ds_gen N. 6 – 2007 – Tradizione Romana


zablocki-piccola.jpgJan Zabłocki

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University

in Warsaw


The Intellectual Background of Aulus Gellius



Noctes Atticae is an adeptly conceived compilation of miscellany stories. In those stories, be they fictitious or not, Aulus Gellius tells us of his friends and teachers and other persons he happened to know[1]. Besides important information covering various branches of learning, the book abounds in anecdotes and trivia that are usually contemporaneous to Aulus but can at times go far back in time. Needless to say the Attic Nights constitutes a major source in all research on Roman history and culture[2]. The prevailing opinion has it that the Attic Nights epitomizes that particular epoch where the Greek and Roman culture would finally blend to produce the homogenous product of cultural perfection. Despite laborious research, however, its author remains mysterious and enigmatic. There is no certainty as to Aulus’ origins, his place and date of birth or death[3]. Where and when the book was written is a matter of conjectures[4]. According to his own testimonies, Aulus was born into a rich equestrian family. In his early days, he studied grammar and rhetoric in Rome and then philosophy in Athens. He grew up amongst people who took great interest in sciences as well as their language and its literature. Not only did those people channel the way Aulus perceived literature and philosophy but they also had great influence over his character. That is how Aulus Gellius was prepared to take the highest offices of the state[5].

Aulus’ school days were marked by diversity as he mentions in numerous instances. He was taught by a number of people of varied backgrounds but who nonetheless recruited from the elites. It is fair to say that elementary education was the responsibility of Aulus’ father. When he came of age, however, the father was no longer there. For all we know he either deceased or simply deemed Aulus sufficiently mature to make his own decisions as to his further education and his teachers. Indeed, Gellius accounts for this himself as he mentions the tradition which had it that adulescentuli enjoyed in Rome the discretion as to who would teach them as soon as they changed the toga praetexta for the toga virilis[6].

The first teacher Aulus thus worked with was Sulpicius Apollinaris. This excellent grammarian came from Africa[7]. They met by chance in Sandalario apud librariosx. Apollinaris, surrounded by a small audience, was subtly and with great sprit ridiculing a young man. In his vanity, the victim purported to be able to read and understand the works of Sallustius without anyone’s help. The grammarian congratulated the young man in a way that reminds us of Socrates as he praised and ridiculed his adversaries at the same time. He cited a passage from Sallustius that he had read the day before. As the passage contained the phrase stolidiorne esset an vanior[8], he asked the pretender to enlighten his audience as to the meaning of the words stolidior and vanior. The young man apparently could not live up to such a task and elected to assert that as both words were vulgar Latin and he had to refuse to comment them and left fuming. Sulpicius Apollinaris thus proceeded to explain the meaning of both words, drawing heavily on examples from the Greek[9]. This accidental meeting grew into a long-lasting companionship.

At another time Sulpicius Apollinaris engaged in a discussion with his students in the library of Tiberius at the Palatine. The discussion concerned the genealogy and the names in the family of Porcia. His interest was dictated by the fact that a book had just been discovered it was essential to identify the person whose name made the book’s title, M. Catonis Nepotis. When a student conjured up the literally literal explanation that the person would be the grandson of Marcus Cato, the grammarian proceeded to expose the history to the family of Porcia. Gellius not only took great interest in what his teacher had to say on the subject, but he also took the initiative to read Laudationes funebres as well as Librum commentarium De familia Porcia[10].

We note other exchanges and influences. One day, Aulus asked his teacher if it was more correct to say habeo cura vestri or habeo cura vestrum. Sulpicius Apollinaris admitted that the question was tantalizing him too. He explained the principles of declination of personal pronouns against the backdrop of the paradigms of the Greek as well as multiple examples drawn from the literature in Latin[11]. Gellius mentions also that in his adulescentulus years he witnessed Sulpicius Apollinaris writing a letter to Sextus Erucius Clarus[12]. The latter was in the office of praefectus urbi et bis consul and wanted to know the meaning of the phrase inter os atque offam multa intervenire posse that he found in the speech De aedilibus vitio creatis by Cato[13]. In his response, the grammarian referred to the well-known Greek saying: poll¦ metaxÝ pšlei kÚlikoj kai ce…leoj ¥krou[14]. When, as an adult, Gellius engages in a polemic with Iulius Hyginus in his Attic Nights[15], he refers to his first teacher. As Iulius Hyginus seems to claim that Virgil was wrong in using the expression pennis praepetibus[16], Gellius mentions that in his young days [adulescens] in Rome he witnessed the same discussion de iure augurio between his first teacher of grammar (Sulpicius Apollinarius) and Erucius Clarus, who was praefectus urbi at the time[17].

Whenever Gellius mentions Sulpicius Apollinaris, it is always in the highest terms and with the most unequivocal admiration and respect. The grammarian took great interest in legal questions in his philological analyses. It is hardly surprising that Gellius should turn to him for help when he was appointed to judge a case or a controversy and had difficulty with the expression intra Kalendas, which concerned the time-limit to pronounce his judgment[18].

Gellius thus testifies to the gradual deepening of the companionship with his teacher. This also shows how he gradually developed his expertise in Latin literature and his capacity to interpret it using corresponding expressions in Greek literature.

Besides grammar, Gellius studied rhetoric. Antonius Iulianus was an outstanding rhetorician originating from Spain who engaged in public teaching in Rome[19]. The Author of Noctes Atticae belonged to the group of adulescentes who took part in his activities[20]. Antonius Iulianus was frequently surrounded by his students. They would seize every opportunity to watch and listen as he recited the beautiful Mimiambi by Cn. Matius[21] or instructive enouncements of Claudius Quadrigarius[22]. The rhetorician took part in the feasts organized by his students[23]. The feasts were the occasion to encourage his students to express whatever it was they were best in through dance and singing. Once their performances were over, Antonius Iulianus recited erotic poems by Valerius Aeditus[24], Porcius Licinus[25] or Quintus (Lutatius) Catulus[26]. During holidays in Puteola, Iulianus and the youth listened to an actor render Quintus Ennius. He commented those fragments that had been distorted by the performer[27]. Moreover, he taught the youth what the discussion was about, whilst the Greeks termed a discussion by the notion of ¥poron[28]. He explained what goal was attained by Cicero as he cunningly changed the meaning of what he quoted by replacing the word debet with the word habet in his Pro Cn. Plancio[29].

Another orator and teacher, Titius Castricius enjoyed fame and authority that he had consolidated already in the times of the Caesar Hadrian[30]. He was notorious for condemning senators who dressed inappropriately[31]. He explained the meaning of particular words and phrases used by Caius Gracchus in his speech In Publium Popilium Laenatem pro rostris[32]. Otherwise, he compared the speeches by Sallustius and Demostenes[33] and analyzed the speech Oratio ad populum de ducendis uxoribus pronounced by the censor Metellus Numidicus[34]. Whilst Metellus’ arguments to the effect of encouraging to use more the institution of matrimony were to the point, Titius deemed them inefficient. He also took the opportunity to make the point that the censor was wrong in his choice of argumentation that is characteristic of rhetoric and should thus be restrained to rhetoricians whilst public officials should use more appropriate means of expression[35].

Such education introduced those young men into the difficult profession of a rhetorician. The direct style of Antonius Iulianus complemented the teaching of Titius Castricius, who in his turn preferred to use many examples drawn from the greatest of orators. Thus Gellius acquired the fundamentals of knowledge of rhetoric. One has to concede, however, that Marcus Cornelius Fronto was to have by far the greatest influence on Gellius[36].

Already during his student years in Rome and before he went to Athens, Aulus Gellius would find the time to go and listen to the discussions with Fronto that were marked by an incredible amount of finesse[37]. Fronto enjoyed a great deal of authority as a rhetorician and a teacher of rhetoric. This can be inferred from the fact that not only did he take active part in the public life of the polity[38], but was also entrusted with the preparing future Caesars for their office[39]. It is therefore hardly surprising that he should have a wide audience composed of young people eager to learn the Latin language as well as the art of oration.

