust itself
in buying fish at insane prices, or squandering their fortunes on
_Vivaria_ and similar extravagances. They touched a yet lower depth of
infamy by taking their _cognomen_ from fish.

Thus Columella contrasts the custom of their ancestors of taking a
_cognomen_ from some great victory, _e.g._ Numantinus or Isauricus,
with that of their decadent successors such as Licinius _Muræna_ or
Sergius _Orata_.[472]

The Greek Comic Poets and Satirists castigate with bitter sarcasms and
jeers the frenzied, almost cat-like devotion to fish.

Even Diogenes the Cynic came to an untimely end by eating with eager
haste a polypus _raw_.[473] Philoxenus the Poet, when warned by his
doctor, after “he had bought a polypus two cubits long, dressed it, and
ate it up himself all but the head,” that he had but six hours left to
live and to arrange his affairs, bequeathed his poems and the prizes of
his poems to the Nine Muses:

    “Such is my Will! But since old Charon’s voice
     Keeps crying out ‘Now cross’: and deadly Fate,
     Whom none can disobey, calls me away,
     That I may go below with all my goods,
     Bring me the fragments of that polypus.”[474]

The moralists of the Empire bewail “the costly follies of the
patricians.” Juvenal, Martial, and other Roman Satirists lampoon the
gluttony and extravagance connected with opsophagy, or the eating of
_fish_. This limitation of the word is explained by Plutarch (_Symp._,
IV. 4), “fish alone above all the rest of the dainties is called ὄψον,
because it is more excellent than all the rest,” and characteristically
defended by Athen., VII. 4.[475]

The banquets of the Greeks[476] seem to have outdone even those of
Imperial Rome. Both must have weighed heavy, alike on table and on

At these, writes Badham, “although all flesh was there, although
quadrupeds mustered strong, and a whole heaven of poultry, still it
was the flesh of _fishes_ that ever bore away the palm; they were the
soul of the supper, and the number of kinds brought together at one
repast was surprisingly great. From the poetic bills of fare preserved
by Athenæus I have verified twenty-six species of fish in one Attic
supper, and not less than forty at another![477] On the fish course
being brought in, the appearance of the banqueting hall soon became
more splendid: hardware made way for solid silver: gold breadbaskets
were now handed round: the flower of youth of both sexes entered
bearing bits of pumice, drugs against drunkenness, and trays full of
chaplets of Violets and Amaranth, while others hung up that mystic
flower, the present of the God of Love to the God of Silence, to
intimate that henceforth all things said or done at the feast were to
be kept, inviolable and _sub rosa_, under which flower by the rain of
myriads of petals all the guests literally soon were.”[478]

The amount of money spent on suppers and entertainments at Rome
staggers conception. The figures recorded by even serious historians
seem beyond all belief: for instance, the ordinary expense of Lucullus
for a supper in the Hall of Apollo is given at 50,000 _drachmæ_, or

At one of the suppers to which it was the custom of Nero to invite
himself—his meals, Suetonius (_Nero_, 27) tells us, were prolonged from
mid-day to midnight or _vice-versa_—no less than £32,000 was expended
on chaplets, and at another still more on roses alone. But it must
be remembered that the Italian rose bloomed only for one day—witness
the lines, “Una dies aperit, conficit una dies,” and “Quam longa una
dies, ætas tam longa rosarum.”[479] The cost of an entertainment by his
brother in honour of the Emperor Vitellius on his entrance to Rome was
nearly £80,000!

But of Vitellius himself let Suetonius[480] speak: “He was chiefly
addicted to the vices of luxury and cruelty. He always made three
meals a day, sometimes four—breakfast, dinner, supper, and a drunken
revel afterwards. This load of food he bore well enough, from a custom
to which he had inured himself, of frequently vomiting!” No wonder
Seneca lashes the gluttons of Rome with “Vomunt ut edant, edunt
ut vomant!”[481] For each of these meals he would make different
appointments at the houses of his friends for the same day. None
ever entertained him at less expense than 400,000 sesterces (or
£3200). But the most famous entertainment—given in his honour by his
brother—commandeered no less than 2,000 choice fishes, and 7,000 birds.

Yet even this supper he himself outdid at a feast to celebrate
the first use of a dish fashioned expressly for him, and from its
extraordinary size yclept “The Shield of Minerva.” In this dish[482]
costing £100,000 and capable of feeding one hundred and thirty guests
“were tossed together the livers of charfish, the brains of pheasants
and peacocks, the tongues of flamingos, and the entrails (or rather the
milt) of lampreys, brought in ships of war from the Carpathian Sea, or
the Spanish Straits.”[483]

In order “satiare inexplebiles libidines,” etc., Vitellius is believed
to have squandered in a few months[484] no less than seven million two
hundred and sixty-five thousand pounds (£7,265,000)![485]

No wonder that Caligula, perhaps the biggest spendthrift of the Cæsars,
laid down the maxim that “a man ought to be either an economist, or an

The fabulous sums spent on entertainments by the Greeks and Romans were
equalled, even surpassed by the Persians, the Sybarites, the Egyptians,
and other nations. But the cost, though prodigious, of Cleopatra’s
four-day entertainment to Antony and his captains (in the _menu_ of
which fishes from the Nile and the Red Sea figured conspicuously),
pales before that of a supper given in honour of Xerxes and his
captains by Antipater of Thasos, _i.e._ 400 (presumably Attic) talents
or some £100,000! No wonder Herodotus mournfully adds, “Wherever Xerxes
took two meals, dinner and supper, that city was utterly ruined!”[486]

Nor at the feasts, which the invader of Media made “for a great
multitude _every day_,” was it a case of taking up of the fragments
that remained but twelve basketsful, because, as Posidonius (in the
14th book of his _History_) continues, “besides the food that was
consumed and the heaps of fragments which were left, every guest
carried away with him entire joints of beasts, and birds, and fishes,
which had never been carved, all ready dressed,[487] in sufficient
quantities to fill a waggon. And after this they were presented with a
quantity of sweetmeats,” etc.

The prize, however, for mad lavishness must be adjudged even in
a race of such strenuous competitors, to “that most admirable of
all monarchs,” Ptolemy Philadelphus. It is “Eclipse first, the
rest nowhere,” if the description of the coronation feast given by
Callixenus in his _History of Alexandria_ be faithfully rendered by

The imagination of the average reader before reaching the last chapters
will have been fatigued and appalled by the picture of overwhelming
wealth and magnificence, but as Ptolemy, after a reign of grandiose and
continuous expenditure, left at his death £200,000,000 in the treasury,
the cost of the whole entertainment must have been as nought compared
with his revenue.

M. Gavius Apicius, after squandering half a million sterling on the
indulging his passion for creating new dishes and new combinations
of food from materials collected in Europe, Asia, and Africa, one
day balanced his accounts. Finding that but barely £80,000 remained,
and despairing of being able to satisfy the cravings of his hunger
from such a miserable pittance he poisoned himself. He is possibly
the author of a Treatise (in ten books!) of recipes for new dishes
and new sauces for fish; for one of the latter more than twenty-five
ingredients were necessary.[489]

The importance attached to cooks and cooking finds a cloud of witnesses
in Greek and Roman writers. Athenæus in especial recites their
triumphs and their bombastic boasts. So high was the _chef’s_ position
and so excellent was the _cuisine_ in Greece that we find the Roman
ambassadors, who in the sixth century B.C. were sent to investigate the
working of Solon’s Laws, bringing home a special report on Cooking!

To these Attic _cordons bleus_ in succeeding generations not only
Italy but Persia were glad to send pupils, and pay exorbitant fees for
tuition. The Attic cook gave himself the same airs of superiority over
his Roman brother, as the French _chef_ over the Anglican—him “of a
hundred sects but only one sauce.” Carême, the _chef_ of Talleyrand
(the author of this _mot_), never abated his claim that to the success
of the Congress of Vienna he contributed no less than his master.[490]
His salary, however, does not begin to compare with that of Antony’s
cook, £3000 a year and “perquisites” galore.

Anaxandrides[491] compares the beauteous work of portrait painters
unfavourably with the beauty of a dish of fish. Xenarchus[492]
contrasts poets with fishmongers, much to the detriment of the former:

    “Poets are nonsense: for they never say
     A single thing that’s new. But all they do
     Is to clothe old ideas in language new,
     Turning the same things o’er again
     And upside down. But as for fishmongers,
     They’re an inventive race and yield to none,” etc.

Hegesippus’s summing up, “But the whole race of cooks is conceited and
arrogant,” finds confirmation in dozens of instances. Two grandiloquent
boasts may serve: “I have known many a guest who has, for my sake,
eaten up his whole estate,” and

    “I am in truth a God, I bring the dead
     By mere scent of my food, to life again.”

Self-laudation is no monopoly of Greece, or Sicily, whence came perhaps
the most famous of the tribe. In our own Beaumont and Fletcher’s
play—_The Bloody Brother_—a _chef_ vaunts,

    “For fish I’ll make you a standing lake of white broth,
     And pikes shall come ploughing up the plums before them,
     Arion on a dolphin playing Lachrymæ.”

Lucian, in his witty Dialogue,[493] makes Hermes act as auctioneer at
the sale of the different creeds as personified by their founders or
by philosophers, and dilate on the exceptional merits of the lot then
under the hammer, “because he will teach you how long a gnat will live,
and what sort of soul an oyster possesses.” Mr. Lambert states that
Ausonius wrote a poem on the oyster! To be more accurate, he wrote
two,[494] and lengthy ones to boot!

The Emperor Domitian (Juvenal, IV.) ordered a special sitting of
the Senate to deliberate and advise on a matter of such grave State
importance as the best method of cooking a turbot.

Greek and Roman writers frequently poke fun at the _gourmets_ who
asserted that they could instantly tell from the flavour whence the
fish came: from what sea, and what part of that sea, from what river,
and even from which side of that river.[495]

Either these ancient connoisseurs were blessed with a more exquisite
and developed sense of taste than we moderns, or the whole pose was
an intolerable affectation, for “they drenched their subtly-conceived
dishes with garum, alec, and other sauces, which were so strong and
composite that it would have been hardly possible to distinguish a
fresh fish from a putrid cat—except by the bones!”[496]

This assertion is none too strong, if the receipts for these sauces be
duly pondered. Mention of _garum_, which gets its name from being made
originally from the salted blood and entrails of a fish called _garon_
or _garos_ by the Greeks, is in classical writers very general: we find
it even in Æschylus and Sophocles.[497]

The various sauces known in Latin are too numerous to recite.[498] The
two best, although the authorities are far from unanimous, seem to have
been made out of the gills and entrails of the Mackerel and Tunny. The
components of one recipe justify Robinson. In addition to other odds
and ends, its outstanding feature was the gore and entrails of the
Tunny, crammed in a vessel hermetically closed, and only drawn off when
decomposition was complete! No wonder Plato the Comedian complains ...
“drenching them in putrid _garum_ they will suffocate me.”

_Alec_, like _garum_, once the name of a fish (possibly the anchovy),
came to signify only the sauce made from it, and subsequently from
other cheap fish. It differed from _garum_ chiefly from being thicker,
and judging from the recipes probably nastier. You took first the dregs
and fæculence remaining after the _garum_ liquor had been decanted:
to them, add turbid brine, sodden bodies of the fish, etc., and then
you have the semi-solid compound, from which _alec_ was derived, not
inaptly yclept “Putrilago.”[499]

If, as Badham (p. 69) asserts but not convincingly, _garum_ a double
duty served, as a sauce and as a liqueur, the price of the latter was
exorbitant, over £3 a gallon.[500] Martial (_Ep._, XIII. 102) in

    “Expirantis adhuc scombri de sanguine primo
      Accipe fastosum, munera _cara_, garum,”

calls attention to the expensive nature of his present, for _garum_
made from the _scomber_ was in Pliny’s words “laudatissimum,” while the
ἄλμη, or _muria_, fabricated from the intestines and nothing else of
the tunny was cheap and inferior.

Apart from their gastronomic popularity, the medical efficacy of the
various _gara_ as pæaned by Pliny must, like the Waverley Pen, have
“come as a boon and a blessing to men,” in the wide range of their
cures.[501] For ulcers of the mouth and ears, one _mirifice prodest_.
On the application of other _gara_, “dumb-foundered flee away” burns,
blains, dysenteries, bites of dogs, _maximeque crocodili_, etc. Chapter
44 might indeed easily pass as the leaflet of an advance agent for a
patent pill.

With the knowledge and use of the various internal parts of fish, it is
strange to find Caviare, made out of the roe of the Sturgeon, first in
a recipe of the ninth century. Soft and hard roes then, as now, were
generally exported, but as a separate article it became known only in
Byzantine times.[502]

With the hungry desire for fish among all classes and with the deep
pockets of the rich enabling them to go to any extreme price, is it
any wonder that the trade of a fishmonger at Athens and Rome was
most lucrative? Several fishmongers acquired large fortunes and high
position. The Athenians even raised to the rank of citizens the sons
of Chærephilus, for the adequate reason that he sold such excellent
pickled fish![503]

At Athens, and probably at Rome, there existed a Society or Corporation
of Fishmongers, akin to our own Fishmongers’ Company, one of the many
trade guilds of mediæval times. Its power and political pull often
defeated or evaded the stringent regulations, which from time to time
fixed the price of fish. In early times fish were sold by the fishermen
themselves, as soon as the Fish-Market at Rome had been opened by the
ringing of its bell.


[459] Cf. Chapter IV. Also Plutarch, _Symp._, VIII. 8, and Aristoph.,
_Ach._, 880.

[460] Akin to this we have the special prohibition—unique as far
as I know—whereby priests at the temple of Leptis abstained from
eating _sea_ fish, because Poseidon was god of the sea, and owner and
protector of its denizens. Plutarch, _De solert. an._, 35, 11. At other
of his temples, _e.g._ in Laconia, the fate awaiting a violator of the
sacred fish was that common to poachers of similar holy waters, death.

[461] _The Love of Nature among the Romans_ (London, 1912), p. 300, n.

[462] Passages which at first sight seem to conflict with this summary
can often be ruled out from (A) geographical reasons, where (1) the
fishing occurs in some non-Greek water, as in the Tiber (Galen,
περὶ τροφῶν δυνάμεως, 3), or (2) the locality is not specified, as
in Athen., VIII. 56, which is merely a quotation from a treatise of
Mnesitheus, concerned with _all_ kinds of fish from a digestive point
of view; and (B) from the _brackish_ nature of water.

[463] Dio. Cass. 76, 12, 2, speaks of the Scottish Seas as swarming and
crammed with fish.

[464] Damm, p. 465, asserts that the order of eating of fish among the
Greeks was (1) Fish from the sea, and then, but much later, (2) Fish
from the rapids of a river. Daremberg and Saglio: “Pour les Grecs le
poisson d’eau douce comptait à peine dans la consommation du poisson de
mer: seules les anguilles du lac Copaïs avaient quelque renom. Mais la
pêche maritime eut toujours beaucoup plus d’importance.” Pliny, XXXII.
10: Pisces marinos in usu fuisse protinus a condita Roma. Philemon the
comedian makes the cook in his play, “The Soldier” (cited by Athen.,
VII. 32), bewail having for the feast mere,

                            “river fish, eaters of mud;
    If I had had a scare or bluebacked fish from Attic waters
    I should have been accounted an immortal!”

[465] See _infra_, p. 287.

[466] Suetonius (_Tib._, 34), “Tresque mullos triginta milibus nummum.”
A thousand sesterces, in the time of Augustus, equalled £8 17_s._
1_d._, but later only £7 15_s._ 1_d._ For convenience I take 1000
sesterces as roughly equivalent to about £8 0_s._ 0_d._

[467] An amusing instance of official interference is recorded in
Apuleius, _Metamorhp._ I. 18. Lucius, the hero of the story, tries to
buy some fish for dinner from a fishmonger at Hypata in Thessaly, who
demanded 100 _nummi_ (_denarii_): after much haggling, 20 _denarii’s_
worth is bought and being taken home, when the local ædile intervenes,
seizes the parcel on account of the extravagant charge, and destroys
the fish in the presence of the seller. The result, which Lucius
bewails, was loss of both dinner, and _denarii_!

[468] See Mayor’s _Juvenal_ and Gifford’s _Trans._, IV. 15. In Pliny,
IX. 31, Mutianus speaks of a mullet which was caught in the Red Sea,
weighing 80 lbs. The comment of I. D. Lewis (on _Juv._, IV. 15 f.) that
this fish “is utterly fabulous,” is not the voice of _one_ crying in
the wilderness.

[469] IX. 31, “at nunc coci triumphorum pretiis parantur, et coquorum

[470] _Ep._, X. 31 f.

[471] _Sat._, IV. 23 ff. (Gifford’s _Trs._).

[472] VIII. 16. Cf. also Varro, _De Re Rust._, Bk. III. 3, 10; Ælian,
VIII. 4; and Macrobius, _Sat._, III. xv. 1 ff.

[473] Athen., VIII. 26.

[474] _Ibid._ VIII. 26.

[475] Xenophon, in speaking of a man as “an opsophagist and the biggest
dolt possible,” evidently does not subscribe to the pleasant theory
that fish-food increases the grey matter of our brain. Holland’s
translation of Plutarch is not complimentary: “hence it is we call
those gluttons who love belly-cheer so well opsophagists.”

[476] In charity to the Greeks may I hazard the plea (the rules of
even the Law Courts are now sensibly relaxed) that their delight in
Brobdingnagian meals may have originated in the days when their gods
walked with men on earth, or grew up later as the sincerest form of
flattery? No one in Homer keeps his eye more skinned or his nose more
active than a god, when hecatombs “are about.” The Olympians flit
constantly to Æthiopia and are impatient of any business, mundane or
heavenly, which interferes with a trip thither, when with the keen
scent (or vision?) of vultures, they smell (or see?) hecatombs in
preparation in the heart of the Dark Continent, where the inhabitants,
as a scholiast tells us, kept a feast for twelve days, _one for every
god_! See A. Shewan’s _Homeric Games at an Ancient St. Andrews_
(Edinburgh, 1911), p. 116—a most delightful and destructive skit at the
expense of _The Higher Criticism_ of Homer!

[477] The greatest number of _fish_ which I can count at any feast
mentioned in Athenæus (in Bk. IV. 13) amounts to only thirty-two!
Badham (p. 587) omits to state that the whole poem is nothing but a
parody, chiefly of Homer, by Matron, and is _not_ a “Bill of fare of an
Attic supper” in any sense.

[478] Sammonicus Serenus, a _savant_ of the early third century A.D.,
states that the _acipenser_ was brought to table to the accompaniment
of flutes by servants crowned with flowers. Cf. Macrob. III. 16, 7 f.
Cf. Athen. VII. 44, and Ælian, VIII. 28.

In describing this imaginary Attic supper, Badham certainly lets
himself go. The allusion to “the present of the God of Love” he may
have taken from an anonymous epigram in Burmann’s _Anthologia_ (1773),
Bk. V. 217.

    “Est rosa flos Veneris; cuius quo furta laterent
     Harpocrati matris dona dicavit Amor.
     Inde rosam mensis hospes suspendit amicis,
     Convivæ ut sub ea dicta tacenda sciant.”

These lines, of which several variants exist (notably that of the Rose
Cellar in the Rathskeller of Bremen), are founded on the legend that
Cupid bribed the God of Silence with his mother’s flower not to divulge
the amours of Venus. Hence a host hung a rose over his table as a sign
that nothing there said was to be repeated. A quaint and touching
legend runs that in the beginning all roses were white, but when Venus
walking one day among the flowers was pricked by one of their thorns,
these roses “drew their colour from the blood of the goddess,” and
remained encarmined for ever. Cf. Natal. Com. _Mythol._, V. 13. See
also A. de Gubernatis, _La Mythologie des Plantes_ (Paris, 1882), II.
323, and R. Folkard, _Plant Lore, Legends, and Lyrics_ (London, 1884),
516 ff.

[479] Cf. Ausonius, _Id._, XIV. 39, and 43.

[480] Suet., _Vitell._ 13.

[481] For Vitellius’s habit, see Dion., 65. 2.

[482] Adrian had the good taste to melt it down.

[483] Thomson’s translation. The mania for expensive bowls obtained
in either nation: the philosopher Aristotle owned 70, while Æsop, the
tragic actor, paid £8000 for a single ewer. The histrionic, as Æsop and
Roscius show, was a most lucrative profession. Cf. Pliny, XXXV. 46.

[484] According to Dion., 65. 4, and Tacitus, _Hist._, II. 95.

[485] Tac., _loc. cit._, “noviens milies sestertium paucissimis
mensibus intervertisse creditur sagina.”

[486] Herodot., VII. 118-120, Athen., IV. 27.

[487] See Athenæus (V. 46), who is so struck that he quotes the passage
twice! The culinary accommodations must have been “prodeegeous!” At the
birthday feast of a mere Persian grandee, an ox and an ass, and other
animals that were his, even a horse and a camel, were roasted _whole in
stoves_ (or ovens). Herodot., I. 133.

[488] V. 25-35.

[489] “The Treatise we now possess is a sort of Cook-Confectioners’
Manual, containing a multitude of recipes for preparing and cooking
all kinds of flesh, fish, and fowl. From the solecisms of style it is
probable that it was compiled at a late period by one who prefixed
the name of Apicius in order to attract attention and insure the
circulation of his book.”—Smith’s _Dict. Gk. Rom. Biog. and Myth._

Teuffel and Schwabe, _History of Roman Literature_ (trans. G. C. W.
Warr, London, 1892), II. 28 f., point out that _Cœlius_ Apicius, the
traditional author of the work _de re coquinaria_, should rather be
_Cœlii_ Apicius, _i.e._ “the Apicius of Cœlius,” _Apicius_ being the
title and Cœlius the writer. The book was founded on Greek originals.

In Seneca (_ad. Helv._, 10), “sestertium milies in culinam consumpsit.”
See Martial, III. 22, who flays Apicius with biting scorn in his—

    “Dederas, Apici, bis trecenties ventri,
     Sed adhuc supererat centiens tibi laxum.
     Hoc tu gravatus ut famem et sitim ferre
     Summa venenum potione perduxti.
     Nil est, Apici, tibi gulosius factum.”

For C. Matius the earliest (in the time of Augustus) and for other
Latin writers on Cookery, see Columella, XXI. 4 and 44.

[490] See A. Hayward, _Art of Dining_.

[491] Anaxandrides, _Odysseus_, _frag._ 1. _ap._ Athen., VI. 11.
See also Athen., VI. 4-12; VII. 35-41; Livy, XXXIX. 6: “Tum coquus,
vilissimum antiquis mancipium et æstimatione et usu, in pretio esse, et
quod ministerium fuerat, ars haberi coepta”; and Martial, XIV. 220.

[492] _Porphyra_, _frag._ 1. _ap._ Athen., VI. 6.

[493] βίων πρᾶσις s. 26. The opening (s. 1) of the auction is not
unlike a modern one: “For Sale! a varied assortment of Live Creeds,
Tenets of every description. Cash on delivery, or credit on suitable
security!” While lot (in s. 26)—The Peripatetic—fetches £80 0_s._
0_d._, the great Diogenes (in s. 11) is knocked down for threepence!
Fowler’s Trs.

[494] Ausonius, _Epist._, 5 and 15. But, after all, our own Keats,
addressing his favourite Moon, did not hesitate to write:

                  “thou art a relief
    To the poor patient oyster!”

    (_Endymion_, III. 66 f.)

[495] Pliny, IX. 79: “Is (Sergius Orata) primus ... adiudicavit quando
eadem aquatilium genera aliubi atque aliubi meliora, sicut lupi pisces
in Tiberi amne inter duos pontes ... et alia genera similiter, _ne
culinarum censura peragatur_.” See Horace, _Sat._, II. 2, 31 ff. Also
Columella, _R.R._, VIII. 16, 4: “Fastidire docuit fluvialem lupum, nisi
quem Tiberis adverso torrente defatigasset”; and also Juvenal IV. 139

          “Nulli maior fuit usus edendi
    Tempestate mea: Circeis nata forent an
    Lucrinum ad saxum Rutupinove edita fundo
    Ostrea, callebat primo deprendere morsu,
    Et semel aspecti litus dicebat echini.”

More of the same sort is to be read in Macrob., _Sat._, III. 16, 16-18.

[496] Robinson, _op. cit._, p. 45.

[497] Æsch., _Proteus, frag._, 211; Nauck^2, and Soph., _Triptolemos_,
_frag._ 606, Jebb, _ap._ Poll. 6. 65 and Athen., II. 75.

[498] Pauly-Winowa, _Real-Enc._, VII. 841-9, has nine columns on the
subject, ending with a bibliography!

[499] Horace, _Sat._, II. 4. 73; Martial, III. 77. 5; and V. II., 94.
The greatest delicacy of all these mixtures, the so-called _Garum
Sociorum_, exported all over the Empire from Carteia, New Carthage,
etc., was compounded of the intestines of the Spanish Mackerel. The
absence of beard in the Mackerel is accounted for by this fish being
convicted of treason against the reigning Monarch, and condemned to
perpetual loss of beard. Keller, _op. cit._, 326, omits a reference
to this _Fischeprozess_, but cites the habit of writers—especially
Bucolic—explaining any natural curiosity by putting into poetic or
other shape a legend or Volkslied dealing with the point, _e.g._ Æsop’s
fable why the Camel lacks horns.

[500] Pliny, XXXI. 43: “singulis milibus nummum permutantibus congios
fere binos.” _Ibid._, 44: “transiit deinde in luxuriam creveruntque
genera ad infinitum, sicuti garum ad colorem mulsi veteris, adeoque
suavitatem dilutum, ut bibi possit.” Cf. Martial, _Ep._, XIII. 82.
2: “Nobile nunc sitio luxuriosa garum, and Cælius Aurelianus” (_De
Chronicis, II.; De Paralysi_), on the liquor extracted from the

[501] Cf. XXXI. 44, and XXXII. 25.

[502] If O. Keller, _op. cit._, 338, be right in his authorities,
Blakey’s, “the praise of Caviare is frequent,” is far astray. Despite
the view of Hullmann’s _Handelsgesch. d. Gr._, 149, Athenæus deals
merely with _garum_ and _oxygarum_, while the classical cookery books
maintain a uniform silence.

[503] Athen., III. 90.



The Feast Day, _Ludi_, of the Tiber fishermen was celebrated on the
Campus Martius in June under the management of the _Prætor Urbanus_
with much ceremony. Ovid[504] sings:

    “Festa dies illis qui lina madentia ducunt,
      Quique tegunt parvis æra recurva cibis.”

The custom of offering to the Gods fish (although rarer than that
of animals) certainly and widely prevailed. Proof can be piled on
proof—_pace_ a passage from Plutarch and _pace_ the contention that the
practice is not purely Hellenic—from the pages of both Greek and Roman

Take, for instance, the statement of Agatharchides of Knidos: that the
largest eels from Lake Copaïs were sacrificed by the Bœotians, who
crowned them like human victims, and after sprinkling them with meal
offered prayers over them.[505] Or the story in Posidonius the Stoic of
Sarpedon celebrating his victory by “sacrificing to Neptune, who puts
armies to flight, enormous quantities of fish.”[506] Theocritus in his
fragmentary _Berenice_, Ælian,[507] and Antigonus on the offering of
the Tunny all confirm the custom.[508]

Plutarch (_Symp._, VIII. 3) would seem indeed the only exception: he
straightly asserts, according to Nonnius and others, that “no fish is
fitting for offering or sacrifice.”[509]

This is but another instance of Plutarch’s being saddled with
responsibility for some expression or opinion uttered by one of his
characters, as is clearly shown by the words: “Sylla, commending the
discourse, added with regard to the Pythagoreans that they tasted
especially the flesh sacrificed to the gods, but that no fish is fit
for offering or sacrifices.”

P. Stengel holds that fish, with the curious exception of the Eel,
were not sacrificed to the gods in early days, because they neither
possessed blood which could be poured forth at the altar, nor could
they be offered up alive as could be an enemy, a sacrifice which found
special favour in divine eyes.[510]

This statement, unless explained in some manner, contrasts queerly
with the passage in Plutarch’s _Life of Numa Pompilius_, where the
king is taught by Picus and Faunus, reinforced subsequently by
Jupiter himself, to make a lustration “as a charm against thunder and
lightning, composed of Onions, Hair, and Pilchards!” Lest these curious
constituents arouse your mirth and infect you with doubt as to their
efficacy, hearken unto Plutarch’s further words, “which is used even
unto this day!”

From this account (wittily versed by Ovid)[511] we discover Jupiter,
resentful at being brought down to earth by the magic of Picus
and Faunus, ordering the charm to consist “of Heads”—“Of onions,”
replied Numa. “Human”—“Hairs,” said Numa, desirous to fence against
the dreadful injunction, and interrupting the god. “Living,” said
Jupiter—“Pilchards,” broke in Numa.

Whether fish were but rarely sacrificed or not, Festus[512] at any
rate makes clear that at the _Ludi_ on June 7th, and possibly the
_Volcanalia_ in September (although at the latter the oblations were
mostly animal), Roman fishermen did offer up fish, “quod id genus
pisciculorum vivorum datur ei Deo pro animis humanis.”

Offerings of fish may be (as O. Keller suggests) a relic of Totemism
resting on the belief that the spirits of men after death pass into

The suggestion gains force when we remember that Anaximander[513] and
others taught that men lived once as fishes, but later came on land
and threw off their scales; and that the early religious conceptions
of Latium were so debased as readily to engender or harbour such a
conception. On the other hand, it must be admitted that not a single
clear and convincing case of Totemism has hitherto been adduced from
the Græco-Italic area.

In these oblations and in Varro’s “Populus _pro se_ in ignem animalia
mittit,”[514]—an animal in place of a man be it remarked—can be
detected a mitigated survival of the widespread custom of human
sacrifice in propitiation of a deity.[515] On much the same lines grew
up the custom, as civilisation progressed, of burning the weapons of,
instead of killing, the captured foe, after a battle. The immolation
of prisoners formed a sacrifice not so much of revenge, as one in
honour of the slain on the side of the victors: such at least is the
conclusion suggested to me by the words of Festus, “humanum sacrificium
dicebant, quod mortui causa fiebat.”[516]

As offerings at Rome had dwindled from men down to animals, or small
fish, or eventually even salt or pickled fish, or fish mixed with
wheat, so among the Israelites the Scape-Goat had become the vicarious
victim offered up to Jehovah “for the sins of all the people,” and
among the Assyrians the oblation had even shrunk to little fishes, made
of ivory or metal.

Fish, in addition to being worshipped as gods or held so sacred that
eating them was prohibited, were frequently used by the Priests or by
the Augurs for divinatory purposes. In accordance with their swimming
or not, and in what direction, with their leaps into the air, how,
whence, and whither effected, with their reception, or refusal, or
smashing with their tails of particular foods, were framed the oracular
deliverances or priestly predictions, as Plutarch and others show.[517]

Thus at the spring of Limyra in Lycia, if the fish seized food thrown
to them greedily, the omen was favourable; if they flapped at it with
their tails, the reverse.[518] In Lydia (according to Varro[519]) from
their movements, when rising to the surface at the sound of a flute,
the watching seer deduced and delivered his answer. Divination was not
limited to certain holy waters; when in the war between Augustus and
Sextus Pompeius a fish darted from the sea and threw itself at the feet
of the former, the ready augur found no difficulty in acclaiming him as
the future “Ruler of the Waves.”[520]

Ichthyic soothsaying held its ground among the Greeks of the Byzantine
empire. One prediction[521]—when a boiled fish shall spring out of
the pot, then the last hour of Constantinople will have struck—is of
present-day importance. But whether the fish has filled his saltatory
_rôle_, and if so whether the doom of the city _has_ sounded, lie for
decision at the moment of writing on the lap of the Big Four in Paris.

The belief that fish could and did foretell events lingered long in
England; thus the deaths of Henry II. and of Cromwell were foreshadowed
by the fighting of fish among themselves in the _vivaria_ belonging to
Henry II. and Cromwell.[522]

As is but natural in hot countries, the trade in salted and pickled
fish, the τάριχος of the Greeks, the _salsamentum_ of the Romans, grew
to great importance.[523]

This sweet-sour comestible was among both nations early, universal, and
pushed to the extreme of madness.[524] In such high esteem was it held
that it came to be looked on as an offering meet for the gods. Cato and
others testify to the exorbitant prices commanded by Pontic and kindred
_salsamentum_, of which a small flask fetched more than one hundred
sheep! Of every kind—and they were as diverse as the countries and
towns that furnished them—we find champions ready to go to the stake to
prove the superiority of their own pet choice.

Of some towns it was the chief, if not the only, commerce. As modern
towns frequently bear for their arms or on their seal some device
connected with their history or trade, so ancient seaports which
produced _salsamentum_ often stamped their coins with the figures of
fish, etc.

Thus Olbia, one of the most important markets for salt or pickled
fish, bears on its money an eagle taking a fish,[525] while a copper
coin of Carteia[526] depicts an angler, possibly Mercury—a god of
fishing. Sinope, and many other places, have left similar numismatic
representations. Of most interest from a monetary point of view are the
Greek diobols of Tarentum. Those bearing the figure of Taras on his
dolphin passed as current token in the fish market.[527]


From A. Heiss, 49, 20-21. See N. 1.]

Famous for the beauty of their execution were some of the Syracusan
coins, representing the head of Arethusa surrounded by dolphins. The
accounts of the legend vary. Shortly, the lovely maid of the train of
Artemis fled the embraces of her lover Alpheus,

         “Arethusa arose
          From her couch of snows
    In the Acroceraunian Mountains,”

and prevailed on Oceanus to open a way through his waves till reaching
seeming safety in the Isle of Ortygia, close to Syracuse, she welled
forth in the midst of the salt sea a fountain of sweet pure water.
Alpheus, not to be outdone, got himself transformed into a river to
emerge also at Ortygia and to mix his stream with the spring of the

Around her head or amidst her hair on Syracusan coins dart dolphins
(some hold eels, which were sacred to Artemis), symbolic of the sea,
to show that the sweetness of the fountain was still untainted by the
surrounding salt of the ocean.[528] Sweet the water may have been,
but Athenæus (II. 16) characterises it as “of invincible hardness.”
These coins are the work of those great masters, Cimon, Euaenetus,
and an unknown third, the ‘New Artist’ of Sir Arthur Evans.[529] On
an electrum coin of Syracuse an octopus is well delineated, while the
obverse shows a veiled female head in profile.[530]


From G. F. Hill’s _Handbook of Coins_, Pl. 6, Fig. 6.]

The octopus, judging by the fact that at Mycenæ in one tomb alone
Dr. Schliemann excavated fifty-three golden models of it, and by
the many gold ornaments of which the fish forms the chief or only
figure, was undoubtedly a very frequent and favourite subject for the
craftsmen of the ‘Minoan’ age, although it did not bulk so big in early
Mediterranean religion as L. Siret would make out.[531]

The taxes or duties derived from fish or fishing furnished the
_peculiar_ of the Temples at Delos, Ephesus, and elsewhere: at
Byzantium and some other places they went to the city. After the Roman
conquests these imposts were paid not to the cities (Cyzicus and other
places were the exceptions), but to the State, and were gathered by the
intermediary “publicans.”[532]

With stories before him, such as those of the suppers recorded by the
dozen in Athenæus, and given to and by the Emperor Vitellius, for which
the fish were brought in ships of war from the Carpathian Sea and
the Straits of Spain, it is no wonder that a modern author is driven
to conclude that the ancients thought more of the edible than the
sporting qualities of the fish. They ransacked the habitable globe for
side-dishes, but did not trouble themselves about the precepts of Mrs.

Apart from this ransacking of the globe, the Romans developed, as the
demand for fish by rich and poor alike grew ever greater, the Egyptian
and Assyrian _vivarium_ to a marvellous extent.

Built at first (as Columella avers[533]) simply for the purpose of
supplying fresh fish for the table, they found such favour that no
self-respecting Roman could afford to be without his _vivarium_.
With the rich they were the occasion of most costly ostentation and
extravagant expenditure.

Whether Sergius Aurata (or Orata) took or not his cognomen[534] from
the fish _Aurata_, all writers identify him as the first to build
a _vivarium_ for oysters. From their sale, from the income derived
from the vapour baths (_pensiles balineas_), of which he was also the
pioneer, and from the villas erected on his property, close to Baiæ,
the baths, and the oysters, he amassed an enormous fortune. He posed
as the Pontiff of the Palate; his was the final decision, from which
lay no appeal, as to which sea or which part of what river produced the
best of the various fishes.

From the not unnatural bias of owner and founder he adjudged the
Lucrine oysters finest of all. Pliny’s words (IX. 79) that, when Orata
“ennobled” the Lucrine, British oysters had not yet reached Rome convey
a gratifying compliment to our insular pride, somewhat dashed by Pliny
plumping for the Circeian.[535]

Oysters throve with travelling and a change to new waters.[536] The
Brundisian oyster when planted in Lake Lucrinus not only kept its own
flavour, but took on that of its new home.

Apicius, not our gourmet M. Gabius, but an initialless successor, would
have proved an admirable Quartermaster-General.[537] When “Trajan was
in Parthia at a distance of many days’ journey from the sea, he sent
him oysters, which he kept fresh by a clever contrivance of his own
invention; real oysters not like the sham anchovies which the cook of
Nicomedes, king of the Bithynians, made for him,” when far inland and
yearning for oysters.

In a comedy by Euphron,[538] a _chef_ sings his teacher’s marvellous

      “I am the pupil of Soterides
       Who when his king was distant from the sea
       Full twelve days’ journey and in winter’s depth
       Fed him with rich anchovies to his wish
       And made the guests to marvel.
    B.                                How was that?
    A. He took a _female_ turnip, shred it fine
       Into the figure of the delicate fish.”

       *       *       *       *       *

No wonder the king spake to his admiring guests thus:—

    “A cook is quite as useful as a poet,
     And quite as wise, as these anchovies show it.”

To Fulvius Herpinus or Lippinus belongs the credit of being the
first—just before the Civil War—to fatten the _Cochlea_, or sea-snail,
in a _vivarium_. By careful collecting from Africa and Illyrica and
skilful feeding, his cockles became renowned for size and number.[539]

In the period between the taking of Carthage and the reign of
Vespasian, the taste in fish became a perfect passion; for its
gratification Proconsuls enriched, like our Clives from India, beyond
the dreams of avarice by the spoils of Asia and Africa, incurred the
most lavish expense. Thus Licinius Muræna, Quintus Hortensius, Lucius
Philippus constructed immense basins,[540] which they filled with rare
species. Lucullus, like the Persian king at Athos, but with unlike
motive, caused even a mountain to be pierced to introduce sea-water
into his fish-ponds, and for the achievement was dubbed by Pompey,
“Togatus Xerxes.”[541]

But in many cases the huge outlay was repaid with interest. Varro[542]
avers that Hirrius (who first before all others designed and carried
out the _vivarium_ for _Murænæ_) received twelve million sesterces
in rent from his properties, and employed the entire sum in the care
of his fishes! At the death of Lucullus the fish in his stew-ponds
realised over £32,000.

The rich Patricians were not satisfied with a single pond; their fish
preserves were divided into compartments where they kept different
kinds. In case any reader, like the Third Fisherman in Shakespeare’s

    “Marvel how the fishes live in the sea,”

I hasten to endorse the

    _First Fisherman_: “Why as men do on land; the great ones eat
                             up the little ones,”

and to add that the fish confined in these separate ponds found in the
waters their business and livelihood from the _testaceæ_ purposely

This passion for _piscinæ_ gradually impoverished the Mediterranean
and other seas. Fish in the Tyrrhenian Sea had no time to come to
maturity, because as Columella complains, “Maria ipsa Neptunumque
clauserunt!”[543] While Varro and Columella give careful directions as
to the making and keeping of practical fish stews, they keep silence as
to methods of capturing the inhabitants.

I have come across no notice of _vivaria_ among the Greeks:[544] their
kinsman in Sicily erected at least one magnificent example. Diodorus
Siculus (XI. 2) tells us that the Agrigentines (probably by the labour
of the Carthaginian prisoners) “sunk a fishpond, with great costs
and expenses, seven furlongs in compass, and twenty cubits in depth:
in this water, brought both from fountains and rivers, fish were
planted which soon supplied them with an ample stock both for food and

To the great Archimedes is due the unique achievement of a _vivarium_
on board ship. It is impossible here to set forth all the glories of
this wonderful vessel, intended for the corn traffic between Egypt and
Sicily, and propelled by means of huge sweeps—every sweep worked by a
team of twenty men (εἰκοσόρος).

Her Gymnasium, her three Baths, her Flower Garden, her trellised
Vineyard, her Temple to Venus, her Library with its floor of mosaics
exhibiting a series of subjects taken from the _Iliad_, and, lastly,
in the bow by the side of the huge reservoir of 21,000 gallons, her
water-tight well, made of planks lined with lead, and filled with
_sea_-water, in which a great number of fish were always kept—if all
these wonders of a ship, launched over 2200 years ago, do not cause
us to think a little, and to abate our boasts over our _Imperators_
and _Olympics_, then to the cocksure conceit of the twentieth century
naught is of avail, not even the account given by Moschion.[545]

Disregarding the practical directions of Varro (whom Schneider[546]
stamps, with regard to fish, etc., as a mere plagiarist of Greek
authors), of Columella, and in a lesser degree of Pliny how to
construct and conduct paying stew-ponds, and turning a deaf ear to
Varro’s warning that “to build, stock, and keep them up was most
costly,” the Romans thought no money, no time, too much to expend on
_vivaria_.[547] Possession and cultivation of fish in _vivaria_, which
were sometimes made in the dining-room, became the one delight of these
“Tritones Piscinarum,” as Cicero dubs two of his friends.

The primary cause for their existence, a ready supply of fresh fish in
a hot climate, was forgotten. Other owners resembled Hortensius, who
(according to Varro) “not only was never entertained by his fish at
table, but was scarcely ever easy, unless engaged in entertaining or
fattening _them_.” The death of “his friend,” the _Muræna_, between
whom and himself such a close attachment existed, almost broke his

Macrobius testifies that Crassus, “first among all the greatest men of
Rome, mourned a _muræna_” (probably it of the earrings and necklace of
precious stones) “found dead in his _vivarium_ even as a daughter.” It
was on the occasion of Domitius twitting him with “Did you not weep
when your fish died?” that Crassus got back with “Did you not bury
three wives and never weep at all?”[549]

Of Hortensius Varro continues:[550] “His mullet give him infinitely
more concern than my mules and asses do; for while I, with one lad,
support all my thrifty stud on a little barley, etc., the fish-servants
of Hortensius are not to be counted. He has fishermen in fine weather
toiling to procure them food; when the weather is too boisterous for
fishing, then a whole troop of butchers and dealers in provisions send
in their estimates for keeping his _alumni_ fat. Hortensius so looks
after his mullet as to forget his men; a sick slave has less chance of
getting a draught of cold water in a fever than these favoured fish of
being kept cool in their stews in Midsummer.”

The fish often answered to their names when called by their master, or
their keeper. The latter, _nomenclator_, made a very handsome income
from the admiring crowds, who flocked to see the fish perform their
exercises with wagging tails or heads bedecked with rich jewels.[551]

Antonia, to whom the lands and villa of Hortensius descended, even
stripped herself of her earrings to put them on a _muræna_. This lady,
apart from this anecdote, was no ordinary person. We find her passing
from the positive of celebrated renown for her beauty, her virtue, her
chastity (no mean feat in that day!), through the comparative of being
the mother of Germanicus Cæsar and Claudius, and the grandmother of
Caligula (which last, in slang parlance, “wanted a bit of doing!”),
unto the superlative of deathless fame in Pliny’s “Nunquam exspuisse”
(never spat!).[552]

The savage use to which Vedius Pollio put his _vivaria_ can be learnt
from the pages of Pliny[553] and Seneca.[554] A slave, for breaking
a crystal decanter at a banquet given to Augustus, was ordered to be
thrown instantly into a _piscina_, there to be eaten alive by the
nibbling voracious _Murænæ_. Escaping from his guards he threw himself
at the Emperor’s feet, “beseeching nothing else except that he should
die otherwise than as food for fish”[555]. Cæsar moved “novitate
crudelitatis” (he little knew that this was his host’s cheery custom)
commanded the crystals of Pollio to be smashed on the spot, the slave
to be freed, and all the fishponds to be filled up.

As conducive to _la joie de vivre_ of the other slaves, the command was
commendable, for the bite of the _Muræna’s_ serrated teeth, according
to Nicander’s _Theriaca_—that “nullius fidei farrago”—owing to its
mating with the viper, dealt poisonous death and destruction to the
fishermen driven by its pursuit “headlong from their boats,” and was
only curable by a mixture made of ashes from its own burnt head!
So dreaded was this fish—curious is it not, to read, although from
its savage nature no other could inhabit the same _vivarium_, the
many stories of its tameness and docility?—that one of the direst of
imprecations ran that in the under-world your enemy’s lungs should be
mangled by _Murænæ_![556]

In times preceding these infatuated extravagant ages, the purpose
for which _vivaria_ were first created was steadfastly kept in mind
and wonderfully advanced by practical pisciculturists. From being a
mere pond for keeping fish alive till needed for the table, _vivaria_
developed in the course of time into spawning grounds.

The pisciculturists went even farther. They turned lakes and rivers
into natural _vivaria_ by depositing in them not only adult fish,
but the spawn of all such species as are in the habit, although born
at sea, of pushing some distance up estuaries and streams. Columella
instances specially the rivers Velinus, Sabatinus, Ciminus, and
Volsinius as examples of the great success of this experiment in fish

Comacchio on the Adriatic, from its extraordinary advantages of
position and of fish-food, can hardly have escaped being utilised for
similar purposes by the Romans. For many centuries, at any rate, its
_valli_ or breeding grounds have been renowned. Ariosto sings its

    “La Città che in mezzo alle piscose
     Paludi del Pô, téme ambe le foci.”

Tasso hands it down as the place where the fish—

                  “finds itself within a prison swamp
    Nor can escape, for that seraglio
    Is aye to entrance wide, to exit barred.”

At the present day over twelve hundred tons of fish, eight hundred of
them eels, are annually captured at Comacchio.[558]

       *       *       *       *       *

Since the above was printed, new and interesting evidence of the
importance of fish, not only as an economic, but also as a hygienic,
factor in the nation’s prosperity has been furnished by Prof. J. A.
Thomson in his lecture before the Royal Institution, January 6, 1921.

He traced a connection between the decline of Greece and a shortage
of little fishes. There was strong reason to believe that one of the
causes for the decay of “the glory that was Greece” was that malaria
was brought into the State.

The little creature, which caused malaria, lived on the mosquito by
whom it was carried. The mosquito spent its larval life in the fresh
waters. Little fish were the enemy of the mosquito—particularly the
fish known as “millions”—which consumed the pest at a great rate.

The professor suggested, therefore, that what had happened in Greece
was that there had not been enough little fish to keep the mosquitos
in check. Because of this, malaria had been brought into the country,
and that plague helped, if it did not cause, the destruction of the
wonderful civilisation of Greece.


[504] _Fasti_, VI. 239 ff.

[505] Agatharchides, _frag._ 1 _ap._ Athen., VII. 50. In these days of
the Science of Comparative Curiosity and International Meddling the
answer of the Bœotian to a foreigner asking how so singular a victim
and sacrifice originated rings out pleasantly refreshing: “I only know
one thing: it is right to maintain the customs of one’s ancestors, and
it is not right to explain them to foreigners!”

[506] Athen., VIII. 8.

[507] Ælian, XV. 6.

[508] Athen., VII. 50, and Paulus Rhode, _Thynnorum Captura_ (Lipsiæ,
1890), p. 71. Most of the major deities—_e.g._ Diana, Apollo, Mercury,
Juno, Neptune, Ceres, and Venus—claimed a particular sacrificiable fish
or fishes. Sometimes fishes were offered to two or more gods, _e.g._
the mullet to Ceres and Proserpine. Cf. J. G. Stuck, _Sacrorum et
sacrificiorum gentil. descriptio_, ii. p. 72.

[509] ἰχθύων δὲ θύσιμος οὐδεὶς οὐδὲ ἱερεύσιμός ἐστιν.

[510] _Hermes_ (1887), XXII. 86. 100. The reason here stated for the
Eel being sacrificiable was because it could be brought alive to the
altar and its blood poured out on it. Stengel’s argument, especially
in association with his remark that sacrifices of fish were as scarce
as those of game, is not convincing, for why should not other fishes
be kept alive in water till the hour of oblation? The belief in the
sanctity of the Eel pertains even unto our day, for in the spring at
Bergas (between the Dardanelles and Lapsaki) they are or were before
the War inviolate.

[511] _Fasti_, III. 339 ff.

[512] Festus, p. 274, 35 ff. W. Lindsay.

[513] Plutarch, _Symp._, VIII. 8. 4.

[514] _De Lingua Latina_, 6. 20 (in his description of the

[515] F. Boehm, _De symbolis Pythagoreis_ (Berlin, 1905), p. 19, would
connect the fish-offering of the _Volcanalia_ with the belief that the
soul took the form of a fish. G. Wissowa, _Religion und Kultus der
Römer_,^2 (München, 1912), p. 229, m. 13.

[516] Cf., however, Keller, _op. cit._, 348.

[517] Pliny, IX. 22, and XXXII. 8. Ælian, VIII. 5; XII. 1. Athen. VIII.
8, Plutarch, _De soll. Anim._ ch. 23. Hesych. _s.v._ Soura.

[518] Pliny, XXXI. 18.

[519] _De Re Rust._, III. 17, 4.

[520] Suetonius, _Augustus_, 96. The subject of oracular fish is dealt
with by A. Bouché-Leclercq, _Histoire de la divination_ (Paris, 1879),
i. p. 151 f., and also by W. R. Halliday, _Greek Divination_, p. 168,
n. 3.

[521] O. Keller, _op. cit._, 347.

[522] The cause, sympathy with their owners, mentioned by Robinson,
_op. cit._, 88-9, hardly recommends itself.

[523] The Greek term, ταρίχη, was applied to _Conserves de viande et
poisson_—but chiefly the latter. Salted fish was a food far commoner
among the Latins than among the Greeks (Daremberg and Saglio).
Sausages—_Isicia_ or _Insicia_—were made from fish as well as meat. Of
both there were, according to Apicius (Bk. II.), many preparations,
those from fish being in great demand.

[524] Nonnius, _op. cit._, p. 155. Apart from fashionable mania, the
_salsamentum_ was used for very practical purposes, _e.g._ as food
for the Athenian soldier on campaign. Cf. Aristoph., _Ach._, 1101, 2.
From the frequent notices and quotations in Athenæus, Euthydemus the
Athenian seems to have been the most prolific author on pickled fish.
On him and his three treatises, see Pauly-Winowa, _Real. Enc._, VI.

[525] _À propos_ of the fish-trade of Olbia, Koehler (in the _Mém.
de l’Acad. des Sciences de St. Petersburg_, VI^{me} série, tome 1,
p. 347, St. Petersburg, 1832, as quoted by E. H. Minns, _Scythians
and Greeks_, Cambridge, 1913, p. 440) concludes that preserved fish
of every quality, from jars of precious pickle, corresponding to our
caviare or anchovy, to dried lumps answering to our stock-fish were
all sent to Greece, and later to Rome, from the mouths of Dnêpr and
the sea of Azov. As regards some of the small _copper_ coins of Olbia,
Mr. G. F. Hill, _A Handbook of Greek and Roman Coins_ (London, 1899),
p. 3, writes: “If these are coins, they differ from the ordinary
Greek coin only in the fact that, instead of putting a fish type on
a flan of ordinary shape, the whole coin was made in the shape of
a fish. Another explanation is suggested by the fact that a pig of
metal was sometimes called δελφίς. These fish-shaped pieces may be the
degenerate representatives of similar-shaped pigs of bronze.” He refers
to Ardaillon, _Les Mines du Laurin_, p. 111, who compares the French
_saumon_ with the meaning of “a pig of metal.”

[526] In Pitra, _op. cit._, pp. 508-512, will be found a list of 156
coins, gems, etc., illustrating the connection of various fishes
with deities and places. For the coins of Carteia, see A. Heiss,
_Description générale des monnaies antiques de l’Espagne_, Paris, 1870,
p. 331 f., pl. 49, 19-21 (= my Fig. _supra_). The _salsamentum_ of this
town was in special request; its boasted excellence might be perhaps
accounted for by Strabo’s statement that the diet of the Tunnies off
Carteia consisted of acorns which grew in that sea, just as land acorns
with an occasional truffle achieve, according to gourmets, for the
Spanish pig the primacy of hams. Alas! for such conjecture, science
shows that the Tunny throve on _Fucus vesiculosus_, not acorns. Cf.
Keller, _op. cit._ 383.

[527] B. V. Head, _Historia Mumorum_, Oxford, 1911, p. 67: “These
little coins formed the staple of the common currency in the Tarentine
fish-markets, as well as in the rural districts subject to Tarentum,
and even beyond its territories—in Apulia and Samnium for instance.”

[528] Some authorities (Preller, _Griech. Myth._, I. 191) believe the
head to be that of Artemis, not only the protectress of Arethusa, but
also the goddess of rivers and springs, and of the fish therein—one of
her emblems was a fish. Some coins show her or Arethusa’s head with
seaweed plaited in the hair, or the hair plaited in a sort of fish-net
surrounded by little fish. The whole island of Ortygia was absolutely
dedicated to Artemis—no plough could cut a furrow, no net ensnare a
fish, without instantly encountering a sea of troubles. See Keller,
_op. cit._, p. 343. The sacred fish were seen by Diodorus (V. 3) as
late as Octavian’s reign.

[529] For an admirable account of Syracusan coin-types during the
‘fine’ period (413-346 B.C.), see G. F. Hill, _Coins of Ancient Sicily_
(London, 1903), p. 97 ff., with frontispiece and pls. 6-7. On the
widespread representation of the Tunny on vases and coins—Carthaginian,
Pontic, etc.—see Rhode, _op. cit._, pp. 73-77.

[530] See G. F. Hill, _op. cit._, Pl. 7, 13.

[531] L. Siret, _Questions de chronologie et ethnographie ibériques_
(Paris, 1913), Index, _s.v._ ‘Poulpe.’

[532] Cf. Tacitus, _Annals_, XII. 63.

[533] _De Re Rustica_, VIII. 16, “Our ancestors shut up salt-water
fishes also in fresh waters. For that ancient rustic progeny of Romulus
and Numa valued themselves mightily upon this and thought it a great
matter, that, if a rural life were compared with a city life, it did
not come short in any part of riches whatsoever.”

[534] “Orata,” according to Festus, p. 196, 26 ff. Lindsay, “genus
piscis appellatur a colore auri, quod rustici _orum_ dicebant.”

[535] See _ante_, p. 146. If he praise our oysters, he straightly
condemns the pearls from them, as being “small and discoloured;”
wherefore (IX. 57) Julius Cæsar, when he presented a _thorax_ to Venus
Genetrix, had it made of British “pearls,” a very poor requital to a
goddess, who, if Suetonius is to be trusted, had so often stood him in
good stead, both as a distant ancestress, and in other connections!
Some really fine pearls have been found in Scotland and Wales: the best
known of these, got at Conway in the eighteenth century, was presented
to Catherine of Braganza, and is still preserved in the Crown jewels.
Wright, _op. cit._, p. 220.

[536] Pliny, XXXII. 21.

[537] Athen., I. 13; cf. Suidas, _s.v._ ὄστρεα.

[538] Euphron, _incert. fab. frag._ 1, quoted by Athen., I. 13.

[539] Cf. Varro, _De Re Rust._, 3. 12, 1, and Plin., 9. 82.

[540] Petronius, 120, 88, _expelluntur aquæ saxis, mare nascitur arvis_.

[541] Lucullus, enriched by the vast booty captured from Mithridates
and Tigranes, was the first who taught luxury to the Romans (Athen.,
VI. 109). Polybius (31, 24) writes that M. Porcius Cato denounced the
introduction of foreign extravagances into Rome, citing as instances
that for a jar of pickled fish from Pontus 300 _drachmæ_ had been paid,
and that the price of a beautiful boy exceeded that of a field.

[542] _De Re Rustica_, III. 17.

[543] _De Re Rustica_, VIII. 16. Cf. also Juvenal, V. 94 ff.—

                      “quando omne peractum est
    Et iam defecit nostrum mare, dum gula sævit,
    Retibus assiduis penitus scrutante macello
    Proxima, nec patimur Tyrrhenum crescere piscem,”

and Seneca, _Ep._, 89, 22—

    “quorum profunda et insatiabilis gula hinc maria scrutatur, hinc

[544] The explanation for this by Nonnius, _op. cit._, p. 75—that the
Greek coasts, from being surrounded on all sides by seas, yielded
ample supplies of fish, while the Romans, “whose seas were not so
near,” were not as fortunate and were compelled to be more instant in
pisciculture—is a statement at the best doubtful, and certainly not
supported by the existence of _vivaria_ in Sicily, lapped on every side
by seas.

[545] The existence of such gigantic craft has been called in question,
but is proved by an inscription from the temple of the Paphian
Aphrodite in Cyprus, which commemorates a builder of an εἰκοσήρης and a
τριακοντήρης (W. Dittenberger, _Orientis Græci Inscriptiones Selectæ_
(Lipziæ, 1903), I. 64, no. 39). See also, L. Whibley, _A Companion to
Greek Studies_ (Cambridge, 1916), p. 584 f. Athen., V. 40-44. Caligula
built two ships for cruising and fishing up and down the Campanian
coast: their poops blazed with jewels. They were fitted up with ample
baths, galleries, and saloons, while a great variety of vines and fruit
trees were cultivated. Suetonius, _Cal._ 37. Divers have discovered
at the bottom of Lake Nemi two imperial house-boats of enormous size,
the timbers of which are decked with bronze reliefs of magnificent
workmanship. See V. Malfatti, _Le navi romane del lago di Nemi_, 1905.

[546] _Op. cit._, p. 246.

[547] Cf. Tibullus, II. 3. 45.

    “Claudit et indomitum moles mare, lentus ut intra
      Neglegat hibernas piscis adesse minas.”

[548] Pliny, IX. 81.

[549] Plutarch, _De Sol. Anim._, 23.

[550] _De Re Rustica_, III. 17. This abstinence on the part of
Hortensius from eating his “mulli barbati” is the more to be
appreciated, when we remember that, according to Sophron, the savour of
the “barbati” was far pleasanter than that of any other mullet. Athen.,
VII. 126.

[551] Martial, _Ep._, IV. 30, 4.

    “Qui norunt dominum manumque lambunt
     Illam, qua nihil est in orbe maius.
     Quid quod nomen habent et ad magistri
     Vocem quisque sui venit citatus?”

and Martial, X. 30, 22.

    “Natat ad magistrum delicata muræna,
     Nomenculator mugilem citat notum,
     Et adesse jussi prodeunt senes mulli.”

Cicero, _Ep. ad Att._, XX. I., “Our leading people think that they
attain unto Heaven if they own in their ponds bearded mullets, who
will come to them to be stroked.” Cf. Lucian (_De Dea Syria_, 45-48).
Ælian, VIII. 4, confirms these statements, and in 12. 30, tells of
a spring in Caria sacred to Zeus, in which were kept eels decked
with earrings and chains of gold, while Pliny, XXXII. 8, writes that
at the Temple of Venus at Hierapolis, of which Lucian speaks as an
eye-witness, “adveniunt pisces exornati auro.” This practice is, and
has been, world-wide. “Fishes though little have long ears,” is an old
Chinese proverb. “In Japan fish are summoned to dinner by melodious
gongs. In India, I have seen them called out of the muddy depths of the
river at Dohlpore by the ringing of a handbell, while carp in Belgium
answer at once to the whistle of the monks who feed them, and in far
away Otaheite, the chiefs have pet eels, whom they whistle to the
surface” (Robinson, _op. cit._, p. 14). Cf. Athen., VIII. 3, “and I
myself and very likely many of you too have seen eels having golden and
silver earrings, taking food from any one who offered it to them.” The
Egyptians similarly adorned their crocodiles with gold earrings. Herod.
2. 69.

[552] VII. 18.

[553] IX. 39.

[554] _De Ira_, III. 40.

[555] For eels devouring the flesh of a corpse, see _Iliad_, 203 and

[556] Aristophanes, _Frogs_, 474 f., Ταρτησία μύραίνα, a great dainty
(Varro, _ap._ Gell., 6. 16. 5), is of course meant to suggest Tartarus.
Contrast with this, the popularity of the fish, as attested by its
frequent mention, especially in Plautus, and by the fact which Helbig
(_Camp. Wandgemälde_ (Leipzig, 1868), Index, p. 496, _s.v._ “Muräne”)
brings out, that on the mural decorations of Pompeii no fish finds more
frequent representation.

[557] _De Re Rustica_, VIII. 16, “Quamobrem non solum piscinas, quas
ipsi construxerant, frequentabant sed etiam quos rerum natura lacus
fecerat convectis marinis seminibus replebant. Et lupos auratasque
procreaverunt ac siqua sint alia piscium genera dulcis undæ tolerantia.”

What fish Columella meant by _Aurata_ is not settled: it is certainly
_not_ the “gold-fish,” as some translate, for they are not sea-fish.
Facciolati, after saying that the name came from the fish having golden
eyebrows, goes on that “some folk deny that he can be identified with
the ‘gilthead’ or ‘dory.’” Perhaps the fish is one of the _Sparidæ_
group, which pass at certain seasons of the year from the Mediterranean
into salt-water fish marshes, as observed by Aristotle, and confirmed
by M. Duhamel. Or can it be the smelt?

