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Claudius Aelianus

Claudius Aelianus, known to us as Aelian, was born sometime between A.D. 165 and 170 in the hill town of Praeneste, in what is now Palestrina, about twenty-five miles from Rome, Italy. He was fond of making almanac-like collections, only fragments of which survive, devoted to odd topics such as manifestations of the divine, the workings of the supernatural, and observations on the animal kingdom.

Aelian’s On the Nature of Animals

The legends and innovations of the Roman Empire have been instilled in us since childhood. We know the great stories of legal and political governance, all-knowing gods and goddesses, military power and conquest, and developments in science and engineering. But we have known little, until now, about their knowledge of the animal kingdom—which was, by far, the most advanced in world history,...

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