According to Gellius the problems addressed by Fronto were essentially simplistic but nonetheless very helpful in as much as the Latin is concerned. It was not rare for Fronto to use somebody’s maladroit language as the canvass on which to build a discussion on of particular points of grammar. Gellius gives an account of one such situation. One of the participants happened to be a close acquaintance of Fronto and a person of great learning and background. He claimed publicly to have healed his swelling [morbo aquae intercutis] by applying hot sands (harenis calentibus). Fronto burst out laughing at this very moment to say that his friend healed his disease but not his language problems. For this was the occasion to use De analogia by Caius Caesar[40] and to lecture in all seriousness on the problem of nouns that have but one form, be it singular (e.g. harena) or plural (e.g. quadriga)[41]. He concluded encouraging his audience to go back and consecrate their leisure to reading literature in search of examples of the use of the word quadriga in the singular or harena in the plural. The advantage of such an exercise lied in training the mind to read and spot words that are rarely used. Gellius admits not to be very successful at that. Of all the words he only found the word quadriga used in the singular in Ecdemeticus, a piece included in Saturae[42] by Marcus Varro[43]. He never found an instance where the word harena would be used in the plural besides the said work by Caesar[44].

It was also common for one of the participant to read out a text by an ancient author. Gellius mentions reading collectively the Annales by Claudius Quadrigarius. Fronto would explain for example the meaning and the intention in using the doubtfully worded expression mortalibus multis instead of the less clumsy formulation hominibus multis[45].

Fronto’s explanations could not but convince the audience. They also induced respective collective admiration. Their function, however, was to teach the correct use of the forms of the language.

The Fronto’s discussions that Gellius witnessed were not only discussions with anonymous though close followers of Fronto. Quite to the contrary, it was not rare to witness discussions of Fronto with outstanding philosophers and grammarians[46]. For example, the philosopher Favorinus of Arelate[47] discussed with Fronto inter alia on the colors and their relative designations in Greek and Latin[48]. Though the discussion was purely philological, Gellius listened attentively and deemed it highly instructive.

Another discussion in area Palatina had this educational function, too. Marcus Cornelius Fronto, Sulpicius Apollinaris and Postumius Festus engaged in a debate de litterarum disciplinis. Judging by the context of Gellius’ account, the main protagonist of this conversation was his former teacher Sulpicius Apollinaris. Fronto questioned the grammarian on the etymology of the word nanus. Postumius Festus also addressed him in the dialogue. The authority of Fronto was nonetheless unconditional; Apollinaris attests to this in his choice of words when responding[49].

It is fair to say, by the way Gellius describes his meetings with Fronto, that he never developed close and direct acquaintance with as had been the case with Sulpicius Apollinaris or Iulianus Antonius. They always met in public places[50]. There is not doubt, however, that Gellius was highly receptive to Fronto’s teaching. At his suggestion he searched in the literature for rarely used words and went to great lengths to establish the origin of their meaning[51].

Gellius mastered the fundamentals of grammar and rhetoric in Rome. However, he elected to further his education. After all, it was in Athens that students would seek to outstanding thinkers as teachers. It was under the guidance of Greek thinkers that Gellius charted the meanders of philosophy[52]. Taurus Calvisius, the platonic thinker, was to play a major role in Gellius’ development[53]. At the beginning the philosopher was not very friendly with Gellius, fearing as he did that Gellius’ interest in philosophy was inspired only by the urge to perfect his oratory capabilities. During the very first course, which concerned the speech of Pausanias in Plato’s Symposium, Taurus addressed Gellius with clear irony (heus tu, rhetorisce) asking if he was able to find a work of any rhetorician that would equal the composition and rhythm of Plato’s[54]. He taught Gellius to go beyond the plain face of words. Besides the melody of words there is meaning that is far more interesting if its form might still be pleasing. The harmony of Plato’s style was to serve as the paradigm for Gellius’ translations into Latin; Gellius’ task was not only to render to poetic side by to preserve the meaning of the Greek original[55].

At another instance, Gellius mentions that Taurus criticized all those who proceeded to study philosophy after rhetoric. The example concerns a young man. Taurus scorned the youngster for having abandoned his search for eloquence to pursue philosophy; this he deemed highly immoral. When the adolescent tried to explain himself that he was only following the example of his predecessors, the Platonic could not but escalate his scorn. In reference to Demostenes[56], Taurus emphasized that it takes a stupid person of no value whatsoever ignore the basic teachings of philosophy and engage in following bad examples nonetheless. On the other hand, it was even worse to use the conduct of others as the foundation on which to justify one’s own mistakes and responsibility therefor[57].

On the other hand, Taurus was very encouraging and friendly in respect of those students who desired nothing else but pursue philosophy, this determination he supported by good examples. One of his models was Euclid of Megara, who had become a follower of Socrates well before the Athenians decided they hated their neighbors of Megara enough to pass a law that obliged the authorities to seize and sentence to death every citizen of Megara on Athenian land. When such a law was in force, Euclid continued to go and listen to Socrates defying the danger of imminent execution. At dusk, he would change his set of clothes for a long women’s dress, he would wear a colourful coat and cover his hear with a shaw and thus he could still participate in the discussions and accompany Socrates at least for some time at night. Before dawn the philosophical transvestite was back home having covered the distance of twenty thousand paces[58].

Calvisius Taurus held courses daily[59]. His teaching concentrated on reading and clarifying philosophical treatises[60]. When courses were formally over, he would eagerly stay behind to talk to his students, respond to their questions or indulge in less formalized philosophical investigations[61].

Gellius admits having asked his master if a sage could succumb to his anger. The philosopher responded with a comprehensive survey of the malady or passions of anger. He treated various commentaries by the authors of antiquity, including a commentary of his own. As was the method at the time, he also surveyed the Greek and Latin terms that can be used to describe the whole range of forms of anger[62].

Another story concerning Taurus shows the principles of moral philosophy in action. Whilst Taurus was engaging in a lively and informal after-school discussion with his students in front of his house, he received highly dignified guests: the governor of the Crete province with his father. After they greeted, it turned out that there was only one chair available besides the one occupied by Taurus. The teacher suggested the governor’s father take the seat. The father, on the other hand, felt a bit maladroit as he considered that his son should take the seat in virtue of the office he was holding in the name of the people of Rome. Nevertheless, Taurus insisted he take the seat at least until they resolved the issue who should sit on it: the official or the official’s father. The father took the seat, though shortly another chair found its way into the court. It was with utmost avidity that the students awaited the resolution of the controversy. The philosopher did not fail them. He engaged in a lengthy and highly instructive lecture on the distinction between private and public duties. He maintained that in the public domain – wherever the official business involved public affairs or judging private parties – the rights and privileges of the father should be suspended vis-à-vis the dignity of the son, who for the moment impersonated his office. In all other cases natural, on the other hand, primeval and inalienable rights and privileges of the father should take precedence over the office of the son in as far as no public element is concerned in the private domain. Sitting at the table, taking the seat and eating in private thus are regulated by the natural order of things regardless of the public status of the son. The philosopher concluded with all respect and affability: Since the visit they were paying him was private in nature natural rules apply as they would within the house of their family[63].

Gellius skillfully illustrates the case by paraphrasing a relevant passage from the fourth book of Annales by Quadrigarius[64]. The fragment treats the following circumstances and events: as the new consuls were elected Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus for the second time and Fabius Maximus whose father had been consul of the preceding year. One day the father of the latter – proconsul – refused to unmount the horse when he met his son. The lictors who accompanied him were well aware of the harmony that reigned between the father and the son; they would not dare to make the father pay respects to the consul. As the father approached the son, the consul asked his father: quid postea? Now, as the civil servants detained imperium and the lictors interpreted the question as an order to descend the horse, which they immediately proceeded to execute. The father, on the other hand, could not but praise the son for having enforced the respect due to representatives of the populus[65].

Taurus made explicit yet another essential aspect of philosophical propedeutics. He exposed the teaching method introduced by Pythagoras and used by his followers. The students who were eager to learn were called fusiogwmÒnei. This Greek word means coming to know the nature and character of man, that is the totality of what determines human body and human personality. Once this mission accomplished, the young man would be subject to the test of silence for quite some time. The time period of the test could not be established in abstracto, but rather required decisions to be made on a case by case basis. Whoever was thus forbidden to speak was also under the obligation to listen to what others had to say. They were forbidden, however, to ask for clarification or examples when they could not understand. Their silence would never last however less than two years. During this time they were the ¢koustiko. The silence they had to practice, on the other hand, was to teach them what was termed cemuq…a, which meant ‘reticence’ or ‘verbal temperance’. Once they succeeded in this difficult test, they were encouraged to speak, ask questions, take notes and formulate their own opinions. Those who succeeded the first stage of philosophical education proceeded to learn and exercise. Thereafter they would be called maqhmatiko…. In ancient Greece, the term maq»mata covered not only geometry and astronomy (which was also known as gnomonics) or music but also other higher disciplines of learning. With all those studies they proceeded to contemplate the works of nature and inquire into the origin of things natural. Earning the title of fusiko… was the consummation of their efforts[66].

