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Cuvier’s History of the Natural Sciences

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Georges Cuvier

5. Pliny, his Contemporaries & Followers / Pline, ses contemporaines & ses partisans

14. The Roman Poets

Texte intégral

THE ROMAN POET JUVENAL. Engraving by Wenceslas Hollar. Frontispiece from Juvenal, Mores hominum [The manners of men described in sixteen satyrs by Juvenal; tr. by Sir Robert Stapylton], London: [s. n.], 1660, 522 p.

  • 1 [Juvenal’s sixteen satiric poems deal mainly with life in Rome under the much-dreaded emperor Domi (...)
  • 2 [Scomber, the genus of mackerels, any of a number of swiftmoving, streamlined food and sport fishe (...)

1Naturalists are not the only authors who hold knowledge about the natural sciences. As we have already seen, the poets often have very worthwhile notions, found even in their lightest works, such as satires and epigrams. Thus, the famous satire of Juvenal against the Egyptians contains important details about the luxury of clothing and the table.1 A jest of the same poet leads us to an important inference: the writings of the ancient naturalists name no characteristic that permits us to determine with precision the species of fish called Scomber; some authors thought that this fish was quite large; on the other hand, Juvenal, in making fun of bad poets, whose writings he said were destined to be used to wrap scombers, pepper, and cinnamon, reveals Scomber as being rather small.2

  • 3 [For Martial, see Lesson 11, note 69. Glue applied to the branches of trees to capture birds was o (...)

2The poet Martial devoted two books of his epigrams to the subject of the animals used in circus spectacles under Domitian. Details are found in these books that are not found anywhere else. They inform us that the glue with which only birds are caught nowadays was used then to capture bears;3 they give details about a two-horned rhinoceros that threw bulls over its head in the circus as easily as the bulls themselves threw balloons into the air; they tell us that a striped tiger conquered a lion; and they give interesting information about bisons imported from Germany that were harnessed to chariots.

  • 4 [Scenia, as used here by Cuvier’s editor (and perhaps by Cuvier himself), is an error for Xenia, t (...)
  • 5 [Porphyrion, a large sort of gallinule, any of several species of marsh birds belonging to the rai (...)

3In a piece entitled Scenia,4 Martial gives precepts for receiving one’s guests properly. These precepts in verse, analogous to a short essay that Apicius wrote in prose, procured for their author the surname of Coquus [the Cook]. One concludes that the Romans dined on very rare quadrupeds, such as the oryx and the onagre or wild ass, and birds hard to find in our regions, such as the flamingo and the porphyrion.5 In all, Martial gives interesting details on more than sixty kinds of animals.

4Martial and Juvenal are the last two authors of the first century A.D., which ended with Domitian’s reign, notable in history for its series of cruelties and assassinations.

  • 6 [Nerva, in full Nerva Caesar Augustus, original name Marcus Cocceius Nerva (born c. A.D. 30, died (...)
  • 7 [Cuvier is unclear here when he talks about philosophy. Roughly, the pantheists thought that God i (...)

5Under the emperors that came after him –under Nerva,6 Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus, Marcus Aurelius– Rome and the rest of the civilized world enjoyed a long peace; for there were only a few hostilities at the borders. However, in spite of this prosperous tranquility, the sciences did not take wing as they should have done in such favorable circumstances. This absence of progress in the sciences was due to the sinister influence that preceding reigns had exerted on Roman morale. Under those reigns, science and wealth had been obliged to hide themselves; no outstanding name is found among the generals. When men who possess a great fortune cannot show their wealth in public, they contract habits of domestic debauchery, idle curiosity, or superstition. New contacts had brought from India new ideas, especially to Alexandria. Some philosophers believed themselves to be inspired and they persuaded others of this. Many adopted pantheism, some believing the world to be a manifestation, others the substance, of the Deity.7 The neoplatonists sought new forms and tried to allegorize the pagan religion by considering all the gods of paganism to be daemons. The various philosophers were in agreement on the existence of intermediate beings called genies or daemons, and would have them play an important role in the scheme of things. Since these beings emanated directly from the godhead, why would they not be in communication with it? Men were, as you can see, at the gate of mysticism. They claimed that the genies or daemons must not be insensible to prayer, and these notions, combined with Judaism, resulted among the Jews in magic, in superstitious practices – in a word, that species of philosophy called Platonist cabal, which had as its fruit the so-called discovery of a means more or less mysterious or bizarre of communicating with daemons and rendering them propitious.

6The history of the second century A.D. shows us the active minds of that era almost wholly occupied in seeking these different ways of communication. It would have been difficult to find a philosopher who consented to follow the natural paths of observation and experience: only the supernatural had any value. The rival sects disputed among themselves about miracles, bringing to bear every ruse, every charlatanism, by which they won over the people and even the nobility; he won who would spout the most fables, if we may judge by the marvels the philosophers reported about those whom they recognized as their leaders.

