Sources : Spider

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 8, 41; 11, 28-29): [Book 8, 41] ...stags when bitten by the phalangium, a kind of spider, or any similar animal cure themselves by eating crabs. [Book 11, 28] To these may be not ineptly joined the nature of spiders, which deserves even exceptional admiration. There are several kinds of spiders, but they need not be described, as they are so well known. The name of phalangium is given to a kind of spider that has a harmful bite and a small body of variegated color and pointed shape, and advances by leaps and bounds. A second species of spider is black, with very long fore legs. All spiders have legs with two joints. Of the wolf-spiders the smallest do not weave a web, but the larger ones live in the ground and spin tiny anterooms in front of their holes. A third kind of the same species is remarkable for its scientific method of construction; it sets up its warp-threads, and its own womb suffices to supply the material needed for this considerable work, whether because the substance of its intestines is thus resolved at a fixed time, as Democritus holds, or because it has inside it some power of producing wool: with such careful use of its claw and such a smooth and even thread it spins the warp, employing itself as a weight. It starts weaving at the centre, twining in the woof in a circular round, and twists the meshes in an unloosable knot, spreading them out at intervals that are always regular but continually grow less narrow. How skillfully it conceals the snares that lurk in its checkered net! How unintentional appears to be the density of the close warp and the plan of the woof, rendered by a sort of scientific smoothing automatically tenacious! How its bosom bellies to the breezes so as not to reject things that come to it! You might think the threads had been left by a weary weaver stretching in front at the top; but they are difficult to see, and, like the cords in hunting-nets, when the quarry comes against them throw it into the bosom of the net. With what architectural skill is the vaulting of the actual cave designed! and how much more hairy it is made, to give protection against cold! How distant it is from the centre, and how its intention is concealed, although it is really so roofed in that it is impossible to see whether somebody is inside or not! Then its strength - when is it broken by the winds? what quantity of dust weighs it down? When the spider is practicing its art and learning to weave, the breadth of the web often reaches between two trees and the length of the thread stretches down from the top of the tree and there is a quick return right up the thread from the ground, and the spider goes up and brings down the threads simultaneously. But when a catch falls into the web, how watchfully and alertly it runs to it! Although it may be clinging to the edge of the net, it always runs to the middle, because in that way it entangles the prey by shaking the whole. When the web is torn it at once restores it to a finished condition by patching it. And spiders actually hunt young frogs and lizards, first wrapping up their mouth with web and then finally gripping both lips with their jaws, giving a show worthy of the amphitheater when it comes off. Also auguries are obtained from the spider: for instance, when the rivers are going to rise they raise their webs higher; also they weave their web in fine weather and reweave it in cloudy weather, and consequently a number of spiders' webs is a sign of rain. People think that it is the female that weaves and the male that hunts, and that thus the married pair do equal shares of service. [Book 11, 29] Spiders couple with the haunches, and produce grubs resembling eggs — for their mode of reproduction also must not be deferred, as insects have scarcely any other method; and they lay them all into their webs, but scattered, because they jump about and lay them in the process. The phalangium spiders only incubate in the actual cave a large number of grubs which when hatched out devour the mother, and often the father too, for he helps to incubate. They produce broods of as many as three hundred, whereas all the other kinds produce fewer and they sit on the eggs three days. They take four weeks to become full-grown spiders. - [Rackham translation]

Aelianus [170-230 CE] (On the Characteristics of Animals, Book 1, chapter 21): Men say that it was the goddess Ergane who invented weaving and spinning, but it was Nature that trained the spider to weave. The practice of its craft is not due to any imitation, nor does it obtain spinning matter from any external source, but produces the threads from its own belly and then contrives snares for flimsy winged creatures, spreading them like nets; and it derives its nourishment from the same material that it extracts from its belly and weaves. It is so extremely industrious that not even the most dexterous women, skilled at elaborating wrought yarn, can be compared to it: its web is thinner than hair. - [Scholfield translation]

Gaius Julius Solinus [3rd century CE] (De mirabilibus mundi / Polyhistor, Chapter 11.13): There is also a kind of spider called phalangium. If you research its strength, you will find that it has no vigor of body, but if you research what power it has, you will discover that it can kill a man with its poison. - [Arwen Apps translation, 2011]

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 5:2): Spiders [aranea] are vermin of the air [aer], named from the air that is their nourishment. They spin out a long thread from their little body and, constantly attentive to their webs, never leave off working on them, maintaining a perpetual suspension in their own piece of craftsmanship. - [Barney, Lewis, et. al. translation]

