Texts : Aristotle

From De animalibus, Cresswell translation, 1887.

Analytical Table of Contents (by Richard Cresswell)

Book I.—The work commences with a general review of the animal kingdom, and several suggestions for a natural arrangement of animals in groups, according to their external form or their mode of life, a comparison of animals among themselves, and a description of some of their habits. Aristotle then introduces the human form, the best known to man, as the standard of comparison to which he refers the rest of the animal kingdom. The concluding chapters of this book are occupied with a description of the several parts of the human body, both internal and external.

Book II.—In the second book the different parts of animals are described. The animals are arranged in various groups, viviparous and oviparous quadrupeds, fish, serpents, birds. The only animals described are those with red blood: the description of the rest being reserved for the fourth book. Their internal organs are also described; and in the course of the book a few animals, as the ape, elephant, and chameleon, are especially noticed.

Book III.—The third book commences with a description of the internal organs, beginning with the generative system. A considerable portion of the book is devoted to the course of the veins; and Aristotle quotes from other writers, as well as states the result of his own observations. He then describes the nature of other constituent parts of the body, sinews, fibers, bone, marrow, cartilage, nails, hoofs, claws, horns, and beaks of birds, hair, scales, membranes, flesh, fat, blood, marrow, milk, and the spermatic fluid.

Book IV.—Animals without blood, and first, the cephalopods, [Pg viii] are described; then the crustaceans, testacea, echinidae, ascidians, actinae, hermit crabs, insects. In the eighth chapter the organs of sense are considered, and afterwards, the voice, sleep, age, and differences of the sexes in animals are described.

Book V.—In the former books animals are for the most part described with reference to their several parts. In the fifth book they are treated as entire, and especially with regard to their mode of reproduction. First of all, our author treats of spontaneous reproduction, and then of those animals which spring from a union of the sexes; and from this he proceeds to some detail with respect to different groups of animals, testacea, crustacea, insects. The book concludes with a long description of bees and their habits.

Book VI.—In this book the same subject is continued through the several classes of birds, fish, and quadrupeds. This account of the reproduction of animals includes also the consideration of the seasons, climates, and ages of animals, and how far these influence their reproduction.

Book VII.—The seventh book is almost entirely devoted to the consideration of the reproduction of man, and an account of man from his birth to his death. This book ends abruptly, and is probably imperfect.

Book VIII.—In the eighth book Aristotle passes on to the most interesting part of his work, the character and habits of the whole animal world, as it was known to him. The amount of detail which he has collected and arranged on this subject is most interesting. He treats, first of all, of the food of animals, of their migrations, their health and diseases, and the influence of climate upon them.

Book IX.—The subject of the eighth book is continued, with an account of the relations in which animals stand to each other, and especially the friendship and hostility of different species; and these are for the most part referred to the nature of their food, and their mode of procuring it. The notices of fish are not so numerous as those of other groups: this would necessarily arise from the difficulty of observation. At the conclusion of the book, an essay on bees and their congeners is given at considerable length.

Book X.—This book, in all probability erroneously ascribed to Aristotle, is occupied with a treatise on the causes of barrenness in the human species. It appears to be rather a continuation of the seventh book, which ends abruptly; but it is well placed at the end, as no genuine work of our author.

Book 8, chapter 2

1. Animals are divided according to the localities which they inhabit; for some animals are terrestrial, others are aquatic. They also admit of a ternary division, those that breathe air and those that breathe water, one of these classes is terrestrial, the other is aquatic; the third class does not breathe either air or water, but they are adapted by nature to receive refreshment from each of these elements; and some of these are called terrestrial, others are aquatic, though they neither breathe air or water; and there are other animals which procure their food and make their abode in either of these elements. For many that breathe air, and produce their young upon the land, procure their food from the water, where they generally make their abode; and these are the only animals which appear to be doubtful, for they may be arranged either as terrestrial or aquatic animals.

2. Of those that breathe water, none have feet or wings, nor seek their food on land; but many of those that are terrestrial, and breathe air, do so; some of them so much so, that they cannot live when separated from the water, as those which are called marine turtles, and crocodiles, and hippopotami, and seals, and some of the smaller creatures, as the water tortoise and the frog tribe; for all these are suffocated if their respiration is suspended for any length of time. They produce their young and rear them on dry land; others do so near the dry land, while they reside in the water.

3. Of all animals the most remarkable in this particular is the dolphin, and some other aquatic animals and cetacea which are of this habit, as the whale and others which have a blowhole; for it is not easy to arrange them either with aquatic or terrestrial animals, if we consider animals that breathe air as terrestrial, and those that breathe water as aquatics, for they partake of the characters of both classes; for they receive the sea and eject it through their blowhole, and air through their lungs, for they have this part, and breathe through it. And the dolphin, when captured in nets, is often suffocated, from the impossibility of breathing. It will live for a long while out of water, snoring and groaning like other breathing animals. It sleeps with its snout above the water, in order that it may breathe through it.

4. It is thus impossible to arrange it under both of these contrary divisions, but it would appear that the aquatic animals must be further subdivided; for they breathe and eject water for the same reason as others breathe air, for the sake of coolness. Other animals do this for the sake of food; for those animals which obtain their food in the water, must also, at the same time, swallow some of the fluid, and have an organ by which they can eject it. Those creatures which use water instead of air for breathing have gills; those that use it for food have a blowhole.

Book 8, chapter 5

1. All birds with crooked claws are carnivorous, nor are they able to eat corn even when put in their mouths. All the eagles belong to this class and the kites, and both the hawks, the pigeon hawk namely, and the sparrow hawk. These differ in size from each other, and so does the triorches. This bird is as large as the kite, and is visible at all seasons of the year; the osprey and vulture also belong to this class. The osprey is as large as the eagle, and ash-colored. There are two kinds of vultures, one small and whitish, the other large and cinereous.

2. Some of the night birds also have crooked claws, as the nycticorax, owl, and bryas. The bryas resembles an owl in appearance, but it is as large as an eagle; the eleos, aegolius, and also belong to this class. The eleos is larger than a domestic fowl, the aegolius is about the size of that bird, they both hunt the jay. The scops is less than the owl; all three of these are similar in form, and carnivorous. Some that have not crooked claws are carnivorous, as the swallow.