), was born according to Suidas (s. v. Αἰλιανός
) at Praeneste in Italy, and lived at Rome.
He calls himself a Roman (V. H.
12.25), as possessing the rights of Roman citizenship.
He was particularly fond of the Greeks and of Greek literature and oratory. (V. H.
He studied under Pausanias the rhetorician, and imitated the eloquence of Nicostratus and the style of Dion Chrysostom; but especially admired Herodes Atticus more than all.
He taught rhetoric at Rome in the time of Hadrian, and hence was called ὁ σοφιστής
. So complete was the command he acquired over the Greek language that he could speak as well as a native Athenian, and hence was called ὁ μελίγλωττος
(Philost. Vit. Soph.
That rhetoric, however, was not his forte may easily be believed from the style of his works; and he appears to have given up teaching for writing. Suidas calls him Ἀρχιερεὺς
He lived to above sixty years of age, and had no children.
He did not marry, because he would not have any.
There are two considerable works of Aelian remaining: one a collection of miscellaneous history (Ποικίλη Ἱστορία
) in fourteen books, commonly called his Varia Historia
, and the other a work on the peculiarities of animals (Περὶ Ζώων ἰδιότητος
) in seventeen books, commonly called his De Animalium Natura
The Varia Historia
contains short narrations and anecdotes, historical, biographical, antiquarian, &c., selected from various authors, generally without their names being given, and on a great variety of subjects. Its chief value arises from its containing many passages from works of older authors which are now lost.
It is to be regretted that in selecting from Thucydides, Herodotus, and other writers, he has sometimes given himself the trouble of altering their language.
But he tells us he liked to have his own way and to follow his own taste, and so he would seem to have altered for the mere sake of putting something different.
The Varia Historia was first edited by Camillus Peruscus, Rome, 1545, 4to.
; the principal editions since are by Perizonius, Leyden, 1701, 8vo.
, by Gronovius, Leyden, 1731, 2 vols. 4to.
, and by Kühn, Leipzig, 1780, 2 vols. 8vo.
The Varia Historia has been translated into Latin by C. Gesner
, and into English by A. Fleming, Lond. 1576
, and by Stanley, 1665
; this last has been reprinted more than once.
The De Animalium Natura
is of the same kind, scrappy and gossiping.
It is partly collected from older writers, and partly the result of his own observations both in Italy and abroad.
According to Philostratus (in Vit.
) he was scarcely ever out of Italy; but he tells us himself that he travelled as far as Aegypt; and that he saw at Alexandria an ox with five feet. (De Anim.
11.40; comp. 11.11.)
This book would appear to have become a popular and standard work on zoology, since in the fourteenth century Manuel Philes, a Byzantine poet, founded upon it a poem on animals.
At the end of the work is a concluding chapter (ἐπίλογος
), where he states the general principles on which he has composed his work :--that he has spent great labour, care, and thought in writing it ;--that he has preferred the pursuit of knowledge to the pursuit of wealth; and that, for his part, he found much more pleasure in observing the habits of the lion, the panther, and the fox, in listening to the song of the nightingale, and in studying the migrations of cranes, than in mere heaping up riches and being numbered among the great : -- that throughout his work he has sought to adhere to the truth. Nothing can be imagined more deficient in arrangement than this work : he goes from one subject to another without the least link of association ; as (e. g.) from elephants (11.15) to dragons (11.16), from the liver of mice (2.56) to the uses of oxen (2.57).
But this absence of arrangement, treating things ποικίλα ποικίλως
he says, is intentional; he adopted this plan to give variety to the work, and to avoid tedium to the reader. His style, which he commends to the indulgence of crities, though free from any great fault, has no particular merit.
The similarity of plan in the two works, with other internal evidences, seems to shew that they were both written by the same Aelian, and not, as Voss and Valckenaer conjecture, by two different persons.
The De Animalium Natura was edited by Gronovius, Lond. 1744, 2 vols. 4to.
, and by J. G. Schneider, Leipzig, 1784, 2 vols. 8vo. The last edition is that by Fr. Jacobs, Jena, 1832, 2 vols. 8vo.
This contains the valuable materials which Schneider had collected and left for a new edition.
The De Animalium Natura
has been translated into Latin by Peter Gillius (a Frenchman) and by Conrad Gesner.
It does not appear to have been translated into English.
Treatises on philosphical and relgious subjects
In both works he seems desirous to inculcate moral and religious principles (see V. H.
7.44; De Anim.
6.2, 7.10, 11, 9.7, and Epilog.
); and he wrote some treatises expressly on philosophical and religious subjects, especially one on Providence (Θεοὶ Προνοίας
) in three books (Suidas, s. v. Ἀβασανίστοις
), and one on the Divine Manifestations (Περὶ θειῶν Ἐνεργειῶν
), directed against the Epicureans, whom he alludes to elsewhere. (De Anim.
There are also attributed to Aelian twenty letters on husbandry and such-like matters (Ἀγροικικαὶ Ἐπιστολαὶ
), which are by feigned characters, are written in a rhetorical unreal style, and are of no value.
The Letters were published apart from the other works by Aldus Manutius in his " Collectio Epistolarum Graecarum," Venice, 1499, 4to.
Attack against Gunnis
There has also been attributed to Aelian a work called Κατηγορία τοῦ Γύννιδος
, an attack on an effeminate man, probably meant for Elagabalus.
The first edition of all his works was by Conrad Gesner, 1556, fol., containing also the works of Heraclides, Polemo, Adamantius and Melampus.
Suidas, s. v. Ἄρ̀ῥεν