18 October 2019

International Conference | Diffusion of zoological knowledge in late Antiquity and The Byzantine period

Trier, Germany, 18-19 October 2019 – organized by the research network Zoomathia and the department of Classical Philology at Trier University

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Friday, October 18

  • 9:15   Welcome & Introduction (O. Hellmann & A. Zucker)

Session I. Animals and Literary Culture (Chair : S. Lazaris)

  • 9:30   Steven D. Smith (Hempstead, New York). Theophylact Simocatta: Zoological Lore and Sophistic Culture at the End of Antiquity
  • 10:15   Caroline Belanger (Tübingen / St. Andrews). Marvellous, Exotic, and Strange: Zoological Knowledge in Solinus’ Collectanea rerum memorabilium
  • 11.00-11:20 Coffee break
  • 11:20 Taxiarchis Kolias  (Athens). Animals in the Late Byzantine Vernacular Literature
  • 12:20 Lunch

Session II. Allegories, Morals, and Politics (Chair : C. Franco)

  • 14:00   Álvaro Pires (Providence). A Fiction of Nature and the Nature of Fiction: Allegory in the     Physiologos
  • 14:45   Diego De Brasi (Marburg). We are being taught the nature of our belongings” (Bas. Hex. 9.6) – Basil’s of Caesarea Homilies on the Six Days of Creation: ‘Knowledge Transfer’ and Moral Education between Aristotle and the Bible
  • 15:30-15:50 Coffee break
  • 15:50   Martin Devecka (Santa Cruz). The Goth Menagerie: Epistolary Animals in Cassiodorus’ Variae
  • 16:35 Daniil Pleshak (St. Petersburg). Animals, Theology and Political Propaganda in George of Pisida’s Hexameron

Saturday, October 19

Session III. Depicting and experiencing animals (Chair : S.D. Smith)

  • 9:30   Morgane Cariou (Paris). La réception du savoir ichtyologique des Halieutiques d’Oppien à Byzance
  • 10:15 Pieter Beullens (Leuven). Bartholomew of Messina and the transmission of greek hippiatry
  • 11:00-11:20 Coffee break
  • 11:20 Cristiana Franco (Siena). Quorum postremo naturae est extra homines esse non posse. Appraisals of Canine Ethology in Christian Writers
  • 12.05   Glenn A. Peers (Syracuse). The Animal Media of Making Christians in the Byzantine World
  • 13:05 Lunch
  • 14:30 Thierry Buquet (Caen). Des girafes à Byzance
  • 15h15-15h35 Coffee break

Session IV. Arabic Traditions (Chair : A. Zucker)

  • 15:35 Meyssa ben Saad & Kaouthar Lamouchi-Chebbi (Paris). Transmission et réception du corpus zoologique aristotélicien chez les naturalistes arabes médiévaux : quelques réflexions
  • 16:20 Jean-Claude Ducene (Paris). Les sources antiques et médiévales du Kitāb abā‘ī
    ayawān (on the Natures of Animals) d’al-Marwazī (XIIe siècle)
  • 17:05 Remke Kruk (Leiden). Marwazī’s Book on the Natures of Animals as a Case History for the Changing Context of Aristotelian Zoological Knowledge in the Arabic Tradition.


In the course of the 4th century BC Aristotle and his colleagues in the Peripatetic School established a canonic pool of zoological knowledge. In the following centuries this pool of knowledge was enlarged only in part, but it was absorbed and re-presented in different forms and media. Zoological texts from the Hellenistic Era and the Imperial Period reorganize zoological data in new types of texts (Aristophanes of Byzantium: Epitome; Pliny: Encyclopedia) or use ethological descriptions in ethic discourse by contrasting animal and human (Philo, Plutarch, Aelianus). This process of transmission and transformation of zoological data continues in Late Antiquity (and in the Byzantine Period), though socio-cultural conditions were changing. In the scholarly debate until today the literary products of these periods have not found the same interest as the texts of earlier times.


The 2019 conference in Trier will focus on this process of diffusion and transformation of zoological data in Late Antiquity and the Byzantine Period by selected case studies. We welcome studies on single authors or texts in Greek, Latin and Arabic, studies on visual images and monuments, or – in a wider perspective – on literary genres, different media in the visual arts or specific cultural contexts in view of their influence on literature and art.

