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Yet they had still better company; for westward of the pygmies lived a nation without necks, and with eyes in their shoulders; and near them, the Astomores, who have no mouths, and are nourished by the smell of fruits and flowers.
This is the substance of a chapter which has ornamented the pages of many a naturalist and cosmographer, with figures so ingeniously horrible, as almost to beget a belief of their reality, by the apparent difficulty of feigning them.
It must be owned, in vindication of Pliny, that he asserts none of these wonders without authority, and that many of them are mentioned simply as facts advanced by former writers. Several of his relations are taken from those of the Greeks, said to have been employed by Alexander in embassies to the eastern princes. Pliny's attention has preserved the folly of these men, which could have well been spared, to our days.
Pomponius Mela* says, the pygmies in
* Lib. iii, c. 34.
habited part of Egypt, and fought with the cranes to preserve their corn. Solinus also asserts their existence.*
Strabo remarks, on this subject, that most of the writers on India, before his age, were egregious liars.
Aulus Gellius, however, asserts the existence of pygmies,+ and Eustathius, in the notes on Dionysius.
Ælian is quoted as supporting the same opinion, and even as describing the Pygmæan form of government. Whoever takes the trouble of reading Ælian's account, I will perceive that he relates the whole as an idle story; but this is the method of making quotations, to which literary adepts generally think themselves entitled.
From these pure fountains a croud of later authors have drawn the belief of
pygmies ; St. Augustine comes first, by right,|| as an assertor of the pygmies, then follow, Majolus, Antonius Pigafetta, Jovius (de rebus Moscovitarum) Odericus (de rebus Indicis) Caspar Schottus, in his Collection of wonders, Joannes Eusebius Nierembergensis, Caspar Bartholine, in an express dissertation, Weinrichius, Licetus, and Cassanio. I do not pretend to have consulted all these respectable authors (who are nothing less than Clarissimi) on this subject, but I find them quoted by many others, with whom it would be easy to swell the list.
* Cap. xv.
Hist. Anim. lib. xv. c. xix. || De Civitat. Dei. lib. xvi. c. viii.
Writers differ greatly in their accounts of the seat of the Pygmies, being chiefly solicitous to remove them sufficiently far from themselves, according to a just remark of Æneas Sylvius, semper longius miracula fugere. The prophet Ezekiel speaks of Tyre as being garrisoned by Pygmies.* Horstius supposes the sense of this passage to be, that
Chap. 27. Our translation calls them Gammadims.
the centinels, on the lofty towers of that city, appeared, to a spectator on the ground, of a very diminutive size.
It is less surprising that St. Augustine should credit the reality of Pyzmies, because he had been an eye
greater wonders: he asserts, in one of his 'sermons, [ad fratres in eremo] that he had preached to a nation without heads, and with eyes
in their breasts. This may indeed be considered, by those who explain away every thing, as a figurative expression; but we must not pretend to understand St. Augustine better than the learned bishop Majolus, who quotes this passage in his Dies Caniculares, as a certain proof of the monstrous varieties. Besides, it would be uncharitable to reject a fact of so much consequence, in the decision of that curious question, An monstra solutis æternæ capacia? which the learned bishop affirms, because of St. Augusține's mission to the Acephali.*
* In the modern editions of St. Augustine's works, this passage is retrenched.
The force of party has extended even to these fictions, apparently remote enough from either civil or religious divisions. Thus, the Monachus Marinus, Episcopus Marinus, & Vitulo-Monachus, in Ambrosini's edition of the frightful folio of Aldrovandus de Monstris, seem to have been engendered in the extremity of hatred against religious orders.
It is to be regretted, that among his other treasures, Palæphatus has omitted to place a derivation of the belief in Pygmies: possibly because the word did not admit of a pun.
There is no proof, unless this fable be supposed a proof, that the ancients were acquainted with those varieties, which are really inferior to the usual standard of human size; was this opinion an approach to the hypothesis of the Scale of Beings? Such it seems to have been in the hands of Paracelsus, who supposed the Pygmies to be different in their origin from men, and to consist of the Caro Non-Adamica.