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History of Animals, Book I, Ch. 8

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1. The part immediately beneath the cranium is called the face in mankind alone, for we do not speak of the face of a fish or of an ox ; the part immediately beneath the sinciput and between the eyes is called the forehead. Those in whom this feature is large are tardy; those who have a small fore head are easily excited; a broad forehead belongs to those who are liable to be carried away by their feelings; a round forehead is a sign of a passionate disposition.

2 . Under the forehead are two eyebrows; if they are straight, it is a mark of a gentle disposition; the eyebrows bent down to the nose are an evidence of an austere temper; if they incline towards the temples, of a mocker and scoffer; if they are drawn down, it is a sign of an envious person. Beneath these are the eyes, which by nature are two in number: the parts of each eye are, first, the upper and under eyelid, the edges of which are furnished with hair. Within the eye, the moist part with which we see is called the pupil; round this is the iris, and this is surrounded by the white. Two corners of the eye are formed at the junction of the eyelids, one in the direction of the nose, the other towards the temple . If these corners are large, they are a sign of an evil disposition; if those near the nose are fleshy, and have a swollen appearance, they are an evidence of wickedness.

3. All other classes of animals have eyes, except shell-fish, and some other imperfect creatures, and all viviparous animals except moles have eyes. A person might, however, conclude from the following observation, that it has eyes, though it is quite without them, for it certainly does not see at all, nor has it any external eyes; but, when the skin is taken off, there is a place for the eyes, and the iris of the eye is in the place which it would naturally occupy on the outside, as if they had been wounded in their birth, and the skin had grown over the place.

4. The white of the eye is generally the same in all animals, but the iris is very different. In some it is black, in others decidedly grey, in others dark grey, and in some it is the colour of the goat’s eye, and this is a sign of the best disposition, and is most to be prized for acuteness of vision. Man is almost the only animal which exhibits a variety of colouring in the eye; there are, however , some horses with grey eyes.

5. The eyes of some persons are large, others small, and others of a moderate size — the last-mentioned are the best. And some eyes are projecting, some deep-set, and some moderate, and those which are deep-set have the most acute vision in all animals; the middle position is a sign of the best disposition. Some people have an eye which is perpetually opening and closing, others have an eye always intent, and others a moderately-intent eye: this last is the best disposed; of the others, the one is impudent, and the other a sign of infirmity.

Source:  Aristotle, History of Animals; translated by Richard Cresswell, M.A. (1862)


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