Faber, pp. 37, 38, “of fresh-water fishes, twenty-one species, among
them the fresh-water Perch, are also common to the sea: amongst the sea
fishes, the flounder frequents brackish water, and sometimes enters
the rivers: others only occasionally frequent the lagoons and brackish
waters, among them the Gilthead,” a statement incidentally confirmed
by Martial (_Ep._ XIII. 90) in his helluous _pronunciamento_, that
practically the only really good _Aurata_ was that whose haunt was
the Lucrine lake, and whose whole world was its oyster! of which fish
Martial (XIII. 90) seems only appreciative,

    “ ... cui solus erit concha Lucrina cibus.”

[558] Faber, _op. cit._, 86. Cf. _Revue Contemporaine_, June 30 and
July 15, 1854, where the fisheries at Comacchio are described at length.



Previous instances of taking fish belonging to another have so far
only been attended by divine or superhuman punishment. I venture now
a few sentences on what were the Roman (I have discovered no Greek)
legal regulations—for there does not appear to have existed at Rome any
special _law_ on Fishing—and how the rights of fisheries and fishers
were protected.

From the evidence available it is clear—

(1) That among _Res Nullius_, or things belonging to no one, were fish
and wild animals in a state of nature. The _Digest_, 41. 1. 1, lays
down that “omnia animalia, quæ terra, mari, cælo capiuntur, id est feræ
bestiæ, volucres, et pisces, capientum fiunt.”

(2) That they became the property of the person who first “reduces them
into possession,” _i.e._ captures them.

(3) That the sea and public rivers were not capable of individual

(4) That no citizen could be prevented from fishing in the sea and such
rivers by any person. To this rule there are several exceptions; for
instance, (_a_) a cove of the sea bordering on a man’s land—perhaps if
enclosed with stakes, etc.—could be exclusively occupied for fishing
(_Digest_, 47. 10, ss. 13 and 14); (_b_) a right of fishing in a recess
or backwater of a public river could be acquired by prescription, and
would then be protected by a possessory Interdict against any one who
tried to fish this water (_Ibid._, 44. 3. 7).

It is hard to define precisely what constituted a public river and what
a private river. Under the term “public” came all rivers of any size,
not merely those that were tidal. Whether a river was public depended
not only on its size, but also on the “opinion of those dwelling around
it.” No river, periodically dry in summer, could be accounted public
(_Digest_, 43. 12, ss. 1-4).

All streams not public, many lakes, and all _piscinæ_, etc., were
private property, from which the owner could prevent any one taking
fish. The legal remedy for such exclusion, based on the ground of
trespass, was Interdict—a procedure very similar to that of Scotland,
whose law is mainly modelled on that of Rome.

The further legal question—were the fish in such _piscinæ res nullius_
or were they such individual property as to make any one taking them
without permission liable for theft—was answered by the jurist Nerva
in _Digest_, 41. 2. 3, _s._ 14, who held that they were individual
property—“pisces quos in piscinas coiecerimus a nobis possideri.”

Thus the owner of _vivaria_ could proceed against a poacher by (1) an
interdict for trespass, and (2) a prosecution for theft, in case of a
fish being caught with the intention of taking it away. On the other
hand, a person prevented from fishing or navigating by another could
only proceed by an action of _Injuria_, personal affront (_Digest_, 43.
8. 17, _ss._ 8 and 9; 41. 1. 30; 43. 14, _s._ 7).

Although I purposely limit myself to a very slight sketch of Roman
regulations, the case reported by Pliny (_N. H._, IX. 85) seems,
alike from legal and piscatorial interest, worthy of reproduction and

As the _Anthias_ is one of the shyest of fishes, special precautions
and plenty of patience were necessary for a good catch. Thus fishermen
wore clothes of the same colour as their boats. They sailed without
fishing over the same stretch of sea. They merely went on “baiting the
swim” on each tack, day after day, till some spirit, bolder than the
rest, could be induced to take the bait. Still more days elapse before
the fish, which has by this time been well identified, is followed by
any of his mates. Eventually example proves so infectious that shoals
innumerable, of which the Elder Brethren even eat from the fisherman’s
hands, surround the boat.

Now is the accepted hour for “the fisherman to throw out a little
beyond his finger tips a hook concealed in bait,” and (to prevent
alarm) smuggle the fish out gently, one by one, by a very slight jerk.
His mate receives the fish on pieces of cloth, so that no floundering
about or other noise may scare their comrades. On no account must “the
betrayer of the others” be captured, lest instantly the shoal take to
flight and be no more seen.

But “there is a story that a fisherman, having quarrelled with his
mate, threw out a hook to one of the leading fishes, which he easily
spotted and with malicious intent captured. The fish was, however,
recognised in the market by his mate, against whom he had conceived
this malice: accordingly an action for damages (_damni formulam
editam_) was brought, which the defendant, as Mucianus adds, was
condemned to pay.”

Now, as shown above, (1) a fish is “res nullius,” (2) a fish becomes
the property of him who first “reduces it into possession,” (3) the
sea, with some exceptions which do not apply here, is not capable of
individual ownership.

If “the betrayer of his kind” was till malicious capture admittedly and
of set purpose left _free in the sea_, how could it have been reduced
into possession, how could any title in it have been acquired, and,
lastly—granted some kind of possession—by what _actio_ or legal formula
could such possession have been enforced?

These points were to me a stumbling-block, till Professor Courtney
Kenny of Cambridge kindly came to my aid. As the extension here of
_Mansuefactio_ is apparently unique, and would possibly have been
repudiated by jurists after Mucian’s time, we seem to be faced by a
novel point, which on account of its intricacy and interest will appeal
to people learned in the Roman Law.

The Professor’s letter runs: “Ownership in the _Anthias_ must have been
created by that form of Occupatio of a res nullius, which consists,
not by the physical detention by angling, or by a piscina, but in mere
mansuefactio. This form is familiar for birds (_Dig._, 41. 2. 3. 15:
and for English Law, Bracton, 2. 1. 4): but for fishes I know of no
other passage than the one cited by you. Perhaps jurists, not so early
as Mucian, would have declined to admit that there had been a _true_
occupatio of this Anthias. The partner, who sold this fish, which was
partnership property, would be called on to account for it, and pay
over, in damages, his partner’s share of the price by the contractual
action Pro Socio. He might, in addition, be made to pay a penalty for
his wrong-doing in the delictual Actio Furti. For, though there was a
legal _primâ-facie_ presumption (_Dig._, 17. 2. 51) in favour of the
honesty of any partner in the sales of partnership-property, we are
here expressly told that he acted ‘maleficii voluntate,’ _i.e._ his
contrectatio of the fish was ‘fraudulosa,’ and therefore a Furtum. The
defrauded partner might well have brought both actions at once (_Dig._,
17. 2. 45), but Pliny _speaks_ only of his having brought the last
named one.”

[Illustration: A GREEK ANGLER.

From the Agathemeros Relief, _c._ 3rd century B.C.]



    “Unseen, Eurotas, southward steal,
     Unknown, Alpheus, westward glide,
     You never heard the ringing _Reel_,
     The music of the waterside.”
                           (A. LANG.)

The tackle, implements, and some curious modes of fishing apparently
peculiar to, or handed down to us only from, Greek and Roman sources
call for consideration and comment.

Nets, we have seen, were of all sorts and kinds in shape, make, and
size. Their number and nature as disclosed by Julius Pollux, Plutarch,
and Ælian indicate that the art of netting was well nigh perfected.
Oppian, after enumerating many varieties and telling how the enormous

    “Nets, like a city, to the floods descend
     And bulwarks, gates, and noble streets extend,”

excuses himself from further amplification:

    “A thousand names a fisher might rehearse
     Of nets, intractable in smoother verse.”[559]

Confirmation comes from Alciphron’s[560] statement that scarce a fathom
of the harbour of Ephesus but held a Net: on one occasion the sole
haul, after much moiling and toiling, was the putrid carcase of a

What and whence the Rod? It was certainly short: only from 6 to 8 feet
(Ælian, XV. 1)—a length which is in the main confirmed, if assuming
the height of some of the fishermen represented on vases, etc., in
the Greek and Roman rooms of the British Museum to be as high as six
feet, you then measure the rod. On the other hand, the sitting youth in
the Agathemeros relief (_Brit. Mus. Cat. Sculpture_, I. 317, No. 648)
measures 24 cm., the Rod 8 cm., the line 15 cm.[562]

As we do not possess any relic of the Homeric rod, the length of the
only one mentioned in either the _Iliad_ or the _Odyssey_ must be a
matter of conjecture, especially as this is styled περιμήκης, or “very
long” one.[563]

The ordinary Rods were made of cane, hence _Harundo_ and _Calamus_,
which was imported usually from Abaris in Lower Egypt, or of some light
elastic wood. For large and powerful fish, where something stronger
was required, Ælian tells us that _Tuncus Marinus_ and _Ferula_ were

If the Rod were tapered, it was tapered probably by Nature not by art,
at least so the Agathemeros relief, all the pictures of Venus and Cupid
angling, and of many _Amorini_ from Herculaneum would suggest. The
question whether the Rods were jointed has been discussed in my chapter
on the _crescens harundo_ of Martial.

The line, ὁρμιά, or _Linea_, made from the strong bristly hairs of
animals (_seta_) but most generally of horse-hair,[564] of flax, of
_sparton_ out of the _genista_, perhaps of _byssus_, but never of
gut, was very finely twisted, as the epithet εὐπλόκαμος shows. It was
usually as long as the rod itself, although in the Agathemeros relief
we find it nearly double the length. The colours of the line were grey,
black, brown—sometimes red or purple. It was made tight to the top of
the Rod and not let down to the butt, or running.[565]

Plutarch prescribes that the hairs next to the hook should for
deception’s sake be taken from a _white_ horse, and adds advice, as
pertinent now as then, that there “should not be too many knots in the

To the line was fastened the hook (_hamus_) which was of one or two
sharp barbs.[567] From Herculaneum,[568] Pompeii, and elsewhere have
been collected hooks which vary extremely in form, size, and method
of adjustment.[569] Although sometimes of bone, they are mostly
manufactured from iron or bronze. Cf. Oppian, III. 285: χαλκοῦ μὲν
σκληροῑο τετυγμένον ἠὲ σιδήρου.

It strikes us moderns as strange to have the epithet _hard_ applied to
bronze and not to iron, till we are informed that the ancient bronze
was made of tin and copper, not zinc and copper, as is our softer
alloy, and was so hard that, Pliny tells us, it could be worked to
represent the finest hair of a woman’s head.

The Pompeian hooks were almost exclusively adapted for sea fishing, and
are thus generally large in size, long in shank, and flattened at the
top to facilitate attachment to the line.


Plutarch’s statement that some hooks were straight, as distinct from
the usual recurved sort, may possibly be indicative of a survival of
the palæolithic gorge. Some of the Roman hooks are double-barbed, some
are fixed back to back like eel-hooks, and fastened to wire to prevent
erosion by the teeth. In the pursuit of large fish such as the _Amia_,
hooks of a serpentine curve are recommended, “as these great fish
manage to get loose from straight ones!”

To the hook was fastened the bait (_esca_), usually worms, flies, and
other insects. For large fish the bait was often cooked, because the
scent was believed to offer an additional attraction. By a clever
contrivance of small pieces of lead equally balanced and carefully
attached the lure was made to have the appearance of natural movement.

The Reel on a fishing Rod was certainly unknown to Ancient Nations.
Wilkinson figures something resembling a Reel being employed when
spearing _hippopotami_.[570]

The _Amia_ (mentioned by Pliny, IX. 19, alone of all the Latin writers)
is according to Oppian[571] a little smaller than the tunny, which
reaches large proportions. Later,[572] he recounts how the _Amia_
furnishes sad labour and trouble to the fishermen from his habit, the
moment he feels the hook, of instantly rising, of swallowing more line,
and then of biting through the middle, “or even the topmost hairs of

But successful cunning to avoid capture was no monopoly of the _Amia_.
Ovid, Oppian, Pliny, Plutarch, Ælian, recount numerous devices which
certain fish employ to nullify net or hook. I subjoin three of the
chief tricks used to defeat the _hamus_.

The _Mugil_, whose greed is only saved by its guile, despite his
foreknowledge of danger has madly grabbed the bait, but keeps thrashing
it with his tail, till at last he shakes it free of the hook. “At mugil
cauda pendentem everberat escam Excussamque legit.”[573]

The _Anthias_ on the first prick of the hook turns over on to his back
and quickly severs the line with his dorsal fin, or spike, “of the
shape and keenness of a knife.”[574]

The _Scolopendra_, according to Aristotle, “after swallowing the hook,
turns itself inside out until it ejects it, and then it again turns
itself outside in,” and (in Pliny’s words) vomits up everything inside
him till he has ejected the hook, and “deinde resorbet!”[575]

Lines with floating corks and lead attached close to the hooks, partly
to facilitate the throwing of the line, and partly, combined with a
sliding cork, to regulate the position of the bait, were in regular
use. Ground fishing, when the lure is leaded and thrown with or without
rod, was well known and widely exercised.

Pastes and scents were also employed, either like myrrh dissolved in
wine to intoxicate (see the accompanying drawing, which is, I believe,
unique),[576] or, like the cyclamen, or sowbread, to poison the
fish.[577] From Oppian’s description of the workings of the poison, IV.
658 ff., we take the lines:

    “Soon as the deadly Cyclamen invades
     The ill-starred fishes in their deep-sunk glades,
      ... the slowly working bane
     Creeps o’er each sense and poisons every vein,
     Then pours concentred mischief on the brain,
     Some drugged, like men o’ercome with recent wine,
     Reel to and fro, and stagger thro’ the brine;
     Some in quick circlets whirl: some ’gainst the rocks
     Dash, and are stunned by repercussive shocks;
     Some with quenched orbs, or filmy eyeballs thick,
     Rush on the nets and in the meshes stick,
     In coma steeped their fins more feebly ply,
     Some in titanic spasms gasp and die.
     Soon as the plashings cease and stillness reigns,
     The jocund crew collect, and count their gains.”

In the simile—inevitable in Oppian—which ends the passage our author
may indicate, though he does not name, the Germanic tribes (for over
Rome in his day as over Europe in ours hung the barbarian menace) when
he condemned the abhorred habit practised by the enemy of poisoning the
springs and wells:

           ... “the brave defendants sink
    In thirsty pangs, or perish if they drink.”

In the number of methods, in the variety of devices, the fishermen of
Oppian and Ælian are not behind their modern successors; it is indeed
the reverse of

    “John P. Robinson he
     Guessed they did not know everything down in Judee.”[578]

[Illustration: ANGLING WITH WINE.

From a Mosaic at Melos. See n. 4, p. 239.]

We moderns are, in fact, merely the heirs to a piscatorial estate,
which by scientific improvement or intensive culture we have rendered
more serviceable and better adapted to the requirements of fish more
harried, and consequently more highly educated.

The old devices, the old recipes were never entirely lost.[579] They
continued to be handed down through the Middle Ages, and may be
found in most of the collections of household recipes, such as those
of Baptista Porta, Conrad Heresbach, and others. They naturally in
the course of some thousand years got rather split up, or fell into
abeyance; it was not, in fact, till the seventeenth century that fairly
full collections of them began to reappear.

But except just to mention “tickling,” an ancient device in both Oppian
and Ælian, we have room here only for four methods, all very quaint,
either unknown or uncommon among twentieth-century fishers.

The _first_, that by which the goat-herd annexes the _Sargus_,
according to Oppian.[580]

In hot weather it was, and still is, in Sicily the wont of the
goat-herds to drive their flocks to some cool shallow of the sea. “Once
upon a time” one of them noticed that the _sargi_ came round the goats
in vast shoals. The reason for this—whether grasped in a moment by one
great brain, or evolved by two or three generations of speculating
herdsmen—was discovered to be the attraction of the male _sargus_ by
the smell of the female goat.

So the reasoning goat-herd slays his nanny, puts himself inside her
skin, and to perfect, I presume, the resemblance of the deception,
“adjusts on his brows the horns!” Then he gently glides into the
shallow, “scatters the food full shower” among the _sargi_ hot on their
amorous mission and, well! for the number that were slain by “The
Sturdy Rod his latent Hand extends” I refer you to the fourth book of
the _Halieutica_!

Ichthyologists declare that the male _sargus_ is very uxorious, and has
at least one hundred wives always in close-herded attendance on him.
As the words “unhappy lovers” indicate that the _sargi_ were present
not a few, these multiplied by one hundred must have yielded quite a
decent creel.[581]

The _second_ method owes its success to the love for music and
for watching the dance, which Aristotle and Ælian assert to be
characteristic of several fishes, but especially of the skate. The
recipe of this method, far pleasanter, certainly less odoriferous than
that of the last, demands 1 Boat, 1 Violin, 1 big Net, 2 Men, one of
whom fiddles, while the other dances as he unwinds the net. Attracted
to the spot, and, like Wagner-devotees, so entirely absorbed by the
melody as to be unconscious of all else, the skates fall easy and
numerous victims to the slowly drawn net.

This method seems “the limit.” It certainly trenched on even Badham’s
credulity. He states that he would not have cited this statement of
Ælian’s, unless it had been “singularly countenanced and confirmed by
no less a person than the great French ichthyologist, Rondolet,” whose
mere name in this musical context must presumably carry conviction, for
(as is not unusual with Badham) no reference is given.[582]

The _third_ method, employed by the Mysians for capturing the _Silurus_
in big rivers like the Danube and the Volga, is set forth by Ælian
(XIV. 25) in words which describe with such charming _naïveté_ the
perfection of the Silurian palate, eye, and possibly nose, enabling
it to discriminate instantly between “the lungs of a wild” and other
“bull,”[583] that we may venture upon quoting the whole passage:

“An Istrian fisherman drives a pair of oxen near the river-bank, not,
however, for the purpose of ploughing.... If a pair of horses are at
hand, the fisherman makes use of horses; and with the yoke on his
shoulders, down he goes and takes his station at a spot which he thinks
will make a convenient seat for himself, and be a good place for sport.
He fastens one end of the fishing-rope, which is stout and capable
of standing a good tug, to the middle of the yoke, and supplies the
oxen, or the horses, as the case may be, with sufficient food, and the
animals take their fill.

“To the other end of the rope he fastens a strong and terribly sharp
hook, baited with the lungs of a wild bull; this he throws into the
water as a lure—a very sweet lure—to the Istrian _silurus_, having
previously fastened a piece of lead of sufficient size to the rope
above the place where the hook is bound on, to serve as a support for
the pull.[584]

“When the fish perceives the bait of bull’s-flesh, he immediately rushes
at the prey, and, meeting with that he so dearly loves, opens wide his
great jaws and greedily swallows the dreadful bait; then the glutton,
at first turning himself round with pleasure, soon finds that he has
been pierced unawares with the aforesaid hook, and being eager to
escape from the calamity shakes the rope with the greatest violence.

“The fisherman observes this, and is filled with delight; he jumps from
his seat, and, now in the character of a fisherman, now in that of
a ploughman, like an actor who changes his mask in a play, he urges
on his oxen or horses, and a mighty contest takes place between the
monster and the yoked animals; for the creature, foster-child of the
Ister, draws downward with all his might, while the yoked animals pull
the rope in an opposite direction. The fish can make no headway. Beaten
by the united efforts of the team, he gives in, and is hauled on to the

_Siluri_, according to common report, have been caught weighing over
400 lbs. and of more than twelve feet in length.

There is good ground for us moderns patting ourselves on the back, when
we realise that owing to the many improvements effected in our tackle,
and not least in the Rod, an angler off Catalina has often landed a
heavier fish than a yoke of oxen on the banks of the Ister, _e.g._ Mr.
A. N. Howard (in 1916) caught the record Black Sea Bass in Californian
waters, weighing 493 lbs.

Even this big fellow is quite a dwarf beside the Tuna of 710 lbs. taken
in Canadian waters by Mr. Laurence Mitchell,[585] which still holds, I
believe, the record of the world as the very largest fish ever taken on
a rod.

I myself have seen a sword fish of over 300 lbs. killed on a rod off
Santa Catalina. When in 1909 out for Tarpon in Kingston Harbour,
Jamaica, I had the good luck to secure after a fight of two and a half
hours, and after being towed almost down to Port Royal and back, a
distance of some five miles, a shark weighing 116 lbs., with a rod only
8 foot long, with a light salmon line, with a No. 4 hook, and with a
bit of piano wire, _faute de mieux_, attached to prevent erosion.[586]

From the time of the earliest authors the identification of the
_Silurus_ has been a vexed question.

Aristotle writing of the _Glanis_, a large fresh-water fish (his
only account of actual fishing, it may be remembered, is a fight
with a _Glanis_),[587] attributes to it characteristics and habits,
which Pliny _totidem sententiis_, if not _verbis_, transfers to the
_Silurus_, although he thrice mentions the _Glanis_. Ælian, in addition
to XIV. 25, declares in XII. 14, that the _Glanis_ a species of, and
very like, the _Silurus_, while Athenæus treats them as separate fish.

As late as the time of Scaliger, the problem gave rise to discussion
which led to no elucidation of what fish exactly corresponds to the
classical _Silurus_. Perhaps the sentence of Albertus Magnus,[588]
“a river fish which was called by the Greeks _Glanis_, but by us
_Silurus_,” seemed, although only a conjectural compromise, as near as
we could get to the identity.

Agassiz, however, reluctant to accept Cuvier’s identification of the
_Glanis_ with the _Silurus glanis_, came to the conclusion (after
examining six specimens of a Siluroid new to Ichthyologists, which
he obtained from the Acheloüs in Western Greece) that from agreement
in the form of the anal fin, the position of the gall bladder, the
connected spawn, etc., they were the same as Aristotle’s _Glanis_.
To this Siluroid Agassiz gave the name _Glanis aristotelis_: it is,
perhaps, better known as _Parasilurus aristotelis_.[589]

If the _Silurus_ be the _Scheid_ of Germany, his strength, habits, and
ferocity, as set forth in our authors are indeed very credible. From
Aristotle we learn that this “river fish” is easy to hook (as we should
suspect from its rapacity, which has been tersely summarised in “pisces
pisci præda at huic omnes”), but from its huge powers and hard teeth
very hard to hold.

The passage in Pliny, IX. 75, which he extracts from
Aristotle[590]—“Silurus mas solus omnium edita custodit ova, sæpe et
quinquagenis diebus, ne absumantur ab aliis”—has by a wrong rendering
accorded to the male _Silurus_ the proud distinction of being the only
male fish that guards its eggs. This is absurd, for other instances,
_e.g. Chromis simonis_, exist.

Where fish, however, pay any regard whatever to their _ova_, it is
usually, but not always, on the father that the duty falls. “Omnium”
in Pliny is to be read not with “solus” but with “edita ova.” This
reading advances the quite different claim that the Silurus is the
only male that includes in its watch and ward not merely its own but
promiscuously also the eggs of other fish. Perhaps the same start of
surprise awaits him, on the pentecostal and last day of his vigil, as
that of the hen when she first beholds a mixed brood of chickens and
ducklings emerging from under her breast.

Pliny reveals some fabulous uses of the _Silurus_. In XXXII. 28, fresh
caught _Siluri_ are an excellent tonic for the voice. In 46, by the
smoke and scent of a burnt _Silurus_, especially one hailing from
Africa (!), the pangs of childbirth are said to be greatly eased. In
40, for curing “ignes sacros” or the malady of St. Anthony’s fire,
the application of the bellies of living frogs, or of ashes from a
_Silurus_, were two of the nostrums recommended.

The _fourth_ and last method, for the capture of Eels, given by
Ælian,[591] although almost certainly cribbed from Oppian,[592] but
with a local habitation and a name carefully thrown in to suggest
originality, reads much as follows:

The eeler from a high bank of the “river Eretaenus, where the eels are
the largest and by far the fattest of all eels,” lets down at a turn of
the stream some cubits’ length of the intestines of a sheep. An eel,
seizing a bit of it at the nether end, tries to drag the whole away,
on which the fisher applies the other end (which is fixed to a long
tubular reed serving the place of a fishing rod) to his mouth, and
blows into the sheep’s gut. This presently swells; the fish receiving
the air in his mouth swells too, and unable to extricate his teeth is
lugged out, adhering to the inflated intestines.[593]

“Gin these be joys of artful eeling, oh! gie me Essex Flats,” with
their “sniggling for eels with a needle,” or “banding“ for fish with
whitethorn hooks!

In addition to this pneumatic method of Ælian others were employed for
taking eels. Stirring up the mud, in which they were wont to lurk was
a common device; hence the proverb ἐγχέλεις θηρᾶσθαι, to fish in muddy
waters. Thus Aristophanes[594] makes the sausage seller, whom the Whigs
of Athens had hired to outbawl the demagogue Cleon, shout, “Yes, it is
with you as with the eel-catchers; when the lake is still, they do not
take anything, but if they stir up the mud, they do; so it is with you,
when you disturb the State.”[595]

Even at the risk of being likened to Mr. Bouncer of Oxford fame,
who in every answer of his Divinity paper dragged in his sole and
cuff-attached bit of Old Testament knowledge with “and here it may not
seem inappropriate to subjoin a list of the Kings of Israel and Judah,”
I venture some comments on the Eel.

The frequent allusions in our authors to the Eel, (A) as a sacred fish,
(B) as the delight of the epicure, and (C) as a propagator of its
species in a variety of surprisingly erroneous ways, must be my excuse.

(A) _It was held as a god_, or at least as a sacred creature, by the
Egyptians,[596] as sacred to Artemis in the spring of Arethusa,[597]
and semi-sacred by the Bœotians.[598]

Antiphanes[599] ridicules the Egyptians for the sacred honour paid to
the fish, wrongly termed by the Greeks the Eel. Contrasting the value
of the gods with the high prices paid for the fish at Athens he gibes;
“they say that the Egyptians are clever in that they rank the Eel equal
to a god, but in reality it is held in esteem and value far higher than
gods, for _them_ we can propitiate with a prayer or two, while to get
even a smell of an Eel at Athens we have to spend twelve _drachmæ_ or
more!” Anaxandrides’[600] makes a Greek say to an Egyptian:

    “You count the Eel a mighty deity,
     And we a mighty dainty!”

Juvenal in Satire XV. (written probably after his return from
semi-exile in Egypt) lashes with ridicule the compatriots of his butt
Crispinus. The enumeration of their animal and vegetable gods is a fine
specimen of dignified humour. By _piscem_ in line 7, may be indicated
the _Oxyrhynchus_, the _Lepidotus_, or the _Phagrus_, the so-called
Eel—three sacred fishes of the Nile.

    “Illic æluros, hic piscem fluminis, illic
     Oppida tota canem venerantur, nemo Dianam.”

(B) _As a delicacy_, the Eel by the Greeks was rated very high. But
the reverse held good at Rome. Unlike its cousin the _Muræna_ it gets
little commendation by the Latin comedians—Terence’s in _Adelphi_,
377-381, is the solitary exception I can recall—and by the gourmets.
Apicius deemed it worthy of but one recipe.[601]

“Vos anguillæ manet longæ cognata colubræ” (Juvenal, V. 103) is
often quoted as stamping the low position of the Eel at Rome, but in
reality, as the whole context bears out, this particular “cousin of the
snake” was condemned not because of its kinship, but because it was
_Cloaca_-bred and drain-fed.[602]

The passage in Menander’s,[603] _Drunkenness_ which makes one of the
characters declaim that, were he a god, he would never allow a loin of
beef to load his altars, unless an Eel were also sacrificed, testifies
to the preference for the Eel to meat. Numerous are the pæans of praise
rendered by Greek writers to the superlative excellence of the fish.

The Eel is dight “the King of fish”[604]; he, or rather she, was “the
white-skinned Nymph”[605]; was “chief of the fifty Virgins of Lake
Copaïs”[606]; was a very “Goddess,”

                          “Then there came
    Those natives of the Lakes, the eels,
    Bœotian goddesses, all clothed in beet,”[607]

(with which, or majoram, on beech leaves, Aristophanes[608] tells us
they were often served); and, the very last word in laudation, was “the
Helen of the Feast.”[609]

Whether this was applied because the fish was the personification of
all delicate dainties, as Helen was the fairest of all the fair, or
because every guest strove like Paris to supplant his neighbour and
keep her all to himself, the reader must choose. Athenæus certainly
leans to the latter view.[610]

Philetærus[611] would seem to have no doubt in identifying what is the
sting of death and what is the victory of the grave,

    “For when you’re dead, you cannot then eat eels.”

To the sense of smell as well as that of taste the _Murænidæ_ appealed
strongly, to judge by the eulogy that their bodies when being cooked
exhaled an odour fragrant enough to restore the sense of smell in the
nose of a dead man! while, if boiled in fine brine, they “changed the
human nature into the divine!”[612]

The luxurious and lazy Sybarites, who felt they had broken their
bones if they but saw another digging, and suffered not a cock in the
whole country, lest he should mar their slumber, were so passionately
addicted to Eels that all persons catching or selling them were exempt
from taxes and tribute.[613]

(C) _The propagation of Eels_: This has given birth to more
theories—all of them till some twenty years ago quite erroneous—than
any other ichthyic question. From Aristotle downwards nearly every
zoologist, nearly every writer on fish, has advanced his view as to how
and whence eels are bred.[614]

Only a few of them, and they all divergent, can find space here.
Aristotle held that Eels had never been found with milt or roe, that
when opened they did not seem to possess generative organs, and
that apparently they came from the so-called entrails of the earth,
seemingly referring to certain worms formed spontaneously in mud and
the like.[615]

Oppian (I. 513 ff.)—

    “Strange the formation of the eely race
     That know no sex, yet love the close embrace.
     Their folded lengths they round each other twine,
     Twist amorous knots, and slimy bodies joyn;
     Till the close strife brings off a frothy juice,
     The seed that must the wiggling kind produce.
     Regardless they their future offspring leave,
     But porous sands the spumy drops receive.
     That genial bed impregnates all the heap,
     And little eelets soon begin to creep.”

Pliny, after making the assertion (taken, as usual, from Aristotle)
that among fish the females are larger, and often the more numerous,
goes on, an echo once more of “His Master’s Voice,” to deny to the Eel
sex, either masculine or feminine: according to him, Eels when they
had lived their day, rubbed themselves against the rocks, and their
scrapings came to life: “they have no other mode of procreation.”[616]

Von Helmont attributed the birth of Eels to the dews of May mornings!
other authors deduced their parentage from the hairs of horses! others
again from the gills of fish! while the great Izaak Walton insisted on
spontaneous generation![617]

To solve the insoluble, recourse was, as usual, had to the gods: thus
Jupiter and a white-armed goddess yclept Anguilla[618] (the Latin for
Eel) were accounted parents of the countless “cousins to the snake.”

Theory was piled upon theory, false conclusions were drawn from
falser data. Even as late as 1862 appeared an author, not one whit
less certain of the truth of his discovery based “on a series of
observations extending over sixty years,” or one whit less active in
asserting it, than any of his numerous predecessors.

In _The Origin of the Silver Eel_, Mr. D. Cairncross propounded the
following assertion: “The progenitor of the silver Eel is a small
beetle: of this I feel fully satisfied in my own mind, from a rigid
and extensive comparison of its structure and habits with those
of other insects.”[619] “The beetle in the act of parturition” is
represented on the frontispiece!

The fact that this beetle is evidently a dead one would not, as the
_Bibliotheca Piscatoria_ rather wickedly puts it, even if known to the
writer, cause him to alter his opinion one jot!

It was only in 1896—strange, indeed, that a problem which so many
keen intellects had attacked should remain unelucidated for over two
thousand years!—that the mode of reproduction and development of the
Eel was first surmised, and then for the most part ascertained by
Professor Grassi and Dr. Galandruccio. But not till 1904 were most of
the surmises of the Italian investigators placed beyond question, and
the mode of reproduction, etc., established beyond doubt by Johann
Schmidt of Copenhagen.

The now accepted view (stated shortly) is as follows: fresh-water
Eels approach maturity when about six years old, and then change
their colour from browny-yellow to silver, whence “Silver Eels.” In
this bridal attire and with eyes enlarged, they find their way from
the rivers to the sea, and far out into deep waters of the ocean. The
pace at which they travel on their way to the sea cannot be computed
exactly, but two marked Eels have been caught whose record was nineteen
kilometres in two days. Meek[620] states that neither the exact
locality nor the approximate depth of the spawning is as yet known, but
that there can be no doubt that the spawning region lies deep and far
out in the Atlantic beyond the Continental shelf.

_The Times_, Sept. 25, 1920, announces that Dr. J. Schmidt has just
discovered the spawning place of fresh-water Eels to be not far S.
of Bermuda, or about 27 deg. N. and 60 deg. W., much farther W. than
he anticipated. Of the many marvels of the ichthyic world this is,
perhaps, the greatest. It taxes, it transcends, our powers adequately
to conceive the hereditary instinct or gauge the enduring strength
which impels fish—as yet sexually undeveloped—of only moderate size
to traverse 3000 or 4000 miles of an ocean full of foes, and to seek,
especially to find, the only area which contains the requisite depth,
temperature, and currents favouring the procreation and the return home
of their minute but parentless progeny.

The conclusion is now clear that the Eels of Europe at any rate have
a spawning area in common; the two Italian doctors were wrong in
supposing that Eels spawned in the Mediterranean. In such ocean depths
certainly below, probably far below, the one hundred fathoms[621]
line the generative organs of the Eels develope, and in due though
protracted time the females spawn.[622]

Their eggs float for a time; the young, when hatched out, pass
through a metamorphosis and are known in one stage as _Leptocephalus
brevirostris_. This larval form, which is flat and transparent and has
a very small head, drifts with the ocean currents towards the coasts
of Europe, where it passes through a series of metamorphoses into the
Elver or young Eel, which in March and April swims up English rivers.
The fecundity of the Eel, were it not for the system of check and
countercheck devised by Nature, would in time become a danger; for the
ovary of a female thirty-two inches in length has been estimated to
contain no fewer than 10,700,000 eggs![623]

But however legitimate or illegitimate their methods may seem, all
praise should be rendered to our ancient anglers. Especially so, when
we call to mind that, as they possessed not running lines, reels,
gut, nor probably _landing_ nets, the playing of large fish must have
required more delicate manipulation and the landing presented far
greater difficulties than to us, armed as we are with all these and
many other appliances.


[559] _Trans._, by Diaper and Jones (London, 1722—see _supra_, p. 177),
which I usually employ. Cf. III. 84: μυρία δ’ αἰόλα τοῖα δολορραφέων
λίνα κόλπων. Fishing nets from Pompeii, even now almost entire, are to
be found in Italian Museums. The best times for hauling up the nets
were (according to Arist., _N. H._, VIII. 19) “just about sunrise and
sunset. Fishermen speak of these as ‘nick-of-time’ (ὡραῖοι) hauls.
The fact is that at these times fishes are particularly weak-sighted”
(D’Arcy Thompson, _Trs._). Pliny, IX. 23, practically copies Aristotle.

[560] Alciphr., _Epist._, 1. 17.

[561] A terra-cotta relief of the type known as “Median,” _c._ 460
B.C., in _Brit. Mus. Cat. of Terra-cottas_, No. B. 372, Pl. 20, shows a
fisherman holding two fishes, or a fish and a purse, and as if in the
act of pulling in a net. This a very early exemplar of Greek Netting.

[562] Cf. the rod of Heracles on a black-figured vase published by C.
Lenormant and J. de Witte, _Élite des Monuments Céramographiques_, Vol.
III., Plate 14. The Rod is 8 cm. and the Line is 6 cm.

[563] _Od._, 12, 251. Cf. the same phrase in _Od._, 10, 293, for
Circe’s magic wand.

[564] Plutarch, _de Sol._, 24, commends those of a stallion as longest
and strongest, of a gelding next, and of a mare least, because of the
weakness of the hairs due to her urination.

[565] Ælian, _N. H._, XII. 43. See Introduction.

[566] Plutarch, _de Sol._, 24.

[567] It is of great interest to note that according to Langdon (see
Jewish Chapter), probably in Sumerian, and certainly in Hebrew, the
word equalling hook, in its primary sense equals thorn, which strongly
suggests, if it do not absolutely prove, that the ancients employed,
as do even now the catchers of flat fish in Essex, and the Indians in
Arizona, a thorn as their primitive hook. In Latin _hamus_ signifies
hook and thorn. Cf. Ovid (_Nux._, 113-116).

[568] Waldstein and Shoobridge, _Herculaneum_ (London, 1908), p. 95,
“The only industry which has left much trace is fishing; hooks, cords,
floats, and nets were found in much abundance.”

[569] See _antea_, p. 157, and note 1. According to Petrie, _Tools and
Weapons_ (London, 1917), p. 37 f.: “The European fish-hooks do not
appear before the _fonderia_ age: in Greece and Roman Italy hooks are
common.” G. Lafaye, in Daremberg and Saglio, _op. cit._, III. 8. _s.v._
“hamus,” gives figure 3696, a simple bronze hook, figure 3697, a small
double hook in the Museum at Naples, figure 3698, a quadruple hook
(four bronze barbs attached to the angles of a square plate of lead),
and figure 3699, a bronze _hamus catenatus_. H. B. Walters—_Catalogue
of the Bronzes, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan in British Museum_ (London,
1899), Nos. 38 and 39—describes, but does not figure, two hooks of
the Mycenæan period from Rhodes, 2 inches and 27/8 inches long, which
are dated about 1450 B.C. Petrie, _loc. cit._, states that the “usual
pattern of the Greek-Romans is, as figured in No. 100, while 101 and
102 are the limits of size.”

[570] _Op. cit._, Pl. 378.

[571] Bk. II. 556.

[572] Bk. III. 138-148.

[573] Ovid, _Hal._, 38 f.; cf. Oppian, III. 482 ff.

[574] Pliny, _N. H._, XXXII. 5; Ovid, _Hal._, 44 ff.; Plutarch, _De
Sol. Anim._, 25. This trick is also characteristic of the _Armado_ of
the Parana river, but its enormous strength enables it also either to
jerk the paddle of the fisher away, or to capsize the boat. Cf. S.
Wright, _The Romance of the World’s Fisheries_ (London, 1908), p. 208.

[575] Pliny, IX. 67, taken _totidem verbis_ from Aristotle, _N. H._,
II. 17, and IX. 51.

[576] The fisherman on the Mosaic from the Hall of the Mystæ in Melos
(R. C. Bosanquet, in the _Jour. of Hellenic Studies_ (1898), xviii. 60
ff., Pl. 1) appears to have been using a glass bottle half-filled with
wine as a lure. The inscription ΜΟΝΟΝ ΜΗ ΥΔΩΡ is generally taken to be
late Greek for “Everything here except water” (which will be supplied
by the next rainfall). But the words might be legitimately rendered:
“Only let no water be used”—a natural exclamation from the devotees of
the wine-god! Prof. Bosanquet, despite his fine sense of humour, has
missed the _double entendre_.

[577] For the poisoning of the Tunny, cf. Aristot., _N. H._, VIII.
Cakes made of cyclamen and clay were let down near the lurking places
of the fish, according to Oppian.

[578] With one method of fishing the ancients (in common with nearly
all the moderns) were unfamiliar. The _locus_ is off Catalina Island,
etc.: the _modus_ is by kites with line and bait attached, to which
last, moving over and on the surface of the water, the Tuna seems
irresistibly attracted. See _antea_, p. 41, note 3.

[579] Cf. Apostolides, _op. cit._, p. 31.

[580] Bk. IV. 308 ff. Cf. Ælian, I. 23.

[581] Cf. Oppian, IV. 375 ff. I. Walton, citing the _Sargus_ as an
example of “the lustful fish,” quotes Dubartas, “because none can
express it better than he does,” whose last two lines, as examples of
this perfect expression, I cannot resist,

    “Goes courting She-Goats on the grassie shore
     Horning their husbands, that had horns before.”

[582] But in confirmation of “this statement of Ælian,” Badham, had
he taken the trouble, could have found several others by that and
other authors. Thus Ælian, XVII. 18, of the Sea-roach. _Ibid._, VI.
31, of the Crab, which on hearing the flute and singing would not
only quit the sea, but follow the retreating singer to dry land, and
capture! Ælian, VI. 32, of the _Thrissa_ states that it was caught by
singing to it, and by the noise of shell clappers which induced the
fish to dance itself into the Nets and boats. Cf. also Athenæus, VII.
137, where the _Trichias_ is so delighted with singing and dancing,
that when it hears music it leaps out of the sea and is enticed on
land! Cf. also Herodotus, I. 141, for the story of Cyrus likening
the Ionians to dancing fish. Not only were there fish that delighted
in music and singing, like the dolphin (Pliny, IX. 8, musicæ arti,
mulcetur symphoniæ cantu, sed præcipue hydrauli sono), but according to
Philostephanus there were others, that themselves made music, like the
_Poeciliæ_, who “sang like thrushes” (cf. Pliny, XI. 112). Of singing
fish Pausanias, VIII. 21. 2, says, “among the fish in the Aroanius are
the so-called spotted fish: they say that they sing like a thrush. I
saw them after they were caught, but I did not hear them utter a sound,
though I tarried by the river till sunset, when they were said to sing

[583] The head of the ox was Thor’s bait when fishing for the monstrous
Midhgardh serpent. See D. P. Chantepie de la Saussaye, _The Religion
of the Teutons_ (Boston, 1902), p. 242. C. A. Parker, _The Ancient
Crosses of Gosforth, Cumberland_ (London, 1896), p. 74 ff., describes
and figures a relief representing Thor’s fishing. In this we see the
line (below the boat) with an ox’s head, surrounding which are several
enormous fishes.

[584] For ἔρμα, “support,” perhaps we should read ἔρυμα, “protection,”
_i.e._ against erosion.

[585] See _Forest and Stream_, Nov. 7, 1914.

[586] The shark finds great favour among the negroes; “you can swallow
him in de dark,” is a commendation based on the absence of small tricky
bones, such as the shad’s. But to the best black _gourmets_, the fish
only attains its highest perfection in soup, after being buried for
two weeks! The cook of the friend with whom I was staying in Jamaica
only consented to cutting up my shark, on condition that if a gold
watch was found in its belly, that was to be her perquisite—a condition
postulated, I eventually discovered, because on a similar occasion one
hundred years before, her grandmother _did_ discover a gold watch. Alas
for her! two ship-bolts of iron were her only treasure-trove.

[587] _N. H._, VI. 13.

[588] _De Anim._, VIII. 3, p. 262.

[589] Theodore Gill, “The Remarkable Story of a Greek Fish,”
_Washington Univ. Bull._, Jan. 1907, pp 5-15.

[590] _N. H._, VI. 13.

[591] XIV. 8.

[592] _Hal._, IV. 450 ff.

[593] “Bobbing for eels,” with a bunch of worms on worsted is of like
principle, but lacks the pneumatic touch. The eels seem to get their
teeth caught in the worsted, and are pulled out before they can let
go. See _antea_, p. 42, for the _garfish_ of the Solomon Islands being
caught from a kite by a _hookless_ spider’s web.

[594] _Equites_, 864 ff.

[595] Fishing by “stirring up the mud,” is known in India. The agents
employed for the trampling in the pools are elephants ranged in close
order: the beasts enter thoroughly into the sport. Cf. G. P. Sanderson,
_Thirteen Years among the Wild Beasts in India_.

[596] Herodotus, II. 72, who states that it was sacred to the Nile.

[597] Ælian, VIII. 4; Plutarch, _Mor._, 976A. See Chapter XVI. _ante_.

[598] Athenæus, VII. 50.

[599] Antiphan., _Lykon frag._ 1, 1 ff., _ap._ Athen., 755.

[600] Anaxandr., Πόλεις, _frag._ 1, 5 f.; _ap._ Athen., 7, 55.

[601] Contrast with the Greeks and Romans the abstention from the
_Murænidæ_ by the Egyptians, Jews, Mussulmans, and Highlanders; in
the case of the last, however, the abstention was due to no religious
injunction but to physical loathing.

Fuller on the derivation of the Isle of Ely is too quaint to omit:
“When the priests of this part of the country would still retain their
wives in spite of what Pope and monks could do to the contrary, their
wives and children were miraculously turned into eels, whence it had
the name of Ely. I consider it a lie.” That Ely is derived from the
abundance of Eels taken there has the ancient authority of _Liber
Eliensis_ (II. 53). J. B. Johnston, _The Place-Names of England and
Wales_ (London, 1915), p. 250, takes _Ely_ to mean the “eel-island.” He
adds, however, that Skeat regarded _Elge_, Bede’s spelling of the name,
as “eel-region,” the second element in the compound, _ge_, being a very
rare and early Old English word for “district” (cf. German, _Gau_).
Isaac Taylor, _Names and Histories_ (London, 1896), _s.v._ Ely, states
that rents were there paid in Eels.

[602] Care must be taken to distinguish between the Eel, ἔγχελυς,
of the Greeks, _Anguilla_ of the Romans, and the so-called Lamprey,
μύραινα, or _Muræna_. Although both belong to the large family of
_Murænidæ_, the _Muræna_ is usually a much smaller fish, seldom over
2½ feet long. In shape and general appearance it closely resembles the
Eel, but can be differentiated by its teeth and certain spots over the
body. It becomes very corpulent, so much so that in late life it is
unable to keep its back under water: it is easier to flay, and whiter
of flesh than its relative. Apart from its mating with the viper, and
its tendency (_teste_ Columella) to go mad, its chief characteristics
are greed and fierceness of attack. The second book of Oppian has two
really spirited pictures of its fight with, and conquest of, the Cuttle
fish, and of its rush at, but eventual defeat by, the Lobster. At
Athens the Eel, at Rome the Muræna, was the favourite.

[603] Menand., Μέθη, _frag._ I. 11 ff., _ap._ Athen., 8, 67.

[604] Archestratos, _ap._ Athen., 7, 53.

[605] Eubul., _Echo._, _frag._ 1, 1 f., _ap._ Athen. 7, 56.

[606] Aristoph., _Ach._, 883. See F. M. Blaydes’s note on 880 ff.

[607] Eubul., _Ion_, _frag._ 2, 3 f., _ap._ Athen., 7, 56.

[608] Aristoph., _Ach._, 894. _Pax_, 1014.

[609] Bk. 7, 53.

[610] Bk. VII. 53.

[611] Philetær., _Oinopion, frag._ 1, 4 _ap._ Athen., 7, 12.

[612] Badham, _op. cit._, 392.

[613] Athenæus, XII. 15 and 20. If the fish found favour helluously,
medically condemnation attended it. Hippocrates warns against its
use; Seneca, _Nat. Qu._, III. 19, 3, terms it “gravis cibus.” If to
the gastronomic virtues of the _Murænidæ_ both Greeks and Latins were
more than kind, to other characteristics they were far indeed from
blind—_e.g._ their slipperiness, etc., was proverbial. See Lucian,
_Anach._, I, and Plautus, _Pseud._, II. 4, 57. Further, did the fish
but hap in a dream, then good-bye to all hopes and desires, which
slipped away, as surely as Alice’s “slithy toves did gyre and gimble
in the wabe.” See Artemidorus, _Oneirocritica_, II. 14. The phallic
character of the fish prevalent in ancient times continues in modern
Italy, _e.g._ the proverbs (1) about holding an Eel by his tail, and
(2) that when it has taken the hook, it must go where it is drawn. De
Gubernatis, _op. cit._, II. 341.

[614] For the many classical theories on Eel procreation see Schneider,
_op. cit._, pp. 36 ff.

[615] Aristotle, _H. A._, IV. 11.

[616] Pliny, IX. 23 and 74, and X. 87. In IX. 38 he asserts that Eels
alone of all fish do not float when dead. Aristotle, who (_N. H._,
VIII. 2) is, as usual, his authority, confines himself to noting this
characteristic as not possessed “by the majority of fish,” and accounts
for it by the smallness of stomach, lack of water in it, and want of
fat; he states, however, that when fat they do float.

[617] Accuracy as to procreation was not Father Izaak’s strong point,
as his theory that pike were bred from pickerel weed shows. It was on
this point that Richard Franck, author of _Northern Memoirs_ (written
in 1658, but unpublished till 1694), with the invincible contempt of
the fly-fisher for the bait-fisher, so jumped on Walton, that “he
huffed away.” See Sir H. Maxwell, _op. cit._, IV. 123.

[618] Robinson, _op. cit._, 73. This seems a bit of bogus mythology.
Perhaps Natalis Comes may be responsible.

[619] It is curious to find that a similar belief was held in Sardinia:
according to Jacoby, the water beetle (_Dytiscus roeselii_) is there
believed to be the progenitor of the Eel, and is accordingly called the
“Mother of the Eels” (Turrell, _op. cit._, p. 37).

[620] _Migrations of Fishes_, London, 1916.

[621] J. Schmidt found the youngest known stages of _Leptocephalus_,
the larval stage of eels, to the west of the Azores, where the water is
over 2000 fathoms deep: they were one-third of an inch in length and so
were probably not long hatched.

[622] It is believed that no Eels return to the rivers, and that they
die not long after procreation. “They commence the long journey, which
ends in maturity, reproduction, and death.” _Presidential Address_,
British Association, Cardiff, 1920.

[623] There is in the Natural History Museum at South Kensington an
excellent collection of specimens, illustrative of the development of
the Eel.



I subjoin a list of the nine fish which found most favour in Greece and
Rome. This, although necessarily rough and tentative, can (I believe),
be justified by an examination of our authors.[624] To anyone who on
the strength of one author may be dissatisfied with the place allotted
to a particular fish, I would point out that since the oracles of taste
vary with the ages, it is essential to hold in mind the exact date at
which a passage was written.

Then, again, the Greek saw not eye to eye, or ate not tooth to tooth,
with the Roman. The verdict of the opsophagists or, as these often
differed, of the plain people of one century not infrequently reversed
that of the last.

As with us at the present day it is hardly feasible to adjudge
definitely to what fish belongs the primacy of palate, so was it with
the ancients. In the case of the Greeks the task is impossible. Every
one of our nine can boast at least half a dozen champions. Then, again,
as regards the epoch of individual supremacy we are without any guiding
statement, such as Pliny’s that in his time the _Scarus_ was reckoned
the king of fish.[625]


  Palæmon Mullus.... Torpedo ocellata Mugil.... Labrus....
  Octopus vulgaris Palinurus vulgaris.... Balanus ut videtur....
  Coris julis Scyllium canicula.... Chrysophrys Mullus
  Chrysophrys Scorpæna Scyllium Catulus ....Lolligo vulgaris
  Murex ....Serranus scriba Murena belena ....Engraulis encrasicholus
  Labrax lupus ....Tritonium ....Serranus


From O. Keller, _Die Antike Tierwelt_, Fig. 124.]

For these reasons, discount as we may the personal predilections of an
author like Ennius, of a _gourmet_ like Apicius, of a _bon vivant_ like
Vitellius, any list is perforce approximate, not absolute. It must be
governed by the dictum of the great Greek epicure, χαίρει γὰρ ὁ μὲν
τούτοις, ὁ δ’ ἐκείνοις.

But if our opsophagists disagreed as to which was _the_ best fish, they
were fairly unanimous as to which part of a fish was best. Setting
aside the peculiar partiality of the Greeks for the head of the Conger,
the part near the tail afforded the most savour, and found the most
favour with ancient (and modern) _gourmets_.

Three reasons for this preference have been suggested:

(A) That from Xenocrates. After laying down that fish roasted are more
nutritious than fish boiled, that sea fish are easy of digestion and
by their formation of blood impart a good colour to the skin, that
fish from lakes and rivers are generally bad for the stomach, form
thick juices, and are difficult of evacuation, this great physician
affirms emphatically that the part near the tail of _all_ kinds of fish
(Nonnius excepts the Tunny) are the most wholesome, on account of it
being most frequently exercised.[626]

(B) That from Pliny. Writing of the _Muræna_, he says that it is quite
clear that in its tail abides its _anima_ (‘life’ or ‘being’), because
a blow on that part swiftly kills it, while one on the head is more
tedious in effect.[627]

(C) That alleged in Scandinavia. To the Norseman the most delicate
part of the salmon was its tail. His choice, nowadays by no means
exceptional, was explained by a pretty piece of ætiological tradition.
Loki, fleeing from the pursuit of the gods whose anger he had provoked,
had the wit and the time to transform himself into a salmon. Then and
in this guise would he have surely escaped, had not Thor caught him by
the tail, “and this is the reason why salmon have had the tails so fine
and so thin ever since.”[628]

In my list, which excludes the _Echineis_, despite its being according
to Cassiodorus[629] “that honey of flesh, that dainty of the deep,” in
precedence comes 1 the _Mullus_, 2 the _Scarus_, 3 the _Acipenser_,
4 the _Rhombus_, 5 the _Lupus_, 6 the _Asellus_, 7 the Eel and the
_Muræna_, 8 the κάπρος, 9 the Sole.

1. _Mullus_ (_M. barbatus_), the “Red Mullet.” The passages already
quoted as regards the huge prices sometimes given for it establish
the extreme esteem with which this fish was regarded. But if need
be, witness after witness to credit can easily be called. Perhaps,
as regards the Latins, Nonnius will suffice: “Inter omnes pisces
prærogativa quadam omniumque consensu Mullus sibi imperium occupavit,
nec alius unquam majori in honore aut gratia apud Romanos fuit.”[630]

Among the Greeks, if, as seems acknowledged, the τρίγλη corresponds to
the Mullet, its place must be accounted high from the number of its
devotees. Matron[631] goes into raptures even over its mere head when
steeped in brine, irrespective of whether it came from an autumn (as
recommended by Aristotle) or a spring fish (the choice of Xenocrates).

The acme of epicurean hospitality was reached with serving the Mullet,
not dead swimming in sauce, but alive swimming in a globe of glass,
to be handed round among the guests. All eyes gloated as its gay hues
gradually grew dimmer, till at last with death they faded into one dull

Seneca lashes with his bitterest irony the custom, and the company.
They are no longer content to satisfy their teeth and their stomach—no,
they must also gratify their eyes. “No one now sits with a dying
friend. None can bring himself to witness the death, however much
desired! of his father. The last hours of brother or kinsman find no
soul with him. To the death of the Mullet have they all flocked with
one accord.”[632]

2. For the _Scarus_ (_S. cretensis_), the “Parrot Wrasse,” see Chapter

3. The _Acipenser_, a Latin name, adopted by some Greek writers,
which is often, if not convincingly, identified with the _Sturio_, the
“Sturgeon,” and by Archestratus[633] is affirmed but wrongly, to be the
γαλεός, enjoyed a long and glorious reign of supremacy from the early
times of the Republic down to Vespasian. For it alone, with perhaps one
exception, was reserved the high honour of being served at a banquet to
the music of flutes and pipes, crowned itself, borne by slaves likewise

Its praise and its price (Varro styles it _multinummus_) seem alike
exorbitant. We find the name of Gallonius the glutton-auctioneer, the
first to bring the fish into fashion, occurring again and again.[635]
On Ovid’s (_Hal._ 134) “Tuque peregrinis acipenser nobilissimus” may be
piled passage upon passage. Plautus in a fragment of his _Bacaria_[636]

    “Quis est mortalis tanta fortuna affectus umquam
     Qua ego nunc sum? quoius hæc ventri portatur pompa:
     Vel nunc qui mihi in mari acipenser latuit antehac,
     Quoius ego latus in latebras reddam meis dentibus et manibus.”

Cicero—no fish story-teller he—makes at least four references to it. In
_De Fato, frag. 5_, he sets forth the tale of the Acipenser (‘piscis
... in primis nobilis’) presented to Scipio, to whom, as he persisted
in inviting all and every one who saluted him, Pontius anxiously
whispered, “Do you know what you are about? Lo! this is a fish fit only
for a few choice palates!”

As to its decline from its high estate, Pliny’s definite assertion (IX.
27), “Apud antiquos piscium nobilissimus habitus acipenser ... nullo
nunc in honore est,” finds corroboration by Martial, XIII. 91:

    “Ad Palatinas acipensem mittite mensas;
     Ambrosias ornent munera rara dapes.”[637]

The _Elops_ or _Helops_ has been deemed to be the _Acipenser_,[638]
but this conflicts with Ovid (_Hal._, 96)—“Et pretiosus elops _nostris
incognitus undis_”—with Columella (VIII. 16), and with Pliny (XXXII.

Whatever the _Elops_, Varro and Epicharmus testify to its extortionate
price, while Pliny lets us know that by many of the _cognoscenti_ its
flavour was deemed to be the very best of all.

The capture of this rare and elusive fish—its usual habitat was off
Pamphylia—became the occasion of great rejoicing; the crew of the
successful boat were crowned with wreaths, and welcomed by the music of
the flute-players.[639] It is noteworthy that the _Acipenser_ does not
occur in the pages either of Varro or of Columella, while the _Elops_

4. The _Rhombus_, whether it were _R. maximus_, the “Turbot,” or _R.
lævis_, the “Brill,” has been long in dispute.

Juvenal describes his celebrated _Rhombus_ with “erectas in terga
sudes” (IV. 128); “erectas” may be conceded to the licence of a poet
as regards the back fin of a Turbot, but not of a Brill, which is
yielding and rather wavy. Then, again, Diphilus declares that its
flesh is soft, Xenocrates that it is firm, and improves with keeping.
Now the flesh of the Brill is soft: that of the Turbot much firmer.
_Rhombus_ (unmentioned by Aristotle) probably stood for both Turbot and
Brill, as well as for the ψῆττα, “which is called by the Romans the

The fish, which derives its name from its supposed likeness to the
geometrical figure, was in poetry but not in popularity[641] more
celebrated than that other famous flat fish, the Sole. As a dainty
the Sturgeon was in vogue long before the _Rhombus_, perhaps because,
as Horace (_Sat._, II. 2. 49) suggests, it was introduced by a man of

    “ ... Quid? tunc rhombos minus æquora alebant?
     Tutus erat rhombus, tutoque ciconia nido,
     Donec vos auctor docuit prætorius.”

It ran often to immense size. Martial’s fish (XIII. 81), although
“latior patella,” can hold no candle to the one presented to

That Emperor, though deeming himself and insisting on his subjects
acclaiming him, of godlike attributes, was not equal to solving the
knotty question of how to cook and to serve his fish _whole_, “Derat
pisci patinæ mensura”—if its proportions were in the same street with a
_Rhombus_ vouched for by Rondolet, _viz._ three metres long, two broad,
and one thick, the fact excites no wonder—so he straightway summoned a
special meeting of the Senate.[643]

Discover, Montanus advises, a new Prometheus capable of modelling the
amplest trencher instantly, but, since to a god like Domitian (he
flatteringly adds), offerings of huge fish will frequently be made—

    “But, Cæsar, thus forewarned make no campaign,
     Unless some potters follow in your train.”

5. The _Lupus_[644]—_Labrax lupus_—“common Bass” at Athens enjoyed the
choicest preference. Aristophanes absolutely refused to be disturbed
while feasting on a Milesian _Labrax_. Archestratus eulogises it as
“god-begotten” (θεόπαιδα). During the early Roman Republic it indeed
ranked (with the _Asellus_) only second to the _Acipenser_.[645]

The fish throve best and grew fattest in sewage; hence those “from
between the two bridges” of the Tiber were famed far and near; see
Horace, _Sat._, II. 2, 31; Macrobius, _Sat._, II. 12; and Juvenal,
V. 103-8. The latter’s “et solitus mediæ cryptam penetrare Suburæ”
was rendered quite clear only in 1743, when the remains of the Cloaca
leading from the low-lying ground to the Tiber were excavated. From
this greedy scavenging he is christened by Lucilius (_Sat. 4, frag_.,
127, Baehrens) “the platter-licker” (catillo)—

    “Hunc pontes Tiberinus duo inter captus catillo.”[646]

The Doctors once more are at variance. The Court, unanimous that (in
Walton’s phrase) “its savour was excellent,” only by a majority (Galen
and Celsus J.J.) upheld its nutritive powers, Hicesius J. dissenting.
Rondolet against the volume of authority affirms that the _Lupus_ of
the sea is of better quality than that of the river. Pliny[647] dubs
the _Lupus_ “lanatus”—not from his woolly appearance, or woolly taste,
but from the whiteness of his flesh—_laudatissimus_. But by the time of
Domitian it has fallen from its proudest place.

Its Aristophanic title of “the wisest of fish” was earned by its
cunning in escape from net or hook; its method in the case of the
former is vouched for by Cassiodorus,[648] and of the latter by

      “quassatque caput, dum vulnere sævus
    Laxato cadat hamus et ora patentia linquat.”

Pliny, commenting on the marvellous friendships and hatreds which exist
among fish, instances the astounding combination of both in the _lupus_
and the _mugil_ (grey mullet), “who burn with mutual hate for some,
yet live in concord for other, months of the year”—despite the cheery
custom, hereditary in the _lupus_, of nibbling off the tail of the
_mugil_; all, however, live, “quibus caudae sic amputentur.”[650]

6. The _Asellus_ has been identified as the _Gadus merlangus_, the
“Cod;” and as the _Merluccius vulgaris_, the “Hake,” by Scaliger and
Rondolet, and by Hardouin with some doubt.

It cannot be the Cod (although Dorion speaks[651] of “the ὄνος which
some call the γάδος”), because hardly any of the _Gadidæ_, except the
Hake, frequent the Mediterranean on account of the temperature of the
water. Nor can the _Asellus_ be the Hake, because, while the latter is
taken _all the year round_, Pliny[652] and Ælian[653] distinctly state
that the _Asellus_ hides in the heat of summer.

