Echeneis
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Source: Koninklijke Bibliotheek - Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts Copyright 2002 Koninklijke Bibliotheek / Used by permission Manuscript description Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, KA 16, Folio 114v


 

Echeneis

Latin name: Echeneis

Other names: Echinius, Echinus, Enchirius, Essinus, Esynus , Remora, Urchin

This fish clings to ships and holds them back

 

 
General Attributes

The echeneis is a fish, half a foot in length, that clings to ships and delays their passage. When this fish attaches to a ship, even in the high winds of a storm the ship will not move, but seems to be rooted in the sea. The echeneis is found in the Indian Sea.


Sources (chronological order)

Lucan [1st century CE] (Pharsalia, book 6, verse 797-799): "...the sucking fish / Which holds the vessel back though eastern winds / Make bend the canvas...".

Pliny the Elder [1st century CE] (Natural History, Book 9, 41): The echeneis is a small fish that is often found on rocks. It has the ability to slow the passage of ships by clinging to their hulls. It is also the source of a love-charm and a spell to slow litigation in courts, and can be used to stop fluxes of the womb in pregnant women and to hold back the birth until the proper time. This fish is not eaten. Some say this fish has feet; Aristotle says it does not, but that its limbs resemble wings.

Isidore of Seville [7th century CE] (Etymologies, Book 12, 6:34): The echinais has its name because it clings to a ship and holds it fast (echei-naus). It is a small fish, about six inches long, but when it attaches to a ship the ship cannot move, but seems rooted in the sea, despite raging storms and gales. This fish is also called "delay" (mora) because it causes ships to stand still.

Bartholomaeus Anglicus [13th century CE] (De proprietatibus rerum, book 13): Enchirius is a little fish unneth half a foot long: for though he be full little of body, nathless he is most of virtue. For he cleaveth to the ship, and holdeth it still stedfastly in the sea, as though the ship were on ground therein. Though winds blow, and waves arise strongly, and wood storms, that ship may not move nother pass. And that fish holdeth not still the ship by no craft, but only cleaving to the ship. It is said of the same fish that when he knoweth and feeleth that tempests of wind and weather be great, he cometh and taketh a great stone, and holdeth him fast thereby, as it were by an anchor, lest he be smitten away and thrown about by waves of the sea. And shipmen see this and beware that they be not overset unwarily with tempest and with storms. (Mediaeval Lore from Bartholomew Anglicus (London, 1893/1905) Steele edition of 1905)


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