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Aelian

(165—230)


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(ad 165/70–230/5),

acc. to the Suda, a freedman born in Praeneste, learned his Greek from a sophist and was an admirer of Herodes Atticus. After a brief career as a declaimer he turned to writing. His Indictment of the Effeminate (a posthumous attack on the emperor Elagabalus), On Providence and On Divine Manifestations are lost; fragments of the last show them to have been collections of stories designed to reveal the operations of divine forethought and justice. On the Nature of Animals (extant) similarly claims to be illustrating the reality of divine providence in the animal kingdom, though its examples of extraordinary characteristics go far beyond his self‐imposed programme. Extraordinary facts about animals also occur in the Miscellany, though there the emphasis falls on (generally ‘improving’) anecdotes from human life and history. The Rustic Letters is a co‐ordinated set of 20 vignettes of life in the Attic countryside of 5th‐ and 4th‐cent. bc literature (in the manner of Alciphron). Aelian writes throughout with an extreme, mannered simplicity, and was much admired in later antiquity for the purity of his Attic diction. He was widely read and drawn on by Christian writers.

Subjects: Classical studies


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