7It was during this time that the thaumaturge Apollonius of Tyana flourished, whose life was so fertile in miracles. Also, one can get an exact idea of the astonishing mental state of the time by reading the works of Lucian.

  • 8 [Plegon or Phlegon, a native of Tralles in Lydia and a freedman of the emperor Hadrian. Nothing is (...)

8But in the midst of such religious follies, morals had not improved. Mystical research went hand in hand with crime and numerous poisonings. Accusations were brought against the distinguished writers of this time. One of Hadrian’s letters, preserved in a book by Plegon,8 one of his freedmen, depicts with perfect truth the morale at Alexandria, the anarchy and disorder that existed there in religious and philosophical beliefs; in short, the extraordinary ferment agitating people’s minds in the middle of that strange congeries of ideas. Alexandria, says Hadrian, is an extremely rich city, filled with a large and industrious population, and the center of an immense commerce. Everywhere one looks, one sees workshops and manufactories of every sort. The concourse in this city of the ancient beliefs of Egypt, those of Greek and Roman polytheists –variously interpreted by the different philosophical schools– and the Jewish and the Christian religions, has produced interminable discussions and a confusion of creeds and principles that defies description.

  • 9 [Plutarch, (born c. A.D. 46, Chaeronea, Boeotia, Greece; died after 119), biographer and author wh (...)

9Not all the writers of this time are unworthy of our attention. Some of them escaped the unfortunate influences then predominating. Among these is Plutarch, the justly famous author of Lives of Famous Men.9 Born in Boeotia at Chaeronea, he lived for nearly a hundred years and died under Antoninus in A.D. 140.

10The title alone of several pieces among Plutarch’s works on ethics reveals that the author meant to discuss questions of natural history. Other compositions, meant to deal with entirely different matters, nonetheless contain details of interest to naturalists.

  • 10 [For Plutarch’s Book of Table Talk or Quaestiones convivales, see Plutarque, œuvres morales, tome (...)

11In the Book of Table Talk,10 for example, questions relative to botany are raised. The author wonders why resinous trees, upon which grafting ought to be so easy, cannot be profitably grafted; and why the fig tree, which has bitter sap, bears extremely sweet fruit.

  • 11 [The Very Animals Use Reason, or On the use of Reason by Irrational Animals, see Plutarch, Essays (...)

12In another book, entitled The Very Animals Use Reason,11 Plutarch again addresses himself to natural history. He seeks to know which are cleverer and have more instinct, land or water animals, and he cites in the course of his discussion many curious traits; some are inaccurate or completely untrue, but they at least have the advantage of acquainting us with opinions held during the author’s time, and of enabling us to judge of the progress that science has made since then.

  • 12 [The Opinions of the Philosophers or De Placitis philosophorum, see Plutarque, œuvres morales, tom (...)
  • 13 [On Problems, see Plutarque, Œuvres morales, tome IX: Propos de table, op. cit.]
  • 14 [On Isis and Osiris, see Plutarch, Plutarch’s de Iside et Osiride [edited with an introduction, tr (...)

13We shall also cite among the essays of Plutarch those on The Opinions of the Philosophers,12 On Problems,13 and On Isis and Osiris.14

  • 15 [Typhon, in Greek mythology, the youngest son of Gaea (Earth) and Tartarus (of the nether world). (...)

14In the essay on Isis and Osiris, the author discusses the doctrine, the beliefs, of the ancient Egyptians. But the varying explanations he gives for the images sacred to the Egyptian religion clearly prove that the Egyptian priests had then fallen into the deepest ignorance and had totally lost the meaning of their allegories. Such is the only conclusion we can draw from the differing explanations offered by Plutarch for Osiris, Isis, or Typhon.15

15The ethical works of Plutarch need a new translator, supporting such translation with commentaries, especially for the pieces relating to the natural sciences.

  • 16 [Flavius Arrianus or Arrian, Latin in full Flavius Arrianus (born Nicomedia, Bithynia, now Izmit, (...)
  • 17 [Cuvier, or his editor, says Indications, but the title of Arrian’s work is Indica (see note 16, a (...)
  • 18 [For Nearchus and his voyage, see Lesson 8, note 22.]

16Flavius Arrianus,16 principal historian of Alexander, governor of Cappadocia, consul and Roman general, and high priest of Ceres and Proserpine, followed his history with a work called Indications,17 which contains a description of India, based on the written reports of Alexander’s lieutenants, and a narrative of Nearchus’s sea voyage.18

  • 19 [Appian of Alexandria (fl. second century A.D.), Greek historian of the conquests by Rome from the (...)

17Appian of Alexandria19 also contains facts relating to natural history; he gives various details on the elephants that were used in battle.

