But of reptiles, those which are venomous have not been called into existence by an immediate providence, but by the natural consequences of events, as I said before; for they are brought into life when the moisture which is in them changes to a more violent heat; and some are vivified by putrefaction, as, for instance, the putrefaction of meat produces maggots, and that which is caused by perspiration produces lice; but all those which are produced out of a kindred substance, and which have their generation in accordance with the usual spermatic principles which I have mentioned before, are very naturally ascribed to an immediate providence. (60) And I have also heard two accounts given of them as having been created for the advantage of mankind, which I should not think it well to conceal. Now one of them is the following.
Some persons have said that venomous animals contribute greatly to many of the objects of physicians, and that those who reduce that science to a regular system use them in a proper manner, and, acting with great wisdom and prudence, have discovered antidotes, so as to be able to contribute to the unexpected safety of those who were in the greatest possible danger; and even at the present time one may see those persons who apply themselves to the study of medicine, in a careful and diligent manner, using all these animals and plants in a most skilful manner in the composition of drugs.
(61) The other account has no reference to the practice of physicians, but only as it would seem to the studies of philosophers. For it says that all these things have been prepared by God as engines of punishment against offenders, just as generals and rulers prepare halters and chains. On which account, though they are quiet at other times, they are brought out with great power in the case of people who have been condemned, and whom nature in her incorruptible tribunal has sentenced to death; (62) for that they lurk in secret holes and in houses, is a falsehood; for it is seen that these creatures flee out of the cities into the fields and into desert places, to avoid man as their master. Not but what, if this is true, there is a certain sense and principle in it; for rubbish is heaped up in recesses: and quantities of sweepings, and refuse, and such things, are what venomous reptiles love to lurk in, besides the fact that their smell has an attractive power over them.
(63) Again, if swallows live among us, it is not at all strange, for we abstain from hunting them; and a desire of safety is implanted not only in the souls of rational creatures, but also in those of irrational animals.
But of those animals which tend to our enjoyment, there is not one which lives with us by reason of the designs which we form against them, except that some do live with those nations to whom the use of them is forbidden by the law. (64) There is a city of Syria, on the sea shore, Ascalon by name: when I was there, at the time when I was on my journey towards the temple of my native land for the purpose of offering up prayers and sacrifices therein, I saw a most incalculable number of pigeons on the roads and about every house; and when I inquired the cause of their being there in such numbers, they said that it was not lawful to catch them, for that the use of them had been prohibited to the inhabitants from the earliest ages; and so the bird had become so thoroughly tame through fearlessness, that it not only hovered about the roofs and came into the houses, but approached their tables also, and grew luxurious in the alliance which it had thus formed.