The Object Of One’s Desire Is The Means Of One’s Capture

The Roman writer Aelian, in his treatise On the Nature of Animals (De Natura Animalium), collects many interesting facts related to the habits and behaviors of the creatures of the land, sea, and air. It is unfortunate that he felt compelled to write in Greek instead of Latin, but I suppose this is a decision forgivable for an educated Roman long steeped in Greece’s literary and rhetorical heritage.

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The Best Reliance Is Self-Reliance

The Roman writer Aelian makes an interesting comment in his Varia Historia (II.39) about the education of Cretan youths in ancient times.  He says that the children of citizens (presumably both boys and girls) would learn the laws of their island with musical accompaniment as an aid to memorization. 

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Here Be Thy Grave

The Swiss orientalist and explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt crossed the cataracts of the Nile in 1813 and was intending to penetrate into the heart of unknown Nubia.  Near a place called Jebel Lamoule, his Arab guide dismounted from his camel and approached the intrepid European; his intention was to practice on him a time-honored extortion ritual much observed in that region when escorting foreigners.  The ritual was called “preparing the grave for the traveler.”    

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Alive Today, Dead Tomorrow, Then Alive Again

The ancient Greek statesman and general Alcibiades once likened his career to the lives of the mythical half-brothers Castor and Pollux.[1]  These two figures are together called the Dioscuri, and they are attended by many stories and fables, some of which are contradictory or ambiguous.  According to myth, the Dioscuri are alive and dead on alternate days.  Homer says:

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On The Tempests Of Misery

The Roman writer Aelian, in his Varia Historia (X.5) credits the following parable to Aesop the Phrygian, although I have never heard it mentioned in collections of his stories.  He said that a pig squeals when it is touched by man for a good reason:  it does not produce fur or milk for human use, as a goat or sheep, and has nothing to offer except its own meat. 

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On Why The Best Philosophers Are Men Of Action

The Roman writer Aelian, in his Varia Historia (III.44), conveys the following anecdote. Three young friends, he says, were traveling to Delphi in order to consult the oracle.  Along the way, they lucklessly encountered some bandits.  In the melee that followed, some of the robbers were killed. 

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Arousing The Imagination

By what means can the imagination be activated?  By what artifice may its secrets be coaxed to the surface of our consciousness, and made capable of articulation, as an enterprising fisherman might lure a rare specimen from deep waters to the surface?  Are there tried techniques, or is it simply a matter of random inspiration?  These are questions worthy of consideration.

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