  • 20 [Pausanias (fl. A.D. 143-176; born Lydia, now in Turkey), Greek traveler and geographer whose Peri (...)
  • 21 [Lucius Apuleius (born c. 124, Madauros, Numidia, near modern Mdaourouch, Algeria; died probably a (...)

18Pausanias,20 the author of a Travels in Greece, so valuable to antiquaries, is also of great interest to naturalists. He provides much natural history information not found elsewhere. He speaks, as does Appian, of elephants in detail. And Apuleius,21 author of The Golden Ass, presents details on natural history that are remarkable for their accuracy.

  • 22 [Sea hare, any of a host of marine gastropods of the family Aplysiidae (subclass Opisthobranchia) (...)
  • 23 [“Even among the ancient philosophers I do not find details of the peculiar nature of this fish [t (...)

19Apuleius was a Platonist with an insatiable curiosity; he joined every secret society and was initiated into every mystery. In order to learn the mysteries of Osiris, he ended up selling his clothes. The husband of a rich widow, he was accused of using magic to seduce her. This ridiculous accusation was based on his having been seen observing sea hares, large mollusks that played an important role in the practice of magic.22 In his defense, Apuleius responded that in fact he had observed sea-hares but only with the aim of satisfying a completely harmless curiosity. The description that he gives of the tiny ossicles in the stomach of these animals proves that he had observed them as a naturalist, for this description is correct.23

  • 24 [De Herbis sive de Nominibus et virtutibus herbarum (On Herbs, or The Names and Efficacies of Plan (...)

20Mistakenly attributed to Apuleius is a work entitled De Nominibus et virtutibus herbarum,24 containing the description of a hundred and twenty plants, and a barbarous synonymy. This is a pseudonymous work from the Middle Ages.

  • 25 [Plinius de Re medica or Plinius Medicus, an early herbal sometimes attributed to Emilius Macer (s (...)
  • 26 [Emilius (or Aemilius) Macer, poet and philosopher from Verona, contemporary of Ovid and friend of (...)

21An essay titled Plinius de Re medica, commonly designated by the title Plinius Medicus,25 and another essay in bad verse on the efficacy of plants are erroneously attributed to Emilius Macer,26 a poet who was a contemporary of Ovid. These two works also belong to the Middle Ages and are without value.

22Here ends the literature in Latin. The works that we are now going to examine were written in Greek. The Latin language seems to have been abandoned at this point as a scholarly language and replaced by Greek.

23It is remarkable that naturalists were not alone in abandoning the Latin language at this time. Religious writers and philosophers no longer wrote in it, and the Fathers of the Greek Church flourished long after those of the Latin Church had fallen into barbarism. It would be interesting to know what caused the premature decadence of a literature as young as was Latin literature, and the return to the Greek language, which, going back no further than Homer, already was nearly a thousand years old. We think this literary phenomenon can be explained by the constant civil disturbance to which Rome was subject. The parts farthest from the seat of the Roman empire, areas where the Greek language was common, were much less disturbed by the many causes that discomposed Rome and its Italian dependencies; thus, letters and natural science could develop there with more facility.

24Also, the three principal authors of the second century A.D. who merit a more profound study for their works on the natural sciences used Greek. These authors are Athenaeus, Aelianus, and Oppian.

  • 27 [Athenaeus (fl. c. A.D. 200; born Naukratis, Egypt), Greek grammarian and author of Deipnosophista (...)
  • 28 [A Banquet of Savants or “The Gastronomers“, also known as the Deipnosophistai (see note 27, above (...)

25Athenaeus27 seems to have lived under Marcus Aurelius. He was believed to have come after that time, since Oppian is found mentioned in the first two books of his works. But it seems certain that these two books are not by him. Athenaeus’s work is entitled A Banquet of Savants.28 The author imagines philosophers reclining at table in the house of a certain Larensius. As a new dish appears on the table, each guest tells what he knows about it. Artistically, the work of Athenaeus is detestable; but for naturalists it has a very real importance. As a compilation, in fact, it is the most valuable left us by antiquity. In it we find many long excerpts from authors nine-tenths of whom are lost to us today; and the fidelity with which extant passages of writers known to us are transcribed leads us to suppose that the author is generally correct in his other citations.

  • 29 [Nicomedes IV (died 74 B.C.), the last king of Bithynia (ancient district in northwestern Anatolia (...)
  • 30 [Nonnat, a common name for Aphia minuta, also known as the Transparent Goby, a small ray-finned fi (...)

26Athenaeus’s work begins with a dissertation on renowned gastronomes. An anecdote that he repeats proves that in his time the art of disguising food was already quite well known. He tells that a gourmet king, Nicomedes of Bithynia,29 asked his cook Soterides to prepare for him some fish fry known since Aristotle’s time by the name of nonnat;30 the cook was unable to procure any (it was in the middle of winter), but found a solution, with the king none the wiser, by cutting up turnips into pieces imitating nonnats and preparing them in the same manner as these small fish.

