The historie of foure-footed beastes Describing the true and liuely figure of euery beast, with a discourse of their seuerall names, conditions, kindes, vertues (both naturall and medicinall) countries of their breed, their loue and hate to mankinde, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, preseruation, and destruction. Necessary for all diuines and students, because the story of euery beast is amplified with narrations out of Scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets: wherein are declared diuers hyerogliphicks, emblems, epigrams, and other good histories, collected out of all the volumes of Conradus Gesner, and all other writers to this present day. By Edward Topsell.
Topsell, Edward, 1572-1625?


*THis word Lamia hath many significations, being taken some∣times for a beast of Lybia, sometimes for a fish, and some∣times for a Spectre or apparition of women called Phairies. And from hence some haue ignorantly affirmed, that ei∣ther [ 30] there were no such beastes at all, or else that it was a compounded monster of a beast and a fish, whose opinions I will briefly set downe. Aristophanes affirmeth, that he heard one say, that he saw a great wilde beast hauing seuerall parts resembling outwardly an Oxe, and inwardly a Mule, and a beautifull woman, which he called afterwards Empusa.

When Appollonius and his companions trauailed in a bright Moone shine night, they saw a certaine apparition of Phairies,* in latine called Lamiae, and in Greeke Empusa, chang∣ing themselues from one shape into another, being also sometimes visible, and present∣ly vanishing out of sight againe: as soone as he perceaued it, he knew what it was and did [ 40] rate it with very contumelious and despightfull words, exhorting his fellowes to do the like,* for that is the best remedie against the inuasion of Phairies. And when his compa∣nions did likewise raile at them, presently the vision departed away.

The Poets say,* that Lamia was a beautifull woman, the daughter of Bellus and Lybia, which Iupiter-loued, bringing her out of Lybia into Italie, where he begot vpon hir ma∣ny sonnes, but Iuno iealous of her husband, destroied them as soone as they were horne, punishing Lamia also with a restlesse estate, that she should neuer be able to sleepe, but liue night and day in continuall mourning,* for which occasion she also stealeth away and killeth the children of others, whereupon came the fable of changing of children▪ Iu∣piter hauing pitty vpon her, gaue exeptile eyes that might be taken in and out at hir own [ 50] pleasure, & likewise power to be tranformed into what shape she would: And from hence also came the fained names of Acho, and Alphito, wherewithall women were wont to make their children afeard, according to these verses of Lucilius.

Terricolas Lamias, fauni quas Pompilij{que}
Instituere numae tremit has, &c.

Page  453

The true picture of the Lamia.

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Of these, Angelus Policianus relateth this old wiues story,* in his preface vppon Aristotles first booke of Analitickes, that his grand-mother tolde him when he was a childe, there were certaine Lamiae in the wildernes, which like Bug-beares would eat vp crying boies, and that there was a little Well neare to Fesulanum, being very bright, yet in continuall shaddow, neuer seeing Sun, where these Phairy women haue their habitation, which are [ 40] to be seene of them which come thither for water.

Plutarch also affirmeth, that they haue exemptile eies as aforesaid, and that as often as they go from home, they put in their eies, wandring abroad by habitations, streetes, and crosse waies, entring into the assemblies of men, and prying so perfectly into euery thing, that nothing can escape them, be it neuer so well couered: you wil thinke (saith hee) that they haue the eies of Kites, for there is no smal mote but they espie it, nor any hole so se∣cret but they find it out, and when they come home againe, at the very entrance of their howse they pul out their eies, and cast them aside, so being blinde at home, but seeing a∣broad. If you ask me (saith he) what they do at home, they sit singing and making of wool, and then turning his speech to the Florentines speaketh in this manner: Vidisti sue obsecro Lamias ist as vtri Florentini, quae se & sua nesciunt, alios & aliena speculantur, negati atqui [ 50] tamen sunt in vrbibus frequentes verum personalae incaedunt homines credas, lamiae sunt: that is to say: O ye Florentines, did you euer see such Phairies, which were busie in prying in∣to the affaires of other men, but yet ignorant of their own? Do you denie it, yet do there commonly walke vppe and downe the Cittie, phairies in the shapes of men.

Page  454There were two women called Macho, and Lamo, which were both foolish and madde, and from the strange behauiours of them, came the first opinion of the Pharies: there was also an auncient Lybian woman called Lamia, and the opinion was, that if these Pha∣ries had not whatsoeuer they demaunded, presently they would take away liue children, according to these verses of Horace.

Nec quodcunque volet, poscat, sibi fabula credi
Neu pransae Lamiae viuum puerum extrahat aluo.

It is reported of Menippus the Lycian,* that he fell in loue with a strange woman, who at that time seemed both beautifull, tender, and rich, but in truth there was no such thing, [ 10] and all was but a fantasticall ostentation; she was said to insinuate her selfe into his fami∣liaritie, after this manner, as he went vpon a day alone from Corinth to Cenchrea hee met with a certaine phantasme or spectre like a beautifull woman, who tooke him by the hand, and told him that she was a Phoenicean woman, and of long time had loued him dearely, hauing sought many occasions to manifest the same, but could neuer finde opportunitie vntill that day, wherefore she entreated him to take knowledge of her house which was in the Suburbes of Corinth, therewith all pointing vnto it with her finger, and so desired his presence: The young man seeing himselfe thus wooed by a beautifull woman was easily ouercome by her allurements, and did oftentimes frequent her company.