Needless to say this challenging method of preparing to become a philosopher was nothing but nostalgic musings of Taurus. At the same time he could not but grumble that his students were ill-prepared to pursue philosophical investigations. The fact that his students wanted to pick and chose teaching methods was his anathema. If some said they wanted to learn something and others would say they wanted to learn something entirely different. Some wanted the course to begin with the Plato’s Symposium whilst preferred Phaedrus. One could also find those who wanted to read Plato not because they were eager to learn to live a better life but rather were impatient to master the language, and this not in order to be able to formulate balanced opinions but simply so their language could become smoother[67].

Indeed, comparing his contemporaneous adepts of philosophy to the Pythagorean old school, those remarks seem bitter. Nonetheless, they come natural. Taurus emphasized the fact that Pythagoreans started their philosophical quest transferring all their property to the community, which was very similar in its principles to the ancient Roman consortium ercto non cito[68]. Taurus thus insisted on passing onto his students the way the Pythagorean teaching worked.

Gellius, on the other hand, gives us an account of how he learned dialectics[69]. He started off with what was indeed introductory exercises e„sagwg£j. It was imperative to be familiar with the terminology called the axioms – perˆaxiwm£twn. Marcus Varro would call them profata or proloquia depending on whim[70]. Eager to get to the root of the matter, Gellius studied thoroughly the Commentarium de proloquiis by L. Aelius[71], the teacher of Marcus Varro. Unfortunately he was not to find anything that could help him clarify the problem. He thus entertained the conjecture under which Aelius wrote those books for his own pleasure, and that his reader’s craving for knowledge was none of his concerns[72].

Thus he had no choice but to resort to researching Greek books. Greek authors described ¢x…wma as lektÕn aÙtotelšj ¢pÒfanton Óson ™f’aØtù that is as an unqualified and self-evident statement[73]. Gellius, however, refused to translate this definition into Latin. He maintained that any attempt at such a translation into Latin would require him to use neologisms as none of the terms existed in Latin. Those, on the other hand, could not be pleasant to the ear. He thus resolved to use the definition he found in book 24 of De lingua Latina by Marcus Varro. Varro had usefully provided a short and handy definition of the concept of proloquium as a phrase that lacks nothing[74]. With the purpose of illustrating such a definition, Gellius presents after Varro the following examples of ¢x…wma, or proloquia if you will: Hannibal was a Carthaginian; Milo was sentenced to death; delight is neither good nor evil. All of those sentences could well be true or false this very property was characteristic of what dialecticians called ¢x…wma, Mark Varro proloquium, and Cicero[75] pronuntiatum[76].

Such terminological diversity was legion in antiquity. Another example would be what was called a hypothetical syllogism[77] (sunhmmšnon ¢x…wma), would go by the name of adiunctum or connexum in Rome[78]. The following sentences are examples of connexum: if Plato is walking, he is moving; if it is day-time, the sun shines in the sky[79].

Further on Gellius contends that the Greek concept of sumpeplegmšnon is equivalent to the notion of coniunctum or completum[80] in Rome. He presents the following example. Publius Scipio, the son of Paulus, was a consul twice in his life, he held the office of censor and as such he was a friend to Lucius Mummius. The concept of coniunctum has it that within such a sentence, if only one of the facts affirmed in the particular phrases is false, the whole sentence is false even if all others were true. Thus if we enrich the sentence by adding the phrase that is false – e.g. Publius Scipio vanquished Hannibal in Africa – such operation will necessarily entail the falsity of the whole complex of phrases[81].

After this short introduction into dialectics, Gellius mentions that at the very beginning dialectics seems trivial and useless at best. Having acquired a certain level of expertise, however, it is most likely that the dialectics will monopolize the mind. If one does not take this observation seriously, one runs the risk of wasting one’s life away in the meanders of dialectics, engaging in petty exercises of subtle differentiations[82].

Students were all to pleased to work out new sophisms[83]. This obviously was not part of their official curricula, though the times of leisure in the bathroom were one of many occasions. Every young men was to literally throw a sophism at his peers as if the sophism was an arrow or a die. The first to solve the sophism was awarded one sesterce. Whoever failed to solve a sophism was to pay the same amount. The first to collect one dennar was the winner of the particular round. The spirit of conviviality and friendliness was preserved as the winner would later invite his competitors to a feast he would finance with his prize. The sophisms came in many kinds and varieties. One of them ran as follows: «What snow is, hail is not. Snow is white, so hail is not white». Another example concerns the man: «what man is, the horse cannot be, the man is a being, co the horse is not a being». Under the rules of the game, the task was to guess in which part of the statement or in which word there was a fallacy, or what should not be admitted. Gellius complains that translating such sophisms into Latin robs them of most of their finesse and charm[84]. He also mentions Diogenes the sophist who indulged in sophistry. One dialectician originating form Plato’s school wanted to ridicule him and addressed him with the following question: «is it true that what I am you are not?». Diogenes responded in the affirmative; the dialectician went on to say he himself was a human. Diogenes did not protest against this affirmation which thus led the dialectician to announce that Diogenes thus was not a human. Diogenes would not go away without a skillful riposte: «your conclusion is just; since you now know who I am, try the came starting with me!»[85].

Student life obviously had its extracurricular sides. For example, Saturnalia were celebrated with all prowess and thus were the occasion for meetings and discussions. At those times – according to Gellius – students who originated form Rome would organize feasts with their fellow students who studied under the same teacher. Quaestiones would be such evening’s highlight. The same person who prepared the feast would also found a prize for resolving particular questions. He would also be responsible for producing a list of questions and judging the answers by the participants. The prize could not go beyond student means; the winner could expect a book by an ancient author and – obviously – the laurels. When the host presented all the questions, it was for the fortune to decide who and when would be called to respond. Whoever furnished the right solution would receive the award and the laurels. If he failed, the quaestio passed onto others as fortune wished. If no one was successful, the laurels would go the deity and all participants would thus celebrate in veneration of the deity. The game would thus facilitate the circulation of culture as the questions would concern for example a citation from an ancient poet that is less to the point than funny, historical events in antiquity, correcting a faulty interpretation of a philosophical principle, resolving a sophism, finding a word that would be rare and mysterious, or determining the tense of a particular case of a verb[86].

Gellius furnished a detailed description of what this social game was all about. At one feast, there were seven questions involved. The first one concerned explaining those verses of the Saturae by Quintus Ennius that contained one and the same word but in many meanings[87]. The second was about interpreting Plato’s opinion according to which in his ideal country all citizens would have koin¦j t¦j guna‹kaj, i.e. communal women. The interpretation was necessary because at another instance Plato mused that the bravest of men and the most fearless of warriors would be rewarded by kissing girls and boys[88]. The third question was about the sophistry woven into the following sentences: you have what you have not lost; and if you have not lost your horns, so you have horns; if you are not what I am, and I am a man, so you are not a man. The fourth questio demanded answer to the following question: when I am lying and I am saying that I am lying, am I lying or am I telling the truth? The fifth riddle required the feasters to explain why patricians would mutually invite one another for the celebrations of Megalensia[89], and why the plebeians would do the same at Cerealia[90] as well as guess which of the poets of antiquity had used the word verant in the meaning vera dicunt. The sixth required answering what sort of a plant was asphodelum that Hesiod mentions[91], and moreover explaining what he meant when he said the half was bigger than the whole[92]. The last one required the competitors to establish in what tenses the verbs scripserim, legerim, venerim, can go: only in praeteritum, only in futurum, or in both[93].

All questions were addressed in the very same order. Finally, all participants were awarded books and laurels as each of them had resolved the problem proposed in the question that concerned them. The only exception was the origin of the word verant, as no one remembered that it could be found in book 13 of Annales by Ennius, and more precisely in the poem: satin vates verant aetate in agenda?[94]. The laurel wreath was therefore attributed to Saturn, who was the deity of this feast[95].

