Aristotle's History of Animals

Page 7 of 14

[Pg 179]


Chapter I.

1. The circumstances attending on the growth of man, from his conception in the womb even to old age, derived from his peculiar nature, are after this manner. We have already treated of the distinctions of the male and female and their parts. The male begins to have semen at about the age of fourteen complete. At the same time hair begins to appear on the pubes. As Alcmon of Crotona says that flowers blossom before they bear seed, about the same period the voice begins to become more harsh and irregular. It is neither quite harsh, nor deep, nor all alike, but it resembles a discordant and harsh instrument. This is called , to have a voice like a goat.

2. This is more conspicuous in those who attempt the gratification of sexual desires; for those who are vehement in these desires rapidly pass into a man's voice. In those that refrain themselves the contrary occurs. In those who, like some singers, endeavour to avoid this change, the voice will continue for a long while, and never undergo any great change. The breasts also and pudendum not only increase in size, but their general appearance is changed. At this period of life, if a person is urged to the emission of semen, the discharge is accompanied with pain as well as pleasure.

3. About the same period also the breasts of females enlarge, and the catamenia make their appearance. They resemble the blood of a newly killed animal. In young girls only do they appear white, especially if they make use of fluid food. This complaint stops the growth and weakens the body of girls. The catamenia usually appear when the mamm are about two fingers high. The voice of girls also becomes deeper at this period, for on the whole the voice of women is more acute than that of men, and the voice of girls than that of old women, as the voice of boys is more [Pg 180] acute than the voice of men. The voice of female children also is more acute than that of males, and the windpipe is more acute in girls than boys.

4. They also want especial care at this period, for their sexual desires are very strong at the commencement, so that if they now take care to avoid every excitement, except such as the change of their body requires, without using venery, they generally remain temperate in after-years. For girls who indulge in venery when young, generally grow up intemperate; and so do males if they are unguarded either one way or both ways; for at this age the ducts open and afford an easy passage for the fluid through the body, and at the same time the memory of past pleasures causes a desire for present gratification.

5. Some men never have hair on the pubes from their birth, nor seed, on account of the destruction of the parts appropriated to the semen. There are some women also who never have hair on the pubes. The male and female also change their habits of sickness and of health, and the proportions of their body, whether slight or stout, or of a good habit. Some thin boys after they attain puberty become stout and healthy, in others the contrary takes place. This is the case also with females; for whether boys or girls have their bodies loaded with excrementitious matter, this is separated in the one by puberty, in the other by the catamenia. They become more healthy and thriving when that which had prevented health and growth is removed.

6. Those which are of the contrary habit of body become more thin and delicate; for their naturally healthy condition is separated in the puberty of one sex, and the catamenia of the other. There is also considerable variety in the bosoms of young girls, for in some they are very large, in others small. This generally takes place in those girls which have much superfluous humour, for when the catamenia are about to appear, but before they arrive, the more fluid the patient is, the more necessary it is that the breasts should increase until the catamenia make their appearance, and the breasts, which then begin to increase, remain so afterwards. In youths and aged men the breasts are more conspicuous, and more like those of females; and in those who [Pg 181] are of a soft habit of body, and are smooth and not full of veins, and in dark persons also more than fair ones.

7. Until twenty-one years of age the semen is unproductive, afterwards it becomes fertile, though boys and girls produce small and imperfect children: this is also the case with other animals. Young girls conceive more readily, but after conception suffer more in parturition, and their bodies frequently become imperfect. Men of violent passions, and women that have borne many children, grow old more rapidly than others; nor does there appear to be any increase after they have borne three children. Women of violent sexual desires become more temperate after they have borne several children.

8. Women who have attained thrice seven years are well adapted for child-bearing, and men also are capable of becoming parents. Thin seminal fluid is barren. That which is lumpy begets males; what is thin and not clotted, females. The beard also appears on the chin of men at the same period.

Chapter II.

