Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts




Debra Nousek


Only recently has Pliny’s Natural History garnered favourable reception, as scholarship has expanded from Quellenforschung and the comparisons to modern biological understanding to a more balanced approach. Continuing with this perspective, I seek to appreciate both the Natural History on its own merit, free of modern scientific scrutiny, and Pliny as a participating author in the work beyond the previously stigmatized compiler or unknown perspective. I address the question of the Natural History’s position within the ancient zoological tradition, examining the Aristotelian influence on Pliny. I investigate three case studies: the haliaëtus and its (non-)genus; the relationship between and identification of the panthera and pardus; and the crocota and the (mis-)identification of Aethiopia. I further reveal Pliny’s understanding and presentation of these exotic animals in his work, illuminating also our understanding of the Roman ethnozoological tradition and the pitfalls when trying to identify these animals from a modern taxonomical perspective.