This assertion, if the ὄνος be the same as the _Asellus_, tallies with,
probably indeed derives from, Aristotle’s remark that it is the only
fish that hides itself in a hole in the ground in the hot weather,
when the Dog-star rages.[654] The fish, Varro informs us, is called
_Asellus_ from the ashen colour of its scales, resembling that of the
coat of an ass.[655]

If there be doubt as to its classification scientifically, there is
none gastronomically. Laberius and Cornelius Nepos ranked it only
second to the _Acipenser_. Ovid (_Hal._ 131) enters a demurrer against
the name given in:

    “Et tam deformi non dignus nomine asellus.”

Galen warmly commends the fish for its quality of flesh, and great
nutritive power; in these respects, indeed, he places the Mullet, the
_Lupus_, and Sole far below. Xenocrates, whose dictum usually differs
from his successor, depreciates it, as does “nobilis ille helluo”
Archestratus, whose palate pronounced the flesh “spongy.”

A sovereign remedy for fever and ague are “the small stones found in
the head of the Asellus, when the moon is full, and attached in linen
to the patient’s body!”[656]

7. The _Muræna_—_M. serpens_ or _helena_—(frequently but quite
erroneously called the “Lamprey”), with whose taming, teaching, and
fighting I have dealt, was on the _menu_ a most welcome and eagerly
anticipated item.[657]

Of the _Murænidæ_, at Athens the Eel, at Rome the _Muræna_ was, as
the last chapter shows, the greater favourite. Archestratus, it is
true, commands men of taste to buy at all hazards the _Muræna_ of “the
Straights”[658]; but the Latin authors sing its praise frequently and

The comparative want of appreciation of the Eel at Rome may have been
merely masculine, and evolved from the Latin boy (_prætextatus_)
regarding “this cousin of the snake” not as a dainty for his palate,
but as a scourge for his body! Early association counts for much in
later life: so his back’s memory of a flogging with a whip made of
eel-skins, twisted tightly together, may have caused the male adult
to approach delicately, or not at all, the fish with his freeborn

At the _tripatinium_, which marked the height of delight at a
supper,[660] the _Muræna_ gave the choicest morsel. Horace, Martial,
and others not only sing its fame, but give its proper dressing. To
Martial’s taste that from Sicily ranked first, but Varro—was it because
these, as Suidas asserts, were the largest?—votes for the Spanish fish.

While Apicius (X. 8) hands down various recipes for the proper frying
and boiling of the other parts, he distinctly discards, on account
of its reputed poisonous properties, the head of the _Muræna_. But
among the Greeks direction follows direction for cooking the Conger’s
“exquisite head.” Philemon rhapsodises over—

                                “noble conger
    From Sicyon’s bay, the conger which the God
    Of the deep sea doth bear aloft to Heaven
    Fit banquet for his brethren.”[661]

8. The κάπρος—by some identified with the _Aper_, by some translated
the “Sea-Hog.” Neither scientifically, nor in my list can I place this
fish; it was apparently unknown to the Romans.

Of the fish as _Caper_, except in Ennius,[662] “Caproque apud
Ambracienses,” and Pliny, XI. 112, “et is qui caper vocatur,” Latin
literature is silent. Nor do these two quotations aid, because the
first occurs in the poet’s imitation or translation of Archestratus
(Apul., _Apol._, p. 384), while Pliny simply transliterates Aristotle’s

Of its right to be near the top of the list, the words of Nonnius bear
high proof: “Among the fishes which the Greeks sought with mad desire,
and at any cost to procure, was first and foremost the κάπρος, which,
though called _Aper_, was unknown to the Romans.”

Archestratus[664] outdoes even himself in his eulogy of this fish, for
he straightly enjoins any one lucky enough to be in Ambracia,

    “Buy it at once, and let it not escape you,
     Not if you buy it at its weight in gold;
     Else will the indignation of the gods
     O’erpower you: for ’tis the Flower of Nectar.”

The immediate sequel to these lines is of interest. The poet,
transported from earth to heaven at the thought of his favourite
dainty, describes it in wording which recalls the most solemn rites of
Hellenic religion. There were certain foods reserved for communicants.
There were mysteries which none but advanced initiates might witness.
There were objects of peculiar sanctity borne by virginal ministrants.
There were divinatory pebbles shaken in the glittering caldron of
Apollo. These sacred associations are all suggested by the language of
our enthusiast:

    “It is not meet for every man to taste,
     Nor see it with his eyes. Nay, he must hold
     The hollow woven-work of marsh-grown wicker
     And rattle pebbles in his glittering count.”

But the words, though reminiscent of actual cult, have a double
_entendre_ and are meant to bear a more mundane meaning. In plain
prose, then, “it needs a wealthy man with capacious cash-box (literally
a basket, _fiscus_) and a rattling big bank-account (pebbles to reckon
L. S. D.) to afford such a luxury as this!”

Not far behind it among Greek epicures came the _Glaucus_, possibly the
sea-grayling, of whose “most precious head” Anaxandrides is enamoured,
and Antiphanes and Julius Pollux write with appreciative gusto. But are
not all things about the _Glaucus_ written in the seventh book of the
_Deipnosophistæ_, chapters 45, 46, and 47?

9. The _Buglossus_, or _Lingulaca_ (_Solea vulgaris_, the “Sole”[665]),
alike at Rome and at Athens the most prized, if not the most lauded in
verse, of the Flatfish, held rank as high as any, actually far higher
than its so-called cousin, the _Passer_.

Although Xenocrates and Galen differ as to the firmness or reverse of
its flesh—I wonder whether the latter got hold of a Lemon Sole!—the
ancient agrees with the modern faculty in accounting it “very
nourishing, and of most pleasant flavour.”[666] It then as now was
almost always the first fish ordered, “as soon as men be sick or ill at
ease“ in Plutarch’s time and words.

From likeness to a tongue sprang its first Greek and Latin names; from
likeness to a sandal its second, σανδάλιον and solea. Thus we find
Matron[667] establishing, or merely perpetuating, the pretty myth
that these fish, possibly from some adhesive power—and is it heresy
to suggest their breadth?—served the Goddesses of Ocean as sandals or

    Σάνδαλα δ’ αὖ παρέθηκεν ἀειγενῆ ἀθανατάων
    Βούγλωσσον, ὂς ἔναιεν ἐν ἅλμη μορμυρούση.

As Yonge renders them—

    “And next (the goddesses such sandals wear)
     Of mighty soles, a firm and well-matched pair,”

the verses have the double demerit of being uncomplimentary to
Aphrodite _et Cie_, and of reading into Matron an allusion unwarranted
by his lines.[668]

A not dissimilar use of the Sole is instanced in Polynesian theology.
Ina the daughter of Vaitooringa attempted flight to the sacred island.
Fish after fish essayed to bear her thither, but unequal to the burden
dropped her in the shallow water. At last she besought the Sole, who
managed to carry her as far as the breakers. Here, again unshipped,
she lost her divine temper, and stamped with such fierceness on the
head of the unfortunate helper of distressful maids that its under eye
was squeezed right through to the upper side. “Hence the Sole is now
obliged to swim flat on one side of its face, having no eye.”[669]

Plautus puns or makes play on _Solea_, which means, first, a shoe or
sandal (as does σανδάλιον), and, second, the fish, and _sculponeæ_,
a kind of wooden shoe (which Cato[670] remembers being worn only by
country folk) often employed for striking a person.[671]

Then comes the other play on _Lingulaca_, which in its first sense
equals a chatterbox, and in its second the fish.

    _Lysidamus_: Soleas. _Chalinus_: Qui, quæso, potius quam
                      Quibus battuatur tibi os, senex nequissime?

    _Olympio_: Vin’ lingulacas? _Lysidamus_: Quid opust, quando uxor
               domi est?
                    Ea lingulaca est nobis, nam numquam tacet.[672]

To render the double punning of these lines has been a task too hard
even for the excellent Loeb Library. But Badham, perhaps _poeta
nascitur_, but here _non fit_, comes to the fore:

    “Fresh tongues for sale, who’ll buy, who’ll buy?
     Come, Sir, will you? No, friend, not I;
     Of tongue enow at home I’ve got
     In my old wife, Dame Polyglot.”

The _Cestreus_, or _Mugil_. My inclination to include this fish among
“The Nine Fish most highly prized” was checked in part by Faber’s
placing it only in Class II., and in part by the possible reproach,
seeing that the glories of its cousin the Mullus had been fully
recounted, of “too much one family.” But as the fish possesses traits
very individual, if not always engaging, and as Athenæus devotes to its
gastronomic and other properties no less than four chapters,[673] I
cannot pass by it without some comment.

Its edible qualities vary with the place of its capture. While the
_Mugil_ of Abdera, Sinope, and other clear-watered places achieved
high praise, its more frequent but muddy-tasting brother of the
lagoons formed the staple of one kind of τάριχος. Their predilection
for lagoons and brackish water—evidenced by writers as far apart as
Aristotle and Apostolides (1900 A.D.)—came about possibly from the fish
“breeding best where rivers run into the sea,” or can be accounted for
by the belief that “Some of the grey mullet species are not produced by
copulation, but grow spontaneously from mud and sand.”[674]

Apart from characteristics already mentioned, _e.g._ its greed and
guile, its hereditary feud with the _Lupus_, its being “the swiftest
of fishes” (which attribute, nevertheless, saved it not from being the
prey of the slowest, if not the shrewdest of fishes, the _Pastinaca_ or
sting-ray,[675]) we find various points of interest noted by ancient

(A) “Whilst rain is wholesome for most fishes, it is, on the contrary,
unwholesome for the _Cestreus_, for rain and snow superinduce

(B) The passionate desire of the _Cestreus_, when about to spawn,
“renders it so unguarded” that, if a male or female be caught, fastened
to a line, allowed to swim to sea, and then gently drawn back to
land, shoals of the opposite sex will follow the captive close up to
the shore and fill the awaiting nets.[677] This method of fishing,
which prevails at Elis at the present day, is but one, as Apostolides
indicates, of the many survivals in modern Greece of the ancient

(C) The _Mugil_, together with three others, possesses by far the best
sense of hearing, “and so it is that they frequent shallow water.”[679]

(D) The _Mugil_, anticipating the ostrich, hid its head when
frightened and fancied that the whole of its body was concealed.
Unlike the ostrich, however, it has long got cured of its “ridiculous
character”[680], for, as Cuvier remarks, this trait in modern times has
not been observed.

(E) The _Mugil_, although vouched for as the greediest and most
insatiable of feeders, attained paradoxically the sobriquet of Νῆστις,
or _the Faster_.

The epithet probably gained currency from the stomach of the fish (like
that of most salmon caught in fresh water) rarely being found to
contain food. This perhaps may be accounted for by the great length
of its gut, throughout which the filmy garbage and vegetable matter
forming its chief diet are inconspicuously disposed. “The Cestreus is
fasting” even became a proverb and was applied to men who lived with
strict regard to justice, because—as Athenæus explains—the fish is
never carnivorous.[681]

(F) The use in cases of adultery of the _Cestreus_ in Greece and the
_Mugil_ at Rome, if not singular among fish, is striking; for it
survived into the civilised age of Catullus (“percurrent raphanique
mugilesque,”)[682] and of Juvenal (“Quosdam mœchos et mugilis
intrat,”)[683]. Indeed, traces of the same barbaric custom still exist
among certain tribes on the West Coast of Africa.

Gifford writes: “the being clystered (as Holyday expresses it) by a
Mugil was allowed by no written law, but it seems to have been an
old and approved method of gratifying private vengeance. Isidorus
thinks that the fish was selected for this purpose on account of its
anti-venereal properties, but he confounds the _Mugilis_ with the

From _The Fisheries of the Adriatic_, a most elaborate Report by Faber
on the kinds and market values of the fishes of that sea, I give the
class allotted to the fish of my list. It must once more be impressed
on the reader that these eight fish (for of course Faber does not deal
with the kάpros), were the most renowned in Greece and Rome. Of these,
five only—the Mullet, _Acipenser_, _Rhombus_, _Lupus_, and Sole—are in
Class I.; the _Asellus_ and _Muræna_ in II.; the _Scarus_, and it could
not be lower, in III.[685]

The classification disappoints and depresses, especially in the case of
the vaunted and lovable _Scarus_. It tempts, however, to an insoluble
sum in proportion. If about these and other less esteemed fish the
books extant and known to have been lost are almost as countless
as the smile of Ocean, how many volumes would an Englishman or an
American—given the same fish-mania and the same literary facility as
the Greeks—require to do justice to his wealth of first-class edible
fish? Verily the Library of Alexandria, with its room for 400,000
volumes, would scarce suffice.


[624] Any apparent resemblance in this list, or in this book, to
Badham’s book is easily accounted for by the fact that both derive
much from the same source, he without any, I with due acknowledgment
to the little known volume by Nonnius (Antwerp, 1616), which itself
draws largely from Athenæus, Xenocrates, etc. The sequence of
sentences, turns of expression, choice of epithets in Badham sometimes
so strongly suggest Nonnius, that it is a case of yet another miracle
of unconscious absorption—from a rare book written in Latin 238 years
previously!—or of—well, Ælianism. I hesitated for a long time from
even hinting such unacknowledged extraction by an author to whom two
generations have owed much pleasure and more knowledge. Were it not for
the inadequacy of his references and for his bursting, Wegg-like, into
poetry, which doubles the length and sometimes obscures the sense of
the original Greek or Latin, Badham would be delightful reading.

[625] Bk. IX. 29.

[626] Cf. Blakey, _op. cit._, p. 73.

[627] _N. H._, XXXII. 5.

[628] In Krause, _op. cit._, 237, Loki, originally god of Fire, changes
into a salmon from his predilection for the red colour of the fish! The
Icelandic Eddas attribute the invention of the Net to Loki.

[629] _Var. epist._, III. 48.

[630] _Op. cit._, p. 93.

[631] Matron, Ἀττικὸν δεῖπνον, 27 ff.; _ap._ Athen. IV. 13.

[632] Cf. Seneca, _Nat. Quæst._, III. 18. Also Pliny, _N. H._, IX. 30.

[633] Archestrat., _ap._ Athen., VII. 44.

[634] Cf. Macrobius, _Sat._, II. 12, and Athenæus, VII. 44.

[635] Horace, _Sat_., II. 2, 46.

[636] Macrobius, _Sat._, III. 16, 1.

[637] Pliny claims for the Acipenser that he “unus omnium squamis ad os
versis contra aquam nando meat.” The reading of the last four words is
however much disputed. C. Mayhoff prints _contra quam in nando meant_.
Plutarch, _De Sol. Anim._, 28, of the _Elops_, “it always swims with
the wind and tide, not minding the erection or opening of the scales,
which do not lie towards the tail, as in other fish.”

[638] Athen., VII. 44; and Pliny, IX. 27.

[639] Ælian, VIII. 28.

[640] Cf. Athenæus, VII. 139.

[641] Cf., however, Alciphron, I. 7, where among presents from
fishermen, it takes premier place.

[642] Juv., IV. 37 ff.

[643] With this meeting compare that summoned post-haste by Nero in the
Revolution (which led to his death), when to anxious and breathless
senators he imparted the important news that he had just effected an
improvement of the hydraulic organ, by which the notes were made to
sound louder and sweeter. His ἐξεύρηκα conflicts somewhat with the
account in Suetonius (_Nero_, 41). The Emperor evidently had a bent
and a liking for mechanical invention, for according to C. M. Cobern,
_New Archæological Discoveries_, etc., 1917, in one of his palaces were
elevators which ran from the ground to the top floor, and a circular
dining-room which revolved with the sun.

[644] The part played by fish in recovering episcopal keys and rings
has been dwelt on elsewhere. Sad it is that in the case of St. Lupus
the _rôle_ is performed not by his namesake fish, but by a barbel, in
whose belly was found, just previous to the return of the bishop to
his See of Sens the self-same ring which on being exiled by Clothaire
II. he had cast into the moat. Let us, disregarding all geographical
habitats, trust that Barbel was here an ichthyic inexactitude for
_Lupus_. Cf. S. Baring Gould, _The Lives of the Saints_, Vol. X. 7,
Edinburgh, 1914.

[645] Pliny, IX. 28.

[646] Cf. Macrobius, Sat., II. 12: “Lucilius ... eum ... quasi
ligurritorem catillonem appellat, scilicet qui proxime ripas stercus
insectaretur.” _À propos_ of ‘Catillo,’ there is a quaint remark in
the _Gloss. Salom._, “Nomen piscis a catino dictus ob cuius suavitatem
homines catinum corrodunt”—the fish was so delicious it made one fairly
bite the dish!

[647] IX. 28.

[648] _Epist._, XI. 40.

[649] _Hal._, 41 f.

[650] _N. H._, IX., 88; Arist., _H. A._, IX. 3.

[651] Dorion, _ap._ Athen., VII. 99. Dorion was the author of a
treatise much used by Athenæus.

[652] IX. 25; _N. H._, IX. 36.

[653] IX. 25; _N. H._, IX. 36.

[654] Athen., VII. 99. Cf. Oppian, I. 151.

[655] _De Ling. Lat._, 5.

[656] Pliny, XXXII. 38.

[657] The Lamprey, Pride, and _Muræna_ are different fish. They are all
engraved in Nash’s book, who lays down that the _Muræna_ is not the
lamprey—as indeed a representation (from Herculaneum) of the former
done with great exactness serves to establish. See T. D. Fosbroke,
_Encyl. of Antiq._ (London, 1843), p. 1033, and p. 402, figure 3.

[658] _Ap._ Athen., VII. 91.

[659] The _toga prætexta_ was worn by the higher magistrates, certain
priests, and free-born children. Isidorus, in _Gloss._, “Anguilla est
qua coercentur in scholis pueri,” and Pliny, _N. H._, IX., 39, “eoque
verberari solitos tradit Verrius prætextatos.” Under the old law
_prætextati_ were unamerceable; _non in ære, sed in cute solvebant_!
Our Saxon forbears adopted the whip of eels; see Fosbroke, _op. cit._,
p. 303. Rabelais (II. 30) continues the tradition—“Whereupon his master
gave him such a sound thrashing with an _eel-skin_, that his own would
have been worth nought for bagpipes.”

[660] Pliny, _N. H._ 35; 46; quoting from Fenestella.

[661] Philemon, _ap._ Athen., 7. 32.

[662] _Hedyphagetica._ The reading is most uncertain.

[663] In _N. H._, II. 13, and IV. 9. This cannot be our boar-fish which
is marine, whereas Aristotle talks of it being in the river Acheloüs.
It may possibly be another name for the Glanis.

[664] In Athen., 7, 72.

[665] See Stephanus, _Thesaurus Græcæ Linguæ_, ii. 347 C-D.

[666] Badham (plagiarising Blaikie), on p. 364—in “Galen, Xenocrates,
Diphilus speak disparagingly of the Sole,” is inaccurate. Xenocrates
terms its flesh indigestible. Galen states that it is quite the
reverse, and commends it highly as a diet. Diphilus does not hesitate
to declare that the Sole affords abundant nourishment and is most
pleasing to the taste. Cf. Nonnius, p. 89. In the case of a Sole with
its customarily modest dimensions it is not easy to hearken unto the
command, which was laid down in the twelfth century for the benefit of
Robert, the so-called King of England, “Anglorum Regi scripsit schola
tota Salerni,” by “the Schoole of Salernes most learned and juditious
Directorie, of Methodicall Instructions for the guide and governing the
health of Man”:

    “Si pisces molles sunt, magno corpore tolles.
     Si pisces duri, parvi sunt plus valituri.”

Cf. _Regimen Sanitatis Salerni_, London, 1617, but better still Sir A.
Croke’s ed., Oxford, 1830.

[667] In Athen., 4, 13, line 76 ff.

[668] It is noteworthy that two of the Nymphs on the “Nereid Monument”
are supported by fish (A. H. Smith, _A Catalogue of Sculpture in the
British Museum_ (London, 1900), ii. 35, Nos. 910, 911).

[669] Cf. Robinson, _op. cit._, 82.

[670] _De Re Rust._, 59.

[671] Terence, _Eun._, V. 7, 4.

[672] Plautus, _Casin._ II. 8, 59 ff.

[673] Deipn., VII. 77-80; cf. Pausanias, IV. 34.

[674] Arist., _N. H._, V. 10 and 11.

[675] Pliny, IX. 67.

[676] Arist., _N. H._, VIII., 19.

[677] Oppian, _Hal._, IV. 120-145; Arist., _op. cit._, V. 5.

[678] _Op. cit._, p. 45.

[679] Pliny, X. 89, and Ælian, IX. 7.

[680] Pliny, IX. 26.

[681] Aristophanes, and half a dozen other comedians cited by Athen.,
VII. 78.

[682] XV. 19.

[683] _Sat._, X. 317.

[684] Further details must be sought in Robinson Ellis, _A Commentary
on Catullus_ (Oxford, 1876), p. 46, and Schneider, _op. cit._, 69.

[685] Although these five must be reckoned in the first class
everywhere, none of the five or other Mediterranean fishes can compare
in taste with their northern representatives.



Although the salutary warning—_Terminat hora diem: terminet auctor
opus_—forbids us prolonging the Greek-Roman section, already
disproportionate in space, yet the part played by fish (A) in myths,
(B) in symbols or emblems, Pagan or Christian, (C) in medicine, and (D)
in diet necessarily demands some notice.

And as our authorities are, in the main, writers in Greek and Latin,
this section seems the appropriate place for what must, although the
literature on the subject is superabundant, be summary and restricted

By the Solar Mythologists, the fish (no creature, however small,
escapes the mesh of their net) has been made to take a prominent
_rôle_. The fair-haired and silvery moon in the ocean of light is
simply the little gold-fish; the little silver-fish which announces
the rainy season is merely the deluge. The gold-fish and the luminous
pike, like the moon, seem to expand and contract, and in this form,
as expanding or contracting, the god Vishnu or Hari (perhaps meaning
“fair-haired” or “golden”) refers now to the sun, now to the moon,
Vishnu being held to have taken the form of the gold-fish.

“The epic exploits of fishes,” to borrow de Gubernatis’s term, would
include the myths of Adrikâ, the fish nymph who became the mother of
Matsyas, the king of fishes; of the Puranic fishes, symbolical and
natural; of the fishes of the Eddas, with the scaly transformations of
Loki, and hundreds of similar legends.[686]

The vagaries of Solar Mythology can be safely neglected. But the story,
derived perhaps from Semitic sources, of fish incarnation and of the
adventures of Manu, is deserving of fuller consideration.

According to one variant of the legend, Vishnu, in the form of a small
fish, approached Manu to beg protection against the larger fish;
whereupon he was placed securely in a water-jar, but in a single night
outgrew the jar. Manu then tried a pond, and next the Ganges, but
similar increases in size compelled him to remove the fish to the sea.
Upon this the god made himself known, warned the sage of the coming of
the Flood within seven days, and bade him build a ship and furnish it
more or less on the lines of the Jewish Ark, only among the passengers
were to be seven Sages!

In accordance with his promise, Vishnu, still in fish shape, reappeared
on the subsidence of the waters, and with a rope attached to his horn
towed the Ark to the Northern Mountain, where it grounded.[687]

Instances of impiscation (so to speak) appear not infrequently in my
pages. Oannes, with head and tail of fish, but also with human face and
feet; Dagon, “Sea-monster, upward man and downward fish”; Atargatis, or
Derceto, “with face of woman but body of fish”; Venus, turning herself
and Cupid—and also, as one account adds, her lover Mars—into fishes to
escape the pursuit of the Giants;—all these can be grouped with other

These tell us that Asia was saved by a fish and is supported by a
tortoise, that Polynesia was brought up, itself a fish, on a fish-hook
out of the primæval ocean, or that America was rescued from the depths
of diluvian chaos by a turtle. Well may Robinson conclude, “Since
in the beginning there were only Light and Water, the eldest of the
Zoological Myths is the Fish Myth.”[688]

According to de Gubernatis,[689] “the ancient systems of mythology have
not ceased to exist: they have been merely diffused and transformed.
The _nomen_ is changed; the _numen_ remains. Although from loss of
celestial reference and significance its splendour is minished, its
vitality is enormous.” We find, however, that the mythic motives or
original principles common to India and Hellas (as well as Scandinavia,
etc.) are most conspicuous among the Greeks. India, indeed, seems
absolutely wanting in some which in Europe manifest extraordinary
vitality and expansion.

But in any comparative enumeration, strict regard must be paid to the
fact that the fauna of a myth commonly varies with its geography; as an
instance of this, the epos, which in Europe recounts the cunning of the
fox, in India dilates on the craft of the serpent.

The fish myth proved no exception. It passed from nation to nation
gradually down the ages, till we find the Greeks, borrowers sometimes
unconsciously, sometimes of set purpose, perpetuating it widely in
connection with deities and sub-deities.

Thus came it about that to several of the greater gods of the Greek,
and afterwards of the Roman, Pantheon appertained a particular fish (or
fishes). These not only enjoyed their gods’ protection, but also the
double distinction of being at once an attribute represented with them
and a sacrifice offered to them.

The association of certain gods with certain fishes is not always
obvious. While the linking of Amphitrite with the Dolphin, or of
Poseidon with the Tunny is easily explained by legends of hoary
tradition, it needs all the ingenuity of Eustathius to decipher the
connection between Artemis and the _Mainé_.[690]

In time, as their coins indicate, fish became associated with various
coast towns, which owed their prosperity to fishing. Good examples
descend from Olbia, Carteia, and Cyzicus on the Propontis. The early
electrum coinage of the last shows the badge of this or that magistrate
invariably accompanied by a Tunny, the badge of the state.[691] Very
remarkable[692] is an electrum _stater_ with a Tunny upright between
two sacrificial fillets, which may signify that this tunny was closely
connected with some deity or was itself of a sacro-sanct character.

Even more remarkable is a coin of Abdera in Hispania Bætica. This
carries on its obverse a laureat head of Tiberius: on its reverse a
four-pillared temple, two of the columns of which are in the form of
fish. This unique representation has never been fully explained.[693]

It is surely a happy coincidence that on some mintages of Imperial date
the fish occurs together with the head of some self-styled deities,
such as that choice couple, Nero and Domitian. On sundry pieces struck
by Nero, the octopus-like and predatory Sepia not inappropriately finds
place; but monstrously incongruous seem the coins which associate
the man-serving and man-saving Dolphin with the self-serving and
man-slaying Domitian.[694]


From A. Heiss, Pl. 45, 9.]

With the Jews, although its emblematic employment was scanty, the fish
occasionally figured, _e.g._ as a sign of Judah. In the Talmud it
appears more frequently, and as symbolic of some moral quality—_e.g._
of innocence.[695] In Japan the carp has been for centuries the emblem
of the Samurai, because of its accredited power to withstand opposition
and to swim against the current of the stream.

On the advent of Christianity, numerous become the allusions in
Patristic and other literature. From the repetition by Father after
Father of _Aquæ vivæ piscis Christus_, of _piscatio duplex, Ecclesia
præsens et futura_, and of similar sentences, the application
approaches perilously near the commonplace.

Nor was its scope morally limited. St. Augustine, St. Cyprian, and
others allegorise fish and fishing in both good and bad senses.

Thus, _piscis pia fides quæ vivit inter fluctus nec frangitur_; _piscis
fides invisibilium_; _rete Christus_; _sagæna Ecclesia_; _Christus est
piscis assus discipulis, serpens Judæis_, can be matched by _pisces
immundi, peccatores_; _piscis maris, dæmones_; _piscator Diabolus_;
_rete, deceptio Diaboli_; and _sagæna, cor mulieris_, which last,
from a technical point of view, hardly stamps Bishop Humbertus as a
proficient in our craft.

From the identification—_Christus est piscis_[696]—is no long step to
the symbolic use of the very letters which spell the Greek word for
fish: thus from ΙΧΘΥΣ = I-ch-th-u-s, is established Ἰησοῦσ Χριστὸς θεοῦ
υἱὸς σωτήρ, or “Jesus Christ, of God Son, Saviour.”

This symbolic adoption in connection with their God was far from
original. A fish, at first the symbol of Vishnu, was adopted by the
Buddhists, and from them by the Christians of Turkestan.[697] This
adoption and adaptation of a Pagan symbol was but one of the many
instances where Christian policy or Christian practice took over and
continued heathen customs, institutions, and vestments.[698]

Such seems to have been the trend, possibly from pursuing a policy of
compromise, more probably from following the line of least resistance,
of most religious changes or revivals. But while the attributes of
many of the Greek gods were, at least in certain of their attributes,
assimilated to Syrian and Eastern divinities, and while the Roman
pantheon made room for various Egyptian new-comers, the Jew’s
conception of his Deity remained practically unaffected and uninfected.

A fish frequently figures on the tombs of the early Christians in the
catacombs at Rome: sometimes it bears on its back a bowl with wine and
wafers of bread. Many tombs contain small fish of wood or ivory. Such
fish served, we are told, as emblems and acrostics, pointing out to his
co-religionists the burial place of a Christian without betraying the
fact to the persecutors.

This explanation lacks confirmation, and carries little conviction,
for two (among other) reasons. First: critical statistics show that
fish as symbols in Christian art figured frequently both before and
after Constantine. Second: fish as indicative of a burial place would
by their very presence quickly defeat the object aimed at. They would
indicate, as surely as pointers game, the secret grave, for the
persecutors of the Christians, as history shows, were not all exactly

Some authors trace back not a few of the signs[699] and usages
adopted and perpetuated by the Christians to the worship of Venus, of
which, when in conjunction with a fish, the underlying idea was the
adoration—nearly universal—of fecundity. Two instances, which I give
for what they are worth, must suffice.

As regards Lent, A. de Gubernatis contends that Aphrodite or Venus,
the goddess of Love[700], frequently represented the Spring. Hence it
is that in Lent, appointed by the Church to be observed in Spring, and
again on Friday (or the day of Freya) we are enjoined to eat fish, of
which, it must be remembered, Aphrodite was a patron goddess.

As regards Maunday Thursday, Robinson writes: “One of the annual Church
disbursements up to the end of the sixteenth century was for herrings,
‘_red and white_.’ Let us hope that those who in pious observation of
Christian ordinances thus charged themselves with phosphorus were not
aware that they were simply perpetuating the worship of Venus.[701]
Friday, again, is _dies Veneris_, and fish, her own symbol, is
therefore appropriate for the day.”

Of the making and explaining of symbols in early and mediæval times
there is no end. The monkish mind, perhaps owing to environment and
fasting, found this a congenial and pleasant pursuit.

Among the books on this subject, _Mundus Symbolicus_, although, or
perhaps because, published in 1681, attracts me most, not merely by its
fulness of information and of quotation from classical, Patristic, and
mediæval literature—it is a good competitor with Burton’s _Anatomy_ for
_Collectanea_—but also by the number and _naïveté_ of its _lemmata_,
or appropriate apophthegms, which appeal alike to one’s ignorance
and one’s humour. Of 737 pages of the volume before me 43 concern
themselves solely with fish, and provide delightful browsing.[702]

The object and practice of Picinelli, from whose _Il Mondo Simbolico_
Erath makes the Latin translation, is to examine into the habits,
real or alleged, of each fish, and deduce, as was the frequent
custom of books in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from its
delinquencies or virtues a moral lesson or lessons.

Thus the _lemma_, “_Fallacis fructus amoris_,” not inaptly summarises
the amatory character of the _Sargus_, as indicated in my chapter
on Tackle. Nor, again, is the author far astray with his _lemma_
for the _Monachus_ or Monk fish (a name derived from the hood on its
head)—“_Habitum non virtutem_”—which recalls the mediæval jeer, “The
cowl makyth not the Monk,” and Oscar Wilde’s description—half-echoing
Browning—of the pike as “some mitred old bishop _in partibus_.” Of the
Monk fish—also Bishop fish—a well intended representation can be found
in the pages of the learned Gesner.

Under _Salmo_, when suffering from leeches or gill-maggots, the author
provides us not only with the _lemma_, “_Hæret ubique_” and the
appropriate, if not quite original, reflection of St. Bernard that
conscience is like the leech which ceaseth not night nor day from
making its presence felt, but also with a vivid description of a kelt
dying—“_donec toto corpore tabescat_.”

Any connection between a salmon and a swallow (_hirundo_) for a moment
seemed a new ichthyic revelation! The context, however, and not least
St. Bernard’s pointing of the moral, led to the discovery of the
misprint of _hirundibus_ for _hirundinibus_ (‘leeches’).

With one more passage I regretfully leave Picinelli, or rather Erath.
The collocation of the rose and fish held in the hand of Cupid, which
Alciatus “_non sine mysterio instruxisset_,” occasioned “the erudite”
and anonymous epigram (p. 671) showing that Love resembles the rose
and the fish. This apparent incongruity finds explanation thuswise:
while each has prickly points, the first fades in a day and the second
is incapable of being tamed—a comparison which, if unique, ignores the
Egyptian and Roman powers of domestication.[703]

    “_Symbola adulantum cernis, Rosa, Piscis amorum,_[704]
       _Non sane unius Symbola certa mali._
     _Nam Rosa verna suis non est sine sentibus, idem_
       _Piscis habet spinas intus et ipse suas._
     _Pulchra Rosa est, verum illa brevi fit marcida, piscis_
       _Est ferus, esse aliqua nec cicur arte potest._”

One lemma “_Pingit et delectat_” is not the author’s happiest effort.
That attached to the only illustration of a man fishing—_Tenet et
tenetur_—tersely depicts the happy angler.

Many instances illustrating the importance attached to fish, both in
diet and in medicine, are to be found scattered through my pages. I
would, however, wager that in addition to these multiplied even one
thousandfold, there would yet remain in the pages of medical[705] and
other writers (even if we stop as early as Aëtius) matter sufficient
for a large Monograph.[706]

In one book alone of Pliny’s (XXXII.) fish are recommended as remedies,
internal or external, no less than (according to my rough reckoning)
342 times!

If Hippocrates, “the father of Medicine,” in the fifth century B.C.
(_c._ 460-359) laid the foundation, Galen some six centuries later
(131-201 A.D.) crowned the edifice of that science. The cry and
the practice of the former, “Back to Nature,” was energetically
enjoined and brilliantly defended against the inevitable reactions
of the Alexandrian and other schools by the latter, who acclaims his
predecessor as “divine.”

In his insistent teaching “Ensue Health,” as the one and only thing
alike for patients and physicians, Galen[707] might well have adopted
the last line of Ariphron’s glorious pæan to Health:

    μετὰ σεῖο, μάκαιρ’ Ὑγίεια,
    τέθαλε πάντα καὶ λάμπει Χαρίτων ἔαρι
    σέθεν δὲ χωρὶς οὔτις εὐδαίμων ἔφυ.

In his own case success crowned his efforts. He boldly boasts that he
did not desire to be esteemed a physician, if from his twenty-eighth
year to old age he had not lived in perfect health, except for some
slight fevers, of which he soon rid himself.[708] Perhaps a secondary
motive was not absent, viz. the desire to avoid the taunt so often
levelled at medical men:

    ἄλλων ἰατρὸς αὐτὸς ἔλκεσιν βρύεις,

which Urquhart in his _Rabelais_ translates,

    “He boasts of healing poor and rich,
     Yet is himself all over itch!”

As regards fish as a diet in health and sickness, _quot medici, tot
sententiæ_ seems hardly exaggeration. Their wondrous unanimity as
regards the food-properties of the Eel amazes, for with fish it was
usually a case “where doctors disagree.”

The “Father of Medicine,” in denouncing its use (especially in
pulmonary cases) was followed by nearly all medical writers, some
of whom, however, were not slow, when otherwise differing from him,
to assert that he killed more folk than he saved by his practice of
leaving Nature to effect its cure. Paulus Jovius sums up historically
the medical attitude towards Eels: “abhorred in all places and at all
times, all physicians do detest them, especially about the solstice.”

As Galen’s dictum[709] that fish afford the most desirable food for
“the idle, the old, the sick, and the silly” embraces the majority—if
we allow Carlyle’s “mostly fools”—of mankind, it would be idle to
pursue the dietetic side, were it not for the _distinguos_ (to use the
old Schoolman’s term) as to which fishes fell within or without the
Mysian’s category.

Diphilus (with Philotimus and others) speaks disparagingly of some,
but highly recommends others. _Habitat_ alone, he urged, formed the
deciding line between the clean and unclean. His _Treatise on Food for
the Well and Ill_[710] divides sea-fish into (A) those which keep near
the rocks—these, in his words, “are easily digested, juicy, purgative,
light, but not very nutritious”—and (B) those which haunt deep
water—these are “much less digestible, very nutritious, but upsetting
to the internal economy.”

Alexander Aphrodisiensis attributes the superiority of Class A to the
fact that, as the water round the rocks is in perpetual motion, its
denizens continuously exercise themselves.[711] Galen, for a somewhat
similar reason, appraises as the lowest in nutriment the inhabitants
of marshes, lakes, and muddy waters, because of their lack of swimming
exercise and their impure food.

A further subdivision commends itself to Rhazes. All fishes rough of
scale, mucilaginous and white-coloured are best; those of a black and
red shade must be avoided.[712] A special _distinguo_ extends to the
part of fish, as Xenocrates plumps for the tails, on account of their
being most exercised! Bonsuetus, centuries after Galen, echoes him:

    “All fish that standing pools and lakes frequent
     Do ever yield bad juyce and nourishment.”[713]

But however divided the ancient practitioners were in their estimate
of the digestibility of a fish diet, or of particular fishes, in
their ichthyic remedies internal or external they credulously and
enthusiastically coincided. Hence rained piscine prescriptions in every
form, fresh, salt, cooked, calcined: every part and tissue, flesh,
bones, skin, trail, brains, gills, _viscera_, and teeth—each and all
were regarded as specifics against some human disease or infirmity.[714]

All ailments practically find a cure in the ichthyic panaceas or
nostrums which render old medical tomes boresome from repetition, and
yet at times diverting. In regular prescriptions and old wife recipes
alike, fish play a prominent part.

Have you been bitten by a mad dog, and need a theriac? Dioscorides’
recommendation,[715] as amplified by Pliny, is “pickled fish applied
topically, even where the wound has not been cauterised with hot iron;
this will be found sufficiently effectual as a remedy”!

Do you suffer from toothache? Then you must have omitted to rub your
teeth once a year in the brains of a dog-fish, boiled in oil and kept
for the purpose!

If, however, this and other remedies disappoint you, Dioscorides[716]
and Celsus[717] come to your aid with the sting of the _pastinaca_,
which, applied with hellebore or resin, extracts the teeth painlessly!
As a dead certainty, if the ichthyic kingdom fail to give relief,
“attach two frogs to the exterior of your jaw”!

Health, perfect health, should be the lot of every woman who follows
the Plinian precepts in Book XXXII. 46.

Is she helpless from hysteria? “Lint, greased with a dolphin’s fat, and
then ignited,” produces an anti-excitant; or, if the case yield not to
treatment instantly, “the flesh of the _strombus_, left to putrefy in
vinegar” is an excellent alternative!

If an easy delivery be desired, “first”—the prescription smacks of Mrs.
Glasse—“catch your torpedo-fish at the time that the moon is in Libra,
keep it in the open air for three days,” and then, as soon as it is
introduced into the patient’s room, the trick is done! Pregnancy, on
the other hand, proves often abortive, if the woman “happens to step
over _castoreum_ or over the beaver itself,” or misuses a _Remora_.

For dyeing the hair black calcined _echineis_ with lard, or
horse-leeches boiled in vinegar, are cheap and trustworthy recipes.
For depilatories your choice is wide. The blood, gall, and liver
of the Tunny, fresh or pickled; or merely the liver, pounded, but
preserved with cedar-resin in a leaden box[718]; the _Pulmo marinus_,
the Sea-hare, according to Dioscorides (_De mat. med._, ii. 20), the
_Scolopendra_ (_ibid._, ii. 16); or “the brains of the _Torpedo_
applied with alum on the sixteenth day of the moon!”

Two more panaceas—needful and desirable now, as then—and I move to
pastures new, or rather contiguous. The first: a mixture “of a live
frog in a dog’s food” will, on Salpe’s authority, for ever deliver us
from the yapping and barking which so often makes night hideous.

The second—naïvest and quaintest (if I may employ without cruelty these
over-driven adjectives): “Democritus assures us that if the tongue
be extracted from a live frog, with _no_ part of the body adhering
to it, and it is then applied—the frog must _first_ be placed in the
water(!)—to a woman while asleep, just at the spot where the heart is
felt to beat, she will of a certainty answer truthfully any question
put to her!”[719]

If Hippocrates blamed his predecessors for their scanty use of
drugs, he would scarcely, unless suddenly clothed with a shirt of
credulity, have approved of the plethora of prescriptions and panaceas
prevalent in later centuries. Truly applicable would then have been
the inscription suggested for a pharmacy; “Hic venditur galbanum,
elaterium, opium, et omne quod in _um_ desinit, nisi remedium.”[720]

But credulity clogged such great minds as Hippocrates and Galen.
Even they included astrology in the therapeutic art, and indict
practitioners who only used that “science” despitefully, or eschewed
it, as “men-killers.”

Quite apart, however, from the recognised prose treatises by iatric
writers such as Galen, Diphilus, and Xenocrates, there must have
existed a very ample literature in Greek verse. One collection alone,
_Poetæ Bucolici et Didactici_ (Didot, Paris, 1872), reveals under
the heading of _Carminum Medicorum Reliquiæ_ the names of some dozen
authors who deal chiefly—Marcellus Sidetes indeed exclusively—with the
medicinal properties of fish.

Cursory skipping of these fragments compels, even if one’s acquaintance
with ancient medical writers be slight, ready assent to the opinion
of the learned editor (p. 74) that originality was not the dominant
characteristic of their begetters. They are apparently, with two
exceptions, but metrical plagiarisms or excerpts—not quite as bad as
Tate and Brady’s _Translations of the Psalms_—from the works of Galen
and others.

The first exception, the medical oath (ὅρμος ἰατρικός) startles our
modern conceptions. The practitioner swears that he will administer
none of the poisons, some of the deadliest of which, as we have seen,
were piscine.[721]

The second is a fragment from a medical work by Marcellus Sidetes. In
the days of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, despite the stirring times
described by historians, Life (to alter the well-known verse) must
verily have been a watch and a vision—or rather a yawn—between a sleep
and a sleep to many a reader, for no less than forty-two volumes were
necessary to contain the hygienic hexameters of our author. But more
astonishing even than the leisure required for their perusal, the whole
forty-two (according to Suidas) were held in such high esteem that by
command of the Emperors they were placed in all the public libraries of

In our fragment, _Remedies from Fish_, Marcellus, after prefacing that
by long study he has acquainted himself with their medicinal effects,
sets out a list of healing fish. He adds here and there some leading
specific. To one of these he prettily makes us privy, _e.g._ the
application of a burnt mullet, mixed with honey, in cases of carbuncle.

But our author must not be written down as a one-ideaed fish-quack; for
that Nature works cures (if not miracles) by the agencies of earth, and
of “broad-wayed air,” as well as of the sea, is a firm tenet of his

Among the Greeks and Latins aphrodisiacs and antaphrodisiacs, _i.e._
incentives to, or prophylactics against love, were accounted of
potency, and meet with frequent mention. Each kingdom of Nature,
animal, mineral, vegetable, piscine, was impressed to compass these

The list submitted by Pliny—a weighty natural historian, mark you!—of
those drawn from the first would be scouted by any modern Obeah or
Ju-ju man, however powerful, as taxing too severely the credulity of
his ignorant _clientèle_. Even Haitian superstition would reject its
obvious absurdities. “The ashes of a spotted lizard”—here even the
compiler is compelled to caution ‘si verum est’—“held in the left hand
stimulate, but in the right kill desire,” ranks far from being the most
incredible of the prescriptions.[723]

The Ancients specialised not only in gods, but also in fishes which
made, or made not, for passion. We, however, while enjoying a hundred
sects, have brutally boiled down our aphrodisiacs to one, stout and

The salacious properties of many fishes—inherited or acquired,
according to ancient legends, from their mother or protectress,
Aphrodite—furnish the theme of classical authors, grave and gay;
_e.g._ of Epicharmus in _Hebe’s Wedding_—at wedding feasts fish were
an absolute essential; of Varro,[724] _tunc nuptiæ videbant ostream
Lucrinam_; of Plautus,[725] where at the marriage of Olympio the old
man in love orders the purchase of stimulating fish.

    “Emito sepiolas, lopadas, loligunculas.”

Even Pythagoras, according to Lilius Giraldus, believed that cupidity
could be aroused, not by fish, which were apparently banned to his
disciples, but by _Urtica marina_.[726]

Pliny’s list of proved aphrodisiacs and antaphrodisiacs includes among
the former “the eye-tooth of a crocodile attached to the arm,” and
among the latter “the skin from the left side of the forehead of the
hippopotamus attached fast to the body in lambskin.”[727]


[686] A. de Gubernatis, _Zoological Mythology_ (London, 1872), II. 329
ff. The latest luminary among the Solar Mythologists is L. Frobenius,
_Sonnenkultus_, whose lengthy chapter in vol. I. on the world-wide
Fish-Myth and its solar significance may be consulted by the leisurely.

[687] Cf., however, “The Story of the Deluge,” in the _Catapatha

[688] P. Robinson, _op. cit._ (p. 18), to which I owe much, here and

[689] _Op. cit._, p. xi.

[690] On _Iliad_, I. 206, cp. on XX. 71: διὰ τὸ δοκεῖν μανιῶν αἰτίαν
εῑναι τισίν, ὡς οἶον εἰπεῖν τοῖς σεληνιαζομένοις.

[691] _Brit. Mus. Cat. Coins_, Mysia, p. 18 ff. Nos. 1 ff. pl. 3, 8 ff.

[692] _Brit. Mus. Cat. Coins_, Mysia, p. 18, No. 1, pl. 30.

[693] A. Heiss, _op. cit._, pl. 45, 9.

[694] See Cohen, _Monnaies Domitian_, Nos. 227, 229, 236, and
Pitra, _op. cit._, pp. 508-512. Although writing some sixty years
ago he enumerates no less than 156 illustrations from coins and
representations of fish association.

[695] For the fish-symbol in Judaism there is a good collection
of facts in I. Scheftelowitz, “Das Fisch-Symbol in Judentum und
Christentum,” in the _Archiv. für Religionswissenschaft_ (1911), XIV.
1-53, 321-392.

[696] Pitra, _op. cit._, has several plates bearing on this. Of the
coloured, pl. 1 shows an eucharistic table with a _fish_ and bread upon
it, and at each side seven baskets full of the latter, while in pl.
3 a fish swims bearing on his head a basket with sacred loaves, both
illustrative of the miracle. See also pp. 565-6.

[697] Keller, _op. cit._, p. 352. The latest and best monograph on the
fish-symbol in Christianity is that of F. J. Dölger, _Das Fisch-symbol
in frühchristlicher Zeit_ (Freiburg, 1910), whose conclusions are
summarised in the _Archiv für Religionswissenschaft_ (1912), XV. 297 f.

[698] Cf. the many fascinating works of Dr. J. Rendel Harris, _e.g._
_The Cult of the Heavenly Twins_ and _Boanerges_. Also Lowrie, _Art and
Archæology_; and Miss M. Hamilton, _Greek Saints and their Festivals_.

[699] See C. Cahier, _Caractéristiques des Saints dans l’art populaire_
(Paris, 1867), Vol. II. 691 ff., for illustrations of Saints
accompanied by fishes.

[700] _Op. cit._, II. 340. “The _gemini pisces_, the two fishes joined
in one, were sacred to her, and the joke of the _poisson d’Avril_ ...
is a jest of phallical origin, and has a scandalous significance.”

[701] P. Robinson, _International Fisheries Exhibition_ (London,
1883), Part III. p. 43. “The representations of the Virgin in a
canopy or _vesica piscis_ are supposed to have a specially Christian
significance: if they have any at all, it is a very heathenish one.”

[702] _Mundus Symbolicus_, a rare folio, of which two editions, 1681
and 1694, exist, is a translation of _Il Mondo Simbolico_ (written
by Picinelli Filippi, and published at Milan 1653, 1669, and 1680),
made by Aug. Erath. Cf. _Trésor des livres rares et précieux_, tom. v.
(Dresde, 1859-69), p. 282. The Bodleian possesses only the 1694 edition
of _Mundus Symbolicus_, while apparently the British Museum lacks both.

[703] The bronze statuette found at Hartsbourg showing the Germanic god
Chrodo, standing on a fish, while holding in his uplifted left hand a
wheel, and in his lowered right a basket of fruit and vegetables, is
not at all on all fours. Cf. Montfaucon, _Antiquity Explained_, trans.
D. Humphreys (London, 1921), II. 261, pl. 56, 3.

[704] The construction of ‘Rosa, Piscis’ is not discernible. Perhaps
(‘Rosa Piscis’) would be less obscure.

[705] To Galen alone 149 works are attributed.

[706] For a list of practitioners, medical authors, and quacks before
Pliny, and the enormous fees sometimes paid them, see _N. H._, XXIX.
1, 7. Not inappropriate, and probably not infrequent, when we read
of their number and their disagreements, was the epitaph—_Turba se
medicorum perisse_. This attribution of death to too many doctors is
accredited to Hadrian, but is probably a Latin adaptation of Menander’s
πολλῶν ἰατρῶν εἴσοδος μ’ ἀπώλεσεν.

[707] It is with some surprise that we read of Galen being one of the
original _Deipnosophistæ_ (I. 2), and with more still that we find the
omnivorous and omniscient Athenæus quoting but once from this most
prolific author, and that a passage which lays down, let us trust from
the experience of his patients, that Falernian wine over twenty years
old causes headaches.

[708] Empedocles, albeit no doctor, is said to have delivered Selinus
in Sicily from malaria by drainage, etc., and so roughly anticipated
the triumphs of Ross and Gorgas over the mosquito by some 2400 years.
See Diog. Laert. VIII. 70, _s.v._ “Empedocles.”

[709] _De Alim. Fac._, 3, 28. Cf. _De Attenuante victus ratione_, vol.
vi. ed. Chartier, which confirms and amplifies the above.

[710] Athen., _op. cit._, VIII., chs. 51-56, which discuss various
fishes from a health point of view.

[711] _Quæstiones Medicæ et Problemata Physica._

[712] Blakey, _op. cit._, 73.

[713] Cf. Burton, _op. cit._, 1, 97, whose trs. is given above.

[714] The belief in fish as curatives of not only human but also animal
ailments still lingers. In this very year, 1920, we read in _The
Field_, Aug. 14, of a Ross-shire crofter begging for a live trout to
push down the throat of a cow, that had just calved but was suffering
from hæmorrhage. In consequence, or in spite of the trout, the cow

[715] _De Materia Medica_, II. 33; I. 181, ed. (Kühn).

[716] _De Materia Medica_, II. 22, 1, 176 (Kühn). Cf. P. A. Matthiole,
_Commentarii in libros sex Pedanii Dioscordis Anazarbei_ (Venetiis,
1554), Bk. II. c. xix.

[717] VI. 9.

[718] Salpe the midwife recommends this prescription to disguise the
age of boys on sale for slaves (Pliny, XXXII. 47). At the end of the
chapter the author seems to awake from his trance of trustfulness, in
the words, “in the case of _every_ depilatory, the hairs should always
be removed before it is applied!”

[719] Pliny, XXXII. 18. Belief in the efficacy of fish-nostrums
continues unto this day: in the Middle Ages it permeated all classes,
and all Europe, _e.g._ Charles IX. of France would never, if he could
help it, drink unless a fragment of the tusk of the _narwhal_, or
so-called sea-unicorn, were in the cup to counteract a possible poison.

[720] Badham, _op. cit._, 83.

[721] The influence of fish, wherever important, in commerce is
noteworthy. They furnished, as we have seen, designs for a mint
or _cognomina_ for Roman Nobles. An interesting and probably very
ancient instance occurs in the oath taken this very year (1920) by the
Stipendiary Magistrate of Douglas, Isle of Man: “I swear to do justice
between party and party, as indifferently as the herring’s backbone
doth lie in the midst of the fish.”


    τῶν πάντων ἰήματ’ ἒχει φύσις οὐδέ τι νούσων
    ῥιγεδανῶν ἀλέγουσι βροτοὶ χραισμήι’ ἒχοντες
    ἐξ ἁλός, ἐκ γαίης τε καὶ ἠέρος εὐρυπόροιο.

[723] _N. H._, XXX. 49. Cf. Ælian, _op. cit. passim_, for aphrodisiacs.

[724] Fragment, _Varro Sexagesis_, _ap._ Man. Marc., p. 319. 15 ff.,

[725] _Cas._, II. 8, 57; cf. also _Aul._, at the wedding of Euclid’s

[726] See _ibid._, _Rudens_, II. 1, 9.

[727] _N. H._, XXXII. 50.



Struck with Adam’s words with regard to the Edict of Diocletian, 301
A.D.—“if we could fix the value of the denarius at this epoch, the
prices of fish then would prove an interesting subject for comparison
with those now (1883) current at Billingsgate”—I set to work to
ascertain how great had been the depreciation of and what was the exact
value of the denarius at the opening of the fourth century.

Much labour would have been saved, had I earlier come across Abbott’s
_The Common People of Ancient Rome_, but I found some compensation in
the solution of my sum coinciding approximately with his estimate of
the denarius = ·4352 cent.[728]

The Edict of Diocletian[729] contains, as Mr. Abbott (to whose book I
am indebted for very much that follows) indicates, many points of great
economic interest to us at the present time.

_First_—sentences of the Introduction (probably from intrinsic evidence
written by the Emperor himself) might well pass for a diatribe in
to-day’s paper against a Beef or other Trust. Fortunate it is for
these that the newspaper man possesses not the power of life and death
wielded by Diocletian.

The Emperor, having decided that the prices promulgated shall be
observed in “all our domain,” goes on, “it is our pleasure that if any
shall have boldly come into conflict with this formal statute, he shall
put his life in peril. In the same peril also shall he be placed, who,
drawn by avarice in his desire to buy, shall have conspired against
these statutes. Nor shall he be esteemed innocent of the same crime
who, having articles necessary for daily life and use, shall have
decided that they can be held back, since the punishment ought to be
even heavier for him who causes need, than for him who violates laws.”

_Second_—the prices are _maximum_ prices, not for commodities only, but
also for wages.

_Third_—although the number of slaves owned had decreased since
Augustan days, the scale of wages was still distinctly affected by
slaves being hired out by their owners for day or job work.

_Fourth_—the absence of power being applied to manufacture, of the
assemblage of men in a common workshop, and of the use of any other
machines than the hand loom, or the mill for grinding corn.

_Fifth_—for the urban workman in the fourth century (as Mr. Abbott,
p. 176, demonstrates), conditions of life must have been almost
intolerable. It is indeed hard to understand how he managed to keep
body and soul together, when almost all the nutritious articles of
food were beyond his reach. “The taste of meat, fish, butter, and
eggs must have been almost unknown to him, and even the coarse bread
and vegetables on which he lived were probably limited in amount. The
peasant proprietor who raised his own cattle and grain would not find
the burden so hard.”

_Sixth_—the failure within a dozen years of the Emperor’s bold
attempt to reduce the cost of living. Lactantius,[730] writing in
313-14, sums up the result of this interference with economic check
and countercheck—“for the veriest trifles much blood was shed, and
out of fear nothing was offered for sale, and the scarcity grew much
worse, until after the death of many persons the law was repealed from
necessity.” Sixty years later the Emperor Julian made a similar but
smaller attempt to control prices, but the corn speculators of Antioch
so entirely worsted him that he had to acknowledge defeat.

By the courtesy of the Secretary of the Fishmongers’ Company I was
furnished, with some average _wholesale_ prices for 1913, the last
year unaffected by the war. The consumer, it must be remembered, is
compelled, in general, to pay the retailer one-third per lb. more to
defray handling, rent, etc.

The following sea fish were sold in London, per lb., as follows: Cod
for 4, Turbot for 9½, Mullet (_Mugil capito_) for 11, Sole for 17
pence. In the Edict the price of fresh sea fish is lumped at from 4½ to
7 pence, so we have no datum for comparison of individual prices. In
the case of the _Mugil capito_, however, we are enabled to contrast its
price, _i.e._ 11 pence, with that in Egypt, _c._ 1200 B.C., _i.e._ 9/20
of a penny.[731]

A comparison with America in 1906 shows that the average price of fresh
sea fish was from 4_d._ to 7_d._ per lb., or practically the same as in
Diocletian’s time, while that of river fish—fresh—per lb. was 6 to 7½
as against 3¾ pence in the Edict.[732]

Salt fish, per lb. in 301 A.D. cost 4¼_d._, in U.S.A. 4_d._ to 7½_d._

Oysters (by the 100), 1_s._ 10_d._, (in London) 4/-to 14/-.

The figures show that prices of other commodities in the Edict vary
extremely, but for sea fish are not far apart.

From the articles of raw material and manufactured wares, which number
in the Edict over eight hundred, and from the wages, etc., I subjoin
some items and prices on account of their general interest.[733]

                    Price in—
                            301 A.D.               1906 A.D. in the
                                                   United States.
                           _s.     d.               s.    d._
  Wheat per bushel          1      8                4     10 (wholesale)
  Beef per lb.              0      3-2½_d._         0      5-9_d._
  Butter                    0      5                1      1 to 1  4
  Eggs, per doz.            0      2½               1      0 ”  1  3

  _Wages per Day._

                        301 A.D.                    1906 A.D. in the
                       _s.    d._                     United States.
  Unskilled Workman     0     5¼ receives keep.   5/- to 9/- (8 hours)
  Carpenter             0    10½    ”      ”     10/- to 16/-    ”
  Painter               1     4¼    ”      ”     11/- to 16/-    ”

I add a few other prices, without attempting in these years of the
ever-climbing wave of cost to give the corresponding modern quotations.

                                                          £  _s.    d._
  Fowl                                                    0    0     6½
  Snails (per score)                                      0    0     0½
  Asparagus (25 to the bunch)                             0    0     1½
  Apples (best, 10)                                       0    0     0¾
  Barber                                                  0    0     4½
  Tailor (for cutting out and finishing best over
      garment)                                            0    1     1¼
  Elementary Teacher (per pupil per month)                0    0    10¼
  Writing       ”         ”        ”                      0    1     4
  Greek, Latin, or Geometry (per pupil per month)         0    3     7
  Advocate for presenting a case                          0    4     2
      ”     ”  finishing    ”                             0   17     5
  Watcher of Clothes in public baths (for each patron)    0    0     4½
  Patricians’ shoes (per pair)                            0    2     9
  Boots (Women’s)       ”                                 0    1     1
    ”   (Soldiers’, without nails)                        0    1    10½
  Transportation (1 person, 1 mile)                       0    0     4½
  Waggon (1 mile)                                         0    0     2½
  White Silk (per lb.)                                   10   10     0
  Genuine Purple Silk (per lb.)                         130   10     0
  Washed Tarentine Wool (per lb.)                         0    3     1
  Ordinary washed Wool      ”                          from 5½ to 11_d._


[728] London, 1912. Note, however, that Hultsch in Pauly-Winowa, _Real
Enc._ (Stuttgart, 1903), V. 211, says: ‘Damit war aus dem Silber-D.,
der noch unter Severus einen Metallwert von etwa 30 Pfennig gehabt
hatte ... eine kleine Scheidemünze zum Curswerte von 1, 8 Pfennig oder
Weniger geworden.’ On this showing the denarius had sunk to 1⅘ pfennigs
in 301 A.D.

[729] Fragments of the Edict in Latin and in Greek have been coming to
light for the last two centuries from Egypt, Greece and Asia Minor—not
the least important being found by W. M. Leake; see his _Edict of
Diocletian_, 1826. See also Mommsen’s _Inscriptionum Latinarum_, vol.
III. pp. 1926-1953, the text of which was published by H. Blümner
with a commentary in 1893 in his _Der Maximaltarif des Diocletian_.
A convenient account of this famous Edict, together with a full
bibliography, is given by H. Blümner in Pauly-Winowa, _Real. Enc._
(Stuttgart), V. pp. 1948-1957.

[730] Lactantius, _de mortibus persecutorum_, 7.

[731] See p. 337, _postea_.

[732] The lower price of river as compared with sea fish seems
additional evidence that the preference for the latter, well attested
in the earlier days of Athens and of Rome, still continued.

[733] From p. 174 ff. of Abbott, who gives the prices in _cents_.



With the opinion held by some, that the method of breeding fish
employed by the Romans was practically the same as that of the modern
Pisciculturists, Badham[734] seems to agree, when he remarks: “The plan
of stocking rivers with fish _ab ovo_ has been, after the lapse of many
centuries, revived by two Vosges fishermen, Gehin and Rémy,” and “they
have thus re-established a very ancient practice, and succeeded in
stocking the streams of France.”

But this is a total misconception. It can only have arisen from
ignorance either of what is found in Latin writers, such as Columella,
or of what is the nature of the method used by Rémy and, with great
improvements, by present Pisciculturists.

Shortly, the Roman method collected from the bottom of a river or a
marsh eggs, already fertilised in the natural manner by fish, and
removed them to other lakes or _vivaria_.

Rémy and his successors catch and strip the females of their eggs,
which are pressed out into a pan. They then extrude the milt of the
male on to the eggs, in a proportion, differing according to what fish
are being spawned, of one male to one or more female. They next place
the eggs on perforated wire or other trays fixed in long boxes, over
and under which water of a regulated temperature passes.[735]

The erroneous view of those of Badham’s school needs correction. By
tracing historically the various and not generally known discoveries
which led to our modern practice of fish-breeding I hope to prove that
the process of the Romans differed from ours. For this reason I subjoin
a short _résumé_ showing why and how Pisciculture as we term it and
know it came about.[736]

The same demand for fish, the same dearth of fish, which compelled the
enactment in mediæval Europe of stringent laws protecting fish, spawn,
and fry, caused in ancient China and Imperial Rome the breeding of
fish in lakes and _vivaria_ by non-natural methods, and in Europe from
the fourteenth to the nineteenth century the quest of an unnatural or
artificial method.