1. The catamenia appear when the moon is on the wane, from which some persons would argue that the moon is a female, for the purification of women and the waning of the moon occur together, and repletion occurs again in both after the purification and waning. In few women the catamenia occur every month, but in most at every third month. Those in whom they continue for only two or three days escape with ease: it is more difficult for those in whom it continues for a longer time, for they suffer during the whole period. In some the purification takes place all at once, in others by degrees; in all, however, the pain is considerable as long as they are present. In many women, when the catamenia are nearly ready to appear, the womb suffers so much from strangulation and disturbance, until they are discharged.

2. Conception naturally takes place immediately after this discharge in women, and those who do not then conceive, are usually barren. Some women, however, who have never menstruated, conceive. Such persons contain in themselves as much of the fluid as is usually left behind [Pg 182] after the purification, but not so much as to make its appearance externally. Some women in whom the uterus has closed immediately after the purification, conceive even while menstruating, but do not conceive afterwards. The catamenia sometimes occur even in pregnant women. Such women usually bear imperfect children, and their offspring either do not grow up, or are weakly.

3. It frequently happens that from the want of sexual intercourse, or from youth and the period of life, or from long abstinence, the uterus descends, and the catamenia occur several times in the month, until they conceive; after which the parts return to their proper place: and sometimes even in women with a good habit of body, if the humours are abundant, an effusion of the semen takes place if it is too moist.

4. It has already been observed that this purification is more abundant in women than in any other creature. In animals that are not viviparous no symptoms of anything of the kind occur, for this superfluous matter is returned into their own body, for in many the females are superior to the males in size, and in many it is turned to the formation of plates, or scales, or abundance of feathers. In viviparous animals with feet, it is turned to the formation of hair and bulk of body (for man is the only animal that is smooth), or of urine; for in almost all animals this secretion is thick and abundant. In women, on the contrary, all the superfluous matter of the body is directed to this purification.

5. The case of the male is the same, for in proportion to his size, man emits more semen than other animals; (wherefore, also, man is the smoothest of all animals,) and among men those which abound in humours, and are not very full fleshed, and fair men more than dark ones. So also among women. For in those that are full fleshed, the greater part of the secretion goes to the supply of the body, and in the act of sexual intercourse, fair women have naturally more seminal fluid than dark ones. Liquid and acid foods also increase this kind of intercourse.

Chapter III.

1. It is a sign that women have conceived when the pudendum remains dry after coition. If the labia are smooth they [Pg 183] will not conceive, for it slips out; nor will they if the labia are thick: but if there is a sensation of roughness and resistance when touched with the finger, and the labia are thin, they are then adapted for conception. In order that they may be able to conceive, such women must prepare the uterus, and the contrary that they may not conceive; for if the labia are smooth they do not conceive: so that some women, in order that the semen may fall outside the uterus, anoint themselves with oil of cedar, or with ceruse, or oil mixed with frankincense.

2. If it remain seven days, it is evident that conception has taken place, for in this period what are called the outpourings take place. The purification takes place in many women after conception. Thirty days afterwards in the case of conceiving a female child, and forty in the case of a male. After parturition, also, the purification lasts a similar number of days, though it is not exactly the same in all.

3. In the same number of days after conception the discharge no longer takes its usual course, but is turned towards the mamm, in which the milk begins to make its appearance. At first the milk appears very small, and like a web in the mamm. After conception, the first sensation generally takes place in the iliac region, which immediately appears more full in some persons. This is more conspicuous in slight persons. If the child is a male, a movement is usually felt on the right side of the groin, in about forty days; if a female, the movement occurs on the left side, in about ninety days. We must not suppose, however, that an accurate judgment can be formed in this way, for it often happens that the movement is felt on the right side when a female child, and on the left when a male child is conceived. All these, and such like things, vary in a greater or less degree.

