Sources : Crocodile

Herodotus [c. 484 – c. 425 BCE] (Histories, Book 2.68; 4.44) [Book 2.68] I will now show what kind of creature is the crocodile. For the four winter months it eats nothing. It has four feet, and lives both on land and in the water, for it lays eggs and hatches them out on land, and it passes the greater part of the day on dry ground, and the night in the river, the water being warmer than the air and dew. No mortal creature known to us grows from so small a beginning to such greatness; for its eggs are not much bigger than goose eggs, and the young crocodile is of a bigness answering thereto, but it grows to a length of seventeen cubits and more. It has eyes like pigs' eyes, and great teeth and tusks answering to the bigness of its body. It is the only animal that has no tongue. Nor does it move the lower jaw. It is the only creature that brings the upper jaw down upon the lower. It has also strong claws, and a scaly impenetrable hide on its back. It is blind in the water, but very keen of sight in the air. Since it lives in the water, its mouth is all full within of leeches. All birds and beasts flee from it, except only the sandpiper, with which it is at peace, because this bird does the crocodile a service; for whenever the crocodile comes ashore out of the water and then opens its mouth (and this it does for the most part to catch the west wind), the sandpiper goes into its mouth and eats the leeches; the crocodile is pleased by this service and does the sandpiper no harm. [Book 4.44] There is a river Indus, in which so many crocodiles are found that only one river in the world has more. - [Godley translation]

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 37-38): [Book 8, 37] This belongs to the Nile; it is a curse on four legs, and equally pernicious on land and in the river. It is the only land animal not furnished with a tongue and the only one that bites by pressing down the mobile upper jaw, and it is also formidable because of its row of teeth set close together like a comb. In size it usually exceeds 18 ells. It lays as many eggs as a goose, and by a kind of prophetic instinct incubates them always outside the line to which the Nile in that year is going to rise at full flood. Nor does any other animal grow to greater dimensions from a smaller original size; however, it is armed with talons as well, and its hide is invincible against all blows. It passes its days on land and its nights in the water, in both cases for reasons of warmth. This creature when sated with a meal of fish and sunk in sleep on the shore with its mouth always full of food, is tempted by a small bird (called there the trochilus, but in Italy the king-bird) to open its mouth wide to enable the bird to feed; and first it hops in and cleans out the mouth, and then the teeth and inner throat also, which yawns open as wide as possible for the pleasure of this scratching; and the ichneumon [or hydrus] watches for it to be overcome by sleep in the middle of this gratification and darts like a javelin through the throat so opened and gnaws out the belly. [Book 8, 38] But the crocodile constituted too great a plague for Nature to be content with a single enemy for it. Accordingly dolphins also, which have on their backs a sharp fin shaped like a knife as if for this purpose, enter the mouth of the Nile, and when the crocodiles drive them away from their prey and lord it in the river as merely their own domain, kill them by craft, as they are otherwise in themselves no match for them in strength. ... The crocodile's hide is soft and thin over the belly; consequently the dolphins pretending to be frightened dive and going under them rip the belly with the spine described. Moreover there is also a tribe of human beings right on the Nile, named after the Island of Tentyrus on which it dwells, that is hostile to this monster. They are of small stature but have a readiness of mind in this employment only that is remarkable. The creature in question is terrible against those who run away but runs away from those who pursue it. But these men alone dare to go against them; they actually dive into the river and mounting on their back as if riding a horse, when they yawn with the head thrown backward to bite, insert a staff into the month, and holding the staff at both ends with their right and left hands, drive their prisoners to the land as if with bridles, and by terrifying them even merely with their shouts compel them to disgorge the recently swallowed bodies for burial. Consequently this island only is not visited by crocodiles, and the scent of this race of men drives them away, as that of the Psylli does snakes. This animal is said to have dim sight in the water, but to be very keen-sighted when out of it; and to pass four months of the winter in a cave continuously without food. Some persons think that this alone of animals goes on growing in size as long as it lives; but it lives a long time. - [Rackham translation]

Aelianus [170-230 CE] (On the Characteristics of Animals, Book 2, 33): Many writers tell us about the size of the crocodile both when fully grown and when first hatched, and further, about its tongue, and whether it moves its jaw and which jaw it closes upon the other. There are those too who have observed that this animal lays as many eggs as the days during which it sits upon them before hatching out its young. And I have myself heard that when a crocodile dies a scorpion is born from it; and they do say that it has a sting in its tail which is full of poison. - [Scholfield translation]

