Monday, March 06, 2006

The Cameleopard

As a great fan of the 'liger' dialogue in Napoleon Dynamite, I had to post this section on the 'cameleopard' which I just came across in Pliny the Elder while looking for something else. Both texts are copied from Perseus (Latin ed. K.F.T. Mayhoff), and I've included the notes from Perseus' English translation (ed. John Bostock and H.T. Riley).


harum aliqua similitudo in duo transfertur animalia. nabun aethiopes vocant collo similem equo, pedibus et cruribus bovi, camelo capite, albis maculis rutilum colorem distinguentibus, unde appellata camelopardalis, dictatoris caesaris circensibus ludis primum visa romae. ex eo subinde cernitur, aspectu magis quam feritate conspicua, quare etiam ovis ferae nomen invenit.

There are two others[1] animals, which have some resemblance to the camel. One of these is called, by the Æthiopians, the nabun.[2] It has a neck like that of the horse, feet and legs like those of the ox, a head like that of the camel, and is covered with white spots upon a red ground; from which peculiarities it has been called the cameleopard.[3] It was first seen at Rome in the Circensian games held by Cæsar, the Dictator.[4] Since that time too, it has been occasionally seen. It is more remarkable for the singularity of its appearance than for its fierceness; for which reason it has obtained the name of the wild sheep.[5]

1 He speaks here of only one of the animals which resemble the camel; the giraffe, namely. The other, which he for the present omits, is the ostrich.

2 The description of the giraffe, here given, is sufficiently correct, but we have a more minute account of it by Dion Cassius, B. xliii. In the time of the Emperor Gordian, ten of these animals were exhibited at Rome at once; a remarkable fact, when we bear in mind that so few have been imported into Europe for many centuries past. The giraffe is figured in the mosaic at Præneste, and under it is inscribed its name, nabi.--B. It has been found that it is unable to bear the winters of Europe.

3 Its form being like that of the camel, while its spots resemble those of the leopard. Horace refers to it, when speaking of an object calculated to excite the vulgar gaze; "Diversum confusa genus panthera camelo"-- "The race of the panther mingled with the camel," Ep. B. ii.; Ep. i. 1. 195.

4 According to Dion Cassius, B. xliii., these games were celebrated A.U.C. 708.--B.

5 This comparison can only be employed to indicate the mild nature of the giraffe.--B.

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