Laws aimed at repairing the dearth of fish—a very serious economic
matter when all Europe observed frequent fast days—caused by
destruction of spawn and of fish during the breeding seasons by human
and animal agencies, were made in England as early as the reign of
our Ethelred II., who in 996 forbade the sale of any young fish.[737]
Malcolm II. of Scotland fixed the times and conditions under which
salmon fishing was permitted. Under Robert I. the willow of the
bow-nets had to be two inches apart, so as to allow a passage for the
grilse. In 1411 Robert III. punished with _death_ anyone taking a
salmon in the close season. The Kings of France were not idle. Many
ordinances fix the meshes of the nets and the length of saleable fish.

The first known attempts at fish-breeding were made by the Chinese and
Romans. M. Haime asserts that “we have no positive data as to the epoch
in which the Chinese began their experiments, although everything shows
that they reach back to the most remote antiquity.” The address of Mr.
Wei-Ching W. Yen dates the epoch as probably that of Tao Chu Kung, who
lived in the fifth century B.C.[738]

In Rome considerable trade was done in the sale of young fish for
stocking waters. In China the commerce in fish eggs was on a vast scale
and extremely lucrative. The Jesuit missionary Du Halde writes, “Le
gain va souvent au centuple de la dépense, car le Peuple se nourrit en
partie de Poissons.”[739]

The method, however, of both the Chinese and the Romans was to gather
eggs, _already naturally fertilised_, lying at the bottom of, or
adhering to weeds in, the water. The Chinese went farther by employing
special traps of hurdles and mats to bar the rivers and catch the eggs
deposited on these.

During the long interval between the Roman Empire and the eighteenth
century, we note little or no progress in the rearing of fish,
although preserves became numerous in Italy and France. Kings and
nobles were zealous and jealous in making and maintaining artificial
ponds. Charlemagne the Great personally ordered the repairing of old
and digging of new ponds. By sales from their _vivaria_, and by heavy
royalties from their fisheries the religious communities amassed large

Towards the end of the Middle Ages new methods to counter the scarcity
universally prevalent, despite the teaching in the thirteenth century
of Peter of Vescenza, were eagerly sought. Dom Pinchon, a monk of
the Abbey of Réome, seems the first to have conceived the idea of
artificially fecundating the eggs of trout. He pressed out in turn
the milt of a male and the eggs of a female into water, which he then
agitated with his finger. He placed the resulting eggs in a wooden box,
with a layer of fine sand on the bottom, and a willow grating above and
at the two ends. The box till the moment of hatching was immersed in
water flowing with a gentle stream.

The process—described in a manuscript dated 1420, but not published
till about 1850—naturally led to no practical results. Consequently
Pinchon’s claim to be the father of modern Pisciculture—a term first
used some three hundred years after his death—can hardly be sustained.
His discoveries interest only from a historical point of view.

The middle of the eighteenth century witnessed an improvement on
Pinchon’s plan. In Sweden (where the care taken to protect fish even
prohibited the ringing of bells at the spawning season) the bream,
perch, and mullet attach their eggs either to rocks, or twigs of pine.

Lund shut up males and females for three or four days in three boxes,
furnished with twigs of pine, etc. (on which the fish spawned), and
pierced with little holes to allow the entrance of water. He succeeded
at his first attempt in raising from 50 female bream, 3,100,000 fry;
from 100 perch, 3,215,000 fry; and from 100 mullet, 4,000,000 fry.

Jacobi of Westphalia, the first real inventor of practical fecundation
by artificial means, experimented on trout and salmon for sixteen years
before attaining definite success.

He pressed in turn the eggs and milt into a vase half filled with water
which he kept gently stirred with his hand. The fertilised eggs were at
once placed in a grated box inside a larger chest, in which Jacobi had
inserted at the sides and at the top fine metallic gratings to allow
the easy flow in and out of water over the sand or gravel lying at the
bottom. The apparatus was set in a trench by the side of a brook, or,
better still, in an artificial channel into which springs were led.
The young fish after hatching lived for three or four weeks on their
umbilical sac, and were then passed into a reservoir.

By these simple means Jacobi, who for his services was granted by
England a pension for life, solved the problem of protecting fertilised
eggs against their enemies, and yet of leaving them in surroundings not
unlike those of Nature. The experiment, as far as it went, succeeded

In Great Britain[740] Shaw, Andrew, Young, Knox, and Boccius, and in
Germany, Blooch, and others carried on, at various times and with
varying methods and measures of success. In France little or nothing
was done, except by Quatrefages, till we reach the two peasants,
Rémy and Gehin, whose labours laid firm the foundation on which all
subsequent Pisciculturists have built.

In 1849 the Academy of Sciences learned that a prize had been granted
in 1845 by the Society of the Vosges to two fishermen of La Bresse,
Rémy and Gehin, for having fertilised and artificially hatched eggs
from trout, and for having raised some five to six thousand trout from
one to three years old, which continued to thrive in the waters in
which they were confined.

On investigation by the Academy, it was found that Rémy and Gehin (who
came in later) had been led from conclusions based entirely on their
own observations (for “they are quite unlettered and ignorant of the
progress of the Natural Sciences”) to employ with success methods
rather similar, but superior, to those of Jacobi.

They had enormously decreased the high mortality by their greatest and
probably unique achievement, _i.e._ provision for the fry of a natural
food. This was produced by the simultaneous rearing of a smaller and
non-cannibal species, and by the collection in the enclosed streams or
made waterways into which the young trout were liberated of hundreds of
frogs, whose spawn afforded an excellent subsistence.

Jacobi’s and Rémy’s discovery was the parent of our modern
Pisciculture. The gear and apparatus, especially in America, have been
transformed. The methods of stripping, of hatching, of feeding are
enormously improved, with mortality in eggs and fry incredibly reduced.

From this account of their discoveries and from the nature of the
methods now in use, it is obvious that the suggestion of Badham
and others that the method of breeding fish employed by modern
Pisciculturists was practically that of the Romans must go by the

[Illustration: THE RAPE OF HELEN.[741]

From a Fifth Century B.C. _Scyphos_, made by the potter Hieron and
painted by the artist Makron, from Furtwängler and Reichhold, _Griech.
Vasenmalerei_, Vol. II., Pl. 85. See n. 1, p. 295.]


[734] _Op. cit._, p. 48.

[735] In the case of Trout, the _ova_ can be successfully transported
to South Africa or even to New Zealand, as the period of incubation
is a long one. After hatching, the alevins, fry, or young fish can be
utilised to stock fish ponds, or other waters.

[736] Cf. an article in the _Revue des deux Mondes_, for June, 1854, by
M. Jules Haime.

[737] According to _Magna Carta_, c. 33, “all kydells [dams or weirs]
for the future shall be removed altogether from the Thames and the
Medway, and throughout all England, except on the sea-shore.”

It was for over 500 years held that this was a measure intended to
safeguard the passage of fish, but W. S. McKechnie, _Magna Carta_
(Glasgow, 1914.) pp. 303 ff., 343 ff., has shown that it aimed at
removing hindrances to navigation, not to ascending fish.

[738] _Op. cit._, 376, but see Chinese chapter.

[739] _History of the Chinese Empire_ (Paris, 1735), vol. I. p. 36.

[740] Leonard Mascall, owing to his recipes for preserving spawn in
his _Booke of Fishing_ 1590, “must be looked upon as the pioneer of
fish-culture in England,” according to Mr. R. B. Marston, _op. cit._,



In the countries dealt with in this book I give instances where Fish
and Fishing have, according to myth or tradition, played a prominent
part in human affairs, and have been the cause, direct or indirect, of
important events.

Thus in Greece and Rome, to fish is assigned the responsibility for—

(A) The death of Homer, from his inability to solve the riddle of the

(B) The death of Theodoric, who recognised in the head of a pike which
he was eating the head of his murdered victim, Symmachus.[743]

(C) No less an event than the Trojan War, which, according to the
windbag Ptolemy Hephæstion, happened on this wise.

In the belly of a huge fish named _Pan_ (from its resemblance to that
god) was found a gem (_asterites_), which when exposed to the sun shot
forth flames and became a powerful love philtre. Helen, on acquiring
this, had it engraved with a figure of the _Pan_ fish, and when
desirous of making a special impression wore it as a signet ring.

Thus, when Paris visited Sparta the charm blazed from her finger
with the result of the immediate conquest of Paris, the flight from
Menelaus, and the Ten Years’ War!

[Illustration: THE RETURN OF HELEN.

From a Fifth Century _Scyphos_, made by the potter Hieron and painted
by the artist Makron, from Furtwängler and Reichhold, _Griech.
Vasenmalerei_, Vol. II., Pl. 85.]

But, despite Homer, it was _discovered_ (!) afterwards that Helen was
not in Ilium at any time during the siege, and that what the Trojans
harboured was not her real self, but only her “living image,” εἴδωλον
ἔμπνουν.[744] The discoverer of this interesting fact was (so ran the
slander) Stesichorus. Struck with blindness after writing an attack
on Helen, he recovered his sight by composing a Palinodia.[745] The
ghost of Achilles, when raised by that most famous medium of antiquity,
Apollonius of Tyana, denied positively that Helen was in Ilium.[746]

If Mr. J. A. Symonds be right, “We fought for fame and Priam’s wealth,”
and for naught else, then she “with the star-like sorrows of immortal
eyes” was neither _causa causans_ nor any cause of the Fall of Troy.
Perhaps “Priam’s wealth” is but an intelligent anticipation of Mr.
Leaf’s theory that the War was fought for “The Freedom of the Sea”
(Euxine), and, incidentally, the capture of another nation’s profits.


[741] From a splendid vase-painting representing the two sides of
a magnificent _scyphos_ made by the potter Hieron and painted by
the artist Makron. The original (now in Boston) is of the finest
fifth-century (B.C.) art. See Furtwängler and Reichhold, _Griechische
Vasenmalerei_ (München, 1909), vol. II. 125 ff., pl. 85.

[742] See Chapter III.

[743] See _antea_, p. 200.

[744] Eurip., _Hel._, 34.

[745] Plat., _Phardi._, 243A; Isokr., _Hel._, 65; Pausanias, III. 19,

[746] _Op. cit._, IV. 16. In his palinode, of which a few lines
(_frag._ 32, Bergk^4) are extant, Stesichorus asserts that it was not
Helen herself, but only her semblance or wraith, which Paris carried
off to Troy. Greeks and Trojans slew one another for a mere phantom,
while the real Helen never left Sparta. Hdt., 2, 112 ff., gives a
rather different turn to the story. According to him, Helen eloped
from Sparta with Paris, but was driven back by a storm to Egypt, where
Paris told lies and was punished by Proteus. Euripides in his _Helena_
combines the two versions. Like Stesichorus, he makes the truant a
mere phantom, an ‘eloping angel.’ Like Herodotus, he sends the real
Helen to Egypt. Menelaus, who, escorting the phantom home from Troy,
arrives in Egypt, is there confronted with the real Helen and is sadly
puzzled. Just as he begins to think himself a bigamist, the misty Helen



From Petrie’s _Medum_, Pl. XII. See n. 1, p. 301.]


Conflicting chronologies prevent the definite dating of the earlier
Egyptian monarchs: verily a thousand years are but as yesterday in
the sight of Manetho, Mariette _et cie._ Thus it is that the reign of
Menes, the first historical king, has no permanent abiding place in
the 3167 years between 5867 and 2700 B.C. Discrepancy in dates is not
confined to the older or later computators, such as Champollion-Figeac,
Wilkinson, Lepsius, and Petrie, but has infected quite recent writers,
like Borchardt and Albright, who in 1917 and in 1919 respectively place
Menes _c._ 4500, and _c._ 2900 B.C.

If the authorities disagree as to the dates of the Old, Middle, and
New Kingdoms (the divisions used in my pages), they agree fairly
well on what Dynasties are comprised in each of these. So whether a
reader adhere to 5867 or to 2700 B.C. for Menes, the Old Kingdom still
comprises Dynasties I. to XI.; the Middle Kingdom Dynasties XII. to
XVI.; the New Kingdom Dynasty XVII. to Alexander the Great or 332 B.C.,
at which stage the Ptolemies came on the scene.




This terse epigram seems foreshadowed by Homer, who calls the river (ὁ)
Αἴγυπτος, and the country (ή) Αἴγυπτος, thus indicating correctly that
Egypt is only the Nile valley.[748]

The all importance of the river to the country meets early and general
recognition. In a hymn[749] it is lauded as “the creator of all things
good”: solemn rituals from the earliest down to Mohammedan times
implored “a good Nile”: temples in its honour existed at Memphis,
Heliopolis, and Nilopolis: at Silsileh ceremonies and sacrifices,[750]
from time immemorial, welcomed its annual rise; magnificent festivals
were universal throughout the land.[751]

To Egypt, river or country, goes out the undying reverence of all
Anglers. Whether Egyptian or the Sumerian civilisation were the
older; which of the two have left the earlier signs of a written
language[752]; whether the Egyptian surpassed the Assyrian empire in
extent or magnificence—about all these points “disquisitions” (in
Walton’s word) have not ceased.

But to Egypt belongs the glory of holding in future and happy thrall
world-wide subjects, who salute, or rather should salute (had previous
writers not been reticent on the point) her (and not Assyria) as the
historical mistress and foundress of the art of Angling.

In my Assyrian and Jewish chapters I stress the remarkable absence,
despite the close and long connections of these nations with the land
of the Nile, of anything graven or written which indicates knowledge of
the Rod. In Egypt two instances of Angling are depicted: the first[753]
probably (to judge by his place on the register) by a servant or
fishing-ghillie as early as _c._ 2000 B.C., the second by a magnate
some 600 years later.[754]

The argument of silence—because a thing is not depicted or mentioned
it therefore never existed—often pushes itself unjustifiably. May
not absence of the Rod be an instance? Had Mesopotamia (it may be
further urged) been endowed with the atmospherical dryness of Egypt
and the consequent preservative qualities of its soil instead of a
widely-spread marsh-engendered humidity, would not scenes of Angling
there probably meet our eyes? Humidity may account for great losses in
Mesopotamia, but its toll in the Delta of Egypt was also heavy. This
large area has yielded, compared with the Upper Kingdom, inappreciable

But even if the country of the Two Rivers had possessed the same
climatic conditions as the Upper Kingdom, it could never have become to
the same extent the historical storehouse for posterity of the works
and records of ancient Man.

Difference in religious belief, for one thing, precluded. The
Sumerians, the first settlers recognised by history in the plains
of Shinar, conceived (as did their successors the Babylonians and
Assyrians) the next world to be a forbidding place of darkness and dust
beneath the earth, to which all, both good and bad, descended. Hence
burial under the court of a house or the floor of a room, often without
any tomb or coffin, or much equipment for the life beyond the grave,
was sufficient.

In belief and equipment the Egyptians differed _toto orbe_. For them
after death was pre-ordained a life to obtain which the body must be
preserved from destruction; otherwise it hastened to dissolution and
second death, _i.e._ annihilation. To avoid this fate, they resorted to
permanent tombs, embalmment, and mummification.

But as the Double, or _Ka_, of the departed (unlike the Soul, or _Ba_,
which fared forth to follow the gods) never quitted the place where
the mummy rested, daily offerings of food and drink for its sustenance
had to be placed in the chapel chamber of the richer tombs. Sooner or
later came the time when for reasons of expense, or other, the dead
of former generations found themselves neglected, and the _Ka_ was
reduced to seeking his food in the refuse of the town. To obviate such
a desecration, and ensure that the offerings consecrated on the day of
burial might for all time preserve their virtue, the mourners hit upon
the idea of drawing and describing them on the walls of the chapel.

Furthermore to make homelike and familiar his new abode, or the
“Eternal House” (in contrast to which the houses of the living were but
wayside inns) elaborate precautions were taken. We find depicted on
the walls of the chapel the lord of the domain, surrounded by sights
and pursuits familiar to him when alive. “The Master in his tomb,”
writes Maspero, “superintends the preliminary operations necessary to
raise the food by which he is to be nourished in the form of funerary
offerings: scenes and implements of sowing, harvesting, hunting,
fishing meet his eye.”

From these representations of actual life, intended for the comfort
of the dead, we, the living, are enabled not only to reconstruct in
part the manner and social economy of the Ancient Egyptians, but
also to gather, aided by excavated tackle, fairly accurate knowledge
of their various devices for catching fish. And so to the religious
conception which fostered the adornment of the tombs the gratitude of
all fishermen is due, and should be deep.

If the god Hapi, who is represented with the girdle of a fisherman
round his loins, and bearing lotus flowers, fowl, and fish, was hymned
by the people as “the Creator of all things good,” to the Father of
Rivers[755] the Father of History renders tribute for his gift of one
“thing good” which furnished to all, bar kings and priests, a stable
and staple food, fish.

Its economic importance can hardly be over-rated. Testimony as to its
cheapness and abundance is not wanting. Of such is the wail of the
poorer folk that the price of corn might be that of fish.[756] Not
less impressive rings the plaint of wandering Israel—even heaven-sent
manna apparently palls!—“we remember the fish we did eat in Egypt for
naught.” The Egyptians accounted the fish plague, next to the death of
the firstborn, as direst in result.

Confirmatory witnesses are Diodorus Siculus, who notes the great number
and the many varieties of fish found in the Nile,[757] and Ælian, who
neatly and truly characterises the aftermath of the annual inundation
as “a harvest of fish.”[758] Evidence, again, of “a plenty” of fish,
its pursuit, and its copious consumption fronts us in the prehistoric
kitchen-middens and in the bone or horn harpoons of pre-dynastic
graves. Later, the frequent tomb fishing-scenes and some textual
notices attest absence of dearth.

The numerous slate palettes in the pre-dynastic graves furnish Mr.
Bates with further proof, and with a new theory, which seems to me, if
ingenious, too ingenuous and too far-fetched.

The palettes,[759] almost invariably presenting the profile of only
those fishes, birds, or beasts that historic men pursued for food, were
intended (by the aid of colours extracted from the malachite, galena,
etc., crushed upon them) to establish an unpalpable, but, in human
eyes, very serviceable connection between the fisher and his prey.

One method of such connection consists in creating a likeness of the
intended quarry. Such a likeness, by the belief that the _simulacrum_
is actively _en rapport_ with that which it represents, bestows on the
possessor power over the original. “Cases,” Bates correctly adds, “of
this sort are the commonplaces of imitative magic.” Usually a hunting
or fishing amulet which simulates the form of the quarry was worn by
the owner, or attached to his gear.

The palettes themselves played the part of mere paint-stones, but their
supposed resident power might very efficaciously be transferred to its
proprietor by means of _the paint ground upon it_.

“Persons who go in pursuit of the crocodile,” says Pliny, “anoint
themselves with its fat.”[760] In the same way as the crocodile-hunter
thus assimilates himself to his quarry by a direct contagion, so the
owner of the palette could possess himself of the power in the slate
likeness by painting himself with the “medicine” ground upon it.

The validity, or otherwise, of the suggestion must be determined by
expert mythologists. The theory, to my mind, appears too far-fetched,
and breaks down from the introduction of an additional agency.

The fisher wearing an amulet or attaching a charm to his tackle,
and the fat-anointed crocodile hunter both supposedly have direct
connection with his quest.

But Bates’s solution demands four agents at work, the fisher, the
prey, the portrayed profile of the latter, and the palette; from these
the fisher extracts the desired power by decorating himself with the
paint made out of a fifth agency, the galena, etc. Here exists no
direct contagion as with the crocodile hunter, or direct connection
as with the amulet-wearing _piscator_. That such early men as the
pre-dynasties, though possessed of no insignificant a culture, should
reason by causation at a fifth remove, seems lacking in probability,
especially in a matter of primitive semi-religious belief, which is
ever slow, ever resentful of change.


[747] The illustration is reproduced by the kind permission of Prof.
Flinders Petrie.

The data for this essay had been collected and half of it written, when
I heard of an article on _Ancient Egyptian Fishing_ by Mr. Oric Bates,
in _Harvard African Studies_, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1917. While
somewhat disappointed of not being the first to write in English on the
subject, I was quickly reconciled by the fact that the task had fallen
to an experienced Egyptologist, whose monograph, while making necessary
the recasting of this chapter, bequeathed to me some new, if not always
convincing theories, and much technical and other data, the frequent
use of which I gladly acknowledge.

[748] _Od._, IV. 477, and XVII. 448. In _Th._ 338 of Hesiod, who,
though not a contemporary, flourished shortly after Homer, ὁ Νεῖλος
first appears. The Egyptians called it _Hapi_, but in the vernacular
language _Yetor_, or Ye-or = the River, or _Yaro_ = the great River.

[749] _Papyrus Sallier_, II. On the other hand, another hymn speaks
of the unkindness of the Nile in bringing about the destruction of
fish, but it is the river at its lowest (first half of June) that is
meant. See _Records of the Past, being English translations of ancient
monuments of Egypt and Western Asia_ (ed. S. Birch, vols. I.-XII.
1873-81), IV. 3, and _ibid._, new series (A. H. Sayce), III. 51.

[750] The yearly sacrifice of a virgin at Memphis may be doubted—at
least for the Christian age of Egypt, to which Arab writers wish to
attribute it.

[751] The Νειλῶα are described by Heliodorus, IX. 9.

[752] J. H Breasted, _A History of the Ancient Egyptians_, 1908, p. 47,
declares that the Egyptians discovered true alphabetical _letters_ 2500
years before any other people, and the calendar as early as 4241 B.C.

[753] P. E. Newberry, _Beni Hasan_ (London, 1893), Plate XXIX. Cf.
Lepsius, _Denk. Abt._, 2, Bl. 127; J. G. Wilkinson, _Manners and
Customs of the Ancient Egyptians_ (London, 1878), p. 116, pl. 371.

[754] _Ibid., loc. cit._, pl. 370.

[755] The Nile is the second longest river in the world (Perthes,
_Taschen Atlas_). The Egyptians believed that it sprang from four
sources at the twelfth gate of the nether world, at a place described
in ch. 146 of the _Book of the Dead_, and that it came to light at the
two whirlpools of the first cataract.

[756] Brugsch., _Dict. Supplem._, 1915. Cf. _Stèle de l’an_ VIII. _de
Rameses_ II., by Ahmed Bey Kamal (_Rec. trav._, etc., vol. 30, pp.
216-217). The King, as an instance of how well his workmen are provided
for, cites the fact that special fishermen are allotted to them.

[757] I. 36.

[758] _N. H._, X. 43, ἄμητος ἰχθύων.

[759] _Op. cit._, 204 ff.

[760] _N. H._, XXX. 8.



      “_I tell you that the fisherman suffers more than any
  other. Consider, is he not toiling on the River? He is mixed
  up with the crocodiles: should the clumps of papyrus give
  way, then he shouts for help._”[761]

Now let us see by what implements and devices this “plenty of fish” was
made to pay toll.

The documentary evidence on Egyptian fishing is so slight and
fragmentary that were it not for extant implements and representations
of fishing scenes its technical history could not be reconstructed even
partially. The implements carry us back to about the beginning of the
pre-dynastic age, and constitute our principal source of information
regarding Nilotic fishing.

But from the beginning of the Old Kingdom until the Roman period the
material remains dwindle, while the tomb scenes increase in importance.
Later—perhaps in part owing to the changes in the interests of the
Egyptian artist—the implements themselves again become of prime

It is impossible in Egypt, or elsewhere, to allot definite priority
to Spear (or Harpoon), Net, Hook and Line, or Rod. The fact that all
four methods were _c._ 2000 B.C. in synchronous use establishes merely
a date _a quo_, a date which indicates (if a first appearance really
prove anything) that Egypt in Angling by over a thousand years precedes
China, where the earliest _mention_ occurs, _c._ 900 B.C.[763]

[Illustration: EARLY HARPOON. See note 1.

EARLY HARPOON. See note 2.]

The Spear and the Harpoon, with their cousin the Bident, concern
us first. Of the Trident there seems to be neither example or
representation. Priority of use may possibly be conceded to the Spear
in Palæolithic times. The fact that in Egypt we are dealing with an
age, the Copper, separated from the Palæolithic by the New Stone era,
prevents even a guess as to priority on the Nile. Egypt, it is true,
bequeaths us the oldest historical as apart from archæological data,
but these are merely great-great-grandchildren of the _débris_ data of
France, and comparatively modern.

Then again, in Europe the Harpoon was rarely combined with objects of
the Copper Age, in Egypt frequently.

_The Harpoon_ has been divided by Bates, but, I think, somewhat
needlessly, into two types.

(1) A spear barbed unilaterally or bilaterally.

(2) A similar Spear which has its head so socketed as to come free from
the shaft when the object has been struck, the quarry being thereafter
retrieved by means of _a line made fast to the head itself_.

One of the simplest specimens is, perhaps, that figured by
Reisner,[764] while two by Petrie[765] are, though probably
pre-dynastic, of more elaborate workmanship.

[Illustration: AN EGYPTIAN REEL.

From F. Ll. Griffith, _Beni Hasan_, Pt. 4, Pl. 13, 3.]

[Illustration: SPEARING FISH.

From F. Ll. Griffith, _Beni Hasan_, Pt. 4, Pl. 13, 3.

See n. 1, p. 311.]

To the latter the earliest Harpoons in Egypt appear to be the
three-toothed bone Harpoons of the first prehistoric age. The
representation of launching the Harpoon at fish is one of the commonest
in tombs from the Vth to the XVIIIth Dynasties. The truth seems to
be that the Harpoon as a means of livelihood ceased in the second
prehistoric age, but as an instrument of sport lasted much later,
though in the latest paintings it may be only a religious archaism.[766]

Seventy years have failed to displace substantially Wilkinson’s
statements: fish-spearing from bank or papyrus punt was the sportsman’s
method: the spear or bident,[767] about nine to twelve feet long, was
thrust at passing fish: to it a long line (held in the left hand) was
usually fastened for the purpose of recovering the weapon and the fish,
if struck. Sometimes the weapon was feathered like an arrow (the author
was possibly misled by or is alluding to the hieroglyph [hieroglyph]),
or was just like a common spear.

If the statement be correct that “the _bilaterally_ barbed Harpoon
is almost unknown before the Middle Kingdom times,”[768] we are
faced by the remarkable fact of a weapon found again and again in
the Magdalenian epoch of Palæolithic Man—each reader can supply his
own conjecture how many millenniums before—being absent in a culture
familiar with Copper Age hooks and harpoons.

But hold what view we may as to the original priority of implement,
_examples_ of Spear-Harpoons are found in Egypt, at any rate, much
earlier than those of either the Net or the Hook.

An illustration or two will serve to confirm the sporting use of the
Harpoon, as advanced by Wilkinson and Petrie.

The first, a fine representation, depicts, in fig. 3, probably
Khenemhetep standing in a papyrus boat in the act of spearing two large
fish; beside him stands an attendant holding a bident Harpoon and a
Reel unfixed.


From A. M. Blackman, _Rock Tombs of Meir_, Vol. I. Pl. 11.]

In fig. 4 (an enlargement in colour of the preceding plate) the
_barbed_ heads transfix the heads of two big fish: an attendant holds
a spare harpoon and a reel of cord evidently meant to revolve in its

In the second[770] “Senbi, accompanied by his wife Meres, stands in a
skiff constructed of reeds spearing fish. The subject is depicted over
and over again in the tomb-chapels, but here it is imbued with new
life. How realistic are the monster hippopotami who bellow, and display
their gleaming white tusks, as Senbi comes skimming over the water in
his frail canoe! The inscription over Senbi fishing runs as follows:
‘Spearing fish by him who is honoured by Osiris, Lord of the Western
Desert, the Nomarch, the Superintendent of the Priests, Senbi the

Before passing to the Hook, a few words as to the Reel. Although
Wilkinson would limit its use to Hippopotami, as in Khenemhotep’s
scene, may we not fairly deduce its employment also in the spearing of
large fish?

The surprise sometimes expressed as to the absence of any evidence
that the Reel did duty with the Rod is quite superfluous. The Line of
the Nile, and, indeed, of all Europe till the seventeenth century,
was the _tight_, not the _running_ Line.[771] A possibility, but not
a probability, of a Reel being used by a man catching a catfish _with
line and hook_ has been detected in Plate 141 of the famous tomb of Ti,
which shows the right hand carrying what may be merely a club, or more
likely a stick for the line to be wound on, when not in use.[772]

From the beginning of the Middle Kingdom onward the Reel, of which
a fine example comes from Beni Hasan,[773] appears to have found
employment against Hippo. From the stick on which the hanks of cord
were wound, perhaps, came its invention.[774] The most developed form
shows merely an axle run through holes in the ends of a semi-circular
handle. The ends of the axle were set in handles, which to some extent
facilitated the process of winding up.[775]

The pursuit of the Hippo originated, like that of the fox in England,
from economic causes, _viz._ the destruction wrought on crops, not on
flocks and poultry. The beast in pre-dynastic times existed in Lower
Egypt, but by the end of the Old Kingdom seems to have retreated to
Upper Ethiopia. Pliny, however, speaking of its ravages at night on the
fields indicates its survival above Saïs.[776]

Diodorus Siculus,[777] after surmising that if the Hippo were more
prolific things would go hard with the Egyptian farmer, furnishes the
details, but not the _locus_ of a hunt. “It is hunted by many persons
together, each being armed with iron darts.” With the substitution
of copper harpoons for iron darts, the description applies almost
_verbatim_ to some of the hunting scenes of the Old Kingdom.[778]

_The Hook._—At the end of the pre-dynastic or beginning of the First
Dynastic period the Hook, fashioned in no rude method, and wrought of
no primitive material, but of _copper_, makes its appearance.

From this it is clear that Egypt (_a_) can lay no claim to have
invented this method, and (_b_) had travelled many stages on the long
road of piscatorial invention. The complete absence in the Nile Valley
of hooks of bone, flint, or shell which occur in so many neolithic
centres in other parts of the world adds confirmatory evidence.

In Egypt no records of the progenitor of this copper Hook survive. No
family tree helps us, as elsewhere, to surmise whether the thorn, the
flint, or the shell constituted the material of the first hook, for
no non-metallic prototype has come to light. The numerous bone and
ivory points, all more or less like the slender rod or pin of ivory
shown in _El Amrah and Abydos_,[779] may, perhaps, indicate the gorges
used by fishermen in pre-dynastic times. The absence, however, in the
above example of any indentation in the middle, round which the line
was frequently attached, tends (in my view) rather to negative the

The earliest hooks were of simple shape. The point was barbless. The
head, which in all cases lay in the plane of the hook, was formed by
doubling over the end of the shank against the outside of the latter,
so as to form a stop or an eye, which might, or might not, have been an
open one.[780] Their length (varying from 2 to 6 cms.), if contrasted
with the bronze hooks of the Swiss Lakes, is short in proportion
to their width from the outside of the point to the outside of the

The XIIth Dynasty displays a few barbed hooks alongside barbless ones.
One of the latter, belonging to Petrie, excites our interest, for the
string of its attachment (some nine inches in length) is composed of
double stout twist, while another proves itself the ancestor—in fact
itself is—the Limerick hook with a single barb.

By the XVIIIth Dynasty barbed hooks, usually of bronze, largely
predominate. Instead of being headed up in the older fashion they show
the end of the shank expanded, so as to form a small flange in a plane
at right angles to that of the hook. A line bent on the shank below
this flange (even if slight), and drawn hard up against it had the
advantage of chafing less than when made fast to a hook of the earlier
type. The New Kingdom hooks, which continue scarcely altered in Roman
times, are well designed, but their barbs are less intelligently placed
than are those of the Middle Kingdom.[782]

But even in Roman times several types of hook, fairly well distributed
in the Northern Mediterranean, seem unknown in Egypt; for instance,
double hooks, barbed or barbless, of the Bronze Age in Switzerland,
hooks with a split eye or an eye made by twisting the end of the shank
round itself (as found in Crete) and many others are yet to seek.[783]

The cluster or gang hook early confronts us in the tomb of
Gem-Ni-Kai.[784] The fisherman here extends his index finger to feel
the faintest bite: below the water the line ends in a cluster of five
hooks, one of which holds a large fish.

The ancient monuments sometimes portray fishing from a boat with
hand-lines. Those of the Old Kingdom as often as not depict the fisher
as an elderly peasant, presumably no longer equal to the brisker
business of hauling a heavy seine.

Occasionally two lines are employed, as in the scene which
Blackman[785] describes: “A small reed skiff, containing two men, one
of whom, lolling at ease in the stern, has just secured a catch upon
one of his lines, while his companion, standing upright in the bow, is
pulling his loaded net out of the water.”

Another instance of hand-lining comes from Beni Hasan.[786] The same
register contains a representation which is not only the earliest (_c._
2000 B.C.) of fishing with a Rod known in the whole world, but is also
(with the exception of that from the tomb of Kenamūn at Thebes[787])
the only depictment, I believe, of the Rod till we reach Greece about
the sixth century B.C.

Unless the passion for sport pure and simple dominated rich and poor
alike, we can fairly surmise that Angling yielded good results. The
man in the Beni Hasan illustration, whether a fishing ghillie, or a
professional fisherman belonging to the province which the tomb’s owner
governed, or a peasant fishing on his own, is not merely posing for his


From P. E. Newberry, _Beni Hasan_, Pt. 1, Pl. 29.]

The Theban illustration (some six hundred years later) squares with
Wilkinson’s statement “sometimes the angler posted himself in a shady
spot by the water’s edge, and, having ordered his servants to spread
a mat upon the ground, sat upon it as he threw his line: some, with
higher ideas of comfort, used a chair, as stout gentlemen now do in
punts upon retired parts of the Thames.” The beat of our _piscator_,
whose fishing lines should be closely studied, was probably not on “a
retired part” of the Nile, but on one of his own _vivaria_, which, as
in Assyria and Italy, ensured a supply of fresh fish in hot weather.

The lengths of the Rod and of the Line, if we may compute them by the
height of the Anglers, assimilate fairly well to the eight cubits or
six feet of Ælian’s Macedonian weapon some two millennia later.

Figures of fish caught by the mouth indicate baits, but no data enable
us to identify their nature. Wilkinson’s statement “in all cases
they adopted a ground bait, without any float” leaves itself open
to question. In the Beni Hasan scene of Angling, which he entitles
_Fishing with Ground Bait_, neither the hieroglyph attached nor
anything else shows that, although in this instance no float appears,
the bait was resting at the bottom, and not moving in the stream. The
tombs generally may have led him to conclude that floats were unknown,
but a netting scene in the Tomb of Ti shows a large float, presumably
indicating the exact spot occupied by the trap in the water.[788]

The ancient Egyptian, if he employed the practice of his modern
successor, used scraps of meat, lumps of dough, minnows, and bits of
fish.[789] In connection with the last two a very curious passage in
the Book of the Dead runs, “I have not caught fish with bait made of
fish of their kind.”[790]

Such was the plea by the soul of the dead man not to be punished for
what seemingly was a heinous sin. It is hard to discover where the
enormity of the crime arises.[791] As most fishes are cannibals, the
bait here presents one of their natural foods. In the case of an
_artificial_ bait, which from the fish’s point of view amounts to
cheating and deception, the punishment presumably fitted the crime, for
which no prayer could atone, no pardon be possible!

Perhaps this conception indirectly caused and still causes the
abstention from such lures as the artificial fly, which the native even
now generally rejects. The implied prohibition, if the whole passage
be not metaphorical, probably sprang from and is a relic of Totemism,
which widely prevailed in early times.

_The Net_: the first _examples_, owing to their more perishable
materials, naturally post-date those of the Harpoon and the Hook, but
occur in representations far earlier than either. The suggestion that
a part of a Net figures in the hieroglyph of the scenes from the Royal
Tombs at Abydos[792], and so denotes its appearance in the 1st Dynasty,
carries no conviction.

Close inspection shows the object to be a bag, or piece of cloth.
The Net’s delineation by an artist at the end of the IIIrd or very
beginning of the IVth lies not open to cavil.[793]

Peculiar importance pertains to this scene, because it is the
first portrayal of the Net in Egypt, and possibly the very first
_representation_ connected with _fishing_ the whole world over. It,
moreover, as an illustration merely of fish, antedates (if avoiding
the Scylla of Petrie’s and the Charybdis of Albright’s chronologies
we steer by Lepsius’s chart) the famous Sumerian scene of Gilgamesh
carrying fish, by some four centuries.[794]

The tomb of Zau furnishes one or two representations of special
interest. Apart from that of Zau himself “dressed in sporting attire”
and spearing fish from a papyrus skiff, the artist in another has let
himself go more freely.

Not content to show what is happening above the surface of the pool,
he breaks through all embarrassing congruities in order to display the
crowded scene below, without which his subject would not have been
completely set forth. The waters extend also to the left, where seven
fishermen haul into a boat a drag-net full of fish, which include, as
in the tomb of Aba, eight different species. Hippopotami and crocodiles
do not fail to appear: even the humble frog, who sits among the water
reeds, is remembered.[795]

Netting obtained more widely than its depictments, in proportion to
those of Harpooning and Angling, indicate. Representations of the
latter methods occur nearly always in the durable tomb-chapels of the
rich, who from their ampler leisure more often ensued sport, while the
professional fisherman, like his Greek and Roman brother, came of the
tribe whose badge was poverty. Then, too, it must be remembered that
the Netsmen mainly inhabited the Delta, which from reasons of humidity
has yielded fewer pictures of life.

Practically every kind of Net known to the ancient world found
employment in Lower Egypt, as the list drawn up by Julius Pollux, by
birth himself a Deltan, makes clear. The representations give us many
Nets. The hand, the double-hand, the cast (most rarely), the stake,
the seine, etc., all find place. Weights of stone, but none of lead
(according to Bates), meet our eyes in the monuments.[796]

Netting needles range from pre-dynastic to Roman times. The first, of
a very simple type, are merely flat pieces of bone, pointed at each
end, and pierced in the middle.[797] Net-making and Net-mending scenes
are not absent. In one of the latter the artist, of naturalistic
turn, shows an old fisherman mending a hand-net, and gripping the end
with his toes, while a lad, preparing twine, rubs his spindle on his

Actual specimens of Net twine prepared from flaxen and other vegetable
fibres were discovered at Kahun in balls of two-strand and of
three-strand string of the XIIth Dynasty. Fragments of Nets “having ½
to ¾ inch (1·2 to 1·9 cm.) mesh, the smallest being ⅛ inch (say 0·3
cm.) square,” came to hand at the same locality.[799]

Kahun yielded also some fragments of later, probably XVIIIth Dynasty,
Nets, with meshes from 0·5 to 1·5 cm. and made of coarser twine than
the earlier examples,[800] whose fineness of mesh tallies with the
small size of some of the ancient needles.

Weels or wicker fisher traps (especially in the Old Kingdom) come
down to us either small (about 1 m. 50 long), simply constructed, and
capable of manipulation by two men, or very large, of more complex
fashioning internally, and requiring several men to handle.[801]

Whether the Egyptians employed poisons, like most of the Mediterranean
nations, I have not discovered. As examples, they are impossible of
survival; for depictment of their actual use not even the boldest
Nilotic Cubist would have been adequate, unless he imitated the
Athenian artist by hieroglyphing “These be poisons”!

[Illustration: A FISHING SCENE.

From N. de G. Davies, _The Rock Tombs of Deir el Gebrawi_, Pt. 2, Pl. 5.

See p. 317.]


[761] _The Scribe on the Praise of Learning._ Cf. Maspero, _Le Genre
épistolaire chez les Égyptiens_ (1872), p. 48.

[762] Bates, p. 199.

[763] See Chinese Chapter.

[764] The _Archæological Survey of Nubia_ for 1907-8 (Cairo, 1910),
Plate LXV., b. 5.

[765] _Naqada and Ballas_ (London, 1896), Plate LXV. 7; and _Ancient
Egypt_ (1915), Part I. p. 13, f. 3.

[766] _Tools and Weapons_ (London, 1917), p. 37.

[767] Bates holds (244) that the bident was only used by the nobles,
and never by the professional fisherman, who employed nets, lines,
traps, etc., but never the bident. He sees an analogy in the throwing
sticks used by the nobles in the Old Kingdom fowling scenes, “whereas
the peasants appear to have taken birds only by traps or clap nets.”

[768] Bates, p. 239.

[769] F. Ll. Griffith, _Beni Hasan_, Pt. IV. p. 3, Pl. XIII. fig. 3, 4.
See also Newberry, _op. cit._, Pl. XXXIV.

[770] A. M. Blackman, _The Rock Tombs of Meir_ (London, 1914), vol. i.
28. Cf. also Steindorff’s _Das Grab des Ti_ (Leipzig, 1913), Pl. 113.

[771] Cf. _Introduction_.

[772] Steindorff, _Ibid._

[773] F. Ll. Griffith, _Beni Hasan_, Pt. 4 (London, 1900), Pl. XIII. 4.
For kind permission to reproduce this and the next illustration I have
to thank the Egypt Exploration Society.

[774] Cf. the Ø hieroglyphs in Griffith’s _Hieroglyphs_ (London, 1898),
Pl. 9, fig. 180, and text, p. 44. The more elaborate form is shown by
Paget-Pirie, _The Tomb of Ptahhetep_, bound in Quibell’s _Ramesseum_,
London, 1898.

[775] Bates, p. 242.

[776] _N. H._, XXVIII. 831. Perhaps he derived his information from the
not-trustworthy _Theriaca_ of Nicander, 566 ff.

[777] I. 35. He visited Egypt _c._ 20 B.C.

[778] P. 243. From Newberry’s _Beni Hasan_, there come, curiously
enough, only two representations of Hippos and not one of a Hippo hunt.
From Herodotus, II. 71, we gather that, if the beast was elsewhere
hunted, at Papremis it was traditionally sacred.

[779] Mac Iver and Mace (London, 1902), Pl. VII. 1.

[780] T. E. Peet, _The Cemeteries of Abydos_ (London, 1914), Pt. 2, Pl.

[781] For twenty-five figures of hooks, see Bates, Pl. XI. For others
curiously shaped, probably Vth Dynasty, see Lepsius, _Denkmäler_, etc.
(Berlin, 1849), II. p. 96.

[782] Petrie, _Kahun, Gurob, and Hawara_, p. 34.

[783] Bates, p. 249.

[784] F. von Bissing, _Die Mastaba des Gem-Ni-Kai_ (Berlin, 1905), vol.
I., Pl. IV. fig. 2.

[785] _Op. cit._, vol. III., Pl. VI.

[786] P. E. Newberry, _Beni Hasan_ (London, 1893), Part 1, Pl. 29. Cf.
Wilkinson, _op. cit._, vol. I., Pl. 371.

[787] _Ibid._, Pl. 370. This faces my introduction.

[788] Steindorff, _op. cit._, Pl. 110. Bates, p. 240, holds that
“floats attached to Harpoon lines were probably in common use”: the
infrequency—to say the least of it—of their representation lends but a
slender support to his suggestion.

[789] Klunziger, _Upper Egypt_ (1878), p. 305, states that the
townsfolk hand-lined with these baits, but that the fish-eating
Bedouins still employed the Spear.

[790] Budge, Trans. _Book of the Dead_, vol. II. p. 362.

[791] Yet compare the Scriptural prohibition, “Thou shalt not seethe
a kid in his mother’s milk,” which appears to have been one of the
commandments included in the earliest Decalogue. Sir J. G. Frazer
discusses this curious injunction in _Folklore in the Old Testament_,
vol. III. p. 111 ff.

[792] Vol. I. pl. 10, f. 11.

[793] Petrie, _Medum_ (1892), Pl. XI. A good example (Vth Dynasty) of
a Net heaped up in a boat is found in N. de G. Davies, _Ptahhetep_
(London, 1901), Pl. VI., in the right-hand column of the hieroglyphs.

[794] See my Assyrian Chapter, p. 368. The Gilgamesh representation
dates _c._ 2800 B.C.

[795] N. de G. Davies, _The Rock Tombs of Deir el Gebrawi_ (1902), Pt.
II. Pl. V.

[796] P. 259. The reason assigned is not convincing: “No lead weights
are depicted on the monuments, for by the time they were introduced
the artist was devoting himself to mythological and religious scenes.”
Petrie, _Kahun, Gurob, and Hawara_, p. 34, however, assigns some
weights of lead from Kahun to XVIIIth Dyn.

[797] Cf. Petrie, _Abydos_ (London, 1902), pl. 41.

[798] J. J. Tylor, _The Tomb of Paheri_ (London, 1895), Pl. VI.,
probably XVIIIth Dyn.

[799] Petrie, _Kahun_, p. 28.

[800] _Ibid._, p. 34.

[801] Illustrations of both kinds can be found in Steindorf’s _Das Grab
des Ti_, Pls. CX. and CXI.



The statement, “the Nile contains all sorts and kinds of fish,”[802]
must in an age of scientific enumeration be taken with several grains
of salt. The total for the whole country, riverine and marsh, reaches
but seventy-one species, of which only two, _Mormurops anguillaris_ and
_Haplochilus schælleri_, are peculiar to Egypt.[803] A score or so find
representation in ancient times; but identification is far from easy,
and is in some cases, _e.g._ the Mullets, only possible generically.

In scenes of the return of Hatshepsut’s expedition from the land of
Punt the drawings of the fishes are so characteristic that Prof.
Doenitz has been enabled to determine their species, and identify
them as belonging to the Red Sea. The powers of observation in the
artists accompanying the ships demonstrate careful training. But I
cannot, since the eyes of the _Solea_ are similar, endorse the eulogism
bestowed in the case of a sole, unless it were a freak, “one eye is
drawn larger than the other, showing a fine observation of Nature!”[804]

The priests, the King, and the commonalty in some cases eschewed fish.

Priestly abstention was by no means uncommon, as some of the temples
of Poseidon[805] demonstrate. In Egypt the observance was strict,
at Askalon the reverse. Plutarch,[806] confirming and amplifying
Herodotus,[807] writes:—“The priests indeed entirely abstain from all
sorts: therefore on the ninth day of the first month (_Thoth_), when
all the rest of the Egyptians are obliged by their religion to eat a
fried fish before the doors of their houses, they only burn them, not
tasting them at all, assigning as their reasons two, the second of
which—indeed, the most manifest and obvious—is that fish is neither a
dainty, nor even a necessary kind of food.”[808]

But by the priests of Atargatis, to whose subjects ichthyophagia
was under pain of blains, boils, and other dire diseases absolutely
forbidden, fish boiled and roasted were daily offered, and by them
daily eaten.[809]

The religious ceremony in Thoth may have been merely a later aspect
of a taboo once possibly universal among the class from which the
priesthood largely drew, or may, perhaps, have been prompted by the
desire of obtaining a good fish harvest. Apart from the uneconomic
depletion of food entailed by the prescribed eating, the killing of
“the children” or possessions of the deity seems hardly the best way to
secure fruition of such desire.

If, however, the feast survived as a relic of Totemism, the ceremony
may possibly come within Robertson-Smith’s conception of the origin
of all religious communion or sacraments, _i.e._ a renewal of the
connection between the god of the Totem tribe with his people at a
meal, where “the Totem itself is sacrificed at an annual feast, with
special and solemn ritual.”[810]

In the same way, eating of fish by the priests at Askalon may have
originated from the idea of bringing the deity and his servants into
closer relationship, and may have been continued to impress their
religious superiority on the mass of the people, who were forbidden
such food, and thus any direct connection with their god. Although the
practice was different, the object of both priesthoods—enhancement of
their religious prestige—was identical. Where the people abstained,
they ate; where the people ate, they abstained.

The Kings as High Priests seem, down to Ptolemaic times, to have
eschewed fish absolutely. The _Stele_ of Piankhi, at any rate,
indicates their practice _c._ 700 B.C. To this Nubian conqueror of
Egypt came the petty Kings of the Delta to offer submission; but “they,
whose legs from fear were as the legs of women, entered not into the
King’s house, because they were unclean and eaters of fish, which is an
abomination for the Court: but King Namlot, he entered, because he was
pure, and ate not fish.”[811]

The reason for this insistence by a Nubian lay perhaps in the fact that
Piankhi had as monarch of Egypt just been affiliated to the Sun-god,
who not only created righteousness, but lived and fed upon it. A
curious prayer or semi-threat by one of the dead survives. If he be not
allowed to face his enemy in the great council of the gods, the Sun-god
should or would come down from Heaven and live on fish in the Nile,
while Hapi, the god of the river, should or would ascend to Heaven and
feed on righteousness. The granting of his prayer or the fulfilment of
his threat would reverse the whole scheme of creation.[812]

The word translated by _abomination_ signifies generally _something
dirty_. The epithet, if the Deltaic kings resembled the Deltaic
fishermen, is not inappropriate. Many representations of the XVIIIth
and XIXth Dynasties render the latter, in contradistinction to their
brothers of the river proper, with scrubby beards, uncouth of aspect
and scant of dress—a characteristic which Diodorus Siculus notes, when
describing their habitations as mere cabins of reeds.

But in fairness it must be remembered that since nearly all history and
representations reach us from Upper Egypt, these portraits may merely
typify the contempt or dislike felt by the richer and more civilised
Nilotic for his Deltaic brethren,[813] in whom some writers profess to
discern an indigenous and less progressive race.

Were the records and art of Buto, for example, a capital once ranking
in importance and opulence with Thebes, available, another story and
another picture might confront us. Owing in the main to humidity, our
conceptions are perforce coloured by the traditions of Upper Egypt, and
thus at times liable to deception.

Is it, for instance, likely that the priests and denizens of the
Delta, where maritime commerce principally furnished their prosperity,
regarded the sea with the same loathing and dread that the riverine
priests and writers express? Can we really imagine the priests of
Alexandria not eating salt because it was “Typho’s foam,” or not
speaking to pilots because they do business on the great waters, or
embellishing their temples with figures (like those at Saïs) of an
infant, an old man, a hawk, a fish, and a sea-horse?

The meaning of these figures, according to Plutarch,[814] “is plainly
this: O! ye who are coming into or going out of the world, God hateth
impudence, for by the hawk is intended God, by the fish hatred on
account of the sea, as has been before observed, and by the sea-horse
impudence, the creature being said first to slay his sire, and then
force his mother.”

How and when did the abstention from fish arise? Was it originally
a _tabu_ observed by all, kings, priests, nobles, and commons?[815]
Did the last come gradually to disregard or were they forced by food
pressure to rebel against it? Did the nobles in the Old and Middle
Kingdoms occasionally wobble in their diet? All these questions meet
with no adequate answer.

An answer to the first, _i.e._ the date and reason of the abstention,
as yet baffles even the richness of the fertile preservative sands of
Egypt, since adequate data must stretch back to pre-dynastic periods.

One fact stands out. The lower classes very early eschewed the _tabu_
and ensued after fish. Their example was followed later by the upper
classes, “with whom fish became a favourite dish: the epicure knew
each variety, and in which water the most dainty were to be caught. It
was, therefore, a most foolish invention of later Egyptian theology
to declare that fish were unclean to the orthodox, and so much to be
avoided that a true believer might have no fellowship with those that

Robertson-Smith declares that the doctrine—the highest degree of
holiness can only be attained by abstinence—resulted from the political
fusion in Egypt of numerous local cults in one national religion, with
a national priesthood that represented imperial ideas.[817]

The statement, “countless pictures of offerings to the gods and
the dead survive, but never a fish among them” has in the light of
subsequent discoveries to be revised. One strong reason at any rate
existed in its favour. In the Pyramid texts carved on the sepulchral
chambers of the Pharaohs of the VIth Dynasty the hieroglyph of the fish
was deliberately suppressed, which goes far to prove that fish were
regarded as impure for kings. Furthermore, in the thousands of lines
which contain spells for the future benefit of these dead Kings not one
figure of a fish occurs.

On the other hand, evidence exists of practices in apparent conflict
with the above facts. Newberry,[818] provides two Middle Kingdom
instances of fish being brought to the owner of the tomb, and
Maspero[819] one of the New Kingdom.

Then, again, how about the famous representations of fish, both upon an
altar and also on the face of an altar, in Capart’s work?[820] These
basalt statues (he holds) exhibit the King making offerings of fish;
others regard them merely as the King marching at the head of the Nile
gods, and himself representing the great river, “the giver of all
things good.”

Donations of fish were frequently made to the temples by the Kings.
Rameses III., for instance (as the Harris Papyrus discloses) presented
thousands and thousands, labelled “dressed, cut up, and from the
canal.”[821] These gifts were not for the priests, but (probably) for
their employés or the populace.

We read (in the Hammamat _Stele_) of “the officers of the Court
Fishermen” attendant on Rameses IV. Their task, unlike that of a
similar corps in the Chinese court whose duty (_inter alia_) was to
manage the arrangements for the Emperor’s sport, principally consisted
in securing “a plenty of fish” for the enormous entourage and servants
of the monarch.

But the Pharaohs till Cleopatra were, as far as I can gather,
personally as free from the sin of fishery, as the net offered to the
Syrian goddess in the epigram of Heliodorus.[822]

The problem as to fish being offered or not to the gods or the dead
may possibly be solved, if we bear in mind that while fish are never
mentioned in the longer versions of the offering texts of the Old
Kingdoms, and are not represented in the pictures of the food provided
for the dead before the XIIth Dynasty, after that date some occasional
instances to the contrary do occur.

Figures (even of food, as I have shown) drawn in the tombs were
supposed to retain their original powers. To avoid their contact with
the dead by walking into his chamber, figures of human beings, of
animals including snakes, of birds, but not of insects, were, at any
rate in the VIth and XIIth Dynasties, frequently mutilated.[823]

A prayer[824] shows how real was the fear: “Let not decay caused by any
reptile make an end of me, and let them not come against me in their
various forms.” The danger to the royal Ka from a fish swimming, or
from the fish _Clarias macracanthus_ walking from its habitat in the
Upper Nile into the tomb chapel, beggars description!

The apparent anomaly, that while scenes of fishing occur in the tombs
as often as those of fowling and hunting, and that while the latter
frequently, the former never, figure in the offerings, is (according
to Lacau[825]) quite easy of explanation. When a man dies, he is
identified with and taken to Osiris, to whom, like the other gods, no
fish was meet for offerings, whereas the _scenes_, which depicted them,
were representations of what a man had done or known in his lifetime.

Additional doubts whether the ban against fish-offerings met with
exceptions, are caused by the discovery of models of fish buried in
the XIXth Dynasty foundation-deposits along with those of fowl, beef,
etc.[826] Perhaps the _modelling_ differentiates the instance. If fish
were neither meet nor permissible offerings to the gods, how came it
that some deities were venerated in connection with fish?

The evidence of Strabo that the _Lates niloticus_ was at
Latopolis,[827] a city named in the fish’s honour, revered in
conjunction with a goddess whom he terms Athena, may, like that of many
another globe-trotter, perhaps, be discounted.

But when we find in the scattered stones of that temple various sorts
of fish, one enclosed in a royal cartouche[828] and at the same place
a Ptolemaic-Roman cemetery, containing great numbers of _Lates_,
mummified by art or Nature,[829] and when further we find at Gurob,
near the old Moeris Canal, cemeteries of the same fish unassociated
with human remains, and dating from the XVIIIth or XIXth Dynasty, when
we find all these,[830] we are driven, as was the negro when faced with
another, but logical, dilemma, to “purtend brains, at any rate scrat

Nor is our “purtending or scratting” ended, when attempts, based on the
finding in the fish cemetery at Gurob of a small head of a goddess, are
made to connect the Athena of Strabo with Hathor, to whom Keller[831]
alleges that the _Oxyrhynchus_ (often found embalmed at Thebes) was
sacred. So, again, our clarity of ideas is not increased, when we read
that Hat-mehyt was the patron goddess of Mendes, the capital of the XVI
Nome (which of all the Nomes alone possessed a fish for its emblem) and
that this fish is regularly represented above the head of Hat-mehyt.

But one fact stands out as adverse to the identification of any god as
a god of fish or connected with fishing. In the magico-religious welter
of god-creating and god-adopting characteristic of the later Egyptians,
who locally worshipped beasts, birds, reptiles, and insects, the first
commandment given to Israel was faithfully observed, in that they
made not unto themselves a graven or other image of any deity “of the
likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth.”[832]


[802] Diodorus Siculus, I. 36.

[803] Cf. G. A. Boulenger, _Fishes of the Nile_ (London, 1907), and
Pierre Montet, _Les Poissons employés dans l’Ecriture Hieroglyphique_.
Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale. Tome XI., 1913.

[804] _Egypt_, Pt. II. p. 226. Bædeker, Leipsic, 1892.

[805] _Antea_, p. 201.

[806] _De Iside et Osiride_, c. 8.

[807] II. 37.

[808] From the _Trans._ of S. Squire.

[809] Mnaseas, as quoted by Athenæus, VIII. 37.

[810] W. Robertson-Smith, _The Religion of the Semites_ (Edinburgh,
1889), p. 276.

[811] J. H. Breasted, _Records of Ancient Egypt_ (Chicago, 1906-7),
vol. IV., par. 882.

[812] See Hastings’ _Ency. of Religion and Ethics_, vol. X. pp. 796 and
482, and _Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache_, vol. 49, p. 51 (Leipzig,

[813] Their brawling in boats and carousing in drink are depicted. Cf.
N. de G. Davies, _Tombs of El Gebrawi_, Pt. II. (London, 1902), Pl. V.,
and Newberry, _Beni Hasan_, Pt. II., Pl. IV., and Davies, _Ptahhetep_,
Pt. II., Pl. XIV., and Pt. I., Pl. XXI. In the XXth Dynasty the
chastity of their wives was not a striking characteristic.

[814] _Op. cit._, XXXII.

[815] Fish hieroglyphs are regarded by some as general determinatives
for words meaning “shame,” “evil,” etc. (cf. Plutarch, _op. cit._,
32), and by others as merely phonetic determinatives (cf. Montet, _op.
cit._, p. 48). That fish were regarded as either enemies or emblems
of enemies of the gods and of the kings would seem to be borne out by
the ceremony annually performed at Edfu, where the festival calendar
contains the following: “Fish are thrown on the ground, and all the
priests hack and hew them with knives, saying ‘Cut ye wounds on your
bodies, kill ye one another: Ra triumphs over his enemies, Horus of
Edfu over all evil ones.’” The text assures us that “the meaning of the
ceremony is to achieve the destruction of the enemies of the gods and
king.” Cf. Erman, _Handbook of Egyptian Religion_, trs. by Griffith
(London, 1907), p. 216.

[816] Erman, _Egyptian Life_, Eng. Trs. (London, 1894), p. 239, basing
himself on Mariette’s statement in _Monuments divers recueillis en
Égypte_, pp. 151, 152.

[817] _Op. cit._, p. 284.

[818] _El Bersheh_, Pt. I. (London, n. d.), Pl. XXIII.

[819] _Tombeau de Nakhti_ (Mém. de la Mission française au Caire, vol.
V. fasc. 3., Paris, 1893), Fig. 4, p. 480.

[820] _Les Monuments des Hycsos_, Bruxelles, 1914. Connected with these
and somewhat confirming Capart appear to be two life-size figures
of Amenemhat III., in one of which the king is seated between two
goddesses holding fish.

[821] These offerings (15,500 dressed, 2,200 white fish, etc.) are
named under the heading, “Oblations of the festivals which the King
founded for his Father Amon-Re.” But in the summary of the good
deeds wrought for the gods by Rameses III.—“I founded for them
divine offerings of barley, wheat, wine, incense, fruit, cattle
and fowl”—observe the complete silence as to _fish_, because these
offerings were to the gods, not to the temples. Cf. Breasted, _Ancient
Records_, IV., paragraphs 237, 243, and 363.

[822] _Antea_, p. 123.

[823] Mutilation was not invariable, even in the XIIth Dynasty, as Beni
Hasan discloses.

[824] In the _Book of the Dead_, Chapter 154.

[825] P. Lacau, _Suppressions et modifications des signes dans les
textes funebraires_, Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache, vol. 51
(1913), 42 ff.

[826] Petrie, _Six Temples at Thebes_ (London, 1897), Pl. XVI., f. 15,
fish from foundation deposit of Taussert, and Pl. XVIII., from Siptah.

[827] XVII. 1, 47. Latopolis is now Esneh.

[828] Wilkinson, _op. cit._, III. 343, f. 586.

[829] See _Proc. Soc. Biblical Archæology_, XXI. p. 82, for a picture
of a bronze mummy-case containing remains of a small Lates.

[830] L. Loat, _Saqqara Mastabas_, I. Gurob. Plates 7, 8, 9, and Petrie
and Currelly, _Ehnasya_, 1905, p. 35.

[831] _Op. cit._, p. 346.

[832] See Bates, p. 234, ff.



Apart from the mythological fishes, the _Abdu_ and the _Ant_, which
were supposed to accompany the boat of the Sun, we find others held
sacred or worshipped in different Nomes or cities.

Before considering these, I draw attention to the cut of a
representation from Gamhud,[833] and to the account by E. Mahler
of a _Stele_, attributed to Thotmes III., now in the Museum at

Both are remarkable; for in both _Fish_ takes the place of the usual
Bird-Soul. As the Buda-Pesth _Stele_ is unpublished, we have to depend
on Mahler’s account. He tells us that in the ancient beliefs and myths
of Egypt the fish was a symbol of eternity, and guided the boat which
bore the dead to the waters of the blessed.

The Gamhud illustration, attributed to the Ptolemies, who held fast to
the tradition that the parts of Osiris were eaten by three fishes, one
of which was the _Oxyrhynchus_, has a distinct interest, because here
for the first time the _Oxyrhynchus_ figures as a substitute for the

The Buda-Pesth _Stele_ probably deduces from Gurob, where there is, or
rather twenty years ago was, a fish cemetery excavated by Petrie. Here,
too, was a temple built by Thotmes III., and a smaller one erected in
his honour.