27Athenaeus then speaks of wines and their properties, and the countries from which they came.

  • 31 [Demosthenes (born 384 B.C., Athens; died 12 October 322, Calauria, Argolis), Athenian statesman, (...)

28He also lists the various thermal waters known in his time and their properties; he speaks of the imbibers of waters, among whom he includes Demosthenes,31 and claims that they had the gift of invention, according to various authors.

29From his minute details, we can see that the order of the ancients’ repasts was the inverse of the one we follow.

30For the propoma –that is to say, before the guests are at table– fruits of different kinds were served.

31At table, the meal began with mushrooms, truffles, onions, asparagus, figs – in a word, vegetables of every sort.

  • 32 [Herodotus of Lycia, originally from Halicarnassus, in his “Geography” (Lesson 7; see also Godolph (...)
  • 33 [Polybius (born c. 200 B.C., Megalopolis, Arcadia, Greece; died c. 118), Greek statesman and histo (...)
  • 34 [Philip, the father of Perseus, was Philip V (born 238 B.C.; died 179, Amphipolis, Macedonia), kin (...)
  • 35 [Magnesia ad Sipylum, city in ancient Lydia, just south of the Hermus (Gediz) River. Though lying (...)
  • 36 [Myonte, ancient Greek town of Ionia, on the Meander, one of twelve cities of the Ionian Confedera (...)

32Apropos of figs, Athenaeus recounts that Herodotus of Lycia32 says that of all the fruits figs are the most useful to man; he relates a passage from the twelfth book of Polybius33 in which it is told that Philip, the father of Perseus,34 short of food when he was traveling in Asia, was given figs by the people of Magnesia35 to feed his army. Upon capturing Myonte36 he gave the place and its territory to the Magnesians in repayment for their figs.

  • 37 [Hesperides (Greek: “Daughters of Evening”), in Greek mythology, clear-voiced maidens who guarded (...)
  • 38 [Cuvier’s assertion that Athenaeus was well acquainted with the lemon (Citrus limon, a small tree (...)

33Athenaeus gives a special dissertation on lemons; he says they were cooked in honey and then made into a sort of lemonade. He also considers them a universal antidote. Formerly, these fruits were called apples of Media or apples of the Hesperides:37 it is in Athenaeus that we find them designated for the first time by the name they have today.38

  • 39 [Lacedaemonian, originating from Sparta, ancient capital of the Laconia district of the southeaste (...)

34At a Roman meal, after fruit came shellfish, among which were many univalves. Limpets and sea urchins, which are still eaten today, were not disdained by the Romans, either. Apropos of sea urchins, one of the guests at Athenaeus’s banquet reports that, according to Demetrius of Scepse, a certain Lacedaemonian39 put a whole urchin in his mouth and devoured it, saying, “Detestable fish, now that I have you, I’ll not let you go, but never again will I touch another like you.”

35Athenaeus’s guests speak about the beauty of certain shellfish from the Indian Ocean, notably the nautilus. They discuss in turn the lobster and several other crustaceans.

  • 40 [Gorgon, monster figure in Greek mythology. Homer spoke of a single Gorgon – a monster of the unde (...)

36They inform us that the gnon, a fish with a threatening appearance, gave rise to the myth of the Gorgons.40 Thus, without their hints, we might not have recognized the spiny lobster.

37At the time that Athenaeus was writing, fish were still highly esteemed at Roman tables; for he reports that, in order to prevent fish from being sold at too high a price, an ordinance was passed that required the merchants to remain standing. This unusual gastronomic law forced the merchants to sell their fish at a moderate price, out of exhaustion.

  • 41 [Aristophanes of Byzantium (born c. 257 B.C.; died 180 B.C., Alexandria), a Greek literary critic (...)

38Athenaeus lists a total of ninety species of fishes, arranged alphabetically. Birds in Athenaeus are much less numerous than fishes, but his descriptions seem quite accurate. One of his descriptions, taken among others from Aristophanes,41 by itself identifies for us a species of bird (the attagane) about which Buffon remained doubtful. A master says to his slave: “Get ready, I’m going to beat you; I’m going to make your back look like that of an attagane, a grouse.

  • 42 [Attagane, the sand-grouse, any of 16 species of birds of Asian and African deserts, constituting (...)

39This comparison is a sufficient indication that the bird called the attagane is the sandgrouse,42 for it alone among the gallinaceous birds has a back covered with stripes, alternating yellow and blue – that is, rather like a man’s back bruised by hard blows.

40Besides these details of natural history, the work of Athenaeus contains interesting references to philosophy, eloquent discourse, poetry, physical science, medicine, botany, weaponry, sailing, and the architecture of the ancients. He describes the urns in use at their banquets and of the processes used to make them. We also find details about the extravagance in clothing and the conduct of those who wore the clothing. At the banquets of the ancient Greeks, we find that courtesans and girl flute players and dancers were an almost indispensable accessory.

