Animali maestri: un sondaggio zooantropologico sul "De natura animalium" di Claudio Eliano

Marco Vespa


In the twentieth century, research in classics and cultural anthropology concerning the relationship between humans and animals in ancient Greece almost exclusively concentrated on the differences between these two groups. Starting from Jean-Pierre Vernant's surveys (La cuisine du sacrifice en pays grec and Entre bêtes et dieux), the focus of most studies dealing with the differences between humans and animals has been on topics such as hunting, sacrifice, food and sexual habits. However, relatively little attention has been devoted to cases where ancient Greek authors considered the boundaries between humans and animals to be less rigidly defined.
This paper examines the evidence provided by a series of anecdotes and stories, in particular from Aelian's De natura animalium, but also by linguistic and cultural habits which portray certain animals as experts in several crafts or techniques and as deserving of recognition among humans. In several texts, humans are said to have acquired skills from animals through imitation, e.g. sailing or medical practices. Through a detailed analysis of Aelian's De natura animalium, this article demonstrates that it is possible to identify examples of approaches in ancient Greek thought which tend to diminish the boundaries between humans and animals.

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