Program committee

Annetta Alexandridis, Isabelle Draelants, Cristiana Franco, Brigitte Gauvin, Oliver Hellmann, Stavros Lazaris, Baudouin Van Den Abeele, Georg Wöhrle, Arnaud Zucker


Caroline Belanger (Tübingen / St. Andrews). Marvellous, Exotic, and Strange: Zoological Knowledge in Solinus’ Collectanea rerum memorabilium

 Solinus’ Collectanea rerum memorabilium is one of the only encyclopedic works of natural history surviving from the third/fourth century. It is also, essentially, a paradoxographical collection of mirabilia. Zoological knowledges plays a central role, as Solinus describes the exotic wildlife of locales all around the world. This paper explores the nature of Solinus’ zoological knowledge, identifying its characteristics and its role in his encyclopedic description of the world, then analysing how it is distinct from the zoological knowledge of his main source, Pliny’s Historia naturalis. Finally, the paper discusses what the Collectanea reveals of the trends and priorities of zoological learning in Late Antiquity. It contextualises the Collectanea within the contemporary Latin fascination with mirabilia (sanctioned for Christian audiences by major thinkers like Augustine), and underlines the “scientific” merit that they were considered to possess. As a compilatory text, the Collectanea demonstrates the evolution of Latin zoological knowledge between the first and fourth centuries. As an authoritative text throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, it also indicates how zoological knowledge continued to be received in intellectual circles. The Collectanea’s totalising account of marvellous natural history was received across the empire and through the centuries, reinforcing the ongoing dominance of the kind of zoological understanding that Lucian parodies in his short story Amber, or The Swans. The analysis will thus centre on the nature of Solinus’ text, but broaden to examine the implications of this authorative work for the condition of zoological learning in Latin Late Antiquity.

Pieter Beullens, Bartholomew of Messina and the transmission of greek hippiatry

Greek hippiatric knowledge came down to us from Antiquity in various forms and recensions. The relations between the extant Greek manuscripts and the excerpted texts that they contain have not yet been completely clarified. Important evidence for the transmission history of the original Greek texts may be gained from the Latin version by Bartholomew of Messina. In recent times, the style and methodology of this 13th-century Sicilian translator were thoroughly studied on the basis of his renderings of ancient philosophical and medical works. The aim of this presentation is to use these newly gained insights regarding the characteristic features of Bartholomew’s style with the Latin version of Hierocles’ hippiatry ascribed to him in the manuscripts, as well as with its epitomized form, and to ascertain his role in the transmission process. The resulting evaluation will define the future approach of the Latin tradition in relation to its source texts and clarify some aspects of the way in which Greek hippiatry was received in the western world.

Meyssa ben Saad & Kaouthar Lamouchi-Chebbi (Paris). Transmission et réception du corpus zoologique aristotélicien chez les naturalistes arabes médiévaux : quelques réflexions

La zoologie arabe médiévale a été considérée pendant longtemps comme inexistante. Or, dans de nombreuses classifications des sciences établies par des savants arabes médiévaux (par ex. al-Farābī dans iḥṣā’ al-‘ulūm), la zoologie (‘ilm al-ḥayawān) semble apparaître comme une science autonome au sein des sciences naturelles (‘ulūm ṭabi’īya). De nombreux types d’ouvrages ont été consacrés à l’étude des animaux (traités lexicographiques, ouvrages médicaux, ouvrages de géographie à dimension ‘encyclopédique’, etc.), mais il existe également un certain nombre d’ouvrages consacrés aux animaux avec une démarche « scientifique », dont l’objectif est de comprendre et d’analyser des phénomènes biologiques relatifs au monde vivant. Des recherches récentes ont fait émerger le savant al-Ğāḥiẓ (776-868) et son ouvrage naturaliste Kitāb al-Ḥayawān comme une référence majeure de l’histoire de la zoologie arabe, à travers une méthodologie accordant une place importante à l’observation, l’expérience et la lecture critique des sources. Une de ces sources majeures est le corpus zoologique aristotélicien, dont l’Histoire des Animaux, Parties des Animaux et Génération des animaux ont été traduits en arabe vers 815 et rassemblés dans un corpus appelé Kitāb al-Ḥayawān [Livre des Animaux] par Yahya Ibn al-Bitriq, paternité sur laquelle subsistent encore de nombreux doutes (Brugmann-Lulofs, 1971, Kruk, 1979, Endress, 1997). Quelle a été la réception des connaissances issues de ce corpus aristotélicien, comment ont-elles été assimilées, discutées, comment se sont-elles intégrées aux connaissances zoologiques locales ? Enfin, quelle lecture critique les savants arabes ont fait de ce corpus, quelle part d’originalité, d’innovation ?