41Athenaeus is called the Varro and the Pliny of the Greeks; but Varro was more learned and less intemperate than Athenaeus. This writer is the last representative of the famed commentators of the Alexandrian school. After him we shall examine the works of Aelianus and Oppian, who are more exclusively naturalists.

Notes

1 [Juvenal’s sixteen satiric poems deal mainly with life in Rome under the much-dreaded emperor Domitian and his more humane successors Nerva (96-98), Trajan (98-117), and Hadrian (117-138). They were published at intervals in five separate books (see Juvenal, Juvenal’s satires, with The satires of Persius [transl. by Gifford William; revised and annotated by Warrington John; intro by Rose H. J.], London: Dent, 1954, 230 p.) Book One, containing Satires 1-5, views in retrospect the horrors of Domitian’s tyrannical reign and was issued between 100 and 110. Book Two, the single, enormous Satire 6, contains topical references to the year 115. The third Book, with Satires 7, 8, and 9, opens with praise of an emperor –surely Hadrian, who endowed a literary institute to assist deserving authors– whose generosity makes him the sole hope of literature. There is no datable allusion in Book Four, which comprises Satires 10-12. Book Five, made up of Satires 13, 14, 15, and 16, has two clear references to the year 127.]

2 [Scomber, the genus of mackerels, any of a number of swiftmoving, streamlined food and sport fishes found in temperate and tropical seas around the world, allied to tunas in the family Scombridae (order Perciformes). The common mackerel (Scomber scombrus) of the Atlantic Ocean is an abundant and economically important species that is sometimes found in huge schools. It averages about 30 cm (12 inches) in length.]

3 [For Martial, see Lesson 11, note 69. Glue applied to the branches of trees to capture birds was often used in ancient times and even to the present day. The Romans produced the glue for trapping birds all over the empire from a parasitic plant named Viscum album. Dionisios Priants, who lived in Alexandria in the first half of the second century A.D., reported on hunting birds in the same way. In Europe, well into the twentieth century, the practice was widespread, the glue most often produced from holly or the European mountain ash. Another example comes from only a few years ago: “Birds caught by glue man. A man used glue to trap birds so he could keep them in his house, a court heard. RSPCA inspectors found poorly goldfinches at the home of Peter Luke Smith, in Edgely Drain Road, Peterborough. Smith was sentenced by Peterborough magistrates on Tuesday to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay £500 costs“(BBC News, 15 April 2003).]

4 [Scenia, as used here by Cuvier’s editor (and perhaps by Cuvier himself), is an error for Xenia, the title of the thirteenth book of Martial’s epigrams, which treats of gifts or presents, such things usually presented to guests (see Martial, Epigrammata [poems and translations of Fletcher Robert; ed. Woodward], Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1970, x + 303 p.)]

5 [Porphyrion, a large sort of gallinule, any of several species of marsh birds belonging to the rail family, Rallidae, in the order Gruiformes. Gallinules occur in temperate, tropical, and subtropical regions worldwide and are about the size of bantam hens but with a compressed body like the related rails and coots. They are about 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 inches) long, with long, thin toes that enable them to run over floating vegetation and with a prominent frontal shield (a fleshy plate on the forehead). Many species have brightly colored areas of plumage or skin.]

6 [Nerva, in full Nerva Caesar Augustus, original name Marcus Cocceius Nerva (born c. A.D. 30, died end of January 98), Roman emperor from 18 September 96 to January 98, the first of a succession of rulers traditionally known as the Five Good Emperors.]

7 [Cuvier is unclear here when he talks about philosophy. Roughly, the pantheists thought that God is the only substance, of which the material universe and man are only manifestations; that God and the universe are identical.]

8 [Plegon or Phlegon, a native of Tralles in Lydia and a freedman of the emperor Hadrian. Nothing is known of the events of his life and his dates are uncertain, although he probably lived to the middle of the second century A.D. Fragments of his works are all that remain, the longest belonging to a treatise called De Mirabilibus, a curious work divided into thirty-five chapters and containing a great many fables (see Phlegon, Phlegon of Tralles’ Book of Marvels [translated with an introduction and commentary by Hansen William], Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1996, xvi + 215 p.; Brisson (Luc), Sexual Ambivalence: Androgyny and Hermaphroditism in Graeco-Roman Antiquity [translated from the French by Lloyd Janet], Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002, xiv + 195 p.)]

9 [Plutarch, (born c. A.D. 46, Chaeronea, Boeotia, Greece; died after 119), biographer and author whose works strongly influenced the evolution of the essay, the biography, and historical writing in Europe from the 16th to the 19th century. Among his approximately 227 works, the most important are the Bioi paralleloi (Parallel Lives), in which he recounts the noble deeds and characters of Greek and Roman soldiers, legislators, orators, and statesmen (see Plutarch, Plutarch’s lives [with an English translation by Perrin Bernadotte], London: W. Heinemann; Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 1914-1926, 11 vols); and the Moralia, or Ethica, a series of more than 60 essays on ethical, religious, physical, political, and literary topics (Plutarch, Plutarch’s morals: theosophical essays [translated by King Charles William], London: G. Bell & Sons, 1882, viii + 287 p.)]

