Beast

Echeneis


Latin name: Echeneis
Other names: Echinius, Echinus, Essinus, Esynus, Remora, Urchin

This fish clings to ships and holds them back

General Attributes

The echeneis is a fish, half a foot in length, that clings to ships and delays their passage. When this fish attaches to a ship, even in the high winds of a storm the ship will not move, but seems to be rooted in the sea. The echeneis is found in the Indian Sea.

Sources

Lucan [1st century CE] (Pharsalia, book 6, verse 797-799): "...the sucking fish / Which holds the vessel back though eastern winds / Make bend the canvas...".

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 9, 41): The echeneis is a small fish that is often found on rocks. It has the ability to slow the passage of ships by clinging to their hulls. It is also the source of a love-charm and a spell to slow litigation in courts, and can be used to stop fluxes of the womb in pregnant women and to hold back the birth until the proper time. This fish is not eaten. Some say this fish has feet; Aristotle says it does not, but that its limbs resemble wings.

Lucan [1st century CE] (Pharsalia, book 6, verse 797-799): "...the sucking fish / Which holds the vessel back though eastern winds / Make bend the canvas...".

Aelianus [170-230 CE] (On the Characteristics of Animals, Book 1, chapter 36): ... the Sucking-fish clings to ships, and from its action we give it its name, Ship-holder. [Book 2, chapter 17] There is a fish whose province is the open sea, black in appearance, as long as an eel of moderate size, and deriving its name from what it does : with evil purpose it meets a vessel running at full speed before the wind, and fastening its teeth into the front of the prow, like a man vigorously curbing with bit and tightened rein an intractable and savage horse, it checks the vessel's onrush and holds it fast. In vain do the sails belly in the middle, to no purpose do the winds blow, and depression comes upon the passengers. But the sailors understand and realise what ails the ship; and it is from this action that the fish has acquired its name, for those who have had experience call it the Ship-holder. - [Scholfield translation]

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 6:34): The echinais has its name because it clings to a ship and holds it fast (echei-naus). It is a small fish, about six inches long, but when it attaches to a ship the ship cannot move, but seems rooted in the sea, despite raging storms and gales. This fish is also called "delay" (mora) because it causes ships to stand still.