Another extracurricular occasion for philosophical discussion Taurus’ invitation of his closest students to keep him company during the evening meal in his house. No one would obviously dare come without gifts, as a barehanded parasite. Everyone would try and supplement the modest food not with culinary but rather with philosophical delights. Everyone arrived with whatever was preoccupying him and thus was prepared to ask questions. The debates commenced after the meal. It is important to know that there was a hygienic principle in play in the evening. Nothing serious could ever be the object of the evening discussion; the object was thus limited to ™nqumhm£tia, that is droll and witty trivia that were capable to amuse the mind under the influence of wine. The subject matter of such evening discussion that night was the problem of the moment of death. Is the dying person dead when he is embraced by death or maybe even earlier? Another question was the moment of standing up: when a person is standing up, when is he standing up? When he is effectively standing up or maybe when he is still sitting and when it is not pointless to stand up? The question is easily transposed onto artists: one becomes and artist when one is an artist or well before, when one is not an artist but is learning to be one. Choosing one of the alternatives as shows Gellius is always absurd and funny, though it would be absurd beyond understanding to argue that both answers or none of them are correct[96].

One is anxious to add that this is not to say that Taurus considered these discussion as mere base entertainment. Quite to the contrary, even when the discussion was all about trivial sophistry Taurus was saw beyond the entertainment and sought to familiarize students with problem solving strategies. The trivial problems did not command unanimity. Some maintained that a man who is dying is so only in the very moment of death, but only in as much as he is still alive. Others, however, contested that view and maintained that a man is dying only then when there is no life left in him. Other questions followed the same distribution of opinions within the feasters. Taurus would thus have the opportunity to refer to many philosophers. Thus, for example, he would present the way Plato understood and analyzed those problems in Parmenides[97]. According to Plato, the moment of death does not lie with life or death at all. The same analysis would structure other questions under discussion. Taurus would thus emphasize that in the presence of two concepts which are antonymic, one cannot oppose them mutually if one of the concept axes on the idea of being and the other axes on coming into being. It is therefore unacceptable to oppose the notion of the life to the notion of the beginning of death, as they are mutually exclusive. This is what led Plato to coin a new term to denote the concept of what is between life and death, which is the moment of immediate rupture t¾n ™xa…fnej fÚsin. All those questions constituted what Gellius refers to as appetizers. Taurus himself would term them traghm£tia[98].

One would be wrong, however, to say that those dinners where extravagant in any way. They were scheduled for evenings at the time of supper. The fundamentals of such supper would not go beyond a bowl of Egyptian lentil with pieces of pumpkin. It once happened for such a bowl to be positioned in front of the students who were all to ready to eat. Taurus advised one of the boys to add a bit of olive oil. The boy in question originated from Attica, he was joyful, as all boys of his age and origin. He was inattentive enough to get hold of an empty amphora. Convinced that there was still some oil in the container, the boy played with it. To no avail because not a single drop came out. That is why the boy started to spin the bottle faster and faster which left no choice for the others but to burst out laughing. The boy responded eloquently in Greek that the laughter was in no way justified since the oil would harden in cold, and it was effectively cold out there. Taurus was amused. He had the boy go and fetch olive oil and proceeded to explain why the oil would often easily harden whilst none of that can be said of the wine or vinegar. He also explained why the water in lakes and rivers can freeze and why it cannot freeze in the sea. By the time the boy was back with the oil, the group had calmed down as this was the time of refreshment and silence[99].

As can be seen, the adepts of philosophy would not be confined within the limits of sophistry and analysis of moral issues. They were also trained in physics and medicine. Taurus, on the other hand, would seize any moment and opportunity to share all important piece of information with his students. This was also the case when he brought his students to meet Gellius, who was ill at the time. When they arrived, the doctor started lecturing them on what sort of malady beheld Gellius. He told them the how the disease can be diagnosed, in that there was a rhythm of fever rush. He did not omit to add that Gellius was getting better, as could be inferred from ™¦n ¤yh aÙtoà tÁj flebÒj which would be si attingeris venam illius in Latin. That the physician should use the word vena instead of arteria struck the students as outrageous. They could not hide their disappointment in him. Taurus at this instance affirmed kindly that all the fuss was vain because the physician in all certainty understood the difference between vena and arteria. Just to be on the safe side, however, he proceeded to explain the difference as follows: vena allows the blood to flow, arteria , on the other hand, pulsates and thus is characteristic of the fever. Even if the physician had committed a tremendous blunder, Taurus also said he hoped that the physician would nonetheless prove his worth in medicine. He also sought to justify the physician by saying that the professional would have used a colloquial term. After all professionals tend to simplify all matters that are not essential to their jobs. This disquieting mark professionalism should, on the other hand, be a good sign. Taurus said he hoped the physician would prove his professional acumen to absolve himself of the linguistic blunder. He thus hoped that gods would be favourable to his efforts and that Gellius would soon come to good health[100].

This was a clear criticism of the physician, though Taurus chose to give it a form that was all pleasant. This is how Gellius came to understand that everybody should know the terminology of the human body. That is how he came about reading works in the medical field and – in them – found the explanation of the difference between vena and arteria.

The students took interest not only in the terminology of human parts, but also in terms concerning celestial bodies. When they took a boat trip between Aegina and Piraeus, they were indulging their sense of wonder looking at the sky, which was full of stars. Whoever had come to grips with Greek culture would explain with proficiency which one constellation was the Big Dipper ¤maxa, and which one was the Small Dipper and why they were called what they were. They also described the direction in which the constellations rotated and mentioned the thesis of Homer who maintained that one of the stars never came down[101]. That is where Gellius turned to his fellow students with the question why what the Greeks termed ¤maxa would be known by the name of septentriones in Latin. Gellius was successful in his quest. He received an answer from a student whose interest lay in writings and documents of the Antiquity. He said that most grammarians maintained that the term septentriones originated from the number of stars. Some, on the other hand, maintain that triones does not have any meaning on its own but complements the word. This was by no means only one of its kind, because we also use quinquatrus, which expresses the idea of the day that follows the Ides, whilst artus has no meaning on its own. Gellius himself was of the same opinion as L. Aelius[102] and M. Varro[103] according to which triones was an agricultural term that designed oxen used for plowing the land; triones would thus come from the word terriones which denotes those capable of plowing and cultivating the land. In the same vein, Anglo-Saxon folk terminology associates the constellation with the plough; in Germanic culture the same structure is represented by the notions of men’s wagon as opposed to the women’s wagon (Little Dipper), and in German it is represented as the Großer Wagen (the Great Cart). That is why ancient Greeks would call this constellation ¤maxa and the Romans would opt for septentriones, i.e. seven stars that seem as triones, that seem to be seven oxen at a cart. However, according to Varro there was also another explanation of the meaning of the word septentriones. The seven stars would go by the name of triones because each group of three neighboring stars make up trigona, i.e. a triangle figure[104]. It is the latter explanation that was more to Gellius’ liking because effectively it seems self-evident that it is based on the triangular form[105].

It goes without saying that Taurus’ method was hinged at showing the opinions of different schools of thought. He was not reluctant to show his student s the personalities of the scholarly world in person. This can be seen when Taurus set off together with his students to take part in the Pythian Games in Delphi[106]. It was not until they arrived in Livadeia in the region of Boeotia that they had the news of a friend and an outstanding stoic philosopher having gotten seriously ill. Despite the fact they were running already late, they interrupted the journey to go and pay a visit. When they entered the house they saw the man in pain. They could see as the patient refused to give in to the pain. It seemed, though, as if the moans were already there, waiting to come out of his chest. Taurus listened attentively to the doctors and he paid tribute to the patient’s patience and heroism. It was not until they set off again that he commented that what they had witnessed was not at all a pleasant sight. The disease inflicted extraordinary pain on the body, but it was the patient’s reason and character that prevailed. It was as if the patient not only supported the extraordinary pain but was even able to master it. He did not moan; he did not complain. This sight thus exemplified the tension and the struggle between the power of the mind and the weakness of the body when it comes to commanding the man. One the companions thus asked if the disease was not an evil in itself. After all, it is the disease that induces pain and goes against human free-will and commands the man to moan. Why would stoics not consider the disease a bad thing and persist to consider the disease as indifferent. Can a stoic succumb to the command? Can pain command a Stoic sage (sophos)? After all the stoics affirmed that the pain cannot command a man and that a sage cannot be harmed. Taurus responded with a lecture on the teachings of the stoics on the nature of pain and the techniques that allow men to resist it[107].

