History of Animals

Author: Aristotle  | Date: 350 BC


Animals also vary as to their condition of health in connexion with their pregnancy.

Testaceans, such as scallops and all the oyster-family, and crustaceans, such as the lobster-family, are best when with spawn. Even in the case of the testacean we speak of spawning (or pregnancy); but whereas the crustaceans may be seen coupling and laying their spawn, this is never the case with testaceans. Molluscs are best in the breeding time, as the calamary, the sepia, and the octopus.

Fishes, when they begin to breed, are nearly all good for the table; but after the female has gone long with spawn they are good in some cases, and in others are out of season. The maenis, for instance, is good at the breeding time. The female of this fish is round, the male longer and flatter; when the female is beginning to breed the male turns black and mottled, and is quite unfit for the table; at this period he is nicknamed the ’goat’.

The wrasses called the owzel and the thrush, and the smaris have different colours at different seasons, as is the case with the plumage of certain birds; that is to say, they become black in the spring and after the spring get white again. The phycis also changes its hue: in general it is white, but in spring it is mottled; it is the only sea-fish which is said make a bed for itself, and the female lays her spawn in this bed or nest. The maenis, as was observed, changes its colour as does the smaris, and in summer-time changes back from whitish to black, the change being especially marked about the fins and gills. The coracine, like the maenis, is in best condition at breeding time; the mullet, the basse, and scaly fishes in general are in bad condition at this period. A few fish are in much the same condition at all times, whether with spawn or not, as the glaucus. Old fishes also are bad eating; the old tunny is unfit even for pickling, as a great part of its flesh wastes away with age, and the same wasting is observed in all old fishes. The age of a scaly fish may be told by the size and the hardness of its scales. An old tunny has been caught weighing fifteen talents, with the span of its tail two cubits and a palm broad.

River-fish and lake-fish are best after they have discharged the spawn in the case of the female and the milt in the case of the male: that is, when they have fully recovered from the exhaustion of such discharge. Some are good in the breeding time, as the saperdis, and some bad, as the sheat-fish. As a general rule, the male fish is better eating than the female; but the reverse holds good of the sheat-fish. The eels that are called females are the best for the table: they look as though they were female, but they really are not so.


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Chicago: Aristotle, "30," History of Animals, trans. D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson Original Sources, accessed March 31, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FPP2278511JBXB.

MLA: Aristotle. "30." History of Animals, translted by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Original Sources. 31 Mar. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FPP2278511JBXB.

Harvard: Aristotle, '30' in History of Animals, trans. . Original Sources, retrieved 31 March 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8FPP2278511JBXB.