Dipsa
Description Gallery Bibliography Manuscripts Jump to Home page Help Jump to Contents page Jump to Beast Index page Search Previous beast Next beast
 



Source: Kongelige Bibliotek (Bestiarius - Bestiary of Anne Walsh (Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4)) Copyright 2003 Kongelige Bibliotek / Used by permission Manuscript description Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4, Folio 55v


 

Dipsa

Latin name: Dipsas

Other names: Dipsade, Situla

A snake so poisionous that its bite kills before it is felt

 

 
General Attributes

A snake so small it is not seen before it is stepped on, and so poisonous anyone it bites dies before he feels the bite.


Sources (chronological order)

Lucan [1st century CE] (Pharsalia, book 9, verse 867-895): "Tyrrhenian Aulus, bearer of a flag, / Trod on a Dipsas; quick with head reversed / The serpent struck; no mark betrayed the tooth: / The aspect of the wound nor threatened death, / Nor any evil; but the poison germ / In silence working as consuming fire / Absorbed the moisture of his inward frame, / Draining the natural juices that were spread / Around his vitals; in his arid jaws / Set flame upon his tongue: his wearied limbs / No sweat bedewed; dried up, the fount of tears / Fled from his eyelids. Tortured by the fire / Nor Cato's sternness, nor of his sacred charge / The honour could withhold him; but he dared / To dash his standard down, and through the plains / Raging, to seek for water that might slake / The fatal venom thirsting at his heart. / Plunge him in Tanais, in Rhone and Po, / Pour on his burning tongue the flood of Nile, / Yet were the fire unquenched. So fell the fang / Of Dipsas in the torrid Libyan lands; / In other climes less fatal. Next he seeks / Amid the sands, all barren to the depths, / For moisture: then returning to the shoals / Laps them with greed -- in vain -- the briny draught / Scarce quenched the thirst it made. Nor knowing yet / The poison in his frame, he steels himself / To rip his swollen veins and drink the gore. / Cato bids lift the standard, lest his troops / May find in thirst a pardon for the deed."

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 4:13): The dipsas is a kind of asp, called in Latin situla because anyone bitten by it dies of thirst. (Book 12, 4:32): The dipsas is such a rare snake that its trampled without being seen. It releases its poison before it is felt; it causes no grief to the one who will die because its appearance anticipates death.


Description Gallery Bibliography Manuscripts Jump to Home page Help Jump to Contents page Jump to Beast Index page Search Previous beast Next beast