Gaius Julius Solinus [3rd century CE] (De mirabilibus mundi / Polyhistor, Chapter 32.22-25): [Chapter 32.22] The crocodile is an evil four-footed beast. It thrives equally well both on land and in the river. It does not have a tongue. It moves its upper jaw. Its jaws meet with a horrible tenacity, and its chains of teeth press together like combs. The majority of these creatures grow up to 20 fathoms in size. They bring forth eggs like geese’s eggs. [Chapter 32.23] The crocodile marks out a place for its nest with a natural foreknowledge, concealing its young in a place beyond the reach of the Nile’s flood. The male and female take turns at looking after the brood. Except for a gap on its face, the crocodile is armored. It also has brutal claws. [Chapter 32.24] During the nights it passes its time in the water, and in the day it rests on the land. Its skin is of great strength, so much so that its back deflects missiles hurled by catapults. [Chapter 32.25] The strophilos is a small bird. Aiming at hanging bits of meat, it scratches slowly at the mouths of the crocodiles, and bit by bit, coaxing and tickling, it goes all the way in to the beasts’ jaws. When an enhydrus, another kind of ichneumon, notices this, it infiltrates the crocodile and plunders its guts. Then it leaves, having eaten away the beast’s stomach. - [Arwen Apps translation, 2011]

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 6:19-20): [Book 12, 6.19] The crocodile [crocodillus], named from its saffron [croceus] color, is born in the Nile. It is a quadruped animal, powerful on land and also in the water. It is commonly twenty cubits in length, armed with huge teeth and claws, with skin so tough that it repels blows from stones, however strong, against its back. [Book 12, 6:20] It rests in the water at night, and on the land during the day. It incubates its eggs on land, the male and the female taking turns to guard them. Certain fish with a serrated crest [dolphin] may kill a crocodile by sawing into the soft parts of its belly. - [Barney, Lewis, et. al. translation]

Thomas of Cantimpré [circa 1200-1272 CE] (Liber de natura rerum, Marine monsters 6.7): A crocodile is a four-footed animal, as Jacobus and Solinus and Pliny say, which is equally at home on land and in the river. During the day it often rests on the land, and this so motionless, that, unless you know the habits of the beast, you would think it dead, inviting the birds to feed in its mouth. But at night it lives in the waters. It has eggs like a goose which it lays on the ground, where the overflowing river cannot reach. The male and female take turns in nurturing the offspring. This beast usually, as Jacobus says, is up to twenty yards in size. It is armed with the greatest strength of the skin, like armor. It has no tongue. The opening of its mouth extends to the ears. It moves its upper jaw. It has a horrible and tenacious bite, for a row of teeth is packed together like a comb. By opening of its mouth it invites birds inside to get food. With its eyes closed it pretends to sleep, with its mouth wide open. And it destroys and swallows the birds as they descend to the meat in its teeth. And in this it signs usurers, who invite needy and poor merchants to borrow; or princes who invite their governors for profit and afterwards take the opportunity to rob them inhumanely. The crocodile is armed with ferocious claws. In winter it takes no food. It is hostile not only to animals, but also to men, and yet, as the Experimentator says, when it kills a man, it mourns him. A crocodile after having his heart torn out lives for a little while, which, of course, is contrary to every animal that has its life from its heart. The Muslims eat its flesh. From its dung is made a perfume, with which old and wrinkled harlots rub their faces, so that the loose skin on the surface is stretched out and they appear more beautiful. But the brownish color does not last long. For when perspiration or water has penetrated this obscene perfume, the adulterated color of the face becomes yellow, and the paleness of the face becomes paler, and they hope this will last; but the unguent flows to the baths of water, and immediately the usual array of wrinkles returns to the skin. In the river of the Nile, as Isidore says, and in the river of Caesarea in Palestine, there are more crocodiles than anywhere else. In a certain river in Palestine, as James writes, there are wild crocodiles; and on one occasion: there were two noble brothers ruling in the same parts. And when one of his brothers wished to harm the other, he caused a race of crocodiles to be brought into the river, so that the monsters might secretly devour his brother, who he was afraid to kill openly, while he was bathing in the river as was his habit. In time the jealous brother sat down on the bank of the river and without delay the monster suddenly crept up to the shore, seized him, and tore him to pieces, and he fell wretchedly into his own trap. This beast, says Pliny, when satiated with fish and a mouth full of food, is enticed by a little bird, which is there called trochilos, but in Italy the king of birds, the crocodile invites the bird into its mouth for its own benefit. The bird first cleans the mouth, then the teeth and the inside of the throat, and finally as if some weapon had been launched, the crocodile destroys the bird. But how does so small a bird gain from so great a beast, unless it was only by that which was obvious prey and robbery? This crocodile, indeed, signifies the wicked princes, whose mouths are great traitors, who bear peace in their mouths and malice in their hearts; the teeth are those stewards who rob the poor. To all these a wretched peasant sometimes comes, and by giving and promising to all of them, obtains entry. He does not linger there when he thinks he is satisfied, not only in those whom he has taken away, but also in all his possessions. There is a race of men that are by nature hostile and inimical to this beast around the banks of the Nile, who are called Tyntiri from the island in which they live. The size of this race is small, but they are brave against these beasts. For alone they dare to swim in the river Nile, in which crocodiles live, and they jump on their backs and ride them after the manner of horses. Then, with their heads resting on the yawning beasts, the riders hold a club as if for a bridle, and drive the captives to the land, and with their voices alone compel the frightened beasts to vomit up the recently consumed corpses. Some believe that this animal (like the bear) would always grow. - [Badke translation/paraphrase]

Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (Liber de proprietatibus rerum, Book18.33): Crocodilus hath that name of yelow colour, as Isido[re] sayth, and is a foure footed beast, as Isidore sayth, libro. 12. capit. de Piscibus, and dwelleth both in water and in lande, and is nigh twentye cubites long, & is armed with great teeth and clawes, and his skinne is so harde, ye he regardeth not though he be strongly beaten on the backe with stones, and resteth in water by night, and by day in land, and layeth egges in the lande, that are greater that Goose egges, and the male and female kéepeth times & houres: and a certaine fish [dolphin] having a creast lyke to a sawe, renteth his tender womb, and slayeth him: and it is sayd, that among beasts onely the Crocodile moveth the over jawe, all this Isidore sayth. And Plinius libro. 8. ca. 16. sayth, in this maner, The Crocodile is a beast, & dwelleth in the river Nilus, & among beasts of the land he is tonguelesse, and onelye his over jawe moveth, and his biting is venimous: his teeth be horrible, & strongly shapen as a combe or a saw, and as a Bores tuske, and no beast that commeth of so lyttle beginning, wexeth so great as the Crocodile, and is a beast nourished in great gluttenie, and eateth right much, and so when he is full, he lyeth by the brinke or by the cliffe, and bloweth for fulnesse, and then there commeth a little bird, which is called Cuschillus [trochilus] among them, and is called king of foules among the Italians, and this bird flyeth before his mouth, and sometime he putteth the bird off, and at the last, he openeth his mouth to the birde, and suffereth him to enter. And this bird claweth him first with clawes softly, and maketh him have a manner lyking in clawing, and falleth anone asléepe, and when this bird Cuschillos knoweth and perceiveth that this Beast sléepeth, anone hée descendeth into his wombe, and foorthwith sticketh him as it wer with a dart, and biteth him full grievouslye and full sore. The Crocodile is right softe and full tender in the wombe, and for that cause he is soone overcome of such fishes, which have sharpe prickes and creastes growing on their backes on high. And for this cause Plinius sayth, that this grim and most horrible beast followeth & pursueth them that flye, and is dreadfull to them, and be flieth Serpentes, and hath dimme eyen while he is in water, and séeth too sharply when he is out of water: and be hideth him in winter, namely foure months, and commeth out in Springing time, and groweth still, all the time that he is alyve, as it is sayde. Huc usque Plin[y] lib. 8. cap. 26. Phisiologus saith, that if the Crocodile findeth a man by the brim of the water or by the cliffe, he slayeth him if he may, and then he wéepeth upon him, and swalloweth him at the last. And Plinius sayth, that of his dirte is made an oyntment, and with that Oyntment, women annoynt their owne faces, and so olde women & riveled, séeme young wenches for a time: and the Crocodile eateth gladlye good hearbes and grasse, among whom lurketh a litle serpent, that is called Enidros, and is enemy to the Crocodile, & hideth him prively in the grasse, and wrappeth himselfe therein, and so while the Crocodile eateth grasse, he swalloweth this serpent, and this serpent entreth into his wombe, and all to renteth his guts, and slayeth him, and commeth out harmles. Also Isidore saith the same libro. 12. and sayth, that the same worme lyeth in awayte on the Crocodile when he sléepeth, and then wrappeth himselfe in fen, and entreth in betwéene his teeth, and commeth into his body. And héereto Solinus saith, that the Crocodile lyeth in awayte on certaine small birdes, yt bréed among the grasse of the river Nilus, the which birdes flye into the womb of the Crocodile, for heate of the Sunne, and eateth the wormes of his wombe: and so that fierce beast is cleansed and purified of wormes, and his skin is so harde, that unneth it may be pearced with a sword, and so dwelleth in lande by day, and in water by night: for the water is hotter by night than by daye, for the water holdeth the Sunne beames, and be moved, and so the water is hotte, and this Beast hath no tongue, stretching outwarde to make voice therewith, but he hath a lyttle tongue within as fish have for tast of savour, as Solinus sayeth, and Aristotle, and Avicen[na] also. - [Batman]