Thomas of Cantimpré [circa 1200-1272 CE] (Liber de natura rerum, Worms 9.3; 9.33): [Thomas describes the spider under the names aranea and phalangia.] [Worms 9.3]] A spider [aranea] weaves a very fine net from its entrails to catch flies. For it guts itself so often to catch flies, that it dies completely empty. What, then, preacher and teacher of the word of God: must you not neglect to invent nets as if to pretend to hold back from my inmost prejudices, not to catch flies in the vain glory of vanity, but to tirelessly catch the hearers with diligent and calm admonitions? For blessed is the man who meditates on wisdom, etc. For inside the spiders there is a certain fine woolly material sufficient for the work. It carries out the work with such a small claw, with such a smooth and even thread, that it mocks all the art of men. For starting to weave from the middle, it attaches the woof in a circle at equal intervals. But if from time to time a breeze should occur, how awake and ready it is to meet it. But when its hunger is satisfied, it usually ties other flies that the net catches, that is from the surplus, carefully so that they do not escape, so that when it is hungry again, it will find the food already captured and ready. It is thought that the female is the one who weaves, the male who hunts: thus the merits of the pair of spiders become equal. They come together at the hips, and give birth to worms that look like eggs. The eggs are laid between the webs. Spiders are born without corruption from copulation, as if they were created from the dust of atoms and the spittle of man. Aristotle says that the mating of spiders occurs especially at the end of spring, that is, at the beginning of summer. When, therefore, they wish to mate, the female attracts the male by means of the threads of the web, and the male likewise does not stop the female until they are united. The spider shuns coarse moisture and dry substance, but delights in a medium temperature. Pliny: They weave their web when the sky is clear, but not when it is cloudy. They are also the false auguries of the Gentiles, since with the increase of years to come they lift their webs higher. They live on juice; therefore none dies of hunger. The spider does not hunt until it has repaired what was wasted from the web. As the Experimentator says, cobwebs placed over a wound keep it free from swelling and decay. The spider balances itself with a thread on the head of a snake stretched out under the shade of a tree, and the force of its bite is so great that it seizes its brain and does not let go until the snake dies. When spiders lift their webs higher it is a sign of rain. [Worms 9.33] Phalangia, as Pliny says, is a kind of spiders, with a poisonous and noxious bite and a small and pointed body. It enters the noses of men like cattle. When it bites a wild stag, unless the stag eats crabs, it is in danger of its life. It incubates and lays eggs in large numbers in caves, sometimes thirty, sometimes fewer. And as soon as the offspring is hatched, it consumes the father and the mother: for the father helps to incubate the offspring. - [Badke translation/paraphrase]

Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (Liber de proprietatibus rerum, Book18.11): The venimous spinner is called Aranea, and is a worme that hath that name of feeding & nourishing of the aire, as Isidore sayth, li. 12. and spinneth long thrids in short time, and is alway busie about weaving, and ceaseth never of travaile. For he hath oft harme in his worke for oft his web and his worke is broken with blasts of wind, or els with dropping of tame: and then he looseth all his travaile. And Avicen sayth, that the Spinner is a little créeping beast with many feet, and hath sixe feete or eight, and hath alwaye feete even, and not odde. And that is verye needfull, that his going and possing be alway even, as the charge is and burthen. And this is generall in all that have two féete or moe, and have some féete longer, and some shorter, for diverse workes that they make. For with some féete they make the thridde small, and drawe it a long, and with some they knit thrids together, and right and amende the thrids with some, and hoove on the web when they will. And among beasts of rounde bodyes, the Spinner hath best féeling of touch. For hooving in the middle of the webbe, hee feeleth sodeynly a Flye that is in the farthest parte thereof. And réeseth sodeinly on the flie, as it were on an enimye: and if hée have the mastrye of the Flye, hée win, beth and wrappeth him flily, among the threds of the web, for he should not escape, and falleth first on the head, and sucketh the moysture thereof, and lyveth by such hunting of Flies: for such humour of Flyes is most lyking to his taste, as honnie is most lyking to the taste of Baes, as he sayth, and Aristotle also. Also in kinde of spinners is diversity of male and female, as Aristotle saieth, lib. 5. And the female is more of bodye than the male, and hath longer feete, and more plyant, and more able so mouing and weaving. In time of gendring and of love, the female draweth to hir the male by threds of the web, and thereafter the male draweth the female, and such drawing ceaseth not untill they bee joyned togethers, and then the male is set upon the wombe of the female: & this manner is néedefull to them for roundnesse of the wombe: and this joyning togethers is most in the ende of springing time and in the beginning of summer, and sometime in harvest, and in the beginning of winter, and spinners are then most grievous, and theyr biting most venemous. Also libro. 8. Aristotle saith, That of Spinners be many kindes, for some be small and of divers colours, and be sharp and swifte of moaing: and some are more, and blacke in coulour, and theyr hinder legs be most long, and are slowe of mouing, but onely when they goe to worke of generation. And ofte blacke spinners inhabite by the ground among holes and dennes, and they abide in the web untill some little beast fall therein, as a flye, that he taketh, and sucketh the moysture thereof if he be an hungred, & putteth then the flye in a certaine place and kéepeth it untill he be an hungred againe: and when he hath sucked all the moysture, he throweth awaye the other deale, and surneth againe to hunting, and hunteth not ere he have amended the breath of the webbe: and if one breake the webbe, he beginneth for to to amend it about the going downe of the Sunne, or in the rising of the Sun, and then he travaileth most, for then many lyttle wormes fall into the web. And the female bringeth forth hir brood, and the male hunteth and helpeth hir, and she hideth hir selfe under the web, that she be not séene of small wormes, and namely when she is great, for because of hir greatnesse she worketh not easely: and the female layeth first egs, and thereof afterward are shapen small spinners, & the mother setteth them to weane anone as they be hatcht, and they move anon, and dispese themselves therto weave as they have learned for to weave, and hunt in their mothers wombe, and so the young spinner arayeth anon nets, that are according to his pray. And a manner kinde of spinners hunteth a little Ewte, and when they finde him, they begin to weane uppon him, and all about for to binde strongly his mouth, and leap then upon him, and sting him till he dyeth. Item in eodem he saith, that some Spinners are founde in Bée hives, and those spinners corrupt the honie, & sucke the lycour, and they make webbes about the honnie combes, and corrupte them. And Avicen sayth & Plinius also, De generatione Araneae. libro. 11. capit. 25. That the kinde of Spinners is worthye of chiefe wondering, and of them there are manye manner of kindes, among whom a certaine manner of kind is called Spalangio. The bodye thereof is little, speckeled, and of divers colours, with a sting, and is swifte in leaping, and most grievous in biting. Another Spinner there is, that is more of body, blacke of coulour, with long legges, that weaveth in dennes by the ground. The thirde kinde there is, which by cunning working weaveth full subtyll webbes. A greate wonder it is howe the matter of thriddes that come of the wombe of the Spinner, may indure so greate a worke, and weaving of so greate a webbe. And that is drawen, as men thinke, some and some out of the Spinners wombe, and yet unneth it is founde voyde. And it séemeth not to bée true, that Democritus sayd, that so much corruption is in the Wombe of the Spinner, that of his dirte so much matter of thred might be had. Therefore Arist[otle] reproveth Democritus lib. 8. and saith, that he said not true in this poynt, and his reason is as it séemeth, for spinners and other such round beasts be little of meates for default of bloud and of beate, and so he saith, that a spinner taketh not so much meate: but more without comparison commeth of him to weave the web, and then should the superfluity and dirte, be more than the meate and foode that he taketh, and the superfluitie of dirte, is more than néedfull digestion, to due kéeping and saving of the beast, as Aristotle saith. Also Plinius saith the same, & sayth, that they spin threds rounde and long, with moderate feete and clawes, & they stretch the warpe with wonderfull craft from the neather side to the over, and drawe and bring out againe the thred thwart over from point to poynt, and all the straight draughtes with small space betwéen ye threds, they couple & knit the threds in the middle lyke farre from the middle poynt, when the worke is drawen and layd, and then he beginneth from the middle poynt, and goeth round about with the Ofe, and maketh knottes and holes, as it were like farre asunder, and the holes and spaces that be betwéen, be by a wonderfull crafte between ye knots made now foure cornerd, now evenlong, and now round: and the néerer they bée to the middle, the more narrow they bée and straight, and the farther from the middle they be, the more large and wide they be. The sight séeth not, and unneth the judgement of reson perceiveth, wherby the spinner reyneth thred to thred, & knitteth so fast knot to knot, and reareth himselfe with a wonderfull lyghtnes by his owne threds that be so small, and unneth séene with mans eyen, and yet he passeth in the web swiftlye, as though he flew hether and thether, and from place to place. Also he saith, that as long as the utter threds of the web dure, if it hap that the web be broken in any maner wise, the spinner beginneth at the middle to amend that which is broken, as though he would holde nothing whole & sound in the webbe, while the middle is not sure. Also he saith, in spinners be tokens of divination, and of knowing what wether shall fall, for ofte by weathers that shal fal, some spin & weve higher or lower. Also he saith, ye multitude of spinners is token of much raine. Also li. 14. cap. 3. de lesione ficuum, he saith that somtime spinners weave and make webs aboute burgening and buds of vines, and also about flowers and blossomes of Trées, and by such compassing of such Cobwebs, both trées and vines be lost, when they burgen and bloome. The biting of the spinner that is called Spalangio, is venemous and slaieth, except there be remedie and succour the sooner: but the vertue of Plantaine slayeth the venyme thereof, if it be laid thereto in due manner, and therefore other wormes, as Eutes and Frogs, that dread the stinging of Spinners, defende themselves with juyce of Plantaine, as Plinius saieth. Dioscorides and Avicen[na] in capitulo De venenis, &c. And Macer saith the same. Aristotle and Plinius meane, that webs of spinners come of their guts, by a manner cratte of kinde: and the web is woven by most subtill working, and is wonderfully knit in a net wise, and made with most smallest threds, and that for it should not be séene of flyes and of other wormes, for the which it is laied, and it should be séene of them, if the threds were great: and cob-webs are made with travayle and businesse: but it is wonderfully soone destroyed & undone, for it may not sustaine fire: and spinners dread winde, for by a blaste of winde the cob-web is soone broken and unknit. - [Batman]