The Library of History

Page 97

Page 97 cannot fly above the Earth; but she runs along with that Swiftness that she scarce touches the Ground. With a brisk gale of Wind she mounts up her Wings and makes forward as swift as a Ship with her Sayls spread under Sayl. Against the Pursuer she defends her self with flinging of Stones; which she throws with that Violence out of her Feet as out of a Sling; but when the Wind is low, her Wings flag, and so being depriv'd of that natural Help, she's easily taken. There are a great Number of those Birds; and by divers Arts and Devices the Barbarians easily take Multitudes of them, and feed upon their Flesh and make use of their Skins both for Vestments and Coverlets for Beds.

But when these Struthophages are set upon by the Ethiopians call'd Simoes, for Arms they use the Horns of the Oryxes, with which they repel the Assaults of their Enemies. For they are very great and sharp at the Ends, and these sort of Beasts do there so abound that their Horns are found scatter'd up and down, and so they become of special use to the Inhabitants.

A little distant from these are the Acridophages, bordering upon the Deserts; lesser they are than other Men, of lean and meager Bodies, and exceeding black. In these Parts in the time of the Spring the South Winds rise high and drive an infinite Number of Locusts out of the Desert, of an extraordinary Bigness, furnish'd with most dirty and nasty colour'd Wings; and these are plentiful Food and Provision for them all their days. They have a strange and peculiar way of catching of them; for in their Country there's a large and deep Vale extending far in length for many Furlongs together, all over this they lay Heaps of Wood and other combustible Matter, of which they have Plenty in every Place, and when the Swarms of Locusts are by the Force of the Winds driven thither, then some of the Inhabitants go to one Part of the Valley and some to another, and set the Grass and other combustible Matter on Fire, which was before thrown among the Piles; whereupon arises a great and suffocating Smoke, which so stifles the Locusts, as they fly over the Vale, that they go not much further before they fall down dead to the Ground. This Destruction of them is continu'd for many days together, so that they lye in great Heaps: The Country being full of Salt, they gather these Heaps together and season 'em sufficiently with this Salt, which gives them an excellent Relish, and preserves them a long time sweet without the least Putrefaction, so that they have Food ever ready at hand from these Insects during all the rest of the Year: For they neither concern themselves with Flesh or Fish (being far remote from the Sea) nor have any other Provision for their Support and Sustenance. They are a little sort of People, very swift of Foot, but exceeding short liv'd, for they that live the longest never exceed forty: And as the Manner of their Death is strange and wonderful, so it's sad and most miserable: For when they grow old, wing'd Lice breed in their Flesh, not only of divers Sorts but of horrid and ugly Shapes. This Plague begins first at the Belly and Breast, and in a little time eats and consumes the whole Body. He that is seiz'd with this Distemper, first begins to itch a little, as if he had the Scab, Pleasure and Trouble being mixt together. But afterwards when the Lice begin to break out at the Skin, abundance of putrid Matter (accompany'd with intolerable sharp Pa 〈…〉 ) issues out with them. Hereupon the sick Person so tears himself in Pieces with his own Nails, that he sighs and groans most lamentably, and while he is thus scratching of himself, the Lice come pouring out in such Abundance one after another as out of a Vessel full of Holes, and thus they miserably close and end their Days. Whether this proceeds from the Nature of their Food or the Temper of the Air is uncertain.

Upon this Nation there borders a large Country, rich in fair Pastures, but desert and uninhabited; not that there never were any People there, but that formerly when it was inhabited, an immoderate Rain happen'd which bred a vast Company of Spiders and Scorpions: And (as they write) these Creatures did so increase that tho' at the first the whole Nation attempted to destroy these implacable Enemies of their Country, yet they were not able to master them (for whosoever was bit or string with them, immediately fell down dead) so that not knowing where to abide, or how to get Food, they were forc'd to fly to some other Place for Relief. And this is not at all incredible, for we are assur'd by very good and substantial Historians, that far more strange and wonderful Things than those have happen'd in the World. For in Italy Field-mice bred in such vast Numbers,

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books