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gems of the ancients, as also their dedication to Apollo, Mars, Minerva, Mercury, Jupiter, and other heathen deities and semi-gods, prove the reverential worship attached to them: and of all the myths of the ancients none strikes us as more beautiful than that by which the cock is rendered sacred to the first-named god, in the character of Phæbus, concealing as it does the fine simile of the dawn of day being ushered in by the voice of that “ bird of morn,” that doth
With his lofty and shrill-sounding throat,
Awake the god of day!” The cock was also sacrificed to Æsculapius (the god of medicine) upon recovery from sickness. But it was not alone for sacrificial purposes that poultry were reared by the ancients; by whom their value and usefulness as articles for the table were fully appreciated. For that reason Pythagoras (B. c. 535) contends that fowls ought to have been cherished, and not sacrificed. So, also, Æsop ingeniously finds an excuse for the erratic gallantry of the cock, as being the means of providing eggs for the table of his master and mistress. Cicero, too, informs us that hens were reared and kept entirely for the profit derived from the sale of their eggs. According to Pliny, the inhabitants of the Isle of Delos were the first to fatten their fowls by artificial means (as cramming, &c.); and it was from them, he adds, that the rage for devouring fowls loaded with fat, spread like a contagion among the luxurious gourmands of his time, who spent their lives in endeavours to produce some unheard-of dishes and delicate morceaux. To Messalinus Cotta belongs the honour of first inventing the dressing of cocks' combs as a fricassée ; whilst that more ferocious glutton Heliogabalus is said to have greedily devoured the raw crest just as it was cut from the living fowl.
At Rome those birds performed important services in enabling the augurs to read the oracles of Fate. The sacred pullets were kept in pens or coops; and, from their feeding, the professors of divination (hence called Pullarius) pretended to discern good or bad tokens. The mode of “working the oracle” appears to have been thus: at day-break the “ Early Morning Augurs,” (as they were also styled,) on being consulted upon any important event or undertaking, proceeded to scatter barley or other grain before the sacred chickens, and accordingly as they devoured the food greedily or otherwise, was the omen pronounced to be good or evil. Cicero exposes the
. absurdity of the auguries (De Divinat.) in a way that would seem to imply that those “ Peep-o'-day Boys” sometimes withheld, on the night previous to an augury, the customary food of the chickens, in order to produce an evil omen!
The only other individual of our domestic fowls that we find noticed by the ancients, is the GUINEA Fowl, known by them as the meleagris, under which term it is mentioned by Ovid, Aristotle, Pliny, Varro, Columella, and other authors. But although we have abundant evidence of this fowl having been well known to the Greeks and Romans, (the latter esteeming it as a delicacy of the table,) we have no grounds for believing that it was domesticated among them ; on the contrary, the allusions made to them lead us to suppose that the same wild, shy, and unsociable temper that even now, in some degree, prevents their more general and extensive domestication among us, operated as a bar to their complete naturalization in earlier times.
COCK-FIGHTING AND OTHER ANCIENT CUSTOMS.- POPULAR
SPORTS, PASTIMES, &c., IN ENGLAND.
If it has been said with truth that a volume might be written upon COCK-FIGHTING, assuredly another might fairly be filled with an account of the various other sports, pastimes, and customs, of which that fowl was formerly the subject: though we have no intention of perpetrating such an infliction upon our readers.
COCK-FIGHTING, it is said by some writers, was originally instituted by Themistocles (B. C. 480): others, however, ascribe the honour questionable though it may be) to his contemporary, Miltiades. The story, as it is more generally accredited, being told by Ælian ; who says that Themistocles, whilst leading his troops against the Persians, accidentally seeing a cock-fight, made use of the circumstance to endeavour to inspire his soldiers with courage and patriotic fire; and achieving a splendid victory over
the enemy, the Grecians ever afterwards were accustomed to celebrate it by annual
cock-fights, hence regarded in the light of consecrated and sacred institutions.
Plausible as may seem this story, we are rather disposed to assign an earlier date to the introduction of that sport into Greece. Palmerius, another writer, mentions the institution of partridge and quail fights as early as B. c. 550 ; and although Mr. Pegge, in his learned paper upon the subject, in one of the volumes of the Archæologia, disputes this high antiquity for the sport, he does so, we think, with but little show of reason. Æsop, who flourished about six centuries before the Christian era, speaks in his Fables (in which he may be presumed to have portrayed the popular manners and customs of the age in which he lived,) of a partridge“ turned among frighting cocks to feed.” Cock-fighting most likely originated long prior to the time of Themistocles, among the nations of the East, who, from the remotest period, appear to have been (as indeed they continue at the present day) passionately fond of these combats with fowls: and in their probable introduction into Greece from Persia, for the purpose of amusement, may be discovered the origin of the appellation “ Persian birds” applied to those fowls,-a name, perhaps, given to them, not so much to indicate their own origin, (as some have supposed,) as in order to designate the game or sport they gave rise to.
By whomsoever established among the Grecians, we are certain that the Athenians were the first