Occasionally zany zoological lore.
Aelian (Claudius Aelianus), a Roman born ca. AD 170 at Praeneste, was a pupil of the rhetorician Pausanias of Caesarea, and taught and practiced rhetoric. Expert in Attic Greek, he became a serious scholar and studied history under the patronage of the Roman empress Julia Domna. He apparently spent all his life in Italy where he died after AD 230.
Aelian’s On the Characteristics of Animals, in 17 books, is a collection of facts and beliefs concerning the habits of animals drawn from Greek authors and some personal observation. Fact, fancy, legend, stories, and gossip all play their part in a narrative that is meant to entertain. If there is any ethical motive, it is that the virtues of untaught yet reasoning animals can be a lesson to thoughtless and selfish mankind. The Loeb Classical Library edition of this work is in three volumes.
The Historical Miscellany (LCL 486) is of similar nature. In 14 books, it consists mainly of historical and biographical anecdotes and retellings of legendary events. Some of Aelian’s material is drawn from authors whose works are lost.
Aelian’s Letters—portraying the affairs and country ways of a series of fictitious writers—offer engaging vignettes of rural life. These are available in LCL 383.
- 400 pages
- 4-1/4 x 6-3/8 inches
- Harvard University Press
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