Oriental animals as moral examples in Aelian's De natura animalium

Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2010, vol. 15, iss. 2, pp. [117]-126
Extent
[117]-126
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
Type: Article
Language
English
License: Not specified license
Abstract(s)
In his miscellany de natura animalium, Aelian collects a large number of anecdotes about natural phenomena, predominantly about animals and their behaviour. Aelian's collection is not genuinely scientific as his use of sources results in an interesting mixture of scientific facts and miraculous stories. In this respect, it corresponds congruously with one of the generic characteristics of ancient literary miscellany: Aelian's aim was to educate and at the same time to entertain his readership. Although during Aelian's lifetime the Roman Empire was at its greatest dimension, there were still parts of the world that could be unknown and considered as exotic, even to an educated audience. In de natura animalium, Aelian therefore used many examples of oriental and exotic animals which sometimes have a simple paradoxographical intention; others would clearly satisfy the reader's more scientific curiosity. In many cases, Aelian combines the description of certain species with a clear accentuation of their moral qualities that can easily be compared to human ethical attitude, and not seldomly the animals are portrayed to the reader as examples to follow.
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