The idea of the dead man may well have been “I have embalmed thousands
and thousands of fish. Now then, one of you, in return do your best to
secure for me immortality.”

Herodotus[835] states that only two fishes are venerated, the
_Lepidotus_ and the _Phagrus_. The Father of History is not open
in this case to the charge of exaggeration, for with these the
_Oxyrhynchus_, and (according to Strabo) the _Lates niloticus_, and
(according to Wilkinson) the _Mœotes_ should be included.


From Ahmed Bey Kamal, _Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte_.]

Various reasons are assigned for the veneration, local if not national,
of these particular fishes. Wilkinson suggests, with a touch of
ironical humour—“the reason of their sanctity (_i.e._ the _Oxyrhynchus_
and _Phagrus_) was owing to their being unwholesome: the best way of
preventing their being eaten was to assign them a place among the
sacred animals of the country!”

Some writers detect in their sanctity a remnant of local Totemism, a
word which in blessedness equals and in length of inadequate definition
surpasses Mesopotamia.[836]

But Robinson, disagreeing with Robertson Smith and Frazer in their
conception of Totemism, denies that these fish were totems in any
proper sense. Primitive man performs an act of positive sacrifice when
he devotes to the religious tribal idea the best fish of the waters,
and thenceforth abstains from eating them; whereas the Egyptians
shabbily denied themselves only the refuse. They made that sacred which
they could not eat. All the evidence tends to the suspicion that the
gods were put off by the priests with the very worst of the fish. If a
species were poisonous or belonged to a class that was unwholesome, it
was straightway declared sacred.[837]

Speaking from my own experience and purely on palatal grounds, had I
been High Priest I should have banned nearly all Nile fishes for their
insipidity and muddiness. Tastes, of course, differ. The _Lates_ is
passable, but the _Oxyrhynchus_ attracts no opsophagist devotees, which
is probably the fault of “The Creator of all things good” in either
the temperature of his water or the character of their food, since a
cousin, _O. mormyrus_, geographically not far removed, is ranked by
epicures as delicious.[838]

The reason assigned by the priests to Plutarch for the abstention from
and local veneration of the _Oxyrhynchus_, _Phagrus_, and _Lepidotus_
possesses, whatever its truth, the charm of an antiquity reaching back
to the dawn of goddom.

After the slaying of Osiris by Typho, Isis made unwearied search for
his body. But she could never recover his private part, for it had
been flung into the Nile, and eaten by the _Lepidotus_, the _Phagrus_,
and the _Oxyrhynchus_: “fish which of all others, for this reason, the
Egyptians have in more especial avoidance. But Isis made its effigies,
and so consecrated the _phallos_, for which the Egyptians to this day
observe a festival.”[839]

The same author vouches for the veneration of the _Oxyrhynchus_, as
shown by the people of the city named after that fish; “they will not
touch any kind of fish that have been taken with an angle, for they
are afraid lest perhaps the hook may be defiled by having at some time
or other been employed in catching their favourite fish.”[840] Ælian
goes farther: “were but one of these fish taken in a net, the townsmen
would let the whole catch free.”[841]

Holy Wars, even if unpreached by a tarbushed Kaiser, came to pass in
Plutarch’s day; “within our memory, because the people of Kynopolis
presumed to eat their fish, the Oxyrhyncites[842] in revenge seized on
all the dogs, or sacred animals of their enemies that came in their
way, offering them in sacrifice, and eating their flesh in like manner
as they did that of their other victims: this drew on a war between the
two cities, wherein both sides, after doing each other much mischief,
were at last severely punished by the Romans.”[843]

To another religious war, between the Ombites and the Tentyrites, we
owe the great Satire XV. of Juvenal, when banished to Egypt at the age
of eighty.[844] The poem ranks high, not only for its mordant irony but
also for its description of the origin of civil society, “a description
infinitely superior to anything that Lucretius or Horace has delivered
on the subject,” according to the not always laudatory Gifford.

    “Who knows not to what monstrous gods, my friend,
     The mad inhabitants of Egypt bend?
     The snake-devouring ibis, These enshrine,
     Those think the crocodile alone divine.”

“Those” were the Ombites, “These” the Tentyrites, who hated the
crocodile worshipped at Ombos: hence

    “Blind bigotry, at first, the evil wrought,
     For each despised the other’s gods, and thought
     Its own the true, the genuine—in a word
     The only deities to be adored.”[845]

The _Phagrus_ had the distinction of being venerated in Egypt and
Greece, whose writers, bothered by none of our scientific hesitation,
regarded him not as one of the Mormyri, but as the Eel. They scoffed
alike at his deification and his devotees.[846]

The _Phagrus_, and the _Mœotes_, which is Wilkinson’s addition to the
four other sacred fish, were probably the same under different names.
Ælian, indeed, states that the former, worshipped at Syene, was called
the _Mœotes_ by the people of Elephantine (quite close to Syene), and
attributes its sanctity to its annual appearance always heralding the
rise of the Nile,[847] a property of prescience transferred by Plutarch
to the _Mœotes_.[848]

We know so little about the _locus_ of the _Lepidotus_ (_Barbus bynni_)
cult that Wilkinson’s assertion, “its worship extended over most parts
of Egypt,” needs confirmatory data.

The Crocodile, like the _Lates_, was worshipped here and there, but
elsewhere keenly hunted. Of the first Thebes and Lake Mœris furnish
types. Each place (according to Herodotus) harboured one crocodile in
particular, very tame and tractable.[849] They adorned his ears, as
Antonina her _Muræna_, “with earrings of molten stone or gold, and put
bracelets on his forepaws, giving him daily a set portion of bread,
with a certain number of victims: when he dies, they embalm and bury
him in a sacred place.”[850]

Of the various methods for catching the crocodile our author sets forth
one which we all must agree as “worthy of mention.” “They bait a hook
with a chine of pork, and let the meat be carried out into the middle
of the stream, while the hunter on the bank holds a living pig which
he belabours. The crocodile hears its cries and making for the sound
encounters the pork, which he instantly swallows down. The men on the
shore haul and, when they have got him to land, the first thing the
hunter does is to plaster his eyes with mud. This once accomplished,
the animal is despatched with ease, otherwise” (it may surprise you)
“he gives great trouble.”[851]

Both the _Phagrus_ and the Crocodile possessed foreknowledge as to the
rise of the river, the first as to time, the latter as to extent, for
“in what place soever the female lays her eggs, that may be concluded
to be the utmost extent to which the Nile will spread that year.”[852]

Blackman[853] praises the art of a scene, as (although the crocodile
is but roughly blocked out) one ranking with the finest specimens of
ancient Egyptian bas-reliefs: “not even the Old Kingdom mastabas at
Sakhara can produce anything to surpass it for vigour and beauty of


[833] Ahmed Bey Kamal, _Annales du Service des Antiquités de l’Égypte_,
1908, IX. 23 f., Pl. 1.

[834] _Actes du IV^e Congrès International d’Histoire des Religions_,
1913, p. 97 f.

[835] II. 72.

[836] For a description, not a _definition_ of Totemism, see Robertson
Smith, _loc. cit._, or J. G. Frazer’s four volumes on _Totemism and
Exogamy_. The _Oxford Dictionary_ for once is not very helpful in,
“Totemism, the use of Totems, with a clan division, and the social,
marriage, and religious customs connected with it.”

[837] _Op. cit._, p. 37.

[838] The Mormyri, which number some 100 species, are peculiar to

[839] _De Iside et Osiride_, 18.

[840] Plut., 8.

[841] _N. H._, X. 46.

[842] The _Mormyri_, to which the _Oxyrhynchus_ belongs, figure on
the walls, and in bronzes, _O. kannum_ and _O. caschive_ being most
frequent; but the _Bana_ (_Petrociphalus bane_) and _Grathonemus
aprinoides_ also occur. The best delineations are found in the tombs of
Ti and of Gizeh.—G. A. Boulenger, _Fishes of the Nile_, London, 1907.

[843] Plut., _Ibid._, ch. 72.

[844] The banishment is disputed by Franke and others. Cf., however,
_Sat._, XV. 45. “Aegyptus, sed luxuria, _quantum ipse notavi_.”

[845] From Gifford’s _Translation_.

[846] Cf. Athenæus, VII. 55, for the jests of Antiphanes, etc.

[847] _N. H._, X. 19.

[848] _Op. cit._, 7.

[849] Plato bears witness to the skill of the Egyptians in taming fish,
and animals, even the shy wild gazelle. _Polit._ 532.

[850] Herodotus, II. 69, 70. _Rawlinson’s Trans._

[851] The story of the _trochilus_, with which alone out of all birds
and beasts our author states the crocodile lives in amity, because the
little bird enters its mouth (when on land) and frees it from myriads
of devouring leeches, is too well known for reference, were it not for
the dispute (_a_) as to whether the bird—_Pluvianus egyptius_—performs
any service except uttering a shrill cry on the approach of man
and thus warning the crocodile, and (_b_) whether for leeches, we
should not substitute gnats. Cf. W. Houghton, _N. H. of the Ancients_
(London), pp. 238-244. The account of the connection between the bird
and the beast given by Plutarch is far prettier and more spirited than
that of Herodotus.

[852] Plutarch, _ibid._, 75. The beasts enjoyed both a hereditary
transmission of holiness and a subtle discrimination as to the build of
a boat, for fishermen who embark in one made of papyrus enjoy security
from their attentions, “they having either a fear or else a veneration
for this sort of boat,” because Isis in her search for the remains of
Osiris used such a means of conveyance. Plutarch, _ibid._, 18.

[853] _Op. cit._, II. p. 14, Pl. 2, Register 3.

[854] Crocodiles and _Papyri_ seem a curious juxtaposition! Some time
ago Dr. Grenfell was excavating ground likely to yield important finds.
Bad luck dogged his digging: only preserved crocodiles came to light.
One day a labourer, incensed at work wasted on the beasts, jabbed his
pick into the latest specimen, whose head disgorged a roll of papyrus.
Similar head-smashings were fruitful of results, most of which belong
to the Hearst Collection.



“_When a (fisherman) father casts his net, his fate is in the hands of
God. In truth there is no calling which is not better than it._”[855]

The classification of Egyptian society made by Herodotus[856]
merits mention if only on account of its unexpected gradations; (A)
Priests, (B) Warriors, (C) Cowherds, (D) Swineherds, (E) Tradesmen,
(F) Interpreters, (G) Boatmen. The position allotted to the cowherd
and swineherd before the tradesman, if startling to modern eyes,
characterises most early societies. “For trader,” as Seymour shows,
“Homer knows no word.”[857] _Fishermen_, although unnamed but
presumably included under boatmen, figure last, a rank consonant with
that assigned by the Scribe above.

If their life was socially of the lowest and their toil of the hardest,
they must have earned a modest living, even though no tacksman
millionaire finds record. We may fairly assume a general and constant
demand for fish from (A) the revenues yielded by fisheries, and (B) the
taxes paid by fishermen.

Of (A) Lake Mœris affords a striking instance. When the water retired
from the lake to the Nile, the daily sale realised one talent of silver
(reckoned by Wilkinson at £193 15_s._ 0_d._), and when the current
set the other way one-third of that sum, but in all some £45,000
yearly.[858] We learn that the proceeds of these fisheries formed the
dowries or allowances for the scents, etc.,[859] of the Queens.

Later on they also received as appanage the revenues of Anthylla famous
for its wines, so they fared not badly for pin money. Herodotus[860]
informs us that the town “is assigned expressly to the wife of the
ruler of Egypt to keep her in shoes. Such has been the custom ever
since Egypt fell under Persian rule,” an origin not improbable from
Plato’s statement that one district was allotted for toilette purposes
to the Persian Queens and called “The Queen’s Girdle.”

(B) The taxes (or revenues) obtained in the Ptolemaic times, ἰχθυηρά,
were probably a Government monopoly. They were divided into (_a_) a tax
on fishermen of one quarter of the value of the fish caught (τετάρτη
ἁλιέων), (_b_) the profits of sale of fish at prices higher than those
paid for them direct to the fisherman.

In the Roman period we find τέλος ἰχθυηρᾶς δρυμῶν, or a rent from
marshes deep enough at the time of the inundation to contain fish and
shallow enough at other times to grow papyri and marsh plants. Leases
for fishing and selling papyri, etc., brought good returns. But these
returns must be distinguished from other revenues derived from the
industry, _e.g._ the fisheries of Lake Mœris, and from a tax paid by
the fishermen, both of which seem to correspond with the Ptolemaic
“fourth part.” On the other hand the φόρος, no doubt, was a tax paid by
fishermen for the right of fishing, or for the use of boats in waters
owned by the temples.[861]

The Net, in the marsh country, was not only the most lucrative “engine
of encirclement,” but also a double duty paid. In other parts the
inhabitants passed their nights upon lofty towers to escape the gnats,
but in the marsh land (Herodotus continues), “where are no towers,
each man possesses a net instead.[862] By day it serves to catch fish,
while at night he spreads it over the bed in which he is to rest and
creeping in goes to sleep underneath.” While struck by the resemblance
to Goldsmith’s article of furniture,

    “A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day,”

we are forced once more to “scrat head,” and very hard. Imagination
reels before the mesh of a Net, capable alike of catching a marketable
fish and denying a gnat!

Fish intended for immediate use were usually dressed on the boat and
quickly dispatched to market; the rest of the catch was opened ashore,
split, salted, and hung to dry in the sun. Pictures[863] of all these
operations, and examples of splitting knives, survive. Splitting in the
earlier eras, for some reason, ran, not sheer down the back, but always
rather to one side or other.

Promptness of curing in a hot climate like Egypt was all important.
Diodorus, indeed, tells us that practically all fish were at once
pickled or salted, a statement confirmed by Julius Pollux’s mention
of the Egyptian _tariché_, especially that from Canopus, being
exported[864] far and wide, certainly to Palestine, whither “the
Egyptian fish came in baskets or barrels.”[865]

Prices of wheat, honey, fish and other wares occur in Spiegelberg’s
work,[866] but no attempt is made by him (as far as I know) to
correlate the prices in ancient and modern Egypt.

I essay the task more as a _jeu d’esprit_ than for any result of
economic value, by means of the _Mugil capito_. This grey mullet has
been identified with the ancient _’Ad_, a fish which figures frequently
in the representations, _e.g._ in the Tomb of Ti, of Ptahhetep,[867]
and of Naqada.[868] Its habit of ascending the Nile from the sea was
known and noted by ancient authorities. Strabo, after stating that it,
the Dolphin, and the Shad were the only fish so to do, informs us that
the Mullet in his upward journey carefully consorted with the Schalls,
or Catfish, whose strong spikes afforded it protection against the

We find at the end of the XXth Dynasty, say 1200 B.C., that 300 of
_Ireth_ fish, 100 of _Shena’_, and 800 _’Ad_ (each lot) fetched 1
_kite_ of silver—the _kite_ being 1/10 of a _deben_ of 91 _grammes_.
Although in the XVIIIth Dynasty gold had been just twice as valuable as
silver, at this time silver stood to gold in a ratio of 1⅔ to 1.

Thus 100 _Shena’_, 300 _Ireth_ (both of which are as yet unidentified)
and 800 _’Ad_ fish were (each lot) worth 91/10 × ⅗, _i.e._ 5·46
_grammes_ of gold.

Now one sovereign weighs 123·27447 grains, and as 11/12 of this is
gold it contains 113·0016 grains of gold. As a _gramme_ equals 15·432
grains, the value of 5·46 _grammes_ of gold thus works out at about 14
shillings and 11 pence to the nearest farthing. The whole calculation,
however, depends on the assumption that the _kite_ is known to be
exactly 9·1 _grammes_.

This, the latest estimate of its probable weight, can only be an
estimate, for the Egyptians of the XVIIIth Dynasty, at any rate, did
not make weights to a minute fraction of a _gramme_. A calculation
therefore to the nearest farthing is somewhat meaningless, unless the
weight of the _kite_ is determined to be 9·10, and not 9·09 or 9·11
_grammes_. Since the weight is certainly not known to two places of
decimals, it is doubtful if it can be regarded as correct to the first
place. Hence 14_s._ 11_d._ is not absolutely a more accurate estimate
than 15/-.[870]

Assuming for convenience that the _kite_ was worth 15/-, we could have
purchased at the end of the XXth Dynasty 800 _’Ad_ fish for this sum.
One fish would thus cost (15 × 12)/800 = 9/40 of a penny: but since
the Egyptian _Mugil capito_, as sold in the big markets, averages (I
am informed) ½ lb., the conclusion of the whole matter is that in the
era mentioned 1 lb., or two fish, cost 9/20, or ·45 of a penny. In
pre-war days the average marketable price worked out at 2·954 pence
per lb., so the Egyptian _Mugil_ in 1913 cost about 6½ times more than
_c._ 1200 B.C., while the English _Mugil_ in 1913, which (according to
figures kindly furnished me by the Fishmongers Company) averaged 10 to
12 pence per lb., cost about 24 times more.

The Egyptian correlation of 6½ to 1 cannot, it is true, be definitely
established until we have data proving that the _kite_ was exactly 9·1
_grammes_, nor can it be accurately applied to other commodities, but
it may help us to a rough approximation of what some of their prices
were in the XXth Dynasty.[871]

The depreciation of money between the XVIIIth and XXth Dynasties,
heavy as it seems, was as nothing to that which ensued in subsequent
centuries. Examples of this can be observed in the fall of the
Gallienus _tetradrachm_ from about half a crown to one halfpenny in
less than a century. Again under Macrianus (260 A.D.) the coinage was
so bad and so worthless that the banks closed their doors, but were
compelled by the king to open and continue “his divine coinage.” At the
time of Diocletian’s Edict on maximum prices (301 A.D.) a _denarius_ (4
_drachmæ_) was reckoned at 1/50000 of a _litra_ of gold, but in Egypt
after Constantine’s reign it fell much lower, _e.g._ 432,000 _denarii_
equalled 1 pound.

From the _Papyrus Oxyrh._ 1223 we find the _solidus_ computed at
2,020 × 10,000 = 20,200,000, (!) _denarii_ at the end of the fourth

Billon _Denarii_, _i.e._ made out of copper and very little silver,
ceased to be coined at Alexandria after A.D. 297, and got utterly

We get little farther in our quest of correlation of prices even with
other passages; in _Pap. Fayum Towns_ (A.D. 100), of 12 _drachmæ_ for
fish; in _Pap. Petrie III._ 107 (_e_), 6, 24 _drachmæ_ for fish (third
century B.C.); and in a Papyrus not yet (1918) published, 4 _obols_ and
5 _obols_ for a “male” _Cestreus_, or _Mugil capito_.

With salt fish, again, we have no certain leading. For 2 _dipla_
or double jars of this comestible the price was 2 _drachmæ_, but
then their size is uncertain.[873] So again it doth not vantage us
much to read of 240 _drachmæ_ being given in A.D. 255 for “a jar
of pickled fish” (λεπτίον), because the size of the jar is still
undetermined.[874] Nor does “56 _drachmæ_ for 100 pieces of salt fish”
(third century A.D.) solve the problem because, although a “piece of
salt fish” probably implied some definite weight, we have no data
for discovering to what this amounted.[875] Nor again can we deduce
anything definite from the statement that in the third century A.D. a
jar (κεράμιου) of salt fish fetched 1 _drachma_ 1½ _obols_.

The superior derision with which some writers regard the simple, if
inaccurate account, given by Herodotus of the spawning of the Egyptian
fish betokens their ignorance of the parable of the beam and the mote.

If Herodotus erred, what (and this I keep reiterating, on the Kipling
principle of “lest we forget”) about the theorists for 2300 years as to
the procreation of Eels?

Aristotle with his “Entrails of the earth,” Oppian with his “Slime
of their bodies,” Helmont with his “May Dew,” others with their
“Horse-hair,” and Walton with his “Spontaneous Generation” are they
as correct zoologists as the Father of History? With him procreation
resulted from a semi-direct if inaccurate connection, but May Dews and
Horse-hairs, etc., etc., what do they or what could they do in the
galley of contact?

After which outburst I pass to Herodotus.[876]

“Gregarious fish are not found in any numbers in the rivers; they
frequent the lagunes, whence, at the season of breeding, they proceed
in shoals towards the sea. The males lead the way, and drop their milt
as they go, while the females, following close behind, eagerly swallow
it down. From this they conceive, and when, after passing some time in
the sea, they begin to be in spawn, the whole shoal sets off on its
return to its ancient haunts. Now, however, it is no longer the males,
but the females, which take the lead: they swim in front in a body, and
do exactly as the males did before, dropping little by little their
grains of spawn as they go, while the males in their rear devour the
grains, each one of which is a fish. A portion of the spawn escapes and
is not swallowed by the males, and hence come the fishes which grow
afterwards to maturity....

“When the Nile begins to rise, the hollows in the land and the marshy
spots near the river are flooded before any other places by the
percolation of the water through the river-banks; and these, almost as
soon as they become pools, are found to be full of numbers of little
fishes. I think that I understand how it is this comes to pass. On the
subsidence of the Nile the year before, though the fish retired with
the retreating waters, they had first deposited their spawn in the mud
upon the banks: and so, when at the usual season the water returns,
small fry are rapidly engendered out of the spawn of the preceding
year. So much concerning the fish.”

And was the great zoologist Aristotle[877] more accurate in his
suggestion as to spawning? “Some surmise that the female becomes
impregnated by swallowing the seminal fluid of the male. And there can
be no doubt that this proceeding on the part of the female is often
witnessed, for at the breeding season the female follows the males and
perform the act and strike the males with their mouths under the belly,
and the males are thereby induced to part with the sperm sooner and
more plentifully.”

The Pahlavi texts tell us that at spawning time or season of excitement
fish in pairs travel to and fro a mile in running water. In this coming
and going they rub their bodies together, and a kind of sweat drops out
between, and both become pregnant.


[855] Maspero, _Du genre épistolaire chez les Égyptiens_, p. 65 f.

[856] II. 164. Cf., however, II. 47. It is not quite clear whether the
order of the list is intentional. If so, it is certainly justifiable
from the point of view of primitive or early society.

[857] See p. 65, _antea_.

[858] Herod., II. 149.

[859] Diodorus Siculus, I. 52. Twenty-two different kinds of fish
existed in the royal fish ponds of Mœris. Keller, _op. cit._, 330.

[860] II. 98.

[861] See Grenfell and Hunt, _Tebtunis Papyri_, II. 180-1, and I.
49-50. Also Wilcken, _Griechische Ostraka_, I. 137 ff. The craft
employed were usually primitive rafts or canoes made of papyrus canes
bound together with cords of the same plant. Theophrastus, _Hist.
Plantarum_, IV. 8, 2, alludes to them. Pliny, _N. H._, VII. 57, speaks
of Nile boats made of papyrus, rushes and reeds, while Lucan, IV. 136,
refers to them in

    “Conseritur bibula Memphitis cymba papyro.”

[862] II. 95.

[863] See Alan H. Gardiner, _The Tomb of Amenemhat_ (London, 1915), Pl.
II, and Petrie, _Medum_, Pl. XII.

[864] _Onomasticon_, VI. 48. A primitive method of curing prevailed in
the last century among the Yapoos—“the fisher then _bites out_ a large
piece of the fish’s belly, takes out the inside, and hangs the fish on
a stick by the fire in his canoe.” See Darwin, _Voyages of Adventure,
etc._ (London, 1839), p. 428.

[865] Mish., _Makhshirin_, VI. 3. The Greeks and Copts of the present
day, whose enjoined fasts are frequent, rarely split their fish before
packing them in large earthen pots.

[866] _Rechnungen aus den Zeit Setis_, I. 87 ff.

[867] Quibell, _The Ramesseum_ (London, 1898), Pl. XXXIII.

[868] J. de Morgan, _Ethnographie Préhistorique_ (Paris, 1897), 193.

[869] Cuvier and Valenciennes, _Op. cit._, XI. p. 62.

[870] In Ridgeway, _The Origin of Metallic Currency_, etc. (Cambridge,
1892), p. 240, is illustrated a fine _Kite_ weight from which one
_Kite_ would equal about 140 grains, corresponding to 9·08 _grammes_.

[871] The information as to the average prices and weights of the
_Mugil capito_, on which the above calculations were grounded, was
obtained from the Department of Supplies in Egypt. “In the markets of
Alexandria the weight of the grey mullet varies from 8 to 3 to the
_oke_ (2·75 lbs.), say 5½ to 14½ oz. each. The _pre-war_ retail price
was for large fish, 3 or 4 to the _oke_, 8 _Piastres_; for small, 8 to
the _oke_, 5 Piastres.” The prices in August, 1920, had increased to 20
and 16 _Piastres_ respectively, or nearly two-thirds more.

[872] Cf. _Pap. Oxyrh._ 1430, _Introd._

[873] _Pap. Oxyr._, III. 520, 21, A.D. 143.

[874] _Berliner Griechische Urkunden_, I. 14, col. IV. 18.

[875] _Egyptian Exploration Fund Annual Report_, 1906-7, p. 9.

[876] Bk. II. 93.

[877] _N. H._, V. 5.



This chapter owes its birth to a passage of intrinsic interest but
gruesome nature.

Before quoting or dealing with it, I may be allowed a few words as to
my running it to ground and the curiosity it excited among Angling

Some years ago I read in an article that “fishing with the hair of a
dead person, ἔδησεν νεκρᾷ τριχὶ δέλεαρ, was practised by the Egyptians,
as is shown by discoveries during the last thirty years.” No authority,
no reference was given. “Thirty years” opened up a search too extensive
to waste on an anonymous statement.

Even so this fishing with an unknown gut, dead men’s hair, kept
worrying me. Aristotle and others had written of the use of horse-hair,
but none of my friends or I had ever come across this Egyptian tackle.
A great authority suggested that it was possibly taken from a body of
which the hair continued to grow after death, and thus possessed much
value because of length and strength.

Instantly floated before us visions of obtaining by a new _Rape of the
Lock_ this most desirable gut. Two nefarious courses were discussed.
First, to rifle the coffin of Edward I., which when last opened in Dean
Stanley’s time revealed (_teste_ the Verger) long hair still growing.
Second, to raid the tomb of the Countess of Abergavenny (_née_ Isabella
Despencer) in Tewkesbury Abbey, in which (to use Canon Ernest Smith’s
words) “at the restoration of the Abbey in 1875 was disclosed bright
auburn hair, apparently as fresh and as plentiful, as when the body was
buried four and a half centuries ago.”[878]

Do the Sagas or other ancient Scandinavian literature, in which
descriptions of fishing frequently figure, allude to such use of dead
men’s hair? Two of the foremost Scandinavian scholars could recall
none. _The Kalevala_—the great Finnish epic—yielded no help.

Nearest comes the account of “Gunnar’s Slaying” in _Story of the Burnt
Njal_.[879] After his bowstring has been cut by his foe, Gunnar said
unto his wife, Hallgerda, ‘Give me two locks of thy hair, and ye two,
my mother and thou, twist them together into a bowstring for me.’ ‘Does
aught lie on it?’ she says. ‘My life lies on it,’ he said; ‘for they
will never come to close quarters with me, if I can keep them off with
my bow.’ ‘Well,’ she says. ‘Now will I call to thy mind that slap in
the face thou gavest me,’ and refused him her hair.

Gunnar, just ere he falls, sings:

    “Now my helpmeet, wimple hooded,
     Hurries all my fame to earth.
     Woman, fond of Frodi’s flour
     Wends her hand, as she is wont.”[880]

The passage containing the Greek words quoted in the article was
eventually discovered on p. 82 of _Fayum Towns and their Papyri_, by
Grenfell, Hunt, and Hogarth.

    καὶ δὴ χθόνα δυσπράπελον φθάσας
    ασχήμονας ἦλθε παρ’ ἠόνας
    ἒνθεν δὲ πέτραν καθίσας ὅτε
    κάλαμον μὲν ἔδησεν νεκρᾷ τριχὶ
    δέλεαρ δὲ λαβὼν καὶ ψωμίσας
    ἂγκιστρον ἀγῆγε βύθει βυθῷ

       *       *       *       *       *

    ὡς δ’ οὐδὲν ὅλως τότ’ ἐλαμμένον[881]

I subjoin a translation:—

“And so hastening over the rugged ground he came unto the unsightly
shores, and there seated on a rock tied the rod with dead hair, and
taking bait and feeding with little morsels, drew the hook along (or
up and down) in the deep pool. But as naught was caught,” and as αὕτη
μὲν ἡ μηρινθός οὔδεν ἔσπασεν,[882] both in its literal and proverbial
sense held true, he returned to the place whence he came, the place of

The Editors’ introduction to the Papyrus runs: “The matter of the poem
is hardly less remarkable than the manner in which it was written down.
The subject is the adventures of a man whose name is not given. After
some talk, the hero proceeds to a place which is full of corpses being
devoured by dogs. He then makes his way to the sea-coast and proceeds
to sit down on a rock, and fish with Rod and Line. He did not, however,
succeed in catching anything: we then revert to the corpses, the
gruesome picture of which is further elaborated. The language and style
of the composition, the literary qualities of which are poor enough,
clearly show its late date, not posterior to the second century.”

I am indebted to Professor Grenfell for further information. “The
Papyrus,” he writes me, “is certainly a poem describing the descent of
some one to the under-world.” An Austrian, A. Swoboda,[883] wrote an
article to show that it belonged to a Naassene[884] psalm describing
the descent of Christ to Hades. The beginning of a poem on this
subject, in the same metre as the Papyrus, is known from Hippolytus,
_Refutatio Hereticorum_. The second column of the Papyrus seems to be
an address to a Deity, and would fit in with Swoboda’s theory.

“The composition being, in any case of a mystical and imaginative
character, I do not think the description of the fishing incident is to
be regarded as in any way real, and, from the fisher’s point of view,
it is not to be taken literally. _No parallel for the use of dead men’s
hair in fishing has ever been suggested._ In none of the Papyri are
there any details about the modes of Angling. Ἔδησεν, which I should
translate _tied_, has been generally supposed to refer to the angler’s
line, and considering the composition is poetical, this seems the
natural interpretation.”

This coupled with the Introduction to the Papyrus appears to shatter
the statement that fishing with the hair of a dead person was practised
in ancient Egypt. But although in such a mystic adventure as a Descent
to Hades all is possible and all is pardonable, the passage can hardly
from its extremely abrupt and casual mention of hair be regarded as
heralding in the use of this substance as a quite new adjunct to
fishing. It partakes of the nature of a simile.

If it be true that an ancient simile was intended to throw light from
the more familiar on the less familiar, but never to illustrate the
moderately familiar by the wholly strange, one might, despite the
absence of all reference to such tackle in the representations or in
classical writers, possibly argue that lines made of the hair of the
dead were known and were used by the Egyptians. The substitution of the
hair of a dead person for the hair of a horse may be but a bold and not
ineffective attempt to heighten the mysticism of the picture.

Apart from the pleasant gain which the quest and the running down of
this hare in “a mare’s nest” (to mix metaphors boldly) entailed, one’s
only real satisfaction is that the Egyptian angler, notwithstanding his
gruesome gut and loathsome bait, caught NOTHING!


[878] Aristotle (_H. A._, III. 11), states that the hair does grow in
dead bodies. Since his time many descriptions of remarkable growth
after death have been published, and many people believe that such
growth does take place. Erasmus Wilson pronounces that “the lengthening
of the hairs observed in a dead person is merely the result of the
contraction of the skin towards their bulb.”

[879] Blakey, _op. cit._, 207, states an engraving was found at
Herculaneum “representing a little Cupid fishing with the ringlets
of her (_sic_) hair for lovers.” So far I have failed to track this
hermaphroditic representation, nor is Sir C. Waldstein aware of its

[880] Translated by Dasent. _Frodi’s flour_ = gold.

[881] Professor Grenfell tells me that ὃτε here has no connection,
unless the main verb came in line 16, where there is a lacuna, but
the traces do not suggest any verb. He also approves my rendering of
ψωμίσας having the sense of “baiting the swim” with bits of flesh from
the corpses.

[882] Aristophanes, _Thesm._, 928. Cf. also _Wasps_, 174-6.

[883] _Wiener Studien_, XXVII. (1905), pp. 299, ff.

[884] Or early Gnostics, also called Ophites, who honoured serpents.



In accordance with my custom of ending the _Fishing_ of each nation by
a story in which fish play directly or indirectly an important part,
I searched for an Egyptian tale or legend. The serpent Apep in the Ra
myth is merely a variant of similar beasts figuring in the Bel and
Andromeda legends: his story, moreover, lacks the stir of battle of the
former, or the human interest of the latter.[885] The absence of any
such legend is due doubtless to the bad esteem in which fish were held
by the priests, who in the early days, at any rate, wrote the history
of the country.

As Maspero in his _Contes Populaires de l’ancienne Égypte_ (which
by the by differs in _The Two Brothers_ from the account given by
Plutarch) failed to provide provender, I perforce fall back on a story,
which, if Ægean in _locale_, is Egyptian in effect, the tale of the
ring of Polycrates.

This has been used by Cicero and other ancient writers to point the
moral of calling no man happy until his death, and by modern to adorn
many a tale of good luck, but since its historical importance has
often been neglected, I venture to recall shortly what Herodotus sets

Polycrates, Tyrant of Samos, was so proverbial for a good fortune,
which had never met with check or disaster, that Amasis, King of
Egypt, fearing the effects of the φθόνος of the Gods on Polycrates and
consequently on their newly-formed alliance, advised him to propitiate
them by getting rid of one of his most valued possessions. Accordingly
the Tyrant cast into the sea[887] his seal-ring of extraordinary
beauty, which in a few days was found in the belly of a fish and
restored to him.

This last shock of happy fortune was too much for Amasis, who broke
off his alliance and thus left Polycrates free to aid Cambyses in his
invasion and conquest of Egypt. It is fair to add, even at the expense
of this pretty fish story, that Grote (IV. 323) holds that Polycrates
himself broke off the Egyptian to effect the more powerful Persian

NOTE.—For kind advice at “parlous times” I am indebted to my friends,
Dr. Alan H. Gardiner and Miss M. A. Murray. The latter has doubled the
debt by reading my proofs.


[885] But as one of the earliest instances of imitative magic the
story is notable. In the tale of Overthrowing Apep, based on the
XXXIXth Chapter of _The Book of the Dead_, the priestly directions for
destroying this enemy of Ra, or the Sun, run as follows: “Thou shalt
say a prayer over a figure of Apep, which hath been drawn upon a sheet
of papyrus, and over a wax figure of Apep upon which his name has
been cut: and thou shalt lay them on the fire, so that it may consume
the enemy of Ra.” Six figures in all, presumably “to mak siccar,” are
to be placed on the fire at stated hours of the day and night. Cf.
Theocritus, _Id._, II. 27 ff., where the slighted damsel prays, “Even
as I melt this wax, with the god to aid, so speedily may he (her lover)
by love be molten.”

[886] III. 40 ff.

[887] Some recent scholars have suggested that in the stories of
Polycrates throwing his ring into the sea, and of Theseus proving his
parentage by a like sacrifice, we should detect traces of an early
custom, by which the maritime king married the sea-goddess—a custom
perpetuated in the symbolical union between the Doges of Venice and the
Adriatic. This ingenious hypothesis was first worked out by S. Reinach,
“Le Mariage avec la mer,” in _Revue archéologique_ (1905), ii. 1 ff. (=
_id. Cultes, Mythes, et Religions_, Paris, (1906), ii. 266 ff.).



From Layard’s _Monuments of Nineveh_, 1st series, Pl. 673.]




There is no delineation or suggestion of the Rod, or of Angling on any
sculpture or any seal, Sumerian, Babylonian, or Assyrian.[889]

The omission does not preclude the existence or use of the Rod. If
it did exist, and were used, we are surprised that there should not
survive amongst the thousands of things mentioned and the many pursuits
represented a single indication of it. Our wonder, indeed, grows
stronger when we call to mind that the Assyrians:

(_a_) Were a people much given to sport of all kinds:

(_b_) Were keenly addicted to the eating of fish, which was not, as
in Israel or Egypt, half-banned by a prophet, or whole-barred to a
priesthood by custom, totemistic or other:

(_c_) Did attach very real importance to the maintenance of an
ample supply of fish. Their dams and _vivaria_, the adjuncts of
every important temple or every self-respecting township, and their
enforcement of Fish Regulations, attest the economic value:

(_d_) Do mention and do represent other kinds of fishing, _e.g._ with
the hand-line and the net. The latter, for both fowling and fishing,
often finds place in their, and Israelitish, metaphors. Examples occur
in the story of the defeat of Marduk and Tiāmat, “They (the enemies)
were cast into the net,” and in the prayer of Eannatum to the god Enki
that, if the citizens of Umma in future break the recent treaty, he
will destroy them in his net. But in the legend of the taking of Zu,
the stealer of the destiny-tablets, the net of the Sun-god is certainly
a fowling one:

(_e_) Did possess near at hand, and had not to import (as the
Romans from Africa) ample material for the Rod in reeds, which were
abundant near Babylon and were utilised in the construction of
furniture, light boats, and fences. In the lists of private property
these reeds—employed for household not angling purposes—figure not

(_f_) Were for hundreds of years closely associated in intercourse
and trade with the Egyptians, whose use of the Rod can be carried
back to about the XIIth Dynasty, _c._ 2000, or, according to Petrie’s
chronology, _c._ 3500 B.C.

Before discussing the date of the first contact or connection between
the two countries, it is advisable shortly to distinguish between
the three peoples whom I group under the term Assyrians, and roughly
apportion the periods of the four thousand odd years of Assyrian
history during which each was predominant.

The first, the Sumerians, occupied before—perhaps long before—the close
of the fourth millennium the land on the lower plain of the Tigris and
Euphrates and on the sea coast, as it then was.[890] They possessed an
advanced civilisation, with an organised government, many large cities,
and considerable agricultural and industrial development.

Whence their emigration, to what family, Mongol or other, they belong,
is not clear. It is settled they were _not_ Semites, like the
Babylonians and Assyrians. Their language (preserved in liturgies,
etc.,[891] down even to the time of the Persian conquest) and their
writing, adopted by the Babylonians and Assyrians, which runs, unlike
the Hebrew, from left to right,[892] disprove Sumerian descent from

It is impossible at present to fix a definite period for their
immigration. The dates assigned vary from 7000 to 4000 B.C. The
statement, however, that “Aryans, Turanians, Semites were all in a
nomadic condition, when the early Sumerian settlers in Lower Babylonia
betook themselves to agriculture, builded great cities, and established
a stable government,” seems hardly exaggerated, even though it
postulates a very ancient era.

The second, the Semitic Babylonians, starting possibly from South
Arabia by way of the Syrian coast, reached the lower part of the
Tigris and Euphrates about 3800 B.C.[893] It was not, however, until
some thousand years afterwards, that they effected a conquest of the

Like other defeated peoples, such as the Canaanites with the Jews, the
Irish with the English, “Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores,” they grafted
their policy on that of their victors, and perpetuated many of their
racial characteristics and customs, as well as their religion. “The
Semitic invaders seem to have been completely converted. In fact
Babylonian religion has scarcely anything characteristically Semitic in

The third, the Assyrians proper, an offshoot from Babylonia, are found
(before 2300 B.C.) pushing their way north along the Tigris, on whose
western bank they founded their first city and earliest capital—Asur.
Wars between them and Babylonia mark the history of centuries.
Their definite suzerainty over that country was only established by
Tiglath-Pileser III., _c._ 730 B.C.

Passing now to the dates of the connection between this Empire and
Egypt, the first assigned is:

(_a_) Early dynastic, say about 4400 B.C., which would probably
correspond to the early Sumerian periods. Some authorities indeed hold
that Egypt was invaded by Babylonians, or was culturally permeated by
the “proto-Babylonians,” or Sumerians. Of invasion we possess no proof,
or even strong suggestion; of cultural permeation, to which Hommel, in
especial, attributes the whole primeval culture of Egypt, some elements
and some signs are possibly noticeable, but even these are Semitic, not
Sumerian,[895] while their total compares insignificantly with those of
native origin.[896]

Of these signs, the use by the Egyptians of the cylinder seal, of which
the Royal tombs of the first Dynasty afford examples, stands out as the
most important. As this characterised Sumer and Babylonia at all times,
while it fell into disuse in the country of the Pharaohs, the seal was
inferred to be an original product of Sumer, whence it reached Egypt in
late pre-dynastic or early dynastic times.

But (as King[897] continues) “Recent research—such as Naville’s at
Abydos, and Reisner’s at Naga-ed-Dêr—leaves small room for the theory
that early Egyptian culture was subjected to any strong foreign
influence in early dynastic times; thus the theory of the invasion by
Semitic tribes must be given up.” Maspero maintains that as far back as
the IVth or Vth Dynasties there were overland relations between Egypt
and Chaldea.[898]

(_b_) Petrie[899] places the beginning of the invasion of Egypt by the
Semites about 3400 B.C. When referring to a painting of one of these
Princes of the Desert named Absha coming into Egypt, he writes that
“though 1000 years before Abram” (whom he himself dates about 2100
B.C.) “he was one of the same race: it is therefore invaluable as an
historical type of the great Semitic invasion.” Evidence from Egyptian
sources seems to show that before and after the conquest by the Hyksos,
Semitic invasions occurred after the VIth Dynasty and again _c._ 2250

Petrie, on the strength of the cylinder of Khendy and the tablet of
Khenzerm—two Babylonians “who rose to the throne of Egypt”—concludes
that an invasion from Syro-Mesopotamia took place in the XIVth Dynasty,
say 2800 B.C.

(_c_) It is not, however, till the XVIIIth Dynasty, _c._ 1400 B.C.,
that we reach firm ground for fixing the first point of _direct_
historical contact between Babylonia and Egypt.

Authority for this dating is found in the famous tablets brought to
light in 1887 at Tel-el-Amarna, which include letters from the rulers
of Babylonia and Assyria to Amenhotep III. and his son Akhenaton. Apart
from the historical value of their presumptive indication of an earlier
intercourse, the discovery discloses three points of great interest.

First, the fact that these were written in Babylonian shows that this
language had already become the _lingua franca_ of the civilised world.
Second, a more human personal note, the probability from the red dots
(still visible) made by some Egyptian with a reed for the purpose of
marking the divisions of the foreign words, that the acquisition of
this _lingua franca_ was advisable, perhaps necessary, to qualification
for a clerkship or an embassy. Third, that Babylonian _literature_ had
found its way among the nations which used its language.

Of this we have conclusive evidence in two documents. The first
concerns the goddess Ereshkigal, the other transmits the legend of

From the Bekten _stele_ we deduce a close intercourse between the two
countries about the XIXth Dynasty, for we read of Rameses II.[901]
being in Mesopotamia “according to his wont, year by year,” and
receiving tributes and presents from the chiefs of the countries round

The connection between Assyria (proper) and Egypt rests on ample
evidence. Fish, or “beasts of the sea,” passed as presents, perhaps as
trade. On the Broken Column of Tiglath-Pileser I. (Cylinder IV. 29-30)
we read, “And a great beast of the River, a great beast of the Sea, the
king of Musrê” (probably Egypt) “sent (unto him).”

The _Select Papyri_ (pl. 75, 1, 7) tell of certain fish being brought,
perhaps as a staple of trade, from the Puharuta or Euphrates to Egypt,
and (in pl. 96, 1, 7) of another fish or fishy substance called _Rura_,
being imported from the land of the great waters, Mesopotamia.[902]


From Assyrian Sculptures in Brit. Mus., No. 430.

See n. 1, p. 355.]


[888] The term Assyrian in this chapter usually includes the Sumerians
and Babylonians.

[889] Lest Forlong’s sentence (_Rivers of Life_ (London, 1883), II.
89), “A beautiful Assyrian cylinder exhibits the worship of the Fish
God; there we see the mitred Man-God with Rod and basket,” etc.,
be quoted in opposition, I would point out that this so-called Rod
is merely a cut sapling, like the one in the hands of Heracles,
but without a sign of any line, which in the Greek vase in the
British Museum is obviously attached. Cf. _Élite des monuments
Céramographiques_, vol. III., Plate I.

[890] From the find (made during the war by a Sikh regiment on the
Tigris above Samara) of an alabaster vase (now in the Ashmolean
Museum), which from archæological reasons must be placed among the very
earliest remnants of Sumerian civilisation, it is evident that—given
the discovery was _in situ_—the frontiers of the Sumerian Empire must
have extended much farther north than has been hitherto generally
supposed. Owing to the deposits of the two rivers, the sea has receded
some hundred and twenty miles.

[891] The Sumerians made extensive use of music, especially in their
religious ceremonies; they were the founders, according to Langdon, of
liturgical music, which unfortunately it is impossible to reconstruct,
as the notes themselves have not survived.

[892] The Sumerian language was not well adapted to express peculiarly
Semitic sounds.

[893] Petrie (_Egypt and Israel_ (London, 1911), p. 15): “The Turanian
race akin to the modern Mongols, known as Sumerians, had civilised the
Euphrates valley for some thousands of years and produced a strong
commercial and mathematical culture. The wandering Semite had at last
been drawn into this settled system of life.”

[894] S. Langdon, _Babylonian Magic_, Bologna, 1914.

[895] The carved ivory handle of a flint knife in the Louvre proves
(according to Petrie) that the art of slate-palettes in Egypt
originated from Elamite civilisation, which flourished before its
rise. It must be of prehistoric age, yet shows a well-developed art
with Mesopotamian or Elamite affinities earlier than the sculptured
slate-palettes and maceheads. M. G. Bénédite (_Monuments Pict._) holds
that in this knife-handle we have the most tangible evidence yet
found of a connection in _very early_ times between the Egyptian and
Mesopotamian civilisations. King (_Jour. Egypt. Archæology_, vol. IV.,
p. 64) suggests that there was a connection with Babylonian-Elamite
seals from Susa.

[896] Thus the general conception of pictographic writing might perhaps
be borrowed from the Euphrates valley, but not a single sign taken from
the Babylonian script can be found (W. Max Müller, _Encly. Bibl._,
p. 1233). Dr. Alan Gardiner, on the origin of the Semitic and Greek
alphabets, concludes that the evidence does point to the alphabet being
Semitic in origin and based upon acrophonic picture signs (_Journal of
Egyptian Archæology_, vol. III., p. 1).

[897] _History of Sumer and Akkad_ (London, 1910), p. 322.

[898] _Egyptian Archæology_ (1902), p. 366.

[899] _Historical Studies_ (London, 1910), II. p. 22. Others would make
the invasion about 2466.

[900] The Babylonian legend of Adapa is thus known to have circulated
in Palestine and Egypt before the Hebrew Exodus. The story of Adapa is
thought by some to have influenced the Hebrew version of the story of
Adam and Eve and the loss of Paradise. See the excellent discussion
in T. Skinner, _Genesis_ (in the _International Critical Commentary_
(1912), p. 91 ff), and Langdon, _The Sumerian Epic of Paradise_
(University of Pennsylvania, Publications of the Babylonia Section,
1915), vol. X., pp. 38-49.

[901] Rameses II. was held in high esteem as a rain-maker—perhaps
rain-god—as is evidenced by the sacrifices offered by the Hittites that
their princess should on her journey to Egypt to marry Rameses enjoy
fair weather, despite that it was the season of the winter storms.
In consequence of this power over the elements, the Hittite chiefs
strongly advocated friendship with Egypt, as otherwise Rameses II.
would probably stop rain and cause a famine in their country (Breasted,
_Ancient Records_, III. 423, 426).

[902] Layard, _Nineveh_ (London, 1849), vol. II. p. 438.

[903] “Fishing, fishing everywhere” is the key-note of the picture;
the crab in the top left-hand corner is also well into his fish. The
picture facing p. 349 comes from the Assyrian sculptures in British
Museum: in Mansell’s collection, No. 430.



The relevance to fish and fishing of all the preceding matter, except
the last two sentences, may be challenged: a moment’s consideration,
however, shows that it is apposite.

The object of introducing these historical facts is to demonstrate (1)
the existence of an intercourse between Assyria and Egypt for certainly
fourteen hundred, possibly three thousand, years, (2) to show cause
for our astonishment at the absence of the Rod from all Mesopotamian
representation or records, and at the non-adoption of a weapon which
for centuries found favour with the Egyptians.

In my Jewish chapter I comment at length on the absence of any mention
of or allusion to the Rod in Israelitish literature and on the
unconvincing reasons advanced for this absence. Angling may have been
unsuited to the Semitic temperament, because it yielded less lucrative
returns than the Net.

Even if we grant that the ruling or only passion of this temperament
was for fishing “in plenty,” why, we are driven to ask, did both
nations condescend to fishing with hand-lines, which are not much more
productive than the Rod? If hand-lining was prompted by some instinct
of sport, why was Angling, the higher development of this instinct, not
also reached?

Of the four implements of Fishing, the Spear, the Rod, the Line and
Hook, and the Net, the Assyrians seem to have been acquainted only with
the last two, Line and Hook, and Net.

Examples of the former method occur in _Monuments of Nineveh_ (1st
Series). In Plate 39B, a man sitting on a terrace by a river is
depicted in the act of landing a fish; in Plate 67B, a man is wading
in a river with what seems to be identical with a creel. The first
was excavated, and subsequently re-buried at Nimroud, the latter
(also re-buried) at Kouyunjik. The second picture excites a livelier
interest, for two men well into their fish are shown in the water
astride the inflated skins of a goat—a method of crossing the Tigris as
habitual then as in the present year of our century.[904]

Despite Rawlinson’s sentence, “of early Chaldean (_i.e._ Sumerian)
there are found made of bronze materials chains, nails, and
fish-hooks,”[905] no specimen of a fish-hook, bronze or other, has been
as yet obtained in Mesopotamia. It is impossible thus to determine
whether the hooks were straight like those recorded by Plutarch, bent
like those of the Odyssey, or barbed. Cros, however, claims that Lagash
excavations yielded “copper fish hooks.” _Rev. d’Assyr._, vi. 48.

Representations also fail to help, probably because a hook, plain and
simple, hardly commends itself as a subject for artistic treatment.
Nor does the primitive Assyrian sculptor, however distrustful of the
imagination of the observer, go as far as to depict “by conventional
device” a hook inside the mouth of the fish which is being taken!

In the Assyrian language there is apparently no word for fish-hook.
From the resemblance between the Hebrew word _ḥōaḥ_, which means
both thorn and fish-hook, and the Assyrian word _ḥâḥu_, which, it is
alleged, means thorn, it has been conjectured that in the latter word
we have the Assyrian term for fish-hook. Professor S. Langdon, who in
a letter to me advances this conjecture, goes even farther—“in fact
_ḥâḥu_ is our only direct evidence for the practice of fishing with
hook and line in Assyria.”

Basing himself on a similar Hebraic resemblance, he would make the
Assyrian _ṣinnitān_, “two reins,” come from a supposed _ṣinnitu_, a
possible feminine of _ṣinnu_, which occurs perhaps in the sense of
“thorn,” and carry the same meaning as the Hebrew _ṣên_, which probably
equals “thorn,” while its plural _ṣinnōth_ does stand for “fish-hooks.”

He believes that in the word, _abarshu_, which Esarhaddon employs, “I
snatched him (Abdi-Milkuti, King of Sidon) as a fish from the sea,”
and again, of a chief of the Lebanon range who had rebelled and fled,
“I caught him from the mountains like a bird,” we have evidence of a
technical word for pulling or jerking out a fish with a line held in
the hand, or perhaps attached to a Rod, because “snatch” would hardly
be the appropriate term for the slower action involved in the drawing
in of a net.[906]

Whether in the first simile the suggestion is philologically valid is
a point for Assyrian scholars to determine. The adequate rendering
or explaining of Sumerian words by Assyrian ones is often difficult
and doubtful, for while the latter language is a great help to
understanding the former, the Assyrian, especially the later Assyrian,
equivalent does not entirely correspond to what would be expected from
a literal analysis of the Sumerian word. The second simile, I hold,
alludes to the Net of the fowler, with which the representations show
the Assyrians to have been familiar.

While there may be doubt whether we possess any Assyrian word
signifying hooks, there can be none as to their existence and their

From the absence of any, even conjectural, word for or representation
of a float, we can only infer that ground bait fishing was the chief,
perhaps the sole, line method in vogue.

I can find no evidence that the Assyrians availed themselves of the
spear, the trident, drugs or poison, but as the first two figure in
Egyptian, Jewish, and Roman records, and appear to be the common
property of all early peoples, the probability is that they were known
and used in the Two Rivers.

The fish of these resembled the fish of the Nile in their alleged
refusal to rise to a fly, but our soldiers have caught on the fly
hundreds of “salmon” of good weight up to 112 lbs. One (hand-lined)
scaled 170 lbs., and one (speared) ran up to 215 lbs. This “salmon” is
a kind of mahseer, the noblest of the carp family,[907] or, according
to Mr. Tate Regan, a barbel, probably the species _Barbus esocinus_
described by Heckel as coming from the Tigris.[908]

The second method was by Netting, which to judge from its repeated
occurrence either as a pursuit or in metaphor was universal, and
prevailed far more extensively than line fishing, especially in
Sumeria. The only Sumerian word, according to Dr. Langdon, for
fishing, _ha-dib_ (one of the oldest words in the world for the act or
occupation), signifies or is akin to a word signifying “to surround,”
_i.e._ with a net, as does the Babylonian term _bâru_. If this be the
case, Netting probably constituted their universal, possibly their only

In the eastern division of Assyria proper lie the main tributaries of
the Tigris, such as the Zāb and the Diyālā, rising among the Kurdish
mountains. As Netting was naturally more restricted in this area than
in the Persian Gulf, line fishing possibly obtained more widely here
than in the South.


From L. Heuzey, _Restitution matérielle de la stèle des Vautours_, Pl.
1, Fragment E.]

At any rate it is from the Sumerian excavations that we derive a
well-known example of metaphorical Net fishing. This is to be found
in what till lately has been held to be a fine representation[909]
of Ningirsu, the god of the Sumerian Telloh or Babylonian Lagash,
triumphing over his enemies.

The Net full of prisoners symbolises the capture of the enemies of the
city. To indicate the impossibility of escape (Jastrow continues), “a
prisoner who has thrust his head out of one of the meshes is being
beaten back by a weapon in the hands of the god.”[910] King further
elaborates the scene; “The god grasps in his right hand a heavy mace
which he lets fall upon the Net in front of him containing captives,
whose bodies may be seen writhing and struggling like fish in the
broad meshes. On the relief, the cords of the Net are symmetrically
arranged: the rounded corners at the top show it as a Net formed of
ropes and cordage.”[911] But later Sumerian scholars deny that Ningirsu
has anything to do with the Net or even figures in the scene. On the
_Stèle des Vautours_ the person represented is not a god, but a king,
Eannatum, with captured soldiers enclosed in the Net (_Shusgal_). What
is more, the king in the accompanying inscription, not only designates
the Net as that of Enlil, the earth god, but also of Ninharsag, the
mother goddess, of Enki, the water god, of Siu, the moon god, and of
Shamash, the sun god. All the greater gods were supposed to carry nets:
Ningirsu must certainly have possessed one, but neither he or it are
depicted here.


[904] We sometimes find with an army crossing a river, as delineated
in the sculptures, each soldier with the skin beneath his belly and
paddling with his legs and arms, but retaining in his mouth one of the
legs of the skin, into which he blows as into a bagpipe. The act of
paddling across a big river, like the Euphrates, would of itself need
all his breath; but King points out that the sculptor, in the spirit
of primitive art, which, diffident of its own powers of portrayal or
distrusting the imagination of the beholder, seeks to make its object
clear by conventional devices, wishes to indicate that the skins are
not solid bodies, and can find no better way of showing it than by
making his swimmers continue blowing out the skins.

[905] _Five Great Monarchies_ (London, 1862-67), vol. I. p. 99.

[906] In each case Esarhaddon “cut off his head.” Both heads were sent
to Nineveh for exhibition. Asur-bani-pal was a greater specialist in
heads than his father: the head of any foe whom he particularly hated
or feared, such as Teumann of Elam, was preserved by some method, and
hung conspicuously in the famed gardens of the palace. A sculptured
representation hands down the scene to us. The king reclines on an
elevated couch under an arbour of vines: his favourite queen is seated
on a throne at the foot of the couch: both are raising wine cups to
their lips: many attendants ply the inevitable fly-flappers, while at
a distance musicians are ranged. Birds play and flutter among the palm
and cypress trees; from one dangles Teumann’s head on which the eyes
of the king are gloating. Such is the picture drawn by de Razogin,
_Ancient Assyria_ (London, 1888).

[907] See _The Fishing Gazette_, January 6, 1917.

[908] See _The Field_, March 15, 1919. The fish is said to attain a
weight of over 300 lbs.

[909] See Planche I. of _Restitution de la Stèle des Vautours_, by Leon

[910] _Civilisation of Babylonia and Assyria_ (Philadelphia, 1915), p.

[911] _A History of Sumer and Akkad_, _op. cit._ (1910), p. 131. The
scene is shown in the Plate which fronts this section.



One of the very earliest—the earliest as far as I have found—recorded
contract concerning fishing occurs in the second year of Darius II.,
422 B.C. It runs thus[912]:—


The Tablet is impressed with five seals.[913]

The next recorded fishing contract deals with netting in Babylonian
waters. It is dated the 25th day of Elul in the fifth year of Darius
II., or 419 B.C. B. Meissner’s translation of the document may be
rendered as follows[914]:—


The parties to the contract are Ribat, the steward of the rich
Babylonian banker Rimut-Ninurta, and five Aramaic fishermen. In
consideration of Ribat’s furnishing five nets, they bind themselves to
deliver by the 15th of Tishri (about September), _i.e._ within twenty
days from the making of the contract, five hundred fish. On failure to
do so, the time is extended by five days, but the number of the fish
is then increased to one thousand. Each of the five fishermen “goes
bail” for delivery of five hundred, or if need be, of a thousand fish,
but an outsider, Bel-ibni, son of Apla, cautiously limits his bail or
guarantee to the first figure.

These documents possess many points of interest.

(A) They are not only the very earliest, but I suggest the only extant
_fishing_ contracts (proper) prior to the third century A.D. In Egypt,
during the Ptolemaic period, fishermen, it is true, had to pay to the
Government a quarter of the value of their catch (τεττάρτη ἁλιέων),
but this seems to have been a regular tax. Later on we find fishermen
paying to the priests of Lake Moeris a φόρος (not to be confounded with
ἰχθυηρὰ δρυμῶν, or state tax) which presumably included the purchase
of the right to fish, as well as the hire of boats. But this was in
the nature of a royalty or rent, was a continuous obligation, and
proportioned to the catch, whereas in our second document the time is
limited, and the payment fixed, not proportioned.[916]

(B) The second contract demonstrates that the custom of additional
guarantors is no mere modern institution.

(C) It also tends to show that the system, previously known as employed
by Babylonian landlords, of letting their farms to tenants for a fixed
proportion of the crops, extended occasionally to their waters as well.


[912] A. Ungnad, _Hundert Ausgewählte Rechtsurkunden_, No. 56.

[913] Two contracts (in 5th year of Darius II.) contain provisions that
in case “of any fish being lifted,” i.e. stolen, the keeper has to pay
a fine of 10 shekels, and in second case to compensate owner. _Revue
d’Assyriologie_, vol. IV., pp. 182-183, by V. Scheil.

[914] _Orientalistiche Literaturzeitung_ (Berlin, 1914), p. 482. This
was published by Clay in _Publications of the Babylonian Section of
the University of Pennsylvania_, vol. II., Part I., No. 208. We find a
receipt in the XXth century B.C. for salt used for fish supplied by a
grocer, sealed by the official controller. Cf. M. Shorr, _Urkunden des
Altbabylonischen Civil und Processrechts_, No. 256.

[915] In the Neo-Babylonian period the word, which makes its first
appearance in this contract, employed for _net_ appears to have
been _salītu_ or _lītu_. The word is written _sa-li-tum_, and the
first syllable (_sa_) may be either part of the word, or else the
determinative _riksu_, which is written before things made of cordage.
If the word be read _salītu_, it may perhaps be derived from the root,
_salû_, _to immerse_. The rendering of the word as _net_ is not quite
certain, but, as will be seen from the translation of the text, the
context points to this meaning. It is clearly some sort of tackle used
by fishermen, and the most obvious meaning would be net.

[916] See _antea_, 333 f., and _Tebtunis Papyri_, vol. II. pp. 180-181.
B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt, 1907.



I find no trace in Assyria of Ichthyolatry, or of certain fish being
accounted sacred, or forbidden as food. The nearest approach to
abstention occurs in the warning that on the 9th day of Iyyar to
partake of fish was almost certain to bring on an attack of sickness,
just as in Syria ichthyophagy was held to entail ulcers and wasting

Despite the Dagon or Oannes traditions, I am not convinced that in the
crowded pantheon of Babylon or Assyria there can be found a fish-god
proper, or god of fishing, _i.e._ a deity similar to those of Greece
and Rome with a temple and established priesthood, to whom fishermen
made prayer and offerings either for boons received or favours to come.