4. About this period, also, the ftus becomes divided; it previously existed as an undivided mass of flesh. If it perishes within seven days, it is called an effluxion; if in forty days, an abortion. The ftus often perishes within this period. If the male ftus is excluded within forty days, and is put out into any other fluid, it becomes dissolved, and disappears. If placed in cold water, it becomes, as it were, surrounded with a membrane. When this is taken off, the ftus appears about as large as a large [Pg 184] ant. Its parts are visible, both those of generation, and all the rest; and the eyes are very large, as in other animals. If the female ftus perishes within the three months, it generally appears without divisions. If it survives to the fourth month, the parts appear formed.

5. The whole completion of the parts is more slow in the female than in the male, and parturition is more frequently delayed to the tenth month. After birth, females attain to youth, and puberty, and old age, more rapidly than males, and those that have borne many children more rapidly than others, as it was observed before.

Chapter IV.

1. When conception has taken place, the uterus usually closes immediately for seven months. In the eighth month it opens, and the ftus, if properly developed, begins to descend in the eighth month. If the ftus is not properly developed, but checked in the eighth month in parturition, women who bear in the eighth month do not exclude it, nor does the ftus advance downwards in the eighth month, and the uterus does not open itself. It is a sign that it is not properly developed, when it is born before the circumstances I have described take place.

2. After conception, women suffer throughout their whole body, and their sight becomes dim, and they are afflicted with headache. In some, these symptoms occur very soon, as early as the tenth day; in others they are delayed, in proportion as they have an abundance or deficiency of superfluous matter in their bodies. Nausea and vomiting often seize upon them, and on those especially in whom the purifications become stagnant, and do not yet fly to the mamm. Some women suffer at the commencement of pregnancy, and others in the more advanced stages, when the ftus begins to grow. Retention of urine also frequently attacks them at last.

3. Those that are pregnant with a male ftus, usually pass through the time more easily, and retain a better colour throughout. If a female is conceived, the contrary is the case; for they are generally more discoloured, and suffer more during the period of gestation. In many cases the legs swell, and a swollen condition of the flesh is also common. [Pg 185] In some women, however, the condition is contrary. Pregnant women are apt to have all sorts of fancies, which change very rapidly. Some persons call this longing. These fancies are strongest when a female is conceived, and there is but little pleasure in their gratification. In a few women the condition of the body is better during pregnancy; they suffer most when the hair of the ftus begins to grow. Pregnant women lose the hair which grows on the parts that are hairy at birth, while it becomes more thick upon the parts on which it appears subsequent to birth.

4. A male ftus usually moves more freely in the womb than a female, and the parturition is not so long. If a female, the parturition is slower. The pain in the birth of female children is continuous, and dull; in the birth of males it is sharp, and far more severe. Those who, before parturition, have sexual intercourse, suffer less in the process. Sometimes women seem to suffer, not from any pain of their own, but from the turning of the head of the child; and this appears to be the commencement of the pain. Other animals have a single exact period for parturition, for one time is appointed for them all. The human subject alone varies in this particular, for the period of gestation is seven, eight, or nine months, or ten at the outside, though some have even advanced as far as the eleventh month.

5. If any are born before the seventh month, they never live. Those of seven months are the first that are developed, but these are usually weakly, wherefore, also, they wrap them in wool. Many of these infants have the passages, as the ears and nostrils, imperforate. As they grow, however, they assume a proper form, and many of them survive. In Egypt, and some other places, where the women suffer little pain in parturition, and where they bear many children with ease, those even at the end of eight months are capable of living, even although they should be monstrous; but in such places children born in the eighth month may survive and be brought up. In Greece, however, few of them survive, and most of them perish; and people suspect that if any of them survive, the exact period of conception must have been mistaken by the mother.

6. Women suffer most in the fourth and eighth month, [Pg 186] and if the ftus dies in the fourth or eighth month, they usually die also; so that not only children born in the eighth month often perish, but their mothers also perish with them. In the same way, the period of conception probably is mistaken by those who have been pregnant more than eleven months; for in these cases the beginning of the conception escapes the notice of females, for frequently after the uterus has been distended with flatulence, women have copulated and conceived, and supposed that the former condition in which they observed the usual symptoms, was the commencement of gestation.

