Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2018.06.11 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2018.06.11

Claudio Meliadò (ed.), Scholia in Claudii Aeliani libros de natura animalium. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, 2024.   Berlin; Boston:  De Gruyter, 2017.  Pp. xlvi, 145.  ISBN 9783110401318.  $68.99.  

Reviewed by Ottavia Mazzon, Università degli Studi di Padova (

This book provides the first critical edition of the scholia to Aelian’s De natura animalium, a work that was read throughout Antiquity and the Middle Ages as a source for both information and curiosities on animals and their habits. The edition is preceded by a Praefatio, in Latin, which contains a survey of the manuscript tradition of the various corpora of scholia to Aelian’s work.

The Praefatio opens with the stemma of the manuscript tradition of the De natura animalium elaborated by Edoardo Luigi De Stefani based on analysis of both the direct witnesses of the text and the collections of excerpts.1 It is also the one adopted in the most recent edition of the treatise.2 The stemma is followed by a list of the manuscripts used by Meliadò for his critical edition (pp. viii-xi). Each codex is briefly described. Information provided includes material (parchment, Oriental paper, watermarked paper), date, number of folia, whether it contains the entire work, a section, or excerpta (with indication of which corpus of excerpts, since there are more than one), and if the author collated it de visu or on microfilm. Descriptions sometimes also provide the name of the scribe of the codex, when known (e.g. Mon. gr. 564, Laur. plut. 55.7) and in one case, the name of a previous owner who bought the manuscript in Constantinople and brought it to Western Europe (Vindob. Theol. gr. 203).

The Praefatio goes on (pp. xi-xxvi) to throw light on the origin of the different corpora of the scholia. There were at least three, according to Meliadò’s reconstruction. The most ancient corpus, the only one presumably encompassing the work in its integral form, survives only through a few scattered testimonia: traces of it can be found in Diogenianus (transmitted by Hesychius), in the Lexicon falsely attributed to Zonaras, and in some scholia attested only by Ms Vat. gr. 1852. The second and the third corpora accompany two different collections of excerpts from the De natura animalium, both compiled in the final decades of the XIIIth century. In both cases, the scholia to Aelian’s text have been composed by the excerptor himself to go along with his selection of passages.

The first collection of excerpts, named Excerpta Laurentiana, is part of an anthology of works which was probably put together by Maximus Planudes and employed to teach grammar. In addition to Aelianus, the anthology includes the Imagines of Flavius Philostratus, the Sylloge Vaticana of epigrams, Leo Magister's De thermis Pythiis and excerpts from Marcus Aurelius. Not all the witnesses of this anthology seem to have been collated by Meliadò (see pp. xix-xx: only some manuscripts are provided with sigla). Nevertheless, he identifies three different redactions of this corpus of scholia to Aelian’s text.

The second collection of excerpta is called Excerpta Marciana: it too was probably composed in the intellectual circle of Maximus Planudes, but perhaps by one of his disciples. Since the scholia to the Excerpta Marciana are quoted in the Συλλογὴ Ἀττικῶν ὀνομάτων attributed to Planudes’ most famous pupil, Manuel Moschopoulos, Meliadò argues that this collection of excerpts—and, consequently, its scholia—could have been authored by Moschopoulos himself. Meliadò also examines the indirect tradition of the scholia cited in the epimerismoi of Maximus Planudes and in another analogous work entitled Ἀναγκαῖα γραμματικὰ ζητήματα (pp. xxvi-xxxiii). He then explains the criteria adopted in the edition (pp. xxxiiii-xxxiv).

The edition itself is accompanied by two apparatus: an apparatus of loci paralleli and the critical apparatus, which records the few variants of the manuscript tradition and the editor’s interventions. At the end of the volume there are an index nominum, an index grammaticus et rhetoricus, an index of authors quoted in the scholia, and a list of scholia that contain variae lectiones.

Meliadò’s edition satisfies a desideratum in the field of classical philology. It constitutes an undoubtedly useful instrument not only for those who are interested in the exegesis of Aelian’s text, but also to the scholars dealing with the history of the classical tradition. Meliadò makes available for the first time a large corpus of scholiastic material surely put together in the scholarly circle of Maximus Planudes and his disciples, thus providing new data for the history of classical scholarship in the crucial period of the end of the XIIIth century and the first decades of the XIVth.