It can thus be seen that the Platonist Taurus taught not only the doctrine of the school of his own but also the doctrines of other schools, and in particular the doctrine of the Stoics. He would also never forbid his students listen to philosophers of other schools. Peregrinus, the Cynic also known as Proteus of Parium in Mysia[108], lived in a makeshift house out of town. Gellius paid him visits frequently because Peregrinus had much to say about things that were important and useful[109]. One of his tales was particularly memorable. The Cynic maintained that a sage cannot sin even when he is certain that the sin is beyond divine and human knowledge. The reason he adduced was that we must resist sin not because of the possibility of punishment or ill-repute but rather in virtue of the love of what is good and just as well as in virtue of the obligation of virtue. However, if someone was not granted by nature or nurture such virtue to resist the temptations of evil, they will succumb to the temptation all the more easily if they are convinced that the sin will go unnoticed[110].

It was in Athens that Gellius developed an enduring friendship with the Sophist and the best speech-maker of his times Herodes Atticus[111]. Herodes engaged in a lively exchange with the Cynics on the subject of ¦p£qeia. He was provoked by the claim made by some one Stoic that he did not behave like a sage when he failed to dissimulate his grief following the untimely death of a child of his. Thereupon, he made a speech that was full of grace and serious. Gellius account of the speech comes down to what follows: No man capable of feeling and thinking normally can be entirely free of disease, desire, fear, anger and delight. This is to say that no normal man can be free of passions that were called p£qe. Even if one is capable of resisting those passions, the very resistance can have maleficent consequences. This is because that such resistance can deteriorate the spirit as it will purge not only the maleficent passions but also those passions that are useful and stimulating. Some impulses and feelings take deep root in the strength and activities of the intellect. If one decides to injudiciously uproot them, one runs the risk of losing also the good and useful faculties of the mind. His remark boils down to the observation that all efforts to be the master of oneself must be conditional. One has to exercise self-control judiciously and with moderation. The followers of ¦p£qeia, who want to know no anger, no fear and no motion and thus will accept any passion whatsoever, thus lead a life that has no colour and no thrust[112].

There is no doubt that Gellius was under great influence of Herodes who would invite Athenian students of Roman origin to his house in Cephisia. His villa offered many comforts. The trees sheltered form the burning sun, the gardens were great for promenades and the streams and birds were the ultimate white noise that would refresh the mind. One day, an adulescens who – according to his own assumption – studied Stoic philosophy found his way there. During discussions at the table, he would take much time to present his lengthy and boring arguments. He was proud of his knowledge of the Greek and considered anyone who spoke Latin as ignorant and uneducated. He had a penchant for difficult notions and complex sophisms and – as if it were not enough – he would let no one else speak. He would tell everyone how he had arrived to know the nature of man as well as the nature of human mind. He would then tell everyone how he had arrived to know the nature and origin of virtue as well as the obligations that follow it. He would lecture about eÙdaimonia (happiness or flourishing) and how he was successfully striving for it. He also lectured on how no suffering and no pain can remove the grin from the face of a true Stoic. When his audience was all disgusted and wanted nothing more than for him to stop, Herodes took the floor and addressed the “greatest of philosophers”. He said that since no one in the audience was allowed to respond as being part of the common folk in his view, maybe the Stoic would want to hear the opinion of Epictetus, the greatest of all Stoics. Herodes did not want to engage in a discussion and ordered someone to fetch the first book Dissertationes Epicteti, a volume collected by Arrian of Nicomedia. The comment of Epictetus was all about vanity. In the passage, an old man criticizes a young man who purports to be a Stoic and does nothing remotely interesting or useful besides that[113]. The congregation thus proceeded to read the passage in which Epictetus construes the difference between a real Stoic and others. The real Stoic is always unharmed ¢kèlutoj, imperturbable ¢nan£gkastoj, independent ¢parapÒdistoj, free ™leÚferoj, rich eÙporîn and happy eÙdaimonîn. The great number of others, on the other hand, simply affirm to be stoics whilst in reality they do nothing else but injudiciously profane the name of the most sacred of doctrines. When they heard those words, the students were convinced they were not the words pronounced by Epictetus in the times long gone, but were actually the very own words of Herodes[114].

Gellius gives us also an account of how Herodes was once approached by someone who wore a Greek coat and a long beard. He was asking for money to buy bread e„s ¥rtouj. Herodes asked him who he was. The individual responded he was a philosopher, with an angry grimace on his face and resentful voice. He added that he was confused by the question as if it was not self-evident that he was a philosopher. «I can see the beard and the coat – said Herodes but I cannot see the philosopher». «Tell us – he continued – how can we tell you are a philosopher?». Someone in the vicinity then said that the person was a vagabond with no profession and that he was a habitué of the local taverns. Herodes did not change his mind because of those new circumstances. He wanted to give the money not because the vagabond was a human by because he himself was human. He complained, however, that this kind of mucky and unclean creatures should call themselves philosophers. Doing so was an offence to the sacred name of philosophy, which such people have no title to dishonor and disgrace[115].

Gellius never met outstanding jurists who would actually teach law. In any case we have no record of any close relationship with such figures. This is true not only of his study period in Rome but also of his time in Athens. When he was nominated a judge he would seek advice on the merits of the case amidst practicing lawyers. He did also his own research and read voraciously. He was fortunate enough, however, to meet many excellent teachers and philosophers: the Platonic Taurus Calvisius, the Sophist Herodes Atticus, the Cynic Peregrinus, and above all Favorinus. During his studies in Rome, he was greatly influenced by the Fronto. Fronto improved the literary education of Aulus Gellius, the fundamentals of which was the work of Sulpicius Apollinaris. Later on, in Athens, it was the Platonic Taurus who helped expand the grammarian education onto the questions that go beyond the facts of language. The avid mind of the young Gellius was thus channeled to into the realms of philosophy under the guidance of Peregrinus the Cynic, Herodes Atticus the Sophist. The philosopher Favorinus of Arelate, however, was by far the greatest influence on Gellius. It seems that Gellius had met him in Rome before he went to study in Athens. Favorinus not only knew – as any contemporary grammarian would – the archaic words, but was also able to tell what meaning and cultural content they conveyed. His interests centered on grammar but were a lot wider than his primary specialization. Grammar was but a starting point for his philosophical quests. Words, after all, were so dear to grammarians because they are capable to convey meaning and are the necessary auxiliaries to formulating opinions.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Gellius should make Favorinus the main protagonist of those parts of Noctes Atticae that treat the problems of philosophy[116], of law [117] and of grammar[118]. If he never met Favorinus at school, he nonetheless was his companion in journey[119] and at the table[120]. He also accompanied him to pay a visit to a sick friend[121] or a women who has given birth[122]. He also witnessed many different discussions between the philosopher and numerous important people; he attentively listened and diligently took notes of what his master had said[123]. Amongst all the people that Gellius met in company of Favorinus, one should also note the outstanding jurist Sextus Caecilius. It was with Sextus that the author of Noctes Atticae would discuss legal matters in area Palatina. The discussion concerned among other things the problem of interpretation of law. It concerned the question if the law is still binding in a changed socio-political setting still binding as well as the problem of the function of severity of criminal sanctions. Under Gellius’ account, the philosopher and the jurist discussed not only the content of the law of XII tables but also their interpretations, as those varied across the social and intellectual elites.

The foregoing cross-section of problems that young Romans treated during their education shows that educators focused on the ability to formulate problems and to search their solutions. Gellius used well the research skills thus developed. We are made aware of this reading his work that he completed in Athens to beguile long winter evenings[124]. He did not neglect to describe the method of studying besides recording the state of knowledge and scholarship of his time («the things worth remembering»)[125].




[1] Cf. L.A. Holford-Strevens, Fact and fiction in Aulus Gellius, «Liverpool Classical Monthly» 7, 1982, 65 et seq.