Chapter V.

1. The human subject also differs from other animals, as to the number of the perfect offspring produced at a birth. For the human subject differs both from animals which produce but one, and those which produce many; for, generally speaking, and, in most cases, women have but one child at a time, though cases of twins occur frequently, and in many places, as in Egypt, three or four at a birth have been known in some particular places, as I have observed before. Five at a birth are the most that have been produced. This has been observed to take place in many cases, but in one case only have twenty been produced at four births, for five were born each time, and many of them were reared. In other animals, if the twins are male and female, there is no more difficulty in rearing and preserving them, than if they were both of the same sex. In the human subject there are few cases of twins surviving, when one was male and the other female.

2. The human female and the mare copulate after conception more than any other creatures, for all other females, when they have conceived, fly from the males, except those which, like the hare, become pregnant a second time during gestation. But the mare, having once conceived, does not form a second ftus, but generally produces a single foal. In the human subject it happens sometimes, though rarely. Those which are conceived a long while afterwards never come to perfection, but, from the pain which they cause, destroy the original ftus; and a case has occurred in which twelve imperfect embryos have been produced at [Pg 187] one time. If the second conception take place soon after the first, they bear and produce the ftus, as if it were a twin. This, they say, was the case with Iphicles and Hercules.

3. The possibility of the case is manifest, for an adulteress has been known to produce one child like her husband, and another like her paramour; and a case has occurred of a woman having conceived twins, and then conceived a third child upon them; and when the proper time came, the twins were born perfect, the other was only a ftus of five months old, which died immediately: and in another case, a woman produced, first of all, a ftus of seven months old, and then twins, perfectly developed; the former perished, but the latter survived. And some women have conceived at the same time as they miscarried, and have ejected one ftus while they bore the other. In most females, who have cohabited after the eighth month after conception, the child has been born filled with a shining mucous-like substance, and has often appeared full of the food which has been eaten by the mother; and if she has fed upon food more than usually salt, the child has been born without nails.

Chapter VI.

1. The milk that is produced before the seventh month is useless; but as soon as the child is alive the milk becomes good. At first it is salt, like that of sheep. Most women during pregnancy are affected by wine, and if they drink it they become faint and feeble. The beginning and the ending of the reproductive power in both sexes is marked in the male by the emission of the semen, in the female by the catamenia. They are not, however, fertile when these first occur, nor while they are still small and weak. The period of the commencement of these signs has been mentioned. In women the catamenia usually cease at forty; but if they pass over this age, they go on to fifty; and some have even produced children at that period, but none later than this period.

2. The reproductive function in men usually continues active till they are sixty years old; if they pass beyond this period, till they are seventy; and some men have had children at seventy years old. It frequently happens that, when [Pg 188] marriages are unfruitful, both men and women become pregnant, if the marriage is dissolved and they marry again. The same thing takes place respecting the birth of male and female children. For sometimes only children of one sex are produced by a marriage; and if this is dissolved, and the parents marry again, children of the other sex are produced. These things also vary with the age of the parents; for some when young have female children, and when older males, though the contrary sometimes takes place.

3. The same is the case with the whole of the reproductive function. For some persons have no children when they are young, but have them afterwards; others have children at first, but none afterwards; and there are some women who conceive with difficulty, but when they have conceived bear children; others conceive easily, but the ftus never comes to maturity. There are also both men and women who only produce children of one sex, as the story goes of Hercules, who had but one daughter in seventy-two children. Those who have been barren, and either after great care, or from any other cause, at last conceive, more frequently bear a daughter than a son. It often happens also that men who have engendered become impotent, and subsequently return to their former condition.