If the word, fish-god, is limited strictly to those images, half-man,
half-fish, which are to be found on seal Cylinders,[918] or sculptured
or depicted in the outer halls or walls of some deity’s temple, there
is certainly—even if the images at Nineveh were importations from the
Mediterranean coast and not indigenous—considerable proof of their
existence. But if the word connotes the attributes of a special temple,
a priesthood, and sacrifices, such as we find in connection with the
Philistinian Dagon at Ashdod, I suggest there is no proof whatever.
The fact seems to be that in early Sumeria the fish-god or man-fish
was a _symbol_ of Ea, the god of water, and probably derived from

The Assyrian colonists carried north with them the pantheon of the
Babylonians, composed in part of the local deities of Sumeria, and in
part of their own translated from their original habitat; but from the
start they modified the hierarchy and changed materially the individual
attributes of the gods.[920]

Thus we find that mighty Assyrian hunter, Tiglath-Pileser I., in his
record of the beasts he had taken, _e.g._ four elephants caught alive,
or had slain in the desert, which included “four wild oxen mighty and
terrible, ten elephants, one hundred and twenty lions on foot, and
eight hundred speared from his chariot,” ascribing his success to the
help of the gods Ninurta and Nergal.

These gods were closely associated with battle and sport, but to both
other characteristics were attributed at various epochs of their
godhood. It has been suggested that the evolution of the fish-god Dagon
from the Babylonian deity Dagān followed on such lines, but sufficient
data for an identification of the two do not survive.

From the sculptures discovered at Kouyunjik and at Nimroud (now in
the British Museum), and from an Assyrian cylinder,[921] Layard is
able, although all three vary somewhat in details, to describe this
so-called fish-god, be it Oannes or Dagon,[922] as “combining the
human shape with that of the fish. The head of the fish formed a mitre
above that of the man, whilst its scaly limbs, back, and fan-like tail
fell as a cloak behind, leaving the human limbs and feet exposed.” But
in identifying this mythic form with Oannes, he terms it merely “the
sacred man-fish,” not deity.[923]

There were to be seen in the temple of Belus, according to Berosus,
sculptured representations of men with two wings, or two faces, with
the legs and horns of goats,[924] or the hoofs of horses; also bulls
with the heads of men, and horses with the heads of dogs.[925]

[Illustration: FISH-GOD.

From Layard’s _Nineveh and Babylon_.]

I venture to suggest that the mystic fish-form of Dagon or Oannes is of
the same nature and in the same category as the man with the legs and
horns of goats, or with the hoofs of horses: but these mythic goat or
horse forms were not elevated into goat-gods or horse-gods. The idea
of the deification of the fish-forms, whether that of a man issuing
from a fish or of a man whose upper half was human but lower piscine,
may, perhaps, have sprung from the undoubted worship by the Philistines
at Ashdod and elsewhere of the god called Dagon, and partly to the
original description of him in the A.V., but now corrected in the R.V.

Dagon, it will be remembered (I Samuel v. 4), after being confronted
with the ark of the Lord in the morning, was found fallen: “the head of
Dagon and both the palms of his hands lay cut upon the threshold, only
the fishy part (A.V.) or stump (R.V.) of Dagon was left unto him.” From
this passage Milton undoubtedly drew his conception of—

    “Dagon his name; sea-monster, upward man
     And downward fish.”[926]

It is possible that the theory of his having from his navel down the
form of a fish, and from his navel up the form of a man—a theory which
is unknown to the _Targum_, Josephus, or the _Talmud_, and perhaps is
as late as the twelfth century A.D.[927]—merely transfers by the help
of etymology the description given by Lucian of the goddess Derceto,
worshipped on the same coast-line by the Syrians, who were more partial
to fish deities than the Assyrians.[928]

This Dagon has been mistakenly connected with Odacon, the last of the
five sea-monsters who arose from the Erythræan Sea. His body (according
to Berosus) was like that of a fish, but under the head of the fish was
that of a man, to whose tail were added women’s feet, whose voice was
human, and whose language was articulate. During the day he instructed
the Sumerians in letters and in all arts and sciences, more especially
in the building of temples, but at night he plunged again into the


From _La Revue d’Assyriologie_, VI. 57.]

Authorities disagree whether Dagon derives his name from the
Hebrew _Dāg_, signifying fish, or _dāgān_, sheaf or agriculture.
Sanchouniathon early held, as do most modern writers, the latter view.
Reichardt errs in his conjecture that the representation in De Sarzec
(p. 189) shows the deity holding in his hand ears of corn, instead of
what really is a palm branch of the conventional type.[930]

Cylinder seals depict[931] river gods, some with streams rising
from their shoulders, or flowing from their laps, or from vases in
their laps, and containing fish, and others half men and half fish.
Mythological beings with fish head-dress occur not only on seals but on
the Ninevite reliefs, etc., where it has been suggested that they do
represent Dagan.

The delineation of fish on vases, etc.,[932] and of a fish in a stream
of water on a small fragment from Telloh, are of early Sumerian art.
The representation of Gilgamesh carrying fish dates from at least 2800
B.C., or some thirteen hundred years previous to the Phylokapi Vase
(the most ancient Greek representation of men similarly engaged) and
so furnishes a comparison, and from the differences in delineation of
face, arms, and eyes a contrast of singular interest.[933]


[917] See _antea_, p. 99, n. 1.

[918] See W. Hayes Ward, _Seal Cylinders of Western Asia_ (Washington,
1910), p. 217, figs. 658, 659, 660, 661.

[919] Ward, _op. cit._, p. 214, in fig. 249, gives apparent

[920] In noting the attributes ascribed to various gods, we are
confronted by the problem as to what suggested to the Babylonian his
precise differentiation in their characters. These betray their origin:
they are the personification of natural forces: in other words, the
gods and many of the stories told of them are the only explanation the
Babylonian could give, after centuries of observation, of the forces
and changes in the natural world. In company with other primitive
peoples he explained them as the work of beings very similar but
superior to himself. See King, _Babylonian Religion_ (London, 1889).
This inevitable tendency of anthropomorphism was tersely expressed by
Xenophanes of Colophon (_frag._ 15):—

    “If oxen, horses, lions had but hands
     To paint withal or carve, as men can do,
     Then horses like to horses, kine to kine,
     Had painted shapes of gods and made their bodies
     Such as the frame that they themselves possessed.”

[921] For the Nimroud sculpture, see _Monuments of Nineveh_, _op.
cit._, 2nd Series, Plate 6, while for the agate cylinder, see _Nineveh
and Babylon_ (London, 1853), p. 343, where in a note Layard writes, “It
is remarkable that on this cylinder the all-seeing eye takes the place
of the winged human figure and the globe in the emblem above the sacred

[922] For the data and authorities available in 1855 and examination
into Oannes and Dagon, see J. B. Pitra, _Spicilegium Solesmense_, III.,
pp. 500, 501, 503.

[923] _Nineveh and Babylon_, _op. cit._, pp. 343, 350. See also _Le
Mythe de Dagon_, by Ménant; _Revue de l’Hist. des Religions_ (Paris,
1885), vol. II. p. 295 ff., where a great variety of Assyrian fish-men
may be found. Forlong (_op. cit._, I. 231) instances a cornelian
cylinder in the Ouseley collection depicting Oannes or the Babylonian
god or demi-god, attended by two gods of fecundity, on whom the Sun-god
with a fish tail looks down benignantly. Forlong’s obsession detects
in every representation, Indian or Irish, Assyrian or Australasian,
some emblem of fecundity, while his ever-present “King Charles’s head”
is some phallic symbol. We are almost reminded of the witty quatrain
current some years back:

    “Diodorus Siculus
     Made himself ridiculous
     By insisting that thimbles
     Were all phallic symbols!”

[924] The goat-fish god dates as far back as Gudea, _c._ 2700 B.C. He
was like the man-fish or fish-god, a symbol of Ea, the god of water,
and probably derives from Capricorn. See Ward, p. 214, fig. 649; and p.
249, figs. 745, 747.

[925] Cf. Ezekiel, VIII. 10, “Every form of creeping things and
abominable beasts pourtrayed upon the wall round about.”

[926] _Paradise Lost_, I., 462.

[927] There was a Babylonian god Dagan whose name appears in
conjunction with Anu and often with Ninurta (Ninib). Whether the
Philistine Dagon is the same as the Babylonian Dagan cannot with our
present knowledge be determined. The long and profound influence of
Babylonia in Palestine in early times makes it quite possible that
Dagon, like Anath, came thence. _Ency. Bibl._, p. 984. No evidence
suggests Dagan as a Babylonian fish-god.

Some authorities now hold that Dagan came to Babylonia with the
Amoritic invasion towards the latter half of the third millennium.

[928] For Derceto, see _antea_, p. 124, and for Atargatis, _antea_, pp.

[929] Oannes of Berosus is identified with Enki (otherwise Ea) by
Langdon, _Poème Sumérien, etc._ (Paris, 1919), p. 17. Tradition
generally makes the earliest founders or teachers of civilisation come
from the sea. Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the children of the sun god,
rose, however, not from the sea, but from _Lake_ Titicaca, when they
brought to the ancient Peruvians government, law, a moral code, art,
and science. Their descendants styled themselves Incas.

[930] See G. F. Hill, _Some Palestinian Cults in the Greek and Roman
Age_, in _Proceedings of the British Academy_ (London, 1911-12), vol.
V. p. 9.

[931] Cf. Heuzey, _Sceau de Goudéa_ (Paris, 1909), p. 6; also W.
Hayes Ward, _Seal Cylinders of Western Asia_ (Washington, 1910),
figs. 288-289; see also figs. 199, 661. The large number of seals,
almost entirely cylinder, which have been found in the excavations
is probably owing to every Assyrian of any means always carrying one
hung on him. The use to which they were put was precisely similar to
that of our signet ring. An Assyrian, instead of signing a document,
ran his cylinder over the damp clay tablet on which the deed he was
attesting had been inscribed. No two cylinder seals were absolutely
alike, and thus this method of signature worked very well. The work on
the cylinders is always intaglio; the subjects represented are very
various, including emblems of the gods, animals, fish, etc.

[932] _Récherches Archéologiques_, vol. XIII. of _Délégation en Perse_,
by Pottier, Paris, 1912, figs. 117, 204, etc.

[933] L. Heuzey, _Revue d’Assyriologie_, VI. 57, and Hayes Ward, _op.
cit._, p. 74, fig. 199.



Ea (originally the primal deity of the Sumerian city of Eridu and
eventually the god of the waters on and beneath the Earth) formed with
Anu, the god of Heaven, and Enlil, the god of the Earth, from the
earliest period the great triad at the head of the Babylonian pantheon.
The representation of Ea took the form of a sea-monster with a body of
a big fish, full of stars, and claws for the base of his feet.[934]

Ea is ordinarily known from the pretty legend woven round his mortal
son Adapa, and the command in obedience to which Adapa firmly but
unconsciously made refusal of the gift of immortality.

The latter, to supply his father’s household, went a-fishing in the sea
one day—fish food was evidently not the “abomination” to the Sumerian
that it was to the Egyptian gods—but suddenly Shūtu the South Wind came
on to blow, upset his sailing boat, and ducked him under the water, or,
as Adapa puts it, “made me descend to the house of my lord,” _i.e._ Ea,
god of the Sea.[935] In anger Adapa caught the South Wind and broke
her wings.[936] But for this assault he was haled to appear in heaven
before Anu, who had noticed, or had learnt through his messenger,[937]
that the South Wind had ceased, according to the earlier or Eridean
account, to blow for seven days.

Before setting out Adapa was bidden by Ea to put on garments of
mourning to propitiate the two gods, Tammuz and Gishzida, guarding the
portals of heaven, but was warned not to touch at any hazard what he
purposely misnamed the “Bread of _Death_,” or the “Water of _Death_,”
which would be offered unto him.[938] He could, however, accept the
garment and the oil when likewise presented.

At the interview the guardian gods interceded so successfully with Anu
that his wrath waned; he granted a pardon, and decided that as Adapa
had seen the interior of heaven, he should be added to the company of
the gods.


From Karl Frank, _Babylonische Beschwörtunge Reliefs_, p. 80.]

He therefore commanded that the “Bread of Life” and the “Water of Life”
should be brought forth; but Adapa would neither eat nor drink of them,
although he put on the proffered garment and anointed himself with the
poured-out oil. And Anu, when he saw that Adapa had not partaken of
the “Bread of Life,” or of the “Water of Life,” asked him, saying,
“Come, Adapa, why dost thou neither eat nor drink?” And Adapa answered
that he had refused to eat or drink, because Ea his lord had so
commanded him.

Whereon comes the conclusion of the whole matter, and the loss
of immortality in the last words of Anu, “And now thou canst not

Ea was regarded not only as the god of the sea, but of wisdom, somewhat
perhaps on the lines of myths common to Greece, India, and elsewhere,
which tell us that always by the way of the sea came civilisation. The
great civilisations of the world have in fact been developed round
the shores of the great seas—the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, the

The Assyrian legends credit Ea for the most part with good-will and
beneficent acts towards mankind.[940]

Prominent among these stands out his revelation, by means of a dream,
to Utnapishti of the all-destroying flood, which the gods, wroth at the
sins of mankind, had ordained, and his command forthwith to build a
ship, whose size and shape, etc., are given with much precision, _e.g._
it was coated inside and out with bitumen and divided into cells. On
this Utnapishti and his family and servants embarked, after bringing on
board all the gold and silver they could collect, and “seeds of life of
all kinds,” and beasts, both domestic and wild.[941]

The Sumerian original of the Babylonian Deluge story, which has now
been recovered, corresponds with the main features of the later version.

In both a flood is sent to destroy mankind, but in the first the
intention of the gods is revealed in time to a pious Sumerian, possibly
a priest king, Ziudsuddu, the Sumerian equivalent of the abbreviated
Semitic name Utnapishti. He escapes from the flood in a great boat,
which floats away on the waters. When the storm after seven days[942]
has abated and the sun at last struggled out, Ziudsuddu makes a
thanksgiving sacrifice of an ox and a sheep. We find him in the end
reconciled with the great gods, who, as in the Babylonian version, give
him immortality.

From the incompleteness of the text it is impossible to determine
whether in the Sumerian version the episode of the birds occurs; the
probability is that it did not. As is but natural, the earlier story is
simpler and more primitive in style than the Babylonian.[943]

In the Gilgamesh account of the Flood, which in general resembles the
story as given by Berosus, the absence of the raven, in the Bible the
return of the dove with an olive leaf in her mouth, proclaims the
abating of the waters, while the Algonkins allot the _rôle_, on the
failure of the raven, to the muskrat. But, in the Indian legend it is
a _fish_, not a god, which not only conveys to Manu the beneficent
warning of the coming deluge but also saves him eventually by drawing
his ship to a northern mountain.[944]


[934] Cf. Langdon, _op. cit._, 72. Ea or “Enki est généralement
représenté sous la forme d’un animal ayant la tête, le cou, et les
épaules d’un bélier, et qui rampe sur les pattes de devant: le reste du
corps est celui d’un poisson.”

[935] See the _Nippur Poem_, _op. cit._, p. 84, note 3.

[936] From Karl Frank, _Babylonische Beschwörtunge Reliefs_, p. 80.
The South Wind was specially dreaded, because it caused destructive
floods in the low-lying regions of the Euphrates valley. In Langdon’s
_Sumerian Epic of Paradise_ (_op. cit._, 1915), p. 41, we find that
“Adapa sailed to catch fish, _the trade of Eridu_,” a pretty and simple
touch identifying the god with his worshippers, and his pursuit with
their trade; and one which supports the theory that to the Babylonian
his god, in early times, was a being very similar to himself, if more

[937] See the _Nippur Poem_.

[938] Ea’s command sprang from the fear of losing the worship, etc.
of his devotee, when once he had acquired immortality by eating and
drinking of the Bread and Water of Life.

[939] Adapa stands out as a pathetic and cruelly-punished figure. In
this, one of the prettiest of the clumsy legends by which mankind tried
to explain the loss of eternal life, Ea forbids for selfish reasons his
eating or drinking of _the Bread or Water of Life_, while Anu’s offer
of immortality springs from his desire to deprive Ea, whom he suspects
of having betrayed to Adapa the celestial secrets of magical science,
of his devotee and fish-gatherer.

[940] Keller, _op. cit._, p. 347, is astray in stating that Ea was
regarded “als Fischgott.” As god of the waters, he was the protector of
the fish therein, but apart from this, there is no evidence that he was
termed, even with a wide use of the word, a Fish God.

[941] For the omission of fish from the cargo of Noah’s ark, Whiston in
his philosophic _A New Theory of the Deluge_ (London, 1737), accounts
by the fact, that fish, living in a cooler, more equable element, were
correcter in their lives than beasts and birds, who from the heat
or cold on land engendered by the sun or its absence were prone to
excesses of passion or exercises of sin, and so were saved!

[942] The length of the flood varies greatly from the above seven days,
to eight months and nine days of the _Nippur Poem_, to the nine months
and nine days of _Le Poème Sumérien_, during which Tagtug is afloat,
and to the one year and ten days which is the total duration in the

[943] See Poebel, _Historical Texts_ (Publications of the Babylonian
Section of the University of Pennsylvania), vol. IV., Part I., pp. 9
ff. In Langdon’s _Le Poème Sumérien_ (Paris, 1919) is to be found much,
which is not written in the later account of Adapa and of the Flood,
and of Paradise, and many details which are different. _In it there
is no woman, no temptress, no serpent._ But it does record that the
survivor of the Flood was placed in a garden and apparently forbidden
to eat of the fruit of a tree, growing in the centre of the garden. He
does eat, however, and thereby loses immortality.

[944] The myth of the Deluge is practically world-wide, except in
Africa (including Egypt), “where native legends of a great flood
are conspicuously absent—indeed, no clear case of one has yet been
reported.” J. G. Frazer, _Folklore in the Old Testament_ (London,
1918), vol. I. p. 40. Maspero seems quite wide of the mark in treating
the semi-ritual myth of the Destruction of Man as “a dry deluge myth,”
_Dawn of Civilization_ (London, 1894), pp. 164 ff. For various accounts
of the Deluge, see Hastings, _Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics_,
article _Deluge_ (Edinburgh, 1911).



We find in two important sources of our knowledge of Assyria (proper)
references to beasts or fishes of the sea and of the river.

The first occurs in _The Broken Column_ of Tiglath-Pileser I., in whose
reign Assyria attained to high prosperity. This king, the first of that
country to leave behind a detailed record of his achievements, was,
as we have seen, a mighty hunter. After recounting his many military
campaigns he adds in Column IV. a list of the beasts and fish which he
had taken in his hunting expeditions. The text runs:—

  1. The gods Ninurta and Nergal, who loved his priesthood,
     (the task) of hunting in the field,
  2. Entrusted unto him, and in ships of the land of Arvad
  3. he sailed, and he slew a mighty dolphin in the sea.[945]

Then follows a _catalogue raisonné_ of his famous Zoo, in which were
collected the elephants, lions, mountain-goats, stags, dromedaries,
which he captured himself or obtained (antedating Hagenbeck) “through
merchants whom he had sent out,” and other numerous “wild beasts
and fowl of the Heaven that fly, the work of his hands, their names
together with (the number of) the beasts which my (_________) did not
record ... have I recorded.” In addition to these, of which “he caused
their herds to bring forth young,” we find—

  29. “A great _pagûtu_, a crocodile, a hippopotamus (?), and
      beasts of the Great Sea,
  30. the king of Musrê sent unto him and caused the people of
      his land to behold.”

We cannot determine what one of the subjects of this gift, “a great
_pagûtu_,“ exactly was. _Tum-su-hu_ may possibly be the equivalent of
the Egyptian _emsah_, Arabic _timsâh_, _i.e._ a crocodile. If so, Musrê
must indicate Egypt.[946]

The Annals of Aṣur-Nasirpal form our second document of knowledge. The
walls of his palace, lined with sculptures in relief, represent his
exploits in the field of battle and in the chase. Details are most
carefully and elaborately carved; the designs mark the acme of Assyrian

In Column III. he records[947]





This “washing,” or as it has otherwise been rendered “dipping,” of a
weapon in the sea is not to be taken, as it sometimes is, in a sense
suggesting fishing by a harpoon or spear, or as typical of victory, but
rather as a symbolical act of homage and propitiation to the unknown
deities of the deep.

A later Assyrian king, Asurbanipal, no doubt from the value which the
test of use in his many hunting expeditions afforded, regarded the dog
from a point of view very different from that apparently taken by some
of his subjects.

To judge by an old Assyrian prayer, “From the dog, the snake, and
the scorpion, and whatever is baneful may Merodach preserve us,” the
general feeling was that of fear.

But five clay models preserve for us representations of some of the
king’s favourite hounds, with their names inscribed upon them. The
appropriateness of their names betrays their master’s familiarity with
canine traits, as we detect from _Chaser of the Wicked, Conqueror of
the Foe, Biter of his Enemy, Mighty in his help, He crossed the road
and did his bidding_![949]

At Harrān (according to al-Nadim), dogs were considered sacred and had
offerings made unto them, a statement which is strengthened by the
divine title at Harrān of _My Lord with the Dogs_, which seemingly
points to Marduk and his four dogs, the name of one of which, _Iltebu_,
“the Howler,” is as characteristic to-day as it was five thousand years

In the Bible it is curious to note the low position of the dog. It is
rarely spoken of with approval. Possibly the existence and proclivities
of the numerous packs of pariah dogs account for the fact. Tobit seems
the only person who makes his dog his companion, and then only when on

Over two hundred kinds of fish are enumerated in the catalogue
of Asurbanipal’s library at Nineveh: the attachment of the fish
determinative constitutes our authority. No writer, even Dr. Boulenger,
has classified or identified the fishes of Assyrian representations as
thoroughly as Montet and others have those of the hieroglyphs.

The task would seem more formidable, for two reasons: first, the
short time that cuneiform as compared with hieroglyph writing has
been deciphered, and the wider study which Egyptian excavation has
attracted; and second, the Assyrian artist treated his subjects more
generally and more conventionally than his _confrères_ in Egypt.
Although in the sea and river scenes fish and shells are introduced,
scarcely any distinctions mark particular ichthyic species. Contrast
with this the representations of the return of Hatasu’s expedition
from the land of Punt or Arabia. Here the artists depict the fishes so
characteristically that Doenitz has identified them as belonging to the
Red Sea, and even determined the species of each.

We can recognise in the rivers, crabs, sometimes with a fish caught
in their claws, eels (or water-snakes), and small turtles. When the
sculptor wished to indicate the sea, he made these fish larger, and to
emphasise his point added others, which are only inhabitants of salt
water, _e.g._ the star-fish.[951]

Within the last five years identification[952] of Mesopotamian fish has
been carried further by Dr. Harri Holma of Helsingfors,[953] and by
Professor Langdon.[954]

From the latter I take the following list:—

  “1. The _buradu_, of the skate and ray type. This flat fish
      is the most common of all species in Southern Babylonia
      from the earliest historical period. The Sumerians knew
      it as the _suḥuru_ fish, and speak of it as ‘bearded,’
      referring to a kind of skate fish with long hairs about
      the mouth. They mention also the ‘goat-skate,’ and the
      ‘lower lipped skate.’ Dr. Holma’s statement (p. 96) that
      the _suḥuru_ cannot be the skate, turbot, or plaice,
      because these have no beards, has been contraverted,
      since fish of the skate type often have long feelers at
      the mouth resembling a beard.

  “2. The _kuppû_, said to be the _rhombus maximus_.

  “3. The _šênu_, in Greek σάνδαλον, in Latin
      _solea_, in English ‘sole.’ _S̆ênu_ means ‘sandal’
      in Babylonian.

  “4. _Sêlibu_, or ‘fox fish,’ perhaps so-called from its
      slyness; probably _Alopecias vulpes_.

  “5. The _kalbu_, ‘dog-fish,’ said to be the Greek
      καρχαρίας κύων.

  “6. The _piazu_, ‘pig-fish,’ _Galeus canis_, ‘sea sow,’

  “7. The _puḥadu_, ‘lamb fish,’ perhaps _Pelecus

  “8. The _balgu_, a fish well known in all periods, and said
      to be the same as the widely spread Mongolian _balyq_,
      the ordinary word for fish in Turkish; in some parts the
      sword fish, in others the ‘bull head.’

  “9. The _qarshu_, probably the ‘shark,’ or a fish of prey of
      the Persian Gulf.

  “10. The _gallabu_, ‘barber,’ not yet identified.

  “11. The _simunu_, ‘swallow fish,’ by some identified with
      the ‘flying fish.’

  “12. The _zingur_, supposed to be the ‘sturgeon.’”

Other fish names, especially Sumerian, remained unidentified till (in
May, 1918), Langdon translated the only hymn (yet published) to Ninâ,
the Fish Goddess, and spouse of Tammuz. Among its twelve fish we get
the ‘electric fish’ (query the νάρκη), the ‘nun fish,’ the ‘fire fish
of the sea,’ and the ‘swallow fish.’ The touching lines bewailing the
death of Tammuz are, alas! imperfect.[955]

Fish abounded in the Two Rivers. Euphrates fish were so plentiful that
they could be caught simply in one’s hand, apparently without any
“tickling.”[956] The coast folk could not cope with their catches.[957]
Wicker traps, automatically opened and shut by the tides, yielded their
“harvest of ocean.”

Sluice gates were far commoner in Assyria than in Palestine. The
numerous rivers, and scientific system of irrigation which from
earliest ages threaded Sumeria and later on Western Assyria, account
for the frequency.

According to Sir W. Willcocks, “The granary of the ancient is destined
to be that of the modern world.” The success of the irrigation works,
at Hit and elsewhere, may verify his prediction.[958]

_Vivaria_, or fish-dams, known only late in Palestine, were early and
generally constructed in Mesopotamia. As adjuncts of Sumerian temples,
they can be traced as far back as 2500 B.C. No decent-sized township
eventually lacked, or could afford to lack, these _piscinæ_ with their
ever-ready supply of fresh fish.

The keeper, or fisherman, attached to the temples (according to
Langdon) seems to have been called _Essad_, a term which subsequently
came to mean Tax Gatherer. It is open to doubt whether the latter
meaning can, as has been suggested, be derived from or connected with
the former on account of his extraction of a toll for fish caught by
the public in the stew-ponds of the priests, or of a percentage, in
lieu of pay, of the fish caught by him for use in the temples.

How real was the importance attached to fish, and how recognised its
value as a food, can be discerned from early Sumerian documents. The
excavations of Telloh furnish an elaborate description of the new
temple built by Gudea in honour of Ningirsu. We read that with this
god went also other deities, such as his musician, his singer, his
cultivator of lands, and his guardian of fishponds.[959]

Then, again, among the officials who were deprived of office by
Urukagina, on account of the profits illegally secured by farming out
the public revenue, we come across the _Inspectors of Fisheries_. The
drastic reforms and the thorough cleansing of the bureaucracy initiated
by this monarch sprang from his desire to improve the condition of his
poorer subjects, who for years had suffered from the oppression of
the rich or the venality of public functionaries. How general and how
numerous _vivaria_ had early become shows in the plaint that “if a poor
man built himself a fishpond, his fish was taken; he received neither
payment nor redress.”

A document of the twenty-first century brings to light further evidence
of the economic importance of fish and of the rights of fishing, and
what to us modern fishermen is of intenser interest—the first case on
record of Poaching!

This occurred in the reign of Samsu-iluna, the successor to the great
Hammurabi. The latter’s Code of laws of 287 sections was considered
on its discovery some twenty years ago to be a Digest of Babylonian
decisions, but the recent finding of a clay tablet, clearly the
prototype of the Code, proves its Sumerian origin.

It not only illuminates vividly the social and economic conditions of
Babylon, but established for generations the status, the rights, the
duties flowing from contracts or arising from injury.

Its scope is curiously wide. It includes, for instance, provisions to
meet such rare cases as injuries which resulted in the miscarriage
of women. The similarity of enactment in these cases and in divorces
demonstrates _inter alia_ how marked was the Code’s influence on the
Mosaic legislation some seven centuries later.

Every one of Hammurabi’s subjects could by its help acquire a clearer
conception of his individual property. The letter or rescript of
Samsu-iluna shows that rights of fishing were acknowledged and

The Rescript runs:—


This letter confirms what had previously been only surmised, _viz._
that the inhabitants of certain districts had enjoyed the exclusive
right of fishing in their home waters. “It has already been inferred,”
King continues, “that the duty of repairing the banks of rivers and
canals, and of clearing the waterways, fell upon the owners of property
along the banks, and it was no doubt as a compensation for this
enforced service (or _corvée_) that the fishing in these waters was

Mesopotamia and Armenia did not lack in fish of unusual, even fatal,
properties. Thus of certain fishes near Babylon Ælian tells us[962] on
the authority of Theophrastus, when the irrigation streams were without
water, they remained in any small hole which was moist or held a little
water, and were able to find a living in the herbage which grew in
the dry channels, etc. Pliny (IX. 83) gives a somewhat similar story
but a more detailed description of these fish, which “have heads like
sea-frogs, the remaining parts like gudgeons, but the gills like other
fish.” Emerging from their water holes, they travel on land for food,
moving along with their fins, aided by a rapid movement of their tail.
If pursued, they retreat to their holes and make a stand.

He notices too the stay-at-homeness of the fish in the Tigris and of
those in the lake Arethusa. Though the river flows in and out of the
lake, the denizens of the one are never to be found in the other.
We discern the reason for such estranged relations in his previous
sentence, “the waters of the lake support all weighty substances and
exhale nitrous vapours.”[963] Ktesias mentions a spring in Armenia,
the fishes of which are quite black and, if eaten, prove instantly

The only spring of sweet-smelling water “in toto orbe,” Chabura, lies
in Mesopotamia. The reason (according to legend) for its possessing
this unique property was because in it the Queen of Heaven, Juno, or
presumably her Babylonian counterpart, was wont to bathe.[965] But
Pliny fails to indicate whether the unique scent was an effort of
Nature to supply a bath meet for the Queen of Heaven, or was merely
a by-product of her lavation. Possibly the fish of Chabura (like the
thyme fish) exhaled a “most sweet scent,” and so effected “the sweet
smelling.” But probably to preserve their power, “they will come to
feed from men’s hands.”[966]

I have adduced sufficient proof that fish were plentiful in
Mesopotamia. Additional testimony has needlessly been sought in
Professor Sayce’s now fairly accepted suggestion that the ideogram for
Nineveh implies the House of the Waters or of Fish.[967]

Another explanation of Nineveh as _The Lady of the Waters_ deduces from
Ninâ (said to be a daughter of Ea and a fish goddess) lengthening into
Nineveh. But the term _The Lady_, _i.e._ The Lady _par excellence_, in
Assyrian especially applies to Bêlit the spouse of Asur, who became
generally identified with Ishtar of Nineveh.[968]

If _The Lady of the Waters_ translate correctly the ideogram of
Nineveh, the term may have sprung from a temple to this reputed Fish
Goddess standing in that city. But even if the existence of such a
temple can be inferred, its original site probably lay in Sumerian
Lagash, not in Nineveh.


[945] _Annals of the Kings of Assyria_, by Budge and King (1903), p.
138. ‘Dolphin’ is the translation of _Nakhiri_, doubtless from the
same root, which in Arabic is _Nakhara_, to spout, and occurs in the
same sense in Syriac and Ethiopic. In view of the evidence of Pliny
and other authors as to the former existence of the whale in the
Mediterranean, I suggested to Professor King an alternative rendering
of _nakhiri_ as ‘whale,’ and he informed me he accepts my suggestion as
the more probable of the two.

[946] Another translation (_R. Asiatic Proc._, XIX. pp. 124-5)
renders these lines “creatures of the Great Sea which the King of
Egypt had sent as a gift, and entrusted to the care of men of his
own country,” either as carriers or permanent attendants. But see p.
53 of the Introduction to _The Annals of the Kings of Assyria_, _op.
cit._ Dr. St. Clair Tisdall writes: “If _Nam-su-hu_ (Budge and King’s
translation) be right, it is evidently the Egyptian name ’_msuhu_ =
crocodile, with the plural _Na_ prefixed. Egypt in Arabic is still

[947] _Op. cit._, Introduction, pp. 372 ff.

[948] The Assyrians, probably from having no admixture of the softer
Sumerian blood, from living in a less enervating climate, and from
Hittite influence, stand out as more virile, fiercer fighters, and
crueller foes than the Babylonians.

[949] W. Hayes Ward, _op. cit._, p. 418, states the dog appears in
cylinders very early—chiefly as guardian of the flock. Cf. Figures 391,
393, 394, 395. He is seen in the late Babylonian: cf. Figs. 549, 551,
552, and later still in hunting scenes, Figs. 630, 1064, 1076 and 1094,
which last shows in a very spirited manner four dogs in a fight with
two lions. The dog running away is fairly “making tracks!”

[950] Cf. Tobit v. 16, and xi. 4.

[951] Layard _Monuments of Nineveh_ (_op. cit._), vol. II. p. 438.

[952] The identification, which is avowedly more of a philological
than a scientifically zoological nature, is in the cases of Nos. 2 and
3 a “terminological inexactitude,” for as Dr. Boulenger’s lists show,
neither the turbot nor the sole occur in the Persian Gulf. Cf. _Proc.
Zoological Society_, 1887, p. 653; 1889, p. 236, and 1892, p. 134.

[953] Monograph, _Kleine Beiträge zum assyrischen Lexicon_
(Helsingfors, 1912).

[954] _Sumerian Grammar_ (London, 1917), p. 60.

[955] _Proc. of Soc. of Biblical Archæology_ (London, May, 1918), p. 83.

[956] Lewysohn’s (_Zool. d. Talmud_, 248, as quoted by Keller, _op.
cit._, p. 330) “Euphrat heisst etymologisch der fischreiche” is
far from generally accepted. The river in Babylonian is _Purattu_,
pronounced by the Persians _Ufratus_, which became when borrowed by the
Greeks, _Euphrates_. So far from meaning rich in fish, Langdon traces
the name to the Sumerian _buranna_, _burnuna_, meaning great basin.

[957] Diod. Sic., III. 22.

[958] See General Marshall’s _Report on Mesopotamian Campaign_ in _The
Times_, Feb. 21, 1919.

[959] _History of Sumer and Akkad_ (London, 1910), p. 268.

[960] The hiatus probably may be filled by the word “recall,” or “bring

[961] _Letters of Hammurabi_ (London, 1898-1900), vol. III. pp. 121-3,
L. W. King.

[962] _N. H._, V. 27.

[963] _N. H._, VI. 31.

[964] _Ibid._, XXXI. 19.

[965] _N. H._, XXXI. 22.

[966] _N. H._, XXXII. 7.

[967] _Hibbert Lecture_ (London, 1887), p. 57.

[968] On the ancient goddess Ninâ, see Langdon, _Tammuz and Ishtar_
(London, 1914). There is no known representation of Ninâ. Of Bêlit, or
Ishtar, many exist; of Ishtar _arma ferens_ that on a seal in _Tammuz
and Ishtar_, Plate I., No. 1, is perhaps the best.



The Sumerian records leave no possibility of doubt as to offerings of
fish being made to the deities, not exclusively or specially to a deity
of fish. They show Eannatum in early days offering at Telloh certain
fish to various gods to secure their aid that the treaty which he had
just concluded with the city of Umma might be maintained for all time

Similar offerings present themselves all through the history of
Assyria. Numerous tablets detailing the nature of the enjoined
offerings include fish, and as numerous receipts by the temples
acknowledge offerings of fish.[969] In the course of time votive
offerings in ivory and bronze, etc., according to King, took the place
of actual fish.[970]

The striking resemblance of the institution of the Scape-Goat in
Palestine to the ancient _Mashhulduppu_ or Babylonian Scape-Goat,
both in object and high ceremonial ritual, is noted in my Jewish
chapter.[971] But we cannot for one moment assume that sacrifices and
oblations in Assyria evolved from perhaps the earliest primitive,
_i.e._ human, sacrifice, or followed the same lines as those of Israel
or of Rome. In the first nation human sacrifice probably prevailed
in the earlier times to a wide extent, and in the second (as Varro
indicates) “Populus pro se ignem animalia mittit,” and even “pisciculum
pro animis humanis” became a not unusual and cheaper alternative.[972]

On the other hand, we possess, in historic and prehistoric Assyria, no
trustworthy evidence of human sacrifice. Sayce, it is true, in 1875
published two texts, which, as he translated, demonstrated that human
sacrifice did prevail. These, refuted by Ball, are not accepted as even
a proper translation of the passage, much less a proof of the practice.

Jastrow has recently returned to the charge. He suggests that, “His
eldest son shall he burn at the Khamm of Adad,” and other passages,
establish that at one time children were offered in sacrifice, very
much on the same lines as the later Judæan immolation of their children
to Moloch, as when King Ahaz (2 Kings xvi. 3) “made his son to pass
through the fire” in the Tophet just outside the gates of Jerusalem.
But Jastrow finds even less favour now than Sayce did forty years

Campbell Thompson, after remarking that the existence of human
sacrifice among either the Babylonian or Assyrian is not easy of
satisfactory proof, concludes, “The fact is that human sacrifice
goes out in proportion as civilisation comes in, and probably by
the time men are ready to commit their religious ritual to writing,
human sacrifice has ceased to be a regular and periodic rite: as the
Assyrians were the highest civilised of all the Semites before our
era, so in all probability fewest traces of this custom exist in their

A semi-religious practice, not dissimilar in object to that of the
Scape-Goat, can be discerned, if not as a vehicle for carrying away all
the sins of the people, yet as a method of ridding the individual by
the agency of some beast or fish of the affliction which lay upon him.

In one of the so-called Penitential Psalms or incantations, which the
tablets from the library of Asur-bani-pal bequeath us, the prayerful
desire to be free of suffering finds utterance in:—

   “Let me cast off my evil that the birds may fly up to Heaven with it,
    That the fish may carry off my affliction.”

This whole passage ought, however, to be regarded not as a Penitential
Psalm so much as “a ceremony for cleansing a man from _tabu_, when he
wishes to see something in a dream. It finds close connection with
the Levitical charm, originating from sympathetic magic, _e.g._ for
cleansing the leper or leprous house,” _i.e._ by the two doves, as in
Leviticus xiv. 4.[974]

Langdon asserts that in the Sumero-Babylonian religion each individual
in normal conditions was guided by a divine spirit or god (cf. the
δαὶμων of Socrates and the _genius_ of the Romans). When a man was
possessed by the powers of evil he was estranged from his personal god,
because some demon had attacked or driven out the protecting deity from
his body. In this ancient period there seems to be no moral element
whatever in the case. If a man became _tabu_ (which the eating of fish
in other countries than Assyria would involve), or possessed by some
dangerous unclean power, which made him unholy and filled him with
bodily or mental distress, this state came about solely because at some
unguarded moment a demon had expelled the indwelling god.

The demon had to be exorcised by some method of atonement, of which the
most important element was in Sumerian magic water, in Hebrew blood.
“In view of the great influence which Babylonian magic appears to have
exerted upon the Hebrew rituals, it is curious it did not succeed in
banishing this gross Semitic practice. Blood of animals does not occur
as a cleansing element in Babylonia,” an omission due apparently to the
culture of the Sumerians “not permitting such crude ideas, and to their
teaching those Semites with whom they came in contact a cleaner form of

In addition to the demons or spirits described above we find others,
which could and, unless the proper rites were paid to the dead, did
affect the living. The greatest misfortune which could befall a man
was to be deprived of proper burial.[976] His shade, ran the common
belief, could not reach Arallū, but wandered disconsolately about
the earth. When driven by pangs of hunger it perforce ate the offal
or leavings of the street. As the Egyptians, to ensure the continued
existence of the dead and his _ka_, provided sepulchral offerings (the
depictments of which included fish[977]), so did the Babylonians, not
only for a similar but also for the additional purpose of preserving
themselves from torments.

To leave a body unburied was not unattended with danger to the living.
The shade of the dead man might bewitch any person it met and cause him
grievous sickness. The wandering shade of a man was called _ekimmu_,
_i.e._ spectre. Only sorcerers possessed the power of casting a spell
whereby the _ekimmu_ might be made to harass a man. On the other hand,
the spectre sometimes settled on a man of its own accord, in the hope
that its victim would be driven to give it burial to free himself from
its clutches.[978]

The Babylonian conception of the condition of the dead was an utterly
joyless one. Arallū, or the House of the Dead, was dark and gloomy.
Its dwellers never beheld the light of the sun, but sat in unchanging
gloom. The Babylonians possessed no hope of a joyous life beyond the
grave, nor did they imagine a paradise in which the deceased would live
a life similar to that on earth.

The nature of the under-world can be gathered from the description
given to Gilgamesh by the spirit of Enkidu risen from the grave
(sometimes cited as an instance of necromancy), “the place where was
the worm that devoured, and where all was cloaked in dust.”[979] The
Hymn of the Descent of Ishtar into Hell goes farther:

    “To the land whence none return, the place of darkness,
     To the house wherein he who enters is excluded from the light,
     To the place where dust is their bread and mud their food.”[980]

The very curious bronze of the Le Clerq collection in Paris, in which
ichthyic garments and gods of the under-world, Arallū, occur, must be
my excuse for this too lengthy and almost fishless digression on the
Babylonian dead. It shows several figures, two clad in garments of the
form of a fish, with their scales very visible.

Two explanations of the bronze have been offered. The first, hitherto
generally accepted, suggests that the figures are representations of
the gods of the under-world, or of the dead waiting on a sick person,
together with some demons of the under-world and two priests wearing
fishlike raiment.[981]

My friend Professor Langdon has furnished me with another explanation,
more detailed and more interesting.

This so-called representation of a scene in the lower world from
a bronze talisman has been misunderstood. The obverse has three
registers. In the upper register are depicted the seven devils, all
with animal heads, in attitude of ferocious attack upon a human soul.
The middle register represents a sick man who is supposed to be
possessed by the seven devils. He lies upon a bed. At his head and feet
stand two priests each arrayed to appear like fish: these are symbolic
of Ea, god of the sea and patron of all magic. They clothed themselves
in a fishlike robe to signify that they derived their divinations and
incantations from the sacred water, of which Ea was the god.

In the lower register are drawings of cult utensils, such as holy water
bowls, censers, etc., and of the fever demon Labartu, who has been
driven from the body of the man and is in flight by boat. The reverse
of this bronze has in deep relief one of the seven devils who is in the
act of peering over the upper edge of the bronze, and gazing upon the
scene of atonement and magical healing below.

The cuneiform texts prescribe that fumigation, either for cleansing a
person or exorcising a demon, may be performed by the wizard, with or
without a censer, a bowl, or lighted torch.[982]

Apart from its permeation of Israel in legislation as indicated in
connection with Hammurabi’s Code, the influence of Assyria stands out
in other ways clearly. The semi-similarity of treatment of the Deluge
has already been noticed, while the rendering in the stories of Sargon
and Moses of a widespread legend[983] differs only in such points
of detail as the substitution of the Nile or (according to Arabic
tradition) of a fish-pond for the Euphrates, and of the irrigator Akki
as the discoverer of the chest of reeds for Pharaoh’s daughter.[984]

    “My lowly mother conceived me, in secret she brought me forth:
     She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she closed my door:
     She cast me into the river, which rose not over me:
     The river bore me up, unto Akki the irrigator it carried me.

        *       *       *       *       *

     And for ... four years I ruled the kingdom.”

The assertion that the Old Testament is fairly saturated with
Babylonian culture and folklore, and that even in the days of the New
Testament we have not passed beyond the sphere of its impression hardly
overshoots the mark, when the similarity of these and other instances
is borne in mind.

The earliest point of contact between Babylon and Palestine is recorded
in Genesis xiv. 1, which makes Abraham the contemporary of “Amraphel
King of Shinar,” who most probably can now be identified with Hammurabi
in the light of the recent discoveries of Kugler.[985]

The first connection of Israel with Assyria proper occurs in the reign
of Shalmaneser II., in whose Monolith Inscription figures, as one of
the allies of Benhadad I. of Damascus, the name of Ahâbbu Sir’lai,
generally identified with Ahab, King of Israel.

Fish are discovered playing a part in auguries and divinations very
similar to their _rôle_ in Rome. Augury in both nations was regarded
with deep veneration. It reached in Assyria a very high plane. It was
practised as a recognised science by a large and organised body of the
priesthood under the direct control and patronage of the King.

All strange occurrences in heaven or earth were referred to the seers.
Almost every event of common life was believed by the pious Babylonian
to require prophetic decision whether it boded well or ill.

Among the reforms undertaken by Urukagina was that of the college of
the diviners, for he tells us that “he, who hitherto received one
shekel for his work, took money no more.”

In the letters of Hammurabi these diviners were recognised as a
regular Guild. Knowledge of the tablets of recorded answers, which,
suiting the individual circumstances of each interrogator, had for
generations been stored in the library, enabled them to render an
interpretation of practically all events. Their forecasts had resort
not only to astrology, but to other means, such as the observations of
the movements of fish, of the flight of birds, and of the entrails and
livers of sheep and other sacrificial animals, all of which were the
subject of minute inspection.

The Babylonians in seeking to determine the future watched carefully
the movements, etc., of fish. Although the greater part of the
known divination tablets regarding fish omens are in a sad state of
preservation, the following will serve as an example: “If fish in a
river keep in a school and steadily face up stream, in that place will
be peaceful habitation,” a deliverance hardly fraught with comfort at
times of flood or drought!

Then again the passage (in Ezekiel xxi. 21-22), “The King of Babylon
stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use
divination: he shook the arrows to and fro, he consulted the teraphim,
he looked in the liver,” etc., is of great interest, as evidence that
the Babylonians employed both Belomancy or divination by arrows, and
Hepatoscopy or inspection of the liver.

Belomancy was practised by other nations,[986] notably in Arabia (as
witness Mohammed’s command against the use of arrows, “an abomination
of Satan’s work!”)[987] more frequently than in Babylonia. There it
attained but secondary importance. The general method required the
shaking or shuffling before the image or the sacred place of the deity
of a set of arrows. In the temple of Mecca the three important arrows
were named, _The Commanding_, _The Forbidding_, _The Waiting_.

Hepatoscopy: the liver among the Assyrians, the Jews,[988] the Greeks,
and the Etruscans,[989] contested with the heart the honour of being
the central organ of life. Its convulsive movements, when taken from
the sacrificed victim, gave warnings of the future. So sacred was
the liver held in Israel, that eating it was forbidden: it had to be
returned to the Giver of Life.[990]

Fish were early utilised for the calendar of the year. The signs of the
Zodiac showing Pisces, possibly derived from connection with the god of
water, and Scorpio, possibly representing one of the Crustacea, date
back to _c._ 3000 B.C.[991]


[969] See Nikolski, _Documents de la plus ancienne époque chaldéenne_,
Nos. 265 and 269; this last tablet (_c._ 2900 B.C.) records the
delivery of large numbers of fish of various kinds by fishermen for two
great festivals.

[970] Cf. _antea_, p. 217, as regards Rome.

[971] _Postea_, p. 427.

[972] See Greek-Roman section, Chapter XVI.

[973] _Op. cit._, p. 358.

[974] _Semitic Magic_ (London, 1908), pp. 181, 186.

[975] _Babylonian Magic_ (Bologna, 1914), pp. 237-8.

[976] “In Israel not to be buried was a terrible disgrace which one
could hardly wish for one’s enemy: the spirits of the unburied wandered
restlessly about. Burial alone so bound the spirit to the body that it
had rest and could harm no one.” Cheyne’s assertion in _Encyl. Bibl._
(_op. cit._), p. 1041, seems to me hardly warranted, at any rate by
the O.T. passages which he adduces in support of this statement, in
attributing to Israel the idea of the unburied dead being condemned
to miserable wandering. For the Greek conception see _inter alia_ the
_Antigone_ of Sophocles.

[977] See Egyptian _Book of the Dead_ (London, 1910), ch. LIII., with
reference to the deceased being obliged, from lack of proper food in
the under-world, to eat filth—“Let me not be obliged to eat thereof
in place of the sepulchral offerings.” To provide food for the dead,
asphodel was planted near tombs (_Odyssey_, XI. 539 and 573) by the
Greeks. From Hesiod (_Op._ 41) we learn that the _roots_ of the
asphodel were eaten as a common vegetable, as was the mallow. Merry
states that in the Greek islands, where customs linger longer than on
the mainland, this “kind of squill is still planted on graves.” If the
Homeric ‘mead of asphodel’ turns out, as some editors maintain, to have
had a strictly utilitarian significance, how many poets and poetasters
have mistaken ‘greens’ for ‘greenery!’

[978] King, _Babylonian Religion_ (_op. cit._), p. 45, and _Babylonian
Magic and Sorcery_ (London, 1896), pp. 119 ff., where the incantation
appropriate for exorcising demons is set out.

[979] Gilgamesh here learns how infinitely better is the condition of
those to whom the rites of burial have been paid, compared with that of
those who have been unburied. R. F. Harper, _Assyrian and Babylonian
Literature_ (New York, 1901), 363 ff.

[980] The Hebrew conception of Sheol coincides in regarding it as “a
land whence none return,” Job vii. 9-10; as “a place of darkness,” Job
x. 21-22; as a place of “dust,” Psalm xxx. 9, and Job xvii. 16.

[981] Priests dressed as fish or with some fish-like raiments often
attend the Sacred Tree (see Ward, _op. cit._, Nos. 687, 688, 689).
These are held by some to be genii of the deep. In Ward, No. 690, two
fish-men are guarding the Tree of Life.

[982] Compare the exorcism by Tobias of Sara’s demon in Tobit. Langdon,
_Babylonian Magic and Sorcery_ (_op. cit._), p. 223, commenting on the
difficulty, which Semitic philology does not clear up, as to whether a
wizard is one who cuts himself (as Robertson Smith and most scholars
suppose), or whether he is one who casts his spell by whispering or
ventriloquy, holds that “from the Sumerian word and the Sumerian
ideogram of the word _uhdugga_ which means one who whispers as he casts
saliva, we can settle at once the most primitive method of sorcery
known to us.”

[983] Cf. with those of Moses and Sargon the stories of Gilgamesh King
of Babylon (Ælian, XII. 22), of Semiramis Queen of Assyria (Diodorus
Siculus, ii. 4), and of Karna in the Indian Epic of Mahabharata
(Cheyne’s _Traditions and Beliefs of Ancient Israel_ London, 1907),
p. 519. “It has been conjectured,” writes Frazer (_op. cit._), II. p.
454 ff, “that in stories like that of the exposure of Moses in the
water (in this case, unlike most others, all supernatural elements are
absent) we have a reminiscence of the old custom as practised by the
Celtæ on the Rhine, and according to Speke by some Central African
tribes in the last century, of testing the legitimacy of children by
throwing them into the water to sink or swim; the infants which sank
were rejected as bastards. In the light of this conjecture it may be
significant that in several of these stories the birth of the child is
represented as supernatural, which in this connection cynics are apt to
regard as a delicate synonym for illegitimate.” On p. 454 he touches on
the question whether Moses, the son of Amram by his (Amram’s) paternal
_aunt_, was thus the offspring of an incestuous marriage, and therefore
exposed on the Nile.

[984] See Rogers, _Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament_ (London,
1912), pp. 135 ff.

[985] From Astronomy many Assyrian dates have been ascertained. Kugler
by stellar researches has settled the vexed question of the date of
Hammurabi, and probably that of Abram, at about 2120 B.C., which unites
within one year the latest conclusions of King, Jastrow, and Rogers,
and so establishes an important degree of accord among Assyriologists
on events subsequent to 2200 B.C. as regards which they have hitherto
been wide apart. Then again modern astronomers have worked out that
there was a total eclipse of the sun at Nineveh on June 15, 763 B.C.
The importance of the fixing of this date can as regards Assyrian
chronology hardly be exaggerated. The Assyrians, rejecting the
Babylonian system of counting time, invented a system of their own, by
naming the year after certain officers or terms of office, not unlike
the system of the Archonates at Athens, and the Consulates at Rome.
These were termed _limus_: a list of these functionaries during four
centuries has come down to us. In the time of one of them, Pur Sagali,
there is a mention of the eclipse of the sun. As this eclipse has now
been fixed for the year 763 B.C., we possess an automatic date for
every year after of the _limus_.

[986] Apollo to the Greeks was at once archer-god and god of
divination. The word ἀγεῖλε, “he gave as his oracular response,” means
literally “he picked up” (the arrows). Indeed the curious fact that
λέγω in Greek denotes “I say” and in Latin “I read” is best explained
by O. Schrader, who points out that it meant originally “I pick up” or
“collect” (the arrows of divination) and so both read and declare the
will of heaven. See O. Schrader, _Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan
Peoples_, trans. F. B. Jevons (London, 1890), p. 279.

[987] Koran, _Sur._ v. 92.

[988] Proverbs, vii. 23.

[989] See, _e.g._ C. Thulin, _Die Götter des Martianus Capella und der
Bronzeleber von Piacenza_, Gieszen, 1906.

[990] _Ency. Bibl._, p. 1118.

[991] According to Langdon, _Tammuz and Ishtar_ (_op. cit._), p.
47, “Ninâ, a water deity, was identified at an early date with the
constellation, Scorpio; for this reason her brother Ningirsu, also a
water deity, was identified with one of the stars of Scorpio.”



Following my usual course of ending the chapter on each nation with a
legend or story, in which fish or ichthyic monsters figure as direct
or indirect agents of some important event, I subjoin the only myth in
Assyrian literature which comes within this category, _viz._ the famous
fight between Marduk and Tiāmat, the monstrous creature of the deep.

Tiāmat, with her consort Apsū, had revolted against the gods and
brought into being a brood of monsters to destroy them. So formidable
seemed her forces that all appeals by Anshar, the leader of the gods,
to Anu, and then to Ea, were made in vain. No god would “face the
music,” till Marduk was prevailed upon to become their champion. Nor
does this grand refusal seem unnatural, when we read of Tiāmat’s

“Fifty _Kasbu_, or more correctly _Biru_ (_i.e._ 300 miles), was her
length, one _Kasbu_ (six miles) was her breadth, half a rod was her
mouth;” and the rest of her body of proportionate bulk![992] Nor again
is it unnatural that at—

    “The lashing of the water with her tail,
     All the Gods in heaven were afraid.”

How pigmy in comparison with Tiāmat appears the decadent sea-dragon
mentioned by Ignatius, on whose gut, 120 feet long, in the library of
Constantinople were written in letters of gold the _Iliad_ and the

Allied with Tiāmat in her fight were—

    “Spawned sea-serpents,
     Sharp of teeth and cruel of fang.”

    “With poison instead of blood she has filled their bodies,
     And mighty tempests, and the fishman,[993] and the ram,[994]
     They bear merciless weapons without fear of the fight.”

Beowulf in his famous battle with the Dragon stands out as nobler
and braver than Marduk, inasmuch as he, a _man_, to free his country
from the Dragon’s toll of death and ravage, of his own volition seeks
out the monster. He “attacks alone, for being altogether fearless he
scorned to take an army against the foe,” whereas Marduk—the _god_—was
compelled to the duel, since he was unable to enlist a single god.
Beowulf “counted not the worm’s warring for aught,” whereas Marduk
among his preparations,

    “Made a net to enclose the inward parts of Tiāmat
     And the four winds he set so that nothing of her might escape.”

The protagonists (literally protagonists, for behind Marduk cowered
the shrinking gods, and behind Tiāmat her spouse and her spawned
monsters) on meeting consume time, quite in the grand Homeric manner,
by launching taunts and reproaches at each other.

Eventually Marduk, after spreading out his net to catch her, seems to
have anticipated the gassing tactics of the Huns by many millenniums,
and owing to the absence of a mask with even greater success, for—

    “The evil wind, that was behind, he let loose in her face,[995]
     As Tiāmat opened her mouth to its full extent.
     He drove in the evil wind, while she had not yet shut her lips.
     The terrible winds filled her belly,
     And her courage was taken from her and her mouth she opened wide.
     His spear he seized, and broke through her belly,
     He severed her inward parts, he pierced her heart.”


     Then for a while Marduk rested but, arising,

    “He split her body up like a flat fish into two halves.
     One half of her he set in place as a covering for the heavens.
     He fixed a bolt, he stationed watchmen,
     And bade them not to let her waters come forth.”

     Finally to their hero and saviour the gods accord a
         triumphant welcome, and

    “Presents and gifts they brought unto him.”[996]


[992] The _Biru_ or _Kasbu_ represented the distance walked by an
ordinary man in one Sumerian hour, which, as they divided their whole
day into twelve, equals two of our hours. The prehistoric Sumerians,
like other nations, reckoned the year by the Moon, not by the Sun.
The historic calendar-makers endeavoured to bridge the hiatus and
correlate the solar with the lunar year by inserting an intercalary
month. They combined the decimal and the sexagesimal in their scheme
of numbers—hence, though curiously, their multiplication was always by
six, not ten. Cf. W. Zimmern, _Zeit und Raumrechnung_, who instances
the twelve—6 × 2—signs of the Zodiac, etc.

[993] Aquarius.

[994] Capricorn.

[995] Similarly in the Gigantomachy as figured on the Siphnian Treasury
at Delphi, Æolus, god of the winds, helps the deities against the
giants by deflating two bags of wind. He is represented by an Ionian
sculptor as working his wind-bags with all the concentration of a Hun
working his machine-gun. See G. Perrot—C. Chipiez, _Histoire de l’Art
dans l’antiquité_ (Paris, 1903), VIII. 368 and 375, fig. 172.

[996] Cf. _Babylonian Religion_ (_op. cit._), pp. 62-85.


[Illustration: TOBIAS, IN _La Madonna del Pesce_, BY RAPHAEL.

See p. 416.]




The absence of any mention of Angling in Israel, and in Assyria causes
wonder and surprise, especially when we remember that the relations of
both nations in trade and intercourse with Egypt, where Rod fishing did
obtain, appear when at peace constant and close.[998]

In the Assyrian chapter the vexed question of the earliest date
assignable for the invasion or cultural permeation of Egypt by Sumerian
or Semitic influences has been considered, and the conflicting views

A fair consensus of agreement holds that the Hyksos sprang from Semitic
stock; but the dates suggested for their conquest of Egypt vary from
2540 down to 1845 B.C.[999]

However this may be, the definite association with Egypt of that branch
of the Semitic tribes destined in Jacob’s lifetime (Gen. xlvii. 27) to
be known as Israelites,[1000] begins with the advent of Abram into that

King, Rogers, and Jastrow in their later works have seemingly adopted
the date arrived at by Kugler from stellar researches for the first
Babylonian Dynasty. If Abram were, as is now thought, the contemporary
of Hammurabi, his flitting must have occurred between 2120 and 2080
B.C., but since Egyptian chronology beyond the fifteenth century
is fluid, and no early positive synchronisms with Babylon survive,
we cannot definitely designate any particular king in Egypt as the
contemporary of either Hammurabi or Abram.

The Bible is our main authority for the continuance of the association.
The stories of Jacob, of Joseph (in whose title _Abrek_[1001]
some detect a Babylonian influence and a connection with that of
_Abara-rakku_, the designation of one of the five great officers of
state), and of Moses, are but episodes of an intercourse which, if we
begin with Abram and end with Onias, lasted (with intervals of war and
invasion) for some 2000 years.

Evidence of intercourse crops up again and again throughout the four
centuries of the Jewish Monarchy. Thus we read (1 Kings iii. 1) of the
marriage of Solomon with the daughter of Pharaoh. From Solomon’s reign
onward till the birth of Christ and long afterwards, the connection
between Egypt and Israel, friendly or hostile, never fails. The flight
of Jeroboam to Shishak (1 Kings xi. 40) and the giving of presents,
probably tribute, by Hosea to the King of Egypt (2 Kings xvii. 4)
present but two instances.

_Papyri_ recently discovered prove the settlement near Assouan of a
considerable Jewish, or rather, more correctly, Palestinian colony
from (say) 500-400 B.C. This, like the similar but older community
at Tahpanhes, exhibits a mart of wide and keen trading. The _papyri_
“show that the Aramaic—the common language of Syria—was regularly used
at Syene (Assouan), and we readily see how five cities in the land of
Egypt speak the language of Canaan and swear to Yahweh of Hosts (Isaiah
xix. 18) as the oath in these papyri is by Yahu.”[1002]

[Illustration: A PRE-INCA FISHING SCENE. (_c._ 200 B.C.)

Reproduced from T. A. Joyce’s _South American Archæology_.]

After the destruction of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes, the petition
by Onias to Ptolemy Philometor for permission to erect a central temple
for the benefit of the many thousands of his compatriots resident
in Egypt concludes the historical evidence that I call as to the
continuance of the Egyptian-Israelitish connection. Its survival for
centuries after the birth of our Lord is a matter of common knowledge.

The existence of this connection rests not merely on historical
evidence. Recent excavations in Southern Palestine tell the same tale,
or even carry it still farther back, to pre-Israelite Canaan. Thus,
after referring to the tale of Sinuhé (_c._ 1970 B.C.), Professor G.
Barton writes, “There was apparently considerable trade with Egypt
at this time. Men from Palestine often went there for this purpose.
Such traders are pictured in an Egyptian tomb of this period. Trade
with Egypt is also shown to have existed by the discovery of Egyptian
scarabs of the time of the Middle Kingdom in the excavations at Gaza,
Jericho, and Megiddo. As Egypt was nearer, and commerce with it
easier, its art affects the arts of Palestine more than the art of

R. A. Macalister[1004] writes: “Meanwhile the oldest foreign
civilisation of whose influence definite relics have come to light
within the land of Palestine is that of Egypt under the XIIth Dynasty.”
The assertion that “almost every spadeful of earth which is turned
over in Southern Palestine brings to light more evidence of Egyptian
influence” seems hardly an exaggeration.[1005]

But, it may be asked, what has all this got to do with fishing? Of
itself and in itself apparently nothing.

The introduction, however, of the historical facts cannot be branded
as irrelevant. They demonstrate a constant association for over two
millenniums with Egypt, and the deep influence of Egyptian civilisation
and methods of life on Jewish policy.