10 [For Plutarch’s Book of Table Talk or Quaestiones convivales, see Plutarque, œuvres morales, tome IX: Propos de table [texte établi et traduit par Fuhrmann François], Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1972-1979, 2 vols.]

11 [The Very Animals Use Reason, or On the use of Reason by Irrational Animals, see Plutarch, Essays [translated by Waterfield Robin; introduced and annotated by Kidd Ian G.], London: Penguin Books; New York: Penguin Books USA, 1992, 430 p.]

12 [The Opinions of the Philosophers or De Placitis philosophorum, see Plutarque, œuvres morales, tome XII, DeuxieÌme partie: Opinions des Philosophes [texte établi et traduit par Lachenaud Guy], Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1993, 352 p.]

13 [On Problems, see Plutarque, Œuvres morales, tome IX: Propos de table, op. cit.]

14 [On Isis and Osiris, see Plutarch, Plutarch’s de Iside et Osiride [edited with an introduction, translation and commentary by Griffiths John Gwyn], Cardiff: University of Wales, 1970, xviii + 648 p.]

15 [Typhon, in Greek mythology, the youngest son of Gaea (Earth) and Tartarus (of the nether world). He was described as a grisly monster with a hundred dragons’ heads who was conquered and cast into the underworld by Zeus.]

16 [Flavius Arrianus or Arrian, Latin in full Flavius Arrianus (born Nicomedia, Bithynia, now Izmit, Turkey; died c. A.D. 180), Greek historian and philosopher who was the author of a work describing the campaigns of Alexander the Great (Arrian, The campaigns of Alexander [translated by Sélincourt Aubrey de; revised with a new introduction and notes by Hamilton J. R.], Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1971, 430 p.) Entitled Anabasis, presumably in order to recall Xenophon’s work of that title (see Lesson 6, note 25), it describes Alexander’s military exploits in seven books; an eighth, the Indica, tells of Indian customs and the voyage of Nearchus in the Persian Gulf.]

17 [Cuvier, or his editor, says Indications, but the title of Arrian’s work is Indica (see note 16, above).]

18 [For Nearchus and his voyage, see Lesson 8, note 22.]

19 [Appian of Alexandria (fl. second century A.D.), Greek historian of the conquests by Rome from the republican period into the second century A.D. In addition to a lost autobiography, Appian wrote in Greek a Romaica, or history of Rome, in 24 books, arranged ethnographically according to the peoples (and their rulers) conquered by the Romans (Appian, Appian’s Roman history [with an English translation by White Horace], London: W. Heinemann; New York: Macmillan, 1912-1913, 4 vols). The books that survive in complete form deal with Spain, Carthage, Illyria, Syria, Hannibal, Mithradates, and the Roman civil wars from the Gracchi onward. Extracts from other books survive in Byzantine compilations and elsewhere.]

20 [Pausanias (fl. A.D. 143-176; born Lydia, now in Turkey), Greek traveler and geographer whose Periegesis Hellados (Description of Greece) is an invaluable guide to ancient ruins (see Pausanias, Description of Greece [with an English translation by Jones William Henry Samuel], London: W. Heinemann; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1918, vol. 1; Description of Greece [with an English translation by Jones William Henry Samuel & Ormerod Henry Arderne], London: W. Heinemann; New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926, vol. 2). His Description takes the form of a tour of Greece starting from Attica. It is divided into 10 books; the first book seems to have been completed after 143, but before 161. No event after 176 is mentioned in the work. His account of each important city begins with a sketch of its history; his descriptive narration follows a topographical order. He gives a few glimpses into the daily life, ceremonial rites, and superstitious customs of the inhabitants and frequently introduces legend and folklore. Works of art are his major concern: inspired by the ancient glories of Greece, Pausanias is most at home in describing the religious art and architecture of Olympia and Delphi. At Athens he is intrigued by pictures, portraits, and inscriptions recording the laws of Solon; on the Acropolis, the great gold and ivory statue of Athena; and, outside the city, the monuments of famous men and of Athenians fallen in battle. The accuracy of his descriptions has been proved by the remains of buildings in all parts of Greece. The topographical part of his work shows his fondness for the wonders of nature: the signs that herald the approach of an earthquake; the tides; the icebound seas of the north; and the noonday sun, which at the summer solstice casts no shadow at Syene (Aswan), Egypt.]