Thierry Buquet (Caen). Giraffes in Byzantium

In the Latin West, the giraffe remains poorly known during medieval times. Reported by the Latin Bible, the camelopardalis is described very imperfectly by Pliny, who forgets to mention its size and the characteristic length of its neck. When giraffes are sent to Italy in the 13th century, no one seems to be able to identify the animal named giraffa (after the Arabic zarâfa) to the « camelopard » described by Pliny. The situation is very different in Byzantium, where the giraffe is still named after its Greek zoonym kamelopardalis, especially when chroniclers refer to the arrival of this animal in Constantinople, whether it was during late antiquity and in the 11th and 13th centuries, when this animal was offered to various emperors as a diplomatic gift. This « recognition » of the ancient animal is observed in medieval scholia on ancient authors who described the giraffe, such as the 13th century one on Agatharchides of Cnidus. In the epitome of Timothy of Gaza’s Book of animals, a medieval commentary adds that the giraffe had been seen during the reign of Constantine Monomachus.  The transmission of the ancient works that mentioned the giraffe (in addition to the previous ones, Oppian of Apamea is to be noted) has allowed the Byzantine world to have good descriptions of this rare animal, some of which will be compiled, for example, in the Sylloge Constantini. The objective of this paper will be to study the ancient descriptions of the giraffe transmitted during the Byzantine period, while medieval testimonies shed new light on the use of the exotic animal in diplomacy and the representation of imperial power.

Morgane Cariou (Paris). La réception du savoir ichtyologique des Halieutiques d’Oppien à Byzance

 Les Halieutiques, poème biologique et technique rédigé entre 175 et 180 de notre ère, constituent un témoignage unique en son genre sur le savoir ichtyologique antique : ils rassemblent et organisent les descriptions éthologiques ou morphologiques de 161 espèces – poissons, crustacés, mollusques ou cétacés – tantôt connues d’Aristote, tantôt – pour le quart d’entre elles – mentionnées chez nul autre auteur. Dans le cadre de la conférence de Trier, nous souhaiterions aborder la question de la réception, de la diffusion et de la transformation du savoir ichtyologique de cette œuvre à Byzance. Les quelque 60 manuscrits byzantins qui nous sont parvenus, tous chargés d’annotations, de scholies, de gloses et de diagrammes, attestent non seulement que le texte a suscité un vif intérêt mais encore qu’il a été intégré dans l’enseignement universitaire. Ce fait soulève plusieurs interrogations : comment les maîtres abordaient-ils le genre particulier que constitue la poésie scientifique ? S’il est vrai que certains érudits, tel Eustathe de Thessalonique, s’intéressaient plutôt à l’innovation langagière, d’autres, comme Jean Tzetzès, se sont davantage attachés à élucider le contenu zoologique du texte. Sur quel type de savoir animal ces derniers concentraient-ils leurs commentaires ? Comment l’adaptaient-ils à leurs propres connaissances ? Dans quel but, de manière plus générale, les byzantins s’intéressaient-ils à l’ichtyologie antique ? Pour répondre à ces questions, il conviendra de se tourner vers l’abondant corpus de scholies aux Halieutiques, qui diffère fortement d’un manuscrit à l’autre et, en tout état de cause, de l’unique édition disponible, ainsi que vers des résumés et paraphrases inédits. L’utilisation de ce matériel nouveau devrait permettre d’apporter des éléments de réponse qui convergent vers un intérêt particulier pour les variations de l’ichtyonymie et la classification des espèces marines, toutes deux étudiées, semble-t-il, dans le cadre d’enseignements médicaux. On verra ainsi que de nombreuses scholies s’attachent à donner l’équivalent byzantin d’un zoonyme antique tout en signalant des variantes locales. Plusieurs lemmes s’intéressent à des questions de taxinomie et c’est la raison pour laquelle on rencontre, dans la tradition manuscrite, une acolouthie avec des fragments du début de l’Épitomé d’Aristophane de Byzance, notamment dans les commentaires de Jean Tzetzès préservés dans les marges du fameux Ambrosianus C 222 inf. On espère ainsi que l’étude de ce cas doublement particulier – par le format littéraire et par le choix de la seule ichtyologie – contribuera à nourrir la réflexion sur la diffusion du savoir zoologique à l’époque byzantine.