[2] Cf. M.T. Schettino, Interessi storici e letture storiografiche di Aulo Gellio, «Latomus. Revue d’Études Latines» 45, 1986, 347 et seq.; M.L. Astarita, La cultura nelle Noctes Atticae, Catania 1993, 19 et seq.


[3] Cf. A. Milazzo, Aulo Gellio. Sua gente, sua terra natale, data della nascita e della morte, [Palermo 1938 =] [in:] Atti del V Congresso di Studi Romani, 1946, 254 et seq.; P. JannaccoNe, Studi gelliani, Milano 1947, 38 et seq.; V. D’Agostino, Aulo Gellio e le ‘Notti Attiche’, «Rivista di Studi Classici» 5, 1957, 30 et seq.; P.K. Marshall, The Date of Birth of Aulus Gellius, «Classical Philology» 58, 1963, 143 et seq.; L. Holford-Strevens, Towards a Chronology of Aulus Gellius, «Latomus. Revue d’Études Latines» 36, 1977, 93 et seq.; idem, Aulus Gellius. An Antonine Scholar and his Achievement, rev. ed. Oxford 2005, 11 et seq.; M.L. Astarita, Note di cronologia gelliana, «Orpheus. Rivista di umanità classica e cristiana», n.s. 5, 1984, 422 et seq.; M.T. Schettino, Questioni di biografia gelliana, «Giornale Filologico Ferrarese» 8, 1985, No. 3, 75 et seq.


[4] Cf. E. Castorina, Gellio e la data di pubblicazione delle Noctes’, «Giornale Italiano di Filologia» 3, 1950, 137 et seq.; V. Ussani, rec. (Trogus und Gellius bei Radulfus de Diceto. Aus dem Nachlasse G. Gundermanns herausgegeben von G. Goetz, Leipzig 1926), «Rivista di Filologia e di Istruzione Classica» 56, 1928, 146 et seq.; M. Pezzati, Gellio e la scuola di Favorino, «Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. Classe di Lettere e Filosofia» 3, 1973, ser. 3, 837 et seq.; A. Cutolo, Gellio e le Noctes Atticae’, «Cultura e scuola» 17, 1976, No. 65, 58 et seq.


[5] Cf. B. Romano, ‘Quibus temporibus fuerint A. Gellius et M. Valerius Probus disputatur’, «Rivista di Filologia e di Istruzione Classica» 44, 1916, 549 et seq.; V. D’Agostino, op. cit., 26 et seq.; B. Baldwin, Aulus Gellius and his Circle, «Acta Classica» 16, 1973, 103 et seq.; idem, Studies in Aulus Gellius, Lawrence 1975, 21 et seq.; D. Nörr, Der Jurist im Kreis der Intellektuellen: Mitspieler oder Aussenseiter? (Gellius, Noctes Atticae 16.10), [in:] Festschrift für Max Kaser zum 70. Geburtstag, München 1976, 67 et seq.; A. Cutolo, op. cit., 55 et seq.; F. Casavola, Gellio, Favorino, Sesto Cecilio, [in:] Giuristi Adrianei, Napoli 1980, 77 et seq.; L. Holford-Strevens, Towards a Chronology of Aulus Gellius, cit., 104 et seq.


[6] Cf. Gell. 18.4.1: Cum iam adulescentuli Romae praetextam et puerilem togam mutassemus magistrosque tunc nobis nosmet ipsi exploratiores quareremus, … Cf. also L. Holford-Strevens, Towards a Chronology of Aulus Gellius, cit., 99; idem, Aulus Gellius, cit., 12 et seq.


[7] Sulpicius Apollinaris was the teacher of the future Caesar, P. Helvius Pertinax and is sometimes identified with Sulpicius Carthaginensis, the author of Hexasticha in Aeneidis libris and Periochae. Cf. M. Schanz, C. Hosius, G. Krüger, Geschichte der römischen Literatur bis zum Gesetzgebungswerk des Kaisers Justinian, III3, München 1922 (Nachdruck 1959), 160 et seq. Cf. also A. Mazzarino, Sulla personalità di Sulpicio Apollinare, «Studi Italiani di Filologia Classica», n.s. 22, 1947, 165 et seq.; L. Gamberale, La riscoperta dell’arcaico, [in:] Lo spazio letterario di Roma antica, III, La ricezione del testo, Roma 1990, 580 et seq.; M.L. Astarita, La cultura nelle Noctes Atticae, cit., 56 et seq.; L. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, cit., 83 et seq.


[8] Cf. Sallustius, Historiae 4.35 (ed. Dietsch).


[9] Cf. Gell. 18.4.


[10] Cf. Gell. 13.20.


[11] Cf. Gell. 20.6.


[12] Cf. Gell. 13.18. The event had the take place before 146. Erucius Clarus died in February or March 146. Gellius mentions meetings with Erucius Clarus in 7.6.12. Cf. M.L. Astarita, Note di cronologia gelliana, cit., 423.


[13] Cf. Oratorum Romanorum Fragmenta, (ed.) H. Meyer, Turici 1842, 124 et seq., M. Porcius Cato, Oratio No. 68.


[14] Cf. Gell. 13.18.3. The Greek saying cited was used to describe the situation of uncertainty about the future.


[15] Cf. Grammaticae Romanae Fragmenta, I, (ed.) H. Funaioli, Lipsiae 1907, 530, C. Iulius Hyginus, fragm. 6.


[16] Cf. Verg. Aen. 6.14.


[17] Cf. Gell. 7.6.12.


[18] Cf. Gell. 12.13.


[19] Cf. Gell. 1.4.1: Antonius Iulianus rhetor perquam fuit honesti atque amoeni ingeni. Doctrina quoque ista utiliore ac delectabili veterumque elegantiarum cura et memoria multa fuit; ad hoc scripta omnia antiquiora tam curiose spectabat et aut virtutes pensitabat aut vitia rimabatur, ut iudicium esse factum ad amussim diceres. Cf. also M. Schanz, C. Hosius, G. Krüger, op. cit., III3, 127 et seq.; M.L. Astarita, Note di cronologia gelliana, cit., 424 n. 13; eadem., La cultura nelle Noctes Atticae’, cit., 59; L. Gamberale, La riscoperta dell’arcaico, cit., 576 et seq.; L. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, cit., 86 et seq.


[20] Cf. Gell. 19.9.1.


[21] Cf. Gell. 20.9.1-3. Cf. also Fragmenta Poetarum Romanorum, (ed.) Ae. Baehrens, Lipsiae 1886, 282 et seq., Cn. Matius, fragm. 12-13,


[22] Cf. Gell. 9.1;15.1. Cf. also Historicorum Romanorum Fragmenta, (ed.) H. Peter, Lipsiae 1883, 149, Q. Claudius Quadrigarius, fragm. 81.


[23] Cf. Gell. 19.9.


[24] Cf. Fragmenta Poetarum Romanorum, cit., 275, Valerius Aeditus, fragm. 1-2.


[25] Cf. Fragmenta Poetarum Romanorum, cit., Porcius Licin[i]us, fragm. 5,  278.


[26] Cf. Fragmenta Poetarum Romanorum, cit., 275 et seq., Q. Lutatius Catulus, fragm. 1.


[27] Cf. Gell. 18.5. Judging by the context of Gellius’ account, one can safely say that Annales by Ennius were part of normal curriculum though no student noticed the modifications in the text that were recorded by Iulianus. It might well be that they would study the text in a modified version when in class with grammarians. Cf. M. Gamberale, La riscoperta dell’arcaico, cit., 577 et seq.


[28] Cf. Gell. 9.15.


[29] Cf. Gell. 1.4. Cf. also K. Kumaniecki, Literatura rzymska. Okres cyceroński, [Roman Literature. The Cicero Period] Warszawa 1977, 263 et seq.


[30] Cf. Gell. 13.22.1: T. Castricius, rhetoricae disciplinae doctor, qui habuit Romae locum principem declamandi ac docendi, summa vir auctoritate gravitateque et a divo Hadriano in mores atque litteras spectatus,Cf. also M.L. Astarita, La cultura nelle Noctes Atticae’, cit., 57 et seq.; L. Gamberale, La riscoperta dell’arcaico, cit., 575 et seq.; L. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, cit., 88 et seq.


[31] Cf. Gell. 13.22.


[32] Cf. Gell. 11.13. Cf. also Oratorum Romanorum Fragmenta, cit., 238, C. Sempronius Gracchus, Oratio No. 7.