And yet, notwithstanding such intercourse and such cultural influence,
we can nowhere in the literature of the Bible or of the Rabbis discern
either a direct mention, or (as I hope to show) an implied allusion to
the use of the Rod, which as a weapon both for market and sport from
_c._ 2000 B.C. found favour in Egypt.[1006]

The same holds true of the Land of the Two Rivers; in no Assyrian
sculpture, on no Assyrian seal, can we detect any delineation or any
suggestion of angling, although instances of other kinds of fishing
occur frequently.[1007]

In no book of the Old or of the New Testament can be found any
direct mention of the Rod. In the Talmud—a vast work of teaching and
discussion—the same silence prevails. The authoritative _Talmudische
Archäologie_ (by S. Krauss, 1910) gives us fishful places such as Lake
Tiberias, and many points of ichthyic or piscatorial interest such as
the hook, the line, salted fish, garum, etc., but contains no reference
to the Rod.[1008] Mr. Breslar, it is true, has recently girded up his
loins to establish that in the Bible and the Talmud can be found at
any rate the _implied_ use of the Rod, but to a practical angler quite

To account for this absence of direct mention of the Rod in the Bible
various reasons have been adduced.

The first: in the only two passages, Isaiah xix. 8, and Habakkuk i. 15,
where the word “angle” occurs, and in Matthew xvii. 27, “cast a hook,”
and in Amos iv. 2, as contended by Mr. Breslar, its use is certainly
implied. The validity of this claim remains a question (A) for Hebrew
scholars, and (B) for practical fishermen.

From the point of view of the latter, the “casting,” “taking,” etc., in
the above passages can be and probably were accomplished by a hand-line
(with or without a weight attached to insure greater length of throw)
almost as easily and as effectually as if a Rod were employed. As a
matter of fact, for taking good-sized fish some of our professional
sea-fishermen prefer the hand-line to that of the Rod.

The words in Matthew xvii. 27, “go thou to the sea and cast a hook”
do not either in the Greek or English strongly suggest, much less
necessarily imply, a Rod. To a professional fisherman of the Sea of
Tiberias like Peter, the more natural, probably the only known method
of casting would be by a hand-line.

Turning now to the Hebrew passages, Isaiah xix. 8, “The fishers shall
also lament, and all they that cast angle in the Nile (A.V., brooks)
shall mourn;” Habakkuk i. 15, “He taketh up all of them with the angle,
he catcheth them in his net, and gathereth them in his drag;” Job xli.
1, “Canst thou draw out leviathan with a fish-hook?” in all these we
find the same Hebrew word _ḥakkāh_.

The R.V. in the first two renders it “angle,” and in Job “fish-hook;”
in the Greek version ἄγκιστρον, which in the Septuagint is the usual
and in the New Testament (Matt. xvii. 27) the only word for hook,
occurs in all three passages.

Whence or from which word can the Rod be implied, or even in fairness
claimed? In Isaiah, it is answered, from the words “cast in the Nile.”
But in a river, as every child knows, fishing is pursued by more
methods than that of the Rod. Judging from the literature of our six
Nations fishing by hand-line was far and away more general than by Rod;
the ratio between the two would indeed, I think, work out at some 100
to 1.

If then the words, “cast in the Nile,” do not furnish the implication
claimed, can we find any other words in the three passages which do?
The one word common to them all is _ḥakkāh_, hook: if this fail the
claimants, how or whence can they establish the implication?

Let us now see whither the implication from _ḥakkāh_ leads us.
Obviously in Job, to _angling with a Rod_ for “Leviathan” or
crocodile![1010] The absurdity is already manifest. Let us, however, in
our hunt for the snark-like implication examine the remaining tackle of
this intrepid angler. Fortunately for us, conjecture as to the hook or
the bait is unnecessary.

The Petrie collection at the University of London preserves a hook,
which in Ptolemaic times was employed in the Nile for the capture—not
of crocodiles—but merely of large fish, such as _Lates niloticus_. It
measures over one foot in length, with a shank over 2½ inches in width.

The account of crocodile fishing by the Egyptians left us by
Herodotus[1011] prescribes the bait—no less an one than a chine of
pork. The line, then and now (_ex necessitate rei_), must have been
of stout cord, possibly tied to a tree, with probably some protective
material of horn, etc., to prevent erosion.

Conjure up the picture of this Egyptian _piscator_—even in this
instance the _Jew_ does not use the Rod, for there are no Leviathans
in Palestine![1012] Behold him “casting,” with a Rod of ancient normal
length, about six feet, with a rope line of ancient normal length, from
six to ten feet, a bait of even half the back of a porker! Surely a
picture for gods and men, more especially the winners of our Casting
Competitions, to revere with awe and envy, as a feat of strength and
skill unessayable.

From these three passages I can find no reason, contextual or
piscatorial, to support the contention that the Rod was used, although
to us moderns such use would seem but the natural thing.

Mr. Breslar maintains that Amos iv. 2 authorises the implication. He
errs either in translation or through misconception of the tackle
described. The words run, “They shall take you away with hooks
(_ẓinnōth_), and your residue with fish-hooks.” The Hebrew word for
the second, _ṣīrōth dūgāh_, means only hooks, plain and simple, while
that for the first, _ẓinnōth_, signifies also thorns and probably
fish-spears, or harpoons.

Amos, however, far from thinking of or suggesting a Rod, is looking
contrariwise at the end of a line. His metaphor is drawn from the
non-angling custom prevalent and pictured in Assyrian representations
of a conqueror having his captives dragged by cords fastened by
presumable, but naturally not apparent, hooks firm fixed in their
lips. This conception is strengthened by the fact that _ḥakkāh_ in its
primary etymological sense implies merely something connected with the

If Mr. Breslar surmises (though his words convey no such hint) that
for his “rudimentary type of Rod in the Scriptures” Israel affixed a
line to his fishing spear, thus squaring with my conjecture in the
Introduction as to the evolution of the modern Rod, may I respectfully
ask why did a race, so pre-eminently alert and proverbially
acquisitive, handicap itself by the selection of such a “rudimentary
type” in preference to a weapon long invented, ready to hand, and far

A friend, in the hope of helping me to some authoritative information
as regards Angling, suggested _Jagd, Fischfang, und Bienenzucht bei den
Juden in der tannäischen Zeit_, by Herr Moritz Mainzer, as the very
last word on Jewish fishing. Unable (owing to the War) to obtain this
in book form, I tracked it eventually to some articles under the same
title in the magazine, _Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft
des Judentums_ (1909). Except for a pearl or two such as “Fishermen,
then as now in Palestine, worked lightly dressed or naked,”—was this
suggested by St. John, or P. Fletcher’s, “Now when Simon heard, he girt
his fisher’s coat unto him, for he was naked”?—_Fischfang_ (at any
rate) far from rewards one’s search.

Mainzer’s two sentences (p. 463) assist not at all in determining
whether or not the Jews used the Rod. “Die eigentliche _ḥakkāh_ war ein
eiserner an eine Leine (_ḥebhel_) befestigter Haken. Die Leine selbst
konnte mit einer Rute oder einem Stabe verbunden sein der zuweilen
mehrere Schnüre mit Angeln trug” (the _ḥakkāh_ proper was an iron hook
fastened to a fishing _ḥebhel_. This line might be attached to a rod or
stick, which sometimes had on it several cords with fishing hooks).

The supporting references come from no Israelitish source, but from
Assyrian representations of hand-lining in Layard’s _Nineveh_, and
from Egyptian delineations of Rod fishing in Wilkinson’s _Ancient
Egyptians_. Not a single word does Mainzer quote from any authority on
Jewish Angling. The words, “to a Rod which sometimes had on it several
cords with fishing hooks,” simply translate Wilkinson’s Plate 371.

Had I weighed the title and duly appreciated the combination of
_Hunting_, _Fishing_, and _Bee-culture_! I would have been perhaps
prepared for a disappointment, but the output of, or the “cultural
associations” in, a German work often defy prediction from its mere
headings. Mainzer, in his _Fischfang_, serves to recall Porson’s lines,
which are themselves but an adaptation of a Greek epigram,[1014]

    “The Germans in Greek
     Are sadly to seek,
     Not five in five score
     But ninety-five more.
     All save only Hermann,
     And Hermann’s a German!”

Lest my own conclusion—that neither in the Old or New Testament is the
implied use of the Rod established—carry little weight, I subjoin the
conclusions (stated in letters to me) arrived at by two well-known
Hebrew scholars.

The first comes from Professor A. R. S. Kennedy (the writer of the
article on Fishing in the _Encyclopædia Biblica_): “In short you are
entirely justified, so far as evidence goes, in saying that the Jews
did not use the Rod.”

The second comes from Dr. St. Clair Tisdall: “We find in the Bible no
proof of fishing with _Rod_ and line: on the contrary the fact that no
mention whatever, direct or indirect, of the fishing Rod occurs either
in the Bible or (as far as my reading goes) in the Talmud, makes it
almost certain that the Rod was not used by the Jews. At any rate the
use of any such instrument is not implied in either Book.”

A second reason for the absence of the Rod may be that of dates. The
Jews, it might be urged, were not and could not be aware of Egyptian
Angling, because it sprang up subsequent to their Exodus from the
country. The reply I offer involves, it is true, that bewildering
factor, Egyptian chronology. But even if a thousand years are as
nothing in the sight of Manetho and many others, surely one epoch
correlates with another, and the shifting of one date automatically
involves the shifting of others.

The date of the Exodus, like most Egyptian dates, hitherto a matter of
considerable contention, is now generally agreed as falling between
1300 and 1200 B.C. Petrie[1015] fixes on “1220 B.C. or possibly rather
later,” Hanbury Brown places the Flight ten years earlier, _i.e._ 1230,
for reasons based mainly on the _stele_ of King Menephtah.[1016]

So if the contention that the Israelites could not well know of the
Rod because of its invention after their flight holds water, any
representation of Rod fishing must obviously be subsequent to the
year 1230 or 1220 B.C. Only two such representations exist: (A) (in
Wilkinson’s Plate 370) comes from the tomb (No. 93) of Kenamūm at
Thebes, and dates from about the second half of the XVIIIth Dynasty, or
some 200 years before the Exodus, while (B) (in Wilkinson’s Plate 371,
and in Newberry’s _Beni Hasan_, vol. I. Plate XXIX.) goes back to the
early XIIth Dynasty or some 750 years before the Exodus.[1017]

The Exodus, whatever date be assigned, probably occurred in the time
of and was occasioned by a dynasty non-Semitic, and unfavourable to
Israel. The _corvée_ enforced doubtless by the kourbash was exacted
from the aliens, whose task (Exodus i. 11) included the building of two
brick fortresses to block the eastern road into Egypt.

To most of us unacquainted with the making of bricks the cruelty of
the Pharaonic command, “There shall be no straw given you, yet shall
ye deliver the tale of bricks,” seems to consist in demanding from
the sojourners the same quantity of output without their possessing,
as the Egyptian workers did possess, an essential constituent in the

But Petrie points out that straw, so far from being an essential of the
mixture, is absent from most ancient and modern bricks. The complaint
arose because finely chopped straw is very useful for preventing the
mud from sticking to the hand, for dusting over the ground, and for
coating each lump before dropping it in the mould, thus enabling the
work to go on quickly and easily. From the strawless Jew, however,
was extorted for the same hours a tale of bricks equal to that of the
Egyptian enjoying these advantages.

In direct opposition to Petrie, Maspero states, and Erman[1018] agrees,
that the ordinary Egyptian brick, both ancient and modern, is “a mere
block of mud, mixed with chopped straw and a little sand.”

Other reasons for the Jewish unfamiliarity with the Rod, viz. its
merely local use, and their settlement in the North East of Egypt
remote from “the River of Egypt,” would fully be met, were it not for
Isaiah, with the simple statement that at present they can neither be
proved nor disproved.

But the words of Isaiah xix. 8, “The fishers also shall lament, and all
they that cast angle into the Nile shall mourn,” surely demonstrate—if
we allow that “cast angle” is the proper technical translation, and
that the two words cannot mean the mere throwing of a hook with a
hand-line—that the Israelites during the 430 years (Exodus xii. 40)
of their sojourn in Egypt did acquire familiarity with the methods of
fishing employed by their taskmasters.

Still, even if we take it as proved that for some reason Angling was
at the time of the Exodus an unknown art to the Jews, why with all
the intercourse of the subsequent centuries was the knowledge of the
existence and value of the Rod not acquired?[1019]

Those and other queries may have found a ready reply in the reputed but
lost Book of Solomon on Fishes.[1020] It may possibly have contained
some clue, such as a command or custom, totemistic or other, common
to the old Semitic stock, or some trait of temperament which caused
Angling to be regarded as too slow or too unremunerative a pastime.

Without its guidance one is almost driven to the conclusion that the
ancient Israelites (like the early Greeks and Romans) were pot-hunters,
bent on the spoil rather than on the sport of their catch, but (unlike
them) continued this characteristic throughout their history, and
remained to the end uninfected by the joy or passion of Angling. Their
desire was fish—abundant and cheap, or better still _gratis_: hence
when “fed up” with Manna (Numbers xi. 5) they fell a-lusting—“Who shall
give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish we did eat in Egypt for

This apparent lack of the sporting instinct contrasts strangely with
the fact that modern Jews rank among our foremost anglers, and that to
a Jew we owe the greatest book written within the last generation, if
not the practical establishment on a scientific basis of the dry-fly,
that most finished form of Angling.

Dr. Kennet, Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, while holding no brief
either way, has, at my request, most kindly suggested some reasons
which may conceivably account for the Biblical absence of Angling. To
my mind none of these affords adequate proof of its existence.

A. The physical characteristics of the country preclude many references
to fishing in the Old Testament. However keen their desire, the
majority of the population were in the position of Simple Simon,
when he “went a-fishing for to catch a whale.” Sea-fishing was out
of the question, for with the doubtful exception of a small bit of
the Galilæan coast—probably not held continuously—no part of the
Mediterranean sea-shore belonged to Israel during the Monarchy, while
the climate and intense heat of the Valley of the Jordan, the only real
river, kept its inhabitants apart from the dwellers on the mountains.

But _contra_: even if the majority were Simple Simons, the numerous
references (about 74) in the Bible to fishes, fishing, and fishing
implements indicate a wide, if perhaps impersonal, knowledge of the
practice. The fact that the larger number of these were used as
metaphors or similes evidences a more than local knowledge of fishing,
because for a metaphor or simile to be telling it usually must, as
do the Homeric, appeal to a well-known, common, and long-established
custom or craft.

B. Although fishing apparently prevailed always in the Sea of Galilee,
it must be remembered that practically the whole literature of the Old
Testament emanates from central and southern Palestine, and (as is the
case with Egyptian literature as regards Deltaic conditions) contains
but scant allusion to life among the Northern Tribes. Hence possibly
the silence about the Rod, which may nevertheless have been employed.

C. The Old Testament stories, although some belong to the same period
as the Homeric, are told in a manner very different from the latter.
Every picture is sketched with the fewest strokes, and accordingly
details are, have to be, taken for granted. Thus, although the majority
of the people subsisted largely on milk, there is not one reference to

But _contra_: this omission seems to me hardly on all fours with that
of the Rod. The word _milk_, when not expressly limited, _e.g._ “of thy
bosom,” or used metaphorically, signifies solely the lacteal liquid
extruded from the teats of an animal, and so implies _milking_ or a
previous act of extrusion, whereas the word _fishing_ connotes no
single method of taking _fish_, as the Old Testament in its mention
of the implements, Spear, Hook and Line, and Nets, demonstrates. Then
again Job xxi. 24 (R.V. margin), “his milk-pails are full of milk,”
and Judges iv. 19, “she opened a bottle of milk,” both demand an
extrusion effected by one and only one method, whereas “jars of fish”
may have been filled by any piscatorial method.

D. There is no evidence that the Israelites brought from Egypt a single
particle of Egyptian civilisation. Nomads they were when they entered,
and nomads they were when they left Egypt. Their _kultur_ was taken
over from the Canaanites, and their later civilisation, despite periods
of subjection to Egypt, owed far less to that country than to Babylonia.

Even if we grant that no actual evidence of Egyptian culture exists,
the probabilities incline the other way. Their abiding place was in no
sterile or out-of-the-way corner of that country, but in Goshen, where
we read “they gat them possessions therein,” and was in close proximity
to the great high road, which bore the commerce between Egypt and Asia,
and _vice versâ_. They were certainly familiar with the manufacture of
bricks, and presumably the building of houses, etc.

E. The verse, “The fishers shall also lament and they that cast angle
in the brooks shall mourn,” which _may_ betray knowledge of the Rod, is
apparently much later than Isaiah, and may, perhaps, be assigned to the
second century B.C., and refer to the campaign of Antiochus Epiphanes
in Egypt.

Even if we allow that this date accounts for all omission of Angling
during the millennium between the Exodus and this campaign, why
is there no actual or implied reference in subsequent literature,
especially in the voluminous Talmud?

But the Jewish lack of sport is evidenced not only in their methods
of fishing, but, what is more remarkable, in those of their hunting,
or rather non-hunting. While Assyrian, Egyptian, and Persian Monarchs
were famous for their hunting exploits, no single Jewish king, except
Herod, is handed down to us delighting in or even taking part in the

We find no Hebrew counterpart to Tiglath-Pileser, with his historical
bag of “4 wild bulls mighty and terrible, 10 elephants and 120 lions”
on foot, and 130 speared from his chariot, or even of a mild understudy
to Ashur-bani-pal.[1022] The Bible gives but two—Esau’s brother
scarcely ranks as one—hunter-characters: Esau “a cunning hunter,” and
Nimrod “a mighty hunter before the Lord.” Even the latter of these two
heroes was no Israelite, but a king “of Accad,” a Sumero-Assyrian, whom
some writers identify with Gilgamesh.

Such indifference to or aversion from the chase cannot either at the
time of the invasion of Palestine (Exodus xxiii. 29), or subsequently
be ascribed to the lack of wild beasts or of game, for we read of
lions, bears, jackals, foxes, etc., and of hart, fallow deer, and

Two reasons—neither, to my mind, satisfactory—have been advanced to
explain this attitude as regards hunting, a pursuit which admittedly
has played, both as a necessity and a pastime, an important part in the
education and evolution of mankind.

The first: the Hebrews, as described in the Old Testament, had already
reached the stage of pastoral nomads, when “hunting, which is the
subsistence of the ruder wanderer, has come to be only an extra means
of life.”[1023]

The second: the Hebrews, hampered perhaps by certain peculiarities of
their religion, or on account of the density of the population were not
often induced “to revert for amusement to what their ancestors had been
compelled to practise from necessity.”[1024]

Either, or both, of these reasons might have carried weight, had it
not been for the existence hard by in Assyria of a people, among whom,
although sprung from the Semitic stock, hunting was a recognised and
popular pastime, and this despite a population far denser.

Nor, again, when we compare the culture of the two nations, can
Lacépède’s previously quoted dictum that in civilisation the fisher
nation is usually more advanced than the hunter nation help the
Hebrews, for apart from the fact of the indisputable and immeasurable
superiority of the Assyrian civilisation we discover no sign of angling
in Israel.

As in their fishing, they were “out for” the meat, not for the sport,
so was it, I fear, in their hunting. If they found no pleasure in
the chase, they assuredly delighted in the eating of game and were
dexterous trappers of animals. Their methods were:—

  (_a_) By digging a pitfall for the larger animals,
      _e.g._ for a lion in 2 Sam. xxiii. 20;

  (_b_) By traps, which were set in the runs of the animals
      (Prov. xxii. 5) and caught them by the leg (Job xviii. 9),
       or were set underground (_ibid._ 10); and

  (_c_) By nets of various kinds—for an antelope in Isaiah
      (li. 20, R.V.).


[997] Throughout my pages the words, Jews and Jewish, are generally
used in the popular sense, and not as merely signifying members of the
tribe of Judah. To my friend Dr. A. R. S. Kennedy, Professor of Hebrew
at Edinburgh University, my thanks are due for advice and for reading
the proof-sheets of my section on the Jews.

[998] In this chapter the word Assyrian generally stands for Sumerian,
Babylonian, and Assyrian proper.

[999] Remains of the Hyksos kings are far-scattered; _e.g._ an
alabaster vase-lid of very fine work, bearing the name of Khian, was
discovered in the palace of Cnossos in Crete, while a granite lion
bearing the king’s cartouche on his breast, unearthed many years ago at
Bagdad, is to be seen in the British Museum. J. H. Breasted, _History
of Egypt_, p. 218 (London, 1906).

[1000] The verse is not conclusive that they were called Israelites
during their sojourn in Goshen. The name used by the older sources is
Ibrim, probably identical with the Egyptian word Aperu or Apriu.

[1001] This is probably a shortening of the Sumero-Babylonian
_Abara-rakku_, equalling seer. H. de Genouillac was the first to
connect the word with the Hebrew _Abrek_, in his _Tablettes Sumériennes

[1002] See p. 94, Flinders Petrie, _Israel and Egypt_, of which in this
section I frequently avail myself. Inscriptions of _c._ XXVIth Dynasty,
or _c._ 600 B.C. disclose that there was an actual priesthood dedicated
to the god YHW, which word is clearly spelt out.

[1003] _Archæology and the Bible_, p. 109 (London, 1916).

[1004] _The Civilisation of Palestine_, p. 33.

[1005] _The Biblical World_, Feb., 1910, p. 105. _Inscriptions of
Sinai_ (published in 1913 by the Egypt Exploration Fund) furnish much
evidence as regards the intercourse between Egypt and Israel. For the
trade between Solomon and Egypt, see 1 Kings x. 28, etc.

[1006] See Plates 370 and 371 in Wilkinson, and _antea_, p. 314.

[1007] See _antea_, pp. 355-9.

[1008] In Singer, _Jewish Ency._, V. p. 404. “Fishing implements
such as hook and line, sometimes secured on shore to need no further
attention (_Shab._ 18A), and nets of various constructions” are
practically all that are given.

[1009] After acknowledging (_Notes and Queries_, Dec. 2, 1916) that
there is no mention in either Old or New Testament of a Rod, Mr.
Breslar goes on, “Yet there are places such as Job xl. 31 (xli. 7)
where the Hebrew words are translated barbed irons and fish spears, and
in Job xl. 26 (xli. 2) a thorn. A fishing-rod in the modern sense no
one could reasonably demand, though I opine that in _agmoun_ (Isaiah
lviii. 5), used in that sense in Job xl. 26, we have the nucleus of
one.” Mr. Breslar is evidently not aware or does not realise that fish
spears, bidents, etc., were of the earliest weapons of fishing, long
anterior to the Rod, and that these are the weapons referred to in Job.
A reference to the _Jewish Encyclopædia_ edited by Isidore Singer,
would have shown him that _ẓilẓal dagim_ in Job xli. 7 was in all
probability a harpoon. Then, “that this phrase (_Klei metzooda_) or a
similar one is not found in the Bible is merely an accidental omission
like, I believe, that of the name of Jehovah from the Book of Esther.”
This is hardly helpful: let us grant that the omission of a name from
a short book like Esther was an accident. How can this be “like”
the omission of all mention of or allusion to the Rod in the vast
literature of the Old and New Testaments and of the Talmud, especially
when we find in all three numerous passages dealing with fishing and
the tackle employed for fishing?

[1010] At the beginning of the world (Buddha tells the Monk of
Jetavana) all the fishes chose Leviathan for their King. No hint
as to what fish this Leviathan represented is given us: but the
Leviathan conceived by the Talmudists seems to have been an indefinable
sea-monster, of which the female lay coiled round the earth till God,
fearing that her progeny might destroy the new globe, killed her and
salted her flesh and put it away for the banquet which at the end
awaits the pious of the earth. On that day Gabriel will kill the male
also, and make a tent out of his skin for the Elect who are bidden
to the banquet (Robinson, _op. cit._, p. 8). As Robinson is somewhat
misleading, especially as regards the word Leviathan, I give the story
as told by Buddha with reference to Anqulimāta from _Jātaka_, nv. 537,
vol. V. p. 462. A certain king had been a Yakkha, and still wanted to
eat human flesh. His commander-in-chief tells him a tale to warn him.
“Once upon a time there were great fishes in the Ocean. One of them,
Ānanda, was made king of all the fish, ate the other fish, and finally
ate his own tail thinking it was a fish. The remaining fish smelling
blood, devoured Ānanda’s tail until they reached his head, and all
that was left of Ānanda was a heap of bones.” Leviathan is a gloss of
Robinson’s, because the only word in the text which could in any degree
correspond to Leviathan is _Mahā Maccho_ = great fish. For the election
of a King of fish, see also the _Naĉĉa Jātaka_, and _the Ubrīda Jātaka_.

[1011] Bk. II. 70.

[1012] See, however, an article in _The Spectator_, Feb. 14, 1920,
which asserts that the existence of crocodiles in the Nahr-ez-Zerka,
or the River of Crocodiles of the Crusaders, cannot be questioned,
and also H. B. Tristram, _Land of Israel_ (London, 1865), p. 103, to
similar but unconvincing effect.

[1013] Cf. Isaiah xxxvii. 29, “Therefore will I put my hook (_ḥoḥ_) in
thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips,” and 2 Chron. xxxiii. 11, “Which
ook Manasseh with hooks” (R.V. margin).

[1014] In a letter to A. Dalziel, Sept. 3, 1803, Porson states that
these lines were an effort made to English an epigram by an Etonian
friend, in imitation of Phocylides’s saw (Strabo, X. p. 487):

    καὶ τόδε φωκυλίδου. Λέριοι κακοί, οὐχ ὁ μέν, ὃς δ’ οὔ,
    πάντες, πλὴν Προκλέους· καὶ Προκλέης Λέριος.

[1015] _Op. cit._, p. 53.

[1016] The inscription mentions the existing conditions of foreign
affairs with neighbouring countries as satisfactory. It is in this
connection that the “people of Israel” come in. Their Exodus, according
to Pharaonic fashion, would have been described by the King as an
expulsion and not as an escape against his will. The author of the
inscription, who wrote from a point of view which was not that of the
Biblical account, seems not unsupported by Exodus xii. 39, “Because
they were thrust out of Egypt and could not tarry.” Even stronger is
the Revised Version marginal rendering in Exodus xi. 1, “When he shall
let you go altogether, he shall utterly thrust you out hence.” Sir
Hanbury Brown, _Journal of Egyptian Archæology_ (Jan. 1917), p. 19.

[1017] In connection with, perhaps even helping to fix, the date of the
Exodus, it is in the victorious hymn of Menephtah that the earliest
written reference to Israel appears: “Israel is desolated: her seed is
not. Palestine has become a (defenceless) widow of Egypt” (Breasted),
or “The Israelites are swept off: his seed is no more” (Naville).
Petrie’s translation, “The people of Israel is spoiled: it has no corn
(or seed),” does not for various reasons seem to find favour. The
majority of Egyptologists now identify Aahmes I. with the “new king who
knew not Joseph,” _c._ (1582), Rameses II. as the first Pharaoh of the
Oppression, and of Exodus ii. 15 (_c._ 1300), and Menephtah the son of
Rameses II. with the Pharaoh of the Plagues and the Flight from Egypt
(_c._ 1234).

[1018] _Egyptian Archæology_ (1902), 3-4. Erman, _op. cit._, 417. The
English translators state that the bricks were usually unburnt and
mixed with short pieces of straw.

[1019] If the Egyptian Rod was unknown, “the Egyptian fish (probably
salted) that came in baskets” were regularly imported. _Mishna
Makhshirin_, VI. 3.

[1020] See 1 Kings iv. 33, “And he spake also of beasts, and of fowl,
and of creeping things, and of _fishes_.” Some authorities hold that
this mention of Solomon’s natural history researches is quite late, and
meant to be a set off against Aristotle’s.

[1021] Herod seems, from notices in Josephus, to have been quite a
sportsman, for he kept a regular stud (_Ant._, XVI. 10, s. 3), and
hunted bears, stags, wild asses, etc., with a record bag of forty head
in one day (_ibid._, XV. 7, s. 7; and _B. J._, I. 21, s. 13).

[1022] It is fair to record that some of the Assyrian monarchs
preferred a battle mid safer surroundings, for in representations the
head keepers are seen letting the lions, etc., out of cages for their
royal master to pot! Parks (παράδεισοι) and districts were strictly
preserved by both Assyrian and Persian rulers; in England for several
reigns the penalty for poaching in the New and other Royal Forests was

[1023] E. B. Tylor, _Anthropology_ (London, 1881), p. 220.

[1024] M. G. Watkins, _Gleanings from Natural History_ (London, 1885),
ch. 10.



In Moses’ enumeration of what the tribesmen might or might not eat,
there is a careful distinction by their names of the creatures in fur
and feathers, but the fishes are merely divided (as were the animals
entering the ark into “clean and unclean,” Gen. vii.) into “all that
have fins and scales ye shall eat: and whatsoever hath not fins and
scales ye shall not eat; it is unclean unto you” (Deut. xiv. 9, 10).

This classification has often been assumed to have been taken from
the prohibitions enjoined by the Egyptian priesthood, but without any
authority, because we do not know what fish were actually ruled out
by their dietary canon. Moses not only limits the use of fish as an
article of food, as originally granted in the covenant with Noah (Gen.
ix. 2, 3), but fails to discriminate between fish from the sea and
elsewhere. He does, however, exclude all scaleless fish such as the
important group of siluridæ, skates, lampreys, eels, and every variety
of shell fish.[1025]

As may naturally be expected, this law and other decisions, which by
debarring so many species[1026] of fish denied to the people a food
supply at once plentiful and cheap, were in time whittled away. Fish
with “at least two scales and one fin” were gradually permitted.
Eventually, as experience proved that all fish with scales have also
fins, Israel was allowed as food any part of any fish on which only
scales were visible.[1027]

In the west this whittling was carried even further. ’Ab. Zarah, 39
_a_, expressly states that no one need hesitate about eating the roe
of _any_ fish, because no unclean fish is to be found there![1028] The
Jews of Constantinople in Belon’s time had more scruples; debarred
of caviare proper, _i.e._ made from the roe of the sturgeon, they
discovered an excellent and legal substitute in the roe of the Carp.

It is a strange fact that these many references to fishing neither in
the Old, where they are mostly metaphorical, nor in the New Testament,
where they are chiefly historical, give the specific name of a single
fish family. _Dag_ and _nun_ are the generic terms covering all
species. The large sea fish are collectively termed “tannim.”[1029] The
fish of Tobit, of Jonah, of the Psalms, are only spoken of generically.
None of the Apostles, of whom four, Peter, Andrew, James, and John,
were professional fishermen, has troubled himself to identify by name
even the actual fish of the miraculous draught.[1030]

The Jews acquired no intimate knowledge of the ichthyic branch of
natural history. Although acquainted with some of the names given by
the Egyptians and Alexandrians to different species (Josephus compares
a fish found in the sea of Gennesaret to the _Coracinus_[1031]) they
adopted no similar method of distinguishing them, or any classification
beyond the broad division of clean and unclean. The biological
knowledge concerning fish shown in the Talmud was of a very primitive
order, not merely in regard to embryology and propagation, but also as
to hatching.[1032]

It does, indeed, require the firmly-shut eye of faith to conceive
that the fish of Raphael’s great _Madonna del Pesce_, which scarcely
weighs two pounds and is carried on a string by the youth Tobias, can
have been to him an object of danger and terror, or that it “leaped
out of the river and would have swallowed him” had it not been for the
Angel’s command to seize the brute (Tobit vi. 2, 3). Raphael’s cartoon
is another instance of the untrammelled liberty of the Italian artist.
Most of the fishes are mere nondescript piscine forms of artistic
fancy, but two are certainly of the Skate or Ray family, which is never
found in fresh water!

Then, again, how oddly Botticelli and other painters misconceive their
man-eating fish, which must have been a crocodile strayed from the
Indus or the Nile to the waters of the Tigris.

Fortunately Dr. Tristram[1033] comes to our aid as regards the
fresh-water fish of modern, and probably of ancient Palestine. Of
his forty-three species, only eight are common to the more westerly
Mediterranean rivers and lakes. Of thirty-six found in the Jordan
and its affluents, but one occurs in the ordinary Mediterranean
fresh-water fauna, two in the Nile, seven in the Tigris, Euphrates, and
adjacent rivers, ten in other parts of Syria, while sixteen are quite
peculiar to the basin of the Jordan. The fish fauna is very isolated,
but shows affinities to that of the Ethiopian zoo-geographical region,
and probably dates from a geological time when the Jordan and the
rivers of North-East Africa belonged to the same system.[1034]

Of these fish, two demand notice.

(1) _Chromis simonis._ In the rare instances where fish take any care
of their eggs or young, the task nearly always devolves on the male;
here, the husband performs it by taking the ova into his mouth, till
their development in the large cheek-pouches causes such swelling that
he is unable to use his mouth. This uncomfortable condition exists and
increases until as fry about four inches long they quit the paternal

(2) _Clarias macracanthus_, found in the Nile, as well as in the Lake
of Gennesaret. In their spawning migration they have often to travel
stretches of dwindling streams with water insufficient to cover them,
or absent altogether.[1036] By means of an accessory bronchial organ
they can live at least two whole days out of water. When they thus
behold all the wonders of terrestrial existence, including its choicest
perfection, Man, is it surprising that they “utter a squeaking or
hissing sound,” or _teste_ Masterman, “cat-like squeak”?

The methods of fishing in Palestine, like those (save Angling) of Egypt
and the ancient world, were:—

(A) The spear, harpoon, and bident (still used in Lebanon and Syria)
of which we read in Job xli. 7, “Canst thou fill his skin with barbed
irons, or his head with fish spears?”

(B) The line and hook. The line occurs only in Job xli. 1, “Canst thou
draw out Leviathan (_i.e._ the crocodile) with a fish hook (_ḥakkāh_),
or press down his tongue with a cord (_ḥebel_)?” (R.V.). The hook,
designated by several names, finds frequent place in descriptions and
metaphors in the O.T.

The difficult verse (Job xli. 2), “Canst thou put a rope (_agmōn_,
literally, as in R.V. margin, a rope of rushes) into his (Leviathan’s)
nose?” is possibly explained by the ordinary procedure of fishermen in
carrying their fish.[1037] The (marginal) “rope of rushes” will recall
to many a boy and many a man how often a handy rush has served for
carrying home his catch of small fish. For the crocodile, however, such
means of portage, as it is the intent of the verse to make clear, would
in Bret Harte’s parlance be “onsatisfactory.”

The word, it has been held, probably means a ring, placed in the mouth
of a fish by a rope of reeds tied to a stake, for the purpose of
keeping it alive in the water. The use of a ring would give a perfect
parallelism, “a ring in his nose” and “a hook in his jaw.” Benzinger,
however, makes it very doubtful whether this practice of keeping fish
alive by a ring ever prevailed among the Jews.

The lure, or esca, was ground bait. Travellers maintain that even now
no Nile or Palestine fish is educated enough to rise to a fly. But
my friend Dr. Henry Van Dyke, author of _Little Rivers_ and other
fascinating books, shows me from a diary kept during his visit to
Palestine in 1907 that this rule certainly has exceptions.

Wading from shore near the mouth of a stream flowing into Lake
Tiberias, and again near the head waters of the Jordan above the Lake
of Merom, he found pleasant clear streams where fish took the fly
willingly. Whether this departure from traditional habit was due to
the skill of the super-man, or the enticing cunning of the American
flies used, _viz._ “Queen of the Water,” “Beaverkill,” and “The Abbey”
(size No. 12 American) the diarist stateth not.

(C) The hand net (ἀμφίβληστρον), mentioned in New Testament, still
holds its own in the Sea of Galilee, and the coast. It in the main
resembles the Roman _funda_.

“It is like the top of a tent in shape, with a long cord fastened to
the apex. This is tied to the arm, and the net so folded that when it
is thrown, it expands to its utmost circumference, around which are
strung beads of lead to make it drop suddenly to the bottom. As soon as
the game is spied, away goes the net, expanding as it flies, and its
leaded circumference strikes the bottom ere the fish know its meshes
have closed on them. By the aid of his cord the fishermen leisurely
draws up the net, and the fish with it.”[1038] A fuller description of
the various nets now in use on the lake, with an account of present-day
methods of fishing, will be found in Dr. Masterman’s interesting
volume, chap. ii, _The Inland Fisheries of Galilee_ (also in Pal.
Explor. Fund _Quarterly Statement_, 1908, p. 40).

Netting was the almost universal method. On Lake Tiberias (or the Sea
of Galilee, or Lake of Gennesaret) which yielded then, as it does now,
a most copious supply of fish, night lines and line and hook were also
in vogue. The highest value was attached to these fisheries. According
to tradition one of the so-called Laws of Joshua, while reserving
certain privileges to dwellers on its shores, opened its waters to
every comer. Weirs and fences, because of the damage their stakes
inflicted on fishing boats, were strictly forbidden.

The observance of this custom may have originated from a compact
made by all the tribes, as the Talmud states, or from “the blessing”
(in Deut. xxxiii. 23) conditioning the allotment of the territory of
Napthali and the Sea of Tiberias—“Possess thou the sea, and the south“
(“the sea” is the alternative version in R.V. for “the west”); or
perhaps (according to Baba Kamma) from an absolute order of Joshua to
the tribe of Napthali (_Jew. Encyc._, v. 404).

By law, or rather custom, fishing was, except in private _vivaria_,
etc., universally free; thus “in the Sea of Tiberias fishing with hook
and net was everywhere allowed” (Krauss, _Talmud Archäol._, ii. 146,)
with references to Bab. Kam. 81^b. Cf. the Roman Digest which lays down
that “_omnia animalia quæ terra, mari, cælo capiuntur, id est feræ
bestiæ, et volucres, et pisces, capientium fiunt_.”[1039]

Mainzer, however, severely restricts this freedom of fishing.[1040]
“Incidentally information is given of a modification of the regulation.
For instance, if any one set up a net on a shore or a bank, others were
not allowed to fish in proximity to it. They were only allowed to cast
their nets at a distance of one parasang away.”

This sentence apparently implies that the first comer to some position
on land acquired a legal temporary possession of fishing for the
distance of a parasang. This regulation (extracted, apparently,
from the reference 5, _i.e._ to Baba Bathra, 21 b) came into being
(according to Rabbi Gershom, as cited by Mainzer), “because the
fisherman scatters bait in the water which attracts the fish to his
net. But if another person sets up his net near by, the fish at the
sight of the fresh bait would swim to the other spot, and so the first
fisherman would suffer loss.”

The first (comer), adds Mainzer, “by the setting up of his net has
acquired a priority claim over all the fish of a definite area.”

This theory of possession appears to me quite untenable, for two

The first, because no words, judgment, or even _obiter dictum_
contained in the reference given, support it. A Rabbi’s pious opinion
does not suffice, as Baba Bathra, 21^b, makes clear.[1041] The passage

“Rabbi Hona said, ‘If a man who lives in a passage has set up a mill,
and another in the same passage comes and likewise sets up one, the
former has the right to prevent him, for he can say to him, Thou
cuttest off my means of livelihood.’” In support may be quoted: “The
fish net must be removed from the fish which another is already trying
to catch as far as to allow the fish to escape.” “How far is that?”
Rabba, son of Rabbi Hona answered, “As far as a parasang.” The case is
otherwise with fish to which lines have been cast.”[1042]

My second reason is the manifest absurdity of the enormous area
allotted to the individual netter. Our latest authority, Westberg,
computes that the parasang was equal to 3 miles 1335 yards, or about
3-7/10 miles (_Klio_, xiv. 338 ff.).[1043]

Let us now see how this parasang possession works out on Lake Tiberias,
the only sheet of water where netting widely prevailed.

Its extreme length is about thirteen miles: its greatest width less
than seven. Allowing for sinuosities of coast line, let us concede
fifty miles in circumference. This extent of shore, if the area of a
parasang is possessed on only one side of the netter, would suffice for
13½ netters, or, if on both sides, for 6¾ netters, _i.e._ a monopoly on
the most prolific water, which, in Euclidian parlance, “is absurd.”

If we disregard the words “set up a net on a bank,” and allow that
the parasang possession holds merely for the surface area, we are
immediately confronted by two different questions.

First, does this allotted space spread from the boat by a parasang
only North, or by a parasang only South, etc? Second, if not, but
extends for a circumference of which the boat is the centre, how is the
possessory area to be measured, known, or shown? Oppian, it is true,
sings with poetical license of “Nets, Which like a city to the floods
descend,” but even he does not vouchsafe to us a picture of netting on
such a grandiose scale as seven and a half miles.

Before this area of possession can be definitely established, far
weightier authority must be produced than a casual sentence from a
commentator, whose very lateness of date is betokened by his employment
of the Persian word, _parasang_.

In dealing with the Talmud, we must always bear in mind that a large
part was written as late as between (say) 250 and 550 A.D., and by men
dwelling mostly at a distance from the Holy Land, who not infrequently
show themselves unfamiliar with or ignoring the conditions of the
earlier days.

In early times, possibly because of the small coast-line and poor
harbours which Palestine possessed on the Mediterranean, little or
no reference to fishing on the coast crops up. Later, a considerable
trade in fish, salted or pickled, was carried on by the Syrians (some
writers even claim a monopoly in such fish for the Phœnicians) at
Jerusalem,[1044] where undoubtedly in the northern part of the city a
market gave its name to the neighbouring Fish-Gate.

Perhaps to avoid a similar monopoly, definite and strictly enforced
prices were periodically fixed by the authorities of the town of
Tiberias. By the time of Our Lord thriving fisheries had grown up on
the coast, especially in the neighbourhood of Acre, so thriving indeed
that the equivalent (in later Hebrew) for “carrying coals to Newcastle”
or γλαῦκ’ Ἀθήναζε, became “taking fish to Acco.” On the Sea of Galilee
in especial did the industry prosper; one town seems to have been built
up by—it certainly derived its name, Taricheæ—from the trade of salting

Four ways of preparing fish were according to custom[1045]—pickled,
roasted, baked, or boiled; with the latter, eggs were permissible.

The absence of _vivaria_ till a very late period presents another
instance of the lack in the ancient of the alertness so typical of
the modern Jew. It is hard to deduce why Israel neglected to borrow
from Egypt an institution yielding so valuable and lucrative a supply
of food. If the spirit of sport, which was one of the attractions of
these ponds to the Egyptian gentry, did not appeal in Palestine, the
advantages of a ready store, during the hot weather, of fresh fish
would surely have been obvious to and eagerly utilised by a race whose
passionate plaint was for “a plenty of fish.”

Their great Eastern neighbour inculcated the same object lesson. Most
Assyrian towns and temples possessed an artificial or semi-artificial
_piscina_. Yet not till some 1600 years after the Exodus do we glean in
the Talmudic term _bibar_ (an attempt at transliteration of the Roman
word, _vivaria_, which of itself betokens the lateness of the effort)
the first indication of their employment by the Jews.

This may read as flat heresy, when compared with Isaiah’s words (xix.
10), “And they shall be broken in the purposes thereof, all that make
sluices and ponds for fish.” The translation, however, in the R.V.
(N.B., there is no word equalling _fish_ in the Hebrew text), “Her
pillars shall be broken in pieces, all they that work for hire shall be
grieved in soul,” shatters the assertion that _vivaria_, or fish lakes,
were early institutions in Palestine. This shattering is complete, when
the only other buttress, the passage in Canticles vii. 4, “Thine eyes
(are) like the fish pools in Heshbon,” falls to the ground with the
R.V. rendering, “Thine eyes are as the pools of Heshbon.”

If the Israelites, on the one hand, lacked till late the constructive
ability of the Romans with regard to _vivaria_, they, on the other,
seem to have lacked or failed to apply the destructive devices employed
by the latter for the wholesale slaughter of fish by poison and drugs,
made familiar to us by Oppian and Ælian.

  NOTE.—With reference to Mainzer’s absurd
      contention, Prof. Kennedy writes me as follows:
      “Naturally the working of the large drag net required
      considerable elbow-room, and it was understood, as
      Krauss points out (_Talm. Archäol._, ii. 145), that a
      fisherman would not encroach on his neighbour’s ground.
      If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the
      ancient drag was as long as those used by the Galilean
      fishermen of to-day—_i.e._ about 400 metres (437 yards)
      according to Masterman (_op. cit._, 40)—a boat’s crew,
      working from the beach and spreading their drag in a
      semi-circle, would not monopolise more than 250-280
      yards of sea-front, a very different ‘proposition’ from
      the Talmud’s or Mainzer’s parasang.”


[1025] The classification, if unscientific and incorrect—_e.g._ Eels
possess rudimentary scales—had as its practical purpose the elimination
of the _Siluridæ_—_i.e._ the Catfish _Clarias_, _Bagrus_, _Synodontis_,
etc.—which even if, as with the Catfish, pleasant to the taste were
very unwholesome, causing diarrhœa, rashes, etc. Doctors inform me
that even in our day Jews who eat _crustaceæ_, especially lobsters,
are far more liable to these diseases than Christians—presumably from
an abstention of centuries. The ban on Eels from their infrequency in
Palestine was almost superfluous, but on the _Clarias_, which abounds
in and near the sea of Tiberias, very practical. The abstention,
whether originating from supposed reasons of health or from some
obscure tabu, was and still is prevalent in Asia, Africa, and South
America. A curious trace of it at Rome is discoverable in Numa’s
ordinance that in sacrificial offerings no scaleless fish, and no
scarus should figure (Pliny, _N. H._, XXXII. 10). The abstention is
sometimes merely partial, as with the Karayás in the Amazon valley, see
W. A. Cook, _op. cit._, p. 96.

[1026] 700! according to the Talmud, Hul., 83^b.

[1027] Cf. Nidda, 51^b. For authoritative decisions regarding clean
and unclean fish, see Hamburger, vol. I., _Art. Fisch, Die jüdischen
Speisegesetze_ (Wien, 1895), p. 310 ff.

[1028] Forlong, in his _Rivers of Life_, asserts that even at the
present day the Eastern Jews do not eat fresh fish, but at marriages
they place one on the ground, and the bride and bridegroom walk round
or step over it seven times as an emblem of fecundity.

It is curious to note the mistake of Pliny in XXXI. 44: “Aliud vero
castimonarium superstitioni etiam, sacrisque Judæis dicatum, quod fit
e piscibus squama carentibus.” C. Mayhoff’s edition (Lipsiæ, 1897),
however, runs, XXXI. 95: “Aliud vero est castimoniarum superstitioni
etiam sacrisque Judæis dicatum, quod,” etc.

[1029] Sir Thomas Browne, in his _Miscellaneous Writings_, discourses
of fish mentioned in the Bible.

[1030] Walton (in his Introduction) makes Piscator, after speaking of
these four Apostles as “men of mild and sweet, and peaceable spirits
(as indeed most fishermen are),” continues, “it is observable that it
is our Saviour’s will that his four Fishermen Apostles should have a
prioritie of nomination in the catalogue of his Twelve Apostles. And it
is yet more observable that at his Transfiguration, when he left the
rest of his Disciples and chose only three to accompany him, that these
three were all Fishermen.” As a contrast to the excellent character
given to the four fisher Apostles by Walton, a learned divine of Worms,
J. Ruchard, found it incumbent in 1479 to defend Peter from the charge
of instituting abstinence from flesh, so that he could profitably
dispose of his fish! Keller, _op. cit._, p. 335.

[1031] _B. J._, III. 10, 18. “It is watered by a most fertile fountain.
Some have thought it to be a vein of the Nile, as it produces the
_Coracin_ fish as well as that lake does, which is near Alexandria.”

[1032] Smith’s _Hist. of the Bible_ (1890), and Singer’s _Jewish
Encyclopædia_, V., p. 403, however, mention the Tunny, Herring, Eel,

[1033] See, also, E. W. G. Masterman, _Studies in Galilee_, Chicago,

[1034] Dr. Boulenger points out, however, that the affinity between the
two rivers is restricted to a few species of the Silurids and Cichlids,
whose importance is outweighed by the total absence from the Jordan of
such characteristic African families as the Polypteridæ, Mormyridæ, and

[1035] This statement of Tristram’s is controverted by Masterman, _op.
cit._, p. 44, note 1, who writes, “This is impossible. They leave the
shelter of their fathers’ mouths when about the size of a lentil, and
apparently never return.” The male Pipe fish _Syngnathus acus_ not
only carries the eggs, but also the young fish in a pouch, in a manner
similar to the kangaroo. The young, even after they have begun to swim
about, return when alarmed to the parental cavity. There are only one
or two instances of a female fish taking sole charge of the ova: of
these is _Aspreto batrachus_, which by lying on the top of her eggs
presses them in to her spongy body and carries them thus, till they are

[1036] In islands off Northern Australia are found walking and climbing
fish, _Periophthalmus koelreuteri_ and _P. australis_, which ascend the
roots of the mangrove by the use of ventral and pectoral fins, and jump
and skip on the mud with the alertness of rabbits (_The Confessions of
a Beachcomber_, p. 204, London, 1913).

Ktesias, a possible contemporary of Herodotus, writes that in India are
little fish whose habit it is now and then to have a ramble on dry land.

[1037] Wilkinson, _op. cit._, II. p. 118.

[1038] _Encyl. Bibl._, ii. col. 1528, from Thomson, _The Land and the
Book_, p. 402.

[1039] Justinian, _Corpus Juris Civilis_, vol. I., Digest, 41, 1, 1.

[1040] _Op. cit., supra_, p. 405.

[1041] Goldschmidt’s _Der Babylonische Talmud_, vol. VI. p. 1005.

[1042] “The first fisherman has already bestowed labour on the fish,
and regards them as his property.”

[1043] Zuckermann, a leading Jewish authority, in _Das jüdische
Maassystem_, p. 31, gives, it is true, the following equivalents: 1
Parasang = 4 Mil. (Lat. _mille_ = 30 Ris) (stadia)—8000 Hebrew cubits.
Reckoning the cubit at, in round figures, 18 inches, we get a parasang
of 4000 yards, or about 2¼ miles. Later authorities, however, are
agreed that the Persian parasang was at least 3½ miles, or more.

[1044] Nehemiah xiii. 13-16.

[1045] Talmud, Ned. 20^b.



Although nothing is said of sacrificial fish, it is possible that
Ichthyolatry did prevail in Israel to some extent. In Deut. iv.
18,[1046] we find an express commandment or law laid down by Moses
against the making of a graven image of “the likeness of any fish that
is in the water under the earth”: in Exodus xx. 4, we read, “Thou shalt
not make unto thee a graven image, nor the likeness of any form that
is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the
water under the earth.”

If Ichthyolatry existed, it could hardly have sprung up among a nomad
people living in the Desert, as did the Jews for years before they
entered the Promised Land. Such a cult with other customs was probably
adopted from the Canaanites by their conquerors. Psalm cvi. 35 ff.,
expressly tells us, “but they mingled themselves with the nations and
learned their works; and they served their idols which became a snare
unto them.” Any argument in favour of the existence of Ichthyolatry
which rests mainly on Deut. iv. 18, and Ex. xx. 4, can to my mind carry
little or no weight. They simply embody a comprehensive command against
making a graven image of any kind whatever, celestial, terrestrial, or

As to the observance of the commandment, Petrie writes:—[1047] “It
is often assumed that the prohibition to make a graven image was as
rigidly carried out in Israel as in Islam—the second monotheistic
revival of the Semites. The holy of holies in Solomon’s Temple
contained, however, two enormous cherubim, about 17 feet high, side
by side, right across the back of the shrine.... Not only were these
figures in the holiest place, but in the court stood the brazen sea
on twelve oxen, and figures of lions, oxen, and cherubim covered the
tanks. In earlier times Micah had a graven image, and a molten image
of silver, weighing about six pounds, in his private chapel of Yahweh,
served by a Levite, and they, with the ephod and teraphim, were adopted
for tribal worship by part of the tribe of Dan until the captivity.”

The author adds “there was neither officially nor privately any
objection to the use of images.” He also shows that even “in the
holiest of all things, the Ark of Yahweh, there were cherubs, one on
each side of the mercy seat, with their wings covering the mercy seat,”
in which design and other religious matters he discerns clear instances
of Egyptian influence.

However this may be, it is plain from Ezekiel (viii. 10-11) that the
Israelites worshipped graven representations of “every form of creeping
things and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the House of Israel,
pourtrayed up on the wall round about. And there stood before them
seventy men of the elders of Israel ... with every man his censer in
his hand: and the odour of the cloud of incense went up.” Some scholars
go indeed as far as the assertion that until the prophetic reformation
in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., the _popular_ religion of
Israel was about on a level with unreformed Hinduism.

We stand on surer ground in the statement that Ashtoreth, a goddess of
the Zidonians and Canaanites, was worshipped by Israel, for in 1 Kings
xi. 5 and 33, we read “Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the
Zidonians,” and, “because they have forsaken me and have worshipped
Ashtoreth.”[1048] From this acknowledged worship of Ashtoreth,
sometimes identified with Astarte and with Atargatis[1049]—undoubtedly
a fish goddess—Ichthyolatry has been claimed for Israel.

[Illustration: ATARGATIS.

From a coin of Hierapolis. See _Brit. Mus. Cat. of Coins_, Galatia, Pl.
18, 14, or B.V. Head, _Historia Numorum_^2 (Oxford, 1911), p. 777. For
Atargatis, see _ante_, 127.]

But Cheyne, after showing that the mistake of identification arose from
Carnaim, where (Maccabees v. 26) the temple of Atargatis stood, being
also called (Gen. xiv. 5) Ashtoreth-Carnaim, disputes the deduction,
and denies that these goddesses were one and the same. He points
out that at Ascalon there were two separate temples, one to Astarte
(Ashtoreth) and one to Atargatis (Derceto), standing side by side.[1050]

Strabo, however, states (XVI. p. 748) that in Hierapolis, or Bambyce,
or Magog, “there was worshipped the Syrian goddess Atargatis,” and
on p. 785 that this same goddess is called by the historian Ctesias
Derceto, and by others Athara. In Strabo’s day apparently the
name, if not the cult, of Atargatis and Ashtoreth were considered

Milton, at any rate, evinces no doubt,

    “Came Ashtoreth, whom the Phœnicians called
     Astarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns:
     In Sion also not unsung, where stood
     Her temple on the offensive Mount.”[1052]

The origin, the nature, and the worship of Dagon, the fish god of the
Philistines, whose temple stood at Ashdod,[1053] are discussed in
Chapter xxxiii.

The Scape-Goat is perhaps the best known of the Israelitish offerings
to the deity. The annual ceremony of “the driving away” became a
service of the highest pomp and solemnity. For it two goats were
necessary: the first to be drawn by lot was killed as a Sin Offering
unto Yahweh, the second, the Scape-Goat, after being laden by the High
Priest with all the sins of the people for the past year, was sent away
into the wilderness, “to Azazel” (Levit. xvi. 8, 10, R.V.).

This symbolic bearing away of the sins of the people is somewhat
analogous to that in Lev. xiv. 4 ff., where for the purification of the
leper one bird is killed, and the other, charged with the disease, let
loose in the open field. In Zech. v. 5 ff., Wickedness is carried away
bodily into the land of Shinar.

The resemblance of this periodic offering[1054] and of many other
Jewish institutions to those of Babylon is striking. The letting loose
and driving away of the _Mashhulduppu_, or Scape-Goat, was similarly
the occasion of an annual ceremony of imposing ritual. The first
account of this appears in an inscription of the Cassite period, which
avows itself merely a copy of an earlier record, the original of which
may well have existed in the time of Hammurabi.

To fish figuring as symbolical bearers away of sins we have references,
according to Pitra,[1055] in the Talmud, though not in the Bible. On
New Year’s Day (about mid-September), when in the fulness of time God
will judge mankind, it was the custom (based on Micah vii., “Thou
wilt cast all their sins into the sea”) to assemble near some lake or
stream. If goodly numbers of fish were spied, the omen of the expiation
of human sins was accepted. Forthwith the crowd jumped for joy, and
shed their garments, likewise their sins, on to the fishes, who swam
away, heavily laden.

Religious customs in Israel and Assyria both correspond and differ.
Thus the sacrifices of fish found in Assyria are absent in Israel,
although we read _passim_ of offerings of domestic animals, of wine,
of pigeons, and of doves. The former (despite Sayce and Jastrow) were
guiltless of human sacrifices, the latter “sacrificed their sons and
their daughters” (even) “unto demons.”[1056]

From the words of Exod. xiii. 2, and Numbers xviii. 15 f., Mr. Campbell
Thompson holds that the God of Israel plainly regarded the firstborn of
men and the firstlings of animals as his own. The Israelites certainly
offered up some of their children, generally the firstborn (cf. Isaac),
either as a tribute regularly due to their Deity or to appease his
anger at times of calamity or danger.[1057] Other writers disavow a
general sacrificing of the firstborn as part of the religion of Israel;
they attribute individual instances occurring towards the close of the
monarchy to the influence of surrounding nations.[1058]

I have come across no counterpart to the Babylonian or Roman custom of
taking auguries or making oracular responses from the movements, etc.,
of fish. If the Hebrews apparently lacked some modes of divining which
were employed by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, etc., such as observation
of the flight and cries of birds, the movements of fish, the inspection
of the entrails of animals (for it was a King of Babylon, not of
Israel, who “looked in the liver”), the Bible reveals signs and omens
resembling or identical with those in use elsewhere.

We read, for instance, of _Rhabdomancy_, or divination by rods, “my
people asketh counsel at their stock, and their staff declareth
unto them.”[1059] _Drawing of Lots_, probably by different coloured
stones,[1060] _Astrology_,[1061] and _Oneiromancy_, or dream

Strabo reports as attached to the Temple at Jerusalem a class of
official dreamers, apparently for purposes of divination or prophetic
deliverances. Of the important part played by dreams in both the
Old and New Testaments, those of Jacob, Joseph, Solomon, and Joseph
the husband of Mary, are _inter alia_ evidence. In the Temple
institution[1063] may possibly be detected the continuance of the
Semitic pre-Mosaic custom of sleeping places before a temple (as at
Serabīt-al-Khādim) for dreamers[1064] in quest of omens, although the
references to it in the O.T. itself are very slight, and only occur in
connection with Bethel stones and Seers.[1065]

The Seers were a recognised class of persons, who by an exceptional
gift could disclose to inquirers secrets of the present and immediate
future (1 Sam. ix. 6, and x. 2-6). Samuel himself belonged to the
college or class of Seers. Like the diviners, they received fees; thus
Saul’s servant suggests the giving to the Seer, whose words invariably
come to pass, “a quarter of a shekel of silver.”

As regards the diviners, etc., we find in Isaiah ii. 6, “Thou hast
forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be filled with
customs from the East and are soothsayers like the Philistines,” and
in Deut. xviii. 10-12, “one that useth divination, or practiseth
augury, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a consulter
with a familiar spirit, or a wizard, or a necromancer,” all these are
abominations unto the Lord.[1066]


[1046] Many hold that Deuteronomy was written not earlier than the
seventh century, or even as late as 550 B.C., previous to which there
had taken place a large influx of foreigners, especially from N.W.
Mesopotamia and Babylon, where gods were represented by scores.

[1047] _Egypt and Israel_, pp. 60, 61. Objection to the use of images
in Israel was not apparently general till the latter half of the
eighth century B.C. Their existence may, perhaps, be explained by (A)
the universal existence of such worship among the Canaanites, (B) the
proportion of Israelites to Canaanites being about as small as that of
the Normans to the Saxons in England.

[1048] Of the fate of this and other temples erected by Solomon we read
in 2 Kings xxiii. 13, “and the high places which Solomon had builded
for Ashtoreth, the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh, the
abomination of Moab, and for Milcom, the abomination of the children of
Ammon, did the king defile,” _i.e._ King Josiah some three centuries
and a half after.

[1049] For data on Atargatis and Derceto, and for various Syrian coins
bearing fish, see J. B. Pitra, _Spicilegium Solesmense_, III. pp. 503-4
(Paris, 1855).

[1050] _Ency. Bibl._, p. 379.

[1051] In _Some Palestinian Cults in the Greek and Roman Age_
(Proceedings of British Academy, vol. V. p. 9), Mr. G. F. Hill,
speaking of the worship in the two cities, concludes that the one at
Ascalon is identified by Herodotus with that of Aphrodite Urania, and
that at Gaza with Derceto, or Atargatis. Lucian (if he wrote _De dea
Syria_) distinguishes the goddess of Ascalon from her of Hierapolis,
who was worshipped in human not semi-human form, but there is little
doubt of the connection between them. The Greeks identified both
with Aphrodite. Other writers state that the Canaanite Ashtoreth,
pre-eminently the goddess of reproduction and fecundity, became the
goddess of fish (which, as sacred to her, were forbidden food) and of
the pomegranate, both of which from their thousands of eggs or seeds
are striking emblems of fertility.

[1052] Graf Wolf von Baudissin in Hauck’s _Protestantische
Realencycl._, 3rd ed., vol. II., p. 177, _s.v._ Atargatis, “If
Atargatis be, as we suppose, originally identical with Astarte, and
if the latter be the representative of the generative night-sky—in
particular of the Moon—then the representation of the former as a water
and fish deity will be connected with the conception, so widespread in
antiquity, of the Moon being the principle of generative moisture.”

[1053] 1 Sam. v. 4.

[1054] Frazer, _The Golden Bough_, I. pp. 14 and 70, gives many
instances similar to the periodic offering by the Scape-Goat among the
Chinese, Malayans, and Esquimaux.