Diego De Brasi (Marburg). We are being taught the nature of our belongings” (Bas. Hex. 9.6) Basil’s of Caesarea Homilies on the Six Days of Creation: ‘Knowledge Transfer’ and Moral Education between Aristotle and the Bible

 Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea from 370 CE until his death in 379 CE, focuses in the seventh, eighth and ninth homily of his Hexaemeron on the creation of plants and animals as described in the first chapter of the book Genesis. In his explanation of the biblical text, he explicitly rejects the allegorical interpretations of other Christian authors and opts for a literal exegesis. His description of different animals and their characteristics depends mainly on peripatetic findings, which had been abridged by Hellenistic Epitomai, and on other pagan writings from the imperial time (e.g. Oppian’s Halieutiká), whose authors, in turn, had adapted biological evidence gathered by Aristotle and his pupils to their own rhetorical and literary purposes. On the one hand, Basil aims to teach his audience, i.e. a heterogeneous Christian community, how beautiful and teleologically functional the natural world is. On the other hand, he comments on animal behavior from a moral point of view and thus uses animals as examples for the moral education of his congregation. Furthermore, Basil offers a very brief analysis of animal ‘psychology’. According to him, aquatic and terrestrial animals have distinct forms of souls, as the different wording used in their description in the biblical text shows (Hex. 8.1). After a brief introduction, in which I will examine the Sitz im Leben and the overall structure of the Hexaemeron, my paper will focus on two main questions: 1. Which literary techniques does Basil use to incorporate pagan biological knowledge in his exegesis of creation? How does he convey this information to his audience? 2. How do Basil’s remarks about the different types of animal soul at the beginning of the eighth homily help to understand his exegetical and paraenetic intention better?

Martin Devecka (Santa Cruz). The Goth Menagerie: Epistolary Animals in Cassiodorus’ Variae

 Much recent scholarship, including my own, has offered allegorical or communicative interpretations of the zoological passages in Cassiodorus’ Variae (e.g. 1.35, 4.34, and 10.30), letters written on behalf of various Italian Ostrogothic rulers from Theoderic to the fall of the Gothic kingdom.[4]  Adopting the perspective of this conference, I now propose to treat these passages instead as elements in a process of knowledge-diffusion and, to the extent that they bore the king’s signature, of knowledge-making by fiat. Taking advantage of recent interpretive work on Cassiodorus’ zoological digressions, I will trace the sources of their zoological content in order to show that his puzzling and sometimes fantastic descriptions of animals are in fact original syntheses that show a distinctive “leveling” of value between Aristotelian science, more recent compilations, and a Christian zoology then still under formation. I will address the reception of these letters both in the near term, by their addressees, and in the longer term, by an audience that includes some of the leading literary lights of Gothic Italy and the European Middle Ages. My aim is to characterize the Variae as an exercise in state-sanctioned production and dissemination of facts about animals. I will argue that Cassiodorus’ engagement with the Amal dynasty positioned him to impose his idiosyncratic zoology as a new classic, and that it was so received by at least some readers. Here as elsewhere, political power is central to the diffusion of zoological knowledge

Jean-Claude Ducene (Paris). Les sources antiques et médiévales du Kitāb abā‘ī al-ayawān (on the Natures of Animals) d’al-Marwazī (XIIe siècle)

Parmi les ouvrages zoologiques médiévaux arabes, le « Livre des caractéres naturels des animaux » du médecin iranien Sharaf al-Zamān Ṭāhir al-Marwazī (XIIe siècle) reste encore relativement peu connu, cela venant du fait qu’il n’était attesté jusqu’à présent que par trois manuscrits incomplets et divergents. Or, la découverte d’un quatrième manuscrit, conservé à Téhéran permet d’en avoir une idée plus exhaustive. Al-Marwazī subdivise la faune en quatre ensembles dans lesquels l’énumération des animaux ne suit pas un ordre spécifique, mais lui permet néanmoins de nommer et de décrire plus de cent soixante-dix animaux. Notons qu’il donne parfois, à côté du nom arabe, les appellations syriaques, persanes et grecques de l’animal. Notre communication vise à présenter la partie zoologique de l’ouvrage ainsi reconstituée et d’étudier en particulier ses sources antiques. En effet, s’appuyant essentiellement sur des sources livresques et peu de témoignages oraux ou d’observations personnelles, al-Marwazī utilise des sources médiévales (zoologiques, médicales et géographiques) mais aussi antiques, dont Aristote, Galien, Dioscoride et Timothée de Gaza. Ce dernier nous intéresse en particulier car, dans la suite de travaux de Remke Kruk, de nouveaux passages de Timothée ont été reconnus dans ce texte d’al-Marwazī, notamment en ayant eu recours aux textes identifiés par Sami Aydin dans un bestiaire syriaque anonyme.