21 [Lucius Apuleius (born c. 124, Madauros, Numidia, near modern Mdaourouch, Algeria; died probably after 170), Platonic philosopher, rhetorician, and author remembered for The Golden Ass, a prose narrative that proved influential long after his death (Apuleius, The Golden Ass of Lucius Apuleius [translation by Adlington William; edited with an introduction by Darton F. J. Harvey], London: Privately printed for the Navarre Society Limited, 1924, 359 + [1] p.) The work, called Metamorphoses by its author, narrates the adventures of a young man changed by magic into an ass (Apuleius, The Golden Ass, Being the Metamorphosis of Lucius Apuleius [with an English translation by Adlington William; revised by Gaselee S.], London: William Heinemann Ltd.; New York: Macmillan, 1915, xxiv + 607 p.; see also Singer (Charles), “The Herbal in Antiquity and Its Transmission to Later Ages”, The Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 47, no. 1, 1927, pp. 1-52).]

22 [Sea hare, any of a host of marine gastropods of the family Aplysiidae (subclass Opisthobranchia) that is characterized by a shell reduced to a flat plate, prominent tentacles (resembling rabbit ears), and a smooth or warty body. Sea hares eat large seaweeds. An example is the 10-centimeter (4-inch) spotted sea hare (Aplysia dactylomela), a ring-spotted green species living in grassy shallows of the Caribbean.]

23 [“Even among the ancient philosophers I do not find details of the peculiar nature of this fish [the sea hare], although it is extremely rare and highly noteworthy. For this is the only fish as far as I know, that is without bones in most of its body, but has twelve little bones in its stomach, joined and connected to each other and looking like the knucklebones of a pig” (Apuleius, Apuleius: Rhetorical works [translated and annotated by Harrison Stephen, Hilton John, and Hunink Vincent; edited by Harrison Stephen], Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, vi + 225 p.) These so-called bones are the chitinous support for the gastric shield found in many mollusks (sometimes called a “gizzard”), used to grind food as an aid in digestion.]

24 [De Herbis sive de Nominibus et virtutibus herbarum (On Herbs, or The Names and Efficacies of Plants), an early work in botany, a copy of which, in Latin, said to have been written in the tenth century, is in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris (see Thompson (Charles John Samuel), Mystery and Art of the Apothecary, Kila (Montana): Kessinger Publishing, 2003, 316 p.)]

25 [Plinius de Re medica or Plinius Medicus, an early herbal sometimes attributed to Emilius Macer (see note 26, below; Singer (Charles), “The Herbal in Antiquity and Its Transmission to Later Ages”, op. cit.)]

26 [Emilius (or Aemilius) Macer, poet and philosopher from Verona, contemporary of Ovid and friend of Virgil, said to have written a poem on birds, serpents, and on the virtues of plants, much of it copied from Nicander (see Lesson 10, note 16).]

27 [Athenaeus (fl. c. A.D. 200; born Naukratis, Egypt), Greek grammarian and author of Deipnosophistai (“The Gastronomers”), a work in the form of an aristocratic symposium, in which a number of learned men, some bearing the names of real persons, such as Galen, meet at a banquet and discuss food and other subjects (see Athenaeus of Naucratis, The Deipnosophists or Banquet of the Learned of Athenaeus [literally translated by Yonge Charles Duke; with an appendix of poetical fragments rendered into English verse by various authors, and a general index], London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854, 2 vols). It consists of 15 books, of which 10 have survived in their entirety, the others in summary form. The value of the work lies partly in the great number of quotations from lost works of antiquity that it preserves, nearly 800 writers being quoted, and partly in the variety of unusual information it affords on all aspects of life in the ancient Greco-Roman world.]

28 [A Banquet of Savants or “The Gastronomers“, also known as the Deipnosophistai (see note 27, above).]

29 [Nicomedes IV (died 74 B.C.), the last king of Bithynia (ancient district in northwestern Anatolia, adjoining the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, and the Black Sea) who, little more than a Roman puppet, bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans in 74 B.C.]

30 [Nonnat, a common name for Aphia minuta, also known as the Transparent Goby, a small ray-finned fish of the family Gobiidae, found in European coastal waters from Norway to Morocco and in the Mediterranean and Black seas. It inhabits inshore and estuarine waters, over sand, mud and eelgrass, where it feeds on zooplankton, especially copepods, cirripede larvae, and mysids. It spawns in summer within empty bivalve shells.]

31 [Demosthenes (born 384 B.C., Athens; died 12 October 322, Calauria, Argolis), Athenian statesman, recognized as the greatest of ancient Greek orators, who roused Athens to oppose Philip of Macedon and, later, his son Alexander the Great. His speeches provide valuable information on the political, social, and economic life of 4th-century Athens.]

32 [Herodotus of Lycia, originally from Halicarnassus, in his “Geography” (Lesson 7; see also Godolphin (Francis Richard Borroum) (ed.), The Greek historians [The complete and unabridged historical works of Herodotus, translated by Rawlinson George; Thucydides, translated by Jowett Benjamin; Xenophon, translated by Dakyns Henry G. [and] Arrian, translated by Chinnock Edward J.; edited, with an introduction, revisions and additional notes, by Godolphin Francis R. B.], New York: Random house, [1942], 2 vols).]