[33] Cf. Gell. 2.27.


[34] Cf. Oratorum Romanorum Fragmenta, cit., 275 et seq., Q. Caecilius Metellus Numidicus, Oratio No. 4.


[35] Cf. Gell. 1.6.


[36] Marcus Cornelius Fronto was born at Cirta in Numidia. He arrived in Rome in his youth and would never leave. He was a grammarian, rhetorician, advocate and teacher. He subscribed to Atticism in his method. In Rome, his talents as an orator and rhetorician were greatly admired by his contemporaries, a number of whom were later regarded as forming a school called after him Frontoniani, hence Frontonianism denotes the archaic-oriented Atticism. His letters are the his only extant works. Cf. E. Chaplin, The Chronology of Fronto, The «Journal of Roman Studies» 64, 1974, 137 et seq.; F. Portalupi, Opere di Marco Cornelio Frontone, Torino 1974, 23 et seq.; M.L. Astarita, Questioni di cronologia frontoniana, «KOINΩNIA» 2, 1978, 7 et seq.


[37] Cf. Gell. 19.8.1: Adulescentulus Romae, priusquam Athenas concederem, quando erat a magistris auditionibusque obeundis otium, ad Frontonem Cornelium visendi gratia pergebam sermonibusque eius purissimis bonarumque doctrinarum plenis fruebar. Nec umquam factum est, quotiens eum vidimus loquentemque audivimus, quin rediremus fere cultiores doctioresque.


[38] Caesar Hadrian nominated him senator (Cf. Fronto, Epistulae ad Caes. 2.1), and in July and August 143 he was elevated into the office of consul suffectus. His cursus honorum is represented in the inscription (CIL VIII 5350) that was found in his home-town of Calamae in Numidia next to Cirta. Cf. F. Portalupi, op. cit., 9 et seq.; L. Gamberale, La riscoperta dell’arcaico, cit., 549 et seq.; M.A. Levi, Ricerche su Frontone, «Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei» 391, 1994, «Classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche», ser. 9, vol. 4, 241 et seq.


[39] Cf. Dio Cass. 69.18. Caesar Hadrian (so before 138) had him teach M. Annius Verus, the future Caesar Mark Aurelius. In 143, Antoninus Pius entrusted him with education L. Ceionius Commodus, the future Caesar Lucius Verus. Cf. also F. Portalupi, op. cit., 9; M.A. LEVI, op. cit., 292 et seq.


[40] On this missing work by the Caesar Cf. K. Kumaniecki, op. cit., 150 et seq.


[41] Cf. Gell. 19.8.2-14. Cf. also M.L. Astarita, La cultura nelle Noctes Atticae’, cit., 192 et seq.


[42] Cf. Petronii Saturae et Liber Priapeorum, adiectae sunt Varronis et Senecae Saturae similesque reliquaiae, (ed.) Buecheler , Berolini 1922, 191, Varronis Menippearum Reliquiae No. 93.


[43] Cf. Gell. 19.8.15-17.


[44] Cf. Gell. 19.8.18. In fact, the plural form was not that rare and can be found in Verg. Aen. 1.107; Horat. Od. 1.28; Suet. Aug. 8. Gellius himself uses this form twice in Noctes Atticae - Cf. 5.14.4; 16.11.7.


[45] Cf. Gell. 13.29. Cf. also Historicorum Romanorum Fragmenta, cit., 148, Claudius Quadrigarius, fragm. 76.


[46] Cf. L. Gamberale, La riscoperta dell’ arcaico, cit., 566 et seq.


[47] The great Greek sophist was very popular in Athens and in Rome. For some time he lived on intimate terms with Hadrian himself. When he fell out of grace, he was sent to Chios. He returned at the times of Antoninus Pius. He spoke Latin but wrote mainly in Greek. His extant works comprise some speeches whilst other works have been reconstructed. Gellius was one of his students and friends besides such personas as Mestrius Plutarchus of Chaeronea, Herodes Atticus and Fronto. Cf. W. Schmid, s.v. Favorinus, «RE» VI 2, Stuttgart 1909, col. 2078 et seq.; E. Mensching, Favorin von Arelate. Der erste Teil der Fragmente Memorabilien und Omnigena Historia, Berlin 1963, 1 et seq.; A. Barigazzi, Favorino di Arelate. Opere. Introduzione, testo critico e commento, Firenze 1966, 3 et seq.; G.W. Bowersock, Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire, Oxford 1969, 81.


[48] Cf. Gell. 2.26.


[49] Cf. Gell. 19.13.


[50] Even when he paid get-well a visit to Fronto, he was just the company of Celsinus Iulius of Numidia. Cf. Gell. 19.10.


[51] For example, Gellius analyses the meaning of the word retae that found in a Praetor’s edict Cf. Gell. 11.17.2-3: Tum in quodam edicto antiquiore ita scriptum invenimus: ‘Qui flumina retanda publice redempta habent, si quis eorum ad me eductus fuerit, qui dicatur, quod eum ex lege locationis facere oportuerit, non fecisse.’ ‘Retanda’ igitur quid esset, quaerebatur. The meaning of the word ‘retanda’ is the key to understanding the edict. Fortunately, one of Gellius’ friends had learnt from De origine vocabulorum by Gavius Bassus that: … ‘retas’ vocari arbores, quae aut ex ripis fluminum eminerent aut in alveis eorum exstarent, appellatasque esse a retibus, quod praetereuntes naves inpedirent et quasi inretirent; idcircoque sese arbitrari ‘retanda’ flumina locari solita esse, id est purganda, ne quid aut morae aut periculi navibus in ea virgulta incidentibus fieret. (Gell. 11.17.4). Cf. R. Viganò, Sull’edictum de fluminibus retandis’, «Labeo» 15, 1969, 168 et seq.


[52] Cf. M.P. Ruxer, Z ateńskich wspomnień uniwersyteckich Aulusa Gelliusa [Of Aulus Gellius and His Studies in Athens], Poznań 1934, 3 et seq.; B. Baldwin, Studies in Aulus Gellius, cit., 21 et seq.; L. Holford-Strevens, Towards a Chronology of Aulus Gellius, cit., 99 et seq.; idem, Aulus Gellius, cit., 90 et seq.; W. Ameling, Aulus Gellius in Athen, «Hermes. Zeitschrift für klassische Philologie» 112, 1984, 484 et seq.; M.L. Astarita, Note di cronologia gelliana, cit., 422 et seq.; M.T. Schettino, Questioni di bibliografia gelliana,  75 et seq.


[53] Cf. L. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, cit.,  90 et seq.


[54] Taurus would thus consider a philosophical work from the vantage point of rhetoric. Cf. M. Pezzati, op. cit., 847.


[55] Cf. Gell. 17.20.1-8. The passage (Plato, Symp. 180e-181a) would read as follows in the translation by Gellius (17.20.9): ‘Omne’ inquit ‘omnino factum sic sese habet: neque turpe est, quantum in eo est, neque honestum; velut est, quas nunc facimus ipsi res, bibere, cantare, disserere. Nihil namque horum ipsum ex sese honestum est; quali cum fieret modo factum est, tale exstitit: si recte honesteque factum est, tum honestum fit; sin parum recte, turpe fit. Sic amare, sic amor non honestus omnis neque omnis laude dignus, sed qui facit, nos ut honeste amemus’. Cf. also L. Gamberale, La traduzione in Gellio, Roma 1969, 61 et seq.


[56] Cf. Demosthenes, Adv. Androt. 7, and also O. Diliberto, La pena tra filosofia e diritto nelle Noctes Atticae di Aulo Gellio, «Studi economico-giuridici» 54, 1991-1992 = Il problema della pena criminale tra filosofia greca e diritto romano, [in:] Atti del Deuxiéme Colloque de Philosophie Pénale. Cagliari 20-22 aprile 1989, Napoli 1993, 142 et seq.


[57] Cf. Gell. 10.19.


[58] Cf. Gell. 7.10. Taurus would complain at the same time that at his times it was philosophers who had to run and try to teach the rich youth in their houses and that they would very often have to wait till midday until the youth would wake up after an eventful nights plenty of wine.


[59] Cf. Gell. 1.26.2.


[60] Cf. Gell. 17.20.1.


[61] Cf. Gell. 1.26.2; 2.2.2.


