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date: 31 October 2020

animals, knowledge aboutlocked

  • J. T. Vallance

Extract

Animals are the mirror of nature, claimed *Epicurus (quoted in Cic. Fin. 2. 32), echoing a view widely held in different ways throughout antiquity. But others added that animals mirror culture as well; Greek and Roman writing and thinking about animals was as often ethical as what we might call scientific in character. Hardly surprisingly, the archaeological record provides ample evidence that animals were closely observed by artists, and further evidence for the ancient study of animals comes from early medical observations about the role of animals and animal products in human regimen. Yet the term ζῳολογία seems not to occur in any surviving classical work, and the earliest English uses of ‘zoology’ refer more often than not to the study of the medicinal uses of animal products.In the Homeric epics, animals exemplify many types of human qualities. Lions are brave, deer are prone to flight, bees swarm like crowds of people, dogs tread the treacherous path between loyalty and servility. (The story of Odysseus' dog, who died of joy on recognizing the scent of his long-lost master, was regarded by the later medical Empiricists as a miracle of diagnosis.) A great many similar examples can be found in the early Greek lyric poets. In the late 7th cent. bce, *Semonides of Amorgos wrote a poem comparing animals with different types of women; the only good woman is like a bee, the best of a terrible collection.

Subjects

  • History of Science and Technology

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