33 [Polybius (born c. 200 B.C., Megalopolis, Arcadia, Greece; died c. 118), Greek statesman and historian who wrote of the rise of Rome to world prominence. The Histories on which his reputation rests consisted of 40 books, the last being indexes (Polybius, The Histories of Polybius [translated from the text of Hultsch F. by Shuckburgh Evelyn S.], London; New York: Macmillan, 1889, 2 vols). Books I-V are extant. For the rest there are various excerpts, including those contained in the collection of passages from Greek historians assembled in the 10th century and rediscovered and published by various editors from the 16th to the 19th century.]

34 [Philip, the father of Perseus, was Philip V (born 238 B.C.; died 179, Amphipolis, Macedonia), king of Macedonia from 221 to 179, whose attempt to extend Macedonian influence throughout Greece resulted in his defeat by Rome. Perseus (born c. 212 B.C.; died c. 165, Alba Fucens, near Rome), Philip’s elder son, was the last king of Macedonia (179-168), whose attempts to dominate Greece brought on the final defeat of Macedonia by the Romans, leading to annexation of the region.]

35 [Magnesia ad Sipylum, city in ancient Lydia, just south of the Hermus (Gediz) River. Though lying in a rich district near prehistoric regions associated with Niobe and Tantalus, and itself going back to the 5th century B.C., it is of little importance except for the battle of winter 190/189 B.C., when the Romans under Lucius Scipio decisively defeated Antiochus III and threw him back permanently to the other side of the Taurus range.]

36 [Myonte, ancient Greek town of Ionia, on the Meander, one of twelve cities of the Ionian Confederation, encompassing the central part of the west coast of Asia Minor (currently Turkey) as well as the neighboring islands.]

37 [Hesperides (Greek: “Daughters of Evening”), in Greek mythology, clear-voiced maidens who guarded the tree bearing golden apples that Gaea gave to Hera at her marriage to Zeus. According to Hesiod, they were the daughters of Erebus and Night; in other accounts, their parents were Atlas and Hesperis or Phorcys and Ceto. They were usually three in number, Aegle, Erytheia, and Hespere (or Hesperethusa), but by some accounts were as many as seven. The golden apples were also guarded by the dragon Ladon, the offspring of Phorcys and Ceto. As Ladon is the name of an Arcadian river, Arcadia was possibly the original site of the garden. Heracles later either stole the apples or had Atlas get them for him. The golden apples that Aphrodite gave to Hippomenes before his race with Atalanta were from the garden of the Hesperides.]

38 [Cuvier’s assertion that Athenaeus was well acquainted with the lemon (Citrus limon, a small tree or spreading bush of the rue family Rutaceae) is at odds with modern interpretation that the lemon was probably unknown to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but it was introduced into Spain and North Africa some time between the years A.D. 1000 and 1200. It was further distributed through Europe by the Crusaders, who found the fruit growing in Palestine. In 1494 the fruit was being cultivated in the Azores and shipped largely to England. The lemon was thought by the eighteenth-century Swedish botanist Linnaeus to be a variety of the citron (Citrus medica), though it is now known to be a separate species.]

39 [Lacedaemonian, originating from Sparta, ancient capital of the Laconia district of the southeastern Peloponnese, Greece, and capital of the present-day nomós (department) of Lakonía on the right bank of the Evrótas Potamós (river).]

40 [Gorgon, monster figure in Greek mythology. Homer spoke of a single Gorgon – a monster of the underworld. The later Greek poet Hesiod increased the number of Gorgons to three –Stheno (the Mighty), Euryale (the Far Springer), and Medusa (the Queen)– and made them the daughters of the sea god Phorcys and of his sister-wife Ceto. The Attic tradition regarded the Gorgon as a monster produced by Gaea, the personification of Earth, to aid her sons against the gods.]

41 [Aristophanes of Byzantium (born c. 257 B.C.; died 180 B.C., Alexandria), a Greek literary critic and grammarian who, after early study under leading scholars in Alexandria, was chief librarian there c. 195 B.C.]

42 [Attagane, the sand-grouse, any of 16 species of birds of Asian and African deserts, constituting the family Pteroclidae (or Pterocletidae) and usually treated as a suborder, Pterocletes, of the pigeon order, Columbiformes. According to some systems of classification, however, they belong subordinally near the plovers in the order Charadriiformes.]

Table des illustrations

Légende THE ROMAN POET JUVENAL. Engraving by Wenceslas Hollar. Frontispiece from Juvenal, Mores hominum [The manners of men described in sixteen satyrs by Juvenal; tr. by Sir Robert Stapylton], London: [s. n.], 1660, 522 p.
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