Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and eBook

James Emerson Tennent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 892 pages of information about Ceylon; an Account of the Island Physical, Historical, and.
leaving behind them their spawn, which becomes vivified on the return of the waters to their accustomed bed.”  This work of Theophrastus became the great authority for all subsequent writers on this question.  ATHENAEUS quotes it[2], and adds the further testimony of POLYBIUS, that in Gallia Narbonensis fish are similarly dug out of the ground.[3] STRABO repeats the story[4], and one and all the Greek naturalists received the statement as founded on reliable authority.

[Footnote 1:  Lib. vi. ch, 15, 16, 17.]

[Footnote 2:  Lib. viii. ch. 2.]

[Footnote 3:  Ib. ch. 4.]

[Footnote 4:  Lib. iv. and xii.]

Not so the Romans.  LIVY mentions it as one of the prodigies which were to be “expiated,” on the approach of a rupture with Macedon, that “in Gallico agro qua induceretur aratrum sub glebis pisces emersisse,"[1] thus taking it out of the category of natural occurrences.  POMPONIUS MELA, obliged to notice the matter in his account of Narbon Gaul, accompanies it with the intimation that although asserted by both Greek and Roman authorities, the story was either a delusion or a fraud.[2] JUVENAL has a sneer for the rustic—­

          “miranti sub aratro
  Piscibus inventis.”—­Sat. xiii. 63.

[Footnote 1:  Lib. xlii. ch. 2.]

[Footnote 2:  Lib. ii ch, 5.]

And SENECA, whilst he quotes Theophrastus, adds ironically, that now we must go to fish with a hatchet instead of a hook; “non cum hamis, sed cum dolabra ire piscatum."[1] PLINY, who devotes the 35th chapter of his 9th book to this subject, uses the narrative of Theophrastus, but with obvious caution, and universally the Latin writers treated the story as a fable.

[Footnote 1:  Nat.  Quaest. vii 16.]

In later times the subject received more enlightened attention, and Beckmann, who in 1736 published his commentary on the collection [Greek:  Peri Thaumasion akousmaton], ascribed to Aristotle, has given a list of the authorities about his own times,—­Georgius Agricola, Gesner, Rondelet, Dalechamp, Bomare, and Gronovius, who not only gave credence to the assertions of Theophrastus, but adduced modern instances in corroboration of his Indian authorities.

* * * * *



(Memorandum, by Professor Huxley.)

See p. 205.

The large series of beautifully coloured drawings of the fishes of Ceylon, which has been submitted to my inspection, possesses an unusual value for several reasons.

The fishes, it appears, were all captured at Colombo, and even had those from other parts of Ceylon been added, the geographical area would not have been very extended.  Nevertheless there are more than 600 drawings, and though it is possible that some of these represent varieties in different stages of growth of the same species, I have not been able to find definite evidence of the fact in any of those groups which I have particularly tested.  If, however, these drawings represent six hundred distinct species of fish, they constitute, so far as I know, the largest collection of fish from one locality in existence.

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