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The Alexandrian Tradition

Interactions between Science, Religion, and Literature


Edited By Luis Arturo Guichard, Juan Luis García Alonso and María Paz de Hoz

This book is the outcome of the conference «Imperial Alexandria: Interactions between Science, Religion and Literature», held at Salamanca University in October 2011. The conference convened a group of experts from different fields to address the interrelationship between Science, Religion and Literature in the Graeco-Roman world during the Imperial Period, and especially in Alexandria, situating it within the context of the long tradition of knowledge that had been consolidating itself in this city, above all during the Hellenistic era. The encounter’s main aim was to create a forum for interdisciplinary reflection on «the Alexandrian model» of knowledge in the Imperial Period and its background, being attended by philologists and historians specialising in different types of texts (literary, scientific and religious), whose study requires an interdisciplinary approach, with priority being given to the notion of contact and the relationship between these subjects in order to gain a better understanding of the spirit, way of thinking and moral values of a particularly important era in the development of ancient culture.
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Nonnus’ natural histories: anything to do with Dionysus?: Laura Miguélez-Cavero



Nonnus’ natural histories: anything to do with Dionysus?

The ancients would have described natural history1 as the enquiry into what was remarkable in the natural world, involving mostly animals and plants. Histories had a chronological component (talking of old things), at least an appearance of impartiality, and most of the time their subject matter came from distant lands, including strange elements that elicited surprised reactions in the reading public.

Animals rendered a neutral space to talk about other subjects. They were used as spaces (or bodies) for thought and narrative in fables, where they illustrated different types of characteristically human behaviour, and in religious narratives, with deities taking different animal shapes for the sake of disguise and punishing humans with the loss of their bodies. Through these two channels, animals entered the philosophical and scientific discourse in classical Athens. Natural history became fully formed as a scientific discipline with Aristotle’s studies on the natural world.2 He considered an educational acquaintance with all scientific fields, including animals, was good for the liberally educated man, who should be able to appreciate and judge a discourse on animals just as well as a philosophical one, although he did not need to have a productive knowledge of them, such as a veterinary would.

Aristotle and Nonnus of Panopolis are separated by chronological, physical and literary distance, since the latter has been dated to the fifth century AD, came from Panopolis in Upper Egypt...

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