Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/720

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

of remote northern regions prove that he had himself really visited them. Among these are the gradual disappearance of various kinds of grain as one advanced towards the north; the use of fermented liquors made from corn and honey; and the habit of threshing out their corn in large covered barns, instead of on open threshing-floors as in Greece and ltaly, on account of the want of sun and abundance of rain. Pytheas's notice of the depth of the Bay of Biscay, of the length of the projection of Brittany, of Ushant under the name of Uxisama., and of three promontories of Britain, two of which seem to correspond to Land's End (Belerion), and North Foreland (Kantion), must not be forgotten.

The fragments of Pytheas have been collected by Arvedson (Upsala, 1824), and by Fuhr (De Pythia massiliensi, Darmstadt, 1835). Of the numerous treatises and dissertations on the subject, see Ukert, “ Bemerkungen über Pytheas,” in vol. i. of his Georg. d. Griechen u. Römer, pp. 298–309, which contains an excellent summary of all that is known concerning Pytheas; Sir George C. Lewis, Historical Survey of the Astronomy of the Ancients, pp. 466–480 (London, 1862); Sir Edward H. Bunbury, History of Ancient Geography, vol. i. ch. xv. § 2 (London, 1883); C. I. Elton, Origins of English History, cf. especially app. i. pp. 400, &c. (London, 1882); Hugo Berger, Geschichte der wissenschaftlichen Erdkunde der Griechen, pt. 3 (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1903). A very elaborate investigation of the whole subject will be found in Müllenhoff, Deutsche Alterthumskunde, i. 211–497 (Berlin, 1870). See also Sir Clements Markham's paper, “ Pytheas, the Discoverer of Britain,” in the Geographical Journal (June 1893); and H. F. Tozer, History of Ancient Geography, pp. 152–164 (Cambridge, 1897). (E. H. B.; C. R. B.)

PYTHIS, or Pythius, one of the most noted Greek architects of the later age. He cultivated the Ionic style, in which he constructed the temple of Athena at Priene. The dedicatory inscription, which is in the British Museum, records that the founder was Alexander the Great. Pythis also made a great marble quadriga which surmounted the Mausoleum.

PYTHON, in Greek mythology, son of Gaea, an enormous serpent, said to have been produced from the mud after the flood of Deucalion. Its haunt was a cavern near Mt Parnassus. Four days after its birth it was slain by Apollo (Apollodorus i. 4), who was hence surnamed Pythius. According to Ephorus (in Strabo ix. 646), Python, .surnamed Dracon (serpent), was a brigand near Delphi. The python in reality represents the pestilential vapours rising from stagnant lakes and pools, which are dispersed by Apollo and his arrows—that is, the shafts of the sun. The old derivation (Homeric Hymn to Apollo, 571), according to which Delphi was originally called Pytho, because the slain serpent was left there to “ rot ” (πίθεσθαι), points to this explanation.

see C. Pascal, Studii di antichità e mitologia (1896).

PYTHON, a genus of very large snakes of the family Boidae (see SNAKES) inhabiting the tropical parts of Africa, Asia and

the true boas (q.v.) with

which they are often confounded by carrying a few

teeth in the premaxilla, by

the double row of sub caudal

shields and by the possession

of apair of supra orbital

bones. Most of them have

labial shields.

FIG. I.-Head of Boa canina.

pits in some of the upper and lower Python reticulatusis the commonest species in Indo-China and the Malay Islands; four upper labial shields on either side are pitted. It is, next to the Anaconda, one of the largest of all snakes, some specimens being known which measured about 30 ft. in length. P. rnolurus, scarcely smaller, is the python or rock-snake of India and Ceylon. The African species are much smaller, up to 15 ft. in length, e.g. P. sebae of tropical and southern Africa and the beautiful P. regius of West Africa. P. spilotes is the “ carpet snake " of Australia and New Guinea. A small relative of pythons is Loxocemus bicolor of South Mexico, the only New World example. The giant pythons could no doubt overpower and kill by constriction almost any large mammal, since such snakes weigh Australia. They differ frommany hundredweights and possess terrific strength, but the width of their mouth-although marvellously distensible-has, of course, a limit, and this is probably drawn at the size of a goat. Before a python swallows such large prey, its bones are crushed and the body is mangled, into the shape of a sausage.

e snake begins with the head, and a great quantity

of saliva is discharged over the body of the victim as it is hooked into the throat

by the alternately right and

left forward motions of the distended well-toothed jaws. If for any reason a snake should disgorge its prey, this will be found smothered with slime. Hence the fable that they cover it with saliva before deglutition.

Most pythons are rather ill-tempered, differing in this respect from the boas., They are chiefly arboreal, and prefer localities FIG. 2.*H€&d of Python reticulatus.

FIG. 3.-Python reticulatns (India). in the vicinity of water to which mammals and birds, their usual prey, resort. They move, climb and swim with equal facility. The female collects her eggs, sometimes as many as one hundred, into a heap, round which she coils herself, covering them so that her head rests in the centre on the top. In this position the snake remains Without food throughout the whole period of incubation, or rather keeping guard, for about two months. . (H- F- G-)

PYX (Gr. 7I'U£lS, a box or chest), a term for various forms of receptacle. In ecclesiastical usage it is the sacred vase or tabers nacle in which the Host is reserved. In the English Mint the pyx is the chest in which are placed one coin from every IS lb of newly coined gold and one from every 60 lb of newly coined silver to await the “ trial of the pyx ” (see MINT). This chest was formerly kept in the Chapel of the Pyx in Westminster Abbey.