[1055] Pitra, _op. cit._, p. 515 (who refers to Buxtorf, _Synag.
Jud._, chapter XXIV.), is incorrect, according to the _Jewish Ency._
(New York, 1906, vol. XII. 66 f.), which states the _Tashlik_—the
propitiatory rite referred to—does not occur in the _Talmud_ or
the geonic writers. Fish illustrate man’s plight and arouse him to
repentance, “As the fishes that are taken in an evil net,” Eccl. ix.
12; and, as they have no eyebrows and their eyes are always open,
they symbolise the Guardian of Israel, who slumbereth not. See R. I.
Harowitz, _Shelah_, p. 214.

[1056] Psalm cvi. 36 ff.

[1057] _Semitic Magic_, 1908.

[1058] See Bennett, _Exodus_, p. 178, where he cites Baentsch, and E.
Meyer. Other writers, who admit the sacrifice, deduce its cause from
some very early rite by which the bride was deflowered by some god or
his representatives, the Holy Men: hence what the deity had given, the
deity claimed. See _infra_, p. 435, n. 2, where this view is brought

[1059] Hosea, iv. 12. Cf. Herodotus, IV. 67.

[1060] 1 Sam. xiv. 41-2. _Urim_ and _Thummin_ seem pebbles kept in the

[1061] Isaiah, xlvii. 13.

[1062] Gen. xxxi. 10-13; Judges, vii. 13.

[1063] Petrie, _op. cit._, p. 49.

[1064] Cf. the custom at certain Greek temples, whereby every person,
who paid the fee and complied with the rules laid down, was allowed
to sleep in or near the sanctuary for the purpose of receiving omens
in a dream. The men slept in the east, the women in the west of the
dormitory. Frazer, _op. cit._, II. 44. A good monograph on the subject
is by Miss M. Hamilton, _Incubation_, London, 1906. Oneiromancy was
highly esteemed in Israel, as in Egypt and elsewhere. Joseph’s skill
(Gen. xl. and xli.) no doubt aided his rapid advancement by Pharaoh.

[1065] “Sacred stones or monoliths were regular features of Canaanite
or Hebrew sanctuaries: many of these have been excavated in modern
times.” Some of these Bethel stones are described “as uttering oracles
in a whistling voice, which only a wizard was able to interpret.”
Frazer, _op. cit._, II., p. 59 and p. 76.

[1066] T. Davies in _Magic Divination and Demonology among the
Hebrews_, etc., 1898, especially in chs. ii. and iii., has much of
interest on these subjects.



The fish in Tobit, apart from its ichthyic, possesses two other points
of interest, its magical and its medical power. As in Assyria we have
found beliefs in magical charms very prevalent, and exorcisms of demons
or devils accomplished by various methods, so with the Jews, especially
with the Babylonian Jews, the interest in magical charms was very
strong, and the means employed for exorcism very similar.

In both nations it is necessary to have some object into which the
spirit may be attracted or driven, in point of fact a Leyden jar in
which the malign influence may be isolated under control. It is all the
same whether the devils are sent into the Gadarene swine or the jinni
corked up in the brass bottle of Solomon. The disease (or oppressing
devil) must be gently or forcibly persuaded to leave the human body and
enter the dead animal or waxen figure close at hand, and so be brought
into subjection, or by cleansing with water or fumigation (often with a
censer) banished, and its possession or persecution of the person made
of no effect.[1067]

As nowadays even Macaulay’s schoolboy wots little of the Apocrypha, a
short résumé of the book of Tobit seems not amiss.

Tobit has become blind, and fallen on evil days in Nineveh; he bids his
son Tobias set forth and fetch a sum of money deposited with Gabael in
Media. He chooses as a trustworthy companion Azarias, who turns out
to be no other than the angel Raphael, whom God, compassionating both
Tobit’s plight and Sara’s subjection to a demon, has sent purposely
from heaven.

On the journey Tobias (R.V.) “went down to wash himself in the Tigris
and a fish leaped out of the river and would have swallowed him. But
the angel said unto him, ‘Take hold on the fish.’” And the young man
caught hold of the fish and cast it on the land. The angel bids him,
“Cut the fish open, and take the heart, the liver, and the gall, and
put them up safely,” giving as his reasons, “touching the heart and
liver, if a devil or evil spirit trouble any, we must make a smoke
thereof before the man or woman, and the party shall be no more vexed.
As for the gall, it is good to anoint a man that hath white films in
his eyes, and he shall be healed.” Of the healing of his father’s
blindness we read later in xi. 11-13, where Tobias “strake of the gall
on his father’s eyes.”

The great act of the drama, however, is staged in Ecbatana, where
the travellers break their journey at the house of a kinsman Raguel,
whose daughter Sara “had been given in marriage to seven husbands, but
Asmodeus the evil spirit (or demon) slew them before they had lain with
her.” Tobias, not to be daunted, marries Sara, not, however, before
Raguel “took paper and did write an instrument of covenant (or marriage
contract) and sealed it.”

“And when they had finished their supper, they brought Tobias in unto
her. But as he went he remembered the words of Raphael, and took the
ashes of the incense, and put the heart and the liver of the fish
thereupon, and made a smoke therewith. But when the devil had smelled
the smell he fled into the uppermost parts of Egypt, and the angel
bound him” (viii. 1, 2, 3). Cf. Milton, _P.L._ iv. “Asmodeus of the
fishy fume,” etc.

Dr. Gaster has given us a version, hitherto unpublished, in which
“Tobiyah took the heart of _a_ fish and put it in a censer and burnt
it under the clothes of Sarah. And Ashmedai (the demon) received the
smells and fled instantly.” This contra-demonical property in a fish
appears elsewhere, _e.g._ in the Macedonian charm, which prescribes
for one possessed the wearing of and the fumigation with the glands of
a fish, to ensure that “the demons will flee from him.”

The jealous passion of demons or devils for maidens colours Asian,
African, and European folk-lores. They lie in wait for married couples;
sternly guard their so-called brides.[1068] Otherwise they were usually
innocuous. Tobias argues with the angel, “If I go in unto her, I die
as the others before: for a wicked spirit loveth her, which hurteth
nobody, but those that come in unto her” (vi. 14).

According to the Testament of Solomon, Asmodeus (the demon) avows, “my
business is to plot against the newly wedded, so that they may not know
one another. I sever them by many calamities, and I waste away the
beauty of virgin women.” In Asmodeus we recognise a male counterpart
of Lilith and her dangerous relations with men. The demon, in fact,
regards the virgin as his own, himself as her true and constant lover,
and resents, prevents, or “avenges any infringement of his _jus primæ

The misconception, evident in the last eight words of this learned
writer, as to what constituted the _jus primæ noctis_ prevails widely.
As the _jus_ is the child, strange as the parentage may appear, of
the tale of Tobias and Sara, it seems worth our while to notice the
strangely erroneous views held both as to the possessor of the _jus_
and the occasion of its exercise, and shortly to explain, even at the
risk of seeming to stray from fishing into folklore, the origin and the
establishment of the custom.

According to popular belief the superior or lord of the fee, among
other feudal privileges, possessed, as such, the vested right of
connection with the daughters of his tenantry or of holders of land
under him on the first night of their marriages. Some writers on the
French Revolution, indeed, indignantly class the wide and brutal
exercise of this right on chaste maidens by licentious _seigneurs_
as not the least, perhaps one of the most provocative, of the social
causes, which led to the detestation and subsequent massacre of the
_noblesse_ in many _départements_ and to the overthrow of the old
landed system!

But alas! “this sad old romance, this unchivalrous story” (to vary
_Lucille_) must go to the wall. The _jus, as thus conceived and
described_, never in fact existed anywhere in civilised Europe. The
figment of its ruthless exercise as a legal right by licentious
lordlings owes its existence to a vivid imagination uninfected by one
germ of truth, as Lord Hailes, M. L. Veuillot, and others clearly

It must come as a severe shock to preconceived ideas to run up against
the dull facts of history, and thence discover that the _jus primæ
noctis_, so far from being the barbarous privilege of deflowering an
unwilling bride, was merely a right accorded by the Church to the
husband on the payment of a varying fee to the bishops, etc., for the
privilege of disregarding the ecclesiastical ordinance, which required
that his bride should remain in a state of virginity for one, two, or
three days![1071]

Continence for one night was first enjoined in the decree passed by the
Fourth Council of Carthage in 398 A.D.[1072] This, extended to “two or
three days,” figured not only in the Capitularies of Charlemagne,[1073]
but was received into the Canon Law, and was twice repeated in the
decretals of the Catholic Church.[1074]

But what, it may be fairly asked, has the _jus primæ noctis_ got to
do with our Tobias and Sara? The history of the connection deserves
tracing, not only to clear away its obscurity, but also to show how a
custom—important in result but based simply on a variant version of
Tobit—was by the Church early adopted and widely inculcated. The days,
during which the continence enjoined on the newly married could only be
disregarded if the husband had previously paid for the privilege a fee
to some religious authority, came to be known as “Tobias Days.”

No searching, however diligent, of the Septuagint or of our A. or R.
Versions, nor (it seems) of the Aramaic text of the tale of Tobit sheds
light on the origin of the custom or of the application of the name.

The Vulgate, however, which the Roman Church adopts, sets forth the
story of the abstinence of Tobias from Sara. “Then Tobias exhorted the
virgin, and said unto her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God to-day,
and to-morrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we
are joined to God: and when the third night is over we will be in our
wedlock. For we are the children of the Saints, and we must not be
joined together like the heathen who know not God.”[1075]

From this (apparently) solitary and quite different version sprang the
custom of the “Tobias Days,” and the _jus primæ noctis_, of which the
usual conception is “a monstrous fable born of ignorance, prejudice,
and confusion of ideas.”[1076]

The custom of continence for varying periods probably springs from the
common widespread belief (of which _Tobit_ affords a Semitic example)
that demons lie in wait to harm newly-married couples, and from the
hope that if allowed free scope for making love to the bride their
jealous wrath might be appeased, or the danger, at any rate, minimised.
The alternative to appeasement was deception of the demon; whence women
sometimes disguised themselves as men, and even wore false beards!

We find, on returning from this semi-folklore excursion, Prof. Langdon
asserting that in Sumero-Babylonian religion each individual is guarded
by a divine spirit or god.[1077] He is called the “Man’s God,” and the
man is defined, in a religious sense, as a “Son of God.” But this term
applies to no females.

This can hardly be attributed to accident, for our sources of
information mention hundreds, even thousands, of men bewitched, and by
demonic force abandoned by their indwelling gods, _but never a woman_.
Women not infrequently figure as causing the condition of tabu, but
never as having fallen to the powers of devils, or witches, or as
being under the protection of a personal god. They never appear in the
private penitential psalms.

But when we recall the high position occupied by women, not only
in Babylonian society, but also in the eye of the civil law, which
regarded their rights, as often as not, equal to those of men, and that
women are often found as priestesses of religious orders, Langdon’s
statements, resting on recent discoveries, create grounds for surprise.

To explain the anomaly he conjectures that when the texts refer to
sinners, penitents, or sufferers, the title “son of his god” applies in
all probability also to women.

The book of Tobit, whether Persian in its source or Aramaic in its
original text, furnishes an example of demonic possession of a woman, a
Hebrew of the Hebrews.

The Jewish conception of demonic possession resembles, indeed probably
descends from, the Babylonian. The “seven devils” of Matt. xii. 45,
Luke xi. 26, and viii. 2, simply reflect the evil spirits, called in a
famous incantation _The Seven_, who play no small part in Babylonian

The N.T. confines the instances of evil spirits possessing mankind—more
frequently in the psychical rather than in the physical sense—to the
Gospels and the Acts, which illustrate demonic possession of women
by (_inter alias_) the Canaanitish woman (Matt. xvi. 22) and Mary
Magdalene, “from whom seven devils had gone out” (Luke viii. 2).[1079]


[1067] Cf. R. Campbell Thompson, _Semitic Magic_, p. 18. Not analogous
but not unakin seems the passage in Theocritus (_Idyll_, II. 28-9) of
the love-slighted maiden melting the wax, “so that Delphis may be soon
wasted by my love.” Diaper (in his _Nereides or Sea Eclogues_) imitates
the scene, but for the waxen image of the lover and its wasting,
substitutes a poor dog-fish, which is pierced so as to torture Phorbas
by proxy. Cf. Virgil, _Ecl._, VIII. 80.

[1068] J. G. Frazer, _Folk-Lore in the Old Testament_ (London, 1918),
520 ff.

[1069] R. Campbell Thompson, _Semitic Magic_ (London, 1908), pp. 74-75.

[1070] _Annals of Scotland_ (Edinburgh, 1797), III. Appendix 1, pp.
1-21; _Le Droit du Seigneur_ (Paris 1864), 191 ff., 232-243, and 276
ff. As to the supposed exception owing to the mythical law by that
mythical king, Evenus or Eugenius, by the provisions of which according
to Boece (who in his _History of Scotland_, published in 1527, seems to
have been the first to resurrect or create the law, and the monarch)
landlords were permitted to “deflower the virgin brides of their
tenantry,” see Cosmo Innes’s _Lectures on Legal Antiquities_, 1872, “in
Scotland there is nothing to ground a suspicion of such a right,” and
J. G. Frazer, _op. cit._, vol. I. pp. 485-493.

[1071] See the judgment delivered in 1409 in the case brought to the
Bishop of Amiens against the Mayor, etc., of Abbeville to establish
his right to receive such fees, which were “sometimes ten, sometimes
twelve, sometimes twenty Parisian sous.”

[1072] See Martine, _de Antiq. Eccles. Ritibus_, I. ix. 4.

[1073] J. P. Migne, _Patrologia Latina_ (Paris, 1862), tom. I., p. 859,
par. 463.

[1074] Lord Hailes, _op. cit._, iii. 15.

[1075] Tobit, viii. 4 and 5 (Douai version). The fatuity of his
reasoning, although with seven predecessors slain by the demon much
must be pardoned to Tobias, is obvious, when we discover that the
practice of deferring the consummation of marriage for a certain time
is older than Tobit and Christianity, and has been observed by heathen
tribes, not on any ascetic principle, in many parts of the world.
Hence, “we may reasonably infer that far from instituting the rule and
imposing it on the pagans, the Church, on the contrary, borrowed it
(like much else) from the heathen, and sought to give it a scriptural
sanction by appealing to the authority of the angel Raphael.” Frazer,
_op. cit._, I. 505.

[1076] The whole question is fully treated by J. G. Frazer, _op.
cit._, vol. I., pp. 485-530, and _Adonis, Attis, and Osiris_, 3rd ed.,
vol. I., pp. 57-60. Some writers hold that the period of continence
originated at an ancient time when it was deemed advisable that the
deflowering should be effected by a god or his representatives—In
Israel the Sacred Men—so that the woman should receive strength to bear
children to her husband. For the practice they rely on Hosea iv. 14,
and for the deferment to the seventh night on Gen. xxix. 27, and in the
correction of the reading in Judges, xiv. 18, from “before the sun went
down” to “before he went into her chamber.” The evidence to my mind is
far from convincing.

[1077] _Babylonian Magic_ (London, 1914), pp. 223-224, and _Le Poème
Sumérien_, already cited, p. 72, note 3.

[1078] Maspero, _Dawn of Civilisation_, pp. 634, 776.

[1079] It would seem that the Babylonians intelligently, if
unconsciously, anticipated our law of germs, for “the doctrine of
disease was that the swarming demons could enter a man’s body and cause
sickness.” On a fragment of a tablet, Budge has found six evil spirits
mentioned by name, each of which specialised in attack, the first going
for the head, and so on. See _Encyc. Bibl._, 1073.



The many versions of “the fish of Moses” are but delightful
explanations of the flat fish having more meat on one side than
another, or being white or colourless on one side and darkish coloured
on the other.

In one story the Almighty, annoyed with Moses for answering some one’s
query “Who was the most knowing of men?” with a simple “I,” instead of
accrediting his wisdom to God, revealed unto him, “verily, I have a
servant at a place where the two seas meet, and he is more knowing than
thou.” The legend, with the direction to Moses to take a fish and put
it in a measure, and the fish’s escape by God’s aid, etc., is too well
known for recital.

But the conclusion of Hamid of Andalusia as to the nature of the
fish is not, and may be added. “The fish of Moses which I saw in the
Mediterranean is of the breed of that _fried_ fish, a half of which
Moses and Joshua ate, and the other half God revived. It is about a
span long. On one side it has bristles and its belly is covered with
a thin skin. It has but one eye and half a head. Looking at it on one
side you would deem it dead, but the other side is perfect in all its

To account for the difference in colour the legend of the Arabs[1081]
runs thuswise:—“Moses was once cooking a fish, and when it had been
broiled till it was brown on one side, the fire or oil gave out, and
Moses angrily threw the fish into the sea, when, although it had been
half broiled, it came to life again, and its descendants have ever
since preserved the same peculiarities of colour.”

The half-destroyed fish which recovers life meets us also in the belief
which unto this day lingers in some towns on the Black Sea, but on the
_Rhombus_, not on the Sole, is the miracle wrought.

According to a Russian legend, the tidings of the Resurrection were
brought to the Virgin Mary, when at food: incredulous and as one of
little faith she flung the uneaten half of a _Rhombus_ into the water,
bidding it, were the message true, come back to life whole! And lo!
this it instantly did.

Pictures of the Virgin, commemorating the incident are painted on a
_Rhombus_, nailed to a board, thoroughly dried, and ornamented with a
background of gold. A great ceremonial marks their removal to a shrine
hermetically sealed. The custom, no doubt, sprang from the belief that
fishing enjoyed the special protection of the Holy Mother.[1082]


From a 14th Century MS. in H. Schmidt, _Jona_, p. 94, fig. 16.]

Mahometan tradition abounds with fish lore of the oddest kind. The
commentators of the Koran vie, indeed, with the Talmudists in the
curious subjects to which they often devote serious study, and in their
grotesqueness of invention. The learned Rabbi el Bassam seems to have
spent fifteen whole years in the vain endeavour to discover the name of
the _chef_ who made the pottage for Esau!

The story of the fishes, who made a point of coming every Saturday
morning to tempt the Hebrews to the sin of catching them illustrates
Koranic invention. Thinking to avoid the sin and yet secure their
seducers, the sojourners went out, dammed the channels, and ate the
fish on the next day. But as there was, and in some parts of Scotland
still is, little difference as regards working on the Sabbath between
fishing and damming, the violation of the day—the punishment scarcely
fits the crime—involved their metamorphosis into apes![1083]

The Koran denies to the faithful on pilgrimage any hunting of game
_en route_, but allows fishing and eating of fish from the sea.[1084]
At first, eating of fish was apparently unlawful, because the name of
Allah could not always be pronounced over them before they died.

To remedy this enforced abstinence from such a wealth of healthy food
Mahomet blessed a knife and cast it into the sea, thus all fish were
blessed and had their throats cut before they were brought to shore.
“The large openings behind the gills are of course the wounds thus
miraculously made without killing the fish!”[1085]

We discover in another legend that an accidental act on the part of
Abraham—not a designed ceremony on the part of Mahomet—gave Mussulmans
their liberty of ichthyophagy. The patriarch, after sacrificing the ram
instead of Isaac, threw the knife into a stream and incidentally struck
a fish, whence fishes are the only animals eaten by Mahometans without
their throats being previously cut.

The place of fish in the Zodiac has been already noticed. Apparently
the position of the Pisces led Kepler to believe that he had
discovered the means of determining the true year of our Saviour’s
birth. From the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn and Mars in 1604,
the astronomer working backward found that Jupiter and Saturn were
in the constellation of the Pisces (a fish, be it noted, being the
astrological symbol for Judæa) in the latter half of the year of Rome
747, and were joined by Mars in 748. Their first union in the East
awoke the attention of the Magi, told them that the expected time had
come, and bade them set forth for Judæa.

Astronomy has been to archæology a most helpful hand-maiden in
establishing not only this but other dates of ancient, especially of
Assyrian, history.[1086]

If the surmise of Isaak Walton[1087] that Seth, the son of Adam, taught
his son to cast a line, and engraved the mystery of the craft on those
pillars of which Masons are supposed to know so much, or even if the
statement that,

    “Deucalion did first this art invent
     Of Angling, and his people taught the same,”

could have been verified, how many discussions on the question—formerly
almost as hotly combated as some religious doctrine—as to what was the
first method of fishing would have been avoided. Alas! an authoritative
answer is even yet to seek.

The nature of the “great fish” of Jonah will, I fear, no longer prove
an attractive subject for sermons. Identification of “the beast”
ranging through all the fishes of Ichthyology, from the celebrated
“first, aiblins it was a whale,” down to “nineteenthly” (whose
precise species I forget), will alas! with the development of the
higher criticism and of comparative mythology hardly draw the tensely
interested congregations of yore.

Tylor points out that at the root of the apologue of Jonah lies the
widely-spread Nature-myth of the sea-monster or dragon, of which the
fight between Tiāmat and Marduk, and of Andromeda and the sea-monster
are analogous developments.[1088]


From a 14th Century MS. in H. Schmidt, _Jona_, p. 94, fig. 17.

The picture shows that while the whale’s gastric juices had completely
absorbed Jonah’s clothes and curls, they prevailed not, possibly from
callosity of hide, against his body.]

Cheyne detects the link between the original myth and the story of
Jonah in Jeremiah li. 34, “he hath swallowed me up as a dragon: he hath
filled his maw with my delicates: he hath cast me out,” and again in
verse 44, “and I will bring forth out of his mouth that which he has
swallowed up.”

Allusions to mythical dragons occur elsewhere, as in Psalm lxxiv.
13, “Thou breakest the heads of the dragons (or sea-monsters) in the
water.” The curious belief in a dragon or fish that swallows the moon
spreads wide. This draws from Mr. R. C. Thompson[1089] the comment,
“when it is remembered that Jonah was swallowed by the ‘great fish’ for
three days (the period of the moon’s disappearance at the end of the
month), the coincidence is well worth considering; especially as Jonah
is the Hebrew word for dove, and it was at Harrān, the city sacred to
the Moon God, that the dove was sacrificed (Al. Nadim, 294).”

But whatever the “great fish,” and whatever the story’s derivation, the
whimsical treatment of the prophet’s imprisonment in a poem by the Rev.
Zachary Boyd, Rector of Glasgow University in the seventeenth century,
demands some quotation:—

    “What house is this? here’s neither coal nor candle;
     Where I no thing but guts of fishes handle;
     The like of this on earth man never saw,
     A living man within a monster’s mawe!”

He then goes on to contrast Noah’s freedom of movement in the ark with
his enforced immobility:

    “He and his ark might goe and also come,
     But I sit still in such a straitened roome,
     As is most uncouth, head and feet together
     Among such grease as would a thousand smother;
     I find no way now for my shrinking hence,
     But here to byde and die for mine offence;
     Eight persons were in Noah’s hulk together,
     Comfortable they were each one to other.
     In all the earth like unto me is none
     Farre from all living I heere byde alone,
     Where I, entombed in melancholy sink,
     Choakt, suffocat, with excremental stink.”[1090]

I close this, as my other chapters, with a legend which makes fish
directly or indirectly responsible for some historical happening.

It was through a fish (according to the Talmud) that Solomon regained
his kingdom. The King one day, while bathing, confided his signet ring
to one of his many concubines, Amina. Was it her eyes, I wonder, or
those of that Queen, Pharaonic or other (by whose happy influence
Solomon, eschewing evil and cleaving only unto her, was perhaps
inspired to write The Song of Songs), which he likens to _the pools of

A devil named Sakhar, the Talmud goes on, coming in the shape of
Solomon, obtained the ring from Amina, and by virtue of its possession
sat on the throne in Solomon’s guise. After forty days the devil flew
away, and threw the ring into the sea. The signet was immediately
swallowed by a fish, which on being caught was given to Solomon. The
ring was found in its stomach, and he, who without its credentials had
been compelled to beg for bread and from his appearance being changed
by the devil had been regarded as a preposterous pretender, “by this
means recovered his kingdom, and taking Sakhar and tying a great stone
to his neck, threw him into the sea of Tiberias.”[1091]

In another version[1092]—very probable because more characteristic of
Solomon, in that he annexes another wife—the King after the loss of his
throne became a cook in the palace of a foreign sovereign, married his
master’s daughter, bought a fish with the ring inside, and so recovered
his realm.

In another legend fish play, if not a historical, yet no small part in
connection with a famous historical character.

St. Brandan in his travels encountered Judas Iscariot, whose allotted
punishments at any rate lacked not monotony, for after each spell of
pitch and sulphur he was condemned to sit on a desolate rock in the
frozen regions. To the query as to the purpose of a cloth bandage
worn round the head, Judas made answer that it was an effectual charm
against the ferocious fishes among which he was often doomed to be
thrown, for at its sight they lost their will to bite. He had obtained
this shield because on earth he had once given a piece of cloth to a
naked beggar, and so, even unto him, a deed of charity was not allowed
by the Almighty to pass without reward.[1093]

When, in Matthew Arnold’s poem, “St. Brandan sails the northern main”
and comes across Judas on an iceberg, the fishes occur not, but the
cloth appears:

    “And in the street a leper sate
     Shivering with fever, naked, old;
     Sand raked his sores from heel to pate,
     The hot wind fevered him five-fold.

     He gazed upon me as I passed
     And murmur’d: Help me or I die!—
     To the poor wretch my cloak I cast,
     Saw him look eased, and hurried by.”

For which act of charity Judas was permitted by the angel every
Christmas night to

    “Go hence and cool thyself an hour.”


[1080] Robinson, _op. cit._, p. 40. In S. Bochart’s _Hierozoicon_
(Leipzig, 1796), p. 869, Abuhamed Hispanus gives quite a different

[1081] In Klunzinger’s _Upper Egypt_, London, 1878.

[1082] See Keller, _op. cit._, p. 369.

[1083] Cf. with these inciters to Sabbath-breaking, (A) The fish,
“called the _Jewish Sheikh_, which with a long white beard and a body
as large as a calf, but in shape like a frog and hairy as a cow, comes
out of the sea every Saturday and remains on land until sundown on
Sunday” (Robinson, _op. cit._, p. 35), and (B) the story of how on
a Friday during St. Corbinian’s pilgrimage to Rome, when although
meat and all else abounded—the Saint had always been a bit of a _bon
viveur_!—there was an absolute dearth of fish, an eagle suddenly
dropped from the clouds and let fall at the feet of the chef a fine
fish. Baring-Gould, _Lives of the Saints_, vol. X. 123 (London, 1897).

[1084] “O True Believers, kill no game while ye are on pilgrimage. It
is lawful for you to fish in the sea and eat what ye shall catch as a
provision for you and for those that travel.” The Koran (Sale, chap.
V. or “on Contracts”). “This passage,” says Jallaleddin, “is to be
understood only of fish which live altogether in the sea, and not of
those which live partly in the sea and partly on land, such as crabs.”
The Turks, who are Hanifites, never eat of the latter class; but some
sects have no scruples.

[1085] Robinson, _op. cit._, p. 41. See the _Koran_ (Sale, vol. II.
89), “God hath only forbidden you that which dieth of itself, and
blood, and swine’s flesh, and that which has been slain in the name of
any besides God.”

[1086] See _antea_, p. 388, n. 1.

[1087] _The Compleat Angler_, ch. I. “Others say that he left it (the
Art of Angling) engraven on those pillars which he erected to preserve
the knowledge of Mathematicks, Musick, and the rest of those precious
Arts, which by God’s appointment or allowance, and his noble industry
were thereby preserved from perishing in Noah’s Floud.” According
to Manetho, _Syncell Chron._, 40, these tables engraved with sacred
characters were translated into the Greek tongue in hieroglyphic
characters, and committed to writing and deposited in the temples
of Egypt. See the _Epistle of Manetho, the Sebennyte_, to Ptolemæus
Philadelphus, and I. P. Cory, _Ancient Fragments of Phœnician, Egyptian
and other writings_ (London, 1832), pp. 168-9, and Eusebius, _Chron._
6. Cf. Georgius Syncellus, _Chronographia_ (Bonnæ, 1829), i. pp. 72-3.

[1088] An excellent monograph by Hans Schmidt (_Jona Eine Untersuchung
zur vergleichenden Religionsgeshichte_, Göttingen, 1907) gives 39 cuts.

[1089] _Op. cit._, p. 53.

[1090] _Four Poems from Zion’s Flowers_, etc., by Mr. Zacharie Boyd,
printed from his manuscripts in the Library of the University of
Glasgow, edited by G. Neil, Glasgow, 1855. Perhaps the Rector’s Muse
was spurred to these heights of poesie by the fact that the arms of the
City of Glasgow bear a salmon with a ring in its mouth, illustrative
of the miracle wrought by St. Kentigern, the founder of the See and
first bishop. At the Reformation the revenue of the church included
one hundred and sixty-eight salmon. See T. Moule, _Heraldry of Fish_
(London, 1842), pp. 124-5. In the recovery of the keys of cathedrals
and episcopal rings, fish play a part, as the adventures of St. Egwin
(vol. i. 161), of St. Benno (vol. vi. 224), and of St. Maurilius (vol.
x. 188), described by Baring-Gould (_op. cit._) all testify.

[1091] Sale, _Sura 38 of the Koran_, gives, as regards the incident,
references to: (A) _The Talmud_, probably to the treatise _Gittin_,
pp. 68, _a_, _b_. See _Jew. Encycl._, xi. 448, and cf. p. 443_b_. (B)
_En Jacob_, Pt. ii.—probably to a work of this title, _Well of Jacob_,
a collection of legends and parables by Jacob ben Solomon ibn Chabib
from the _Babylonian Talmud_, 2 vols. (Amsterdam, 1684-85). (C) _Yalkut
in lib. Reg._, p. 182—this is a collection of expositions of the O.T.
books and first printed in 1521. Solomon’s throwing of the demon seems
quite justifiable, if Sakhar and Asmodeus were under different names
one and the same, for from _Gittin_, 68 _b_, we learn that the demon,
after swallowing Solomon, “_spat him a distance of 400 miles_,” a
feat in ballistics, or “the art of propelling _heavy bodies_,” which
surpasses even the German long-range gun.

[1092] _Jewish Ency._, xi. 441.

[1093] R. Blakey, _op. cit._, p. 145 (_more suo_), gives as his
authority merely “one of the poetical effusions of the Anglo-Norman


[Illustration: CHINESE ANGLING.

From _Tū Shu Chi Ch’êng_, XVII, Pl. 16.]




If the above dictum[1094] and Williams’s statement that “in no country,
except Japan, is so much food derived from the water,”[1095] be
accurate, modern China should lack not folk nor food. Every method of
fishing obtains in one part of the country or other, and scarce a sea
or stream exists unvexed by some piscatorial implement.

“Fish are killed by the spear, caught with the hook, scraped up by
the dredge, ensnared in traps, and captured by nets: they are decoyed
to jump into boats by painted boards, and frightened into nets by
noisy ones, taken out of the water by lifting nets, and dived in for
by birds, for the cormorant seizes what his owner can not easily

This description, minus the cormorant but plus leistering, applies
fairly well to Ancient China. Mr. Werner’s great work discloses no
distinct mention of fishing previous to 1122 B.C., although the present
to a Viceroy of “cuttle fish condiment” apparently implies it. From
that date the Spear, the Net, the Line, the Rod, and divers strange
devices figure frequently and historically.[1097] In the earlier
centuries covered by this period, if the Line claimed adherents,[1098]
Nets made of fine bamboo, with bags arranged in front of wooden
stockades planted on the banks of rivers,[1099] were the general

Although the Chinese have produced quite a considerable literature
on Fishing, the path of a writer unversed in their language is, from
the absence of translations, compassed about with many difficulties.
The trail winds dim and Serbonian, even if, as was my good fortune, a
friendly hand holds out now and then a torch to guide his faltering

The dividing line between the historical and the non-historical in
China does not cut clearly and without breaks. History as distinct from
legend was assumed till recently to begin between 900 and 800 B.C., but
three archæological discoveries have affected previous chronological

1. The inscribed _bone_ fragments (till the advent of paper, _c._ 100
B.C., bones, stones, bronzes and tablets of wood served for _papyri_)
found in Honan apparently carry as far back as _c._ 1500 B.C., and shed
quite new light on the character of the early Chinese script. Among the
divination tablets I had hoped for some fish omens similar to those of
Assyria, Greece, and Rome, or some trace of the belief still current in
Southern China that certain fish, as the Dolphin in the Mediterranean,
were weather-prophets: but, owing probably to the dry character of
the country of which they are the voice or rather the testament, none

2. The wooden tablets at Tunhuang along the Great Wall which illumine
social conditions and deal largely with the commissariat of the army.

3. The MSS. at the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, found about 1907.
Coming from a Buddhist monastery, they give in the main Buddhist
texts, but also (as do the Egyptian _Papyri_) many quite new excerpts
from lost writers, in addition to accounts, etc.[1103]

A goodly store of stories and descriptions of prehistoric Fishing and
Fishers exists in ancient and modern works.

The statement that “Fishermen used the silk from the cocoon for their
lines, a piece of sharpened iron for their hook, thorn-stick for their
rod, and split grain for their bait”[1104] carries us back to an age
very early and indefinite. On asking a high Sinitic authority what was
the date of the Emperor in whose reign this tackle was employed, he
rapped out, “Date! What was Adam’s date?”

The use of gut was familiar at any rate about the fourth century B.C.,
judging from the sentence in Lieh Tzǔ: “By making a line of cocoon
silk, a hook of a sharp needle, a rod of a branch of bramble or dwarf
bamboo, and using a grain of cooked rice as bait, one can catch a whole
cartload of fish.”[1105]

Angling as a pastime must have secured the Imperial favour in early
ages, as its metaphorical use by Sung Yü, fourth century B.C.,
indicates. “In the golden age,” he tells us, “the Emperors were fishers
of men, using sages as their rod, the true doctrine as their line,
charity of heart and duty to one’s neighbour as their bait, the world
being their fishing ground, and the people their fishes.”

Strolling down the lane of Time, we meet (_c._ 1122 B.C.) with Chiang
Tzǔ-ya, the first statesman to recognise the importance of fishing, and
its allied industry, the manufacture of salt.[1106]

The tale—not of Chiang’s rise from a very lowly station to governance
of a great Empire, for history furnishes many parallels—but of his
Angling is morally edifying, piscatorially instructive, and is possibly
responsible for the rise in Great Britain and America of the barbless
school of anglers. As yet its pupils, despite the missionary zeal of
Mr. Rhead, are scattered few and far between. The limitation of their
numbers can doubtless be ascribed to their introspective and becoming
fear lest the “real attraction,” which, according to a Chinese classic,
was in our hero’s case _not_ his straight iron but his innate virtue,
should with them, either from sparsity or lowness of power, lack the
requisite magnetism!

But _retournons à nos poissons_! King Wên, the founder of the Chou
Dynasty, and one of the great sages—whence, perhaps, his intelligent
annexation of Chiang, for all Anglers _ex necessitate_ are, or should
be, also sages—comes across our hero fishing with a piece of straight
iron instead of a barbed hook. This tackle, he explains to the
unrecognised monarch, is based on principles dear to our Conscientious
Objectors, viz. voluntaryism—“for only volunteers would suffer
themselves to be caught thuswise”—and of mercy—“since it gave all those
who wished a chance of escape.”

Wên, from his many campaigns, observed much and missed little. He
noticed the full creel. Thence, as a Sage would, deduced that since a
virtuous man’s wants are always satisfied, Chiang must be just such
a man. He felt instinctively that here indeed was the statesman whom
his grandsire—observe the ancestor-reverence!—would have selected.
So without more ado or any references as to character, Wên carried
Chiang off, whether with or without the full creel history deigns
no word, to his palace, installed him as Viceroy, and ever after
termed him “my Grandfather’s Desire,” a sobriquet which, however well
meant, our philosophic _piscator_—he was only eighty when caught
straight-ironing—must at times have resented.[1107]

Not dissimilar in method if unlike in emolument, stands out the
historical (for he shone in the eighth century A.D.) Chang Chih-ho,
that “glittering example of humorous romantic detachment and
carelessness of public opinion, who spent his time in angling, but used
no baits, as his object was not to catch fish.”[1108]

But the greatest Sage of them all, Confucius, whose philosophy has for
2400 years permeated, perhaps even dominated, public polity and private
action, was not as one of these. Humane, practical, and a sportsman,
“The Master angled, but did not use a net: he shot, but not at birds
perching,” which Legge[1109] in a note kindly expands into “Confucius
would only destroy what life was necessary to him!” Since netting in
his era (_c._ 500 B.C.), as now, held the field, or rather the water,
the touch of the philosopher’s sole device being the rod implies a
compliment, confirmed by the context, to his humane sportsmanship.

To Mr. Yen’s statement as to the importance of fish, marine or
fresh-water, as a staple of subsistence in China can be added the
evidence as regards ancient times collated by Werner,[1110] later times
by Du Halde,[1111] and modern times by Williams,[1112] Gray,[1113] and
Dabry de Thiersant.[1114] While they agree with the rest of the world
in the economic necessity of fisheries, the people, and especially the
epicures of China, differ profoundly from the European or American in
ichthyic appreciation.

As the Greeks and Latins at times saw not eye to eye as to the palatal
primacy of certain fishes, the people of the Middle Kingdom eat not,
and never ate, tooth to tooth with those of the West. To the Sinitic
opsophagist _his_ salmon, indeed most of the deep sea fishes, appeals
not at all.

“We delight,” says Mr. Yen, “in eating those of the finny tribe whose
meat is soft and fine, and they are caught for the most part in rivers,
brooks, lakes, ponds, and the surface of the ocean. On the other hand,
there are products of the sea which are regarded by us as delicacies
of the table, but which have little or no consumption in the West.
Just to mention a few well-known ones, the fins of the shark,[1115]
the bêche-de-mer, the cuttlefish, the jellyfish, and the scollop form
important articles of domestic commerce, but are not bought or sold to
any extent in the West.”[1116]

The cuttlefish as a dining delicacy appealed to very early palates.
_The Records of Chou_ recount that on the appointment of Yi Yin to
Viceroyalty, T’ang “bestowed—could he do more?—on him cuttlefish

In China, as elsewhere, the priority of fishing implement furnishes
a problem not easy of solution. Professor Giles’s statement that
“it is clear the net preceded the hook” demands for its gainsaying
a knowledge equal, if possible, to his, and, in addition, more than
triple brass. Mr. Yen, in his “our ancient classics refer to a time
when our primitive ancestors tied ropes together to form fishing nets,”
seemingly confirms Giles. Legge is uncommittal: “they fished with the
line, but the ordinary method was with the net.”[1118]

Search in the great Chinese Encyclopædia endorses the precedence of the
Net over the Rod, but not by overwhelming length of time. Its first
reference to the former comes from the _I Ching or Book of Changes_,
which may date from the eleventh century B.C.; to the latter from
the _Shih Ching_ or _Book of Odes_, which apparently ranges from the
eleventh to the seventh century B.C.

This last passage runs—“What are used in Angling? Silk threads formed
into lines. The son of the reverent Marquis and the grand-daughter of
tranquil King.” The startling identification of the silk threads with
a son of a reverent Marquis and a grand-daughter of a King of Peace
(according to another translation) shows that in the matter and measure
of his metaphors in the millennium preceding the Christian era the
Turanian was far from played out.

Fortunately our _deus ex machina_ Prof. Legge again comes to our aid
by his assurance that “the allusion to silk threads twisted into
fishing lines would seem simply to be to the marriage of the princess
and the young noble—_not_ to the lady’s holding fast of wifely ways
to complete the virtues of reverence and harmony.”[1119] Another
interpretation—“the metaphor indicates that the union of man and wife,
like the silk twisted into fishing lines, is a lasting one”—recks not
of post-war divorce courts, or post-war tackle.

The next reference in the _Shih Ching_ strikes a sad note. Unless we
knew that it was not the grand-daughter of the peaceful King, we might
almost fancy we hear the heroine of the silk-line boast bewailing her
virginal home.

“With your long and tapering[1120] bamboo rods you angle in the Ch’i”
(a river in Honan). “How should I not think of you? But I am too far
away to reach you. When a maiden leaves her home to be married, her
parents and brethren are left behind. Calmly flows the current of the
Ch’i. There are oars of cypress and boats of pine. Would that I might
drive thither and rid me of my sorrow.”

The third reference strikes also a note of sadness, caused now by the
absence of a husband. “When he went a-hunting, I put the bow in the
case for him. When he went a-fishing, I arranged his line for him. What
did he take in Angling? Bream and tench—bream and tench, while the
people looked on to see.”[1121]

Angling appears in the _Mu t’ien tzǔ chuan_, a work assigned to the
tenth century B.C., but probably of much later date. “The pith of the
_ti_, tied half-way up the fishing-line,” about 500 B.C. took the place
of our modern float: the moment the Angler “saw it sink, he knew a fish
was on.”[1122]

In the first century before and after the Christian era the germ of
Imperial ostentation and extravagance in tackle raged virulently.
Spreading, if not from China to Peru, at any rate like silk[1123] from
China to Rome, it claimed among its victims the Emperor Nero and the
Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty. The bacillus found the better host in
Nero, who[1124] fished with golden nets drawn by purple ropes, while
his brother of Asia confined himself to angling from a boat with a hook
of pure gold, a line of white silk, and red carp for a lure.[1125]

But the commonality of one State, at any rate, ran no bad second to
the Imperial pair. “The people of Lu,” we read, “were fond of fishing:
they used cinnamon bark for bait, forged _gold_ for hooks, which were
variegated with silver or green colours, while their fishing line
was ornamented with the feathers of the turquoise kingfisher.”[1126]
Here perhaps, as the bird lives on fish, we can detect a conscious or
unconscious touch of homœopathic magic.

Lures such as the natural or artificial fly obtain no record: even now
the Chinese and Japanese try most things before an artificial fly. The
baits consisted of worms, grain, fish, meat, and cassia. The latter
aromatic herb recalls the anglers of Oppian and Pliny, who believed in
the attraction of fish by the sense of smell.[1127]

In their unusual baits our authors suggest their _confrères_ of Greece
and Rome. Thus in size of prey, and similarity of bait, the author of
the _K’ung ts’ung tzǔ_ and Herodotus coincide. As the former lived not
two centuries later than the Father of History, the tip had possibly
just reached China from Egypt—“from Africa comes ever something
new”—viz. the chine of a porker for a crocodile.

The story runs that Tzǔ-ssǔ, a grandson of Confucius, witnessed the
landing from the Yellow River of a fish “as big as a cart.” The
fishermen had baited first with bream, but as the monster, like the
law, _de minimis non curavit_, they substituted half a sucking pig with
instantaneous success.

But the bait handed down to us by Chuang Tzǔ (fourth century B.C.),
if it faintly recall, completely eclipses “the lungs of a wild bull,”
which Ælian recommended for the capture of the Silurus, in that it was
no less an one than “fifty whole oxen!”[1128]

As a producer and as a user of Nets, China ranked and ranks perhaps
higher than any country. The number and variety of Nets in Julius
Pollux can well be matched, while the Oppianic opulence of

    “A thousand names a fisher might rehearse
     Of Nets, intractable in smoother verse,”

meets its peer, if not its superior in Scarth, Gray, or Dabry de
Thiersant,[1129] who devotes thirty-five pages to what Plutarch terms
these “engines of encirclement.”

If the Net proper, the barrage, and the fish fence sprang from the
same parent,[1130] then in China the fish fences of bamboo, erected
for catching and spawning purposes, should be included in the term

If this be the case, the Chinese stand out as experts both in the
diversity and the ingenuity of their devices. Passages from old Chinese
authors justify this appreciation.[1132] They are too numerous for
quotation here, but three or four seem worthy of notice.

_The Chronicles of the Elders of Hsiang Yang_ set forth that the
villages, when forbidden to catch the fine bream of the Han river,
achieved their purpose by erecting a fence, probably of the same nature
as that which in Lu Kuei-mêng’s _History_ is called _Wei hsiao_—“which
name was taken from the kind of fence used to catch crabs.”

The _Shan t’ang ṡsu K’ao_ describe the _mêng sou_ as a basket net,
plaited of small bamboos: “The cover of its mouth was woven of bamboo
splints: to it hairy and bristling bamboos were fixed: it gradually
decreased in size from the mouth to the junction with the hairy and
bristling bamboos (elsewhere, bamboos with whiskers) so preventing the
fish from going out after they had got in.”

From the same source we learn that the _mêng chou_ resembled in shape
a sieve. When the water became cold, the fish hid in it.[1133] It was
used for fishing, but how it, the _ch’u kuo_, or the _chao_ were used
or found useful, deponent maketh not clear. But the _hung_, a sort
of bamboo dam, holds the record. With but one of these the people of
Ch’ien T’ang obtained during the Chin Dynasty a million fish a year,
whence the name _Wan chiang hung_, or “the million-worker dam.”[1134]
_The Odes_ of Lu Kuei-mêng tell of a bamboo fence 10,000 feet or about
2 miles long.[1135]

We read in the _Kuang chou_ of baiting the nets with the whites of
eggs. In the _Ko Kai_ we encounter a method and a net, both of which
to me, at any rate, are new and may be unique. The _San ts’ai t’u hui_
states the _ko kai_ was the net commonly called the _kai-ou_—literally
“striking net.” It was an implement for taking fish out of a larger
net. The _kai-tou_ was brought down with force on to the larger net
near the fish, which thus were made to rebound into it.

[Illustration: CHINESE NETTING.

From _Tŭ Shu Chi Ch’êng_, XVII. Pl. 9.]

But the device, which the _Ching chih ch’i wu lei_ describes and
gravely explains, must act as the limit at once of our wonder and of
our space. “Fishermen (we are told) used to put the hair of small
monkeys on the four corners of their nets, by which means they
succeeded in taking large numbers. It is said that the fish seeing the
hair were attracted towards it, as a man to embroidery!”[1136]

The infrequent mention of what was probably the oldest fishing
implement of Palæolithic man, the Spear, admits of no satisfactory
explanation. For some reason the Chinese seem to have employed the
Spear-harpoon but rarely.

Pictures of fishing in _T’u shu Encyclopædia_ (extracted from a work of
the sixteenth century A.D.) confirm this view. If numbers be any test,
the Spear found least favour—it is represented but once—while the Rod
appears four, and the Net seventeen times.

Lu Kuei-mêng, the Izaak Walton of China, in his book of the ninth
century A.D., does, it is true, include spearing (_ch’ai yü_) with
a four-pronged weapon among other fishing methods, such as shooting
with bow and arrow (_shê ch’ien_) and driving into shallow water with
the aid of a wooden rattle (_ming lang_) for stockade work. A curious
variation of the spear-harpoon (_hsien_) was an iron instrument having
at the end of a bamboo a cock’s spur, which was used for iguanas.[1137]

The Chinese were evidently familiar with our _Otter_, _i.e._ a line
carrying hooks at short intervals, and fastened at either end. The _Yo
Yang fêng t’u chi_, a work of the Han Dynasty (about the time of the
Christian era) expressly states that this method, with the line made
fast across a river between two boats at anchor, accounted for many big

But enough evidence has, I believe, been adduced to prove that the
Sinitic _piscator_ had little to learn of his craft.

He apparently lacked Oppian’s pantomimic but scarcely aromatic method
of clothing himself in the skin of a she-goat, probably because he
lacked its victim, the salacious _Sargus_. If he knew not Ælian’s
pneumatic device of capturing the eel by the aid of a sheep’s bowels,
he was no ignoramus of the habits of the _Murænidæ_, for he watched
carefully and waited patiently for air-bubbles, like a destroyer
hunting German U-boats, to rise to the surface and betray the fishes’
lair in the mud, and then plunged home his depth-charge, or rather his

Fishing by cormorant was unique and peculiar to China alone, according
to Mr. Yen, who adds that “in our country it was confined to one
family, the Liu.[1138] The fishes thus caught, however, are limited
to those of small streams, unpalatable, and eaten only by very poor

Few realise how great is the patience necessary for the training of an
expert cormorant, or how good is the reward. These seemingly altruistic
_piscatores_ are taught to fish an area in flocks, and at a given
signal return to their master with their prey, made unswallowable by
means of a neck-ring. One boatman watches twelve to twenty of the
birds, each one of whom, although hundreds may similarly be hunting the
same water, knows its own master. If one seize a fish too heavy for
him, another comes to its aid, and together they fetch it to the boat.
More generally the ally (not unlike certain nations in history) hustles
the weaker and despoils him of his catch, and of his titbit reward.

The barndoor fowl, whose hospitable warmth and credulity all the
world abuses, usually hatches out the young birds, whose piscatorial
propensities increase and accentuate on a diet of fish hash and eel’s

A curious and vicarious manner of Indian fishing can be witnessed
on the Brahmaputra. Birds of the cormorant family range themselves
midstream in line, and advance towards a bank, making a prodigious
pother by flapping the water with their wings. The fish,
panic-stricken, flee to the shallows and even throw themselves on land.
The birds, still in close array, pursue and gorge themselves on their
penned-in prey.

“Now enter villagers,” who as soon as feeding ceases, rush to the
bank and by drums, gongs, and every conceivable noise frighten the
cormorants. Heavy from over-repletion, they have, before they can fly,
to lighten themselves of most of their meal, which in due time provides
the peasants’ supper! This method, if it does not appeal to the palate,
possesses the merit of semi-poetic and retributive justice.[1139]

De Thiersant’s assertion that to the Chinese belongs the honour of
being the first to invent _pisciculture_ can only be allowed to pass,
if the term be restricted to hatching out by natural means, bringing
up, and caring for young fish. From this, pisciculture proper differs
as chalk from cheese. Originated by Rémy in the last century, it
consists of artificial fecundation by the extrusion and mixture of
the milt of the male and of the eggs of the female, the hatching out
of the eggs on specially constructed trays of wire, etc., set in
running water, and the nurture of the fry on specially adapted food in
carefully prepared and graduated ponds.

De Thiersant himself, a few pages later,[1140] makes the point clear.
Chinese fish-breeders do not resort to artificial fecundation, with
which they were even in 1870 very faintly acquainted, for several
reasons, not least of which was their contention that fish thus
produced were predisposed to quick deterioration.[1141]

The Chinese (like the Roman) method of fish-breeding in the eighteenth
century,[1142] and till 1872, consisted in gathering from collecting
fences constructed for the purpose[1143] eggs which had been fertilised
_naturally_. These were carried (sometimes hundreds of miles, for
the secret of safe transportation had early been mastered) to ponds
or streams for natural, not artificial hatching. The young fry were
guarded carefully, and fed most watchfully.

Gray[1144] enumerates some of the many and minute precautions as to
shelter and food. Rockeries were erected in the ponds to shelter the
alevin from the sun. Bananas were planted on the sides and banks,
because the rain which falls from their leaves during a shower promoted
health. Forbidden, however, were all pigeons, whose dung was held
hurtful, and also (contrary to our experience of the haunt of many
and good fish) all willows, whose leaves were deemed inimical to the
growth, even to the life of the fry.

“The earliest pisciculturist of ancient China,” states Mr. Yen, “was
T’ao Chu-kung,[1145] who lived in the fifth century B.C. His method of
fish culture combined both knowledge and ignorance. He dug a pond of
the size of an acre, leaving nine small islands scattered about it. In
one pond he placed twenty female carp, three feet in length, and four
males of similar size. This was done in the month of March. Exactly one
year later, there were 5000 fishes one foot long, 10,000 two feet long,
and 15,000 three feet long. In the third year the number had multiplied
ten or twenty times, in the fourth year it was not possible to keep

While congratulating T’ao on the nimbleness of his enumerators and
his success, and haggling not at the numbers (for the _Cypridæ_ breed
prolifically), both the disparity in growth and the similarity of the
exactly graded variations in size of these, all yearling, fish are
unto the practical pisciculturist a stumbling-block, which neither
cannibalism nor luck of food can displace.

But to return to T’ao, or rather to his islands. “The nine islands
were to deceive the fishes, who would believe that they were in the
big ocean, travelling round the nine continents.” We may complacently
smile at these fancies, but at any rate let us humbly recall the 2300
years we took to solve the problem of the generation of eels, and
the fantastic theories propounded by Aristotle, by Izaak Walton, and
others, some of which, _e.g._ the Cairncross, read as ludicrous as
T’ao’s “Happy Isles.”[1146]

Fan Li apparently was the first to practise fish breeding not only
in China, but in the world.[1147] Living in the early fifth century
B.C. he antedates the Roman Varro, our earliest authority, by some
three hundred years. He not only bred, but wrote about fish. But
to brother-breeder and brother-writer of the present century like
myself, the process as set forth in his _Yang Yü Ching_ (_Treatise on
Fish-breeding_), is not only difficult to follow in detail, but sadly
lacking in result.

As an example, take his method with the bastard carp, or _Carassius
pekinensis_. “In order to breed from the _chi_ fish, it is ripped up
with a bamboo knife, and small quantities of quicksilver, mixed with
river sediment, and _yu-ts’ai_ are introduced into the belly. The
fish is then stuffed with cabbage leaves, and hung up for forty-nine
days” (note here, the time is pre-ordained, and alters not, as with us
nowadays, with changes in the temperature of the water flowing over the
eggs) “in an empty place, after which river water is used to extract
one or two eggs from the belly. These are placed in water, and covered
up with something, and after a while each egg turns into a fish.”

Such ingenious industry, coupled with no small expenditure on
quicksilver, _yu-ts’ai_, and cabbage, deserved a far better return. Had
Fan Li intelligently anticipated a method in vogue among his countrymen
some two and a half millennia later, money, labour, time, would all
have been saved. But as Rome was not built in a day, so centuries were
necessary for the evolution of a method of fish-hatching absolutely (to
me) unique.

“Not once or twice in its rough” world’s story must the ample, yet
guileless, bosom of the domestic hen have swelled with anticipatory
pride, and subsequent resentful curiosity, as the results of her
“watchful waiting” emerged in guise of ugly ducklings, swans, or

But of all the sittings to borrow her body’s warmth, the strangest and
the most incongruous—after all, the ducklings were terrestrial, of a
kith akin to her, and not aquatic and unregistered aliens—was that
composed of hundreds of _fish_ eggs!

Lest this last sentence seem to label me as a descendant of “the first
pre-Pelasgian piscator” from whom, in Sir O. Seaman’s witty verse,

    “From whom have sprung (I own a bias
     To ways the cult of rod and fly has)
     All fishermen—and Ananias!”

or lest it seem to disqualify me for the character bestowed by
Alciphron on an angler, of being one “who would never even slip
into misrepresentation,” I call no less a witness than Mr. S. Wells
Williams, LL.D., late Professor of the Chinese Language and Literature
at Yale College, and author of _Tonic and Syllabic Dictionaries of the
Chinese Language_.

From page 349 come _ipsissima verba_:[1148] “The _Bulletin Universel_
for 1829 asserts that in some parts of China spawn is carefully placed
in an empty egg-shell, and the hole closed: the egg is then replaced
in the nest and after the hen has sat a few days upon it reopened,
and then placed in vessels of water warmed in the sun, where it soon

De Thiersant, in his assertion that “from time immemorial it has been
the policy of the Government and officials to protect fishing in
every way,” and Mr. Yen in his that “our ancient classics mention the
appointment, several centuries before the Christian era, of special
officials to rule over and protect our fishermen,” indicate that a
Board of Fisheries came into existence at an early date.

The _Chou Li_, or _The Rites of the Chou Dynasty_ (_c._ 1000 B.C.)
point distinctly to wardens being appointed for fishing purposes. We
read, in fact, of an official staff, called _Fishermen attached to the
Imperial Court_: “They were entrusted with the fishing appropriate to
each season, and made dams for catching fish.”

Private fisheries, with some few exceptions such as the Imperial
preserves, apparently were not allowed, or seem not to have existed.
All waters were free and open to all citizens of ancient China. In
modern times fishing belongs to the State, and licenses to fish,
which are strictly limited in each canton, are obligatory. District
magistrates are bound to care for and police the rivers: to put down
fry in suitable streams: to enforce the laws, especially those dealing
with a close time, and to permit no cutting of weeds in the waters
during the spawning season.[1149]

The Emperors, especially the earlier Emperors, were keen all-round
sportsmen,[1150] but especially zealous disciples of the craft of
Angling. Like all good fishermen, they rejoiced in having themselves or
sharing with their friends a good day. Sometimes their keen hospitality
made them entirely forget, or turn a blind eye on their own ordinances.
Even fear of the wardens attached to the Imperial Court, to whom was
entrusted (according to the _Chou Li_) “the fishing appropriate to each
season,” served not at times to stay their ardour.

Fortunately they were saved from themselves and from breaches of the
law, as Mr. Werner shows in a sentence, which in manner and “superior
man” strangely recalls _Sandford and Merton_, and Mr. Barlow. “It
appears from edifying anecdotes that the pleasures of the chase, etc.,
were a snare to the Chinese monarchs, but they were seldom left without
some superior man to keep before them the moral ideas of earlier days.”

That such was the case some 3000 years ago the story of one of the Chou
Dynasty demonstrates. He was anxious in the extreme to go a-fishing
with the Empress. None of his courtiers and none of his laws could
deter him, although it was the fourth moon, when fish are spawning.

At last his great minister, Tchang-sy-pe, flung himself at the Imperial
feet, implored him not to violate one of the most essential laws of
the realm, and so set an example which, if followed generally, would
destroy one of “the commonest and amplest staples of food.” The
“superior man” succeeded. The Emperor, struck by Tchang’s reasoning,
and perhaps by the enormity of his wrong-doing, immediately called the
party off.

Another “superior man” later on saves the situation, and his monarch,
also one of the Chou Dynasty.

This time we have no excuse of hospitality, no fair Empress before
whose eyes our angler, as Antony with Cleopatra, wanted to display his
prowess, or a new cast. No! he was “merely amusing himself”—think of
the crime!—“by fishing in one of the Palace lakes.”

But alas! ’twas the fifth moon, when fishes were still busy breeding
the nation’s common and ample staple of food. The line raised for a
fresh throw was suddenly cut by the Viceroy, Ly-Ke. “What the deuce are
you doing?” thundered the Emperor, aghast at the audacity of the act.
“My duty,” quietly answered Ly-Ke. “All must obey the laws which you
have bidden me enforce.”

The voice is the voice of Ly-Ke, but the sentence and sentiment smack
of Mr. Barlow! Such, however, is the power of the “superior man,” that
the contrite autocrat not only bestowed a present on the intrepid
Atropos who shore his line, but commanded that its severed bits should
hang for all to see in the ante-chamber of the Palace, as a warning to
future ages.[1151]

Whether in ancient China a fish-god, such as Ebisu in Japan,[1152]
or fish-gods existed, I have not ascertained, but in our day the
fishermen on the southern coasts celebrate in spring or autumn a
festival to propitiate the gods of the waters. An immense display of
lanterns lights the path for a huge dragon, made out of slender bamboo
frames covered with strips of coloured cotton or silk: the extremities
represent his gaping head and frisking tail. The monster, symbolising
the ruler of the watery deep, is preceded by huge models of fish
gorgeously illuminated.[1153]

But whether the Sinitic Pantheon lacked or held a deity of fishermen,
it was reserved for Hsü, the hero of one of the stories in _Liao Chai
Chih I_, to summon from the vasty deep and hold in willing peonage a
piscatorial power all his own.[1154]

This _djin_ of the water was both recognisant and static—no twelve-day
banquets speeded _him_ to Æthiopia—and far more instant in service than
Hermes or Aphrodite, as Heliodorus and other epigrammatists plainly
prove. Not infrequent must have been the occasions when Greek and Roman
fishermen returning, despite their sacrificial offerings, with empty
creels, met the taunt,

  “They’re gods: perchance they sleep,
   Cry out, and know what prayers are worth,
                    Thou dust and earth.”

Had the fishermen of the Dodekanese and of Italy, following the example
of Hsü, poured oblations of the wine of the islands, or deprompted the
old Falernian, perhaps the deities of their craft, who oft-times must
have jibbed at repeated hecatombs of fish, even if “spiced,” and at the
sight of the Olympian box-rooms littered with cobbled cobbles and torn
tackle, would have been more regular in attendance and more prompt in

The story runs that “every night, when Hsü fared forth to fish, he
would carry some wine with him, and drink and fish by turns, always
taking care to pour out a libation on the ground, accompanied by the
invocation, ‘Drink, too, ye drowned spirits of the River!’ Such was
his regular custom: and it was noticeable that, even on occasions when
others caught naught, he always got a full basket.”

The means by which this success was attained and other pleasant details
are set forth fully in that delightful book by Professor Giles,
_Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio_.[1155] Suffice it, however,
here to recount that one drowned Spirit of the River, the genius of
Hsü’s beat, touched, perhaps even affected, by the alcoholic libation,
at first invisibly, afterwards openly glided down stream, quietly drove
the lower reaches, and shepherded the fishes towards our angler’s bait.

Like his Chinese brother, the British angler, when he goes a-fishing,
carries a flask: unlike him, he does not, and cannot, unless he have
the grand accommodation of a Loch Leven boatman thirty years ago,
“drink and fish by equal turns.” Even if the difficulty of equal
drinking turn by turn on the part of the sportsman and sprite be
overcome, it is doubtful whether a British angler, however adaptive and
alert to learn, can in these days ensure a full creel by adopting Hsü’s
tip, having regard to the scanty stock and prohibitive price of whisky.
Whether in the near or even far future the recipe can be thoroughly
tested lies on the niggard lap of the Board of Control.

    “_Oh! never fly conceals a hook
     Fish say, in the Eternal Brook,
     But more than mundane weeds are there,
     And mud, celestially fair;
     Fat caterpillars drift around,
     And Paradisal grubs are found;
     Unfading moths, immortal flies,
     And the worm that never dies.
     And in that Heaven of all their wish,
     There shall be no more land, say fish._”
                                   RUPERT BROOKE.


[1094] See P. Dabry de Thiersant, _La Pisciculture et la Pêche en
Chine_, Paris, 1872.