Cristiana Franco (Siena). Quorum postremo naturae est extra homines esse non posse. Appraisals of Canine Ethology in Christian Writers

The dog is one of the major figures in ancient pagan discourse about non-human animals’ virtuses and vices. Regarded as a valuable companion in many activities (hunting, guarding, companionship), it was nevertheless often blamed for not being capable of putting up with all human requirements. Praised for its fides in many Roman sources, the dog receive a new appraisal in the Christian writers of late antiquity. While reflecting the negative evaluation of the animal in the Jewish culture, they feel compelled not to completely dismiss the Roman appreciation for the animal but shift the focus on virtuses more in tune with the new Christian ethics such as oboedientia.

Taxiarchis Kolias  (Athens). Animals in the Late Byzantine Vernacular Literature

During the late Byzantine period, are issued and diffused vernacular rhymed texts of anonymous authors, in the invented stories of which animals speak and debate like humans. Their quite rich manuscript tradition, but also their survival up to the modern era, indicate that they were popular. These texts are the Bird Book (Πουλολόγος), the Entertaining Tale of the Four-footed Animals (Διήγησις παιδιόφραστος των τετραπόδων ζώων), the Synaxarion of the Honorable Donkey (Συναξάριον του τιμημένου γαδάρου), the Fish Book (Οψαρολόγος) (in prose), and The Cat and the Mice (Ο κατής και οι ποντικοί). These narratives form a more or less autonomous group and are only partially related to the tradition of Physiologos and the Fables of Aesop. Humor and satire characterize the lively discussions between various animals through which social, and partially political, conflicts are implied, while an attempt of social criticism can also be discerned. This group of texts is certainly of a particular interest for their language and style. Apart from that, one could trace through their lines social attitudes and mentalities. Furthermore, the scholar can detect the human approach towards animals and their behavior. However, it is important to distinguish the use and recycling of older material from the current knowledge and practices.  Moreover, for the evaluation of the texts’ context, the social status and the intellectual level of the unknown authors must be taken into account. Scholars with specific interest in economic and social history of late Byzantium could find information concerning animals’ use and exploitation by the society and their important role in Byzantine economy.

Remke Kruk (Leiden). Marwazī’s Book on the Natures of Animals as a Case History for the Changing Context of Aristotelian Zoological Knowledge in the Arabic Tradition.

The physician Sharaf al-Zamān Ṭāhir al-Marwazī, fl. around 1100 C.E., worked at the court of the Seljuq sultan Malikshāh and is the author of a book on animals, or, rather, « living beings ». The book is divided into two parts. The first part deals with man in his various forms of appearance (prophets and mystics; male and female; geographical location), with frequent reference to Hippocrates On airs, waters and places and Galen’s commentary on this text. Greek authors such as Aristotle and Hippocrates (Airs, Waters and Places, including Galen’s commentary) are often cited. The second part of the work deals with animals, divided into four categories. This zoological part is noteworthy for its explicit use of a wide variety of Greek, Arabic and possibly other Middle Eastern sources. Personal observations are also included. Aristotle is well represented, and so is Timotheus of Gaza. In addition to that there is an ample amount of anecdotal information gathered from a variety of sources. The work is remarkable because it neither opts for a completely Galenic approach to the animal kingdom, as was done for instance by Ibn abi l-Ash‘ath (10th century), nor does it adopt the widespread model that divides its treatment of animals between anecdotal (partly pseudo-Aristotelian) information and presentation of the « useful (or magical) properties »  of animals.  I propose to discuss the unique nature of Marwazī’s approach and to ask the question why so far no reference to the book (extant in three MSS) has been found in later sources.