One characteristic of the edition is particularly useful: in the outer margin of each page, Meliadò indicates which scholia can be attributed to Planudes (marking them “plan”) and which to his most famous disciple, Manuel Moschopoulos (Moschopoulean scholia are marked “mosch”). The reader can thus easily compare the two types of exegesis of the De natura animalium. It is evident that Planudes was more focused on explaining the meaning of the text: his scholia are mostly very brief and usually provide synonyms of words or short explanations. On the other hand, Moschopoulos employs Aelian as a source of examples to explain linguistic and grammatical notions: for instance, his commentary on the word κύων, “dog” (Ael. NA I 16 [p. 9, 16]), deals with the fact that “many names have the same form for both the masculine and the feminine gender” (πολλὰ τῶν ὀνομάτων τὰ αὐτὰ κατὰ τοῦ ἀρσενικοῦ λέγεται καὶ τοῦ θηλικοῦ: p. 35, ll. 9-10 Meliadò), while his exegesis of the word σκυλάκια, “puppies” (Ael. NA I 16 [p. 9, 16]), provides a list of animals whose young have a different name from adults (p. 36, ll. 10-22 Meliadò).

Meliadò’s effort to make available such a large body of Palaeologan scholiastic material opens up new lines of research. The fact that he has identified three different redactions of the Aelianic scholia to the Excerpta Laurentiana, for example, leads one to wonder if these three different redactions could be found also in the other works included in the anthology of texts employed by Planudes. An extensive enquiry would undoubtedly further our knowledge of how these scholia were composed, how they were organized, and most of all, how they were employed in teaching. Moreover, the clear separation of scholia belonging to Planudes and Moschopoulos will hopefully produce a re-examination of other scholiastic corpora produced in their intellectual circle, such as the scholia to Synesius of Cyrene’s Letters, whose main witness is codex Vat. gr. 113.3 It is my hope that others will follow Meliadò’s example and publish corpora of scholia dating to the Palaeologan “Renaissance”.

Despite the overall philological accuracy of Meliadò’s work, some minor criticisms are in order. The reader would perhaps have benefitted from some additional information on the manuscripts transmitting the collections of excerpts. Meliadò’s conclusions on the corpora are beyond reproach, but, for example, the scribe of Ms Marc. gr. XI 1 (= 452) has been identified as the scribe of Ms Neap. II F 9, which is one of the witnesses of Planudes’ Συναγωγή.4 Meliadò also chooses to collate Laur. plut. 59.44 (siglum m), but this codex has been determined to be an apograph of Marc. gr. XI 15 (= 1273) for Callistratus’ Statuarum descriptiones and Philostratus’ Heroicus.5 It is likely that it is an apograph of this manuscript for the other works it transmits, as well. Hence, the author should either have collated the Marcian codex or stated why Laur. plut. 59.44 is not its copy for the Aelianic section.

The volume is well presented, with only a few, minor typographical errors: e.g. ‘1902’ on p. vii n. 1 and on p. xi n. 15 should both be ‘1902b’. There are also a few missing ‘pp.’ in the bibliography: e.g. before ‘87-107’ in entry ‘Mioni 1971-1972’; ‘García Valdés’ in entry ‘Stefec 2011b’ should be ‘M. García Valdés’.

All in all, the author has produced an excellent edition that will prove useful to both Classical and Byzantine scholars.


1.   The stemma elaborated by De Stefani can be found in E. L. De Stefani, “I manoscritti della ‘Historia animalium’ di Eliano,” Studi italiani di filologia classica 12 (1904), pp. 145-180: 169.
2.   Claudius Aelianus, De natura animalium, ediderunt M. García Valdés, L.A. Llera Fueyo, L. Rodríguez-Noriega Guillén, Berolini et Novi Eboraci: De Gruyter, 2009, p. viii.
3.   For the edition of these scholia see A. Garzya, “Scoli inediti alle Epistole di Sinesio”, Ἐπετηρὶς ἑταιρείας βυζαντινῶν σπουδῶν 30 (1960), pp. 214-280 (printed also in A. Garzya, Storia e interpretazione di testi bizantini: saggi e ricerche, prefazione di R. Cantarella, London: Variorum reprints 1974, nr. XXVII).
4.   This information is recorded in the Addenda to the catalogue of Greek manuscripts of the Marciana National Library: see E. Mioni (ed.), Bibliothecae Divi Marci Venetiarum codices Graeci manuscripti, Indices omnium codicum Graecorum, Roma 1985, p. 66.
5.   S. Follet and B. Mondrain, “La tradition manuscrite des «Descriptions» de Callistrate,“ in M. Costantini, F. Graziani, and S. Rolet (edd.), Le défi de l'art: Philostrate, Callistrate et l'image sophistique, Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes 2006, pp. 77-91: 83-84; L. De Lannoy (ed.), Flavii Philostrati Heroicus, Leipzig: Teubner 1978, pp. xviii-xx.

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