Thursday, December 11, 2014

Poisons and Pits With Xenophone

From On Hunting by Xenophone, written in 400 B.C.

Lions, leopards, lynxes, panthers, bears and all other such game are to be captured in foreign countries — about Mount Pangaeus and Cittus beyond Macedonia; or again, in Nysa beyond Syria, and upon other mountains suited to the breeding of large game. In the mountains, owing to the difficulty of the ground some of these animals are captured by means of poison — the drug aconite — which the hunters throw down for them, taking care to mix it with the favorite food of the wild best, near pools and drinking-places or wherever else they are likely to pay visits. Others of them, as they descend into the plains at night, may be cut off by parties mounted upon horseback and well armed, and so captured, but not without causing considerable danger to their captors. In some cases the custom is to construct large circular pits of some depth, leaving a single pillar of earth in the center, on the top of which at nightfall they set a goat fast-bound, and hedge the pit about with timber, so as to prevent the wild beasts seeing over, and without a portal of admission. What happens then is this: the wild beasts, hearing the bleating in the night, keep scampering round the barrier, and finding no passage, leap over it, and are caught.

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