Ther was a certaine wise man and a Philosopher which espied the same, and spake vn∣to Moenippus in this manner. O formose, & aformosis, expetitie mulieribus, ophin thalpies, [ 20] cai se ophis? that is to say, O faire Menippus beloued of beautifull women, art thou a ser∣pent and dost nourish a serpent? by which words he gaue him his first admonition, or in∣cling of a mischiefe; but not preuayling, Menippus purposed to marry with this spectre, her house to the outward shew being richly furnished with all manner of houshold goods, then said the wise man againe vnto Menippus, this gold, siluer, and ornaments of house, are like to Tantalus Apples, who are said by Homer to make a faire shew, but to containe in them no substance at all: euen so whatsoeuer you conceaue of this riches, there is no matter or substance in the things which you see, for they are onely inchaunted images and shadowes, which that you may beleeue, this your neate bride is one of the Empus, [ 30] called Lamioe or Mormolicioe wonderfull desirous of copulation with men, and louing their flesh aboue measure, but those whom they doe entice, with their veneriall marts, afterwards they deuoure without loue or pittie, feeding vpon their flesh: at which words the wise man caused the gold and siluer plate and houshold stuffe, Cookes and seruants, to vanish all away; Then did the spectre like vnto one that wept, entreate the wise man that he would not torment her, nor yet cause her to confesse what manner of person she was,* but he on the other side being inexorable, compelletd her to declare the whole truth, which was, that she was a Phairy, and that she purposed to vse the companie of Menippus, and feede him fat with all manner of pleasures, to the entent that afterward she might eate vp and deuour his body, for all their kinde loue was but onely to feede vpon beautifull yong men. [ 40]

These and such like stories and opinions there are of Phairies, which in my iudgement arise from the praestigious apparitions of Deuils, whose delight is to deceiue and beguile the minds of men with errour,* contrary to the truth of holye Scripture, which doeth no where make mention of such inchaunting creatures; and therefore if any such be, we will holde them the workes of the Deuill, and not of God, or rather I beleeue, that as Poets call Harlots by the name of Charibdis, which deuoureth and swalloweth whole shippes and Nauies, aluding to the insatiable gulph of the Sea, so the Lamiae are but poeticall alligo∣ries of beautifull Harlottes, who after they haue had their lust by men, doe many times deuour and make them away, as we read of Diomedes daughters, and for this cause also [ 50] Harlots are called Lupae, shee-Wolues, and Lepores, Hares.

To leaue therefore these fables,* and come to the true description of the Lamia, we haue in hand. In the foure and thirty chapter of Esay, we do find this beast called Lilith in the Haebrew, and translated by the auncients' Lamia, which is there threatned to possesse Ba∣bell. Likewise in the fourth chapter of the Lamentations, where it is said in our English translation, that the Dragons lay forth their brests, in Haebrew they are called Eiha•••,Page  455 which by the confession of the best interpreters, cannot signifie Dragons, but rather sea-calues, being a generall word for strange wilde beasts. Howbeit the matter being wel ex∣amined, it shall appeare that it must needes be this Lamia, because of her great breastes, which are not competible, either to the Dragon or Sea-calues; so then we wil take it for graunted, by the testimony of holy Scripture, that there is such a beast as this Crisostom∣us. Dion also writeth that there are such beasts in some part of Libia, hauing a Womans face, and very beautifull, also very large and comely shapes on their breasts, such as can∣not bee counterfeited by the art of any painter, hauing a very excellent colour in their fore parts without wings, and no other voice but hissing like Dragons: they are the swiftest [ 10] of foote of all earthly beasts, so as none can escape them by running, for by their celerity they compasse their prey of beastes, and by their fraud they ouerthrow men. For when as they see a man, they lay open their breastes, and by the beauty thereof, entice them to come neare to conference, and so hauing them within their compasse, they deuoure and kill them: vnto the same things subscribe Coelius and Giraldus, adding also, that there is a certaine crooked place in Libia neare the Sea-shore, full of sand like to a sandy Sea, and all the neighbor places thereunto are deserts.

If it fortune at any time, that through shipwrack men come there on shore, these beasts watch vppon them, deuouring them all, which either endeuour to trauell on the land, or else to returne backe againe to Sea, adding also that when they see a man they stand stone [ 20] still, and stir not til he come vnto them, looking down vpon their breasts or to the ground, whereupon some haue thought, they seeing them at the first sight, haue such a desire to come neare them, that they are drawne into their compasse, by a certaine naturall magi∣call witch-crafte: but I cannot approue their opinions, either in this or in that, wherein they describe him with horsses feet, and hinder parts of a serpent, but yet I graunt that he doth not onely kill by biting, but also by poysoning, feeding vpon the carcasse which hee hath deuourd: His stones are very filthy and great, and smel like a Sea-calues, for so Ari∣stophnies writing of Cleon a Corior, and lustfull man, compareth him to a Lamia, in the greatnesse and filthinesse of his stones, the hinder parts of this beast are like vnto a Goate, his fore legs like a Beares, his vpper parts to a woman, the body scaled all ouer like a Dra∣gon [ 30] as some haue affirmed by the obseruation of their bodies, when Probus the Emperor brought them forth into publike spectacle: also it is reported of them, that they deuoure their own young ones, and therefore they deriue their name Lamia of Laniando, and thus much for this beast.

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