The hippopotamus

Statuette of a hippopotamus

It is usually assumed that Herodotus copied his description of the hippopotamus from the Description of the earth by Hecataeus of Miletus. Probably, neither Hecataeus nor Herodotus ever saw a hippo, which was extinct in Egypt by the time they visited the ancient country along the Nile.

Representing the hippopotamus was something that appears to have been impossible in Antiquity; the description by the author of Job 40.10 (or 40.15) is not very accurate too (cf. the animal on the this mosaic of the Villa Nile near Lepcis Magna).


The hippopotamus

[2.73] The hippopotamus¬†is held sacred in the district of Papremis, but not elsewhere. This animal has four legs, cloven hoofs like an ox, a snub nose, a horse's mane and tail, conspicuous tusks, a voice like a horse's neigh, and is about the size of a very large ox. Its hide is so thick and though that when dried it can be made into spear-shafts.¬†