Of Fish & Men

Septuagint. Book of Habakkuk. 1.13-16.

Does your pure eye not see wrong? Can’t it see suffering? Why do you look on the deceitful and stay silent while the ungodly devour the righteous?

You’ve made humans like the fish of the sea, and like beasts without a master.  

He [the enemy] pulls up the lot of them with his fish-hook, hauls them out with his net, and collects them in his seine.  This makes him glad; his heart rejoices. 

And so he makes offerings to his seine, and he burns incense to his net. For after all, thanks to them he has bettered his portion and his victuals are excellent.

Philo. On the Creation. XXI. 65-66.

Of the forms of life, the most undeveloped and least formed is the race of fish, and the most complete and the best in all respects is the race of humans . . .

Of living things, God created fish first. Their essence, however, is more that of a body than a living thing. In a way they are alive and not alive. They are capable of movement yet lacking in life. The principle of life is scattered in them as if by chance and solely for the preservation of their bodies–just as they say salt is put on meat to prevent it easily spoiling.


καθαρὸς ὀφθαλμὸς τοῦ μὴ ὁρᾶν πονηρά, καὶ ἐπιβλέπειν ἐπὶ πόνους οὐ δυνήσῃ: ἵνα τί ἐπιβλέπεις ἐπὶ καταφρονοῦντας; παρασιωπήσῃἐν τῷ καταπίνειν ἀσεβῆ τὸν δίκαιον; καὶ ποιήσεις τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ὡς τοὺς ἰχθύας τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ ὡς τὰ ἑρπετὰ τὰ οὐκ ἔχοντα ἡγούμενον.  συντέλειαν ἐν ἀγκίστρῳ ἀνέσπασεν καὶ εἵλκυσεν αὐτὸν ἐν ἀμφιβλήστρῳ καὶ συνήγαγεν αὐτὸν ἐν ταῖς σαγήναις αὐτοῦ: ἕνεκεν τούτου εὐφρανθήσεται καὶ χαρήσεται ἡ καρδία αὐτοῦ: ἕνεκεν τούτου θύσει τῇ σαγήνῃ αὐτοῦ καὶ θυμιάσει τῷ ἀμφιβλήστρῳ αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἐναὐτοῖς ἐλίπανεν μερίδα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰ βρώματα αὐτοῦ ἐκλεκτά.


φυχής γάρ ή μέν άργοτάτη καΐ ήκιστα τετυπωμένη τω γένει τών Ιχθύων προσκεκλήρωται, ή δ ‘ ακριβέστατη και κατά πάντα άριστη τω τών ανθρώπων . . . διό τών έμφύχων πρώτους έγέννησεν ιχθύας, πλέον μετέχοντας σωματικής ή φυχικής ουσίας, τρόπον τινά ζώα καΐ ού ζώα, κινητά άφυχα, προς αυτό μόνον τήν τών σωμάτων διαμονήν παρασπαρέντος αύτοΐς του φυχοειδοΰς, καθάπερ φασι τούς άλας τοις κρέασιν, Ινα μή ραδίως φθείροιντο.

  1. Black and white photograph of a young girl looking down at a fish, vertical in her hands
    Ingar Krauss. Untitled (Hannah with Fish). 2001

    Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

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