Glenn A. Peers (Syracuse). The Animal Media of Making Christians in the Byzantine World

Human as a category can only exist in a space in which the animal operates as spirit and machine. Simply put, animal is the not-human category, but that category is historically determined always, and it is determined by spiritual and technological means—at the same time. In the most literal ways, animal makes human: in the Byzantine tradition, St. Eustathius is transformed by an encounter with Christ in/as/on stag, and in converting to Christianity, he left behind his pagan name and identity. That is one significant example of transformation, but it is also about media, because the miracle comes about in art as the appearance to the about-to-be saint as an icon in/as/on stag. Vision and voice communicate the media in a confluence of subjects comprising animal, human, painting. This paper examines manuscript media for animal-human definition, namely the sole example in Greek of the Early Christian moralizing natural-history handbook, the now-destroyed Physiologus from Smyrna (Izmir; olim Evangelical School B.8). A particular example of Late Byzantine scientific inquiries, this manuscript has been reconstituted ‘archaeologically’ (it was destroyed in 1922, but photographs and descriptions allowed its reconstruction), but it has not been closely examined for its animal-motivated subject-formation. Animal acts, voices, and embodies divine will and presence in the made-world. It is the technology by which God can be known, and it is the spirit humans should discern for approaching human potential, already present in animal as such. Moreover, the manuscript creates the medium by which animal can be known—media stores the data that comprise the media. That’s to say, this manuscript is not a field manual, but media that denature understanding in vision and speech. And it shows its media integrity in the latter part of the manuscript, where divine revelation is shown to have been in effect all along through images. In the Byzantine world, material images qua icons are media of God, and that media existed before icons as such, as God appeared to Moses on Sinai specifically as icons of the Virgin Mary and Christ child (p. 166). Having been interpreted by scholars as an instrument of straightforward Christian pedagogy, this manuscript is really a medium, a discrete object that materializes vision in itself as a self-fulfilling media process.

Daniil Pleshak (St. Petersburg). Animals, Theology and Political Propaganda in George of Pisida’s Hexameron

 George of Pisidia is a prominent 7th century Byzantine poet. His works comprise historical epics, panegyrics, polemical and philosophical poems. Nevertheless, it was his Hexamaron that gained him the biggest following in the Medieval Greek world, as this poem survived in almost 40 manuscripts, along with Slavic and Armenian translations. Generally, the topic of Hexamaron writing is the story of creation, but George’s poem mostly aims to reconcile Christian cosmology with Late antique science and a major part of the poem contains information on animal world.  Therefore, the text provides a valuable insight in zoological knowledge of the 7th century Byzantium. The recurrent motif of the poem is an image of universal harmony created by God. In the proposed paper I would like to consider how George uses animal exempla to illustrate his thesis. Considering George of Pisidia’s role of a propagandist of Imperial authority and Orthodoxy, I would also like to pay attention to political uses of zoology in the passages where he compares animals with the enemies of imperial power such as monophysites, Persians and other ‘barbarians’. The final point of interest is comparison of the poem’s treatment of animals with previous Greek-language tradition of Hexameron writing presented in the works of  Basil of Ceasaria, Gregory of Nissa and Anastasius of Sinai.

Álvaro Pires (Providence). A Fiction of Nature and the Nature of Fiction: Allegory in the Physiologos

 The Physiologos has garnered recent scholarly attention for its role in transmitting zoological knowledge in the milieu of the early Church, with a focus especially on the text’s hermeneutics. This paper follows these currents by examining the interpretative methods employed by the text in generating a conception of nature as fantastical. Despite the increased focus on the literary strategies of the Physiologos, the question of fictionality in the text’s presentation of zoological material has not been satisfactorily addressed. A driving question of this paper focuses on whether the text accepts the existence of the animals it describes as creatures inhabiting the material world of the senses. A variant version of the chapter on the siren and the centaur from the first redaction (13b) exemplifies this ontological ambivalence, asserting the unreality of the two creatures and labelling them an ἀνάπλασμα while still deriving a spiritual truth from them. Late ancient Christian and Neoplatonist exegetes attest to the relation between fiction and allegoresis. Basil of Caesarea dismisses the interpretations of allegorists as harmful φαντασία (Hexaemeron 9.1), while Origen (Comm. in Cant. prol. 3.11), like Porphyry (Antr. 4), employs allegory precisely to solve the interpretative closure posed by an entertaining πλάσμα. Through comparison with the works of these exegetes, I will contextualize the interpretative strategies of the Physiologos, arguing that the text problematizes the reality of the material world it aims to illuminate. By presenting its zoological material through the medium of allegoresis, the Physiologos characterizes nature as a πλάσμα or αἴνιγμα.

