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animals, knowledge about  

Pietro Li Causi

The Graeco-Roman zoological discourse comprises various development stages and various methods of observation and research. Traces of popular knowledge on animals are already present in the archaic literature, and several references to animals are found in the excursuses of the ancient ἱστορίαι. Aristotle organizes an autonomous body of philosophical theories on animals, the diffusion of which, among his contemporaries, is confined to the Peripatetic school. Subsequently, Theophrastus and the Hellenistic philosophers increasingly shift the focus of inquiry towards the behaviours and mental capacities of animals. That choice reinforces in turn the interest in marvels and singularities in both paradoxography and Roman natural history.Whereas the notions of “animality” and “humanity” tend to be polarized in almost all modern cultures, this was not the case in Graeco-Roman thought. Alcmaeon of Croton (24 A 5 DK) was the first to fix the border between humans qua rational and non-rational animals. Later on, several major philosophers, including .



Liba Taub

Greco-Roman meteorology included the study of what we today consider to be atmospheric, astronomical, and seismological phenomena; wind, rain, comets, and earthquakes were subjects of meteorological study, as were many other phenomena. For the most part, those authors and texts that treated meteorology were not concerned with weather prediction but rather with explaining phenomena. Various philosophers, including the Presocratics, Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Epicurus, as well as other philosophically-minded authors such as Lucretius and Seneca, approached the topic from the standpoint of their own interests, including ethics as well as physics. The traditional gods were not wholly absent from philosophical accounts, but they were not thought responsible for weather. Various authors and texts addressed weather prediction, providing lists of weather signs. Ancient Greco-Roman meteorology and weather prediction were both characterized by conservatism and a valorization of tradition, but nevertheless permitted a degree of innovation and originality.

“Meteorology” strictly means “the study of things aloft,” but the term was widely used in antiquity to cover the study of what might now be called meteorological phenomena, as well as comets (today treated as astronomical) and phenomena on and within the earth itself, such as tides and earthquakes (the latter now described as “seismological”). The Homeric and Hesiodic poems describe meteorological phenomena as linked to gods, often as epiphanies. The long-lived authority of the poets on meteorological topics is attested by many quotations and allusions in the writings of later authors, even in prose works on meteorology. Notwithstanding this, later Greek and Roman thinkers offered explanations of meteorological phenomena with no mention of gods.