Whether reptiles can live long without food.

Why serpents have a special appetite for milk and wine.

Why the horse has a special appetite for drinking muddy water and the cow has a special appetite for clear water.

One inquires further about reptiles, whether they can live long without food.

And it seems not. Whatever has a big appetite cannot go for long without food. But serpents are like this, because they are cold. Therefore, etc.

The Philosopher says the opposite about the serpents sold by apothecaries, who sometimes keep them for two months without food.

Second, one inquires why serpents have a special appetite for milk and delight in it, and likewise concerning wine.

Last, one can inquire why the horse has a special appetite for drinking muddy water and the cow has a special appetite for clear water.

To the first, one must reply that reptiles are cold and have a cold stomach and this is why they are particularly gluttonous [avida]. But the heat in them is weak nonetheless and consumes only a little of the radical moisture, and this is why they can survive a long time without nutriment, a thing that does not occur in warm animals. For if a human were not to eat for a day, or at least to fast on bread and water, as we and other religious sometimes do, on the next day his urine will be very reddish and tinted, as if burned by a natural heat.[1] Thus, the warmer an animal is, the less it is able to endure without food. But serpents and animals like these are cold, and this is why, etc.

And by this it is clear for the argument that although they have a large appetite, owing to their modest consumption of the radical moisture and the natural heat, they can nevertheless endure and be preserved in life for a long time.

To the second question one must reply that the sweet is very nourishing, and milk is sweet and makes a good nutriment for a clean stomach, whereas it is easily converted into corrupt humors in an unclean stomach. And this is bad for serpents. Reptiles therefore have a special appetite for milk because of its sweetness, so that they may be nourished by it more easily and so that their slithering [lapsus] will be tempered by it.[2] In the same way, reptiles are very cold, and wine is warm. Thus their heat is intensified by the wine and their coldness is diminished, and they rejoice in this as if they know what they are doing. I have experienced this myself with a certain serpent I had in Cologne: I got him intoxicated on wine, and he swayed hither and thither through the cloister as if half alive, because "drunk" ebriusis said from e, that is, "beyond" (extra), and bria, that is, "measure," as if placed beyond the measure of nature. And this is why they have an appetite for wine.44 Thus, animals like this very often take in so much milk or wine that they immediately vomit it up, because they receive more than they can retain, which is one of the causes for vomiting.

To the last question one must reply that an ox has thick blood and a good stomach, and this is why it does not need drink that remains a long time in its stomach, but it does need thin drink by which its turbid and thick blood may be purified. And this is why it has an appetite for clear and thin water, following the sagacity of nature and a natural instinct, because according to Avicenna God has armed each animal with natural powers by which it desires whatever is suitable for it, and avoids what is naturally unsuitable, etc.45 The horse actually has a more subtle blood and a weak stomach, and this is why it needs something that will remain a long time in its stomach and digests well, before it is delegated to the other members. For if its drink were thin, it would subtly penetrate from the stomach to the other members before digestion is completed, and since its blood is particularly thin, it would be made thinner by a drink of thin water. It is therefore useful that its drink be turbid in order to temper the blood. Thus an illness often affects horses in the feet or the other members from clear water, owing to its rapid penetration of the members, and this happens especially when they drink after a lot of movement, because then their blood is rendered particularly subtle. This is why smart people, after they have been riding, send the horses to rest, so that the blood may settle and the pathways constrict, and only after this do they give the horses water, because then the water does not penetrate so quickly, etc.[3]

  • [1] "Other religious": that is, members of religious orders other than the Dominican order.
  • [2] Lapsus is difficult here. It may be related to a verb meaning to "slide" or may somehow refer to a falling away from some state or other. The text seems to contradict itself at this point, with the suggestion that milk is bad for serpents whereas it easily nourishes reptiles. Albert usually treats serpents as reptiles, although at times he does distinguish between the two. See DA ( SZ 2: 1433-35).
  • [3] This disease and cure are reminiscent of the disease A. calls infundatura at DA ( SZ 2: 1502-3).
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