Steven D. Smith (Hempstead, New York). Theophylact Simocatta: Zoological Lore and Sophistic Culture at the End of Antiquity

Zoological lore abounds in the writings of the seventh century sophist and historian Theophylact Simocatta. The Quaetiones physicae and the Letters reveal that acquisition and display of zoological lore were an integral part of Theophylact’s rhetorical education in Alexandria. Theophylact’s primary literary models for writing about animals and for fictional epistolography were the De natura animalium and the Rustic Letters of the third century sophist Claudius Aelianus. But Theophylact’s transformation of the earlier sophist’s literary projects reflect the cultural contexts of the late Roman and early Byzantine world. In the Quaestiones physicae, Theophylact offers twenty explanations for natural mysteries in the form of a Platonic dialogue set in a lively fictional recreation of classical Athens. For the young sophist, figured at the beginning of the work as a swallow (χελιδών) that has just been taught to sing, zoological lore offers an opportunity for the performance of cultural and intellectual mastery. Social power begins, in other words, with the artful display of knowing the secrets of nature. In Theophylact’s Letters from philosophers, farmers, and hetairai, zoological lore and animal fables become a medium for expressing, among other things, Neoplatonic and Christian thought, anxiety about barbarian invasions on the western front, and even the Byzantine obsession with material luxury. Form and style matter most to Theophylact, and in the Letters, animal lore gets fully integrated within the intricate artistic patterning of the collection as a whole. Zoological exempla become, in other words, part of the rhetorical tesserae that make up the compositional variation of Theophylact’s glittering epistolary mosaic.

VENUE : Travelling to Trier

by plane – Airport Luxemburg :
  • the nearest airport is Luxemburg (LUX) – about 50 km to Trier.
  • there are direct connections to a lot of destinations in Europe.
  • connection to Trier by bus (duration 1 h / 1.30 h)

in the afternoon (starting 13.00) there is a direct connection to Trier, BUS 117, scedule: https://bus.run.lu/files/media/mobilitaet/bus/a-horaires/4-rgtr/117-15.10.2018.pdf at the last stop „Christophstraße“ in Trier you go to Porta Nigra and take the lokal Bus 3 to the hotel or to University (see below)

in the morning you have to change the bus:

  1. Bus 16 to Kirchberg, Luxexpo (every 10 minutes)
  2. At Kirchberg Luxexpo you go to the near Gare routière and take Bus 118 to Trier, https://bus.run.lu/files/media/mobilitaet/bus/a-horaires/4-rgtr/118-05.05.2019.pdf at the last stop „Hauptbahnhof“ in Trier you take Bus 3 to the hotel or University.
by plane – Airport Frankfurt am Main
  • Frankfurt International Airport is about 180 km from Trier
  • there are good train connections to Trier (duration 3.30 h)
  • search: www.bahn.de (Frankfurt (M) Flughafen – Trier Hbf)
  • at Trier Hauptbahnhof you take Bus 3 to the hotel or University (see below)
by train:
  • search: www.bahn.de (destination: „Trier Hbf“)
  • at Trier Hauptbahnhof you take Bus 3 to the hotel or University (see below)

Campus 1 map:

Hotel of the participants :

Schroeders Wein-Style-Hotel
Keuneweg 7, 54295 Trier
T: + 49 (0) 651 – 699 846 70
E: info@wein-style-hotel.de

The hotel is situated on the way from the city center to Trier University, about 3 km from Trier Hauptbahnhof (main station) and 1,5 km to the University.
Bus Stop: „Avelerhof“ ist just beside.

in Trier to the hotel:

Take Bus 3 (direction: Tarforst) to stop „Avelerhof“ (every 10 minutes)


(in the evening: take Bus 83 (direction: Tarforst) to stop „Avelerhof“ (every 15 / 30 minutes)


in Trier to University (Campus 1)

Take Bus 3 (direction: Tarforst) to stop „Universität“ (every 10 minutes)


(in the evening: take Bus 83 (direction: Tarforst) to stop „Universität“ (every 15 / 30 minutes)



Internationale Konferenz (Trier, 18.-19. Oktober 2019)

organisiert vom Forschungsnetzwerk Zoomathia und dem Fach Klassische Philologie der Universität Trier

