On Hunting, by Xenophon


The first efforts of a youth emerging from boyhood should be directed to the institution of the chase, after which he should come to the rest of education, provided he have the means and with an eye to the same; if his means be ample, in a style worthy of the profit to be derived; or, if they be scant, let him at any rate contribute enthusiasm, in nothing falling short of the power he possesses.

What are the aids and implements of divers sorts with which he who would enter on this field must equip himself? These and the theory of each in particular I will now explain. With a view to success in the work, forewarned is forearmed. Nor let such details be looked upon as insignificant. Without them there will be an end to practical results.1

The net-keeper should be a man with a real passion for the work, and in tongue a Hellene, about twenty years of age, of wiry build, agile at once and strong, with pluck enough to overcome the toils imposed on him,2 and to take pleasure in the work.

The ordinary small nets should be made of fine Phasian or Carthaginian3 flax, and so too should the road nets and the larger hayes.4 These small nets should be nine-threaded [made of three strandes, and each strand of three threads],5 five spans6 in depth,7 and two palms8 at the nooses or pockets.9 There should be no knots in the cords that run round, which should be so inserted as to run quite smoothly.10 The road net should be twelve-threaded, and the larger net (or haye) sixteen. They may be of different sizes, the former varying from twelve to twenty-four or thirty feet, the latter from sixty to one hundred and twenty or one hundred and eighty feet.11 If larger they will be unwieldy and hard to manage. Both should be thirty-knotted, and the interval of the nooses the same as in the ordinary small nets. At the elbow ends12 the road net should be furnished with nipples13 (or eyes), and the larger sort (the haye) with rings, and both alike with a running line of twisted cord. The pronged stakes14 for the small nets should be ten palms high,15 as a rule, but there should be some shorter ones besides; those of unequal length will be convenient to equalise the height on uneven ground, and those of equal length on level. They should be sharp-tipped so as to draw out easily16 and smooth throughout. Those for the road nets should be twice the height,17 and those for the big (haye) nets five spans long,18 with small forks, the notches not deep; they should be stout and solid, of a thickness proportionate to their length. The number of props needed for the nets will vary — many or few, according to circumstances; a less number if the tension on the net be great, and a larger number when the nets are slack.19

Lastly, for the purpose of carrying the nets and hayes, for either sort20 there must be a bag of calf-skin; and billhooks to cut down branches and stop gaps in the woods when necessary.21

1 Or, “The question suggests itself — how many instruments and of what sort are required by any one wishing to enter this field? A list of these I propose to give, not omitting the theoretical side of the matter in each case, so that whoever lays his hand to this work may have some knowledge to go upon. It would be a mistake to regard these details as trivial. In fact, without them the undertaking might as well be let alone.”

2 toutous, “by this, that, or the other good quality.”

3 Phasian or Carchedonian. Cf. Pollux, v. 26.

4 arkus, enodia, diktua.

5 [L. Dind. brackets.] See Pollux, v. 27, ap. Schn.

6 spithame, a span (dodrans) = 7 1/2 inches. Herod. ii. 106; trispithamos, Hes. “Op.” 424; Plat. “Alc.” i. 126 C; Aristot. “H. A.” viii. 28. 5; Polyb. v. 3-6.

7 to megethos.

8 Or, “eight fingers’ breadth +” = 6 inches +. palaiste or palaste, a palm or four fingers’ breadth = 3 inches +.

9 tous brokhous, a purse or tunnel arrangement with slip loop.

10 Reading upheisthosan de oi peridromoi anammatoi. Lit. “the cords that run round should be inserted without knots.” See Pollux, v. 28 foll.

11 Lit. “2, 4, 5 fathoms; 10, 20, 30 fathoms.”

12 akroleniois, elbows, Pollux, v. 29; al. akroliniois, L. & S., “on the edges or borders.”

13 mastous, al. “tufts.”

14 skhalides, forks or net props. Cf. Pollux, v. 19. 31.

15 i.e. 30 + inches = 2 1/2 + ft., say 36 inches = 3 ft.

16 euperispastoi ta akra, al. “they should be made so that the nets can be fitted on and off easily, with sharp points”; or “off the points easily.”

17 siplasiai, i.e. 20 palms = 60 + inches, say 72, or 6 ft.

18 pentespithamoi, i.e. 5 x 7 1/2 inches = 37 1/2 inches = 3 ft. 1 1/2 inch; al. 5 x 9 inches = 45 inches = 3 ft. 9 inches.

19 Or, “if in the particular position the nets are taut, a larger if they lie slack.”

20 Reading, with Lenz, ekaterois, or if, as C. Gesner conj., e ekatera, transl. “or either separately.”

21 Or, “for the purpose of felling wood and stopping up gaps where necessary.”


Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:15