4. Maimed parents produce maimed children; and so also lame and blind parents produce lame and blind children; and, on the whole, children are often born with anything contrary to nature, or any mark which their parents may have, such as tumours and wounds. Such marks have often been handed down for three generations; as if a person had a mark on their arm which was not seen in the son, but the grandson exhibited a dark confused spot on the same place. The circumstances, however, are rare; and sound children are generally produced from lame parents; nor is there any complete certainty in these matters; and children resemble their parents or their grandparents, and sometimes they resemble neither. This is handed down for many generations; as in Sicily, a woman cohabited with an Ethiopian, her daughter was not black, but her daughter's child was so.

5. For the most part the girls resemble their mother, and the boys their father; though the contrary is often the case, and the females resemble their father, and the males their [Pg 189] mother, and the different parts of the body resemble either parents. Twins have sometimes no resemblance to each other, but they are generally much alike; and one woman cohabited with a man, and conceived seven days after parturition, when she bore a child as like her former as if they had been twins. Some women, as well as other creatures, produce young resembling themselves, others bear those which resemble the male, as the horse called Dica in Pharsalia.

Chapter VII.

1. The seminal fluid in its emission is preceded by wind. The manner of its emission exhibits this; for nothing is expelled to a great distance without pneumatic force. If the seminal fluid is taken up by the uterus and retained there, it becomes inclosed in a membrane. For if it is expelled before it becomes articulated, it appears like an ovum inclosed in a membrane, but without any shell, and the membrane is full of veins. All animals, whether furnished with fins, feet, or wings, whether viviparous or oviparous, are produced in the same manner, except that the umbilicus in viviparous animals is turned towards the uterus, and in others to the ovum; and in some cases both ways, as in a certain kind of fish. Some of them are surrounded by a membrane, others by a chorion. First of all, the ftus is contained within the last envelope. Then there is another membrane over this, which is in part united to the matrix and is partly separate, and contains water. Between these is a watery or sanguineous fluid, which in women is called prophorus.

2. All animals that have a navel increase by the navel; and in those which have acetabula the navel is united to the acetabulum; and in those which have a smooth uterus the navel is united to the uterus upon a vein. The position of all quadrupeds in the uterus is stretched out; that of fishes is on the side; bipeds, as birds, are folded together. The human ftus lies folded up with its nose between its knees and its eyes upon them, and its ears turned outwards. All animals are alike in having the head placed upwards at first. As they grow, the head turns round, and the birth of all animals is naturally with the head forwards: for even in those that are folded together the presentation of the feet is unnatural. The embryo of quadrupeds contains excrementitious matter, [Pg 190] as soon as it is matured, both fluid and solid. The latter is contained in the extreme parts of the intestine, the former in the bladder.

3. If animals have acetabula in the uterus, these acetabula always become smaller as the ftus grows, and at last disappear. The umbilical cord is a covering for veins, of which the origin is in the uterus. In those creatures which have acetabula it originates in them; in those that have not acetabula it originates in the vein. In the larger animals, such as the ftus of oxen, there are four veins; in smaller animals, two; in very small animals, as in birds, there is but one. Two veins reach the ftus through the liver, from that part called the gates of the liver, towards the great vein; and two go to the aorta, where it is divided into two parts; and there are membranes round each pair of veins, and the umbilical cord surrounds these membranes like a covering. As the ftus increases, these veins diminish. The embryo, as it grows, advances into the viscera, where its movements are manifest. Sometimes it remains rolled up near the pudendum.

Chapter VIII.

1. When the pains of parturition come on, they extend to many and various parts of the body, but especially to one or other of the thighs. Those who suffer most in the bowels are delivered most rapidly; those who suffer much in the loins are delivered with difficulty; those whose pain lies in the subumbilical region, more quickly. If the child is a male, a liquid, serum-like discharge, of a pale yellow colour, precedes; if a female, this discharge is sanguineous, but still fluid. Some women have neither during the period of parturition.

