Asp, a name given to more than one species of the venomous serpents. By naturalists it is confined to the vipera aspis (Schl.), which is a native of the European Alps. The historical asp, with which Cleopatra is believed to have destroyed herself after the death of Antony, is generally supposed to have been the cerastes Hasselquistii. From many circumstances, however, and more especially from the description of Pliny, it is evident that the asp of the Roman writers generally, and therefore doubtless the asp of Cleopatra, is the common and celebrated Egyptian species, the naya liayc of the modern Arabs. This reptile was chosen by the ancient Egyptians as the emblem of the good deity, Cneph, and as the mark of regal dignity. It is closely allied with the cobra de capello, naia tripudians, called nag by the Hindoos, which is still worshipped in some of the temples in India. The Hindoos believe that, in sagacity and its malicious tenacity in treasuring up a wrong to avenge it, this serpent is in no wise inferior to a man. The naya is of a dark greenish hue marked with brownish; is hooded like the cobra when it expands itself in rage, but wants the peculiar mark on the back of the neck which characterizes the Asiatic species, and which has been compared to a pair of spectacles.

It varies in length from three to five feet, and is one of the deadliest serpents known. The bite produces acute local pain in the first instance; then a sense of deadly sickness; after which the sufferer falls into a comatose state, with convulsive fits, each less violent than the preceding one. In the last of these he dies, usually not many minutes after being struck. Owing to the almost instantaneous dispersion of the poison through the blood, it is not believed that excision could be of the slightest utility; nor is any certain antidote known against the deadly fluid when once in the veins.

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