Etymologies 12Edit

Latin originalEdit

Rhinoceron a Graecis vocatus. Latine interpretatur in nare cornu. Idem et monoceron, id est unicornus, eo quod unum cornu in media fronte habeat pedum quattuor ita acutum et validum ut quidquid inpetierit, aut ventilet aut perforet. Nam et cum elephantis saepe certamen habet, et in ventre vulneratum prosternit. Tantae autem esse fortitudinis ut nulla venantium virtute capiatur; sed, sicut asserunt qui naturas animalium scripserunt, virgo puella praeponitur, quae venienti sinum aperit, in quo ille omni ferocitate deposita caput ponit, sicque soporatus velut inermis capitur.

English translation (Stephen A. Barney, 2006)Edit

The rhinoceros is named with a Greek word; in Latin it means 'horn on the nose'. This is also the monoceron, that is, the unicorn, because it has a single four-foot horn in the middle of its forehead, so sharp and strong that it tosses in the air or impales whatever it attacks. It often fights with the elephant and throws it to the ground after wounding it in the belly. It has such strength that it can be captured by no hunter's ability, but, as those who have written about the natures of animals claim, if a virgin girl is set before a unicorn, as the beast approaches, she may open her lap and it will lay its head there with all ferocity put aside, and thus lulled and disarmed it may be captured.


Isidore here combines the unicorn of the Physiologus and the Scripture, which was thought to be identical to the monoceros, with Pliny's rhinoceros, creature with a single horn on the nose that often fights elephants.