Verbreitung zoologischen Wissens in der Spätantike und in Byzantinischer Zeit

Aufruf zur Einreichung von Beiträgen


Durch die Forschungen des Aristoteles und seiner Schule wird bis zum Ende 4. Jh. v. Chr. ein umfangreicher Kanon zoologischen Wissens etabliert, der in der Folgezeit nur noch partiell erweitert, jedoch in unterschiedlichsten medialen Formen rezipiert und re-präsentiert wird. Zoologische Texte des Hellenismus und der Kaiserzeit organisieren das zoologische Wissen in neuen Textformaten (Aristophanes v. Byzanz: Epitome, Plinius: Enzyklopädie) oder nutzen ethologische Beschreibungen in kontrastierender Tier-Mensch-Perspektive im ethischen Diskurs (Philo, Plutarch, Aelian). Dieser Transmissions- und Transformationsprozess des zoologischen Wissens setzt sich in der Spätantike (und in byzantinischer Zeit) unter veränderten sozio-kulturellen Rahmenbedingungen fort. Die literarische Produktion dieser Epochen hat jedoch in der Forschung bisher weit weniger Aufmerksamkeit erfahren als die zoologischen Texte früherer Zeit.


Die geplante Trier Tagung möchte diesen Prozess der Verbreitung und Transformation zoologischen Wissens in der Spätantike und in byzantinischer Zeit anhand ausgewählter Phänomene näher analysieren. In den Blick genommen werden sollen hierzu einzelne Autoren und Texte in lateinischer, griechischer oder arabischer Sprache, ausgewählte Bildzeugnisse und Monumente oder – in weiterer Perspektive –Textgattungen, verschiedene mediale Formen der Künste oder auch bestimmte kulturelle Kontexte in ihrem Einfluss auf Literatur und Kunst.


Annetta Alexandridis, Isabelle Draelants, Cristiana Franco, Brigitte Gauvin, Oliver Hellmann, Stavros Lazaris, Baudouin Van Den Abeele, Georg Wöhrle, Arnaud Zucker.


Conférence internationale de Trier (18-19 Octobre 2019)

organisée par le réseau scientifique Zoomathia et le département de philologie classique de  l’Université de Trier

Diffusion du savoir zoologique dans l’Antiquité tardive et la période byzantine

Appel à communication


Les recherches conduites par Aristote et son école aboutissent à la fin du IVe siècle av. J.-C. à la constitution d’un canon imposant de connaissances zoologiques. S’il est peu enrichi par la suite, il est largement diffusé et reformulé à travers divers formats et genres littéraires. Les textes zoologiques de la période hellénistique et de l’époque impériale organisent en effet le savoir zoologique dans de nouveaux types de texte (Epitomé d’Aristophanes de Byzance, encyclopédie de Pline) ou exploitent et développent les descriptions éthologiques pour mettre en perspective l’homme et l’animal dans le discours éthique (Philon, Plutarque, Elien). Ce processus de transmission et de transformation des connaissances zoologiques se poursuit à la fin de l’Antiquité (et durant l’époque byzantine) dans des conditions socio-culturelles qui évoluent. La production littéraire de ces époques tardives a toutefois jusqu’à présent attiré beaucoup moins l’attention de la recherche, que les périodes précédentes.


La conférence de Trier se propose d’analyser de plus près ce processus de diffusion et de transformation des connaissances zoologiques au cours de l’antiquité tardive et de la période byzantine à partir de cas d’études particuliers. Seront abordés des auteurs ou des textes significatifs, en latin, en grec ou en arabe, ainsi que des images ou des séries iconographiques, ou encore, dans une perspective plus large, des genres de textes ou de productions culturelles ou l’influence sur la littérature et l’art de certains contextes culturels.

Comité scientifique

Annetta Alexandridis, Isabelle Draelants, Cristiana Franco, Brigitte Gauvin, Oliver Hellmann, Stavros Lazaris, Baudouin Van Den Abeele, Georg Wöhrle, Arnaud Zucker.

18 Oct 201919 Oct 2019
Trier, Germany, 18-19 October 2019

Rencontres scientifiques

Consulter toutes les rencontres
20 Nov21 Nov 2020

Colloque | Sharing species, sharing knowledge

International Conference, Louvain-la-Neuve, November 20 and 21, 2020 — Sharing species, sharing knowledge : The circulation of animals between East and West (12th - 16th centuries) / Partage d’espèces, partage de savoirs : la circulation des animaux entre Orient et Occident (XIIe – XVIe siècles)