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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pliny the Elder on the Basilisk:

The like propertie hath the serpent called a Basiliske: bred it is in the province Cyrenaica, and is not above twelve fingers-breadth long: a white spot like a starre it carrieth on the head, and setteth it out like a coronet or diademe: if he but hisse once, no other serpents dare come neere: he creepeth not winding and crawling by as other serpents doe, with one part of the bodie driving the other forward, but goeth upright and aloft from the ground with the one halfe part of his bodie: he killeth all trees and shrubs not only that he toucheth, but that he doth breath upon also: as for grasse and hearbs, those hee sindgeth and burneth up, yea and breaketh stones in sunder: so venimous and deadly is he. It is received for a truth, that one of them upon a time was killed with a launce by an horseman from his horseback, but the poison was so strong that went from his bodie along the staffe, as it killed both horse and man: and yet a sillie weazle hath a deadly power to kill this monstrous serpent, as pernicious as it is [for may kings have been desirous to see the experience thereof, and the manner how he is killed.] See how Nature hath delighted to match everything in the world with a concurrent. The manner is, to cast these weazles into their holes and cranies where they lye, (and easie they be to knowe, by the stinking sent of the place all about them:) they are not so soone within, but they overcome them with their strong smell, but they die themselves withall; and so Nature for her pleasure hath the combat dispatched.


If you used apologetic logic, you would say that this was clear proof of the existence of the Basilisk, since:

1) All the accounts agreed on the basic characteristics of the Basilisk
2) The fact that there were minor variations proved that the Basilisk existed, since if it was made up everyone would've copied each other's stories so they would sync up
3) If the Basilisk had not existed, lots of people would've objected to the stories and accounts of Basilisks floating around - but no one did
4) The fact that people passed on tales of the Basilisk shows that they found them credible, so the Basilisk must've existed

Of course, we all know historical argument doesn't go like this. Unless you're an apologist.
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