Sources : Viper


Herodotus [c. 484 – c. 425 BCE] (Histories, Book 3.109) It is so too with vipers and the winged serpents of Arabia: were they born in the natural manner of serpents no life were possible for men; but as it is, when they pair, and the male is in the very act of generation, the female seizes him by the neck, nor lets go her grip till she have devoured him. Thus the male dies; but the female is punished for his death; the young avenge their father, and eat their mother while they are yet within her; nor are they dropped from her till they have devoured her womb. - [Godley translation]

Aristotle [ca. 350 BCE] (De animalibus Book 5, chapter 28): The little vipers are produced in a membrane, which they rupture on the third day, and sometimes they make their escape by eating their way through the mother. They are produced one by one in the course of a day, and their number often exceeds twenty. [Book 8, chapter 6.1] Serpents are all very fond of wine, so that they hunt the viper by placing vessels of wine in the hedge-rows, and they are captured when intoxicated. - [Cresswell translation, 1887]

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 10, 82): In mating, the male viper puts his head in the female's mouth, and she in her ecstasy bites it off. The female bears the eggs inside her until they hatch; she then gives birth to one of them a day. Since she may bear up to twenty young, the ones not yet born become impatient and burst out of her sides, killing her.

Aelianus [170-230 CE] (On the Characteristics of Animals, Book 1, chapter 24): The male viper couples with the female by wrapping himself round her. And she allows her mate to do this without resenting it at all. When however they have finished their act of love, the bride in reward for his embraces repays her husband with a treacherous show of affection, for she fastens on his neck and bites it off, head and all. So he dies, while she conceives and becomes pregnant. But she produces not eggs but live young ones, which immediately act in accordance with their nature at its worst. At any rate they gnaw through their mother's belly and forthwith emerge and avenge their father. [Chapter 48] Whenever the Moray is filled with amorous impulses it comes out of the sea on to land seeking eagerly for a mate, and a very evil mate. For it goes to a viper's den and the pair embrace. And they do say that the male viper also in its frenzied desire for copulation goes down to the sea, and just as a reveller with his flute knocks at the door, so the viper also with his hissing summons his loved one, and she emerges. Thus does Nature bring those that dwell far apart together in a mutual desire and to a common bed. [Book 2, chapter 24] If you capture a viper and grasp its neck very firmly and with a strong hand, and then open its mouth and spit into it, the spittle slides down into its belly and has so disastrous an effect upon it as to cause the viper to rot away. From this you see how foul can be the bite of one man to another and as dangerous as the bite of any beast. - [Scholfield translation]

Gaius Julius Solinus [3rd century CE] (De mirabilibus mundi / Polyhistor, Chapter 2.32): There are numerous vipers with incurable bites in Italy. They are shorter than those which are found in other parts of the world; they harm all the more easily when, for this reason, they are deemed contemptible. - [Arwen Apps translation, 2011]

Saint Ambrose [4th century CE] (Hexameron, Book 5, chapter 7.18): When the viper, the deadliest kind of animal and the most cunning of the whole species of serpents, evinces a desire for copulation, he searches for a sea-murena already known to him or he seeks for a new mate. Proceeding toward the shore, he makes his presence known by a hissing sound, whereby he invites conjugal embrace. The sea-murena does not repulse the appeal and yields to the poisonous serpent the desired enjoyment of their conjugal bond. - [Savage translation, 1961]

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 4:10): The viper (vipera) is so named because it is ‘born through force (vi parere), for when their mother’s womb is groaning to deliver, the offspring, not waiting for nature’s suitable time, gnaw at and forcibly tear open their mother’s sides, causing her death. [Book 12, 4:11] It is said that the male spits his seed into the mouth of the female viper, and she, turned from the passion of lust to rage, bites off the head of the male that is in her mouth. Thus it happens that each parent dies; the male when they mate and the female when she gives birth. - [Barney, Lewis, et. al. translation]