[62] Cf. Gell. 1.26.


[63] Cf. Gell. 2.2.


[64] Cf. Gell. 2.2.12. Cf. also Historicorum Romanorum Fragmenta, cit., 144 et seq., Q. Claudius Quadrigarius, fragm., and also P. Mazzarino, Il pensiero storico classico, II 1, Bari 1966, 293 et seq.


[65] Cf. Gell. 2.2.13.


[66] Cf. Gell. 1.9.1-7.


[67] Cf. Gell. 1.9.8-11.


[68] Cf. Gell. 1.9.12 as well as my comments in: ‘Consortium ercto non cito w Noctes Atticae Aulusa Gelliusa [‘Consortium ercto non cito in The Attic Nights by Aulus Gellius], «Prawo Kanoniczne» 31, 1988, No. 3-4,  271 et seq.


[69] Cf. M.L. Astarita, La cultura nelle Noctes Atticae, cit.,  109 et seq.


[70] Cf. Grammaticae Romanae Fragmenta, cit., M. Terentius Varro, fragm. 22,  194 et seq.


[71] Cf. Grammaticae Romanae Fragmenta, cit., L. Aelius Stilo, fragm. 19,  54.


[72] Cf. Gell. 16.8.1-3.


[73] In its traditional understanding, is a thesis that is true, self-evident and certain. It is any starting assumption from which other statements of the system are logically derived. Modern logic thus considers an axiom to be any principal proposition of a deductive system that is accepted without proof of its truth-value; it is the antecedent for formulating derived propositions whilst it is the deductive conclusion [pol. – i wnioskiem procesów dowodzenia]. Cf. K. Ajdukiewicz, Logika pragmatyczna2 [Pragmatic Logic], Warszawa 1974,  115; Z. Ziembiński, Logika praktyczna19 [Practical Logic], Warszawa 1996,  166; S. Lewandowski, A. Malinowski, J. Petzel, Logika dla prawników [Juridical Logic], Warszawa 2004, 8 e seq.


[74] Cf. Grammaticae Romanae Fragmenta, cit., M. Terentius Varro, fragm. 22,  194 et seq.


[75] Cf. Cic. Tusc. disp. 1.14.


[76] Cf. Gell. 16.8.7-8.


[77] An hypothetical syllogism is in traditional logic a three-part deductive argument in the form of [(if p then q) and p] then q. The rule is expressed by a conditional sentence that takes a conjunction of two propositions as an antecedent where the two propositions share a component in common, i.e. the proposition p, whilst the conclusion has the proposition that is not common to both propositions in the antecedent, i.e. q. Cf. Z. Ziembiński, op. cit., 160.


[78] Cf. Gell. 16.8.9.


[79] In the examples provided by Gellius we observe an implicit premises so as to constitute and enthymeme, i.e. an informally stated syllogism with an unstated assumption which must be true for the premises to lead to the conclusion. In an enthymeme, part of the argument is missing because it is assumed. Cf. Z. Ziembiński, op. cit., 150.


[80] A conjunction-based compound sentence is a sentence that is built up by one or multiple use of conjunctions that connects basic propositions. The sentence is true if and only if all basic propositions are true. Cf. Z. Ziembiński, op. cit., 79.


[81] Cf. Gell. 16.8.9-11. One will not follow Gellius, however, and affirm that the propositions will become false. Let a be «Publius Scipio, the son of Paulus, was a consul twice in his life», let b be «Publius Scipio held the office of censor», let c be «Publius Scipio was friends with Lucius Mummius», and let d be «Publius Scipio vanquished Hannibal in Africa» if x = 1 means that the proposition x is true and y = 0 means that the proposition y is false, and a · b · c · d = 0 means that the multiple conjunction is false, then a = 1, b = 1, c = 1 and a · b · c · d = 0. This has no bearing, however, on the turht-value of particular propositions a, b, c, etc. Cf. Z. Ziembiński, op. cit., 77 et seq.


[82] Cf. Gell. 16.8.4-17.


[83] A sophism is a specious argument used for deceiving someone, as such it can be supposed to be crafted to seem logical while actually being wrong. Cf. Z. Ziembiński, op. cit., 215.


[84] One cannot help but remark that all Gellius’ examples are based on the same logical fallacy. From the observation that a is not b it is assumed that if a has a characteristic x, then b cannot have the same characteristic. This is a formal fallacy because it does not have a deductive structure, i.e. there is no law of logic in play here. The conclusion of such an operation can thus be either true or false, and there is nothing more to it.


[85] Cf. Gell. 18.13.


[86] Cf. Gell. 18.2.1-6.


[87] Cf. Ennianae Poesis Reliquiae, (ed.) I. Vahlen, Lipsiae 1854, 158 et seq., Saturae 32-35; Fragmenta Poetarum Romanorum, cit., 119 et seq., Q. Ennius, fragm. 479.


[88] Cf. Gell. 18.2.8, and Plato, Rep. 457d also 468b-c.


[89] It was consecrated to Magna Mater and would be celebrated on 4 April. Cf. also Gell. 2.24.2, also K. Latte, Römische Religionsgeschichte, München 1960, 261 et seq.


[90] Would be celebrated on 19 April to entreat the deity Ceres. Cf. K. Latte, op. cit., 161 et seq.


[91] Cf. Hesiodus,  Έργα και ημέραι 40.


[92] Cf. a similar saying by Q. Cicero who saw the sculpture of his brother that we find in Macrobius in Sat. 2.3.4: … frater meus dimidius maior est quam totus.


[93] Cf. Gell. 18.2.7-14.


[94] Cf. Ennianae Poesis Reliquiae, cit., 56, Annalium 370; Fragmenta Poetarum Romanorum, cit., 95, Q. Ennius, fragm. 257.


[95] Cf. Gell. 18.2.15-16.


[96] Cf. Gell. 7.13.1-6.


[97] Cf. Plato, Parm. 156 d-e, and also Gell. 6.21.


[98] Cf. Gell. 7.13.7-12.


[99] Cf. Gell. 17.8.


[100] Cf. Gell. 18.10.


[101] Cf. Hom. Od. 5.275


[102] Cf. Grammaticae Romanae Fragmenta, cit., 67, L. Aelius Stilo, fragm. 42.


[103] Cf. Varro, De ling. Lat. 7.4.74.


[104] Cf. Varro, De ling. Lat. 7.4.75.


[105] Cf. Gell. 2.21.


[106] Though it is well known that Gellius was in Greece during the time of Pythian Games, it is uncertain which Games they were. Cf. W. Ameling, Aulus Gellius in Athens, cit., 487; M.L. Astarita, Note di cronologia gelliana, cit., 427.


[107] Cf. Gell. 12.5.


[108] Cf. K. von Fritz, s.v. Peregrinus (No. 16 Peregrinus Proteus), «RE» XIX 1, Stuttgart 1919, col. 656 et seq.; L. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, cit., 145 et seq.


[109] Cf. Gell. 8.3. Not everyone listened to Proteus attentively. It happened for Proteus to scorn a rich boy of equestrian background who would yawn during his lectures.


[110] Cf. Gell. 12.11.


[111] For more information on Herodes Atticus cf. P. Graindor, Herodes Atticus et sa famille, Le Caire 1930, 137 et seq. and  150 et seq. (P. Graindor mentions Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus as well as Aulus Gellius as Herodes’ students); W. Ameling, Herodes Atticus. Biographie, Hildesheim-Zürick-New York 1983, 118 et seq.; L. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, cit., 139 et seq.


[112] Cf. Gell. 19.12.


[113] Cf. actually Epict. Diss. 2.19.12.


[114] Cf. Gell. 1.2.


[115] Cf. Gell. 9.2.


[116] Cf. Gell. 18.1.


[117] Cf. Gell. 14.2; 20.1.


[118] Cf. Gell. 4.1.


[119] Cf. Gell. 3.1.1.


[120] Cf. Gell. 3.19.


[121] Cf. Gell. 16.3.2.


[122] Cf. Gell. 12.1.


[123] This is well reflected in the wording of Noctes Atticae where – reporting the opinions of Favorinus – Gellius uses the term «said» and not «I read» as in other cases. Cf. M. Pezzati, op. cit., 843.


[124] Cf. Gell. Praef. 4.


[125] Cf. Gell. Praef. 11.