2. In other animals parturition is not painful, and it is evident that they suffer but moderately in the pains of labour. In women the pains of parturition are more violent, especially in those that are inactive or that are not well made in their sides, and are unable to hold their breath. They also suffer more in parturition, if they breathe in the meantime, compelled by the necessity of respiration. At first a fluid escapes when the ftus comes to the birth, and the membranes [Pg 191] are ruptured; after this, the embryo is excluded, the uterus being turned, and the uterus being turned inside-out.

Chapter IX.

1. The division of the umbilical cord often requires the careful attention of the midwife; for by skilfulness she may not only assist in difficult labours, but should attend carefully to the circumstances, and apply the ligature to the umbilical cord of the child; for if the secundines fall out with the child, the umbilical cord must be bound with a ligature of worsted, and cut above the ligature, and where it is bound it joins together, and that which is joined with it falls off. If the ligature becomes loose, the child dies from loss of blood. If the secundines do not come out at once, while they remain within, and the child is outside, the umbilical cord must be tied and divided.

2. Frequently the child, if weak, has appeared as if born dead, until the umbilical cord was tied, for the blood flowed from the child to the navel and the surrounding parts; but some skilful midwife being present, by pressure on the navel from within has revived the child, just as if it had been filled with blood from the first. It has been already observed, that all animals are naturally born with the head forwards. Children also have their hands pressed down against their sides. As soon as they are born they begin to cry and bring their hands to their mouth. They emit excrements, some immediately, others very soon, but all in the course of a day. This excrementitious matter is very abundant, considering the size of the child. Women call it the meconium. Its colour is like that of blood, and it is black and pitch-like. Afterwards it becomes milky, for the child immediately draws the breast. The child never cries before it is entirely in the world, not even though its head is protruded in difficult cases, while the body is within the uterus.

3. Those women in whom a flooding has preceded the period of delivery are delivered with more difficulty, and if the purifications are small after parturition, and only as much as they are at first, and do not continue for more than forty days, such women are stronger, and more ready for conception. After children are born, for forty days they neither laugh nor weep when awake, but sometimes do both in their sleep; [Pg 192] nor do they usually feel when they are tickled, but they sleep the greater part of their time. As they grow, the period of wakefulness continually increases; and it is evident that they dream, but it is some time before they remember their imaginations. There is no difference in the bones of other animals, but they are all born perfect. In children the bone called bregma is soft, and does not become strong for some time. Some animals are born with teeth, but children begin to cut their teeth in the seventh month. The front teeth naturally appear first, sometimes the upper teeth and sometimes the under. Children cut their teeth more easily if their nurses have warmer milk.

Chapter X.

After parturition and purification women become full of milk; and in some it not only flows through the nipples but through other parts of the breast, and sometimes from the cheeks; and if this fluid is not matured nor secreted, but remains full, hard knots are formed, which remain for a long time; for every part of the breast is so spongy that, if a hair is swallowed with the drink, pain ensues in the breasts, until it either escapes spontaneously with the milk, or is sucked out, this is called . They continue to have milk until they conceive again. It then ceases, and is quenched in other creatures as well as in the human subject. The catamenia seldom take place while milk is secreted, though this sometimes occurs in women while nursing. On the whole, an effusion of fluid seldom takes place from many parts of the body at the same time, and those that have hmorrhoids have usually less purification. In some it takes place through ixi (varices), and is secreted from the loins before it reaches the uterus; and those who vomit blood when the purification is suppressed suffer no harm.

Chapter XI.

Children are very subject to spasms, and especially those that are in a good condition and have abundance of rich milk, or whose nurses are fat. Wine is injurious in this complaint, and dark-coloured wines more so than those that are pale, and food that is not fluid, and windy aliments, and [Pg 193] stoppage in the bowels. Children with this complaint generally die before the seventh day: wherefore also this day has received a name, as if it gave some hope of the recovery of the child. Children suffer most at the full moon. Children are in great danger when the spasms originate in the back, especially if they are advancing in age.[215]

Free Learning Resources